Archive for March, 2021

Signs of the Times (3/26/21)

March 26, 2021

“In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 1:18-23)

War Against Christian Baker Now in Ninth Year

The state of Colorado, which was determined by the Supreme Court to have exhibited “hostility” to Christianity in its prosecution of a baker who declined to create messages that violated his faith, now has put him on trial again for the same charge. The trial for Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop began Monday on the charge that he refused to bake a cake celebrating the anniversary of a man’s “transition” to a woman. He has stated will bake cakes for anyone, but he won’t create any message that violate his Christian beliefs. The latest case was brought by a transgender lawyer, Autumn Scardina, admitted she had “vented” against Phillips by writing him emails when his same-sex wedding cake case was going on. Scardina called him a bigot and hypocrite, according to testimony. Some have accused Scardina of a ‘set-up’ in order to get Phillips back in court.

Drag Queen Story-Hour Judge Arrested for Child Pornography

Police arrested Draq Queen Story Hour’s Brett Blomme last week on child pornography charges. Blomme, president and CEO of pro-LGBTQ Cream City Foundation, bragged about sponsoring the Drag Queen Story Hour. Blomme also happens to be a Milwaukee Children’s Court judge. Blomme apparently used government resources as well as his own personal equipment to upload and share at least 27 horrendously abhorrent child rape images and videos with other pedophiles and child pornography websites. The children were as young as 2 years-old. Blomme and his “husband” have two adopted children. In 2020, Blomme ran for his current Children’s Court position on a “progressive” platform celebrating LGBTQ “values,” which blasted the traditional values of his opponent.

Arizona Schools Teaching About Sex Much too Early Claims CAP

“Some kindergartners in Arizona are learning about sensitive body parts through the 3R’s program. Some 4th graders are learning details of sex in the FLASH Curriculum. In California, it’s even worse. Some 4th graders are taught pornography is normal, and 2nd graders learn details we won’t discuss here,” writes Cathi Herrod, President of Center for Arizona Policy. In an effort to keep parents in control of their children’s education and rollback the inappropriate lessons, CAP is supporting SB 1456 which prohibits sex education before 5th grade in Arizona district and charter schools. It also requires schools provide the sex ed curricula for grades 5-12 for parental review. Parents would then have to opt-in their child for sex ed if they so choose. It would also require parental opt-in for instruction about HIV, AIDS, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Biden Administration Now Formally the Biden-Harris Administration

A memo has been sent from the White House to all federal agencies advising them that they are to refer to the Biden-Harris Administration, no longer just the Biden Administration. This is unprecedented and fuels the flames of the rumors that President Biden’s poor health will force him to abdicate in the near future with VP Kamala Harris becoming President. Along those lines, Biden appointed Harris as the ‘point person’ for the crisis at the southern border, which might just prove to be an albatross for her.

Biden Invokes ‘Jim Crow’ in Press Conference, Incurs Black Wrath

Black Republican Rep. Byron Donalds slammed President Biden on Friday for invoking Jim Crow during his first formal press conference, saying he is “irresponsibly injecting race” into the conversation. Biden on Thursday, during his first press conference since taking office, referenced Jim Crow when defending the Democrats’ H.R. 1 voting reform bill and criticizing their efforts to get rid of the filibuster. “Jim Crow might not mean anything to President Biden, considering he joined segregationists in opposing busing and eulogized known racists like Robert Byrd, but that dark stain on our republic is personal to me and many Black Americans like me,” Donalds said, also pointing out that in 2005, then Senator Biden praised the filibuster rule when it worked in his favor.

Colorado’s Tough Gun Control Laws Failed to Stop Deadly Boulder Shooting

Colorado has been enacting gun control laws at a rapid clip for years, and yet none of those restrictions was able to prevent Monday’s horrific attack at a Boulder grocery store. Instead, Coloradans are once again grappling with another mass-casualty event, which occurred despite gun control bills passed after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre and the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, as well as the extreme risk protection order, or “red flag” law, signed by Gov. Jared Polis in 2019. The gun-control group Giffords ranks Colorado 15th out of 50 states for strong gun safety laws The man charged with killing 10 people in a Boulder grocery store passed a background check and purchased the weapon used in the slaughter, a Colorado gun shop owner said Friday.

Court Rules Americans Have ‘No Right’ to Carry Guns in Public

A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that there is no right to carry a gun in public. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 7-4 ruling rejected a challenge to Hawaii’s requirement that residents must pass an application to have weapons outside the home. Hawaii’s law requires residents to show an urgency or need to carry a firearm, the applicant must have good character, and he or she must be “engaged in the protection of life and property.” “There is no right to carry arms openly in public; nor is any such right within the scope of the Second Amendment,” the court ruled. “We can find no general right to carry arms into the public square for self-defense,” the majority wrote, claiming that the Second Amendment applies to the “defense of hearth and home.”

Georgia Gov Signs Sweeping Election Reform into Law

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed an election reform bill into law Thursday, imposing rules on voter identification requirements and limiting ballot drop boxes. GOP state lawmakers, who dominate the Georgia House and Senate, swiftly moved the legislation, despite objections raised by Democrats. The bill passed 34-20 in the state Senate and 100-75 in the state House. Absentee voters would have to submit driver’s license numbers or other documentation under a process for checking someone’s identification, which would replace signature-matching processes. More than 200,000 Georgia voters lack a state identification or driver’s license, so they would need to provide additional proof of their identities. Voting rights activists opposed the bill, saying it would lead to voter suppression.

Biden Doubles Vaccination Goal as More States Ease Pandemic Restrictions

About half of U.S. states will open up their vaccination efforts to all adults by mid-April, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said Friday. Biden on Thursday announced a new goal of administering 200 million COVID vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office. That’s double his initial goal of 100 million doses.  The U.S. is currently averaging about 2.5 million doses being administered per day.

Covid-19 Cases Increasing Again in the U.S. with Deaths Plateaued at 1000/Day

The most recent seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases was up by about 7% from the prior week, while hospitalizations have increased slightly and deaths have plateaued, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC said. Still, the country is now averaging about 1,000 deaths a day, down from more than 2,000 a day a month ago and down from more than 3,000/day in late January. Michigan, Colorado, Connecticut, South Dakota and Hawaii reported increases of more than 30 percent.

  • Arizona is adding cases at one of the lowest rates in the country. Fewer than 500 cases are being identified there most days, compared to about 10,000 a day at the state’s January peak. Just a couple of months ago, Arizona led the nation in new cases per capita.

About Half of America’s Grade Schools Now Open for In-Person Classes but Stark Gap by Race

Results from the federal government’s first school survey during the pandemic finds that about half of all grade schools are open for full-time, in-person classes. There’s a stark gap by race. As of January, half of all White students were attending school full-time in person, when compared with about a third of Hispanic students, 28 percent of Black students and 15 percent of Asian students.

Former CDC Chief Says Coronavirus Escaped from Wuhan Lab

The former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, commented on his opinion about the origins of the coronavirus, saying he believes it escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China, in 2019. Redfield said it explains why the virus is well adapted to spread among humans. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday that most public health officials believe the virus could have become well adapted to spread among humans without having originated in the lab.

More Problems With AstraZeneca Vaccine, Efficacy Reduced

One person has died and another was critically ill with blood clots and cerebral hemorrhage Sunday after receiving the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, authorities in Denmark say. The two developed severe symptoms within 14 days after vaccination, the Capital Region of Denmark, which operates public hospitals, told the Ekstra Bladet newspaper. Use of the AstraZeneca vaccine was suspended in several European countries earlier this month amid reports of blood clots in a small number of patients. Last week, the European Medicines Agency determined the vaccine was safe and effective. Emer Cooke, the agency’s executive director, said the benefits in protecting people from COVID-19 “outweigh the possible risks.” Germany, France, Italy and Spain were among nations saying they would resume using the vaccine.

  • Results from a U.S. trial of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine may have included “outdated information” and that could mean the company provided an incomplete view of efficacy data, American federal health officials said early Tuesday. The latest analysis reduced its effectiveness down to 76% from 79%.

Brazil Still Reeling from Latest Coronavirus Surge

Brazil had an average of 2,235 deaths a day last week – the highest since the beginning of the pandemic. So far, Brazil has had more than 12 million cases and nearly 300,000 people have died, the second largest COVID-19 death toll in the world after the United States. Brazil’s vast size and deficient infrastructure make getting coronavirus vaccines to far-flung communities of Indigenous peoples and descendants of enslaved people a particularly daunting endeavor. Manaus — a city in the Amazon —  suffered a devastating second wave of COVID-19 cases in January, driven by a more contagious strain of the virus. Hospitals lacked oxygen for weeks and doctors had to choose which intensive care patients to put on ventilators.

India’s Covid-19 Cases Spiking as Several Variants Detected, Including a Double Variant

India on Thursday recorded 53,476 new Covid-19 cases, marking the highest single-day rise in cases since October 23. The country has been reporting more than 35,000 new cases daily for over a week in a recent surge in cases after they fell in January and February this year. The rise in cases comes as the country’s top researchers announced that there are 771 variants of concern present in the country. While the Health Ministry has not correlated these to the recent rise in cases, these variants have been primarily detected in several states of “grave concern,” given that they are contributing to most of the nation’s case load. There’s now a “double mutant” variant of the coronavirus spreading in India, the nation’s Health Ministry said Wednesday. A double variant contains two mutations in the same virus

Biden Says He’s ‘Flattered’ Illegal Immigrants are Pouring Across the Border

During his first official press conference as President Thursday afternoon, Joe Biden was asked about the soaring number of illegal immigrants and unaccompanied minors pouring across the border. He responded by saying he’s “flattered” because the people coming think he’s a nice guy. “I guess I should be flattered people are coming because I’m the nice guy. That’s the reason why it’s happening That I’m a decent man or however it’s phrased because ‘Biden is a good guy,'” he said. But then, he went on to contradict himself and say, “It happens every single solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. That happens every year.” There were 16,513 unaccompanied minors in government custody as of Wednesday, far more than last winter, recent data shows.

Biden Giving Media ‘Zero Access’ to Border Operations

Award-winning photojournalist John Moore blasted the Biden administration for giving “zero access” to the media to observe Customs and Border Protection operations at the southern border. “There’s no modern precedent for a full physical ban on media access to CBP border operations,” Moore wrote on Twitter. Customs and Border Protection officials told the Washington Examiner that Biden Homeland Security officials had “muzzled” spokespersons and top agents to prevent them from speaking with the press. Many reporters called out the Biden administration for a lack of transparency at the U.S.-Mexico border

Democratic Senator Says Migrant Families Released into U.S. Without Notice to Appear in Court

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said many migrant families are being released into the U.S. without a notice to appear in a court. The Democrat made the comment one day after the photos of migrants in a crowded border facility in Donna, Texas were released by his office as the Biden administration continued to limit media access to the southwestern border.

Republican Senator Posts Video of an Immigrant Holding ‘Pod’ at 9 Times Capacity

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., posted a shocking video of a “pod” at a Texas migrant facility along the southern border that is holding nearly nine times as many people as it was designed to hold. Lankford toured the migrant holding facilities on Friday along with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other GOP senators. A pod designed to hold 80 people filled to the brim with over 700 migrants. The video showed people shoulder to shoulder, sitting and sleeping on floors while wrapped in aluminum blankets. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who was on the trip as well, posted in a Twitter thread that Border Patrol is “overwhelmed, overworked, [and] discouraged by new policies.”

ICE Ends Long-Term Detention of Migrant Families

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has effectively ended long-term detention for migrant families, delivering a huge win to immigrant rights activists who for years had pushed for the move. The move, which was made with little fanfare, was revealed in court documents earlier this month. Now, with long-term detention over, families are either held for a few days for processing or released outright at the border without any ICE detention. In either case, they are generally free to make their way deeper into the country with deportation hearings years down the line. With the surge of people and social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, ICE didn’t have the space to hold people for the long term anymore. What space ICE does have needs to be used for people being tested and, if infected with the coronavirus, quarantined at the facilities.

Biden to Spend $86 Million to House Illegal Immigrants in Hotels

The Biden Administration plans to spend more than $86 million dollars to house illegal alien families in hotels. Axios reported that a Texas-based non-profit will oversee the project — housing illegals in hotels near the border in Arizona and Texas. Acting ICE Director Tae D. Johnson said in a statement to The Hill that the agency signed a short-term $86.9 million contract with Endeavors to “provide temporary shelter and processing services for families who have not been expelled and are therefore placed in immigration proceedings for their removal from the United States.” Immigration and Customs Enforcement will provide medical care, food service, social workers and coronavirus testing.

Just 13% of Migrant Families Turned Back at the Border

The Biden administration turned back an average of just 13% of nearly 13,000 migrant family members attempting to cross at the U.S. southern border this past week. The information covers the week of March 14. The family members were all returned to Mexico. A DHS spokesperson said, “Our policy remains that families are expelled, and in situations where expulsion is not possible due to Mexico’s inability to receive the families, they are placed into removal proceedings.” The administration has been recently stymied by Mexico’s inability to accept more families the U.S. otherwise would expel.

Texas Rancher Forced to Defend Home after Migrants Enter Property

A Texas ranch owner, John Sewell, said Thursday that he has “never seen” a migrant surge as serious as the one that has developed in recent months under the Biden administration, after defending his home from 12 migrants. “I’ve been [in Texas] for about 25 years so I’ve seen this under many administrations, I’ve seen lots of trouble. But I’ve never seen it at this level… [The migrants] are more confrontational… I’m 40 miles from the border. So, it’s not like I’m sitting at the edge of the border… The smugglers are bringing them here, dropping them off and they’re coming through my property and that in turn has caused lots of heartache for us. Not to mention they’re tearing down our fences, they’re coming to our houses at night. I have a daughter I won’t let walk on the driveway to jog or exercise because of this without having a dog with her.”

With 45,000 Bridges in Poor Condition, Biden Seeks $3T Bipartisan Plan to Fix Infrastructure

More than 45,000 bridges rated in poor condition. Hundreds of water mains breaking every day. Not many issues unite Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill like crumbling roads, airports and transit systems back home – and the Biden administration is hoping an effort to modernize America’s neglected infrastructure might fuel a rare moment of bipartisanship. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is scheduled to appear before the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee on Thursday to lay out the administration’s priorities in what will be a first step in a months-long negotiation with Congress to determine how America’s crumbling infrastructure can be brought up to code. The spending package is estimated to cost up to $3 trillion.

Evanston, Illinois, First U.S. City to Approve Reparations for Black Residents

Evanston, Illinois, has become the first U.S. city to make reparations available to its Black residents for past discrimination and the lingering effects of slavery. The Chicago suburb’s City Council voted 8-1 on Monday to distribute $400,000 to eligible Black households. Each qualifying household would receive $25,000 for home repairs or down payments on property. The program is being funded through donations and revenue from a 3% tax on the sale of recreational marijuana. The city has pledged to distribute $10 million over 10 years. Qualifying residents must either have lived in or been a direct descendant of a Black person who lived in Evanston between 1919 to 1969 and who suffered discrimination in housing because of city ordinances, policies or practices.

Oakland to Give $500/Month to Families of Color for 18 Months

Low-income families of color in Oakland, California, could receive some extra financial assistance over the next year and a half. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced this week that the city will launch a guaranteed income project to give hundreds of Black and Indigenous families and people of color $500 per month for 18 months. The project’s payments will be unconditional, and recipients may spend the money however they choose. The Oakland Resilient Families program is the latest trial of a “guaranteed income” system of wealth distribution, where residents are given a set amount of money per month to supplement the existing social safety net.

Kim Janey Becomes Boston’s First Black and First Female Mayor

Kim Janey has been sworn in as acting mayor of Boston, making history as the first Black person and first woman to lead the city. Janey, who was the City Council president, automatically replaced Democrat Marty Walsh after he resigned Monday to be President Joe Biden’s labor secretary. The city will hold a mayoral race in November, and Janey hasn’t said whether she’ll run against the five other candidates, all of whom are people of color. Justice Kimberly Budd, who became the first Black woman to lead the state Supreme Judicial Court in 2020, administered the oath of office during a ceremony presided over by U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, the first Black woman to serve on the City Council and to be elected to Congress from Massachusetts.

Data Shows Asian Hate Crimes Rising Rapidly

According to data from the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate, there were 3,795 incidents reported from March 19, 2020, to Feb. 28, 2021. Federal data show that there were 158 anti-Asian hate crimes reported in 2019 by police agencies to the FBI, up from 148 the year before ; more recent data have yet to be released. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University said that anti-Asian hate crimes surged in 16 of America’s largest cities by 149 percent in 2020, according to an analysis of official preliminary police data. The data shows hate crimes rising as many blamed China for the coronavirus pandemic.

Miami Beach Declares ‘State of Emergency’ Over Spring Breakers

Miami Beach is canceling Spring Break. The city is instituting an 8 p.m. curfew and declaring a state of emergency to try to get the horde of Spring Breakers who have flooded the area under control. “Too many people are coming here right now,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said at a press conference Saturday. “Our city in this area has become a tinder, and we can’t have a policy of simply hoping it’s not lit.” The main strip, Ocean Avenue, which has been jam-packed with revelers for the past two months, stayed crowded Saturday night well past the 8 p.m. deadline despite the curfew. Police eventually fired pepper balls around 9 p.m. to disperse the crowd. Miami Beach Police said more than 1,000 people have been arrested this spring break season, and about 80 guns have been seized.

Americans Gained Two Pounds Per Month During the Pandemic

American adults gained nearly two pounds a month during a four-month observational period during the pandemic in 2020. Researchers at the University of California San Francisco linked the weight gain to shelter-in-place orders issued by 45 out of 50 state governments to stem the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the public health problems posed by obesity, experts called the findings alarming.

Postmaster General Announces 10-Year Plan with Longer Delivery Times

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Tuesday announced a 1-year plan for the U.S. Postal Service that includes longer mail delivery times and cuts to worker hours. DeJoy said that USPS is facing a $160 billion debt over the next 10 years. He added that USPS lost $9.2 billion in 2020 alone amid the coronavirus pandemic. The USPS hopes to operate at break-even by 2023 under the restructuring plan, which took eight months to put together. Chief Retail and Delivery Officer Kristin Seaver explained on Tuesday, however, that only 70% of first-class mail would be affected by longer wait times while the majority of all other shipping options will be delivered on time after implementation.

Enormous Container Ship Blocking Suez Canal, Might Take Weeks to Extricate

Shipping experts believe it could take days or even weeks to free the 224,000-ton vessel that is wedged across the Suez Canal, blocking one of the world’s busiest waterways since Tuesday. The Ever Given, a container ship almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall, ran aground on March 23 after being caught in 40-knot winds and a sandstorm that caused low visibility and poor navigation, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said in a statement. Authorities attempted to re-float the vessel Thursday morning but were not successful. Another attempt will be made later on Thursday. Meanwhile, at least 237 ships carrying vital fuel and cargo are waiting to pass through the blocked waterway, costing the world economy about $400 million an hour. Piracy fears are mounting as ships take the long way around Africa to avoid the blocked canal.

Economic News

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to 684,000, the fewest since the pandemic erupted a year ago, down from 781,000 in the previous week. However, that’s still about 2.5 times higher than normal (about 250.000/month). And, a total of 18.9 million people are continuing to collect jobless benefits, up from 18.2 million in the previous week. Roughly one-third of those recipients are in extended federal aid programs, which means they’ve been unemployed for at least six months.

Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, 8 million more Americans have fallen into poverty, 10 million more Americans are now in danger of being evicted from their homes, and more than 70 million new claims for unemployment benefits have been filed, with another 770,000 filed just last week, up 45,000 from the previous week.

Gasoline prices in the U.S. reached an average of $2.87 a gallon over the past week, according to the American Automobile Association. The national average for gas prices during the same time last year was set at $2.10, marking a more than 25% increase. The states with the highest gas prices are California ($3.86), Hawaii ($3.53) and Washington ($3.31). Prices are back to pre-pandemic levels, and this time of year usually brings an increase in gas prices due to the warmer weather and more travelers.

Ridership on public transportation has cratered, creating not only an economic problem for transportation companies and the cities they operate in, but also will cause an increase in greenhouse gas emissions as people turn back to their personal vehicles.

Israel Elections Yield Same Old Result – Deadlock

The counting is complete and the final tally has been released in Israel’s election. The result remains the same – political deadlock with no clear winner as neither the incumbent nor the opposition have the majority necessary to form a government. Voter turnout was 67.4%, the lowest since 2009 (64.7%). Although there are many parties, there are in effect only two sides – Likud led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the opposition, led by Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid. Both will now scramble to obtain a majority. Within a week of the results, the two parties will attempt to win President Reuven Rivlin‘s approval to form a government. Rivlin will pick the side he feels most likely to succeed.

U.S. Sanctions China for Serious Human Rights Abuses Against Uyghurs

The US announced sanctions Monday against two Chinese officials for “serious human rights abuses” against Uyghur Muslims, a step coordinated with the European Union, Canada and the United Kingdom. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the Chinese campaign against Uyghurs as genocide. “Amid growing international condemnation, the PRC continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang,” Blinken said in a statement, using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China. Xinjiang, officially Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, is an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China, located in the northwest of the country close to Central Asia. It is the largest province-level division of China.

Iran Must Come Clean About Hidden Uranium To Revive Nuclear Deal, IAEA Chief Warns

Iran must come clean about recent findings of undeclared uranium to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement, the director general of the U.N. nuclear watchdog has told Newsweek. In an interview, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi said “detailed and technical discussions” are needed to ascertain the location of Iran’s undeclared uranium and that this issue is “totally connected” to the future of the deal. He said there were a number of points that were “still unclear” relating to traces of uranium that were found but had not been declared in the past by Tehran.

North Korea Tests New Ballistic Missile in Violation of UN Resolutions

North Korea on Friday confirmed it had tested a new guided missile, as President Biden warned of consequences if Pyongyang escalates tensions amid stalled nuclear negotiations. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said the two “new-type tactical guided projectiles” accurately hit the target off its eastern coast on Thursday. KCNA quoted top official Ri Pyong Chol, who supervised the test, as saying that the new weapon’s development “is of great significance in bolstering up the military power of the country and deterring all sorts of military threats existing on the Korean Peninsula.” Japanese officials said both weapons tested Thursday were ballistic missiles, which are prohibited by UN Security Council resolutions.

Taliban Threatens to Attack U.S. Troops if Not Gone by May 1

The Taliban on Friday threatened “death and destruction” against U.S. forces unless all Americans leave Afghanistan by May 1, adding new pressure to President Biden as he weighs whether to honor the looming deadline. The Taliban’s threats came less than 24 hours after Mr. Biden refused to say during a White House press conference whether he’ll meet the May 1 date, which was established in an agreement that former President Trump struck with the Taliban last year. Mr. Biden said it “will be hard to meet the May 1 deadline,” though he did promise that the U.S. and its 2,500 remaining forces will leave the country eventually.

‘Humanless Protests’ In Myanmar Against Junta After 250 Killed

With at least 250 protesters having been killed since the military coup in Myanmar last month, Reuters reports that what it calls “humanless protests” are becoming increasingly popular. Anti-junta messages and displays are popping up on trees, in streets, and even on cookware. Dolls, toys, mannequins, and cardboard cutouts have replaced protesters in the streets, and protesters are releasing hundreds of red balloons calling for international aid and help from the UN. Those who are taking to the streets are doing so in safer ways: Drivers are honking and gesturing from their cars in convoys; medical workers marched pre-dawn, before security patrols started up for the day.

Fifteen Killed When Fire Ripped Through Rohingya Refugee Camp in Bangladesh

Christian families were among those who lost everything when a terrible fire raged through the refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on March 22, 2021. The devastating blaze affected five sections of the huge and sprawling camp, killing at least 15 people, injuring hundreds and making tens of thousands homeless. The vast majority of the Rohingya refugees are Muslims, but among them are a few hundred Rohingya Christians who have suffered much for becoming followers of Christ. The flimsy bamboo homes and meager possessions of these families were destroyed by the inferno.

Volcanoes

Iceland’s Fagradalsfjall erupted over last weekend for the first time in more than 800 years, creating rivers of lava and shooting flames and ash into the air. Officials say seismic activity was minor, and the area the lava covered measured about 1,640 feet wide in a very remote region. Locals have been expecting the eruption for weeks as seismic activity ramped up, and no one was injured.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake rattled parts of Japan Saturday, shaking buildings and prompting a tsunami advisory and evacuations near the same area where a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster hit 10 years ago. There were no immediate reports of major damage or serious injuries. The U.S. Geological Service gave the earthquake a rating of 7.0 magnitude. It was centered offshore about 16 miles east-northeast of Ishinomaki, in Miyagi prefecture, at a depth of about 33 miles.

Weather

After multiple tornadoes touched down in the South on Thursday – killing five people in Alabama, knocking out power, destroying homes and downing trees across the region – more severe thunderstorms could be coming this weekend. Centreville Mayor Mike Oakley told ABC 33/40 news that a local airport was hit. “We have airplanes torn apart like toys. We’ve got homes along here that are totally destroyed, trees down, power lines down. It’s pretty devastating.” Newnan Georgia, about 35 miles southwest of Atlanta, experienced heavy damage in and around its historic downtown. Police tweeted that several downtown streets were closed and residents should avoid the area due to multiple downed trees and power lines. Newnan High School also received significant damage. Twisted metal and other debris littered the campus. Trees in the surrounding neighborhood were snapped in half and some fell on houses.

Extraordinary rainfall over the past week has led to some of the worst flooding in decades in Australia’s state of New South Wales, officials said Monday, and some rivers are topping record levels. Thousands of people have been forced from their homes and hundreds more had to be rescued from the rising floodwaters that have isolated dozens of towns in Australia’s most populous state. In parts of the state that have been hit harder, this is a once-a-century event. Up to 38 parts of the state have been declared natural disaster areas. More than 16 inches of rain has fallen along the northern New South Wales coast during the last seven days. Snakes and spiders have been seen struggling to reach higher ground, with trees “full of snakes,” according to one resident while spiders seek refuge in homes. At least one person has died. Rain ended Wednesday but rivers continue to rise.

Signs of the Times (3/20/21)

March 20, 2021

And He has said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2Corinithians 12:9-10)

The following news briefs are meant to be the basis for prayer, so please pray.

Vatican on Gay Unions: We ‘Cannot Bless Sin’

The Vatican decreed Monday that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions since God “cannot bless sin.” The Vatican’s orthodoxy office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, issued a formal response Monday to a question about whether Catholic clergy can bless gay unions. The answer was contained in a two-page explanation published in seven languages and approved by Pope Francis The decree distinguished between the church’s welcoming and blessing of gay people, which it upheld, but not their unions. The Vatican holds that gays must be treated with dignity and respect, but that gay unions are “intrinsically disordered.” Catholic teaching holds that marriage between a man and woman is part of God’s plan and is intended for the sake of creating new life.

Pope Calls for a New World Order, Satan Happy to Oblige

Aligning with the call among globalist leaders for a “Great Reset” in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis makes the case for a “new world order” in a book to be published Tuesday. That world, he explains in “God and the World to Come,” is characterized by a shift from financial speculation, fossil fuels and military build-up to a green economy based on inclusiveness, reports Breitbart News. The pope said justice can be healed “by building a new world order based on solidarity, studying innovative methods to eradicate bullying, poverty and corruption… The path to humanity’s salvation passes through the creation of a new model of development, which unquestionably focuses on coexistence among peoples in harmony with Creation.”

  • Just as the Bible says, a new world order and one-world government is indeed coming, with Satan in the background pulling the strings (Revelation 13). But it will deceive the masses with its calls for unity even as it attempts to completely eradicate God and believers from the world.

Court Says High Schools Can Ban Coaches from Kneeling for Prayer

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held Thursday that high schools are within their rights to ban coaches from kneeling in prayer. A three-judge panel found that the Bremerton School District in Washington state can ban Coach Joe Kennedy, a Marine veteran and assistant football coach, from taking a knee in brief, personal prayer after football games. In 2015, Coach Kennedy was fired after he declined to stop praying on the 50-yard-line after football games. “It’s legal for coaches to take a knee to protest the national anthem, but it’s illegal for coaches to take a knee to pray. America is screwed up,” said Todd Starnes on his radio show.

Canadian Father Gets 5 Years in Jail For Calling His Daughter a Girl, U.S. Next With Equality Act

The trouble for Rob Hoogland’s family began shortly after the local public school in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, showed a series of “transgender-affirming” movies. Shortly thereafter, Hoogland says, school counselors began pressuring his young daughter to believe she is a boy. Worse yet, the school arranged for the girl to be injected with testosterone, despite the fact the father would have objected had he known. Now Hoogland faces up to five years in prison for defying a court order and continuing to call his precious daughter a “girl.” “Rapists get two years in prison. I’m looking at five years. Put that into perspective. That tells you how important this is to the government in their experimenting on children,” Hoogland said.

  • This is just the kind of situation that passage of the Equality Act by Congress will cause in the U.S.

Undercover Videographer David Daleiden Suing VP Kamal Harris and Planned Parenthood

David Daleiden is the undercover journalist who captured and published video evidence of Planned Parenthood’s top leadership — medical directors, national program directors, even its Senior Director of Medical Services — callously negotiating the harvesting and sale of aborted baby body parts. Now he faces years in prison on felony charges after Kamala Harris, then California’s Attorney General, prosecuted him for deceptively acquiring the videos. But now the Thomas More Society has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in California on behalf of David against now Vice President Harris for prosecuting David in bad faith, twisting and perverting California’s anti-eavesdropping law to persecute a citizen journalist because of his political views. In addition, the Thomas More Society filed a defamation (libel) lawsuit in federal court in New York against Planned Parenthood, which erroneously claimed that Daleiden created a “fake” and “false” “smear campaign” against Planned Parenthood.

WorldNetDaily Cancelled and Demonetized by YouTube in Violation of First Amendment

Outraged by YouTube’s libeling and cancelling of prominent Trump supporter, “MyPillow guy” Mike Lindell, WND posted a short video in support of Mike. That video resulted in the demonetization of the entire WND YouTube account. David Kupelian, Managing Editor at WMD, writes, “As we’ve warned about for over four years, the lords of the Internet – Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and others – have now made their big move for all-out, undisguised, totalitarian control of everything you are allowed to read, watch, hear – and therefore think. Remember, Twitter permanently banned a sitting president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, depriving him of close to 90 million personal followers… That’s what Jefferson was talking about when he said, “The only security of all is in a FREE PRESS.” WND is an independent news organization now being censored in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Democrats Confirm Abortion Activist Xavier Becerra as HHS Secretary

The U.S. Senate confirmed pro-abortion politician Xavier Becerra as health secretary on Thursday in a narrow, largely party-line vote. The vote to confirm was 50-49 in the divided U.S. Senate. Becerra, the attorney general of California, is President Joe Biden’s choice to run the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A career politician with no medical background, he has a pro-abortion record that includes prosecuting the undercover journalists, supporting partial-birth abortions and attempting to force nuns who serve the poor and elderly to fund abortions.

Senate Confirms First Native American Cabinet Secretary

The Senate voted Monday to confirm Deb Haaland as President Joe Biden’s Interior secretary, a historic move that will make her the first Native American Cabinet secretary. The vote was 51 to 40, with most Republicans voting against her after several called her views on public land use and fossil fuels extreme. It wasn’t the first time Haaland has made history. In 2018, she was elected as one of the two first female Native Americans in Congress. Discussing her motivation to take on the job, she said, “It’s difficult to not feel obligated to protect this land, and I feel that every Indigenous person in this country understands that,” adding, “We want to protect this country, and that means protecting it in every single way.”

CDC Now Says Students Only Need to be Three Feet Apart

In a major policy revision intended to encourage more schools to welcome children back to in-person instruction, federal health officials on Friday relaxed the six-foot distancing rule for elementary school students, saying they need only remain three feet apart in classrooms as long as everyone is wearing a mask. The three-foot rule also now applies to students in middle schools and high schools, as long as community transmission is not high. The six-foot rule still applies in the community at large, officials emphasized, and for teachers and other adults who work in schools, who must maintain that distance from other adults and from students. Most schools are already operating at least partially in person, and evidence suggests they are doing so relatively safely. Research shows in-school spread can be mitigated with simple safety measures such as masking, distancing, hand-washing and open windows.

Covid Rising by 10% in 14 States Over Past Week

Covid-19 cases are rising by more than 10% in 14 states as of Wednesday compared to last week, with half of those states rising by more than 20%. On Feb. 17, there were only 3 states showing increases of 10% or more. Michigan cases are increasing the fastest, at more than 50% this week compared to last, with Delaware (39%), Montana (34%), Alabama (31%) and West Virginia (29%) in the Top 5. Some states that saw large declines earlier in the winter have been backsliding. At the other end of the scale, Arizona’s seven-day case rate per 100,000 people ranked 49th Friday among all states, after ranking first and second for much of January.

  • Overall, the 7-day average of new cases in the U.S. has leveled off at about 54,750/day, while the 7-day average number of daily deaths continued to decline to 1,265/day.

UK Variant Spreading Rapidly Across the U.S.

A new, more contagious and potentially more deadly variant of the coronavirus is spreading across the US, and health officials are worried. The B.1.1.7 variant, first spotted in the UK, is not only more easily transmitted, but it also appears to be more deadly Dr. Anthony Fauci said in his Friday briefing that this variant likely accounts for 20 to 30% of infections in the U.S., “and that number is growing. Of concern is that there is about a 50% increase in transmission with this particular variant that has been documented in the UK and there’s likely an increase in the severity of the disease for people infected with this variant, he said. Fauci pointed to one study showing a 64% increased risk of death for people infected with B.1.1.7 compared to those infected with the original virus.

European Covid-19 Death/Vaccination Rates Mixed

As Italy’s death rate pushes upward once again, the victims remain predominantly elderly with inoculation drives stumbling in the country. Promises to vaccinate all Italians over 80 by the end of March have fallen woefully short, amid well-documented interruptions of vaccine supplies and organizational shortfalls. Just a third of Italy’s 7.3 million doses administered so far have gone to people in that age group. But other countries in Europe have made progress to protect those over 75. Britain is the first country in Europe to authorize widespread vaccinations and the percentage of fatalities among those over 75 is diminishing. Spain and France also prioritized vaccinating residents of nursing homes.

Covid Antibody Treatment Reduces Severity and Death Rates

Two recent clinical trials found that taking antibody treatments can reduce the severity and prevent deaths in people with mild to moderate COVID-19. According to Nature, an antibody developed by Vir Biotechnology headquartered in San Francisco and GSK located in London, England reduced the risk of hospitalization and deaths in COVID-19 patients by 85%. In a separate trial, the antibody cocktail consisting of bamlanivimab and etesevimab created by the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly slashed that risk by 87%. The antibody VIR-7831 developed by Vir and GSK, was identified in 2003 in a person recovering from severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS caused by a similar coronavirus to the one that causes COVID-19. Scientists later found that the antibody was able to bind to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 that triggers COVID-19.

Goal of 100 Million U.S. Citizens Vaccinated by May 1 to be Met Friday, 3/19

President Joe Biden said on Twitter that his goal of administering 100 million coronavirus vaccinations will be accomplished Friday, 42 days ahead of his target date. More than 20 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine, as states continue to expand their lists of people who are eligible to get a shot.

Over 40% of Healthcare Workers Remain Unvaccinated

Even as vaccine supply continues to increase, some of the most important sectors of the population remain unvaccinated. According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey, more than 4 in 10 health workers say they haven’t received a vaccine. Only 52% of front-line health care workers said they received at least their first dose of the vaccine. Meanwhile, more than 1 in 3 said they weren’t confident vaccines were sufficiently tested for safety and effectiveness over the long-term

Sweden, Italy, Germany and France Halt Use of AstraZeneca Vaccine

The German government on Monday suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine over new reports of dangerous blood clots in connection with the shot. The Health Ministry said the decision was taken as a “precaution” and on the advice of Germany’s national vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, which called for further investigation of the cases. AstraZeneca stated that their extensive testing showed no correlation with blood clots. Sweden, Italy and France also paused their use of this vaccine.

Border Crisis Growing Alarmingly Fast

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday said that the U.S. is on track to encounter more migrants than it has in the last 20 years. He spoke days after Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it had encountered more than 100,000 migrants at the border in February, while numbers of child migrants in custody have also increased dramatically. The Biden administration has been moving to increase capacity of facilities to house migrants, and building a number of extra facilities – including looking at NASA sites and military bases. On Saturday, Mayorkas announced he had directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support a “government-wide effort” to house child migrants.

3,000 Immigrant Teens to be Housed in Dallas Convention Center

The U.S. government plans to use the downtown Dallas convention center to hold up to 3,000 immigrant teenagers as sharply higher numbers of border crossings have severely strained the current capacity to hold youths. The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center will be used for up to 90 days beginning this week, according to written notification sent to members of the Dallas City Council. Federal agencies will use the facility to house boys ages 15 to 17, according to the memo, which describes the soon-to-open site as a “decompression center.” U.S. Health and Human Services is rushing to open facilities across the country to house immigrant children who are otherwise being held by the U.S. Border Patrol, which is generally supposed to detain children for no more than three days. The Border Patrol is holding children longer because there is next to no space in the HHS system.

Suspected Terrorists Crossing Through Border, Homeland Security Admits

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged Wednesday that known or suspected terrorists are crossing through the southern border, though he said it’s been going on for years. The question of how terrorism suspects enter the U.S. has been heatedly debated for years. The Trump administration used it as justification for its get-tough policies, including construction of the border wall. Trump opponents downplayed the threat, but now are forced to admit as Border Patrol agents told them that illegal immigrants on the terrorist watch list have been coming across the boundary. Biden’s transition team was warned by career DHS officials that terminating border security measures would lead to catastrophic consequences.

House Passes Two Bills to Grant Citizenship to Millions of Illegal Immigrants

House Democrats on Thursday hailed the expected passage of two bills that would grant citizenship rights to millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it a sea change in the nation’s stance on immigration. The bills would grant quick legal status and a path to naturalization to farmworkers and another bill to do the same for young adult “Dreamers” and other migrants in the U.S. under the Temporary Protected Status program. The fate of the bills in the Senate remains precarious. Even though Democrats now control the Senate, they are far from a filibuster-proof majority. Republicans who worked with Democrats on immigration bills in the past say the current border situation has made bipartisanship more difficult.

Only a Few Illegal Immigrants Will Receive Stimulus Checks

President Biden’s COVID-19 relief package excludes most immigrants who aren’t in the U.S. legally from receiving stimulus checks, just like the relief packages enacted during the Trump administration. Only noncitizens who have been authorized to work by the Department of Homeland Security can get a Social Security number, which is required to work and collect Social Security benefits, as well as other government services such as stimulus checks. However, according to the Associated Press, some people who entered the U.S. on valid temporary working visas — which would have made them eligible for a Social Security number — may be eligible for the stimulus check, even if they overstayed their visas.

Riots & Protests Mark Anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s Death

Major cities on the West Coast were among those seeing riots and protests Saturday night as demonstrators marked the one-year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death in a police raid in Louisville, Kentucky. Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland all saw clashes between crowds and police, with numerous arrests reported. In Los Angeles, some demonstrators smashed store windows and threw rocks at police officers in Hollywood. At least one officer was injured in the clashes. In Seattle, videos posted to social media early Sunday showed police moving aggressively against demonstrators with police on bicycles making arrests. Earlier, a violent clash broke out as police used pepper spray while moving in against a crowd. In Portland, a federal courthouse in the downtown area appeared to be the main staging area for another faceoff with authorities. New messages were seen spray-painted outside the courthouse, including, “Police are murderers.”

Capitol Outer Fencing to Be Removed This Weekend

De-escalation of the security perimeter around the Capitol will continue this weekend with the removal of the outer fence surrounding the complex. The inner layer of fencing will remain around the Capitol Square area while the Architect of the Capitol makes security repairs to the building. Police and the AOC began scaling back the fencing earlier in the week. As of late Friday, razor wire had been removed from both outer and inner fences, and the latter was moved closer to the Capitol. Capitol Police reported “there does not exist a known, credible threat against Congress or the Capitol Complex that warrants the temporary security fencing.”

Michigan Official Violated Law with Ballot-Counting Instructions

A judge in Michigan has ruled a Democratic state official violated state law by ordering during the 2020 vote count that clerks must assume a signature on an absentee ballot is valid. The ruling Monday changed no election results but it bolstered  the complaints filed by President Trump’s campaign and his allies in battleground states that officials opened the door to fraud by violating safeguards in state election laws. In the Michigan case, Judge Christopher Murray of the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson broke state law. The state requires that absentee voters sign an application for the ballot and then sign the return envelope before mailing the ballot. Signatures that do not “agree sufficiently” are “to be rejected,” the law states.

Biden Plans First Major Federal Tax Hike Since 1993

President Joe Biden is planning the first major federal tax hike since 1993 to help pay for the long-term economic program designed as a follow-up to his pandemic-relief bill. The Spending program has yet to be unveiled, with analysts penciling in $2 trillion to $4 trillion estimates. Unlike the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus act, the next initiative, which is expected to be even bigger, won’t rely just on government debt as a funding source. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said at least part of the next bill will have to be paid for, and pointed to higher tax rates. Biden’s key economic advisers are now making preparations for a package of measures that could include an increase in both the corporate tax rate and the individual rate for high earners. For the Biden administration, the planned changes are an opportunity not just to fund key initiatives like infrastructure, climate and expanded help for poorer Americans, but also to address what Democrats argue are inequities in the tax system itself.

Americans Moving to States with Lower Taxes and Smaller Government

When people vote with a moving van or a U-Haul truck, they vote for lower taxes and smaller government. That’s the conclusion from comparing a new report on freedom at the state level with the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data.  Over the course of a year a net of 788,381 people moved to Florida, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, the “freest” five states in America, according to the Fraser Institute’s annual Economic Freedom in North America index. The least-free U.S. states are New York, West Virginia, Alaska, California and Vermont According to Census Bureau state-to-state migration estimates through mid-2018, the freest five states attracted a net of 270,608 people from other states while the bottom five saw a net outbound loss of 398,067 residents through domestic migration. New York lost the most, as 458,014 left the state and 254,447 moved in for a net loss of 203,567. California’s net loss was 190,122 for the year.  . 

Twenty-One States Sue Biden over Keystone Pipeline Shutdown

Attorneys general from 21 states on Wednesday sued to overturn President Biden’s cancellation of the contentious Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. Led by Ken Paxton of Texas and Austin Knudsen of Montana, the states said Biden had overstepped his authority when he revoked the permit for the Keystone pipeline on his first day in office. Because the line would run through multiple U.S. states, Congress should have the final say over whether it’s built, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Texas. Construction on the 1,200-mile (1,930-kilometer) pipeline began last year when former President Donald Trump revived the long-delayed project after it had stalled under the Obama administration. It would move up to 830,000 barrels (35 million gallons) of crude daily from the oil sand fields of western Canada to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect to other pipelines that feed oil refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Economic News

Mortgage rates have been steadily rising this year, but that doesn’t seem to be slowing demand for housing — yet. According to Freddie Mac, the average rate on a 30-year mortgage is now 3.09%, up from the all-time low of 2.67% at the end of 2020.

Executives from U.S. major airlines all said this week that they’ve seen strong demand for seats from leisure travelers. Bookings have been particularly strong during the traditional spring-break period and going into the summer. “The last three weeks have been the best three weeks since the pandemic hit,” American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said about advanced ticket sales. “We’re getting very close to 2019 levels in total bookings.”

Israel’s Pool of Siloam Flowing Again After 6-Year Drought

Prayers of rain have been answered and after experiencing more than six years of drought, ancient sources of water are flowing in Israel. Most notably, the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem is overflowing. Six years of drought ended last winter with a blessed rainy season. The Pool of Siloam once served the Temples in Jerusalem. “When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.” So he went and washed, and came back seeing.” (John 9:6-7)

“Israel Apartheid Week” a Complete Misnomer

Radical Muslim student groups and the BDS movement are promoting a misleading myth this week known as “Israel Apartheid Week.”  As the name clearly states, they are comparing the Jewish state to the South African apartheid regime of racial segregation. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” writes Gary Bauer. “Israel is the most diverse nation in the Middle East.  It fully protects the rights of minority citizens. Israel’s Arab citizens can vote in elections.  Israeli Arabs serve in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.  They also serve in the Israeli military.  Salim Joubran, an Israeli Arab citizen, served on Israel’s Supreme Court for 14 years.”

Biden Administration Returning to the Two-State Solution

The Biden administration is looking to hit the reset button with the Palestinians, including the return to a more traditional position on a two-state solution and rolling back several Trump administration positions on Israel. The four-page memo, titled, “The U.S. Palestinian Reset and the Path Forward,” was obtained by The National, an English-language news outlet based in the United Arab Emirates. According to the memo, the Biden administration will seek to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace under a two-state solution framework “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps and agreements on security and refugees.” While the Trump administration endorsed the concept of a two-state solution, critics considered Trump’s plan for Mideast peace, unveiled in January 2020, as ignoring long-held Palestinian demands and being more favorable towards Israel. The Trump plan was endorsed by Israel as a starting point for negotiations but rejected outright by the Palestinians.

IDF General: Next War Will Rain 2,000 Missiles a Day on Israel

Israeli Defense Forces Commander Gen. Uri Gordin gave a dire warning during an address at the B’Sheva Conference in Jerusalem on Monday regarding the threat awaiting Israel in the next war. “In the next war the State of Israel is expected to absorb about 2,000 missiles and rockets that will be launched at it every day and will challenge all military and civilian systems alike,” Gordin said. Israel faces missile threats on multiple fronts. In Lebanon, there are an estimated 150,000 missiles controlled by Hezbollah. The terror group is engaged in an ongoing effort to make its arsenal more precise. Hamas is also working to build up its missile arsenal and routinely launches rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip. In Iran, which has repeatedly threatened to bomb Israel out of existence, a new “missile city” was just announced. It also has started enriching uranium, a key ingredient in nuclear weapons.

Biden’s ‘Killer’ Remark Riles Putin, Deepens U.S.-Russia Rift

The already chilly U.S.-Russian relationship descended into a rhetorical and diplomatic deep freeze Thursday when Vladimir Putin bristled at President Biden’s claim that he is a “killer.” The Russian president invoked the atomic bombings of Japan, slavery and the killings of American Indians in a stunning broadside against the White House and America as a whole. The rapid fallout from Mr. Biden’s seemingly off-the-cuff remark, offered during an interview with ABC News this week as he referred to poisonings of Putin political rivals, had some wondering whether Mr. Biden appreciated the impact of a President’s language.

Deputy Defense Secretary Hicks Warns of Increased China Threat, Worsening Relations

A day after Chinese diplomats traded angry barbs with their U.S. counterparts in face-to-face meetings in Alaska, new Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks on Friday lashed out at Beijing during a virtual speech at the National War College in Washington, D.C. Hicks said China’s policies and recent actions constitute a threat to regional stability and to the rules-based international order. China “has adopted a more coercive and aggressive approach to the Indo-Pacific region. In 2020 alone, Beijing escalated tensions with its neighbors — Australia, Japan and the Philippines,” she said. “Beijing has demonstrated increased military confidence and a willingness to take risks.” China was involved in an armed confrontation last year with India along their disputed border that resulted in a loss of life on both sides. It also has clamped down on any dissent in Hong Kong with oppressive national security laws.

Militants Massacre 24 Christians, Including Two Ministers, in Western Ethiopia

Twenty-four Christians, including two ministers, were attacked and killed by armed militants in western Ethiopia. The Christians were attending a church service in Horo Guduru Welega zone (formerly Welega province) on the eve of Ethiopian Lent, which began on March 8. According to local contacts, members of the militant group OLF Shenie, an offshoot of the Oromo Liberation Front, surrounded the church and forced members of the congregation to hand over their mobile phones. The armed men then killed the two ministers outside the church, before taking the other Christians to a nearby forest, where they too were killed.

Gunmen Abducedt 39 Students From Nigerian College in Kaduna

Gunmen abducted 39 students, most of whom are Christians, from the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation in Mando, Kaduna state, Nigeria, on March 11. The armed gang raided the college at about 9.30 p.m., shooting indiscriminately and rounding up 219 people. Of these, 180 were rescued by the army soon afterward. Several videos have been released showing the 39 students who remain in captivity, many wearing only undergarments, being threatened, beaten and whipped. The abductions usually are done to extort payments for their release.

Attackers On Trucks And Motorbikes Raid Mali Base, Kill 33 Troops

At least 33 Malian soldiers have been killed and 14 wounded in an attack on a military post in the country’s violence-hit northeastern region of Gao, according to the army. Some 100 assailants on pick-up trucks and motorbikes launched the attack on Monday in the town of Tessit, located 37 miles southeast of Ansongo, near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso and Niger. The army said that 20 attackers were killed. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Mali has been plagued by a brutal conflict that began as a separatist movement in the north but devolved into a multitude of armed groups jockeying for control in the country’s central and northern regions. The violence has spread into Burkina Faso and Niger, with fighters linked to ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda exploiting the poverty of marginalized communities and inflaming tensions between ethnic groups.

Gunmen Kill At Least 58 Civilians In Attack On Niger Convoy

Armed men in southwestern Niger have killed at least 58 people when they intercepted a convoy returning from a weekly market and attacked a nearby village, the government said on Tuesday. The attacks on Monday occurred in the Tillabery region, which is near the border with Mali and Burkina Faso and has seen increasingly deadly attacks by armed groups active across the region with links to ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. The mass killings underscore the enormous security challenges facing Niger’s new president, Mohamed Bazoum, who won the election in late February. Attackers killed at least 100 civilians on January 2 in raids on two villages in Tillabery, one of the deadliest episodes in the country’s recent history. The assailants this time intercepted four vehicles transporting passengers from a weekly market to the villages of Chinagoder and Darey Dey, the government said. “These individuals then gutlessly and cruelly proceeded to carry out targeted executions of passengers,” it said. “In the village of Darey Dey, they killed people and burned the granaries.”

Environment

Scientists from Washington, British Columbia and U.S. federal agencies joined forces in a virtual press conference Wednesday to declare open season on the Asian giant hornet, an invasive species that was first found in the U.S. and Canada in 2019. The agencies are collaborating on their plans to track, trap and eradicate any of these ‘murder hornets’ they find in 2021.  The joint announcement comes as the predatory insects are setting up nests this spring. Asian giant hornets can destroy entire hives of pollinator honeybees, critical to many crops.

Earthquakes

A strong earthquake rattled parts of Japan Saturday, shaking buildings and prompting a tsunami advisory and evacuations near the same area where a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster struck 10 years ago. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The U.S. Geological Service gave the earthquake a rating of 7.0 magnitude. It was centered offshore about 16 miles east-northeast of Ishinomaki, in Miyagi prefecture, at a depth of about 33 miles.

Volcanoes

A long dormant volcano in Iceland erupted overnight Thursday, sending glowing red-hot rivers of lava flowing down on two sides. There is no danger to property or large population centers. A few roads in the vicinity of the eruption have been closed and people are advised to stay away from valleys and other places near the fissure where toxic gases can accumulate. The volcano is about 20 miles outside the capital of Reykjavík.

Weather

Dozens of houses were damaged or destroyed by possible tornadoes in the Deep South and thousands were still without power as of Thursday morning. At least three homes were destroyed in Alabama’s Chilton County, which saw two possible tornadoes Wednesday night. Two people, a woman and her 3-year-old daughter, were hurt when they were thrown from their home in Clarke County, Alabama. Nearly 16,000 homes and businesses in Alabama had no electricity as of 7 a.m. Thursday. A home was damaged and trees were down across parts of Stone County in southern Missouri after a possible tornado struck shortly before midnight.

A “crippling” winter storm dumped up to 4 feet of snow in the Rocky Mountains. Rescuers worked through the night to reach motorists trapped on Colorado highways by Winter Storm Xylia. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis activated 50 National Guard soldiers and airmen to help with stranded motorists and with search and rescue operations. More than 925 flights scheduled for Monday were canceled at Denver International Airport, which closed completely Sunday evening because of the storm. The airport received 27.1 inches of snow.

Australia’s east coast was smashed by heavy rains on Saturday, sparking dangerous flash flooding that forced the evacuation of multiple regions as the fast-moving waters unmoored houses, engulfed roads, stranded towns and cut power lines. In Sydney, the country’s biggest city, authorities pleaded for people to stay at home as a major dam overflowed and a mini-tornado tore through a western suburb. Most of the coast in the state of New South Wales (NSW), which is home to about a third of Australia’s 25 million people, has already seen March rainfall records broken and authorities warned the downpour was likely to continue for several days.

Signs of the Times (3/13/21)

March 13, 2021

Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.  (Romans 13:11-14)

Arkansas Governor Signs Sweeping Anti-Abortion Bill into Law

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday signed into law legislation banning nearly all abortions in the state, a sweeping measure that supporters hope will force the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit its landmark Roe v. Wade decision but opponents vow to block before it takes effect later this year. The Republican governor had expressed reservations about the bill, which only allows the procedure to save the life of the mother and does not provide exceptions for those impregnated in an act of rape or incest. Arkansas is one of at least 14 states where legislators have proposed outright abortion bans this year. Hutchinson said he was signing the bill because of its “overwhelming legislative support and my sincere and long-held pro-life convictions.” The legislation won’t take effect until 90 days after the majority-Republican Legislature adjourns this year’s session.

Mississippi and Idaho Ban Transgenders from Women’s Sports

On Thursday, the Governor of Mississippi signed into law the common-sense rule that to play in girls’ sports you have to be a biological female. On Monday, Idaho became the first state in the United States to bar transgender girls from participating in girls’ and women’s sports and to legalize the practice of asking girls and women to undergo sex testing in order to compete. More than half of the remaining states are engaged in similar efforts to save girls’ sports.

Biden Signs an Executive Order to Redefine ‘Sex’ in Title IX to Include ‘Gender Identity’

Earlier this week, President Biden signed an Executive Order redefining Title IX’s use of “sex” to include “sexual orientation and gender identity.” Title IX is the law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, including in sports – and it has played a significant role in giving women equal access to athletic opportunities. When enforced, the President’s Executive Order will almost certainly require schools to let biological males compete – and win – in female athletic competitions.

First Lawsuit Filed in U.S. to Refuse Forced Vaccination

This month, a corrections officer filed a lawsuit against his workplace for requiring him to receive the vaccine in order to keep his job. Isaac Legaretta, sued a county manager and his supervisor earlier this month because they are requiring him to take the vaccine against his will. “You can’t be forced to be a human guinea pig when a product is experimental,” said N. Ana Garner, an attorney for Legaretta, who filed his complaint in U.S. District Court District of New Mexico Sunday. “We have the right to bodily integrity,” she told Bloomberg Law. The long-term effects of the vaccine are completely unknown, making this vaccine experimental. It has only been given emergency authorization by the FDA because those long-term effects have yet to be studied.

President Biden Fires Attorney Who Defended Religious Liberty of Employees

An attorney within the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who had gained a reputation for defending religious liberty was fired by President Biden Friday. Sharon Fast Gustafson was nominated by President Trump as EEOC general counsel in March 2018. Her term was set to expire in August 2023. Under her leadership, EEOC filed a lawsuit against Kroger on behalf of two employees who said they were fired after refusing to wear LGBT-themed aprons. The women “believed the emblem endorsed LGBTQ values and that wearing it would violate their religious beliefs,” the EEOC said in a news release at the time. In the year 2020, Gustafson said in the letter, the EEOC filed 37 lawsuits based on sex and 29 based on disability. Other lawsuits filed included ones based on retaliation (26), race (13), age (7), religion (5) and national origin (4). Gustafson said her work promoting religious liberty had been removed from the EEOC website after Biden was inaugurated. Biden requested Gustafson’s resignation, but she refused in a letter to Biden dated March 5, saying, “Your request that I resign provided no reason for the request,”. She was fired the same day.

  • This is a clear indicator that the Biden administration does not respect and will not defend religious freedom. Rather, faith will be under attack in the U.S. as never before.

‘Woke’ School Recommends Discarding Words Like ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’

An elite New York City school warned staff, students, and parents to stop using words like “mom” and “dad” because they are inappropriate terms. Instead, the Grace Church School, which charges $57,000 a year, urges the K-12 “community” to use “grown-ups,” “folks,” “family,” or guardians. The City Journal reported on a 12-page memo, showing how “woke” ideology is influencing elite education. The guide says “traditional family” is an “outdated term,” saying: “we actively try to undo notions of a ‘typical’ or ‘normal’ family structure, each family is unique.” The memo also warns “sexuality can be fluid along the course of a person’s life,” giving scenarios and instructing them how they should respond. Within a massive list of phrases not to use, “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” should be replaced with “Have a great break!” Despite pushback, the school defended the use of the “woke” memo. “Grace is an Episcopal school. As part of our Episcopal identity, we recognize the dignity and worth common to humanity,” Rev. Robert M. Pennoyer II, the assistant head of school, said in a statement to the City Journal.

Fence Around the Capital Causing Bipartisan Criticism

Authorities have begun adjustments on the fence erected around the Capitol after the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, but the barrier remains contentious in Congress, which must determine how much fencing is necessary and how much it will cost going forward. The 7-foot, chain-link fence topped with razor wire has been moved closer to the Capitol in several locations as threats to the campus are reassessed. But the fence has proven a target of criticism from lawmakers of both parties for restricting access to the historic building. Capitol grounds have traditionally been open, allowing joggers and tourists to enjoy the campus. The fencing has forced motorists and pedestrians to find new routes. “The view of our nation’s Capitol through concertina wire is not something that we’re very proud of,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash. “This fence sends a terrible message to American citizens, as well as to our allies and adversaries, and it is not a long-term security solution,” said a letter from the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Equality Act Being Debated in the Senate, Likely Headed for a 50-50 Vote Broken by VP Harris

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declared “Rule 14” on the “Equality Act” which means that this measure bypasses all committees and sends the “Equality Act” straight to the Senate floor. Senators can vote on this bill at any moment. Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel writes, “The Equality Act is designed to crush moral decency and religious freedom beneath the feet of the radical LGBT & Q lobby, make abortion a federal right and punish anyone—especially Christians and religious institutions—who will not promote those life-threatening and soul-crushing actions and ideals.” Heavy-duty prayer is urgently needed

Congress Passes New Stimulus Bill, Biden Signs, Checks Start Going Out Next Week

The most heralded feature of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) are the $1,400 relief checks, the $350 billion for state and local governments, the money for vaccines, and the boost in child tax credits. But the stimulus bill also contains many other spending programs. For a list of the ARP’s many spending provisions, see the Appendix at the end of this report.

The American Rescue Plan Will Fund Abortion Providers

The American Rescue Plan forces American taxpayers to fund abortions and the Planned Parenthood abortion business. It is the largest expansion of abortion funding since 2010, when Democrats passed Obamacare, notes LiveNews.com. “In the Senate, Democrats defeated a pro-life amendment that would have stopped the COVID relief bill from using tens of millions and perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars to fund killing babies in abortions.” The Senate voted 52-47 to defeat the pro-life amendment. The nation’s Catholic bishops slammed Democrats for passing the bill without any protections against abortion funding.

Moderna’s Top Scientist: mRNA Vaccine is “Hacking the Software of Life”

Dr. Tal Zaks, the chief medical officer at Moderna Inc. explained in a 2017 TED talk how the company’s mRNA vaccines were being designed to work. “In every cell there’s this thing called messenger RNA or mRNA for short, that transmits the critical information from the DNA in our genes to the protein, which is really the stuff we’re all made out of. This is the critical information that determines what the cell will do. So we think about it as an operating system. So if you could change that, if you could introduce a line of code, or change a line of code, it turns out, that has profound implications for everything from flu to cancer. He added that, “We are actually hacking the software of life.” In essence, they are relabeling gene therapy as vaccines.

  • The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are not the same as previous vaccines. The introduction of mRNA is new, and the long-term effects of “hacking” our internal software remains to be seen with millions of people acting as the guinea pigs. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine does not use mRNA.

Deal With J&J for 100M More Doses Means Enough Vaccine for All Eligible Americans

President Joe Biden announced plans on Wednesday to purchase an additional 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine – enough when added to vaccines from other sources to provide the nation with more than enough doses to serve every eligible American, the White House said Wednesday. The single-shot J&J doses come in addition to the 200 million doses Pfizer and Moderna pledged to deliver by late May of their two-shot vaccines, putting the country well over the total supply needed to vaccinate everyone eligible for the vaccine in the United States.

Enough Vaccine for Everyone, But 1/3 Will Refuse to Get Vaccinated

In President Biden’s prime-time address to the nation Thursday evening, he said there would be enough vaccine for every eligible American by May 1 and challenged states to get the job done by then. However, an analysis by the New York Times on Thursday says only 90% of Americans would be vaccinated by August 22 based on current rates. The pace of vaccination has increased steadily in recent weeks, to more than 2 million doses on average each day. But supply-chain inefficiencies still are causing issues. In addition, there are still many people who say they will refuse to get the vaccine. Almost half of former President Trump’s supporters don’t plan to get vaccinated according to a poll by NPR, PBS, and Marist. The survey found that 41 percent of Republicans would not take the vaccine, compared to only 11 percent of Democrats saying they wouldn’t take it. Overall, about one-third say they will not get vaccinated.

  • About 66 million Americans have been vaccinated at least once as of 3/12, representing 54% of the prioritized population and 20% of the total population.

In 2018 Diplomats Warned of Risky Coronavirus Experiments in a Wuhan Lab, Were Ignored

Research on bat viruses at a Wuhan lab had already drawn the attention of U.S. diplomats and officials at the Beijing Embassy in late 2017, prompting them to alert Washington that the lab’s own scientists had reported “a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory.” But their cables to Washington were ignored writes Josh Rogin in Politico Magazine. Now, the new Joe Biden team is walking a tightrope, calling on Beijing to release more data, while declining to endorse or dispute the Trump administration’s controversial claims that the coronavirus came out of the Wuhan lab. Last month, National security adviser Jake Sullivan issued a statement expressing “deep concerns” about a forthcoming report from a team assembled by the World Health Organization that toured Wuhan—even visiting the lab—but was denied crucial data by the Chinese authorities.

New Covid-19 Cases/Deaths/Hospitalizations Continue to Decline at a Slower Rate

Over the past two weeks in the U.S., new daily Covid-19 cases decreased 19% while daily deaths are down 35% and hospitalizations down 26%. However, the 7-day average cases still remain high at 56,362/day with the 7-day average of daily deaths also still high at 1,364/day. While many states have continued to see significant declines in new cases, others, especially on the East Coast, have seen infections plateau at relatively high levels.

  • Arizona’s seven-day case rate per 100,000 people ranked 13th Friday among all states, after ranking first and second for much of January, according to the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker.

Eli Lilly COVID-19 Drug Combo Cuts Risk of Hospitalizations, Deaths by 87%

A combination of two Eli Lilly antibody drugs cut the risk of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths by 87%, the company announced Wednesday. The findings draw from a BLAZE-1 Phase 3 cohort with 769 mild-to-moderate coronavirus patients aged 12 and up at high-risk of progressing to severe disease. There were 15 “events” like hospitalizations or deaths in the placebo group, and four “events” in a group of patients taking 700 mg of bamlanivimab and 1400 mg of etesevimab together, “representing an 87 percent risk reduction,” Lilly announced. The company noted that the four deaths all occurred in the placebo group.

Some Countries Halting Use of Astra-Zeneca Vaccine

Several European countries have suspended their use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine after reports of blood clots in some people, even though there is no evidence the shot is responsible. Denmark said it was doing so “based on a precautionary principle,” joining Norway and Iceland in halting use of the vaccine. Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, canceled plans to publicly get the AstraZeneca shot on Friday and the country also delayed its rollout. AstraZeneca has robustly defended its vaccine, saying Friday there was “no evidence of an increased risk” of blood clots.

Italy Going Back into Lockdown as Covid-19 Cases Grow Exponentially

Italy is facing another lockdown, as the government attempts to contain a recent surge of coronavirus cases, driven by the presence of new variants. Half of Italy’s 20 regions, which include the cities Rome, Milan and Venice, will be entering new coronavirus restrictions starting Monday, March 15. The measures will be effective through April 6, according to a decree passed by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s cabinet on Friday. Additionally, over Easter weekend, the entire country will be considered a “red zone,” and will be subject to a national lockdown from April 3 to 5. The variant B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, is also now prevalent in the country, according to the health ministry, who also said that they are worried about the presence of small clusters of the Brazilian variant.

Biden’s First Month Yields Record Numbers of Illegal Immigration

President Biden’s first full month in charge of the country’s borders set new records for illegal immigration, according to numbers released Wednesday that showed last month was the worst February ever when it comes to illegal immigrant children. Nearly 9,500 unaccompanied juveniles were nabbed at the southwest border, part of an overall surge of migrants which is double what the country experienced last year at this time, and even runs ahead of the record-breaking 2019 border surge. Customs and Border Protection said it recorded more than 100,000 encounters with illegal immigrants. That’s the fifth-worst month in the last decade

5% to 10% of Migrant Border-Crossers Testing Positive for Covid-19

Migrant families coming across the border are testing positive for the coronavirus at much higher rates than for U.S. citizens. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told The Washington Times that the families it is processing are between 5% and 10% positive. In Brownsville, Texas, the city says it is seeing a 12% positive rate. And in Harlingen, Texas, the homeless shelter where families are being dropped off reported that 25% tested positive for COVID-19. That’s more than seven times the current positivity test rate for the U.S. public, which Johns Hopkins University’s tracker shows at 3.5%.

Crisis: 3,250 Migrant Children in Custody Along the Border

More than 3,250 migrant children are in custody along the U.S.-Mexico border. Many of the children are staying in holding cells longer than the three days allowed by law, averaging 4 days and 11 hours.. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that thousands of children are crossing the U.S. southern border because “this administration did not feel that it was humane or moral to send kids back… on the treacherous journey back to countries where they were fleeing persecution, where they were fleeing really difficult circumstances.” She noted that because of the influx, it’s been difficult to find facilities to transfer children where they could have access to lawyers, education and health care officials. Under U.S. law, migrant children are separated from the adults they arrive with — often a grandparent, older sibling or other relatives — until federal officials can confirm the accompanying adult is their relative.

Texas Implements its Own Border Security Program

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott launched a program on March 6 that will deploy state National Guard troops and personnel from other agencies to respond to the burgeoning crisis at the southern border. Abbott says Operation Lone Star, in collaboration with the state’s Department of Public Safety, will deploy air, ground, marine, and tactical border security assets to prevent Mexican criminal organizations from smuggling drugs and people into Texas. “Texas supports legal immigration but will not be an accomplice to the open border policies that cause, rather than prevent, a humanitarian crisis in our state and endanger the lives of Texans,” Abbott said.

Minneapolis Reaches $27M Settlement with George Floyd’s Family

Minneapolis leaders approved a $27 million settlement Friday with the family of George Floyd in a wrongful death lawsuit over his death in police custody that spurred protests worldwide and a national reckoning on racial justice. The settlement includes $500,000 to be directed to enhance the 38th Street and Chicago Avenue business district where Floyd died. It’s the largest pre-trial settlement in a wrongful death case ever. Mayor Jacob Frey said, “Today’s settlement reflects our shared commitment to advancing racial justice, our sustaining push for progress, our commitment to Minneapolis, and our commitment and compassion to one another.”

Portland Unrest Continues Unabated Despite Change in Administration

Downtown Portland, Oregon, erupted in violence yet again Thursday night, drawing tear gas and smoke bombs from federal officers who were deployed to quell the unrest, according to a report. Rioters set fires and smashed windows in the area of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse until being driven away by federal officers, At least 100 rioters have been arrested. The crowd later made a return to the area, managing to break some courthouse windows and set another fire. Earlier in the day, a crowd had gathered to protest plans to replace and expand an oil pipeline that runs between Superior, Wisconsin, and the Canadian province of Alberta. Some protesters also cited the start of the Derek Chauvin trial in Minnesota as a reason for the unrest. Oregon’s largest city has seen almost daily and nightly protests for much of the past year.

Amazon Won’t Sell Books That Call Transgenderism a Mental Illness

Amazon is banning books that describe gender dysphoria as a mental illness. For decades, mental health professionals have considered it just that, and it was removed from the list only in recent years amid LGBTQ activism. “We reserve the right not to sell certain content. … We have chosen not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ as a mental illness,” Amazon said. The company claimed its actions were not “part of a broad campaign against conservative material and voices on Amazon’s platforms.” Amazon didn’t say what it will do now with the Bible, which condemns deviant sexuality.

World Debt Binge Creates Future Headache – Massive Interest Payments & Inflation

Desperate to save their economies from complete collapse, worldwide governments borrowed unprecedented amounts of money on the cheap to support workers and businesses during the pandemic. Now, with recovery in sight, a big risk looms: interest payments. Spurred on by rock-bottom rates, governments issued $16.3 trillion in debt in 2020, and they’re expected to borrow another $12.6 trillion this year. Should that happen, the cost of servicing mountains of sovereign debt will jump, eating up government funds that could otherwise be spent on essential services or rebuilding weakened economies. Concerns about rising interest rates have come into focus as investors offload government bonds. The UK Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that if short- and long-term interest rates were to rise by just 1 percentage point, debt interest spending would increase by $29 billion.

Economic News

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell by 42,000 last week to 712,000, the lowest total since early November, evidence that fewer employers are cutting jobs amid a decline in confirmed coronavirus cases and signs of an improving economy. However, this is still almost three times the normal rate of new unemployment applications.

About 4.1 million Americans are receiving traditional state unemployment benefits. Counting supplemental federal unemployment programs that were established to soften the economic damage from the virus, an estimated 20.1 million people are collecting some form of jobless aid. The nation has recovered 12.9 million of the 22.4 million jobs shed since last spring. As of February 2021, women were down 5.1 million jobs compared to the same time last year, while men have lost 4.4 million jobs.

Retail sales are now 7.4% above their pre-pandemic peak, with 28% of total sales shifting online. Restaurant income is still 16.6% below its pre-crisis high. More than 100,000 restaurants have permanently closed. Airline passenger trips generally have trended higher since bottoming in April but were still 71% below the year-ago level in this past January.

Inflation watch: Gas prices have been increasing at the pump for the past few weeks, reaching a national average of $2.77 a gallon as of Monday, which is 39 cents higher than the same time in 2020, according to AAA. The price of agricultural commodities traded on the global stage has shot up by 50 percent since the middle of 2020, according to Robobank. Lumber prices have increased more than 180 percent since last spring, and this price spike has caused the price of an average new single-family home to increase by $24,386 since April 17, 2020, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Iran Enriching Uranium With New Set Of Advanced Machines At Natanz

Iran has started enriching uranium with a third set of advanced IR-2m centrifuges at its underground plant at Natanz, the U.N. nuclear watchdog told its member states on Monday, a further breach of Tehran’s 2015 deal with major powers. The move is part of a recent acceleration by Iran of its violations of restrictions under that deal, which granted Iran relief from financial sanctions in return for curbs to its nuclear activities. It began breaching limits after then-U.S. President Donald Trump quit the deal and re-imposed sanctions in 2018.

Impasse Over Iran Nuclear Talks Sets Off International Scramble To Save Accord

Three weeks ago, in a show of both good faith and diplomatic pressure, the United States offered to rejoin nuclear talks with Iran. The double-edged overture fell flat: Iran refused to meet without first receiving financial incentives, and the Biden administration made clear, as the White House national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, put it, that “the ball is in their court.” That set off a new rush among world powers to resuscitate a 2015 nuclear accord that the United States exited three years after negotiating it, leaving Iran to steadily violate the terms of the deal.

Israeli Strikes Target Iranian Oil Ships Bound For Syria

Israel has targeted at least a dozen vessels bound for Syria and mostly carrying Iranian oil out of concern that petroleum profits are funding extremism in the Middle East, U.S. and regional officials say, in a new front in the conflict between Israel and Iran. Since late 2019, Israel has used weaponry including water mines to strike Iranian vessels or those carrying Iranian cargo as they navigate toward Syria in the Red Sea and in other areas of the region. Iran has continued its oil trade with Syria, shipping millions of barrels and contravening U.S. sanctions against Iran and international sanctions against Syria.

Sharp Increase in Attacks by Iran-Backed Houthis Follows U.S. Reversal of Terror Designation

The Iran-backed Houthis attacked a major Saudi Arabian oil facility with drones and missiles over the weekend in another dangerous cross-border attack targeting civilians and critical infrastructure. Missile defense systems, which prevent the majority of attacks from causing damage or casualties, are being used more frequently in recent weeks to thwart Houthi attacks. The uptick in aggression follows the end of U.S. support for Saudi-led coalition offensives in Yemen and the rescission of the group’s Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist designations by the Biden administration. Western governments (including the U.S.) condemned on Thursday an attack by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group on the city of Marib.

Continued Junta Attacks Against Protesters Continues in Myanmar

Bloodshed continues in Myanmar after another violent day Thursday saw at least 12 people killed by the ruling junta, according to a watchdog group, prompting a top UN official to say the crackdown on peaceful protests is “likely meeting the legal threshold for crimes against humanity.” In the small, central town of Myaing, police shot into a crowd of unarmed people, killing at least eight, according to advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). Images posted on social media showed the town’s roads streaked with blood and bodies lying crumpled and lifeless in the street. The military junta, which seized power in a coup on February 1, is attempting to crush peaceful opposition to its enforced rule in every corner of Myanmar, not just the big towns and cities.

Demonstrations Lead Russia to Throttle Twitter

The new year in Russia kicked off with mass arrests of protesters pushing back against the detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, an inconvenient development in a nation known for stifling dissent. Now the Kremlin is going after American social media, throttling Twitter’s speed in an apparent attempt to tamp down on posts encouraging people to demonstrate. “The slowing down will be applied to 100% of mobile devices and on 50% of nonmobile devices,” state communications regulator Roskomnadzor announced in a Wednesday statement, noting it had found more than 3,000 posts of illegal content on the social media platform that Twitter wouldn’t take down.

China & Russia Agree to Build a Scientific Space Outpost Together

China and Russia have agreed to collaborate on building and operating a robotic scientific outpost on the moon or in lunar orbit, the China National Space Administration announced. The agency said the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on the joint effort to build an “international lunar research station.” Harry Kazianis, a senior director at the Washington, D.C.-based public policy think tank Center for the National Interest, said an “authoritarian alliance in space” should worry the United States. “This mirrors what China and Russia are doing on sharing weapons technology, economic ties and more,” Kazianis told USA TODAY. “Both nations see space as the next great power battleground. By working together, they can try and blunt any U.S. advantages in this domain of the future.”

China Puts an End to Hong Kong’s Democracy

By a vote of 2,895-0, with one abstention, China’s National People’s Congress voted to give a pro-Beijing committee power to appoint more of Hong Kong’s lawmakers, reducing the proportion of those directly elected, and ensure that only those determined to be truly loyal to Beijing are allowed to run for office. Beijing has made it clear throughout the process that only true “patriots” will be able to sit in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, excluding government critics and anyone holding views that diverge significantly from the program laid out by Beijing, which many see as effectively ending the city’s already weakened democracy.

Environment

Last month’s historic bitter cold in Texas is being blamed for killing nearly 4 million fish along the state’s coast. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department estimates a minimum of 3.8 million fish comprising 61 species died during the freeze. It’s the largest fish kill in the state since the 1980s, the agency said.

Wildfires

More than a dozen people are missing in a series of wildfires in Argentina, set on purpose and then fueled by hot and windy conditions. Authorities say the blazes were most likely set in connection with a local conflict. “The outbreaks were started simultaneously in different locations,” Interior Minister Wado de Pedro said. “It was not a lightning strike or an accident, it is clearly intentional fires, which affect not only native forests, local flora and fauna, but also thousands of people who run risk of life.”

Weather

Severe weather, historic snowfall and flash flooding are forecast for the next few days in areas of the central United States, from the Rockies to the Mississippi River Valley. “The stage is set for a significant winter storm to impact the central Rockies and the central High Plains,” the Weather Prediction Center said Friday morning. This storm system delivers its first threat over the Rockies Friday into Saturday, with intense bands of snowfall dumping up to two feet of snow across Colorado and Wyoming. Dangerous travel conditions will exist across portions of interstates 25, 70, and 80 — so drivers are urged to use extreme caution.

Heavy rain that caused evacuations, collapsed bridges and caused extensive damage on the Hawaiian island of Maui Tuesday moved over Oahu Wednesday, where a North Shore beach town was ordered to evacuate and one person was missing after being washed away by floodwaters. Separately, a man was rescued in the community of Waikele after the truck he was in was carried about 100 yards by floodwaters. The Honolulu Fire Department responded to 20 weather-related calls from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday. Gov. David Ige issued a statewide emergency declaration Tuesday night.

At least four residents were trapped in their homes Wednesday after a storm across Southern California unleashed the mudslides in areas scarred by wildfires. A mandatory evacuation was issued for Silverado Canyon Wednesday morning. Firefighters were called in to help the residents trapped in Silverado Canyon near Irvine. Mud flowed into six or seven homes and damaged nine vehicles. Mud two to three feet deep covered a half-mile stretch of road.

Appendix: Additional Spending Programs in the American Rescue Plan

  • The restaurant industry will get a long-awaited $28.6 billion for a new grant program offering direct debt-free aid to independent restaurants with 20 or fewer locations.
  • ARP includes an additional $21.5 billion for emergency rental assistance to states and cities, adding to the $25 billion they received in December for the same purpose. The money is meant for renters facing back payments to keep families in their homes.  The bill also includes $10 billion to states and cities to help the estimated 3.3 million homeowners behind in mortgage payments or in foreclosure.
  • Addressing other housing needs, the bill allocates $5 billion for homelessness services; $5 billion for emergency housing vouchers; $100 million to support households living in federally subsidized rural housing; and $100 million in housing counseling to help homeowners and renters with debt challenges navigate their housing situations. It will also provide $100 million to fair housing organizations that help renters and homeowners combat housing discrimination amid the pandemic.
  • The legislation will send $125 billion to the nation’s K-12 public schools aimed at reopening schools for in-person learning and supporting students who suffered a loss of learning as a result of their schools closing during the pandemic.
  • The bill provides $39.6 billion to colleges and universities – which have lost more than 650,000 employees during the pandemic – and college students themselves. At least half the aid will go to emergency financial aid grants to students to pay for things like food, housing and health care.
  • The bill appropriates $10.4 billion for agricultural and food supply sectors, $5 billion of which will go to socially disadvantaged farmers of color. These include Black, Hispanic, Native American or Asian American farmers.
  • The relief package provides an additional $1.25 billion for the Shuttered Venues Operators Grant Program, which provides aid to live music and other event venues that have closed or scaled back operations.
  • The relief package will provide the first major expansion of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called “Obamacare,” since it was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010. The bill increases premium support in ACA marketplaces, subsidizes COBRA coverage and provides incentives for the 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid eligibility under the ACA.
  • The package provides $500 million for rural health care efforts including increasing vaccine distribution, providing medical supplies, expanding medical surge capacity, increasing access to telehealth, and helping fill the gap for rural health care providers.
  • The package gives $200 million to the more than 17,000 public libraries – many of which were forced to close during the pandemic – through the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
  • The bill extends through September the 15% increase in food stamp benefits though the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
  • The bill also provides $4 billion to support the food supply chain through the purchase and distribution of food, purchase of PPE equipment for farmers and frontline workers in the food industry and financial support for farmers, food processing companies and farmers markets.

Signs of the Times (3/8/21)

March 8, 2021

Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13)

These news items are meant to be the basis for prayer, so please pray.

Equality Act Undermines Religious Freedom In Violation of the Constitution

The First Amendment is very clear: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The Equality Acts, recently passed by the House and is being considered by the Senate essentially expands the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include LGBTQ rights alongside “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.” However, the Equality Act also states in Sec. 1107 that, “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.) shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.” In other words, religious beliefs and rights are effectively cancelled by the Equality Act when you read the fine print.

  • Ironically, this 1993 Act was sponsored by then-Rep. Charles Schumer (D-NY-9) and it actually strengthened the religious rights in the First Amendment. Now he leads the charge for the Equality Act.

America’s Largest Christian Adoption Agency Will Now Work with LGBTQ Parents

Bethany Christian Services is the largest Christian adoption agency in the United States. This week, the organization announced that it would begin providing its services to LGBTQ parents nationwide. Their decision is in response to requirements from various states that agencies serve such couples to maintain their governmental contracts. In 2007, the organization specified that “God’s design for the family is a covenant and lifelong marriage of one man and one woman.” On Monday, Bethany’s vice president stated, “Faith in Jesus is at the core of our mission. But we are not claiming a position on the various doctrinal issues about which Christians of mutual good faith may disagree. We acknowledge that discussions about doctrine are important, but our sole job is to determine if a family can provide a safe, stable environment for children.”

  • The religion of secular humanism is increasingly infiltrating the Church and its extensions, diminishing the light of truth and compromising core beliefs in the false notion that half truth is better than none.

Senate Finally Passes Stimulus Bill, Sent Back to House to Approve Changes

Democrats muscled past unified Republican opposition Saturday and are on the cusp of delivering a massive Covid relief bill that will put $1,400 checks in the pockets of millions of Americans, shore up unemployment for the millions still out of work and notch the first major legislative accomplishment of Joe Biden’s presidency. After the Senate passed its version of Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief package on a party-line vote Saturday, it now heads back to the House, where the chamber will vote Tuesday to approve changes made in the Senate. The House is likely to pass it and President Biden said he will sign it into law. Once it is signed into law, the bill will directly touch millions with aid checks and extended unemployment, beef up tax credits for families, put new money toward the federal vaccine rollout, spend $130 billion to get kids back in classrooms, earmark $350 billion for states and cities facing uncertain tax streams during the pandemic, extend more generous food assistance programs, help people struggling to pay rent and encourage companies to extend paid sick leave.

  • The House is expected to vote Tuesday, 3/9 on the Senate’s version of the bill, which is likely to pass and then be forwarded to President Biden who affirmed that he will sign the legislation into law.

Senate Votes Down $15 Minimum Wage Amendment to COVID Stimulus Bill

A group of Democratic senators joined all Senate Republicans in voting against Sen. Bernie Sanders’ proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour on Friday. The Vermont independent tried to add the provision to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus bill as the Senate considered the $1.9 trillion measure. But the effort failed in a 58-42 vote with eight members of the Senate Democratic caucus voting against it. 

House Passes New Voting Rights Bill, Prospects in Senate Dim

A sweeping voting rights reform bill passed the House in a 220-210 vote Wednesday night, with every Republican and one Democrat voting against. The HR1 “For the People Act,” which would bring in new national standards, would be the biggest expansion of federal voting rights since the 1960s if it becomes law, though the odds are against it making it through the Senate. A near-identical bill passed the House in 2019 but didn’t make it to a vote in the then-GOP-controlled Senate. The dozens of provisions include measures requiring states to offer 15 days of early voting and no-excuse absentee balloting, along with same-day registration. The bill also calls for automatic voter registration and the restoration of voting rights to former felons as well as requiring presidents to release their tax returns. It also aims to eliminate partisan gerrymandering by requiring independent redistricting commissions. Republican lawmakers argued that the bill would lead to federal interference in the ability of states to decide how elections, saying Democrats want to use their “temporary power” to “try to ensure they’ll never have to relinquish it.”

Biden Signs Executive Order Aimed at Expanding ‘Voter Access’

President Biden on Sunday signed an executive order aimed at expanding voting rights. It’s the Biden administration’s latest move to expand voting rights as they push the Senate to pass H.R. 1, the House Democrats’ bill to transform America’s election system, including prohibiting voter ID laws. Agency heads will be required to post “relevant information” – like how to vote-by-mail and vote in an upcoming election – on websites and social media platforms. Those who visit vote.gov will be directed to the appropriate state website that provides greater details on how to vote in that individual state. Election officials are encouraged to distribute voter registration and voting-by-mail applications and help voters fill out those applications if need be. Federal prisoners who are currently incarcerated with be educated on their voting rights, including whether or not they will be restored once their sentence is completed. Those who are eligible to vote will be registered to do so.

Houses Passes Bill Transferring Administration of Elections from States to the Federal Government

On Wednesday, Democrats in the House passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021, which was introduced by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.). The election reform package, if passed by the Senate, would transfer authority over how elections are administered from states to the federal government and make permanent many voting rules that opponents say lead to voter fraud. The 791 page-long H.R. 1 legislation package was adopted without much debate. The Senate has yet to take up the measure.

Covid-19 Cases/Deaths/Hospitalizations Declining at Slower Rate

Over the past two weeks, the number of daily new cases and deaths in the U.S. have continued to decline, but at a much slower rate. New daily cases decreased by 12% of the past two weeks while deaths were down 10%, and total number of hospitalizations was down 29% as of 3/8. However, the 7-day average number of new cases is till high at 58,745/day with deaths at 1,728/day. While the increased rate of vaccinations is driving the numbers down, infections from the new, more infectious variants are rising.

Vaccinations on the Upswing, Many Already Getting Second Doses

The U.S. hit a record on Saturday for single-day doses administered at 2.9 million vaccinations. The country is now vaccinating a seven-day average of nearly 2.2 million Americans. According to data compiled by the CDC, 9.2% of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, while more than 58.8 million people have received at least one dose.

CDC Releases Guidelines for Fully Vaccinated People

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines Monday designed to ease restrictions for Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The agency’s guidance state those who have received a full course of COVID-19 vaccine may get together with other fully vaccinated individuals in small groups inside their homes without masks or physical distancing. They can also visit with unvaccinated people from one other household who are at low risk for severe disease. The guidelines also say fully vaccinated people don’t need to quarantine or take a COVID-19 test if they’ve been exposed, unless they’re symptomatic.

Adverse Incident Reports Show 966 Deaths Following Vaccination for COVID-19

According to adverse incident reports collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 966 individuals have died after having received an mRNA vaccine for COVID-19. Between Dec. 14 and Feb. 19, 19,769 reports were made to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) following immunizations with either the Moderna or Pfizer BioNTech mRNA vaccines. At this time, VAERS data is not available after Feb. 19. The 966 deaths represent 5 percent of the total number of adverse events reports. Of those who died, 86, (8.9 percent) died on the same day they got the shot. An additional 129, (13.4 percent) died within one day. An additional 97 died within 2 days, and 61 within 3 days. A total of 514 (53.2 percent) died within a week. 173 died within 7-13 days. 106 within 14-20 days.

  • Some of these people may have died anyway, even if they hadn’t been vaccinated. But the numbers do seem to be high for such a short time after getting the shot. Obviously, further analysis is required.

34 Cases of Spontaneous Miscarriages, Stillbirths Occurred after COVID-19 Vaccination

Thirty-four cases of pregnant women experiencing spontaneous miscarriages or stillbirths after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine have been submitted to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Reports made to VAERS do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused the event or reaction. Most of the cases of spontaneous miscarriages occurred in the first trimester, or the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy, with 25 occurrences after being immunized with a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Four cases of stillborns occurred in either the second (weeks 13–27) or third trimester (weeks 28–40).

Austria Suspends Use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Batch After Death

Austrian authorities have suspended inoculations with a batch of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine as a precaution while investigating the death of one person and the illness of another after the shots, a health agency said on March 7. One 49-year-old woman died as a result of severe coagulation disorders, while a 35-year-old woman developed a pulmonary embolism and is recovering, The women were both nurses who worked at the Zwettl clinic.

25% of Illegal Aliens Test Positive for Covid-19 in Texas Town

A quarter of the illegal immigrants dropped off in one Texas town tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the man who runs the homeless shelter where Border Patrol agents are bringing the migrants they’re catching and releasing. Bill Reagan, director of Loaves and Fishes, the food bank and shelter in Harlingen, Texas, told city commissioners that, “We can’t quarantine them. Even though they test positive, they’re going to leave the next day. They’re going to get on the bus or the airplane, and they’re gone.” Federal officials have asked Texas to assist with this issue, Governor Abbott said Thursday, but he declined, saying testing and quarantining migrants is the federal government’s job.

Illegal Immigrant Children Overwhelming U.S. Shelters

The U.S. is quickly nearing maximum capacity in shelters for illegal immigrant children following the Biden Administration’s loosening of border policies. Internal documents from the Department of Health and Human Services reveal the shelter system is now at 94% occupancy, according to Axios. And it is expected to hit maximum capacity later this month. The documents also show the Border Patrol referred an average of 321 children per day to HHS in the week ending March 1. Axios noted the number was just 47 per day during the first week of January. Axios said the number of children crossing into the U.S. from Mexico could soon overwhelm government systems. HHS officials have moved to open overflow shelters.

  • Biden administration officials said that they are pivoting away from Trump administration policies they felt were inhumane toward migrants, especially children. But as federal agents grapple with a rising influx of unaccompanied immigrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border, what to do with the children who come with an adult that is not their parent is becoming a rising concern.

Democrats Pushing Amnesty Bills As Border Crisis Worsens

House Democrats are pushing two bills that would grant legal status to millions of illegal immigrants in the coming weeks — even as the Biden administration scrambles to deal with a rapidly escalating crisis at the southern border. Democrats announced this week that they had reintroduced the American Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, both bills that had been introduced in the last Congress but never became law. The American Dream and Promise Act would grant citizenship pathways to what Democrats estimate are approximately 2.5 million illegal immigrants already in the country. Meanwhile, the agriculture bill would grant citizenship to illegal immigrants who have at least partially worked in agriculture as well as create reforms to the broader immigration system related to agriculture.

Supreme Court Dismisses ‘Sanctuary City’ Cases at Request of Biden’s DOJ

The Supreme Court has dismissed three pending requests to hear challenges to the Trump administration’s order to withhold millions of dollars in law enforcement funds from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions—states and cities that refuse to cooperate with Department of Homeland Security efforts to deport people residing in the United States illegally. “After a request from the Biden administration yesterday, the Supreme Court just dismissed three pending cert petitions (requests to hear a case) about the Trump administration’s effort to withhold money from so-called sanctuary cities,” the SCOTUS Twitter account noted.

FBI Continues to Pursue Capitol Rioters After Arresting Almost 300 So Far

In the two months since an angry mob forced its way into the U.S. Capitol, agents in all but one of the FBI’s 56 field offices have been drafted to track down those who participated in the deadly insurrection. They’ve mined tens of thousands of photos and videos. They followed trails the rioters left on social media bragging about being inside the Capitol. And they’ve arrested almost 300. But, as many as 500 remain at large of the 800 who Capitol Police believe entered the Capitol. Arrests are expected to continue given the more than 230,000 digital tips the agency received. The riot claimed five lives and cost millions in damages and cleanup in the historic building. 

Fatal Shooting of Man in Minneapolis Near ‘George Floyd Square’

A manhunt was underway Sunday in Minneapolis after the fatal shooting of a man near “George Floyd Square,” an intersection that serves as a memorial to the man whose death at the hands of police in May set off Black Lives Matter protests across the nation. The shooting took place less than 48 hours before jury selection is set to begin in the murder trial of the police officer charged in Floyd’s death. “Officers were met with some interference at the scene,” Police spokesman John Elder said. The shooting came hours after about 150 people gathered in front of the Minnesota governor’s mansion to demand accountability for police officers. Many of the protesters had family members who died during police encounters.

Attitudes Shifting About Black Lives Matter (Down) vs. Police (Up)

Americans’ trust in the Black Lives Matter movement has fallen and their faith in local law enforcement has risen since protests demanding social justice swept the nation last year, according to an exclusive USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll. The debate over the intersection of racism and policing will be in the spotlight again as jury selection opens Monday in the Minneapolis trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, which sparked nationwide marches last year. Last June, 60% in a USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll described Floyd’s death as murder; that percentage has now dropped by double digits to 36%. Uncertainty has grown about how to characterize the incident, caught on video, when Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck and ignored his protests that he couldn’t breathe. Nearly two-thirds of Black Americans, 64%, view Floyd’s death as murder; fewer than one-third of white people, 28%, feel that way.

Ferguson Activists Sue Black Lives Matter for $20M Over Teen’s Death

Michael Brown Sr. and Ferguson, Mo., activist Tory Russell, the founder of the International Black Freedom Alliance, demanded $20 million from Black Lives Matter after revelations that the organization brought in $90 million last year. Brown’s son, Michael Brown Jr., an 18-year-old Black teen, was killed in a police-involved shooting in the city in 2014, prompting a wave of Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Despite the protest movement’s massive haul, Brown said he received just $500. “Today, we hold Black Lives Matter accountable,” Russell said in a video Tuesday alongside the elder Brown. “What kind of movement are we building where we’re saying, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ but the freedom fighters and the families are being left behind?”

Right Side Broadcasting Network Suspended by YouTube Over Trump CPAC Speech

Right Side Broadcasting Network said it was suspended by YouTube for two weeks because it broadcast former President Donald Trump’s Sunday night speech. The media outlet wrote that YouTube claimed the video “violated their guidelines on election misinformation,” adding that it reached nearly 4 million views. “They have also removed it from their platform,” Right Side wrote on Twitter. Trump delivered the speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Sunday night, where he briefly touched on the Nov. 3 election.

  • Freedom of speech used to be a cherished right. Now, if it doesn’t meet the ‘right’ standards set by whoever is in power, that freedom is perverted.

High School Principal Suspended for Promoting Free Speech to Students

Barton Thorne wanted his students to be aware of the prospect of losing their right to speak and be heard in the era of “cancel culture”, and his high school immediately illustrated his point—by canceling him. Thorne is the principal of Cordova High School in Shelby County, TN, and when he delivered his weekly video address to staff and students in January, just days after the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill, his message was clear: Beware the suppression of online speech and expression that does not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy of the moment. It was a message not well-received by district administrators, who placed Thorne on paid leave after receiving complaints about the video’s contents. “Here you have a high school principal who is trying to advise his students of the importance of listening to all voices and viewpoints, who then has his own voice silenced by the school district for saying so,” said Patrick Wood, founder and director of Citizens for Free Speech.

Cancel Culture Strikes Conservative Cartoon ‘Mallard Fillmore’

The conservative comic strip “Mallard Fillmore” has been plucked. Bruce Tinsley, creator of the 27-year-old cartoon, said he was told this week by his syndication company that Gannett newspapers across the country simultaneously dropped the comic over two strips critical of President Biden and transgender participation in women’s sports. “It was a big shock,” Mr. Tinsley told The Washington Times. “From what I’m hearing, it was unprecedented. My syndicate had never seen anything like it.” Certainly, “Mallard Fillmore” has been known to ruffle feathers, but Mr. Tinsley said he didn’t think the strips referring to Mr. Biden’s Jan. 20 executive order on gender identity and sexual orientation were over the top.

  • Either line up in lockstep to secular humanism or risk being cancelled. Soon all things Christin will be targeted under ‘hate crime’ accusations.

Fewer Miles Driven in Pandemic, But More Traffic Fatalities

The nonprofit National Safety Council estimates in a report issued Thursday that 42,060 people died in vehicle crashes in 2020, an 8% increase over 2019 and the first jump in four years. However, the fatality rate per 100 million miles driven spiked 24%, the largest annual percentage increase since the council began collecting data in 1923. Pandemic lockdowns and stay-at-home orders kept many drivers off U.S. roads and highways last year, but those who did venture out found increased reckless driving. “We’re seeing a huge increase in the amount of risk-taking behavior,” said Michael Hanson, director of the Minnesota Public Safety Department’s Office of Traffic Safety.

Food Forests Cropping Up Across the Country Offering Free Food

There’s a seven-acre farm in Atlanta where residents can walk into a forest, take a deep breath, and begin pulling crops right off the land for dinner. A one-time pecan farm, the Food Forest at Browns Mill project contains 2,500 edible and medicinal plants available to anyone in need. It’s one of a growing number of free-food forests cropping up in cities around the country, as citizens and organizations both public and private attempt to grapple with problems of hunger and food deserts. In Atlanta, this problem is acute, with the USDA’s Food Access Research Atlas estimating that at least one in every four Atlantans, or around 125,000 people, live in areas defined as food deserts based on their geographical distance from grocery stores. Having created the nation’s largest free-food forest, The Conservation Fund, with the assistance of the city of Atlanta and the U.S. Forest Service, is ensuring this former pecan-farm continues its tradition of feeding the community.

Shift to Remote Work Leading to Exodus from Big Cities

Last year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, people working remotely increased to about 32% of the workforce, largely white-collar employees, reports Moody’s Analytics. A Gartner survey of HR leaders at 130 companies in December found that 90% plan to let employees work remotely at least some of the time even after much of the population is vaccinated. And 13% of executives say they’ll close their offices for good, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey. All of which is leading to remote workers moving out of large cities. Moody’s Analytics has identified metro areas most likely to emerge winners and losers from potentially millions of people movements across the country. It found that Northeast cities are most vulnerable to an exodus of residents while the South and West are most likely to gain, accelerating trends that have been decades in the making.

Economic News

Hiring rebounded sharply in February after a two-month slump with employers adding 379,000 jobs as falling COVID-19 cases and fewer business restrictions offset the harsh winter weather across much of the country. Restaurants and bars accounted for most of the job gains. The unemployment rate fell from 6.3% to 6.2%, the Labor department also reported Friday.

However, the American job market is nowhere near fixed. Nearly one year into the pandemic, the nation is still down nearly 9.5 million jobs. Another 745,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits on a seasonally adjusted basis last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, up slightly from the previous week and still more than three times the number of claims in the same week last year. On top of that, 436,696 workers applied for Pandemic Unemployment benefits, which are available to people like the self-employed or gig workers.

The pandemic is squeezing women out of the workforce, and the December, 2020 jobs report highlights just how dire the situation is. According to U.S. government data, the country lost 140,000 jobs in December — and an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center shows that all of them belonged to women. The downturn has weighed heaviest on women of color. In total, the NWLC counted roughly 154,000 Black women who left the workforce in December.

A few years ago, when the U.S. national debt crossed the $20 trillion dollar mark, it seemed illogical that it would ever get to $30 trillion so quickly. But the U.S. national debt is currently around 28 trillion dollars, and Congress is poised to pass a $1.9 trillion “relief bill”.  We are going to have to borrow every single dollar that we spend in that bill, and that will be on top of all of the “normal” borrowing that we are already doing.  So by the end of 2021, the U.S. national debt will cross the 30 trillion dollar mark. That’s almost 50% higher than the $20.8 trillion total of all the goods and services the U.S. produced in the 2020 fiscal year. This simply cannot go on for much longer before the house of cards falls and totally wrecks the U.S. (and global) economy.

General Motors is extending the downtime at three North American factories that began in February through at least mid-April as it prioritizes the production of its full-size pickups and SUVs during the ongoing semiconductor shortage affecting the automotive industry. The automaker will also pause production in April and May at its Gravatai, Brazil, factory, which builds vehicles for the local market.

Progressives Upset with Sec. of State for “Strong Commitment to Israel” Tweet

Progressives are upset with new Secretary of State Antony Blinken over a tweet in which Blinken proclaimed a continued “strong commitment to Israel” in light of the International Criminal Court’s announcement of a criminal investigation into events that transpired between the Jewish state and Palestinians. The ICC released details of the probe on Wednesday, stating that it was examing acts committed by both sides of what it called the “Situation in Palestine” beginning on June 13, 2014 — the day after Israeli teens Naftali Frenkel, Eyal Yifrah and Gilad Sha’er were kidnapped in the West Bank before being killed. The ICC’s report of its preliminary findings alleged that Israel may have committed war crimes through “disproportionate attacks in relation to at least three incidents” including clashes with protesters on Israel’s border with Gaza in 2018. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the ICC’s decision to investigate as “undiluted antisemitism and the height of hypocrisy.”

Netanyahu Outraged at ICC for Investigating Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the announcement by the International Criminal Court on last week that it would investigate Israel for war crimes. “The decision of the International Court to open an investigation against Israel today for war crimes is absurd. It’s undiluted antisemitism and the height of hypocrisy,” he said in a videotaped statement. Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of the ICC, announced that the court would initiate “an investigation respecting the Situation in Palestine.” Netanyahu responded, “Without any jurisdiction, it decided that our brave soldiers, who take every precaution to avoid civilian casualties against the worst terrorists in the world who deliberately target civilians, it’s our soldiers who are war criminals.”

Palestinian Authority Paid $181 Million to Terrorists and Their Families

A senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization says the Palestinian Authority paid out some 600 million shekels ($181 million) in stipends to Palestinian terrorists and their families last year under the PA’s pay-for-slay policy, Times of Israel reported Thursday. For decades, the Palestinians have used foreign donor money, including U.S. taxpayer funds and other sources, to reward terrorists and their families, the Times reports. These are monthly cash payments to terrorist prisoners, released terrorist prisoners, and to the families of the so-called “martyrs” – any Palestinian killed while carrying out attacks against Israelis. That includes payments in perpetuity to the families of suicide bombers as a reward for their “sacrifice” to the Palestinian cause.

Iran-Backed Houthi Rebels Say They Targeted Saudi Oil Port

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels said they attacked a major Saudi Arabian oil port on the Persian Gulf with drones and missiles on Sunday. Saudi authorities said the strike caused no casualties or damage. The Saudi Energy Ministry said an assault “coming from the sea” had targeted petroleum tanks at the Ras Tanura port. It condemned what it called “repeated acts of sabotage and hostility” targeting energy supplies to the world. “All indications point to Iran,” said an adviser to the Saudi royal court who said he was briefed on the matter.

U.S. Warns Afghanistan of New Taliban Spring Offensive, Reviewing Troop Pullout Deal

The Taliban could make rapid military gains across Afghanistan when American and Nato troops pull out, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has warned. Under a deal between the Taliban and the previous Trump administration, all remaining U.S. forces are due to leave the country by the end of next month. But in a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Mr Blinken has warned of a possible new “spring offensive.” Under the previous deal, the remaining 10,000 U.S.-led Nato forces in the country are due to pull out by May 1 in exchange for Taliban security guarantees. The White House has now said that it wants to make sure the Afghan militant group is “living up to its commitments,” including reducing violence and cutting ties with terrorists, before withdrawing. Levels of violence in the country remain high, with journalists, activists, politicians and women judges among those killed in targeted assassinations.”

ISIS Claims Responsibility For Slaying Of Three Women Media Members in Afghanistan

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has claimed responsibility for the killing of three women working for a local radio and TV station in eastern Afghanistan, the latest in a spike in targeted killings across the war-tor country. Dozens of people gathered Wednesday for the funerals of the three media workers. The women were gunned down Tuesday in separate attacks, according to the news editor of the privately owned station and officials in Nangarhar province. Afghan officials said police arrested their alleged killer, identifying him as Qari Baser and insisting he was a member of the Taliban — a claim promptly denied by the Taliban. Instead, ISIS claimed ‘credit’ for the slayings.

Earthquakes

Residents on New Zealand’s coast were warned to head to higher ground immediately over the threat of a tsunami after a strong earthquake struck off the country’s North Island and caused severe shaking. The 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck 147 miles northeast of Gisborne, New Zealand, at 2:27 a.m. Friday (8:27 a.m. EST), according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Hundreds of people sought shelter in a school on higher ground above Hawke’s Bay on the central coast of North Island. At least four aftershocks have been reported since the first quake, including one of magnitude 5.1. The tsunami alert was cancelled shortly afterwards.

Small earthquakes are nothing new or surprising for Icelanders—but 17,000 of them in a week is enough to rattle them. Scientists say the swarm of quakes suggests Mount Keiler, 20 miles away from Reykjavik, could be about to erupt for the first time since the 12th century. Experts believe the apparently imminent eruption is likely to be a fissure eruption, with lava oozing out of the ground, unlike the explosive eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano that massively disrupted international air travel for more than a week in 2010.

Megadrought Persists in Southwestern U.S.

Much of the western U.S. continues to endure a long-term drought, one that threatens the region’s water supplies and agriculture and could worsen wildfires this year. In fact, some scientists are calling the dryness in the West a “megadrought,”  defined as an intense drought that lasts for decades or longer. “Coming off record-breaking or near-record-breaking heat and dryness in 2020, the winter has not provided much relief at all and we see the most widespread exceptional drought in this region,” said climatologist Brian Fuchs of the National Drought Mitigation Center. Exceptional drought is the worst level of drought.

Weather

Most of the attention from the winter storm system that tore through the South in mid-February was on the aftermath in Texas. However, thousands of people in Jackson, Mississippi, have also suffered — and will continue to struggle for the foreseeable future – without water. Nearly three weeks after winter storms cut water to customers on Jackson’s water system, some haven’t seen as much as a trickle return. What little there is cannot be used to brush teeth, wash dishes or hands. City officials offer no hope of when the water will return, nor even a firm number on how many are without water.

The U.S. averages over 1,150 tornadoes every year. That’s more than any other country. In fact, it’s more than Canada, Australia and all European countries combined. The average number of tornado fatalities per year in the U.S. is 73. But in Europe, where the tornadoes are usually much weaker, the fatalities are estimated to be between 10 and 15 annually. “No place else in the world has the large warm water on its equatorward side with a wide high range of mountains extending from north to south to the west of it,” explained Dr. Harold Brooks, senior scientist with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory.

Signs of the Times (3/3/21)

March 3, 2021

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”  (Psalm 2:1-6)

FDA Approves Johnson & Johnson Single Shot Vaccine, Merck Will Help Produce It

The U.S. now has a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19. On Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two. Health experts have been anxiously awaiting a one-and-done option to help speed vaccinations. The FDA said J&J’s vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death. One dose was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents — protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading. Shipments of a few million doses to be divided among states began Monday. By the end of March, J&J has said it expects to deliver 20 million doses to the U.S., and 100 million by summer.

  • Merck & Co. will help make Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine, a historic collaboration that should help J&J catch up after falling behind in its expected vaccine production. Merck, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, abandoned its own effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

Catholic Groups Spurn J&J Vaccine Because it Uses Aborted Fetal Tissue

Some Catholic groups have decided that the J&J vaccine deserves to be spurned because the company used cell lines from two abortions that took place in the ’70s and ’80s in not only the vaccine’s testing, but also in its development and production. The Archdiocese of New Orleans implored Catholics to, if the option is available, opt for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine instead of the J&J one which is “morally compromised.” Despite their misgivings, however, Catholic leadership in New Orleans and Baton Rouge says if the J&J vaccine is the only option, the church won’t castigate those who get it.

Federal Law Prohibits COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates

Despite what some vaccine law “experts” have been saying, for the time being no one, including employers, can force a COVID-19 vaccine on anyone, reports Technocracy News. This is because the current vaccines being used in the U.S. have not been formally approved by the FDA. Rather, they’ve only received an emergency use authorization (EUA) while clinical trials continue. The same section of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that authorizes the FDA to grant emergency use authorization also requires the secretary of Health and Human Services to “ensure that individuals to whom the product is administered are informed … of the option to accept or refuse administration of the product.” Likewise, the FDA’s guidance on emergency use authorization of medical products requires the FDA to “ensure that recipients are informed to the extent practicable given the applicable circumstances … That they have the option to accept or refuse the EUA product …”

$1.9B Stimulus Bill Funds the Abortion Industry

Over the weekend, the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a COVID-19 relief bill which aims to use taxpayer money to fund abortions and the abortion industry under the guise of coronavirus relief. Known as H.R. 1319, the $1.9 trillion, 592 page “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021,” passed by a narrow 219 to 212 margin, largely along party lines. Now, the bill is in the United States Senate for ratification. The massive funding bill, unlike previous COVID-19 relief legislation, excluded Hyde Amendment protections, meaning that there are no safeguards against over $400 billion being used to cover elective abortions. The Hyde Amendment U.S. bans federal funds from paying for abortions except to save a pregnant woman’s life or those resulting from rape or incest.

New Mexico Repeals Protections for Healthcare Workers Who Oppose Abortion

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (Dem) on Friday signed a bill into law that repeals not only the state’s 1969 abortion ban but also conscience protections for hospitals and healthcare workers. The bill, S.B. 10, had passed the state House, 40-30, and the Senate, 25-17, before being signed into law by the Democratic governor, who supports abortion rights. The 1969 law outlawed abortion but included exceptions for rape, incest and to save the mother’s life or to stop a “grave impairment” to the woman. It also permitted an abortion if the unborn baby would have had a “grave physical or mental defect.” Opponents criticized not only the removal of protections for the unborn but also the removal of protections for hospitals and healthcare workers who oppose abortion.

States Race to Protect Women’s Sports from Transgenders

At least 25 states have introduced legislation to prevent transgender athletes from competing in girls’ and women’s sports. Five of those bills have cleared one chamber, and the Tennessee legislation is expected to reach the state House and Senate next week for floor votes. However, those state bills would be rendered legally moot if the U.S. Senate passes and President Biden signs the Equality Act, which would bar discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, requiring schools that receive federal funds to allow transgender athletes in girls’ and women’s sports.

Freedom Assessment Study Puts U.S. in Bottom Half of Free Countries

Freedom declined in the U.S. and around the globe during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in less than 20% of the world’s population living in a free country, according to Freedom House’s annual assessment of political rights and civil liberties released Wednesday. The U.S. scored an 83 on Freedom House’s 100-point system, which assesses countries on a 40-point scale for political rights and a 60-point scale for civil liberties. That puts the U.S. in the bottom half of all the world’s ‘free’ countries. The U.S. fell three points from last year and has dropped 11 points in the past decade. The report’s authors cited mass arrests and violence during last summer’s racial justice protests, lack of transparency about COVID-19 treatment and prevention, Mr. Trump’s voter fraud allegations in response to the November presidential election, and the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol as among the most concerning indicators of the health of U.S. democracy.

Poll Finds That Most Americans Believe Cancel Culture Threatens Freedom

A newly released survey found the majority of Americans believe cancel culture poses “a threat to our freedom.” Sixty-four percent of respondents answered affirmatively when asked in a new Harvard CAPS-Harris poll: “Do you think there is a growing cancel culture that is a threat to our freedom or not?” When broken down along ideological lines, 80% of Republican participants said cancel culture poses “a threat” to freedom, while only 48% of Democrats said the same. Sixty-four percent of independents agreed it’s a “threat to our freedom.” “Americans are showing increased and substantial concern about the growth of cancel culture,” said Mark Penn, director of the Harvard CAPS-Harris poll. “Tech companies beware that the public sees them acting out of bias tilted toward the Democrats and voters are calling for new regulations to ensure fairness and openness”.

More Covid-19 Variants Emerging in NY, California and Brazil

Health officials are urging Americans to not let their guards down against COVID-19 as researchers discover new variants that may already be more transmissible and could also be somewhat resistant to the vaccine. While U.S. experts have been following variants first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa, they’re also discovering other variants closer to home in Brazil, New York and California. A variant that originated in Brazil – called P.1 – was first reported in late January by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Japan. It has 17 unique mutations. As of Sunday, the CDC reported 10 cases of the P.1 variant in five U.S. states: Alaska, Florida, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Maryland. The agency has designated it a “variant of concern.” Many of the Brazilian cases occurred in people who already had recovered from the coronavirus, intensifying concerns about reinfection.

Texas & Mississippi Drop Covid Restrictions Despite Federal Warnings

The governors of Texas and Mississippi relaxed Covid restrictions their states this week in defiance of federal government warnings to not open their economies too fast. President Biden on Tuesday warned the country to dig in for a while longer as he flexed sweeping wartime powers under the Defense Production Act in another big leap forward in the inoculation drive, announcing there would be enough doses for all US adults by the end of May. On Monday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had warned that with variants spreading, “we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained.”

CDC Announces Ebola Travel Restrictions from Guinea and Congo

Beginning next week, the U.S. government will funnel travelers from Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo to six U.S. airports, the CDC announced on its website Friday. “Airlines will collect and transmit passenger information to CDC for public health follow-up and intervention for all passengers boarding a flight to the U.S. who were in DRC or Guinea within the previous 21 days.” The CDC release said workers would interview affected passengers on arrival to ensure they have accurate contact-tracing data. “This information will be shared with U.S. state and local health departments to appropriately monitor arrivals in their jurisdiction.”

Judge Rules Eviction Moratorium Unconstitutional, Justice Dept. Appeals

The Justice Department said Saturday it will appeal a judge’s ruling that found the federal government’s eviction moratorium was unconstitutional. Prosecutors filed a notice in the case on Saturday evening, saying the government was appealing the matter the to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The appeal comes days after U.S. District Judge J. Campbell Barker ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevented had overstepped its authority and that the moratorium was unlawful. “Although the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution,” the judge wrote in his decision. 

‘Frightening Levels of Fraud’ Overwhelm COVID Unemployment Programs

With the floodgates set to open on another round of unemployment aid, states are being hammered with a new wave of fraud as they scramble to update security systems and block scammers who already have siphoned billions of dollars from pandemic-related jobless programs. The fraud is fleecing taxpayers, delaying legitimate payments, and turning thousands of Americans into unwitting identity theft victims. Many states have failed to adequately safeguard their systems, and some will not even publicly acknowledge the extent of the problem. The massive sham springs from prior identity theft from banks, credit rating agencies, health care systems, and retailers. Fraud perpetrators, sometimes in China, Nigeria, or Russia, buy stolen personal identifying information on the dark web and use it to flood state unemployment systems with bogus claims.

California Announces $6.6 Billion School Reopening Deal

California’s public schools could get $6.6 billion from the state Legislature if they return to in-person instruction by the end of March, according to a new agreement announced Monday between Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state’s legislative leaders. California, the most populous U.S. state, has 1,037 public school districts, more than 6.1 million students and about 319,000 teachers. Most public school classes have not been held in-person since March of last year because of the coronavirus. Many districts have struggled to reach agreements with teachers’ unions on the best way to return students and staff to the classroom. California can’t order schools to return to in-person instruction, but state officials can offer a lot of money to those that do.  To be eligible for this new money, school districts in regions that fall under the most restrictive level — known as the purple tier — must return to in-person instruction at least through second grade. Districts in the next highest tier, the red tier, must return to in-person instruction for all elementary school grades, plus at least one grade in middle and high school.

Six Dr. Seuss Books Cancelled for Racist Depictions

Tuesday was the 117th birthday of the late Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, but the celebration this year comes with controversy. The business that controls the Seuss name says six books will no longer be published or sold because they portray people “in ways that are hurtful and wrong.” March 2 was “Read Across America Day,” which is traditionally associated with Seuss. President Biden’s proclamation for the day left out Seuss’ name, a pivot from presidents Obama and Trump. And the NEA also has been shifting its focus on the day from Seuss to emphasize diverse children’s titles. Some pundits wonder whether cancel culture has become so mindless and al-encompassing that people will finally say “enough already!”

108 Illegal Immigrants Released into Texas Test Positive for Coronavirus

More than 100 illegal immigrants released by the Border Patrol into Texas since late January have tested positive for the coronavirus following their arrival. Felipe Romero, a spokesperson for Brownsville, said Wednesday that the 108 positives represent 6.3% of the number of total migrants who have been rapid-tested at the city’s main bus station, where they are being released by the Border Patrol. He added that Brownsville does not have the authority to prevent those who test positive from traveling elsewhere in the U.S. — and are advising them to quarantine, follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and socially distance. 

Portland Anti-ICE Rioters Smash Windows, Spray-Paint Businesses

Rioters vandalized several buildings in downtown Portland, Ore., on Saturday night in one of the largest protests in weeks. Around 150 people marched through Portland’s Pearl District in what’s called a “direct action” event, smashing windows of businesses like Starbucks, Chipotle, Umpqua Bank and Urban Pantry and tagging them with graffiti. The marchers were protesting the Biden administration’s immigration policy and the federal agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The White House received progressive pushback this month when it reopened a Texas shelter meant to house unaccompanied teenage migrants. Business owners expressed great frustration at the interference and damage to their businesses which have nothing to do with immigration policy.

Self-Harm & Substance Abuse Among Teens Rose Substantially During Pandemic

Mental health issues among teenagers, including incidences of self-harm and overdosing, have skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study of medical reports and insurance claims. Claims for intentional self-harm among individuals 13 to 18 years old increased almost 91% in March 2020 compared to March 2019, a report by FAIR Health found. The Northeast region recorded the highest jump in intentional self-harm claims among this age group, a nearly 334% climb last August compared to the same month in the year prior. The report released Tuesday also found that claims for overdoses for teenagers aged 13 to 18 jumped almost 95% in March 2020 and 119% in April 2020 compared to the same months the previous year.

Largest Texas Electric Utility Files for Bankruptcy

The oldest and largest electricity cooperative in Texas filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after the devastating winter storm in February. Brazos Electric Power Cooperative filed its bankruptcy petition after racking up bills owed to the state’s grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), in connection with the outages. Power companies that went down during the storm from Feb. 13-19 were required to pay for replacement power sources at what Brazos described as “excessively high” rates. The Waco, Texas-based Brazos said it was presented with a bill for more than $2.1 billion for seven days of what it called a “black swan winter event.” It refused to pay, saying the winter storm legally eliminated its requirement to do so.

Economic News

According to Bloomberg News, basic food staples are dramatically spiking in price all over the globe. In Indonesia, tofu is 30% more expensive than it was in December. In Brazil, the price of local mainstay turtle beans is up 54% compared to last January. In Russia, consumers are paying 61% more for sugar than a year ago. Inflation in cereals has hit 20 percent, which represents the highest annual rise since mid-2011. Overall, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index has risen for a seventh consecutive month.

Demand for mortgage applications remained tepid last week as rates rose to their highest level since July. Last week, applications fell by 12% while refinancings were down 11%. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate for a home with a balance of less than $548,250 increased to a seven-month high of 3.23%, up from 3.08% the week prior. Mortgage rates have increased in seven of the past nine weeks.

Rockets Hit Airbase In Iraq Hosting U.S. Troops

At least 10 rockets targeted a military base in western Iraq that hosts U.S.-led coalition troops on Wednesday, the coalition and the Iraqi military said. A U.S. civilian contractor suffered a heart attack and died during the rocket attack. The rockets struck Ain al-Asad airbase in Anbar province at 7:20 a.m., coalition spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto said. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. The Iraqi military released a statement saying the attack did not cause significant losses and that security forces had found the launch pad used for the rockets in the al-Baghdadi area of Anbar.

Iran Behind Attack on Israeli Ship in Persian Gulf

Iran was behind the attack in the Persian Gulf on an Israeli-owned ship, Minister of Defense Benny Gantz said, an incident developing at a time of heightened tensions in the Middle East. The Helios Ray, sailing between Oman and Iran and carrying a cargo of cars on its way from Saudi Arabia to Singapore, was hit on Thursday night by an unidentified explosion that bore two holes in the ship. No one was injured in the apparent attack. The ship docked in Dubai and an Israeli team was reportedly dispatched to the United Arab Emirates to participate in the investigation into the incident.

U.S. Sanctions Russians over Putin Opponent Alexei Navalny’s Poisoning

The U.S. is imposing new sanctions on Russia in response to the poisoning and continued detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and reiterating its call for the Kremlin critic’s release from prison, senior administration officials announced Tuesday. The U.S. is sanctioning seven senior members of the Russian government and adding 14 entities to the Department of Commerce’s “entity list,” mirroring sanctions imposed earlier by the European Union and the United Kingdom for the attempted murder of Nalvany. The sanctions prevent top figures allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin from accessing financial and property assets in the U.S. 

More Protesters Are Killed in Myanmar as Crackdown Escalates

After four weeks of protests, the military in Myanmar (Burma) opened fire on demonstrators in several cities on Sunday, killing at least 18 people, the United Nations said, in the most vicious effort yet to extinguish the unrest roiling the nation. The forceful response of the military signaled a new toughness after a month in which thousands have turned out regularly to protest a Feb. 1 coup. The demonstrations and civil disobedience movement have been the biggest tests yet of a military notorious for its brutality after having crushed democracy movements in 1988 and 2007 by shooting peaceful protesters.

More Than 300 Girls Kidnapped In Latest Nigerian School Abduction. Then Returned

Gunmen kidnapped 317 girls from a boarding school in northwest Nigeria, police said Friday, the latest in a rising tide of high-school abductions across Africa’s most populous nation, where kidnapping for ransom has become a lucrative industry. Dozens of armed militants broke into the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, in Zamfara state at around 1 a.m. Friday and began shooting before packing schoolgirls onto vehicles or walking them toward the nearby Rugu forest, which spreads over three states and hundreds of miles. The Zamfara police said security forces, backed by reinforcements, were in pursuit of the abductors. All of the schoolgirls who were kidnapped at gunpoint from their boarding school in Nigeria have been released, authorities said Tuesday. They were freed after “repentant bandits” acted as intermediaries to negotiate their release.

Former President of France Convicted of Corruption

A court on Monday found former French President Nicolas Sarkozy guilty of corruption and influence peddling and sentenced him to one year in prison and a two-year suspended sentence. The 66-year-old politician, who was president from 2007 to 2012, was convicted for trying to illegally obtain information from a senior magistrate in 2014 about a legal action in which he was involved. This is the first time in France’s modern history that a former president has been convicted of corruption. Sarkozy’s co-defendants – his lawyer and longtime friend Thierry Herzog, 65, and retired magistrate Gilbert Azibert, 74 – were found guilty and given the same sentence as the politician.

Earthquakes

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of at least 6.0 struck central Greece Wednesday and was also felt in neighboring Albania and North Macedonia, and as far as Kosovo and Montenegro. Local officials reported structural damage, mainly to old houses and buildings that saw walls collapse or crack. The midday quake sent thousands of people rushing out of homes and office buildings into the streets in Larissa and Tyrnavos, the closest towns to the epicenter. Numerous aftershocks hit the area, the most powerful having a preliminary magnitude of over 5.0.

Environment

A massive iceberg broke off Antarctica’s Brunt Ice Shelf, British researchers announced. At 490 square miles, the berg is bigger than New York City, which is 302 square miles. A crack in the ice shelf widened several hundred meters Friday before the iceberg sheared off. The last major chunk to come off in this area was in the early 1970s, the BBC said. There is no evidence that climate change played a significant role in this event, the British Antarctic Survey said. Calving is an entirely natural process wherever ice flowing on the land meets the ocean or large lakes. Each year, 10,000 to 15,000 icebergs are calved worldwide, most of them on the small side.

Weather

Floodwaters forced residents of a Kentucky nursing home to evacuate overnight as drenching rains soaked the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys. Even as rains move out of the area, many rivers are still rising and nearing flood stage. Several communities in Kentucky and West Virginia experienced flooding that entered homes and numerous motorists had to be rescued from swamped cars. As of Monday morning, some areas of Kentucky had received more than 6 inches rain in the past 48 hours. High water left 11 people stranded at a church in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, Monday morning. Officials in Kentucky said flooding that inundated homes and businesses has reached historic levels in some areas Tuesday. At least 49 counties had issued disaster declarations.