Archive for October, 2020

Signs of the Times (10/30/20)

October 30, 2020

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (2Corinthians 10:4)

35,000 Lift up Jesus in ‘Let Us Worship’ Rally on National Mall in DC

The National Mall in Washington DC was overflowing with love for the Lord, Sunday night, during the “Let Us Worship” tour led by praise leader Sean Feucht. More than 35,000 people gathered on the iconic grassy lawn to pray for a spiritual awakening and that hearts will turn toward Jesus Christ. The event opened with Feucht thanking all the attendees for coming out during the cold, rainy weather to lift up America during these challenging times. A sea of worshippers sang and danced while some held signs and flags that read “Jesus 2020” and “Jesus Matters.”

Senate Confirms Amy Comey Barrett for Supreme Court

The U.S. Senate confirmed Amy Comey Barrett Monday to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg on the Supreme Court by a 53-48 votes, largely along party lines. She was sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas Tuesday morning at a socially-distanced, mostly masked White House Rose Garden Ceremony, in contrast to the event announcing her nomination which was packed, unmasked and led to many cases of Covid-19. In her first week on the job, Justice Barrett could already be weighing in on some big issues, including Republican appeals to shorten the deadline for receiving and counting absentee ballots in two battleground states, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

  • Dozens of other voting rights lawsuits are still working their way through lower courts. And Justice Barrett could soon find herself weighing in on any post-election disputes or ballot-counting issues. Beyond the election, some of the big cases that await Barrett include a ruling on whether the Manhattan DA will get access to President Trump’s financial documents and tax returns; a case on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban; the Affordable Care Act; a religious liberty case involving LGBTQ+ rights; a decision on whether undocumented immigrants can be excluded from tallies used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives..

Philadelphia Erupts in Protest After Fatal Police Shooting of Black Man

A police vehicle was set on fire, one police officer was run over by a truck, businesses were looted, and at least 30 officers were injured Monday night in Philadelphia after a 27-year-old Black man died during a police shooting earlier in the day. Walter Wallace Jr. was shot dead in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood after police responded to a call about a man with a knife around 4pm. Video taken by a bystander shows officers confronting Wallace and ordering him to drop the knife; as he approaches them from behind a car, at least one officer appears to order him to drop the knife. They then both fired at Wallace multiple times from several feet away. A police spokesperson says an officer drove Wallace to a local hospital, where he died. Wallace’s family says he suffered from mental health issues and had been on medication.

  • Nearly a dozen people – including a 15-year-old – were shot overnight after looting and rioting in Philadelphia erupted for a second straight night despite pleas for peace from the family of a Black man whose police-related death sparked the unrest. CBS Philly reports that one neighborhood was being called a total loss after looting and violence.
  • The  Pennsylvania National Guard arrived in Philadelphia on Friday to bolster protections after four days of rioting.

Breonna Taylor Grand Jurors Say Officers Should be Charged

More Louisville police officers should face criminal charges for their roles in the March 13 attempted drug search that ended in the death of Breonna Taylor, two grand jurors said Wednesday. And both jurors said they agree with the effort of Taylor’s mother to have a special prosecutor appointed to review the case. Those were some of several complaints the jurors made Wednesday against Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and his office for their handling of the case. It was the first time the grand jurors spoke publicly. In the seven months since Taylor, a Black emergency room technician, was fatally shot by Louisville police officers, her name has become a rallying cry for racial justice, with protesters, politicians, celebrities and star athletes demanding the officers who shot her be fired and criminal criminally charged.

‘Boogaloo Bois’ Staged Attack on Minneapolis Police Precinct

Federal charges of plotting to incite a riot and committing an act of violence to spark a riot have been brought against a Texas man claiming to be a member of the Boogaloo Bois, a militant extremist group, with prosecutors claiming the man opened fire on a Minneapolis police precinct as part of a plot to foment unrest amid protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death. In a federal criminal complaint released Friday, and as detailed in an attached affidavit, Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old from Boerne, Texas, traveled to Minnesota at the end of May to organize, participate in, and engage in a riot, and committed “an act of violence in furtherance of a riot.” FBI Special Agent Jason Bujold said in the affidavit that Hunter claimed to be a member of the Boogaloo Bois, which the complaint describes as a “loosely-connected group of individuals espousing violent anti-government sentiments” and that the group’s name “references a supposedly impending second civil war in the United States and is associated with violent uprisings against the government.”

Black Coalition Accuses Planned Parenthood of Racial Discrimination

Abortion-industry giant Planned Parenthood is engaged in illegal racial discrimination targeting black communities, charges the National Black Pro-Life Coalition in a complaint filed with the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The group contends Planned Parenthood has “targeted” black woman and babies. “Systemic racism and abortion intersect at the door of Planned Parenthood, an organization that has targeted black women and their babies for almost five decades,” said Catherine Davis, president of Georgia-based Restoration Project. “These intentional actions violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which made it illegal for recipients of federal assistance to discriminate on the basis of race.” Overwhelmingly, Planned Parenthood abortion businesses are located in or near black communities. Abortion has been grown into the leading cause of death for blacks, resulting in a 1,8 fertility rate that is less than the required number 2.1 to replace the population.

Family Attacked by Rioters at Jews For Trump Rally

A family of seven ‒ including four kids ‒ were pepper-sprayed by violent rioters on Sunday while participating in a “Jews For Trump” rally in New York City on Sunday. The New York Police Department said 11 people were taken into custody after the rally descended into chaos and violence Sunday afternoon. Six people were charged with disorderly conduct, obstruction of government administration and harassment, while a seventh person was charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. A convoy of hundreds of cars draped with American flags and “Trump 2020” banners rolled slowly through Manhattan and Brooklyn on Sunday afternoon. The caravan traveled from Coney Island to the Trump Tower in Manhattan before heading to a rally in a Brooklyn park. A member of the family that was pepper-sprayed said that the unprovoked attack happened while the family was driving down Fifth Avenue with the car windows down and Trump flags displayed. The man, who wished to remain anonymous fearing his family could be targeted, said a car pulled up next to them and unleashed pepper spray into their vehicle. The man said the attacker chased him down the avenue trying to pepper-spray him again. His mother flagged down an officer and the suspect was arrested. 

Coronavirus Fatality Rate Down Despite Surge in Cases

Deaths from COVID-19 are ticking up slightly in the U.S. alongside record highs for recorded cases. Roughly 800 people are dying from the virus per day in the U.S., according to the seven-day rolling average. It’s a far better picture than the 2,200-plus who died during the spring crush in the Northeast and 1,200-plus who were victims of the “Sun Belt surge” in mid-summer. But the average daily death toll is up 12% compared to two weeks ago. The good news is the share of people who are dying after testing positive for the virus is down to 2.6% from 3.4% in late July and about 6% during April to May.

  • Recent case and fatality figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control show that although Covid-19 cases are spiking in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany and other European countries, deaths are not rising at the same rate. Research shows that at the end of June, the fatality rate was just below 3% in the UK. By August, it had dropped as low as about 0.5%. It now stands at roughly 0.75%.

U.S. Experiences Most Weekly Cases of Covid-19 This Past Week

The U.S. reported a record of more than 500,000 new coronavirus cases this past week, the most since the pandemic began. It’s not just a few areas driving the surge, as was the case early on. Half of U.S. counties saw new cases peak during the past month. Almost a third saw a record in the past week. 90,728 new cases were reported in the U.S. on Thursday, Oct. 29, the highest daily total yet recorded. And daily hospitalizations have been rising steadily for more than a month, from 28,608 on Sept. 20 to more than 44,000 on Tuesday. Cases are increasing in 49 states, with only Virginia, Louisiana and Hawaii maintaining recent levels. Deaths are increasing in 28 states. However, deaths lag cases by 2-3 weeks, so we may still see a rise in the death rate during this third wave.

  • New cases in Arizona increased to 1565 Thursday, the highest in over a month. The daily death toll, however, is holding steady. Yavapai County jumped to 44 new cases reported Thursday, the highest in well over a month. The trend line has increased from 8 per day on 9/23 to 23 per day on 10/30.

Increases in Covid-19 Cases Only Partially Due to Increased Testing

The fall Covid-19 surge keeps growing, with 29 states setting new records this month for the most new daily cases since the pandemic began, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. And it’s not just due to more testing. The average number of daily new cases this past week is up 21% compared to the previous week, according to JHU. But testing has increased only 6.63% over the same time frame, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Lockdowns Declared as Covid-19 Cases Surge In Europe

Across Europe, hospitals are filling up at an alarming pace that harks back to the darkest hours of the first wave of the pandemic in the spring. France announced a new nationwide lockdown. In Germany, hospitalizations have doubled in the past 10 days. In Belgium, all nonessential hospital work has been postponed to deal with an influx of new Covid-19 patients, whose numbers have nearly doubled in the past week, matching levels seen in the first wave of the pandemic in the spring.

Covid-19 Immunity Declines After Three Months

A study of hundreds of thousands of people across England suggests immunity to the coronavirus is gradually wearing off — at least according to one measure. Researchers who sent out home finger-prick tests to more than 365,000 randomly selected people in England found a more than 26% decline in Covid-19 antibodies over just three months. The study was published Monday by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, a market research company. At the beginning of the study, in June, 6% of those who took the tests had IgG antibody responses to the coronavirus, they reported. By September, just 4.4% of them did. Antibodies are the proteins your body naturally generates to fight infection. IgG is one type. Other research teams have found that other types of antibodies may persist longer than IgG does.

U.S. Judge Overrules Texas Governor’s Exemption for Masks at Polls

A federal judge has ordered everyone who enters or works at a Texas polling place to wear a face covering. The order by U.S. District Judge Jason Pulliam, appointed by President Donald Trump, voided an exemption for polling sites that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had included in his statewide mask mandate. The exemption, Pulliam ruled, violates the Voting Rights Act “because it creates a discriminatory burden on Black and Latino voters.” The pandemic has disproportionately affected minorities, placing them at higher risk of severe illness and death and forcing them to make “the unfortunate choice required between voting and minimizing their risk” of exposure under Abbott’s poll exemption, the judge wrote.

Pa. Court Rules Mail-In Ballots Count Even if Signatures Don’t Match

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled Friday that election officials must accept mail-in ballots even if the signatures on them don’t match those on file for a voter. The justices said nothing in the state’s laws required signatures to be verified, so if election officials are satisfied with the vote save for the signature, they cannot reject it. “We, therefore, grant the Secretary’s petition for declarative relief, and direct the county boards of elections not to reject absentee or mail-in ballots for counting, computing, and tallying based on signature comparisons conducted by county election officials or employees, or as the result of third- party challenges based on such comparisons,” Justice Debra Todd wrote in the opinion for a unanimous court.

Supreme Court Rules Wisconsin Can’t Extend Time for Mail Ballots

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Wisconsin’s absentee ballot deadline won’t be extended. In a win for Republicans, the high court sided with an appeals court that put the six-day extension on hold. The extension had originally been issued by a lower court judge who sided with Democrats and civil rights activists who wanted any ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted as long as they were received by Nov. 9. The SCOTUS justices voted 5-3, split along party lines, to reject the extension, meaning ballots must be in the hands of election officials by Election Day. Wisconsin is a key battleground state, one that was pivotal in Trump’s 2016 victory.

Supreme Court Allows North Carolina Extension of Mail-In Ballot Counting

The Supreme Court’s latest decision on the election is a win for Democrats: North Carolina can count ballots received up to nine days after Election Day, as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 3, the high court ruled Wednesday. Republicans and the Trump campaign filed two separate appeals asking the justices to reinstate a deadline of just three days after Election Day; the State Board of Elections had, without legislative approval, extended that deadline amid the coronavirus pandemic, and a federal appeals court earlier this month allowed it to stand. The SCOTUS decision was 5-3

Federal Court Disallows Extension of Mail-In-Ballot Date in Minnesota

A  federal appeals court ruled less than a week before Election Day that absentee ballots arriving after Nov. 3 in Minnesota must be separated and may not be counted at all, depending on future court proceedings. The Thursday ruling adds a layer of confusion to a federal court’s Oct. 12 decision to extend the state’s deadline for counting absentee ballots seven days after Nov. 3 as long as ballots are postmarked on or before Election Day. The majority opinion said the extension “likely violates Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution because [State Secretary Steve Simon] extended the deadline for receipt of ballots without legislative authorization.” Simon said the ruling was a “tremendous and unnecessary disruption to Minnesota’s election” and that the state is trying to make voters aware of the decision as quickly as possible.

State Judge Rules Michigan Can’t Ban Guns at Polling Places

A Michigan judge on Tuesday struck down Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s directive banning the open carry of guns at polling places on Election Day. Michigan Court of Claims Judge Christopher Murray said it appears the directive amounted to an administrative rule under state law, and Benson did not follow the proper procedure to create a new rule. He issued a preliminary injunction against her directive. “It is important to recognize that this case is not about whether it is a good idea to openly carry a firearm at a polling place, or whether the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents the secretary of state’s … directive,” Murray wrote in his decision. Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel, both Democrats, quickly issued statements saying they will appeal the decision.

Political Consultant Caught Coercing and Bribing Voters

A political consultant in San Antonio, Texas, was caught on a hidden camera in a Project Veritas undercover investigation coercing and bribing voters to vote Democrat, violating Texas and federal law. In an exchange in a video published Tuesday, Raquel Rodriguez examines an elderly woman’s ballot and convinces her to change her vote from Republican Sen. John Cornyn to Democratic challenger MJ Hegar. After the voter “corrects” her ballot, Rodriguez presents her with a shawl as a gift. Rodriguez said she has a gift budget of $2,500 and also she gives voters rosaries, diabetic socks and wallets. “That’s illegal. I could go to jail,” Rodriguez acknowledges to the Project Veritas journalist.

Twitter Censors U.S. Border Chief for Celebrating Wall Construction

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan on Wednesday was locked out of his Twitter account for celebrating the success of the U.S. southern border wall, Twitter is already under intense scrutiny for censoring conservative voices on the platform, including the suppression of a New York Post story two weeks ago that alleged Hunted Biden attempted to profit off of his father’s position. The New York Post is still locked out of its Twitter account. Morgan in his post touted the wall’s progress: “@CBP $ @USACHEQ continue to build new wall every day.  Every mile helps stop gang members, murderers, sexual predators, and drugs from entering our country. It’s a fact, walls work.” Twitter said the post was ‘hateful.’

  • Whether or not the post was hateful, Twitter is foisting its opinions on its users by making moral judgments about which posts meet its world view.

New Poll Reveals 30% of American Women Under 25 Identify as LGBT

A shocking new private poll shared by one of the country’s leading data scientists claims that 30% of American women under 25 identify as homosexual, bisexual, or transgender, reports LifeSiteNews. Since the poll is limited to women under 25, it doesn’t reflect changes to women’s sexual preference later on in life, while they’re still able to have children. “What’s behind this is primarily cultural. We have become an anti-natalist society,” suggests Rod Dreher, writing at The American Conservative. “And further, we have become a society that no longer values the natural family.” Eric Levitz, in a New York Magazine article about the gender gap between Trump and Biden supporters, calls attention to the continuing rise of “singledom” — a preference for non-married life — among young women in the United States: “Neither the societal shift away from traditional gender roles nor the downstream cultural consequences of that shift are anywhere near complete. As Rebecca Traister has incisively argued, the growing prevalence of singledom among America’s rising generation of women is one of the most potent forces in contemporary politics. In 2009, for the first time in history, there were more unmarried women in the United States than married ones.”

An ‘Unprecedented’ Ransomware Healthcare Assault Is Underway

Federal agencies warned that cybercriminals are unleashing a wave of data-scrambling extortion attempts against the U.S. healthcare system designed to lock up hospital information systems, which could hurt patient care just as nationwide cases of COVID-19 are spiking, the AP reports. In a joint alert Wednesday, the FBI and two federal agencies warned that they had “credible information of an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers.” The alert said malicious groups are targeting the sector with cyberattacks that involve ransomware, which scrambles data into gibberish that can only be unlocked with software keys provided once targets pay up. Security experts say it has already hobbled at least five US hospitals this week, and could potentially impact hundreds more.

The top official of the Republican Party of Wisconsin said Thursday that hackers stole $2.3 million during a crucial phase of the presidential campaign. Party Chairman Andrew Hitt said the loss was attributed to a phishing attack that has been reported to the FBI.  The attackers gain access to accounts and removed the money.

Economic News

The nation’s gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S., increased at a record 7.4% in the July-September period over the second quarter as consumer and business spending roared back from severely depressed levels during the pandemic in the Spring. The third-quarter GDP was still about 3.5% below its pre-virus level in late 2019.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 40,000 last week to 751,000, the lowest since March, but it’s still historically high. Rising coronavirus cases in nearly every state, along with a cutoff in federal aid, are threatening to weaken the economy in the coming months. As temperatures fall, restaurants and bars will likely serve fewer customers outdoors.

Even as the housing market booms, the outlook for the construction of shops, office buildings, hotels and other commercial structures has grown bleaker. Seventy-five percent of commercial contractors say their projects have been postponed or canceled during the pandemic, with the work-at-home movement drastically lowering need for more office space while the reduced travel also cutting the need for hotel rooms.

57% of U.S. shoppers are considering restocking emergency supplies now due to growing fears of a “potential second wave of COVID-19,” which could lead to another round of bare store shelves. Hygiene products topped shoppers’ stockpile lists again, with 67% grabbing toilet paper and 57% searching for hand sanitizer. Canned goods (54%), disinfecting wipes (53%) and paper towels (52%) are also products consumers have stocked up on or plan to stock up on for the upcoming season.

80,000 of the bus industry’s 100,000 employees have been furloughed this year as travel ground to a halt during the pandemic. The American Bus Association estimates private buses provide 600 million passenger trips a year, second only to commercial flights.

IHOP will close nearly 100 restaurants in the next six months, the pancake house and breakfast chain’s parent company, Dine Brands Global, revealed in its third-quarter earnings report Wednesday. Ihop has sought to ramp up its take-out and delivery business due to closures and capacity restrictions in dining rooms as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.

Boeing said Wednesday that it expects to cut its workforce to about 130,000 people by the end of next year, or 30,000 fewer than it began with in 2020. That is a far deeper cut to its workforce than the 19,000 jobs the company said it planned to trim just three months ago. Boeing has been whipsawed by a drop in revenue after its 737 Max was grounded in March 2019 following two deadly crashes, and then a pandemic that has caused air travel to plunge and left airlines with more planes than they need.

Amazon is adding 100,000 seasonal jobs across the U.S. and Canada as the holiday season approaches. Amazon pays a minimum wage at $15 an hour, and full-time employees receive benefits including health, dental, and vision insurance, as well as a 401(k) with 50% company match. Amazon added 100,000 people in September for their warehouses to keep up with a surge of online orders. Additionally, the company brought aboard over 33,000 people for corporate and tech roles.

Another Terrorist Attack in France Kills Three

A knife attack at a church in Nice, France, has left three people dead and several others injured, with the mayor of the city declaring it has all the signs of a terror attack. The attack took place around 9am at the Notre-Dame basilica in Paris. Initial reports say that one female victim had her throat slashed inside the church, while a second female victim was killed in a nearby bar where she’d fled to. The third victim, a male, was reportedly stabbed to death. There are also unconfirmed reports that one of the victims was beheaded at the scene, which police have called “a vision of horror,” per the Guardian. Mayor Christian Estrosi says one of the victims was the church’s caretaker, and that the suspect, who was shot and detained by police, had repeatedly chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest). This attack follows a beheading of a teacher a couple of weeks ago for showing caricatures of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.

Al Qaeda’s Propagandist Killed in Afghanistan, Violence Escalates

Afghanistan claimed Sunday it killed a top Al Qaeda propagandist on an FBI most-wanted list during an operation in the country’s east, showing the militant group’s continued presence there as U.S. forces work to withdraw from America’s longest-running war amid continued bloodshed. The reported death of Husam Abd al-Rauf, also known by the nom de guerre Abu Muhsin al-Masri, follows weeks of violence, including a suicide bombing by the Islamic State group Saturday at an education center near Kabul that killed 24 people. Meanwhile, the Afghan government continues to fight Taliban militants even as peace talks in Qatar between the two sides take place for the first time despite peace talks.

U.S. Seizes Iranian Missiles, Slaps Iran-Related Sanctions On 11 Entities

The United States revealed on Thursday it had seized Iranian missiles shipped to Yemen and sold 1.1 million barrels of previously seized Iranian oil that was bound for Venezuela, in the Trump administration’s latest move to increase pressure on Tehran. The Treasury Department and State Department jointly slapped sanctions on a combined 11 different entities and individuals for their involvement in the purchase and sale of Iranian petrochemicals.

U.S. Warns Iran Over Missiles Shipped to Venezuela

The United States warned Iran that it will destroy potential Iranian long-range missile shipments delivered to the Maduro regime in Venezuela. “The transfer of long-range missiles from Iran to Venezuela is not acceptable to the United States and will not be tolerated or permitted,” said Elliott Abrams, the State Department Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela. “We will make every effort to stop shipments of long-range missiles, and if somehow they get to Venezuela they will be eliminated there,” added a senior administration official. The officials provided no information that such shipments were imminent.

China Killing U.S. Citizens with Fentanyl, Expert Claims

Well-known China expert Gordon Chang has concluded that China is killing Americans “deliberately” with its export of fentanyl. Writing for the Gatestone Institute, Chang says that China has been pushing fentanyl into the U.S. for years, and last year fatal drug overdoses hit a record 70,980, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of that total, more than 36,000 were from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, he said. Cocaine and methamphetamine fatalities were also up, largely because they were mixed with fentanyl. Vanda Felbab-Brown of the Brookings Institution has called it the “deadliest” drug epidemic in American history. China has been “the principal source of the fentanyl flooding the U.S. illicit drug market—or of the precursor agents from which fentanyl is produced, often in Mexico,” Felbab-Brown says.

Christian Armenia & Muslim Azerbaijan Accept U.S. Brokered Cease Fire

Fighting over the Nagorno-Karabakh region continued Sunday, but Armenia and Azerbaijan reiterated their commitment to a peaceful resolution of their decades-old conflict and agreed to a third attempt to establish a cease-fire after four weeks of hostilities. The agreement on a truce began at 8 a.m. Monday was announced in a joint statement by the governments of the United States, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Two previous Russia-brokered cease-fires, including one last weekend, frayed immediately after taking force, with both sides accusing each other of violations. Most experts don’t expect the ceasefire to hold.

  • The Family Research Council requests, “Please continue to pray with us for an end to the ongoing fighting between Muslim forces from Azerbaijan and the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, a tiny enclave largely comprised of Armenian Christians. As an ancient Christian community, it is concerning to see these Armenians attacked by regional antagonists with few international allies willing to speak up on their behalf.”

Earthquakes

At least 14 people are dead and hundreds injured after a major 7.0 earthquake collapsed buildings and a tsunami sent water rushing through streets in parts of Turkey and Greece. Much of the damage and destruction was in Izmir, which is Turkey’s third-largest city, with a population of about 4.5 million. Residents were warned not to enter damaged buildings, and to stay off roads so emergency crews and rescue personnel could quickly access affected areas. There had been at least 107 aftershocks. The initial quake was centered in the Aegean Sea between Samos and the western coast of Turkey.

Wildfires

Hundreds of thousands of customers were without power in northern and central California Monday after the nation’s largest utility conducted its largest shutoff of the year to prevent wildfires. This latest “public safety power shutoff,” or PSPS, is the fifth wildfire safety outage this year by the company and the largest. PG&E said this shutoff impacts targeted portions of 36 counties. Customers in 17 tribal communities are also impacted by power cuts. The shutoffs come as the state faces what could be the strongest wind event of the year.

Wildfires that gravely injured two firefighters and drove tens of thousands of residents from their homes in Southern California continued to grow overnight Monday. The Silverado Fire spread to almost 17.5 square miles early Tuesday. It was only 5% contained. More than 90,000 residents in Irvine and Lake Forest were ordered to leave their homes. Another 20,000 people had to flee from Yorba Linda, Brea and Chino Hills when the Blue Ridge Fire, erupted in the Santa Ana Canyon late Monday. An evacuation warning also was issued in part of Los Angeles County early Tuesday. The Blue Ridge Fire quickly spread to more than 12.5 square miles. At least two homes were damaged. The Blue Ridge Fire has spread to more than 12.5 square miles. At least two homes were damaged. Improving weather conditions helped firefighters in Southern California gain ground overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday on the pair of fires.

Weather

Hundreds of thousands of people remained in the dark in Oklahoma Wednesday morning after a winter storm coated trees with as much as an inch of ice that snapped powerlines, snarled traffic and left people stuck in elevators. In some places, power poles were snapped in half by the weight of the ice. Oklahoma City’s fire department responded to 676 emergency calls in a 24-hour period ending at 7 a.m. Wednesday. The system, named Winter Storm Billy by The Weather Channel, is also leaving parts of Texas frozen. About 45,000 power outages were being reported in the Panhandle region. The National Weather Service in Amarillo said snow and ice covered trees and roads.

More than 2 million homes and businesses were still without power Thursday evening after Zeta, which came ashore Wednesday in Louisiana as a strong Category 2 hurricane, wreaked havoc across seven states Thursday. The storm ripped off roofs, knocked down power lines and trees and flooded streets as it roared through Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia early Thursday. Heavy rain and winds also pounded eastern Tennessee and the Carolinas throughout the day. At the height of the outages, more than 2.6 million homes and businesses were without power. In Georgia alone. At least six people died in the storm. The storm made landfall about 4 p.m. CDT Wednesday in Louisiana near Cocodrie in Terrebonne Parish and moved over New Orleans with howling winds and driving rain.

  • Zeta is the 27th named storm of the 2020 season. It’s the 11th named storm to make landfall in the U.S. this season, which is a record for the country.
    • 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 (10/23/20)

October 23, 2020

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1Peter 4:12-14)

National Prayer Summit Online Broadcast – October 30-31, 2020

“The National Prayer Summit is a unified Kingdom movement, serving as a catalyst for authentic revival. Through prayer and mobilizing the Body of Christ, this is the time for our voice to be heard!” says the website.  Speakers include Chuck Pierce, Cindy Jacobs, Rick Joyner, Alveda King, David Herzog, James Goll, Patricia King, Che Ahn, Bobby Conner, Rebecca Greenwood, Mario Murillo, Robby Dawkins, Charles Ndifon, Aaron Winter, Michael and Jessica Koulianos, Sharell Barrera, Mario Bramnick. Worship will be led by Rick Pino, Jackie Baker, Torrey Marcel-Harper and Robert & Eleanor Roehl.

  • You must register to participate, but it is free – click here

200 Million Christians Persecuted for Their Faith Each Year

Each year more than 200 million Christian believers around the world suffer for their faith—especially in many parts of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, reports InTouch Ministries. Where oppressive governments make Christianity illegal, churches are bombed and defaced, and followers of Jesus face imprisonment, torture, or even death for their beliefs. It’s not uncommon for the faithful to risk their life attempting to escape such regimes.

  • Please pray for the persecuted body of Christ around the world.

Pope Francis Calls for Gay Civil Unions in 2019 Interview

Pope Francis called for civil unions for same-sex couples in a documentary that premiered Wednesday in Rome. In “Francesco,” the 83-year-old pontiff endorses laws allowing civil unions for same-sex couples, according to Catholic News Agency. “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family,” Francis says in the film, according to news agency. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.” In 2003, the Vatican’s top theological body — the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — disavowed “legal recognition of homosexual unions.”

  • Questions swirled Thursday about the origins of Pope Francis’ bombshell comments, with all evidence suggesting he made them in a 2019 interview that was never broadcast in its entirety. While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages.

Franklin Graham Says Civil Unions for Same-Sex Couples Theologically ‘Unthinkable’

Evangelist Franklin Graham said Thursday that Pope Francis’ endorsement of civil unions for same-sex couples is “unthinkable in light of the Word of God.” “For Pope Francis to attempt to normalize homosexuality is to say that Holy Scriptures are false, that our sins really don’t matter, and that we can continue living in them,” Graham wrote in a Facebook post. “If that were true, then Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection wouldn’t have been needed. The cross would have been for nothing. No one has the right or the authority to trivialize Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.”

Senate Judiciary Advance Barrett Nomination Despite Democrats’ Boycott

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously advanced the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett at its executive business meeting despite a decision by Democrats to boycott the meeting in protest of approving the nomination before Election Day. Barrett was approved to move out of the Judiciary Committee for a full Senate vote by 12-0, with no Democrats present. 

Excess U.S. Deaths More Than ‘Underreported’ Covid-19 Deaths Says CDC

The coronavirus pandemic has led to at least 80,000 more U.S. deaths than the official death toll records, according to a report on excess mortality released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The country’s tally of confirmed coronavirus deaths stood at about 220,000 as of Tuesday afternoon. But the CDC analysis found that, by early October, nearly 300,000 more people across the country had died than would be expected in a typical year. The hidden fatalities are believed to be people who died of covid-19 without being diagnosed, or who died of other causes because they were unwilling or unable to seek medical care during the outbreak, reports the Washington Post.

Covid-19 Cases/Hospitalizations Continue to Increase in U.S.

The U.S. recorded over 71,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, marking the highest single-day increase since July, reports FoxNews.com (the New York Times reported 75,064, almost the highest ever). Thirty-two states reported rising Covid-19 infections, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 41,000 people were hospitalized across the country, according to the Covid Tracking Project. This is the highest level of nationwide hospitalizations since Aug 20. The number of people hospitalized has increased by 40% over the past month with 38 states showing increases in hospitalizations. Deaths are also creeping upward – the 7-day average of deaths has climbed to the highest level in over a month with 24 states showing increased deaths which tend to lag reported new cases by 2-3 weeks.

  • All public school instruction in Boston will be remote starting Thursday, following a rise in Covid-19 cases. The statement cited a 5.7% seven-day Covid-19 positivity rate for the city of Boston, up from last week’s rate of 4.5%. There are now 445 cases of Covid-19 in 84 Michigan schools. Among colleges and universities in Michigan, there are 5,358 coronavirus cases. All University of Michigan undergraduate students are now under an emergency stay-in-place order, after data shows that Covid-19 cases among Michigan students represents more than 60% of all local cases.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its definition of “close contact” to an individual infected with the coronavirus on Wednesday to include multiple, brief exposures adding up to over 15 minutes within 24 hours.

Europe Continues to See Increases in Elderly Covid-19 Cases

Europe is deep in the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic, and a particularly worrying trend is beginning to emerge: More older people are becoming infected. Over the summer months, the continent saw infection clusters popping up mostly among younger people who were venturing out into bars, restaurants and other public spaces. However, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has warned that more older people are now becoming infected. According to the ECDC’s latest situation report, at least 13 countries in Europe saw new infection rates among people aged 65 or over rise to what ECDC defines as “high” last week. Covid-19 infection rates among over-65s in some Eastern European countries are now more than double what they were during the first wave.

  • Greece recorded 865 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday — its highest daily case count since the pandemic began. The Greek government announced a local lockdown for the region of Kastoria in Northern Greece.

No Vaccine is Now Expected Before Election Day

Hope that a vaccine might be available before Election Day faded this week as two frontrunner candidates have now said late November is the earliest they could apply for authorization for their vaccines. Two other candidates are on hold while possible side effects are investigated.

  • The Trump administration announced a partnership Friday with CVS and Walgreens to provide a coronavirus vaccine, when there is one, to nursing home residents at no cost.

Counter Protesters Beat Pro-Trump Demonstrators

A rally called to promote free speech and denounce big tech censorship turned ugly Saturday in San Francisco, when hundreds of alleged Antifa counter-protesters showed up to berate and attack demonstrators. The conservative group Team Save America organized the event to protest Twitter, which it argues censors free speech. They planned to rally at United Nations Plaza before moving the protest to Twitter’s headquarters a few blocks away. But the event quickly devolved into a shouting match and violence as hundreds of counter-protesters stormed the scene. Video shows one counter-protester punching Philip Anderson, an organizer of the event, knocking one of his teeth out. “This is what happens when you lose free speech,” Anderson said over boos as the crowd threw objects at him. Another protester who was wearing a Trump 2020 shirt was attacked and knocked to the ground.

50 Million People Have Already Voted in U.S. – Record Turnout Expected

With less than two weeks until Election Day, more than 50 million people have already voted, and experts predict historic turnout rates for this election, perhaps as high as 62%. The 2016 election saw a turnout rate of 60.1% of eligible voters while 58.6% voted in 2012. The U.S. saw the lowest rates of eligible voter turnout at the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century. Just 6.31% of eligible voters turned out in 1792. The elections of 1820, 1789 and 1816 also saw rates below 20%.

Postal Workers Interfering with Mail-In Voting

A postal employee in Florida was charged late Monday with stealing mail and interfering with the right to vote after authorities say they caught her pilfering a mail-in ballot, political flyers and other mail. The mail was discovered stashed in Crystal Nicole Myrie’s car late last week, prosecutors said Tuesday. She’s the third U.S. Postal Service employee to be accused of diverting mail ballots in the last few weeks. A postal employee in Kentucky was fired after more than 100 mail ballots were discovered in a dumpster, and an employee in New Jersey was charged with stealing mail after nearly 100 ballots were discovered dumped from his route.

Judicial Watch Study Finds 353 U.S. Counties with Voter Registration Rates Exceeding 100%

Judicial Watch announced Monday that a September 2020 study revealed that 353 U.S. counties had 1.8 million more registered voters than eligible voting-age citizens. In other words, the registration rates of those counties exceeded 100% of eligible voters. The study found eight states showing state-wide registration rates exceeding 100%: Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The study collected the most recent registration data posted online by the states themselves. This data was then compared to the Census Bureau’s most recent five-year population estimate

Justice Department Files Anti-Trust Lawsuit Against Google

Lawmakers in the House and Senate on Tuesday welcomed the Justice Department’s antitrust lawsuit against Google that claims the tech behemoth used its power to preserve its monopoly via its search engine. “Today’s lawsuit is the most important antitrust case in a generation,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said in a statement. “Google and its fellow Big Tech monopolists exercise unprecedented power over the lives of ordinary Americans, controlling everything from the news we read to the security of our most personal information. And Google in particular has gathered and maintained that power through illegal means.” The DOJ suit alleges that Google has used its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and boost profits. A Google spokesperson said, ” People use Google because they choose to — not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives.”

Big-Tech Influencing Upcoming Election, Exhibits Bias Against Conservatives

Big tech companies “have the power” to decide the presidency, warns Brent Bozell, the founder of the watchdog Media Research Center. Bozell, whose MRC publishes Newsbusters and CNSNews. “Remember this statistic, they asked young people, where do they get their news? They didn’t say ABC News. They didn’t say the New York Times. Sixty-eight percent said Facebook. That’s how powerful these tech companies are today. Much more powerful than the traditional news media.” Bozell cited findings of an organization he founded called CensorTrack, which monitors social media bias against conservatives. He noted that Facebook broke its own policies recently to try and suppress the New York Post Hunter Biden stories, censoring the initial story even before it was fact-checked. His organization has documented “over a hundred examples of deliberate and a bias against conservatives.”

Parents of 545 Children Separated at the Border Can’t Be Found

Court-appointed lawyers said Tuesday that they have been unable to find parents of 545 children who were separated at the U.S. border with Mexico early in the Trump administration, the AP reports. The children were separated between July 1, 2017, and June 26, 2018, when a federal judge in San Diego ordered that children in government custody be reunited with their parents. Children from that period are difficult to find because the government had inadequate tracking systems. Volunteers have searched for them and their parents by going door-to-door in Guatemala and Honduras. More than 2,700 children were separated from their parents in June 2018 when U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw ordered an end to the practice under a “zero-tolerance” policy to criminally prosecute every adult who entered the country illegally from Mexico.

Nearly 1 Million Immigrants a Year Now Deciding to Leave the U.S.

The rate of growth of the immigrant population in the U.S. has slowed under President Trump to an average of 200,000 a year, down from more than 600,000 a year under President Barack Obama, according to a report released Thursday by the Center for Immigration studies. It’s not just that fewer people are coming. Nearly 1 million immigrants appear to have left the country each year, in what is known as outmigration. Steven A. Camarota, the CIS demographer who wrote the report, said the most likely cause is a “Trump effect” — the president’s policies have blocked some migrants from arriving and convinced others to depart. Even with the slower rate of net migration, the immigrant population was almost 45 million on July 1, 2019, or nearly 14% of the total of 328 million. That is the highest rate of immigrants since the 1910 census.

Economic News

The U.S. budget deficit breached $3.1 trillion in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic slammed the economy, new government data shows. The federal government’s record-shattering deficit was the result of a huge increase in spending by Congress and the White House to try to prevent the recession from deepening. The White House said Monday that the government spent $6.55 trillion in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, nearly double what it brought in through tax revenue.

With stimulus negotiations stalled, shortfalls in tax revenues leave states facing layoffs and reductions in services. States’ tax revenues have dropped more than 6% (about $30 billion) from March through the end of August compared to 2019. Alaska has seen the biggest decline (31%) with Oregon next (22%) followed by Hawaii (19.4%), Florida (16.5%) and Texas (10.6%).

More than 6 million households failed to make their rent or mortgage payments in September, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Research Institute for Housing America.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to 787,000, a sign that job losses may have eased slightly but are still running at historically high levels. Thursday’s report from the Labor Department said the number of people who are continuing to receive unemployment benefits tumbled by 1 million to 8.4 million. The decline shows that some of the unemployed are being recalled to their old jobs or are finding new ones. But it also indicates that many jobless Americans have used up their state unemployment aid — which typically expires after six months — and have transitioned to a federal extended benefits program that lasts an additional three months.

Sixty-three percent of workers who lost jobs because of the outbreak have changed their industry and 4% have changed their field or overall career path, according to a Harris Poll survey this month for USA Today, but the pandemic is limiting participation in job-training programs.

Across the nation, mothers have had to make the difficult choice to slash work hours or quit jobs as they strain under childcare and homeschooling obligations. Even when childcare is available, many say they can’t afford it or worry about exposure to the virus.

Gap Inc. said Thursday that it will be closing 220 of its namesake stores — or one-third of its store base — by early 2024. That will result in 80% of its remaining Gap stores being in off-mall locations. As part of its restructuring, Gap Inc. said it also plans to close 130 of its Banana Republic stores in North America over the next three years.

Sudan Latest Arab Nation to Recognize Israel

Sudan on Friday agreed to be the latest Arab nation to recognize Israel and normalize relations, President Donald Trump announced in a new diplomatic coup for him days before U.S. elections, reports NewsMax. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed an accord at the White House last month to normalize relations with Israel but Sudan is arguably more significant as an Arab nation that has been at war with Israel. Trump announced the agreement by Sudan’s year-old civilian-backed government moments after he formally moved to end the nation’s designation of a state sponsor of terrorism, which was a major goal for Khartoum. “We are expanding their circle of peace so rapidly with your leadership,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Albania Joins Global Efforts to Combat Anti-Semitism

The Albanian Parliament on Thursday passed a resolution joining global efforts to combat anti-Semitism. The parliament unanimously voted to approve the definition of anti-Semitism from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), becoming the second majority-Muslim country to adopt it after Kosovo. The definition describes hate speech and other acts that discriminate against the Jewish people or the state, their properties or religious objects. The New York-based Combat Anti-Semitism Movement called Albania’s act a “landmark decision” and urged other countries to join it.

Iran the Source of Alleged Proud Boys Threatening Emails

Federal authorities concluded that Iran was behind a string of threatening emails targeting Democratic voters in swing states, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. The email senders claimed to be members of the Proud Boys, a fringe right-wing group. Director of National Intelligence Dan Ratcliffe confirmed the Iranian efforts during a press conference Wednesday evening. Ratcliffe said that “we have already seen Iran sending spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump.” The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump political group, helped the Iranian misinformation go viral on social media, garnering more than 12,000 retweets by amplifying the false claim that the Proud Boys were trying to intimidate Democratic voters.

U.S. Sanctions Iran Over Election Interference

The U.S. Treasury on Thursday slapped new sanctions on five Iranian entities for what it called “brazen attempts” to interfere with the U.S. election. The Treasury named the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the IRGC-Qods Force, the Bayan Rasaneh Gostar Institute, the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union and International Union of Virtual Media as key actors in an effort to spread disinformation ahead of the November 3 U.S. presidential election. The groups have worked to “sow discord among the voting populace by spreading disinformation online and executing malign influence operations aimed at misleading U.S. voters,” the Treasury said.

Hamas Uses Secret Cyberwar Base in Turkey

Hamas has been using a secret headquarters in Istanbul for cyberwarfare and counter-intelligence purposes, UK’s The Times reported on Thursday. The headquarters, Western intelligence has learned, were set up about two years ago and are separate from the Islamic terror group’s official offices in the same city, which deal mainly with coordination and funding, according to the British report. Turkey granted citizenship in August to members of a Hamas terrorist cell so that they could use the country as a base to launch attacks not just against Israel, but targets around the world as well, The Telegraph in London reported at the time. Turkey has become increasingly hostile towards Israel under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has close ties to radical Islamic organizations.

1,300 Prisoners Escape From Congo Jail After An Attack Claimed By ISIS

At least 1,300 prisoners escaped from a jail in the Democratic Republic of Congo early on Tuesday, the United Nations said, after an armed assault for which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility. Amaq, the Islamic State’s official news outlet, said that ISIS fighters had attacked the Congolese prison. The assault in Beni, in the country’s northeast, targeted the Kangbayi central prison and the military camp defending it, the city’s mayor, Modeste Bakwanamaha, told news agencies on Tuesday morning. The mayor said that just 100 of the prison’s inmates, who had numbered more than 1,400, remained, though 20 others later returned. “Unfortunately, the attackers, who came in large numbers, managed to break the door with electrical equipment,” the mayor said to Reuters.

Grisly Beheading Of Teacher In Terror Attack Rattles France

For the second time in three weeks, terror struck France, this time with the gruesome beheading of a history teacher in a street in a Paris suburb. The suspected attacker was shot and killed by police. French President Emmanuel Macron denounced what he called an “Islamist terrorist attack” and urged the nation to stand united against extremism. The teacher had discussed caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad with his class, authorities said.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake prompted a tsunami warning Monday for a nearly thousand-mile stretch of Alaska’s southern coast, with waves over 2 feet at the nearest community as the threat subsided. The quake was centered in the North Pacific Ocean about 67 miles southeast of Sand Point, a city of about 900 people off the Alaska Peninsula.

A 5.6-magnitude earthquake hit southwest Iceland on Tuesday, shaking buildings in the capital, Reykjavik. There were no immediate reports of injuries. The Icelandic Meteorological Office said the quake struck at 1:43 p.m.  and was centered near Krysuvik, about 22 miles south of Reykjavik.

Wildfires

The largest wildfire ever recorded in Colorado is 57% contained as of Friday, 10/23. The Cameron Peak fire, raging in the mountains west of Fort Collins and Loveland, has burned more than 323 square miles. Several rural areas around the fire remain under mandatory evacuation orders, and parts of the Arapaho and Roosevelt national forests, as well as portions of Rocky Mountain National Park, were closed. Almost two dozen hikers and three digs were airlifted to safety after a wildfire broke out in a recreation area in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains.

  • Vast areas of national forest from areas west of Denver all the way to the Wyoming border were closed Wednesday as Colorado faces historic wildfires that may get worse due to windy weather. “The number of large fires and extreme fire behavior we are seeing on our Forests this year is historic,” Forest Supervisor Monte Williams said in a statement. Officials said the impacted counties are currently experiencing a “severe drought,” with a high occurrence of human-caused wildfires and limited capacity for the response due to multiple ongoing blazes.
  • The East Troublesome fire exploded in size overnight Wednesday, forcing an entire town to evacuate as it grew at a rate of about 10,000 acres per hour. The blaze grew from about 30 square miles in size to more than 196 square miles in about 10 hours. The East Troublesome fire is now the fourth-largest wildfire in state history. Evacuations started Wednesday afternoon and expanded late into the evening to include the entire town of Grand Lake, Colorado. The town of a few hundred people rests in the Rockies at an elevation of over 8,000 feet, about 30 miles northwest of Boulder, Colorado.
  • The East Troublesome Fire, grew at a slower rate Thursday but still expanded by about 80 square miles as it moved across Rocky Mountain National Park and jumped the Continental Divide. In all, the blaze has burned more than 265 square miles, making it the second-largest fire in state history behind only the recent Cameron Peak Fire. Five people were reported missing, cars jammed roadways and evacuees filled at least one local hotel Thursday night as a wildfire raging in northern Colorado edged closer to the mountain resort town of Estes Park. Mandatory evacuation orders were in place for the community’s downtown area, and voluntary evacuations were recommended for several other. Several communities in nearby Grand County also remained under mandatory evacuations. The Red Cross is assisting about 7,300 evacuees from the two wildfires.

Weather

An early-season snowstorm dumped a record-breaking amount of snow across Minnesota on Tuesday, knocking out power to thousands and leading to hundreds of accidents. The National Weather Service (NWS) forecast office for the Twin Cities said that 7.9 inches of snow fell at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, which broke a previous daily record of three inches set back on Oct. 20, 1916.

A storm system moving across the Central High Plains will bring more snow from the Northwest through the northern and central Rockies and into the Upper Midwest. This region has just seen record-breaking snow for the month of October in recent days, and more is on the way. Gusty winds over 35 mph and a widespread 6-12 inches are expected from this system, making for dangerous road conditions at times.  

Signs of the Times (10/15/20)

October 15, 2020

“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears… The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.” (Psalm 34:4,7-9)

Nashville ‘Worship Protest’ Under Investigation

Christian worship leader Sean Feucht hosted a “worship protest” Sunday evening that is now under investigation by health officials after it drew thousands of people who appeared to be largely without masks. Nashville officials said Monday morning that organizers did not apply for a permit to host the event and that the Metro Public Health Department is investigating what happened. However, the worshippers say that have a right to gather in protest without permits and ignore mask mandates just as Black Lives Matter protesters have been allowed to hold protests without facing charges (except for any ensuing violence).

Committee Thwarts Democratic Attempt to Halt Barrett Nomination

The Senate Judiciary Committee, in a party-line 10-12 vote, shot down a Democratic attempt to stop Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination from moving forward Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday “we have the votes” to confirm Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Democrats have complained that Barrett’s nomination is being rushed through in order to confirm her to the high court before Election Day when both the Senate majority and White House are up for grabs. The full Senate would start to consider her nomination on Oct. 23. Barrett repeatedly told her the Senate confirmation hearing that her religious views would not affect her decisions on the bench.

Presidential Debate Cancelled, Replaced with Competing Town Halls

Americans will hear from Donald Trump and Joe Biden on Thursday after all, though not in a debate, and on separate channels with different hosts. The president and his Democratic challenger will each hold town halls Thursday evening after the second presidential debate was canceled when Trump refused to participate in a virtual debate. Both Town Hall events start at 8 p.m. EDT. Biden is in Philadelphia on ABC with George Stephanopoulos and Trump is in Miami with Savannah Guthrie on NBC, which has come under fire for its decision to host the competing Town Hall in the same time slot making it difficult for viewers to see both live.

Kamala Harris Quarantining, Melania & Barron Trump Have Recovered

Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, canceled campaign trips to key battleground states through Sunday after two people associated with the campaign tested positive for COVID-19. The positive tests late Wednesday included a flight crew member, who doesn’t work for the campaign, and the senator’s communications director. Melania Trump reported that she and Barron have now recovered from COVID-19 and tested negative. This was the first notice that 14-year old Barron had also contracted the virus, although Melania said he had been asymptomatic.

WHO Official Urges Halt to Lockdowns Which Devastate the Poor

The World Health Organization’s special envoy on COVID-19 has urged world leaders to stop using lockdowns as the primary control method against the spread of the coronavirus. “We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” David Nabarro told The Spectator in an interview aired on Oct. 8. “The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.” Nabarro pointed to the collateral damage in tourism and small businesses and farm that lockdowns are having worldwide, especially among poorer populations… Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer… It seems that we may well have a doubling of world poverty by next year.”

Coronavirus Cases Increasing in Europe Forcing New Restrictions

Rising infections in Europe led governments in France and Britain to impose new measures to contain the coronavirus. Fears are rising in Europe as the new outbreaks cause record daily highs in Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy and Poland. France slapped a 9 p.m. curfew on many of its biggest cities and Londoners face new travel restrictions as governments take increasingly tough actions. The new restrictions are not as strict as the full lockdowns imposed during the spring, but will stunt or even reverse the economy’s recovery from the pandemic recession, experts say. European markets fell broadly Thursday in response.

Covid-19 Cases Also Rising in U.S.

States including Alaska, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin reported more new cases during the seven-day stretch that ended on Wednesday than in any other week since the virus arrived in the country. As of Thursday morning, the nation is now averaging 52,345 new cases a day, up 16% from the previous week, a trend that concerns health experts as we head into the cooler months. Since Sunday, 21 states have hit their peak 7-day average of new cases since the pandemic began. Thirty-five states are showing increases in new Covid-19 cases greater than 10% over the last week compared to the week prior. Only three states — Louisiana, Kentucky and Vermont — are showing decreases in new cases greater than 10% this week compared to the week before. The remaining 12 states — Hawaii, California, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, New York, Massachusetts and Maine — are holding steady. Overall deaths are holding steady.

  • Stocks fell on Wall Street Thursday, extending the market’s pullback this week as optimism that Congress will deliver another round of stimulus for the economy wanes and new data show another weekly surge in the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid. President Trump pushed for a Congressional stand-alone bill that would immediately send $1,200 checks to each U.S. citizen.

First U.S. Covid-19 Patient Confirmed to be Reinfected

A patient was confirmed to have been reinfected with the coronavirus. The 25-year-old Nevada man first tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-April, with symptoms including sore throat, cough, headache, and GI issues that started March 25. He recovered by April 27, testing negative twice in May. But on May 28, just two days after his second negative test, he came down with a fever, cough, and dizziness. He tested positive again in early June. This is just the fifth confirmed case of reinfection across the globe. It’s difficult to confirm reinfections, because doctors must have nasal swabs from both infections so the genomes of the virus samples can be compared, and that can only be done in very advanced hospitals and labs.

6 Feet of Social Distancing Not Enough

One of the biggest misconceptions from the beginning of the pandemic is that standing 6 feet away from others ensures your safety. Not so, say experts, who point to evidence that the virus can remain in the air for hours and travel distances much greater than 6 feet. University of Nebraska researchers found that the virus can be infectious in distances much farther than the 6 feet social distancing guidelines, reports Newsmax Health. “Under certain conditions, particularly indoors and in areas with poor airflow around un-masked people infected with COVID-19, the virus can be transmitted via an airborne route via so-called aerosols,” Dr. Benjamin D. Singer, a critical care physician at Northwestern Medical Group in Chicago, told USA Today. “These particles can hang in the air and transmit over distances greater than 6 feet.”

NYC Back Under Lockdown With Fines to be Assessed

As New York City went back under lockdown amid a resurgence of the coronavirus, the city issued more than $150,000 in fines during the first weekend of the new restrictions. Authorities gave out 62 tickets to people, businesses, and religious gathering places that violated rules having to do with gathering size, masks, or social distancing. A restaurant and at least five houses of worship in the city’s “red zones” where COVID-19 infection rates are highest, could each face up to $15,000 in fines for large gatherings, which NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said last week was the upper end of the penalties. Penalties for those who refuse to wear masks were to be as high as $1,000. Most of the surges are being seen in Brooklyn and Queens, often in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods due to what officials say are large gatherings and a lack of social distancing.

Trump/Police Supporter Killed at Denver Rally

One person was shot and killed, and a local news station’s private security guard was in custody Saturday evening after protests between opposing groups turned violent in Denver’s Civic Center Park, city police said. The man who was shot was part of a pro-police “Patriot Rally.” “Further investigation has determined the suspect is a private security guard with no affiliation with Antifa,” the Denver Police Department wrote in a Twitter message, responding to earlier rumors. A KUSA producer also was initially in custody, but has since been released. “The incident occurred after a man participating in what was billed a ‘Patriot Rally’ sprayed mace at another man. That man then shot the other individual with a handgun near the courtyard outside the Denver Art Museum,” the Denver Post reported. 

Portland Protesters Topple Roosevelt, Lincoln Statues in Columbus Day Rage

Protesters overturned statues of former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln in Portland, Oregon, on Sunday night in a declaration of “rage” toward Columbus Day. After toppling the statues, the crowd began smashing windows at the Oregon Historical Society. Police later declared the event a riot and ordered the group to disperse. Protest organizers dubbed the event “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage,” in response to Monday’s federal holiday named after 15th-century Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, a polarizing figure who Native American advocates have said spurred centuries of genocide against indigenous populations in the Americas. Historians have said Roosevelt expressed hostility toward Native Americans.

  • Generational Resistance, which promoted Sunday night’s “Day of Rage” in Portland, said its ultimate goal is to “decolonize society by working to abolish colonial systems rooted in racism,” a report in the Oregonian newspaper said.

Florida Police Rule Nevan Baker’s Hanging Death a Suicide

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump is calling for an investigation after Florida police ruled the death of a Black man found hanging from tree as a suicide. The family of the man also wants more information. Nevan Baker, 22, was found just after 3:30 a.m. on Oct. 5 after police were called to a Orlando park by a person who reported seeing a man hanging from a tree. The police department has said it has “exhausted all leads” in the case and found no evidence of foul play. However, Crump says Baker’s “hands were tied, teeth missing and face bruised. We demand transparency and a comprehensive investigation so we know exactly what happened!”

FBI, DHS Say Hackers have Gained Access to Election Systems

Hackers, possibly nation-state actors, have penetrated U.S. government networks and accessed election systems, the FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) said in a joint alert. The agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, explained there is no evidence so far that the integrity of elections data was compromised. Hackers got access via a combination of vulnerabilities – what CISA calls “vulnerability chaining.” It is a commonly used tactic and in this case targeted federal and state, local, tribal, and territorial government networks, critical infrastructure, and elections organizations. The hackers targeted a Virtual Private Network (VPN) vulnerability and a flaw in Netlogon, a Windows protocol to authenticate users. 

Half-Million Mail-In Ballots Rejected in 2020 Primaries

There is growing concern that hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots for the November election could be rejected because of voter error. According to NPR, more than half a million absentee ballots were rejected from the 2020 primaries for various reasons: voters not signing the envelope in which their ballot was mailed, voters mailing them back too late, etc. During the 2016 election, more than 300,000 mail-in ballots were rejected, an election in which the number of ballots filled out by mail was far lower than what’s expected to be this year. The analysis found that younger voters and voters of color are more likely to have their ballots rejected for the above-mentioned reasons.

  • Several bags of undelivered mail were found awaiting trash pickup outside the home of a US Postal Service worker in Pennsylvania, a report said. The discovery, which was made Sunday at the home in Baldwin, Pennsylvania, is under investigation by the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General
  • More than 15 million people have voted already, with three weeks to go before Election Day. Based on that trend, more than half of the votes cast in the election may come before Nov. 3.

Appeals Court Approves Order Limiting Texas Ballot Drop-Off Locations

In a ruling issued late Monday, a federal appeals court upheld Gov. Greg Abbott’s order that limited counties to one mail-in ballot drop-off location. Earlier, a federal judge issued an order Friday night barring enforcement of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Oct. 1 proclamation that limited counties to one mail-in ballot drop-off location. U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman said Abbott’s order placed an unacceptable burden on the voting rights of elderly and disabled Texans, who are most likely to request a mail-in ballot and to hand-deliver those ballots early to ensure that they are counted. These voters are also particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, the judge said.

  • A federal appeals court in Wisconsin overruled a lower court’s decision to extend the deadline for counting absentee ballots by six days, doling out a win to the state’s GOP-led Legislature, which fought hard against the rule change.

California Orders GOP to Get Rid of Unofficial Ballot Boxes

California’s chief elections official on Monday ordered Republicans to remove unofficial ballot drop boxes from churches, gun shops, and other locations and Attorney General Xavier Becerra warned that those behind the “vote tampering” could face prosecution. Republicans refused, saying they are taking advantage of California’s liberal ballot collection law that allows anyone to collect ballots from voters and deliver them to county election offices. “As of right now, we’re going to continue our ballot harvesting program,” California Republican Party spokesman Hector Barajas said. With more than 1.5 million votes already cast in California, state Republican Party leaders on Wednesday said again that they will not comply with an order from the state’s chief elections official to remove the unofficial ballot drop boxes.

Microsoft Takes Down Massive Hacking Operation

Microsoft has disrupted a massive hacking operation, taking down the servers behind Trickbot, an enormous malware network that criminals were using to launch other cyberattacks, including a strain of highly potent ransomware. Microsoft said it obtained a federal court order to disable the IP addresses associated with Trickbot’s servers, and worked with telecom providers around the world to stamp out the network. The action coincides with an offensive by US Cyber Command to disrupt the cybercriminals, at least temporarily. Microsoft acknowledged that the attackers are likely to adapt and seek to revive their operations eventually. But, the company’s efforts reflect a “new legal approach” that may help authorities fight the hackers going forward.

Economic News

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to 898,000, evidence that layoffs remain a hindrance to the economy’s recovery from the pandemic recession. The economy is still 10.7 million jobs short of recovering all the 22 million jobs that were lost when the pandemic struck in early spring.

A majority of registered voters in the U.S. said they’re better off now than four years ago, despite the riots and coronavirus pandemic, according to recent polling from Gallup. Fifty-six percent of voters said they and their family are better off now than four years ago, compared to 32% who said they were worse off. The 56% figure compares similar questioning in prior election years: 45% in December 2012, 47% in October 2004, 38% in October 1992, and 44% in July 1984.

The International Monetary Fund predicted on Tuesday that the world’s economy will shrink by 4.4% in 2020, a less severe contraction than it forecast in June. The improvement is driven by a stronger than expected bounce in the United States and Europe after lockdowns lifted, as well as China’s return to growth. However, the organization downgraded its outlook for 2021. The IMF now sees a 5.2% increase in global output next year, down from 5.4% in its previous report. Last month, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development also lowered its forecast for 2021.

San Francisco experienced a 43% year-over-year decline in sales tax revenues during the pandemic, which has been credited to a mass exodus from the expensive city with its excessive homelessness, high taxes and proximity to numerous wildfires.

Because the IRS has been so short-staffed due to the pandemic, it’s estimated that the agency has yet to look at 2.5 million hard copy tax returns for 2019, which means many filers could end up waiting a long time to receive their refunds.

Donations to nonprofit organizations, including big names like the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, are dropping as Americans give less due to pandemic-fueled job losses and fears of getting laid off. 

Slightly more than half of Americans in a recent poll from Sports and Leisure Research Group say they already have or plan to stockpile food and other essentials. The chief reason: fears of a resurgent pandemic, which could lead to disruptions such as new restrictions on businesses. Grocery stores across the United States are stocking up on products to avoid shortages during a second wave of coronavirus.

Food prices continue rising during the coronavirus pandemic, jeopardizing food security for tens of millions worldwide. On Thursday, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations said world food prices rose for the fourth consecutive month in September, led by surging prices for cereals and vegetable oils.

Delta Air Lines posted massive quarterly losses — and the company is warning investors “it may be two years or more” for air travel demand to return to normal. The airline posted a $2.1 billion operating loss in the third quarter, larger than forecast by Wall Street analysts. Analysts expect total losses among all U.S. airlines to top $10 billion for last quarter. Business travel, the more lucrative part of the airline’s bookings, has been slower to recover than leisure.

Saudi Arabia Using its Media to Push Positive Messages Towards Israel

The changing Arab attitudes towards Israel that are taking place in the Middle East are being noticed, especially when it comes to Saudi Arabia, which Arab states look to for its leading role in setting public opinion across the region. Although the government in Riyadh has not commented directly on the historic Abraham Accords, which its neighbors Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates used to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, the media in Saudi Arabia has changed its attitude towards Israel dramatically. Recent changes show a softening Saudi tone towards not just Israel, but also the Jewish religion. At the same time, relations between the Kingdom and the Palestinian Authority are deteriorating.

Israeli Defense Forces Cross Border to Blow Up 2 Syrian Army Posts

Israel sent a clear warning to Syria with a cross-border raid that destroyed two military posts. Israeli soldiers crossed the Syrian border earlier this week to blow up two military posts. The IDF carried out the raid in a so-called demilitarized zone between the countries. The strike was intended as a warning to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad that encroachment by his forces into the Golan Heights would not be tolerated.

Two Americans Held Hostage By Iran-Backed Forces In Yemen Freed In Trade

Two Americans held hostage by Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen were freed on Wednesday as part of a U.S.-backed trade that returned more than 200 of the group’s loyalists to the fractured Middle East country, according to U.S. and Saudi officials. A Royal Oman Air Force plane carrying the two Americans and the remains of a third flew out of Yemen’s Houthi-controlled capital of Sana’a, hours after the jet and a companion flight brought the militants back to the country following years stuck in Oman.

Six Nigerian Christians Killed in Fulani Militant Attack

Six people were murdered, including the acting village head, and three seriously injured in an attack by armed Fulani militants on 5 October in Wereng, a beleaguered Christian village in Plateau State. The heavily armed attackers, who were wearing police uniforms according to eyewitnesses, sporadically fired their guns as they stormed the small community around 9.00 pm, causing a number of villagers to flee their homes. According to an eyewitness, the militants specifically identified and pursued the acting village head, Chungyang Mwadkon, shooting him dead as he fled from them. Three people injured in the raid remain in a critical condition in hospital and it is “not known if they will survive”, according to local reports.

Chinese Officials Demand Churches Replace Crosses with Nation’s Five-Pointed Star

Persecution of Christians in China by the Chinese Communist Party has continued to rage on with officials removing crosses from the rooftops of hundreds of churches, religious liberty magazine Bitter Winter reports. Two Chinese Christian Councils in a county managed by the prefecture-level city of Jiujiang in Jiangxi Province ordered over 70 affiliated churches to replace all cross symbols from their official seals with China’s five-pointed star. Jiujiang’s Religious Affairs Bureau also ordered official churches to remove Chinese characters for “Christianity” from church seals. A Three-Self venue director explained how the cross was inscribed on its church seals as “the symbol of our faith,” but “the government replaced it with the five-pointed star to show its power.”

Wildfires

The devastating wildfire season in California that’s seen a record number of acres burn may get worse this week as hot, dry conditions with intense winds threaten to spark more flames. A newly sparked wildfire in California forced the evacuation of dozens of people Wednesday night. A newly sparked wildfire in California forced the evacuation of dozens of people Wednesday night, as the state faces another round of dangerous fire weather. About 50 homes were under a mandatory evacuation order. More than 8,500 wildfires have burned over 6,406 square miles in California this year, mostly since mid-August.

Drought

Deep drought strengthened its grip on the southwestern states in the U.S. Five states have its entire landmass under some level of drought. The worst is Utah with 87% of the state in extreme to exceptional drought. Arizona is next at 78% with Colorado at 59%, Nevada at 58%, and New Mexico at 54%. Northern California where the severe wildfires have mostly been is also having severe drought condition, but the southern part of the state is mostly drought-free.

Weather

Thousands of Louisianans who fled or were displaced by back-to-back hurricanes Laura and Delta remain scattered in hotel rooms and other temporary housing as election day approaches. People who won’t be in their home parish on election day have two options: vote early in person or cast a ballot by mail. About 7,000 residents of Lake Charles have not been able to return to their homes since they were damaged by Hurricane Laura six weeks ago. Many of these homes had their repair work ripped apart by Hurricane Delta’s winds last weekend. These property owners are having to file a second insurance claim for damage to their property which can be a difficult process. Insurance in coastal states is tricky to begin with, and even in a single storm can be difficult to navigate. Homeowners often have separate windstorm insurance, commonly called a hurricane policy, that covers damage from named storms. The extra coverage can be required by banks and mortgage companies, depending on where a home is located.

Signs of the Times (10/9/20)

October 9, 2020

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

President Trump “Feels Perfect” and Says ‘We Have a Cure’

President Trump said Friday that he feels “perfect” and that he is no longer taking any medication for COVID-19, just a week after his diagnosis. Speaking during a “rally” on Rush Limbaugh’s syndicated radio show, the president said he met with his team of doctors at the White House earlier in the day. “I’m free, I feel perfect,” Mr. Trump said. “I’m not taking anything. It wiped out the virus.” He singled out the antibody cocktail made by Regeneron as particularly effective for his treatment of the virus. Mr. Trump said the drug “fixed me.” The president claimed of the medication he received, “We have a cure. More than just a therapeutic, we have a cure.” Trump also promised to make it free to all Americans.

  • REGN-COV2 is an experimental drug developed by the American biotechnology company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. It is an artificial “antibody cocktail” designed to produce resistance to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. It consists of a mixture of two monoclonal antibodies, REGN10933 and REGN10987.

Kamala Harris Says SCOTUS Nominee Barrett’s Faith Not a Factor

Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala D. Harris said Thursday that questions about Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s faith should not be part of Judge Barrett’s confirmation process in the coming weeks. “One’s faith should never be the basis of supporting or rejecting a nominee, so absolutely not,” Ms. Harris told KPNX-TV in Phoenix. Judge Barrett is President Trump’s pick to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court left by the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. At the VP  debate on Wednesday, Ms. Harris said she and Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden are both people of faith.

Jews in Brooklyn Protest Government Shutdown of Synagogues

Hundreds of Orthodox Jews took to the streets in Brooklyn, New York – angry over government orders to shut down synagogues and houses of worship. “We are not going to be deprived of the right that we have in America, like everybody else in America, the right to observe our religion,” Councilman Kalman Yeger told Boro Park News. Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio have implemented strict guidelines – limiting houses of worship to no more than 10 people. Non-essential businesses have also been ordered to close. The Orthodox community is enraged and accuse government leaders of targeting their faith group. Early on during the pandemic, Mayor De Blasio personally oversaw the disruption of a Jewish funeral. The protesters marched in the streets and burned their facemasks – chanting, “Jewish Lives Matter.”

NY Times Admits ‘Insurrectionary Anarchists’ Behind Riots and Looting

A photographer who expected to find white supremacists and people angered by racial injustice behind the looting that has plagued American cities since the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day instead found “insurrectionary anarchists” bent on revolution, according to a member of the New York Times editorial board. The photographer, Jeremy Lee Quinn, concluded the protests were not spontaneous outbursts of anger toward social injustice or police brutality. Instead they were strategically organized via social media by anarchists bent on tearing down the social structure and replacing it with an anarchist society.

Michigan Supreme Court Strikes Down Governor’s Emergency Powers

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Friday that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had no authority to issue or renew executive orders relating to Covid-19 beyond April 30. The Democratic governor extended the state’s coronavirus emergency declaration by executive order April 30 after the Republican-controlled Legislature advanced a bill that would not have renewed the original declaration. Whitmer cited the Emergency Management Act of 1976 (EMA) and the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945 (EPGA) as authority, with two lower courts subsequently dismissing legal challenges to her actions. But the Michigan Supreme Court Friday ruled that Gov. Whitmer did not possess the authority under the EMA to re-declare a state of emergency or disaster based on the pandemic and that the EPGA was an “unlawful delegation of legislative power to the executive branch in violation of the Michigan Constitution.” The court’s ruling would not take effect for at least 21 days and the emergency declaration and orders would remain in place until then.

FBI Says Michigan Militia Plotted to Kidnap Gov. Whitmer

Six men were arrested on federal charges and accused of plotting with a militia group to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. Seven other men from the militia group were charged by the state. The men, who the F.B.I. said espoused anti-government views, had talked about taking Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat, hostage since at least the summer, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court and unsealed on Thursday. They had surveilled Ms. Whitmer’s vacation home in August and September, and they indicated that they wanted to take her hostage before the presidential election in November. The F.B.I. said it had learned so much about the group by intercepting encrypted messages and because it had undercover agents and confidential informants working with the group. At least one of the six ringleaders arrested Thursday is a self-proclaimed anarchist who has expressed disdain for Trump, calling him a ‘tyrant.’

WHO Now Estimates Coronavirus Death Rate is Only 0.13%

Lost in the reporting of the World Health Organization’s new estimate that about 760 million people – more than 20 times the confirmed cases – have been infected by the coronavirus worldwide is the impact on the estimated survival rate. If, indeed, 760 million have been infected at some point during the outbreak and the number of confirmed deaths is about 1 million, the infection fatality rate is only 0.13%, reports WND. That’s just a slight bit higher than the 1% death rate from the flu. The WHO’s estimate in March of a 3.4% death rate (26 times higher than 0.13%) sparked panic worldwide, fueling the lockdowns.

  • Either WHO’s estimate of the number of infections is way off, or the death rate is much lower than they have postulated.

FDA Guidelines Mean No Vaccine Before Election Day

The Trump administration has signed off on FDA guidelines for a thorough coronavirus vaccine review, which is likely to delay authorization until after Election Day. Though officials had initially blocked the guidelines, a senior administration official tells the Journal that the White House approved them without changes on Tuesday—two weeks after they were received. The FDA then issued the guidelines, which require a vaccine to lower the rate of COVID-19 in study participants by 50% or better compared with a placebo, as well as a two-month observation of anyone given the vaccine. President Trump wasn’t happy. “New FDA Rules make it more difficult for them to speed up vaccines for approval before Election Day. Just another political hit job!” Trump tweeted.

Covid-19 Cases/Hospitalizations Increasing in U.S.

Over the past week, cases have been trending upward in 21 states, with only 8 decreasing or staying at the same level. Overall in the U.S., the 7-day average of new cases rose to 47,049 on 10/8 from 34,596 on 9/13. Deaths continue to trend slightly downward, but tend to lag new cases by 7-14 days. And hospitalizations across the country have also begun to rise, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. Wisconsin is opening a field hospital at the state fair park in response to an alarming surge in Covid-19 hospitalizations that is overwhelming hospitals, Gov. Tony Evers announced.

22% Increase in Arizona Deaths, More Than Underreported Covid-19 Deaths

The COVID-19 pandemic has produced a 22% increase in Arizona deaths through August. When the number of COVID-19 deaths reported by the Arizona Department of Health Services through August are subtracted, Arizona deaths are still up by nearly 10% over the first eight months of the previous year, the data shows. That means Covid-19 deaths are underreported or deaths from other causes have increased.

CDC Says Virus Droplets Can Linger for Hours in Close Quarters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its webpage Monday saying there is evidence that in enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation, the virus can sometimes be spread by tiny droplets that can linger in the air for hours and infect people who are farther than six feet apart.

Young People Most Infected Now, Passing it On to Seniors

Early in the pandemic, COVID-19 incidence was highest among older Americans. According to the CDC, researchers found that between the months of July and August, people in their 20s now have the largest number of confirmed cases compared to other age groups. The repercussions of this trend appear to be that young people precede infections rates in the over 60 age group by 4 to 15 days, according to the report. This older age group is more likely to suffer serious complications such as hospitalization and death from the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci pleaded for young Americans who have tested positive for COVID-19 to take responsibility and follow safety guidelines so that they do not spread the disease to vulnerable people.

Over 80% of Hospitalized Covid-19 Patients Experience Neurological Symptoms

While respiratory issues are a well-documented symptom of coronavirus, researchers have found that over 80% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients experience some type of neurological manifestation as well. In examining 509 patients admitted to a Chicago hospital network, researchers found that 419 of them presented a neurological issue at some point during the course of their COVID-19 infection. “The most frequent neurologic manifestations were myalgias, headaches, encephalopathy, dizziness, dysgeusia [impaired sense of taste] and anosmia [loss of smell],” the authors wrote in their study, which was published Monday in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology. “

More Covid-19 Cases in White House/Joint Chiefs

An internal FEMA memo reveals “34 White House staffers and other contacts” have been infected by coronavirus in recent days. The head of the White House security office is gravely ill with COVID-19 and has been hospitalized since September, a White House official confirmed. A growing list of White House officials have also tested positive for the virus, including senior White House aide Stephen Miller and Hope Hicks and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. In addition, most of the nation’s top military leaders have been quarantining after coming in contact with a senior officer with COVID-19, according to the Pentagon. The military’s top two officers, along with service chiefs from the Army, Navy and Air Force, are in quarantine after meeting last week with the infected No. 2 officer of the Coast Guard. A second officer, Marine Gen. Gary Thomas, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, has also tested positive and is experiencing mild symptoms.

Pandemic Fatigue’ Complicates Efforts to Thwart New Outbreaks

In both Western Europe and the northeastern United States, governments were able to dramatically reduce cases with broad measures that were effective but economically bruising. Now, as cases surge once again, officials are seeking more targeted closures, trying to navigate a course between keeping the virus in check while not constraining the economic recovery. Further complicating things is ‘pandemic fatigue’ – people are simply fed up after months of limitations in their daily lives.

  • France has placed cities on “maximum alert” and ordered many of them to close all bars, gyms and sports centers on Saturday. Italy and Poland have expanded their mask wearing rules. The Czech Republic has declared a state of emergency, and German officials fear new outbreaks could soon grow beyond the control of their vaunted testing and tracing abilities. A targeted lockdown in Spain is being challenged in the courts.

White Texas Officer Charged With Murdering Black Man

A white Texas police officer was arrested on Monday night and charged with the murder of a Black man who was “walking away” from a disturbance outside a convenience store last weekend, authorities said. The Texas Rangers charged Wolfe City officer Shaun Lucas for the fatal shooting of 31-year-old Jonathan Price. Lucas was booked into the Hunt County Jail, where his bail was set at $1 million. Lucas shot Price after responding to a disturbance call on Saturday night “for a possible fight in progress,” officials said. The officer tried to detain Price “who resisted in a non-threatening posture and began walking away,” according to the Rangers’ statement. Lucas then tased Price before shooting him with his service weapon. Price, described as a “pillar of the community,” was trying to break up a domestic feud between a man and a woman at the gas station.

Protests in Kansas City Over Police Kneeling on Pregnant Black Woman

Protesters upset by social media videos of Kansas City police arresting a pregnant Black woman have now occupied the lawn in front of City Hall for more than five days. Video footage shows an officer kneeling on the back of a pregnant woman during an arrest after a gathering at a gas station.

Protesters in NYC Called “Knuckleheads’ and ‘Spoiled Brats’ by Police

A group of about 100 demonstrators stepped off around 9:30 p.m. Monday from Fulton Street near the South Street Seaport in New York City, to protest the fatal police shooting of Texas man Jonathan Price. Two dozen “knuckleheads” and “spoiled brats” were busted during the overnight demonstrations according to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea.

Postal Worker Dumps 1,875 Pieces of Mail Including Ballots

A 26-year-old postal worker from New Jersey faces federal charges after 1,875 pieces of mail, including ballots, were found discarded in dumpsters. Nicholas Beauchene faces charges of delay, secretion or detention of mail and obstruction of mail. Beauchene had resigned from his job with the postal service and admitted to dumping the mail, but he did not say anything during his first court appearance, which was held Wednesday via Zoom. He was released on $25,000 bail.

Texas Indicts Netflix for ‘Cuties’ Lewd Depictions of Underage Girls

Netflix has been indicted by a grand jury in Texas for allegedly promoting “lewd visual material” of a child in its controversial film “Cuties.” In addition, several members of Congress have written to Attorney General Bill Barr asking for prosecution of Netflix for “child pornography.” Child pornography under federal law is defined as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age).

President Trump Approves a $1.8 Trillion 2nd Stimulus Offer

President Trump has signed off on a roughly $1.8 trillion stimulus offer to be presented to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, marking the highest topline dollar figure the administration has put on the table to this point. The $1.8 trillion figure is up from a $1.6 trillion offer from earlier this week, though it remains below the $2.2 trillion in the bill passed last week by House Democrats. Pelosi has been unwilling to go below $2 trillion in negotiations up to this point, and passage of a second stimulus bill prior to the election remains doubtful, becoming a political football.

Economic News

On Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that for fiscal year 2020, which ended September 30, the U.S. deficit hit $3.13 trillion — or 15.2% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) — thanks to the chasm between what the country spent ($6.55 trillion) and what it took in ($3.42 trillion) for the year. The debt for 2020 exceeded the total economic output of the country, and is more than triple what it was in 2019.

  • When the pandemic winds down, the U.S. economy will be so indebted and feeble that it will lead to a severe economic depression.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell only slightly last week to a still-high 840,000, with job losses remaining elevated seven months into the pandemic recession. The number of people who are continuing to receive unemployment benefits dropped 1 million to 11 million, reflecting that some have used up their 25 weeks of benefits as well as others going back to their previous jobs.

Hundreds of thousands of women — nearly eight times more than the number of men — dropped out of the U.S. labor force last month. Half of the women who dropped out were in the prime working age of 35-44. Women have been hit harder by this recession than by previous downturns. Industries that employ a lot of women, such as hospitality and leisure, are faring worse during the pandemic. Women also are more likely to take on care responsibilities in the home, with increased homeschooling and home care.

The wealth of the world’s billionaires reached a new record high in the middle of the pandemic as a rebound in tech stocks boosted the fortunes of the global elite. Billionaire wealth increased to $10.2 trillion at the end of July, up from a previous peak of $8.9 trillion in 2017. According to the latest Federal Reserve data, the top 1% of Americans have a combined net worth of $34.2 trillion (or 30.4% of all household wealth in the U.S.), while the bottom 50% of the population holds just $2.1 trillion combined (or 1.9% of all wealth).

An additional 88 to 115 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.90 a day, in 2020 because of the pandemic and resulting economic recession, according to a report from the World Bank released Wednesday.

New York City’s economy is crashing. Nearly 6,000 business closures has resulted in a 40% eruption in bankruptcy filings across business districts of all five boroughs this year, reports Bloomberg. In addition, nearly 90 percent of New York City bar and restaurant owners couldn’t pay their rent in August, heightening the continued crush the coronavirus shutdown has inflicted on Gotham’s economy, reports the NY Post.

Hobbled by the pandemic and facing the same long-term challenges as other casual dining chains, Ruby Tuesday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection early Wednesday. The company will permanently close 185 restaurants that had shut their doors during the coronavirus pandemic. That leaves the company with 236 operating locations which they hope to keep going after restructuring their debt.

U.S. Issues Additional Sanctions Against Iranian Banks, Europe Objects

The Trump administration on Thursday imposed a new round of economic sanctions against Iran’s financial sector, as Washington seeks to increase pressure on Tehran in the weeks leading up to the presidential election. The measure imposes penalties against 18 Iranian banks and comes days before a United Nations arms embargo on the country is set to expire. The action could effectively lock Iran out of the global financial system, further cratering its already collapsing economy. It was the United States’ latest round of sanctions against Iran after the Trump administration’s attempt last month to unilaterally restore international economic penalties that much of the rest of the world has refused to enforce. Europe objected to these measures because they would worsen the humanitarian crisis in Iran whose economy is collapsing and Covid-19 cases are increasing.

Trump Says He Plans to Have U.S. Forces in Afghanistan ‘Home by Christmas’

President Donald Trump said Wednesday night that he wants all U.S. forces in Afghanistan home by Christmas, a faster timeline than one laid out by his own national security adviser. “We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!” Trump tweeted. The president has repeatedly pledged to end American involvement in “endless wars” in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Afghanistan is the site of the U.S.’s longest war, and 5,000 American troops are currently serving there. The U.S. signed a landmark agreement with the Taliban in February that called for the departure of all foreign military forces next year.

Christians in Chad Under Great Duress from Muslim Majority

The Muslim majority dominates Chadian society, and discrimination against Christians is the norm. Chad has a long history of Muslims oppressing Christians, including Muslims raiding non-Muslims to seize them as slaves. Poor and uneducated Christians are still vulnerable to exploitation. Being the poorest section of society, Christians are the most severely affected by the multiple disasters afflicting Chad this year. “Chad is facing multiple humanitarian crises in 2020,” according to a UNICEF report a month ago – and things have only got worse since then. Flooding now affects 19 of the country’s 23 provinces and nearly 400,000 people. Christians in many rural areas have lost their homes and also their harvests. Covid-19 lockdown was particularly damaging for those who earned their living from their own small businesses. A deadly outbreak of measles and another of meningitis earlier in the year are now in decline, but the viral disease chikungunya spiked in September.

Death Toll Soars as Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict Escalates

Everything from rockets to missiles to munitions continues to demolish Nagorno-Karabakh — the hotly fought-after land parcel bordering Christian-dominant Armenia and Muslim-majority Azerbaijan. And there is little reprieve in sight, with both countries accusing each other of having triggered the renewed clashes. While internationally recognized as belonging to Azerbaijan, the region is mostly populated by ethnic Armenians — sometimes referred to as Armenian “separatists.” Yet caught in the crossfire are the civilians not only inside the enclave’s capital of Stepanakert but also those living in the surrounding mountains and villages as potent, long-range weapons rain down from both sides. The number of casualties is not known but are called ‘soaring.’

Chinese Communist Party Rewrites Gospel Story

Communist party officials in China have rewritten one of the Bible’s most powerful accounts of Jesus Christ’s grace and divinity by blasphemously claiming the Savior stoned to death the woman caught in adultery.  The well-known New Testament account in John’s Gospel (8:3-11) is completely altered to depict Jesus Christ as a devious murderer, and self-proclaimed “sinner”, in a “professional ethics and law” text book used in Chinese vocational secondary schools. In 2018, the CCP unveiled its new five-year plan to “sinicise” (i.e. make Chinese) Christianity, with the intention of selectively reinterpreting Christianity and Scripture. Authorities erased the words Bible, God and Christ from classic children’s stories in August 2019, and some churches in Henan province were forced to take down the Ten Commandments and replace them with quotes of President Xi Jinping as part of the government’s escalating crackdown on Christianity.

Wildfires

The deadly wildfires that have raged across California this year have burned more than 4 million acres or 6,250 square miles —more than twice the previous record, and an area greater than the size of Connecticut. There have been more than 8,200 wildfires this year in the state. The fires have killed 31 people and destroyed over 8,454 structures as of Monday morning.

Weather

Hurricane Delta is a Category 3 storm, and it’s expected to make landfall along the Louisiana and Texas coast today, Friday, 10/9. Delta will become the 10th named storm to make landfall in the US this season, setting the record for the most in one year. The cities to be directly impacted include: in Louisiana, Lake Charles, Lake Arthur and Baton Rouge; in Texas, Beaumont/Port Arthur.

Hurricane Delta roared out of Mexico and back into the Gulf on Thursday, a havoc-wreaking Category 2 storm that was gaining strength as it set its sights on the beleaguered Louisiana coast. Hurricane Delta toppled trees and knocked out power in the resort areas of Cancun and Cozumel as the storm made landfall early Wednesday morning on the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Delta came ashore around 5:30 a.m. local time with pouring rain and sustained winds up to 110 mph. Civil defense official Luís Alberto Vázquez said there were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries, but Hurricane Delta damaged homes and other buildings and knocked out electricity to thousands in parts of Cancun and Cozumel.

Nine people have died in France and neighboring Italy after the storm brought torrential rainfall and major flooding on both sides of the border. Several people are missing, including two firefighters whose vehicle washed away when a road collapsed. The storm moved across southeastern France and Northern Italy overnight Friday into Saturday. Bridges were knocked out, roads blocked and communities left isolated. Floods washed away or damaged over 100 houses and destroyed roads and bridges surrounding the city of Nice on the French Riviera after almost a year’s average rainfall fell in less than 12 hours. Italian firefighters rescued 25 people trapped on the French side of a high mountain pass due to the flooding.

Signs of the Times (10/2/20)

October 2, 2020

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

DC Prayer March Exceeds Expectations

Attendance at Franklin Graham’s Prayer March this past weekend exceeded many people’s expectations of just a few hundred people. Estimates of the crowd size ranged from 100,000 to 200,000 people. People began spontaneously singing various hymns, and later Michael W. Smith led the crowd in worship songs. Corporate prayer was held at a various spots near the National Mall. Vice President Mike Pence unexpectedly showed up and joined the proceedings. VP Pence reminded the crowd about America’s deep religious heritage. He thanked the audience for their prayers, and urged them to keep praying for our leaders in public office, for our men and women in uniform in the military and law enforcement, for our doctors and nurses, for those grieving and for our country.

Wisconsin Court Grants Important Win for Parental Rights

A court in Wisconsin ruled this week officials with the Madison Metropolitan School District cannot intentionally hide from parents information regarding their children’s chosen gender identities in schools. Dane County Court Judge Frank Remington issued a temporary injunction against the school district. Remington’s decision comes months after a lawsuit was filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty and the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of an anonymous group of parents whose children are enrolled in MMSD schools. The parents disputed guidance put forward by the district in April 2018 advising faculty and staff members to assist students in their gender transitions at school without notifying their parents.

Only 6% of Americans Adhere to a Biblical Worldview

A study by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University found that just six percent of Americans adhere to a biblical worldview. The findings, released in the American Worldview Inventory 2020, also found Millennials held the lowest number of biblical worldview holders, at just two percent. In the mid-1990s, 12% of Americans adhered to a Biblical worldview. The survey’s definition of a biblical worldview consists of believing that absolute moral truths exist and that such truth is defined by the Bible; that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life and sacrificed Himself to pay the penalty for our sins; and that God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and He still rules it today; that salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned; that Satan is real; that a Christian has a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other people; and that the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings.”

President and First Lady Test Positive for Covid-19

President Trump announced Friday that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus. Trump tweeted news of his test results just hours after the White House announced that senior aide Hope Hicks had come down with the virus after traveling with the president several times this week. A statement issued by Trump’s doctor said that both he and his wife were well and that would continue their duties. White House officials said Trump was “feeling mild symptoms” on Friday morning.  White House chief of staff Mark Meadows conceded that people knew of Hope Hicks’ positive diagnosis before Marine One took off for New Jersey on Thursday afternoon for a fundraiser.

President Trump Condemns ‘All White Supremacists’ After Debate Refusal

President Donald Trump condemned “all White supremacists” Thursday evening after refusing to do so at Tuesday’s presidential debate and in the days since. “I condemn the KKK, I condemn all White supremacists, I condemn the Proud Boys. I don’t know much about the Proud Boys, almost nothing, but I condemn that,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. But he again appeared to equate violence by far-left groups with White supremacists, who his own FBI director says are the largest top domestic terror concern, reports Fox News.

Covid-19 Cases Increasing Again in U.S. But Deaths Declining

In the U.S., the 7-day average number of new Covid-19 cases increased to 43,439 on October 1, up from 41,862 on 9/23 and the recent second-wave low of 34,595 on 9/12. 30 states had increases in the number of Covid-19 cases this week, but only 11 states had increased number of Covid-related deaths. The 7-day aver number of deaths declined to 712/day on 10/1 from 878 on 9/15.

  • More than 25% of COVID-19 tests came back positive in some Midwestern states last week, as the region experiences an increase in infections and hospitalizations. Last week, North Dakota’s positive test rate averaged 30% while South Dakota saw 26% of its tests coming back positive. Meanwhile, more than 27% of COVID-19 tests received by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services last Sunday were positive. Health experts say that positive test rates for COVID-19 should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14 days before reopening the economy.

NYC Threatens Fines Over No Masks While Mississippi Drops Ban

For the first time since early June, New York state reported more than 1,000 new cases last Saturday. In New York City, “COVID-19 cases continue to grow at an alarming rate in eight neighborhoods in the city, outpacing the citywide average by 3.3 times over the past 14 days,” the NYC health department said Sunday. Positive coronavirus tests in New York City recently went above 3%, causing Mayor Bill de Blasio to threaten $1000 fines for those who do not wear masks in public. Nine zip codes have seen a rise in coronavirus cases, including Brooklyn, Queens, and Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods.

  • Mississippi became the first state in the union to lift a mask mandate to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as cases fall. Mississippi’s statewide mask mandate has been in place since Aug. 4. Gov. Tate Reeves Reeves, a Republican, has chosen to extend the mandate several times since then. However, on Wednesday, he said the declining number of confirmed virus cases and hospitalizations are positive developments that call for the lifting of some restrictions.

Breonna Taylor Grand Jury Tapes Released Friday

Roughly 20 hours of grand jury recordings in the controversial Breonna Taylor decision were released Friday, allowing the public to see what evidence was presented by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office in the high-profile case. The recordings, released at 11:40 a.m. Friday, cover the grand jury’s sessions Sept. 21-23 and are parsed into 14 audio files, with witnesses’ personal information redacted because of concerns of threats that have been made to officials and officers. No written transcripts have been released. The tapes include officers’ testimony that they knocked on Taylor’s door multiple times and announced the police presence before entering, according to the Associated Press.

  • The development comes on the heels of a grand juror filing a motion Monday demanding that the transcript be released. “The full story and absolute truth of how this matter was handled from beginning to end is now an issue of great public interest and has become a large part of the discussion of public trust throughout the country,” the attorney for the juror, who has remained anonymous, wrote in the filing. With the release, “the truth may prevail.”

104 Drivers Have Plowed Into Protesters in U.S.

Amid thousands of protests nationwide this summer against police brutality, dozens of drivers have plowed into crowds of protesters marching in roadways. There have been at least 104 incidents of people driving vehicles into protests from May 27 through Sept. 5, including 96 by civilians and eight by police. Witnesses, law enforcement and terrorism experts said some of the vehicle incidents appear to be targeted and politically motivated; others appear to be situations in which the driver became frightened or enraged by protesters surrounding their vehicle.

  • “A prolonged confrontation between Black Lives Matter and pro-Trump demonstrators outside Los Angeles turned violent Saturday, as someone drove a car through the pro-Trump group. The driver has been charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon,” NPR reported. “Police say the driver in Saturday’s incident was a member of the so-called ‘Caravan for Justice,’ which organized the Black Lives Matter protest.”

$20 Million Settlement for Family of Maryland Black Man Killed by Police

The family of a black man fatally shot by a Maryland police officer reached a $20 million settlement with the county of Prince George’s County. It is believed to be one of the nation’s largest one-time settlements involving someone killed by police. Authorities say Green was shot six times with his hands cuffed behind his back in a police cruiser by Cpl. Michael A. Owen Jr., who is awaiting trial on charges of second-degree murder.

Texas Sheriff Arrested for Evidence Tampering in Black Man’s Shooting

A Texas sheriff who starred in Live PD was arrested Monday and charged with evidence tampering in the death of Javier Ambler, a Black man who died in police custody last year. Police use of force against the 40-year-old was captured on footage for Live PD, but that footage was ultimately destroyed. Authorities say Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody destroyed or concealed audio and video footage showing what prosecutors say was likely the clearest view of Ambler’s final moments. He was killed after a 22-minute car chase that started when he failed to dim his headlights for oncoming traffic; he was restrained and tased multiple times, despite telling officers he had a heart condition and couldn’t breathe.

Authorities in Florida Crack Down on College Parties

Police officers in Tallahassee, home of Florida State University’s sprawling campus, responded to more than a dozen calls for in reference to large crowds last weekend. One gathering at an off-campus apartment complex on Dixie Drive involved more than 1,000 people gathered outside. The apartment complex is about two miles from the FSU campus. Police dispersed the crowds without any reported violence. The massive party came as nearly 1,500 students have tested positive for the coronavirus since testing began August 2.

Public School Enrollment Rapidly Declining

As parents nationwide tread through a wildly different education landscape this year, many are disappearing from the rosters of their local public schools. Dallas, Austin, Los Angeles, Nashville, Miami and Broward County schools in Florida are all reporting enrollment declines and missing large numbers of children in the youngest grades. The numbers are important because enrollment equals money for classrooms and teachers. Lower-income parents with poor internet connectivity or fewer computers and tablets, or those who can’t support their very young children’s online learning, may be opting out altogether. Many teenagers have chosen to work rather than return to school virtually — a trend that’s particularly prevalent among low-income Latino families. Higher-income parents, meanwhile, have the means to explore other options, such as homeschooling, joining a learning pod with a privately hired teacher, or enrolling in private school.

Federal Judge Halts USPS From Implementing Cost-Cutting Changes

A federal judge halted the U.S. Postal Service’s move to dismantle mail-sorting machines, remove mailboxes and slice employee overtime across the United States. Last month, New Jersey joined New York City and state and three other jurisdictions’ lawsuit claiming the Trump administration was trying to undermine the fall election. The Trump administration said it’s simply trying to reform a deeply-indebted agency with longstanding financial problems. But Democrats say the actions taken by DeJoy, an ally of President Donald Trump and a major Republican donor, are a blatant attempt to interfere with a mid-pandemic election whose results may be decided through the mailbox rather than the ballot box.

  • Some of the U.S. Postal Service’s 630,000 workers are quietly resisting Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s changes, which came in the middle of a pandemic and a push to expand voting by mail. As the controversial new procedures snarled post offices and stirred fears of how it would manage mail ballots, the carriers, sorters and other workers began to bend the rules to make sure important mail was delivered on time, reports the Washington Post.

Mail-In Ballots Already Having Issues

As the election nears and more people than usual are opting for absentee ballots due to the pandemic, voters in one New York City borough have flagged an error that officials are now scrambling to remedy. Multiple voters in Brooklyn have reported that the absentee ballot they received was OK, with the correct identifying information like name and address, but that the return envelope has someone else’s name and address. If a voter with this mislabeled envelope seals it and signs their own name on it, as required before submitting, it would invalidate their vote.

  • The Colorado secretary of state sent postcards to non-citizens and dead people urging them to vote. In North Carolina and Virginia, some people received multiple ballots. In Pennsylvania, they’re going to accept ballots whose voter signatures don’t match. In New Jersey, Paterson’s municipal election results were trashed by a judge over rampant fraud. Twenty percent of the ballots were fraudulent.
  • The Center for Voter Information, a nonprofit, nonpartisan partner organization to the Voter Participation Center, sent absentee ballot applications to Virginia voters in August. Of the 2.2 million applications mailed, 500,000 had return envelopes directed to wrong election offices. “We are not aware of any of our ballot applications going to pets or deceased people, as some have alleged,” local election officials said.

Judge Postpones Trump’s Ban on Tik Tok Downloads

A federal judge on Sunday postponed a Trump administration order that would have banned the popular video sharing app TikTok from U.S. smartphone app stores around midnight. The ruling followed an emergency hearing Sunday morning in which lawyers for TikTok argued that the administration’s app-store ban would infringe on the company’s First Amendment rights and do irreparable harm to the business. President Trump declared that TikTok was a threat to national security and that it must either sell its U.S. operations to U.S. companies or be barred from the country. He also banned China’s WeChat app from App Stores, but over the weekend, that ban was postponed by a California judge as well who said the Trump administration offered “scant evidence” to support its belief that the Chinese apps were a threat to national security.

President Trump Reduces Refugee Limit to Record Low

President Donald Trump’s administration said late Wednesday the United States will admit a record low of no more than 15,000 refugees over the coming year, the maximum who can be admitted over the next 12 months barring a change in administration. This is a further cut from 18,000 last year and down dramatically from more than 100,000 under previous president Barack Obama. Refugee advocates had pleaded with the Trump administration to raise admissions in the face of global conflicts and fresh instability due to the pandemic. But the State Department said the United States wants to help displaced people “as close to their homes as possible” until they can go back.

NY Diocese Largest in U.S. to File for Bankruptcy over Sex Abuse Lawsuits

A Roman Catholic diocese in New York City’s suburbs has become the largest in the U.S. to declare bankruptcy to protect itself from a wave of lawsuits filed over past sexual abuse by clergy members. The Diocese of Rockville Centre filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Thursday. It is the eighth largest diocese or archdiocese in the U.S., serving more than 1.4 million Catholics on Long Island. “The financial burden of the litigation has been severe and only compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bishop John Barres, the spiritual leader of the diocese said. The diocese started an independent compensation program in 2017 to provide settlements for victims of past sexual abuse and has so far paid more than $62 million to about 350 survivors under the program.

Big Tech Censorship Escalating

Liberty Counsel reports that During a three-month period in 2019, YouTube deleted more than 4 million channels for violating its vague “community guidelines.” In addition, more than 500,000 comments were deleted off YouTube because they were labeled as “hate speech.” Now YouTube announced it will ban “language that goes too far,” whatever that means. “Nowhere is Big Tech’s double standard clearer than in the situation of Rich Penkoski, a pastor in West Virginia. He had more than 225,000 Facebook followers when his page was shut down for a year for discussing statistics about people involved in LGBT behaviors… Facebook shut down the pastor’s page as he was encouraging a young woman who was struggling with suicide. Because of Facebook’s actions, the conversation abruptly ended. He was not able to find out her fate. Yet at the same time, Facebook continued to allow death threats to come to the pastor’s personal page. This shows how violence toward Christians and conservatives is allowed, but the truth is not. Shocking censorship like this is escalating,” notes Mat Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

Ransomware Attacks Against Schools/Hospitals Escalating

Successful ransomware attacks are on the upswing in recent weeks. At least 12 school districts have been hit this month and data was stolen and published in 5 of those 12 cases. So far this year, over 1,200 individual schools, universities and colleges have been impacted by ransomware. Hartford, Conn., public schools postponed the first day of classes after it fell victim to a ransomware attack. Fairfax County public schools in Virginia were also recently hit by a ransomware attack, and this week a Nevada school district didn’t pay the demanded fee so data about staff and students were made public. This past summer, the University of California, San Francisco said it paid $1.14 million to a ransomware group. In that instance, breached files included student applications with social security numbers.

  • A large international hospital chain was attacked by ransomware Sunday leading to patients being rerouted and a switch to paper-based systems in some cases. The ransomware attack affected Universal Health Services’ (UHS) digital networks in the U.S., including hospitals located in California, Florida, Texas, Arizona and Washington D.C. s a result, the Company suspended user access to its information technology applications related to operations located in the United States. A patient with a life-threatening condition died in Germany on Sept. 11 after University Hospital Düsseldorf suffered a similar cyberattack.

Economic News

Another 837,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, on a seasonally adjusted basis., the Labor Department said Thursday. About 58 million people have sought benefits over the past six months. That was slightly fewer from the prior week, although last week. The weekly figures have trended down since peaking at 6.2 million in early spring but remain historically high. Continued claims, which count workers who have filed for benefits for at least two consecutive weeks, stood at 11.8 million. The number of unemployed people classified as permanently losing their old jobs climbed by 345,000 in September to a six-year high of 3.8 million, according to seasonally adjusted numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

U.S. employers added a disappointing 661,000 jobs in September as Sunbelt states resumed business reopenings that were disrupted by COVID-19 spikes over the summer, offsetting persistent layoffs by struggling firms that have exhausted federal aid. The unemployment rate fell to 7.9% from 8.4% in August, the Labor Department said Friday. But that’s because the labor force — which includes people working and looking for jobs — shrank by about 700,000. Overall, the economy is still recouping the 22.1 million jobs that were lost, which could take several more years given the current pace.

The pandemic has produced the most unequal recession in modern history, dealing a blow for those at the bottom, a Post analysis shows. Job losses from the pandemic overwhelmingly impacted low-wage, minority workers. Seven months into the recovery, Black women, black men and mothers to school-aged children are taking the longest time to regain their employment.

Millions of Americans are at risk of having their power or water cut off as CARES Act protections put in place at the beginning of the coronavirus recession expire. Many Americans have fallen severely behind on their bills. In Indiana, for example, the number of households at least 120 days late on their electricity payments has quadrupled since the same period last year.

Retail store closings in the U.S. reached a record in the first half of 2020 and the year is on pace for record bankruptcies and liquidations as the Covid-19 pandemic accelerates industry changes, particularly the shift to online shopping. In New York City, nearly 6,000 business closures has resulted in a 40% eruption in bankruptcy filings across all five boroughs this year, reported Bloomberg.

U.S. airlines plan to start furloughing tens of thousands of workers Thursday, after Congress and the White House failed to agree on a new economic relief package. United and American began furloughing more than 30,000 workers starting Thursday, which marks the end of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Israel Locks Down Again, Bans Hasidim Gatherings for Sukkot

Jerusalem police officials warned leaders of several ultra-Orthodox communities in Jerusalem that they will not tolerate traditional large gatherings that are expected to take place during the Sukkot holiday. Jerusalem District Police officials spoke with representatives of various Hasidic sects in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of the capital after news reports showed the construction of venues to host thousands during the holiday next week. A biblical precept during Sukkot is for Jews to live in temporary dwellings called a sukkah, and several sects are planning to host events where a thousand or more people are expected despite government health restrictions limiting groups to 20 people outdoors during the current coronavirus lockdown in Israel. Police made it clear that there will be significant enforcement of the violations.

  • The solemn Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, which annually sees Israeli life grind to a halt, begins on Sunday in a nation already under a sweeping coronavirus lockdown. A second nationwide lockdown since the pandemic began, is attempting to contain one of the most severe outbreaks in the world. Israel, with a population of just 9 million, is reporting more than 7,000 new cases a day, raising fears its hospitals could be overwhelmed.

Iran’s Currency Sees A New Record Low Midst Severe Sanctions

Iran’s currency dropped Thursday to its lowest value ever at 300,000 rial for each dollar amid severe U.S. sanctions against the country. The rial has tumbled from a rate of around 262,000 in mid-September, a 12% drop. Iran’s currency was at 32,000 rials to the dollar at the time of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. U.S. sanctions have caused Iran’s oil exports, the country’s main source of income, to fall sharply. Following President Trump’s decision more than two years ago to withdraw the U.S. from the nuclear deal, the U.S. unilaterally reimposed crippling trade sanctions on Iran.

Venezuela And Iran Flout U.S. Sanctions With Fuel Flotilla

The first vessel in an Iranian convoy of ships bringing desperately needed fuel arrived in Venezuela, demonstrating both nations’ determination to undermine U.S. efforts to isolate the governments in Tehran and Caracas. The Iranian tanker Forest entered Venezuelan waters early on Monday, according to tanker-tracker data collected by Bloomberg. It’s heading to El Palito refinery port, said union leader Ivan Freites. It’s one of three vessels bringing hundreds of thousands of barrels of the fuel.

Azerbaijan, Armenia Fight Over Disputed Region

Fighting broke out on Sunday between Armenia and Azerbaijan over a disputed separatist region, as two military helicopters were shot down and casualties in the area were reported. Air and artillery attacks between the two counties broke out around the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a mainly ethnic Armenian region inside Azerbaijan which declared independence in 1991. Armenia’s government declared martial law and a total military mobilization after a similar action by authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Hong Kong Arrests 86 for Protesting on China’s National Day

Hong Kong police arrested at least 86 people for unauthorized assembly on China’s National Day holiday after crowds gathered on the streets of a popular shopping district and other areas chanting pro-democracy slogans. Those arrested included four district councilors, police said, People chanted “Disband the police” and “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our time,” a popular pro-democracy slogan that has been banned by the Hong Kong government for alleged secessionist sentiments.

Environment

Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster in a Texas county Sunday after the presence of a deadly brain-eating amoeba was detected in a city’s water supply and tied to the death of 6-year-old boy earlier this month. Residents of Lake Jackson are advised to boil their water before use after Naegleria fowleri was found in their water system. Abbott on Sunday declared a disaster in Brazoria County, saying that three of 11 water tests in the county found N. fowleri, “posing an imminent threat to public health and safety, including loss of life.”

Earthquakes

An earthquake swarm of 600 small temblors rattled areas around a reservoir in Northern California on Tuesday, the second time in three days that multiples quakes struck the area. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quakes all took place along the northern edge of the Calaveras Reservoir in Alameda County, located about 6 miles northeast of Milpitas. The USGS said a 2.7 magnitude quake struck at 8:16 a.m. local time, followed by a 3.0 temblor about 10 minutes later and a 1.3. magnitude quake in the same area. Two 3.4 magnitude earthquakes struck hours apart in the same area in Northern California on Sunday. The region is located along the volatile “Ring of Fire” seismic fault system that circles the Pacific Ocean.

A swarm of earthquakes, the largest a magnitude-4.9, rattled Southern California near the Mexico border Wednesday evening but no damage or injuries were reported. More than 80 quakes centered in remote Imperial County struck between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Many of the other quakes were of magnitude 3.0 and above. The zone is a network of small faults connecting the larger Imperial fault and the huge San Andreas fault.

Wildfires

Weather conditions Friday, including low humidity, dry ground conditions, gusty winds and high temperatures, meant firefighters in Northern California faced one of their hardest days yet fighting a ferocious wildfire leveling homes, schools, businesses and wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties. While about two dozen major wildfires are burning statewide, the Glass Fire in Napa and Sonoma counties remained the biggest concern. The blaze has already scorched more than 93 square miles of land, roads and other infrastructure and destroyed nearly 600 buildings. The fire was only 6% contained as of Friday morning. More than 2,500 personnel were working in 24-hour shifts to contain the blaze, but the heavy smoke has grounded aircraft. About 80,000 people remained under evacuation orders Friday morning. Meanwhile, smoke hanging in the air was once again pushing air quality to unhealthy levels in the Bay Area, especially to the north and east. Homes and beloved Napa Valley wineries were reduced to rubble earlier in the week by the fast-spreading Glass Fire.

The Zoog Fire as of Friday had destroyed 159 homes and businesses and burned over 87 square miles of land in Shasta County further to the north. At least four people have died.  The Zoog and Glass fires are part of a historic outbreak of wildfires across California this year. Thirty people have died in the fires, since Aug. 15 when dozens of large fires were sparked by lightning. Flames have consumed about 3.9 million acres of land – more than 6,000 square miles – obliterating the previous record for wildfires in California.

Weather

Parts of Switzerland, Austria, and Germany were surprised by unseasonably early snowfall overnight Saturday, after a sharp drop in temperatures and heavy precipitation. The Swiss meteorological agency said Saturday that the town of Montana, in the southern canton (state) of Valais, saw almost 10 inches of snowfall — a new record for this time of year. In parts of Austria, snowfall was recorded as low as 1,805 feet above sea level.

Meanwhile, the southwestern U.S. continued to bake in high temperatures and severe drought that has yielded historic numbers of wildfires in California, Oregon, Washington, and Utah.