Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Signs of the Times

October 16, 2018

­And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (Luke 21:25-26)

American Pastor Detained in Turkey, is Freed

Andrew Brunson, the American pastor who was imprisoned and then placed under house arrest in Turkey due to his alleged ties to an outlawed group, was ordered freed on Friday and sentenced to time served, a Turkish judge ruled. The decision ended a tense diplomatic standoff between the U.S. and Turkey that began after Brunson’s October 2016 arrest on terror and treason charges. The 50-year-old pastor was detained by Turkey as part of a massive government crackdown following a failed coup months earlier. Brunson was officially sentenced to three years and one month in prison for the conviction; but, because he had already served two years in detention, he wasn’t required to spend any more time behind bars. Brunson on Friday again denied accusations that his Izmir Resurrection Church aided Kurdish militants. “My entire family thanks the president, the administration, and Congress for their unwavering support,” Brunson said as he began the journey home. When He got to the U.S., the first thing he did was visit President Trump to thank him and pray for him.

Muslim Family Saves Ancient Christian Texts from ISIS Destruction

A Muslim family risked their lives to save two ancient Christian texts from destruction by the Islamic State in Iraq. According to The Christian Post, two ancient Syriac Orthodox manuscripts evaded destruction for three years while ISIS controlled the city of Mosul, Iraq. ISIS destroyed numerous cultural and religious relics in the area and has burned hundreds of Christian texts. One Muslim family who wished to remain anonymous for their safety, however, was determined to keep the texts safe despite threat of being killed if caught. Father Paulos Thabit Mekko is now temporarily in possession of the manuscripts until they can be returned to their rightful owners. The priest told Asia News that he believes that the manuscripts were stolen from the Syriac Orthodox Church of the Immaculate, a church that was demolished by ISIS.

Atlanta Fire Chief Receives Settlement After Faith-Firing

The former fire chief of Atlanta who has argued over the last few years that he was fired for his Christian faith and beliefs got some good news yesterday. On Monday the city of Atlanta agreed to pay Kelvin Cochran $1.2 million in the wake of a federal district court ruling in December 2017 that found some of the city’s policies that led to his termination are unconstitutional. The case began in 2014 after Cochran self-published a men’s devotional book he had written on his personal time. Attorney Kevin Theriot of Alliance Defending Freedom said, “Government officials can’t force employees to get permission before engaging in free speech,” says the attorney. “As the court found, the city can’t leave such decisions to the whims of government officials.” The court determined last year that Atlanta’s rules restricting non-work speech were too broad and allowed city officials to unconstitutionally discriminate against views with which they disagree.

Victory for Christian Bakers in Northern Ireland

After a four-year legal battle, Christian bakers in Northern Ireland have won their case at the Supreme Court in the United Kingdom. The owners of Ashers Baking Company came under fire for refusing an order for a cake from a gay rights activist who wanted them to make a cake saying, “Support Gay Marriage.” The court ruled last Wednesday that Ashers acted lawfully and didn’t discriminate against anyone. The judges held it was the message the bakery objected to, not the customer. Daniel McArthur, general manager of Ashers bakery, says it’s never been about denying service to anyone. “We didn’t say no because of the customer. We’d served him before and we’d gladly serve him again. It was because of the message.”

Norwegian Court Sides With Doctor Fired for Refusing to Do Abortions

On 11 October 2018, the Supreme Court of Norway set a new precedent on conscientious objection and freedom of conscience in the medical profession. The Court found that Dr. Katarzyna Jachimowicz acted within her rights when refusing to follow through with a medical procedure to which she had a moral objection. The Court told health authorities to respect the right to conscientious objection for medical professionals in their employment. “Today’s Supreme Court decision marks an important step in the right direction, not only for doctors, but for people of faith in all professions. The ruling protects one of the most fundamental rights, the right to act in accordance with one’s deeply held beliefs,” said Håkon Bleken, who represented Dr. Jachimowicz before the Court.

Quebec Proposes Banning Religious Symbols at Work

The new administration in Quebec, Canada is working to prevent its employees from wearing religious symbols while at work. The Coalition Avenir Quebec platform, Quebec’s new premier François Legault’s political party which is proposing the rule, states, “Religious signs will be prohibited for all persons in position of authority, including teachers.” The platform continues saying, “after 10 years of discussion on the subject and on reasonable accommodations, it is more than time to act and adopt legislation clearly establishing the secularity of the state.” CBN News reports, employees who choose not to follow the rule will lose their jobs.

Canadian Hospital to Perform Euthanasia on Minors Without Parental Involvement

A recent report from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto states that they are not only ready to do euthanasia on children but their policy states that a child should be able to die by euthanasia without the consent or knowledge of the parents. According to an article by Sharon Kirkey for Sun Media, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto published their policy on euthanasia and assisted suicide as a report in the recent Journal of Medical Ethics. Kirkey explains that the ethicists at the Children’s Hospital believe that there is no difference between killing someone and letting them die. The working group said it wasn’t convinced that there is a meaningful difference for the patient “between being consensually assisted in dying (in the case of MAID – Medical Assistance in Dying) and being consensually allowed to die (in the case of refusing life-sustaining interventions).” KIrkey further explains that most Canadian provinces allow mature minors to make decisions about their own care, including withdrawing or withholding life support. She also reports that in Ontario a minor can provide consent for treatment or withdrawal of treatment if they understand the “reasonably foreseeable consequences” of their decision.

  • The culture of death creeps forward despite trying to stay under the radar

Political Rhetoric Stokes Violence in U.S.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder told a Democratic crowd last week that “Michelle [Obama] always says ‘When they go low, we go high.’ No. No. When they go low, we kick them. That’s what this new Democratic Party is about.” Hillary Clinton said last Tuesday “you cannot be civil” with Republicans. Earlier this year, Democratic U.S. House Representative Rep. Maxine Waters called on her supporters to publicly confront and harass members of the Trump administration. That rhetoric has provoked violence, with two separate incidents of pro-choice individuals striking pro-life supporters and another incident where a vehicle was set on fire because it had a pro-Trump bumper-sticker. In addition, the Republican son of former President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, was assaulted last week at a pro-Kavanaugh rally on the Stanford University campus. Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner sent a message to his opponent Gov. Tom Wolf in a video Friday, saying, “I’m going to stomp all over your face with golf spikes.”

Violence Erupts at Portland Prayer March

Members of opposing groups violently clashed in downtown Portland, Ore., on Saturday night during an event that was billed as a march for “law and order.” Participants with the conservative Patriot Prayer group and counter-demonstrators with Antifa got into a bloody melee outside a popular bar where members on both sides used bear spray, fists and batons to beat each other, the Oregonian reported. Police fired pepper balls and other non-lethal impact munitions to break up the brawls and there were no immediate reports of arrests. Police reported seeing participants from both groups with hard-knuckle gloves, knives and firearms. Authorities said four people received medical attention. The Patriot Prayer group gathered around 6 p.m. near Pioneer Courthouse Square and marched through downtown holding a sign that read “Replace PDX Mayor!” The violence erupted after three dozen people waving American flags and reciting patriotic chants walked toward a street memorial for Patrick Kimmons, 27, a black man who was fatally shot by Portland police last month. At the vigil, they were met by counter-protesters chanting “Black Lives Matter.”

Thousands of Women Activists March for Upcoming Elections

With less than four weeks to go before the midterm elections, thousands of activists descended upon Chicago and Massachusetts Saturday to urge voters — particularly women — to head to the polls and express their anger about the GOP-led Senate’s confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The demonstrations dubbed “March to the Polls” are follow-ups to the Women’s March movement sparked by President Donald Trump’s election. Those marches drew hundreds of thousands to rallies in every state and more than 30 countries to denounce the administration. Planners in Massachusetts have called on women and allies to take to the streets at a time of their choosing Saturday. Meanwhile, crowds started forming early Saturday in downtown Chicago with several candidates setting up booths to pitch their platforms and recruit volunteers.

Senate Confirms 15 Judges after GOP/Democrats Strike Deal

The Senate confirmed 15 of President Trump’s judicial picks Thursday night after GOP leaders reached a deal with Democrats, clearing about a third of the backlog and closing up shop through Election Day to give senators a chance to campaign. Three of the judges are for the powerful circuit courts of appeals, while the other 12 were for district court positions. Some Republicans had hoped senators would stay in town to work on all 49 judicial picks who’d been ready for floor votes. But the 15 was the best deal the GOP could get, representing the amount of judges who could realistically have been confirmed if the Senate had devoted full time to confirmations over the next few weeks. Liberal activists were incensed that Democratic leaders agreed to the votes.

Attorney General Sessions Declares Five Groups as Top Threats

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday designated five groups, including the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Central American street gang MS-13, as “top transnational organized crime threats,” targeting them for stepped up prosecutions by the Justice Department. Sessions identified the other three groups as Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion, a Mexican criminal group; the Sinaloa Cartel, an international organized crime syndicate based in Mexico; and Clan del Golfo, a Colombian drug cartel. Speaking to a group of law enforcement officials in Washington, Sessions described the designations as “our next steps to carry out President Trump’s order to take MS-13 and other [transnational criminal organizations] off of our streets. Taking on transnational criminal groups like the cartels is a priority for this president and for his administration.”

Obamacare Experiencing a Resurgence

Obamacare, a program that President Trump last year declared “dead,” is enjoying a resurgence, with insurers expanding their offerings and the average premium finally beginning to drop, albeit slightly, from astronomical levels. The administration now even hints that enrollment might increase next year, suggesting a level of stability and health that might surprise Republicans, who hoped to kill the 2010 health care law, and Democrats, who accused Mr. Trump of sabotaging it. It’s a major turnaround from the past few years, when premiums for key “benchmark” plans spiked, customers were wary of signing up and insurers pulled out of markets, saying they couldn’t find ways to make the economics work. “While some have publicly been accusing us of sabotage, the truth is we’ve been doing everything we can to mitigate the damage of Obamacare,” said Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the federal HealthCare.gov portal.

Single Mothers, the Disabled & Native Americans Have Highest Poverty Rates

The U.S. Census estimates that 13.4 percent of Americans, about 42 million, lived below the poverty line in 2017. Among recent single mothers, an astounding 44.3 percent live in poverty. In comparison, just 11.4 percent of married recent mothers are below the 2017 poverty line as reported by the USA Today. The poverty rate for the disabled is 25.7%. As is the case with many conditions associated with poverty, causality goes both ways. Those who have a disability have a higher risk of becoming poor, and those who are poor have a higher risk of becoming disabled. Native Americans are still dealing with the effects of 400 years of persecution and discrimination, with a poverty rate of 25.4%, the highest poverty rate for any U.S. racial group. Black and African Americans living in the United States have a poverty rate of 23.0% with Hispanics and Latinos at 19.4%. Non-citizen immigrants have a poverty rate of 20.4%).2Overall, more women live in poverty (14.5%) than men (12.2%).

Economic News

The federal government is running up its credit bill again. The deficit rose to $779 billion in fiscal year 2018, up 17% from last year, according to final figures released Monday by the Treasury Department. The fiscal year ended September 30. That’s the largest deficit since 2012, when the country was still spending massively to stimulate an economy struggling to recover. The deficit reached a high of $1.4 trillion reached in 2009. Government receipts were flat this year from last year. Corporate tax collections fell $76 billion, or 22%, due to the Republican-backed tax cut. But that drop was more than offset by increased revenues from individual and self-employment taxes. Spending rose 3% over the previous year, fueled in part by increases to the defense budget agreed upon in September 2017 as part of a deal between Republicans and Democrats to head off a government shutdown. Social Security and interest on the federal debt also contributed to the increase.

With the unemployment rate at its lowest level in nearly 50 years, workers are finally starting to see their paychecks grow a little faster. Weekly wages rose at an annualized rate of 3.3% in the third quarter, the Labor Department announced Tuesday, which beats the 2.6% increase in inflation over the same period. That’s better than the 2% increase in wages in the second quarter, which wasn’t enough to make up for inflation. Wages have been the missing piece of America’s economic recovery, with flat or very slow growth.

The number of job openings reached an all-time high of nearly 7.1 million in August, the Labor Department also reported on Tuesday. That keeps the number of unemployed workers per job opening at 0.9, which is as low as it’s ever been. The number of layoffs, however, edged up by 176,000 to 1.8 million in August.

The U.S. Postal Service is asking for the biggest price jump on stamps in its history. Facing pressure from the Trump administration to address a revenue shortfall, the Postal Service on Wednesday proposed raising the price of 1-oz. letters from 50 cents to 55 cents, which would be a record increase if approved. The price of each additional ounce would go down slightly. The USPS said in a press release that, “The Postal Service has some of the lowest letter mail postage rates in the industrialized world and also continues to offer a great value in shipping.” The steep price increases come at a time when the USPS’ losses have been mounting, dragged down in part by a requirement that the quasi-public agency pre-fund the cost of retiree health benefits. As letters and advertising mailers have been replaced by e-mail and online ads, the USPS has been making less and less money. Revenue from first class mail declined from $28.4 billion in fiscal year 2015 to $25.6 billion in 2017. Package revenues fueled by the rise in e-commerce have been a bright spot, bringing in $19.5 billion in 2017, up from $15 billion in 2015. But it hasn’t made much of a dent in the $58.7 billion net deficit that the Post Office has accumulated over the years.

Antitrust officials gave CVS the green light on Wednesday to purchase Aetna, the nation’s third-largest health insurance company, in a $69 billion deal that could potentially transform the health-care industry and change how millions of Americans receive basic medical services. The Justice Department approved the deal on the condition that the companies sell off Aetna’s Medicare Part D prescription drug business. The tie-up will allow CVS — whose retail pharmacy business serves 5 million customers a day — to turn more of its brick-and-mortar locations into front-line clinics for basic medical services and patient monitoring. Driving that new approach to care will be the immense amounts of data generated not only by CVS’s 9,800 retail outlets and 1,100 MinuteClinics, but also from Aetna’s 22 million medical members.

Sears declared bankruptcy Monday. Sears Holdings plans to close another 142 unprofitable stores, as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, on top of 46 store closings announced in August. Liquidation sales at the additional stores are expected to begin within two weeks, according to the court filing. The company has 687 stores remaining, including Kmart locations. It’s possible more stores – even all stores – could end up closing if the company fails to reach a viable restructuring agreement in bankruptcy. The company has closed several hundred stores in recent years as it tries to stabilize its finances amid deteriorating sales.

Persecution Watch

A retired Lutheran minister is facing eviction from a senior living community for holding a Bible study. First Liberty Institute filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development on behalf of Rev. Kenneth Hauge and his wife. “It is both shameful and illegal to threaten elderly residents with eviction simply for holding a Bible study,” First Liberty Institute’s Lea Patterson told the Todd Starnes Radio Show. “Treating residents unequally simply out of hostility to religion violates federal law and taints Virginia’s long history of religious freedom.” In early 2018, the apartment manager agreed to let the residents hold their meeting in a community room. But in July, they reversed course and instituted a new policy banning residents from using the room for “religious purposes.” That same day the retired pastor received a cease and desist letter — warning that unless he stopped leading the Bible study his lease would be terminated.

Cathi Herrod, Director of the Center for Arizona Policy, reports that a football coach in Washington State was fired for a fifteen-second silent prayer after a high school football game. Coach Kennedy sued for wrongful termination and lost his case at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, First Liberty has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich led other states in filing an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to hear the case. “If the U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear the case, then the Ninth Circuit ruling stands, and applies to Arizona because that’s the circuit court we’re in,” notes Herrod.

Facebook’s rejection of promotions for a film debuting this weekend in theaters across the nation is “censorship pure and simple,” claims a producer of “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer.” Phelim McAleer told WND on Friday he believes Facebook and others “don’t want this film to succeed” because of the broader implications of the story of notorious Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted in 2011 of multiple counts of first-degree murder for late-term and after-birth abortions. An attempt to promote the film and trailer through Facebook by paying to “boost” a post with a link to an article published by a mainstream Hollywood publication was denied because it constituted “political speech.” The film’s promoters provided WND with examples of many other posts about the movie that Facebook declined to boost. Despite a media blackout and virtually no coverage outside conservative media circles, Gosnell made the list of top 10 movies across the United States over the weekend with just a limited release.

An Iraq War veteran who lost both legs and a hand in combat says he’s prepared to sue Facebook if the social-media giant does not restore two pages it unpublished, including one he depends on to support his family. In an interview with WND, Brian Kolfage charged Facebook had a political motive for shutting down a page for the Right Wing News site he manages and another that promotes his company, Military Grade Coffee, which donates 10 percent of its proceeds to wounded veterans. As WND reported, Kolfage, who served in the U.S. Air Force, invested more than $300,000 in ads at Facebook’s urging to increase his reach to 3.5 million fans. His pages were among 559 pages and 251 accounts that were deleted last Thursday by Facebook, which claimed the account holders were engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” Facebook said the violations included the creation of fake profiles and the spamming of Facebook groups.

Christians in southern India are increasingly living in fear as the level of violence against them continues to rise, sources said. The southern states of Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala saw at least 60 cases of persecution of Christians in the first nine months of 2018, compared with 36 such attacks in the first nine months of 2017, according to religious freedom advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)-India. The political arm of the Hindu extremist Sangh Parivar (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its affiliates) “are provoking the Hindus in their speeches at public gatherings to cause communal tension,” the Rev. Sagaya Raj, deputy secretary of the (Roman Catholic) Tamil Nadu Bishops Council told Morning Star News. In one case, a mob of nomadic Hindus in Veppur village, Vellore District, on Sept. 13 attacked an elderly Christian woman as she took her usual late-evening walk.

More than 300 Christian children in two different schools in China’s Zhejiangprovince were told by their teachers that they had to fill out a form saying they follow “no religion.” Chinese children have been filling out a form to state their religion for years, but this was the first year there was pushback against children who said they were Christians. According to World Watch Monitor, when children filled out the form and indicated they were Christians, their teachers told them to fill out the form again and choose “no religion” instead. The source said these children come from “families of fervent believers who do not compromise their faith,” so more than half of the children checked the box indicating they were Christians a second time.

Middle East

An Israel Air Force (IAF) aircraft on Tuesday morning attacked a cell of Palestinian terrorists who were launching arson balloons towards Israel from the northern Gaza Strip. This attack occurred as several bunches of balloons connected to suspicious objects, possibly explosive charges, landed at several points in Israeli territory surrounding the Strip. Tensions on Israel’s border with Gaza have become more strenuous in recent days, with the Palestinian-initiated violent incidents growing in volume and intensity. Over 30 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire during a mass violent riot along the beach near the Israeli border on Monday evening, Gaza’s health ministry said. Israeli forces struck a Hamas post in the southern Gaza Strip on Monday afternoon after two terrorists planted an explosive device near the security barrier. Following an infiltration attempt Friday in which 20 Palestinians succeeded in breaching the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that all fuel supplies Israel provides the coastal enclave will cease immediately. The infiltration occurred as 14,000 Palestinians rioted in several places along the border fence as part of the ongoing “march of return.” The ruling Hamas terror group has been staging border riots and terror attacks for the past six months. It has intensified the protests in recent weeks as Egyptian-mediated cease-fire efforts have faltered. While Israel has been working to ease tensions on the border and thwart a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, its leadership has warned that Hamas’ actions are leading the area towards a full-scale war.

  • War in the Middle East will trigger a wider conflagration that will usher the antiChrist into power.

Saudi Arabia

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh on Tuesday amid unconfirmed reports the Saudis are preparing to assert that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed during an interrogation that went terribly wrong. U.S. resident and Washington Post contributor Khashoggi vanished two weeks ago while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials say they have evidence Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the diplomatic compound, but Saudi officials have called the allegations “baseless.” According to reports by CNN and the New York Times, the Saudi government may soon release a report claiming Khashoggi was accidentally killed as a result of a planned rendition back to Saudi Arabia.

Tensions between the United States and Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of Khashoggi could have a big impact on oil prices. Saudi Arabia held $166.8 billion in Treasury securities as of July, According to the U.S. Treasury Department. That made it the 10th largest foreign holder of government bonds — ahead of larger economies such as India, France, Canada and Germany. So, if Saudi Arabia wanted to inflict pain on the United States, it could — in theory — weaponize those bonds by selling them off. In addition, the United States still imports 7.9 million barrels of foreign crude per day and a sizable chunk comes from Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter. Shares in the  Saudi Arabia stock market have plunged as investors worry about U.S. sanctions.

Afghanistan

The number of civilians — mostly women and children — killed or injured by airstrikes in Afghanistan has risen a startling 39% year on year, according to UN figures released Wednesday, casting fresh scrutiny on the use of air power by the United States and its Afghan partners at a time of near-record bombing and increasing violence. The UN report shows airstrikes, carried out by both US and Afghan aircraft, have killed or injured 649 civilians so far this year, 39% higher than the same first nine months in 2017, and more than the 631 killed or injured by airstrikes in all of last year. Sixty percent of this year’s casualties have been women and children, according to the report. The rise comes after the departed US commander for the war promised a “tidal wave of air power” to combat a resurgent Taliban. The UN report comes as the US ratchets up its involvement in what has become the country’s longest-running war. The US has boosted its support for the Afghan Air Force through training and weapons supply, raising concern over the air force’s use of US-supplied non-guided bombs that have taken a clear toll on civilian lives.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rattled Indonesia’s Java island Thursday, killing at least three people and collapsing homes. The quake shook the tourist hotspot of Bali two weeks after a major quake-tsunami disaster in a central region of the archipelago. Indonesia’s disaster agency said the nighttime quake was centered at sea, 34 miles northeast of Situbondo city, and also felt in Lombok. The agency said the worst affected area was in Sumenep district, East Java, where three people died in one village and several homes were damaged. The country is still working to recover from the earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 2,000 people and left perhaps thousands more buried deeply in mud in some neighborhoods of Palu city in central Sulawesi.

A strong aftershock rocked Papua New Guinea shortly after the first magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit early Thursday morning, which triggered a tsunami threat along the island’s coasts. A magnitude 6.2 aftershock was recorded over an hour after the original quake struck, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The aftershock’s center was about 60 miles southwest of Kokopo and struck at a depth of 77 miles. The original quake’s center was recorded around 77 miles east of Kimbe, a town in New Britain, Papua New Guinea, which has a population of just over 27,000. The tremor struck with a depth of about 24 miles. No reports of damage or injuries have surfaced from the quake.

Weather

In the aftermath to Hurricane Michael’s deadly assault on the Florida Panhandle and the southeast, Federal officials said Friday it remains too dangerous to return to areas flooded by storm surge such as in Bay County. Emergency teams are focused on restoring communications and transportation. But Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said debris and storm devastation in some areas prevents a safe return yet. In Panama City, the power is out, gas lines are shut down and cell phones couldn’t get service. Residents scrounged for food and drinks, and fetching buckets of bayou water to flush their toilets. About 4,000 victims had applied to FEMA by Friday morning for financial assistance to repair their homes. But that number is expected to grow as transportation and communications networks were restored. About 2,900 people stayed in Red Cross evacuation centers and emergency shelters in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. About 1,000 volunteers are helping provide shelter, food and health services in five states. FEMA is working with state officials on housing options such as mobile housing, rental units and retrofitting buildings. The death toll has risen to 28 in four states, but search and rescue teams are still combing through the debris for many people reported missing. Thousands remain without power as of Monday.

A bridge has collapsed after heavy rain in parts of south-central Texas triggered major flooding along several rivers and creeks, where evacuations and water rescues are underway. A section of the FM 2900 bridge collapsed in Kingsland on Tuesday morning, sending chunks of the bridge down the Llano River. Residents within a quarter mile of the river in the city of Llano were urged to evacuate Tuesday. The river rose to its second highest crest on record Tuesday morning in the city about 75 miles northwest of Austin and home to more than 3,000. As much as 10 inches of rain had fallen in western Llano County in the 30 hours ending Tuesday morning. Farther west, water rescues were reported Tuesday morning in Segovia, prompting a flash flood emergency to be issued. The Lower Colorado River Authority announced Tuesday that it was closing several lakes to the public, including Travis, Marble Falls, LBJ, Inks and Buchanan. Water from the Johnson Fork Creek was flowing over Interstate 10 in Kimble County on Tuesday morning.

At least two people have been killed in Britain as Storm Callum smacked the region with the heavy rain and flooding. Wales has been hit with the “worst flooding in 30 years,” according to the BBC. Flood defenses in Carmarthen were breached for the first time since their construction 30 years ago after the River Towy burst its banks, flooding homes and cutting off power for some 2,000 homes and businesses. Officials say one man died in a western Wales landslide while another was swept away by rough seas in Brighton on the southern coast of England. Storm Callum brought wind gusts as high as 86 mph to Capel Curig in the northwestern portion of Wales.

At least 13 people have died after flash flooding hit the Aude region of southern France. Roads were cut off and cars overturned after three months’ worth of rain fell in six hours overnight Sunday into Monday, causing rivers to flood. Seven hundred firemen and seven helicopters have been mobilized in response to the flooding, which has reached unprecedented levels in the Aude valley. Storms also hit Portugal on Sunday, leaving thousands without power near the capital, Lisbon.

Signs of the Times

October 9, 2018

­May the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1Peter 5:10)

China Plans to Rewrite the Bible

China recently announced a five-year plan to rewrite the Chinese Bible with the goal of bringing it in line with socialist ideals. They are also looking to incorporate Buddhist and Confucian teachings. There are also plans under consideration that would rewrite commentaries and hymnals, reports Crosswalk. The Chinese Communist government has already removed thousands of crosses from churches and ordered the churches to erect pictures of Chairman Mao and Chairman Xi [Jinping], as persecution in China continues to increase.

  • For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. (Matthew 5:18)

Kavanaugh Sworn In as Supreme Court Justice

The Senate confirmed Brett M. Kavanaugh as the 114th Supreme Court justice on Saturday by one of the narrowest margins in history amid mass protests, ending a vitriolic battle over his nomination and solidifying a conservative majority on the court. As a throng of angry demonstrators stood on the steps of the Capitol, the Senate voted to approve Kavanaugh’s nomination by a 50 to 48 margin in what will certainly be one of President ’s most enduring legacies: two Supreme Court justices in two years. The brutal confirmation fight is likely to have far-reaching implications in next month’s midterm elections. Republicans are confronting an electrified Democratic base led by women infuriated by the treatment of Christine Blasey Ford. Yet Republicans say the battle to get Kavanaugh confirmed — in the face of Democratic opposition and ugly “mob” of anti-Kavanaugh demonstrators — only motivated a fractured GOP electorate on a singularly unifying issue for conservatives — the federal judiciary.

Are False Reports of Sexual Assault Rare?

The assertion from forces against Brett M. Kavanaugh that false allegations of rape or attempted rape are extremely rare is rebutted by a number of studies, researchers say. Liberals on TV and social media said repeatedly during the Senate confirmation process that only 2 percent of charges are lies. Brent E. Turvey, a criminologist, wrote a 2017 book that dispels this notion. His research, and that of two co-authors, cited statistical studies and police crime reports. One academic study showed that as many as 40 percent of sexual assault charges are false. The Pentagon issues an annual report on sexual assaults in the military. Nearly one-quarter of all cases last year were thrown out for lack of evidence, according to a report released in May. Mr. Turvey wrote that the FBI in the 1990s pegged the falsity rate at 8 percent for rape or attempted rape complaints. Mr. Turvey, who directs the Forensic Criminology Institute, says the 2% figure “is not only inaccurate, but also it has no basis in reality. Reporting it publicly as a valid frequency rate with any empirical basis is either scientifically negligent or fraudulent.”

Justice Department Indicts 7 Russian Spies in Hacking Plot

Seven Russian GRU intelligence officers were charged with hacking computers associated with 250 athletes and anti-doping sports organizations in the U.S. and around the world, Justice Department officials announced Thursday. The criminal activity described in the 41-page indictment came in Russian retaliation for people and organizations who revealed Russia’s doping program for its athletes — revelations that led to stripping dozens of Olympic medals from Russian athletes. The hacking that began in December 2014 and continued until at least May 2018 intruded into computers and networks of U.S. citizens and corporations, and international corporations and their workers around the world, officials say. The conspiracy aimed at publicizing stolen information as part of an influence and disinformation campaign designed to undermine and retaliate against the efforts of international anti-doping organizations and officials who had publicly exposed a Russian state-sponsored athlete doping program and to damage the reputations of athletes around the world by falsely claiming that such athletes were using banned or performance-enhancing drugs.

UN Climate Group Says Changes Required by 2030

Governments around the world must take “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” to avoid disastrous levels of global warming, says a stark new report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report issued Monday says the planet will reach the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030, precipitating the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people. The planet is already two-thirds of the way there, with global temperatures having warmed about 1 degree C. Global net emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach “net zero” around 2050 in order to keep the warming around 1.5 degrees C, the IPCC asserts.

  • Whether global warming is manmade or not, it is a key indicator that the end-times are ramping up (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Anti-Vaccine Japan Has World’s Lowest Child Death Rate

Japan has the lowest infant mortality rate following its ban on mandatory vaccinations, and they urge other countries to follow this firm stance, writes Amanda-Mary Jewell at FreedomsPhoenix.com. The citizens of Japan are statistically proven to be the healthiest and longest-living people in the world. The country also has the lowest infant mortality rate on the planet. The Japanese Government banned a number of vaccines that are currently mandatory in the United States and has strict regulations in place for other Big Pharma drugs and vaccines in general. The Japanese banned the use of multi-shot vaccinations such as the MMR vaccine (the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine), following a record number of children developing adverse reactions, including meningitis, loss of limbs, and even sudden death. “Despite the fact that it has been blamed in vaccine courts for causing autism, vaccine supporters still deny the correlation between the MMR vaccination and skyrocketing rates of autism spectrum disorder, which now affects at least one in 45 children, with even higher rates of diagnosis among boys,” Jewell said.

International Monetary Fund Warns of Second Great Depression

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated last week that “large challenges loom for the global economy to prevent a second Great Depression.” At this moment, global debt levels are higher than they have ever been before in all of human history, and in their report the IMF specifically identified “global debt levels” as one of the key problems that could lead to “another financial meltdown.” The IMF warned, “The world economy is at risk of another financial meltdown, following the failure of governments and regulators to push through all the reforms needed to protect the system from reckless behavior. With global debt levels well above those at the time of the last crash in 2008, the risk remains that unregulated parts of the financial system could trigger a global panic. The extended period of ultralow interest rates in advanced economies has contributed to the build-up of financial vulnerabilities.”

Economic News

Unemployment fell to a nearly 50-year low in September even as employers added a disappointing 134,000 jobs amid increasing worker shortages and possible effects from Hurricane Florence. Professional and business services led the job gains with 54,000. Health care added 30,000; transportation and warehousing, 24,000; construction, 23,000; and manufacturing, 18,000. The unemployment rate fell from 3.9 percent to 3.7 percent, lowest since December 1969, the Labor Department said Friday. Average hourly earnings rose 8 cents to $27.24, lowering the annual gain to 2.8 percent from a nine-year high of 2.9 percent in August. The weaker-than- expected jobs total combined with the tick down in average wage growth allayed fears of spiking inflation and the need for the Fed to raise short-term interest rates more aggressively, money managers and economists said.

The yield on the US 10-year Treasury rose above 3.2% Thursday morning. That’s the highest it’s been since July 2011. On Wednesday, the 10-year yield gained more than on any day since the November 2016 presidential election. The 30-year yield also popped above 3.3%, its highest level since October 2014. Bond yields are rising because of America’s strength. Intent on keeping inflation in check, the Federal Reserve is gradually raising its target interest rate, making borrowing more expensive. That also increases the cost of paying back existing debt, which could slow spending — and the economy along with it.

Gas prices are creeping up nationally, now pennies a gallon away from their highest level since 2014, just in time for the November midterm elections when California will vote on rolling back its gas tax. Average prices topped $2.90 a gallon for unleaded Wednesday for the first time since June, having risen about 6 cents a gallon in the past month. If they rise by about another eight cents, they will be the highest in four years. In California, which is second only to Hawaii as the state with the highest fuel prices, voters will decide whether to repeal a tax that raises $5.1 billion a year for road and bridge repair and public transit. California taxes 95.5 cents on every gallon.

India’s currency resumed its headlong plunge on Friday, stoking concerns that the world’s fastest-growing major economy could be heading for a slowdown. The rupee crossed 74 rupees to the US dollar for the first time ever, after the country’s central bank surprised markets by holding off on raising interest rates. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) decided against hiking rates for the third time this year despite expectations that it would act to tame inflation caused by rising oil prices and the crashing currency, which makes imports more expensive. The Indian rupee has fallen around 15% against the surging dollar this year, making it one of the world’s worst performing currencies. India’s stock market has suffered along with the rupee. The country’s benchmark index, the Sensex, has dropped more than 8% in the past month.

Middle East

The city of Jerusalem will evict the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) in light of the organization’s illegal activities and incitement of Palestinians against Israel, according to Mayor Nir Barkat last Thursday. In a statement, Barkat said the new U.S. policy cutting $300 million to the controversial organization inspired the move, which will see unlicensed UNRWA-run schools, medical centers and sports facilities transferred to Israeli authorities. “The U.S. decision has created a rare opportunity to replace UNRWA’s services with services of the Jerusalem Municipality,” he said. “We are putting an end to the lie of the ‘Palestinian refugee problem’ and the attempts at creating a false sovereignty within a sovereignty.”

Despite the United States recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December and relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv in May, Americans born in Jerusalem are still unable to list “Jerusalem, Israel” on US. passports. A group of 55 House Republicans sent a letter to US President Donald Trump several weeks ago, urging him to instruct the State Department to permit American citizens born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their birth country on their passport. “The president has made clear that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem remain subject to final-status negotiations between the [Israelis and the Palestinians],” a State Department spokesperson told JNS. “We have not changed our practice regarding place of birth on passports or Consular Reports of Birth Abroad at this time.”

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton put the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) official status into perspective at a Wednesday press briefing when he announced that the United States would no longer be a signatory party to the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ). “The president has decided that the United States will withdraw from the optional protocol and dispute resolution to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. This is in connection with a case brought by the so-called state of Palestine naming the United States as a defendant [in the ICJ], challenging our move of our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Bolton said. Palestine is “not a state now. It does not meet the customary international law test of statehood. It doesn’t control defined boundaries. It doesn’t fulfill the normal functions of government. There are a whole host of reasons why it’s not a state.”

A 23-year-old Palestinian terrorist from the nearby village of Shweika, near Tulkarem, handcuffed and shot two employees Sunday morning at the Barkan Industrial Park in Samaria at close range with a Carl Gustav assault rifle. President Reuven Rivlin issued a statement, saying, “This was not only an attack on innocent people going about their daily lives, it was also an attack on the possibility of Israelis and Palestinians co-existing peacefully,” The Barkan Industrial Park includes approximately 120 businesses and factories and a workforce of 20,000, half of them Palestinian Arabs. The terrorist was employed at one of the factories.

Iran

The Trump administration is giving greater priority to Iran and radical groups it backs in a new U.S. counterterrorism strategy document released last Thursday that further increases the pressure from Washington on Tehran. The strategy, unveiled by National Security Adviser John Bolton, is the first issued since 2011 when the Obama administration’s view of counterterrorism was focused almost exclusively on the threat posed by al Qaeda after the death of its founder, Osama bin Laden. The priority given to Iran this time around reflects President Trump’s drive to contain Iran’s influence in the Middle East, curtail its ballistic missile program and backing of extremist groups and force it to the negotiating table by re-imposing U.S. sanctions.

In response to an Iranian lawsuit against the US at a UN-sponsored International Court of Justice (ICJ) that cited a little-known “Treat of Amity” between the two countries, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Wednesday that the U.S. is pulling out of the treaty. Pompeo added that the decision was “39 years overdue” and accused Tehran of “abusing the ICJ for political and propaganda purposes.” while the clerical regime which rules Iran blasted the Trump Administration as an “outlaw regime.” ICJ President Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, said U.S. sanctions on goods “required for humanitarian needs…may have a serious detrimental impact on the health and lives of individuals on the territory of Iran.” The ruling ordered the US to rescind such sanctions, listing items to be removed from the sanctions as including spare parts, repair equipment and related services for the airline industry in Iran. However, multiple legal scholars have asserted that the UN court has no jurisdiction over matters of US national security.

Syria

Two Syrian rebel groups began withdrawing their heavy weapons Saturday from a northwestern area of the country where Russia and Turkey have agreed to set up a demilitarized zone, opposition activists said. Rami Abdurrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Free Idlib Army and Failaq al-Sham started removing artillery and mortar pieces from areas close to the town of Maaret al-Numan. The Turkey-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL) rebel alliance said in a statement the process of withdrawing heavy weapons had begun, but the fighters would remain in their positions within the demilitarized zone to assist Turkish troops monitoring and patrolling the area.

Afghanistan

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on an election rally in the Afghan province of Nangarhar last Tuesday, according to a statement on the group’s Amaq news agency. The militant group said a bomber had killed 35 and wounded more than 50 after detonating his suicide vest. Afghan officials earlier said at least 13 were killed and more than 30 wounded, warning the toll was likely to rise. The Islamic State has claimed a series of attacks this year that have killed scores of people in Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan.

Saudi Arabia

The disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has sent a chilling message to dissidents abroad, stoking fears among activists of a broadening crackdown beyond the kingdom’s borders. Unnamed Turkish officials said Friday that Khashoggi, 58, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Activists say the reports about Khashoggi are the latest political “bombshell” in a series of moves to crush dissent under the leadership of 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “The era of bin Salman is the era of surprises that are foreign to this country’s history. Based on what we know of his rule, it looks like the tragedies won’t stop,” Ali Adubisi, director of the Berlin-based European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, told CNN. Khashoggi, who was critical of bin Salman in opinion pieces for The Washington Post, entered the consulate last Tuesday to collect paperwork that would allow him to remarry. He has not yet re-emerged, according to his fiancée, his friends and his colleagues at The Washington Post.

Russia

Russia’s Vostok-18, the largest military exercise of the 21st Century, conducted Sept. 11-17, was little noted by the press who were fixated on now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s adolescent sex life. However, Russia’s new nuclear doctrine — similar to Khrushchev-era thinking, like Marshal Sokolovsky’s 1962 “Military Strategy” on steroids — relies on nuclear firepower and relatively small armies that are highly mobile and survivable, and able to knife through Europe in a week or two. Russia’s new generation nuclear weapons for strategic EMP attack and tactical battlefield use make this possible, noted Dr. Peter Pry, once the CIA’s top expert on Russia’s nuclear forces, in Newsmax.

India

After a year of fits and starts, India’s #MeToo movement has leapt forward over the past week, getting concrete action in two of the country’s most powerful industries: entertainment and the news media. Inspired by Ms. Dutta and Ms. Kukreja, as well as by the Senate testimony of Christine Blasey Ford in the United States, dozens of women in journalism began coming forward on Friday, describing a range of inappropriate behavior by male reporters and editors at some of India’s biggest news organizations. The flurry of activity has created a commotion among the educated elite here, but it has had little immediate effect on the vast majority of women in India, a deeply patriarchal and traditional society in which women and girls often have little control over their lives and are frequently abused.

Montenegro

People who don’t stand during Montenegro’s national anthem could be fined up to 2,000 euros ($2,290), according to new legislation proposed by the government. People who don’t stand during Montenegro’s national anthem could be fined up to 2,000 euros ($2,290), according to new legislation proposed by the government. The draft amendment was passed by the country’s Cabinet last week. People with disabilities would be exempt and allowed to pay their respects in “other ways” that have not been defined in the legislation. Montenegro is located along the Adriatic Sea to the west of Serbia.

Environment

The red tide bloom that’s been in the waters off Florida’s Gulf Coast for months is now choking the state’s Atlantic waters from Miami Beach to Palm Beach. Trey Claus, whose family has been fishing off southeastern Florida for three generations, has never seen anything like it — and neither has anyone he knows. “This might put a halt to our season, which is not a good thing,” Claus, 30, said. Should the red tide bloom settle in, mass fish kills will transpire. Some of Florida’s pristine, white sand beaches have been shuttered because of red tides, which are caused by algae found almost exclusively in the Gulf of Mexico. The natural phenomenon is deadly to marine life and can irritate people’s skin and lead to respiratory problems, especially for people with asthma.

Beachgoers in Beach Haven, New Jersey, were surprised to see blue, disc-shaped organisms with long, dark tentacles showing up on shore. After a closer look, locals found out they were jellyfish, but not like any they had seen before on Garden State beaches. They were identified as blue button jellyfish, a free-floating critter than measures about an inch across. The powerful winds from Hurricane Florence pushed the tropical jellyfish out of the Gulf Stream down near Florida up north.

Volcanoes

Less than a week after a devastating earthquake and tsunami, a volcano erupted Wednesday on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Mount Soputan is on the northern tip of the island, about 370 miles northeast of Palu, where more than 1,400 people were killed. The volcano spewed a column of ash nearly 20,000 feet into the sky. No evacuations were immediately ordered. A government volcanologist said it’s possible the eruption was accelerated by the magnitude 7.5 earthquake that struck last week.

Earthquakes

At least 12 people have died and 170 people were injured after a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck off the northwestern tip of Haiti just after 8 p.m. local time Saturday evening. The quake’s center was located about 12 miles west-northwest of Ti Port-de-Paix, Haiti, and struck with a depth of about 7.3 miles. Homes were destroyed in Port-de-Paix, Gros Morne, Chansolme and Turtle Island. Rescue workers say part of a hospital and an auditorium collapsed. The quake was felt lightly in the capital, Port-au-Prince, as well as in the neighboring Dominican Republic. A 5.2 magnitude aftershock rattle Haiti on Sunday, raising fears of more deaths.

Weather

Heavy rains from Hurricane Michael forced hundreds of people from their homes in Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, killing thirteen over the weekend as the intensifying storm continues its push towards the Gulf Coast. More than 260 homes were damaged in the southern part of Honduras. Some 6,000 people have been impacted by flooding and landslides. At least 18 people were rescued during the storm. Michael also brought heavy rains to Cuba on Monday. Winds increased to near 100 mph Tuesday morning. Michael is forecast to strengthen to a Category 3 prior to landfall Wednesday on the Florida Panhandle. Forecasters predict the hurricane will generate a life-threatening storm surge. On Sunday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Sunday for 26 counties in the Panhandle and Big Bend coastal region of northern Florida. Alabama’s governor on Monday also issued a state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Michael as the storm draws closer in the Gulf of Mexico.

Signs of the Times

October 9, 2018

­Past Issues of Signs of the Times Available at lofj.wordpress.com

May the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1Peter 5:10)

China Plans to Rewrite the Bible

China recently announced a five-year plan to rewrite the Chinese Bible with the goal of bringing it in line with socialist ideals. They are also looking to incorporate Buddhist and Confucian teachings. There are also plans under consideration that would rewrite commentaries and hymnals, reports Crosswalk. The Chinese Communist government has already removed thousands of crosses from churches and ordered the churches to erect pictures of Chairman Mao and Chairman Xi [Jinping], as persecution in China continues to increase.

  • For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. (Matthew 5:18)

Kavanaugh Sworn In as Supreme Court Justice

The Senate confirmed Brett M. Kavanaugh as the 114th Supreme Court justice on Saturday by one of the narrowest margins in history amid mass protests, ending a vitriolic battle over his nomination and solidifying a conservative majority on the court. As a throng of angry demonstrators stood on the steps of the Capitol, the Senate voted to approve Kavanaugh’s nomination by a 50 to 48 margin in what will certainly be one of President ’s most enduring legacies: two Supreme Court justices in two years. The brutal confirmation fight is likely to have far-reaching implications in next month’s midterm elections. Republicans are confronting an electrified Democratic base led by women infuriated by the treatment of Christine Blasey Ford. Yet Republicans say the battle to get Kavanaugh confirmed — in the face of Democratic opposition and ugly “mob” of anti-Kavanaugh demonstrators — only motivated a fractured GOP electorate on a singularly unifying issue for conservatives — the federal judiciary.

Are False Reports of Sexual Assault Rare?

The assertion from forces against Brett M. Kavanaugh that false allegations of rape or attempted rape are extremely rare is rebutted by a number of studies, researchers say. Liberals on TV and social media said repeatedly during the Senate confirmation process that only 2 percent of charges are lies. Brent E. Turvey, a criminologist, wrote a 2017 book that dispels this notion. His research, and that of two co-authors, cited statistical studies and police crime reports. One academic study showed that as many as 40 percent of sexual assault charges are false. The Pentagon issues an annual report on sexual assaults in the military. Nearly one-quarter of all cases last year were thrown out for lack of evidence, according to a report released in May. Mr. Turvey wrote that the FBI in the 1990s pegged the falsity rate at 8 percent for rape or attempted rape complaints. Mr. Turvey, who directs the Forensic Criminology Institute, says the 2% figure “is not only inaccurate, but also it has no basis in reality. Reporting it publicly as a valid frequency rate with any empirical basis is either scientifically negligent or fraudulent.”

Justice Department Indicts 7 Russian Spies in Hacking Plot

Seven Russian GRU intelligence officers were charged with hacking computers associated with 250 athletes and anti-doping sports organizations in the U.S. and around the world, Justice Department officials announced Thursday. The criminal activity described in the 41-page indictment came in Russian retaliation for people and organizations who revealed Russia’s doping program for its athletes — revelations that led to stripping dozens of Olympic medals from Russian athletes. The hacking that began in December 2014 and continued until at least May 2018 intruded into computers and networks of U.S. citizens and corporations, and international corporations and their workers around the world, officials say. The conspiracy aimed at publicizing stolen information as part of an influence and disinformation campaign designed to undermine and retaliate against the efforts of international anti-doping organizations and officials who had publicly exposed a Russian state-sponsored athlete doping program and to damage the reputations of athletes around the world by falsely claiming that such athletes were using banned or performance-enhancing drugs.

UN Climate Group Says Changes Required by 2030

Governments around the world must take “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” to avoid disastrous levels of global warming, says a stark new report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report issued Monday says the planet will reach the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030, precipitating the risk of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people. The planet is already two-thirds of the way there, with global temperatures having warmed about 1 degree C. Global net emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach “net zero” around 2050 in order to keep the warming around 1.5 degrees C, the IPCC asserts.

  • Whether global warming is manmade or not, it is a key indicator that the end-times are ramping up (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Anti-Vaccine Japan Has World’s Lowest Child Death Rate

Japan has the lowest infant mortality rate following its ban on mandatory vaccinations, and they urge other countries to follow this firm stance, writes Amanda-Mary Jewell at FreedomsPhoenix.com. The citizens of Japan are statistically proven to be the healthiest and longest-living people in the world. The country also has the lowest infant mortality rate on the planet. The Japanese Government banned a number of vaccines that are currently mandatory in the United States and has strict regulations in place for other Big Pharma drugs and vaccines in general. The Japanese banned the use of multi-shot vaccinations such as the MMR vaccine (the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine), following a record number of children developing adverse reactions, including meningitis, loss of limbs, and even sudden death. “Despite the fact that it has been blamed in vaccine courts for causing autism, vaccine supporters still deny the correlation between the MMR vaccination and skyrocketing rates of autism spectrum disorder, which now affects at least one in 45 children, with even higher rates of diagnosis among boys,” Jewell said.

International Monetary Fund Warns of Second Great Depression

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated last week that “large challenges loom for the global economy to prevent a second Great Depression.” At this moment, global debt levels are higher than they have ever been before in all of human history, and in their report the IMF specifically identified “global debt levels” as one of the key problems that could lead to “another financial meltdown.” The IMF warned, “The world economy is at risk of another financial meltdown, following the failure of governments and regulators to push through all the reforms needed to protect the system from reckless behavior. With global debt levels well above those at the time of the last crash in 2008, the risk remains that unregulated parts of the financial system could trigger a global panic. The extended period of ultralow interest rates in advanced economies has contributed to the build-up of financial vulnerabilities.”

Economic News

Unemployment fell to a nearly 50-year low in September even as employers added a disappointing 134,000 jobs amid increasing worker shortages and possible effects from Hurricane Florence. Professional and business services led the job gains with 54,000. Health care added 30,000; transportation and warehousing, 24,000; construction, 23,000; and manufacturing, 18,000. The unemployment rate fell from 3.9 percent to 3.7 percent, lowest since December 1969, the Labor Department said Friday. Average hourly earnings rose 8 cents to $27.24, lowering the annual gain to 2.8 percent from a nine-year high of 2.9 percent in August. The weaker-than- expected jobs total combined with the tick down in average wage growth allayed fears of spiking inflation and the need for the Fed to raise short-term interest rates more aggressively, money managers and economists said.

The yield on the US 10-year Treasury rose above 3.2% Thursday morning. That’s the highest it’s been since July 2011. On Wednesday, the 10-year yield gained more than on any day since the November 2016 presidential election. The 30-year yield also popped above 3.3%, its highest level since October 2014. Bond yields are rising because of America’s strength. Intent on keeping inflation in check, the Federal Reserve is gradually raising its target interest rate, making borrowing more expensive. That also increases the cost of paying back existing debt, which could slow spending — and the economy along with it.

Gas prices are creeping up nationally, now pennies a gallon away from their highest level since 2014, just in time for the November midterm elections when California will vote on rolling back its gas tax. Average prices topped $2.90 a gallon for unleaded Wednesday for the first time since June, having risen about 6 cents a gallon in the past month. If they rise by about another eight cents, they will be the highest in four years. In California, which is second only to Hawaii as the state with the highest fuel prices, voters will decide whether to repeal a tax that raises $5.1 billion a year for road and bridge repair and public transit. California taxes 95.5 cents on every gallon.

India’s currency resumed its headlong plunge on Friday, stoking concerns that the world’s fastest-growing major economy could be heading for a slowdown. The rupee crossed 74 rupees to the US dollar for the first time ever, after the country’s central bank surprised markets by holding off on raising interest rates. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) decided against hiking rates for the third time this year despite expectations that it would act to tame inflation caused by rising oil prices and the crashing currency, which makes imports more expensive. The Indian rupee has fallen around 15% against the surging dollar this year, making it one of the world’s worst performing currencies. India’s stock market has suffered along with the rupee. The country’s benchmark index, the Sensex, has dropped more than 8% in the past month.

Middle East

The city of Jerusalem will evict the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) in light of the organization’s illegal activities and incitement of Palestinians against Israel, according to Mayor Nir Barkat last Thursday. In a statement, Barkat said the new U.S. policy cutting $300 million to the controversial organization inspired the move, which will see unlicensed UNRWA-run schools, medical centers and sports facilities transferred to Israeli authorities. “The U.S. decision has created a rare opportunity to replace UNRWA’s services with services of the Jerusalem Municipality,” he said. “We are putting an end to the lie of the ‘Palestinian refugee problem’ and the attempts at creating a false sovereignty within a sovereignty.”

Despite the United States recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December and relocating its embassy from Tel Aviv in May, Americans born in Jerusalem are still unable to list “Jerusalem, Israel” on US. passports. A group of 55 House Republicans sent a letter to US President Donald Trump several weeks ago, urging him to instruct the State Department to permit American citizens born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their birth country on their passport. “The president has made clear that the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem remain subject to final-status negotiations between the [Israelis and the Palestinians],” a State Department spokesperson told JNS. “We have not changed our practice regarding place of birth on passports or Consular Reports of Birth Abroad at this time.”

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton put the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) official status into perspective at a Wednesday press briefing when he announced that the United States would no longer be a signatory party to the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ). “The president has decided that the United States will withdraw from the optional protocol and dispute resolution to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. This is in connection with a case brought by the so-called state of Palestine naming the United States as a defendant [in the ICJ], challenging our move of our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Bolton said. Palestine is “not a state now. It does not meet the customary international law test of statehood. It doesn’t control defined boundaries. It doesn’t fulfill the normal functions of government. There are a whole host of reasons why it’s not a state.”

A 23-year-old Palestinian terrorist from the nearby village of Shweika, near Tulkarem, handcuffed and shot two employees Sunday morning at the Barkan Industrial Park in Samaria at close range with a Carl Gustav assault rifle. President Reuven Rivlin issued a statement, saying, “This was not only an attack on innocent people going about their daily lives, it was also an attack on the possibility of Israelis and Palestinians co-existing peacefully,” The Barkan Industrial Park includes approximately 120 businesses and factories and a workforce of 20,000, half of them Palestinian Arabs. The terrorist was employed at one of the factories.

Iran

The Trump administration is giving greater priority to Iran and radical groups it backs in a new U.S. counterterrorism strategy document released last Thursday that further increases the pressure from Washington on Tehran. The strategy, unveiled by National Security Adviser John Bolton, is the first issued since 2011 when the Obama administration’s view of counterterrorism was focused almost exclusively on the threat posed by al Qaeda after the death of its founder, Osama bin Laden. The priority given to Iran this time around reflects President Trump’s drive to contain Iran’s influence in the Middle East, curtail its ballistic missile program and backing of extremist groups and force it to the negotiating table by re-imposing U.S. sanctions.

In response to an Iranian lawsuit against the US at a UN-sponsored International Court of Justice (ICJ) that cited a little-known “Treat of Amity” between the two countries, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Wednesday that the U.S. is pulling out of the treaty. Pompeo added that the decision was “39 years overdue” and accused Tehran of “abusing the ICJ for political and propaganda purposes.” while the clerical regime which rules Iran blasted the Trump Administration as an “outlaw regime.” ICJ President Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, said U.S. sanctions on goods “required for humanitarian needs…may have a serious detrimental impact on the health and lives of individuals on the territory of Iran.” The ruling ordered the US to rescind such sanctions, listing items to be removed from the sanctions as including spare parts, repair equipment and related services for the airline industry in Iran. However, multiple legal scholars have asserted that the UN court has no jurisdiction over matters of US national security.

Syria

Two Syrian rebel groups began withdrawing their heavy weapons Saturday from a northwestern area of the country where Russia and Turkey have agreed to set up a demilitarized zone, opposition activists said. Rami Abdurrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Free Idlib Army and Failaq al-Sham started removing artillery and mortar pieces from areas close to the town of Maaret al-Numan. The Turkey-backed National Front for Liberation (NFL) rebel alliance said in a statement the process of withdrawing heavy weapons had begun, but the fighters would remain in their positions within the demilitarized zone to assist Turkish troops monitoring and patrolling the area.

Afghanistan

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on an election rally in the Afghan province of Nangarhar last Tuesday, according to a statement on the group’s Amaq news agency. The militant group said a bomber had killed 35 and wounded more than 50 after detonating his suicide vest. Afghan officials earlier said at least 13 were killed and more than 30 wounded, warning the toll was likely to rise. The Islamic State has claimed a series of attacks this year that have killed scores of people in Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan.

Saudi Arabia

The disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has sent a chilling message to dissidents abroad, stoking fears among activists of a broadening crackdown beyond the kingdom’s borders. Unnamed Turkish officials said Friday that Khashoggi, 58, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Activists say the reports about Khashoggi are the latest political “bombshell” in a series of moves to crush dissent under the leadership of 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “The era of bin Salman is the era of surprises that are foreign to this country’s history. Based on what we know of his rule, it looks like the tragedies won’t stop,” Ali Adubisi, director of the Berlin-based European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, told CNN. Khashoggi, who was critical of bin Salman in opinion pieces for The Washington Post, entered the consulate last Tuesday to collect paperwork that would allow him to remarry. He has not yet re-emerged, according to his fiancée, his friends and his colleagues at The Washington Post.

Russia

Russia’s Vostok-18, the largest military exercise of the 21st Century, conducted Sept. 11-17, was little noted by the press who were fixated on now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s adolescent sex life. However, Russia’s new nuclear doctrine — similar to Khrushchev-era thinking, like Marshal Sokolovsky’s 1962 “Military Strategy” on steroids — relies on nuclear firepower and relatively small armies that are highly mobile and survivable, and able to knife through Europe in a week or two. Russia’s new generation nuclear weapons for strategic EMP attack and tactical battlefield use make this possible, noted Dr. Peter Pry, once the CIA’s top expert on Russia’s nuclear forces, in Newsmax.

India

After a year of fits and starts, India’s #MeToo movement has leapt forward over the past week, getting concrete action in two of the country’s most powerful industries: entertainment and the news media. Inspired by Ms. Dutta and Ms. Kukreja, as well as by the Senate testimony of Christine Blasey Ford in the United States, dozens of women in journalism began coming forward on Friday, describing a range of inappropriate behavior by male reporters and editors at some of India’s biggest news organizations. The flurry of activity has created a commotion among the educated elite here, but it has had little immediate effect on the vast majority of women in India, a deeply patriarchal and traditional society in which women and girls often have little control over their lives and are frequently abused.

Montenegro

People who don’t stand during Montenegro’s national anthem could be fined up to 2,000 euros ($2,290), according to new legislation proposed by the government. People who don’t stand during Montenegro’s national anthem could be fined up to 2,000 euros ($2,290), according to new legislation proposed by the government. The draft amendment was passed by the country’s Cabinet last week. People with disabilities would be exempt and allowed to pay their respects in “other ways” that have not been defined in the legislation. Montenegro is located along the Adriatic Sea to the west of Serbia.

Environment

The red tide bloom that’s been in the waters off Florida’s Gulf Coast for months is now choking the state’s Atlantic waters from Miami Beach to Palm Beach. Trey Claus, whose family has been fishing off southeastern Florida for three generations, has never seen anything like it — and neither has anyone he knows. “This might put a halt to our season, which is not a good thing,” Claus, 30, said. Should the red tide bloom settle in, mass fish kills will transpire. Some of Florida’s pristine, white sand beaches have been shuttered because of red tides, which are caused by algae found almost exclusively in the Gulf of Mexico. The natural phenomenon is deadly to marine life and can irritate people’s skin and lead to respiratory problems, especially for people with asthma.

Beachgoers in Beach Haven, New Jersey, were surprised to see blue, disc-shaped organisms with long, dark tentacles showing up on shore. After a closer look, locals found out they were jellyfish, but not like any they had seen before on Garden State beaches. They were identified as blue button jellyfish, a free-floating critter than measures about an inch across. The powerful winds from Hurricane Florence pushed the tropical jellyfish out of the Gulf Stream down near Florida up north.

Volcanoes

Less than a week after a devastating earthquake and tsunami, a volcano erupted Wednesday on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Mount Soputan is on the northern tip of the island, about 370 miles northeast of Palu, where more than 1,400 people were killed. The volcano spewed a column of ash nearly 20,000 feet into the sky. No evacuations were immediately ordered. A government volcanologist said it’s possible the eruption was accelerated by the magnitude 7.5 earthquake that struck last week.

Earthquakes

At least 12 people have died and 170 people were injured after a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck off the northwestern tip of Haiti just after 8 p.m. local time Saturday evening. The quake’s center was located about 12 miles west-northwest of Ti Port-de-Paix, Haiti, and struck with a depth of about 7.3 miles. Homes were destroyed in Port-de-Paix, Gros Morne, Chansolme and Turtle Island. Rescue workers say part of a hospital and an auditorium collapsed. The quake was felt lightly in the capital, Port-au-Prince, as well as in the neighboring Dominican Republic. A 5.2 magnitude aftershock rattle Haiti on Sunday, raising fears of more deaths.

Weather

Heavy rains from Hurricane Michael forced hundreds of people from their homes in Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, killing thirteen over the weekend as the intensifying storm continues its push towards the Gulf Coast. More than 260 homes were damaged in the southern part of Honduras. Some 6,000 people have been impacted by flooding and landslides. At least 18 people were rescued during the storm. Michael also brought heavy rains to Cuba on Monday. Winds increased to near 100 mph Tuesday morning. Michael is forecast to strengthen to a Category 3 prior to landfall Wednesday on the Florida Panhandle. Forecasters predict the hurricane will generate a life-threatening storm surge. On Sunday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Sunday for 26 counties in the Panhandle and Big Bend coastal region of northern Florida. Alabama’s governor on Monday also issued a state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Michael as the storm draws closer in the Gulf of Mexico.

Signs of the Times

October 2, 2018

­Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God. (Revelation 3:11-12)

Pope Admits that Priest Sex Abuse Scandals are Driving Catholics Away

The fury over priest sex abuse scandals are eroding the faith of Catholics and chasing many from pews, Pope Francis admitted last week – and the church needs “to change.” The pope’s frank comments, delivered before young people in Estonia on the final day of his pilgrimage to the Baltics, coincided with a stinging report of abuse of children by Catholic clergy in Germany. Francis told the youths the church must take action to restore the faith of future generations and be transparent and honest. The Vatican was assailed for not responding immediately to the release of a grand jury report in August by the Pennsylvania attorney general alleging that church leaders protected more than 300 “predator priests” in six Roman Catholic dioceses across the state for decades. The report claimed the church was more interested in protecting its own interests and the abusers than tending to the victims. There have been charges of a cover-up of the scandals that have placed the pope’s personal handling of the issue in a harsh spotlight. A retired Vatican ambassador, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who alleged earlier this month that Francis hid sex abuse allegations against U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, has even called on the pope to resign.

40 Days for Life Prayer Vigils Began Last Week

40 Days for Life prayer vigils at abortion facilities started last Wednesday in a record 415 cities around the world. On the very first day, organizers said an abortion worker left her job. Former abortion workers report that when there is someone praying in front of an abortion facility, the “no-show” rate for abortion appointments can go to as high as 75 percent. On day 7, two abortion facilities closed in Orlando. On day 6, organizers said a total of 33 babies were saved from abortions. Find the closest vigil location at https://40daysforlife.com/browse-campaigns/.

HHSD Cancels Contract to Purchase “Fetal Tissue” for Testing

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department has cut its contract with a biomedical procurement company that would have allowed the FDA to purchase “fetal tissue” for drug testing. The decision comes after 85 members of Congress signed a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, calling for an end to the contract. “Unborn children are not commodities to be bought and sold,” the letter said. “The practice of conducting research using the body parts of children whose lives have been violently ended by abortion is abhorrent.” HHS also said it would review all federal contracts that involve buying fetal tissue. In previous years, the HHS has said that fetal tissue “continues to be a critical resource for important efforts such as research on degenerative eye disease, human development disorders such as Down syndrome, and infectious diseases, among a host of other diseases.” The new HHS review will look at “the serious regulatory, moral, and ethical considerations involved.”

Pro-Abortion California Governor Vetoes Abortion-Pill Dispensing Bill

In a surprise eleventh hour move, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have required university student health centers to dispense abortion pills. Known as the “College Student Right to Access Act,” the controversial SB 320 would have essentially transformed state universities into abortion facilities by mandating that campus health clinics begin providing abortifacients no later than 2022. “The average distance to abortion providers in campus communities varies from five to seven miles, not an unreasonable distance,” said Brown, explaining his rationale for vetoing the measure. “Because the services required by this bill are widely available off-campus, this bill is not necessary.” Although the governor’s veto is pragmatic, it remains a win for the pro-life movement.

Experts Reveal How Transgenderism Harms Children

The infatuation with transgenderism which seems to be sweeping the nation—especially among young people—amounts to “large-scale child abuse,” according to a panel of experts speaking in the nation’s capital. Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies, Family Research Council: “It is troubling when an adult adopts this transgender ideology, but it is tragic when a child falls victim to it.” “For most of human history, it has been considered obvious that the way we determine whether people are male or female is on the basis of their bodies,” said Sprigg. “Today, the transgender movement claims that the mind takes precedence over the body when it comes to determining whether a person is male or female. This, however, is an ideological assertion,” said Sprigg. “It is not in any way a scientific one. It is troubling when an adult adopts this transgender ideology, but it is tragic when a child falls victim to it.”

Dr. Michelle Cretella, Executive Director, American College of Pediatricians: “America is engaged in large-scale child abuse. Complicit in this is … my field of pediatrics, psychiatry, our education system, mass media, and social media,” said Dr. Cretella. The abuse worsens when doctors prescribe puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones. Puberty blockers can lead to permanent sterility and halt physical development of the body, including the brain. These drugs cause impaired memory, brittle bones, and increased risk of certain cancers and obesity for some kids. Cross-sex hormones, which must be taken for a lifetime, can lead to sterility, heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes, blood clots, diabetes, cancer, and emotional instability.

Dr. Paul McHugh, Distinguished Service Professor, Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Sex reassignment surgery patients suffer suicide rates 20 times greater than their peers.” People are okay for about ten years after sex reassignment surgery, but then great regret begins to overtake them, said Dr. McHugh. He said this is not unlike what dermatologists encounter from patients with tattoos, who also begin to experience disappointment with their skin ink after ten years. McHugh emphasized that the medical treatments and surgical procedures now being performed on children are still experimental in nature.

Ricin Mailed to Pentagon and White Powder to Ted Cruz

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency detected a suspicious substance Monday on two pieces of mail at the Pentagon’s remote screening facility, according to a US defense official. Sources tell CBN News the mail initially tested positive for ricin. The mail facility is located in a separate building on the grounds of the Pentagon. Ricin is a highly toxic compound that is extracted from castor beans and has been used in terror attacks. It can be used in powder, pellet, mist or acid form. Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz’ (R-TX) campaign office in Houston was also hit with a threatening powdery substance. Staffers opened an envelope containing white powder. A hazardous materials response team was dispatched to Cruz’s office Tuesday morning to investigate.

Canada Agrees to Join NAFTA Deal

The United States and Canada confirmed Sunday they had reached a deal on a “new, modernized trade agreement,” which is designed to replace the 1994 NAFTA pact. In a joint statement the two nations said the new deal would be called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said following a cabinet meeting, “It’s a good day for Canada.” President Trump tweeted about the deal on Monday morning, calling it a “great deal for all three countries” and that it will open markets to farmers and manufacturers. Trump also said the deal would reduce trade barriers to the U.S. and bring all three nations closer together in competition with the rest of the world.

Trump Administration Halts Visas for Same-Sex Partners of Diplomats

President Trump’s administration this week began denying visas to the unmarried, same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and officials and employees of the United Nations — making marriage a requirement to be eligible for a visa. The policy was made effective Monday. A majority of countries worldwide do not recognize same-sex marriage and many same-sex couples face prosecution in their own countries. The shift in policy was detailed in a memo circulated at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York last month. It gives the same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and United Nations workers until the end of the year to get married or leave the country. Foreign Policy magazine, which first reported the story, estimated there are at least 10 current United Nations employees who would need to get married to get their partners’ visas renewed. It was not clear how many foreign diplomats with pending U.S. posts will be affected by the policy change.

Facebook Reports Its Biggest Security Breach Yet

Facebook has discovered a massive security breach affecting 50 million user accounts. The social media giant said attackers exploited the site’s ‘View As’ feature, which lets people see what their profiles look like to other users. The unknown attackers took advantage of a feature in the code called ‘Access Tokens,’ to take over people’s accounts, potentially giving hackers access to private messages, photos and posts – although Facebook said there was no evidence that had been done. The hackers also tried to harvest people’s private information, including name, sex and hometown, from Facebook’s systems. Facebook said it doesn’t yet know if information from the affected accounts has been misused or accessed, and is working with the FBI to conduct further investigations. However, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg assured users that passwords and credit card information was not accessed.

Four Supremacists Charged in 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ Rally at Charlottesville

Four California men, all alleged members of an organized hate group, were arrested Tuesday and charged with violating a federal rioting law in connection with the violent, 2017 white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, authorities said. The U.S. attorney’s office in Charlottesville described the suspects as members of a militant racist and anti-Semitic group, the Rise Above Movement, based in California. The four were arrested by FBI agents in California early Tuesday and charged with one count each of violating the federal rioting statute and conspiring to violate it. Authorities said in a statement that the four men traveled to Charlottesville with the intent to commit violent acts in furtherance of a riot. The Aug. 12, 2017, rally, dubbed “Unite the Right” by organizers, descended into a day-long scene of violent clashes involving hundreds of white supremacists and counter-protesters.

Study Confirms Link Between Violent Video Games and Aggression

An international study looking at more than 17,000 adolescents, ages nine to 19, from 2010 to 2017, found playing violent video games led to increased physical aggression over time. The analysis of 24 studies from countries including the U.S., Canada, Germany and Japan found those who played violent games such as “Grand Theft Auto,” “Call of Duty” and “Manhunt” were more likely to exhibit behavior such as being sent to the principal’s office for fighting or hitting a non-family member. “Based on our findings, we feel it is clear that violent video game play is associated with subsequent increases in physical aggression,” said Jay Hull, associate dean of faculty for the social sciences at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and the Dartmouth Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

80,000 Died from the Flu Last Year in U.S.

An estimated 80,000 people died of the flu and its complications in the U.S. last winter — the highest death toll for the diseases in at least four decades. The tally was nearly twice as much as what health officials previously considered a bad year. In recent years, flu-related deaths have ranged from about 12,000 to — in the worst year — 56,000, according to the CDC. The season peaked in early February. It was mostly over by the end of March, although some flu continued to circulate. Making a bad year worse, the flu vaccine didn’t work very well. Experts nevertheless say vaccination is still worth it, because it makes illnesses less severe and saves lives.

Economic News

The federal debt increased by $1,271,158,167,126.72 (that’s 1.271 trillion dollars) in fiscal 2018, according to data released Tuesday by the Treasury. The fiscal year of the federal government goes from October 1st to September 30th. The total federal debt started the fiscal year at $20.2 trillion and ended it at $21.5 trillion. In 8 of the past 11 fiscal years, the U.S. national debt has risen by more than a trillion dollars. This debt represents $170,337 per U.S. household. In addition, the total personal debt of every American — what they owe on their mortgages, credit cards, student loans, and more — the total is staggering. Collectively, we’re $13.2 trillion in the red. That’s the highest ever, according to the New York Fed and represents another $104,579 per household. Furthermore, state and local government debt is at record levels all over the nation, and corporate debt has doubled since the last financial crisis.

  • It won’t be long now before this house of cards comes crashing down

In the 9th largest economy in the world (Italy), the financial markets are crashing, and in the 21st largest economy in the world (Argentina) the central bank just raised interest rates to 65 percent to support a currency that is completely imploding. Because the U.S. has been largely unaffected so far, the mainstream media is mostly choosing to ignore what is happening. The financial crisis in Italy threatens to literally tear the EU apart. Italy’s new populist government agreed to set Italy’s budget deficit at 2.4% of GDP, an increase on the current level and far above the 1.6% that the EU lobbied for. The Argentine peso has lost approximately 50 percent of its value so far in 2018, and in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding the central bank of Argentina just panic-raised interest rates to 65 percent. Venezuela’s economy has been in shambles for two years now and the situation in Brazil continues to deteriorate.

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates last week for the third time this year. The decision, which was expected, is a sign of the feds’ increased confidence in the U.S. economy. Unemployment is low, economic growth is strong, and inflation is relatively stable. Policymakers under Chairman Jerome Powell unanimously agreed to raise the federal funds rate a quarter percentage point, to a range of 2% to 2.25%. The rate helps determine rates for mortgages, credit cards and other consumer borrowing. Central bankers raised expectations for a fourth rate hike in December, with a majority now in favor of such a move. Fed officials expect at least three rate hikes will be necessary in 2019, with one more in 2020. The Fed has been gradually raising rates for three years, finally restoring them to normal levels long after the financial crisis. “I am not happy about that,” President Trump said at a press conference in New York. “We can do other things with the money.”

According to the latest estimates released by Edmunds, new vehicle sales for September are expected to decline both on a monthly basis and year-over-year basis. The company predicted that 1,392,434 new cars and trucks will be sold in the U.S. in September, which makes for an estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of 17 million. This will be a 5.4% decrease from last month and an 8.3% drop from September of last year. In addition, pending home sales also declined in August, dropping 1.8% from July  (almost four times worse than expected) and 2.5% year-over-year to its lowest since Oct 2014, the fourth month of annual declines in a row.

E-tailing giant Amazon said Tuesday it would increase its minimum wage on Nov. 1 to $15 for all U.S. full-time, part-time, seasonal and temporary employees, including temps hired by agencies. That includes employees at Whole Foods, which Amazon acquired for $13.7 million in June 2017. Amazon currently has more than 250,000 employees, and plans to hire more than 100,000 seasonal employees this holiday season. The company had recently been the target of criticism from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, who said Amazon doesn’t pay its lower-level employees a fair wage. “We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” said Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos in a statement. Amazon also said it would begin lobbying for an increase in the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25.

Uber will pay $148 million to settle an investigation into a 2016 data breach that the company was accused of intentionally concealing. The settlement with attorneys general for all 50 states and Washington, DC, will be split among the states. It’s the largest ever multi-state data breach settlement. The investigation was called to look into allegations that the ride-share company violated state-level notification laws by intentionally withholding that hackers stole the personal information of 57 million users in 2016. The breach wasn’t disclosed until late 2017, when Uber revealed that it paid the hackers $100,000 to destroy the data. As part of the settlement, Uber has agreed to develop and implement a corporate integrity program for employees to report unethical behavior. It also agreed to adopt model data breach notification and data security practices, as well as hire an independent third party to assess its data security practices.

Persecution Watch

Al-Shabaab terrorists murdered two Kenyan Christians travelling on a bus on 14 September after they refused to recite the shahada Islamic creed. The terrorists flagged down a bus travelling to the north-eastern city of Garissa and ordered the passengers to produce their identity cards. They separated three “non-local” (assumed to be non-Muslim) passengers and asked them to recite verses from the Quran and say the shahada Islamic creed. Recitation of the shahada is considered conversion to Islam. Two passengers who refused, a boy called Joshua who assisted the bus driver and a labourer from the town of Masalani, 100 miles south of Garissa, were tied up and then murdered. In 2014, 28 Christians travelling on a bus in Mandera country, north-east Kenya, were singled out and killed by Al Shabaab jihadists. Kenya is around 80% Christian and 10% Muslim.

Middle East

Over 100 improvised bombs and grenades were hurled at Israeli troops during Friday’s riots at the Gaza border, the military said Saturday. The Israeli army released footage of the violent demonstrations, which it said were the worst in two months, depicting attempts to breach and sabotage the security fence. Meanwhile in Gaza Saturday funerals were held for the seven Palestinians killed in the previous day’s violence, including two teen boys. At least 210 Palestinians were wounded. Tens of thousands of Palestinians protested along the Gaza border fence, throwing hand grenades, bombs, rocks, and burning tires in clashes with IDF troops, who responded with tear gas, live fire, and air strikes. The IDF said about 20,000 Palestinians took part in violent protests, spread out among a few locations along the Gaza security fence. The protest was one of the largest and most violent in recent weeks and comes following the breakdown of indirect talks with Israel over a cease-fire and warnings that the terror group Hamas, which rules Gaza, was gearing up for another conflict.

Iran

A 12-mile stretch of the Iraq-Syria border has become the epicenter of a battle between Iran and the United States for control of the Middle East. Militias backed by Iran have taken control of territory on the Iraqi side of the frontier and just over the border in Syria stands a military base containing thousands of Shia fighters loyal to Tehran, according to analysts. Their presence marks a key staging post on the so-called “Shia crescent” of influence from Tehran, across Shia areas of Iraq, through Syria to the Israeli border and Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon. It has prompted President Trump to rethink plans to pull out US troops once Islamic State is defeated

The State Department said Friday that it would temporarily close the U.S. consulate in the southern Iraqi city of Basra following a rocket attack in September blamed on Iranian-backed militias. Diplomatic staff and their families were being evacuated and consular services will be provided from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called it a “temporary relocation” in response to what he called “increasing and specific threats” from the Iranian government and militias under its control. He warned that the U.S. would respond to any more attacks. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called it a “temporary relocation” in response to what he called “increasing and specific threats” from the Iranian government and militias under its control. He warned that the U.S. would respond to any more attacks.

Syria

International observers were alarmed Monday by Russia’s announcement that they would be sending their S-300 missile defense systems to Syria. The decision comes after Syrian air defenses shot down a Russian Il-20 spy plane, killing 15 Russian servicemen. Russia said Israel is “solely” to blame for the downing of the plane. Israeli F-16s flew below the Il-20, in a move the Russians said used the plane for cover. The antiquated Syrian defenses likely aimed for the larger Il-20 rather than the smaller F-16s. Russia claims they need to place the S-300 in Syria to protect their planes flying over Syrian airspace. The S-300 uses technology that distinguishes Russian planes from those belonging to other nations. Russia claims they initially proposed placing the S-300 batteries in Syria in 2013, but relented after Israel protested.

North/South Korea

Troops from North and South Korea began removing some landmines along their heavily fortified border on Monday, the South’s defense ministry said, in a pact to reduce tension and build trust on the divided peninsula. Project details were agreed during last month’s summit in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, between its leader, Kim Jong Un, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. In a statement, the ministry said the two sides agreed to remove all landmines in the so-called Joint Security Area (JSA) in Panmunjom within the next 20 days. The deal also provides for removal of guard posts and weapons from the JSA to follow the removal of the mines, with the troops remaining there to be left unarmed. The JSA is the only spot along the 250-km (155-mile) -long “demilitarized zone” where troops from both Koreas are face to face.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho says his nation will never disarm its nuclear weapons first if it can’t trust Washington. Ri was speaking Saturday at the United Nations General Assembly. He called on the United States to follow through on promises made during a summit in Singapore between the rivals’ leaders. Ri says it’s a “pipe dream” that continued sanctions and U.S. objection to a declaration ending the Korean War will ever bring the North to its knees. Washington is wary of agreeing to the declaration without Pyongyang first making significant disarmament moves. Both Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump want a second summit. But there is widespread skepticism that Pyongyang is serious about renouncing an arsenal that the country sees as the only way to guarantee its safety. Pompeo is planning to visit Pyongyang next month to prepare for a second Kim-Trump summit.

Mexico

Authorities in Mexico disarmed and took control of the entire police force of the violence-wracked Pacific coast resort town of Acapulco on Tuesday. Mexican marines alongside state and federal police took part in the operation, which also led to the arrest of two local police commanders on charges of homicide. State security officials in Guerrero state took the action “because of suspicion that the force had probably been infiltrated by criminal groups” and “the complete inaction of the municipal police in fighting the crime wave. All police officers in Acapulco will be put under investigation and evaluated. The once popular resort town has fallen victim to violent turf wars between rival drug gangs, with the homicide rate standing at 103 per 100,000 inhabitants, one the highest rates in the world.

Earthquakes

A powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi Friday evening just hours after a powerful, deadly foreshock, apparently triggered a tsunami that hit the coast minutes later, the two events killing over 1,234 people with many still missing. The main tremor struck at 6:02 p.m. local time Friday evening about 35 miles northeast of Donggala, Indonesia – a town of about 300,000. The tsunami, confirmed by local agencies to be up to 6 and a half feet in height, struck Donggala and Palu, a coastal town of about 330,000 after the tsunami alert was cancelled. Entire houses were carried away by the tsunami and many families remain missing. Over 61,000 people have been left homeless and are growing more desperate by the minute as little aid as reached the affected areas, as of Monday. Despite a call for international aid, little has reached the battered area, and armed men are looting vehicles on roads leading up to the disaster zone.

Weather

Four days’ worth of rainfall and up to 3 feet of rain placed Hurricane Florence right behind Harvey as the second wettest storm in history. Florence’s rainfall was unprecedented for eastern North Carolina and make it one of the largest on record for the entire United States. Kenneth Kunkel, a meteorologist from the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, said that Florence’s rainfall was unprecedented for eastern North Carolina and makes it one of the largest on record for the entire United States, ranking second for total four-day rainfall in areas up to 14,000 square miles. Florence’s heavy rainfall in just a few days also was categorized as a “one in a thousand year rainfall event” by the National Weather Service. Days of standing water from Hurricane Florence proved to be the perfect breeding ground for a large, aggressive species of mosquito which are now plaguing many areas in the Carolinas.

Dangerous flooding persisted in the Southwest as the remnants of Rosa brought heavy rainfall to Arizona, including the Phoenix area. Some roads in Phoenix were closed as they became impassable. North of downtown Phoenix, an underpass at Interstate 17 and Peoria Avenue was shut down Tuesday morning. Thousands of homes and businesses were without power across the Yuma area Sunday afternoon. Drivers struggled to navigate water-covered roads. Trees were downed in the Yuma area on Sunday, and the southwestern Arizona city of about 100,000 was expected to see heavy rainfall continue in the coming days. “I’ve been working here 25 years and I’ve never seen anything like this, at this magnitude,” maintenance worker Josh Magna told KYMA.

Over 200 people have been killed in recent weeks in Nigeria by flooding that has inundated much of the West African nation. Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency said Thursday that more than 1,000 other people have been injured, with more than 800,000 affected overall since late August. More than 286,000 people have been left homeless by the flooding. Heavy seasonal rains that began in July have caused the country’s two main rivers, the Niger and the Benue, to overflow their banks. The downpours are expected to continue through October.

Three people are missing after a rare powerful storm in the Mediterranean Sea brought torrential rain and 55 mph winds to southern Greece. The storm is referred to as a “medicane” by meteorologists because of its tropical storm-like characteristics. After moving into the southwestern tip of the Peloponnese peninsula on Saturday, with winds up to 55 mph, the Mediterranean storm has been moving slowly in a northeasterly direction, affecting Aegean Sea islands as well as Greece’s central mainland. The hardest-hit areas so far have been around the cities of Corinth and Argos in the Peloponnese and the northern part of the island of Evia, off central Greece

Signs of the Times

September 25, 2018

­He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2))

Atheist Group Says School Can’t Organize Prayer Support for Sick Girl

A Michigan high school has removed a video of community members praying for a coach’s ill daughter after complaints from an atheist group, reports ChristianHeadlines.com. In August, members of the community came together to form a “family circle” on the football field and support and pray for a young girl named Harper, who is the daughter of the Lake City High School head football coach. She is in the hospital suffering from a severe intestinal infection. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist group, says the event was unconstitutional because it included a public prayer. The high school subsequently removed the video to avoid more controversy and a possible lawsuit. But members of the community are now upset. “Outside factors should stay out of our community,” Bruce DeBoer, owner of the Tasty Treat, told the television station. “At that point in time this was to help a young girl and everyone supported it.”

Academy of Pediatrics Supports Sex Reassignment for Children

In a new medical policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics says it supports the surgical and hormonal transition of transgender children and teens. According to The Christian Post, the document discusses ways for parents and health care providers to affirm the gender choices of patients, including encouraging primary care doctors to install gender-neutral bathrooms in their offices and signs that show the office is LGBT inclusive. The statement also suggests diversity training for employees to be “helpful for educating clinical and administrative staff.” AAP is also recommending that doctors use the term “gender affirmation” instead of “gender transition” to discuss the gender identities of children and teens. The guideline also supports the use of chemical treatments to stop normal puberty, which gives time for the family to “explore gender identity, access psychosocial supports, develop coping skills and further determine treatment goals.”

  • Worldwide insanity continues to increase as society gives heed to the doctrine of demons (Now the Spirit [a]expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. 1Timothy 4:1)

271 Indian Christians Face Criminal Charges for Evangelizing

Two-hundred and seventy-nine Christians in a northern part of India have been charged with crimes, including trying to convert Hindus to Christianity with drugs and spreading lies about Hinduism. Previously, a court in August cleared the charges, but Deputy Police Superintendent Anil Kumar Pandey says the Christians are accused of “various criminal offenses, like fraud, defiling places of worship and prejudice against national integration.” Said Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians: “In Uttar Pradesh Hindu radicals have fabricated unfounded accusations against innocent Pentecostal Christians.” “There has been a surge in persecution against Christians,” he added. “Pentecostal pastors and Christian groups are under the constant watch of radical elements and the police.” According to religious freedom group ADF India, Christians in the Uttar Pradesh area experienced 26 attacks on them in just the first half of 2018.

China Leads the Way to Dystopian Technocracy

China’s chilling dictatorship is moving quickly to introduce social scorecards by which all citizens will be monitored 24/7 and ranked on their behavior, reports Technocracy News. The Communist Party’s plan is for every one of its 1.4 billion citizens to be at the whim of a dystopian social credit system, and it’s on track to be fully operational by the year 2020. An active pilot program has already seen millions of people each assigned a score out of 800 and either reap its benefits or suffer its consequences — depending on which end of the scale they sit. Under the social credit scheme, points are lost and gained based on readings from a sophisticated network of 200 million surveillance cameras — a figure set to triple in 18 months. The program has been enabled by rapid advances in facial recognition, body scanning and geo-tracking. The data is combined with information collected from individuals’ government records — including medical and educational — along with their financial and internet browsing histories.

Terror Attacks Declined Worldwide to 8,584 in 2017

There were 8,584 terrorist attacks around the world in 2017, a 23 percent decline from 2016, according to a recent State Department report. As a result, more than 18,700 people were killed, about a quarter of whom were the perpetrators themselves. The. death toll represented a 27 percent drop from the previous year. Much of the reason for the decline was the improved security situation in Iraq, according to Ambassador Nathan Sales, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism. More than half of all terrorist attacks worldwide took place in just five countries: Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Pakistan and the Philippines. And 70 percent of all deaths from terrorist attacks occurred in a different, if overlapping, set of five countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia and Syria. The security situation in Afghanistan continued to worsen as a result of coordinated attacks by the Taliban, including the group’s affiliated Haqqani network, the report noted.

South/North Korea Sign Historic Agreement

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a broad agreement in Pyongyang on Wednesday that both said would usher in a new era of peace on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea agreed to take further steps towards denuclearization, including permanently dismantling its Dongchang-ri missile engine test site and launch pad and allowing international inspectors to observe the process, Moon announced at a joint news conference with Kim following the signing ceremony. Kim said the two sides have taken active measures to free the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons and threats and turn it into a “land of peace.” According to the text of the Pyongyang agreement, the North also said it was willing to take additional measures such as decommissioning its Yongbyon nuclear facility if the United States made further concessions. Momentum between the US and North Korea has sputtered since then, with Pyongyang hoping for a peace declaration officially ending the Korean War after 65 years and relief from punishing international sanctions, but Washington holding firm on demands for complete denuclearization first.

Trump Administration Cuts Refugee Admissions to 30,000

The Trump administration announced last Monday it will cut the maximum number of refugees allowed into the country next year to 30,000, citing national security concerns and the need to restore integrity to the system. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the administration is lowering the refugee cap from 45,000 in fiscal 2018 to 30,000 in fiscal 2019. It will be the lowest ceiling since the refugee program began in 1980. Former President Barack Obama raised the ceiling to 110,000 in 2017, and the U.S. allowed in almost 85,000 refugees in 2016 — the last full year of the Obama administration. But the Trump administration has taken a much tougher line on immigration and refugee entry, focusing on the need to fully vet those coming into the U.S. Pompeo said even with the cut, the U.S. will continue to be the most generous nation in the world when it comes to immigration.

Project Veritas Unmasks Anti-Trump ‘Deep State’ Antagonists

Project Veritas released a video Tuesday of a member of the anti-Trump “deep state,” a career civil servant who says on camera he is there to work not for American taxpayers but the Democratic Socialists of America. The government employee is identified as Stuart Karaffa, a State Department staffer and “a ranking member of the Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America.” The first video shows Karaffa “engaged in radical socialist political activity on the taxpayer’s dime, while advocating for resistance to official government policies.” He claims it’s “impossible to fire” federal employees, so he has little concern, and he also boasts that oversight of his activities is virtually nonexistent. Project Veritas said this is just the first installment of its undercover video investigation. Two more “Deep State” radicals are playing starring roles in another Project Veritas undercover video released Wednesday, with one admitting, “There’s a lot of talk about how we can like, resist from inside.” Allison Hrabar, a Justice Department paralegal, confesses using government-owned software and computers to push a socialist agenda. revealing that federal employees appear to be using their positions inside our government to resist or slow the Trump administration’s policies. “It appears some laws have been broken in the process,” Project Veritas explains.

Chicago Police Solve Fewer than One out of Six Homicides

Chicago police solved fewer than one in six homicides committed in the city in the first half of 2018, continuing a troubling decline in the number of perpetrators being brought to justice in one of the nation’s most violent cities, data obtained by USA TODAY shows. Chicago’s homicide clearance rate – the percentage of cases in which police arrest or identify a suspect – fell from 17.1% in 2017 to 15.4% during the first six months of 2018, the data shows. If that rate holds through the end of the year, it would be the sixth consecutive annual decline. Police in the nation’s third-largest city are having even less success solving nonfatal shootings, according to the data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Police only cleared 50 of 900 nonfatal shooting incidents in the first half of 2018, a rate of 5.6%.

Tariff War Heats Up

China has fired back at the United States after President Donald Trump ramped up the trade war with his biggest wave of tariffs yet. The Chinese government imposed tariffs on U.S. goods worth $60 billion following the Trump administration’s announcement that it was hitting $200 billion worth of Chinese goods with new tariffs. The US tariffs start at a rate of 10%, before rising to 25% at the end of the year. They come into effect on September 24, and will apply to thousands of Chinese products, ranging from food seasonings and baseball gloves to network routers and industrial machinery parts. China’s new tariffs will be levied at rates of 5% or 10%, depending on the product, from the same date. More than 5,000 US goods will be affected, including meat, nuts, alcoholic drinks, chemicals, clothes, machinery, furniture and auto parts. However, China is running out of imported American goods to target, since the U.S. imports far more Chinese goods than it exports to China.

Economic News

What trade war? The Dow just soared to its first record high since late January. The milestone shows that Wall Street is mostly unfazed by the escalating trade clash between the United States and China. The S&P 500 also notched an all-time high on Thursday. The Dow has spiked about 3,300 points since a low on April 2, when investors were more worried about trade. They’re betting that the strong US economy will power through the outbreak of tariffs. Stocks spiked late last year and in January after Republicans enacted a sweeping corporate tax cut. If the Dow closes above 26,616.71, it will mark the 100th record close for the index since President Donald Trump’s election in November 2016, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.

The number of Americans filing applications for new unemployment benefits fell to a new 49-year low for the third straight week.

The median U.S. stock, when measured by share price relative to earnings over the past 12 months, for example, is almost 50 percent more expensive than at the top of the internet stock bubble in 2000 But it’s not just that one pricey data point that scares him. It’s the long list of other so-called valuation gauges that suggest record expensiveness. The U.S. stock market is also trading at a record valuation today relative to home prices. And thanks to much better performance compared to foreign shares recently, they are now 17 percent more richly priced relative to overseas stocks than they have been in 16 years. And in the post-war era, the total value of U.S. stocks relative to sales has never been as expensive as it is today. Analysts say that an expected return to more normal price levels relative to earnings will either occur due to falling stock prices or a continuation of strong earnings gains accompanied by a flat, trendless market.

Women on average make about 80 cents for every dollar a man does. In Silicon Valley, the wealth gap is even wider, extending to the most potentially lucrative currency on the planet: stock options. Women get half the amount of equity of their male colleagues at start-ups, giving them unequal access to the Silicon Valley’s wealth generation machine, according to a first-of-its kind study by an investor group and an equity management firm that are urging the technology industry to take action. For every dollar of equity for men, women hold 47 cents, according to the study of nearly 180,000 employees at more than 6,000 companies released this week by #Angels and Carta. Female founders have it even worse: They own 39 cents for every dollar of equity of a male founder.

Middle East

In his address to the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, President Donald Trump repeated his determination to forge a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, reiterating that moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem advances that goal. Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon immediately praised Trump’s remarks. “The president proves again that the US is on the right side of history. While standing on the side of Israel in the struggle for stability in the Middle East, the United States leads the United Nations into a new era that ends its obsession with Israel and pushes back against the Iranian regime,” Danon remarked. Regarding Iran, Trump said the 2015 nuclear deal was a “windfall” for the Islamic Republic, whose leaders “sow chaos, death and destruction.” “We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons,” he declared. “We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues.”

Syria

White House national security adviser John Bolton said Monday that the United States wouldn’t be leaving Syria so long as Iranian forces continued to operate there, suggesting the Trump administration had embraced an expanded mission in the embattled country beyond the defeat of the Islamic State. Bolton directly linked any future withdrawal of American troops from Syria to the departure of Iranian forces from the nation. Iran has joined Russia and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to back Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in a war in its eighth year. For years, the Pentagon has said the U.S. military mission in Syria would conclude once U.S.-backed forces defeated the Islamic State and secured the territory the group once occupied.

Syria inadvertently shot down a Russian military plane after an Israeli attack on Syrian positions, killing 15 people on board, Moscow said. Russian state media said Syrian anti-aircraft missiles shot the maritime patrol aircraft down amid an attack by Israeli jets in the Latakia region of north-west Syria. Moscow blamed Israel for putting its aircraft in the line of fire and said it only had a minute’s notice of the strike. In a rare acknowledgment of its military activity in the region, Israel expressed “sorrow” for the loss of Russian life, but blamed the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. The IDF said it had followed well-established protocols in communicating with Moscow, which are intended to prevent such incidents.

Iran

At least 25 people were killed and 60 others injured in an attack on a military parade in Iran’s southwestern city of Ahvaz on Saturday, Iran’s state news IRNA said. The dead and wounded were both military personnel and civilians including a journalist who was watching the parade. Terrorists disguised as Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and Basiji (volunteer) forces, began shooting from a long distance while inside the park, at the armed forces as well as civilians watching the parade. Three of the attackers were gunned down during clashes with the security forces and one other arrested. The separatist group the Patriotic Arab Democratic Movement in Ahwaz, which is aligned with Saudi Arabia, claimed responsibility for this attack. The attack happened in a province bordering Iraq that has a large ethnic Arab community, many of them Sunni. Revolutionary Guard’s acting commander Gen. Hossein Salami vowed revenge against the attack’s perpetrators and what he called the “triangle” of Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States.

Libya

Islamic State is staging a resurgence in chaotic Libya, claiming more than a dozen attacks in the North African country this year and threatening to disrupt the flow of oil from one of the world’s most significant suppliers. The group’s re-emergence comes two years after Libyan forces backed by U.S. air power dislodged the extremist group from its stronghold in the coastal city of Sirte, and it erodes one of the signature victories in the years-long U.S-led military campaign against the militants. The latest attack came last week when gunmen wearing explosive vests and carrying assault rifles stormed Libya’s state oil company, one of the country’s most important and heavily guarded institutions. Explosions shook the building and two employees died in the assault.

China

Amnesty International is demanding China end its campaign of “systematic repression” and reveal the whereabouts of nearly 1 million predominantly Muslim people who have been “arbitrarily detained” in the country’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. The organization released a report Sunday night that includes interviews with more than 100 people outside of China whose relatives reportedly have been tortured, detained, or forced into “re-education camps” from a rural region of northwest China, known as the XUAR. The human rights group called on world leaders to stop the Chinese government’s “vicious campaign against ethnic minorities.”

Environment

Scientists are worried that the ‘good’ bugs that are crucial to as much as 80 percent of what we eat — native bees, ladybugs, mayflies, fireflies, and yes, even lovebugs — are less abundant than in summers past. Yes, some insects are pests. But they also pollinate plants, are a key link in the food chain and help decomposition. “You have total ecosystem collapse if you lose your insects. How much worse can it get than that?” said University of Delaware entomologist Doug Tallamy. If they disappeared, “the world would start to rot.” Research has shown dwindling individual species in specific places. University of Nevada, Reno, researcher Lee Dyer and his colleagues have been looking at insects at the La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica since 1991. There’s a big insect trap sheet under black light that decades ago would be covered with bugs. Now, “there’s no insects on that sheet,” he said. Last year, a study that found an 82 percent mid-summer decline in the number and weight of bugs captured in traps in 63 nature preserves in Germany compared with 27 years earlier.

Smog-filled skies are a familiar sight to Southern Californians, but residents breathed dirty air for almost three straight months this summer. Southern California violated federal smog standards for 87 consecutive days beginning June 19, setting the area’s longest bad-air streak in the past two decades according to state monitoring data.   California claims eight of the country’s most ozone-polluted cities, including the No.1-ranked Los Angeles/Long Beach area. Besides threatening sensitive vegetation and ecosystems, ozone pollution can aggravate asthma, bronchitis or emphysema symptoms. It has also been linked to coughing and pain when breathing deeply, lung and throat irritation and wheezing and trouble breathing during exercise or outdoor activities. About 23 million people in the United States have asthma, which disproportionately affects children, lower-income communities and minorities, according to the EPA.

Weather

Ten days after Hurricane Florence roared onto land along the coastal Carolinas, hundreds of roads remain closed, thousands of residents remain out of their homes or under evacuation watches, and hundreds are still being rescued from rising waters. The death toll from the storm has reached 43, and tentative damage estimates in the range of $50 billion place the storm among the 10 most costly hurricanes in U.S. history. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said teams conducted more than 350 rescues over this past weekend, raising the total to more than 5,200 since Florence slammed through the state. Ten river gauges in the state still showed major or moderate flood stages. More than 400 roads remained closed across the state, although the last blocked segment of I-95 was reopened late Sunday. Parts of I-40 have slowly been emerging from the floodwaters, but other sections could remain underwater for another week.

Severe storms which packed some tornadoes tore through southeastern Minnesota Thursday evening, toppling trees and power lines, damaging homes and flipping airplanes housed in a hangar at a municipal airport. There were several reports of tornadoes in Faribault and Waterville, about 50 miles south of Minneapolis. Several small planes were flipped and damaged by high winds at the Faribault Municipal Airport. No injuries were reported but several homes were also damaged in the storms.

More than 8 inches of rain fell at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport between Friday and Saturday, causing one death and damage to dozens of homes. The Dallas Fire Department said at least 15 people were rescued from the rising waters at about 7 a.m. Saturday. Up to 45 homes in Everman, south of Fort Worth, were damaged by floodwaters as some residents were forced to scramble onto roofs to escape rising water. As the heavy rain pushed eastward, parts of the Ohio Valley also saw flooding Sunday. In central Kentucky, numerous roads were inundated by floodwaters, and in Scott County, several drivers had to be rescued after they became stuck in flooding.

Signs of the Times

September 17, 2018

­Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Pope Summons Bishops for February Abuse Prevention Summit

Pope Francis is summoning the presidents of every bishops conference around the world for a February summit to discuss preventing clergy sex abuse and protecting children — evidence that he realizes the scandal is global and that inaction threatens to undermine the church. Francis’ key cardinal advisers announced the decision Wednesday, a day before Francis meets with U.S. church leaders who have been deeply discredited by the latest accusations in the Catholic Church’s decades-long sex abuse and cover-up scandal. The Feb. 21-24 meeting at the Vatican is believed to be the first of its kind. Earlier this year, Pope Francis faced what was then the worst crisis of his papacy when he repeatedly discredited victims of a notorious Chilean predator priest. He eventually admitted to “grave errors in judgment” and has taken steps to make amends, sanction guilty bishops and remake the Chilean episcopacy. Pope Francis will meet with a group of U.S. church officials led by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, at the Vatican Thursday amid growing criticism over the pope’s handling of sex-abuse cases.

Pastor Faces Eviction for Hosting Home Bible Study

A semi-retired Lutheran minister in Fredericksburg, Virginia faces the possibility of being evicted from a senior living community because he’s been hosting a small Bible study in the privacy of his apartment, his attorney alleges. First Liberty Institute, a law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases, is representing Pastor Ken Hauge. The pastor has accused the management of The Evergreens at Smith Run of a pattern of verbal abuse and harassment directed at Christians who live in the complex. “The threat of eviction follows repeated religious discrimination by The Evergreens management, including forcing Hauge to refer to his event as a ‘Book Review’ rather than a ‘Bible Study,’” First Liberty attorney Hiram Sasser wrote in a letter to the corporate owner of the community. Management also withdrew support of a social event because a resident said grace over a meal, and banned all religious activities from the community room.

Appeals Court Reinstates Missouri Abortion Restrictions

A federal appeals court handed pro-lifers a victory last week by reinstating a Missouri law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and that abortion clinics to be set up as “ambulatory surgical centers.” The 3-0 ruling Monday by the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s injunction that prevented the law from going into effect. The decision could suspend abortion services in Columbia, Mo., and prevent a Kansas City clinic from regaining its license, Planned Parenthood officials told The Kansas City Star. Pro-lifers say the law is designed to protect women who undergo abortions.

Mainstream Media Acknowledge Universal Microchipping to Come

At one time, the notion that the general population would be microchipped someday was a “conspiracy theory”, but now the mainstream media is coming right out and telling us that we will all get chipped. Last month, USA Today published an article entitled “You will get chipped — eventually.” Of course, it is being portrayed as “cool” and “trendy,” and a lot of people will be fooled by that, notes Charisma News. Someday identity chips will be required for the entire population, and the potential for tyranny and control are frightening. Permanent digital identification is increasingly being pushed as the solution to problems such as identity theft, tax evasion, illegal immigration and money laundering. And tech companies would love to have a universal way to confirm the identities of individuals on the Internet. But very few people are talking about the dark side of this technology – but the Bible does. “No one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name… And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” (Revelation 13:17, 14:11)

Florence Floods Isolate Wilmington, NC

Storm-weary residents of North Carolina struggled Monday to loosen the grip of Florence, the lingering killer that has closed more than 100 roads, cut off power to almost 500,000 homes and businesses and essentially cut off the city of Wilmington from the world. At least 17 people have died in the wreckage of the hurricane-turned-tropical depression that dumped 30 inches of rain in parts of the state since last week. In Wilmington, officials were planning to fly food and water into the coastal city of almost 120,000 people. The National Weather Service has measured 23.59 inches of rain at the city’s airport since Thursday. Florence dumped 30.58 inches of rainfall in Swansboro, North Carolina. This breaks the all-time record for rainfall in a single storm system in the state of North Carolina. The previous record was 24.06 inches, and it was set during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Dams and levees in areas pelted by Florence were showing signs of distress as rivers overran their banks and authorities warned of more flooding to come. Landslides have become a concern as well — especially in North Carolina’s western mountains. Early Monday, the storm was centered about 145 miles west-northwest of Greensboro, North Carolina. Rescue efforts were complicated by the closure of roads, including parts of interstates 95 and 40.

U.S. Has Highest Share of Foreign-Born Since 1910

The foreign-born population in the United States has reached its highest share since 1910, according to government data released Thursday. The foreign-born population stood at 13.7 percent in 2017, or 44.5 million people, compared with 13.5 percent in 2016. The new arrivals are more likely to come from Asia and to have college degrees than those who arrived in past decades. The Census Bureau’s figures for 2017 confirm a major shift in who is coming to the United States. For years newcomers tended to be from Latin America, but a Brookings Institution analysis of that data shows that 41 percent of the people who said they arrived since 2010 came from Asia. Just 39 percent were from Latin America. About 45 percent were college educated, the analysis found, compared with about 30 percent of those who came between 2000 and 2009. The last historic peak in immigration to the United States came at the end of the 19th century, when large numbers of Europeans fled poverty and violence in their home countries. Some of the largest numbers came from Germany, Italy and Poland. That wave peaked around the turn of the century, when the total foreign-born population stood at nearly 15 percent. But after the passage of strict racial quotas in the 1920s, the foreign-born population fell sharply for decades in the middle of the 20th century. By 1970, the population was below 5 percent.

Detention of Migrant Children at Highest Levels Ever

Even though hundreds of children separated from their families after crossing the border have been released under court order, the overall number of detained migrant children has exploded to the highest ever recorded. Population levels at federally contracted shelters for migrant children have quietly shot up more than fivefold since last summer, according to data obtained by The New York Times, reaching a total of 12,800 this month. There were 2,400 such children in custody in May 2017. Shelter capacities have hovered close to 90 percent since at least May, compared to about 30 percent a year ago. The huge increases, which have placed the federal shelter system near capacity, are due not to an influx of children entering the country, but a reduction in the number being released to live with families and other sponsors, the data collected by the Department of Health and Human Services suggests. Most of the children crossed the border alone, without their parents. Many are teenagers from Central America, and they are housed in a system of more than 100 shelters across the United States, with the highest concentration near the southwest border.

Migrant Arrests Up 3% in August

The number of migrant family members arrested for illegally entering the United States shot up 38 percent in August, according to statistics released last week, a surge homeland security officials characterized as a “crisis.” Border Patrol agents apprehended nearly 13,000 members of “family units” last month, the latest data shows, the highest August total ever recorded. The increase followed President Trump’s decision to back off the provision of his “zero tolerance” crackdown that separated children from parents in an attempt to deter illegal migration. Overall, the number of foreigners apprehended or deemed “inadmissible” at border crossings rose to 46,560 in August, up from 40,011 in July. Department of Homeland Security officials said the arrival of so many families was due to court-imposed restrictions limiting the duration children may be detained in immigration jails. The result, officials said, is that parents bring children as a way to win quick release from government custody and avoid deportation.

$10 Million FEMA Budget Shifted to ICE

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency insisted Wednesday that the transfer of nearly $10 million of its budget to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will not affect the agency’s hurricane response and other disaster relief efforts. “We have plenty of resources, both monetary, staff and commodities, to respond to the storm,” Jeff Byard, FEMA’s associate administrator for the Office and Response and Recovery, told reporters during a morning briefing as Hurricane Florence barreled toward the Carolina coast. The budget transfer document from the Department of Homeland Security specifically mentions the money would come from FEMA’s budgets for travel, training, public engagement and information technology work not from disaster relief funding.

Poll Confirms that Americans Don’t Trust the Press

A major poll from Gallup and the Knight Foundation confirms that Americans don’t trust the press. The news media, like many other major U.S. institutions, has suffered from a decline in public confidence in recent years,” the report states. Sixty-nine percent of U.S. adults in the current survey say their trust in the news media has decreased in the past decade. Just 4 percent say their trust has increased, while 26 percent indicate their trust has not changed. Republicans (94 percent) and political conservatives (95 percent) are nearly unanimous in saying their trust in the media has decreased in the past decade. However, declining trust is not just confined to the political right — 75 percent of independents and 66 percent of moderates indicate they are less trusting than they were 10 years ago. However, a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows that voters trust the media over Trump by a 54-30 percent margin.

Heroin Use Down, Meth & Marijuana Up

Far fewer people started using heroin last year, but the decline among young new 18- to 25-year-old heroin users was almost imperceptible and this age group also saw a big jump in methamphetamine and marijuana use, according to a federal report out Friday. The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health emphasizes what it calls these “transitional aged youth” because they have higher rates of cigarette use, alcohol abuse, heroin use disorder and use more cocaine, meth and LSD than people both younger and older. With all the publicity surrounding deaths from heroin laced with fentanyl, addiction experts expected there to be a move away from heroin  – just as crack cocaine fell out of favor decades ago. Use of illegal drugs, including cocaine, marijuana, and opioids by pregnant women increased significantly between 2015 and 2017, the report found. About 7 percent of pregnant women reported using marijuana, with about 3 percent saying they used it daily. The report says marijuana use is linked to fetal growth problems, preterm births, stillbirths, hyperactivity and impaired cognition in newborns.

E-Cigarettes an Epidemic Among Nation’s Youth

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb dramatically escalated his efforts to stop an “epidemic” of teenage vaping, announcing Wednesday a massive enforcement action against retailers for allegedly selling e-cigarettes to minors and warning manufacturers of a potential ban of flavored e-cigarette liquids. Officials said the move against more than 1,300 retailers was the largest coordinated enforcement action in the agency’s history. The threatened ban, if carried out, would significantly upend the fast-growing industry. Preliminary data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey show a 75% increase in e-cigarette use among high school students this year compared to 2017. Much of the FDA’s sharp change in course is a result of the phenomenal success of Juul, which looks like a USB flash drive. In just three years, it has captured about 70 percent of the e-cigarette market. Juul delivers high levels of nicotine in a way that istn’t harsh, and it packages the product in a streamlined, clever way. Juul also developed a social media and advertising campaign that made a Juul e-cigarette “cool and hip.” In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes also contain other harmful substances that may cause oral and oropharyngeal cancer.

Seven States Have Obesity Rates Above 35 Percent

Seven states boast adult obesity rates above 35 percent, a new report finds, while other states have seen their rates balloon rapidly. According to The State of Obesity 2018 report, no state showed significant statistical improvement in their obesity rates from a year earlier. Only two states — Hawaii and Colorado — and the District of Columbia had obesity rates below 25 percent. Seven states — Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia — had adult obesity rates above 35 percent. West Virginia held the highest rate at just over 38 percent. The report released by nonprofit organizations Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation also found 22 states had obesity rates between 30 and 35 percent, while an additional 19 states had rates between 25 and 30 percent. Several studies have shown obesity has been linked to multiple diseases, from hypertension and diabetes to cancer. In May, a report from the World Cancer Research Fund linked 12 types of cancers, including breast and colorectal, to being overweight. The report says obesity costs an estimated $149 billion annually in directly related healthcare spending, and an additional $66 billion a year in lowered economic productivity.

Air Pollution Linked to Dementia

A recently released working paper by three Arizona State University economists makes the case that prolonged exposure to air pollution does not just cause respiratory problems, but also puts individuals at higher risk for dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. The ASU researchers estimate, for example, that implementation of an Environmental Protection Agency standard on fine-particulate air pollution in 1997 through the Clean Air Act in previously unregulated counties averted approximately 140,000 people living with dementia in 2013. The size of particulates smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter allows those particulates to remain airborne for long periods, to penetrate buildings, to be inhaled easily and to reach and accumulate within brain tissue, the researchers write. They cite other studies that show the accumulation of particulates in the brain can cause neuroinflammation, which is associated with symptoms of dementia.

Economic News

Household income grew for the third straight year in 2017 but at a slower pace and poverty edged down in signs that the healthy economy continued to lift Americans across the financial spectrum. The median U.S. household income rose 1.8 percent to $61,372, the Census Bureau said Wednesday. That followed gains of 5.2 percent in 2015 and 3.2 percent in 2016. The number of Americans living in poverty was unchanged at 39.7 million but due to increased population, the poverty rate dipped to 12.3 percent from 12.7 percent in 2016, the third straight annual decline. Since 2014, the rate has fallen from 14.8 percent. And there were 28.5 million Americans without health insurance, or 8.8 percent of the population, a figure that was unchanged from 2016.

U.S. employers advertised the most jobs on record in July, and the number of workers quitting their jobs also hit an all-time high. Americans are increasingly taking advantage of a tight labor market to find new, often higher-paying jobs. That could help push up wages broadly across the economy. The Labor Department said Tuesday that the number of job openings rose 1.7 percent to 6.9 million, the most on record dating back to late 2000. The number of people quitting jumped 3 percent to 3.58 million, also a record. Quits are typically a good sign that jobs are plentiful, because people usually quit when they have another job or are confident they can find one. Even as the number of available jobs rose, overall hiring in July was essentially flat, with about 5.7 million people finding jobs, the report showed.

Poverty rates in some of the nation’s most populous metropolitan areas are on the decline, according to new data released Thursday. The U.S. Census Bureau statistics from its American Community Survey (ACS) show a decline in poverty rates in 13 of 25 of the most populous metro areas from 2016 and 2017. For several metro areas, it was the third consecutive year for a decline, according to the ACS. The Washington, D.C. metropolitan area had the lowest poverty rate of 7.9 percent.

For the first time since 1973, the United States is the world’s largest producer of crude oil, according to preliminary estimates published on Wednesday by the Energy Department. The feat demonstrates how the US shale oil boom has reshaped the global energy landscape. American oil output has more than doubled over the past decade. The United States isn’t expected to cede its crown any time soon. The EIA expects US oil production to stay ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia through 2019. The achievement underscores the profound impact of rapid technological advances in drilling. Fracking unlocked vast sums of oil and natural gas that had been trapped underground. Drilling costs declined dramatically.

Middle East

A prominent American-born Israeli settler was stabbed to death by a Palestinian teenager outside a shopping mall in the occupied West Bank on Sunday. The dead man, Ari Fuld, 45, was well-known by settlers as an outspoken Israeli advocate on social media. He was planning a lecture tour in the United States in November, according to his Twitter account. A civilian shot the attacker, who was taken to a hospital in moderate condition. Israeli media identified the attacker as Khalil Yusef Ali Jabarin, a 17-year-old from a nearby Palestinian village.

Korea

North and South Korea opened their first liaison office near their tense border Friday in a bid to facilitate better communication ahead of an eagerly awaited summit between their leaders in Pyongyang next week. The opening – in the North Korean border town of Kaesong – is the latest in a series of reconciliatory steps the rival Koreas have taken this year. The office is the first of its kind since the nations were divided at the end of World War II in 1945. South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said during the opening ceremony that the new office will become the “cradle of Korean co-prosperity.” Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, said during the ceremony that the office would help the Koreas have “candid conversations” and further build ties.

China

The growing crack-down on unofficial churches in China deepened on Sunday (Sept. 9) when authorities closed one of the largest churches in Beijing. The Beijing Chaoyang District Civil Affairs Bureau informed Zion Church that it was “legally banned” for organizing events without registering as an official Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) church, Reuters reported. The church has faced growing threats from authorities, including eviction, since it refused to comply with a government order in April to install closed-circuit television cameras at its worship site. Bob Fu, president of advocacy group China Aid, said authorities are enforcing rules requiring registration as a TSPM church in order to exercise increased control over ideologies. He called the church closure part of a larger crackdown on Christianity across China.

Nigeria

A spate of attacks, in which at least 20 were killed in Nigeria’s central Plateau State over the last week of August, has shattered peace efforts by religious and political leaders in its capital, Jos. On Aug. 28, communities including a mining site at Wereh village (Ropp District), Abonong, Ziyat and Bek villages (Foron District), Nafan, Sagas, Rawuru and Rambuh villages (Fan District), all in Barkin Ladi, came under heavy attack by Fulani militants, reports Charisma News. Victims included a pastor and four members of his family. Rev. Adamu Wurim Gyang, 50, and his three children were set ablaze and burnt beyond recognition. His wife, Jummai, 45, was shot and left to die in a pool of blood. More than 14 were killed in that attack; 95 houses were burned down and 225 farm crops awaiting harvest were destroyed.

Weather

Typhoon Mangkhut struck the island of Luzon in the Northern Philippines early Saturday as the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane, killing at least 65 people with hundreds missing, many believed buried under mud. About 87,000 people have been evacuated from high-risk areas and advised not to return home until the danger has passed. The most powerful typhoon to hit the disaster-prone Philippines this year slammed ashore before dawn in Cagayan province on the northeastern tip of Luzon island, a breadbasket that is also a region of flood-prone rice plains and mountain provinces with a history of deadly landslides. Mangkhut’s sustained winds weakened to 105 mph with gusts of up to 161 mph after it sliced northwestward across Luzon then blew out to the South China Sea. Mangkhut then barreled into southern China on Sunday, bringing with it strong winds and heavy rain, prompting Chinese authorities to issue a red alert, the country’s most severe storm warning. More than three million people have been moved to safety in southern China as Typhoon Mangkhut moved northward and continued to wreak havoc across the region Monday. Hong Kong was left reeling by ferocious winds of up to 107 miles per hour and gusts of up to 138 mph. The storm tore off roofs and scaffolding from skyscrapers, shattered windows, shook high-rise buildings and caused serious flooding in low-lying areas as waves of more than ten feet lashed the coast.

The Hurricane season has been causing devastation from the Pacific to the Atlantic as seven active store swirled across the globe last week – with high chances an eighth powerful storm will soon develop to break an all-time record. Overall, there have been 9 named storms in the Atlantic and 15 names storms in the Pacific since the official start of the hurricane season, way above normal. As one veteran meteorologist remarked, “in my 35 years forecasting the weather on TV, I have NEVER seen so much activity in the tropics all at the same time.”

Signs of the Times

September 11, 2018

­Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. (Matthew 5:10-12)

College Rules 9/11 ‘Never Forget’ Memorial Biased against Muslims

A conservative student group at a Wisconsin-based college was told their 9/11 “Never Forget” poster violates the school’s bias policy because it exclusively targets Islamic terrorism – despite the fact that it was Islamic terrorism. By focusing “relentlessly on one religious organization, one religious group, one religious identity,” Ripon College’s bias incident team ruled Young America’s Foundation’s posters remembering September 11th create an environment where “students from a Muslim background would feel singled out and/or harassed.” YAF spokesman, Spencer Brown, slammed the ruling as “a transparent attempt to sanitize the truth about 9/11,” adding that the “posters are biased against no one except radical Islamic terrorists.”

Christian Cheerleaders Win Right to Include Bible Verses on Banners

Last Friday, the Texas Supreme Court handed a group of Christian cheerleaders a victory in their lawsuit involving run-through banners that include Bible verses. The state high court, without comment, refused to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that had sided with the cheerleaders. The dispute began in 2012, when middle school and high school cheerleaders at public schools in Kountze, Texas, began writing Bible verses on run-through banners as a way to inspire the athletes. The school district, reacting to a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), banned the banners, and the cheerleaders filed suit. The cheerleaders have won their case at every level – the district court, appeals court and the Texas Supreme Court.

Chinese Authorities Tear Down Crosses and Close Down Churches in Henan

According to ChinaAid, Henan authorities have continued to tear down crosses and close churches across China. So far, in the Jinshui District of Zhengzhou, at least eight house churches have been shut down. ChinaAid reports that Christians from Zhongmo County were informed by the local government that the crosses would be taken down. Some churches intended to cover the crosses with black veils to conceal them. Chinese Christian Fellowship of Righteousness made a statement last Tuesday condemning the actions of the Henan authorities, voicing outrage over the treatment toward churches and the destruction of crosses. The statement tells of extreme oppression in the largely Christian province of Henan.

Australian Christians Choose Homeschooling Amid Religious Bullying

The Daily Mail reports that deeply religious families in Australia are more frequently choosing to homeschool their children as a result of increased religious bullying. Some parents have reported incidence of their children being taunted and targeted because of their moral opposition to same-sex marriage. According to The Sunday Telegraph, the number of students being homeschooled has nearly doubled since 2014 with approximately 4,479 students partaking in home school education. The Accelerate Christian Home Schooling coordinator Stuart Chapman said, “Christians are now the ones who are the target of bullying and in the minority.” Chapman then cited on incident where “students who opposed same sex marriage were forced to stand at the back of their classrooms. “In 2017, Australia legalized same sex marriage, and Chapman says that since this vote, families are in fear of their children being attacked for having opposing values.

  • Tolerance doesn’t apply to Christians, so who are the hypocrites? And what happened to religious freedom?

Students Ordered to Remove “Christ” From Football Field

Just hours before the Benton High School football team ran onto the field last Friday – two students were ordered to remove a logo from the end zone because it included a cross, a Bible verse and the word “Christ.” The logo belonged to Christ Fit Gym, a faith-based gymnasium in nearby Bossier City, Louisiana. It included the words “Christ Fit Gym,” a cross and a Bible verse reference, 1 Timothy 4:8. Owner Billy Weatherall said he paid the high school football booster club $3,500 to put his logo in the end zone for the 2018-19 football season. The two students refused to remove the logo. “You have to stand up for Christ no matter what (and we) just told the coaches we wouldn’t do it,” one of the students wrote on social media. “We ended up leaving the field and not helping them cover up the Scripture that was put on the field.” A judge had granted a temporary restraining order to prevent anyone from removing the signs – but it was too late.

Satanism On the Rise in America

Charisma News reports that while attendance declines at Christian churches, many Satanic groups are experiencing tremendous growth. For some, embracing Satanism is the ultimate form of rebellion, for others it is about making an anti-Trump political statement, and yet others claim that they are attracted by the very real power that they discover in Satanism. Every week, bizarre rituals are conducted in basements, meeting halls and public facilities all over the country, and most Americans have absolutely no idea what is going on. Of course, most mainstream news articles about Satanists attempt to portray them as ordinary people who have simply been “misunderstood.” And ultimately that is what the Satanists are trying to do for Satan—they are trying to get all the rest of us to view Satan or Lucifer as a “misunderstood” being that only has humanity’s best interests at heart. And since the values of Satanism line up more accurately with the values of modern society than Christian values do, Satanists are finding increasing success in bringing in new recruits. Today, there are Satanic churches just about everywhere in the U.S.

Assaults on ICE, Border Patrol by Illegal Immigrants Surge

Assaults on ICE agents reached a decade high in 2017, and assaults on Border Patrol agents have also surged in recent years, according to new government numbers that seem to back up agents’ claims that illegal immigrants are increasingly looking to fight rather than flee, reports the Washington Times. The report signals increased danger, particularly on the southwest border, where agents say a surge in illegal immigration in recent years generally correlates with growing violence. Prosecutors, meanwhile, often refuse to bring charges or win cases against the perpetrators, the audit found. At the border, the most frequent method of attack was projectiles — usually large rocks — which accounted for half of assaults. But bombs, clubs, knives, guns and even laser pointers to blind agents have all been used. Most of the injuries were minor and didn’t require treatment, the audit found.

Federal Report Criticizes FEMA’s Response to Hurricane Maria

A report from the Government Accountability Office found that FEMA was not ready for what it encountered in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, in part because the agency had to assume many of the responsibilities that local governments usually handle. “They were completely overwhelmed from a workforce standpoint,” Chris Currie, the GAO director for emergency management issues. “Once Maria hit, their staff resources were pretty exhausted. Their other commodities and resources were exhausted.” Three overlapping hurricanes caused staffing shortages and required FEMA to shift staff that was already deployed to other disasters. The remote distance and logistical challenges made it difficult to quickly deploy resources and personnel to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In addition, the islands were not fully prepared for such a storm and the widespread devastation and loss of power and communications led FEMA to assume response functions that territories would usually perform themselves.

Facebook and Twitter Apologize for Missing Russian Meddling

Facebook and Twitter executives issued mea culpas on Wednesday for the failure to root out Russian meddling in the 2016 election, with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg saying it was “completely unacceptable,” and promising to keep cracking down on bad actors. “We were too slow to spot this and too slow to act. This is on us,” she said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing. “This interference was completely unacceptable.” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admitted a small number of actors were able to “game Twitter” to have an outsized impact. Facebook in particular came under fire for being at the forefront of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, as actors set up fake Facebook groups, organized protests and spread memes as part of an effort to disrupt the election. Thirteen Russians were indicted by FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year on charges of plotting to disrupt the election by creating fake social media accounts to weigh in and stir up political issues.

Nearly 30% of Opioid Prescriptions Lack Medical Explanation

Nearly 30% of all opioids prescribed in US clinics or doctors’ offices lack a documented reason — such as severe back pain — to justify a script for these addictive drugs, new research finds. In total, opioids were prescribed in almost 809 million outpatient visits over a 10-year period, with 66.4% of these prescriptions intended to treat non-cancer pain and 5.1% for cancer-related pain, according to a study published Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. However, for the remaining 28.5% of prescriptions — about three out of every 10 patients — there was no record of either pain symptoms or a pain-related condition, the Harvard Medical School and RAND Corp. researchers say. Dr. Tisamarie B. Sherry, lead author of the study, said, “The reasons for this could be truly inappropriate prescribing of opioids or merely lax documentation.”

FTC, States, Target Bogus Veterans’ Charities

Generous Americans give more than $2.5 billion a year to some 40,000 charities with missions designed to help veterans. Lately, however, this crowded field has been inundated by fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC launched Operation Donate with Honor in July to spotlight the problem of fraudulent and deceptive fundraising on behalf of military and veterans’ causes. The FTC distributed a list of 102 law enforcement actions 34 states have lodged against bogus veterans’ charities. The list laid bare the many ways these groups solicit donations—online, on the phone, by mail, door-to-door and at stores and supermarkets. In many cases, the lion’s share of each dollar donated was paid to telemarketers instead of veterans. In some cases these telemarketers charged a fee of 85 cents of every dollar. One charity that is named is Help the Vets. Donors contributed $20 million to the Florida charity from 2013 to 2017. But the charity spent only 5% of the dollars that were collected to assist veterans, the FTC said.

Massachusetts Issued 1,905 Drivers Licenses to Dead People

A state audit published Thursday finds that the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles issued nearly 2,000 licenses to people after their deaths. Massachusetts’ Office of the State Auditor said the RMV had improperly used databases to verify a person’s eligibility for a license. The report cites a “significant risk” that the licenses could be used as false identification or to commit fraud. The audit found that 97 percent of the licenses in question were still active in January 2018. Some licenses were issued in the name of people who had been dead since the early 1960s, but most cases involved people who had died since 2000, the report says.

Economic News

Wages for U.S. workers grew at 2.9 percent in the past year, the Labor Department reported Friday. It’s the fastest growth since 2009 and an encouraging sign that wages might finally be moving higher after years of sluggish gains. The higher pay is coming as businesses are having to compete hard for workers. The U.S. economy added a robust 201,000 jobs in August, the 95th straight month of gains and a record-setting streak of hiring. The national unemployment rate remained at 3.9 percent, one of the lowest levels in half a century. The U.S. economy has averaged 207,000 jobs a month so far this year, a healthy pace that indicates companies will continue to grow.

A debt and currency crisis has engulfed countries across the globe — from economies in South America, to Turkey, South Africa and some of the bigger economies in Asia, such as India and China. A number of these countries are seeing their currency fall to record levels, high inflation and unemployment, and in some cases, escalating tensions with the United States. The emerging market debt bubble is now three times larger than it was in 2007, and it is seven times larger than it was in 2002, according to CNBC. Emerging markets are also heavily plagued by debt and a stronger dollar makes it tougher for them to pay this debt. The latest data from the Institute of International Finance shows that debt in emerging markets including China increased from $9 trillion in 2002 to $21 trillion in 2007 and finally to $63 trillion in 2017. Many currencies of emerging market countries are falling rapidly, prompting fears of a larger, overall market meltdown.

Middle East

Citing lack of progress on peace negotiations, the Trump administration will announce Monday plans to shutter the Palestine Liberation Organization’s office in Washington – a move that drew an immediate rebuke from Palestinian officials who said the White House is trying to bully them. “We have been notified by a U.S. official of their decision to close the Palestinian Mission to the US.,” Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said in a statement Monday. “This is yet another affirmation of the Trump Administration’s policy to collectively punish the Palestinian people, including by cutting financial support for humanitarian services including health and education.” The Trump administration first threatened to close down the PLO’s office in Washington last fall but later backed off. On Saturday, the Trump administration announced it is “reprogramming” $25 million in aid that had been earmarked for hospitals in Arab sections of Jerusalem. The funding will instead be directed to “high-priority projects elsewhere,” a move that follows the administration’s decision to stop funding the Palestinians’ dedicated United Nations agency, UNRWA. Last Thursday, President Donald Trump told Jewish leaders that the Palestinians would not receive any more aid from the U.S. unless they made a deal with Israel.

North Korea

A peace declaration in the 65-year-old Korean war now appears to be a central sticking point in the U.S.-North Korea nuclear negotiations. The answer, for now, is no – at least from Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons first. On Tuesday, the White House said Trump had spoken with South Korean President Moon Jae, “including our ongoing efforts to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea as agreed to by Chairman Kim Jong Un. Also on Tuesday, NBC News reported that China has eased economic sanctions on North Korea, reopening trade in a move that undermines the Trump administration’s efforts to apply “maximum pressure” to the Kim regime. That development could seriously complicate the U.S.-North Korea negotiations, giving Kim increased leverage to make his demands, including a peace declaration.

North Korea held a military parade to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its founding on Sunday but refrained from displaying its long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles or mentioning its nuclear program amidst a period of diplomatic negotiations with the United States and South Korea. In previous years, the parade has been a showcase for Pyongyang’s latest weapons technology, but this year the event had a less bellicose tone, according to reports from foreign journalists invited to cover it. Kim Yong Nam, head of North Korea’s parliament, delivered a speech that focused mainly on economic development.

Syria

The last vestige of Islamic State territory in Syria came under attack, as members of an American-backed coalition said Tuesday that they had begun a final push to oust the militants from Hajin, the remaining sliver of territory under the group’s control in the region where it was born. The assault is the final chapter of a war that began more than four years ago after the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, seized enormous tracts of land in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate. The Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led militia that has been fighting the Islamic State in Syria with the United States and its allies, said in a statement that its forces had launched an offensive on the area from four sides on Monday evening.

Afghanistan

Seventeen years into the war in Afghanistan, American officials routinely issue inflated assessments of progress that contradict what is actually happening there, reports the New York Times. More than 2,200 Americans have been killed in the Afghan conflict, and the United States has spent more than $840 billion fighting the Taliban insurgency and paying for relief and reconstruction. The war has become more expensive, in current dollars, than the Marshall Plan, which helped to rebuild Europe after World War II. But since 2017, the Taliban have held more Afghan territory than at any time since the American invasion. In just one week last month, the insurgents killed 200 Afghan police officers and soldiers, overrunning two major Afghan bases and the city of Ghazni. The American military says the Afghan government effectively “controls or influences” 56 percent of the country. But, in many districts, the Afghan government controls only the district headquarters and military barracks, while the Taliban control the rest. Twin bombings at a wrestling training center in a Shiite neighborhood of Afghanistan’s capital last Wednesday killed at least 20 people, including two reporters, and wounded 70,

Nigeria

Residents say Boko Haram extremists have overrun a key crossroads and military outpost in northern Nigeria. Gudumbali is a town to which just months ago the government encouraged displaced people to return. Resident Umara Modu says extremists told people to leave and that they were not the target. Gudumbali was the site of one of the deadliest encounters in the fight again Boko Haram, with scores of soldiers killed in 2015. Modu says “I will never go back to Gudumbali again, no matter the assurance, because we went back after the military authority and the Borno state government promised us adequate security.”

Yemen

Talks aimed at bringing a peaceful end to the civil war in Yemen ended Saturday after the Houthi delegation failed to show. Nevertheless, the United Nations’ mediator Martin Griffiths vowed to keep pushing for a diplomatic solution to the crisis. The conflict in Yemen has become a proxy battle for supremacy in the troubled region. Saudi Arabia backs the government led by Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which was displaced by the war. President Hadi, a Sunni Muslim, has been living in exile in Riyadh. Iran supports the Houthi rebels, members of the Zaidi branch of Shiite Islam, who control of the capital city of Sana’a. The most recent statistics show that 56 percent of Yemen is Sunni and 42 percent identifies with the Zaidis.

Wildfires

A fast-moving brush fire in Shasta County, California, continued to rapidly grow in size, keeping about 50 miles of Interstate 5 closed in both directions Friday morning. The interstate, the West Coast’s main north-south thoroughfare, will be shut at least through Sunday. The Delta Fire, which broke out around 1 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, has grown to more than 38 square miles and is 0 percent contained. Five homes have been destroyed, but no injuries have been reported. Mandatory evacuations were ordered and an estimated 280 homes are threatened. Schools across Shasta County closed early Friday because of the smoky conditions created by the Delta Fire and other wildfires burning in the area. Just a few miles away, the 72-square-mile Hirz Fire is burning in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. With structures such as vacation cottages and gas stations threatened, fire officials have directed large air tankers to battle the blaze.

Earthquakes

Two powerful earthquakes rocked Japan within 20 minutes of each other early Thursday, just over a day after a typhoon in the country left at least 30 people dead with nine still missing. The quakes — magnitude-6.6 and -5.3 — struck Tomakomai, the fifth largest city in the Hokkaido area, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). They each had a depth of roughly 21 and 23 miles, respectively. The quakes triggered landslides and massive power outages. At least nine people are dead and scores more are injured. The quakes that struck 39 miles from Sapporo in southern Hokkaido where they buckled roads, knocked homes off their foundations and caused entire hillsides to collapse. On Tuesday, the strongest typhoon to make landfall in Japan since 1993 was recorded. It first made landfall on Japan’s southwestern island of Shikoku and then again near Kobe on Honshu (see below).

Residents of Davao City scampered towards safer ground, rushing out of buildings and malls following a powerful earthquake the rocked the southern Philippine city. A magnitude-6.4 quake jolted Davao Oriental at 3.16pm on Saturday. The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) recorded the epicentre at 104 km east of Davao.

Weather

As Category-4 Hurricane Florence aims at the Carolinas, the National Hurricane Center is calling Florence “extremely dangerous,” and predicts its peak winds could reach 150 mph, which is just 7 mph from Category 5. The center issued hurricane and storm surge watches for the East Coast from Edisto Beach, S.C., northward to the North Carolina-Virginia border, including the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. The center is warning of an “extremely dangerous” triple threat in the Carolinas and Virginia: 1) A “life-threatening storm surge” at the coast — a rise in ocean water over normally dry land; 2) Life-threatening freshwater flooding from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event from the coast to interior sections. Some estimates predict as much as 4 feet of rain; 3) Damaging hurricane-force winds at the coast and some distance inland.

Sea-surface temperatures in the Gulf of Maine soared to near-record highs in August in what scientists referred to as a month-long “marine heat wave” in the typically colder waters off the New England coast. During one 10-day period in August, the average sea-surface temperature in the Gulf of Maine was nearly 5 degrees above the average from 1982 to 2011. The Gulf of Maine warmed at a rate of about 0.1 degrees over the last 30 years – more than three times the global average.

This summer’s nighttime temperature, when averaged nationwide for June, July and August, was the hottest ever recorded at 60.9 degrees, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday. In fact, every state had an above-average summer minimum temperature. Summer overnight low temperatures are warming at a rate nearly twice as fast as afternoon high temperatures for the U.S. Records go back to 1895.

Signs of the Times

September 4, 2018

­But they mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works; They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood. (Psalm 106:35-38)

Dallas Billboard Promotes Abortion for Black Women

A new billboard in Dallas shows three smiling African American women on one side with a message on the other side that reads, “Black women take care of their families by taking care of themselves. ABORTION IS SELF-CARE.” It is sponsored by The Afiya Center, which calls itself the only “reproductive justice” organization in “North Texas founded and directed by Black women.” Pro-life advocate Abby Johnson, who once worked at a Planned Parenthood clinic, posted a picture of the billboard on her Facebook page with the message: “The abortion war against black women is so real.” Walter Hoye of Oakland, California, an African-American minister and founder of the Issues for Life Foundation, said that, every single day, 1,200 black babies are put to death in abortion facilities, making abortion the leading cause of death among African Americans. Nearly half of all black babies conceived die in abortion chambers today. “This means that a black child is safer on the streets of the worst neighborhoods in American than in his mother’s womb,” Hoye said

125 Women Take Abortion Pills to Protest Pro-Life Laws

In a deadly display of defiance, 125 women in South Korea swallowed abortion drugs in protest of the country’s pro-life laws. Korea Bizwire reports the protest took place Sunday in front of the Bosingak Pavilion in Seoul, South Korea. According to the report, 30 additional women took vitamins so that authorities would not be able to tell which women took the illegal abortion drugs. Wearing black, they demanded that the government legalize the killing of unborn babies. The pro-abortion group claimed 125 women abort their unborn babies illegally every day in South Korea, according to the report. They also urged the government to make abortion drugs legal and easily available. However, the drugs are dangerous and can be deadly to the mother as well as her unborn baby, reports LifeNews.com. Complications from abortion drugs include excessive bleeding, infection, incomplete abortion requiring surgery and death of the woman. A Food and Drug Administration report in 2017 found that 22 women died, more than 1,000 were hospitalized and nearly 600 experienced severe blood loss that required transfusions after taking the abortion drugs in the United States.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surge for 4th Straight Year

New cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis spiked nearly 10 percent in 2017, continuing a four-year trend of rising sexually transmitted diseases fueled by a lack of awareness and changing sexual behavior, federal health officials said Tuesday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 2.29 million new cases of these three common yet treatable sexually transmitted diseases were diagnosed in 2017. Left untreated, these infections can result in infertility or pregnancy complications or increase the risk of HIV transmission. Federal health officials are particularly troubled by the 67 percent jump in gonorrhea cases since 2013 because the bacterial infection has become resistant to all antibiotics except ceftriaxone. The rise in cases is at record levels, but the federal budget has not increased STD program funding since 2013, leaving health departments scrambling to address the problem with fewer resources.

America’s STD Problem a ‘Moral and Spiritual Crisis’

Franklin Graham pointed to news of skyrocketing STD rates in the United States as evidence of our collective “moral and spiritual crisis.” Graham expounded on his point by saying that sin always carries a cost. He concluded by pointing to God’s grace and quoting 1 Corinthians 6:18. “God loves us and wants to protect us. His Word tells us what to do: ‘Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.’” David Harvey, the executive director of the National Coalition of STD directors, said that President Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar should declare this “a public health crisis.”

Flag Flap Reaches New Extremes

A new movie, “First Man,” is debuting this month. It’s about American astronauts setting foot on the moon where Neil Armstrong planted an American flag. Ironically, the film stars Canadian actor Ryan Gosling as Astronaut Armstrong. Worse, that iconic flag scene was cut out of the final version of First Man. Now, Twitter has now taken to censoring GIFs for the American flag being planted on the moon by Armstrong as well. As reported by The Gateway Pundit, a GIF of the iconic moment when Armstrong planted the American flag on the moon’s surface was declared “sensitive,” which meant users had to click to “Learn More.”

U.S. Nixes Funding to U.N. Palestinian Refugee Program

The Trump administration announced Friday it will zero out funding for the United Nations’ aid program for Palestinian refugees, part of a broader effort to rein in foreign aid and restrict assistance to the West Bank and Gaza. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. is “no longer willing to shoulder the very disproportionate share of the burden of UNRWA’s costs,” referring to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. She said some countries in the Middle East, including Jordan, Egypt, and Qatar, have stepped up funding for the program, “but the overall international response has not been sufficient.” She also argued that UNRWA recognizes too many Palestinians as refugees, creating an “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries” that is unsustainable.

California End Bail System

California will end the cash bail system in a sweeping reform for the state. Rather than requiring defendants to pay in order to be released before trial, their release will hinge on an assessment of their risk to public safety. “Today, California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly,” Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement. California is the first state to eliminate money bail completely, according to the Pretrial Justice Institute, an organization that advocates for pretrial justice reform. Critics have long contended that the money bail system perpetuates inequality. While some people are able to quickly get out of jail by posting bail, people who aren’t able to afford it sit in jail until the court takes action, or until they work with a bail bond agent to secure their freedom, which can leave them in debt.

Florida’s Unending Red Tide is Killing Wildlife, Tourism and Businesses

Florida’s worst red tide in more than a decade had turned aqua-blue surf to a rusty dull brown. The lifeguards. are wearing gas masks. it’s no longer a threat to just marine life. Business owners in the hardest-hit counties report they have lost nearly $90 million and have laid off about 300 workers because of the red tide and a separate freshwater algal bloom in the state’s largest lake. Together, the two blooms have caused a sharp drop in tourism. A pair of toxic algal blooms striking the state at the same time is rare and, in this case, especially lethal. A red tide is a natural phenomenon that develops miles offshore before making its way to the coast, where it feeds on a variety of pollutants, including phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizer, along with other runoff and wastewater.

Economic News

More than 30 percent of student loan borrowers are in default, late or have stopped making payments after just six years, according to Ben Miller, senior director for post-secondary education at the Center for American Progress. Historically, the Department of Education has only reported the default rates of students three years after graduation, which come out to just over 10 percent. By comparison, three-year credit card default rates are under one percent. But when Miller looked at information on student loan borrowers six years after graduation, he found that 15.5 percent were in default, 4.8 percent were more than 90 days late on their payments and 10.2 percent were not making payments on their loans at all. Since 2007, the total amount of student loan debt in America has nearly tripled.

From Argentina’s peso to the Turkish lira, the currencies of emerging markets are taking a battering. Both economies have been plunged into turmoil this year. Their currencies have collapsed, coming under pressure from an array of forces including rising US interest rates, political clashes and the global trade war. The pressures have exposed frailties in multiple emerging markets, particularly the reliance on funding from foreign investors, who are more likely to pull out their money as local currencies drop in value. Worries about Argentina and Turkey have prompted nervous investors to retreat from other economies that are viewed as vulnerable. On Friday, Indonesia’s currency plunged to its lowest level against the US dollar since the Asian financial crisis 20 years ago. India’s rupee is down almost 10% since the start of the year, and Brazil’s real is down 20% against the dollar this year as of last Friday.

Persecution Watch

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued statements this week harshly criticizing Iran for a brutal crackdown on Christians which has recently included imprisonment of several well-known leaders. AI said in their statement that the Christian leaders “have been targeted solely for peacefully practicing their Christian faith” which included such activities as organizing house churches and Bible studies in private homes, all of which has been characterized by Iranian security services as “threats to national security.

The United Nations has condemned the treatment of Christian ethnic minorities in Myanmar as “crimes against humanity” in a damning newly-released report. PreMediass attention has focused on the elements of the report which call for genocide prosecutions against leaders of the Myanmar Army for actions against Rohingya Muslims. But the report also highlights “similar patterns of conduct by security forces” against Christians in Kachin and Shan states in Myanmar. The independent fact-finding mission reported “Violations against ethnic and religious minorities in northern Myanmar are often committed with persecutory intent, in a context of severe discrimination on ethnic or religious grounds. This manifests, for example, in the destruction or ransacking of churches and religious objects during military operations (and sometimes subsequent erecting of Buddhist pagodas).”

Terrorism Update

A 19-year-old Afghan citizen had a “terrorist motive” for allegedly stabbing two Americans at the main train station in Amsterdam, city authorities in the Dutch capital said Saturday. Amsterdam police shot and wounded the suspect after the stabbings Friday at Central Station. “Based on the suspect’s first statements, he had a terrorist motive,” the city administration said in a statement that did not elaborate on what the statements were or how they showed intent. The wounded Americans were recovering in a hospital from what police termed serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Syria

Several UN Security Council ambassadors on Tuesday voiced concern over the fate of civilians in the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib, as Damascus appears ready to militarily re-take the region. Following a council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria, Western nations warned of the dire consequences of an attack by the government of Bashar al-Assad. “There are alarming signs of a pending military offensive in northwestern Syria,” said Carl Skau, Sweden’s ambassador to the Security Council. “Increased military escalation,” he warned, “would have catastrophic consequences and can lead to a humanitarian disaster.” The strategically important northwestern province of Idlib borders on Turkey and is the last holdout of rebels in Syria. John Ging, a senior official with the UN Humanitarian Affairs office, said that observers have seen a “serious deterioration of the humanitarian situation” in northwestern Syria in the past weeks.

Incoming and outgoing flights in Israel will be affected by the massive Russian military maneuvers off the Syrian coast, Israel’s Airports Authority cautioned Tuesday. Syrian forces have been preparing for an onslaught on the Idlib province in the country, the last rebel stronghold, while the Russian military has been amassing unprecedented forces off the Syrian coast that would lend support to Assad. The Russian Defense Ministry announced last week that it deployed 25 ships, including a missile cruiser, and 30 jets for the maneuvers.

Iran

U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil industry will “cripple” the Middle Eastern country’s economy after they take effect in early November, according to a report released last Wednesday by Oxford Economics. The economic sanctions were originally lifted by the Iran nuclear deal negotiated in 2015 during President Barack Obama’s administration. President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact in May, calling it inadequate and claiming it would not prevent Iran from making nuclear weapons. He then followed up earlier this month with his decision to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran. The sanctions specifically targeting Iran’s oil industry take effect Nov. 4. Oil and crude exports form the backbone of Iran’s economy and represents the primary source of revenue and foreign currency for the government. The economy is already in poor shape and protests have been mounting over high unemployment.

An Iranian civil aviation company is suspected of smuggling arms into Lebanon, destined for the militant group Hezbollah and Iranian weapons factories — and western intelligence sources said Monday they’ve uncovered the unexpected routes that Iran apparently took to try avoiding detection. The route passed over northern Lebanon, not following any commonly used flight path. A regional intelligence source who asked to remain anonymous said: “The Iranians are trying to come up with new ways and routes to smuggle weapons from Iran to its allies in the Middle East, testing and defying the West’s abilities to track them down.” Western intelligence sources said the airplane carried components for manufacturing precise weapons in Iranian factories inside Lebanon. The U.S. and Israel, as well as other western intelligence agencies, have supplied evidence that Iran has operated weapons factories in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. Last week, citing Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources, the Reuters news agency reported that Iran had transferred short-range ballistic missiles to its Shiite allies inside Iraq in recent months.

Earthquakes

Southern California received a jolt last Tuesday evening when a 4.4 magnitude earthquake shook the region, but there were no reports of injuries or damage. The tremor struck less than three miles north of La Verne, California, at 7:33 p.m. local time Tuesday night, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicenter was about 25 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The temblor was about four miles deep, and forceful shaking was reported near the epicenter. A 3.4 magnitude aftershock was reported one minute after the main quake.

Wildfires

Wildfires in the U.S. have charred more than 10,000 square miles so far this year, an area larger than the state of Maryland, with large fires still burning in every Western state including many that are yet fully contained. Smoke from this summer’s Western wildfires — a potential health hazard for at-risk individuals — prompted the closure of Yosemite National Park for more than two weeks and drifted to the East Coast, according to NASA. Recent research says it also impacts climate change as small particles spiral into the upper atmosphere and interfere with the sun’s rays. Scientists broadly agree wildfires are getting bigger in North America and other parts of the world as the climate warms. But still emerging is how that change will alter the natural progression of fire and regrowth. The time interval between wildfires in some locations is getting shorter, even as there’s less moisture to help trees regrow. That means some forests burn, then never grow back, converting instead into shrub land more adapted to frequent fire. A longer fire season and bigger fires in the boreal forests of Alaska and Canada are burning not just trees but also tundra and organic matter in soils, which hold roughly a third of the Earth’s terrestrial carbon.

  • Increasingly extreme weather and concomitant wildfires are key signs of the impending end-times ((Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Weather

Flash flooding caused road closures and stranded motorists in parts of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania on Friday afternoon. The National Weather Service says rainfall totals of up to 3 inches per hour were causing the flooding. NWS said 10.57 inches of rain fell over nine hours in Mount Joy Almost 8 inches was reported at Schaefferstown over a four hour period. Lancaster Online reported that a bus filled with students was trapped in the floodwaters along Route 230 but the students were eventually evacuated. Several local highways were shut down. One man is dead and the search continues for a woman who remains missing after being swept from a bridge Friday as heavy rains triggered flash flooding in Maryland on Saturday. Heavy rainfall triggered significant flash flooding early Monday in the northeastern Kansas city of Manhattan, about 50 miles west of Topeka. The Corps of Engineers office measured an overnight rain total of 8.9 inches just north-northwest of downtown Manhattan Monday morning. Multiple roads in Manhattan were impassable due to high water.

Water levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell are dropping to dangerous levels, reflecting the Colorado River’s worsening “structural deficit,” scientists said. Lake Powell is about 48 percent full, and Lake Mead is about 38 percent full. By the end of the year, Powell’s levels are projected to fall 94 feet (29 meters) below where the reservoir stood in 2000 when it was nearly full. The Colorado River basin, which feeds the two reservoirs, has been drying out over the last two decades, scientists said. With the demands from farms and cities exceeding the available the water supply, the strains on the river and reservoirs are being compounded by growing population, drought and climate change. The Colorado River and its tributaries support about 40 million people and more than 7,800 square miles (20,200 square kilometers) of farmland.

Signs of the Times

August 27, 2018

­And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. (Ephesians 5:11-13)

Ex-Vatican Diplomat Calls on Pope Francis to Resign over Abuse Coverup

Pope Francis should resign for his “sinful conduct” in covering up sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a retired Vatican diplomat says. Francis had recently become pope in 2013 when he asked Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò his thoughts on McCarrick, Viganò says in a damning, 11-page open letter published Sunday. According to Viganò, he told Pope Francis about Cardinal McCarrick’s thick dossier which chronicled McCarrick’s ongoing sexual abuse. “He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests,” Viganò reportedly told Pope Francis. Viganò, who was serving as the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.S., told Francis that his predecessor, Pope Benedict, had ordered McCarrick to leave the seminary where he was living and withdraw to a life of prayer and penance. He said Francis dropped the sanctions against McCarrick, a well-known liberal by church standards, and “continued to cover for him.” McCarrick resigned last month amid claims of sexual abuse of an altar boy and seminarians.

School District Bans Pregnancy Center from Promoting Abstinence

Most parents agree that a high school sex education program ought to include accurate, comprehensive information about healthy teen relationships. But in Pennsylvania’s Wallingford-Swarthmore School District, that no longer is the case, reports Townhall.com. Due to progressive student and staff protests, Drexel Hill’s Amnion Pregnancy Center will no longer be permitted to deliver content to students at Strath Haven High School. High school senior Abby McElroy complained to school officials that Amnion’s classroom sex education presentation had promoted abstinence. The 17-year-old student at Strath Haven High School claims that the presentation made sexually active students feel “shamed.” While McElroy admits that Amnion did not mention religion once during the class period, she claims they do have Biblical references on their website. After news of the allegations against Amnion came out, more than 500 people signed a Change.org petition against the pregnancy center’s future participation at the school. According to Almion’s executive director Melanie Parks, their organization is not faith-based. Almion’s website says that their RealEd sex education program is intended “to provide a framework that empowers young people to think through their own values and morals and make healthy decisions about relationships.”

  • Another example of intolerance against conservative and/or Christian values

United Way Affiliates Send Millions to Planned Parenthood

Despite an expose in recent years that the Planned Parenthood abortion business sells the body parts of aborted babies, and despite the fact that Planned Parenthood is the nation’s biggest abortion company, a new report indicates that United Way affiliates fund it with millions in donations, reports lifenews.com. Not only do dozens of United Way affiliates donate to the Planned Parenthood abortion business, but those donations have increased to over the $2.5 million, 2ndVote, the conservative watchdog for corporate activism, released its annual findings on United Way’s financial support for Planned Parenthood. The report tracks 1,200 United Way affiliates. Analysis of the most recent IRS Form 990 filings and other documentation found 62 United Way affiliates sent $2,756,799 to Planned Parenthood abortion organizations in tax year 2016.

Trump Revokes $200M Aid to Gaza, West Bank

The Trump administration will revoke more than $200 million in economic aid for the West Bank and Gaza, the State Department announced Friday. The move came after a State Department review examining whether the funding was in “U.S. national interests” and of value to American taxpayers. In a terse announcement, the State Department said it would redirect the $200 million to “high-priority projects elsewhere.” The move drew immediate fire from Democrats in Congress, who said it would roil an already volatile part of the world and undermine U.S. efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The withdrawal of economic aid to the Palestinians comes as the Trump administration is preparing to unveil a highly anticipated Middle East peace plan – an effort that appears to be faltering even before it gets off the ground. One contentious element of that plan would reportedly tie economic development for Gaza and the West Bank to significant concessions from the Palestinians, including giving permanent control of Jerusalem to the Israelis.

U.S., Mexico Reach Partial Deal to Revamp NAFTA

The White House says announced Monday that negotiators for the U.S. and Mexico have reached a partial deal to revise parts of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The announcement of a deal comes after five consecutive weeks of talks between the two nations to revise key parts of the 24-year-old pact, which President Trump has repeatedly denigrated as the “worst trade deal ever.” The U.S. and Mexico are hoping to get a final deal signed before Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto leaves office on Dec. 1. Negotiations between the United States and Mexico resolved a major stumbling block on auto manufacturing Under the current law, about 62% of the parts in any car sold in North America must be produced in the region or automakers have to pay import taxes. The new preliminary agreement would increase that requirement. However, the fate of any new deal will hinge on Canada, which has been on the sidelines during the latest round of negotiations but still must sign off on any changes to NAFTA.

Federal Judge Overturns Trump’s Executive Orders to Promote Government Efficiency

A federal judge dealt a blow Saturday to President Donald Trump’s efforts to “promote more efficient” government, ruling that key provisions of three recent executive orders “undermine federal employees’ right to bargain collectively” under federal law. U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said Trump had “exceeded his authority” in issuing the orders. The White House had no comment and referred questions to the Justice Department, which said it was reviewing the judge’s ruling and considering options. Federal worker unions that had sued to block Trump’s use of his executive authority in this area applauded the outcome. The executive orders, issued by the White House in May, covered collective bargaining rights, grievance procedures and use of “official time.”

  • Excessive bloat in government bureaucracy is like a cancer that keeps on growing and growing, feeding off the notion that government should fix all of society’s ills. A recent Reuters–Ipsos poll found that 70% of Americans (85% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans) want the U.S. government to provide medical care for everyone. Of course, the question didn’t note that taxes would probably go up a lot as well.

Court Says Fourth Amendment Applies to Smart Meter Data

The Seventh Circuit just handed down a landmark opinion, ruling 3-0 that the Fourth Amendment protects energy-consumption data collected by smart meters. Smart meters collect energy usage data at high frequencies—typically every 5, 15, or 30 minutes—and therefore know exactly how much electricity is being used, and when, in any given household. The court recognized that data from these devices reveals intimate details about what’s going on inside the home that would otherwise be unavailable to the government without a physical search. The court held that residents have a reasonable expectation of privacy in this data and that the government’s access of it constitutes a “search.” This case, Naperville Smart Meter Awareness v. City of Naperville, is the first case addressing whether the Fourth Amendment protects smart meter data. Courts have in the past held that the Fourth Amendment does not protect monthly energy usage readings from traditional, analog energy meters, the predecessors to smart meters. About 65 million smart meters have been installed in the United States in recent years. More than 40% of American households now have a smart meter.

Social Media Purge Iranian Disinformation Sites

Google has removed dozens of YouTube channels it says are linked to an influence operation run by Iran’s state broadcaster. The disclosure comes just days after Facebook, Instagram and Twitter purged hundreds of accounts that originated in Iran that were spreading disinformation in the United States and abroad. In all, Google says it shut down 58 accounts on its video service YouTube and other sites. Cybersecurity firm FireEye tipped off Google, which says it has briefed law enforcement officials and shared its findings with lawmakers. Last week, Facebook disclosed it had uncovered a network operated by Iranian state media and removed 652 pages, groups and accounts for “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on Facebook and Instagram. CEO Mark Zuckerberg hinted more revelations of nation-state disinformation campaigns may come to light in coming months.

Economic News

Powered by big gains in popular technology companies like Apple, Amazon and Netflix, the Nasdaq composite barreled through the 8,000 milestone for the first time Monday and hit a new all-time high. The surge is the latest sign that the longest bull market in Wall Street history remains healthy and continues to be driven by innovative tech companies that are transforming the way people communicate, shop and consume media. The Nasdaq, which is now up more than 16 percent this year after surging 28.2 percent in 2017, is being led by the so-called “FAANG” stocks — Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet — which are responsible for a big chunk of the tech-dominated index’s sizable gains. Innovation in smart phones, social media, video streaming, cloud-based computing and machine learning is boosting the fortunes of tech leaders.

America’s wealthy households are increasingly moving to coastal cities on both sides of the country, but those with more modest incomes are either relocating to or being pushed into the nation’s Rust Belt, according to a new study by BuildZoom. That’s creating “income sorting” across the country, with expensive cities like Los Angeles, New York and Seattle drawing wealthier residents. For instance, Americans who move to San Francisco earn nearly $13,000 more than those who move away, the study found. Conversely, those who are moving into less expensive inland cities such as Detroit or Pittsburgh earn up to $5,000 less than those who are leaving.

The Trump administration’s latest round of tariffs on Chinese goods kicked in Thursday, drawing immediate retaliation from Beijing. The new exchange of fire in the trade war between the two economic superpowers comes as officials from both countries hold talks in Washington over the dispute. The United States imposed 25% tariffs on another $16 billion of Chinese goods, affecting 279 products, including chemical products, motorcycles, speedometers and antennas. China responded immediately with 25% tariffs on an equal amount of American goods, such as chemical products and diesel fuel. China and the United States have now imposed tariffs on $50 billion of each other’s goods in the tariff war, which the Trump administration launched in an effort to punish China for what it says are unfair trade practices, such as stealing intellectual property.

Sears Holdings is closing 46 more Sears or Kmart stores as the struggling retailer seeks stability amid questions about its future. The latest plan involves closing 13 Kmart locations and 33 Sears stores in November, all of which are losing money. The company has closed several hundred locations in recent years. The company had 365 Kmart stores and 506 Sears full-line stores as of May 5. Over the previous year, the company closed 379 full-line stores.

North Korea

President Donald Trump on Friday nixed a planned trip to North Korea by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, suggesting Kim Jong Un’s regime had not made good on promises to relinquish its nuclear weapons arsenal.  The president said Pompeo would go at a later date, after the U.S. and China resolve an escalating trade war that has complicated America’s diplomatic efforts in North Korea. During a highly publicized summit on June 12 in Singapore, Trump and Kim signed a vaguely worded agreement in which North Korea promised to work toward a “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” But the North Koreans have not taken any visible, concrete steps toward fulfilling that pledge.

Iran

Iran’s parliament voted Sunday to fire the country’s finance minister amid an economic free fall fanned by America’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with world powers, dealing another blow to President Hassan Rouhani’s embattled administration. It’s unlikely that parliament’s dismissal of Masoud Karbasian will stem the downward spiral, with the currency, the rial, falling to new lows against the U.S. dollar amid chronically high unemployment and inflation in the country. But it shows the Shiite Muslim theocracy’s growing recognition of the anger felt across the country of 80 million, which has seen months of sporadic protests challenging the ruling clerics. Karbasian’s dismissal comes after lawmakers similarly dismissed Rouhani’s labor minister, Ali Rabiei, this month.

A major shipping route located between Oman and Iran where nearly one-third of the world’s sea-traded oil passes through daily may become a new flashpoint after a top Iranian Navy general said Monday that the country has taken full control of the Strait of Hormuz. The strait, which at its narrowest point is 21 miles wide, has shipping lanes that are 2 miles wide in each direction and is the only sea passage from many of the world’s largest oil producers to the Indian Ocean. The blockage of the Strait of Hormuz, even temporarily, could lead to substantial increases in total energy costs.

Islamic State

Islamic State has lost most of the territory it once held in Syria and Iraq. It is vying for survival with other, sometimes stronger, extremist groups. But one sphere where Islamic State still reigns supreme among terrorists is in cyberspace. The group’s vast online presence is a critical recruitment and marketing tool that has helped it build a brutish brand using propaganda and sometimes false claims. Maintaining the perception that Islamic State is still a force in the world is all the more important as its territorial control, or self-declared caliphate, has almost completely collapsed. The latest example of the role of such online propaganda came on Thursday, when Islamic State’s official news outlet claimed that a man who stabbed his mother and sister to death in France had responded to its calls to attack citizens of countries that are part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the group. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb disputed the statement, saying the perpetrator was mentally unstable. That claim came a day after Islamic State released what it said was a recording of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the first in nearly a year, calling for supporters abroad to continue attacks on Western cities.

South Africa Seizing White-Owned Farms

South Africa faces potential economic calamity if it moves ahead with the seizure of largely white-owned farmland, analysts warned this week, as global investors reacted to a plan that government leaders say is necessary to correct decades-old wrongs of apartheid that left deep, systemic wealth inequalities and land ownership disparities along racial lines, reports the Washington Times. South African economic analysts and U.S. observers say the country risks inviting the kind of devastation that left neighboring Zimbabwe’s economy in ruins after a similar forced expropriation scheme targeting some of the country’s most productive farmland.

Volcanoes

Mount Etna in Sicily is again erupting and is shooting chunks of lava up to 500 feet in the air. Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) says the volcano began spewing plumes of ash and lava on Thursday evening. The volcano, which “re-awoke” in late July, continued on Friday to feed ash plumes several hundred yards into the air above the crater. No evacuations were ordered for towns on the volcano, and flights into the nearby airport at Catania are continuing uninterrupted. Mount Etna is Europe’s largest active volcano. It has one of the world’s longest documented records of historical volcanism, dating back to 1500 B.C.

Earthquakes

A powerful earthquake shook eastern Venezuela on Tuesday afternoon, forcing residents in the capital city of Caracas to evacuate buildings and flee their homes. The 7.3 quake – the largest to strike Venezuela since 1900, according to the U.S. Geological Survey – was felt throughout the Caribbean. But at a depth of some 76 miles, it appeared to have caused only limited damage. Its epicenter was a few miles off the sparsely populated Cariaco peninsula stretching into the eastern Caribbean.

Wildfires

German firefighters battling a large inferno in a forest southwest of Berlin faced an added challenge in recent days: buried, exploding World War II ammunition that was being set off by the wildfire. The fire started Thursday afternoon and spread quickly through the dry pine forests in the Treuenbrietzen region, 30 miles outside of Berlin. The fire sent thick smoke toward Berlin and forced several nearby villages to evacuate. The blaze grew to the size of about 500 soccer fields and detonated ammunition several times, keeping firefighters from entering some areas of the forest.

 

Weather

Israel’s Water Authority published a report on Sunday showing that the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) and several smaller lakes, streams and tributaries throughout the Land of Israel are reaching their lowest levels since records began to be kept as the country endures the fifth year of a severe drought. The report projects that the drought will linger and perhaps intensify in the years to come, prompting spiritual leaders to implore those who love Israel to pray for a wet, rainy winter in 2018-2019.

Signs of the Times

August 21, 2018

­For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. (Isaiah57:15)

Miracles Mark Ongoing Revival in Small Georgia Church

Physical healings, deliverance and more than 500 baptisms have taken place during Sunday-night services at Christ Fellowship in Dawsonville, Georgia, for the past six months. Pastor Todd Smith says people have come from hundreds of miles to “walk into that water and feel the presence of the Lord.” Christ Fellowship, with about 300 to 400 regular attendees, sees its Sunday-night services swell to 600 at times, with individuals and churches traveling in from all parts of Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee to connect with the presence of God. A handful of local pastors and some nationally known evangelists have taken turns preaching the Sunday night services. But the worship and sermons are only a prelude to the manifestation of God’s power when an altar call and an invitation to be baptized are made.

Atheist Group: ‘Lock Up’ USAF Commander for His Faith

The atheistic Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) filed a complaint contending that a Christian commander with the United States Air Force should be fired and imprisoned for expressing his faith. MRFF filed the formal complaint with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, accusing the newly installed commander at California’s Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, of multiple crimes. Teichert  “engaged in] intolerance/proselytizing; violations of DoD diversity & civil liberties policies; and Air Force standards violations,” MRFF’s complaint states. The anti-Christian group also launched a public smear campaign, insisting that Teichert should not just be relieved of his military duties, but also be thrown in jail. “Sometime in early 2013, he created a public webpage and the blog – along with social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter) – to promote his fundamentalist, dominionist ‘Christian’ beliefs,” MRFF’s demand letter alleged. The atheist group was also greatly disturbed that Teichert called for prayer that America would return to its Christian roots, as the general expressed below.

Revival at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri

A U.S. Army Chaplain says a revival is taking place on the base of Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. Since March nearly I,839 troops have reportedly come to the Lord. Chaplain (Capt.) Jose Rondon ministers at the base each week and has been posting testimonies and baptisms of new converts on his Facebook page. “Today, 380 soldiers came to salvation in Christ once and for all,” Rondon says in one post. “Thanks CH Tony Cech for the excellent, clear, and powerful messages during the 3 services. Since March 11, 2018, we have seen 1,839 soldiers coming to Christ. God’s doing an unbelievable work through our military at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.” “The current spiritual awakening at Fort Leonard Wood is indicative of a great move of God taking place within the Armed Services today,”  says retired Major General Doug Carver.

100,000 Attend Harvest Crusade Despite Bans on Posters

Some 100,000 Southern Californians packed out Angel Stadium of Anaheim during the three nights of the 29th annual SoCal Harvest, which ran from Aug. 17–19. Bibles in hand and friends by their sides, thousands poured into the stadium venue ready to hear the Gospel delivered by pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie, who was joined by top Christian artists Chris Tomlin, MercyMe and Phil Wickham over the course of the weekend. More than 325,000 participated in the SoCal Harvest virtually via live internet broadcasts and Facebook Live, with the outreach experiencing a 177 percent increase in its Facebook Live viewership over last year.  More than 10,000 people responded to Laurie’s nightly invitation to make a commitment of faith in Christ by walking onto the field of Angel Stadium to pray with a Harvest team member standing by, or by indicating their faith decision through the SoCal Harvest live internet broadcast. A local real estate company had removed billboards promoting the event after receiving complaints about the display of a Bible.

Church Protected Over 300 ‘Predator Priests’ Says PA Grand Jury

Church leaders protected more than 300 “predator priests” in six Roman Catholic dioceses across Pennsylvania for decades because they were more interested in safeguarding the church and the abusers than tending to their victims, says a scathing grand jury report released Tuesday. More than 1,000 young victims were identifiable from the church’s own records, the report says. “Priests were raping little boys and girls and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing: They hid it all.” The redacted report details the latest in a decades-long series of claims of abuse and protection leveled against the Catholic church across the nation and around the world. “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them,” Pope Francis wrote, urging all 1.2 billion Catholics to fight the culture that had enabled sexual abuse.

  • Another huge black eye for Christ from the denomination that is unfortunately most-closely associated with Christianity, yet is far removed from true biblical Christianity, “Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men,” (Mark 7:7)

Catholic School Terminates Lesbian Employee, Sparking Controversy

Roncalli High School in Indianapolis placed guidance counselor Shelly Fitzgerald on paid administrative leave Sunday after officials learned of her lesbian relationship, The Indianapolis Star reported. She had worked at the school for 15 years and has been asked either to resign or dissolve her marriage, she told local media. The private Catholic high school was within its legal right to terminate the female employee who married another woman, a legal expert says. Jim Bopp, an attorney and legal expert, said the private school legally can require employees to follow a code of conduct because it is a religious organization. The school is exempt from the Indianapolis anti-discrimination ordinance, he said. Fitzgerald’s termination has divided the school community and received extensive local media coverage. Roncalli board member Daniel Parker resigned to protest the termination. But the school says it was following Catholic teaching.

Oprah Winfrey Promotes “Shout Your Abortion” Movement

Oprah Winfrey waded deeper into political waters this summer by promoting the “Shout Your Abortion” movement and its attempts to normalize the killing of unborn babies by having women brag about their abortions. The July issue of her “O” magazine featured “Shout Your Abortion” founder Amelia Bonow in its “Inspiration” section, CNS News reports. Bonow, who began the campaign to urge women to brag about aborting their unborn babies, soon will be coming out with a new book by the same title. Bonow said the campaign really took off when a friend shared her post on Twitter with the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion. She blamed the pro-life movement for trying to silence women who have had abortions. However, the pro-life movement, Silent No More, promotes women telling their stories. It encourages people who experienced pain and regret after their abortions to share their stories publicly, and its website documents thousands of stories of mothers, fathers, grandparents and others who experienced deep pain and remorse because of unborn babies’ abortion deaths.

Chelsea Clinton Claims Abortions Gave $3.5 Trillion Boost to Economy

Last week, Chelsea Clinton claimed the infamous U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade was a good thing — not only because it supposedly gave women the “dignity to make our own choices,” but also because it led to an alleged $3.5 trillion boost to America’s economy. As LifeNews reported this past week, instead of adding $3.5 trillion to the economy, that loss of lives has caused a cumulative GDP deficit of $62.6 trillion that continues to climb with each passing year. By 2040, that cumulative deficit will likely reach $400 trillion. The logic is simple. Every unborn baby killed in abortion is a worker who could have been contributing to the economy, as well as their children, and eventually their grandchildren and so on.

EPA Rolls Back Obama-Era Coal Pollution Rules

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that it would roll-back the environmental regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Instead, the EPA will allow states to set their own emissions standards for coal-fueled power plants. The move would reverse Obama administration efforts to combat climate change and marks the fulfilment of a campaign promise at the heart of President Trump’s appeal in coal-producing states like West Virginia, where he is attending a celebratory rally. The move is just the latest effort by the Trump administration to revive an ailing coal industry. Critics say the decision will result in much more carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change.

Russians Targeting Senate and Conservative Think Tanks

Parts of an operation linked to Russian military intelligence targeting the US Senate and conservative think tanks that advocated for tougher policies against Russia were thwarted last week, Microsoft announced early Tuesday. The disclosure, coming less than three months ahead of the 2018 midterms, demonstrates new ways in which Russia is attempting to destabilize US institutions. In its announcement, Microsoft said it executed a court order giving it control of six websites created by a group known as Fancy Bear. The group was behind the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee and directed by the GRU, the Russian military intelligence unit, according to cybersecurity firms. The websites could have been used to launch cyberattacks on candidates and other political groups ahead of November’s elections, Microsoft said.

Persecution Update

Incidents of anti-Semitism in Britain are near record levels. The Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that fights anti-Semitism, recorded 727 anti-Semitic incidents in the first six months of 2018, the second-highest total ever marked for the first half of a year since the CST began recording anti-Semitic incidents in 1984. Only the total for the first six months of 2017 has been higher. The current climate has shaken Britain’s roughly 300,000-strong Jewish community. Since the UK took in some 90,000 Jews from the European mainland as World War II loomed, it has been considered one of the safest places in the world for Jews to live. Unlike in neighboring France, where a 2015 terror attack targeted a kosher supermarket and a Holocaust survivor was killed in her home in March, no lethal violence has occurred. But the conversation is changing. “Some of our volunteers from the coalition have become aware of so many incidents through their work with us that they have decided to leave and have moved with their families.”

Terrorism Update

A man crashed a car into security barriers outside the Houses of Parliament in London, injuring two pedestrians Tuesday in an incident British police are investigating as a terror attack. It was the fourth vehicle-based terror attack in London in less than 18 months. The driver of the car — in his late 20s — was arrested at the scene on suspicion of terrorism offenses. Few other details about him, his identity or a possible motive were released. No one else was in the car and no weapons were found with him.

Groups of youths in Sweden set fire to dozens of cars in the city of Gothenburg and surrounding towns on Monday, in what Prime Minister Stefan Lofven described as “extremely organized” attacks. Police said up to 100 cars were burned or damaged in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-biggest city, as well as in Trollhattan, an industrial area with high unemployment, and Falkenberg. A number of cars were also burned overnight in Stockholm. Police did not say what might have motivated the attacks, only confirming that gangs of youths were involved. Witnesses told police the alleged offenders were dressed in dark clothing and hoodies.

Economic News

The nation’s food-stamp program is one of the largest run by the government — at $70 billion a year. But while the economy has improved dramatically, food-stamp enrollment has not, declining just 17 percent while the unemployment rate fell three times faster — 62 percent. Why the disconnect? Critics say states are milking the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), overstating their needs, while the Trump administration is approving state “work waivers” it doesn’t have to. “We have almost seven million open jobs across America,” said Foundation for Government Accountability executive director Kristina Rasmussen. “Employers are struggling to find workers. Yet we have people sitting on sidelines in part, because they can — on food stamps.”

Turkey is just the latest developing economy to plunge into chaos. The Turkish lira has shed more than 40% since January, while the country’s stock market has been cut in half. The turmoil follows a similar currency crash in Argentina that led to a rescue by the International Monetary Fund. In recent days, the Russian ruble, Indian rupee and South African rand have also tumbled dramatically. The recent overseas turbulence is being driven by a confluence of factors. The most obvious is the Federal Reserve raising interest rates and shrinking its $4.5 trillion balance sheet in response to economic strength and warming inflation in the United States. Removing easy money from the market has sent the U.S. dollar soaring against rivals. The stronger greenback is a recipe for disaster for emerging markets like Turkey that binged on debt that was priced in cheaper dollars.

The 50 percent runup in U.S. home prices since 2011 is reshuffling the pecking order of hot housing markets. Many midsize metro areas that had once been affordable are experiencing declining sales amid sharply rising prices and shrinking supplies. Metro area sales fell 4.3 percent in 2017 year and are down 0.5 percent so far this year. Meanwhile, many smaller, more affordable markets – such as Boise, Idaho; Dayton, Ohio; Greenville, South Carolina; and Winston-Salem – are benefiting from an influx of new residents and home sales that continue to climb. Even in second-tier metro areas – ranked 26th to 50th by population – single-family house prices increased 10 percent in the 12 months ending in the first quarter to a median of $343,000, according to Moody’s figures. The soaring prices have taken a toll. Homeowners devote 35.1 percent of their monthly income to housing costs, up from a 27.8 percent average over the past 13 years, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.

Greece Exits EU Bailouts

After eight years and roughly $330 billion in loans, Greece is leaving bailouts behind. The country on Monday officially exited the last of the three enormous rescue programs that saved it from going bust and abandoning the euro. But the bailouts from the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission came at a huge cost that will still be felt for years to come. In exchange for the money, Greece agreed to drastically cut spending and implement painful economic reforms. Government employees had their salaries slashed, their pensions frozen, and their retirement age pushed higher. Consumer spending plummeted, unemployment spiked and many businesses shut down. The Greek economy is now three-quarters of the size it was in 2007, before the crisis started. The government, whose runaway spending fueled the financial meltdown, seems to have put its house in order. It went from a 15% budget deficit in 2009 to a 1% surplus in 2017. The Greek economy is expected to grow 2% this year and 2.4% next year, after shrinking for eight out of the past 10 years. Public debt is forecast to peak this year at over 188% of Gross Domestic Product before declining to 151% by 2023, the year Greece is due for another review and possible debt relief.

France Pulls Oil Business Out of Iran

Iran’s oil minister said on Monday that France’s oil giant Total SA has officially pulled out of Iran due to the renewed U.S. sanctions. Total SA canceled its $5 billion, 20-year agreement to develop the country’s massive South Pars offshore natural gas field. Earlier this month, Iran said China’s state-owned petroleum corporation took a majority 80 percent share of the project. CNPC originally had some 30 percent of shares in the project. Chinese buyers of Iranian oil are starting to shift their cargoes to vessels owned by National Iranian Tanker Co  for nearly all of their imports to keep supply flowing amid the re-imposition of economic sanctions. The renewed U.S. sanctions took effect in August, after America’s pullout from the nuclear deal in May. The re-instatement of the sanctions exacerbated a financial crisis in Iran, which has sent its currency, the rial, tumbling.

Gaza Kites & Balloons Cause 1,000 Fires, 8,000 Acres Burned in Israel

The magnitude of the most recent crisis in Israel has hardly been reported in the mainstream news. Over 1,000 fires have been ignited by fire-carrying kites and balloons launched from the Gaza Strip. More than 8,000 acres of agricultural land and natural habitats have been destroyed by these fires causing some $2.2 million in damages. The weaponized kites resemble children’s toys floating in the sky, but they carry burning charcoal or oil-soaked rags across the Gaza border to ignite fires wherever they land inside Israel. These menacing “toys” are increasingly sophisticated, and some now carry explosives instead of fire and include time fuses that delay ignition until after they cross the border. Helium balloons are replacing kites because they fly farther into Israel—one flew 22 miles. This newest wave of terrorist attacks began in April and does not seem to be letting up. As many as 30 fires have been started in a single day. The Islamist group Hamas threatened to launch as many as 5,000 fire devices into Israel. Not only that, Hamas says they will soon begin using exploding drones that reach even deeper into Israel than the helium balloons.

Palestinian Authority Funds Terrorism Over Schools

United With Israel reports that the Palestinian Authority (PA) last Wednesday made it clear to the world that if forced to choose, it will pay salaries to terrorists rather than for the education of Palestinian children. Recent reports claimed that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), dedicated solely to serve the Palestinians, did not have enough money to open up the UNRWA school system for over 320,000 Palestinian children. However, UNRWA’s budget for the schools could easily be covered by the PA from the money it spends paying terrorist prisoners and families of so-called “Martyrs,” terrorists killed while attacking Israelis. Yet PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced on official PA TV that “Israel considers them (i.e., terrorist prisoners) criminals… Even if we need to cut from our flesh, we will continue to give the support and aid.”

Afghanistan Attack Blamed on ISIS

A suicide bomber struck a private education center in a Shiite neighborhood of Kabul on Wednesday where high school graduates were preparing for university entrance exams, killing 48 young men and women and leaving behind a scene of devastation and tragedy. The bombing, blamed on the Islamic State group, was the latest assault on Afghanistan’s Shiite community, which has increasingly been targeted by Sunni extremists who consider Shiites to be heretics. It also showed how militants are still able to stage large-scale attacks, even in the heart of Kabul, and underscored the struggles of the Afghan forces to provide security and stability on their own. The attack comes amid a particularly bloody week in Afghanistan that has seen Taliban attacks kill scores of Afghan troops and civilians.

Last Syrian Rebel Stronghold Fears Attack

Syrian rebels are readying for a government assault on the country’s northwestern Idlib province, their last major stronghold in a country that’s been wracked by a seven-year war, leaving half a million dead and more than 5 million Syrians languishing as refugees in neighboring countries. Rebel commanders fear an offensive will be launched by mid-September, when a de-escalation agreement negotiated by Russia and backed by Iran and Turkey expires. With President Bashar al-Assad saying his forces intend to retake control of Idlib, U.N. officials have warned of an impending humanitarian crisis, fearing for the well-being of 2.5 million to 3.3 million people estimated to be living in the province, half of them displaced by fighting in other parts of the country.”

Yemen Bomb Supplied by U.S.

The bomb used by the Saudi-led coalition in a devastating attack on a school bus in Yemen was sold as part of a US State Department-sanctioned arms deal with Saudi Arabia, munitions experts told CNN. Working with local Yemeni journalists and munitions experts, CNN has established that the weapon that left dozens of children dead on August 9 was a 500-pound (227 kilogram) laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US defense contractors. The bomb is very similar to the one that wreaked devastation in an attack on a funeral hall in Yemen in October 2016 in which 155 people were killed and hundreds more wounded. In March of that year, a strike on a Yemeni market — this time reportedly by a US-supplied precision-guided MK 84 bomb — killed 97 people. In the aftermath of the funeral hall attack, former US President Barack Obama banned the sale of precision-guided military technology to Saudi Arabia over “human rights concerns.” The ban was overturned by the Trump administration’s then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in March 2017.

Venezuela Implements Economic Reforms

Venezuela on Monday began to launch dramatic reforms announced by President Nicolás Maduro to rescue a downward-spiraling economy, including a new currency and a more-than-3,000 percent hike in the minimum wage. The changes start with the introduction of a currency that lops five zeros off the country’s fast-depreciating bills. Maduro says he’ll also raise gasoline prices to international levels – a combination of measures critics say will only make things worse. Opposition leaders called for a nationwide strike and protest Tuesday. They hope to draw masses into the streets against Maduro’s socialist ruling party. Banks were closed Monday as they prepared to deal with the new currency. In late-September, the world’s cheapest gas will rise to international levels to curtail rampant smuggling across borders.

Environment

A blanket of red tide along Florida’s Gulf Coast that’s killing marine life in addition to emptying normally packed beaches with an unrelenting stench has caused the state’s governor to declare a state of emergency for parts of the region. Red tide is a naturally occurring toxic algae bloom that can be harmful to people with respiratory problems. It has spread throughout the region since October and stretches about 150 miles from Naples to Anna Maria Island. The algae turns the water toxic for marine life, and in recent weeks beachgoers have discovered turtles, large fish, dolphins and manatees washed up dead. Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s declaration covers Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, which will have “all state resources” deployed to ensure residents are safe and businesses can recover. Scott said he’s ordering $100,000 for additional scientists to help with clean-up efforts and another $500,000 to help local communities and businesses struggling with lost income as tourists flee. The governor also directed another $900,000 in grants to help Lee County’s clean-up efforts.

The volume of toxic wastewater that fracked oil and gas wells generated during their first year of production increased by up to 1440 percent from 2011 to 2016, according to a study which was published on Aug. 15 in the journal Science Advances. The amount of water used for fracking in each oil or gas well increased up to 770 percent over the same period. “After more than a decade of fracking operation, we now have more years of data to draw upon from multiple verifiable sources. We clearly see a steady annual increase in hydraulic fracturing’s water footprint, with 2014 and 2015 marking a turning point where water use and the generation of flowback and produced water began to increase at significantly higher rates,” said Avner Vengosh, co-author of the study. Vital drinking water reserves are being threatened. The study also said salts, toxic elements, organic matter, and naturally occurring radioactive material in the wastewater that is produced pose risks to local water supplies.

Earthquakes

The U.S. Geological Survey defines any earthquake of at least magnitude 4.5 as “significant”, and there were 53 earthquakes that met that criteria along the Ring of Fire on Sunday alone. Because none of the earthquakes happened in the United States, the mainstream media almost entirely ignored this story. The ring is formed of a string of 452 volcanoes and sites of seismic activity (earthquakes), which encircle the Pacific Ocean. The entire west coast of the U.S. falls along this “Ring of Fire”, and experts assure us that it is only a matter of time before the seismic tension that is building up along the tectonic plates in that area is released. According to the UK’s Daily Star, scientists are warning that “increased seismic activity” along the Ring of Fire “may mean the so-called ‘Big One’ is on the way.”

Earthquakes struck near two popular vacation destinations Sunday, one rattling the South Pacific islands of Fiji and Tonga, and another striking Indonesia’s Lombok. The Fiji/Tonga quake roughly 200 miles off both Fiji and Tonga measured a massive 8.2-magnitude but was hundreds of miles deep. The Lombok quake was 6.3-magnitude and struck at a depth of 3.7 miles, according to the United States Geological Survey. Lombok has suffered a series of earthquakes since late July, with more than 430 people killed in a magnitude-6.9 quake that struck August 5. Twelve more people died on Lombok and Sumbawa. killed by collapsing buildings or heart attacks. The swarm of quakes caused panic in Sembalun subdistrict on Lombok in the shadow of Mount Rinjani, but many people were already staying in tents following the deadly jolt in early August and its hundreds of aftershocks.

Wildfires

The Howe Ridge Fire that led to evacuations in Glacier National Park covered almost 5½ square miles as of Thursday. Lightning started the fire on the northwest side of Lake McDonald on Saturday. The next evening, dry and windy conditions caused the fire to spread. Park officials ordered evacuations of a campground, the historic Lake McDonald Lodge and residences and businesses in the area. The fire claimed several historic structures at Lake McDonald. The main cabin at Wheeler camp was saved, but several other buildings there were lost. The west side of the park remains closed, but the east side is still open. On Sunday, the wildfire came within a half-mile of iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road which traverses the park. Officials evacuated the Fish Creek Campground and told residents in the small town of Apgar on Lake McDonald that they might have to leave.

As dozens of wildfires continue to grow in western and central Canada, some towns have been shrouded in smoke so thick, the skies have turned black in the middle of the day. When the sky isn’t totally black, the smoke turns it an eerie orange shade. As a result of the thick smoke, several flights out of the airport east of Vancouver were canceled Sunday. Air quality is poor across much of the province, and officials warned residents with respiratory issues to stay inside. Some 500 wildfires are currently burning across British Columbia, claiming more than 1,700 square miles of land, or almost three times the yearly average.

Weather

At least 38 people died when a 650-foot section of the Morandi Bridge collapsed in a strong storm Tuesday in an industrial area of Genoa, Italy, crushing vehicles below. Some vehicles plunged 260 feet as the span fell. The collapse was along a highway that connects Italy to France, and because it came one day before the Italian holiday Ferragosto, it’s likely the roadway was busier than usual as travelers made their way to the mountains.

More than 350 people have died in floods triggered by intense monsoon rainfall in the southern Indian state of Kerala, the latest tragic flooding event in what has been a devastating season for the country. The floods have left more than 800,000 people homeless over the course of several months. Schools and Cochin International Airport – one of the country’s busiest – have been closed because of the disaster. Many of the victims were killed in mudslides triggered by the heavy rainfall. “We’re witnessing something that has never happened before in the history of Kerala,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the media. “Almost all dams are now opened. Most of our water treatment plants are submerged.