Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Signs of the Times

May 23, 2019

­­Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1Peter 4:12-13)

University Settles Christian Bias Lawsuit

A lawsuit that charged officials at the University of Colorado branch in Colorado Springs illegally discriminated against the members of a Christian club has been settled with a formal change to the school’s policies and a payment of more than $20,000 to the students. Officials with the Alliance Defending Freedom revealed on Tuesday that UCCS settled a lawsuit that was triggered when they refused to grant registered status ot a student group. “As part of the settlement, the university agreed to grant Ratio Christi registered status, pay over $20,500 in damages and attorneys’ fees, and update its policies to ensure that a student club may require its leadership to promote the purposes of the club and hold beliefs consistent with the group’s mission,” the ADF reported.

College Tells Protesting Students: Chick-fil-A Is Staying

A Texas university bucked the anti-Chick-fil-A trend on college campuses this month when its administration refused a student government request to remove the popular restaurant. A Texas university bucked the anti-Chick-fil-A trend on college campuses this month when its administration refused a student government request to remove the popular restaurant. Chick-fil-A is on pace to become the third-largest restaurant chain in the U.S. based on sales. The student government association had passed a resolution criticizing the company’s donations to the Paul Anderson Youth Home, the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The resolution said the school’s “values of diversity and inclusion and Chick-fil-a’s values regarding the LGBT+ community are mutually exclusive.”

Google Engineer Says Tech Giant Discriminates Against Conservatives

In an open letter distributed Tuesday, a Google software engineer described a company culture of left-wing “outrage mobs” who use the tech giant’s anonymous bias-reporting channels to shut down conservative social and political thought. Mike Wacker, writing on Medium, warned that if “left unchecked, these outrage mobs will hunt down any conservative, any Christian, and any independent free thinker at Google who does not bow down to their agenda.” He claimed that in March, the company offered him a severance package to leave, with an implied threat that it would find a pretext to fire him if he refused.

Democratic Governor Is Set to Sign an Abortion Ban into Law

The conventional wisdom that says pro-life laws are a Republican-only issue may be challenged soon in Louisiana, where a Democratic governor has signaled support for a heartbeat bill banning abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy. It wouldn’t be the first time Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has bucked his party’s platform. Last year he signed a bill prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks. In 2016, he signed a bill requiring a 72-hour waiting period before obtaining an abortion. Both are being challenged in court. The nation has 23 Democratic governors. Edwards is the only one who is pro-life, according to The Times-Picayune.

Vermont Governor to Allow No-Limits Abortion Bill to Become Law

A spokeswoman for Vermont Gov. Phil Scott says he will allow a sweeping no-limits abortion bill to become law, although it may do so without his signature. The pro-choice Republican governor has ruled out a veto of H. 57, meaning that he will either sign it or allow it to become law with no action. “It will become law,” spokeswoman Rebecca Kelley told multiple Vermont news outlets. The bill would give Vermont the most expansive abortion law in the nation, making abortion a “fundamental right,” allowing the procedure until birth, and forbidding state agencies from interfering with access to “reproductive health services.”

Wisconsin Governor Threatens to Veto Several Pro-Life Bills

Multiple pro-life measures have recently made their way through Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled state Assembly, but Democrat Gov. Tony Evers is threatening to veto all of them. Like several states, Wisconsin is currently considering a range of pro-life legislation. The Assembly has passed bills to require basic medical care for infants who survive attempted abortions, a ban on aborting specifically due to a child’s race, sex, or disability, and one cutting the remainder of Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding that was significantly reduced, but not eliminated completely, under Republican Gov. Scott Walker. “We shouldn’t be limiting the right for women to make their own healthcare decisions,” wrote Evers, who defeated Walker last November.

Nevada Passes National Popular Vote Bill to Void Electoral College

The Nevada Senate approved Tuesday a National Popular Vote bill on a party-line vote, sending the legislation aimed at upending the Electoral College to the governor. Assembly Bill 186, which passed the Senate on a 12-8 vote, would bring Nevada into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, an agreement between participating states to cast their electoral votes for the winner of the popular vote. If signed as expected by Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, Nevada would become the 16th jurisdiction to join the compact, along with 14 states and the District of Columbia. The compact would take effect after states totaling 270 electoral votes join. With Nevada, the total would reach 195. While the effort has been billed by organizers as bipartisan, Democrats have embraced the NPV in the aftermath of President Trump’s 2016 victory, which saw the Republican win the electoral vote but not the popular vote.

San Francisco Has Become a ‘Train Wreck’

The Washington Post took a lengthy look at San Francisco and painted a bleak picture of the once desirable location, which has gone from an affordable city that attracted artists and musicians to an area dominated by tech companies, growing wealth, and small businesses getting priced out of the market. Mom and pop restaurants and shops that have been there for decades are being forced to close their doors because of the astronomically high real estate prices. Thousands of people are living on the streets, which has created a public health crisis in this ‘sanctuary city.’ At the same time, tech executives are taking in millions of dollars a year and are widening the gap between the wealthy and the poor even more. Marc Benioff, a lifelong San Francisco resident who founded and now chairs Salesforce, called the 2019 version of his beloved city “a train wreck.”

Migrant Update

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said Thursday that “100%” of illegal immigrant families in the new border surge are being released into communities, rather than being held and deported. He said within a month or two, they are also granted work permits, giving them a foothold to live and remain in the U.S. while their cases proceed through the immigration courts — a process that averages two years, and stretches even longer in some overwhelmed regions. Mr. McAleenan said that system rewarding unauthorized migrants who jump the border with exactly the thing they seek is responsible for the record-breaking numbers.

250 People Have Died Worldwide from Taking Selfies

Some 259 people worldwide have died while taking selfies, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care. Researchers from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, a group of public medical colleges in New Delhi, scoured news reports on selfie deaths that occurred from October 2011 to November 2017. They found that the most selfie deaths occurred in India, followed by Russia, the US and Pakistan. Most of the victims were men (about 72%) and under the age of 30. Researchers attributed India’s high number to the country’s enormous population of people under 30, which is the world’s largest. Although women generally take more selfies than men, researchers found that men were more likely to take risks — like standing at the edge of a cliff — to capture a dramatic shot.

Economic News

The Trump administration is preparing to announce another round of aid to farmers hurt by the trade war with, people familiar with the plan said, a package of assistance that could exceed $15 billion. The aid plan is largely modeled on the program the administration put in place last year after China slapped retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural products, though the payments this time will be more generous. The administration is considering payments of about $2 per bushel to soybean growers, 63 cents per bushel to wheat growers and 4 cents per bushel to corn growers to compensate for losses from the trade war.

The Wall Street Journal explains that millennials financially lag behind baby boomers and Generation X despite a decade of economic growth and falling unemployment. Americans born between 1981 and 1996 have failed to match every other generation of young adults born since the Great Depression. They have less wealth, less property, lower marriage rates and fewer children, according to new data that compare generations at similar ages. Student loan debt and a lack of affordable homes are weighing on purchase plans of first-time homebuyers. With nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population holding student loans — nearly double the 2004 level — the share of Americans with housing debt has fallen to just over a quarter from 33% in 2004.

With short-term interest rates rising broadly across the economy the past few years, a small but growing share of customers are moving their cash to online banks that pay higher yields on savings and money market accounts. In the past 24 months, 21% of Americans have transferred their money to an online bank that pays at least 2% interest, according to a NerdWallet online survey of 2,012 adults for USA TODAY earlier this month. Before that, only 6% of Americans had their savings account at an online-only bank, such as Ally, E-Trade or Discover. Fourteen percent of consumers polled by Bankrate April 30-May 5 were earning more than 2% on their bank savings, up from 6.3% in July.

Ford Motor Co. said on Monday it will eliminate about 10% percent of its global salaried workforce, cutting about 7,000 jobs by the end of August as part of its larger restructuring in a move that will save the No. 2 automaker $600 million annually. The cuts include both voluntary buyouts and layoffs, and freezes open positions as well. About 2,300 of the affected people are employed in the United States. “To succeed in our competitive industry, and position Ford to win in a fast-changing future, we must reduce bureaucracy, empower managers, speed decision making, focus on the most valuable work and cut costs,” CEO Hackett said.

Britain’s second biggest steel maker collapsed on Wednesday, putting about 5,000 jobs at the company directly at risk, and threatening another 20,000 at suppliers. The company was seeking a government bailout, but talks ended without agreement. The High Court ordered the company into compulsory liquidation. The company blames uncertainty over Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union as the root cause of its problems.

Middle East

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has officially announced that it will boycott a conference in Bahrain next month that is touted as an economic precursor toward introducing the U.S. Trump administration’s diplomatic plan for Israel and the Palestinians, known as the ‘deal of the century.’ The White House announced that it would co-host the June 25-26 conference with Bahrain focusing on economic aspects of the long-delayed peace plan, with the declared aim of achieving Palestinian prosperity. “The Palestinian issue and national rights are not up for sale, and economic initiatives and imaginary promises to the world will not cover the evil face of the ‘deal of the century,’ which is intended to eradicate the Palestinian issue,” said a PA statement released on Thursday. The summit gained traction on Wednesday with the endorsement of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Leaders of Palestinian Christian communities in the West Bank are calling on the Palestinian Authority to investigate vandalism attacks on churches near Ramallah and Bethlehem. The Church of God in the village of Aboud, west of Ramallah, was burglarized and damaged last Friday while the Saint Charbel Monastery in Bethlehem was also vandalized on the same day. “We feel we’re being deliberately targeted because we’re Christians,” a Christian woman from Aboud told The Jerusalem Post. “When you see two attacks on a church and monastery in one week, this makes you wonder whether there’s some kind of a scheme against Christians.” A fire which gutted the Jerusalem studios of Daystar, one of the world’s largest Christian broadcasters, was officially confirmed by Israeli police Tuesday morning to have been the result of an arson attack.

Iran

President Trump warned Iran early on Monday not to threaten the United States again or it’ll face its “official end,” shortly after a rocket landed near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad overnight. The tweet came just hours after a Katyusha rocket fell in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone near the statue of the Unknown Soldier, less than a mile from the US Embassy, causing no injuries. Top Trump administration officials told lawmakers Tuesday that U.S. military deployments in the Middle East were purely defensive and not aimed at provoking a war with Iran, amid growing concerns in Congress about a possible military conflict.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the Trump administration’s decision to deploy B-52 bombers and other military resources to the Persian Gulf had succeeded in preventing a possible strike on U.S. interests. . The Pentagon on Thursday presented plans to the White House to send up to 10,000 more troops to the Middle East, in a move to beef up defenses against potential Iranian threats, US officials said Wednesday. The officials said no final decision has been made yet, and it’s not clear if the White House would approve sending all or just some of the requested forces.

Europe needs to join forces with the United States by continuing to squeeze and pressure Iran to force the rogue regime back to the negotiating table, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell told Newsmax TV. “The good news is those [U.S.] sanctions are working,” Grenell said. “The bad news is that means Iran is on the hunt for more money because this regime needs money to spread its terror. So, what we’re trying to do in Europe is really articulate to European governments that they’re gonna have to really crack down.” Iran has quadrupled its production of enriched uranium, two semi-official news agencies reported Monday. Trump’s sanctions on Iran are hitting Hezbollah hard. The powerful Lebanese Hezbollah militia has thrived for decades on generous cash handouts from Iran, but U.S. sanctions are curtailing Iran’s ability to support its most powerful regional proxy.

Syria

The US State Department issued a warning to the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria on Tuesday, saying the US is closely watching the regime’s military operations against a rebel enclave in northwest Syria and is looking into allegations that Assad’s troops have used chemical weapons in recent days. “Unfortunately, we continue to see signs that the Assad regime may be renewing its use of chemical weapons including an alleged chlorine attack in northwest Syria on the morning of May 19,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. “We are still gathering information on this incident but we repeat our warning that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, the United States and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately,” she added.”

Ukraine

Ukrainian TV star and President-Elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy sought to capitalize on his huge popularity Monday by dissolving the country’s parliament minutes after he was sworn in as president. Zelenskiy, who won 73% of the vote last month in his landslide victory, slammed parliament as a hot-bed of self-enrichment and promised to stop the war in the east against Russian-backed separatists. The president’s bold move to dissolve the parliament, called the Supreme Rada, followed the failure of a majority of lawmakers to use parliamentary ruses to hamper Zelenskiy’s plans. Zelenskiy’s victory reflected Ukrainians’ exhaustion with widespread corruption and the country’s political elite.

Brazil

A gang of gunmen reportedly attacked a bar in the capital of Brazil’s northern Pará state Sunday afternoon, killing 11 people. The G1 news website said police reported that seven gunmen were involved in the attack, which also wounded one person. The news outlet said the attackers arrived at the bar on one motorcycle and in three cars. Much of Brazil’s violence is gang related. Rio de Janeiro experiences daily shootouts between rival gangs and also with police that often kill innocent bystanders.

Australia

Running on a climate-change platform, the left-wing Australian Labor Party lost a supposedly “unlosable” election on Saturday to the conservative Liberal/National Party Coalition, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who once praised fossil fuels while holding up a chunk of coal on the floor of Parliament. Matt McDonald, associate professor at the University of Queensland, said on ABC.net: “Voters feared climate policy more than climate change.” The election results were unexpected, but they also represented the latest in a string of defeats around the world for parties pushing the 2015 Paris climate accord, green energy, fuel taxes and carbon pricing.

Environment

Chinese foam manufacturers are releasing an ozone-destroying chemical into the air that goes against an international agreement meant to fix the ozone layer, scientists announced in a study Wednesday. The chemical is a chlorofluorocarbon known as trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11), which the world agreed to phase out starting in 2010. But just in the past six years, emissions of CFC-11 have increased by around 7,000 tons each year, and the source is eastern China, the study suggests. Located up in the stratosphere, the ozone layer acts like a sunscreen, blocking potentially harmful ultraviolet energy from reaching our planet’s surface. Without it, humans and animals can experience increased rates of skin cancer and other ailments such as cataracts.

Almost one-quarter of the ice in the West Antarctic ice sheet has been classified as “unstable,” according to a new study released this week. This is due to the huge volume of ice that’s melted from the ice sheet over the past 25 years. Some areas are losing ice five times faster now than they were in the early 1990s. “In parts of Antarctica, the ice sheet has thinned by extraordinary amounts,” said study lead author Andy Shepherd, a polar scientist at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. The ice has thinned by some 400 feet in some places, the study said. The ice sheet and its glaciers are melting from underneath as warming sea water – overheated due to man-made climate change – chews away at it from below.

  • As we’ve been saying for years, extreme weather (including global warming) is a sign that the end-times are upon us (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11), the period Jesus calls the “beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8), preceding the Tribulation and His Second Coming.

Weather.

Last year has been the “wettest 12-month period in recorded history” for the lower 48 states, moving closer to being drought-free, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. With a wet 2019 so far, the Mississippi River flooding has been ongoing for three months or longer in some locations, making it the longest-lasting flood there since the Great Flood of 1927, the worst flood in modern history on the lower Mississippi River. And there is no end in sight for the flooding, with more rain and storms continuing to hit the central states.

A surprisingly strong, late-spring snowstorm dumped more than a foot of snow around Colorado Springs on Tuesday and up to 6 inches in the Denver metro area, which broke a 128-year record for the lowest high-temperature for the date at 39 degrees. The wintry onslaught was particularly hard on trees that buckled and broke under the weight of wet snow landing on freshly sprouted leaves. In Colorado Springs, three greenhouses at one nursery collapsed.

Flooding along Lake Ontario has prompted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to declare a state of emergency in all eight of the counties that border the state’s 326-mile lake shoreline. Cuomo also activated 200 members of New York National Guard and placed another 200 on standby. Cuomo deployed 20 sandbaggers, more than 1 million sandbags, hundreds of pumps and more than 5,000 feet of Aquadam, which are water-filled tubes used to create barriers and control water to prevent flooding.

Strong storms rumbled through north-central Texas early Saturday, bringing hail and damaging winds. Heavy damage was reported in Abilene from a likely tornado. There was structural damage to hundreds of buildings and several utility poles were down. There were no immediate reports of injuries. Damage was also reported near San Angelo, Texas, from a possible tornado, with many power lines down. A tornado touched down near Ballinger, Texas, damaging a high school, a baseball stadium and a water tower. Severe thunderstorms continued to rumble across parts of the U.S. Sunday, damaging buildings in Louisiana after spawning reports of tornadoes through north-central Texas and eastern Oklahoma on Saturday, blowing an entire home onto a road in Evangeline Parish, Louisiana. Classes were canceled Monday at school districts across Oklahoma as the southern Plains prepared for another day of severe storms after more than four dozen reports of tornadoes across five states over last weekend.

Heavy rains flooded homes, closed roads and prompted water rescues in the Southern Plains Tuesday morning as more than 30 tornadoes were reported across Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Missouri. A flash flood emergency was in effect for several communities in northeast Oklahoma Wednesday, including the Tulsa area. Interstate 40 was closed in both directions just west of Oklahoma City for several hours because of flooding at Six-Mile Creek. A violent tornado ripped through Jefferson City, Missouri, Wednesday, causing multiple injuries and ‘catastrophic’ damage to buildings. The Missouri Department of Public Safety said first responders were going door to door in an effort to rescue any residents, and urged people to stay out of areas with damage. There were no confirmed fatalities, but multiple people remain injured. The police received calls from many people saying they were trapped in their homes. A mandatory evacuation order was issued for the entire town of Webbers Falls, Oklahoma Wednesday as waters from the Arkansas River continued to rise. All told, seven people have died this week from the severe storms.

Signs of the Times

May 17, 2019

­­From the end of the earth I will cry to You. When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. (Psalm 61:2-4)

More States Advancing Anti-Abortion Bills

State governments are on a course to virtually eliminate abortion access in large chunks of the Deep South and Midwest. Ohio and Kentucky also have passed heartbeat laws; Missouri’s Republican-controlled legislature just passed one. If a new Mississippi law survives a court challenge, it will be nearly impossible for most pregnant women to get an abortion there. Or, potentially, in neighboring Louisiana. Or Alabama. Or Georgia. The Louisiana legislature is halfway toward passing a law — like the ones enacted in Mississippi and Georgia — that will ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, about six weeks into a pregnancy. The states hope that a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court will approve, leading to the end of the constitutional right to abortion.

  • Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed the controversial Alabama abortion bill into law on Wednesday. The law will make nearly all abortions in the state illegal and make performing one a felony, punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison unless the mother’s health is at risk, with no exceptions for women impregnated by rape or incest. Televangelist Pat Robertson said the law has “gone too far” and was “ill considered.”
  • The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) vowed to sue. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Wednesday declared abortion is a “constitutional right,” in response to the total abortion ban in Alabama. The statement prompted swift rebukes demanding to know exactly where the constitution makes abortion a right.

House Passes LGBTQ ‘Equality Act’

Democrats on Capitol Hill passed legislation that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights law. If signed into law, the Equality Act would ban discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, education, federal programs and credit. And it would effectively obliterate the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That law stops the government from encroaching on a person’s religious liberty. Under the Equality Act, some Christian leaders say that churches may come under attack for discriminatory beliefs and practices. The law could force churches to be forced to host events and other celebrations against their beliefs. In addition, Natasha Chart, board chair of the Women’s Liberation Front, teamed up with Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America to warn that, “Under this bill, men and boys [who identify as women and girls] will take away women’s small business grants and hard-won spots on sports teams; they will be allowed to live in women’s domestic violence shelters and use our locker rooms.”

Parents Keep 700 Students Home to Protest LGBT Elementary Curriculum

Two days after a California school board approved new curriculum that includes LGBT history, parents of more than 700 students kept their children home in protest. The Rocklin School District Board approved the curriculum on May 1 by a vote of 3-2, requiring students in kindergarten through fifth grades to learn about the contributions of key LGBT figures in history and social studies curriculum. The board’s action was in response to a new state law requiring schools to include the contributions of “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans” in history lessons. Unlike sex-ed, there is no opt-out for parents in the law. “We believe that anyone who has made a significant contribution to society should, of course, be included in our history textbooks,” Rachel Crutchfield, spokeswoman for Informed Parents of Rocklin had said earlier in the week. “However, the concept of sexual orientation is far too complex of a topic for elementary-aged children.”

Charter School ‘Liberates’ Children at Gay Pride Event

Central Park School for Children in North Carolina held a week-long celebration of gay pride where they are urging boys and girls to liberate themselves, reports Todd Starnes. Recently, the charter school hosted a Pride and Liberation Event for boys and girls in grades K through 8. The children will be learning all about the LGBTQ movement – from drag queens to something called queer history. The Raleigh News & Observer reported the pride and liberation event was in response to bullying at the school. Journalist A.P. Dillon first reported about the school’s activities after someone sent her emails written by administrators. “The e-mail also said that they didn’t want teachers to tell this to the parents until they had actually rolled it out. So parents were going to be getting blindsided so I decided that I would go ahead and publish this,” Dillon said.

Texas County Votes 5-0 to Keep Courthouse Crosses

A small Texas town is rejecting demands from an atheist organization to remove crosses from the county courthouse, and it’s getting the support of the state attorney general’s office, too. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter in late April to officials in Coldspring, Texas, asserting that four white crosses on the sides of the building violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on government establishment of religion. But last week the San Jacinto County Commissioners voted unanimously, 5-0, to keep the crosses on the courthouse, KPCR-TV reported. More than 600 residents attended the commissioners’ meeting. The population of Coldspring, Texas, is about 900. The Texas Attorney General’s office applauded the commissioners’ decision and pledged its legal support if FFRF files suit.

VP Pence Warns Liberty University Graduates to Be Ready for Persecution

In a commencement speech delivered at Liberty University last Saturday, Vice President Pence told thousands of students that they should “be ready” for an increase in personal attacks on their faith. In a bid to encourage and equip young Christians to live out their calling in our modern secular culture, Pence warned that, increasingly, believers will be asked to “tolerate things” that go completely against their personal faith and spiritual convictions. “You’re going to be asked to bow down to the idols of the popular culture,” he explained, noting that it has become “acceptable and even fashionable to ridicule and discriminate against people of faith.” Pence noted that “some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs,” referencing the left’s blatant double-standards.

Migrant Update

The fiscal year ends Sept. 30 but given current trends which show a steadily increasing number of children and families attempting to sneak in, Homeland Security says it will exhaust its money to deal with the border situation well before then. “The problem we face is huge, short term fixes will not cut it, and we need sustained investment and additional emergency support at the Southwest border to overcome the humanitarian and security crisis. The president’s budget will do that,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said.

The Trump administration unveiled a multi-tiered plan to pay for construction of a Mexico border wall. The government intends to begin awarding the latest tranche of contracts Thursday, drawing on $2.5 billion from the Defense Department, primarily from budgets for drug interdiction and counter-drug activities, the Justice Department said in a court filing Wednesday. That amount is all that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is currently prepared to give President Donald Trump for the project, according to the filing. An additional $600 million will come from the Treasury Department’s Forfeiture Fund. A federal judge in Oakland, California, is scheduled Friday to hear a request by the Sierra Club to block Trump from diverting taxpayer funds for the project.

The Transportation Security Administration is preparing to send up to 400 workers to the southern border to assist with the rising number of Central American migrants, but officials say the move shouldn’t affect air travel as the summer travel season gets underway. TSA officials do not plan to include people who conduct security screenings at U.S. airports. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which is primarily responsible for securing the southern border and processing the record numbers of migrants crossing it, has already received help from thousands of National Guardsmen and active-duty military troops. Now, the Trump administration is seeking volunteers from across the federal government to help with the ever-growing number of migrants seeking asylum in the United States.

President Trump proposed a new immigration system Thursday that gives preference to high-skilled immigrants such as scientists and engineers. However, the plan deals only with legal immigration, not the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. or the roughly 3.6 million “Dreamers” who were illegally brought into the country as minors. Developed by senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, the plan is designed to create a “merit-based” point system for people seeking to enter the U.S., moving away from the mostly family-based immigration system in place today. The plan is certain to face resistance from lawmakers who believe it is more of a campaign document than a legislative proposal.

Google Top Stories Discriminates Against Conservatives

Google’s Top Stories box provides users with articles from left-leaning news organizations such as CNN 62.4 percent of the time — with only 11.3 percent coming from outlets that are considered conservative, according to a study by Northwestern University researchers. The researchers conducted an “algorithm audit” of the Google Top Stories box using data from late 2017 to determine the tech giant’s role in shaping which news its audience consumes. The Top Stories box – which is the three highlighted articles that appear with images at the top of any Google search – is among the most prominent real estate on the Internet. The researchers analyzed 30 “hard news” stories per day over a 30-day period, resulting in 6,302 links to various articles. The results indicate that liberal publications were prominently featured in Google’s Top Stories box — with CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, combining for a whopping 23 percent of Top Stories appearances during the sample period. Links to liberal CNN appeared in 10.9 percent of searches, while The New York Times made up 6.5 percent. By comparison, link to Fox News articles only appeared in 3 percent of the researchers’ searches.

Run, Hide, Fight

In an era where mass shootings are all too common, “run, hide, fight” has become a mantra. When faced with an active shooter, proponents say adults and students should try to escape the area or protect themselves. And as a last resort, they’re advised to counter the gunman, reports CNN. Whether they were acting on training or instinct, two students in the past two weeks chose the last option. Eighteen-year-old Kendrick Castillo lunged at a classmate who pulled out a gun at their suburban Denver school, while 21-year-old Riley Howell knocked a gunman off his feet at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The heroic actions of both students cost them their lives. But some experts say they acted appropriately, giving others around them time to run for cover and preventing the shootings from escalating.

U.S. Birthrate Lowest in 32 Years

America’s fertility rate and the number of births nationwide are continuing to decline. The number of births for the United States last year dropped to its lowest in about three decades, according to provisional data in a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2017 to 2018, the birth rate dropped 7% among teenagers aged 15 to 19; 4% among women 20 to 24; 3% among women 25 to 29; and 1% among women 30 to 34, according to the report. The birth rate rose 1% among women aged 35 to 39 and 2% among women 40 to 44. Overall, the provisional number of births in 2018 for the United States was about 3.79 million, down 2% from the total in 2017, according to the report. The data shows that the total fertility rate for the United States last year was 1,728 births per 1,000 women, a decrease of 2% from 2017 and a record low for the nation, and well below the replacement fertility rate of 2.1 required to maintain overall population stability.

The Stress and Strain of Motherhood Increasingly Difficult

Economic, cultural and even technological changes have dramatically altered the landscape of motherhood in recent decades, piling on new pressures and needs, reports the USA Today. In 1975, more than half of mothers stayed home with their kids. Today both parents work in 70% of families with children. Childcare costs on average $12,350 to $13,900 a year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In some cities, it’s double that. Dads are taking on more parenting responsibilities than ever, but surveys show it’s still unequal in more than half of households even when both parents work full-time. Nearly half of grandparents live more than five hours from their grandkids. Moms in 2016 spent 14 hours a week outside work on childcare, up from 10 hours a week in 1965, according to the Pew Research Center. Social media is pervasive, and research shows mothers who frequently compare themselves to others on social media feel more depressed, less competent and less positive about their co-parenting relationships.

Hospitals Not Protecting Mothers During Childbirth

The vast majority of women in America give birth without incident. But each year, more than 50,000 are severely injured. About 700 mothers die. Authorities estimate that half of these deaths could be prevented and half the injuries reduced or eliminated with better care. Doctors and nurses should be weighing bloody pads to track blood loss so they recognize the danger sooner. They should be giving medication within an hour of spotting dangerously high blood pressure to fend off strokes. They are among basic tasks that experts have recommended for years because they can save mothers’ lives. Yet hospitals, doctors and nurses across the country continue to ignore them, a USA TODAY investigation found.

71% of American Youth Unqualified for Military

Seventy-one percent of young people are ineligible to join the military, according to 2017 Pentagon data. The reasons: obesity, no high school diploma, or a criminal record. Steve Doster, Pennsylvania State director of Military Readiness for Council for a Strong America, says, “This is a very real risk to our national security.” The problem isn’t just a military one, though: It’s an issue for businesses as well because the vast majority of that age group isn’t eligible for a lot of other jobs either. The 29 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds who are qualified become prime targets for all recruiting: military, college and jobs. According to a recent RAND report, 52 percent of employers in Pennsylvania find it challenging to hire people with adequate skills, training or education.

E-Scooters Replacing Dockless Bikes in U.S. Cities

According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, Americans took nine million trips on dockless bikes in 2018. They took 38.5 million trips on shared scooters. The NACTO micromobility report said there were about 44,000 dockless pedal bikes deployed throughout the U.S. at the end of 2017, but almost all of them are now gone. “Most dockless bike share companies retooled their fleets to focus on e-scooters, and new e-scooter-focused companies emerged. There are now tens of thousands of e-scooters on the ground in U.S. cities,” the report said.

Economic News

China said Monday it will slap tariffs on more than 5,000 U.S. products in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s decision to raise duties on Chinese goods. China’s Ministry of Finance said the new tariffs would impact $60 billion in U.S. imports and would range from 5% to 25%. The tariffs will take effect June 1, which would give the two sides time to resume trade negotiations that broke off last week without reaching a new deal. The tariffs will impact a wide range of U.S. products, including coffee, beef, salmon, flowers and some fruits and vegetables.

In a significant step toward congressional approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the U.S. agreed to lift the tariffs in 48 hours in return for tough new measures to prevent Chinese steel from entering the U.S. via Canada or Mexico. The deal avoids quotas on steel from the two countries, which Canada and Mexico had opposed.

As lawmakers trade fire over contempt votes and impeachment, there’s been no progress toward reaching a budget agreement or extending the federal government’s ability to borrow before September, when the money runs out. That’s raising the ugly prospect of more than $100 billion in mandatory cuts as well as an unprecedented default on U.S. debt. The latest sign of the dysfunction gripping Congress came this week, when Republicans and Democrats continued to flounder in months-long negotiations over disaster aid for states recently hit by hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires, typically a subject that can easily win bipartisan consensus but has instead repeatedly fallen apart over unrelated issues.

Some disturbing data: Global exports are absolutely crashing and have now fallen to the lowest level since 2009; Auto sales in Europe have fallen for seven months in a row; U.S. auto loan delinquencies have reached the highest level since the last recession; U.S. credit card delinquencies have hit the highest level in eight years; Overall, 59 percent of all Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck according to a recent survey by Charles Schwab.

Europe

Less than two weeks before pivotal elections for the European Parliament, a constellation of websites and social media accounts linked to Russia or far-right groups is spreading disinformation, encouraging discord and amplifying distrust in the centrist parties that have governed for decades, reports the New York Times. European Union investigators, academics and advocacy groups say the new disinformation efforts share many of the same digital fingerprints or tactics used in previous Russian attacks, including the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Fringe political commentary sites in Italy, for instance, bear the same electronic signatures as pro-Kremlin websites, while a pair of German political groups share servers used by the Russian hackers who attacked the Democratic National Committee. The activity offers fresh evidence that despite indictments, expulsions and recriminations, Russia remains undeterred in its campaign to widen political divisions and weaken Western institutions.

Middle East

An estimated 10,000 Palestinian residents of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip participated in riots and violent confrontations with Israeli troops guarding the border fence on Wednesday afternoon to mark “Nakba (Catastrophe) Day” as the Palestinians refer to the anniversary of Israel’s birth on May 15, 1948. Several incendiary balloons were also sent over the border into Israel, sparking large fires which destroyed crops, trees and buildings inside Israel. Large demonstrations were also held in PA administered cities in the West Bank and in Israeli-Arab villages and among Arab students in some universities.

Saudi Arabia said Monday two of its oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in attacks that caused “significant damage” to the vessels, one of them as it was en route to pick up Saudi oil to take to the United States. The U.S. has warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region. America is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran. Saudi Araba said drones attacked one of its oil pipelines as other assaults targeted energy infrastructure elsewhere in the kingdom on Tuesday. Yemen’s Houthi rebels, whom Saudi Arabia has been fighting against since March 2015, said they launched a series of drone attacks on the kingdom, across the border from Yemen.

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has approved a new deployment of Patriot missiles to the Middle East, a U.S. official told Reuters on Friday, in the latest U.S. response to what Washington sees as a growing threat from Iran. The decision further bolsters U.S. defenses and comes after the Trump administration expedited the deployment of a carrier strike group and sent bombers to the Middle East following what it said were troubling indications of possible preparations for an attack by Iran on U.S. interests. The Patriot defense system is designed to intercept incoming missiles. Tensions between Iran and the United States have escalated sharply in recent weeks over new U.S. sanctions and Iran’s threat to restart uranium enrichment programs.

Iran

The U.S. military put its forces in Iraq on high alert and the State Department ordered all non-emergency employees Wednesday to leave the country immediately amid escalating tensions with Iran. It comes as some U.S. allies have expressed skepticism about the Trump administration’s claims that Iran poses a growing threat. The Trump administration has made applying “maximum pressure” on Iran a central tenet of its foreign policy. Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, reimposed crushing economic sanctions and boosted the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf. In recent days, unease that Washington and Tehran could be headed toward military confrontation has mounted. President Trump sought to put the brakes on a brewing confrontation with Iran in recent days, telling the acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, that he does not want to go to war with Iran, administration officials said, while his senior diplomats began searching for ways to defuse the tensions.

Niger

Islamic militants ambushed and killed government soldiers near Mali this week. The bodies of 11 Nigerien soldiers missing since Tuesday’s ambush have been discovered, bringing the death toll to 28. Niger and other countries in the Sahel have been facing a growing militant threat from several Islamist groups. The Islamic State group has said it was behind the ambush. They are most active in neighboring Mali, but they often stage cross-border raids. The soldiers had been in pursuit of militants who attacked a high security prison.

Burkina Faso

Gunmen killed a pastor and five congregants at a Roman Catholic church in northern Burkina Faso in West Africa last Sunday, the authorities said, in the second attack on Christians in two weeks in a nation increasingly overrun by jihadists. Congregants were leaving the church around 9 a.m. local time in the town of Dablo, about 124 miles from the capital, Ouagadougou, when about 20 men circled them and opened fire, leaving at least six dead. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though violent Islamic extremism has been increasingly destabilizing the country.

North Korea

North Korea disclosed on Wednesday it is suffering its worst drought in nearly four decades, amid growing concerns the country is dangerously short on food. The state-run Korean Central News Agency said that only 2.1 inches of rain fell throughout the country in the first five months of this year, the lowest amount since 1982. The current conditions, described by KCNA as “extreme drought”, are expected to continue at least until the end of May. North Korean media outlets called on citizens on Thursday to find new sources of water. Earlier this month, United Nations food agencies said in a joint assessment about 10 million people in North Korea, about 40 percent of the population, were facing “severe food shortages” after the country had one of the worst harvests in a decade.

Venezuela

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó is confirming efforts in Norway to mediate between the opposition and the government of President Nicolás Maduro. The Venezuelan opposition has said Maduro used past negotiations to play for time and was not sincere about making concessions. Maduro says he is open to dialogue and that the opposition had been trying to seize power by force. Guaidó says any diplomatic process aimed at resolving the Venezuelan crisis must lead to the end of Maduro’s government, its replacement by a transitional administration and free and fair elections. The crumbling of Venezuela’s economy is the single largest economic collapse outside of war in at least 45 years, economists say, surpassing the fall of the Soviet Union. And Cuba’s disastrous unraveling in the 1990s. Venezuela, at one point Latin America’s wealthiest country, has not been shattered by armed conflict. Instead, poor governance, corruption and the misguided socialistic policies of President Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, have fueled runaway inflation, shuttered businesses and left much of the population in great distress dealing with extreme shortages of food and medical supplies. Many are fleeing the country.

Cuba

In the midst of a growing economic and food shortage crisis – in which Cubans are having to line up for hours to purchase basic food supplies in supermarkets – the Cuban government has introduced comprehensive rationing of staple products. Commerce Minister Betsy Díaz Velázquez told the state-run Cuban News Agency on Friday that the rationing would immediately begin nationwide, forcing cashiers to limit product quantities such as cooking oil, powdered milk, sausages, peas, chicken, eggs, rice, beans and soap it can sell to individual shoppers. General food stores in the nation of 11 million are owned and operated by the Communist government, and every citizen has been issued a ration book to purchase fundamental needs – a system that was introduced after the revolution sixty years ago. Those who run in more affluent circles are permitted to purchase more than the average Cuban. Cuba depends on importing more than 65 percent of its food products

Environment

Trash is everywhere on Earth, all the way from the top of Mount Everest to the very bottom of the ocean. Now, giant mounds of it are even washing up on the shores of otherwise pristine tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, according to a new study from Australia’s University of Tasmania. A mind-boggling 400 million pieces of trash – that’s 260 tons – were recently discovered on the beaches of the remote Cocos Keeling Islands, a chain some 1,300 miles northwest of Australia.  The trash included an estimated 373,000 toothbrushes and 977,000 shoes, according to the study. Plastic items accounted for over 95% of all debris recorded on the Cocos, a group of 26 tiny islands that are a territory of Australia. Plastic is abundant in and near the world’s oceans: Every year, an estimated 8 million to 12 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that are already in our marine environments, according to the Ocean Conservancy.

Carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere hit a new milestone over the weekend. Data from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii showed that carbon dioxide levels surpassed 415 parts per million on Friday. Carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have skyrocketed far higher than any levels in the last 800,000 years, data from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California – San Diego show, and levels have not been this high for millions of years. “This is the first time in human history our planet’s atmosphere has had more than 415ppm CO2,” said Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist. In the 800,000 years before the Industrial Revolution, CO2 levels didn’t surpass 300 ppm.

  • CO2 levels millions of years ago were higher than 2019 levels, and Earth’s temperatures were also much higher, notes the USA Today.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck Papua New Guinea on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. Residents in the area reported that the quake shook homes, rattled furniture, knocked items off shelves and tables and cut off power. The epicenter of the quake was about 28 miles northeast of Kokopo, in New Britain province. The city is on a smaller island northeast of the main island and about 495 from the A​ tsunami alert was issued for Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands but was later cancelled. capital of Port Moresby.

On Wednesday evening, Israelis in Jerusalem reportedly felt the ground shake during an earthquake that qualified as “minor” on the Richter scale. The earthquake registered as a 4.5 magnitude, according to a report by Arutz Sheva based on data collected by Geophysical Institute of Israel. According to the Geophysical Institute, the quake’s epicenter was in the ocean between Hadera and Haifa, several hundred miles away from the Israeli coast.

Wildfires

Mexico City residents have been warned to stay inside as the city is enveloped in a cloud of hazardous wildfire smoke, and meteorologists in the U.S. predict the haze could reach parts of the U.S. by the end of the week. The pollution is from several recent and current fires in the city and outlying areas. Smoke from the blazes is also hovering over the western Gulf of Mexico. Mexico City’s environmental commission said the city’s air is polluted with high levels of ash and other solid particles that can cause respiratory problems and other illnesses with prolonged exposure. There have been several fires in or near the city in recent days, including 13 brush fires, four fires on empty lots, two house fires, a forest fire and a blaze at an industrial warehouse. Meanwhile, fires in the southern states of Oaxaca and Guerrero have contributed to the crisis. At least 14 fires are burning out of control in Oaxaca, fueled by hot weather and high winds.

Weather

As the swollen Mississippi River continued to rise in the South over last weekend, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a statewide emergency amid continuing torrential downpours and storms. In an effort to relieve stress on New Orleans levees, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carré spillway about 28 miles north of the city on Friday. The opening marks the first time the spillway has been used twice in a single year and only the 14th time it has been opened since it was built in the aftermath of a historic flood that swamped New Orleans in 1927. “Regional rainfall caused the Mississippi River to rise 6 inches in the past 24 hours with more rain expected through the weekend,” the Corps explained. The Upper Texas Coast and the Gulf Coast of western Louisiana has received “tremendous rainfall” last week, “300-600% of normal. Flooding caused about two dozen cars from a Norfolk Southern freight train to derail Saturday near Hillsdale, Mississippi. High winds and severe thunderstorms downed trees and damaged buildings in Alabama and Florida on Sunday, after a night of flash flooding in New Orleans that led to more than 200 calls to police, firefighters and ambulance services.

Recent rainfall has already-high water levels surging in the Great Lakes, contributing to flooding along the lakeshores in parts of Ohio and Michigan, and New York is expected to follow suit. Areas along the Lake Ontario shoreline are “at the precipice of a disaster,” according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as forecasts for additional rain threaten to push water levels past flood level. Over last weekend, New York state deployed more than 800,000 sandbags, hundreds of pumps and 920 feet of temporary dams in eight counties along Lake Ontario in preparation for potential flooding.

A line of storms moving across northern Illinois and central Indiana Thursday damaged buildings and a small airport near Chicago and brought down trees and power lines in central Indiana. A tree fell on a city bus near downtown Indianapolis Thursday evening as severe storms hit the area. Almost 50,000 homes and businesses were without power in central Indiana. Hail the size of tennis balls was reported by storm spotters in Vermillion County, Indiana. Several aircraft were reportedly damaged and windows were broken out of a building Thursday afternoon at the Sandwich Airport, about 60 miles west of Chicago.

Severe storms, with large hail, damaging winds and ground-hugging tornadoes, are expected to hammer major parts of Tornado Alley from Texas to South Dakota Friday in the first round of violent, unsettled weather expected to last into next week.

Signs of the Times

May 10, 2019

­­For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. (Psalm 139:13-14)

‘Fearfully, Wonderfully Made’ Shown in Times Square

Over last weekend, thousands of tourists and native New Yorkers saw a live 4-D ultrasound of a third-trimester baby on huge video screens in Times Square, despite efforts to censor the images. In January, when the New York legislature passed one of the most radical pro-abortion laws in the country – one allowing an abortion even while the baby was in the process of being born – activists on the floor and in the gallery started cheering when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it into law. On Saturday, Focus on the Family showed New Yorkers who those lawmakers were cheering about killing when the ministry broadcast a live 4-D ultrasound of a late-term unborn child in Times Square. Leading up to “Alive from New York,” Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, said that the national advertising giants that control the screens in Times Square censored the event. Undeterred, Daly rolled out a backup plan, which they implemented on Saturday, bringing their own big screens on flatbed trucks into the heart of Times Square where over 200,000 people saw the broadcast. Research finds more than half of abortion-minded women change their minds if they see an ultrasound of their unborn child.

One Man’s Vigil Saves Many Babies

John Barros is a 64-year-old man. He’s had cancer and recently suffered a stroke. But none of that has stopped him from standing outside an abortion clinic in Orlando, Florida for the last 9 years, reports LifeSiteNews. “I don’t have the power to turn a heart that is dead set on ending their baby’s life,” he says. “I do not have that power. But what I preach here [is] God uses his word to literally plow up some very hard ground in open people’s lives and they choose life.” Among other things, he hands out brochures, prays, sings hymns, and sidewalk counsels women arriving at the clinic. “The main thing is to let them know that you love them and that you’re there for them,” he says. Barros, who first stood outside the clinic 15 years ago, estimates that between 20 and 30 girls a month turn away from abortion and choose life. Barros’ church supports what he does and extends a helping hand to the women he helps turn away from abortion.

Georgia Governor Signs Heartbeat Abortion Bill

Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday signed legislation banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That can be as early as six weeks, before many women know they’re pregnant. The signing caps weeks of tension and protests at the state Capitol in Atlanta, and marks the beginning of what could be a lengthy and costly legal battle over the law’s constitutionality. The legal showdown is exactly what supporters are looking for. Anti-abortion activists and lawmakers across the country, energized by the new conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme, are pushing abortion bans in an attack on the high court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide until a fetus is developed enough to live outside a woman’s uterus. ACLU of Georgia legal director Sean Young said, “Under 50 years of Supreme Court precedent, this abortion ban is clearly unconstitutional,” Young said in a recent interview. Tuesday, he said the ACLU would challenge Georgia’s new abortion restriction in court.

Iowa’s Governor Signs Bill Cutting Abortion Funding

Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds gave her signature Friday to a state budget containing two measures denying taxpayer funds to two left-wing social priorities: gender-reassignment surgery and the abortion lobby’s influence over sex education. Reynolds signed the almost $2 billion budget for the 2020 fiscal year on Friday evening, The Gazette reported. Among its provisions are language to exclude any organization involved in abortions from receiving state sex education grants (which stands to deprive Planned Parenthood of the Heartland of just over $260,000), and to state that the Iowa Civil Rights Act does not require state or local governments to fund gender-reassignment surgery.

Pope Issues ‘Ground-Breaking’ Abuse Regulation

Pope Francis issued a groundbreaking law Thursday requiring all Catholic priests and nuns around the world to report clergy sexual abuse and cover-up by their superiors to church authorities, in a groundbreaking new effort to hold the Catholic hierarchy accountable for failing to protect their flocks. The new church law provides whistle-blower protections for anyone making a report and requires all dioceses around the world to have a system in place to receive the claims confidentially. And it outlines procedures for conducting preliminary investigations when the accused is a bishop, cardinal or religious superior. The law makes the world’s 415,000 Catholic priests and 660,000 religious sisters mandated reporters. That means they are required to inform church authorities when they learn or have “well-founded motives to believe” that a cleric or sister has engaged in sexual abuse of a minor, sexual misconduct with an adult, possession of child pornography — or that a superior has covered up any of those crimes. It’s the latest effort by Francis to respond to the global eruption of the sex abuse and cover-up scandal that has devastated the credibility of the Catholic hierarchy and his own papacy.

Twitter Excelling at Censorship

When the head of Twitter’s public policy department told the Senate that he’d do more on conservative censorship, making it worse wasn’t what most leaders had in mind! Unfortunately, that’s exactly what seems to be happening — to pro-lifers, Trump supporters, and even popular parody accounts. Three weeks ago, Carlos Monje Jr. was apologetic for the mistakes Twitter had made. A month later, he has a lot more to be sorry for, reports the Family Research Council who documented numerous Christian and conservative accounts that have been frozen or taken down, most without any explanation.

Trump Vindicated in Court on ‘Return to Mexico’ Asylum Policy

President Trump won a surprise victory before a usually antagonistic appeals court Tuesday when judges ruled he could continue his “Return to Mexico” policy that allows the government to make some illegal immigrants seeking asylum wait in Mexico while their cases are being heard. The policy, which the administration officially calls the Migrant Protection Protocols, had been one of the administration’s Hail Mary attempts to try to control the surge of illegal immigrants from Central America. Many of those are lodging asylum claims and counting on lax U.S. policies to earn them a foothold here, even if they don’t deserve asylum under the law. The goal was to make them wait in Mexico — effectively denying them that foothold — while their cases are being heard. A three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has been a roadblock to much of the president’s immigration agenda, sided with him, ruling that the law allows the Return to Mexico policy to proceed, and finding it’s particularly necessary given the surge of migrants.

Migrant Update

ICE has already released 168,000 illegal immigrant family members into the U.S. this fiscal year, and the number is likely to surge as the border situation deteriorates, a top deportation official told Congress on Wednesday. According to the results of a pilot program, a staggering 87% of released families are skipping their court hearings, leaving judges to order them deported in absentia — and the government is ill-equipped to track them down. Nearly 110,000 were nabbed at the southwestern border in April, including nearly 100,000 caught by the Border Patrol trying to sneak into the U.S. The other 10,000 were encountered when they showed up at ports of entry demanding to be let in, despite lacking permission.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a new program to let local police cooperate in turning over illegal immigrants even if the officers are limited by sanctuary city policies. The Washington Times reported that under the program, police won’t be involved in asking about legal status or citizenship, but will have permission to detain someone for up to 48 hours to give ICE a chance to take custody.

Shooters Kill One, Injure Eight in Colorado School

Two students are in custody after opening fire on their classmates at a Denver-area charter school Tuesday, police say. Sheriff Tony Spurlock says the suspects—one adult and one juvenile—were taken into custody within two minutes of reports of shots being fired at the STEM School Highlands Ranch, the Denver Post reports. Authorities say an 18-year-old man was killed and eight other students were injured. The suspect in custody has been named as Devon Erickson, 18. Spurlock says the injured students are all age 15 or older. Authorities say the suspects had at least one handgun, but have not commented on a motive. The Post reports that a Honda sedan with the words “(expletive) society” on the door and a pentagram with the numbers “666” on the hood was towed from the Erickson family home Tuesday night. The social media posts by the suspect in the shooting included opposition to “Christians who hate gays,” criticism of President Trump, and support for the left-wing Occupy Democrats. Five months before Tuesday’s fatal shooting, a district official urged the school’s administration to investigate allegations of violence, sexual assault and campus bullying that an anonymous parent feared could lead to “a repeat of Columbine.”

1.1 Million Americans Lost Health Insurance Coverage in 2018

The number of Americans without health insurance increased again in 2018, the second consecutive year that figure has risen after several years of declines under Obamacare, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey shows. An estimated 30.4 million Americans did not have health insurance in 2018, up from 29.3 million in 2017, according to the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey.  That means about 1.1 million more Americans lost insurance coverage last year. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 eliminated the health law’s individual mandate that required people get health insurance or pay a penalty. However, a strong economy means more low-income people likely moved from Medicaid coverage to health insurance through a job. The CDC survey also said the number of Americans in high-deductible plans reached an all-time high, covering 45.8% of people with private health insurance in 2018. In 2010, 25% of people with private coverage had high-deductible plans.

Alcohol Consumption Increasing Worldwide

Global alcohol use continues to rise, a new study reports, and is expected to keep growing in the years ahead. In fact, just in the past 27 years, the total volume of alcohol people consumed globally each year increased by 70% – from 5.5 billion gallons in 1990 to 9.4 billion gallons in 2017. That’s a result of increased population along with increased alcohol consumption. Consumption is growing in low- and middle-income countries, while the total volume of alcohol consumed in high-income countries has remained stable. “Before 1990, most alcohol was consumed in high-income countries, with the highest use levels recorded in Europe,” said study author Jakob Manthey of the Technical University of Dresden, Germany. “However, this pattern has changed substantially, with large reductions across Eastern Europe and vast increases in several middle-income countries such as China, India, and Vietnam.”

Fifteen States call Pornography a Public Health Crisis

From Idaho to Pennsylvania, lawmakers in more than a dozen states have adopted resolutions declaring pornography a public health crisis. This week the Arizona Senate approved a measure urging the state to prevent exposure and addiction to porn. At least one legislative chamber has adopted a similar measure in 15 states, including South Dakota, Tennessee, Florida and Virginia, and the Republican Party added it to its national platform. Legislators link pornography to violence against women, sexual activity among teens and unplanned pregnancies. Several Arizona Democrats said issues such as measles, opioid addiction, homelessness and suicide deserve more action than pornography. Some in the adult entertainment industry say blaming pornography for those social issues is “compete fear-mongering.”

Alzheimer’s Could Bankrupt Medicare

About 5.8 million Americans now have the Alzheimer’s Disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. As our population ages, that number will soar to at least 13.8 million by 2050, a 138% rise. s many as 1 in 3 people who live to be 85 in the United States will die with Alzheimer’s disease. “We are really in an epidemic,” says Dr. Eva Feldman, a University of Michigan neurologist, driven largely by baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), who are growing older and coming to an age when the disease most commonly strikes. The average person with Alzheimer’s disease will live four to eight years after diagnosis. It’s the most expensive disease in America – with care costing more than cancer and heart disease, the Alzheimer’s Association reports. The average cost to Medicare for a single person with dementia in 2018 was $27,244. Caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia will cost $290 billion this year alone. But by 2050, that cost is expected to rise to $1.1 trillion annually. “We really see this bankrupting Medicare at some point,” says Jennifer Lepard, the president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Michigan Chapter.

Economic News

The U.S. trade deficit edged up by 1.5% in March, but the gap with China continues to narrow amid an ongoing trade dispute. The goods trade deficit with China decreased $1.9 billion to $28.3 billion in March, as imports continued to fall. The gap with China is down about 12% compared to the first three months of last year — before Trump began imposing tariffs on Chinese goods in an effort to pressure Beijing to come to the negotiating table. Seeking to close that gap even further, President Donald Trump raised tariffs on some Chinese goods Friday. Overall, the U.S. monthly trade deficit in goods and services grew to $50 billion, the Census Bureau reported Thursday. American companies imported more from abroad than they exported, a trend driven by the strong economy.

China and the United States were moving towards an agreement to end a months-long trade war when, suddenly, it all fell apart this week. Now as negotiators scramble to resurrect the deal, revelations are emerging that indicate both sides appeared to think they had the other over a barrel. As a result, they pushed for more, setting the stage for a rapid escalation in tensions which undid session after session of hard-fought negotiations, notes CNN. President Trump says China “broke the deal” and imposed $200 billion new tariffs on Chinese goods, sending markets plummeting. Trump accused Beijing of attempting to run out the clock on his administration in the assumption it will be dealing with a Democratic administration after 2020. The Chinese government threatened to retaliate. A deal may still result from these talks, but it will be far harder than anyone expected only a month ago.

Between global warming, electric cars, and a worldwide crackdown on carbon, the future looks treacherous for Big Oil. The rise of Tesla and electric vehicles poses a severe threat to the oil industry. Passenger vehicles are the No. 1 source of demand for oil — and tomorrow’s transportation system may no longer rely on the gas station, but a charging station. However, the timing and severity of oil’s demise depends on how many electric vehicles will be on the road, how seriously governments take global warming and a confluence of other factors. Rapidly evolving technology and shifting political winds could hasten the arrival of Big Oil’s woes well before Wall Street’s current estimate of at least several decades.

Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “massive attacks against terrorist elements” in Gaza were launched after militants in the coastal enclave fired nearly 900 rockets towards Israel. Three Israelis were killed and about 250 were injured. Israel responded with airstrikes on 260 targets across Gaza, according to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Twenty-three Palestinian militants were killed in the airstrikes, with 60 more wounded. The UN said it is working with Egypt to try to restore a ceasefire and says both sides are putting at risk efforts to relieve the suffering of people in Gaza. A fragile calm returned to southern Israel Monday morning as the Islamist terror militia Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and along with the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad organization, declared a cease-fire at 4:30 AM. Hamas, which has ruled by force in Gaza for more than a decade, reportedly receives “tens of millions of dollars” from Iran each year, according to The Telegraph. Saudi journalists and intellectuals threw their support behind Israel, accusing Hamas of acting on behalf of Iran in retaliation for tightened U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Syria

Syrian government and allied Russian warplanes on Monday intensified a week-long bombardment of Idlib province, targeting hospitals and other civilian infrastructure as tens of thousands of residents fled toward the border with Turkey, activists and monitors in the rebel-held region said. The aerial campaign has killed about 100 civilians and put at least 10 hospitals out of service. It has raised fears that Syrian government forces, supported by Russia and Iranian-backed fighters, are preparing an all-out offensive in Idlib — the last area in the country controlled by rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. The airstrikes represent the latest and fiercest challenge to a pact brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year that was designed to avert all-out conflict in the northwestern province.

Iran

The United States is deploying a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the Middle East, a warning to Iran that attacks to U.S. interests will be met with “unrelenting force,” national security adviser John Bolton said Sunday. The move comes amid the Trump administration’s strategy to isolate Iran’s regime and strangle its economy. “The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces,” Bolton said. Bolton’s statement followed rocket attacks from Gaza against southern Israel Sunday. Iran supplies the rockets that Hamas uses. A defense official said there were “clear indications” that Iran and its proxy forces were preparing to possibly attack U.S. forces in the region.

Iran’s president announced on Wednesday that the nation would stop complying with some parts of the nuclear accord it signed with world powers as President Donald Trump’s administration declared new economic sanctions on Tehran, reviving a crisis that had been contained for the past four years. The escalation of threats caught the United States’ allies in Europe in the crossfire between Washington and Tehran. And while the announcement by President Hassan Rouhani of Iran did not terminate the landmark nuclear accord that was negotiated by world powers, it put it on life support. The declaration came on the one-year anniversary of Trump’s complete withdrawal from the agreement that limited Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. Rouhani said Iran will start keeping excess uranium and “heavy water” from its nuclear program inside the country – as opposed to selling it internationally – in a move that effectively amounts to a partial breach of the deal. He also set a 60-day deadline for new terms to its nuclear accord. If the new terms aren’t met, he threatened to resume higher uranium enrichment.

North Korea

For the second time in less than a week, North Korea launched suspected short-range missiles Wednesday, according to South Korea’s military. State media in North Korea said that on Saturday the nation held a short-range ballistic missile test as part of a regularly scheduled defensive military exercise. On Saturday, North Korea fired several unidentified short-range projectiles into the sea off its eastern coast, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said, a likely sign of Pyongyang’s growing frustration at stalled diplomatic talks with Washington. The firing Saturday comes amid a diplomatic breakdown that has followed the failed summit earlier this year between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the North’s pursuit of nuclear bombs that can accurately target the U.S. mainland. Experts believe that the North has viable shorter range nuclear armed missiles but still needs more tests to perfect its longer-range weapons. During the diplomacy that followed the North’s weapons tests of 2017, Kim Jong Un said that the North would not test nuclear devices or ICBMs. These short-range projectiles don’t appear to violate that self-imposed moratorium.

The three new missiles North Korean tested over the past week are eerily familiar to military experts: They look just like a controversial and widely copied missile the Russian military has deployed to Syria and has been actively trying to sell abroad for years. Following the test launches, President Trump said he remains confident in negotiations with Kim Jong Un and that a nuclear deal is still possible. However, the Justice Department announced the seizure Thursday of the Wise Honest. The ship was detained by Indonesia last month with two dozen crew members on board. U.S. officials say payments for maintenance and equipment for the ship were made unwittingly in American dollars through U.S. banks.

Libya

The U.N. health agency says 443 people have died and 2,110 have been wounded in violence in Libya’s capital since the head of the self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive against Tripoli last month. With the number of people displaced by fighting approaching 60,000, the World Health Organization said in a tweet Wednesday that it is working to coordinate ongoing health services for them. The U.N. mission in Libya “is also deeply concerned about increased cases of arbitrary arrest and abduction of officials, activists and journalists” and is calling for their immediate release. U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Wednesday the U.N. is very concerned about reports that airstrikes a day earlier hit a migrant detention center in Tajoura in eastern Tripoli

Pakistan

A bombing outside one of Pakistan’s most revered Sufi shrines killed at least 10 people, including five police officers, and injured at least 20 other people, officials said, raising new concerns about militant violence targeting a moderate and nonviolent strand of Islam. The bombing took place Wednesday morning in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab, near the shrine of an 11th-century Sufi saint, Abul Hasan Ali Bin Usman, more popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh Hajveri. Police officials said the bombing destroyed a van carrying police commandoes who were providing security at the shrine. Investigators said it was a suicide bombing. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Attacks by armed militiamen and locals on Ebola clinics have escalated as the spread of the disease intensifies. The attackers maintain that the harrowing contagion is a scheme brought in from the outside According to World Health Organization data, since January 2019 there have been 130 attacks that have caused 4 deaths and 38 injuries, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Of those, 97 attacks impacted health personnel and 44 incidents impacted health facilities. Dozens of individual medical professionals have been targeted by community criminals, including leading epidemiologist Richard Mouzako who was shot dead earlier this month as the attackers screamed that “Ebola doesn’t exist.” The hemorrhagic fever has now been classified as the second worst Ebola epidemic; having claimed more than 1,000 lives in the African country since August, second to the 2014 eruption that killed more than 11,000 people across the continent and even infiltrated to victims in the United States.

Environment

Up to 1 million of Earth’s 8 million plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, many within a matter of years, because of humans, scientists warned Monday. The losses are a direct result of human activity and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, according to a global assessment by the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. The rate of global change in nature during the past 50 years is unprecedented in human history. More food, energy and materials are being supplied, but they all come at the expense of nature, the report said. The worst impacts, in order of severity, have come from changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and invasion of alien species, the report found.

Britain has now gone one week without using any coal to generate electricity, and while that might not sound like much, it’s the longest the country has gone without coal power since the world’s first coal plant fired up in London 137 years ago. National Grid ESO, which supplies power to England, Scotland and Wales, took coal power off the grid on May 1, although for now at least, coal-fired power plants will still be relied upon as backup during periods of high demand for energy, the Guardian reported. The move is a big step toward Britain’s goal of phasing out coal-fired power plants by 2025.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck in eastern Papua New Guinea early Tuesday morning local time, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicenter of the strong quake was near Bulolo, about 41 miles northeast of Lae, the country’s second-largest city. It was also felt in the capital city of Port Moresby, about 160 miles away. The fire department in Lae said no one had yet called in to report damage or injuries so far following the quake. The USGS-linked Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no threat of a tsunami after the quake.

Weather

As of May 6, flooding has killed 43 people so far in 2019, according to data compiled by the National Weather Service (NWS). Most of those deaths have occurred in the central United States where copious amounts of precipitation has fallen in the first four months of the year and triggered both river flooding and flash flooding. The flooding death toll this year has easily surpassed the 31 people killed by tornadoes in 2019 through May 6. That follows the long-term trend of flooding being one of the most deadly weather events annually, even though it doesn’t typically garner as much attention as tornadoes and hurricanes do. Flooding has killed an average of 87 people annually over the last 30 years (1989-2018), according to NOAA. Only heat has been deadlier, on average, over that three-decade period. This year’s death toll from flooding through early May is also already at half its annual average.

A line of powerful storms that has triggered deadly flash flooding and destructive tornadoes in several states continued its trek across the South Thursday. Possible tornadoes were reported in Huntsville, Alabama, and McComb, Mississippi. There were reports of damaged buildings and trees down in both areas. Several roads in Jackson, Mississippi, were underwater Thursday morning and the National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency warning for the area. Rescues were underway Thursday morning for motorists stranded by flash flooding in Greenville, Mississippi. Buildings were reportedly inundated and roads impassable in Washington County, in western Mississippi. More than 86,000 homes and businesses across Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi were without power Thursday evening. Dozens of motorists became stranded Thursday night in Houston. More than 111,000 Texas homes and businesses were without power Friday morning. A stretch of Interstate 10 was temporarily shut down in downtown Houston Thursday evening because of flooding and 30 to 40 people were rescued after becoming stranded at another stretch of the highway on the eastern side of the city. The Houston fire department urged motorists Friday to stay off the roads to avoid more flash flooding from the lingering storm system.

Signs of the Times

May 3, 2019

­­Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (1Timothy 2:1-2)

White House Hosts Third National Day of Prayer Service

About one hundred people—religious leaders, Trump administration officials, and their guests—celebrated the “power of prayer” at the White House Wednesday. The president welcomed representatives of various faiths, including Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, and Hindus. “Today we give thanks for this magnificent country and we proudly come together as one nation under God,” Trump said at the start of the service. The President and Melania Trump hosted the service in the White House Rose Garden where the president asked for prayer for Venezuela and called for the protection of religious freedom amid the recent string of attacks on houses of worship across the United States and all over the world. The President made mention of several incidents on houses of worship in the U.S. including the arson of three historically black churches in Louisiana and the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue last year. Among his guests were rabbi Yisroel Goldstein who survived the San Diego synagogue shooting last week. The National Day of Prayer was created in 1952 when President Harry Truman signed a joint resolution of Congress declaring it a day of observation when citizens can “turn to God in prayer and meditation.” This is the third consecutive year that the White House has hosted a National Day of Prayer service.

Trump Issues Religious-Freedom Protections for Those Forced to do Abortions

The Trump administration has finalized another set of administrative protections for religious Americans’ conscience rights on a range of fronts, President Donald Trump announced Thursday morning during remarks to observe the National Day of Prayer. “Earlier this week I took action to ensure that federal employees can take paid time off to observe religious holy days,” he announced. “And just today we finalized new protections of conscience rights for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students, and faith-based charities.” According to a press release from the Department of Health and Human Services, the final rule “ensures that HHS implements the full set of tools appropriate for enforcing” laws that exempt healthcare workers from “having to provide, participate in, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for, services such as abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide.”

Prominent Clergy, Scholars Accuse Pope Francis of Heresy

Prominent clergymen and scholars including Fr. Aidan Nichols, one of the best-known theologians in the English-speaking world, have issued an open letter accusing Pope Francis of committing heresy. They ask the bishops of the Catholic Church, to whom the open letter is addressed, to “take the steps necessary to deal with the grave situation” of a pope committing this crime. The authors base their charge of heresy on the manifold manifestations of Pope Francis’ embrace of positions contrary to the faith and his dubious support of prelates who in their lives have shown themselves to have a clear disrespect for the Church’s faith and morals. “We take this measure as a last resort to respond to the accumulating harm caused by Pope Francis’s words and actions over several years, which have given rise to one of the worst crises in the history of the Catholic Church,” the authors state. Many of these heretical statements touch on questions of marriage and the family and are to be found in Amoris Laetitia, but there is also a new claim made by Pope Francis in 2019 – namely, that the “diversity of religions” is “willed by God.”

Late-Term Abortions in NYC Far More than Homicides

More babies died from abortion at 21 weeks’ gestation or over in 2015 than there were people killed by homicide in New York City, new figures reveal. Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and published by the New York Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), reveal that the number of abortions at or after 21 weeks was 1,485 while the number of homicides was 352. While the figure of 1,485 is shockingly high, these abortions at 21 or more weeks’ gestation account for only 2.3 percent of the 63,610 abortions carried out in America’s abortion capital. And these numbers are only likely to get higher, as New York recently passed some of the most extreme abortion legislation in the world, removing abortion from the penal law and allowing it up to birth in some cases.

Students Win ‘Bible Ban’ Case as School Rewrites Policy

Parents of students who were banned from handing out Bibles during lunch at a Pennsylvania high school reached an agreement with the school district Monday that changes language in the student handbook. The students at Cumberland County High School in Mechanicsburg, Pa., said in January the principal was preventing them from handing out Bibles during any moment of the school day, including during lunch. The Independence Law Center then filed suit on behalf of the parents of the students, claiming the school’s policy was a violation of constitutionally protected free speech. The students are part of a group called the Christians in Action Club, or Bible Club. A federal judge issued an injunction against the school district in February, allowing the students to hand out Bibles. Under the agreement reached between the parents and the Mechanicsburg Area School District, the district agreed to delete a portion of the student handbook that banned any speech that “seek[s] to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect or point of view.” The district also agreed to pay the parents’ attorney fees. The judge signed off on the agreement.

School Stops Saying ‘God Bless America’ after Atheists Complain

A Pennsylvania school stopped saying “God Bless America” over the loudspeaker after a parent complained and an organization comprised of atheists and agnostics got involved. Sabold Elementary School in Springfield, Pa., had a custom of allowing users of the loudspeaker to say “God Bless America” after the morning Pledge of Allegiance. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, acting on a complaint from a parent, wrote the superintendent March 25 and argued the action was unconstitutional. An FFRF press release said saying the phrase “sends a message to its students that the school is endorsing and compelling belief in God.” The FFRF also says the Pledge itself is unconstitutional due to its incorporation of “under God.”

American School Children Forced to Praise ‘Blood of Martyrs’

In a frightening display at a Philadelphia Muslim school, young children performed songs calling for the “liberation” of land that belongs to Israel with the “blood of martyrs.” While the sight of even the youngest children singing about terrorism and violence against Israelis has become commonplace in videos from Gaza, seeing a similar display from children in the United States is chilling, reports United With Israel. “children to praise so-called “martyrs” and “liberate” land that belongs to a sovereign nation, Israel, makes the prospect of Israel-Palestinian peace even more remote.

Persecution of Christians in Middle East a Growing Problem

A new report details the pervasive persecution of Christians in parts of the Middle East, The Guardian is reporting. The report, commission by British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, says the persecution sometimes amounts to genocide. It noted millions of Christians have been uprooted from their homes in the region.  Many of them have been killed imprisoned, kidnapped and discriminated against. “The overwhelming majority (80%) of persecuted religious believers are Christians,” the report said. In the Middle East the population of Christians used to be about 20%; now it’s 5%.The report noted “forms of persecution ranging from routine discrimination in education, employment and social life up to genocidal attacks against Christian communities have led to a significant exodus of Christian believers from this region since the turn of the century.” And the report added: “The level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide.”

Palestinian Christian Village Attacked by Fatah-Linked Mob

Residents of the predominantly Christian village of Jifna, north of Ramallah in an area of the West Bank administered by the Palestinian Authority, were attacked  late Sunday following a personal dispute between a female resident of the village and the son of an individual tied to the Fatah faction, which dominates the PA. The woman reportedly filed a complaint with the PA police after she said she and her children were assaulted while driving through the village, leading to an apparent revenge attack on the entire village by a mob led by the father of the accused and including several men with weapons. Women and children were terrorized by the shooting, and houses were targeted with Molotov cocktails and rocks.

Shooter Attacks Jewish Temple in Poway, CA

One woman was killed and three others were wounded when a man entered a synagogue during Passover services Saturday at the Chabad of Poway temple and opened fire with an AR-style assault weapon shortly before 11:30 a.m. Poway is about 25 miles northeast of San Diego. Officials are calling it a hate crime. The suspect, 19-year-old John Earnest, turned himself in and is being questioned by authorities. San Diego Sheriff William Gore said that Earnest posted a “manifesto” online which details the shooter’s hateful motivations and his reasons for targeting members of the Jewish faith. Earnest is also under investigation in connection with an unsolved mosque arson case. Lori Gilbert-Kaye, a veteran, murdered in Saturday’s shooting attack on a Chabad synagogue in the San Diego area, sacrificed her own life in order to save that of the synagogue’s rabbi by standing in front of him. After Earnest fired at least eight rounds into a California synagogue, he stopped to fumble with his semiautomatic rifle and then fled with 50 unused bullets, authorities say.

Army Veteran Charged with Plotting Terror Attacks in LA Area

A 26-year-old former US Army soldier who served in Afghanistan has been charged with plotting terror attacks in the Los Angeles area, the Justice Department said Monday. Mark Steven Domingo allegedly sought to detonate improvised explosive devices containing nails this past weekend at a rally in Long Beach that was organized by a white nationalist group. On March 2, Domingo posted a video online professing his Muslim faith and wrote, “America needs another Vegas event,” referring to the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017 in which more than 50 people died. He was arrested Friday night after he took receipt of what he thought were pressure cooker bombs. Domingo allegedly wanted to “seek retribution for attacks against Muslims” and also considered attacks on Jewish people, churches and law enforcement. He is accused of targeting “Jews as they walked to synagogue, police officers, a military facility, and crowds at the Santa Monica Pier.”

More States Enacting Red Flag Gun Laws

If someone is suicidal or an imminent threat to others, should a local judge be able to temporarily take away that person’s guns? Colorado is the 16th state to say “yes,” while another 21 have taken at least some steps toward adopting a so-called red flag law. Such laws are now on the books in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia. Maine and Pennsylvania could be next. Gun violence is again in the spotlight with two high-profile shootings in the past week, one at a synagogue and one at a college campus. The laws are opposed by the National Rifle Association which says they hinder the right to due process. Red flags in the run-up to the homicides in Tennessee that left seven people dead should serve as a “wake-up call” for the state, says a prominent defense attorney who reviewed the case. Michael Lee Cummins, the suspect in the Tennessee deaths, had a lengthy criminal history in Sumner County, including previous convictions for aggravated assault, domestic assault and attempted aggravated arson.

Military Sexual Assaults Rise by Almost 38%

Sexual assaults in the military rose nearly 38% from 2016 to 2018, according to survey results obtained by the USA TODAY. That spike in crime within the ranks comes after years of focused effort and resources to eradicate it. The report, released Thursday by the Pentagon, surveyed Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine personnel in 2018. Based on the survey, there were an estimated 20,500 instances of unwanted sexual contact – an increase over the 14,900 estimated in the last biennial survey in 2016.Unwanted sexual contact ranges from groping to rape. Enlisted female troops ages 17 to 24 were at the highest risk of being assaulted. More than 85% of victims knew their assailant. Alcohol was involved in 62% of the total assaults. Patrick M. Shanahan, the acting Secretary of Defense, said in a statement Thursday he had reviewed the latest data and said, “We are not performing to the standards and expectations we have for ourselves or for each other. This is unacceptable. We cannot shrink from facing the challenge head on.”

Rapists Seldom are Incarcerated in U.S.

The vast majority of sexual perpetrators escape prison time. Out of every 1,000 rapes, 995 perpetrators will never be incarcerated, according to an analysis of Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation data conducted by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Most rapes aren’t even reported. Even when sexual assault or abuse is reported, legal experts say the variations in sentencing guidelines from state to state and judges’ ability to deviate from those guidelines make sentencing inconsistent. For example, Shane Piche admitted to raping a 14-year-old girl who rode the school bus he drove. Michael Wysolovski admitted to keeping a teenage girl in sexual captivity for more than a year. Last Thursday, two separate judges in two separate states ruled neither would be going to prison, with plea deals requiring them to register as sex offenders, and incarceration limited to time served.

Executives of Opioid Manufacturer Found Guilty of Racketeering

The billionaire founder of the pharmaceutical company Insys Therapeutics and four other top executives were found guilty on Thursday in a scheme involving bribes and kickbacks to physicians who prescribed large amounts of a fentanyl spray to patients who didn’t need the painkiller. After 15 days of deliberations, a jury in Boston federal court reached a first-ever conviction of a drug company CEO in the federal government’s fight to combat the opioid crisis, finding the Arizona-based company’s founder and former chairman John Kapoor guilty of racketeering conspiracy charges. Racketeering charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The landmark conviction in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts marks an initial victory on the legal front in the government’s efforts to fight the rising number of opioid overdoses. Many similar lawsuits are being filed against opioid manufacturers in many cities and states.

Florida Votes to Ban Sanctuary Cities Statewide

Lawmakers in Florida approved a bill to ban sanctuary cities in the Sunshine State, and all that is left is for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to sign it into law. The Tampa Bay Times reported Thursday the measure passed in both the House and Senate. The bill stipulates state and local law enforcement agencies will be required to comply with federal “immigration detainers,” which are used when a suspected illegal alien is in custody. There are hundreds of sanctuary cities and counties across the United States in Democrat-controlled areas. Republicans and members of the law enforcement community have pushed back on them, and the Trump administration has flirted with withholding certain federal funds to jurisdictions that refuse to enforce immigration laws. President Donald Trump recently announced the plan to send detained illegal immigrants into sanctuary cities, a plan that is now underway.

Migrant Update

President Trump will send Congress a supplemental budget request this week demanding more money ($4.5B) to secure the border amid the ongoing humanitarian and security crisis, the acting Homeland Security secretary told Congress on Tuesday, setting up a massive battle with Democrats. The president will also send a legislative package asking for changes to the law to allow for faster deportations of illegal immigrants, closing loopholes that migrants are exploiting to gain an illegal foothold in the U.S.

President Donald Trump’s repeated threats to close the U.S.-Mexico border may have influenced the country’s recent crackdown on migrants, USA Today reports. Migrants from Central America have found “immigration checkpoints all along the highway” leading through Mexico, according to the newspaper, and migrant caravans were raided and the travelers arrested last April. Humanitarian visas that allow migrants to live and work in Mexico were cut off, and bus operators were recently ordered to stop carrying migrants. Local police in the southern states in Mexico have begun preventing migrants from entering town centers, and local citizens are no longer offering food, water, or clothing to migrants. Maureen Meyer, from the non-partisan Washington Office on Latin America’s director for Mexico and migrant rights, said that Trump’s threats to close the border, end foreign aid to Mexico and suspend NAFTA negotiations, along with his decision to cut of multiple Central American countries from foreign aid, has had a great impact on Mexico.

From the Rio Grande Valley in Texas to the Southern California coast, the Trump administration continues  separating migrant families at rates that alarm immigration attorneys and advocates, even though a federal judge barred family separations as a systemic policy. Separations have slowed significantly since a federal judge in San Diego ordered the administration to halt the practice in June 2018. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw allowed separations Advocates at the Young Center’s Harlingen, Texas, office said one in every five families they see at migrant shelters have been separated at the border for questionable reasons. Officials at Al Otro Lado, which advocates for immigrants in California, said dozens of families are separated each day throughout the San Diego metro area. in rare, specific circumstances, and the Trump administration has exploited those openings at a worrying clip, according to groups that work with migrants along the border.

Thousands fleeing conflict or poverty in Nigeria, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Haiti and Cuba have traveled across oceans, through the jungles and mountains of South America or up through Central America. It’s a a route that – so far – ends here: the steamy, crumbling Mexican city of Tapachula, near the Guatemala border. Some say they’ve given up hope of reaching the United States and just want papers that will allow them to work in Mexico – but northern Mexico, where wages are higher. The government is not prepared to grant that, so it keeps them in Tapachula, waiting – perhaps for an asylum ruling, perhaps residency status, but most likely perpetual homelessness.

Economic News

Hiring was strong for the second straight month in April and unemployment fell to a new 50-year low,  easing concerns that a slowing global and U.S. economy could dampen job growth. Employers added a booming 263,000 jobs, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate fell from 3.8% to 3.6%, lowest since December 1969. Average hourly earnings rose 6 cents to $27.70, keeping the annual gain at 3.2%.Pay increases generally have topped 3% since last year as employers compete for a shrinking supply of workers.

Economies at the heart of Europe are growing more quickly than expected, boosting hopes that a global slump has been avoided. First quarter growth in the 19 countries that use the euro was 0.4%, double the rate posted in the final quarter of 2018. The results are the latest piece of evidence to suggest that the world’s largest economies are in better shape than many analysts feared. The US economy grew at a better than expected rate of 3.2%.

President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders agreed Tuesday to work together on a $2 trillion infrastructure package — but put off for later the difficult question of how to pay for it. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said there was “good will in the meeting” and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi added: “We did come to one agreement: that the agreement would be big and bold.”

The national average price of gas continues its customary spring climb as Memorial Day approaches, hitting $2.90 on Friday, up 20 cents from a month ago and 8 cents more than a year ago, according to AAA. In California, the average price of gasoline soared over $4 per gallon. Nationally, the average is “knocking on the doorstep” of hitting $3 for the first time since October 2014.

Britain

Knife-related homicides took 285 lives in England and Wales from March 2017 to March 2018 – a record since data collection began in 1946. The data, from the Office for National Statistics, doesn’t include Northern Ireland and Scotland. Unlike the U.S., where guns are tied to so many deaths, only 4% of homicides in Britain last year were from shootings; 39% were from “sharp instruments,” the top weapon. The stabbing deaths have led police leaders, youth workers and victims’ families to call for action over what Prime Minister Theresa May has described as a public-health emergency and a “cancer” affecting British society: violence by its youth.

  • The end-time surge in violence by our youth growing up within our culture of death will only get worse as rider of the red horse is loosed upon the earth to “take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another.” (Revelation 6:4)

Middle East

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has offered Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas $10 billion to accept U.S. President Donald Trump’s upcoming Mideast peace plan for Israelis and Palestinians, reported the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar on Tuesday. Salman reportedly asked Abbas: “How much money does the Palestinian Authority and its ministers and employees need?” Abbas replied with an answer of $1 billion annually, to which the Saudi crown prince replied: “I will give you $10 billion over 10 years if you accept the deal of the century.” Abbas rejected the offer, saying it would “mean the end of my political life.” White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said last week that the so-called “deal of the century” will be released after the Islamic holiday of Ramadan, which starts on May 5 and concludes on June 4.

Syria

Fighting in northwestern Syria has displaced nearly 140,000 people since February, the UN said on Wednesday, as the Assad regime and its ally Russia have stepped up their bombardment program. “Since February, over 138,500 women, children and men have been displaced from northern Hama and southern Idlib,” said David Swanson of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Sri Lanka

Muslim women in Sri Lanka will no longer be able to veil their faces under an emergency law ordered by President Maithripala Sirisena that bans all kinds of face coverings that may conceal people’s identities. The law takes effect Monday, eight days after the Easter bombings of churches and hotels that killed more than 250 people in Sri Lanka. Dozens of suspects have been arrested but local officials and the US Embassy in Colombo have warned that more militants remained on the loose with explosives.

Venezuela

Clashes between anti-government protesters and law enforcement officers erupted in Caracas on Tuesday after the Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, called for the population to rise up against the president, Nicolás Maduro. The Trump administration, which has backed Mr. Guaidó since he first declared himself interim president in January, expressed immediate support for his latest move. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that U.S. military action “is possible” in Venezuela to bolster opposition leader Juan Guaido’s bid to oust President Nicolas Maduro. Pompeo’s remarks appeared to mark an escalation of the Trump administration’s rhetoric on Venezuela. Pompeo and other officials, including President Donald Trump, have said that “all options are on the table” but focused mostly on economic sanctions and other diplomatic tools. Pompeo on Tuesday said Maduro was ready to flee Venezuela but changed his mind after Russia persuaded him to stay. Maduro and Russian officials denied Pompeo’s account. The stepped-up U.S. pressure comes a day after opposition leader Juan Guaido called for a popular uprising and claimed the support of the military. President Trump spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday and discussed a range of issues, including nuclear weapons, a three-party arms control agreement and the conflict in Venezuela.

  • It should be noted that Venezuela has by far the largest oil reserves in the world, hence the greater involvement of the world’s major powers.

China

China is continuing to modernize its armed forces in order to transform its military into a major global power and using espionage to steal cutting edge technology for military purposes, according to a newly released Pentagon report. “China uses a variety of methods to acquire foreign military and dual-use technologies, including targeted foreign direct investment, cyber theft, and exploitation of private Chinese nationals’ access to these technologies, as well as harnessing its intelligence services, computer intrusions, and other illicit approaches,” the Department of Defense report said. The report also details the growth in China’s defense budget and its military capabilities, saying “China’s defense budget has nearly doubled during the past 10 years.”

Japan

Japanese Emperor Akihito announced his abdication at a palace ceremony Tuesday in his final address, as the nation embraced the end of his reign with reminiscence and hope for a new era. Akihito, 85, took the throne in 1989 and devoted his career to making amends for a war fought in his father’s name while bringing the aloof monarchy closer to the people. Akihito’s reign ends at midnight Tuesday, after which his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, ascends the throne as new emperor.

Earthquakes

A 3.6-magnitude earthquake in southeastern Arizona was the largest of several quakes that registered in the region on Saturday morning. The Arizona Geological Survey said the Duncan and Safford areas experienced a sequence of shallow quakes at 10:01 a.m. Each year, Arizona has hundreds of earthquakes that people don’t feel.

4.8-magnitude quake struck just below the U.S.- Mexico border near Alberto Oviedo Mota, Baja California. The perceived shaking in Alberto Oviedo Mota was listed as very strong with the potential for damage listed at moderate, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The shaking was felt in Yuma, Arizona.

Weather

Deadly flooding from heavy rains and snow melt plagued areas from Michigan to the South this week, damaging homes and sending the Mississippi River in one spot to levels not reached in 157 years. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency Thursday for Wayne County after this week’s heavy rains left widespread flooding. In other areas throughout the Midwest and the South, flooding has made roads impassable and forced the closure of two Mississippi River bridges in Quincy, Illinois, and Louisiana, Missouri.

The Mississippi River surged above levels reached in the historic 1993 flood in Davenport, Iowa, causing a levee to give way, inundating the city with more than 6 feet of water. The breech forced some residents to seek shelter on their rooftops, while others were evacuated by boats. Several businesses were forced to close as the flood waters rose, and city workers scrambled to reinforce the levee with sandbags.

A rash of severe storms lashed the Plains Tuesday, spawning at least three dozen suspected tornadoes that left a trail of damage across northern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas. More than 30,000 homes and businesses were without power early Wednesday in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Storms pounding Central Arkansas knocked down trees, ripped off roofs and flipped tractor-trailers on Thursday. In addition to Arkansas, the spate of storms caused damage in Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Tropical Cyclone Fani slammed into northeast India Friday as a Category 4-equivalent storm, uprooting trees, downing power lines and sweeping away thatched homes. “There were the roadside food carts, store signs all flying by in the air,” one witness reported. In the popular tourist beach city of Puri, the main highway in and out was made impassable by fallen trees and electricity poles. Nearly 1.2 million people had been evacuated Thursday in northeast India as the storm approached. Initial reports say seven have died, but the toll is expected to rise as the storm continues to batter India.

Signs of the Times

April 27, 2019

­We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. (2Corinthians 4:8-9, NKJV)

Miraculous Healing of Boy Thrown Off Balcony

A 5-year-old boy who was thrown from a third-floor balcony at the Mall of America miraculously suffered no brain damage, his family pastor said. The boy fell nearly 40 feet after a stranger “looking for someone to kill” picked him up and threw him off earlier this month. Now, the boy is showing “zero evidence of brain damage” Mac Hammond, a pastor at the family’s church, said. No spinal cord injury, no nerve damage, no internal injuries that were life-threatening. The boy did sustain many broken bones. The boys parents said in a statement that prayers were working and that “God’s hand is working.” The family’s statement also said Jesus “saved our son’s life and is healing him in the most miraculous ways.”

Faith-Based Film Breakthrough Opens Top 3 in Box Office

The faith-based film Breakthrough reached hit status its opening weekend, landing in the Top 3 and grossing more than $11 million. The PG-rated movie tells the story of a boy who was thought dead after he plunged through an icy pond and didn’t have a pulse for 45 minutes. But when his mother began praying at the hospital, his heart started beating again. Even mainstream critics also liked Breakthrough– a rare feat for a faith-based film. Bilge Ebiri of The New York Times liked it, writing, “You don’t have to believe in divine intervention to be moved by this story.”

Number of Americans Attending Church Plummets

A new Gallup report found that only half of Americans say they belong to a church or other religious body, down from 69% two decades earlier. Most of the decline is tied to the rise of the so-called “nones” — those who claim no religious affiliation. Gallup found that the share of Americans who claim a religious identity declined from 90% to 77% in recent decades. At the turn of the century, Gallup said, 73% of religious Americans belonged to a house of worship. That’s dropped to 64% today. The poll found that 68% of “traditionalists” — which Gallup identifies as those born before 1945 — are part of a church or other religious body. That percentage has declined from 78% two decades ago. Just 42 percent of millennials are members of churches, on average, according to the report.

Many Catholics Leaving the Church Over Sexual Abuse Scandal

The Catholic Church in the U.S. is at a crossroads. As millions of devout followers filled the pews this Easter season to celebrate the religion’s most important holiday, others have either quit the church or are considering doing so because of the church’s handling of the decades-long sex abuse crisis that’s resulted in young children being raped and abused by priests who were often protected by their superiors. Seven months after a damning grand jury report in Pennsylvania revealed that 1,000 children had been abused at the hands of more than 300 priests, and as state attorneys general across the nation investigate the church, a Gallup poll published in March found that 37% of U.S. Catholics are considering leaving the church because of the sex abuse crisis and the church’s handling of it. That’s up significantly from 2002, when just 22% of Catholics said they were contemplating leaving their religion after The Boston Globe published an explosive series that initially exposed the abuse and subsequent cover-up.

  • Catholicism opened itself up to destruction from the inside out due to its non-Biblical practices

7,819 Suspects Named in Boy Scout ‘Perversion Files’

The Boy Scouts of America “perversion files” contain the names of a staggering number of suspected pedophiles and their victims, an attorney revealed Tuesday. Jeff Anderson, represents former Scouts who say they were abused. The files show that there were 7,819 suspected perpetrators and 12,254 victims between 1944 and 2016. The number of suspected abusers and victims was revealed during a trial in January. Anderson said the alarming thing is not just the number, but “the fact is that the Boy Scouts of America has never actually released these names in any form that can be known to the public.” He said that the names of the suspects were not given to the public or the police, meaning that while they may have been banned from Scouting, they would have been free to gain access to children elsewhere. More than 200 individuals have come forward with new allegations of sexual abuse by members of the Boy Scouts of America in recent weeks as a trio of law firms seek to uncover unidentified child abusers.

U.S. History Textbook Portrays Trump as Mentally Ill, Racist

A new high-school American history textbook depicts President Donald Trump as mentally ill and castigates both him and his supporters as racist. Published by Pearson Education, “By the People: A History of the United States” will be used by many Advanced Placement students beginning in 2020, reports Todd Starnes. In the final section, titled “The Angry Election of 2016,” the book states Trump’s “not very-hidden racism connected with a significant number of primary voters.” The textbook further states that Clinton supporters “also worried about the mental stability of the president-elect and the anger that he and his supporters brought to the nation.” Starnes said a Pearson spokesman defended the textbook, arguing it underwent “rigorous peer review to ensure academic integrity.”

Kansas Supreme Court Rules Right to Abortion in State Constitution

The Kansas Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling against a ban on dismemberment abortion today, arguing that a right to abortion exists in the state constitution. According to National Public Radio (NPR), “The landmark ruling now stands as the law of the land in Kansas with no path for an appeal. Because it turns on the state’s Constitution, abortion would remain legal in Kansas even if the Roe v. Wade case that established a national right to abortion is ever reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.” Mary Kay Culp, Executive Director of Kansans for Life, told LifeSiteNews that her next task in defending the unborn child would be amending the Kansas Constitution. In a press release, Culp stated that the Kansas Supreme Court had created the “broadest right” to abortion in the USA.

Judge Will Block Trump’s Rule Defunding Planned Parenthood

A federal judge appointed by pro-abortion President Barack Obama plans to keep taxpayer funding flowing to Planned Parenthood by blocking a new pro-life rule from the Trump administration. Pro-abortion attorneys general in 20 states and Washington, D.C. filed a lawsuit, arguing that the rule would hurt Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers and violate the Affordable Care Act. U.S. District Judge Michael McShane of Oregon said he plans to block the Trump administration from enforcing the rule, which takes effect May 3. He criticized the rule as a “ham-fisted approach to public health policy,”

Trump Withdraws U.S. From UN Arms Treaty

President Donald Trump on Friday announced at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting that the United States will drop out of an international arms treaty signed in 2013 by then-President Barack Obama but opposed by the NRA and other conservative groups. The 193-nation U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the treaty in April 2013 and the United States, the world’s No. 1 arms exporter, voted in favor of it. Trump told members of the gun lobby that he intends to revoke the status of the United States as a signatory of the Arms Trade Treaty, which was never ratified by the U.S. Senate. The NRA has long opposed the treaty which regulates the $70 billion business in conventional arms and seeks to keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers. The lobbying group argues it would undermine domestic gun rights, a view the Obama administration rejected. Trump’s action drew an immediate rebuke from some international human rights groups.

Court Ruling Upholds Off-Shore Drilling Ban

Environmental groups are cheering the indefinite delay of President Donald Trump’s controversial plan to expand oil and gas drilling off much of America’s shoreline, a program that’s a linchpin of his “energy dominance” agenda. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told the Wall Street Journal Thursday that the recent court decision blocking drilling in the Arctic and parts of the Atlantic oceans could suspend the agency’s plan to open up as much as 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf for energy exploration over the next five years. A federal judge in Alaska last month threw out Trump’s 2017 executive order reversing drilling bans imposed by President Barack Obama in dozens of canyons in the Atlantic and vast parts of the Arctic to protect polar bears, walruses, ice seals as well as Alaska Native villages that depend on the animals.

Migrant Update

American high schools are churning out nearly 100,000 illegal immigrant “Dreamers” a year, according to a new study Wednesday that shows just how extensive the network of illegal immigrant families is in the U.S. The Migration Policy Institute’s research is the first in more than a decade to try to capture the size of the emergent Dreamer population, which is defined as illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as juveniles, lacking any immediate claims to legal status. MPI’s numbers show the population has grown, from about 65,000 a year in 2003 to 98,000 graduating each year now.

The Rand Corp. released a report Monday which estimates that Central American migrants paid as much as $2.3 billion to be smuggled into the U.S. in 2017. Rand made its calculations based on high and low estimates for migrants’ payments and then calculations of how many people actually made the journey. They limited their study to those from the Northern Triangle: the countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Rand identified four types of operators in the human smuggling trade, ranging from independent operators who offer their own services such as driving or guiding, all the way to formal networks run by a single kingpin who can monopolize a route of traffic. The formal networks, the organized smuggling cartels, are the most notorious. Homeland Security officials say those cartels either operate in coordination with, or are the same as, drug smuggling organizations. Yet Rand said it’s likely the less-formal networks and independent operators are the ones making the most money from human smuggling.

Central American migrants hoping to reach the U.S. are finding a much tougher trek than those in previous caravans, meeting unwelcoming townsfolk and a surprise raid. Mexican police and immigration agents detained hundreds of Central American migrants Monday in the largest single raid on a migrant caravan since the groups started moving through the country last year. Police targeted isolated groups at the tail end of a caravan of about 3,000 migrants who were making their way through the southern state of Chiapas with hopes of reaching the U.S. border. As migrants gathered under spots of shade in the burning heat outside the city of Pijijiapan, federal police and agents passed by in patrol trucks and vans and forcibly wrestled women, men and children into the vehicles. As many as 500 migrants might have been picked up in the raid, according to Associated Press journalists at the scene.

Driver Speeds into Pedestrians at California Shopping Center

A driver is in custody after speeding toward a crowd of pedestrians Tuesday, injuring eight, in what may be an intentional act, police say. The crash took place around 6:40 p.m. local time in Sunnyvale, Calif., near a shopping center. Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety said preliminary investigations show the driver — who is in custody — might have intentionally sped toward the pedestrians. Witnesses say that the vehicle didn’t try to veer away or slow down. New evidence shows that Isaiah Joel Peoples also targeted the crowd based on race The driver believed the people he assaulted were of the Muslim faith, police said.

Lost Angeles Continues its Reign As Nation’s Smoggiest City

California’s reign as the U.S. state with the worst air pollution continues as Los Angeles is again the nation’s smoggiest metro area, according to a report released Wednesday. LA isn’t alone when it comes to smog-choked cities in California: seven of the nation’s top 10 smoggiest cities are in the Golden State, including San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento. The top six are all in California. Los Angeles has had the worst smog for 19 years of the 20-year history of the American Lung Association’s annual “State of the Air” report. Phoenix ranks seventh, Houston eighth and New York City tenth.

New York City to Require Buildings to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Buildings in New York City larger than 25,000 square feet will be required to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030 under an ordinance approved last Thursday by the City Council and signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday. The buildings have to cut emissions by 80% by 2050. Buildings that fail to meet the targets could face fines of $268 for each ton of emissions exceeding permitted limits. The first of its kind law exempts or sets more lenient limits for houses of worship, single-family homes, hospitals, rent-controlled housing, New York City Housing Authority complexes, city buildings and power plants.

Measles Continues to Spread in U.S.

Measles cases in the United States have surpassed the highest number on record since the disease was declared eliminated nationwide in 2000. As of Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 626 individual cases of measles confirmed in those 22 states. This includes illnesses reported by state health departments to the CDC through April 19 and therefore does not include cases reported since then. President Donald Trump said Thursday that, “They have to get the shots. The vaccinations are so important. This is really going around now. They have to get their shots.” Previously, he had indicated concerns about vaccinations. More than 1,000 students and staff members at two Los Angeles universities were quarantined on campus or sent home this week in one of the most sweeping efforts yet by public health authorities to contain the spread of measles in the U.S.

Economic News

The US economy grew at a much better than expected rate in the first quarter, the Commerce Department reported Friday. The top-line number is a pleasant surprise in a quarter marked by a government shutdown, severe weather, Boeing’s troubles with the 737 Max, fears of an escalating trade war and the gradual fading of fiscal stimulus from tax cuts. The annual rate of 3.2% beat the 2.1% estimates and is a pleasant surprise in a quarter marked by a government shutdown, severe weather, Boeing’s troubles with the 737 Max, fears of an escalating trade war and the gradual fading of fiscal stimulus from tax cuts. Growth was driven in part by higher inventories, especially in the manufacturing industry, which can indicate that businesses are stockpiling goods rather than selling them.

U.S. stocks climbed past their all-time closing highs on Tuesday, as stocks continued to rally from their December lows. The S&P 500 reached 2933.68 points, breaking through the historical closing high of 2,930.75 points that it set in September. The Nasdaq nearly hit 8121 points, beating the 8,110 point all-time best close it hit in August. Stocks were driven higher Tuesday by stronger shares in the consumer goods, heath care and technology sectors.

Home sales are struggling to rebound after slumping in the second half of last year, when a jump in mortgage rates to nearly 5% discouraged many would-be buyers. Spring buying is so far running behind last year’s healthy gains, down 5.4%. On a year over year basis, existing home sales have now fallen for 13 months in a row.

African swine fever is plaguing China’s pork production. The disease is killing multitudes of animals, hitting the global pork supply chain, and driving up prices worldwide. China is one of the biggest producers of pork in the world, with around half of the meat’s global output. China’s pork production has fallen 10% this year. China normally accounts for 49% of global pork consumption. To meet China’s insatiable demand for pork products, the country is turning to imports, which are expected to hit a record high in 2019, driving up prices.

Sri Lanka

Ten civilians — including six children — are dead, along with six suspected terrorists, after a shootout between police and alleged militants in eastern Sri Lanka late Friday, authorities said. At least two suspected terrorists are on the run following an explosion that witnesses told CNN turned the house “into fire.” Police are investigating the possible relationship of the civilians to the suspected terrorists. Easter Sunday bomb blasts at three churches and four hotels in Sri Lanka killed at least 359 people (including several Americans) and wounded at least 500. Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the Muslim extremist group, National Thowheed Jama’ath, was behind the attacks. “The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” Ruwan Wijewardene, Sri Lanka’s defense minister, told the country’s parliament. The Islamic State on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the bombings “in retaliation” for mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand last month.” Some of the terrorists are still at large and may have more explosives.

A human rights activist noted that over the previous eleven Sundays, many church services had been harassed and disrupted. In addition, public anger is rising over reports that intelligence officials had warned of possible attacks. The chief of national intelligence had warned officials on April 4 about potential attacks from information gleaned from an ISIS informant and had provided the names of suspects five days later, the Guardian reports, but no action was taken.

Iran

The Trump administration told five nations, including allies Japan, South Korea and Turkey, that they will no longer be exempt from U.S. sanctions if they continue to import oil from Iran. The other nations are China and India. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday that the administration will not renew sanctions waivers for the five countries when they expire on May 2. It was not immediately clear if any of the five would be given additional time to wind down their purchases or if they would be subject to U.S. sanctions on May 3 if they do not immediately halt imports of Iranian oil.

North Korea

Two months after his second denuclearization summit with President Donald Trump broke down because of disputes over U.S. sanctions, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held his first ever face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders met Thursday on Russky Island in eastern Russia, near the port city of Vladivostok. They pledged to boost ties and defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula and Putin said North Korea was ready to denuclearize if given security guarantees. Putin called for the resumption of six-way talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. He stressed the need for multilateral cooperation to support Pyongyang. The six-way talks would include the two Koreas, plus China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. Kim told Russian President Vladimir Putin that he believes the United States acted in “bad faith” at the Hanoi summit

Russia

Russia has launched its new Belgorod submarine, which is designed to carry devastating underwater nuclear drones. Moscow’s development of nuclear-powered drones has been closely watched in recent years, amid concern that Russia could be adding a “doomsday” weapon capable of unleashing tidal waves to its arsenal. The Russian Navy said the submarine designed to carry Poseidon drones is set to enter service next year. The Poseidon can target coastal areas with a heavy nuclear weapon, causing a devastating tsunami wave. President Vladimir Putin has said its tests have been successful. The world got its first glimpse of Belgorod from images of the massive vessel’s stern captured during the launch ceremony in Severodvinsk.

Earthquakes

A 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck Monday about 38 miles northwest of Manila, the capital of the Philippines. The quake occurred at 5:11 p.m. local time and knocked down a four-story building in Porac town. Sixteen people died and about 20 people were rescued, some with injuries. At least eight people were killed in Pampanga province. Some tall buildings are leaning against each other in Manila. Hundreds of employees dashed out of office buildings, some wearing hard hats. Video captured water from a swimming pool at the Anchor Skysuites in Manila cascading down the side of the residential skyscraper. At Clark International Airport, seven people suffered minor injuries when a part of the ceiling at the check-in lobby collapsed. Flights were canceled and the airport was shut down.

The central Philippines were rocked by a second quake Tuesday of 6.4 magnitude. Tuesday’s quake was centered near Tutubigan in Eastern Samar province, about 350 miles southeast of Manila, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There were no immediate reports of casualties or major damage from the new quake that struck at 1:37 p.m. local time.

Environment

Last Monday was Earth Day, the 49th time the day was celebrated. What has transpired over the past year? Global energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide jumped by 1.7% in 2018, reaching 33.1 metric gigatons, the highest levels ever recorded. March 2019 marked the 411th consecutive month with global temperatures above average. Earth’s glaciers lost up to 369 billion tons of ice and snow. One to five species normally go extinct annually. Scientists estimate species are disappearing now at 1,000 to 10,000 times the normal rate, with multiple extinctions daily. Earth saw 39 billion-dollar weather disasters in 2018. The U.S. had the most billion-dollar weather disasters in 2018 of any country, with 16. The Camp Fire was the costliest and deadliest wildfire in California’s history, killing 85 people and destroying more than 18,500 buildings.

  • End-time degradation of the planet will continue to ramp up, fulfilling Biblical prophesies of extreme weather, famine, disease (pestilence), powerful earthquakes and the loss of flora, fauna and wildlife on both land and sea (Matthew 24 and Revelation 6-18)

The Greenland Ice Sheet is the world’s second-largest reservoir of fresh water sitting on the world’s largest island. It contains enough water to refill the Great Lakes 115 times over. A new study finds that the melting Greenland Ice Sheet added a quarter inch of water to global sea levels in just the past eight years. The research, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, casts the transformation of the Greenland Ice Sheet as one of the profound geological shifts of our time. Greenland, according to the study, has lost 4,976 gigatons of water since 1972. More worryingly, the paper finds that Greenland lost about half of that ice—roughly 2,200 gigatons—in the years between 2010 and 2018. Greenland’s demise seems to be accelerating.

Weather

Storms tearing across Texas early Wednesday dumped heavy rain on the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, stranding motorists in the Dallas suburb of Carrollton and flooding a parking garage at Dallas’ Love Field Airport. Images posted to social media show cars submerged by at least 3 to 4 feet of water. In Midland, tennis ball-sized hail was reported early Wednesday. Nearly 22,000 homes and businesses were without power. Storms continued to march across the South Thursday after leaving behind significant damage and killing at least five people in Texas and Louisiana.

Heavy rains pounding South Africa this week have triggered flash flooding and mudslides that have killed at least 60 people, injured dozens more and prompted hundreds of evacuations. Extensive damage had been “inflicted on public and private infrastructure” throughout the province of KwaZulu-Natal, including Durban, Times Live reported. The extent of damage to infrastructure includes flooded and blocked roads, collapsed buildings and perimeter walls, blocked storm-water drains and sewer lines, flooded buildings and households, as well as power outages due to electrical cable damage.

At least 17 people are dead and five hospitalized after a landslide in Colombia. The landslide happened early Sunday morning in Rosas, a community in the rural southwestern Colombian state of Cauca. At least eight houses were destroyed, and a portion of the Pan-American Highway was blocked by the landslide. Unusually heavy rains were widespread across much of Colombia over the past month.

Mozambique residents are beginning the slow recovery process a day after Tropical Cyclone Kenneth slammed into the southern African nation, destroying homes, knocking out power and killing at least five people and destroying 3,500 homes. The powerful storm made landfall early Thursday at the northern end of Mozambique’s Quirimbas National Park, north of the city of Pemba, home to some 200,000 people. Four ships sank off the coast of Palma town, but no deaths were reported. The Category 4-equivalent storm also caused flooding and landslides in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Comoros where local authorities reported at least three deaths and more than 1,000 homes destroyed. Two others were killed on Ibo, a tourist island located north of Pemba in Quirimbas National Park and home to about 6,000 people, where 90 percent of homes were flattened. The tropical cyclone comes a little more than a month after the country was dealt a devastating blow by the deadliest and costliest storm in its history — Tropical Cyclone Idai, which killed more than 700 people, displaced tens of thousands and wiped away homes in the central city of Beira.

Signs of the Times

April 19, 2019

­Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Romans 8:35-37)

Nearly 2000 Churches in France have been Desecrated

While French authorities believe the blaze that destroyed the roof of the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral was accidental, it has brought attention to the surge of attacks on Christian symbols in Europe. Nearly 2,000 Christian houses of worship in France have been desecrated in the past two years, according to police. In Germany, there were four such incidents in March. Some French politicians have attributed the church desecrations — averaging more than two a day — to “militant secularism.” But in virtually every attack across Europe, writes Raymond Ibrahim for the Gatestone Institute, “authorities and media obfuscate the identity of the vandals.” “In those rare instances when the Muslim (or “migrant”) identity of the destroyers is leaked, the desecraters are then presented as suffering from mental health issues,” he writes. The German website PI News noted that, “Hardly anyone writes and speaks about the increasing attacks on Christian symbols. There is an eloquent silence in both France and Germany about the scandal of the desecrations and the origin of the perpetrators.” Authorities avoid at all costs blaming migrants, the website said, many of them Muslim.

Discrimination Against Christians/Jews Up, Muslims/Gays Down

Discrimination against Jews and Christians has surged in the United States in the last few years, even as reported attacks against Muslims and gays has gone down slightly, according to a new survey by Pew Research. The share of Americans saying Jews face discrimination in the U.S. has increased substantially since late 2016,” the report said. “Today, 64 percent of Americans say Jews face at least some discrimination – a 20-percentage-point increase from 2016; the share saying Jews face ‘a lot’ of discrimination has nearly doubled, from 13 percent to 24 percent. The report also said 50 percent of Americans believe evangelical Christians face some discrimination, up from 42 percent just a few years ago. Among Muslims, 56 percent say they face a lot of discrimination, down from 57 percent. Among gays and lesbians, 42 percent say they face a lot of discrimination, down from 43 percent.

Banks Shutting Down Accounts of Christian Organizations/Churches

Pastor Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona said Monday on YouTube that Bank of America shut down all the bank accounts of his church. “They’re supposedly going to send us a cashier’s check in like two weeks for all the money that was in our church bank account but in the meantime, they just took all our money away,” Anderson said. Anderson has attracted controversy over the years due to his fundamentalist preaching on homosexuality. Enrique Tarrio, who is the Chairman of the Proud Boys fraternal organization, had his personal Chase bank account shut down abruptly as well. The Proud Boys, despite simply being a fraternal organization that believes in Western culture, have been smeared as a white-nationalist hate group, despite Tarrio being black. Conservative commentator Martina Markota had her business account closed by Chase Bank as did conservative activist Joe Biggs, although that decision was later reversed after widespread outrage.

  • Hold on to your faith, folks, because homegrown persecution of all things Christian is just ramping up.

Since “Unplanned” Movie Released, 94 Abortion Clinic Workers to Quit

Abby Johnson’s powerful conversion story is moving hearts inside the abortion industry. Chuck Konzelman, who is a co-writer/co-director of “Unplanned,” the new film detailing Johnson’s life, said 94 abortion workers have reached out to them in the past few weeks because they are thinking about quitting. Johnson quit her job at Planned Parenthood a decade ago after watching an ultrasound-guided abortion and seeing the unborn baby fight for its life. Now, she runs a ministry called And Then There Were None, which provides support for abortion industry workers who want to quit.

NC Gov. Vetoes Care for Babies Born Alive after Failed Abortion

North Carolina Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed legislation Thursday morning that would require abortionists to provide basic medical care to newborns who survive failed abortions, just days after the measure cleared the state legislature. The North Carolina Senate approved Senate Bill 359 on Monday and the state House approved it on Tuesday. It requires infants born alive after attempted abortions to be guaranteed the “same claim to the protection of the law that would arise for any newborn, or for any person who comes to a hospital, clinic, or other facility.” Violators would be guilty of a Class D felony and face a fine of up to $250,000. “Laws already protect newborn babies, and this bill is an unnecessary interference between doctors and their patients,” Cooper claimed. “This needless legislation would criminalize doctors and other health care providers for a practice that simply does not exist.”

Teen Girls Stage School Walkout Over Transgenders Boys in Bathroom

Students in Council Bluffs, Iowa, staged a walkout at Abraham Lincoln High School over bathroom privacy, with the protest being sparked by a girl who stated that her privacy was violated by a biological male who “recently began to identify as a girl” using the female bathroom. She was joined by about twenty other high school girls who left the school at 10:30 AM and began “chanting for privacy in restrooms, saying they don’t want boys transitioning into being girls to be in the restroom with them.” The 20 girls demanding privacy were confronted by nearly 40 students of mixed gender chanting in favor of state law, which requires schools to allow students to use whichever bathroom they feel most comfortable with.

More Than 10,000 Illegals in U.S. from Terrorist Countries

More than 10,000 illegal aliens from countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism are living in the United States, according to federal data. The countries of origin include Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan, said the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI). The illegal aliens either have been ordered deported or have pending deportation orders, despite remaining in the U.S. Of the 10,000 from terror-sponsoring countries, about 6,000 are from Iran. California, a “sanctuary” state that shields illegal aliens from federal immigration authorities, has the largest population of Iranians outside of Iran. A total of more than 1.7 million illegal aliens remain in the U.S. despite having been ordered deported or having pending deportation orders. IRLI Executive Director Dale Wilcox said many of these could be part of terrorist sleeper cells, “We saw on 9/11 the damage that only 19 sleeper-cell terrorists could cause.”

Minneapolis’ Somali Community the Terrorist Recruitment Capital in U.S.

More men and boys from a Somali American community in Minneapolis have joined – or attempted to join – a foreign terrorist organization over the last 12 years than any other jurisdiction in the country. FBI stats show 45 Somalis left to join the ranks of either the Somalia-based Islamic insurgency al-Shabab, or the Iraq- and Syria-based ISIS combined. And as of 2018, a dozen more had been arrested with the intention of leaving to support ISIS. Both numbers are far higher than those of alleged terrorist wannabes who left or attempted to leave the country from other areas of the country where Muslim refugees have been resettled. In the case of the Somalis, it’s no longer just the men. Early last year, a female was apprehended by authorities on charges of supporting providing material support to Al Qaeda and arson.

Court Rejects White House Bid to Block California ‘Sanctuary’ Laws

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously Thursday that most of three California sanctuary laws limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities can continue to be enforced, rejecting the bulk of a suit brought by the Trump administration. The judges upheld the most contentious law, Senate Bill 54, which prohibits police and sheriff’s officials from notifying immigration authorities when immigrant inmates are released from prison. In the opinion, Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. wrote: “We have no doubt that makes the jobs of federal immigration authorities more difficult.” However, he added that the law “does not directly conflict with any obligations” placed on state or local governments by federal law “because federal law does not mandate any state action.” The court also upheld a California law, Assembly Bill 450, mandating that employers alert employees of any upcoming federal immigration inspection share the inspection results with employees who may not be authorized to work in the U.S. Judge Smith, who was nominated to the federal bench by George W. Bush, ruled that the state law “imposes no additional or contrary obligations that undermine or disrupt the activities of federal immigration authorities.”

Trump Administration Settles Lawsuit to Reunite Children

The Trump administration settled a federal lawsuit on Friday that could pave the way for thousands of Central American families to reunite with their families in the U.S., according to federal court documents. The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco, challenged the ending of the Central American Minors program, which helped minors from  El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras gain entry into the U.S. for refugee resettlement. The program, which was started in 2014, was ended under President Donald Trump in 2017. The program’s ending left 2,714 children in limbo as they had already been approved for the program but had not yet gained entry into the U.S. The settlement allows the government to continue processing these minors and, if approved, would allow them to reunite with family in the U.S. The settlement still needs to be approved by a judge.

Visa Overstays a Bigger Immigration Crisis Than Mexico Border

Visa overstays have a more significant impact on immigration than illegal border crossings, The Atlantic reports. Robert Warren, the former director of the statistics division of Immigration and Naturalization Service, and currently a senior visiting fellow at the Center for Migration Studies, found that visa overstays outnumber border crossings by a 2 to 1 margin. visa overstays have outnumbered illegal border crossings every year for the past seven years. The Center for Migration Studies found in a report that about 515,000 people arrived in this country illegally in 2016, and that about three-fifths of those, 320,000, overstayed their visas, while the rest entered by illegally crossing the border. The Atlantic notes that this number is a small fraction of the over 50 million people who legally enter the U.S. with valid visas.

Migrant Update

Yuma, a city on the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, declared a state of emergency Tuesday, saying it cannot handle the crush of illegal immigrants the government is being forced to release onto its streets. Mayor Douglas Nicholls said the migrants are being released by the Border Patrol into his community faster than they can leave, and local shelters are already at capacity. He warned of mobs of people “roaming the streets looking to satisfy basic human needs,” clashing with citizens looking to protect their own property. The move was designed to draw the attention of the country to what locals said was an untenable situation and to beg for solutions from the federal government, which has been at a political stalemate over what to do.

At least 13% of the federal prison population and nearly 30% of those in custody of the U.S. Marshals Service are illegal immigrants, according to new 2018 numbers released by the Justice Department Wednesday. All told, nearly 60,000 people in Justice Department custody were known or suspected to be aliens. Of those, about 38,000 were held in prison, accounting for about 21% of the overall population. Nearly two-thirds were confirmed to be illegal immigrants and most of the rest are still under investigation for their status. Only a tiny fraction of the aliens had legal status.

Some illegal immigrants who are about to be deported must be held without bond as their deportation cases play out, Attorney General William Barr has ruled. Barr concluded that illegals who fit certain criteria after applying for asylum will not be eligible for release during the deportation process. The decision reverses a ruling dating back to 2005 that allowed bond to be instituted if the deportation subjects could demonstrate a legitimate fear of either persecution or danger should they leave the United States. In most cases, those migrants are released into the U.S. as they await an asylum hearing — a process that generally takes years.

The Trump administration wants to open two new tent facilities to temporarily detain up to 1,000 parents and children near the southern border, as advocates sharply criticize the conditions inside the tents already used to hold migrants. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a notice to potential contractors that it wants to house 500 people in each camp in El Paso, Texas, and in the South Texas city of Donna, which has a border crossing with Mexico. Each facility would consist of one large tent that could be divided into sections by gender and between families and children traveling alone, according to the notice. Detainees would sleep on mats. There would also be laundry facilities, showers, and an “additional fenced-in area” for “outside exercise/recreation.” The notice says the facilities could open in the next two weeks and operate through year end, with a cost that could reach $37 million.

A militia group near the U.S.-Mexico border detained hundreds of people this week, New Mexico’s attorney general said. “My office has been informed that this week, an armed group has detained nearly 300 people at gunpoint near Sunland Park, New Mexico,” Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a written statement. “These individuals should not attempt to exercise authority reserved for law enforcement.” Migrants were held by the United Constitutional Patriots group and then handed over to the U.S. Border Patrol. The New York Times reported that a spokesman for the militia group said their actions were legal, “comparing the detention of the migrants to ‘a verbal citizen’s arrest.'”

Measles Accelerates to Second-Highest Level in U.S. in 25 Years

The number of measles cases in the United States made its biggest jump of the year, with 90 new cases reported in just one week, according to numbers released Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With 555 total cases, 2019 now has the second-highest number of measles cases in the United States in 25 years — and the year isn’t even half over. Measles isn’t just rising in the United States. The World Health Organization reported Monday there were more than 110,000 measles cases worldwide in the first three months of 2019 — an increase of nearly 300% from the same period last year. The actual number of measles cases is likely higher, as WHO estimates that less than 1 in 10 cases globally are reported to the agency. About 1 out of every 1,000 children who gets measles will develop encephalitis or swelling of the brain, according to the CDC. This can lead to convulsions and leave a child deaf or with an intellectual disability.

‘Red Flag’ Gun Laws Sparking Controversy

Colorado became the 15th state on Friday to adopt a “red flag” gun law, allowing firearms to be seized from people determined to pose a danger — just weeks after dozens of county sheriffs had vowed not to enforce the law, with some local leaders establishing what they called Second Amendment “sanctuary counties.” The law didn’t receive a single Republican vote in the state legislature, and has led to renewed efforts from gun-rights activists to recall Democrats who supported the measure. In a fiery and lengthy statement on Facebook on Friday, Eagle County, Colo., Sheriff James van Beek slammed the law as a well-intentioned but “ludicrous.” Van Beek charged that the law treats accused gun owners like “criminals,” discourages individuals from seeking mental health treatment, and ignores the reality that “a disturbed mind will not be deterred by the removal of their guns.”

The Number Of Children Per Household Is Shrinking

The Royal Bank of Canada notes that almost all countries are set to experience a decline in the number of children per household in the 2000 – 2030 period. More specifically, looking from 2015 out to 2030, Euromonitor expects developed markets to have a ~20% decline in the number of children per household and developing markets a ~15% decline. In fact, as the Canadian bank points out, it was as recently as 2012 when the number of couples without children globally surpassed the number of those with children.

Economic News

The “retail apocalypse” seemingly is only getting worse with store closures this year reportedly already exceeding the total for 2018. Coresight Research, which tracks store openings and closings, said Friday retailers have announced 5,994 store closures and 2,641 store openings as of early April. That compares to 5,864 closures and 3,239 openings for the full year 2018. The number of closures indicates that traditional retailers are struggling to respond to shoppers’ increasing shift online even as they’re working hard to reinvent their businesses.

Under President Trump’s new tax law, 60 of America’s biggest corporations paid $0 in federal taxes in 2018, despite earning billions of dollars in profits, reports Fox Business. Amazon Opens a New Window. , Netflix Opens a New Window. , General Motors Opens a New Window. , Chevron, JetBlue, IBM and U.S. Steel were all among the companies that avoided taxes last year using a diverse array of loopholes and tax breaks, according to a new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonpartisan think-tank. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act kept intact most of the tax breaks that allow profitable companies to zero out what they owe.

One of the central features of President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was a drop in the corporate income tax rate, from 35% to 21%. Even though plenty of companies never paid that full rate because of various exemptions, the decrease still took a big bite out of corporate tax collections. They plunged from a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of $264 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017 to $149 billion in 2018, when the new rules went into effect, and they haven’t bounced back. As a share of the U.S. economy, corporate taxes fell from 1.33% in the fourth quarter of 2017 to 0.77% in the fourth quarter of 2018. Those were both down from about 2% in 2000. As a result of both the business and personal income tax cuts, households making between $500,000 and $1 million will see their after-tax income rise by an average of 5.2%. Households making less than $50,000 (the median income is $61,372 in the U.S.) see only a 0.6% increase.

Middle East

ImageSat International (ISI) released a series of images on Sunday showing extensive damage to a Syrian military base that Syria’s official state news agency SANA attributed to an Israeli airstrike on Friday evening. ISI’s photos show several destroyed structures, including a hangar and a number of other buildings, near Masyaf in the Hama province. This area has been identified in the past as a breeding ground for Iranian troops and the Lebanon-based terror proxy, Hezbollah. Following the strike, the buildings were identified as missile production facilities. The U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights issued a report announcing that a number of Iranian fighters and pro-Iranian troops were killed in the attack. In addition, 17 people were also reported injured. Iran has attempted to establish a military stronghold on Israel’s doorstep. The Jewish state has identified Iranian entrenchment in Syria as a red line it will not tolerate, and has backed up the position with hundreds of strikes in Syrian territory over the past two years, many of which have targeted Iranian forces.

Islamic State

The number of suspected foreign ISIS fighters being detained by U.S.-backed forces in Syria has now surpassed 2,000, with a small number claiming to be US citizens, three U.S. officials told CNN. The foreigners are among the more than 9,000 ISIS fighters being held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, with the majority of those being Syrian and Iraqi nationals. An additional 60,000 of what the US government refers to as ISIS “affiliates” are staying in make-shift camps where the SDF has a security presence. “These are women and children who have chosen to stay, or were coerced to stay as part of the ISIS caliphate that remained,” a senior US defense official told CNN.

ISIS-affiliated terrorists in Afghanistan, noted for their brutality in a brutal land, pose the top threat for spectacular attacks in the United States, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official. The group known as ISIS-K, like al-Qaeda, which plotted the 9/11 terror attacks from Afghanistan, also has designs on striking targets in Western nations. ISIS-K has hundreds of fighters and has shown increasing effectiveness in its tactics and recruiting in Afghanistan, said Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee who recently visited Afghanistan. Inspiring, financing and directing attacks abroad is a key goal. A chief worry: a terrorist recruit, for example, driving a truck through a crowd in the United States, the intelligence official said, citing the type of assault the group aspires to. About 14,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, half of them assigned to counter-terrorism missions, including combating ISIS-K militants.

North Korea

President Donald Trump said relations with Kim Jong Un remain “very good” and he opened the door Saturday for a third summit, hours after the North Korean leader said he’s willing to meet as long as the U.S. offers acceptable terms for a deal by year end. Kim said he wouldn’t welcome a repeat of the Hanoi summit in February, when Trump walked out without securing a nuclear disarmament deal. While Kim hailed his relationship with Trump, he also said the U.S. has been making unilateral demands and should abandon that approach. “They want to see the U.S. make the next move — that the steps that they took, such as returning war remains and shutting down missile sites, are even more grounds to demand the U.S. to relieve sanctions,” said Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at the Korean National Diplomatic Academy. Kim also asked that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be pulled from negotiations. The Kremlin announced Kim will visit Russia this month, offering President Vladimir Putin an opportunity to emerge as a broker in the long-running nuclear standoff.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected and directed a “new tactical guided weapons firing test” Wednesday, according to a report from the country’s state media. The report, from news agency KCNA, did not state exactly what kind of weapon was tested, nor its potential range. No missile launch was detected by US Northern Command and Strategic Command, according to US Department of Defense officials. “The development and completion of this weapons system will be a great historic event in strengthening the combat capability of the People’s Army,” Kim said, according to KCNA. However, U.S. intelligence officials do not believe North Korea successfully launched a fully operational new weapon. Their initial that assessment is North Korea tested components for an anti-tank weapon, rather than a fully operational new weapon.

Yemen

President Trump formally vetoed a measure that would force his administration to end U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. The veto, the second of Trump’s presidency, overrode a bipartisan measure earlier this month that would have stopped the U.S. from providing logistical, intelligence and targeting assistance to Saudi Arabia in the conflict with Yemen. The resolution served as a rebuke to Trump and Saudi leaders and highlighted a growing unease with America’s role in the grisly conflict, which has left thousands of civilians dead and millions of Yemenis on the brink of starvation. Currently, the U.S. provides billions of dollars of arms, but no troops, to the Saudi-led coalition fighting against Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen. The war in Yemen is a proxy battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as the two regimes battle for influence in the region.

Northern Ireland

The dissident republican group the New IRA was most likely responsible for the fatal shooting of a journalist during overnight rioting in the city of Londonderry, police in Northern Ireland said Friday. The Police Service of Northern Ireland said 29-year-old journalist and author Lyra McKee died after she was shot during rioting in the Creggan area. A gunman also fired a number of shots at police during the unrest Thursday evening. “We believe this to be a terrorist act,” Hamilton said. “We believe it has been carried out by violent dissident republicans.” A murder investigation has been launched but there have been no arrests. There has been an increase in tensions in Northern Ireland in recent months with sporadic violence, much of it focused in Londonderry. The New IRA is a small group of republicans who reject the 1998 Good Friday agreement that marked the Irish Republican Army’s embrace of a political solution to the long-running violence known as “The Troubles” that claimed more than 3,700 lives. I

Venezuela

Underpaid, underfed and humiliated by the autocratic turn their country had taken, the armed forces were the linchpin of the Trump administration’s strategy to get the ruling government to step aside. Some U.S. officials predicted they would flip en masse within days. That hasn’t happened. Venezuela’s military, despite U.S. expectations, has not turned on President Maduro, which has enabled him to stay in power despite the poor economy, high inflation and drop in oil revenue. Even as thousands of people can’t find basic necessities, and many risk their lives to leave the country, Maduro tenaciously clings to power.

Cocaine trafficking from Venezuela to the United States is soaring, even as the country collapses. And U.S. and other regional officials say it’s Venezuela’s own military and political elite who are facilitating the passage of drugs in and out of the country on hundreds of tiny, unmarked planes. The number of suspected drug flights from Venezuela has risen from about two flights per week in 2017 to nearly seven in 2018, according to one U.S. official. This year, the same official has seen as many as five nighttime flights in the sky at once. Officials involved in combating the deadly trade describe a tremendously profitable courier system for the Venezuelan government.

Earthquakes

Between 2008 and 2017, Southern California was hit by 1.8 million earthquakes, 10 times more than previously thought, said a new study. Seismologists at the California Institute of Technology found approximately 180,000 earthquakes had been recorded during that time. Data showed the region experiences 495 quakes a day, or roughly one every three minutes. However, the reason these quakes are just being discovered is they’re too small to notice. Researchers say the temblors are tough to find because seismic data also includes background noise such as building construction and shaking from traffic. Researchers used an array of powerful computers to scan the earthquake catalog and verify the new earthquakes.

Weather

At least three people died Thursday as severe thunderstorms that marched across the southern U.S. spawned tornadoes, knocked trees into homes, blew over cars and caused roads to flood. The line of severe weather damaged homes, made travel difficult and left tens of thousands of customers without power as it moved from Texas and Louisiana into Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. There were reports of nine tornadoes in Mississippi. By Friday morning, the storms were moving through Tennessee, Georgia and Florida on a trek east. There is a strong risk of damaging winds from the storms that will sweep through Virginia and the Carolinas later Friday. Nearly 100,000 homes and businesses across five states were without power early Friday.

More than 100 people are dead in India and Pakistan after powerful storms unleashed dust, lightning, hail, rain and high winds. The Times of India reported that at least 64 people had died during severe thunderstorms in India. Most of those died from lightning strikes or electrocution. Homes were damaged, trees uprooted and power lines knocked down in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan states. There was also reported damage to crops by heavy rains and hail. In Pakistan, at least 39 people were killed and 135 injured in torrential rainfalls. At least 80 houses were damaged, and there were several reports of roofs and walls collapsing, with the worst of the impacts in Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Signs of the Times

April 12, 2019

­Surely, He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. (Psalm 91:3-6)

Antimicrobial Resistance a Growing Threat

Global leaders met at the United Nationals General Assembly in New York Wednesday to address what experts are calling one of the biggest threats to global health: antimicrobial resistance, AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites become resistant to the drugs typically used to treat people infected by them. There are now many infections that cannot be treated at all, the panel said. Superbugs are killing about 33,000 people in Europe every year. Drug-resistant bacteria are expected to kill 10 million people a year by 2050 if nothing is done to solve the problem. These superbugs developed because antimicrobials are overprescribed and people buy them over the counter in certain countries. In addition, people don’t finish courses of treatment and the antibiotics are overused in veterinary practices. Another large-scale use of antimicrobials — mostly antibiotics — has been in farming, to promote animal growth. Antimicrobials are overprescribed and people buy them over the counter in certain countries. Drugs are shared, people don’t finish courses of treatment and antibiotics are overused in veterinary practices. Another large-scale use of antimicrobials — mostly antibiotics — has been in farming, to promote animal growth.

Pope Benedict Criticizes Vatican Handling of Abuse

An open letter from Pope Emeritus Benedict that blames the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis on homosexuality and the sexual revolution of the 1960s is drawing deep criticism from Catholic theologians in the U.S. who call it divisive and “embarrassingly wrong.” “Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms,” Benedict writes in a lengthy treatise released Wednesday in his native Germany. “Pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate.” James Bretzke, a theology professor at Marquette University, calls the pedophilia claim puzzling, saying pedophilia has never been accepted by “anyone anywhere close to the cultural mainstream.” Benedict says expanded access to pornography helped fuel the crisis. At about the same time period, Catholic moral theology suffered a collapse that left the church ill-equipped to combat the trend, he added. “In various seminaries, homosexual cliques were established, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in the seminaries,” writes Benedict, who ceded his reign to Pope Francis six years ago.

Ohio Passes Heartbeat Abortion Bill

Ohio lawmakers just passed a bill to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, part of a nationwide crusade to undo the U.S. Supreme Court’s protection of abortion rights. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine promptly signed the abortion ban, which is one of the nation’s strictest. The so-called “heartbeat bill,” which prohibits abortions as early as six weeks into a woman’s pregnancy, has been endorsed by Vice President Mike Pence and is seen as a credible threat to the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, which opened the floodgates to abortion on demand. Arkansas, North Dakota, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi and Georgia have passed versions of the heartbeat bill, and the legislation is pending in 11 other states.

Federal Appeals Court Upholds KY ‘Ultrasound’ Abortion Law

Pro-lifers in Kentucky won a victory Thursday when a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the state’s law requiring abortionists to give women the opportunity to view ultrasound images of their children before abortion. Kentucky’s Republican Gov. Matt Bevin said, “We applaud the decision by the Sixth Circuit, which affirms the commonsense notion that patients should be well equipped with relevant information before making important medical decisions.” Enacted in 2017, Kentucky’s Ultrasound Informed Consent Act requires abortionists to perform ultrasounds prior to committing abortions, display and explain the images, play the audio of any fetal heartbeat, and offer women the opportunity to view the images. It does not force women to view them.

North Dakota Bans ‘Dismemberment’ Abortions

North Dakota’s governor signed a bill Wednesday outlawing a grisly abortion procedure in which an unborn baby is dismembered, limb by limb, until the uterus is empty. The signature by Republican Gov. Doug Burgum made North Dakota the 11th state to ban a procedure medically known as dilation and evacuation, according to the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute. Most similar laws, though, have been blocked in court. The law includes an exception for a medical emergency. It goes into effect when a court allows its enforcement or when the U.S. Supreme Court “restores to the states authority to prohibit abortion.”

Pennsylvania School Board Okays “In God We Trust” in Schools

The Greencastle-Antrim School Board in Greencastle, PA has voted unanimously to allow the national motto “In God We Trust” and other documents from U.S. history to be displayed in foyers and other public areas of the district’s primary, elementary, middle and high schools. Teachers can also place the motto in their classrooms, as well, along with copies of the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. The board also said it decided to display the motto and documents because they serve patriotic, historical, educational and solemnizing purposes.

“Unplanned” in Top Ten Again

The pro-life movie “Unplanned” finished in the top 10 at the box office for the second weekend in a row, overcoming an “R” rating and what the film’s supporters have called a media blackout. So far, it’s earned more than $12 million, doubling the $6 million production budget. “Unplanned” is centered on the life of former Planned Parenthood Director Abby Johnson who later became pro-life. “It’s a little surreal, if I’m honest, to watch someone play out the worst version of yourself in a film. But it’s also just a good reminder that God can literally use anything from our past and use it for His glory and use it for His Kingdom,” she said.

FDA Mounts Aggressive Push to Regulate Stem-Cell Clinics

The Food and Drug Administration has launched a nationwide crackdown on stem-cell clinics, issuing letters of warning and threatening civil actions that could shut them down if they refuse to comply with FDA regulations. On Wednesday, the FDA sent correspondence to 20 clinics around the country, putting them on notice that they must seek FDA review and approval for their procedures. The regulatory crackdown is a paradigm change for more than 700 stem-cell clinics nationwide that have largely gone unregulated by federal authorities for over a decade. The FDA has filed civil actions against two clinics, one in Florida and another in California, in a bid to force them to comply with FDA regulatory regimes applied to major drug manufacturers. That would likely be unsustainable for small practices. Advocates for regenerative stem-cell medicine charge that Big Pharma’s influence is behind the crackdown, suggesting the FDA is being used to clear out potential competitors. They describe stem-cell therapy as a minimally invasive procedure best regulated by local medical boards.

Pentagon’s Transgender Policy Takes Effect Friday

A Pentagon policy set to go into effect Friday bars from service anyone requiring treatment for dissatisfaction with their gender identity. Implementation of the policy concerning the medical condition known as gender dysphoria was pushed by President Donald Trump and blasted by Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said the policy “had no place in our country.” It had been delayed by court challenges. Currently serving troops who have been treated will be allowed to continue serving. Transgender troops must serve in their sex at birth, and must file for waivers for use of showers, bathrooms, physical fitness and other standards, according to the policy.

Mainstream Media Changes Their Tune on Border Crisis

Months after repeatedly dismissing and mocking President Trump’s claim of a national emergency at the Southern U.S. border, the mainstream media are grappling with reality, with no less than The New York Times declaring the border crisis at “breaking point.” The Washington Post’s editorial board said “there is no crisis” at the border and called Trump’s national emergency declaration “untethered from truth and reality” and a “make-believe emergency.” Fast forward, the same media outlets are now scrambling to accurately portray the border crisis, no longer fearing to quote top officials and their data, and declare that the southern border is at a “breaking point” amid a surge in the number of illegal immigrant crossings. The Times story claims that a “breaking point” has been reached in America’s immigration system, which is no longer able to cope with the unprecedented levels of illegal immigration. “The country is now unable to provide either the necessary humanitarian relief for desperate migrants or even basic controls on the number and nature of who is entering the United States,” the story notes. The Post also ran  article titled “U.S. has hit ‘breaking point’ at border amid immigration surge, Customs and Border Protection chief says.”

Judge blocks Trump’s Wait-in-Mexico Asylum Policy

A federal judge ordered the Trump administration to stop its new policy of sending asylum-seekers who jumped the border back to Mexico to wait while their cases proceed, ruling Monday that the plan was likely illegal. Known informally as the “wait-in-Mexico policy,” and officially as the Migrant Protection Protocols, the plan was a major part of the administration’s moves to try to stem the flow of immigrants crossing into the U.S. illegally. Judge Richard Seeborg, an Obama appointee to the bench, said not only does the policy violate immigration law, but Mexico is so dangerous that making asylum-seekers wait there — even if they’re not from Mexico — is untenable. He gave the government until Friday to appeal, and then his ruling will take effect. Any appeal would go to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the court President Trump regularly bashes, arguing it is biased against him.

Border Update

A caravan-size influx of migrants is flooding across the border each week in just a single sector, a top Border Patrol official told lawmakers Tuesday — the latest indicator of the growing migration crisis on the southern border. Karisch said his sector has apprehended people from 50 different countries, including China, Bangladesh, Turkey, Egypt and Romania. “People are traveling across hemispheres to attempt to illegally enter the U.S., using the same pathways as the Central Americans,” he said. Karisch noted that Border Patrol has apprehended more families illegally crossing the border in the first five months of fiscal 2019 than during all of fiscal 2018. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehended more than 76,000 migrants across the border in February and said it was on track to apprehend more than 100,000 in March.

President Trump said on Wednesday he would have to mobilize more of the military at the U.S. border with Mexico after listening to stories about migrants crossing the border. The president said some of the people crossing the border were ending up dead from the journey on Americans’ ranches. “Also, they come in and raid their houses, and it’s very dangerous,” Trump said, referring to locals affected by the influx of migrants. There are currently about 5,000 active-duty and National Guard troops near the border. In February, Trump deployed an additional 3,750 U.S. troops to the country’s southwestern border to support Customs and Border Protection agents. Later that month, Democratic governors of states including Wisconsin, New Mexico and California withdrew their National Guard troops, saying there was not enough evidence of a security crisis to justify keeping them there.

Aging Population & Declining Birthrate Creating Shrinking Workforce

The Congressional Budget Office foresees the American labor force rising by only 0.5 percent a year over the coming decade, about one-third as fast as from 1950 to 2007. That is a crucial reason that economic growth is forecast to remain well below its late 20th-century levels. There are now 2.8 workers for every recipient of Social Security benefits, a rate on track to fall to 2.2 by 2035, according to the program’s trustees. In 1940, the ratio was 159.4 workers per recipient, shrinking to 5.1 in 1960, and 3.4 in 2000. Population growth in the United States has now hit its lowest level since 1937, partly because of a record-low fertility rate “I believe our biggest threat is our declining labor force,” said Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont, a Republican, in his annual budget address this year. “It’s the root of every problem we face.

Congress Approves Colorado River Drought Plan

A plan to address a shrinking supply of water on a river that serves 40 million people in the U.S. West was approved by the U.S. House and Senate Monday. Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming spent years negotiating the Colorado River drought contingency plan. They aim to keep two key reservoirs from falling so low they cannot deliver water or produce hydropower. Mexico has promised to store water in Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border if the U.S. legislation is approved by April 22. Arizona and Nevada would keep water in Lake Mead when it falls to certain levels. The cuts eventually would loop in California if Lake Mead’s level drops far enough. State water managers and federal officials have cited a prolonged drought, climate change and increasing demand for the river’s flows as reasons to cut back on water usage. The agreement runs through 2026.

Number of Suicidal Children’s Visits to ER Doubles

The number of children and teens in the United States who visited emergency rooms for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts doubled between 2007 and 2015, according to a new analysis. Researchers used publicly available data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, administered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diagnoses increased from 580,000 in 2007 to 1.12 million in 2015. The findings come as no surprise to child psychiatrists. One reason for the increase in depression and suicidal behaviors is more stress and pressure on kids, said Dr. Gene Beresin, executive director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Parents and caregivers are also more stressed, Beresin said, adding that rates of suicides have increased in all age groups over the past 20 years and that the stress is passed down to children and teens.

U.S. Leads In Healthcare Costs, But Not Healthiness

Health care costs are growing faster than the rest of the global economy, according to the World Health Care Organization (WHO). The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group of 34 predominantly rich countries, leads the world in healthcare expenditures, and the U.S. spends the most per capita of these wealthy countries. A third of the  OECD countries spend more than $2,000 per person each year on health care. The 12 countries with the highest health care costs, spend about twice that amount. The differences between countries is staggering, ranging from $8,047 per person in the U.S. to just $541 in the OECD country with the lowest health care expenses per capita (Turkey). Despite spending the most, the U.S. ranks 37th out of 185 countries in overall health, according to WHO.

Middle Class Shrinking Worldwide

Middle-income households are disappearing in developed countries around the world, according to a new report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The OECD warned that this could have serious consequences for nations’ economic growth and social fabric. The middle class has been under stress for years, helping fuel the rise of progressive Democrats in the United States, who are seeking to increase taxes on the rich to provide a stronger safety net — including universal health care. But while many presidential candidates point to Europe as a model, the OECD report shows that problems exist there too. The share of people in middle-income households in developed countries fell from 64% in the mid-1980s to 61% by the mid-2010s. However, the declines were larger in several countries, including the United States, Israel, Germany, Canada, Finland and Sweden. In the United States, just over 50% of the population is middle class, much smaller than most other developed countries. The report considers households earning between 75% and 200% of the median national income as middle class. Costs are going up faster than inflation in the world’s richest economies — making it harder for the middle class to keep up. Home prices, in particular, have been growing more than a third faster than median household income in recent decades. The middle class spent 32% of their budgets on housing in 2015, compared to 25% in 1985.

Thousands of Amazon Employees Listen to Alexa Conversations

Amazon employs a global team that transcribes the voice commands and feeds them back into the software to help improve Alexa’s grasp of human speech so it can respond more efficiently in the future, Bloomberg reports. Amazon reportedly employs thousands of full-time workers and contractors in several countries, including the United States, Costa Rica and Romania, to listen to as many as 1,000 audio clips in shifts that last up to nine hours. The audio clips they listen to were described as “mundane” and even sometimes “possibly criminal,” including listening to a potential sexual assault. In response to the story, Amazon confirmed to CNN Business that it hires people to listen to what customers say to Alexa. But Amazon said it takes “security and privacy of our customers’ personal information seriously” and only uses “requests to Alexa to train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems.”

  • A judge has ordered Amazon to turn over Echo smart speaker recordings from a home where police say two women were murdered, according to HLN (a national news network that airs news by day and mysteries and investigations by night).

Persecution Watch

Authorities arrested a suspect Wednesday in Louisiana believed to be responsible for the fires that destroyed three predominately black churches in 10 days in St. Landry Parish, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement. Holden Matthews, the 21-year-old son of a St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s deputy, is in custody in connection with the fires which occurred at three black Baptist churches in the same parish.

Economic News

In another sign that the economy is cooling off, employers posted fewer job openings in February, after a year of mounting demand for workers. The number of postings declined by 538,000, the Labor Department reported Tuesday, down from 7.1 million in January. However, the job openings rate is still higher than it was at this time last year. The biggest drops came in the hospitality and food services sector, potentially an indication that leisure spending is weakening.

Consumer prices for U.S. shoppers increased by 0.4% in March, the biggest increase in more than a year, according to a new report from the Labor Department. This was more than expected, but core CPI up just 0.1%, below forecasts. The increase was boosted by increases in the costs of food, gasoline and rents. In the 12 months through March, the CPI increased 1.9 percent, relatively tame, supporting the Federal Reserve’s decision to stop raising interest rates.

U.S. gas prices are rising and could reach more than $4 a gallon in some states due in part to the recent flooding in the Midwest. As of Tuesday, the national gas price average reached $2.74 this week, up more than 28 cents compared to a month ago. West Coast states are seeing the fastest increases, with California leading the pack. A gallon of gas there averages $3.81. Ethanol, the biofuel added to gas to reduce emissions, is made with Midwest corn. Widespread flooding last month knocked out nearly 13 percent of the country’s ethanol production capacity.

California has the highest tax rates in the U.S. but legislators are looking for new sources of revenue. As Californians grapple with that 13.3 percent income tax,  lawmakers in Sacramento are looking at a range of other revenue sources such as levies on water, soda and tires. Members of the legislature’s Democratic supermajority argue that these new taxes are vital to shore up the state coffers and to provide crucial services such as repairing crumbling infrastructure, cleaning up toxic wells and fighting obesity. Overall, the California Tax Foundation has added up more than $6.2 billion worth of tax increase proposals pending in the state legislature. But the state’s minority Republican leaders bemoan these new proposals, arguing that the new charges would only worsen the state’s mounting affordability and housing challenges.

  • Socialism is running amok in California and Californians are leaving the state in droves. Soon, there won’t be enough workers to fund the taxation black hole.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the United States would impose tariffs on $11 billion of products from the European Union, a day after the U.S. Trade Representative proposed a list of targeted products as retaliation for European aircraft subsidies. While the size of the tariffs is small compared with the hundreds of billions the U.S. and China are taxing in their trade war, it suggests a breakdown in talks with the European Union over trade at a time when the economy is already slowing sharply. The U.S. and EU have been negotiating since last year about how to avoid tariffs that President Donald Trump has wanted to impose to reduce a trade deficit with countries like Germany.

Britain

After marathon, late-night talks, European Union leaders agreed to delay Britain’s departure from the EU, known as Brexit, by six months. The last-minute extension until Oct. 31 was announced early Thursday in Brussels following an emergency summit. Britain was due to leave the EU on Friday. The delay is intended to give British Prime Minister Theresa May more time to get her Brexit deal through Parliament. It has been rejected three times already.  It also prevents, for now, Britain leaving the bloc without a formal exit deal.

Israel

Incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will retain his seat for an unprecedented 5th term as his Likud party won 35 seats in the 21st Knesset and parties winning sufficient seats to form a majority government pledged to support his continued premiership. The Blue and White party led by former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz also won 35 seats, but has insufficient support from smaller parties to form a majority. However, Netanyahu’s victory comes amid mounting corruption accusations over the past year which are still under investigation.

Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, will not be allowed into the United States. The American government denied Barghouti’s entry on Wednesday at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport. While BDS’ stated goal is to “isolate” Israel culturally and economically, the movement and its adherents frequently face accusations of anti-Semitism based on their rhetoric and their single-minded focus on the world’s only Jewish state for condemnation, ignoring the host of nations with far worse human rights records, including several that have large Palestinian populations, like Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. Barghouti is a staunch critic of economic normalization between Israeli and Palestinian businesses, and supports the “armed struggle against Israel” according to the Meir Amit Center.

Islamic State

The U.S.-led coalition’s fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is not over, despite a declaration of victory against the group’s last remaining stronghold in eastern Syria last month. In the week following the March 23 victory declaration by Syrian and Kurdish partner forces, the coalition conducted 52 strikes in Iraq and Syria, “While the completion of territorial liberation is a major milestone, we will continue to work by, with, and through our partners in Iraq and Syria to deny ISIS the opportunity to re-emerge,” Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Sean Robertson told ABC News. The Islamic State has amassed a war chest of as much as $300 million and continues to exploit a string of revenue streams that are likely to enable the group to finance a covert network in Iraq, Syria and further afield despite the complete physical collapse of its so-called caliphate.

Iran

President Trump announced Monday the U.S. will formally designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. The designation will be the first time that the United States has ever named a part of another government as a foreign terrorist organization.” This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” Trump said in a statement that described the IRGC as “the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign.” Iran warned last weekend that if the U.S. went ahead with the designation, Tehran would retaliate by designating the US military as a terrorist organization in return.

Libya

Clashes between rival Libyan forces for control of Tripoli escalated on Monday as the death toll from days of fighting rose to at least 51, including both combatants and civilians, and the city’s only functioning airport said it was hit by an airstrike. The self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Khalifa Hifter who last week launched the push on Tripoli, acknowledged striking the Mitiga airport, barely five miles east of the city center. Hifter’s forces have clashed with rival militias which support the U.N.-backed government that controls Tripoli and the western part of the country. The escalation has threatened to plunge the fractured North African nation deeper into chaos and ignite civil war on the scale of the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The U.N. said the latest fighting has displaced some 3,400 people and blocked emergency services from reaching casualties and civilians.

Sudan

Sudan’s military arrested President Omar al-Bashir, ousting him from power in the wake of escalating protests against his 30-year rule, the defense minister announced Thursday. He said the military will rule the country for the next two years with an emergency clampdown. Al-Bashir came to power in a 1989 coup, leading an alliance of the military and Islamist hard-liners. He was condemned by the international war crimes tribunal for atrocities in Darfur. Tens of thousands of Sudanese converged throughout the day at the protest movement’s main sit-in outside the military’s General Command Headquarters, cheering, singing and dancing after word emerged in the morning that al-Bashir would be removed. But the announcement that finally came appeared to confirm the fears of many protesters that the military would shrug off demands for a civilian transition. Defense Minister Awad Mohammed Ibn Ouf announced that the military also suspended the constitution, dissolved the government, declared a state of emergency for three months, closed the country’s borders and airspace and imposed a night curfew for one month.

Afghanistan

The Taliban announced Friday the start of their spring offensive despite talking peace with the United States and ahead of a significant gathering of Afghans meant to discuss resolutions to the protracted war and an eventual withdrawal of American troops from the country. Insurgents carry out daily attacks targeting Afghan security forces and NATO troops, inflicting many casualties, including civilians. Most recently, a Taliban attack near the main U.S. air base in Afghanistan killed three Marines on Monday. At least 16 people were killed and 30 injured when a bomb ripped through a vegetable market in Quetta in southwestern Pakistan early Friday. Eight of the dead were Hazaras, a Shiite Muslim minority group that has repeatedly been the target of Sunni extremists. The Taliban now hold sway over half the country after a relentless 17-year war, America’s longest. The U.N.’s annual report earlier this year said civilian deaths hit a record high last year. Still, preparations are underway for Afghan-to-Afghan talks starting next week in Qatar, where the Taliban have a political office.

New Zealand

New Zealand’s Parliament on Wednesday passed sweeping gun laws that outlaw military style weapons, less than a month after mass shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch left 50 people dead and dozens wounded. A bill outlawing most automatic and semi-automatic weapons and banning components that modify existing weapons was passed by a vote of 119 to 1 in the House of Representatives after an accelerated process of debate and public submission. The bill needs only the approval of New Zealand’s governor general, a formality, before becoming law on Friday.

Earthquakes

A 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia’s Sulawesi island Friday evening. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the powerful quake struck around Friday 6:40 p.m. local time at a depth of 10.5 miles. The epicenter of the quake is located beneath the sea about 149 miles from Kandari City. No cities have been impacted, according to reports.

Weather

Winter Storm Wesley continued to wreak havoc on Minnesota and the Dakotas Friday morning, closing schools and government offices, knocking out power to thousands and prompting a state of emergency in Minnesota. For a third straight day, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem closed government offices Friday in most of the state’s 66 counties. About 30,000 people remained without power across South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa as of 7 a.m. Friday. Jackson County in Minnesota reported more than 100 power poles had been knocked down by high winds. Blizzard warnings continued Friday morning in parts of South Dakota but were expected to expire by 1 p.m. local time.

At least 10 people have died in Rio de Janeiro after a torrential downpour caused flooding. Torrents of water gushed down streets, sweeping up cars and uprooting trees after rains that began around rush hour Monday evening. Schools were closed Tuesday and people urged to avoid non-essential travel. City officials said 6 inches of rain fell in just four hours Monday night, more than the average for the whole month of April. The botanical garden neighborhood, a tourist destination, was one of the most badly hit areas, receiving 9 inches in a 24-hour period. Firefighters in that neighborhood wadws through knee-deep water pulling a small boatload of children evacuated from a school bus on a flooded street.

Global warming’s ripple effects are creating never-before-seen changes in the Arctic’s biophysical system and beyond, according to a new study by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program. The results showed transformations in the growing seasons for plant life, an increase in precipitation, accelerated ice melt and glacier shrinking, among other far-reaching changes. Warmer temperatures are causing plants to bloom at different times, confusing bees and affecting pollination. The study found that average temperatures in the Arctic had increased about 5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1971. Another new study by the University of Zurich shows that our planet’s glaciers are melting away at a pace of 390 billion tons of ice and snow per year. The world’s seas have risen about an inch in the past 50 years just due to glacier melt alone.

  • Extreme changes in the weather are prophesied in the Bible for the end-times (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

 

Signs of the Times

April 6, 2019

­They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers who refused to hear My words, and they have gone after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their fathers. Therefore thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will surely bring calamity on them which they will not be able to [a]escape; and though they cry out to Me, I will not listen to them.” (Jeremiah 11:10-11)

‘Unplanned’ Another Christian Hit Move that Surprises Hollywood

“Unplanned,” a faith-based film from PureFlix, finished in the top five movies last weekend with an impressive $6.1 million from only 1,059 theaters. The feature film, which takes a stand against abortion, doubled its projected earnings, well above industry predictions from $2 million to $3 million for its opening weekend. The film tells the true story of Abby Johnson, who worked at Planned Parenthood for eight years before becoming a pro-life activist. The independent production did well despite a temporary Twitter ban on the film’s social media presence, limited release on the nation’s movie screens and very little coverage from the mainstream media. Major cable networks refused to air promotional ads for “Unplanned,” including Lifetime, Hallmark, HGTV and others, according to a Hollywood Reporter tally. The movie also was given a surprise R-rated by MPAA last month. The film earned a rare A-plus rating from CinemaScore.

  • Reverences to Bible verse Jeremiah 11:11 were repeatedly inserted into the film, which first appears on a homeless man’s sign. Many 11:11 references follow, but nowhere is the actual verse quoted (see above for the New King James version).

Pro-Lifers Protest Against Twitter at Its DC Office

Pro-life and free speech activists protested in front of Twitter Washington, DC corporate office last Tuesday. The protest is in response to Twitter’s censorship and blatant violation of their corporate values toward the film “Unplanned.” Here are two examples: Twitter suspended the Unplanned movie account on the evening of the film’s nationwide opening. Twitter said it was because the “Unplanned” account was linked to some other account which is simply not true. “Unplanned” has only one account so any linking had to be done by Twitter personnel. The Unplanned  movie” account went from over 100,000 followers to just 151 Monday. People looking to follow “Unplanned” were immediately dropped from the system. The event is being sponsored by the Washington, DC based Christian Defense Coalition, which is a faith based human rights and free speech organization committed to sharing the principles of justice in the public square.

Georgia Passes the Fetal Heartbeat Bill, South Carolina Follows Suit

Last week, lawmakers in Georgia passed H.B. 481—one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the country—despite threats from Hollywood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The bill bans abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which is typically around the 6th week of pregnancy. This week, Governor Kemp signed it into law. The bill passed 92 to 78, according to CNN. Women were previously allowed to abort up until 20 weeks of their pregnancy. “I can’t govern because I’m worried about what someone in Hollywood thinks about me,” Kemp said. South Carolina followed Georgia’s lead, when the House Judiciary Committee passed its own Heartbeat Bill in a 15-7 vote.

Pope Appoints Pro-LGBT Wilton Gregory to Archdiocese of Washington

The Vatican announced Thursday that Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta will be the successor of embattled Cardinal Donald Wuerl to lead the Archdiocese of Washington D.C., one of the most prominent in the United States. Numerous faithful Catholic laity are outraged over the appointment of Gregory. The Archbishop has a history of showing support for homosexuality, contrary to Catholic teaching, along with other unorthodox positions. As head of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Gregory has displayed an uncritical willingness to accept LGBT ideology. His actions include personally inviting pro-gay Vatican adviser Fr. James Martin to give a speech titled “Showing Welcome and Respect in Our Parishes to LGBT Catholics” at both St. Thomas More Parish and at Atlanta’s Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Gregory also Permited the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Atlanta, GA) to act as a center for LGBT events, including LGBT potluck socials and participating in the city’s Pride Parade.

Mormons OK Gay Parent Baptisms

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is repealing rules unveiled in 2015 that banned baptisms for children of gay parents and made gay marriage a sin worthy of expulsion. The surprise announcement Thursday reverses rules that triggered widespread condemnations from LGBTQ members and their allies. The church in a statement says it isn’t changing its doctrinal opposition to gay marriage and still considers same-sex relationships to be a “serious transgression.” But people in same-sex relationships will no longer be considered “apostates” who must be kicked out of the religion. The change marks the biggest move yet by church President Russell M. Nelson, who has made a flurry of changes since taking over the faith in January 2018.

Ohio 4-H Program Promotes LGBT Ideology

Liberty Counsel, a Christian nonprofit organization, is accusing Ohio State University’s 4-H program of promoting “LGBT ideology.” Liberty Counsel says, “Homosexuality and ‘transgenderism’ are inappropriate subjects for impressionable children and have nothing to do with 4-H. OSU “is intent on silencing or driving away parents, employees or volunteers who believe that there are only two sexes, male and female.” Liberty Counsel said all Ohio participants in 4-H attend camps and events where they must share showers or sleep in the same rooms as others who identify as another sex. They also said the college’s program promotes the use of the pronouns, ‘Zie, Zir and Zirs,’ which are gender-neutral pronouns.

Yale Discriminates Against Christians

In the latest reminder that traditional Christian values are increasingly unwelcome in modern academia, Yale Law School has reportedly excluded students who work at organizations that stand by Biblical teachings on homosexuality from several financial support programs, reports LifeSiteNews. Aaron Haviland, a Yale Law student and Marine Corps veteran, reports that the school recently announced an expansion of its “nondiscrimination” policy to include summer public interest fellowships, post-graduate public interest fellowships, and loan forgiveness for careers in public interest. Specifically, these resources would no longer be made available to students and graduates who joined organizations that supposedly “discriminate” on the basis of “sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The move came a month after the campus LGBT group Outlaws raised objections to the Yale Federalist Society inviting an Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney to discuss the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. Outlaws called on the school to both “clarify” its admissions policies for students who agreed with ADF and deny financial support to students who take summer jobs or fellowships with such groups.

Leading Muslim Cleric Says Islamophobia a Result of Islamic Extremism

The senior member of the world’s biggest Muslim organization has insisted that Islamophobia is not rooted in racism and that the distrust of Muslims in many countries is a result of Islamist extremism and terrorism throughout the world. Yahya Cholil Staquf, the secretary-general of Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama movement, which claims to have more than 90 million adherents, wrote an article in Britain’s Daily Telegraph saying that the traditional Muslim mindset needed to change. He called for a rejection of Islamic orthodoxy, condemning it as “obsolete and problematic” and “fueling violence on both sides…The truth, we recognize, is that jihadist doctrine, goals and strategy can be traced to specific tenets of orthodox, authoritative Islam and its historic practice. This includes those portions of sharia that promote Islamic supremacy, encourage enmity towards non-Muslims and require the establishment of a caliphate. It is these elements – still taught by most Sunni and Shiite institutions – that constitute a summons to perpetual conflict.”

House of Representatives Sues to Overturn Border Emergency Order

The Democratic-led House of Representatives filed a federal lawsuit on Friday aiming to prevent President Donald Trump from going around Congress to fund his wall along the southern border. The lawsuit argues Trump overstepped his constitutional powers when he authorized spending more money than Congress has approved to erect barriers along the southwestern border by taking cash from other agencies. Attorneys general from 20 states, plus environmental and progressive groups, have filed similar lawsuits aimed at blocking the transfers. The complaint, filed against the Treasury, Homeland Security, Defense, Interior departments and each department’s leader. The president had requested about $5.7 billion from Congress to fund for his border wall, but Congress approved just under $1.4 billion for work on border barricades. Trump has asserted he can use his powers as chief executive to transfer another $6.7 billion from other departments to use for wall construction.

Border Update

Along the Texas border with Mexico – from El Paso to Eagle Pass to the Rio Grande Valley – masses of migrants have been crossing the border in unprecedented numbers, overwhelming federal holding facilities and sending local leaders and volunteers scrambling to deal with the relentless waves of people. “It’s staggering,” McAllen City Manager Roy Rodriguez said. “Really, we’ve never seen anything like this before.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said Wednesday during a visit to El Paso that the border has hit its “breaking point” and urged Congress to come up with legislative solutions to the problem. The Trump administration will speed up the deployment of hundreds of officers on the southern border of the United States and will dramatically expand a policy of returning migrants seeking asylum to Mexico, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said on Monday. Days after threatening to close the U.S. border with Mexico, President Donald Trump suggested Thursday that his administration would slap tariffs on autos long before it considered sealing the nation off from its southern neighbor. President Trump said Friday that the U.S. is “full” and cannot accept any more illegal immigrants or even asylum-seekers.

Trump Administration Moves to Cut Aid to 3 Migrant Countries

The State Department said Saturday it would seek to suspend 2017 and 2018 payments to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where thousands of citizens have joined migrant caravans, prompting complaints that funding cuts would only make the problem worse. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney defended Sunday the administration’s move to cut off aid to a trio of Central America countries, saying they need to “do more” to stop the migrant caravans sending thousands to the U.S. border. Mulvaney said the problem is getting worse even with U.S. aid to Mexico and Central America. “We could prevent a lot of what’s happening on the southern border by preventing people from moving into Mexico in the first place.”

Judge Strikes Down Trump’s Reversal of Offshore Drilling Bans

A U.S. federal judge ruled that President Trump exceeded his authority when he reversed bans on offshore drilling in vast parts of the Arctic Ocean and dozens of canyons in the Atlantic Ocean. The ruling restored the Obama-era restrictions. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason, in a decision late Friday, said that presidents have the power under federal law to remove certain lands from development but cannot revoke those removals. “The wording of President Obama’s 2015 and 2016 withdrawals indicates that he intended them to extend indefinitely, and therefore be revocable only by an act of Congress,” said Gleason, who was nominated to the bench by Obama.

Judge Blocks NY Emergency Order Against Unvaccinated Kids

A judge on Friday halted Rockland County’s emergency declaration banning children who are unvaccinated against measles from schools, places of worship and other public areas. Acting state Supreme Court Judge Rolf Thorsen’s injunction stated that the 166 cases cited by the county since the measles outbreak began last October did not rise to the level of an epidemic or constitute a disaster. Thorsen agreed with the families who sued to the county over the state of emergency when they said their children would continue to miss school, and the parents would continue to incur monetary expenses as a result of the order. The families asserted that the children posed no threat to other children at a school where there had been no reported cases of the measles.

20% of Deaths Worldwide Due to Poor Diet

Millions of people are dying around the world from poor diets, often packed with sodium and lacking in whole grains and fruits, according to a study published Wednesday. The peer-reviewed Global Burden of Disease analysis published in The Lancet suggests one in five deaths (about 11 million) are linked to unhealthy eating habits. People didn’t consume enough nuts, seeds, milk and whole grains, according to data from 2017. Instead, they consumed too much processed meat, sodium and sugary drinks. “Poor diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risk factor in the world,” study author Dr. Christopher Murray of the University of Washington said in a statement. The deaths included about 10 million from cardiovascular disease, 913,000 from cancer and almost 339,000 from type 2 diabetes. The United States ranked 43rd on a list of deaths related to poor diet, with 171 deaths linked to diet per 100,000. The countries with the lowest rates of diet-related deaths were Israel, France, Spain and Japan. The highest rates were found in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and the Marshall Islands.

Mysterious Drug-Resistant Infection Spanning the Globe

The New York Times reports that a mysterious fungus called Candida auris, preys on people with weakened immune systems, and it is quietly spreading across the globe. Over the last five years, it has hit a neonatal unit in Venezuela, swept through a hospital in Spain, forced a prestigious British medical center to shut down its intensive care unit, and taken root in India, Pakistan and South Africa. Recently C. auris reached New York, New Jersey and Illinois, leading the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to add it to a list of germs deemed “urgent threats.” C. auris is so tenacious, in part, because it is impervious to major antifungal medications, making it a new example of one of the world’s most intractable health threats: the rise of drug-resistant infections. Fungi, just like bacteria, are evolving defenses to survive modern medicines.

  • Biblical prophecies say pestilence will be a major end-time sign: For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. (Matthew 24:7)

No Disaster Aid for Midwest Farmers’ Stored Crops

Farmers throughout Iowa and Nebraska are reeling after being told that federal disaster aid won’t cover all of their losses, specifically any due to crops that were already harvested before the flood and now sit in swamped grain bins, silos or other storage areas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has several programs to help farmers after natural disasters, including assistance in the case of livestock losses or damaged fields, but none specifically to reimburse farmers for lost commodities that are being stored. U.S. farmers have a larger surplus of certain crops this year is due to years of oversupplied markets, low prices and lost sales from the U.S. trade war with China. As the scope of damage to crops and livestock across Nebraska and Iowa begins to sink in, some farmers say this could be the end of their family businesses.

47,000 Bridges in the U.S. are Structurally Deficient

More than 47,000 bridges across the U.S. are structurally deficient and fixing them could take decades, according to a new report from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. 1,775 of the bridges are on the Interstate Highway System, the backbone of the nation’s transportation infrastructure. “At the current pace, it would take more than 80 years to replace or repair the nation’s structurally deficient bridges,” ARTBA said in a statement. Some of the most prominent bridges on the list are New York’s Brooklyn Bridge, the Memorial Bridge in Washington D.C., the San Mateo-Hayward bridge over San Francisco Bay, the Robert S. Maestri Bridge over Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana and the Pensacola Bay Bridge in Florida. The states with the largest number of structurally deficient bridges are Iowa, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, California, New York, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Automobile Congestion Toll Planned for NYC

New York City is set to become the first American metropolis that seeks to ease traffic congestion, cut pollution and boost mass transit by charging motorists a hefty toll for the privilege of driving into its most crammed areas. London, Singapore and Stockholm have all reported that “congestion pricing” systems similar to the one now being planned for Manhattan led to reductions in traffic and improvements in air quality, while creating a steady stream of revenue to support public transit and other infrastructure. New York plans to use a network of license plate readers to bill vehicles for using surface roads anywhere in Manhattan south of Central Park. The toll is likely to be more than $10 per incident.

Brexit to Be Delayed?

Prime Minister Theresa May wants to delay the UK’s exit from the European Union until June 30 to avoid a crash-out in one week’s time, though a key European Union leader suggested a pause of up to a year. In a Friday letter to EU President Donald Tusk, May seeks an extension until June 30 and agrees to make contingency plans to take part in European Parliament elections in late May if necessary. Tusk urged the 27 remaining EU nations to offer the UK a flexible extension of up to a year to make sure the nation doesn’t leave the bloc in a chaotic and costly way. Tusk hopes to get it approved at next Wednesday’s EU summit. Such a move would require the UK to take part in the May 23 to May 26 European elections, something which May has long argued would not be in either side’s interest.

Economic News

The U.S. economy added 196,000 jobs in March, the Labor Department reported Friday, a strong rebound from anemic job growth in February. The unemployment rate stayed at 3.8 percent. Payroll growth was feeble in February, with just 33,000 additions, but that was largely blamed on weather as construction and leisure and hospitality had especially poor performances. Employers added a robust average of 223,000 jobs a month in 2018, but analysts expect employment growth to throttle back this year amid the slowing economy and worker shortages.

The median asking price for a U.S. home hit $300,000 for the first time ever in March, according to housing data from Realtor.com. The number of houses priced above $750,000 jumped 11% from last year, while the supply of entry-level homes sunk by 9%.Overall, there were 56,000 more homes for sale in March versus last year, up 4%. The inventory growth largely occurred in the 50 largest U.S. markets mostly on the pricey West Coast West, including San Jose (up 114%), Seattle (up 77%) and San Francisco (up 44%).

More than 41,000 people have lost their jobs in the retail industry so far this year — a 92 percent spike in layoffs since the same time last year, according to a new report from global outplacementfirm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.. The shortest month of the year saw the highest number of job cuts in over three-and-a-half years, as U.S.-based employers announced plans to cut 76,835 positions from their payrolls in February. That is 45 percent higher than the 52,988 cuts announced in January, according to the report released Thursday

Health care costs in the United States are generally measured as the highest in the world. Last year, many Americans could not afford their health care costs and so borrowed $88 billion to pay for that portion they could not afford. Even though more than 90 percent of all Americans have some form of health coverage, health insurance deductibles have gotten much larger.” In addition, even if you have surpassed your deductible, there is still no guarantee that your health insurance company will cover your medical bills.  If you do not jump through every single little hoop they want you to jump through, in many instances they will leave you high and dry,” notes Michael Snyder on the Economic Collapse website.

The past decade of ultra-low interest rates has spawned the rise of “zombie” companies. These debt-laden firms don’t make enough to even cover their interest payments. The number of zombie companies in advanced economies last year stood at 536, or 13% of the total, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. That’s a surprising figure given that the global economy was strong in 2018. In fact, the number of zombie companies isn’t far from the peak of 626 seen during the depths of the Great Recession, BofA said. Economists blame the era of extremely low interest rates. Easy money allows companies to borrow cheaply. And low rates encourage investors to gamble on riskier companies.

The price of an average gallon of regular gasoline is surging nationwide, driven mostly by rising oil prices. Over the past month, the average is up almost 12 percent to $2.69. In four states, the price has increased to over $3 a gallon. This is just four months since American prices hit an 18 month low. The average price of a gallon of regular is $3.61 in California, $3.38 in Hawaii, $3.14 in Washington and $3.04 in Oregon. Crude oil was just below $48 a barrel three months ago. Monday it was at $61 a barrel, an increase of 27%.

Israel

Israel’s Ministry of Housing published on Thursday new tenders for the construction of hundreds of housing units in communities across Judea and Samaria, the Israeli daily, Ma’ariv reports. Several Samarian communities are also slated for new construction. Prime Minister Netanyahu had announced the Ariel housing units last month, just a day after the double terror attack at the Ariel Junction that claimed the lives of First Sgt. Gal Qeidan and Rabbi Ahiad Ettinger. “These terrorists will not uproot us from here – the exact opposite will happen,” he vowed. A record number of 3,788 housing tenders have been announced since the start of 2018, a marked increase over the number of 3,154 in 2017.

A massive billboard was unveiled this week outside the offices of The New York Times that criticizes the paper, its editors and staff of fomenting anti-Israel sentiment through its news coverage. At the center of the billboard is an evocative image of a Molotov cocktail whose wick is lit by a flaming New York Times article with the headline: “Israel Bulldozes Democracy.” Around the incendiary device, which is a favorite weapon of Hamas rioters, it says: “While Hamas firebombs Israel … ‘The New York Times’ inflames with biased coverage.” Andrea Levin, executive director of CAMERA, which created the massive 35-foot billboard, says the Times took almost two weeks to report about Hamas’s recent violent crackdown on their own people, which saw 70 Palestinian journalists targeted, according to reports on the ground. Hamas’s consistent pattern of human-rights abuse has led observers to question why mainstream media outlets like the Times fail to report regularly on Hamas’s oppression of its own citizens.

Middle East

A fragile calm had returned to the Gaza border region of southern Israel Monday morning following a weekend which saw smaller than expected riots to mark the one-year anniversary of the so-called “March of Return” by Palestinian residents of the Hamas-ruled territory. Rocket alerts were also heard in some Gaza-border communities but the rockets ended up landing in empty fields or inside Gaza territory with no reports of damage or casualties. Hamas issued a statement Sunday saying it was waiting to hear from Egyptian officials before making a decision about a long-term truce with Israel.

Islamic State

Despite its military defeat, the so-called Islamic State remains a threat and is possibly reorganizing its ranks again, the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Jens Stoltenberg, said on Monday. “ISIS does not control any territory anymore, and that is, of course, very much because of the efforts of the global coalition and that’s a huge achievement, a significant achievement,” Stoltenberg said. “But that doesn’t mean that the fight against terrorism is over or that we can be complacent,” he added. “We know that they still try to mobilize support for their twisted ideology.” The terror organization continues to launch sporadic attacks via its sleeper cells in both countries. Last week, an Islamic State car bomb killed a member of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the Syrian province of Deir al-Zor.

As one extremist Islamic state falls, another one endures. Over the past few years, a group that was formerly part of al-Qaeda has cemented its power in northern Syria and now rules over some 3 million people. After forcing out rival rebel groups in Idlib earlier this year, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) has moved to impose its control over all institutions in the province. A university with more than 6,000 students has become the latest battleground in its quest for dominance. “They came when we were in the middle of exams and said they would be taking over,” says Ahmad, a student at Free Aleppo University, which was shut down last week by the HTS-controlled administration in Idlib. “They arrested many professors at our university to put us under pressure to leave,” says Ahmed, who would give only his first name because he fears retribution for speaking out.”

Yemen

The House voted Thursday to end U.S. participation in Yemen’s civil war, denouncing the Saudi-led bombing campaign there as worsening an already dire humanitarian crisis and sending the measure to President Trump for his expected veto. The vote was 247 to 175 and fell largely along party lines. It reflected the division between Democrats and Republicans over how to address Saudi Arabia’s efforts to defeat Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran, and their inability to find consensus on confronting Trump’s embrace of Saudi leaders after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The resolution passed in the Senate last month with the support of seven Republicans.

Afghanistan

A large attack by the Taliban in western Afghanistan on Thursday killed at least 30 soldiers and police officers, Afghan officials said, in a sign of intensifying spring fighting across the country despite American efforts to reach a peace deal. Hundreds of Taliban fighters stormed the center of Bala Murghab District in Badghis Province in the predawn hours. The district has come under intense insurgent pressure in recent weeks, with officials warning that it could fall unless reinforcements are sent in. The Taliban attacks are intensifying at a time when Zalmay Khalilzad, the American special envoy, is visiting Afghanistan to build a national consensus on the peace talks with the insurgents.

Mozambique

The number of cholera cases in Mozambique, which was devastated by Tropical Cyclone Idai, has risen to more than 500, and the country has confirmed the first death caused by the disease on Monday. Doctors Without Borders has said it is seeing about 200 likely cholera cases a day in Beira. At least 815 people in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi have been reported killed by the cyclone or flooding it caused which struck on March 14.

Australia

The Parliament of Australia passed legislation regulating social media companies in the wake of the New Zealand shootings. The bill, which won broad support, would penalize failures to promptly remove violent content online and requires authorities to be notified when said content is found. “Australia’s pioneering legislation – disregarding the tech industry’s incessant lobbying efforts – should serve as a model for other lawmakers across the world. It’s evident that tech’s desire for self-regulation is failing, and governments must step in to ensure that the proper measures are in place to protect its citizens from the ongoing misuse of Internet sites and platforms,” said Counter Extremism Project (CEP) CEO Ambassador Mark D. Wallace.

Wildfires

A forest fire fueled by wind in southern New Jersey that has burned thousands of acres has sent billowing smoke far north enough that residents in New York are able to smell it. The blaze was located in Burlington County just west of the Ocean County line. The Forest Fire Service, as well as many local fire departments, are fighting the blaze. In Washington Township, the fire closed Route 72 in Barnegat between Routes 532 and 539 until further notice because of smoke. The fire was burning through the Penn State Forest, undeveloped wilderness that attracts picnickers and hikers. The forest is part of the Pine Barrens, which contains several areas of pine and oak forest with few structures. The Spring Hill Wildfire grew to 11,600 acres before it was fully contained Monday.

Thirty-one people have died while fighting a fire in the mountains of China’s Sichuan province, the government said Monday. The dead included 27 firefighters and four local residents recruited to help battle the blaze in a rugged area about 12,500 feet up the mountain. China has been battling forest fires in recent weeks in various parts of the vast country, including on the outskirts of Beijing, fed by dry weather and high winds across many northern areas.

A wildfire thought to be one of the largest on record tore through a northern South Korea province Thursday evening, prompting a national emergency and forcing thousands to flee. Two people are dead and at least 11 injured as a result of the fire that broke out around 7 p.m. local time Thursday in the resort town of Goseong in the northeastern province of Gangwon, about 100 miles northeast of Seoul. Fueled by winds and dry conditions, the fire quickly spread to nearby mountains and other smaller towns. The fire still burns in some areas but was brought under control Friday afternoon by more than 16,500 soldiers that were called in to help firefighters battle the blaze.

Weather

In the fertile river bottoms of northwest Missouri, the floods keep coming. And this year, as some residents were finally paying off debts from past repairs, the water ripped through at record levels, blasting new openings in the levees that are supposed to protect homes and farms. The flooding of the last month has exposed the vulnerabilities in a levee system that is now so full of holes many here ruefully describe it as “Swiss cheese.” With dozens of costly breaks across Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and nearby states, the floods have left large areas of the Midwest without much, if any, flood protection. And with the fear of more floods in the coming years — and perhaps even the coming weeks — many people said living and farming near the water might not be viable much longer without major changes. Communities along the Missouri River continued to have trouble restoring drinking water service weeks after flooding left towns and cities inundated. Residents in affected Nebraska and Iowa towns have to boil water before drinking it or rely on bottled water while officials work to repair the damage. Bright red notices adorn the doors of more than 580 homes in two Omaha suburbs. The tags mark the homes as uninhabitable, and provide a snapshot of the destruction wrought by last month’s record flooding across the Midwest and Great Plains.

At least 32 people have died and 12 others are missing after flash flooding struck northern and western provinces of Afghanistan over a two-day span. More than 700 houses were destroyed or severely damaged. Aid groups said tens of thousands of people may have been affected by the flooding, some of whom are farmers impacted by a years-long drought.

Rescuers struggled Monday to reach remote areas of southern Nepal where a violent rainstorm killed at least 28 people over the weekend. Survivors in devastated villages desperately searched for food and shelter. High winds during the storm Sunday night flipped cars and blew a bus carrying at least 40 people off a highway, killing some of the passengers. Flying objects, falling huts and trees caused most of the deaths and injuries.

Signs of the Times

March 29, 2019

­For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. (Colossians 1:16-17)

Evidence of Intelligent Design’ Says Non-Christian Geophysicist

Stephen C. Meyer is a geophysicist and author of New York Times bestseller, “Darwin’s Doubt.” Despite not being a Christian himself, Meyer explained that, after years of scientific study, he had come to the conclusion that there simply must be an intelligent designer behind our creation. “It is possible to formulate a case for intelligent design in a strictly scientific manner,” Meyer said. “When we think about the origin of information, it always arises from an intelligent source.” Whether it is a “hieroglyphic inscription, a paragraph in a book, or information embedded in a radio signal, whenever you find information, you trace it back to its source, you always come to a mind not a process,” Meyer explained. He believes that the scientific study of the origins of the universe has a great number of things in common with the central tenets of theistic beliefs.

Trump Expands Order Defunding International Planned Parenthood

During his first week in office, President Trump issued an executive order known as the Mexico City Policy or the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Act that revoked taxpayer funding to the International Planned Parenthood abortion business. The policy prohibits taxpayer funding to international groups that promote and/or provide abortions overseas, the biggest of which is IPPF. Trump’s decision applied to nearly nine billion dollars in U.S. taxpayer funds to foreign non-governmental organizations. Earlier this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Trump Administration announced new enforcement mechanism designed to expand this executive order to the broadest extent possible. Pompeo announced that the U.S. State Department will refuse to work with any foreign non-governmental organization (NGO) engaged in the abortion business. The State Department will also refuse to fund foreign NGOs that give money to other foreign NGOs engaged in the international abortion industry.

Elderly Man Assaulted/Robbed While Praying Outside Abortion Facility

An elderly pro-life activist is awaiting justice after he was literally kicked on the ground by a man who stole a pro-life banner and walked away, as recorded by a bystander. LifeNews reports the assault victim, known as Ron, was participating in a 40 Days for Life prayer vigil outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in San Francisco. According to video of the incident, the thief was getting on a bicycle with the stolen banner when Ron stuck a flag pole in the bike spokes, stopping the thief. But the thief used the bike to push Ron to the ground, then kicked the pro-lifer when they fought over the banner. The thief became not just a thief but an assaulter as he kicked the man three times before the footage stops.

Mosque Attack Averted in California

A frightening and dangerous incident over the weekend at a California mosque could have turned tragic. Seven people were inside the Islamic Center of Escondido early Sunday when, shortly after 3am, the lone person not snoozing noticed flames and woke the others, Escondido Police Lt. Chris Lick says, per the Los Angeles Times. Together they were able to put out the fire using a fire extinguisher, Lick adds, per CBS News. But police soon noted the fire was no accident, blaming accelerant-aided arson instead, and they say a note found in the mosque’s driveway referred to the mosque shootings that left 50 dead in Christchurch, New Zealand. Police say the mosque’s exterior was damaged, and that in addition to arson, they’re investigating the fire as a possible hate crime, as spray-painted graffiti on the scene also referenced the New Zealand shooting

Green New Deal Voted Down in Senate

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal died in the Senate on Tuesday as Republicans delivered a decisive low to liberal activists’ plan to reshape American society. Not a single senator backed the freshman congresswoman’s legislation, which was defeated in a 57-0 filibuster. Forty-three Democrats refused to take a stand and voted “present.” The bill called for an upheaval in American energy, an overhaul of the construction sector and history’s largest expansion of the social safety net. The vote left Democrats scrambling for footing. They called Mr. McConnell’s move to force a vote a “sham,” complained that they had been ambushed and said they never considered Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal to be a viable option.

Pentagon Transfers $1B for Border Wall

The Pentagon authorized the transfer of $1 billion to build 57 miles of border wall on Monday. The transfer is the first under the emergency declared last month by President Trump. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan authorized the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin planning and implementing up to $1 billion to support the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol in building the border wall. In a letter to Homeland Security, Shanahan said the money will help block “up to 11 drug-smuggling corridors along the border.” Democratic senators sent a letter to Shanahan objecting to both the “substance of the transfer” and the decision to make it without “seeking the approval of the congressional defense committees.”

92% of Illegal Immigrant Families Ignore Deportation Orders

Nearly every illegal immigrant family slated for deportation over the last six months has ignored those orders, according to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. A staggering 92 percent of family members failed to appear at their deportation hearings in the months since September, said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican. He said he obtained those numbers from Ron Vitiello, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “The system is broken and overwhelmed,” Mr. Graham tweeted. “It is a national emergency!” President Trump  said Friday he would close the U.S. border with Mexico next week, or at least large sections of the frontier, if Mexico “doesn’t immediately stop all illegal immigration coming into the United States” from the region.

Border Patrol Struggles with Hiring/Training New Agents

As President Donald Trump’s attention is focused on building a border wall to keep out unwanted migrants, the Border Patrol’s “human wall” is in a serious state of disrepair, according to a USA TODAY review of government documents, congressional testimony and interviews with agents. The Border Patrol, a component of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, faces a crisis in hiring, training and retaining agents as well as keeping track of what exactly its 19,555 agents are doing at any given time. As the Border Patrol struggles to maintain current workforce levels, its greatest challenge will be President Trump’s executive order from two years ago calling for the hiring of an additional 5,000 agents to seal off the southern border. Since that Jan. 25, 2017, order, the agency added just 118 Border Patrol agents, with only three stationed along the southern border. That shortfall is part of the reason Trump has deployed thousands of National Guardsmen and active-duty military troops to the southern border. Even if the agency succeeds in recruiting and hiring thousands of agents, it wouldn’t be able to train them properly, said acting Inspector General John Kelly of the Department of Homeland Security.

Border Patrol Forced to Restart ‘Catch-and-Release’ Policy

The Border Patrol will have to re-start a policy of catch-and-release at the border, the top border officer said Wednesday, saying there’s not enough bed space to hold them and, under the law, they can’t be immediately sent back. Kevin K. McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said things have gotten so bad that more than 100,000 illegal immigrants will be nabbed at the border in March alone. Those are levels that haven’t been seen in more than a decade, and the current situation is worse because the migrants are exploiting loopholes that make it almost impossible to oust them. That means the Border Patrol will, for the first time since the Bush administration, directly release illegal immigrants into local communities. McAleenan said the surge of illegal immigrants is so big, and they are seeing so many sick people, that in some areas 40 percent of Border Patrol agents’ time is being spent driving illegal immigrants to and from processing centers, taking them to clinics or babysitting them while they undergo care.

Justice Department Escalates Fight Against Obamacare

The Trump administration told a federal appeals court Monday it thinks all of Obamacare is unconstitutional, marking an escalation in its fight against the 2010 law. Justice Department lawyers previously had argued that if the courts found Obamacare’s “individual mandate” is no longer constitutional, then a narrow slice of the program — consumer protections for people with pre-existing conditions — could not stand, either. A federal judge in Texas went much further in a December ruling, agreeing with plaintiff states who said the whole law should be invalidated. On Monday, administration lawyers said, “The Department of Justice has determined that the district court’s judgment should be affirmed.”

Trump’s Health Care Plans Struck Down in Court

A federal judge has struck down a small-business health insurance plan widely touted by President Donald Trump, marking the second setback in a week for the administration’s health care initiatives. U.S. District Judge John D. Bates wrote in his opinion late Thursday that so-called “association health plans” were “clearly an end-run” around consumer protections required by the Obama-era Affordable Care Act. The plans at issue in Bates’ ruling Thursday allow groups of small businesses and sole proprietors to band together to offer lower-cost coverage that doesn’t have to include all the benefits required by the ACA, often called “Obamacare.” On Wednesday, another federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s Medicaid work requirements for low-income people.

Western States Sign Colorado River Drought Deal

Representatives of seven states finished a landmark agreement to shore up the dwindling Colorado River and signed a letter to Congress on Tuesday calling for legislation to enact the deal. The set of agreements would prop up water-starved reservoirs that supply cities and farms across the Southwest and would lay the groundwork for larger negotiations to address the river’s chronic overallocation, which has been compounded by years of drought. The first cuts in water deliveries to Arizona and Nevada could begin as soon as next year under the terms of the deal.

Renewable Energy Increasing, But Carbon Still King

Wind and solar costs have plunged so rapidly that 74% of the U.S. coal fleet could be phased out for renewable energy — and still save customers money, according to a report released on Monday by Energy Innovation, a nonpartisan think tank. That figure of at-risk coal plants in the United States will rise to 86% by 2025 as solar and wind costs continue to plunge, the report predicts. The research indicates that it’s increasingly more expensive to operate existing coal plants than build clean energy alternatives.

However, a report from the International Energy Agency found that not only are carbon dioxide emissions still increasing, but that the world’s growing thirst for energy has led to higher emissions from coal-fired power plants than ever before. Energy demand across the globe grew by 2.3 percent over the past year. To meet that demand, largely fueled by a booming economy and growing heating and cooling needs in some regions, countries turned to an array of sources, including renewables. But nothing filled the void quite like fossil fuels, which met nearly 70 percent of the skyrocketing electricity demand, according to the agency.

Marijuana Leading to Increased Hospitalizations in Colorado

Hospital visits related to cannabis drastically increased after Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, a new study shows. University of Colorado School of Medicine researchers reviewed health records of 9,973 patients at UC Health University of Colorado Hospital from 2012 to 2016, and found a more than three-fold increase in cannabis-associated emergency department visits. The state legalized cannabis completely in 2012 and allowed sales in 2014. Symptoms included: Uncontrollable vomiting, acute psychosis, intoxication and heart problems. In addition, automobile crashes rose 6 percent from 2012 to 2017 in four states that legalized marijuana during that period – Nevada, Colorado, Washington and Oregon – a greater rate than in four comparable states that didn’t, the Highway Loss Data Institute found. Some doctors have also warned of a link between marijuana and psychosis.

Economic News

If the bond market is correct, the U.S. economy is definitely heading into a recession.  Over the past 50 years, there have been six previous occasions when the yield on three-month Treasury bonds has risen above the yield on ten-year Treasury bonds, and in each of those instances a recession has followed. Short-term government fixed income yields are now ahead of the longer part of the yield curve, called an inversion, for the first time since 2007.

When economic conditions initially begin to slow down, businesses continue to order goods like they normally would but those goods don’t sell as quickly as they previously did.  As a result, inventory levels begin to rise, and that is precisely what is happening right now.  In fact, the U.S. inventory to sales ratio has risen sharply for five months in a row.  This is mirroring the pattern that we witnessed just prior to the financial crisis of 2008.

Housing Starts tumbled 8.7% MoM (Month over Month) in March and the February 18.7% gain was revised down to +11.7% MoM. Building Permits slid 1.6% MoM in March and February’s modest 1.4% gain was revised to a 0.7% drop. Single-Family Starts tumbled over 10% YoY (Year over Year) and 17% MoM (the biggest drop in four years) to the lowest since May 2017.

The best job market in half a century has been a boon for older women going back to work, typically after raising kids for nearly 20 years, and for those staying in the workforce at more advanced ages. It’s a demographic that has gotten less attention than other groups reaping the benefits of worker shortages that are forcing employers to hire Americans on the margins, such as the disabled and less educated. The 3.8 percent unemployment rate is near a 50-year low and there were a near-record 7.6 million job openings in January, Labor Department figures show.

Retailers and restaurants say eliminating cash at their stores makes them more efficient. But opponents argue that cashless stores exclude millions of Americans without bank accounts. Americans use cash in 30% of all transactions, according to a 2017 survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. People dish out cash for most purchases under $10. And cash is also still the most common form of payment for people making less than $25,000 a year. Now, cities and states are starting to take action against cash-free stores. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a law last week banning cashless stores. Philadelphia also enacted legislation prohibiting cashless stores earlier this month, and officials in New York City, Washington and San Francisco are considering similar legislation.

New cars sold in Europe from 2022 will have to be fitted with systems to limit their speed. Under new safety rules agreed by the European Union, all new vehicles are required to have “intelligent speed assistance” systems as standard equipment. Intelligent speed assistance systems don’t automatically apply the brakes when a car is going too fast. Instead, they limit engine power to keep vehicles to the speed limit unless overridden by the driver. Some carmakers have already developed ways of using GPS or cameras to detect posted speed limits and make sure vehicles adhere to them. The rules, which also mandate crash data recorders and reversing cameras, were hailed by safety advocates. But others raised concerns over the risk of drivers becoming complacent and less focused on the road conditions. Critics point out that road signs are not standardized across Europe, making speed limits difficult to detect, and digital maps lack speed limit information for many roads, and the data is not always current.

Britain

British lawmakers on Friday rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s European Union divorce deal for a third time, a defeat that adds further uncertainty and confusion over the country’s the efforts to leave the bloc. Britain now has until April 12 to announce a new plan, or leave the bloc without a deal and risk a disorderly exit that could substantially damage Britain’s economy. May said the “implications are grave” and EU leaders immediately announced an emergency summit for April 10. Almost three years after Britain voted to leave the EU, Brexit has brought the country’s political system to a standstill. The vote came on the day that Britain was originally scheduled to leave the EU and the result raises the possibility that the nation may need to hold a second national referendum on Brexit or call a general election to solve the impasse.

Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short his trip to Washington, D.C. and returned to the Jewish state later Monday after a Gaza rocket attack struck a home in central Israel, wounding seven people. Netanyahu, who was in the U.S. capital to meet President Trump and give a since-scuttled speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, called the Monday morning rocket launch in the agricultural community of Mishmeret a “criminal attack” and vowed to strike back hard. “It’s a miracle that nobody got killed,” said Assi Dvilanski, a Magen David Adom paramedic who was one of the first responders at the scene. Israeli forces on Monday struck targets across the Gaza Strip, including the offices of Hamas’ supreme leader, in response to a surprise rocket attack from the Palestinian territory, as the military bolstered its troops and rocket-defense systems in anticipation of a new round of heavy fighting with the Islamic militant group. A senior Hamas official reportedly has implicated Iran as the force behind the rocket attack into central Israel.

Friday marks exactly one year since Hamas began its weekly Gaza border riots and attacks, the so-called “March of Return.” On Wednesday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called for a million-person march on Israel’s border and the IDF is now on high alert, streaming heavy re-enforcements to the border, including an armored division and artillery, preparing for what could be a violent few days. Since the organized cross-border violence began last March,  some 2,200 terror-related incidents have been recorded, including 1,233 rocket and mortar attacks. The violence also included 18 incidents of gunfire from the Gaza Strip and 94 Improvised Explosive Device (IED) incidents and 600 Molotov cocktail attacks. Beyond the attacks on the border fence, arson balloons and kites launched from the Gaza Strip have also caused some 2,000 fires, at times as many as 30 in a single day. Gazans claim that more than 250 civilians have been killed and tens of thousands wounded during the last year of border violence. The IDF has proved — and the Hamas leadership has admitted — that the majority of those who have been killed on the border have been terrorists.

Islamic State

The final defeat of the Islamic State extremist group’s self-declared caliphate marked an important battlefield victory in the fight against the terrorist network, but it also signaled a shift to a more difficult fight to come, U.S. military officials and experts said. For U.S. counterterrorism strategy, the focus will move from years of armed conflict as the group held parts of Iraq and Syria to confrontation with a more dispersed and furtive insurgency, officials and analysts said. It also will mean devising ways to undercut its recruitment efforts and its appeal to opportunity-starved regions. “There will still be an insurgent element out there that has intentionally gone into hiding and will try to reemerge,” said a U.S. military official.

Despite the fall of Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate, the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains at large, having for years evaded a massive manhunt by America’s military and intelligence agencies. The 47-year-old jihadist, whose call to arms drew thousands of Muslims from around the world to battlefields in Syria and Iraq, is believed to be hiding in a remote stretch of desert that straddles the border between the two countries, according to Iraqi security officials. To elude capture, Mr. Baghdadi, who has a $25 million bounty on his head, has gone low tech, Iraqi officials say, shunning trackable communications devices, moving in a single vehicle to avoid attention and trusting only a small circle of close aides.

New Zealand

In a column on lifesitenews.com, New Zealand resident Michelle Kaufman said, “It seems like we’re living in a different world all of a sudden. It seems that showing our great respect for those who were killed has somehow been manipulated into showing affirmation of the Islamic religion. New Zealand is now putty in the Islamists’ hands. The shooting on Friday was terrible. But what has now unfolded is something else entirely and may just be the beginning of something very terrible for New Zealand. Certainly, on a spiritual level, our crisis has become even deeper. Please keep New Zealand in your prayers.”

New Zealanders are debating the limits of free speech after their chief censor banned the 74-page manifesto written and released by the man accused of slaughtering 50 people at two mosques in the city of Christchurch. The ban, issued Saturday, means anybody caught with the document on their computer could face up to 10 years in prison, while anyone caught sending it could face 14 years. Chief Censor David Shanks said the manifesto contains justifications for acts of tremendous cruelty like killing children and encourages acts of terrorism, even outlining specific places to target and methods to carry out attacks. Shanks had earlier placed a similar ban on the 17-minute livestream video the alleged killer filmed from a camera mounted on his helmet during the shootings. He said researchers and journalists could apply for exemptions from both bans. Some say the ban goes too far and risks lending both the document and the gunman mystique. While free speech advocates haven’t questioned banning the graphic video, they said banning the manifesto is a step too far.

Mozambique

Nearly two weeks after Mozambique was devastated by Tropical Cyclone Idai, the southern African country is facing a new threat from cholera and other water-borne diseases, the World Health Organization warned Tuesday. Already, at least five case of cholera were confirmed Wednesday in one of the poorest and hardest-hit neighborhoods of Beira. The storm wiped out sanitation systems throughout the country, leaving 1.8 million residents at risk from water-borne diseases. At least 600,000 people have been displaced. To combat the spread of cholera, the WHO sent 900,000 cholera vaccines to the country. The hardest hit city, Beira, is below sea level, and the city is situated along a coastline that’s considered one of the most vulnerable in the world to the impacts of rising waters.

Environment

A rapidly spreading fungus is threatening frogs everywhere, causing mass amphibian die-offs, according to a new study. The study published online Friday in the peer-reviewed journal Science calls the loss from chytridiomycosis “catastrophic,” saying the disease has “caused death and species extinction at a global scale.” At least 501 amphibian species have died over the past 50 years, including 90 that are presumed extinct. Chytridiomycosis is caused by two fungal species that likely originated in Asia, When contracted, the disease can eat away at skin. It’s been known to kill frogs for decades now, but recently its spread has caused global alarm. Study authors say the outbreak is contributing to “the Earth’s sixth mass extinction.” Deaths have been most extreme in wet climates of the Americas and Australia. Just 12 percent of the declined species are showing signs of recovery, the study notes, as 39 percent continue to decline.

A record 1,100 dead dolphins have landed on France’s Atlantic coast beaches since January. The mass deaths, widely blamed on industrial fishing, have alarmed animal welfare groups and prompted France’s ecology minister to launch a national plan to protect them. 90% of the fatalities resulted from the dolphins being accidentally captured in industrial fishing nets. Autopsies carried out on the dolphins this year by La Rochelle University’s National Center for Scientific Research show extreme levels of mutilation. Activists say it’s common for fishermen to cut body parts off the suffocated dolphins after they are pulled up on the nets, to save the nets. Stepping up the use of acoustic repellent devices on trawlers doesn’t work because the trawlers don’t activate them, fearing they will scare off other fish in addition to the dolphins.

Wildfires

With drought conditions having vastly improved since the beginning of the year, wildfires in the U.S. have also been far less frequent. Through March 22, there have been 3,623 wildfires greater than 100 acres in size compared with a ten-year average of 9,943 over the same time period. These wildfires have burned 94,789 acres of land which is way down from the ten-year average of 428,606 acres.

Weather

Homes, cars and a church were damaged by hail when thunderstorms moved across North Texas on Sunday night. The largest hailstones pelted areas just north of Dallas on Sunday evening as a supercell thunderstorm moved through. Supercells have a reputation for producing large hail, and this one was no different. Hailstones the size of tennis balls were reported. Hail covered the ground in Collins County, with Allen, McKinney and Frisco among the hardest hit areas.

Snowmelt flooding has prompted the evacuation of dozens of homes along the Yellowstone River in western North Dakota and eastern Montana. The flooding also forced the closure of Highway 200. According to Agriculture Secretary Sunny Purdue, there “may be as many as a million calves lost in Nebraska” due to the catastrophic flooding that has hit the state.  That’s just one of the midwestern states affected by severe flooding. Beef prices are expected to rise significantly in the coming months.

Hail as large as golf balls pelted a large swath of central Florida Wednesday morning as heavy storms battered the region. Numerous cars were damaged as piles of ice up to two inches high covered the ground in some areas along the Space Coast in Brevard County. Wind gusts up to 47 mph were recorded later in the day at Port Canaveral as the blustery weather continued, bringing with it rough seas and waves of 7 to 9 feet.

At least 17 people are dead and 74 injured after flash floods swept through Southern Iran. The sudden flooding was triggered by heavy rains outside the city of Shiraz. Most of those killed had gone outside to take video on their phones of the rushing water. Over 56,000 people have been affected in various cities and rural areas in the two provinces as a result of heavy rainfall that hit on March 19 and 20.

Signs of the Times

March 22, 2019

­Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.(Romans 8:35-37)

Persecution Watch

The death toll in the attack at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques rose to 50 people; victims range in age from 2 to over 60. Thirty-nine people remain in the hospital and 11 are in intensive care in critical condition. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced sweeping changes to the country’s gun laws Thursday, including a ban on military-style semi-automatics and assault rifles like the one used in last week’s Christchurch mosque shootings. Ardern says there will be a gun buyback scheme and those who already own such weapons will have to turn them in, but they will be offered “reasonable compensation ‘. There are believed to be up to 1.5 million guns in New Zealand, which has a population of around 5 million. Officials estimate there are 13,500 semi-automatic weapons in circulation, but they can’t say how many assault rifles might be out there.

The latest Open Doors World Watch List indicate that some 11 Christians are martyred for their faith every single day. “Today, in the 21st century, we are living in a time when persecution against Christian believers is the highest in modern history,” the persecution watchdog noted. Currently, the top five most dangerous countries in which to live as a Christian are: North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Pakistan. As is the case in all of these countries, Christians remain in grave danger for simply choosing to believe in Christ.

The news out of Nigeria is getting progressively worse as it is being reported that more than 300 people were killed in at least seven predominantly Christian villages across Nigeria in February and March this year, according to Barnabas Fund sources. In one early morning attack on the village of Karamai on Feb. 14, sources said 41 people died after 300 gunmen swarmed the village shouting “Allahu Akbar!” as they fired their weapons and ransacked people’s homes. It was reported almost all of those killed were women and children along with a few senior residents who were unable to run away. Another 71 people were killed and 28 injured in an attack on the Dogon Noma village by an Islamic group known as the Fulani militia on March 11.

A rebel group with ties to a militant Islamic group has killed six Christians – including a 9-year-old – during a nighttime attack in a mostly Christian province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to field sources for Open Doors USA, rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces – pretending to be security agents – opened fire after approaching the village of Kalau, killing three women. Nearly 500 residents fled the assault, heading to the nearby city of Beni in the Congo’s North Kivu province. Two more villagers—among hundreds fleeing the gunfire—were killed. Observers anticipate that the attack is likely to be followed by more violence at the hands of ADF, who are escalating from kidnapping to murder and seizing territory.

Omar Abu Laila, the terrorist who killed two Israelis in a shooting attack near Ariel on March 17, including the father of 12, was shot dead by Israeli special forces during a gunfire exchange when the forces came to arrest him. The Fatah movement immediately glorified the dead murderer and will give an honorarium to his family. While the Palestinian Authority’s policy of furnishing financial rewards to terrorists is well-documented, a recent report by Palestinian Media Watch reveals that these stipends can exceed the salaries earned by doctors and judges in Palestinian society. Fatah used Facebook as the means to disseminate its support for the murder of Israelis and to broadcast its message of support for terror to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Facebook users. Fatah’s official page alone has more than 170,000 followers. In February, the PMW sent Facebook a 40-page report documenting the repeated terror support by Fatah on its Facebook page throughout 2018, but still the abhorrent calls for Israel’s annihilation are allowed to continue.

Iran’s military activities and clear public threats to annihilate Israel continue to grow in frequency and intensity. With such dire promises of conflict, it would be expected that the international news media and politicians throughout the world would have something to say about this situation. Instead, Iran’s continued abusive behavior continues to be cozied up to at worst, or at best, ignored, notes United With Israel. One of the core pillars and revolutionary ideals of Iran’s Islamic Republic is destroying the Jewish state. It is also one of the religious prophecies of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and his successor, the current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that Israel will be eventually erased from the face of the earth.

A few weeks before the horrific New Zealand mosque massacre were live-streamed on Facebook, the company’s top executives, including Mark Zuckerberg, were touting the company’s efforts to improve its safety and security processes in a public relations campaign. In a profile piece with Fortune, published the day before the terrorist attack, Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer bragged about the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) and its supposed ability to identify harmful content within “hundredths of milliseconds, billions of times a day.” His proof was a demonstration showing that the system could differentiate between a picture of marijuana and a picture of broccoli at an overall accuracy rate of approximately 90 percent. Facebook’s AI algorithms did not stop the live-streamed attack from being uploaded more than one million times. And, more than 24 hours after the attack took place, it had failed to remove approximately 300,000 different uploads of the livestream.

New Mexico Defeats Radical Bill to Legalize Abortions Up to Birth

The New Mexico Senate rejected a radical pro-abortion bill Thursday that would have kept abortions legal for any reason up to birth in the state. The AP reports that 16 Republicans and eight Democrats voted against the bill. It was a tough fight for pro-life advocates after the bill passed the House in February and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who claims to be Catholic, said she would support it. Pro-life advocates celebrated the victory and praised the Republican and Democratic lawmakers who helped to defeat the bill. “We are so thankful to the senators who stood up for women, unborn children, and their constituents tonight to vote against HB-51,” New Mexico Alliance for Life said in a statement.

Mississippi Governor Signs ‘Heartbeat’ Anti-Abortion Bill

The Republican governor of Mississippi signed a bill Thursday that will make his state one of the strongest protectors of the unborn. Governor Phil Bryant says he will sign Senate Bill 2116 – often described as a “heartbeat bill.” The measure bans most abortions once a baby’s heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks into pregnancy. The Center for Reproductive Rights says it plans to sue the state to block the bill from taking effect July 1. SB 2116 passed the State Senate on Tuesday on a 34-15 vote, which was largely along party lines. It passed the State House earlier this month on a 78-37 vote.

Library’s Drag Queen Reading to Kids is Sex Offender

A  public library in Houston invited a drag queen who is a convicted child-sex offender to read books to children. Houston Public Library officials didn’t apologize for hosting Drag Queen Storytime, which is part of a national program. But they did “deeply regret” failing to conduct a background check. The activist group Houston MassResistance did it for them and discovered that Alberto Garza, a 32-year-old drag queen who goes by the name Tatiana Mala Nina, was convicted of assaulting an 8-year-old child. The library said children are never left alone with the drag queens. And it argued it hasn’t received any complaints of inappropriate behavior. Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, however, wrote in his Washington Update that the library’s assurances are of “little comfort to community members, who were stunned that anyone would be so lax about kids’ safety.”

Pentagon Identifies $6.8B of Spending Cuts for Trump Border Wall

The Pentagon has a list of $6.8 billion worth of construction projects it could choose to take money from in order to build President Trump’s border wall, according to a list provided to Congress on Monday. The Pentagon also said Congress can make sure none of the projects suffer by passing an increase in military construction money for 2020, allowing the government to go back and replenish the accounts Trump wants to drain for his border wall. The list gave Democrats on Capitol Hill targets to fire at, arguing those defense projects are more important to national security than the border wall.

Courts to Decide Legality of Trump’s Border Emergency Declaration

Congress wasn’t able to stop President Trump’s emergency declaration at the Mexican border, but the courts will have the final word. Following the president’s veto Friday of a congressional resolution rescinding his action, three little-known federal district judges have the best chance to block the emergency declaration. At the same time, this will test Trump’s theory that the judiciary is prejudiced against him. One judge is a 25-year veteran of the federal court system who was born near the Mexican border and chosen by President Bill Clinton. Another was the last judge named by President Barack Obama to the federal district court in northern California five years ago. A third is a former police officer who donated to Trump’s 2016 campaign and was named to the federal bench the following year. They run the political gamut from left to right. What’s clear is that not all the lawsuits challenging Trump’s emergency declaration will be heard by liberal judges, although Chief Justice Roberts of the Supreme Court maintains that there is no such thing as an Obama judge or a Trump judge.

Homeland Security Says Border Situation Worse Than an Emergency

The government is on track to catch nearly 100,000 illegal immigrants at the border this month, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Monday, renewing the administration’s plea for Congress to do something. That number would be the worst in more than a decade, and it’s more troubling than the worst years because a higher proportion of the migrants are children and families who are almost impossible to deport. According to the latest numbers, 98 percent of those caught at the border in 2017 are still in the U.S. today, underscoring how difficult it is to remove them in the current framework. “The situation at our Southern Border has gone from a crisis, to a national emergency, to a near systemwide meltdown,” Ms. Nielsen said. Ms. Nielsen said the border wall is part of the solution, but also said Congress must change the laws to allow for detention and faster deportations of illegal immigrant children and families.

More Than 1000 Illegals Cut Lose Every Day

Deportation officers are cutting loose more than 1,000 illegal immigrant family members a day, setting them free into border states as the surge of migrations overwhelms the government’s ability to handle them. Some are released with ankle monitoring devices or check-in schedules with the often vain hope that they will show up for their court hearings and deportation. In Phoenix, churches and volunteers are overwhelmed by the numbers of immigrants dropped off at the bus station. According to recent ICE statistics, officials released 14,500 migrants in the Phoenix area between Dec. 21 and early March. During that same period, they released 37,500 in communities in south Texas, 24,000 in El Paso and 8,500 in San Diego.

Citing Climate Change, Judge Blocks Drilling in Wyoming

A judge blocked oil and gas drilling across almost 500 square miles in Wyoming and said the U.S. government must consider climate change impacts more broadly as it leases huge swaths of public land for energy exploration. The order marks the latest in a string of court rulings over the past decade — including one last month in Montana — that have faulted the U.S. for inadequate consideration of greenhouse gas emissions when approving oil, gas and coal projects on federal land. U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras said that when the U.S. Bureau of Land Management auctions public lands for oil and gas leasing, officials must consider emissions from past, present and foreseeable future oil and gas leases nationwide. The ruling coincides with an aggressive push by President Trump’s administration to open more public lands to energy development.

Trump Issues Executive Order Protecting Free Speech at Colleges

President Trump on Thursday signed an executive order to promote free speech on college campuses by threatening colleges with the loss of federal research funding if they do not protect those rights. “We’re here to take historic action to defend American students and American values,” Trump said, surrounded by conservative student activists at the signing ceremony. “They’ve been under siege. Under the guise of speech codes, safe spaces and trigger warnings, these universities have tried to restrict free thought, impose total conformity and shut down the voices of great young Americans like those here today,” he said. A senior administration official said the order directs 12 grant-making agencies to use their authority in coordination with the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to ensure institutions that receive federal research or education grants promote free speech and free inquiry. White House officials have said it will apply to more than $35 billion in grants.

Tech Industry Liberal Bias a Threat to Liberty

A group of high-powered conservative media leaders gathered on Wednesday night to strategize ways to combat liberal bias in the tech industry, which Media Research Center founder Brent Bozell called “the most powerful force in history” when it comes to the far left’s attempt at “remaking civilization.” “Conservatives are coming together, across a broad spectrum, of enterprises and joining forces to fight what some of us believe to be, potentially, the greatest threat to liberty in history,” Bozell said, noting that tech giants Google, Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube are the primary targets. The meeting was the second gathering of the group, and more are being planned. The group plans to meet with Capitol Hill leaders at an upcoming gathering in order to finalize its strategy. Everything from legal action, anti-trust measures, competing platforms, and government regulations are on the table.

Outlook Improves for Colorado River Reservoirs

Winter storms have covered the Rocky Mountains with snow from Wyoming to northern New Mexico, leaving a bounty of runoff that should boost the levels of the Colorado River’s depleted reservoirs this spring and summer. The snow that fell during the past month has pushed the accumulated snowpack across the Upper Colorado River Basin to nearly 140 percent of average. Federal officials now estimate there could be enough snow to narrowly avert a declaration of a shortage at Lake Mead next year, which would hold off water cutbacks in the Southwest for another year. Even with the above-average snowpack, federal water officials and representatives of Western states are looking to finish drought contingency plans, which are designed to prevent Lake Mead and Lake Powell from falling to critical lows during the next several years. Water officials in Arizona, California and Nevada have been discussing the proposed Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan since 2015. Under the agreement, each of the states would take less water from Lake Mead under a shortage.

Puerto Rico Power Finally Restored

Eighteen months after Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, customers on an island off the coast of the U.S. territory finally had their power fully restored Wednesday. However, the electrical grid is still fragile, with two major outages on the main island this week alone. Officials said a cat was responsible for the first outage, which left thousands of people without power in the capital of San Juan on Saturday. Another outage, on Tuesday, was blamed on an iguana that made contact with a 115,000-volt bar, leaving some 100,000 people without power. The power company acknowledged to The Associated Press that the current system, which serves 1.5 million customers, is a patch-up job following the Sept. 20, 2017, hurricane, and that it still needs further repairs and updates.

Smoking Strong Pot Daily Raises Risk of Psychosis

Smoking high-potency marijuana every day could increase the chances of developing psychosis by nearly five times, according to the biggest-ever study to examine the impact of pot on psychotic disorder rates. The research, from King’s College London, adds to previous studies that have found links between marijuana and mental health problems, but still does not definitively pinpoint marijuana as the cause. Psychotic disorders – in which people lose touch with reality – are typically triggered by factors including genetics and the environment. But experts say the new study’s findings have implications for jurisdictions legalizing marijuana, warning they should consider the potential impact on their mental health services.

Firearm Deaths of U.S. Children at ‘Epidemic’ Levels

Calling it an “epidemic,” researchers reported Thursday an alarming increase in the number of firearm deaths of school-age children in the United States:  38,942 children from 5 to 18 years old killed over the time period of 1999 to 2017. “It is sobering that in 2017, there were 144 police officers who died in the line of duty and about 1,000 active-duty military throughout the world who died, whereas 2,462 school-age children were killed by firearms,” said Charles H. Hennekens, M.D., the study lead author from Florida Atlantic University’s Schmidt College of Medicine. He called the epidemic a major clinical, public health and policy challenge, noting that the rate of death in the U.S. is about six to nine times higher than other developed nations. The causes of death in school-age children were 61 percent from assault; 32 percent suicide; 5 percent accidental; and 2 percent undetermined, the study showed.

EU Grants Britain a Delay for Brexit

European Union leaders on Thursday granted the United Kingdom an extension to its departure from the bloc, which had been scheduled for March 29. Britain will be allowed to postpone Brexit until May 22 if Prime Minister Theresa May is able to get British lawmakers to approve her unpopular exit deal with the EU. If she can’t, a shorter delay will be given, until April 12, to “indicate a way forward.” Still, Britain’s Parliament has twice rejected May’s EU deal, and polls show the British public, not just lawmakers, remain deeply divided over leaving the EU.

Economic News

Citing a more modest outlook for the economy, the Federal Reserve on Wednesday held interest rates steady and signaled it did not plan to raise rates at all this year and would bump them up just once in 2020, providing a road map for a sustained period of easy-money policy. “The U.S. economy is in a good place,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said at a news conference, adding policymakers foresee “a modest slowdown, with overall conditions remaining favorable.”

After a prolonged period during which gasoline prices stayed at relatively low levels, they have started to surge as the calendar moves into spring and toward Memorial Day. The current price of an average gallon of regular gas nationwide is up 35 cents in the past six weeks. The average price of a gallon of regular gas in the U.S. has reached $2.58, which is the highest price since November.

The European Union has hit Google with another big antitrust fine, the third in a series of billion-dollar penalties the US tech giant has incurred for hindering competition. The European Commission on Wednesday ordered Google to pay $1.7 billion for abusing its dominant position in online search advertising. The Commission ordered the company to pay $4.9 billion in July 2018 for unfairly pushing its apps on smartphone users and thwarting competitors. That followed a $2.7 billion fine on Google for using its search engine to steer consumers to its own shopping platform. In contrast, Google profits were nearly $31 billion in 2018.

Middle East

President Donald Trump on Thursday overturned longstanding U.S. policy regarding the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, announcing “it is time” for the U.S. to “fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty” over the region. Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria during the Six-Day War of 1967 and formally annexed the territory in 1981. But that annexation has not been recognized by the international community, which has regarded the Golan Heights as occupied territory and Israeli settlements there as illegal under international law. The announcement hands Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a significant foreign policy victory, less than three weeks before Israelis head to the polls to decide whether he should remain in power. The move comes just days before Netanyahu is set to join Trump at the White House and follows weeks during which Netanyahu has renewed his push for the U.S. to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel.

On Wednesday, the Israeli military announced that two Palestinians who threw explosive devices at soldiers in Samaria drew fatal fire from troops. The IDF explained that several explosive devices were hurled at troops securing Jewish worshipers at Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem (Nablus), not far from the city of Ariel. Joseph’s Tomb remains a popular pilgrimage site for Jews, who require security details to pray at the site and are often attacked by local Arabs, who have killed Israelis there and committed major arson attacks.

Afghanistan

Two American service members were killed during an operation in Afghanistan on Friday, the U.S. and NATO forces said, providing no other details on the combat deaths. The fatalities, which bring to four the number of U.S. soldiers killed so far this year in Afghanistan, underscore the difficulties in bringing peace to the war-wrecked country even as Washington has stepped up efforts to find a way to end the 17-year war, America’s longest. There are about 14,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan, supporting embattled Afghan forces as they struggle on two fronts – facing a resurgent Taliban who now hold sway over almost half the country and also an Islamic State affiliate, which has sought to expand its footprint in Afghanistan even as its self-proclaimed “caliphate” has crumbled in Syria and Iraq.

Islamic State

A series of airstrikes late Thursday slammed into two pockets of Islamic State fighters trying to cling to the last scraps of land to be part of the terror group’s self-declared caliphate. The strikes followed nearly two days of clearing operations in the northeastern Syrian town of Baghuz, where hundreds of IS fighters surrendered earlier this week to U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. U.S.-backed Syrian fighters are searching tunnels a day after seizing most of the last pocket of land held by Islamic State militants.

North Korea

President Trump has found North Korea to be an unwilling partner on a denuclearization pact, according to National Security Adviser John Bolton. “The North Koreans were unfortunately not willing to do what they needed to do,” Bolton told “The Cats Roundtable” on 970 AM-N.Y. With the negotiations stalled after two summits, the last of which President Trump had walked away from, the United States is not giving up on its goal to denuclearization the Korean Peninsula. “President Trump wants this threat resolved through negotiations,” Bolton said. “He wants North Korea to be free of nuclear weapons, that’s for sure.” North Korea is withdrawing from a joint liaison office near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) with South Korea, officials announced Friday. The move comes after the US slapped two Chinese firms with sanctions for doing business with Pyongyang, the first action taken by Washington against North Korea since the second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in Hanoi ended early with no agreement.

Mexico

A government watchdog has released a white paper urging President Trump to designate Mexican drug cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, reports Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin. “Undoubtedly, Mexican drug cartels meet the U.S. government’s criteria for FTO designation,” said a report from report from Judicial Watch, “which requires organizations to be foreign, engage in terrorism or terrorist activity or possess the capability and intent to do so and pose a threat to U.S. nationals or U.S. national security.” “Mexico, unfortunately, has lost control of the cartels,” President Trump said. “They’ve totally lost control of the cartels. Mexico last year had 42,000 deaths — murders — 42,000. It’s considered one of the most unsafe countries in the world.” Trump is considering whether to designate the cartels as terrorist groups

Netherlands

Three people died and five were hurt in a brazen shooting on a tram in a bustling residential neighborhood in the Dutch city of Utrecht on Monday, an assault authorities said was likely terrorism. Authorities launched a sweeping manhunt for the shooter and heavily armed police descended on the city of 350,000 in the central Netherlands known for its canals, Christian monuments and old-town charm. Police released a photo of a 37-year-old Turkey-born man who they called a person “associated with the incident.” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the country was deeply shaken by the assault. “There is a mix of disbelief and disgust.”

Somalia

There is credible evidence that U.S. military airstrikes in Somalia have killed or wounded nearly two dozen civilians, an international human rights group said Tuesday, charging that the Pentagon is not adequately investigating potential casualties. U.S. Africa Command officials immediately disputed the allegations laid out in a report by Amnesty International, and insisted that the military has investigated 18 cases of possible civilian casualties since 2017 and found that none were credible. The seemingly contradictory information underscores the complexities of military operations against the al-Shabab group in Somalia, involving airstrikes by several allied nations in hostile, remote locations that are difficult to access safely.

Weather

Roads and bridges were washed out, fresh water systems were swamped, and rescue operations were in full swing Monday as rivers across a swath of the Midwest rose to record levels following days of heavy rains and snow melt. Rivers have reached historic levels in 41 locations across the Midwest, creating devastating flooding that has killed at least three people, forced thousands of evacuations, breached dams and levees, damaged hundreds of homes and flooded a military base. The death toll from the flooding rose to three when an unidentified man died after refusing to leave his home. Seventy-four cities, 65 counties and four tribal areas in Nebraska declared states of emergency Tuesday. About 200 miles of levees were compromised in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said. Midwestern farmers contended with freezing floodwaters and dead livestock in the region’s latest crisis. Officials say flooding could last all spring. Water damage in Nebraska alone is estimated to cost at least $1.3 billion. When factoring in damage to surrounding states, the cost is “inevitably to hit multiple billions,” according to local officials.

More than 1,000 people are feared dead in Mozambique a week after Cyclone Idai slammed into the country, submerging entire villages and leaving bodies floating in the floodwaters. Mozambique is a long, narrow country with a 2,400-kilometer (1,500-mile) coastline along the Indian Ocean. Idai could prove to be the deadliest storm in generations to hit the southeast African country of 30 million people. The Red Cross said 90% of Beira was damaged or destroyed. The cyclone knocked out electricity, shut down the airport and cut off access to the city by road. The massive flood is described as an “inland ocean” up to 30 miles wide in places.