Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Signs of the Times

January 17, 2020

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2Thessalonians 2:9-12)

Transgender Mother Can Be Listed as Father on Birth Certificate

A biological woman who identifies as male and gave birth in December will be listed as the father on the child’s birth certificate under a landmark decision by the state of Illinois. The state originally ruled that the transgender man, Myles Brady Davis, would be listed as the mother because Myles was the one who carried the baby. But then Lambda Legal sent a letter to the Illinois Department of Public Health on Myles’ behalf, and the state changed course. Myles’ spouse, Precious Brady Davis, was born male but identifies as a transgender female. Precious will be listed as the mother.

  • The insanity just gets worse and worse.

The Ten Worst Nations for Gender Equality are All Islamic

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, the 10 worst countries for gender equality are those in which Islam is the dominant religious demographic. As per the Qur’an, which is the central pillar of Islam, women are inferior to men in almost every conceivable way. The Qur’an is explicit with regards to the disparate rights and privileges afforded to men and women. The Qur’an holds: A sister is entitled to only half of that which her brother is entitled with regards to inheritance (Qur’an 4:11). A woman’s testimony is only half as valid as that of a man’s (Qur’an 2:282). Further, a woman’s husband can physically assault her for exercising her autonomy by disobeying him (Qur’an 4:34). A husband is entitled to have sex with his wife how and when he pleases (Qur’an 2:223). Female sex-slaves are expressly rendered the chattels of their male slave masters (Qur’an 4:24, 23:5-6). A man may have multiple wives (Qur’an 4:3) and he need not treat them all equally (Qur’an 4:129).

  • There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28

Iran Admits Shooting Down Jetliner with Missile

Iran has admitted publicly that its military “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian jetliner. The statement came Saturday morning and blamed “human error” for the shootdown on Wednesday that killed 176 people. The jetliner, a Boeing 737 operated by Ukraine International Airlines, went down on the outskirts of Tehran during takeoff just hours after Iran launched a barrage of missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq. A military statement carried by Iranian state media said the plane was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned toward a “sensitive military center” of the Revolutionary Guard. The statement also said those responsible for the strike on the plane would be prosecuted. Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said on Tuesday that “extensive investigations have taken place and some individuals are arrested.”

  • Protesters gathered for a third day Monday in Iran, after a violent weekend that pitted the demonstrators against riot police. Familiar chants of “Death to America,” were traded for “Death to the dictator” and “Death to the liar.” In one video, demonstrators chanted, “Khamenei have shame. Leave the country.” Video circulating on social media showed police beating protesters with batons, security forces running with rifles, and injured people being carried from the scene in Tehran’s Azadi Square. The sounds of gunfire could also be heard in some footage. CNN also cites videos that show the protesters being doused with tear gas by police in Tehran. The protests had started Saturday as pushback against the Iranian government, including Ayatollah Khamenei, after Iran “unintentionally” shot down a Ukrainian plane on Wednesday, which killed 176 people on board.
  • Iran’s only female Olympic medalist has defected, posting a goodbye letter to Iran on Saturday, calling out the government’s “hypocrisy” as she announced she had permanently left the country. Alizadeh did not disclose where she was going, but Iran’s ISNA news agency reported she had gone to the Netherlands. The Iranian report quoted Alizadeh’s coach as saying the athlete was injured and did not show up for trials ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. She accused the Iranian government of “lying” and “injustice” toward Iranian athletes.

Historic Impeachment Trial of President Trump Began Thursday

President Trump’s impeachment trial began Thursday with the swearing in of senators and the presentation of the two charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. John G. Roberts Jr., chief justice of the United States, was sworn in to preside over the trial, which is focused on Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said the trial will proceed “in earnest” next week. President Donald Trump plans to tap two long-time lawyers on Friday to lead his impeachment defense team – White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and private attorney Jay Sekulow (head of the American Center for Law & Justice) – as well as Alan Dershowitz, a noted Harvard law professor; Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who prosecuted the President Bill Clinton impeachment case, and Robert Ray, who replaced Starr as independent counsel during the last year of the Clinton presidency.

  • Separately on Thursday, the ‘nonpartisan’ Government Accountability Office issued a legal opinion that the Trump administration violated the law by withholding $214 million in security assistance to Ukraine in the summer of 2019. The GAO is an independent watchdog agency that works for Congress.
  • The Office of Management and Budget disagreed, saying, “OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President’s priorities and with the law.”

Virginia Becomes 38th State to Pass ERA

Virginia on Wednesday became the 38th state to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, setting up an expected legal battle over what happens next. Congress approved the ERA in 1972, including a “customary” but not constitutionally mandatory seven-year deadline for ratification by three-fourths of the states. When the number of states fell three short of the required 38 by 1977, Congress extended the deadline to 1982. But no additional states acted by the new deadline. In 2017, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the amendment. Illinois followed in 2018. Opponents of the ERA also say that even with Virginia’s passage, the amendment is dead because the timeline for state action has long passed. Supporters say the deadline is subject to challenge, so off to the courts it will go.

  • Supporters say it’s a long-needed protection for women who continue to face discrimination in the workplace and struggle against domestic violence and sexual harassment. Opponents argue it’s an unnecessary amendment that could enshrine in the Constitution protections for abortion.

Texas First State to Reject Refugees under Trump Veto Plan

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott became the first in the nation to refuse to host refugees in his state, flexing the new veto the Trump administration created last year to give state and local officials a say in whether they become a destination for the migrants. More than 40 other governors, both Democrats and Republicans, have said they will accept refugees. But a swath of conservative states from Texas to Florida had held out, ahead of a deadline later this month. Mr. Abbott, a Republican, becomes the first to refuse — a major statement for a state that has accepted more refugees than any other in recent years. “It’s extremely disappointing to see Texas, which for years has led the nation in welcoming refugees, close its doors to those fleeing violence and persecution,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. Activists have sued to block the policy.

U.S. Violent Crime Rate Continues to Decrease

There were more than 1.2 million incidents of rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and murder reported in the United States in 2018 – a 3% decline from the previous year. The decrease in violent crime represents the continuation of a long-term trend. The U.S. violent crime rate stands at 381 incidents per 100,000 people, down from a high of 758 per 100,000 in 1991. Violent crime in the United States is most likely to be committed in urban areas. Even in many of the safest states in the country, there are cities with violent crime rates that exceed the national average by a wide margin. In some cases, a single city can account for over one-quarter of all violent crime in an entire state.

  • Surprisingly, Alaska had the highest state crime rate of 885 per 100,000 people, followed by New Mexico at 857. New York State was 25th at 350 while Illinois was 19th with 404 per 100,000 residents. The majority of the 68,495 violent crimes committed in New York State were reported in New York City. In Chicago, the most populous city in Illinois, 27,357 violent crimes were committed in 2018, more than half the total number of crimes reported in the state that year.

Wisconsin Ordered to Remove 209,000 From Voter Rolls

A Wisconsin judge on Monday found the state’s Elections Commission and three of its members in contempt of court and ordered the commission to remove up to 209,000 names from the state’s voter rolls, in a case that could have major implications later this year in a key battleground state. Saying in his ruling that “time is of the essence,” Judge Paul Malloy said that there is no time to wait for the case to make its way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court and ordered that the state pay $50 a day until it starts removing people from the voter rolls. Malloy also ordered that the three Democrats on the commission – Ann Jacobs, Julie Glancy and Mark Thomsen – pay $250 a day each. State Democrats in Wisconsin are fighting the lawsuit, saying the purge would unfairly affect their voters. Republicans, however, argue that they merely want to ensure that people who have moved are not able to vote illegally from their old addresses.

Past Decade Warmest in Recorded History

The last decade was the warmest on record, federal climate scientists announced Wednesday, with 2019 becoming the second-warmest year on record. Global temperature records began more than 140 years ago in 1880. The warmest year recorded was 2016, which was just .07 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than last year. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are two keepers of the world’s temperature data and independently produce a record of Earth’s surface temperatures and changes based on historical observations over oceans and land. The results of this year’s report closely parallel at least three other global temperature analyses.

  • 140 years is very short-term historically, but climate change proponents are claiming it was the warmest decade in history. Whether or not that’s true, and whether or not humans are to blame, is all immaterial. The Bible foretells of severe end-time weather and it does, indeed, appear to be ramping up (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Early Surge in Flu Cases Concerns the CDC

Flu cases and flu-related hospitalizations have risen sharply since October, with at least 6.4 million reported cases and 55,000 hospitalizations, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 2,900 Americans have died so far from the flu, the CDC reported late last week. “The season started in earnest earlier than it usually does. It crossed the threshold of an outbreak earlier,” said the CDC. Flu cases are climbing toward the peak of the 2017-2018 season, which wound up being the deadliest in nearly a half-century. About 61,000 Americans died from the flu during the 2017-2018 season. The oddest part of this flu season is that the influenza B strain has proven to be dominant, with the more virulent influenza A strains of H1N1 and H3N2 playing only a supporting role.

Processed Foods Are Making Americans Fat

As more people eat cheaper processed foods, they are getting fatter, said researcher Leigh Frame, from George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “When comparing the U.S. diet to the diet of those who live in ‘blue zones’ — areas with populations living to age 100 without chronic disease — the differences are stark,” she said in a university news release. The foods most tied to weight gain? They include potato chips, sugar-sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts, refined grains, red meats and processed meats, the researchers said. Lower weight gain and weight loss are associated with whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Americans are getting too little fiber, and more food additives like emulsifiers and gums, the researchers determined. In animal studies, emulsifiers in processed foods have been shown to alter the microbiome (the community of microorganisms in the body), increase blood sugar, cause excessive hunger, increase weight and damage the liver, the study authors said.

Streaming Services Hurt by Password Sharing

As the streaming wars heat up, the problem of consumers sharing their password with friends and family has become an epidemic. Of all consumers, 42% said they have used someone else’s online TV service password to access a service, according to Hub’s Video Redefined report. With younger viewers, the numbers are even more troubling, growing to a whopping 78% among 13- to 24-year-olds. The biggest loser is Netflix, as 69% of younger viewers admitted to using someone else’s password to access the service, but every major streaming service suffered from the same phenomenon. Rounding out the top three are Hulu at 59% and Amazon with 53%.ven though it only launched in November, Disney+ soared up the leader board with 53% of 13- to 24-year-olds accessing the service using someone else’s credentials.

  • The entitlement mentality has been growing as government provides more and more services for ‘free’ and is especially embedded in today’s youth.

U.S., China Sign ‘Phase One’ Trade Agreement

The U.S. and China signed a limited trade deal Wednesday, signaling a pause in the nearly two-year trade war between the world’s two largest economies and setting the stage for talks for a broader agreement down the road. The “Phase One” agreement, the product of months of negotiations between officials in Washington and Beijing, calls for China to purchase an additional $200 billion worth of U.S. goods and services over the next two years, including another $32 billion in agriculture products. China also promised not to pressure foreign companies to turn over their intellectual property for the right to do business there and to refrain from devaluing its currency to give its companies an advantage over foreign competitors. Meanwhile, the U.S. will keep in place most of the tariffs it imposed on $360 billion in Chinese products as trade tensions between the two countries escalated over the past 18 months. But Trump said those tariffs could be removed if a broader deal is reached.

  • China’s economic growth sank to a new multi-decade low in 2019 as Beijing fought a tariff war with Washington, but forecasters said a U.S.-Chinese trade truce might help to revive consumer and business activity. The world’s second-largest economy grew by 6.1%, down from 2018’s 6.6%, already the lowest since 1990, but still much higher than U.S. growth rates of around 3%.

Economic News

The American jobs machine churned out another 2.1 million new jobs in 2019, driving the unemployment rate to the lowest level since 1969. At a 3.5 percent jobless rate, employers report difficulty finding workers to fill the 7.3 million unfilled jobs in America.

Year-over-year wage growth reached 3.4 percent in February only to stall, ending the year a disappointing 2.9 percent. Researchers at Brookings Institution found 53 million workers aged 18 to 64 earn “barely enough to live on.” That is 44 percent of the labor market whose median earnings are just $10.22 an hour, or about $18,000 a year. Typically, these are low-wage workers in big box stores and malls, restaurants and bars, janitors and housekeepers, childcare workers and home health aides.

The fastest wage growth has been at the lowest end of the pay spectrum, partly because of labor shortages that give workers more bargaining power, and partly because states and cities have been raising their minimum wages. This year 24 states and 48 cities and counties will raise their minimum wages, a record. The Federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since 2009.

Persecution Watch

Senior law enforcement officials in New Jersey on Monday disclosed that the bomb discovered in the van of the two individuals who carried out an anti-Semitic massacre in Jersey City on Dec. 10 would have caused dozens more deaths had it been detonated. The bomb was powerful enough to impact the length of five football fields, about 500 yards.

At least eight Christians have been killed in a terrible onslaught as a gang of 300 militants struck more Christian villages in Far North Cameroon this week. Four children and a young man were kidnapped. Most were husbands and fathers. Boko Haram tends to murderously target men, who are usually the main protectors and providers in communities. The heavily armed militants stood menacingly howling and chanting throughout the night, encircling the small villages, while some swept through the communities breaking into homes – killing, looting, burning and destroying as they went.

Middle East

On Wednesday evening, the Israeli Air Force carried out counter-strikes on Hamas sites in the Gaza Strip after at least four rockets were fired at communities in Israel earlier in the day. The Iron Dome anti-missile defense system reportedly downed two of those rockets. Among the Hamas positions that the IDF struck on Wednesday were a base for Hamas forces and a facility for the production of weapons, the military announced.

The Trump administration last Friday rebuffed demands from Iraq’s prime minister to begin planning for the withdrawal of U.S troops from Iraq. But the State Department’s chief spokeswoman said the U.S. presence in Iraq is a “force for good” and U.S. officials would not discuss a military withdrawal. America’s military presence in Iraq has become a flashpoint between the two allies after President Donald Trump’s decision last week to kill a top Iranian general who was in Baghdad. The strike also killed an Iraqi military official, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was the deputy commander of an Iran-backed militia organization known as the Popular Mobilization Forces.

Israel

As roughly 8,000 Muslim worshipers ended their prayers on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on Friday, several hundred Arabs began to riot and violate public order, Israeli police said. In response, the district commander of the Israeli Police sent forces to restore order and eject rioters from the holy site. Despite capturing the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third-holiest – from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War, when the Jewish state was under attack by the surrounding Arab countries, Israel gave the Jordanian Waqf, or Islamic Trust, administrative control of the site. In the years since, the number of Jews ascending the Mount has grown significantly, despite the Waqf’s prohibition of non-Muslim prayer on the site.

Iran

France, Britain and Germany have initiated the process to hold Iran accountable for violating nuclear deal, opening way for possible sanctions. By activating the 2015 nuclear deal’s dispute resolution mechanism, the European nations are indicating they reject Iran’s withdrawal from the restrictions on its nuclear program. Following the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement and imposition of sanctions, Iran has gradually reduced its compliance. The dispute mechanism could lead to a return of U.N. sanctions but the other signatories, including Russia and China, have said they were still committed to preserving the deal. In a televised speech on Thursday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that the country is now enriching more uranium than it did before reaching the nuclear deal with world powers in 2015.

  • Iran could succeed in enriching enough uranium for one nuclear weapon by spring, according to an Israeli IDF report. But it will take another two years to be weaponized sufficiently to be placed in a warhead, the report noted.

Afghanistan

Two U.S. service members were killed and two others injured on Saturday in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device, the US-led coalition in Kabul said in a statement. The service members were conducting operations as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission. Last year was the deadliest in five years for the US in Afghanistan. Twenty-three service members were killed in 2019 during operations in the country.

Saudi Arabia

More than a dozen Saudi servicemen training at US military installations will be expelled from the United States after a review that followed the deadly shooting last month at a Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. The Saudis are not accused of aiding the 21-year-old Saudi Air Force second lieutenant who killed three American sailors in the December shooting, but are said to have connections to extremist movements. They are also accused of possessing child pornography, according to a defense official and the person familiar with the situation. About a dozen Saudi trainees at the Pensacola base had been confined to their quarters as the FBI investigated the shooting as a potential terror attack, and the Pentagon initiated a review of all Saudi military trainees in the country, numbering around 850 students.

Russia

The entire Russian government is resigning, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced Wednesday, after President Vladimir Putin proposed sweeping reforms that would weaken his successor. Putin thanked members of the government for their work but added that “not everything worked out.” Putin added that in the near future he would meet with each member of the cabinet. The mass resignation includes Medvedev. The surprise announcement came after Putin proposed constitutional amendments that would strengthen the powers of the prime minister and parliament at the expense of the presidency. Handing parliament more power at the expense of presidential authority could signal a power shift that has been long speculated about in Russia. Putin’s critics have suggested that he is considering various scenarios to retain his grip on control after 2024, including the option of becoming prime minister with extended powers.

China

The number of babies born in China last year fell to a nearly six-decade low, exacerbating a looming demographic crisis that is set to reshape the world’s most populous nation and threaten its economic vitality, reports the New York Times. The birthrate in China fell to 10.48 per thousand last year, the lowest since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, a decline that has important implications for the country’s economy and labor pool. If birthrates continue to fall while life expectancy increases, there will not be enough young people to support the economy and the elderly, the fastest-growing segment of the population. While many countries are struggling with low fertility rates and aging populations, these issues are even more pressing in China, because the country’s underdeveloped social safety net means that most older adults rely heavily on their families to pay for health care, retirement and other expenses.

Travelers to three U.S. airports will be screened for a new, potentially deadly virus from China, the first such monitoring since Ebola. Travelers from Wuhan will be screened at airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Two people in China have died from the pneumonia-like illness, and cases have spread to Thailand and Japan. There are no known cases in the United States. The “SARS-like virus” is one that doctors have never seen before, and is causing grave concern among global health officials.

Earthquakes

Another strong earthquake shook Puerto Rico early Saturday morning, just four days after a deadly 6.4-magnitude quake collapsed buildings and knocked power out to the entire island. The quake Saturday comes hours after a 5.2 magnitude aftershock rattled the island Friday. Hundreds of thousands lost power across the island due to Tuesday’s 6.4-magnitude earthquake, which damaged two power plants. Many people opted to sleep outside due to hundreds of aftershocks and 2,000 others were sleeping in shelters.

Volcanoes

Tens of thousands of people fled a volcanic eruption in the Philippines as the Taal volcano spewed steam and ash 40 miles south of Manila, the country’s capital and largest city. More than 30,000 people had evacuated as of Monday morning as red hot lava ran from the volcano and mud and ash fell from the sky. Plans were made to evacuate hundreds of thousands more as experts warned the eruption could escalate. But many were unable to leave due to lack of transportation and poor visibility, and others refused to leave their homes, farms and animals behind. Others worried about being separated from their families. Authorities warned of potential devastating pyroclastic flows (lava, pumice, ash and volcanic gases) and a “volcanic tsunami” for the volcano, which is centered in a lake.

Wildfires

The death toll has risen to at least 27 people from the Australian wildfires that have destroyed more than 2,600 homes and scorched more than 38,000 square miles, an area larger than the U.S. state of Indiana since September. Four of the casualties were firefighters. The National Parks and Wildlife Service dropped thousands of pounds of vegetables to assist the Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby population, whose food sources were limited after wildfires tore through their habitats. The Bureau of Meteorology warned that trees burned in the fires are more likely to fall if the rain saturates the ground. The BOM said 1 to 3 inches of rain would fall in some areas of NSW between Thursday and Sunday.

Weather

On Wednesday, volunteers got water, food and fuel to hundreds of people stranded in mountain communities east of Seattle just hours ahead of the next winter storm. Towns along U.S. Highway 2 between Gold Bar and Skykomish have been cut off since last Sunday night after heavy snow knocked down trees and power lines. The town’s mayor, Henry Sladek, said it could be several days before power is restored. Gusting winds knocked out power to more than 25,000 customers in western Washington.

Severe storms sweeping across southern portions of the U.S. and up into the Midwest were blamed Saturday in the deaths of at least 11 people, including two first responders, as high winds, tornadoes and unrelenting rain battered large swaths of the country. Storm-related fatalities were reported in Texas due to icy weather, in Alabama from a deadly tornado and in Louisiana, where winds were so strong that a trailer home was lifted off its foundation and carried several hundred feet. A two-day outbreak of severe storms with damaging winds, tornadoes and flooding rain knocked trees onto homes, ripped away roofs and flattened buildings as it marched from Texas and Oklahoma to the East Coast Wednesday through Thursday, killing at least nine people along the way.

Heavy rain in recent days across the Southeast led officials along the Mississippi River to activate an emergency watch as high waters threatened another dam in the state. The Mississippi River is expected to reach flood stage in Greenville, Vicksburg and Natchez, Miss., by mid-January. Officials urged residents to evacuate in rural Oktibbeha County as a precaution after heavy rains threatened to breach a dam. The county engineer had inspected the Oktibbeha County Lake dam, and reported extremely high water levels in the lake, noting “the dam could go at any time.”

Severe winter weather has left dozens dead across Afghanistan and Pakistan as officials work to reopen highways and evacuate people cut off by heavy snowfall and flash flooding. In Afghanistan, heavy snowfall and rain that has lashed the country in recent days has left at least 54 dead. Officials are concerned the death toll may climb after a severe cold snap over the weekend brought temperatures down to as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Flash floods destroyed 131 residential houses. In neighboring Pakistan, much of the damage was reported in the southwestern Baluchistan province where at least 30 people were killed, mainly when roofs collapsed amid heavy snowfall. Heavy snowfall also forced closures of many highways.

Signs of the Times

January 10, 2020

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

Former LGBTQs Share How Jesus Changed Their Lives

Many former members of the LGBTQ community told their stories of change at Capitol Hill recently. The group is part of the CHANGED community, an organization of people who previously identified as LGBTQ and believe their sexual identity was changed because of Jesus. April Lockhart, of New Mexico, told attendees at the event that she wanted to change from her lesbian lifestyle. “I had fully believed in this lie that gets perpetuated that people don’t change, they can’t change, and if you try to change them, it’s detrimental to their health. And I just want to say that’s a lie,” she asserted. Luis Ruiz, of Florida, said he was devastated when he found out he was HIV positive because of his homosexual lifestyle. “While I was searching for men, sleeping around a lot, I didn’t realize that there was a man looking for me,” he said. “And His name is Jesus. I was able to find a church where they loved me. And they taught me that my identity is not my behavior. My identity was not who I thought it was… But it was a child of God.”

United Methodist Church Plans to Split over LGBTQ Rights

Leaders from the United Methodist Church announced a tentative plan Friday to split the church over differences on same-sex marriage and the inclusion of gay clergy. The new conservative “Traditionalist Methodist” denomination wouldn’t allow gay marriage or gay clergy members. The proposal was signed in December after the “fundamental differences” within the church became irreconcilable. The division, which has been brewing for years, came to an impasse last May when delegates in St. Louis voted 438-384 to ban gay marriage and the inclusion of gay clergy. There are roughly 13 million church members around the world and about half of them are in the United States.

March Against Anti-Semitism Draws 25,000 to NYC Streets

Thousands of Jews and non-Jews alike took to the streets of New York City on Sunday, marching across the Brooklyn Bridge in a dramatic show of cross-faith unity after a string of bloody anti-Semitic attacks in the region. Chanting “No Hate, No Fear,” a crowd estimated at 25,000 assembled at Foley Square in Lower Manhattan under clear, crisp skies and a heavy police presence. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined the crowd and announced $45 million in additional state funding to beef up security around house of worships, schools and other religious institutions. “An attack on any house of worship is an attack on all houses of worship,” said Ismael Claudio, bishop of the Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ in Brooklyn.

Covington Teen Receives Settlement from CNN

CNN on Tuesday settled a defamation lawsuit filed by Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann over its botched coverage of a viral confrontation with a Native American elder that had portrayed the Kentucky teen as the aggressor. CNN settled with Sandmann for an undisclosed amount. The $250 million defamation suit sought damages for the “emotional distress Nicholas and his family suffered” in the fallout of the network’s reporting. Several mainstream media outlets, including CNN, portrayed the incident with Sandmann and the other teens as being racially charged before it was discovered by additional footage that a group of Black Hebrew Israelites had provoked the confrontation by slinging racial slurs at the students as they were waiting for their bus following last year’s March For Life event in Washington D.C.

  • Following CNN and pro-life teenager Nick Sandmann’s settlement of a defamation suit over the former’s coverage of the 2019 March for Life, it appears other lawsuits have been filed against several media and political figures who falsely accused the pro-life teens of harassment.

U.S. Kills Iranian Terror Generals, Iran Fires Missiles at U.S. Bases in Iraq

The Pentagon launched an airstrike last Thursday that killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force. He was an influential figure in Iranian politics, and his death raises fears about possible retaliation against the U.S. Also  killed was Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and several other officials from Iran-backed militias as they left the Baghdad airport.

  • Following the death of Soleimani, Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at two military bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops. U.S. news reported some missiles missed their target with no casualties, while Iranian news reported the missiles struck as intended and caused 80 casualties. On Thursday, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s Aerospace Force claimed that the missile attacks the other night were just “the first stage of a major regional operation aimed at expelling U.S. forces from the Middle East.”
  • Iran’s Parliament Tuesday approved a bill designating the entire U.S. military and Pentagon terrorist organizations. Lawmakers also backed a motion allocating $220 million to the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guards Corp’s (IRGC) Quds Force to take revenge for Soleimani’s death. Iranian state television announced that Iran will pay the hefty sum of $80 million, representing Iran’s population of 80 million, to anyone who avenges Soleimani’s death by assassinating President Trump.
  • The Trump administration hit Iran with more sanctions Friday in the first concrete response to the missile attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. The United States has sanctioned more than 1,000 Iranian individuals, companies and organizations since Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and began a “maximum pressure” campaign to force Tehran to change its policies.
  • Iranian leaders denied Friday that their country’s missiles accidently shot down a Ukrainian jet that crashed after taking off from Tehran this week after the U.S. and Canadian officials said intelligence showed that the Iranian military gunned down the plane. All 176 people aboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on a Boeing 737 were killed in the crash early Wednesday, just after Iran fired ballistic missiles on Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers. Video shows that it was a missile, not mechanical failure, that brought down Flight 752 near Tehran on Wednesday, according to the New York Times.
  • Iranian hackers looking to breach U.S. computer networks sharply intensified their efforts following the death of Soleimani, but have had limited success, according to internet security researchers and state government officials. Over the course of 48 hours, attacks traced to Iranian IP addresses nearly tripled against targets around the world, Cloudflare said, peaking at half a billion attempts per day.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday the attack that killed Iranian military leader Gen. Qasem Soleimani was in response to an “imminent attack.” “This was an intelligence-based assessment that drove this,” Pompeo told CNN. “He was actively planning in the region,” he said, adding the U.S. action “saved American lives.” President Trump said Thursday that Soleimani was planning to “blow up” the U.S. Embassy in Iraq.
  • Pompeo and President Trump laid the blame for the escalating hostilities between the U.S. and Iran on former President Barack Obama, accusing the previous administration of trying to appease the theocratic regime and arguing that the deal aimed at delaying Iran’s development of nuclear weapons only succeeded in funding regional terrorism. Pompeo accused Iran of working to thwart efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan.
  • Iranian resistance groups hailed the killing of Soleimani as a “major blow” to the repressive regime in Tehran — predicting that it will boost the morale of dissidents and bring what they see as the likely downfall of the regime’s one step closer.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Iraq has told all American citizens to leave the country immediately, the Guardian “U.S. citizens should depart via airline while possible, and failing that, to other countries via land,” the embassy said in a statement.
  • Thousands of Iranians took to the streets over the weekend to mourn the death of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Lieutenant general and commander of the Quds Force Qasem Soleimani during an anti-U.S. demonstration after Friday prayers in Tehran, Iran. A stampede erupted Tuesday at a funeral procession in the hometown of Soleimani, killing at least 56 people and injuring 213 others according to Iranian state television. As a result, the funeral was postponed.
  • In the wake of increased tensions in the Middle East, the United States will send about 3,000 more soldiers to the region to bolster existing forces. The troops will be sent to Kuwait as an appropriate and precautionary measure in response to increased threat levels – 14,000 U.S. troops have been deployed to the Middle East since May.

House Votes to Curb Trump’s War Powers in Iran

The House of Representatives on Thursday approved a resolution designed to block President Trump’s ability to conduct a war with Iran, moving to reassert congressional power but bringing warnings from Republicans that lawmakers were undercutting the commander in chief at a critical moment in the Middle East. The nonbinding resolution calls on the White House “terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran or any part of its government or military,” unless Mr. Trump receives congressional approval or “to defend against an imminent armed attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions,” as set out under the 1973 War Powers Resolution.

  • Just more political posturing.

Trump Proposes Sweeping Rewrite of Environmental Regulations

Described as his biggest deregulatory move to date, President Trump on Thursday announced a sweeping rewrite of regulations to carry out the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act that will slash the time and paperwork required to get approval for bridges, highways and other projects. His proposal would limit environmental assessments of new projects to no more than a year and the more comprehensive environmental-impact statement to two years. The 1970 NEPA requires the federal government to take environmental changes into account when building or funding projects such as airports and military bases. The Trump administration has argued that these regulations haven’t been updated since the late 1970s.

2.5 Million ‘Extra’ Voters Found In U.S.

According to a Judicial Watch analysis of data released by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) this year, 378 counties nationwide have more voter registrations than citizens old enough to vote, i.e., counties where registration rates exceed 100%. These 378 counties combined had about 2.5 million registrations over the 100%-registered mark. Although San Diego County removed 500,000 inactive names from voter rolls following Judicial Watch’s settlement with Los Angeles County, San Diego still has a registration rate of 117% and has one of the highest registration rates in the county. “An unusually high registration rate suggests that a jurisdiction is not removing voters who have died or who have moved elsewhere, as required by [federal law].”

Knife Attacks in Austin and Paris Kill Three

One man was killed and several people stabbed during an incident in Austin, Texas, officials said Friday. Austin police tweeted that a suspect was in custody. The man killed was in his 20s and was pronounced dead at the scene. Several people with stab wounds were taken to hospitals, including a man in his 50s with a potentially life-threatening wound.

A man reportedly killed two people and wounded two others during a stabbing spree outside of Paris Friday before being shot dead by police. The incident occurred in the Hautes-Bruyères State Park in Villejuif, around four miles from the center of Paris, where four people were attacked. The attacker – whose identity has not yet been revealed – was shot and killed after being chased by responding officers.

  • What we really need now are new laws for knife control.

U.S. Court of Appeals Lifts Injunction Against Border Wall

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled late Wednesday that they are putting a stay on a District Court injunction that had blocked the use of military funds. The decision removes the prohibition as Trump appeals the lower court’s ruling. The Fifth Circuit’s order is not a definitive victory for the president, as the case remains ongoing. Still, the ruling noted that there is a “substantial likelihood” that El Paso County, Texas and the Border Network for Human Rights lack standing to bring the case. President Trump on Thursday touted the overnight court victory saying it allows him to move forward using military funds for the construction of a wall along the southern border.

Boy Scouts Face a Flood of Litigation over Child Abuse

Boy Scouts of America faces mounting legal liability as lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by leaders and volunteers continue to roll in, thanks in part to loosening statutes of limitations across the country. On Tuesday, lawyers with Abused in Scouting filed suit in Washington, D.C., on behalf of eight men w. ho say they were abused as kids by Scout leaders and volunteers. Separately, attorneys Gilion Dumas and Ashley Vaughn plan to file suit in California on behalf of 14 plaintiffs with similar claims. That “mass action” suit comes days after California’s Assembly Bill 218 took effect, allowing victims of child sexual assault to file suit until age 40 and opening a three-year window for those abused as children to sue for past incidents.

Cancer Rate in U.S. Drops Most Ever

Researchers on Wednesday reported the largest-ever one-year decline in the U.S. cancer death rate, a drop they credited to advances in lung-tumor treatments. The overall cancer death rate has been falling about 1.5% a year since 1991. It fell 2.2% from 2016 to 2017, according to the new American Cancer Society report. That’s the largest drop ever seen in national cancer statistics going back to 1930. Lung cancer accounts for about a quarter of all cancer deaths. Most lung cancer cases are tied to smoking, and decades of declining smoking rates led to falling rates of lung cancer illnesses and deaths. Take lung cancer out of the mix, and the 2017 cancer rate drop is 1.4%.

Social Security Turns 80-Years-Old

On Jan. 1, Social Security marked its 80th anniversary of making payouts to retired workers. Today, it’s a program responsible for divvying out more than 64 million benefit checks each month, many of which wind up in the hands of seniors. According to data from the Social Security Administration, some 62% of retired workers receive at least half of their income from the program. Furthermore, over 15 million retired workers are being pulled out of poverty each month because of their payouts, based on an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

  • Every year, the Social Security Board of Trustees releases its short-term (10-year) and long-term (75-year) outlooks for the Social Security program. In the 2019 report, the Trustees estimated a $13.9 trillion cash shortfall between 2035 and 2093, with 2020 being the first year since 1982 where the program would spend more than it brought in. Although Social Security won’t go bankrupt, a lack of asset reserves would force an across-the-board cut to benefits that could total up to 23%.

Economic News

U.S. hiring slowed sharply in December as employers added 145,000 jobs, raising concerns that trade worries and a persistent downturn in manufacturing may be taking a bigger toll on the broader economy. The unemployment rate was unchanged at a 50-year low of 3.5%, the Labor Department said Friday. Job gains for October and November were revised down by a total 14,000. October’s tally was nudged from 156,000 to 152,000 and November’s, from 266,000 to 256,000. “The economy is still creating more than enough jobs to keep pace with population growth,” economist Michael Pearce of Capital Economics wrote in a note to clients.

The U.S. manufacturing sector contracted in December by the most in more than a decade with order volumes crashing to near an 11-year low and factory employment falling for a fifth straight month. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its index of national factory activity fell to 47.2 last month from 48.1 in November. It was the lowest reading since June 2009 and thwarted expectations for a leveling off in the pace of decline in a sector buffeted by the U.S.-China trade war. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the manufacturing sector and a reading below 50 indicates contraction.

In 2017, the most recent year available, roughly 10% of workers were in “alternative employment arrangements,” which included being an independent contractor or on call, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Roughly one-third of Americans perform some type of gig work – such as being a rideshare driver – over the course of a year, according to the company Staffing Industry Analysts.

As the U.S. farm economy reels from the worst harvest in decades after nearly two years of the trade war, U.S. grain growers are struggling to decide what crops might keep them in business. Across snow-covered North Dakota, U.S. farmers are stuck with fields full of weather-damaged corn — a crop they planted after the U.S.-China trade war killed their soybean market. President Donald Trump announced last month that China had agreed to double its pre-trade war purchases of U.S. agricultural products over the next two years as part of a Phase 1 trade deal. That brought little comfort to U.S. farmers because China still has not confirmed the commitment or signed any deal.

Borden Dairy Co., one of America’s oldest and largest dairy companies, on Monday became the second major milk producer to file for bankruptcy in the last two months. Tumbling milk consumption combined with the rising price of milk have crippled the dairy industry with debt. Dean Foods, America’s largest milk producer, filed for bankruptcy November 12.

Pier 1 Imports plans to close up to 450 locations, nearly half of its 942 stores, the company announced Monday. The Fort Worth, Texas-based home goods retailer said the decision to reduce its store footprint is needed “to better align its business with the current operating environment.” The company will also close certain distribution centers and reduce its corporate expenses. Bed, Bath & Beyond is also in serious shape, contemplating its options as its stock plummets. Macy’s is closing at least 28 stores in the next couple months and one Bloomingdale’s location.

Persecution Watch

The Chinese government has tightened its reign on its citizens by announcing that all religious personnel of any faith must submit to and evangelize about the Chinese Communist Party. Starting on Feb 1, all religious groups must adhere to the new rules, which consist of six chapters and 41 articles. They require government approval for any type of gathering and total submission to the Communist Party. One law, Article 17, states: “Religious organizations must spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party. “In practice, your religion no longer matters, if you are Buddhist, or Taoist, or Muslim, or Christian: the only religion allowed is faith in the Chinese Communist Party,” said a Chinese Catholic priest, according to CBN.

Middle East

Unidentified planes struck targets in Syria near the border with Iraq on Friday, reports said, triggering “a huge explosion” amid soaring tensions in the region between the U.S. and Iran. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the planes targeted positions belonging to pro-Iran militias in the Boukamal area, near the border with Iraq. The UK-based organization, which documents the war in Syria through a network of activists on the ground, said the planes struck weapons depots and vehicles belonging to the militias. The U.S. carried out military strikes in the area on Dec. 29, killing 25 members of an Iran-backed Iraqi militia in retaliation to a rocket attack on a military base in Iraq that killed a U.S. contractor.

Israel

Israeli analysts have long warned that Israel’s security is closely tied to the degree to which its main ally, the U.S., is feared and respected in the Middle East. Therefore, the American elimination of two of Iran’s most senior terrorist leaders is sure to incur diplomatic and security benefits for Israel as well, at least in the short term, reports ICEJ (International Christian Embassy Jerusalem).

Israel announced it has developed a new laser weapon designed to stop rockets, anti-tank guided missiles and other threats, The Jerusalem Post is reporting. Defense Ministry Gen. Yaniv Rotem said a series of successful interceptions on mortar shells, drones and antitank missiles have already been carried out. And Rotem added: “This is one system with many options – the weapon of the future.”

Kenya

A Kenyan airfield used by U.S. forces was attacked Sunday by the al-Shabab extremist group. The attack killed three American Department of Defense personnel and destroyed U.S. aircraft and vehicles. At least five attackers were killed. The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, based in neighboring Somalia, claimed responsibility and asserted that “intense” combat with U.S. forces continued. It is the first known al-Shabab attack against U.S. forces inside Kenya, a key base for fighting one of the world’s most resilient extremist organizations. Although based in Somalia, al-Shabab frequently launches terror attacks in other African countries, most notably in neighboring Kenya. It has struck there more than 20 times in the past five years, killing at least 300 people.

Mexico

A family from Oklahoma, returning to the U.S. after visiting relatives in Mexico, was attacked by gunmen, and one relative says “bullets were everywhere” during the fatal incident in the sparsely traveled area near the Texas border, Oscar Castillo López, 13, was killed, while a 10-year-old relative was among four wounded in the attack, according to the attorney general’s office in the state of Tamaulipas. Jose Mendoza, one of the family members who survived the attack, said the family was on a two-lane highway paralleling the U.S.-Mexico border in Ciudad Mier. The highway where the attack took place is considered to be in a high-risk area contested by Mexican drug cartels. It connects the city of Mier with Nueva Ciudad Guerrero, on the banks of the Rio Grande across the U.S.–Mexico border from Falcon Heights, Texas.

Earthquakes

A 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck Puerto Rico before dawn on Tuesday, the largest in a series of quakes that have struck the U.S. territory in recent days and caused heavy damage in some areas. Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority reported an island-wide power outage. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake hit just south of the island at a shallow depth of 6.2 miles.  Hundreds of thousands of people in Puerto Rico could be without power for more than a year after a major power plant was heavily damaged during the series of earthquakes. According to the USGS, there have been more than 950 earthquakes and aftershocks recorded on Puerto Rico since Dec. 31.

  • Earlier, 5.8-magnitude quake hit Puerto Rico before dawn Monday, unleashing small landslides, causing power outages and severely cracking some homes. The U.S. territory has been shaking for the past week. Another quake measured at magnitude 5.1 struck later Monday, at 10:51 a.m. local time, shaking power lines and frightening residents of southern Puerto Rico who had been waiting outside their homes due to fears the buildings were damaged and unstable. The flurry of quakes in Puerto Rico’s southern region began the night of Dec. 28, with quakes ranging in magnitude from 4.7 to 5.1, which have cracked many homes.
  • President Donald Trump has approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico. The aid will allow for immediate federal assistance after recent earthquakes, and allows the U.S. government to provide immediate assistance, including restoring lost power. The total economic impact, including disruption from damage and power failures, could reach $3.1 billion.

The region near Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran was hit by an earthquake early Wednesday. The 4.9 magnitude temblor struck about 6 miles southeast of Borazjan and 40 miles from the site tied to Iran’s controversial nuclear program. According to the United States Geological Survey, the earthquake began about six miles below the surface, which suggests a natural event unconnected to a tumultuous day in Iran. Around 30 minutes later a second quake, this time measuring 4.5 magnitude, struck the same province which runs along the Iranian coastline. A similar earthquake struck the region in late December. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Wildfires

Australia’s navy rescued hundreds of people stranded on a Victoria beach Friday as 135 wildfires continue to rip through the nation’s eastern states, prompting the largest peacetime evacuation in the country’s history. At least 24 people are dead and 28 more are missing after the fires scorched more than 38,000 square miles, destroying nearly 2,000 homes in three states. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews declared a disaster across much of the coastal part of the state, allowing the government to order evacuations in an area with as many as 140,000 permanent residents and tens of thousands more vacationers. Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison has committed an extra $1.4 billion to recovery efforts.

  • Thousands of people fled their homes and helicopters dropped supplies to towns at risk of nearby wildfires as hot, windy conditions Friday threatened already fire-ravaged southeastern Australian communities. The danger is centered on New South Wales and Victoria, Australia’s most populous states, where temperatures and wind speeds are escalating after a few days of relatively benign conditions. Two out-of-control bushfires are expected to merge into a “megablaze” near the border of the two states late Friday.
  • Two dozen people have been charged with deliberately setting bushfires in New South Wales, where nearly 19,000 square miles have burned since September. In addition, 53 were accused of failing to comply with a total fire ban, and 47 discarded a lighted cigarette or match on land, police said. A Muslim teen who was accused along with his brother of starting a fire in Australia was seen laughing as he left court in Sydney on Tuesday.
  • The World Wildlife Fund in Australia estimates that as many as 1.25 billion animals may have been killed directly or indirectly from fires that have scorched Australia. Smoke from the massive Australian wildfires has crossed the South Pacific Ocean and was detected in parts of South America, thousands of miles away, satellite imagery revealed Monday.
  • In 2018, around 140 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand helped fight wildfires in California and other western states. With wildfires now raging in Australia, the help is being repaid. Around 100 American firefighters have been sent to Australia over the last four weeks and at least 50 more were dispatched on Monday.

Weather

The contiguous United States saw its second wettest year on record in 2019, according to NOAA’s annual summary issued on Wednesday. The annual average precipitation for 2019 of 34.78” came in just 0.18” shy of the record-wet year of 1973. However, the last 24 months easily set a record for the wettest two-year calendar span in data going back to 1895. The national average temperature wasn’t especially hot by recent standards, but there were landmark heat extremes on either end of the nation, in Alaska and in Florida. In contrast to near-record global heat, temperature wasn’t a standout in 2019 when averaged across the contiguous United States. It was the 34th warmest year in records that go back 125 years.

Ice cover throughout the Great Lakes is nearly a record low for early January because warmer than average temperatures have dominated the region so far this winter. The total ice coverage on the five Great Lakes was 1.5% on Tuesday, or the second lowest for Jan. 7. Ice cover on that date has averaged about 13.9% since records began in 1973.

Monsoon rains and rising rivers have caused flooding that has killed at least 30 people in Indonesia’s capital city. Water reached higher than 8 feet in some places in Jakarta, flooding thousands of homes and businesses. More than 35,000 people fled their homes. Some spent the night on their rooftops awaiting rescue. It was the worst flooding since 2013.

Signs of the Times

January 2, 2020

Apocalypse Soon? Podcasts Available at gofg.org

 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God. (2Peter 3:8-12)

65,000 College Students Ring in New Year Worshipping Jesus

It’s not your typical college New Year’s party — more than 65,000 young Christians gathering in an Atlanta stadium to kick off a new decade with worship, prayer and Bible teaching. The sold-out conference Passion 2020 saw thousands of millennials and Generation Zers – along with their church and campus leaders – filling up the Mercedes-Benz Stadium with Passion founders Louie and Shelley Giglio as hosts and music by the Passion Band. Each year, students have joined together to raise money for different initiatives. Last year, almost 40,000 students gathered at Passion 2019 and were able to raise more than $400,000 to translate the Bible for deaf people across the world. This year, students will raise money for Share Light, a campaign to see the Bible scriptures translated into the 6,000 known languages during this generation’s lifetime.

Abortion Was the Leading Cause of Death Worldwide in 2019

More human beings died from abortions than any other cause of death in 2019, reports Worldometers. There were over 42.3 million abortions world-wide in 2019. In contrast, 8.2 million people died from cancer in 2019, 5 million from smoking, 13 million from diseases, and 1.7 million from HIV/AIDS. In America, just under 1 million babies are aborted every year. Though abortion rates have been dropping in the past decade, abortion remains the leading cause of death in the United States as well. An estimated 61 million unborn babies have been killed in abortions in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

  • In January, pro-life advocates will gather for the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. to remember the anniversary of that infamous decision and call for restored protections for the unborn.

The Decline of Christianity and The Rise of the Nones

People of faith are still a majority, with more than 75% of the country ascribing to some religion. All combined, Christianity accounts for nearly 63% of the population. Yet all the growth is on the other side of the spectrum, the so-called ‘Nones,’ who do not have a religious affiliation. For the first time ever, the Nones are the largest demographic in the U.S., with 23.1% of the population, overtaking the Catholics and the evangelicals. Among those ages 18 to 22, more than 40% belong to the Nones, reports  Ryan Burge, a political scientist at Eastern Illinois University and a Baptist pastor. That includes atheists and agnostics, but the most growth within the Nones has been those who don’t so much actively question or reject God, as much as they don’t see a reason to bother with religion. These so-called ‘apathetics’ don’t attend services, don’t ascribe to any one creed, and often don’t even have much familiarity with the faith world. They account for a bigger share of the population than the agnostics and atheists combined, and their numbers are growing by millions each year.

First Transgender Returns to Birth Sex

Tthe first person to obtain a legal “non-binary” sex designation has successfully petitioned the court originally responsible for his “non-binary” status to order that the sex on his birth certificate be restored to “male.” James Shupe’s petition described his “non-binary” designation as a “psychologically harmful legal fiction.” He told PJ Media that he hopes this decision will prevent a woman currently seeking “non-binary” recognition from following the same lies. “The legal record has now been corrected and LGBT advocates are no longer able to use my historic non-binary court order to advance their toxic agenda,” he added. “I am and have always been male. That is my biological truth, the only thing capable of grounding me to reality.”

Transgender Absurdities Continue

A former Nike employee who identifies as “transmasculine” filed a $1.1 million lawsuit against the company last week, claiming gender identity-based harassment due to the use of wrong pronouns. Jazz Lyles was a computer engineer at Nike from May 2017 to September 2018 and was often “misgendered” by employees, according to the lawsuit. Lyles prefers the pronouns they/them/their. “Employers like Nike have a responsibility to present a safe workplace and ensure that employees respect their coworkers’ gender pronouns,” Lyles’ attorney, Shenoa Payne, told CBS News. Nike, in a statement, said the company “is committed to a culture of diversity, inclusion and respect where everyone can succeed and realize their full potential.”

U.S. Mass Killings a Record High in 2019

A database compiled by The Associated Press, USA TODAY and Northeastern University shows there were more mass killings in 2019 than any other year. In all, there were 41 mass killings, defined as when four or more people are killed, excluding the perpetrator. Of those, 33 were shootings in which 210 people were killed. Most of the mass killings barely became national news, failing to resonate among the general public because they didn’t occur in public places. The majority of the killings involved people who knew each other – family disputes, drug or gang violence or people with beefs that directed their anger at co-workers or relatives. In many cases, what set off the perpetrator remains a mystery.

Church Shooter Gunned Down by Parishioners

Last Sunday, a man pulled out a shotgun during a Sunday church service and opened fire, killing two congregants before being fatally shot by parishioners. Texas officials hailed the state’s gun laws that allow weapons in places of worship. Two congregants, both volunteer members of the church’s security team, drew their weapons and confronted the gunman, fatally shooting him and saving an “untold number of lives” at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, a town of about 17,000 people near Fort Worth. “Evil walked boldly among us, but good people raised up and stopped it before it got worse,” Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn said.

Five People Stabbed at Hanukkah Party in New York

A knife-wielding attacker stabbed five people during a Hanukkah party Saturday night at a rabbi’s home in New York, the latest in a string of assaults targeting Jews in the region. One person remained in critical condition Sunday. The suspected attacker, Grafton E. Thomas, pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the stabbing “an act of domestic terrorism” and directed the state police hate crimes task force to investigate. He said the attack was at least the 13th incident of anti-Semitism in the state in the past few weeks. The black man used a machete to hack the five people and now faces hate crime charges after authorities discovered anti-Semitic journal entries at his home.

  • Police in London are investigating anti-Semitic graffiti found scrawled across shop fronts, restaurants and a synagogue as a possible hate crime. The South Hampstead Synagogue, located in a part of London with a large Jewish population, was also targeted. Images of the Star of David and messages apparently relating to the September 11 attacks were painted on buildings in the north of the city on Saturday evening. The numbers “911” refer to the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jewish people were responsible for the September 11 attacks in New York.
  • Two female attackers yelled “I will kill you Jews” at a Brooklyn man before shoving him to the ground when he tried to film their anti-Semitic screed, law enforcement sources and witnesses said Wednesday. The two African American women approached the 22-year-old Hasidic victim in Broadway Triangle where they began taunting him with anti-Semitic slurs. The first woman began yelling at the victim before the second woman grabbed his cell phone, broke it in half and threw it to the ground. One witness too afraid to be named told The Post the women shoved the victim to the ground when he tried filming them and threw the phone in his face after breaking it. The victim sustained minor injuries after he was hit in the face with the cell phone.

Transgenders 58% More Likely to Commit Murder Than be Murdered

The Human Rights Campaign, which meticulously tracks transgender deaths across the country, is conspicuously not tracking them when they commit crimes. But in the U.K., analysts found that during the period of 2007-2017, transsexuals were 58% more likely to commit a murder than be murdered, reports the website National Justice. The report documents how a transsexual in Colorado and a partner shot nine students at their school, then later claimed the victims deserved it for their “transphobia.” In Maine, a transgender defended the murder of two parents because they failed to “accept” the “transition.” And in Maryland, a transgender who also was a mass shooter killed three before using the gun for suicide. In California, a Berkeley transgender activist was granted an insanity plea for stabbing two women, one to death. And in Texas, a transgender beat a baby girl to death and is facing the death penalty. Many times media reports omit the “gender identity,” National Justice said. According to gay activist groups, 24 transgenders have been killed in 2019 out of a population of 1.4 million , making their homicide rate 1.7 out of 100,000 – less likely to be killed than the average woman (1.8).”

Iranian Protesters Break into U.S. Embassy

Demonstrators shouting, “Death to America!” smashed their way into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday as protests intensified following U.S. airstrikes that killed 25 fighters of an Iran-backed militia in Iraq. Embassy staff were reported to be safe. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who has condemned the airstrikes, urged protesters to leave the embassy area and halt the violence. No deaths or serious injuries were immediately reported at the protest, which included mourners from funerals held for some of those killed by the airstrikes. “Any aggression or harassment of foreign embassies and representations is an act that will be strictly prohibited by the security forces and will be punished by law with the most severe penalties,” Mahdi warned in a statement. The Pentagon was rushing reinforcements to the embassy.

  • The Pentagon immediately dispatched Marines from neighboring Kuwait to bolster security at the compound in what it dubbed a “crisis response mission.” Demonstrators dispersed Wednesday as the Marines fired rubber bullets and tear gas at them.
  • One of the men identified by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a leader of the Iran-backed siege of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was welcomed to the White House in 2011 by President Barack Obama.

Iran Joins with Russia & China in Naval Exercises

Russia, China and Iran launched their first joint naval exercises in the Gulf of Oman last week in a direct challenge to U.S. influence in the Middle East. The move reflects growing co-operation between the America’s two main rivals and the Islamic republic, which is reeling under economic sanctions imposed by Washington. “The most important achievement of these drills . . . is this message that the Islamic republic of Iran cannot be isolated,” vice-admiral Gholamreza Tahani said. “These exercises show that relations between Iran, Russia and China have reached a new high level.”

President Trump Signs Robo-Call Bill into Law

President Donald Trump signed a bill on Monday that increases fines on criminal robocall violations and cracks down on companies making the calls, as part of a federal push against telephone scammers. The move comes as part of crackdown against the targeting companies and individuals who have collectively placed more than 1 billion unwanted calls for financial schemes and other services. Monday’s bill, which passed in the Senate in May and the House earlier this month, came following the Federal Communications Commission’s announcement of a nationwide crackdown on illegal robocalls in June. The legislation imposes stiffer fines of as much as $10,000 per call on robocallers who knowingly flout the rules on calls. The bill also instructs the FCC to develop further regulations that could shield consumers from unwanted calls.

Vermont Institutes Mandatory Composting by July 1

Food scraps can’t go in Vermont landfills beginning July 1. Residents will have four ways to handle rotten leftovers and items such as peels, eggshells, seeds, pits, coffee grounds and oils, according to the state’s environmental conservation department. Vermonters can use a household compost bin, buy a Green Cone solar digester to break down the scraps, feed scraps to pigs or leave it to the composting professionals. The universal recycling law will require trucking companies to provide food scrap collection services to nonresidential customers and multi-unit apartment complexes. Restaurants, supermarkets and cafeterias must also comply with the law, which is the first state law of its kind. The state hopes to reach a 60% recycling rate through mandatory composting.

2019 Was a Tumultuous Year for Auto Industry

The global auto industry was shaken up in 2019 as never before. Mergers. Alliances. Plant closings. The longest, largest strike in decades. All of that activity was at least partly driven by the biggest change in the industry in more than a century: the move toward electric and self-driving vehicles. Auto companies are committing billions of dollars to develop the next generation of vehicles. GM’s three US plant closings during the year, which sparked a costly 40-day strike, were done to free up the money it said it would need for those vehicles. Volkswagen’s Audi brand and Daimler Benz, announced plans to cut thousands of jobs each, as they move toward electrification and autonomous driving. The year ended with Italian American automaker Fiat Chrysler and French automaker PSA Group agreeing to a merger to create the world’s third largest automaker. Volkswagen and Ford, meanwhile, have agreed to an alliance to similarly share resources.

Economic News

President Donald Trump said Tuesday he will sign a “Phase One” trade deal with China on Jan. 15, and plans to visit China soon to start talks on a “Phase Two.” Trump and aides still have not provided documents detailing what the first phase of an overall agreement involves.

2019 was the second best year of the decade for stocks, thanks to favorable Federal Reserve policy and company valuations that kept on climbing. Even as the trade war with China and other US trade partners injected plenty of volatility into the market, stocks ended up on top. The Dow was up 22%, the S&P 500 gained 29%, and the Nasdaq Composite rose 35%. 2020 started off with a bang, with all three indices reaching record highs.

The retail apocalypse isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Nearly 9,100 store closures were announced in 2019, 55% higher than total closures in 2018, according to a recent report from global marketing research firm Coresight Research.

For many American motorists, $3-a-gallon gasoline is becoming a distant memory. Americans are likely to pay an average of $2.60 a gallon in 2020, according to fuel savings app GasBuddy’s annual forecast. On the whole, drivers haven’t paid more than $3 nationwide since 2014, when prices averaged $3.36. The highest national average price of gas was $4.11 on July 17, 2008, according to AAA.

Persecution Watch

At least nine Christians were recently murdered in Kenya for not reciting the Islamic statement of faith, the Shahada. The nine Christians were traveling by bus to Mandera when they were separated from the other passengers and killed in northeast Kenya by those believed to be Al-Shabaab militants. Two passengers are still missing. Local authorities believe they were also killed by the militants.

A group affiliated with the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a vicious mass execution that claimed the lives of eleven Christian aid workers. The killings were retaliation against the killing of leader Bakr al-Baghdadi, who blew himself up after being cornered during a raid by U.S. special forces at the end of October. The militant group known as the Islamic State in West Africa Province released a gruesome minute-long video of the shooting of one man followed by the beheading of 10 others. “This message is to the Christians in the world,” a man featured in the video explains. “Those who you see in front of us are Christians, and we will shed their blood as revenge for the two dignified sheikhs, the caliph of the Muslims, and the spokesman for the Islamic State, Sheikh Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir, may Allah accept them.”

A Chinese pastor on Monday was sentenced to nine years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” and “illegal business operations,” although his only crime was to preach the gospel in an unregistered church, supporters say. The sentencing of Pastor Wang Yi of Early Rain Covenant Church was only the latest example in China’s crackdown on unregistered churches. Churches within China must register either with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (if they’re Protestant) or the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. Because such congregations face extreme regulations about what they preach, millions of Christians in the country worship at underground congregations.

Middle East

Iran has warned the U.S. of “consequences” after Washington carried out airstrikes against an Iran-backed militia group in Iraq. At least 25 people were killed and 51 wounded in the airstrikes that targeted five facilities controlled by Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq and Syria on Sunday. Kataib Hezbollah is a militia group that falls under the Iran-backed Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq. The strikes represent the first significant US military response in retaliation for attacks by the militia group that have injured numerous American military personnel. The U.S. airstrikes Sunday by F-15 Strike Eagles included three targets in western Iraq and two in eastern Syria that were command-and-control facilities or weapons stockpiles of the Iranian-sponsored militia Kata’ib Hezbollah.

An announcement was made on Thursday by the organizing committee of weekly riots – overseen by the Hamas terror group – stating that the violent demonstrations may be coming to an end. The committee said the demonstrations will only take place once a month, beginning in March, the second anniversary of the riots. From the outset, Hamas used the riots to stage heated confrontations with Israeli troops, with terror group members acting as snipers, rock hurlers, and would-be infiltrators using women and children as human shields to mount their attacks. Israel consistently defended its border against attacks and infiltration attempts. Hamas also continued its rocket attacks on the Jewish state, with the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad joining the missile launches as of late.

Israel

“Israel, for the first time in its history, is an exporter of energy,” said Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz on Wednesday morning.” “For the first time since its establishment, Israel is now an energy powerhouse, able to supply all its energy needs and gaining energy independence,” echoed Delek Drilling CEO Yossi Abu Steinitz made his remarks after a successful flushing test of the Leviathan gas rig on Tuesday. The Leviathan gas rig, which is located closer to shore than would be typical due to security concerns, has been the target of criticism by Israeli citizens living nearby. Some even evacuated their homes, not trusting the government’s assurances that pollution levels were safe.

Afghanistan

The Taliban said Sunday that they have agreed to a temporary cease-fire nationwide. The duration of the cease-fire was not specified but it is being suggested it would last for 10 days. It provides a window during which a peace agreement with the United States could be signed. A peace deal would allow Washington to bring home its troops from Afghanistan and end its 18-year military engagement there, America’s longest. The U.S. wants any deal to include a promise from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not be used as a base by terrorist groups. The U.S. currently has an estimated 12,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Somalia

A truck bomb exploded at a busy security checkpoint in Somalia’s capital Saturday morning, killing at least 76 people. It was one of the deadliest attacks in Mogadishu in recent memory, and witnesses said the force of the blast reminded them of the devastating 2017 bombing that killed hundreds. The death toll could rise as scores of people were rushed to hospitals. The blast targeted a tax collection center during the morning rush hour as Somalia returned to work after its weekend.

North Korea

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un on Wednesday threatened “shocking actual action” against the U.S. and also promised that the reclusive country will soon unveil new strategic weapons. Mr. Kim’s widely anticipated New Year’s Day speech kept open the door to continued denuclearization talks with the Trump administration while turning up the rhetorical heat and returning to his traditional, more aggressive stance.

Microsoft has been granted a court order to take over 50 websites it alleges were used by a North Korean hacking group to steal “highly sensitive information” from computers in the United States. Microsoft filed a lawsuit in federal court on December 18 against two unnamed people involved in the group, known as Thallium, which is alleged to have used the websites to send phishing emails to break into users’ accounts and gain access to their information.

China

Three researchers involved in the births of genetically edited babies have been convicted and sentenced for practicing medicine illegally, Chinese state media said Monday. Xinhua reports that lead researcher He Jiankui was sentenced to three years in prison and fined 3 million yuan ($430,000). Two other people received lesser sentences and fines. He, the lead researcher, shocked the scientific world when he announced in November 2018 that he had helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies—twin girls born that month. He said he had used a tool called CRISPR to alter a gene in embryos to try to help them resist infection with the AIDS virus. The Xinhua report, citing court documents, said the researchers were involved in the births of three gene-edited babies to two women. It is unknown what happened to the babies.

Mexico

A Mexican small-town police chief has been arrested on the suspicion of being linked to the brazen massacre of nine women and children from a Mormon community by drug cartel members last month, authorities said Friday. Fidel Alejandro Villegas, the police chief of Janos in the state of Chihuahua, was arrested by federal authorities on suspicion of involvement in the Nov. 4 attack in the Sonora state. Authorities said Villegas has ties to the drug cartel. His arrest is the fourth in the aftermath of the killing of three women and six children, who were members of the Lebaron family and held dual Mexican and American citizenship.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 4.0 earthquake lightly shook the Los Angeles area early Thursday, striking in the ocean off coastal Southern California. The quake began at 2:13 a.m. PT, centered in the Pacific Ocean about 15 miles south of Port Hueneme, a city roughly 60 miles west of downtown Los Angeles, the US Geological Survey says. The quake produced light to weak shaking, the USGS says. It felt like a quick jolt in Los Angeles-area communities such as West Hollywood, Marina del Rey and South Gate. No damage or injuries were immediately reported.

Wildfires

About 30,000 people were urged Sunday to flee bushfires in the southeastern Australian state of Victoria before their escape routes are cut off. Three large fires are burning in East Gippsland, and officials said they cut off Princes Highway, the only way in and out of the area. The three East Gippsland fires have burned more than 380 square miles since starting on Nov. 21. Temperatures above 104 degrees Fahrenheit are expected across the area, which like most of Australia has sweltered amid a prolonged heatwave. Authorities said 381 homes had been destroyed on the state’s southern coast this week In total, 140 wildfires are burning in Australia, and at least 13 people have been killed with more than 19,300 square miles burned. Seven people have died in the past 24 hours in the Australian state of New South Wales. Authorities warn that conditions will likely worsen over the next few days.

  • On Tuesday, the wildfires trapped residents of a seaside town in apocalyptic conditions, destroyed many properties, and caused at least two fatalities, with four people missing. Roads are clogged and long lines have formed Thursday at gas stations as tens of thousands of people try to flee parts of eastern Australia where fire conditions are worsening. Meanwhile, a navy ship is prepared to evacuate about 4,000 people trapped in the coastal town of Mallacoota.
  • Officials in Australia fear thousands of koalas may be dead in an area of New South Wales ravaged in recent months by wildfires. Up to 28,000 koalas lived in the region before the fires, and 30% of that region has been destroyed. Ecologists at the University of Sydney estimate around 480 million animals have been killed in the wildfires,

Weather

High winds from a winter storm sweeping across the nation have caused tens of thousands of Ohio customers to lose electricity Monday morning. Blackouts hit more than 125,000 homes and businesses. Gusts reached 50 to 70 mph. Downed power lines forced the closure of State Road 56. The sprawling winter storm continued to deliver snow, ice and wind to portions of the Midwest and Northeast on Monday, wreaking havoc with holiday travelers from the Dakotas to Maine. Officials in the town of Otis, Massachusetts, declared a state of emergency Monday as the storm downed trees and power lines.

It’s finally starting to look like winter in the Russian capital after authorities dumped artificial snow in the center of Moscow in time for New Year’s Eve festivities. The country known for its rough winters has seen a mild stretch so far. On Dec. 18, the city broke a 1886 record when temperatures rose to 41 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Moscow Times.

Signs of the Times

December 26, 2019

Apocalypse Soon? Podcasts Available at gofg.org

But the Spirit expressly says that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and teachings of demons. (1Timothy 4:1)

Pope Says Don’t Evangelize, Bible Says Otherwise

Speaking to high-school students in Rome, Pope Francis said Catholics shouldn’t seek to convert Jews and Muslims to Christianity. “I went to public school, and we always had companions from other religions. We were educated to coexistence,” he said. “This taught me a lot, that we are all the same, all children of God and this purifies your gaze, it humanizes it,” he said. “You must be consistent with your faith,” he said. “It never occurred to me — and nor should it — to say to a boy or a girl: ‘You are Jewish, you are Muslim: come, be converted!’ You be consistent with your faith, and that consistency is what will make you mature. We are not living in the times of the crusades.” He also said the “the last thing I should do is speak.”

  • Perhaps the Pope is unfamiliar with Bible verses such as, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:19); and, Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.(Romans 10:17)

200 Evangelical Leaders Slam Christianity Today over Impeachment Support

About 200 evangelical leaders across the country came together and penned a letter to Dr. Timothy Dairymple, the president of Christianity Today, for the outlet’s recent editorial calling for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The group also slammed editor in chief, Mark Galli for making previous statements about evangelicals who voted for Trump, saying they are uneducated and have blue-collar jobs, as if a hard day’s work is something to snub. Those who signed the letter made it clear they are not “far-right” but rather “Bible-believing Christians” who are also “patriotic Americans.” They value policies the Trump administration has implemented like protecting the unborn, promoting religious freedom, reforming our criminal justice system, contributing to strong working families through paid family leave, protecting the freedom of conscience, prioritizing parental rights and ensuring that our foreign policy aligns with our values while making our world safer, including support of Israel.

President Trump is Ending the Liberal Domination of the Courts

With 2019 drawing to a close, MSNBC took some time to reflect on the greatest achievement of President Trump, namely the confirmation of scores of conservative federal judges. The liberal cable channel was certainly not celebrating the news, with anchors fearing how the appointments “will affect the laws of the land for years to come.” “The Trump administration has done more to shape the courts in just one term than any other president in recent history,” MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi recently announced. Since taking office, President Trump has nominated a whopping 234 federal judges, 174 of whom have been confirmed. President Trump has named a total of 50 judges to appeal courts, compared to 24 by President Obama at this same point in his presidency. “Keep in mind, these judges serve lifetime appointments, so their tenure could last decades. And even if President Trump is removed from office or defeated by a Democrat in 2020, his judicial appointees will still hold the power to push a conservative agenda,” Velshi fretted.

  • Long considered the most liberal court in America, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is far closer to be fair and balanced than ever, Politico reported. When President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, Democrat-appointed judges held a 20-9 edge in the 9th Circuit, which made it a go-to court for Democrat challenges with a jurisdiction of 60 million Americans. After the two most recent Trump confirmations this month, the Democrat-advantage is down to just three 16-13.

Trump Signs Budget Package that Avoids a Shutdown

President Donald Trump signed a $1.4 trillion spending package last Friday that will put off the possibility of a government shutdown until next fall, earmark money for gun violence research and raise the age for buying tobacco to 21. The bipartisan legislation, which will keep the government funded through next September, not only avoids a shutdown that had been scheduled for Friday but also represents a remarkable moment of cooperation just days after House Democrats impeached Trump. Trump secured $1.4 billion for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, the same amount lawmakers approved last year. The amount far less than the $8.6 billion Trump had requested, a demand that led to the longest shutdown in U.S. history earlier this year.

  • The spending measure will give members of the military their largest pay increase in 10 years.

Climate Change Predictions in 2000 Close, But Underestimated

When it comes to climate change, did scientists accurately predict in 2000 what would be happening now? “Overall, we’re running quite close to the projections made in 2000 for carbon dioxide concentration, global temperature and sea level,” Weather Underground meteorologist Robert Henson said. Since the early 1990s, the carbon dioxide level in the Earth’s atmosphere has jumped from about 358 parts per million to nearly 412 ppm. That’s a 15% rise in 27 years. Since 1992, the global sea level has risen on average 2.9 millimeters a year. That’s a total of 78.3 millimeters, or 3.1 inches.

  • Penn State University meteorologist Michael Mann says that “we underestimated the rate of ice sheet collapse.” The Greenland ice sheet lost 5.2 trillion tons of ice from 1993 to 2018. The Antarctic ice sheet lost 3 trillion tons of ice from 1992 to 2017.
  • There have been an average of 7.8 weather disasters per year since 1993, compared with 3.2 per year from 1980 to 1992, according to NOAA.
    • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

China and India Have Most of World’s Worst Polluted Cities

To identify the world’s most polluted cities, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data from the World Health Organization on the average annual concentration of harmful air particles in more than 2,600 cities around the globe. Of the 30 most polluted cities on earth, India leads with 14 on the list with China second with 9. No other county comes close with Bangladesh and Pakistan have 2 each, while Mongolia, Uganda and Cameroon have one each. The seven worst cities are all in Inda: Kanpur, Faridibad, Gaya, Varanasi, Patna, Delhi and Lucknow.

Demand for Coal Increased Despite Paris Climate Accord

Global demand for coal increased after the world’s largest countries entered into the Paris climate deal in 2015, according to an International Energy Agency report published Tuesday. Demand for coal jumped 1.1% in 2018, continuing an increase that began two years after the United States and other world powers forged an agreement to reduce carbon emissions, the IEA noted in its 2019 coal report. Asia consumed roughly 73% of the 8.5 billion tons of coal consumed worldwide in 2018. World consumption was about 7 billion tons in 2015. China, India and other Asian countries are largely responsible for the uptick, even as coal production dipped in the U.S. and Europe.

Economic News

U.S. shoppers spent more online during this year’s holiday shopping season, with e-commerce sales hitting a record high. E-commerce sales this year made up 14.6% of total retail and rose 18.8% from 2018. Overall holiday retail sales, excluding autos, rose 3.4%.Retailers have invested heavily to provide same-day delivery, lockers for store pick-up and improve their online presence as they battle against retail giant Amazon.com Inc for market share.

This week marks the second anniversary of President Trump’s tax cuts. Despite warnings of economic disaster, average wages have risen by 3 percent a year (or more) for the last 16 straight months — roughly 50 percent faster than the Obama-era average. Real disposable personal income per household has risen by $6,000 since the tax cuts passed, shattering expectations. Wage growth has been especially strong for less-skilled employees, growing by 7 percent over the last year for the bottom 10 percent of workers and 9 percent for those without a high-school diploma. The tax cuts have dramatically spurred hiring. The unemployment rate is at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent, with the rates for young, black and Hispanic workers hovering near record lows.

The number of cities and counties with at least a $15 minimum wage is set to double next year to 32, as Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and South San Francisco, along with about a dozen other California cities, adopt the benchmark. They’ll join cities such as New York, Seattle and San Francisco that are already members of the $15 club. In all, 24 states and 48 cities and counties will raise their minimum wages in 2020 – a record 72 jurisdictions. The federal minimum has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. In July, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed legislation to raise it to $15 by 2025 but the Republican majority Senate has refused to debate the bill.

Millennials, or people born between 1981 to 1996, are trailing in accumulating wealth compared with older generations at the same age, according to a new Federal Reserve of St. Louis study. In 2016, millennials with degrees had about 6% less wealth than expected based on the typical wealth held at the same age by older generations. But millennials who lacked degrees had 44% less wealth than older generations at the same age. Many entered the workforce during the recession, just as wages plunged for high school grads. Even though the typical pay for high school grads has increased in the last few years, it still remains below its peak in the early 2000s, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Persecution Watch

School officials in Edmond, Oklahoma, canceled the live Nativity to be staged by third-graders at a public elementary school after receiving a letter from the atheist Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The letter accused the school district of an unspecified “constitutional violation.” In a December 11 letter, Liberty Counsel attorney Richard L. Mast reassured Edmond district superintendent Bret Towne that “a live Nativity scene as part of a balanced Christmas program is not an automatic Establishment Clause violation.” Mast quoted Reagan-appointed Federal Appeals Judge Frank H. Easterbrook about the meaning of the clause in the Constitution forbidding the establishment of a state religion: “It is not sound, as a matter of history or constitutional text, to say that a unit of state or local government “establishes” a religion through an artistic performance that favorably depicts one or more aspects of that religion’s theology or iconography.”

  • More than half of U.S. state capitols have Nativity displays this Christmas season, according to the Thomas Moore Society, which works with the American Nativity Scene Project to keep privately funded displays in the public square.

Chloe Bressack, a math and science teacher sent a “Welcome to my class” letter home to parents headlined “About Mx. Bressack.” It said in part, “… my pronouns are ‘they, them, their’ instead of ‘he, his, she, hers.’ I know it takes some practice for it to feel natural, but students catch on pretty quickly.” The letter also asked that students use “Mx.,” (pronounced ‘Mix’) when addressing the teacher rather than Mr. or Ms. The letter alarmed the parents. Canopy Oaks Principal Paul Lambert said he and the school are in full support of Bressack.

Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a serious threat to his grip on power as members of his ruling Likud party voted Thursday in an internal ballot to decide who will lead them in an unprecedented third Israeli election in quick succession in March. Despite battling three damning corruption indictments, the 70-year-old incumbent prime minister is widely predicted to win the leadership vote. Netanyahu has dominated the famously loyal rightwing party for most of the past two decades. Much of the focus is instead on how much of a dent his former protege turned rival, Gideon Saar, could make in Netanyahu’s previously watertight Likud party support.

The U.S. Senate passed a $1.37 trillion spending bill on Thursday that included the annual $3.3 billion in security assistance to Israel. It also addressed other Jewish and Israel-related priorities. The final tally, also the last one of the year, was 81-11. A whopping $500 million was allocated towards U.S.-Israel missile-defense cooperation. The bill also extended the U.S. Defense Department’s authority to stockpile weapons in Israel for two years. It also indicated backing for use of the Strategic Defense Acquisition Fund “to transfer precision guided munitions and related defense articles and services to reserve stocks for Israel.” The legislation allows the president to withhold 5 percent of U.S. assistance towards any U.N. agency that acts against the interests of the United States or a U.S. ally, including Israel. No U.S. funding will go to the Palestinian Authority. Since the United States cut aid to the P.A. in March 2018 and under the Taylor Force Act, the P.A.’s program of rewarding terrorists and their families is not being supported.

Middle East

Rocket sirens ended an Ashkelon campaign event for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday night, with the IDF subsequently announcing that the Iron Dome defense system shot down the sole rocket that set off red alerts in the area.

Israeli Minister of Defense Naftali Bennett announced that the government will seize the bank accounts of Arab-Israeli terrorists who receive salaries from the Palestinian Authority for committing heinous crimes. So far the Israeli government action was limited to the bank accounts of a limited number of terrorists. But with new information available to Israeli authorities, additional seizure of terror reward money from Israeli Arab terrorists can be expected.

Afghanistan

An American service member was killed in Afghanistan on Monday, according to military officials, bringing to 20 the number of troops who have died during combat operations this year. The service member’s death is a grim reminder that more Americans have died fighting the Taliban and other Afghan insurgent groups in 2019 than in any other year since 2014, when the Pentagon euphemistically announced the “end of combat operations” in the country. Thirteen troops were killed in 2018, and 11 in 2017. Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said the service member was killed in Kunduz Province, when the insurgents targeted American and Afghan forces with explosives.

North Korea

While North Korea engages in a series of increasingly threatening actions, President Donald Trump and his top advisers say they are still committed to pursuing negotiations with Kim – hoping he will come around on the U.S. offer for sweeping sanctions relief in exchange for complete North Korean denuclearization. Two of Trump’s top foreign policy appointees have recently emphasized the administration’s willingness to be flexible in how, and how fast, to reach that end goal. Officials urged North Korean leaders to revive the moribund negotiations, which have been essentially dead since February. Amid the stalemate, North Korea has bolstered its arsenal of missiles and its stockpile of bomb-ready nuclear material, while announcing a “Christmas gift” of more missile tests.

New Zealand

New Zealand authorities said Saturday their country will be a safer place after owners handed in more than 50,000 guns during a buyback program following a ban on assault weapons. But critics say the process was flawed and many owners have illegally stashed their firearms. The government banned the most lethal types of semi-automatic weapons less than a month after a lone gunman in March killed 51 worshippers at two Christchurch mosques. The police then launched a six-month program to buy the newly banned weapons from owners. Provisional figures indicate 33,000 people handed in 51,000 guns, and another 5,000 guns as part of a parallel amnesty in which owners could hand over any type of firearm without any questions being asked but without getting compensated.

Weather

Record rainfall closed roads, shutdown train service and caused power outages in Oregon and Washington state Friday and into early Saturday morning. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport recorded 3.25 inches of rain on Friday, making it the fifth wettest day there ever, according to the National Weather Service. One area near Pluvius, in southwestern Washington, received nearly a foot of rain. More than 3.4 inches of rain fell in Astoria, Oregon, on the coast north of Portland, breaking a daily record set in 1906.

Drenching overnight rains flooded roads and neighborhoods across the Southeast and forced a major airport to close. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shut down operations at 4 a.m. Monday because of flash flooding that washed over roads and made parts of the airport inaccessible. More than 7 inches of rain fell at the airport. Meanwhile, the heavy rains coincided with high tide in Charleston, South Carolina, leading to dozens of road closures. In Georgia, more than 6,500 people in the Atlanta metro area and north Georgia lost power.

Back to back winter storms left at least nine people dead as the storms battered Portugal, Spain and France with high winds and torrential rain. The second storm, Fabien, roared into Portugal, northern Spain and western France last Saturday with winds up to 150 mph and torrential rain.

The powerful Typhoon Phanfone moved into the South China Sea on Thursday after battering the Philippines on Christmas. The storm killed at least 20 people. Most of the deaths reported by officials were caused by drowning, falling trees and accidental electrocution. The typhoon made landfall in Eastern Samar province on Christmas Eve and then roared across the nation’s central region on Christmas, slamming into seven coastal towns and island provinces. The coast guard said Thursday that nearly 4,000 people remained stuck in Southern Tagalog and Western Visayas. An airport at Kalibo town in Aklan that serves Boracay also was badly damaged.

Signs of the Times

December 20, 2019

Apocalypse Soon? Podcasts Available at gofg.org

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

House Church Movement in Iran Growing Fast

One of the fastest growing churches in the world is in Iran, not Christian Breaking News (CBN). Despite Christianity being outlawed in the Islamic Republic, Iran has the fastest-growing house church movements in the world, reports Believers Portal. “Right now you can see the results of the Holy Spirit,” Raizal, one of the believers, told CBN News in Turkey where he was interviewed. “From 1994, there were about 100,000 believers. Right now, there are over 3 million.” Raizal explained that since churches are banned in Iran, believers use the Internet to connect to churches in the United States, Canada, Germany, and Malaysia via Skype. He said many of the new believers embraced Jesus Christ after having a dream or vision of Him.

Planned Parenthood Opening 50 Clinics in L.A. Schools

Planned Parenthood has finally reached an agreement to open up 50 so-called “reproductive health centers” in high schools in Los Angeles with $10 million in taxpayer funding. As The Washington Post reports, “Planned Parenthood is pioneering a new model of reproductive health services for Los Angeles County teens by opening 50 clinics at area high schools.” This “new model” that Planned Parenthood is “pioneering” is nothing more than a direct pipeline of new “customers” they can groom for their abortion business, notes Kristan Hawkins
President, Students for Life.

U.S. Has World’s Highest Rate of Children Living with Single Parent

For decades, the share of U.S. children living with a single parent has been rising, accompanied by a decline in marriage rates and a rise in births outside of marriage. A new Pew Research Center study of 130 countries and territories shows that the U.S. has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households. Almost a quarter of U.S. children under the age of 18 live with one parent and no other adults (23%), more than three times the share of children around the world who do so (7%).

Christianity Today Denounced ‘Grossly Immoral’ Trump

In a troubling sign for President Trump, leading evangelical magazine Christianity Today denounced him as a “leader of grossly immoral character” Thursday and called for him to be removed from office. Impeachment appears to have been the final straw for editor-in-chief Mark Galli, who writes that although the process was flawed, it was “profoundly immoral” for Trump to attempt to “use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents.” That Trump “should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments,” writes Galli. The magazine, which was founded by Billy Graham, saw its website crash Thursday night from increased traffic.

  • President Trump lashed out at the publication, calling it a “far left magazine” on Twitter. Evangelist Franklin Graham told Fox News his father “dissociated himself from the magazine years ago… My father knew Donald Trump, believed in Donald Trump, and in this last election, he voted for Donald Trump.”

Push to Reform FISA Gains Momentum

A Republican push to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has gained fresh momentum on Capitol Hill amid the fallout of the long-awaited findings of Michael Horowitz, the Department of Justice’s inspector general who illuminated an array of abuses and misdeeds pertaining to government surveillance tools during the Russia investigation. Horowitz’s report noted “17 significant errors or omissions” in the application process for FISA warrants for Trump campaign aide Carter Page. The report also identified “many additional errors,” including how the FBI informed the FISA court that its primary source outlining possible collusion with Russia, Christopher Steele, was credible without verifying his assertions. Horowitz also found that investigators withheld crucial details from the FISA tribunal that may have cast doubt on the credibility of Steele’s dossier of claims about Trump.

FISA Court Condemns FBI’s Faulty Affidavits

In a rare order, the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) condemned the FBI on Tuesday for misleading the court in its application to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, saying the sheer number of problems with the petition raises questions about other filings by the law enforcement agency. “The frequency with which representations made by FBI personnel turned out to be unsupported or contradicted by information in their possession, and which they withheld information detrimental to their case, calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable,” Judge Rosemary M. Collyer wrote. “The FISC expects the government to provide complete and accurate information in every filing with the court. Without it, the FISC cannot properly ensure that the government conducts electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes only when there is sufficient factual basis,” she continued.

Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down ObamaCare Rule

A federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling that a key aspect of the ObamaCare law is unconstitutional — setting up another likely Supreme Court showdown in a presidential election year. The 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals by a 2-1 vote concluded the original law’s key funding mechanism known as the individual mandate — requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance or face a tax penalty — was rendered unconstitutional when, in 2017, Congress eliminated a tax penalty on people without insurance. The appeals court concluded because the individual mandate was unconstitutional, the law’s funding mechanism could not be enforced in the current version of the Affordable Care Act. Other parts of the law may survive, but the appeals court deferred to the lower court to decide whether the entire law must be struck down or what parts of the law could still exist.

Mexico Objects to Provisions in New Trade Agreement

The House overwhelmingly approved the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on Thursday, the result of an unusual partnership between Robert Lighthizer, President Trump’s top trade negotiator, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. However, Mexico has objected to legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress as part of an eventual ratification of the deal. Jesús Seade, the Mexican Foreign Relations Department’s undersecretary and chief trade negotiator for North America, said that the legislation also “adds the designation of up to five U.S. labor attaches in Mexico tasked with monitoring the implementation of the labor reform that is under way in our country.” Seade said that was not part of the agreement signed Dec. 10 in Mexico City by Mexico, the U.S. and Canada to replace NAFTA. Seade says Mexico resists the idea of having foreign inspectors on its soil out of sovereignty principles, and that the agreement provided for panels to resolve disputes on labor and other areas.

Explosive Growth of Private Prisons for Immigrants

The use of private prisons to detain immigrants has exploded under President Trump. At least 24 immigration detention centers and more than 17,000 beds were added in the past three years to the sprawling detention system run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). A USA TODAY Network investigation found that the companies operating those centers have generated record-setting revenue since 2016 while making record-setting political donations – primarily to Republicans, including President Trump – as political figures moved freely between government policy roles and jobs in the private immigration industry. The booming business spends $3 billion a year housing a record high of roughly 50,000 people.

Marathon Climate Talks End with No Deal on Carbon Markets

An extra two days of international climate talks failed to produce agreement on carbon markets or any enhancements to countries’ promises to cut greenhouse gases next year. After the scheduled 12 days of talks at the 2019 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Madrid extended into Saturday and Sunday, negotiators postponed a decision on global carbon markets that allow countries to trade carbon credits. Instead, delegates from 200 nations endorsed a declaration to help poor countries that are suffering the effects of climate change, but they didn’t come up with any money to pay for that help. The final declaration from the conference, known as COP25, said there is an “urgent need” to cut carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in line with the goals of the 2015 Paris climate change accord – so, essentially, nothing was accomplished.

  • Whether greenhouse gases are causing global warming/climate change or not, end-time weather will continue to grow more extreme (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

California’s Miseries Continue to Increase

For decades, California was the postcard for better living – social equality, upward mobility, natural beauty. However, homelessness is soaring; 25% of the nation’s 600,000 homeless live in California. In San Francisco alone, apps have sprouted up to track human waste on sidewalks, people with mental illnesses have attacked other residents, and some companies, most recently Oracle, have canceled downtown convention plans. Housing costs are driving away the middle class; the median home price in California is $550,000, twice the national average, according to Zillow. More than 28,190 people departed California in the second quarter of 2019, almost double 2017’s rate, according to Redfin. California has also become the nation’s epicenter for wildfires. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, Pacific Gas & Electric power grid shutdowns for days in order to prevent wildfires, which wreaked havoc particularly on seniors and the poor.

First Vaccine to Prevent Ebola Approved

For the first time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a vaccine for the prevention of Ebola, the highly contagious virus disease that has killed thousands of people in Africa since the 1970s. The approval for Ervebo was granted to Merck & Co., the American pharmaceutical company that manufactures the vaccine. It won European Commission approval in November. The vaccine was designed at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory and is administered as a single-dose injection. From 2014 to 2016, an outbreak in three West African countries — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone —  caused more than 11,000 deaths out of 28,000 cases, the FDA said. More than 2,200 people have died from the Zaire strain of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2018 in the world’s second largest outbreak of the virus, which can spread rapidly. Since the 1970s, outbreaks of the virus have primarily been in sub-Saharan Africa, stemming from human contact with infected wild animals.

Teen Pot and Vaping Usage Increasing

The good news is that teen alcohol, cigarette, and hard-drug usage is down. But the flip side of the coin is that marijuana and nicotine vaping are sharply up. The National Institute on Drug Abuse’s annual Monitoring the Future reports that the jump in marijuana vaping was “most troubling to public health experts”: Though nicotine vaping remains more prevalent (35% of 12th graders said they did so in the previous 12 months), marijuana vaping is growing more quickly. Some 14% of 12th graders reported having vaped pot in the past month; in 2018, the figure was 7.5%. That’s the second-biggest jump any drug has registered in the survey’s history. Expand the timeline to a year, and 20.8% of 12th graders reported vaping pot, way up from 7.7% a year prior. Tenth graders were right behind them, with 19.4% reporting usage over the past year; 8th graders hit 7%.

Marijuana Linked to Psychosis, Schizophrenia

A number of physicians are pushing back against the long held assertion of users and advocates that marijuana is a safe, benign and even beneficial drug. Those sounding the alarm include the nation’s “mental health czar” as well as doctors in states including Colorado, California and Massachusetts where marijuana is legal for recreational use. They say the facts are irrefutable: excessive use of today’s high-THC pot and concentrated oil is linked to psychotic episodes that in some cases develop into full-blown schizophrenia. A Ostudyne from the British medical journal the Lancet released in March showed a two to five times higher risk of psychotic disorders for daily consumers of high-THC marijuana compared to people who never used.

BPA Levels in Humans Underestimated

Levels of the widely used chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in people’s bodies are much higher than once thought, according to scientists who say they’ve created a more accurate way to measure them.       BPA is used in many plastic products, including food and drink containers, and animal studies have shown that it can interfere with hormones. Exposure to BPA in the womb has been linked to growth, metabolism, behavior and fertility problems, as well an increased risk of cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, contends human exposure to BPA is at very low, and therefore, safe levels. The new method developed by researchers and outlined in their study suggests that the measurements used by the FDA and other regulatory agencies underestimate BPA exposure by as much as 44 times, said study co-author Patricia Hunt, a professor in the School of Molecular Biosciences at Washington State University. Co-author Roy Gerona, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said he hoped the findings would prompt other experts and labs to take a closer look and independently assess what is happening.

Auto Safety Systems Lead to Distracted Driving

Multiple systems that are designed to make driving safer and easier are placing drivers in danger, according to a new AAA study. Adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping-assist technologies lull drivers into letting their guard down, which puts them at greater risk of crashing. When used correctly, the technologies can make people safer. But many drivers place too much trust in the systems. The results underscore the depths of the safety challenges faced by the auto industry as it continues its slow transition from traditional vehicles to self-driving cars. Evidence increasingly suggests that drivers often don’t properly use or understand partially automated systems.

Economic News

For the first time ever, the U.S. economy started and ended an entire decade without a recession — the longest expansion in our history, researchers say. The economy has expanded for a record 126 consecutive months. “It is unusual that this has been such a persistent recovery,” Michelle Meyer, chief U.S. economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Prior expansions have lasted an average of 58.4 months from 1945 to 2009, compared to 35 months from 1919 to 1945.

As 2019 winds down, the economy is getting its best rating in almost 20 years. Overall, 76% of those polled rate the economy very or somewhat good, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. That’s up nine points from last year and the highest percentage since February 2001.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed 28,332.74 on Monday, meaning it has rallied 10,000 points, or more than 54 percent, since Trump’s election victory on November 8, 2016. As of Friday morning, the Dow was up even further to 28,496. The benchmark S&P 500 has gained more than 46 percent. The rally has been driven by pro-growth measures, de-escalation of trade tensions, and huge liquidity injections by central banks, said Mohamed El-Arian, chief economic adviser at Allianz.

Persecution Watch

A nonprofit recently released a report estimating that over 1,000 Nigerian Christians have been killed this year in attacks led by Fulani extremists. “Islamist Fulani militia continue to engage in an aggressive and strategic land grabbing policy in Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Southern Kaduna and parts of Bauchi state,” reports HART, a UK-based nonprofit that tracks persecutions. HART estimates that over 6,000 Christians have been killed since 2015 while 12,000 have been displaced. Fulani are largely Muslim nomadic people who live across West and Central Africa.

Britain

British lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to approve Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new Brexit deal Friday, marking a moment of triumph days after winning a commanding parliamentary majority. Members of Parliament voted 358 to 234 to send Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill to the next phase of more scrutiny and possible amendments before the House of Lords approves it. Johnson wib last week’s general election on a promise to end more than three years of political gridlock and lead Britain out of the European Union on Jan. 31. The U.K.’s departure will open a new phase of Brexit, as Britain and the EU race to strike new relationships for trade, security and a host of other areas by the end of 2020.

Middle East

The U.N. General Assembly voted Wednesday in favor of a resolution supporting Palestinian self-determination and condemning anti-terror measures in Israel. The resolution has been broadly criticized by the Jewish community as unfairly anti-Israel in nature. Canada was one of the 167 countries to support the North Korean-sponsored resolution. “This vote reflects poorly on Canada’s record as a defender of democracy and justice. It stains Canada’s reputation,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “B’nai Brith rejects the contention that settlements are the core issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In our view, the core issue remains the rejection by Palestinian leaders and their supporters of Israel’s right to exist – and of the Jewish people’s legal right to sovereignty in their ancient homeland,” the group said in a statement.

Israeli security forces said on Wednesday that they have captured a massive terrorist squad of some 50 members suspected in connection with a deadly attack in August at a freshwater spring in Samaria. Investigators also found that the terror cell was involved in two shooting attacks near the Israeli community of Beit El, north of Jerusalem, a year and a half ago. They reportedly have acted under the umbrella of the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) terrorist organization. “The squad was apprehended as part of a wide-scale operation in the Ramallah and Qalqilya districts” in Palestinian Authority territory, said the Israeli statement.

Overnight Wednesday, a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory, the IDF reported. In response, IDF fighter jets struck a Hamas weapons manufacturing site in the northern Gaza Strip. The IDF says it holds the Hamas terror organization responsible for events transpiring in the Gaza Strip and emanating from it. “Hamas will bear the consequences for actions against Israeli civilians,” it said in a statement. Israel’s southern residents have endured ongoing rocket attacks from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. They have demanded that the Israeli government take stronger action to stop the onslaught.

Iran

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said his country’s nuclear experts are testing a new type of advanced centrifuges, remarks likely meant to rally support for the Iranian leader as his nation struggles under crushing U.S. sanctions. Rouhani spoke during a meeting Wednesday with Iranian expatriates in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he also used an Islamic conference on Thursday as a platform to decry American sanctions against Iran.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps naval commander Admiral Alireza Tangsiri said the Persian Gulf belongs to Iran. “We have the right to question any vessels entering the Straits of Hormuz and Iranian territorial waters.” The statement is the latest in a series of Iranian threats to neighboring countries of the Persian Gulf after six months of tensions in which Iran downed a U.S. drone and attacked six ships and seized one UK-flagged ship in the sensitive waterway.

At least 304 people have been killed in Iran during anti-government unrest that broke out last month, Amnesty International said on Tuesday. Thousands have been arrested including children as young as 15 in a crackdown that followed the protests. More than a month after the start of the latest round of anti-government protests in Iran, security forces are still arresting people in various cities. Although arrests continue, there is still no official figure about the number of those detained during and after the protests that started on November following a sudden three-fold rise in the price of gasoline.

Afghanistan

A roadside bomb killed 10 members of one family, including three women and two children, in southeastern Afghanistan on Tuesday. Some 18 civilians were wounded in a similar incident in northern Balkh province. Although there is a winter lull in fighting due to heavy snowfall in the mountains, roadside bombs continue to be deployed across parts of the country. At least 23 Afghan soldiers were killed while they were sleeping last Saturday in an insider attack in eastern Afghanistan, officials said, the latest episode of enemy infiltration that has raised concerns about a new local military force billed as the hope for holding territory recaptured from the Taliban. U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad renewed talks with the Taliban this month on steps that could lead to a ceasefire and a settlement of the 18-year-long war.

India

Thousands of university students flooded the streets of India’s capital, while a southern state government led a march and demonstrators held a silent protest in the northeast on Monday to protest a new law giving citizenship to non-Muslims who entered India illegally to flee religious persecution in several neighboring countries. The protests in New Delhi followed a night of violent clashes between police and demonstrators at Jamia Millia Islamia University. People who student organizers said were not students set three buses on fire and police stormed the university library, firing tear gas at students crouched under desks. Members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party said opposition parties were using the students as pawns.

Environment

Scientists are working urgently to discover the cause of a massive freshwater mussel die-off in at least five U.S. rivers and another in Spain. Freshwater mussels range from about the size of a large button to the size of a billfold, but the work they do for ecosystems is enormous. They can filter around 8-10 gallons of river water each day, cleaning it of algae, silt and even heavy metals and making the whole river a better environment for fish, amphibians, plants and bugs. Mussels also benefit the people who use their rivers as a source of drinking water. Over the past century, mussel populations everywhere have declined steeply due to pollution, habitat loss and climate change, yet the current decline looks to be something different. Scientists suspect an infectious disease.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is liable for damage to hundreds of homes and businesses that were flooded in one part of Houston during Hurricane Harvey, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. The properties are upstream from the Corps-owned Addicks and Barker reservoirs. Attorneys for the property owners said the Corps knew for decades that the reservoirs’ capacity could spill over from the federal property and inundate nearby homes and businesses. That’s exactly what happened during Hurricane Harvey. “The government had made a calculated decision to allow for flooding these lands years before Harvey, when it designed, modified and maintained the dams in such a way that would flood private properties during severe storms,” Judge Charles Lettow wrote

Earthquakes

Authorities in the southern Philippines are searching for victims trapped when a three-story building collapsed during a magnitude 6.8 magnitude earthquake Sunday. The building, which housed a grocery store, collapsed in Padada town in Davao del Sur province when the quake struck at 2:11 p.m. local time 3.7 miles northwest of the town. In the nearby town of Matanao, a 6-year-old girl was killed when a wall of her house fell and hit her in the head. The Davao region has been hit by several earthquakes in recent months, causing some deaths and scores of injuries and badly damaging houses, hotels, malls and hospitals.

Wildfires

With more than 100 bushfires blazing, temperatures soaring to record highs and smoke choking the city of Sydney, the Australian state of New South Wales declared a state of emergency on Thursday. It was the second time a state of emergency has been declared this fire season. More than 11,560 square miles of land has burned across Australia over the past few months. Six people have been killed and more than 800 homes destroyed. Wildfires are also burning in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. Conditions are expected to worsen in New South Wales this weekend.

  • The Bureau of Meteorology said Tuesday was the hottest day on record in Australia with an average of 105.6 degrees nationwide. That record lasted one day. The average temperature across the country on Wednesday was 107.4.

Weather

More than two dozen Kansas City area school districts canceled Monday classes after the metro area received 4 to 7 inches of snow. The winter storm closed schools across Missouri as well. At least twelve people died in storm-related crashes Sunday through Tuesday. In Nebraska, a part of westbound Interstate 80 was closed for more than four hours after a multi-car crash near Greenwood. Freezing rain was causing accidents and other issues along the south coast of Massachusetts. Two teens were critically injured in a crash on an icy road in Bourne, Massachusetts Tuesday morning. Heavy snow, low visibility, gusty winds and slippery roads caused a deadly 30-vehicle pile-up on Interstate 80 in central Pennsylvania Wednesday that killed two and also left at least 44 people injured.

Severe thunderstorms and at least two tornadoes damaged buildings and downed trees in parts of Central and North Florida last Saturday morning. The National Weather Service confirmed an EF1 tornado with peak winds of 110 mph had moved across the county for about 26 minutes, in a path nearly 20 miles long. Homes were damaged in Palm Coast. And buildings were also damaged in Putnam County. The severe weather outbreak has killed at least 4 people. At least 18 tornadoes have been confirmed by the National Weather Service in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida..

Signs of the Times

December 13, 2019

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:1-4)

23,000 Cambodians Hear the Gospel, 1,396 Receive Jesus Christ

More than 23,000 heard the Gospel and 1,396 made the decision to give their live to Christ during a two-day Franklin Graham Festival over the weekend in Cambodia, a nation that is 98 percent Buddhist. The “Love Phnom Penh Festival with Franklin Graham” was held Dec. 7-8 in the same country where Christianity was nearly eliminated during the Khmer Rouge in a genocide of the 1970s. An estimated 2 million people died, and only about 200 Christians survived the atrocities. Local Christian leaders say the Festival had a major impact. “The Holy Spirit has touched our city and entire land. We are thankful that people heard the Gospel that Jesus is the Truth, Way and Life,” said Sin Somnang, pastor of Fellowship Church of Pochentong and the Festival’s general chairman. “This will be a blessing for our country and our spiritual legacy to be remembered for the next generation through the Festival.”

One-Third of Independent Abortion Clinics Have Closed in Past 5 Years

A new report from the pro-abortion Abortion Care Network found that almost one third of all independent abortion facilities have closed since 2012. The network is made up of independent abortionists that are not part of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion chain in America. Independent abortion businesses perform more than 50 percent of all abortions. Between 2014 and 2019, 136 independent abortion businesses closed across the country. States that saw the highest number of closures were California at 15, Texas at 15, Florida at 11 and Michigan at 11, according to the report. Meanwhile, very few new abortion facilities are opening. The pro-abortion group blamed pro-life laws as the main reason for the closures.

  • The pro-life group, The Hosea Initiative, presented the President Trump with its Bernard N. Nathanson, MD “Courageous Witness for Life” Award in recognition of his leadership and advocacy of pro-life initiatives.

SCOTUS Upholds Law Requiring Ultrasounds Prior to Abortions

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a challenge to a Kentucky law requiring doctors to describe ultrasound images and play fetal heartbeat sound to abortion seekers. The law had been upheld by the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals, but that ruling was on hold pending the Supreme Court appeal. Kentucky argued the law is “simple and straightforward,” calling it part of an” informed-consent process.”  Challengers, including an abortion clinic, argued that the law forced patients to see the images even if she didn’t want to, and that it violated doctors’ First Amendment rights. The court rejected the case without comment or noted dissent by any of the justices.

House Panel Passes Two Trump Impeachment Charges

The House Judiciary Committee on Friday approved two articles of impeachment against President Trump. The charges — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress —passed 23-17 along party-line votes. They now go to the full House for a historic impeachment vote expected next week. The article of impeachment for abuse of power stems from allegations that Mr. Trump leveraged a White House meeting and nearly $400 million in military aid to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate political rival Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter, as well as Ukraine meddling in the 2016 election. The second article, obstruction of Congress, is rooted in the administration’s refusal to cooperate with Democrats’ subpoenas of witnesses and documents in the impeachment inquiry. The Republicans noted that Ukraine ultimately received U.S. military aid temporarily withheld the Trump administration and pointed out potential causes to investigate Hunter Biden.

  • Ultimately, all the angst will come to naught when the Republican Senate refuses to convict Trump

United States, Mexico and Canada Approve Historic Trade Deal

The new United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA), overhauls the Clinton-era North American Free Trade Agreement, commonly known as NAFTA. USMCA is expected to create “north of 176,000 new jobs” and inject $34 billion into the U.S. auto industry, requiring 75 percent of automobile components be manufactured in the United States, Canada and Mexico in order to avoid tariffs, and that 40 to 45 percent of automobile parts be made by workers who earn at least $16 an hour by 2023. The deal was endorsed by the AFL-CIO labor union. USMCA “will be the best and most important trade deal ever made by the USA,” President Trump tweeted Tuesday. There is no question, of course, that this trade agreement is much better than NAFTA,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said at a press conference announcing her caucus’s support of the agreement.

Sanctuary Cities Harboring Violent M-13 Gang Members

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, on Thursday accused sanctuary cities of harboring violent MS-13 gang members. Cuccinelli took particular umbrage with cities and localities that refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), making it more difficult to arrest and deport illegal aliens accused of heinous crimes. “A few years back, I was Virginia’s attorney general, and I would say then, and today, the biggest violent crime threat in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and attorneys general all around the country could have said the same thing, was MS-13,” Cuccinelli said. “It’s one of the points of intersection that we have a problem with sanctuary cities who are harboring so many of these violent, vicious criminals — literally harboring from ICE and the opportunity to deport them and get them out of these communities and our country,” Cuccinelli continued.

Birthright Citizenship of Immigrants Increasing

Foreign tourists to the U.S. give birth to 33,000 babies a year — each of them immediately becoming a citizen — according to a new report being released Thursday that puts numbers on the extent to which immigrants make use of America’s birthright citizenship policy. That means they came to the U.S. while pregnant on short-term visas for the express purpose of giving birth and earning their child immediate citizenship. In addition, 39,000 other foreigner women here on temporary student or guest-worker visas also give birth. And that’s all in addition to nearly 300,000 births each year to illegal immigrants, each of which is also immediately a citizen, a status that provides to the parents a potential pathway to remain legally in the U.S. as well. The report comes amid intense interest on the part of President Trump to curtail birthright citizenship.

N.Y. is 13th State to Give Illegal Immigrants Driver’s Licenses

This month New York will become the 13th state in the U.S. to give illegal immigrants driver’s licenses. Officials in counties throughout the Empire State warn they are not equipped to handle the predicted onslaught. One state lawmaker is offering free care for the children of illegal aliens who attend a workshop to help them navigate the process of obtaining a license. More than half a million undocumented immigrants are expected to qualify and all they need is an expired passport, consulate identification or license from their country of citizenship, reports Judicial Watch.

Judge Blocks Trump’s Plan to Build Border Wall with Military Funds

A federal judge in Texas ruled that the administration lacks the authority to divert money appropriated by Congress for a different purpose. The Trump administration wanted to use $3.6 billion in Pentagon money to build 175 miles of steel barriers. The court’s permanent injunction casts new doubt on President Trump’s ability to fulfill his pledge to erect 450 linear miles of fencing by the end of next year.

House Passes Military Budget Including Space Agency and Parental Leave

The military will get a new branch and federal workers will get up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave under a massive $738 billion military bill policy passed by the House Wednesday. The Hill reports that the National Defense Authorization Act passed 377-48. The bill funds the Space Force that Trump established last year, as Democrats pushed for paid parental leave in return for the Space Force,

Most Recycled Items Now Ending up in Landfills

After decades of earnest public-information campaigns, Americans are finally recycling. Airports, malls, schools, and office buildings across the country have bins for plastic bottles and aluminum cans and newspapers. In some cities, you can be fined if inspectors discover that you haven’t recycled appropriately. But now much of that carefully sorted recycling is ending up in the trash. For decades, we were sending the bulk of our recycling to China to be made into goods such as shoes and bags and new plastic products. But in 2018, the country restricted imports of certain recyclables, including mixed paper—magazines, office paper, junk mail—and most plastics. Waste-management companies across the country are telling towns, cities, and counties that there is no longer a market for their recycling. These municipalities have two choices: pay much higher rates to get rid of recycling, or throw it all away. Most are choosing the latter due to cost.

Flu Season Starting Early This Year

Flu activity has been higher than normal for the past month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and continues to rise. As of Nov. 30, 3.5% of visits to health care providers were due to influenza-like illnesses, considerably higher than average for this time of year. This flu season is off to the earliest this decade. There have been about 910 deaths, 16,000 hospitalizations, 800,000 doctors’ visits and 1.7 million cases of the flu already in the 2019-2020 flu season, according to the CDC. The South is particularly afflicted by the flu this year, while mid-Atlantic and Northeast states are not as afflicted.

Corporations Pension Plans are Fading Away

The practice of companies sending monthly retirement checks to their former workers is headed for extinction, and remaining pension funds are in tough financial shape. Nearly two-thirds of pension funds are considering dropping guaranteed benefits to new workers within the next five years, according to a study by human resources consulting firm Mercer. Despite gains in the stock market this year, U.S. pension plans are near their worst financial state. Most U.S. companies no longer offer defined-benefit pensions, which typically provided guaranteed monthly payments to workers when they retired. But pension funds that still operate must gain in value to ensure they have enough to meet their obligations. By late 2019, the average pension fund had just 85% of the funds necessary to meet its obligations.

Insulin Prices Double

In people with Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas can’t make insulin. Those with the condition require several doses of insulin a day and spent $5,705 per person on it in 2016, an increase of $2,841, or 99%, per person since 2012, according to the nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute. Costs continue to rise, so much so that almost half of people with diabetes have temporarily skipped taking their insulin, according to a 2018 survey by UpWell Health. “Insulin prices doubled in a four-year period,” said Cathy Paessun, the director of the Central Ohio Diabetes Association. “They continue to go up, and the infuriating thing is that there is no change in the process for creating the product.”

  • Capitalism works great, except for greed. Socialism sounds great but doesn’t work.

Economic News

The number of Americans filing for their first week of unemployment benefits suddenly jumped last week to the highest level in more than two years. The number of initial claims rose to 252,000 in the week ending December 7, an increase of 49,000 from the number of claims filed the week before, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s the highest level since the week ending September 30, 2017.

The U.S. and China reached a partial trade agreement that further deescalates the 21-month-long trade war between the world’s two economic superpowers. The deal includes promises from the Chinese to buy $50 billion of U.S. agriculture, stronger intellectual-property protections and language to end China’s currency manipulation. In return, the U.S. will not place 15 percent tariffs on $160 billion of Chinese goods on Sunday.

The Federal Reserve has erased nearly half of all the rate increases of the past two years since July — but now the central bank has halted any further cuts even as President Trump continues to push for more. The reason: It’s still not clear where the global economy may be heading next year, and any additional rate cuts now will only leave policymakers with fewer tools to help cushion the U.S. if things turn sour. The central bank’s decision comes amid recent strength in the labor market but also with continued signs that economic growth has slowed over the past year.

Investor sentiment on the economy for the next 12 months dropped 14 points from a year ago to -7, its lowest level since 2006, according to Fidelity Investments’ annual Millionaire Outlook Confidence Index. The latest data signals that some wealthy investors are skittish about the longevity of the 10-year economic expansion, even as job creation remains robust and stocks touch record highs. Some money managers said they scaled back exposure to risky assets such as stocks after prices increased to all-time highs in recent months.

Persecution Watch

The shooting that unfolded at a kosher market in Jersey City, N.J., was a “targeted” attack according to officials who say at least one of the suspects had published anti-Semitic and anti-police posts online before opening fire Tuesday. The incident is now being treated as domestic terrorism. Authorities found 300 rounds of ammunition and three pipe bombs in the U-Haul van the shooters were driving.

  • Former New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, founder of Americans Against Anti-Semitism, posted online chilling footage captured in the hours after the attack.In one of the clips, a young man asks a Jewish first responder, “Four [Jews] are dead, right?… that’s great.”Another person can be heard yelling, “Get the Jews out of Jersey City.”Another bystander comments, “I blame the Jews! We never had a shooting like this until they came here.”

Seven people were killed and 21 children and young adults were kidnapped in yet another spree of devastating Boko Haram attacks on mainly-Christian villages in Far North Cameroon in December. Several villages were attacked and looted over the first week of December. A Barnabas contact said that the Cameroon army has a very difficult task in combatting Boko Haram because the area is so vast and dotted with small, isolated villages linked by poor roads. The militants strike and then escape swiftly via the well-maintained main roads back to their base in Nigeria.

A New York school district will permit students to start Gay Pride clubs but they won’t allow students to start Christian clubs. Daniela Barca reached out to school leaders inquiring about forming a club where Christian students could gather to pray, participate in food drives and charities like Operation Christmas Child. Weeks went by without any communication from the school. Then, school leaders said they lost her application. Several weeks later, they found the application and it was eventually rejected. School officials told Danelia that her club was too religious and too exclusive. First Liberty Institute is demanding the school approve Daniela’s Christian club – or else they will sue the district

A holiday tradition an Oklahoma public school won’t be happening this year in response to legal threats by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Chisholm Elementary blinked in a showdown with the Wisconsin-based nonprofit group, which claimed in October that nativity portions of its play are “illegal.” The nativity scenes have been pulled for the kids’ 2019 show.

Thirteen-year-old Brooklyn Benzel, is a student at South Sutter Charter School in Placerville, California. She wanted to play “Joy to the World” as part of a student piano performance for a nearby retirement home. However, she was told that the Christmas standard was too religious – it was recommended that she play “Jingle Bells” instead. Pacific Justice Institute stepped in and pointed out that the piano version would not include the lyrics. “We said the courts have made it very clear that the government cannot censor student speech like this simply because of its religious content,” reports Brad Dacus, president of PJI. “That amounts to state hostility of religion and a violation of her free speech and free exercise rights.” The school finally relented.

Britain

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party has won a large majority of seats in Britain’s Parliament — a decisive outcome to a Brexit-dominated election that should allow Johnson to fulfill his plan to take the U.K. out of the European Union next month. With 648 of the 650 results declared on Friday, the Conservatives had 363 seats and the main opposition Labour Party 203. It was a disaster for left-wing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who faced calls for his resignation even as the results rolled in. Defeat will likely spell the end for Corbyn, a radical socialist who moved his party sharply to the left after taking the helm in 2015.

  • Corbyn also permitted anti-Semitism to spread like wildfire within the party, refusing to apologize repeatedly and downplaying the extent to which Jew-hatred plagues the part.

Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump for his executive order to combat anti-Semitism under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits federal funding to programs or activities which discriminate on the basis of race, color, and national origin. Under the new ruling, Judaism will be defined as a national origin, rather than as a religion. Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu students have previously been protected under the Act, citing shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics. “Free speech is not carte blanche for anti-Semitic attacks on the Jewish People and the State of Israel,” Netanyahu stated. Brooke Goldstein, Executive Director of The Lawfare Project, an NGO funding legal action aimed at “protecting the civil and human rights of the Jewish people worldwide,” called the move “groundbreaking” by “acknowledging Judaism as a nationality.”

Iraq

Rockets struck Baghdad’s international airport compound Thursday, as the country tries to contain anti-government protests which have shaken the foundation of the Iraqi government. The attack appears to be the latest in what a senior U.S. military official described as a dangerously escalating campaign by Iran-backed militias. The protests, which have swept cities from Baghdad to Basra over the last two-and-a-half months, have laid bare the Iraqi government’s limited ability to control Iran-backed paramilitary forces that are now part of the country’s official security forces.

Iran

The U.S. on Wednesday blacklisted a series of companies it accused of helping Iran transport weaponry to regional militia groups, including missile parts to Houthi rebels in Yemen. The sanctions followed the seizure of a small boat last week by the U.S. Navy that was carrying Iranian missile parts bound for Yemen, the Treasury Department said, the latest such U.S. action in the region’s waters. The move also comes amid rising concerns among some national security officials that Tehran might escalate attacks against the U.S. and its allies as the Trump administration’s sanctions take a deepening toll on the country’s economy.

Syria

Air strikes by Syrian government and Russian forces killed at least 20 people in rebel-held northwestern Syria last Saturday, activists and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The attacks hit five villages in the Idlib region of the northwest, part of the last major territorial foothold of the insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad. Russian jets killed at least nine people in an attack that hit a market in the village of Balyoun and another four people in a strike on the village of al-Bara, the Observatory said. Five more people were killed in a barrel bomb attack by Syrian government helicopters on the village of Abdita, the Observatory said. Barrel bombs killed two more people in the villages of Jebghas and Tel Minis, it added.

Niger

Islamist militants killed 71 soldiers in an attack on a remote military camp in Niger near the border with Mali, an army spokesman said on Wednesday, in the deadliest raid against the Nigerien military in living memory. Jihadists with links to Islamic State and al Qaeda have mounted increasingly lethal attacks across West Africa’s Sahel region this year despite the commitment of thousands of regional and foreign troops to counter them. The violence has hit Mali and Burkina Faso the hardest, rendering large swathes of those countries ungovernable, but it has also spilled into Niger, which shares long and porous borders with its two neighbors.

Somalia

Somali security forces shot dead five Al Shabaab gunmen, who had killed three civilians and two soldiers during an attack on a hotel near the presidential residence in Mogadishu on Tuesday night, police said early on Wednesday. Al Shabaab, an al Qaeda linked Islamist militant group, frequently launches bombing and gun raids in Mogadishu in a bid to topple Somalia’s U.N.-backed government. The group confirmed last night it had attacked the Syl hotel, a popular gathering place for officials and lawmakers.

Afghanistan

The United States and the Taliban have resumed peace talks in the Qatari capital of Doha, a Taliban spokesman tweeted on Saturday. The announcement comes more than a week after President Donald Trump made a surprise Thanksgiving visit to US troops in Afghanistan and said talks had restarted. He told troops at the time that “the Taliban wants to make a deal. We’ll see if they want to make a deal. It’s got to be a real deal, but we’ll see.” During the trip Trump also held a bilateral meeting with the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani. Following that meeting, Ghani tweeted that “both sides underscored that if the Taliban are sincere in their commitment to reaching a peace deal, they must accept a ceasefire.”

  • The Washington Post reports that U.S. officials have lied to the public repeatedly since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, “making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.” The newspaper obtained access to government interviews with key players in the conflict that were conducted by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, after a three-year legal fight under the Freedom of Information Act.

Two civilians were killed and more than 70 people were wounded in a suicide bombing for which the Taliban claimed responsibility Wednesday, targeting an under-construction medical facility near Bagram Air Base, the main American base north of the Afghan capital, the U.S. military said. The attack, which struck the facility being built to help Afghan people living in the area, was isolated to the clinical building and “the defensive perimeter was never breached or compromised,” a spokesperson said. All terrorist insurgents were killed and Taliban fighters who remained after the attack were later killed in a series of airstrikes. No U.S. troops were hurt but some service members were evaluated for minor injuries.

Pakistan

Pakistan on Thursday leveled “treason” charges against 250 lawyers who were part of a mob that stormed a hospital in the eastern city of Lahore the previous day, kicking and punching doctors and staff and trashing equipment and property, police said. Three patients at the hospital died when physicians and medical staff who fled the mob left them unattended for several hours, officials said. The mob of about 500 lawyers were apparently angered over alleged misbehavior by some of the hospital doctors toward one of their colleagues the month before. They also smashed windows, doors, and medical equipment at the only government-run heart hospital in the province of Punjab. Police say they had to use tear gas to disperse the mob.

North Korea

North Korea said Sunday that it carried out a “very important test” at its long-range rocket launch site that it reportedly rebuilt after having partially dismantled it at the start of denuclearization talks with the United States last year. The announcement comes amid dimming prospects for a resumption of negotiations, with the North threatening to seek “a new way” if it fails to get major U.S. concessions by year’s end. Some U.S. experts said that North Korea was restoring the facilities, raising doubts about whether it was committed to denuclearization.

Hong Kong

Hundreds of thousands of protesters, basking in a recent election victory by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, poured onto the city’s streets on Sunday in one of the largest marches in weeks to pressure the government to meet demands for greater civil liberties. Tensions in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous territory, had eased somewhat in recent days, after pro-democracy advocates won a stunning victory in local elections two weeks ago. Demonstrators returned in force Sunday, packing city streets to denounce Mr. Xi’s government, rail against police brutality and reiterate demands for greater civil liberties, including universal suffrage. As many as 800,000 people attended the march stretching out over several miles.

India

Troops have been deployed to India’s ethnically diverse northeastern states of Assam and Tripura, amid violent protests against the passing of a controversial and far-reaching law that offers a path to Indian citizenship for non-Muslim minorities from three neighboring countries. Police clashed with the protesters, using batons and firing tear gas. About 1,800 people have been detained in Tripura since Wednesday. The Citizenship Amendment Bill, which was passed by the country’s parliament on Wednesday, has been described by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government as a means of protecting vulnerable groups from persecution. Critics, however, say the bill marginalizes Muslims and undermines the country’s secular constitution. Others say it risks bringing an unwanted influx of immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan into India’s northern states.

Russia

Russia is banned from international sporting events for the next four years, a span that includes the 2020 summer Olympics in Japan, the 2022 winter Olympics in Beijing and the 2022 soccer World Cup. The World Anti-Doping Agency imposed the ban Monday after evidence emerged that Russia dopes its athletes in systematic fashion. Moscow denies the allegations and is expected to appeal. Russian athletes can still compete, though they must wear neutral uniforms and won’t hear their national anthem if they win. Only athletes who have not been implicated in the scandal are eligible.

Environment

The Greenland ice sheet’s total losses nearly doubled each decade, from 33 billion tons per year in the 1990s to an average now of 254 billion tons annually, scientists said. Over the past three decades, nearly 4 trillion tons of Greenland ice have entered the ocean, an increase that puts another 6 million people at risk of seasonal, annual floods, the new analysis found. The new study by 89 scientists, published Tuesday in the journal Nature, suggests global sea-level rise by 2100 may be higher than previously thought.

Water levels at the world’s largest man-made reservoir have fallen to their lowest point in more than two decades, threatening the electricity supply for two African nations. The Kariba Reservoir, which sits on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, is just 10% full. That’s the lowest since 1996. The reservoir was 55% full this same time last year and 38% the year before. The lack of water flow has forced both countries to implement blackouts lasting as long as 18 hours a day.

Wildfires

Wildfires to the north engulfed the Australian city of Sydney on Tuesday in haze so thick in some places it was 11 times worse than the level considered “hazardous,” and was apt to trigger fire alarms. The city canceled ferries and some offices in the downtown area were evacuated. Local health officials advised people to stay indoors as much as possible and those with heart and lung problems were told to avoid all outdoor activity. Winds were expected that could clear the air but also fan the brush fires, Wildfire season started early this year after an unusually dry and warm winter.

Volcanoes

A volcanic island in New Zealand erupted Monday in a tower of ash and steam while 47 tourists were exploring the moon-like surface, killing fourteen people and leaving two still missing. Both New Zealanders and overseas tourists were among the dead, missing, or injured, including two American teens. Most of those who survived were injured and suffered severe burns. Already people are questioning why tourists were still able to visit the island after scientists recently noted an uptick in volcanic activity. White Island sits about 30 miles offshore from mainland New Zealand. Despite worries of another eruption, members of the New Zealand military returned to White Island on Friday and recovered six more bodies. Two others remain missing and are presumed dead.

Weather

Nearly 1,000 tourists were stranded in the small New Zealand town of Franz Josef after stormy weekend weather triggered landslides and flooding along the town’s main highway. Authorities said road access to the town likely won’t be restored until Friday. Some of the tourists were choosing to leave by helicopter or small plane while others were waiting until the highway reopened. Some tourists wanted to stay with their vehicles while others were trying to get confirmation their travel insurance would cover the extra costs of flying out.

At least two people are dead and three others missing after Cyclone Belna hit northwestern Madagascar Monday with high winds and torrential rain. Some 1,400 people in the coastal town of Soalala were left homeless by the storm, which damaged 80% of the town’s homes and government offices. A hospital was flooded when a protective dike cracked.

A winter storm caused a rockslide and flooding last Saturday that closed highways across Northern California and damaged several homes. Two people were hurt when a tree fell on them on a sidewalk in San Francisco. Thigh-high water washed into homes in San Francisco’s West Portal neighborhood. Northbound Highway 101 was closed by floodwaters for hours Saturday evening. Flooding in stations forced Muni light rail service to be halted between West Portal and Embarcadero.

Snow along the East Coast on Wednesday morning disrupted morning commutes and caused some school delays and closures as subzero temperatures struck the Midwest and Northern Plains. The winter weather whiplash came on the heels of temperatures that soared as high as 60 degrees Tuesday for some. Minneapolis-St. Paul dipped below zero Wednesday for the third straight day in December and saw wind chills of minus 30 degrees.

Signs of the Times

December 6, 2019

­­I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. (Romans 16:17-18)

Poll: Americans Fed Up With Divisiveness

The divisive national debate over just about everything has convinced many that the country is heading in the wrong direction even as their own lives are going well, the inaugural Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos poll finds. By overwhelming margins, those surveyed said national leaders, social media and the news media have exacerbated and exaggerated those divisions, sometimes for their own benefit and to the detriment of ordinary people. Both Republicans and Democrats estimated that just over half of those in the other party were “so extreme you can’t imagine finding common ground with them.” More than nine of 10 respondents said it’s important for the United States to try to reduce that divisiveness.

  • It’s unlikely to be resolved from the top down, so individuals must contribute to a climate of peace in the sphere of their own lives and in the voting booth: If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:18)

U.S. Army Orders Group to Stop Stamping Bible Verses on Military Apparel

The United States Army has ordered a faith-based organization to stop emblazoning Christian messages on official military apparel. Despite Shields of Strength spending the past 20 years printing Bible verses on military dog tags without any issue whatsoever, one complaint now threatens to derail their entire business. The issue arose when the company was reported to the Department of Defense by Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). Weinstein claimed that engraving religious messages on an item that displays the official military emblem is fundamentally wrong and “poisons the constitutionally-mandated separation of Church and State.” Shortly after this, military branches started contacting Shields of Strength and informed them that they would be pulling the licenses issued to the group.

  • The “separation of church and state” is not in the U.S. Constitution but rather is in a letter from President Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury, Connecticut Baptist Association.

Pensacola Naval Station Shooter was Saudi Aviation Student

The gunman who opened fire Friday morning at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida, fatally shooting three people, has been identified as an aviation student from Saudi Arabia as investigators are looking into whether the attack is terrorism-related. The gunman was confronted and taken out by a pair of responding officers. Two people were killed at the scene while a third victim died after being rushed to a local hospital. Seven others suffered injuries and are undergoing treatment, including the two responding officers, whose injuries were not life-threatening. NAS Pensacola is home to the Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity’s International Training Center, which the Navy says was “established in 1988 to meet the aviation-specific training needs of international officers and enlisted students from allied nations.”

London Attacker Was a Released Islamic Terrorist

The killing of two people by a convicted terrorist Usman Khan on early release from prison has highlighted a growing challenge for security services in the U.K. and across Europe: the return into the community of people who have served time in jail for terrorism offenses. The attack in the London Bridge area on Friday—by a knife-wielding man who was convicted in 2012 for being part of a group that was plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange—has thrust the sentencing of terrorists to center stage in the campaigning in the Dec. 12 general election. The question of how to monitor convicted terrorists returning into society is a growing issue for counterterrorism police and security agencies in the U.K. and across Europe who are stretched thin for resources — as well as a parallel challenge from jihadists returning from the Syrian conflict. Khan was released early from prison in December 2018 under a set of conditions that included an internet ban, a curfew and limitations on his movements and meetings.

U.S. House Approves Two-State Resolution of Palestinian Conflict

The U.S. House of Representatives voted Friday to approve a resolution affirming a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The resolution states, “The United States has long sought a just and stable future for Palestinians, and an end to the occupation, including opposing settlement activity and moves toward unilateral annexation in Palestinian territory.” The resolution had 192 co-sponsors, all Democratic. The Zionist Organization of America rejected the proposed resolution saying, “The Palestinian Arabs have rejected any peace talks with Israel and refuse to discuss peace with the United State.” “After two inconclusive Israeli elections and the prospects growing for a third, it is completely inappropriate for the U.S. House of Representatives to try to interfere with Israeli policy as Israel tries to form a new government,” the organization argued. However, the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) supports the resolution, reflecting the current political stalemate in Israel over how to achieve peace.

  • The key anti-Israel code word in the resolution is calling Israel’s settlements an “occupation”

Violent Illegal Immigrants Being Released by Sanctuary Cities/Counties

Under a local-federal partnership known as 287(g), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is supposed to be notified of jail inmates in the country illegally so that they can be deported after serving time for state crimes. Unfortunately, a growing number of local law enforcement agencies are instead releasing the illegal aliens—many with serious convictions such as child sex offenses, rape and murder—rather than turn them over to federal authorities for removal, reports Judicial Watch. Now ICE is trying to strike preemptively by publicly disclosing the criminals, complete with mug shots, before they are actually let go by police in municipalities that offer illegal aliens sanctuary. This month ICE targeted six offenders incarcerated in two Maryland counties notorious for shielding illegal immigrants from the feds. Most are incarcerated for sexual crimes involving children, including rape and serious physical abuse that resulted in death. A couple of the offenders are in jail for murder and assault and ICE wants them all transferred to its custody, so the illegal aliens don’t reoffend.

President Trump to Expand Trade War to Brazil and Argentina

President Trump said on Monday that he would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from Brazil and Argentina, widening a global trade war as well as hitting an ally, Brazil’s conservative president. Trump, in a message on Twitter, said what he called currency manipulation by Brazil and Argentina was hurting American farmers. “Therefore, effective immediately, I will restore the Tariffs on all Steel & Aluminum that is shipped into the U.S. from those countries.” The U.S. initially exempted Brazil and Argentina from the president’s sweeping metal tariffs in 2018, saying it would continue negotiations with those countries on a trade deal.

Number of Children with Vision Problems Increasing

A trend that eye specialists have been watching with some alarm over the past decade is a steep increase in the number of children who require corrective lenses. When Gen Xers were young in the ’70s, about 20% of children in the United States needed glasses. Now that number has inched closer to 40%. The primary culprit? Screen time, the amount of time children spend focusing on closeup device screens. But experts suspect that is only part of the explanation. Exposure to sunlight may also play a role. More time spent outdoors appears to ward off the need for glasses.

Cellphone-Related Injuries on the Rise

Cell phones are a literal pain in the neck, as well as the face, eyes, nose, ears and head. A new study analyzing national emergency room data shows injuries to those areas of our bodies have risen “steeply” over the last 20 years. Cell phones are a literal pain in the neck — and face, eyes, nose, ears and head. Cuts to the face and head were the most common injuries, followed by contusions — bruising of the brain — abrasions and internal organ injuries. Prior studies have shown that just the use of a cell phone can damage necks and upper backs. That’s because for every inch that you tilt your head forward from a neutral position, the pressure on your spine doubles. So if you’re looking at a smartphone in your lap, your neck could experience 20 or 30 pounds of pressure.

U.S. Gets Eighth-Most Robocalls

Americans received 7% more spam calls in 2019 compared to the year before, said Truecaller, a Swedish company that tracks spam calls. Truecaller found robocalls in the U.S. increased by 35% in the last year, despite the four major service providers offering tools to block unwanted calls and identify potential scams. Robocalls have gotten more sophisticated, said data analytics company Transaction Network Services, with some using the “spoofing” technique to make a call seem like it’s coming from a local number. Surprisingly, the U.S. is only the eighth-most spammed country in the world, according to Truecaller. Ethiopians get the most spam calls/texts, with an average of 119 per month.

Uber Reports Over 5,981 Allegations of Sexual Assaults

Uber released data on the number of passengers and drivers alleging they’ve been sexually assaulted in an effort to deflect rising concerns over the safety of the popular ride-hailing service. According to the 84-page review of 2017 and 2018, Uber received 5,981 allegations of serious sexual assault in the U.S. over the course of 2017 and 2018 and 3,045 last year alone. Of those sexual assaults complaints, 235 were reports of rape in 2018, up from 229 in 2017 and 280 were reports of attempted rape in 2018, down from 307 in 2017. Drivers reported nearly as many claims of sexual assault as passengers These numbers count only those victims who came forward to make a complaint. Since sexual assault is an under-reported crime, the totals are even higher.

New Rule to Push 755,000 Off Food Stamps

The Department of Agriculture gave final approval on Wednesday to a new rule that would remove nearly 755,000 people from the federal food-stamp program. The rule, which was proposed in February, makes it more difficult for states to allow able-bodied adults without children to receive food assistance for more than three months out of a 36-month period without working. The department said that the granting of state waivers needed to be stricter because the economy had improved under the Trump administration and assistance to unemployed, able-bodied adults was no longer necessary in a strong job market. “Government dependency has never been the American dream,” Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary said. “We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand.”

Economic News

U.S. hiring surged in November, as the economy added 266,000 jobs and unemployment returned to a half-century low. The labor force participation rate was little changed at 63.2 percent. Average hourly earnings, meanwhile, rose by 3.1 percent over the past year to $28.29. Revisions, meanwhile, added 41,000 jobs for the prior two months, bringing the three-month average to 205,000, a 10-month high.

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in October as imports fell faster than exports. The politically sensitive trade gap with China dropped. The Commerce Department said Thursday that the gap between what America sells and what it buys abroad dropped 7.6% to $47.2 billion in October. Imports tumbled 1.7% to $254.3 billion on reduced purchases of foreign oil, cars and auto parts and pharmaceuticals. Exports dipped 0.2% to $207.1 billion on a drop in sales of soybeans and aircraft engines. The deficit in the trade of goods with China narrowed by 1.1% to $31.3 billion in October and is down 14.6% so far this year.

  • These results indicate that the U.S. is winning the trade war with China so far.

Americans spent more money Black Friday shopping in 2019 than ever before — $7.4 billion online on Black Friday and $4.2 billion on Thanksgiving Day. Shopping in brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday dropped 6.2% compared to 2018 as more customers make their purchases online. Spending via mobile wallets was up 82%. Holiday deals are now starting earlier than ever, more stores are opening on Thanksgiving and promotions are extending to Cyber Monday and into December, reducing Black Friday’s numbers.

Persecution Watch

Five boys were among the 14 Christians, shot dead in an Islamist extremist attack on a church in Komondjari Province, south-east Burkina Faso, during Sunday morning worship on 1 December. Several others were reported to have been left wounded in the devastating attack which has left only one male survivor in the church’s entire congregation.

Christian leaders in Sudan and South Sudan contacted Barnabas to request prayers for the precarious political situation and challenges facing the Church in both countries. South Sudan became independent in 2011, but the five-year civil war has resulted in the deaths of 400,000 people and the displacement of two million, many of them Christians. In Sudan, Christians are caught up in the Nuba Mountain conflict and are suffering food shortages and bombings.

Israel Captures ISIS Terrorists Planning Attack in Jerusalem

A Special Forces undercover unit led the operation to arrest two Islamic State (ISIS) operatives who planned to carry out a terrorist attack in Jerusalem on Israel’s Independence Day, Israel revealed Wednesday. An indictment published by the Jerusalem District Attorney charges that the defendants acted together and separately to join ISIS and support it in various ways. In September 2019, the defendants discussed the possibility of committing a terrorist attack at various locations in Jerusalem or at a military base in the Jordan Valley area, with the aim of killing “as many Jews as possible in ISIS’ name.” The defendants discussed the possibility of acquiring weapons to carry out a shooting attack during a mass event in Jerusalem at the Safra Square in front of the Town Hall or at the Sultan Pool during the Independence Day celebrations.

U.S. and Israel Working on New Defense Treaty

Following a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Lisbon this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that progress is being made towards a U.S.-Israel defense treaty. Netanyahu noted that such a pact would help Israel in case of a military confrontation with Iran. The prime minister also said that he spoke with Pompeo about the annexation of the Jordan Valley. However, Netanyahu admitted that both the defense pact and the annexation will be difficult to pursue because a new government has not yet been formed in Israel, and the U.S. is preparing for the 2020 presidential election.

Iran Stockpiling Missiles in Iraq to Use Against Israel

Iran has used the continuing chaos in Iraq to build up a hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq, part of a widening effort to try to intimidate the Middle East and assert its power, according to American intelligence and military officials, reports the New York Times. The Iranian buildup “comes as the United States has rebuilt its military presence in the Middle East to counter emerging threats to American interests, including attacks on oil tankers and facilities that intelligence officials have blamed on Iran,” reports The Times. Since May, the Trump administration has sent roughly 14,000 additional troops to the region, primarily to staff Navy ships and missile defense systems. However, new intelligence shows that Iran has continued to stockpile missiles in Iraq to be used against Israel.

Over 1,000 Iranian Protesters Killed in Government Suppression

The U.S.’s special representative for Iran Brian Hook has said that more than 1,000 Iranian citizens may have been killed in recent protests. On Thursday, Hook told reporters that the U.S. assessment was based on crowd sourcing and intelligence reports. Nationwide demonstrations broke out on Nov. 15 in response to a 50 percent hike in gas prices in an economy already reeling from economic sanctions imposed by the U.S and Europe. U.S. officials cite new intelligence suggesting Tehran’s finances are more dire than previously thought and are bringing it closer to a financial crisis. Tehran’s sophisticated sanction-evasion efforts have offset some of the losses from plummeting oil exports due to global U.S. sanctions pressure. But according to the new intelligence, the government is scraping the barrel on foreign-exchange reserves, a critical indicator of the country’s ability to control economic forces and to import equipment and supplies.

Europe Accuses Iran Of Missile Violations

In a rare rebuke of Iran after more than a year of trying to bridge the divisions between Washington and Tehran, three European powers accused Iran of testing ballistic missiles intended to avoid missile defenses in violation of United Nations resolutions that urge Iran not to develop “nuclear capable” systems, reports the New York Times. Tehran’s testing of much larger missiles, capable of reaching Israel and perhaps the edge of Western Europe, resulted in a three-page letter that could be a turning point in relations between the West and Iran.

Austria Cracks Down On Mosques & Imams

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz promised a crackdown on radical Islam, and on Friday, he announced that his government would shut down seven mosques and could expel dozens of foreign-funded imams from the country. At least one of the mosques the government will close is said to be linked to Turkish nationalists, and the six others are run by a group called the Arab Religious Community. “This is just the beginning,” Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache said at a news conference Friday. The move invokes a 2015 law banning religious groups from getting foreign funding, and the government suspects that as many as 60 imams may need to leave the country. More than 600,000 Muslims live in Austria, which is home to almost 9 million people. The current conservative coalition government in Austria gained control as a result of the many refugees and migrants that poured into Europe in recent years.

China Retaliates Over U.S. Legislation Supporting Hong Kong Protests

China said Monday it will suspend U.S. Navy visits to Hong Kong and sanction several American pro-democracy organizations in retaliation for the signing into law of legislation supporting human rights in the semi-autonomous territory. The law, signed last Wednesday by President Trump, mandates sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses and requires an annual review of the favorable trade status that Washington grants Hong Kong. While the nature of the U.S. and Chinese sanctions remain unclear, the steps are in response to America’s “unreasonable behavior,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. He added that the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act “seriously interfered” in China’s internal affairs. A potential trade deal between U.S. and China is now “stalled because of the “Hong Kong legislation,”

China Increases Facial Recognition Requirements

Facial recognition checks are about to become even more ubiquitous in China, as new rules come into force requiring anyone registering a new mobile phone number to submit to facial scans. While the government says the implementation of biometric data protects citizens’ legitimate rights and interests in cyberspace and helps fight fraud, the move brings with it considerable privacy and security concerns in one of the most tightly controlled online environments in the world. The country already enforces “real-name registration” policies which require people to link online accounts with their official government ID. But the latest move, which was formally adopted Sunday, further removes any sense of anonymity in using the Chinese internet. More than 850 million people across China — about 65% of the population — use their mobile devices to access the internet, according to the government, far more than those who use desktop services.

Migrants Protest Treatment in Bosnian Camp

Several hundred migrants refused food and water on Tuesday to protest the horrible conditions in the makeshift camp in which they are living in northwestern Bosnia. The Vucjak camp houses about 600 migrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, and according to Reuters, the camp lacks running water and electricity and is located on a former landfill near a mine field leftover from the war in the early 1990s. Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic is urging the immediate closure of Vucjak as the region experiences freezing weather and the first snowfall of the season. Croatia, Hungary and Slovenia have closed their borders to undocumented immigration, leaving Bosnia with an upsurge in immigrants attempting to cross into the EU, while Bosnian authorities struggle to find a place for them. A new facility near Sarajevo won’t be ready to accommodate people for another 20 days.

  • Many countries have far more restrictive immigration policies than the U.S.

Cartel Assault Thwarted, But 20 Mexicans Were Killed

Mexican security forces on Sunday killed seven more members of a presumed cartel assault force that rolled into a town near the Texas border and staged an hour-long attack, officials said, putting the overall death toll at 20. The Coahuila state governor said the armed group—at least some in military style garb—stormed the town of 3,000 residents Saturday in a convoy of trucks, attacking local government offices and prompting state and federal forces to intervene. Authorities determined that the casualty count from the gun battles stood at 14 attackers dead and four police officers killed. Two civilians were slain by gunmen after being abducted. The reason for the cartel assault is unclear, but it is speculated that they were protecting a smuggling route.

Earthquakes

After a spurt of seismic activity this weekend, Mount Rainier National Park was shaken by a 3.6 magnitude earthquake Sunday afternoon. The quake hit at 12:31 p.m. and was felt as far as Kent, nearly 80 miles away, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The relatively shallow quake was centered roughly a mile beneath the earth’s surface. Mt. Rainier has been hit by “more than a dozen” earthquakes since Thanksgiving day. People living near Mount Rainier should prepare for what might happen in the event of an eruption, said Wes Thelen, a research seismologist at the Cascade Volcano Observatory.

A swarm of at least 15 earthquakes reaching up to 2.1 magnitude rattled Ridgely, Tennessee — a small town near the Mississippi River — over a two-day period, the U.S. Geological Survey reports. It’s part of the New Madrid Seismic Zone — which the Missouri Department of Natural Resources refers to as “the most active seismic area in the United States, east of the Rocky Mountains.”

Weather

Winter Storm Ezekiel began its march as a ‘bomb cyclone’ across the nation before Thanksgiving when it slammed across southern Oregon and northwestern California with 100-mph wind gusts along the coast and multiple feet of snow in the mountains. Bomb cyclones hitting the West Coast are rare. Duluth, Minnesota received nearly 22 inches of snow fell in the Thanksgiving weekend blizzard that left streets impassable and shut down Interstate 35 south of town. The storm then swept west over the next four days, driving heavy snow and strong winds to a vast portion of the Upper Midwest and the Plains. The storm began pummeling the Northeast as snow, freezing rain and sleet on Sunday.

A broken levee shut down U.S. Highway 101 in Northern California on Wednesday and forced about 30 students and teachers to spend the night in their school’s gym. Also, a nursing home in a neighboring county evacuated its residents because of flooding. The levee near the school in Chualar was partially breached about 2 p.m., as an atmospheric river storm drenched the state. The mud flow and the intense downpour resulted in the road closures, as well as the flooding to residents in the community of Chualar.

Flash floods and landslides triggered by heavy rainfall have killed at least 250 people in recent months in East Africa, adding to a weather-fueled crisis that has impacted some 2.5 million people in the region. Flash flooding has hit the small but strategic East African nation of Djibouti, where the government and United Nations said the equivalent of two years’ rain fell in a single day. Several regional countries including Kenya are struggling after such downpours, with more to come. Rainfall from October to mid-November was up to 300% above average in the greater Horn of Africa region.

Signs of the Times

November 30, 2019

­­Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1,3-4)

40 Days for Life Saves 738 Unborn Babies

Five workers at abortion clinics quit their jobs and 738 unborn babies were saved as a result of this fall’s 40 Days for Life, the annual campaign that involves prayer, fasting and peaceful vigils outside abortion clinics. “It was the largest year in the history of 40 Days for Life,” Shawn Carney, president and CEO of 40 Days for Life, said. The campaign ran from Sept. 25 to Nov. 3 and had volunteers participating in 855 cities and 61 countries. “Even if it was just one [baby saved], it was all worth it,” said Sue Thayer, a former manager at a Planned Parenthood and the current director of outreach for 40 Days for Life.

High Court in Ireland Rules Unborn Baby Has Rights

A High Court judge has ruled that the word ‘unborn’ in the Irish Constitution means an “unborn child” with rights beyond the right to life which “must be taken seriously” by the State. The Irish Times reports that Justice Richard Humphreys said the unborn baby enjoys “significant” rights and legal position by common law, by statute, and under the Constitution, “going well beyond the right to life alone.” The judgement was made in a judicial review of a deportation order. Justice Humphreys said many of those rights were “actually effective” rather than merely prospective. He also said that Article 42a of the Constitution, inserted by a 2012 referendum, obliges the State to protect “all” children and that because an “unborn” is “clearly a child”, Article 42a applied to all children “both before and after birth”.

Governor Opposes Death Penalty But is For Aborting Down Syndrome Babies

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is adamantly against the death penalty — unless you’re a baby with Down Syndrome. Turns out, the Democrat, who’s refused to sign execution warrants since he was elected, has no problem using lethal force against an entire population of children. Their crime? Not living up to society’s ideas of “perfection.” That’s eugenics — not health care. “We have a responsibility,” state Rep. Kate Klunk (R) said, “to stand up to say that a baby with Down syndrome has a right to life and should not be discriminated against in the womb.” The idea that any American would say it’s okay to destroy a life because she isn’t “up to society’s standards” is a scary snapshot of where we are as a country.”

Public School Allow Boys to Disrobe in Girls Locker Rooms/Showers

Biological girls in Palatine, Illinois will now be forced to share locker rooms and bathrooms with boys who identify as girls. The school district’s new policy will allow transgender students to be treated in a manner consistent with their gender identity. That includes access to bathrooms and locker rooms. Some biological females were devastated and horrified at the prospect of boys disrobing in their locker rooms. “I feel uncomfortable that my privacy is being invaded,” Burca told the Daily Herald. “As I am a swimmer, I do change multiple times naked in front of the other students in the locker room. I understand that the board has an obligation to all students but I was hoping they would go about this in a different way that would also accommodate students such as myself.”

Two Argentine Priests Convicted of Abusing Deaf Children

An Argentine court found two Catholic priests guilty of abusing deaf children, after years of inaction by church leaders and the Pope. The convictions were the first legal victory for a string of hearing-impaired victims stretching from Italy to the Andes whose denunciations against one of the clerics to church officials –  including Pope Francis – went unheeded for years.

Majority of Americans Support Religious Freedom

The majority of Americans strongly support religious freedom and remain opposed to government interference in religion, a study conducted by the Becket Fund found. The study, released Wednesday, shows that respondents strongly support protections of religious freedom, which the organization defines as the “free expression of all faiths.” The study also found that Americans are “uncomfortable with the idea of the government penalizing groups and individuals for living out their religious beliefs,” and that Americans support “a culture of accommodation for minority faith practices.” “Even after decades of religious freedom being pulled into the culture wars, Americans accept and support a broad interpretation of religious freedom,” the study says. The report added that support for religious freedom is surprisingly strongest among millennials and younger generations.

With Sustainable Development Goals Failing, U.N. Says More Money Needed

With only 10 years left and failure staring them in the face, the U.N. is turning to private investors to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “To make serious progress,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told finance ministers, “we need to fill the financing gap for SDGs—some $1.5 trillion dollars per annum.” The SDGs include the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, universal health care, quality education, clean water and sanitation and a green economy, among others– to be achieved worldwide by a 2030 deadline. At the same time, Guterres has said there is a need to replenish the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to meet the commitment to mobilize $100 billion per year for climate action. But at the GCF Pledging Conference in Paris October 24-25, 27 rich nations pledged only $9.8 billion to the Fund.

  • SDGs and Climate Change are the two main pillars that globalists are using to establish the one-world government that Revelation 13 shows will usher the anti-Christ into power.

U.N. Reports Climate Change Worsening

Four years after countries struck a landmark deal in Paris to rein in greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to avert the worst effects of global warming, humanity is headed toward those very climate catastrophes, according to a United Nations report issued Tuesday. Man-made greenhouse gas emissions rose in 2018 to 55.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. Much of the increase came from emerging economies such as China and India. The report shows that China and the United States, the two biggest polluters, actually expanded their carbon footprints last year. China is now emitting about twice as much greenhouse gas as the U.S. “The summary findings are bleak,” the report said, because countries have failed to halt the rise of greenhouse gas emissions even after repeated warnings from scientists. The result, the authors added, is that “deeper and faster cuts are now required.”

  • Weather will continue to grow more extreme as the ramp up to the end-times continues, regardless of what humanity does or does not do (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Facebook Bans All Content On Vaccine Awareness

This week, Facebook announced it would block all content on Facebook that questions the official dogma on vaccines, which falsely insists that vaccines have never harmed anyone, that vaccines contain only safe ingredients and that vaccines always work on everyone. Facebook labels vaccine awareness information “misinformation” or “hoaxes.” At the top of the ban list is the assertion that vaccines are linked to autism, something that even the Center for Disease Control’s own top whistleblower scientist reveals to be true. William Thompson, a senior CDC scientist, is quoted in Vaccine News as saying, “I was in charge of a study where we tested a hypotheses and we found the MMR vaccination was causally associated with autism and we hid the findings. We hid it for fourteen years and we have known for fourteen years that this vaccine is causally associated with autism and we have concealed it. We’ve put millions of Americas children in harm’s way and I can live with that no longer.”

U.S. Birth Rate Lowest in 32 Years

Birth rates in the U.S. fell 2 percent in 2018 to nearly 4 million, the lowest in three decades, according to data released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate of births declined for women aged 20-34 and increased for women aged 35-44. In total, 3,791,712 births were registered in 2018, or 1,729.5 births per 1,000 women aged 15-44. The number marks the lowest number of births in 32 years. For the nation’s population to remain stable, the rate would need to be 2,100 births per 1,000 women, according to data released by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Americans are Dying Young at an Alarmingly High Rate

Death rates from suicide, drug overdoses, liver disease and dozens of other causes have been rising over the past decade for young and middle-aged adults, driving down overall life expectancy in the United States for three consecutive years, according to a bleak study published Tuesday that looked at the past six decades of mortality data. The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was immediately hailed by outside researchers for its comprehensive treatment of the still-enigmatic trend: the reversal of historical increases in longevity.

Today’s Workers Plan to Never Completely Retire

Close to half of baby boomers have no retirement savings at all, according to a report from the Insured Retirement Institute. Today’s workers, though, have a different idea of what their retirements will look like. A whopping 92% of workers currently in their 40s say they plan to keep working part time in retirement, according to a survey by TD Ameritrade and The Harris Poll. Even among those in their 70s, 52% say they plan to continue working an average of 10 hours a week. Additionally, many workers say they don’t plan to ever fully retire. Among those in their 40s, 61% of respondents said they’d prefer to take year-long “mini-retirement breaks” while they’re younger, and then work until a later age, rather than work continuously for four decades or more and then retire completely.

Corporate Debt Soars to Record Level

Little more than a decade after consumers binged on inexpensive mortgages that helped bring on a global financial crisis, a new debt surge — this time by major corporations — threatens to unleash fresh turmoil. A decade of historically low interest rates has allowed companies to sell record amounts of bonds to investors, sending total U.S. corporate debt to nearly $10 trillion, or a record 47 percent of the overall economy. In recent weeks, the Federal Reserve, the International Monetary Fund and major institutional investors such as BlackRock and American Funds all have sounded the alarm about the mounting corporate obligations. The danger isn’t immediate. But some regulators and investors say the borrowing has gone on too long and could send financial markets plunging when the next recession hits, dealing the real economy a blow at a time when it already would be wobbling.

Economic News

Consumer confidence dipped for a fourth straight month in November as economic conditions weaken toward the end of 2019, data released Tuesday by The Conference Board shows.

About 48 million Americans are still paying off credit card debt from last holiday season, according to a NerdWallet survey conducted by The Harris Poll.

With only a month left in the year, global auto sales are on track for a 3.1 million drop, about 4%, for the year. That would be the biggest decline since 2008, when the financial crisis hit, and the second year in a row that sales have fallen.

Global trade on a Year-over-Year basis contracted by 1.1% in September, marking the fourth consecutive YoY declines and the most extended period of subdued trade since the financial crisis in 2009. U.S. volumes fell 2.1% in September Month-over-Month. Though in China, imports plunged 6.9% MoM.

Persecution Watch

A Christian schoolboy, reported to have been twelve-years-old, was hacked to death by Boko Haram when he resisted the militants’ attempt to abduct him as a “child soldier” in a raid on Tourou district, Far North Cameroon.

After a fact-finding mission to Nigeria, Baroness Cox has reported that extremists in northern and Middle Belt Nigerian states have killed thousands of Christians. Baroness Cox, a patron of Barnabas Fund, found that there is a deliberate targeting of Christian pastors and community heads. It is estimated that over 1,000 Christians have been killed since January and more than 6,000 slaughtered since 2015. Almost two million people are believed to have become internally displaced in Nigeria, largely because of the attacks by Boko Haram and Fulani extremists.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Indicted on Corruption Charges

Israel’s attorney general last week indicted Netanyahu on fraud, breach of trust and bribery charges. The indictment marks the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister has been charged with a crime. Unlike mayors or regular ministers, the prime minister is not required by Israeli law to resign if indicted and Netanyahu is steadfastly vowing to remain in office. Thousands of people rallied in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday in what was intended to be a show of strength for the Israeli leader as he battles the indictment and a possible rebellion within his own party. Israel’s political system has been in limbo for the past year after inconclusive elections in April and September. With Israel facing a potential third election in less than a year, Netanyahu is seeking to put down any potential rebellion in Likud by rallying his base of Zionist and religious voters.

Gaza Rockets Intercepted by Israel which Responds with Fighter Attacks

Terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired two rockets at Israeli civilians on Tuesday, with the Iron Dome blasting the projectiles right out of the sky. This incident marks the second rocket attack this week, with Hamas and Islamic Jihad jockeying for power and aid money from Iran. In response, fighter jets from the Israel Defense Forces hit a number of Hamas terror targets in the southern Gaza Strip. Among the sites targeted was an underground infrastructure. While an unofficial cease-fire is reportedly in place, Palestinian terror groups are known to regularly breach such agreements.

Iran Violently Suppresses Economic Protests

Reports seeping out of Iran describe security forces firing machine guns at peaceful protestors, and regime officials moving bodies from morgues to hide the true scale of the government crackdown. Amnesty International estimates that around 143 protesters have been killed during demonstrations in more than 100 Iranian cities. Some estimates put the number of arrests alone at around 4,000. The Iranian regime’s quick and brutal response to the latest spontaneous protests follows a familiar playbook the government has used against mass protests in the past. Tens of thousands of protesters in several cities decried the recent fuel price hike amid extreme poverty in the economic downturn brought about by international sanctions.

U.S. Resumes Operations Against ISIS In Northern Syria

U.S troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria, military officials say, nearly two months after President Trump’s abrupt order to withdraw American troops opened the way for a bloody Turkish cross-border offensive. American-backed operations against ISIS fighters in the area effectively ground to a halt for weeks despite warnings from intelligence analysts that Islamic State militants were beginning to make a comeback from Syrian desert hideouts. American soldiers and hundreds of Syrian Kurdish fighters — the same local allies the Trump administration abandoned to fend for themselves against the Turkish advance last month — reunited to conduct what the Pentagon said was a large-scale mission to kill and capture ISIS fighters in Deir al-Zour province. “Over the next days and weeks, the pace will pick back up against remnants of ISIS,” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie said.

Hong Kong Voters Choose Pro-Democracy Candidates

On Sunday, about 75% of eligible voters turned up to cast ballots in the Hong Kong election. Nearly 3 million people came out, compared to 1.4 million in 2015. Anti-government advocates celebrated a big win. Reuters reports pro-democracy candidates took almost 400 of the 452 seats for district councils that were in play in the election. That’s four times as many seats as they won in the last election, which a political scientist says is “a political message to the government” and a “big slap in the face” to pro-Beijing forces. That message is seen as especially directed toward Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, who spurred months of protests, sometimes violent ones, after introducing a bill allowing extradition to China; she withdrew that bill in September.

President Trump Signs Bills Supporting Hong Kong Protesters

Trump signed two bills that were approved by near unanimous consent in the House and Senate which support the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters. Trump did so even as he expressed some concerns about complicating the effort to work out a trade deal with China’s President Xi Jinping. Congress approved the bills last week following months of unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. The legislation authorizes sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials involved in human rights abuses and requires the State Department to conduct an annual review of the special status that the United States grants Hong Kong in trade matters. China’s foreign ministry called the laws a “naked hegemonic action” that seriously interfered in Hong Kong and China’s internal affairs, violated international law and “fundamental norms of international relations,” adding that the U.S. will bear unspecified consequences.

China Stealing U.S. Scientific Research

Billions of dollars in scientific research funded by American taxpayers has been stolen by China right under our noses and the U.S. government has no plan to stop the ongoing theft of the highly valued intellectual property, according to a scathing report published by the U.S. Senate. “This report exposes how American taxpayer funded research has contributed to China’s global rise over the last 20 years,” the document states. “During that time, China openly recruited U.S.-based researchers, scientists, and experts in the public and private sector to provide China with knowledge and intellectual capital in exchange for monetary gain and other benefits.”

Earthquakes

Buildings collapsed in a strong earthquake in Albania early Tuesday, killing at least 16 people and injuring 600 more. The 6.4 magnitude quake was felt across the southern Balkans and was followed by multiple aftershocks. The quake collapsed at least three apartment buildings while people slept, and rescue crews were working to free people believed trapped. There was no indication as to how many people might still be buried in the rubble. In nearby Bosnia, another temblor with a preliminary magnitude of 5.4 struck southeast of the capital and rattled Sarajevo. There were no immediate reports of casualties and only minor damage in that earthquake.

Wildfires

A fire ripped through the hills of Santa Barbara County, California, toward highly populated areas early Tuesday morning, forcing thousands of residents from their homes. The Cave Fire was burning in the hills north of Santa Barbara near Goleta and had burned more than 4 square miles in the Los Padres National Forest. More than 6,000 people are under evacuation orders and 2,400 structures are threatened by flames. Strong winds, with gusts topping 80 mph in Santa Barbara County, fanned the flames. Subsequent precipitation subdued the fire which is 70% contained as of Friday.

Weather

The Denver metro area saw up to 12 inches of snow, while parts of Boulder, Colorado saw up to 20.5 inches Monday to Tuesday.

Officially say at least five people died as heavy rain slammed the Riviera coasts of France and Italy, trapping travelers in their cars. Some roads remained closed Monday on the French Riviera, and rivers are still rising in Italy after the weekend flooding.

Authorities in Kenya says the death toll from heavy rains that unleashed floods in the west of the country has risen to 60 and seven others are missing from last Saturday’s deluge. More than a million people in East Africa have been affected by flooding after higher-than-normal rainfall.

Apocalypse Soon? – Part 5

November 25, 2019

We are not just to sit still and do nothing as we await Jesus’ return, but instead be actively running the race that God has set before us:

Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)

What race? You may not be aware of it, but no matter what place or circumstance you are in, God has a plan for how He wants to use you.

Even if you’re confined to a wheelchair or are sick in bed, you can still be a witness to those around you.

But in order to run the race well, we Scripture says we must set aside every weight and sin that holds us back from being all we can be and doing all that God has in mind for us to do.

We know from God’s Word what is sinful. If you’re caught up in sin, repent from the depths of your heart and be cleansed from all your unrighteousness:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1John 1:9)

Then ask the Holy Spirit to give you the strength to resist future temptation.

But what are the weights that we must set aside? There are many, many things that can impede us, such as laziness, fear, procrastination, guilt, discouragement, pride, bad attitudes, etc.

Many people also have worldly priorities that they place before God’s priorities (e.g. work, money, family, entertainment, socializing, personal goals, etc.).

Or, many others will say that circumstances are not allowing them to do what God is calling them to do. But God is expecting you to set forth in faith regardless of the circumstances and He will see you through what seems to be an impossible situation.

Jesus always wants us to lay all these things aside and take up our cross, but it is especially important now that we are approaching the end of all things

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26)

Anyone who wants to be my follower must love me far more than he does his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, or sisters—yes, more than his own life—otherwise he cannot be my disciple. And no one can be my disciple who does not carry his own cross and follow me. (Luke 14:25-27, TLB)

Our cross contains all those things which we feel impede our capability and availability:

Instead of waiting for things to improve and the timing to be better, we must set them aside and trudge onward along the unique path He has laid out before each of us, carrying those burdens on our backs much as Jesus carried the cross to His crucifixion

While we fear that this will be a heavy load and a burdensome journey, Jesus promises that His yoke is easy and His burden light

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Does this mean that there won’t be trials and tribulations? Of course not. But it does mean that in the midst of difficulties, Jesus will give us peace and rest if we are on the right path and continue to abide in Him – just as is promised in the twenty-third Psalm:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  (Psalm 23)

Note that this promise isn’t for when things are going very well in our lives. No, it is in the valley of the shadow of death and in the presence of our enemies. Even then, His promise of peace and restoration remain true and available.

That’s why it’s only a shadow of death, just an illusion, because He will see us through to the other side of the valley

Unless, however, we’re being called upon to be a martyr for Him, which is a great honor and a privilege of the highest order that we can perform for Him.

We’re all going to die sometime. What better way than to emulate Stephen who probably didn’t even feel the stones as His eyes were fixed on the glory of the Lord:

And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60)

And, he was immediately at rest in the presence of the Lord.

That’s why the Apostle Paul calls our travails but a “light affliction which is but for a moment, [and] is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” (2Corinthians 4:17)

The brief moment of suffering is immediately replaced by an eternity of peace, love and joy that will make us instantly forget whatever had happened to us

The race God has for us is not run the same way as the world’s races which strive for riches and fame:

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. (1Cor. 9:24-25)

In the world, only one winner receives the prize.

In the Kingdom of God, everyone who finishes the race wins the prize (i.e. eternal life in Heaven).

Some people say they have not heard from God or they don’t know what their race is.

It might be that the time is not right to go forward with the next step, so stay where you are, do not make any decisions without checking with Jesus, pressing in to Him with constant prayer in order to be sure you hear His voice for when the time is right for you to take the next step.

Do not, however, under any circumstance, proceed ahead in your own timing and understanding, for that could result in great peril and trauma.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. (Psalm 37:23)

A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12)

Many people have trouble hearing the Lord’s voice, but there are several remedies for this:

Most of the time, that person isn’t reading God’s word enough and/or praying enough.

Many times, people are expecting an audible voice, but that’s rare. Most of the time, it usually comes through an implanted thought or a sense of knowing.

Since it’s a “still, small voice” (1Kings 19:12), we must seek Him in quietude and solitude, eliminating all the noise and stimulus of the world (including our own cares and worries).

And keep in mind that it is just as wrong to sit and do nothing when the Lord is calling you to move, as it is to rush ahead of the Lord with your own plans and ideas.

We should seek His Face as the prize of our life because it leads us into doing the right things at the right time, instead of the right things at the wrong time or the wrong things at any time. As Scripture advises:

Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face evermore! (Psalm 105:4)

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Our hearts must deeply crave God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Be like the psalmist who wrote:

As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Psalm 42:1-2)

If we are not seeking after God and putting Jesus first, we are likely to be lulled into a spiritual sleep by the pleasures of the world and the illusions of peace and safety in this world

For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them. (1Thessalonians 5:3)

The Day of the Lord when Jesus returns is a great day for believers and a hellacious day for everyone else:

For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; Who can endure it? (Joel 2:11b)

Don’t listen to the world, don’t love the world, don’t be deluded by the world, for the Lord is coming back as the Lion of Judah to execute judgment upon the world:

(Revelation 19:11-16) Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Don’t be caught sleeping or on the wrong path or unprepared for His coming or it will be a terrible day for you.

Instead, be spiritually prepared and awake and right where He wants you to be, running the race that He has set before you, and then it will be the most glorious Day you’ll ever experience.

 

Signs of the Times

November 22, 2019

­­All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2Timothy 3:16-17)

More Archaeological Finds Support Bible History

More findings in Israel were recently found which support the accuracy of the historical narrative in the Bible. This time the find was in the city of Shiloh What appears to be the corner of God’s altar has been unearthed and this can be added to many other excavations which track with what is written in the Bible. Several other recent discoveries at the site point to the same basic conclusion: What the Bible said about ancient Shiloh coincide with the emerging archaeological record. Of course, this is not getting the media attention it ought to receive.

Chick-fil-A Caves in to LGBTQ Objections

Chick-fil-A said it is altering its approach to charitable donations following criticism by LGBTQ supporters of contributions made to Christian groups. In a statement released Monday, the restaurant chain said its foundation will “deepen its giving to a smaller number of organizations” by focusing on education, homelessness and hunger. Chick-fil-A said it’s committing more than $9 million to initiatives linked to those three areas next year. Previously, Chick-fil-A $1.6 million to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to support summer sports camps, and another $150,000 to the Salvation Army toward children’s programs in Atlanta.

  • Another Christian organization caves to the LBGTQ agenda.

Pro-Life Legal Team to Appeal Daleiden Guilty Verdict

Last Friday represented a significant setback for the pro-life movement in America. A jury found David Daleiden and his allies guilty of a slew of state and federal crimes involving the Planned Parenthood sting videos and awarded the abortion behemoth at least $1.3 million in damages. On Monday, Harmeet Dhillon, one of Daleiden’s lawyers, told PJ Media that the “dream team” of First Amendment lawyers who argued the case would be mounting a formidable appeal—and that there are many reasons to think the historically liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals should reconsider the case. “This case is far from over,” Dhillon insisted. Daleiden “had a lot of defenses, he had a lot of witnesses we weren’t allowed to call, evidence we weren’t allowed to show the jury.”

Third Court of Appeals Flipped to Conservatives

Judicial nominations are poised to be one of the most lasting impacts of Donald Trump’s presidency, and his latest round of appointments has brought the total number of federal appeals courts flipped to conservatives so far to three. The US Senate voted 51-41 last week to confirm George Mason University law professor and former White House attorney Steven Menashi to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Democrats objected that he was “extreme” and “unqualified,” attempting to make an issue out of Menashi’s college writings as editor-in-chief of the Dartmouth Review, in which he discussed the “overwhelming public consensus against infanticide” and reported that the Dartmouth health department was failing to inform students of Plan B’s abortifacient potential.

  • There are now three federal appeals courts—the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Circuits—that have more Trump appointees on the bench than judges who were appointed by Democrats,” according to Courthouse News.

Trump Reverses 1978 Ruling Declaring Judea & Samaria Settlement Illegal

Israeli politicians from the right to the center-left praised the decision of the Trump administration on Monday to reject a State Department legal opinion from 1978 that found Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria to be illegal. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Today, the United States adopted an important policy that rights a historical wrong when the Trump administration clearly rejected the false claim that Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria are inherently ‘illegal’ under international law.” Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, who leads Israel’s opposition parties, said, “I bless the U.S. government on this important decision, which points again to its strong stand on the side of Israel and its obligation to the security and future of the Middle East in general.”

Good and Bad Among DACA Population

There are teachers and lawyers and many upstanding people within the DACA community (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival. But also inside the DACA population are also thousands of accused drunken drivers and thieves, hundreds of forgers, sexual abusers and even 15 people charged with murder, according to updated government numbers released Saturday. Sixty-two “Dreamers” were approved for DACA despite having rape charges in their files, and two dozen had been accused of arson. Two with child pornography cases were given the OK, too, says U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The statistics show that 10% of those currently holding DACA status have criminal records.

Remain in Mexico Policy Expanded to Tucson District

The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), commonly known as the “Remain-in-Mexico” policy, was established in January and expanded over the summer amid greater cooperation with Mexico. The policy involves returning migrants to Mexico as they await their immigration hearings, with courtrooms set up at key border sites, instead of them being released into the interior. Beginning Friday, the agency is further expanding MPP to the Tucson Sector of Arizona. It comes in response to a surge in migrant flows in that area, reflecting groups adapting to the implementation of MPP at other hotspots along the border. Officials say that migrants crossing the border there will now be bussed over to El Paso, where they can be returned to Mexico where there is capacity and shelter.

Technocracy Rising on the Wings of 5G at Human Expense

Technocrats want to run society based on science and data. The revolutionary 5G wireless communication technology will provide a real-time massive data gathering system from the numerous devices that will be connected to the Internet of Things. Another descriptor for this system is surveillance. For modern Technocrats, historical data is only useful for testing and validating Artificial Intelligence programs that are slated to control the ‘Technate’ and everything in it. 5G is truly revolutionary in that it provides a response time of 1 millisecond (versus 15-50 milliseconds on 4G/LTE) and up to 100 times the data throughput. To accomplish this, 5G operates at a much higher frequency range of millimeter waves.

  • The problem is that millimeter waves are absorbed by human tissue, and will not pass through your body like lower-frequency WiFi and radio waves. This is a health risk that nobody in the industry wants to talk about, nor have they conducted sufficient studies of this risk.
  • Ronald Powell, Ph.D., a retired Harvard scientist of applied physics, notes “there is NO SAFE WAY to implement 5G in our communities; rather, there are only ‘bad ways’ and ‘worse ways,’” and rather than argue about who should have control over its deployment, we should focus on preventing its employment altogether.

Stents and Bypass Surgery No More Effective than Drugs

Some of the most common invasive heart procedures in America are no better at preventing heart attacks, hospitalizations and death in patients with stable heart disease than drugs and lifestyle improvements alone, according to a massive federally funded study designed to resolve a long-standing controversy in cardiology. The results suggest that stents and bypass surgery should be used more sparingly in patients with stable heart disease and that the decision to use them should be less rushed, experts said.

Cigarette Smoking at All-Time Low in U.S.

Cigarette smoking among adults in the U.S. has hit an all-time low, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reports 13.7 percent of U.S. adults smoke cigarettes, about a two-thirds drop since the first Surgeon General’s report warned against smoking more than 50 years ago. For 49.1 million tobacco users, cigarettes continue to be the most widely-used product, followed by cigars and e-cigarettes. While health professionals celebrate the good news, other experts fear people may switch back to cigarettes because of recent vaping-related injuries and deaths.

Economic News

Trump signed a short-term spending bill into law Thursday, thereby averting a government shutdown and delaying the border wall fight until next month. The spending bill funds government programs through Dec. 20. Congress must pass a new measure by then to avoid a shutdown, but the White House and congressional Democrats are fighting over whether that bill should include billions of dollars for the construction of a wall along the Mexican border.

Since the world stopped using ancient Roman currencies around 1450, every subsequent shake-up in the global economic order has been caused by excessive debt. And by any possible metric, our debt in the U.S. is unprecedented, reports the Daily Wealth. Even when it’s measured as a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), our debt hasn’t been this high since World War II, when we were fighting a massive war on two fronts that were oceans apart. Today, governments around the world are addicted to cheap money. And, any bit of bad economic news gives them reason to print more money to “stimulate” the economy. This is a cycle that eventually will collapse.

Many Americans remain in precarious financial shape even as the economy continues to grow, with 7 of 10 saying they struggling with at least one aspect of financial stability, such as paying bills or saving money. The findings come from a survey of more than 5,400 Americans from the Financial Health Network, a nonprofit financial services consultancy. The project, which started a year ago, is aimed at assessing people’s financial health by considering debt, savings, bills and wages, among other issues.

Persecution Watch

Christians were among the 39 mining employees killed when Islamic extremists ambushed their convoy on November 6 in south-east Burkina Faso. Sixty others were wounded in the attack. The UN food agency has warned of an “escalating humanitarian crisis” in Burkina Faso, driven by growing extremist violence and the long-term impact of climate crisis in the arid central Sahel region. A sharp increase in attacks, the result of the west African country becoming embroiled in the jihadist insurgency that began in the region in early 2015, has forced almost half a million people from their homes.

Retired pioneering pastor, David Mokoni, and a hearing-impaired Christian boy were killed when Boko Haram militants attacked a church in Moskota, Far North Cameroon, on November 6.

Syriac Christian minister Hoseb Abraham Bedoian and his father were shot dead by two motorcycle gunmen who ambushed their car on the road from Qamishli to Deir al-Zor, in north-east Syria, on November 11.

Israel – Netanyahu Indicted, 21-Days to Form New Government

Israel entered the most uncharted waters of all on Thursday when, for the first time ever, a sitting prime minister was indicted on criminal charges, even while the nation – again for the first time – is entering an unprecedented 21-day free-for-all in parliament to form a new government or face an unparalleled third national elections in a row. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – still clinging to power as interim prime minister since last November – came out swinging last night against the indictments for fraud, breach of public trust and bribery announced by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit. Denouncing the charges as a “coup” cooked up by the Left, the biased media and corrupt police elements, Netanyahu also blasted the timing of the indictments. Indeed, they came just as the Knesset begins a untried three-week process in which any MK can present the president with a list of 61-members willing to join his coalition and thereby avoid a third round of elections.

Israel Strikes Targets in Syria after Intercepting 4 Missiles

Israeli Air Force fighter jets launched attacks in Syria overnight Wednesday, striking “dozens of military targets” belonging to the Iranian Quds Force and Syrian army, according to the Israeli army spokesman. According to reports, 23 people were killed, mostly Iranians. “The targets included surface-to-air missiles, command headquarters, weapons depots, and military bases,” said the Israeli military in a statement. “The attack was carried out in response to the launching of rockets by an Iranian force from Syrian territory into Israeli territory and an intent to cause damage in Israeli territory,” the statement added. “We will not put up with Iranian entrenchment on our border and will stand up against it,” vowed the IDF spokesman.

  • The Iranian attacks from Syria had come on Tuesday morning.Four rockets were fired at us,” said the statement on Twitter, adding that they were “intercepted by Iron Dome [air defense] batteries.”

Protests Surge Across Middle East

For the last five weeks, more than 200,000 Iraqis across the country have gathered on any given day to demonstrate against the government. Security forces have killed at least 320 and wounded about 15,000, according to the United Nations office in Iraq. The protesters are angry about corruption, unemployment and Iran’s influence. Many are educated, idealistic young people, who are mostly urban and secular. But the largest group are working-class and poor Shiite Muslims, either from the southern part of the country or with origins there. These Iraqis have suffered decades of economic deprivation as well as government oppression by the Sunni Muslims, who controlled the government during the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. And they have a history of violent resistance.

The Iranian authorities moved Thursday to project the appearance of normalcy after a week of violent protests over gasoline price increases, partly restoring internet access and decreeing that the mayhem that convulsed the country was really a foreign-backed failure. But other developments suggested that a severe crackdown was underway in response to the street clashes, rioting and destruction that had upended life in dozens of Iranian cities and towns – and that the uprisings had not been completely crushed. The rights group Amnesty International said that as many as 106 protesters in 21 cities had been killed over the course of the protests.

Turkey and Russia Continue to Expand Operations in Syria

A car bomb exploded Saturday in a northern Syrian town controlled by Turkey-backed opposition fighters, killing at least 18 people and wounding several others. Three car bombs went off Monday in the northeastern Syrian town of Qamishli near the border with Turkey, killing at least six people. Northern Syria has been hit by several explosions that have killed and wounded scores of people over the past month. That’s since Turkey began a military operation against Kurdish fighters in the wake of President Trump’s decision to pull the bulk of American troops out of northern Syria. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.

Russia has chosen to establish a new military base in a part of Syria perilously close to an area that American troops have been charged with defending, heightening the risk of a confrontation from either an unintentional skirmish or a deliberate provocation. Analysts believe the potential for new fighting in northeast Syria is particularly high as Russia seeks to test the resolve of the U.S. and its allies following President Donald Trump’s hasty decision to withdraw from the region last month.

U.S. Senate Approves Bill Supporting Human Rights in Hong Kong

The Senate on Tuesday easily approved a bill to support human rights in Hong Kong following months of often-violent unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act was passed by voice vote. It now goes to the House, which has already passed similar legislation. China responded by threatening to take “strong countermeasures” if Congress proceeds with passage of the bill. The measure mandates sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses and requires an annual review of the favorable trade status that Washington grants Hong Kong. China has opposed all criticism of the handling of the Hong Kong protests as unwarranted interference in its domestic affairs.

Hong Kong Protests Turn More Violent

A police officer in Hong Kong was struck in the leg with an arrow on Sunday as another day of violent clashes erupted between pro-democracy protesters who blocked a major road tunnel under the city’s harbor and occupied a university campus and police, who deployed tear gas and projectiles. After holding their ground for most of the day with gasoline bombs, bricks and nails strewn on area roadways, protesters began retreating into Hong Kong Polytechnic University near sunset, fearing they would be trapped as police fired tear gas volleys and approached from the opposite direction. Fires were set to bridges leading to Polytechnic as protesters tried to keep police from advancing on their campus stronghold. Orange flames extended the length of a footbridge over the roadway entrance to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel. As of Friday, only a few protesters remain in the still-closed Polytechnic University with hundreds having been arrested.

U.S. and South Korea Postpone Military Exercises

The U.S. and South Korea have postponed joint military exercises that were scheduled for Monday in what the Pentagon has called an “act of good will” aimed at boosting diplomatic efforts with North Korea. The move comes as the Trump White House seeks fresh momentum in denuclearization talks with the North, which have shown little progress since a summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un broke up abruptly without a deal in February. Pyongyang has set a year-end deadline for the U.S. to offer fresh negotiating proposals, in particular a schedule to lift punishing international economic sanctions against it.

Columbians Riot Against Corrupt Government

Colombians angry with President Iván Duque and hoping to channel Latin America’s wave of discontent took the streets by the tens of thousands on Thursday in one of the biggest protests in the nation’s recent history. Students, teachers and labor union organizers marched across the country protesting everything from economic inequality to violence against civic leaders, testing an unpopular government as unrest grips the region. Police estimated 207,000 people took part. The protests were largely peaceful but by turned violent at night as demonstrators hurled rocks at riot police, who responded with tear gas.

Environment

As a toxic red tide continues to grip the coast of southwest Florida, one county saw the highest number of sea turtle deaths it has ever recorded for a single month in October. Last month, 58 turtles were reported dead in Collier County and two others were reported sick or injured. Over the past decade, Collier County has recorded an average of just under five sea turtle strandings in October. The timing of these turtle deaths tracks closely with the arrival of this year’s red tide in Florida, which began to spread along the state’s southwest coast early last month. The red tide is a natural phenomenon that has occurred for centuries, but there are questions about what exactly is causing the intense outbreaks of the past several years.

Wildfires

The age of fire is upon us, scientists say, and the public and private system built to contain it is being pushed to its limits. From the Arctic to the Amazon, from California to Gran Canaria, from Borneo to India to Angola to Australia – the fires seem everywhere. Fire seasons are running longer, stronger, hotter. The major fires now blanketing Sydney in smoke started early, within days of the latest California blazes. And the strain is global. Countries that used to manage without extra help, like Chile, Bolivia and Cyprus, have started competing for plane and helicopter contracts as their own fires intensify. That is stretching capacity for the companies that provide most of the globe’s largest firefighting aircraft, and increasing anxiety for fire officials worldwide, reports the New York Times.

Weather

A new study by NASA and University of California, Irvine, scientists finds that more than 75 percent of the water loss in the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin since late 2004 came from underground resources. The extent of groundwater loss may pose a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought. This study is the first to quantify the amount that groundwater contributes to the water needs of western states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the federal water management agency, the basin has been suffering from prolonged, severe drought since 2000 and has experienced the driest 14-year period in the last hundred years. “We don’t know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don’t know when we’re going to run out,” said Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at the University of California, Irvine, and the study’s lead author. “This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking.”

About $3.4 billion in losses was caused in the Bahamas alone by Hurricane Dorian – a number equivalent to one-fourth of the nation’s gross domestic product – according to a report released Friday by the Inter-American Development Bank. When the Category 5 monster hit the northwestern Bahamas in early September, it left some 29,500 people homeless, without jobs or both. About 9,000 homes were damaged and seven schools destroyed.