Signs of the Times (4/9/18)

April 9, 2018

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

Faith-Based Movies are ‘Exploding’ in Hollywood

In an article in Yahoo News (3/29/18), called “Movie theaters cash in as Hollywood turns to God,” Frankie Taggart notes that, “Religion is reclaiming cinema for sacred purposes at a rate never seen in history, with faith-based movies exploding from an obscure cottage industry last century into a multi-billion-dollar business.” Taggart also observes, “The box office totals may not sound huge, but they add up to a genre of filmmaking that has amassed almost $2 billion” since 2000. The most important thing is that these films are changing lives. Currently there are three new Christian movies in theaters nationwide: God’s Not Dead3“Paul; The Apostle of Christ” (with Jim Caviezel); and “I Can Only Imagine,” a surprise hit which was number three in the box office one weekend. David A. R. White, who helped produce and has acted in all three of the “God’s Not Dead” series, says, “Faith is not dead in the United States. I think that hunger is there for spiritual content. People want answers. They want to learn about their faith, and they also want to be entertained, of course, because it’s in a movie theatre. But at the same token, they’re yearning for that spiritual content.”

Supreme Court Refuses to Overturn Gag Order of Planned Parenthood Videos

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request by attorneys from the Thomas More Society and their co-counsel that it decide the case of David Daleiden, the undercover journalist who exposed Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the commercial trafficking of aborted babies’ body parts. In David Daleiden et al v. National Abortion Federation, the nation’s highest court had been asked to overturn a lower court’s injunction that barred Mr. Daleiden from releasing more videos. These videos would be both politically embarrassing and potentially incriminating for Planned Parenthood and other NAF abortionists, maintains Tom Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel, Thomas More Society. “Justice is not only blind, but it remains gagged for the time being,” Brejcha remarked. “We are confident David Daleiden’s First Amendment rights will be upheld ultimately,” he added.

Target Bathroom Policy: Another Innocent Child Victim

While Target remains steadfast in allowing men to enter women’s dressing and restrooms, the number of child victims of sexual crimes occurring in its stores continues to rise, reports the American Family Association. Last week, in a Chicago area Target store, a man forced himself into a bathroom stall being occupied by a young child and sexually exposed his private parts to her. The man ran away before police could arrive. No Target employee questioned the man or attempted to stop him from entering the women’s restroom because Target’s official policy allows men free and unrestricted access. This policy has resulted in over a dozen crimes being committed by sexual predators taking advantage of it, the AFA reports. “Predators and voyeurs, or anyone with evil intentions,” can take advantage of the Target bathroom policy to harm women and children, warns the AFA.

Trump Sends National Guard to Protect Border

President Trump signed a proclamation Wednesday night to send the National Guard to the southern border immediately, in response to what the administration described as an “unacceptable” flow of drugs, criminal activity and illegal immigrants. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at the White House press briefing that the signing would be done in conjunction with governors and that the administration hoped the deployment would begin immediately. Arizona and Texas announced Friday that they would send 400 National Guard members to the U.S.-Mexico border by this week in response to President Donald Trump’s call for troops to fight drug trafficking and illegal immigration. “Despite a number of steps this administration has taken…we continue to see unacceptable levels of illegal drugs, dangerous gang activity transnational criminal organizations and illegal immigration flow across our border,” Kirstjen said. “More than 1,000 people a day, 300,000 a year [are] violating our sovereignty as a nation.” President Trump on Thursday said that a caravan of more than 1,000 Central Americans traveling through Mexico had been “largely broken up” by Mexican authorities — adding that it had avoided “a giant scene” at the U.S. border.

Federal Judge Upholds Massachusetts Ban on AR-15

A federal district court judge in Boston has upheld the state’s ban on assault weapons – AR-15 semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines – finding that the issue is not a constitutional matter but one for each state to determine on its own politically. “The AR-15 and its analogs, along with large capacity magazines, are simply not weapons within the original meaning of the individual constitutional right to ‘bear arms,’” U.S. District Judge William Young, a Reagan appointee, wrote in a decision Thursday in Boston, dismissing a lawsuit over the state law. In his ruling in Boston, Young quoted from the writings of the late Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia, a conservative and an “originalist,” who believed the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with its original meaning at the time it was written.

EPA Announces Rollback of Obama Fuel Standards

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt laid out plans on Tuesday to roll back Obama-era fuel standards in a move seen as a win for automakers, but one that is likely to ignite a major political and legal battle with the nation’s most populous state. “These standards that were set were inappropriate and need to be revised,” Pruitt said during a speech at the EPA in Washington D.C., adding that the rules are too expensive and hurt car buyers by making vehicles costlier. Pruitt’s decision to rewrite the nation’s first carbon limits on automobiles, which requires cars and light trucks sold in the United States to average more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025, reflects the Trump administration’s determination to jump start the auto industry.

Lawyer is First Person Sentenced in Russian Election Interference

A Dutch attorney who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates and a former Russian intelligence agent was sentenced to 30 days in prison and a $20,000 fine Tuesday. Alex Van Der Zwaan acknowledged making false statements about communications with Gates and the unidentified agent who prosecutors referred to as “Person A” as part of the ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Van Der Zwaan is the first person to be sentenced in the wide-ranging inquiry managed by Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller. U.S. District Judge Amy Jackson rejected the defense request that he be permitted to pay a fine and return home to London. He faced a maximum punishment of six months in prison. “We’re not talking about a traffic ticket,” Judge Jackson told Van Der Zwaan.

Students in Colorado & Florida in Pro-Second Amendment Rallies

Students in Colorado who support the Second Amendment staged their own walkout Wednesday, in an effort to counter the pro-gun control rallies taking place across the nation following the deadly shooting at a Florida high school in February. Students walked onto the school’s track carrying the American flag and holding signs that read “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” and “I support the right to bear arms.” The rally comes days after students in Central Florida organized a similar protest in support of the Second Amendment after they felt silenced when the movement to honor the Parkland shooting victims turned political.

Zuckerberg Apologizes for Facebook Scandals

The Facebook CEO and founder apologized for allowing third-party apps to grab the data of its users without their permission and for being “too slow to spot and respond to Russian interference” during the U.S. election, according to his prepared remarks published by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Zuckerberg is set to appear before that panel Wednesday, but he will also face questions from senators Tuesday in the wake of a privacy scandal that has severely damaged Facebook’s reputation and share price. “It’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well,” Zuckerberg wrote. “That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections, and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy. We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

Pulse Nightclub Attack Survivors Sue Google, Facebook, Twitter

Survivors of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Fla., perpetrated by a supporter of the Islamic State terror group, are suing Google, Facebook, and Twitter, alleging that the tech firms allowed the group to proliferate and spread propaganda. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Orlando’s federal courthouse, 16 victims of the June 12, 2016 shooting — the second deadliest in American history — claim that the three tech giants were responsible for letting ISIS disseminate propaganda on their platforms, thus providing “material support” to the terror group, in violation of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). Such support, the suit alleges, let gunman Omar Mateen carry out his attack, which left 49 people dead and another 58 injured, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Mateen was killed in a shootout with responding police officers. The survivors of the attack also argue that the tech giants profited from content created by ISIS and that the terror group may have received money from Google-owned YouTube in the form of ad revenue.

  • The widow of Mateen, Noor Salman, was found not guilty Friday of obstruction and aiding and abetting by attempting to provide material support to a terrorist organization. She was acquitted of the charges despite reportedly admitting after the rampage that she knew about her husband “acquiring weapons, watching Islamic State videos and discussing possible locations in apparent preparation” for the attack. The acquittal happened in large part — according to the jury’s foreman — due to the bureau’s failure to record Salman’s interview statements.

Seattle Besieged by Homeless Encampments

Seattle has been under siege by an exploding homeless population since at least 2015, when ex-Mayor Ed Murray declared a “state of emergency” over the crisis. The city has struggled to play catch-up and is now beset with shelters at capacity and illegal encampments, such as the Space Needle “mansion.” Residents of the mega tent “mansion” homeless encampment near Seattle’s famed Space Needle are bragging about the practicality of their new digs, taunting local politicians: “If you can live on the street and not pay rent, then why would you pay rent?” Mental health teams are also working with Seattle officials to figure out if there’s any way to convince the people living in the camp to go somewhere else. Spokesman Will Lemke added the city has no immediate plans to remove the camp, but that may change in the future if there is a problem or safety concern.

Economic News

The federal deficit will hit $804 billion in fiscal 2018, a 21 percent increase from 2017’s deficit of $665 billion, the Congressional Budget Office said Monday. The new tax law is projected to cut government revenue by more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years, while adding nearly $300 billion in military and domestic spending over the next two years. The current national debt totals more than $20 trillion.

Employers added a disappointing 103,000 jobs in March as colder weather appeared to crimp hiring after solid employment gains the first two months of the year. The unemployment rate, which is calculated from a different survey, was unchanged at 4.1%, the Labor Department said Friday. In February, unseasonably warm weather pulled forward hiring in industries such as construction and retail, leading to blockbuster job gains that topped 300,000. As a result, the weak showing is being viewed as a blip rather than a sign of a weakening labor market.

China has wasted no time in firing back after President Donald Trump’s salvo against its high-tech products. The world’s second-biggest economy has retaliated with its own package of tariffs on around $50 billion of U.S. imports. China will levy 25 percent tariffs on imports of 106 U.S. products, with U.S. farmers, airplane and automobile manufacturers likely to bear the brunt of the impact. That’s in response to 1,300 Chinese products that might be subjected to 25 percent tariffs from the U.S. President Trump upped the ante Thursday in the high-stakes trade dispute with China, proposing $100 billion in additional tariffs on Chinese goods. U.S. stocks closed sharply lower Friday as Wall Street reacted to the latest escalation in the trade fight between the U.S. and China. Stocks were on the upswing Monday.

Major automakers last Tuesday reported higher new vehicles sales for March on the back of a strong U.S. economy and big consumer discounts. General Motors posted a 16 percent jump in new vehicle sales from the previous March, led by a 14 percent increase in higher-margin retail sales to consumers. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported a 14 percent increase and said it saw a 45 percent spike in sales of its popular Jeep models, giving the brand its best sales month on record. Ford reported a 3.4 percent increase in overall sales for March, led by an 8.7 percent rise in fleet sales. Retail sales were up just 0.8 percent in the month, but Ford said sales of its best-selling F-Series pickup trucks were the best since 2000. Last year, U.S. auto sales fell 2 percent after hitting a record high of 17.55 million units in 2016. Sales are expected to fall later in 2018 as interest rates rise and push up monthly car payments.

A third of home buyers exceeded the upper limit of what they planned to spend, topping that cap by an average $16,510, according to a survey of 1,214 Americans who purchased a house within the last four years. The survey was conducted Jan. 31 to Feb. 8. The main reason? Price. In January, home prices nationally were up an average 6.2% from a year earlier. Prices have risen nearly 50% from their 2012 bottom. Supply shortages, combined with a healthy job market that’s fueling demand, are blamed for the recent price run-up.

Middle East

Russia on Monday said the Israel Air Force was responsible for a missile attack on an air base in central Syria that activists say killed at least 14 people. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), reported that “Syrian and non-Syrian nationalities” were killed in the strike. The “non-Syrians” likely refers to Iranians. Russia’s claim came hours after the Pentagon denied Syrian media reports that the U.S. conducted the air strikes in Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical attack that killed some 200 civilians on Saturday. Israel refused to comment on the allegations. Dozens of Syrians choked to death after a suspected chemical attack struck the rebel-held suburb of Douma, east of Damascus, with aid groups on Sunday blaming President Bashar al-Assad’s government for the assault. Russia’s Defense Ministry said two Israeli fighter jets launched eight guided missiles at the T4 air base from Lebanon’s air space early Monday. The Russian ministry said the Syrian air force destroyed five missiles, and three reached the western part of the airfield. The U.S. has not ruled out launching airstrikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in response to the weekend’s suspected chemical gas attack on civilians, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Monday.

Thousands of Palestinian rioters burned tires, threw Molotov cocktails and carry out terror attacks while attempting to infiltrate Israel on Friday as part of the latest round of protests and clashes on the Gaza-Israel border. “Rioters have attempted to damage & cross the security fence under the cover of smoke from their burning tires. They also attempted to carry out terror attacks & hurl of explosive devices & firebombs,” the IDF Spokesperson Unit said on Twitter late Friday afternoon. According to the IDF, which has declared the immediate area a closed military zone, Hamas has been attempting to create a “war zone” in the region with protests in five locations along the Gaza-Israel border. According to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, three Palestinian men have been killed and 200 injured as of Friday afternoon.

The Israeli Shin Bet security services announced Wednesday that 10 Islamic Jihad terrorists from Gaza were arrested last month as they were preparing an attack on a naval ship. The Shin Bet statement said, “This is another link in a chain of terror attacks planned and initiated by Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip in recent months, including a cross-border attack tunnel that was neutralized on October 30, 2017, the firing of mortar shells at Israel on November 30, 2017 and December 28, 2017, and more.” A break in the case came on March 12, when an Israeli naval vessel on a routine patrol stopped a Palestinian fishing boat outside the permitted fishing zone and arrested those on board.


President Donald Trump agreed in a National Security Council meeting this week to keep U.S. troops in Syria a little longer but wants them out relatively soon, a senior administration official said on Wednesday. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed later Wednesday that the U.S. mission in Syria is coming to a “rapid end.” Trump wants to ensure Islamic State militants are defeated but wants other countries in the region and the United Nations to step up and help provide stability in Syria, an official told Reuters. His advisers have been pressing him to maintain at least a small force in Syria to ensure the militants are defeated and prevent Iran from gaining an important foothold.

North Korea

North Korea has confirmed directly to the Trump administration that it is willing to negotiate with the United States about potential denuclearization, administration officials said Sunday, a signal that the two sides have opened communications ahead of a potential summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un next month. The message from Pyongyang offers the first reassurance that Kim is committed to meeting Trump. The U.S. president accepted an offer made in March on Kim’s behalf by South Korean emissaries during a meeting at the White House, but Pyongyang had not publicly commented. U.S. officials cautioned that Pyongyang offered no details about its negotiating position and noted that North Korea has violated past agreements, during the George W. Bush administration, to freeze its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.


The Trump administration is unleashing additional sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs with ties to President Vladimir Putin along with 12 companies they own or control. The measures announced by the Treasury Department on Friday were also aimed at 17 senior Russian government officials and the state-owned Russian weapons trading company, Rosoboronexport, which has long-standing ties to Syria and its subsidiary, Russian Financial Corporation Bank. The punitive actions are the latest escalating step by the US to punish Putin’s inner circle for interfering in the 2016 election and other ongoing aggressions across the globe in Crimea, Ukraine and Syria. A senior administration official told reporters in a briefing the sanctions were “in response to the totality of the Russian government’s ongoing and increasingly brazen pattern of malign activity around the world.”


A driver of a delivery truck plowed into a crowd of pedestrians Saturday in the German city of Muenster, killing at least two people and injuring 20 before fatally shooting himself, German officials said. Six of the injured are in severe condition. The driver of the van was a German citizen. The investigation is at an early stage but “nothing speaks for there being any Islamist background,” officials say. The Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper identified the driver as a 49-year-old German with a history of psychological problems.


If all goes as expected, Cuba will name a new president in two weeks — the first time in nearly 60 years that the communist country’s leader won’t be a Castro. Outgoing President Raúl Castro will still loom large in retirement, much like his older brother Fidel Castro, who hovered over the nation’s affairs in the years leading up to his death in 2016. But when the Cuban National Assembly meets April 19 to name the new president, it will mark a major shift in the history of the Caribbean island that has antagonized and tantalized Americans for decades. Castro’s successor likely will be a man largely unknown outside Cuba: Miguel Díaz-Canel, 57, who has risen steadily through the ranks of the Communist Party of Cuba. His selection would represent a symbolic change for a regime mostly led by the bearded guerrillas who fought alongside the Castros during the 1959 revolution that overthrew the government of Fulgencio Batista. Díaz-Canel’s ascension to the presidency is not a guarantee, however. It has become more difficult to assess the political situation in Cuba after the U.S. pulled most of its diplomats off the island. President Trump ordered a drawdown at the U.S. Embassy in Havana after a series of mysterious “health attacks” against employees there.


A magnitude-5.3 earthquake rattled southern California on Thursday, shaking buildings in the Los Angeles area. The quake was centered in the Pacific Ocean, some 35 miles southeast of Channel Islands Beach, Calif., the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was the largest earthquake to strike the Channel Islands region since a 6.0 temblor in 1981. There were no reports of injuries with some minor damage. The quake struck around 12:30 p.m. and lasted about 10 seconds. The Los Angeles area experiences quakes of this magnitude on average about once a year. The Los Angeles area experiences quakes of this magnitude on average about once a year. Thursday’s earthquake is one of the biggest to hit southern California since a magnitude-5.2 quake in Borrego Springs in June 2016. The biggest quake in California in the past several years was a 6.0 that hit the Napa area in August 2014. That quake killed one person and injured 200.


Residents of a Pennsylvania apartment complex will be displaced for weeks and a roadway will be shut down for months after a landslide struck early Saturday. Officials say recent rains triggered the slide on Route 30, causing debris to plummet down a roughly 40-foot steep hill in the borough of East Pittsburgh.  Thirty-one people were evacuated from 29 apartment units. One building in the apartment complex collapsed, but no injuries were reported. Remaining buildings of the complex were evacuated along with a home and a business. Route 30 will be closed in both directions for at least two months as crews figure out how to repair it.


Residents in southwestern Grand Junction, Colorado, were ordered to leave their homes Monday night as the Rosevale wildfire, fanned by strong winds, crept closer to their homes. Electricity was cut to the entire evacuation area as the inferno advanced. The fire burned an unknown number of structures, but no injuries were reported. The cause of the fire, which was first reported before 7:30 p.m. Monday night, is under investigation. Grand Junction, about 35 miles from the Utah state line, has a population of about 60,000.


Yet another snowmaker is blanketing the snow-fatigued Midwest and Plains, and some light snow could even reach the interior Northeast and central Appalachians Monday. Winter weather advisories have been issued by the National Weather Service from parts of the Dakotas to western and southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. Monday, some light snow may linger in portions of the upper Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes, as well as in the central Appalachians. Up to 5 inches of snow is possible from portions of the Dakotas to southwestern Minnesota and northern Iowa.

A batch of severe storms caused damage and outages last Friday evening into early Saturday as it tore through Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana. At least five possible tornadoes were reported. As of Saturday morning, more than 42,000 customers were without power in those three states. Golf ball-sized hail was spotted in north Texas.

Heavy rainfall from an atmospheric river that pummeled northern California Friday shut down Yosemite National Park and put authorities on edge. Roads inside of the valley took on up to 4 feet of water and electrical systems were affected. Officials reopened Yosemite National Park Sunday. San Francisco received record rainfall Friday from the “Pineapple Express” storm, which forced the cancelation of more than 150 flights at San Francisco International Airport and the first cancelation of a San Francisco Giants game in more than a decade. There were a number of road closures and minor car crashes reported Friday in Sonoma County.

Signs of the Times (4/2/18)

April 2, 2018

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)

Catholic Employers Win Permanent Injunction against Obamacare Mandate

In a major victory for the First Amendment right to religious freedom, a federal judge has ruled in favor of Catholic Benefits Association (CBA) members, issuing declaratory relief and a permanent injunction against the Obamacare CASC (contraception, abortifacient, sterilization, and related counseling) Mandate. The ruling also eliminates $6.9 billion in fines that have accumulated against CBA members. The judgment means that the government cannot force Catholic employers who are members of the CBA to provide the mandate CASC coverage. The decision also declares the Mandate is illegal as applied to CBA members. While an injunction stops the federal government from enforcing the CASC Mandate against CBA members, the declaratory judgment speaks directly to the illegality of what the federal government has been trying to do to CBA members for years. The court stated that the federal government “violated RFRA” (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) by trying to coerce members into providing CASC services.

Judge Dismisses Class-Action Challenge to Travel Ban

A federal judge in Washington who had been a thorn in the side of the Trump administration reversed course Tuesday and ruled she could not force the State Department to grant visa lottery approvals to would-be immigrants from Iran and Yemen. The complicated case doesn’t directly challenge President Trump’s travel ban, but it does deliver a rare lower-court legal victory on one aspect of the ban, which has restricted visits and immigration from a number of majority-Muslim nations. Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that the government had managed to run out the clock on would-be immigrants from Yemen and Iran, and there is no longer anything she can do to preserve their pathway to immigration. “There is no longer any meaningful relief this court can provide. Therefore, it must dismiss this case as moot,” she wrote. The case had been at the nexus of two controversial policies: Trump’s travel ban and the diversity visa lottery, which doles out immigration passes based on chance.

California Sues Over Addition of Citizenship Question to Census

The state of California sued the Trump administration Monday night, arguing that the decision to add a question about citizenship in the 2020 Census violates the U.S. Constitution. The state’s attorney general acted just after the Commerce Department announced the change in a late-night release. The suit is just the start of what is likely to be a broader battle with enormous political stakes that pits the administration against many Democratic states, which believe that the citizenship question will reduce the response rate for the census and produce undercounts. As a result, opponents say, states with significant immigrant populations stand to lose seats in state legislatures and Congress, along with electoral college votes in presidential elections and federal funding based on census counts. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said, among other things, that the data could help identify potential voting-rights violations by providing more accurate information than currently available about the proportion of a congressional district’s population that is eligible to vote by virtue of holding citizenship. Information about citizenship currently comes from a survey that samples a small percentage of the population.

WSJ Slams Democrats Over Stalled Appointees

The Wall Street Journal slammed Democrats for abusing Senate rules in an attempt to block political appointees from taking their posts. In an editorial posted Tuesday night, the WSJ noted the Senate is “sitting on 78 nominees who have already been vetted and passed out of committee but can’t get a floor vote.” Liberals are abusing the current rule and using it even for nominees with broad bipartisan support, the newspaper said. The Journal cited the example of Richard Grenell, who was nominated to be ambassador to Germany back in September. “Mr. Grenell has more than enough foreign-policy experience as the longest-serving U.S. spokesman at the United Nations, and even some liberal groups back him as an openly gay conservative,” the newspaper pointed out.

Paris Climate Accords Are Increasingly Ignored

The International Energy Agency announced last week that carbon emissions grew 1.7 percent in 2017. Not a single major industrial nation was on track to fulfill the commitments they made in the Paris climate-accord treaty. There are 195 signatories, of which only the following are considered even “in range” of their Paris targets: Morocco, Gambia, Bhutan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, India, and the Philippines. Two years after countries signed a landmark climate agreement in Paris, the world remains far off course from reducing emissions. On Monday, the latest round of post-Paris international climate talks began in Bonn, Germany, to discuss how to step up efforts.

Puerto Rico Mental Health Crisis

Mental health issues have made a alarming rise in Puerto Rico as residents continue to grapple with massive losses and crippled infrastructure six months after their island home was devastated by Hurricane Maria. The island nation was already battling surging mental health issues fafter a decade-long recession that left many unemployed and divided families due to people moving away. Maria’s blow and the devastation left behind has only added to the distress. A suicide prevention hotline center near San Juan says it received up to 600 calls daily from people who reach out to discuss their losses, economic situations, or family departures for the U.S. mainland. They are also receiving an alarming influx of people discussing thought-out suicide plans. In January, the hotline saw calls related to suicide double from 2,046 in August to 4,548. Attempts also jumped from 782 to 1,075 within the same timeframe.

Ransomware Cyberattack Hobbles Atlanta

Atlanta’s municipal government was brought to its knees last week by a ransomware attack — one of the most sustained and consequential cyberattacks ever mounted against a major American city. The digital extortion aimed at Atlanta, which security experts have linked to a shadowy hacking crew known for its careful selection of targets, laid bare once again the vulnerabilities of governments as they rely on computer networks for day-to-day operations. Police officers are filing reports on paper, residents can’t pay bills and the courts are frozen. In a ransomware attack, malicious software cripples a victim’s computer or network and blocks access to important data until a ransom is paid to unlock it. Part of what makes the attack on Atlanta so pernicious are the criminals behind it. Threat researchers at Dell SecureWorks, the Atlanta-based security firm helping the city respond to the ransomware attack, identified the assailants as the SamSam hacking crew, one of the more prevalent and meticulous of the dozens of active ransomware attack groups. Atlanta city officials are not saying whether they were strong-armed into paying the $51,000 ransom to hackers holding many of the municipality’s online services hostage, but they did announce progress in restoring some of their networks.

Self-Driving Cars Could Kill Hundreds but Save Thousands

Self-driving cars could kill hundreds of people every year in the early going but save many more lives, a Toyota executive said Thursday at an event near the New York Auto Show. After a self-driving Uber car killed a pedestrian in Arizona earlier this month, concerns about the movement toward autonomous transportation have escalated. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey banned Uber self-driving cars following the incident. However, Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz said Thursday that more deaths are coming as automakers and tech companies pursue self-driving vehicles. “The reality is there will be mistakes along the way,” he said. “A hundred or 500 or a thousand people could lose their lives in accidents like we’ve seen in Arizona.” Lentz estimated that autonomous vehicles could eventually save 35,000 lives annually, representing the 98% of deadly crashes blamed on driver error.

NFL Finalizes $90M Social-Justice Deal Without Resolving Anthem Protests

NFL team owners unanimously gave their final approval Monday to an unprecedented $90 million social-justice initiative but made no decisions about how to handle players refusing to stand for the national anthem. nstead, owners are expected to continue the discussion about whether to change the game-day policy, which does not require players to stand, at the spring league meeting in May. The decision to avoid an anthem vote at the March 25-28 annual league meeting in Orlando came with the owners split on how to handle the divisive two-year-old sideline protests, which have been blamed in large part for the NFL’s 9.7 percent ratings decline in the 2017 regular season.

Flu Season Not Over, New Wave Underway

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the flu season is not over yet and issued a warning about a new wave of influenza B that’s on the rise. The strain of flu that has dominated this season, influenza A (H3N2), seems to be tapering off, but cases of influenza B have increased. The report notes that nearly 58 percent of all new laboratory-confirmed cases of flu were caused by the B strain. The CDC notes that influenza B can be every bit as deadly as other strains of the virus. During the week ending March 11, five pediatric deaths were reported, bringing the national total to 133 this season. Seventeen states reported widespread flu activity.

Economic News

China raised import duties on a $3 billion list of U.S. pork, apples and other products Monday in an escalating dispute with Washington over trade and industrial policy. The government of President Xi Jinping said it was responding to a U.S. tariff hike on steel and aluminum. But that is just one facet of sprawling tensions with Washington, Europe and Japan over a state-led economic model that they say hampers market access, protects Chinese companies and subsidizes exports in violation of Beijing’s free-trade commitments. Economists say the impact of Monday’s move should be limited, but investors worry the global recovery might be set back if other governments respond by raising import barriers, sending the market down 2% early Monday.

Stocks marched backward in March, leaving a jittery Wall Street debating whether the the first quarterly loss since 2015 is just a short-term blip or a sign of more losses to come. The broad Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index fell 1.2% in the first quarter of 2018, snapping a nine-quarter stretch of gains. After racing to 14 record highs through Jan. 26, U.S. stocks were undermined by fears about a trade war and jitters about rising interest rates and the user data privacy crisis engulfing Facebook and other social media companies. There was one glimmer of hope, however: stocks rallied sharply on the final trading day of the month.

Apartment rent increases slowed further in the first quarter, a development that, combined with faster wage growth, is expected to ease financial stress for low- and middle-income households over the next couple of years. Average rent rose 2.3% to $1,310 in the first three months of the year, according to RealPage, a real estate technology and analytics firm. That marks a decline from the fourth quarter’s 2.6% pace and the smallest yearly gain since the third quarter of 2010. Rent increases have slowed steadily since peaking at 5.3% in the second half of 2015. Equally significant is that apartment occupancy in the first quarter fell to 94.5% from 95.1% late last year. Tight apartment supplies and surging demand from Millennials had been pushing occupancy and rents higher.

Major credit card companies Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover are eliminating the need for shoppers to sign receipts for credit and debit sales beginning April 14. That means most merchants in the U.S. or Canada can decide whether or not to require signatures. Some merchants have already ditched signatures for some purchases but beginning in two weeks the credit card companies are collectively ending requirements for customers’ autographs. The encryption within the EMV chip, which began rolling out three years ago, has helped buttress robust security, as have other steps taken by credit card companies and the underlying payment networks in which banks participate in. Eliminating the signing of receipts will make the checkout process more efficient not only for shoppers, but also for retailers.

Middle East

An estimated 17,000 Palestinian residents of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip answered a call by the Islamist terror militia Hamas to congregate at five locations along the border with Israel Friday morning to participate in the so-called “Great March of Return.” Several dozen of the rioters threw stones and the scene grew highly chaotic, with IDF units firing tear gas to disperse the rioters while live ammunition was fired at ringleaders. Fourteen deaths and over a thousand injuries by live fire, rubber-coated steel pellets or tear gas fired, according to Hamas. The flag-waving demonstrations, which began Friday, were billed as the “Great March of Return” protests that are scheduled to end May 15, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s creation, with a march through the border fence. Diplomatic fallout from Friday’s violent riots along the border between Israel and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, which resulted in 16 Palestinian rioters being killed and several hundred more being wounded, was generally unfavorable towards Israel. Israel was characterized as having over-reacted with deadly force to “peaceful demonstrations” by a majority of the major media organizations, religious leaders and world governments.


President Assad’s forces were poised to take control of the last rebel area close to Damascus last night as an evacuation of the fighters and their families was underway — the largest so far in the seven-year war. The rebel-held area had held out against the surrounding government forces and their allies for almost five years. from which the rebels have been able to shell the capital. More than 80,000 civilians are thought to remain in Douma.


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in will hold a rare meeting aimed at improving ties and easing tensions on April 27, authorities announced Thursday. The leaders will hold talks at the Peace House in the border village of Panmunjom, a joint statement said. It will be the third summit between the two Koreas. The previous gatherings took place in the North’s capital, Pyongyang, in 2000 and 2007. The nations agreed to discuss security and protocol for the upcoming summit at meetings next Wednesday. The summit comes ahead of a meeting between Kim and President Trump set to take place by the end of May. It would be the first meeting between a U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on his first foreign visit since taking power that he is committed to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, Chinese state media reported Wednesday. Kim paid an “unofficial visit” to Beijing from Sunday to Wednesday, official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported, confirming days of speculation that the reclusive leader had traveled to his country’s closest ally.  It was Kim’s first foreign trip since taking power in late 2011. The visit is a precursor to another much-anticipated meeting later this year between Kim and President Trump.  “It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization on the peninsula, in accordance with the will of late President Kim Il Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il,” Kim said referring to his predecessors, according to Xinhua.

The United States and South Korea began their joint military training exercises Sunday, as diplomatic relations have been thawing on the Korean Peninsula. More than 11,500 U.S. troops and nearly 300,000 South Korean forces will take part in the four-week exercises. Foal Eagle, the largest annual joint military exercise in South Korea, usually runs about two months. Its start was delayed this year at the request of South Korea until after the Winter Olympics. North Korea has consistently protested the annual joint exercises as a military provocation, even though the U.S. stresses that the drills are for defensive purposes. But this year North Korea agreed not to object to the exercises as part of the agreement to meet with Trump.


NATO, Ireland, Belgium and the tiny former Soviet republic of Moldova on Tuesday joined the United States and other countries who expelled Russian diplomats Monday in a show of solidarity with the United Kingdom over the nerve-agent attack against a former Russian spy in England. That makes 27 countries that have expelled Russian diplomats. Russia denies any involvement in the March 4 poisoning, which British authorities said involved a nerve agent called Novichuk, which was developed by the Soviet military. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia’s response will be up to President Vladimir Putin. “We will be guided by the principle of reciprocity as before,” Peskov said. Russia will close the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg and kick out 60 American diplomats in response to Monday’s coordinated expulsion of Russian diplomats from the United States and a number of other countries, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last Thursday.

A new intercontinental ballistic missile hailed by Russian President Vladimir Putin as being able to fly over the North or South Poles and strike any target in the world reportedly was test-launched for the second time Friday. Russia’s defense ministry released a video purportedly showing the Sarmat ICBM – dubbed “Satan 2” by NATO – blasting off in spectacular fashion from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in its northern Arkhangelsk province. “No defense systems will be able to withstand it,” Putin said about the missile during his state-of-the-nation speech in early March. Russia has been working for years to develop a new ICBM to replace the Soviet-designed Voyevoda, the world’s heaviest ICBM and known as “Satan” in the West. That ICBM carries 10 nuclear warheads.


Poland on Wednesday inked a deal to buy a U.S.-made Patriot anti-missile system for $4.75 billion. “It is an extraordinary, historic moment; it is Poland’s introduction into a whole new world of state-of-the-art technology, modern weaponry, and defensive means,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said during the signing ceremony. The deal with U.S. defense company Raytheon will see Poland acquire fou.r Patriot missile units, which are designed to shoot down incoming missiles and aircraft, with first deliveries expected to be made in 2022. The acquisition will allow Poland to co-ordinate its anti-missile operations with other NATO allies that already have the Patriot system, including Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Greece. The purchase is part of the country’s effort to modernize its armed forces amid heightened tensions with Russia.


Air pollution in the tiny young nation of Kosovo rivals big cities like Beijing, Mumbai and New Delhi. The dirty air here is so bad that it has spawned protests, apps and even its own hashtag. Two coal-fired power plants a mile outside the capital in the town of Obiliq spew the rancid smell of burning coal year-round, with wood stoves adding smoke to the mix. Pedestrians in Pristina, with 200,000 people, have to don masks when they go outside during the winter. Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, has the world’s fifth largest reserve of brown coal, considered the dirtiest fossil fuel. And the World Bank has called the country’s aging coal-fired power plants the “worst single point source of pollution in Europe.”


Severe thunderstorms spawned tornadoes in Texas and parts of Louisiana last Wednesday evening through early Thursday during the latest round of flooding and severe weather to hit the South. A squall line of severe thunderstorms roared through the Texas Coastal Bend after midnight Thursday, producing scattered damage in Bee, Nueces, Refugio, Aransas, Nueces and Calhoun Counties. Several homes were missing roofs, and windows were blown out of many other homes. The squall line also blasted the Corpus Christi metro area, downing power lines. Earlier, the severe storms downed trees and power poles in Beeville, Texas. At least three EF1 tornadoes struck Louisiana. Wednesday afternoon, one of the storms touched down near Mangham, Louisiana, downing trees, at least one of which landed on a home. Several sheds and barns were also damaged.

On April 2nd, additional snow was falling in the northeast again, primarily Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, continuing the siege of winter on the northeast even as much of the country eases into Spring.

Signs of the Times (3/26/18)

March 26, 2018

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

States Considering ‘Red Flag’ Laws to Restrict Gun Access

States across the country are taking a closer look at “red flag” laws after a teen gunman, long known to law enforcement as troubled, killed 17 in Parkland, Florida. The laws allow family members or law enforcement to seek a court order to temporarily restrict people’s access to firearms when they show “red flags” that they are a danger to themselves or others. After the shooting, Florida became the sixth state to pass a red-flag law, and other state lawmakers introduced a flurry of new bills, including first-time legislation in more than a handful of states. Bills are now pending in 22 states and the District of Columbia, while bipartisan efforts are coming together in Congress.

Students Lead Huge Rallies for Gun Control Across the U.S.

Standing before vast crowds in hundreds of rallies from Washington to Los Angeles to Parkland, Fla., the speakers — nearly all of them students, some still in elementary school — delivered an anguished and defiant message: They are “done hiding” from gun violence and will “stop at nothing” to get politicians to finally prevent it. The students vowed that their grief about school shootings and their frustration with adults’ inaction would power a new generation of political activism. For many of the young people, the Washington rally, called March for Our Lives, was their first act of protest and the beginning of a political awakening. But that awakening may be a rude one — lawmakers in Congress have largely disregarded their pleas for action on television and social media in the five weeks since the Parkland shooting.

  • Until Jesus comes again and eradicates evil in the world, there is no perfect solution to gun control.

Youth Suicide Rates Up

The suicide rate for white children and teens between 10 and 17 was up 70% between 2006 and 2016, the latest data analysis available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although black children and teens kill themselves less often than white youth do, their rate of increase was higher — 77%. A study of pediatric hospitals released last May found admissions of patients ages 5 to 17 for suicidal thoughts and actions more than doubled from 2008 to 2015. The group at highest risk for suicide are white males between 14 and 21. Experts and teens cite myriad reasons, including spotty mental health screening, poor access to mental health services and resistance among young men and people of color to admit they have a problem and seek care. There’s also a host of well-documented and hard to solve societal issues, including opioid-addicted parents, a polarized political environment and poverty that persists in many areas despite a near-record-low unemployment rate.

  • So-called experts conveniently leave out the rise in societal problems due to the removal of God from schools and the increase in violence-saturated video games, TV shows and movies.

Trump Expels Russians, Closes Consulate Over Poison Attack in UK

President Trump has expelled 60 Russian diplomats and suspected spies and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle over the poison attack in Great Britain, the administration said Monday. “The United States takes this action in conjunction with our NATO allies and partners around the world in response to Russia’s use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom, the latest in its ongoing pattern of destabilizing activities around the world,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. The U.S. sanctions resemble those of other nations in response to the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil; the United Kingdom and others have accused the Kremlin of orchestrating the attack, something Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied.

Nine Iranians Charged in Massive Hacking Attack

The Trump administration announced criminal charges and sanctions Friday against Iranians accused in a hacking scheme to pilfer sensitive information from hundreds of universities, private companies and American government agencies. The nine defendants, accused of working at the behest of the Iranian government-tied Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, hacked the computer systems of about 320 universities in the United States and abroad to steal expensive science and engineering research that was then used by the government or sold for profit, prosecutors said. The hackers also are accused of breaking into the networks of government organizations, such as the Department of Labor, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the United Nations, and private sector entities including technology companies and law and consulting firms. The defendants are unlikely to ever be prosecuted in an American courtroom since there’s no extradition treaty with Iran.

New Spending Bill Includes Increased Funding for Israel

The US Congress on Friday passed its Omnibus Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2018, which included major pro-Israel legislation that will significantly boost its defense development. The spending bill contains a total of $705.8 million for US-Israel missile defense cooperation, representing $105 million more than last year’s adopted funding level. These funds will support both procurement, research and development for the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow-2 and Arrow-3 cooperative missile defense systems—key programs that help Israel defend its citizens against rockets and missiles and also advance America’s own missile defense capabilities. The bill also includes $47.5 million for joint anti-terror tunneling technologies, a $5 million increase from last year.

Conservatives Blast $1.3 trillion Spending Bill, Special Interest Groups Cheer

Conservatives blasted the $1.3 trillion spending passed by Congress and signed by President Trump last week. The deal would will increase domestic spending by $63 billion over last year’s levels, or about 12 percent, and it would boost military spending by $80 billion, about 15 percent. The House could vote on the measure as early as today, followed by the Senate later this week. Lawmakers have funded the government through a series of short-term spending bills, lurching from one shutdown threat to another for almost six months of the fiscal year. Fiscal conservatives support a boost in military spending, but they oppose the plumped-up domestic spending. In addition, the bill provides no funding for the President’s proposed border wall – a major setback for Trump who had demanded $25 billion to construct a concrete barrier to stop illegal crossings from Mexico. Nor does it defund Planned Parenthood.

Republicans and Democrats are now sparring over which party emerged victorious from the spending bill fight, but the real winners are thousands of interest groups — including wealthy foreign investors, striped bass fishing enthusiasts and cranberry researchers — to whom the bill doles out some serious assistance. Medical marijuana advocates maintained key protections for states that allow medicinal use, while researchers cheered a massive new infusion of cash in government-sponsored research and development. Space enthusiasts were ecstatic over the biggest boost for NASA in a decade. Lawmakers representing farm-heavy states secured a provision to maintain exemptions for certain emissions from animal manure from government reporting requirements. And animal welfare advocates cheered the bill’s de facto ban on horse-meat processing plants in the U.S.

California Cities Reject State’s Sanctuary Law

More towns and cities in California are exploring options to follow Los Alamitos in rejecting the state’s sanctuary law. Members of the Los Alamitos Council voted Monday to opt out of a state law that limits cooperation between local police and federal immigration agents. The law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year and in effect since Jan. 1, includes prohibiting state and local police agencies from informing federal authorities in cases when illegal immigrants facing deportation are released from detention. The council’s move inspired officials in Orange County and the cities of Aliso Viejo and Buena Park to consider adopting similar measures against California’s sanctuary law. Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel said in a statement Tuesday that she plans to present a similar ordinance to the Board of Supervisors. Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel said in a statement Tuesday that she plans to present a similar ordinance to the Board of Supervisors.

Trump Revokes Full Ban on Transgender Troops

President Trump issued an order late Friday that supports a ban on many (but not all) transgender troops, deferring to a new Pentagon plan that essentially cancels a policy adopted by the Obama administration. The decision revokes a full ban that Trump issued last summer but disqualifies U.S. troops who have had gender reassignment surgery, as recommended by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Current transgender service members who have not undergone reassignment surgery should be allowed to stay, as long as they have been medically stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex before joining the military and are able to deploy across the world, Mattis recommended.

FTC Opens Investigation into Facebook

The Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into Facebook following reports that a data analytics firm that had worked with the Trump campaign had improperly accessed names, “likes” and other personal information about tens of millions of the social site’s users without their knowledge. The FTC probe marks the most substantial political and legal threat yet to Facebook as it grapples with the fallout from Cambridge Analytica and its controversial tactics. And it could result in the U.S. government slapping Facebook with a massive fine. At issue for the company — and at the heart of the FTC probe — is a settlement they reached with the agency in November 2011, ending an investigation that Facebook deceived users about the privacy protections they are afforded on the site. Among other requirements, the resulting consent decree mandated that Facebook must notify users and obtain their permission before data about them is shared beyond the privacy settings they have established. Facebook shares took a big hit Monday, shaving about $37 billion off the value of the company. Fabricated news that misled millions, live broadcasts of homicides and terrorism, racist targeting of ads, troubling search results and Russian manipulation — all had chipped away at the social network’s reputation beforehand. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a post on his personal Facebook page that the company will give users new tools to see how their data is being used and shared. Facebook added that it will further restrict developers’ access to data to prevent abuse.

Self-Driving Uber Car Kills Woman in Tempe, AZ

The operator in a self-driving Uber vehicle that hit and killed a 49-year-old woman Sunday night had served almost four years in an Arizona prison in the early 2000s on an attempted armed robbery conviction. A representative for Uber declined to comment on the conviction and the company’s hiring policies, citing an active investigation. Elaine Herzberg was walking a bike across a street outside a crosswalk in Tempe, Arizona, at about 10 p.m. when she was hit. Police said the vehicle was in autonomous mode with an operator, who has been identified as 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez, behind the wheel at the time of the crash. Tempe police spokesman Sgt. Ronald Elcock said impairment did not initially appear to be a factor for either Vasquez or Herzberg. He added it was not apparent that the vehicle attempted to slow down while it approached Herzberg. The Uber cars were already having trouble driving through construction zones and next to tall vehicles, like big rigs, reports the New York Times. And Uber’s human drivers had to intervene far more frequently than the drivers of competing autonomous car projects.

Economic News

Sales of new U.S. single-family homes unexpectedly fell for a third straight month in February, weighed down by steep declines in the Midwest and West. The Commerce Department said on Friday new home sales dropped 0.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 618,000 units last month. Economists had forecast that new home sales, which account for 10 percent of housing market sales, would rise 4.4 percent. The housing market has slowed in recent months as an acute shortage of homes, especially on the lower end of the market, squeezes sales while pushing up prices. Rising mortgage rates could make buying a home even less affordable for first-time buyers, who have been largely priced out of the market. The median new house price was $326,800, a 9.7 percent increase from a year ago. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate is hovering at a four-year high of 4.45 percent. In contrast, annual wage growth has been stuck below 3 percent despite the unemployment rate dropping to a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.

Americans’ outlook for the economy climbed in March for a third straight month to match the highest level since 2002, data from the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index showed. The monthly gauge of economic expectations increased to 56 from 54.5; 39% of respondents said economy “getting better,” the biggest share since March 2002 and up from 38% a month earlier; it was 30% in December.

Persecution Watch

Masked attackers murdered a church pastor in Darfur, western Sudan, along with his wife and two daughters in the early hours of March 2, 2018. Before killing him, they demanded to know why he had not heeded their warnings to stop preaching about Jesus. In response, Pastor Stephen started telling them about Jesus. Barnabas Fund’s contact writes, They became furious and started to kick him and beat him up seriously. The attackers then tried to force the pastor to violate his daughters, Rachel and Priscilla. He refused. “They then began by killing the girls first, then their mother [Beatrice], and finally the pastor himself. They were cut in pieces as though they were cows.”

Boko Haram militants freed the majority of the 110 kidnapped Dapchi schoolgirls on Wednesday, March 21, but are still holding captive a Christian girl who refused to convert to Islam. A relative of another of the freed girls stated that the Christian girl was still being held because she had refused to convert to Islam. The Christian girl is understood to be 15-year-old Leah Sherubu. Her father has praised her faithfulness, stating, “I am grateful to God that my daughter refused to convert.”

Middle East

Saudi Arabia on Monday threatened retaliation against Iran, accusing the Shiite power of being behind multiple Yemeni rebel missile attacks on the kingdom that led to three deaths. Seven missiles were fired at the Saudi capital Riyadh on the third anniversary of the Saudi military intervention in Yemen civil war. Seven of the Houthi missiles were shot down. A Saudi coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki described the attacks by the Houthi rebels as a deadly escalation adding we “reserve the right to respond against Iran at the right time and right place” One Egyptian was killed and two of his countrymen were wounded by falling shrapnel in Riyadh, authorities said, with residents reporting loud explosions and bright flashes in the sky shortly before midnight.

Several Code Red alarms sounded in the southern Israel Sunday evening and Iron Dome defense batteries responded to what was thought to be missiles fired from the Gaza Strip. However, the sirens sounded following automatic gunfire emanating from Gaza. No missiles landed in Israeli territory. The IDF will study the event in order to figure out why the sirens went off. The Hamas terror group, which rules the Strip, detonated bombs and fired machine guns in the streets in a 24-hour exercise that began Sunday morning. Israel Air Force (IAF) jets attacked a Hamas target in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday night after four Palestinians infiltrated Israeli territory. They tried damaging construction equipment being used to build an underground barrier to Hamas terror tunnels leading into Israel. Tensions at the border have been high recently. There were several attempts by Gaza terrorists to detonate explosive devices against IDF forces guarding the area, and Hamas has announced plans to lead a mass march into Israeli territory this coming Friday.

The Israeli military formally confirmed for the first time on Wednesday it carried out a 2007 air raid on a suspected nuclear reactor deep inside Syria. Israel was widely believed to have been behind the September 6, 2007 attack, but had never admitted it. Eight fighter jets flew at low altitude on the secret mission against the suspected plutonium nuclear reactor in the Deir el-Zour region of eastern Syria, the military said. Syria is believed to have received help from North Korea in developing the reactor. Damascus has never admitted to developing a nuclear facility and was silent following the Israeli attack, saying only that its airspace had been violated.


An Islamic State suicide bomber struck on the road to a Shiite shrine in Afghanistan’s capital on Wednesday, killing at least 29 people as Afghans celebrated the Persian new year. The Public Health Ministry said another 52 people were wounded in the attack, which was carried out by a bomber on foot. The Islamic State group claimed the attack in an online statement. IS said the attack targeted “a gathering of Shiites celebrating Nauruz.” The Persian new year, known in Afghanistan as Nauruz, is a national holiday, and the country’s minority Shiites typically celebrate by visiting shrines. The Sunni extremists of IS have repeatedly targeted Shiites, who they view as apostates deserving of death.


Boko Haram extremists returned most of the 110 girls they kidnapped a month ago from their school in northeastern Nigeria, the Nigerian government said Wednesday. Fighters from the militant group drove into the northern town of Dapchi in nine vans and dropped the girls off early Wednesday, just after Nigerian soldiers withdrew. The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said no ransom was paid. He said the release was obtained through “back-channel efforts,” after “a pause in operations” and with the help of “some friends of the country.” As the extremists dropped off the girls Wednesday, they told residents: “This is a warning to you all,” the Associated Press reported. “We did it out of pity. And don’t ever put your daughters in school again.”


The world’s largest collection of ocean garbage is growing. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of plastic, floating trash located halfway between Hawaii and California, has grown to more than 600,000 square miles, a study published Thursday finds. That’s twice the size of Texas. Winds and converging ocean currents funnel the garbage into a central location. First discovered in the early 1990s, the trash in the patch comes from countries around the Pacific Rim, including nations in Asia as well as North and South America. It includes some 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic and weighs 88,000 tons — the equivalent of 500 jumbo jets. The new figures are as much as 16 times higher than previous estimates.

UBQ is an Israeli company that has patented a process to convert household trash from landfills into reusable plastic. After five years of development, the company is bringing its operations online, with hopes of revolutionizing waste management worldwide and making landfills obsolete. It remains to be seen, however, if the technology really works and is commercially viable. UBQ operates a pilot plant and research facility at Kibbutz Zeelim, on the edge of southern Israel’s Negev Desert, where it has developed its production line. Leading scientists serve on its advisory board, including Nobel Prize chemist Roger Kornberg, Hebrew University biochemist Oded Shoseyov and Connie Hedegaard, a former European Commissioner for Climate Action.

Hurricane Harvey’s strike on coastal Texas caused a far bigger environmental catastrophe than officials publicly disclosed, according to an investigation released this week by the Associated Press and Houston Chronicle. Their findings revealed that more than 100 toxic releases were caused by the devastating hurricane, and most were never made public. Since the storm, 89 incidents were investigated by state officials, but no action was announced at the end of those investigations. Several of the plants responsible for the releases are repeat offenders, the investigation found, and some of the chemicals, like benzene and vinyl chloride, are carcinogens. One reason why officials said they didn’t notify the public about the releases was because their priority was “addressing any environmental harms as quickly as possible, as opposed to making announcements about what the problem was.” Looking back,” added Samuel Coleman, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office during Harvey, they probably should have told the public about the worst “dozens of spills.”


Winter Storm Toby was the fourth nor’easter to hit the East in less than three weeks, bringing heavy snow and some winds from the Ohio Valley to the Northeast as spring officially arrived. Toby dumped a foot or more of snow in at least five states, with heavy snow stretching from Long Island to the Appalachians to parts of the Ohio Valley. Parts of Long Island were hammered by up to 19 inches of snow. New York’s Central Park picked up 8.2 inches of snow, the first time they had picked up at least 6 inches from a snowstorm in late March or April in 26 years (March, 19, 1992). Parts of New Jersey picked up over 6 inches of snow, including Newark Airport (7.9 inches). Central and southern Pennsylvania into northern Maryland was buried in over a foot of snow in several locations. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, had its second heaviest late-March snowstorm in records dating to 1941, picking up 14.2 inches. More than 100,000 were without power in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast as of Thursday morning.

A series of storms have been a boon for California’s Sierra Nevada where nearly 16 feet of snow has piled up in March. Through the end of February, the Lake Tahoe ski resort Alpine Meadows had received 147 inches of snow this season at an elevation of 8,000 feet. Since then, 191 inches of snow, or nearly 16 feet, has fallen in just 18 days for a grand total of 338 inches (over 28 feet). That’s still a far cry from the more than 600 inches recorded there through mid-March last year, but above the 2014-15 and 2013-14 winters when less than 300 inches was tallied.

Monday’s severe weather outbreak in northern Alabama ended a record-long streak with no EF3 or stronger rated tornadoes in the United States. The tornado ripped apart buildings Monday night on the campus of Jacksonville  State University, which was mostly closed for Spring Break. The last tornado of that intensity occurred on May 16, 2017, when separate EF3 tornadoes touched down in Kansas and Wisconsin. A total of 306 days then went by with no tornadoes rated EF3 or stronger, besting the previous record of 249 days, based on data back to 1953 from NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center. Tornadoes are rated on the Enhanced Fujita Scale from EF0 to EF5 based on the damage they cause. EF2-EF3 tornadoes are considered strong while rare EF4-EF5 twisters are classified as violent. Tornadoes rated EF2-EF3 are not very common, making up about 9.5 percent of all twisters for the years 2000-2010. Less than one percent of all tornadoes were assigned an  EF4 or EF5 rating for that same period of time.

African dust from the Sahara Desert yielded very hazy conditions in Greece’s largest island, Crete, on Thursday as strong southerly winds blew the dust across the Mediterranean Sea. The plume of dust could be seen in space by NASA’s Terra satellite in a light brown color moving off the northern coast of Africa and heading toward Crete. Visibility was very limited on the Greek island Thursday thanks to the thick African dust plume that enveloped the island. It’s approximately 225 miles from the northern Africa coast to Crete, but Saharan dust can actually travel much farther.

Signs of the Times (3/19/18)

March 19, 2018

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

Christian-Based ‘I Can Only Imagine’ Beats New Age ‘Wrinkle in Time’

The faith-based film “I Can Only Imagine” was a surprise hit at the box office over the weekend. The movie tells the story of Bart Millard, the lead singer of Christian rock band MercyMe, and what led him to write the bestselling Christian single of all time: “I Can Only Imagine.” The film earned nearly double its expected box office gross, bringing in $17.1 million across North America. It came in third for the weekend behind the opening of “Tomb Raider” and Marvel’s “Black Panther,” while playing in far fewer theaters. The Christian-themed movie beat out Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” a movie which had all of its original Christian elements removed by the screenwriter. It also beat a new film about a gay teenage romance.

Americans’ Support for Israel Hits Highest Level in Years

A Gallup poll published last Tuesday shows that 64% of the American public sympathize more with Israelis in the ongoing dispute with their neighbors, while only 19% lean toward the Palestinians. This tied 2013 and 1991 for the highest support Israel has ever received in the 30 years that Gallup has run this poll. Democrats’ preference for Israel lagged far behind their counterparts across the aisle in Congress, at 49% versus 87% of Republicans. Support for the Palestinians hasn’t changed much since 1988, the year of the first poll. Then, 15% supported them more than Israel, while the highest backing they received was 20%, back in 2007

Appeals Court Backs Trump, Texas in Sanctuary City Fight

States have the power to punish sanctuary cities within their borders and to force local police and sheriff’s departments to cooperate in turning over illegal immigrants to the federal government for deportation, an appeals court ruled Tuesday in upholding a Texas law. The 3-0 decision by a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals marks a major victory for President Trump, who has demanded punishment for sanctuary cities that thwart the federal government to protect illegal immigrants. The judges didn’t go that far, but they did say the federal government’s detainer requests, which ask local governments to hold illegal immigrants for pickup, are legal. Known as SB4, the legislation Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed last year requires police to determine the legal status of those they encounter during their duties.

IRS Finds 1.3 Million Cases of Identity Theft by Illegal Immigrants

The Internal Revenue Service in 2011 through 2016 documented more than 1.3 million cases of identity theft perpetrated by illegal aliens whom the IRS had given Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN), which are only given to people who are ineligible to work in the United States or receive Social Security Numbers, according to information published by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). However, in response to inquiries from, the IRS could not say if it had referred even one of these cases for criminal prosecution. TIGTA, which is the inspector general responsible for overseeing the IRS, discovered another approximately 1.2 million cases in 2017 in which an illegal alien working in the United States had filed a tax return reporting wages that had been earned using a Social Security Number that belonged to someone else or was fabricated. Yet the IRS also could not say whether it referred any of these cases for criminal prosecution.

Trump Sanctions Russians for Interfering in 2016 Elections

The Trump administration on Thursday sanctioned 19 Russian individuals and five Russian entities for allegedly interfering in the 2016 election and engaging in cyber-attacks. The announcement was made by the Department of the Treasury and includes the 13 Russians who were recently indicted in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. The sanctions mean all property of these individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked. United States citizens are also prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.  The Treasury Department said the sanctions are meant to counter Russia’s destabilizing activities, including its interference in the 2016 election and its destructive cyber-attacks. The department cited the NotPetya attack, a cyber-attack the White House and the British government have attributed to the Russian military.

Senate Passes Rollback of Banking Rules Enacted after Recession

The Senate on Wednesday passed the biggest loosening of financial regulations since the economic crisis a decade ago, delivering wide bipartisan support for weakening banking rules despite bitter divisions among Democrats. The bill, which passed 67 votes to 31, would free more than two dozen banks from the toughest regulatory scrutiny put in place after the 2008 global financial crisis. Despite President Trump’s promise to do a “big number” on the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, the new measure leaves key aspects of the earlier law in place. Nonetheless, it amounts to a significant rollback of banking rules aimed at protecting taxpayers from another financial crisis and future bailouts. In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders praised the legislation’s passage. “The bill provides much-needed relief from the Dodd-Frank Act for thousands of community banks and credit unions and will spur lending and economic growth without creating risks to the financial system,” she said. Senator Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) said, “Washington is poised to make the same mistake it has made many times before, deregulating giant banks while the economy is cruising, only to set the stage for another financial crisis,”

Students Stage Walkout to Promote Gun Control

Thousands of students across the nation were walking out of classrooms Wednesday to mark one month since the bloody rampage at a Florida high school that shocked the world and fueled a dynamic youth movement demanding an end to gun violence. Students from almost 3,000 schools were marking National Walkout Day, most by leaving their classrooms at 10 a.m. local time to show solidarity for the 17 killed in the Valentine’s Day attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. In Washington, several hundred students of all ages massed outside the White House, waving signs and shouting “What do we want? Gun control! When do we want it? Now!”

AG Sessions Announces Gun Control Measures

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday that U.S. attorneys will more aggressively enforce the law that makes it a crime for gun buyers to lie on their federal background checks, one of several steps Justice Department officials outlined as part of the Trump administration’s response to last month’s deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla. The Justice Department also will increase the presence of law enforcement officers at schools and continue to review the way law enforcement agencies respond to tips from the public, Sessions said.

44 Countries Still Don’t Have a U.S. Ambassador

Forty-four of 188 U.S. embassies and international organizations that still lack an ambassador since President Trump took office. (That number includes six countries for which the U.S. does not exchange a top diplomat). Trump on Sunday condemned Democrats for obstructing his nominations and urged the Senate to move faster. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., responded by slamming Trump for ambassador positions for which nominees haven’t been put forth. Trump does not have a representative in South Korea, which faces nuclear-armed North Korea. He has no envoy in Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally that helps stabilize the Middle East and counterbalances Iran’s influence. There’s no U.S. ambassador in Turkey, where President Recip Tayyip Erdogan blames the United States for an attempted coup in 2016. Trump has no personal envoy to the European Union as the continent struggles with far-right nationalist movements and Russian aggression. Ambassadors are needed in Germany, Europe’s largest economy; Cuba as it forges a new relationship with the United States, and Egypt, an ally in the fight against the Islamic State.

U.S. the World’s 18th Happiest Country

The World Happiness Report released Wednesday by the United Nations shows that the U.S. ranks 18th out of 156 on the happiness scale. The report ranked each country on six variables — income, life expectancy, freedom, social support, trust and generosity. Finland ranks first, up from fifth last year. Following Finland in the top 10 are Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia. The same countries over the past two years have been in the top 10 spots. They are characterized by lower wealth inequality, high taxes, good access to healthcare, long life expectancy, low corruption and support for those who need help from the state or communities. The ten least happy countries are Burundi, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Tanzania, Yemen, Rwanda. Syria, Liberia, Haiti, and Malawi.

Opioid-Exposed Babies at Risk for Developmental Delays

A new study shows that newborns who require treatment for opioid withdrawal are at higher risk than others for delayed language, cognitive and motor skills. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center this week released the study of 87 children who have been treated at its long-term Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Clinic. The study looked at neurodevelopment of 2-year-olds who’d been treated for the syndrome that can occur in newborns who were exposed to opioids in utero. Some of the mothers had taken heroin while pregnant; others were prescribed opioid medication for the addiction. These children also have higher rates of what’s called strabismus, commonly known as crossed eyes, than the general population.

America Will Have More Elderly People Than Children by 2035

The U.S. Census Bureau that projects that “Adults 65 and older will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history by the year 2035.” This coming shift in U.S. demographics brings with it some notable implications for U.S. society. The number of elderly Americans will be so high by that time that 1 in every 5 Americans will be at retirement age. Additionally, the death rate will surpass the birth rate. Even though the U.S. population will still continue to grow, the only reason for that growth will be immigration. For the first time in U.S. history, immigration, and not births, will be the main driver of the country’s population growth. Since the number of births isn’t enough to replace those who die, the country will certainly be seeing a drop in caretakers as the population continues to age.

Facebook Facing Data Crisis

What happens to the data you post on Facebook? And who’s responsible for how those personal details are used? Facebook is under intense pressure to answer these questions — and more — after it admitted that a company linked to President Donald Trump’s campaign had accessed and improperly stored a huge trove of its user data. The controversy erupted as UK media and The New York Times reported that data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica tried to influence how Americans voted using information gleaned from millions of Facebook profiles. The Cambridge Analytica scandal has done immense damage to the Facebook brand, sources across the company believe. It will now take a Herculean effort to restore public trust in Facebook’s commitment to privacy and data protection, they said. Outside observers think regulation has suddenly become more likely, and yet CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears missing in action. Facebook makes money by, among other things, harvesting your data and selling it to app developers and advertisers. Preventing those buyers from passing that data to third parties with ulterior motives may ultimately be impossible.

Economic News

President Trump has now amassed his first $1 trillion in debt, crossing that ignominious mark late last week — and analysts said it’s just a taste of what’s to come after the tax-cuts and spending spree of recent months. It’s a major reversal for a president who during the campaign had said given eight years he could eliminate the debt entirely but is instead looking at setting records for red ink, notes the conservative Washington Times. “We are in for a rude awakening,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Her organization calculated that with December’s tax cuts and January’s budget-busting spending deal, Mr. Trump has already signed legislation that will add at least $2.4 trillion to the debt in the next decade and, should Congress make those policies permanent, could add as much as $6 trillion.

Americans spend nearly twice as much on health care as other wealthy countries, but it’s not doing much to improve their health, a new study finds. The United States has the shortest life expectancy and highest infant and maternal mortality rates among the 11 highest-income nations. Steep spending on drugs and doctor’s salaries are among the major drivers of the high cost of health care in the United States, according to researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Global Health Institute and the London School of Economics. But, contrary to popular belief, Americans don’t use more health care than residents in other countries. Health care spending accounted for 17.8% of the US economy in 2016, compared to an average of 11.5% in the 11 high-income countries the study examined.

Americans spent $9,400 per capita on health care in 2016, compared to an average of $5,400 in the peer nations, which include Canada, Japan, Australia and several Western European countries. Americans had lower rates of physician visits and spent fewer days in the hospital, though they had some of the highest rates for imaging tests, such as MRIs and CT scans, and some common surgical procedures, such as knee replacements, cataract surgeries and cesarean births. Per capita spending on prescription drugs was more than $1,400, compared to an average of $750 for all nations studied. The average salary for a general practice physician in the United States was more than $218,000, compared to an average of nearly $134,000 in the peer nations. Specialists were paid $316,000, compared to nearly $183,000, while nurses earned more than $74,000, compared to just under $52,000.

A sharp rise in home values last year gave homeowners a strong increase in net worth in the form of home equity. It also helped more than half a million borrowers rise above water on their mortgages. All real estate is, of course, local, and some homeowners saw significantly bigger gains than others, especially those in the Western region of the nation. Homeowners with a mortgage, representing about 63% of all properties, saw their equity increase 12% over the course of last year, according to CoreLogic. That comes to an average of $15,000 per homeowner and a collective gain of $908.4 billion. States like California and Washington saw even higher price growth, so homeowners in those states gained an average of $44,000 and $40,000, respectively. In Louisiana, homeowners saw no growth at all, and in Oklahoma, barely $2,000 in additional equity.

Middle East

Calls for a “Day of Rage” Friday by the Islamist terror militia Hamas were being blamed for a violent weekend which saw three Israelis killed and two wounded in separate terror attacks. A car rammed into soldiers manning a position north of Jerusalem on Friday afternoon, killing Capt. Ziv Daus, 21, and Sgt. Netanel Kahalani, 20 while wounding two of their comrades. The driver was later captured. On Sunday afternoon, Adiel Kolman, 32, a father of four, was killed in a stabbing attack as he left his job at the City of David museum near Jerusalem’s Old City. His attacker was shot dead by nearby police. “This attack makes it clear that the intifada is continuing for the Palestinian people,” said Hamas spokesman Hazam Kasam. Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Forces ran sweeping security operations in the West Bank over the weekend in response to the terror attacks, confiscating weapons, cash and other contraband and arresting several suspects. The IDF thwarted an attempt by Hamas to renovate a terror tunnel that the army had previously destroyed leading from Gaza into Israel in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Several improvised explosive devices (IED) were detonated adjacent to the Israel-Gaza border fence Thursday morning. No injuries were reported, and IDF tanks returned fire at Hamas targets inside the Strip, including at least one Hamas lookout point. The incident was the latest in a series of incidents along the border fence in recent weeks. Last month, four IDF soldiers were injured, including two seriously, when an IED exploded as sappers checked for suspicious devices.  Two days before that attack, hundreds of Palestinians rioted on the Gaza side of the border fence; IDF officials believe the events served as cover to place the explosives that seriously injured the soldiers.

An assassination attempt on the lives of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and PA General Intelligence Services Chief Majid Faraj occurred last Tuesday morning when they entered the Gaza Strip and a bomb exploded near their motorcade. PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s office said, “Hamas bears full responsibility for the cowardly targeting of the prime minister’s motorcade in Gaza,” despite Hamas’ statement condemning the attack. Hamas took offense, condemning the PA for condemning it and broadly hinting that Israel was responsible for the attack.


Britain, France and Germany have proposed fresh EU sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missiles and its role in Syria’s war, according to a confidential document, in a bid to persuade Washington to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. The proposal is part of an EU strategy to save the accord signed by world powers that curbs Tehran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons, namely by showing U.S. President Donald Trump that there are other ways to counter Iranian power abroad. Trump delivered an ultimatum to the European signatories on Jan. 12. It said they must agree to “fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal” – which was sealed under his predecessor Barack Obama – or he would refuse to extend U.S. sanctions relief on Iran. U.S. sanctions will resume unless Trump issues fresh “waivers” to suspend them on May 12.


The fighting in Syria enters its eighth year on Thursday. A conflict that began as a peaceful uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime escalated into a full-scale civil war that is now one of this century’s deadliest. Along the way, the Syrian conflict allowed Islamic State extremists to flourish, created the world’s worst refugee crisis since World War II and exacerbated an international power struggle. The numbers speak for themselves: 400,000 Syrians have been killed, according to United Nations estimates; more than half of Syria’s 20 million, pre-war population has been displaced; 5.5 million Syrians have fled abroad — 95% of them in just five countries (Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt); 400,000 civilians are trapped in opposition-held suburbs of Syria’s capital Damascus as Assad’s government wages a relentless bombing campaign to retake the area; of Syria’s estimated 10 million children, 8.6 million are in dire need of assistance, up from about a half-million after the first year of war; nearly 6 million children are displaced or living as refugees, and about 2.5 million are out of school; about a third of Syria’s housing and half of its educational and medical facilities have been destroyed, according to a 2017 World Bank report.

Turkish-backed Syrian rebels seized control on Sunday morning of the city of Afrin, the target of a two-month military operation against Kurdish militias in the enclave in Syria. The takeover dealt a blow to Kurdish aspirations for self-administration there and added to Turkey’s growing footprint in the country. The Syrian rebel forces, which have served as advance troops for the Turkish operation, seemed to have entered the city without a fight, after the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or Y.P.G., withdrew to the surrounding hills. But residents described chaos as fleeing civilians were trapped by artillery and by Turkish airstrikes. The seizure of Afrin, a mainly Kurdish city near the Turkish border, came as other Syrian rebel groups appeared close to collapse in the besieged enclave of eastern Ghouta, in the suburbs of Damascus. Syrian forces have split the enclave into three parts under a blistering barrage of artillery and airstrikes.


Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday Britain will expel 23 Russian diplomats after Moscow failed to explain how a Russian-made nerve agent was used to poison an ex-spy and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury. The move marks the largest expulsion of diplomats from Britain since the Cold War and May said her government will also cancel all high-level bilateral contacts with Russia. She said the use of the nerve agent against Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, 33, amounted to an “unlawful use of force” against Britain with chemical weapons. May said that she had spoken to Britain’s international allies including President Trump, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s President Emmanuel Macron and that they had agreed to “cooperate closely in responding to this barbaric act.” The Kremlin rejected British claims that it was involved in the poisoning incident. Russia retaliated against Britain on Saturday by expelling 23 British diplomats.

Russian President Vladimir Putin — the country’s longest-serving leader since former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin — scored an easy victory in Sunday’s election allowing him another six-year term. Putin’s re-election was widely expected, and elections officials had pushed hard for a strong turnout to claim an indisputable mandate. Putin has been president or prime minister since December 1999, making him the only leader that a generation of Russians has ever known. Earlier Sunday, there were widespread reports of ballot-box stuffing and forced voting, but complaints of voting irregularities will likely do little to undermine Putin. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was barred from running against Putin, said he boycotted the election and had urged supporters not to vote because of the absence of any real competition.


Wildfires burned thousands of acres Thursday in Kansas and authorities warned that “extreme, catastrophic” fire conditions could prove disastrous for the region heading into the weekend. Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer declared a drought emergency earlier in the week, citing the persistent dry conditions and growing fire hazards. Strong winds and dry conditions fueled dozens of fires Thursday that scorched an estimated 13,000 acres in the Sunflower State. Numerous fires have been burning across Oklahoma fueled by extreme drought, consuming many thousands of acres. Fire crews from around the country are fighting several dozen blazes.

Residents are being allowed to return home after crews fully contained a blaze that ignited Friday on a Colorado Army post. Military officials told the Associated Press that a training exercise was underway at the time the fire sparked but haven’t said whether it caused the blaze at Fort Carson, located south of Colorado Springs. Several homes located off the base in El Paso County were among the structures destroyed in the fire. The blaze scorched five square miles of land.


Erie, Pennsylvania, has already shattered its seasonal snow record of 152.1 inches by more than 3 feet, and now it’s threatening the all-time snowiest winter ever recorded by its snowy neighbor, Buffalo, New York, some 80 miles to the northeast. Through Wednesday, Erie had recorded 191.5 inches of snow this winter season. Buffalo’s snowiest winter on record occurred 41 years ago, when 199.4 inches piled up during the winter of 1976-77.

Winter Storm Skylar left tens of thousands in the dark and a mess to clean up after hammering the Northeast on Tuesday with the third nor’easter in just 11 days. Some areas in the northeast received another two feet of snow. Dozens of vehicles shut down Interstate 71 in northeastern Ohio Tuesday after heavy snowfall triggered a massive pileup of 70 vehicles.

After being hit by the deadly “Beast from the East” earlier this month, Britain was again walloped by heavy snowfall and travel conditions so poor that some drivers were unable to get home Sunday night. More than 80 travelers were stranded along a 64-mile span of A30 that was shut down from Bodmin to Exeter and had to sleep in a nearby school Sunday night. In other parts of the country, crews spent much of the weekend rescuing motorists after they became stranded by the heavy snow. Rail service and flights were also canceled because of the winter storm.

Signs of the Times (3/12/18)

March 12, 2018

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3-10)

Christianity Sweeping China as Millions Convert

China’s on track to contain the world’s largest Christian population thanks to a surge in underground house churches and state-sanction places of worship, according to the Council of Foreign Relations. In a background document titled “Christianity in China,” the CFR estimates of the number of Protestants at anywhere from 58 million to 115 million and higher — though fewer than 30 million attend officially registered churches. According to the background report, the number of Chinese Protestants has grown by an average of 10 percent annually since 1979, putting China on track to have the world’s largest population of Christians by 2030. Estimates of the Catholic faithful in China, meanwhile, range between 10 to 12 million — despite the fact that the Holy See and Beijing haven’t had formal diplomatic ties since 1951. According to the CFR, the two sides now are reportedly close to finalizing a deal on the appointment of Catholic bishops. Still, Christians have faced growing repression in recent years — and China has ranked 10th as a country where it’s most difficult and dangerous to practice Christianity, according to Open Doors, a U.S.-based Christian non-profit that tracks the persecution of Christians worldwide.

Wheaton College Wins Religious Freedom Case

Wheaton College has won a religious freedom battle it has been fighting for five years and will not be forced to provide abortion-inducing drugs in their employee healthcare plans. The Christian Post reports that a district court judge has ruled that forcing the Illinois-based Christian college to fund the morning after pill or abortion-inducing drugs would violate their religious freedom. Wheaton, as well as other Christian institutions and organizations, have been fighting against the contraceptive mandate included in Obamacare which would force them to include abortion-inducing drugs and birth control in their healthcare plans. “The government is not above the law — that’s why we have civil rights laws. Wheaton should never have had to go to court to protect its rights in the first place. This order ensures we won’t have to come back,” said Diana Verm, legal counsel at Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the college.

Mississippi First State to Pass 15-Week Abortion Ban

The State of Mississippi became the first state legislature in the nation to ban abortions after 15 weeks. The Gestational Age Act originated in the Mississippi House of Representatives where it passed 79-31 before advancing to the Senate where it passed 35-14. The bill is on its way to Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R), and he has indicated he will sign the bill into law. Mississippi State Senator Angela Burks Hill (R) said, “The state has a compelling interest to also protect the health of the mother. As you get into the second-term abortions, the chances of complication totally increase by 100 percent when you start doing those second-trimester abortions.”

U.S. Taxpayers Gave Abortion Groups $1.6 Billion over Three Years

Abortion organizations received approximately $1.6 billion of U.S. taxpayer money from 2013 to 2015, according to a new government report. This report comes from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which examined federal funding for providers of “preventive, reproductive, and diagnostic health care services in the United States or abroad.” Most of the $1.6 billion went to PPFA. This is consistent with the more than $500 million in federal funding the abortion giant reports annually. The London-based Marie Stopes received $110 million over the three-year period. Planned Parenthood’s international arm received $14 million.

Trump to Meet With North Korea’s Kim Jong Un

The White House has confirmed news that stunned the world late Thursday, marking a potentially dramatic breakthrough in the North Korea nuclear standoff. President Trump is planning to meet North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un before the end of May, in a location yet to be determined. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday that the meeting was made possible by a “dramatic” change in posture from the North Korean leader, the AP reports. He said Trump decided to accept the invitation after Kim displayed a surprisingly “forward-leaning” attitude in talks with a South Korean delegation. Tillerson said it will take “some weeks” to arrange a date for the meeting. Kim has committed to “denuclearization” and to suspending nuclear or missile tests, South Korea’s National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong told reporters at the White House after briefing Trump on South Korean officials’ meeting with Kim on Monday. President Trump’s condition for meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is that there be no further nuclear or missile testing in the interim, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Sunday.

International Women’s Day Celebrated Worldwide

On March 8, most of the world marked International Women’s Day. Some women went on strike demanding better working conditions, others protested violence and oppression, still others debated various issues related to feminism. Trains stopped in Spain as female workers went on the country’s first “feminist” strike, newspapers dropped their prices for women in France, and the IWD flag flew over the UK parliament. In India, women marched in several cities including Delhi, Karachi and Kolkata, and women also took to the streets in Bangladesh, Belarus, Nepal, Pristina and Ankara among many others. It was a day of celebration and a day in which the message was spelt out that much work still needed to be done to achieve global gender equality. Women in Saudi Arabia are celebrating a new found right this International Women’s Day – jogging in the streets. The green economy has thrown its weight behind today’s International Women’s Day, with several leading business figures arguing the world must step up its efforts on gender equality if the fight against climate change is to succeed. A number of key green voices such as former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres and the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo have contributed to a new book – ‘Why Woman Will Save the Planet’ – in a bid to highlight why tackling climate change and gender equality must go hand in hand.

The Worst Countries to Be a Woman

Syria and Afghanistan tied for being the worst places to be a woman, according to the 2018 Women, Peace and Security Index, put together by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo. The index measured women’s “wellbeing and empowerment” in 153 countries and ranked the nations on peace, security and women’s inclusion. The measures including years of schooling, number of female lawmakers, employment, legal and other discrimination, war, intimate partner violence and cellphone use. Iceland was ranked as the best country in which to be a woman. The United States came in at No. 22. The top ten worst places include Pakistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Mali, Sudan and Niger. The other top places are Norway, Switzerland, Slovenia, Spain, Finland, Canada, Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium.

Women’s March Leader Supports Farrakhan

Calls for Women’s March president Tamika D. Mallory to resign erupted after she attended a Feb. 25 speech in Chicago at which Mr. Farrakhan railed against “the Satanic Jew,” saying “powerful Jews are my enemy” while singling her out for recognition. “Tamika Mallory, one of the March organizers, was in the audience, and got a special shout-out from Farrakhan,” said the Anti-Defamation League in a Feb. 26 report. “Mallory posted two Instagram photos from the event, which Carmen Perez, another Women’s March organizer, commented on with ‘raise the roof’ emojis.” Mallory said that had been attending the annual Nation of Islam Saviours’ Day event for more than 30 years, starting when she was a child, leaving little doubt that she was familiar with Mr. Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic rants. Farrakhan was quoted as saying, “Jews are my enemy” and “The FBI has been the worst enemy of Black advancement. The Jews have control of these agencies.” The controversy sparked calls by many Republicans for Democrats to vigorously denounce Farrakhan’s remarks. Others who quickly condemned Farrakhan’s remarks also questioned why the media was either slow to report the story, or have chosen to ignore it entirely.

Judge Rules Trump’s DACA Phaseout Legal

A federal judge ruled Monday that President Trump’s phaseout of the Obama-era DACA program is legal, adding heft to the administration’s defense but doing little to solve the ongoing court quagmire. The ruling does not overturn two other federal courts, who had previously blocked the phaseout, which was supposed to take effect Monday. But it does offer a needed boost as the Justice Department appeals those other two rulings. Judge Roger W. Titus, a Bush appointee to the bench in Maryland, said the judges in California and New York who blocked the phaseout attempted to substitute their own judgments for that of the Homeland Security Department, crossing constitutional lines in order to strike at Trump’s policies. Judge Titus went even further, praising the Trump administration for the way it handled the situation with a six-month phaseout. “This decision took control of a pell-mell situation and provided Congress — the branch of government charged with determining immigration policy — an opportunity to remedy it. Given the reasonable belief that DACA was unlawful, the decision to wind down DACA in an orderly manner was rational,” the judge wrote.

Justice Department Suing California over Sanctuary Laws

Attorney General Jeff Sessions opened a new front in the legal war over California’s sanctuary city policies Tuesday, asking a federal court to halt three state laws that prohibit police and businesses from cooperating with federal agents. The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Sacramento, says those laws not only trample on the federal government’s powers to set national immigration policy, but endanger communities by freeing criminals back onto the streets. “The Department of Justice and Trump administration are going to fight these unjust, unfair and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed on you,” Mr. Sessions will say in a speech Wednesday to the California Peace Officers Association. The move comes just days after California Attorney General Xavier Becerra accused the Trump administration of “terrorizing” immigrant communities with an enforcement sweep that netted more than 200 deportable migrants in the state’s bay area. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf sparked controversy after she tipped immigrants off to the sweep. Federal officials said she may have helped as many as 800 criminal migrants escape deportation officers. The White House confirmed last week that Ms. Schaaf is under investigation for her actions.

Florida Passes Gun Control Bill, NRA Sues

Florida passed a new gun control bill on Wednesday in response to the horrific mass shooting in Parkland. The law bans the sales of firearms to adults between the ages of 18-21, among other actions such as banning bump stocks and requiring a waiting period when purchasing guns. FL. Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law earlier Friday. The National Rifle Association then filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Florida for infringing upon the Second Amendment rights of thousands of its citizens. Chris Cox, Legislative director of the NRA-ILA went on to say that “Swift action is needed to prevent young adults in Florida from being treated as second-class citizens when it comes to the right to keep and bear arms.” Meanwhile, gun sales have risen sharply.

Hollywood Condemns NRA While Increasing Gun Violence in TV/Movies

Hollywood declared war on American gun culture in 2013 with a public service announcement calling for stricter gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Now the industry is back on the attack in the wake of the Feb. 14 high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Celebrities routinely dub the National Rifle Association a terrorist organization. Yet a study by the Parents Television Council shows that portrayals of gun violence on television have increased dramatically in recent years, even in shows deemed appropriate for children. The entertainment industry’s love of gunplay and hatred for firearms muddles, if not negates, Hollywood’s role in a constructive conversation on the Second Amendment.

Puerto Ricans Leaving Country in Droves

Even before Hurricane Maria slammed the country, a record number of Puerto Ricans were already abandoning the island nation due to severe economic distress. Nearly 500,000 people left Puerto Rico for the mainland during the past decade, according to the Pew Research Center, pushing the stateside Puerto Rican population past the number living on the island last year — an estimated 3.3 million. The government of Puerto Rico’s guess is that by the end of 2018, 200,000 more residents will have left the U.S. territory for good, moving to places such as Florida, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New England. It would mean another drop of more than 5 percent in the island’s population. Just this week, a power outage put nearly 900,000 residents in and around the capital city of San Juan in the dark and without water — again. Tens of thousands in Puerto Rico have had no electricity since the hurricane struck five months ago.

Opioid Makers Incent Doctors to Prescribe Them

As tens of thousands of Americans die from prescription opioid overdoses each year, an exclusive analysis by CNN and researchers at Harvard University found that opioid manufacturers are paying physicians huge sums of money — and the more opioids doctors prescribes, the more money they make. Of course, the manufacturers also make more money as sales increase. In 2014 and 2015, opioid manufacturers paid hundreds of doctors across the country six-figure sums for speaking, consulting and other services. Thousands of other doctors were paid over $25,000 during that time. Physicians who prescribed particularly large amounts of the drugs made the most money. “It smells like doctors being bribed to sell narcotics, and that’s very disturbing,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, who is the executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing.

  • Big Pharma doesn’t care about making people better, only making more money – even if it hurts people

Economic News

The U.S. economy added 313,000 jobs in February, smashing expectations, according to Friday’s employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate held steady for the fifth straight month at 4.1 percent, an 18-year low. Average hourly pay, meanwhile, grew by 2.6 percent from this time last year, a slight drop from January’s year-over-year improvement of 2.9 percent. Construction, retail, manufacturing and health care drove most of the growth in February. Retail trade expanded by a whopping 50,000 jobs. Manufacturing maintained a course of steady growth in February, increasing by 31,000 jobs. But the share of Americans who are either working or looking for jobs in February remained lower than economists would like to see. The workforce grew by 806,000 people, bringing the labor force participation rate up to 63 percent — a slight improvement from January’s 62.7 percent, but well below pre-recession rates.

President Donald Trump on Thursday slapped deeply contentious trade tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, swatting aside warnings of a global trade war and protests from allies in Europe and at home. The tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum will go into effect in 15 days, the White House said. They will not apply to Canada and Mexico initially, an official said, adding that security and trade partners could negotiate to seek exemption. The measures are likely to spark retaliatory sanctions from the European Union, China and other economic powers.

Middle East

Iran is building and testing short- to medium-range missiles armed with chemical warheads in Syria, former Syrian general Zuhair al-Saqit told the Jerusalem Post. Al-Saqit, who heads the Center for the Detection and Monitoring of the Use of Chemical Weapons in Belgium, also said that Iran’s Lebanon-based proxy Hezbollah is in possession of chemical weapons, mostly handed to it by the Assad regime in order to hide their existence from international monitors. In an interview in Paris, al-Saqit said that a large part of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, which were hidden from international inspection bodies, were transferred to Hezbollah.

Thousands of US troops along with some of the Pentagon’s newest and most sophisticated equipment are in Israel this week for the launching of the 9th semi-annual Juniper Cobra air defense exercise in cooperation with the IDF. The scenarios being gamed out include defending Israel against incoming barrages of rockets and missiles from three fronts, while still maintaining readiness to repel traditional threats such as ground invasions, air raids and terrorist attacks.

North/South Korea

The rival Koreas continued their period of detente as the Winter Paralympics Games officially kicked off in Pyeongchang on Friday, but without a key symbol of that thaw: They marched under their own flags during the opening ceremony. North and South Korea chose not to march together following a complaint by Japan during the Olympic Games. The united Korean flag portrays disputed islands — known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan — that both countries claim. The islands are located in the Sea of Japan. North and South Korea couldn’t agree on a version of the flag to use, as the North insisted on keeping the islands. But International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said the decision to march under separate flags doesn’t diminish the symbolism of the two Koreas coming together once again for an international sporting event. And during welcoming remarks at a reception before Friday’s opening ceremony, South Korean President Moon Jae-in stressed the importance that the Olympics and Paralympics have played in opening the door for the peace process on the Korean peninsula. “A small step to peace that started out a joint inter-Korean women’s ice hockey team has been growing rapidly like a snowball,” he said.


The Syrian army broke apart the rebel enclave in eastern Ghouta on Sunday, cutting off two major towns from the rest of the area, state media said, after a fierce battle waged under cover of an unrelenting bombardment. More than 1,100 civilians have been killed in the onslaught on the biggest rebel stronghold near Damascus since it began three weeks ago with a withering aerial offensive, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The advance on Mudeira, after the capture of the neighboring town of Mesraba on Saturday, has driven a wedge deep inside the insurgent territory, leaving the major towns of Douma and Harasta cut off.


The U.S. is bolstering its military presence in Afghanistan, more than 16 years after the war started, but the media and Congress are paying little attention to the buildup, reports Newsmax. At a Senate hearing this past week on top U.S. security threats, no senator asked about Afghanistan, suggesting little interest in a war where nearly 15,000 U.S. troops are supporting combat against the Taliban. Just last month the bulk of an Army training brigade of about 800 soldiers arrived to improve the advising of Afghan forces. Since January, attack planes and other aircraft have been added to U.S. forces in Afghanistan. One of Washington’s closest watchers of the Afghanistan conflict, Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote last month that the administration has made major improvements in military tactics and plans for developing Afghan forces but has “done nothing to deal with civil and political stability.”


China’s largely ceremonial parliament on Sunday overwhelmingly endorsed a controversial change to the country’s constitution, paving the way for President Xi Jinping to stay in power indefinitely. Out of 2,964 ballots, just two delegates voted against the move and three abstained, suggesting minimal opposition to Xi’s push to rule for life. The ruling Communist Party announced the proposals on February 25 and, amid a backlash in some quarters, has justified the change as a necessity to align the presidency with Xi’s two other, more powerful, posts — heads of the party and the military — that have no term limits. The 64-year-old Xi, already hailed as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, last week gave a ringing endorsement to the proposed constitutional changes, calling them a reflection of the “common will of the party and the people.”


A southern Japan volcano made famous in a James Bond film erupted Tuesday, sending smoke and ash thousands of feet into the air and grounding dozens of flights during its biggest eruption in years Tuesday. The Shinmoedake volcano erupted several times and lava was seen rising inside a crater on Japan’s southernmost island of Kyushu. Ash and smoke shot up 7,500 feet into the sky in the volcano’s biggest explosion since 2011. In Kirishima city at the foot of the volcano, pedestrians wore surgical masks or covered their noses with hand towels, while others used umbrellas to protect from falling ash. Cars had layers of ash on their roofs. There were no reports of injuries or damage from the eruptions. The Meteorological Agency said the volcanic activity is expected to continue and cautioned residents against the possibility of flying rocks and pyroclastic flows – superheated gas and volcanic debris that race down the slopes at high speeds, incinerating or vaporizing everything in their path.


A 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck Papua New Guinea just after midnight local time Wednesday morning, jarring an area that’s still recovering from a 7.5 tremor in late February. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck at 12:13 a.m. local time Wednesday morning about 70 miles southwest of Porgera. The temblor struck at a depth of about 6 miles and was located about 20 miles southwest of the Feb. 26 quake, which killed at least 55 people. It wasn’t immediately known if the latest earthquake caused additional damage or injuries.


Several grass fires, including a large fire fueled by dry conditions and gusty winds, damaged homes and forced the closure Tuesday of a busy highway south of Oklahoma City. A 2-mile section of Interstate 35 near Goldsby was closed for about an hour Tuesday afternoon as flames jumped the highway. A mobile home was consumed and destroyed by a fire south of Yukon, just west of Oklahoma City. A second trailer was damaged in the fire.


A nor’easter roaring through the Appalachians on Monday was poised to blast parts of already twice-battered New England with a “weather bomb” of blizzard conditions and up to two feet of snow. Residents in Kentucky and West Virginia woke up Monday to as much as a foot of snow on the ground from Winter Storm Skylar, and thousands of customers found themselves in the dark because of the system’s strong winds. More than 50,000 homes and businesses had no electricity in the two states Monday morning because of the storm. Forecasters in Kentucky warned residents that travel Monday morning would be difficult. In the Northeast, residents prepared for another wintry blast just days after Winter Storm Quinn knocked out power to more than 1 million customers. For some, this meant getting ready for the next storm with the power still out, especially in New Jersey, where more than 6,000 homes and businesses still lacking electricity.

At least three persons died and nearly 1 million homes and businesses were without power when Winter Storm Quinn walloped the Northeast last week. On Thursday, much of the region was still feeling the effects of the nor’easter which shut down schools, slowed travel and dumped as much as three feet of snow in some areas. The storm’s heavy, wet snow and wind gusts over 50 mph left more than 1 million customers in the dark by Thursday morning. More than 100,000 were already without power in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania after Winter Storm Riley battered the East Coast days before. Newark Liberty International Airport was closed because of the snowstorm. Nearly 400,000 homes and businesses remain without power Friday.

Freezing temperatures from a European winter storm last week dubbed the “Beast from the East” has resulted in a massive die-off of marine wildlife along the British coast. Photos posted to social media show mounds of dead crustaceans including lobster, clams, mussels and starfish washed up on eastern beaches along the North Sea in England. Scientists say the sea creatures died when water temperatures dropped significantly during the cold snap. There was a 3-degree-Celsius drop (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) in sea temperature last week. Conservationists and fisherman in the area are now teaming up to help save stranded lobsters that remain alive.

Signs of the Times (3/5/18)

March 5, 2018

The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8-9)

Majority of Americans Say U.S. is on the ‘Wrong Track’

It’s actually not a surprise that most adults currently believe the United States is not moving in the right direction. Since the 1980s, surveys evaluating such perceptions have typically found that most Americans believed the nation was “moving in the wrong direction” or was “on the wrong track.” Whether the president or the party in power has been Republican or Democrat, a majority of the public has not been satisfied with the way things were going. The latest survey by the American Culture & Faith Institute (ACFI) found that 59% of American adults describe themselves as “angry with the state of America” today. That’s better than people’s state of mind during 2017, when the average monthly reaction to the national condition was two-thirds (67%) admitting to being angry. Not surprisingly, peoples’ ideological leanings affected their assessment of these four elements of U.S. society. For the first time in many years, most conservatives (57%) are confident the nation is on the right track politically. However, less than three out of ten moderates (29%) and liberals (22%) agree.

Interest in Bible New Translations Has ‘Gone Viral’

The year 2018 is set to be an historic year for Bible translation, according to Wycliffe Associates. Bruce Smith, the leader of the Bible translating organization, said that interest in Bible translation has “gone viral” and that the organization is translating the Bible into more languages than ever before. Wycliffe has been able to make even greater progress in Bible translation due to modern Bible translation technology and methods. “This is at a pace – and at a scope around the world – that is really unprecedented in the history of the world,” Smith stated, according to “And so, as that happens, inevitably, the Christians in the surrounding communities – and even countries – get curious about how it happens so quickly, and why it’s happening. And when they find out that the tools and resources for them to steward God’s Word for their own people are now in place, that’s what creates that readiness … and that desire to have Scripture sooner – instead of later.” Wycliffe has already translated the New Testament into 193 languages in the past three years, and this year they have received requests for 600 new translations which they plan to launch soon.

  • And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

Alabama Government May Stop Issuing Marriage Licenses

When the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, Christians in the business of officiating marriages faced a new challenge. To avoid going against biblical teachings on marriage, some judges in Alabama skirted the conflict by simply closing down their marriage license divisions. To these judges, no marriages at all meant no same-sex marriages. This, in turn, meant preserving the belief in marriage as the sacred union of one man and one woman. After closing down these marriage license divisions, some judges like Allen expected to face lawsuits. But no one sued them. This, as Debbie Elliot explains at NPR, is likely because “Alabama’s marriage law says probate judges may issue marriage licenses, not shall.”

  • Government has no business defining what marriage is or is not – it’s a private, personal, spiritual issue. Let’s leave it up to each person’s free will and let God sort it all out later.

Atheists Raise Unholy Hell About Government Honoring Billy Graham

The Freedom From Religion Foundation and other anti-religious groups are infuriated that Billy Graham lies in honor in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, saying he was unworthy of such recognition. The Wisconsin-based atheist group wrote to Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to “emphatically object to the U.S. Congress arranging to have a man known purely for his ministry (in his case, an evangelical Christian ministry)” lie in honor at the U.S. Capital. “Our membership is also highly concerned at the possibility of taxpayer outlay for the costs of transporting and displaying Graham’s casket in the rotunda,” the notorious atheists wrote. The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a group of atheists, agnostics and free-thinkers who are on a crusade to eradicate Christianity from the public marketplace. They typically bully small towns and school districts with threatening letters and lawsuits.

Trump Administration Announced New Priorities for Sex Education

The Trump administration rolled out its new sex education priorities last week with an emphasis on abstinence and other sexual risk avoidance strategies. The announcement stressed the inclusion of natural family planning methods — also known as fertility awareness — among the broad range of services offered by grantees. Applicants also have to ensure their activities promote “positive family relationships for the purpose of increasing family participation in family planning and health decision-making” and emphasize the social science research on “healthy relationships, to committed, safe, stable, healthy marriages and the benefits of avoiding sexual risk or returning to a sexually risk-free status, especially (but not only) when communicating with adolescents.” For the first time, grantees will also have to ensure staff is annually trained to respond to threats such as child abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence and human trafficking. Similar monitoring and reporting programs will be required. Politico reports the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will offer $260 million in Title X grants to qualified health care providers.          These priorities would appear to leave Planned Parenthood without Title X funding.

More Movies Have Positive Christian Content Now

Movieguide® has become a trusted source for movie reviews and entertainment news that emphasize positive Christian content. At Movieguide’s 26th Annual Faith & Values Awards, they announced that, “we have seen some amazing changes in the movie industry: When we started, only 1% of movies contained positive Christian content. Last year, over 60% of movies contained positive Christian content!”

Targeted Judge Rejects Challenge to Trump’s Border Wall

President Trump on Wednesday hailed a “big victory” in the courts for his proposed border wall, after a federal judge ruled against an environmental challenge to Trump’s central campaign promise. U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel found in favor of the administration Tuesday in a case that asked whether the government could ignore environmental laws to construct the southern border wall. The project had been challenged by environmental groups and the state of California. Curiel’s ruling means the administration can now issue waivers on environmental laws and build sections of the wall. Curiel was the judge whom Trump accused of being biased due to his Mexican-American heritage as he ruled over a case involving Trump University.

Zogby Poll Says Trump’s Approval Ratings Improving

A new nationwide Zogby poll of likely voters showed President Donald Trump’s job approval standing at 48 percent, with his popularity growing among millennials, where he registered an approval of 50 percent, as opposed to voters age 65 and up, where he came in at 44 percent.    Men were more likely to approve of his job at 56 percent than women, where he scored 41 percent, although Trump’s numbers among women were up from the month before. Trump registered highest among white voters at 56 percent, while Hispanic voters gave him 39 percent and African American voters gave him 16 percent. Republicans were more likely to approve of Trump’s job at 87 percent, while his numbers climbed with Independents at 41 percent and Democrats, 20 percent. Trump’s approval rating matches that of former President Barack Obama at the same point in his presidency, Zogby noted.

EU Warns Internet Giants to Remove Extremist Content

Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other internet companies must show the European Union within three months that they are removing extremist content more rapidly or face legislation forcing them to do so. Several governments have increased pressure on social media companies to do more to remove illegal content — from material related to groups such as Islamic state and incitement to commit atrocities — and the sector has increased efforts to demonstrate its progress. But in its strongest call yet to the technology sector the European Commission on Thursday recommended measures that internet platforms should take to stop the proliferation of extremist content, including the removal of such material within an hour of being notified of its existence. European governments have said that extremist content on the web has influenced lone-wolf attackers who have killed people in several European cities after being radicalized. “While several platforms have been removing more illegal content than ever before … we still need to react faster against terrorist propaganda and other illegal content which is a serious threat to our citizens’ security, safety and fundamental rights,” Digital Commissioner Andrus Ansip said in Thursday’s statement.”

California Has Worst Quality of Life in U.S.

Awards season is in full swing in California, and the Golden State just took home a booby prize of its own. Reports the USA Today. California ranks dead last among U.S. states in quality of life, according to a study by U.S. News, ranking behind New Jersey (49th) and Indiana (48th). The ignominious honor reflects California’s low marks in the sub-categories of environmental quality and social engagement. The latter category measures voting participation and community bonds. One way to measure quality life is whether residents can even afford to have a roof over their heads, and by that standard, California is failing. A 2017 Harvard University report said that one-third of renters in the Los Angeles area are “severely rent burdened,” meaning they spend at least half their income on housing. The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles County has increased 67%, according to Zillow’s Rent Index. Homelessness has surged a stunning 75 percent in the last six years, the Los Angeles Times reports, and there are now at least 55,000 homeless people in the county.

Persecution Watch

Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. surged nearly 60% in 2017, driven by an increase in such cases in schools and college campuses, a new report says. It’s the largest single-year increase on record — and every state reported at least one incident for the first time since at least 2010. In its annual audit, the Anti-Defamation League found 1,986 cases of harassment, vandalism or physical assaults against Jews and Jewish institutions last year. That’s up from the 1,267 incidents reported in 2016.

Economic News

President Donald Trump’s vow Thursday to slap tariffs on imported steel and aluminum spooked investors, raised fears that other nations would punch back with their own sanctions and threatened to raise prices for U.S. consumers and companies that use steel and aluminum. The president said that sometime next week, he will formally announce tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum. Overproduction by China has flooded world markets with steel and aluminum, driving prices down and intensifying pressure on American producers. American steel and aluminum producers would benefit from a tax on imports and the higher prices that are likely to result. “Tariffs on steel and aluminum are a tax hike the American people don’t need and can’t afford,” said Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

The announcement spooked the stock market, with the Dow down 420 points Thursday and another 71 points Friday. Investors fear a trade war with China. Canadians reacted with a mixture of anger, confusion and astonishment, upending decades of economic cooperation and integration. Canada is the largest exporter of steel and aluminum to the United States, supplying $7.2 billion of aluminum and $4.3 billion of steel to the United States last year.

Another bad week for retailers. JCPenney announced Friday that it will cut 360 jobs at its stores and corporate headquarters. That’s on top of the more than 5,000 layoffs in 2017 after JCPenney decided to close nearly 140 stores. Barnes & Noble posted a quarterly loss and a drop in sales Thursday morning, sending the bookstore’s shares to an all-time low. Nordstrom, which is trying to go private, failed to impress investors with its latest results after the closing bell Thursday. Foot Locker’s sales missed forecasts and its outlook was weak as well. Foot Locker’s stock dove 7% Friday morning.

Millennials falling for scams more than their grandparents. About 40% of Americans in their twenties reported fraud in 2017 and said they lost money to the schemes, the Federal Trade Commission said last week in its annual databook of consumer complaints. That easily surpassed the 18% of U.S. consumers 70 or older who reported they lost money to fraudsters last year, the FTC said. However, the median loss reported by adults in their seventies was $621, and for those aged 80 or over it was $1,092. Both age groups reported a higher median loss than the $400 for those aged 20-29.

The U.S. government is currently borrowing (i.e. debt) at the rate of $2 million every minute of every day, according to World Net Daily. Total debt is already $21 trillion, which equates to over $400,000 per taxpayer, or $165,000 per family.


Iran has built another permanent military base outside Syria’s capital city complete with hangers used to store missiles capable of hitting all of Israel, according to Western intelligence sources. Exclusive satellite images from ImageSat International obtained by Fox News show what is believed to be the new Iranian base, eight miles northwest of Damascus, operated by the Quds Force — the special operations arm of Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). On Capitol Hill Tuesday, the top U.S. military commander for American forces in the Middle East said Iran was “increasing” the number and “quality” of its ballistic missiles it was deploying to the region.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave another one of his trademark fiery speeches on Thursday, praising the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and declaring that Teheran’s support for the regime won’t waver in the face of broad international condemnation for the brutal bombardment of civilian neighborhoods in eastern Ghouta. “Syria is on the front lines today; it is our duty to defend the Syrian resistance,” Khamenei declared. Israel is demanding that new sanctions and limitations be placed on all Iranian missiles with a range of more than 180 miles (or 300 kilometers) – including the precision missiles Iran is providing to Hezbollah – which can easily reach Israel.

North Korea

North Korea sent 50 tons of materials to Syria that can be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons, according to media reports citing a leaked United Nations document. The report, which has not been published, said the shipments were evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad was paying North Korea to help his regime manufacture chemical weapons, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons started an investigation on Sunday into reports that chlorine bombs were used a number of times this month in the rebel-held eastern Ghouta suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus, Reuters reported. At least one child was killed. More than 500 people died last week in the nearly seven-year civil war. The independent Syrian Center for Policy Research said 470,000 people have been killed in the conflict.


Russian President Vladimir Putin used an annual speech to his nation on Thursday to claim Russia was developing new nuclear weapons that he said could overcome any U.S. missile defenses. For the first time, Putin claimed that Russia had successfully tested nuclear-propulsion engines that would allow nuclear-tipped cruise missiles and underwater drones to travel for virtually unlimited distances and evade traditional defenses. He also warned that Moscow would consider a nuclear attack, of any size, on one of its allies to be an attack on Russia itself, and that it would lead to an immediate response. Putin did not specify which countries he considers allies. Putin made clear that his declaration of Russian prowess was aimed squarely at the United States, which he accused of fomenting a new arms race by resisting arms-control negotiations, developing new missile-defense systems, and adopting a more aggressive posture in its nuclear strategy.

  • Russia has aligned itself with Iran, just as Ezekiel 38 prophesied for the end-times


A 4.2-magnitude earthquake shook parts of Oklahoma on Sunday evening. The quake struck around 5:15 p.m. local time. Preliminary results from the U.S. Geological Service indicate it was centered roughly 11 miles northeast of Enid, Oklahoma, and at a depth of 3.5 miles. No injuries or damage have been reported. Thousands of earthquakes have been recorded in Oklahoma in recent years with many linked to fracking, the underground injection of wastewater from oil and gas production. Oklahoma regulators have directed several oil and gas producers in the state to close injection wells and reduce volumes in others.


A major nor’easter slammed the East Coast on Friday from Georgia to Maine, bringing heavy rain, severe flooding, snow and the threat of hurricane-force winds in some coastal areas due to an explosive development known as bombogenesis, defined by a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure of at least 24 millibars in a period of 24 hours or less. At least seven people were killed by the strong winds, which brought down trees and power lines from North Carolina to Maine and knocked out power to more than 2.1 million homes and businesses. The governors of Maryland and Virginia declared states of emergency due to the conditions. National Guard members were activated in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania to assist in the aftermath. Since Friday morning, nearly 4,000 domestic flights have been canceled, mostly in the Northeast. In Quincy, Massachusetts, floodwaters were so severe that officials had to use front-loaders to rescue residents. Flooding extended north to the coasts of New Hampshire and Maine on Friday afternoon, flooding streets and some structures. Residents along the Eastern Seaboard began their cleanup from a long, deadly weekend, but on Monday morning, some areas still were not freed from the coastal flooding that will largely be the legacy of Winter Storm Riley.

A round of storms swept into Southern California Thursday night and Friday morning, triggering at least one burn-scar mudslide after thousands were evacuated from vulnerable areas. The California Highway Patrol announced Friday morning that State Route 33 was closed above Ojai because of a debris flow. The evacuation order impacted as many as 30,000 people. With snow totals expected to be measured in feet at the higher elevations, officials warned drivers about the dangers of getting caught in the worst of Winter Storm Quinn as it began to dump heavy snow in northern California. Interstate 80 was closed in both directions through California’s Sierra Nevada because of whiteout conditions on Thursday. Parts of Idaho, California and Nevada have all received more than three feet of snow so far, with more on the way in California and Nevada.

Signs of the Times (2/26/18)

February 26, 2018

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 34:19)

Trump Calls for Arming Teachers

President Trump on Thursday defended his call to arm some teachers as a way to stop a “savage sicko” from causing mass casualties, while also calling for gun control measures — including raising the age for purchasing firearms to 21. I never said ‘give teachers guns’ like was stated on Fake News @CNN & @NBC. What I said was to look at the possibility of giving ‘concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience- only the best,” Trump tweeted. “Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards,” Trump added. “A ‘gun free’ school is a magnet for bad people.” The president’s tweets followed a listening session at the White House Wednesday afternoon with students, parents and teachers affected by the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting last week which left 17 dead. He also invited parents affected by the Sandy Hook and Columbine massacres.

Trump Imposes ‘Largest Ever’ Sanctions Against North Korea

President Trump on Friday announced the “largest ever” set of sanctions on North Korea as his administration intensifies efforts to starve Pyongyang of resources it can use for its nuclear program. The new measures target 56 vessels, shipping companies and other entities that Trump administration officials believe are used by North Korea to conduct trade prohibited under previous sanctions, creating an economic lifeline for the isolated regime. Officials hope the measures, the latest of multiple rounds of sanctions rolled out since Trump took office, will prompt North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to rethink his nuclear ambitions. The Kim regime, which has made significant advances in recent years in its missile and nuclear programs, has boasted of its ability to strike the United States and its allies.

Supreme Court Keeps DACA Immigration Program in Place for Now

The Supreme Court refused Monday to review a federal judge’s order that the Trump administration continue a program protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. The denial leaves in place the popular DACA program, which has protected some 690,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation and enabled them to get work permits. The program had faced a March 5 deadline for congressional action set by Trump last summer. Two federal courts have ruled the administration’s action was illegal. The justices could have agreed to hear the case this spring, leapfrogging a federal appeals court based in California that has been sympathetic to the cause of immigrants. They also could have overruled federal District Judge William Alsup without a hearing. Instead, they simply allowed the case to run its normal course through the appeals court, which it asked to “proceed expeditiously.” The case still could come to the high court in the future.

State Department Launches $40 Million Initiative to Counter Russian Meddling

The State Department on Monday unveiled a new program to counter Russian meddling in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. The $40 million initiative will battle state-sponsored disinformation and propaganda targeting the U.S. and its interests. The program will be run from the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) and is starting with a new $1 million Information Access Fund that on Monday announced a request for proposals from groups and agencies across the country. “Under the Information Access Fund, civil society groups, media content providers, non-governmental organizations, federally funded research and development centers, private companies and academic institutions will be eligible to compete for grants from the GEC to advance their important work to counter propaganda and disinformation,” according to a statement released Monday morning.

Pro-Faith Groups Had Been Targeted by FBI & IRS

Liberty Counsel says, “We now have Hard Evidence connecting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s FBI to the outrageous targeting of Tea Party and pro-faith/family groups by President Obama’s IRS. Research by Judicial Watch has revealed documentation exposing ways in which “Mueller’s FBI worked with Lois Lerner’s IRS to try and prosecute the very groups the Obama IRS was suppressing.” Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, says, “And now this same man — Robert Mueller — is heading up the anti-Trump “collusion” investigation when instead he should be investigating Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the real conspiracy that threatened the rights of Americans!

California Overrun by Homelessness

The specter of homeless encampments steadily expanding across the downtown streets of San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco – bringing with them a public health crisis – has one southern California community taking tough action to dismantle a two-mile-long camp just a short drive from Disneyland. In a departure from the approach taken by other local governments in the state, officials in Orange County, Calif., have started to clear out the camp – by moving occupants and hauling away literally tons of trash and hazardous waste.  Trash trucks and contractors in hazmat gear have descended on the camp and so far removed 250 tons of trash, 1,100 pounds of human waste and 5,000 hypodermic needles. But the effort hasn’t been without controversy as homeless advocates, the American Civil Liberties Union and a federal judge have all weighed in on the fate of some-700 people evicted from their home along the Santa Ana River — next to Angel Stadium of Anaheim and a few miles from Disneyland, outside Los Angeles. The ACLU and others filed a federal civil rights lawsuit to stop the camp teardown and several stays have ensued until last week, when the final go-ahead was granted. For those being evicted, a mediation with U.S. District Court Judge David Carter offered the choice of a bed in a shelter or a month-long motel voucher; medical aid; drug treatment; job training; storage for their belongings and housing for pets at the county animal shelter. In San Francisco, which has a reputation as one of the prettiest cities in the world, a survey of more than 150 downtown blocks has revealed streets covered with garbage, human excrement and hypodermic needles. San Francisco has been at or near the top of national surveys tracking homelessness, with the city’s high cost of living accentuating a gap between the haves and have-nots.

No Link Between Medicinal Marijuana Legalization and Teens Recreational Drug Use

A new study reviewed 2,999 academic papers to find eleven suitable studies to pool together to examine the effects of legalization of medical marijuana and subsequent teen drug usage. None of the 11 studies, which covered data from 1991 to 2014, found an increase in past-month marijuana use among teens after medical marijuana was legalized in their state. “Regular marijuana use in teens has been shown to lead to impairments in neurodevelopment, later academic functioning, and occupational achievement. Rightly so, people are concerned about teen use — whether that’s with medical marijuana legalization or not,” said Dr. Deborah S. Hasin, an author of the study and professor of epidemiology at Columbia University.. “What we really don’t know about is [the effects of] recreational marijuana laws,” she added.

Demand for Exorcisms Up Threefold in Italy

The Vatican hopes to step up its game against demonic possessions with a week-long international conference in April to address a threefold increase in demand in Italy alone for the services of exorcists. The church is particularly alarmed over the uneven skills of some of its current exorcists and worried about priests who are no longer willing to learn the techniques. The assessment is a major finding of a four-day meeting in Sicily that included testimony on sects and Satanism, according to Vatican Radio. One of the organizers of the Sicily gathering, Friar Beningo Palilla, told Vatican Radio there are some 500,000 cases requiring exorcism in Italy each year. He blames the increase in recent years on a growing number of people seeking the services of fortune tellers and Tarot readers. Such practices “open the door to the devil and to possession,” he said.

Economic News

The richest 10% of Americans own 75% of the nation’s wealth, a level not seen since the 1930s during the Great Depression. On an income basis, the top 10% now earn over 50% of all income, up from 33% during the 1950s, according to Stansberry Research. The last time it hit 50% was in the late 1920s. Since 1980, very-high wage earners have seen their wages increase by 41%, compared to 6% for middle-wage earners and -5% for low wage earners (adjusted for inflation). Almost 40 years later, middle lass income is up just 6% — that’s just 0.17% a year. In comparison, the price of a new Ford 150 pickup is up 1,137%.

Stansberry also says that total household debt climbed another $193 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017 to a record $13.15 trillion. It has now risen for 14 consecutive quarters and five straight years, and it now is almost $500 billion more than the previous peak in the third quarter of 2008. Credit-card debt once again led the way… It rose 3.2% in the quarter to $834 billion. Student and auto loans increased 1.5% and 0.7%, respectively, to a record $1.38 trillion and $1.22 trillion. And even mortgage debt climbed substantially for the first time in several quarters, up 1.6% to $8.88 trillion. “This trend is unsustainable,” Stansberry says. “Sooner or later, it will end… and one of the largest credit-default cycles in history will begin.”

The problem of unfunded pension liabilities is reaching crisis levels. While a few cities have had to declare insolvency (e.g. Detroit), the state of California is now quite worried. Last week, Steve Westly, former California state controller and board member of CalPsers (California’s public pension fund, the largest fund in the U.S. made a stunning admission: “The pension crisis is inching closer by the day. CalPERS just voted to increase the amount cities must pay to the agency. Cities point to possible insolvency if payments keep rising but CalPERS is near insolvency itself. It may [require] reform or bailout soon.”

Corporate America has built up more debt than any time since the end of the Great Recession due to low interest rates. The credit binge has allowed companies to grow faster, invest in the future and reward shareholders with huge dividends and share buybacks, reports CNN Money. However, the elevated levels of debt will also make businesses more vulnerable when the next recession strikes or if borrowing costs spike because of rising interest rates. Either outcome will make it harder for Corporate America to pay back the $4 trillion of debt coming due by 2022. This risk has been underlined by the recent surge in Treasury yields and rising concerns that inflation could force the Federal Reserve to consider aggressive rate hikes.

Sales of new U.S. homes fell in January for the second straight month, failing to rebound from a weather-related drop in December. The Commerce Department reported Monday that last month’s sales came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 593,000, the lowest level since August and down 7.8 percent from a revised 643,000 in December. Economists had expected new home sales to bounce back after tumbling amid harsh winter weather in December. But they may have underestimated how bad January’s weather turned out to be. Sales skidded 33.3% in the Northeast in January from December and 14.2% in the South. But they rose 15.4% in the Midwest and 1% in the West.

The median price of a new home dropped to $323,000, down 4.1% from $336,700 in December. Economists have complained about a shortage of houses on the market. But the inventory of new homes for sale rose to 301,000 in January, the most since March 2009. The housing market is beginning to contend with a steady increase in mortgage rates. Rates on long-term home loans have risen seven straight weeks. The rate on a benchmark 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage last week hit 4.4%, the highest level since April 2014.

Persecution Watch

Al-Shabaab militants murdered three Christians in an attack on a primary school compound in the village of Qarsa, north-east Kenya on 16 February.  Al-Shabaab have repeatedly targeted Christian teachers. According to local sources, such attacks are part of a deliberate effort to reduce school attendance, which makes children vulnerable to recruitment by the Somali-based Islamist group. Al-Shabaab are known to make extensive use of child soldiers and the group is reported to have recruited children as young as nine.

Five women have been killed in an Islamist terror attack on a church in the Caucasus region of Dagestan. A gunman, armed with a hunting rifle and a knife, opened fire on worshippers as they left an evening service at a church in the city of Kizlyar on Sunday 18 February. The Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attack.

Middle East

United Against Nuclear Iran reports that Tunisia and Iran witnessed remarkably similar periods of spontaneous and widespread unrest in early January. “Although the scale of Iran’s initial unrest captured much of the world’s attention, policymakers and investors would be well advised to consider the two events together. To do so shows that protests in each country were driven by the same complaints that ignited the Arab Spring, leaving few doubts that the region remains susceptible to further and sudden fractures.” The outbreak of the unrest followed a familiar path in each country. After months of open discussion of sagging economies, protests erupted in cities across Tunisia and Iran. Crowds of demonstrators complained about austerity budgets, corruption, inflation of basic foodstuffs and persistent high unemployment. “As a result, these countries see (and will continue to see) hundreds of economic protests, strikes and demonstrations each year by unpaid workers and disgruntled citizens.”


The Trump administration has confirmed that the U.S. embassy will be moved to Jerusalem this coming May, coinciding with Israel’s 70th Independence Day. Initially, the embassy will consist of just a few offices inside an existing U.S. facility in the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem, where the consular offices are currently located. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is being planned. Israel proclaimed independence on May 14, 1948. The May opening marks a significant acceleration. During his historic address to the Knesset in January, Vice President Mike Pence said the embassy would open by the end of 2019. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who signed off on the security plan for the new embassy on Thursday, had said it would take years. “President Trump’s decision to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem on the coming Independence Day follows his historic declaration in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement issued by the Israeli Embassy in Washington on Friday. The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday condemned “in the strongest terms” the American announcement regarding acceleration of the embassy move, saying they considered it “a provocative aggression against the Palestinian people.”

North Korea

The North Korean delegation to the Closing Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics said that Pyongyang was “willing to have talks” with the United States, South Korea’s presidential Blue House said. This came after an hour-long meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s chief representative, Kim Yong Chol, in PyeongChang. North Korea agreed that inter-Korean relations should “improve together” with relations between North Korea and the United States, the Blue House said. The statement did not make any mention of North Korea’s nuclear program or whether the dialogue would be about denuclearization. Pyongyang has previously insisted that its nuclear weapons are not up for discussion. The White House on Sunday took a wait-and-see stance.


France, Germany and Britain have been scrambling for months to convince President Trump that they want to join him in cracking down on bad Iranian behavior — missile tests, terrorism support and regional meddling. If they can sway him, they hope he will agree to preserve intact the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement he has argued is fatally flawed. The State Department, has embarked on high-level talks with the Europeans to try to find a way to address Trump’s concerns before a May 12 deadline he has set for leaving the deal. Many involved in the effort believe success is both possible and desirable, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this month described discussions so far as “very fruitful.” Trump has also tasked Congress with legislating changes in the agreement in the same time frame. He has demanded not only that non-nuclear issues be addressed but also that the deal itself be altered to eliminate sunset clauses for some of the restrictions it places on Iran, to harden the inspection rules and to limit development of long-range missiles the United States maintains could be used to deliver nuclear payloads.


The U.N. Security Council on Saturday unanimously called for a 30-day cease-fire in Syria, with Russia agreeing to the temporary hiatus only after forcing two days of delays that critics said allowed ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to pursue a renewed bombing campaign blamed for hundreds of recent deaths in a rebel-controlled area. The nationwide truce would begin “without delay,” a victory for the United States and other nations that resisted Russian efforts to push back the start or soften the terms. It came after intense negotiations to persuade Russia not to use its veto power in the Security Council. Moscow had blocked 11 previous Syria resolutions. The United States and others accused Moscow of protecting the Assad government. It will be up to Russia to use its influence with Assad to enforce the cease-fire, which would allow desperately needed deliveries of emergency supplies and medical evacuations of the seriously injured and sick.


Nearly 100 Nigerian schoolgirls are missing after suspected Boko Haram militants raided their school earlier this week in northeastern Nigeria. There have been conflicting reports over the number of girls accounted for and how many are still missing. The incident came four years after 276 students were abducted from their school 170 miles away in the northeastern town of Chibok. Teachers and students ran from the Government Girls Secondary school into the bush outside Dapchi on Monday evening as the girls were taken away in trucks, the BBC reported.


Tentative plans for Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to make his first visit to the White House to meet with President Trump were scuttled last week after a testy call between the two leaders ended in an impasse over Trump’s promised border wall, according to U.S. and Mexican officials. Peña Nieto was eyeing an official trip to Washington this month or in March, but both countries agreed to call off the plan after Trump would not agree to publicly affirm Mexico’s position that it would not fund construction of a border wall that the Mexican people widely consider offensive. Speaking by phone, Peña Nieto and Trump devoted a considerable portion of their roughly 50-minute conversation to the wall, and neither man would compromise his position.


A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck central Papua New Guinea early Monday. There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths, but forest villages and a large gold mine were rattled. The temblor had a depth of 21 miles. A 5.5 magnitude aftershock struck near Porger. Tens of thousands of people live in the forested highlands region affected by the quake. Porgera is the site of a large gold mine that employs more than 2,500 residents. Papua New Guinea is located on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, to the east of Indonesia. It is home to about 7 million people.


Communities from Texas to Kentucky continued to clean up Monday after numerous homes were damaged or destroyed by more than a dozen tornadoes that struck the mid-South on Saturday. Two people lost their lives. The powerful storms raked the region for hours, spawning powerful tornadoes that ripped apart dwellings and sent trees flying like missiles. Residents were trapped under their own belongings that were turned into projectiles or sent collapsing on top of them.

Heavy rains have swamped a large area over the past week, from northeastern Texas into the lower Mississippi Valley, Ohio River Valley and southern Great Lakes, triggering moderate to major river flooding in many areas. Six deaths have been blamed on the widespread heavy rain and flooding since last week. After a few dry days, rain will return to some of the waterlogged cities in those regions, exacerbating the flooding situation. Of greatest concern is a swath from central and southern Arkansas into Tennessee, southern Kentucky, northern Mississippi, northern Alabama and northwest Georgia Wednesday into early Thursday.

All-time monthly warm temperature records were smashed for a second straight day from the Deep South to northern New England resembling a typical early June day, rather than late February. At least two dozen locations in the East and South tied or set new February record highs Wednesday. New York’s Central Park soared to 78 degrees, crushing their previous February record high of 75 set on Feb. 24, 1985 and Feb. 25, 1930. Newark, New Jersey (80 degrees) also sets new monthly records. It was also Newark’s earliest-in-season 80-degree-plus high on record. Washington D.C. recorded its earliest 80-degree day on record at Reagan National Airport on Wednesday with a high of 82 degrees. Manchester, New Hampshire, soared to 77 degrees, which was the warmest February temperature on record anywhere in the state, topping a record set one year ago in Nashua.

The Bering Sea has lost roughly half its sea ice over the past two weeks and has more open water than ever measured at this time of year. This comes as much of western Alaska, including places like Saint Paul Island and Utqiaġvik, formerly known as Barrow, is in the midst of its warmest winter in recorded history. The community of Umiat measured unofficial temperatures 45 degrees Fahrenheit above normal on Tuesday. A lack of sea ice around the western edge of Alaska leaves the coastline open to the battering energy of storms rolling in from the Bering Sea. The Native Alaskan village of Kivalina, one of the first communities in the U.S. expected to relocate due to climate change, is being impacted by that kind of erosion.

Signs of the Times (2/21/18)

February 21, 2018

For in the time of trouble, He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock. (Psalm 27:1)

Florida Shooter Known by Police & FBI

In the aftermath of the attack, revelations about the teen’s alarming warning signs appeared to be repeatedly missed or ignored, despite numerous 911 calls, a report to the FBI based on a social media posting, his former classmates expressing fear of him and a documented history of mental health issues. Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old accused of killing 17 people at his former Florida high school, had scores of run-ins with law enforcement dating back to 2010 — with one report saying sheriff’s deputies responded to his home more than 35 times in just six years. Broward County Sheriff’s deputies received at least 36 emergency 911 calls from 80th Terrace St., in Parkland – the suburban address where the teenager lived with his younger brother, Zachary, and their adoptive mother, Lynda, BuzzFeed reported. “Hi, I’m Nick,” he used to say, according to an acquaintance interviewed by CNN. “I’m a school shooter.” Cruz posed with guns and knives in photos posted on Instagram and made a chilling online comment about a mass shooting carried out in New York this summer. Despite the repeated calls to authorities, Cruz was never arrested – and was basically cleared as being “no threat to anyone or himself,” as one therapist said in a police report from Sept. 28, 2016. According to reports, Cruz and his brother both suffered from mental health issues, including ADHD and OCD, and took medication as treatment. Despite these issues, Cruz was able to legally purchase the AR-15 he used in the mass shooting.

  • This is not a unique scenario, but unfortunately the norm in our increasingly ‘tolerant’ and ‘inclusive’ society that doesn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings

School Shootings on the Rise

According to a Wikipedia article about school shootings as summarized in Charisma News, there were 28 school shootings in America in the 19th century, 226 shootings in the 20th century and 223 already in the 21st century. We are not even one-fifth through the 2000s, so this projects out to 1,239 shootings in the 21st century. During the 1950s, there were 17 school shootings; in the 1960s, 18; in the 1970s, 30; in the 1980s, 39; in the 1990s, 62; in the first decade of this century (2000-2009), 60 school shootings; from 2010-2018, 153. Of those 223 school shootings so far this century, 60 occurred from 2000-2009 and 153 from 2010-2018, so the trend continues upward at a rapidly accelerating pace.

  • As the end-time run-up to the Tribulation continues, God is gradually removing His restraining Spirit: For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. (2Thessalonians 2:7)

Dozens of School Attacks Prevented Last Week

When it comes to horrific school attacks and shootings, “See something, say something, do something” is apparently a policy that really does save innocent lives. Police, schools and parents are stopping school attacks across America by taking the threats seriously, reporting them and quickly arresting the students before there’s ever a massacre. Police in Foley, Alabama, arrested a 14-year-old male student who reportedly threatened to “shoot up the school” on Feb. 20. Police say the student told someone he was “going to shoot up the school by the end of the year.” A student in Fayetteville, Arkansas, was arrested Feb. 16 after the individual made a Snapchat post threatening to “shoot up the high school like they did in Florida.” A 13-year-old boy in Pixley, California, was arrested Feb. 16 after he threatened to “shoot up” the school in a post he made online. Asante Freeman, 18, was arrested Feb. 16 in Fresno, CA, after he reportedly threatened to bring an AR-15 rifle to school in Facebook posts. Police arrested Christopher Roman, 20, on Feb. 20 in Waterbury, CT, who threatened to “shoot up the school” in a Facetime post. Officers with the Daytona beach Police Department arrested a 20-year-old man on Feb. 15 who had threatened his classmates with violence and made “other disturbing general comments.” These are just a few of the dozens of arrests made in just one week.

  • Our youth are being overtaken by demonic anti-Christ spirits. Much prayer/warfare is required.

Trump Proposes Modest Gun-Control Measures

President Trump on Tuesday signaled an openness to modest gun-control measures following what he called an “evil massacre” at a South Florida high school last week that left 17 dead and prompted passionate calls from students for reform. Trump directed the Justice Department to draft a ban on devices known as “bump stocks,” molded pieces of plastic or metal that can attach to a legal semiautomatic gun and allow it to fire up to 100 rounds in seven seconds, similar to an illegal machine gun. He also indicated he favored raising the minimum age for buying semiautomatic weapons from 18 to 21. Trump also signaled he was in favor of expanded background checks. Students at several Florida schools walked out Wednesday morning to press the government for more gun control.

Supreme Court Lets Stand CA Gun Waiting Period

The Supreme Court refused Tuesday to hear a challenge to California’s 10-day waiting period for gun purchases, the second longest in the nation. As the national debate over guns intensified following last week’s school shooting in Florida that killed 17 students and teachers, the high court continued to resist inserting itself in the debate— a path it has followed for several years. Justice Clarence Thomas issued an angry, 14-page dissent in which he complained that lower courts have failed to give the Second Amendment “the respect due an enumerated constitutional right.” But none of the court’s other conservatives joined him. Since its landmark rulings in 2008 and 2010 which upheld the right to keep and bear firearms for self-defense, the Supreme Court has declined to hear challenges from gun rights or gun control groups. That has left issues such as assault weapons bans, bump stocks, trigger locks and the right to carry guns in public up to the states.

Russia Exploits Florida School Shooting

One hour after news broke about the school shooting in Florida last week, Twitter accounts suspected of having links to Russia released hundreds of posts taking up the gun control debate. The accounts addressed the news with the speed of a cable news network. Some adopted the hashtag #guncontrolnow. Others used #gunreformnow and #Parklandshooting. “This is pretty typical for them, to hop on breaking news like this,” said Jonathon Morgan, chief executive of New Knowledge, a company that tracks online disinformation campaigns. “The bots focus on anything that is divisive for Americans. Almost systematically. One of the most divisive issues in the nation is how to handle guns, pitting Second Amendment advocates against proponents of gun control. And the messages from these automated accounts, or bots, were designed to widen the divide and make compromise even more difficult.

13 Russian Nationals and 3 Russian Companies Indicted for Election Meddling

Thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies were indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly interfering in the 2016 presidential elections. The case brought by Robert Mueller, special counsel for the Justice Department, details a sophisticated plot to wage “information warfare” against the U.S. The national security adviser to President Trump said Saturday that the new FBI indictments show indisputably that Russians meddled in U.S. elections. H.R. McMaster said “with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now incontrovertible” that Moscow meddled in the 2016 campaign. Executives from online social media companies, including those from Facebook and Twitter, testified just weeks ago on Capitol Hill that Russia indeed used social media to disrupt the 2016 White House race and sow discord among voters. However, the Justice Department made clear in its case that the indictment does not allege that any of the interference changed the outcome of the presidential race. The defendants are accused of spreading derogatory information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, denigrating Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — and ultimately supporting Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and then-Republican candidate his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, this time against a lawyer who had worked with some of President Trump’s former campaign aides. Prosecutors charged that the lawyer, Alex Van Der Zwaan, lied to FBI agents about his conversations with former Trump aide Rick Gates, who was indicted last year on charges related to his work on behalf of pro-Russian factions in Ukraine. Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was charged along with Gates.

Congressional Efforts on Immigration Fail

Congressional efforts to reach an immigration compromise collapsed in Washington this week. The Senate voted down four bills that could have provided long-term protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children amidst a contentious back-and-forth between Capitol Hill and the White House. Trump gave Congress a deadline of March 5 to pass a bill to protect DREAMers, a deadline that is fast approaching as Congress prepares to take a week off following Presidents Day. Federal courts have forced the Trump administration to continue processing renewals for DACA recipients, but that could only be a temporary reprieve if the Supreme Court decides to shut the program down once again.

94% of Women in Hollywood Say They’ve Been Sexually Harrassed

Ninety-four percent of women questioned in an exclusive survey by USA TODAY say they have experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault during their careers in Hollywood. Such harassment includes unwanted sexual comments and groping. Propositioning women. Exposing themselves. Coercing women into having sex or doing something sexual. And, especially pertinent to showbiz, forcing women to disrobe and appear naked at an audition without prior warning. Working in partnership with The Creative Coalition, Women in Film and Television and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, USA TODAY surveyed 843 women who work in the entertainment industry in a variety of roles (producers, actors, writers, directors, editors and others) and asked them about their experiences with sexual misconduct.

  • Washington, D.C. may be a swamp, but Hollywood is a cesspool.

Economic News

U.S. consumer sentiment unexpectedly rose in February to the second-highest level since 2004 as tax cuts and a strong job market helped Americans shrug off stock-market volatility, a University of Michigan survey showed Friday. The rise in sentiment, which surpassed the forecasts of all analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, comes as Americans’ paychecks are getting bigger due to the implementation of tax cuts under legislation signed by President Donald Trump in December. The increase is also consistent with data on solid hiring and rising wages released by the Labor Department earlier this month.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average posted its best weekly gain since the 2016 presidential election last week, a rebound that followed its biggest downturn in two years. This signals that recent investor jitters over inflation have eased, but volatility still plagued the market this week.. This past week’s gain of 4.3% for the Dow Jones industrial average comes after a volatile period during which the popular stock gauge suffered its first official correction (a 10% drop) since February 2016. The Dow has now recouped about half of its losses suffered in the recent sell-off.

Groundbreakings on new homes jumped 9.7% last month to the highest level since October 2016, welcome news for a housing market struggling with a shortage of homes for sale. The Commerce Department said Friday that housing starts came in at an annual pace of 1.33 million in January, up from 1.21 million in December and 1.24 million in January 2017. Construction of single-family homes rose 3.7%. Construction of apartments and condominiums shot up 19.7%, the most since December 2016. Home construction soared 45.5% in the Northeast, rose 10.7% in the West and grew 9.3% in the South. But homebuilding dropped 10.2% in the Midwest.

Builders haven’t been putting up homes fast enough to meet demand. A shortage of houses on the market has driven up prices and blunted sales. Standard & Poor’s reported last month that U.S. home prices rose 6.2% in November from a year earlier, according to its CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index. And sales of existing homes fell 3.6% in December, though sales rose slightly for the full year 2017 from 2016, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Mortgage interest rates jumped again last week, causing mortgage application volume to fall 6.6% on a seasonally adjusted basis from the previous week. Borrowers today may be more likely to take out a home equity line of credit than to refinance a mortgage and lose the low rate they already have. Home equity line volume has been rising steadily, although it is still not as high as it was during the last housing boom, when borrowers were using their homes like ATMs.

China is by far the largest holder of Treasuries, the debt that the United States sells in the form of bonds when it needs to borrow money. China’s holdings climbed 13% to $1.18 trillion last year. And the United States is about to sell even more debt. The Republican tax cuts and the federal budget deal will require even more borrowing. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates the deficit could swell to $1 trillion next year. Now, President Trump is considering more tariffs that would punish China, but he needs China more than ever in the coming years to pay for the U.S. government, creating quite a quandary.

Persecution Watch

Thousands of Christians are being butchered in Nigeria and whole villages being destroyed. Fulani tribesmen are raping and killing villagers. Children being used as Islamic suicide bombers, resulting in scores of casualties, reports the American Family Association. But nothing is being reported about it in the mainstream media.  A headline on Jihad Watch this week said,: “Nigeria: Muslims wipe out 15 villages in mass slaughter of Christians, government does nothing. Despite several calls to the governor and his deputy, and other security apparatus, the government remained silent as the atrocities continued. The Fulani were able to carry out their deadly attack. They stayed for hours in the vicinity, moving at will, unchallenged. According to Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch, “Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari clearly has no sympathy for the victims. He shares the world view of the jihadi attackers.”

Algerian authorities are citing health and safety regulations to shut down church buildings, in actions one Arab Christian organization has described as “a new wave of persecution”. A source reports that eight churches have been shut down by the government. A source in Algeria stated, “These recent days, there is a government commission that is going around to visit all the churches to look for little faults and give notifications for closure, reports Barnabas Aid.

Middle East

An Improvised Explosive Device (IED) placed near the Gaza border fence by a Palestinian terror militia exploded on Saturday, wounding four IDF soldiers as they inspected it. In response, Israel launched air strikes on several Hamas targets inside the Strip, following up with a strike early Monday morning on underground tunnels being dug by terror groups under the border. The strike on the tunnels was also in response to rockets fired into Israel from the Strip Sunday evening. In total, the IDF attacked six targets belonging to Hamas.

Israeli energy company Delek Drilling has announced a $15 billion deal to supply natural gas to Egypt. Delek and its U.S. partner, Noble Energy, signed a deal Monday to sell a total of 64 billion cubic meters of gas over a 10-year period to Egyptian company Dolphinus Holdings. “I welcome the historic agreement that was announced on the export of Israeli gas to Egypt. This will put billions into the state treasury to benefit the education, health and social welfare of Israel’s citizens,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. Yossi Abu, chief executive of Delek Drilling, said that the deal is the largest-ever export agreement for Israel’s nascent natural gas industry. He expects most of the gas to be used for Egypt’s domestic market, although he believes it could also help pave the way toward turning Egypt into an export hub for Israeli gas.


Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces killed at least 98 people, including 20 children, in one of the deadliest days of bombings in the opposition-held area of Eastern Ghouta in three years, an activist group said Tuesday. Syrian Civil Defense, a civilian-led emergency response group known as White Helmets, said some people are still trapped under the rubble. It said hundreds have been wounded in a week-long bombardment. Since Sunday, 194 people — 52 children and 29 women — have been killed in regime bombings, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It marks one of the deadliest periods for civilian deaths since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

Syria’s messy war is becoming even messier. On Tuesday, pro-regime militias reportedly moved into the embattled enclave of Afrin, which is under siege from Turkish forces who invaded Syria last month. The regime units appeared to be reinforcing Syrian Kurdish factions that have controlled the area near the Turkish border, much to the frustration of Ankara. The battles in Afrin risk a wider conflagration. The main Syrian Kurdish armed group, known as the YPG, is seen by Turkey as a direct proxy of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, which operates inside Turkey and is considered a terrorist organization by Ankara and Washington. But the United States supports the YPG, depending on its fighters to help combat the jihadist Islamic State.


National Security Advisor H.R.McMaster made an appeal to NATO members and allies at the Munich Security Conference to look hard at who they’re doing business with overseas and cut off funding that indirectly funds Hezbollah and other proxy militias that bolster Iranian influence. “When you invest in Iran, you’re investing in the IRGC. You might as well cut the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a check and say, ‘please use this to commit more murder across the Middle East,'” McMaster said. “And when we look at the biggest trading partners with Iran, we of course see Russia, we see China. But we also see Japan, South Korea and Germany. It’s time to focus business intelligence efforts to figure out who we are really doing business with and cut off funding.”

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Thursday that it was “time for the Security Council to act” following the release of a report by UN experts concluding that Iran had violated the arms embargo on Yemen. The report found that Tehran had failed to block supplies to Yemen’s Huthi rebels of ballistic missiles that were fired at Saudi Arabia. “This report highlights what we’ve been saying for months: Iran has been illegally transferring weapons in violation of multiple Security Council resolutions,” Haley said in a statement. The ambassador added that “the world cannot continue to allow these blatant violations to go unanswered” and that Tehran must face “consequences.”

North Korea

On Feb. 10, less than two hours before Pence and his team were set to meet with Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and Kim Yong Nam, the regime’s nominal head of state, the North Koreans pulled out of the scheduled meeting, according to Pence’s office. The North Korean decision came after Pence had used his Asian/Olympics trip to denounce the nation’s nuclear ambitions and announce the “toughest and most aggressive” sanctions against the regime yet, while also taking steps to further solidify the U.S. alliance with both Japan and South Korea.


Myanmar and Bangladesh have agreed to resettle as many as 6,000 Rohingyas who are trapped in “no man’s land” between the two countries. Bangladesh had argued that Myanmar should take them back as they hadn’t yet crossed the border after fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. More than 688,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Rakhine State since August, when armed militants attacked security forces in the region. The Burmese army responded by carrying out so-called clearance operations targeting terrorists. Those who have fled have told gut-wrenching stories of systematic mass rape, murder and the burning down of entire villages. The UN and the US say they believe the violence constitutes ethnic cleansing. Myanmar denies most of the allegations. Much of the border is secured to control migration and the journey by water is a perilous. Hundreds of Rohingya have died attempting to cross the Naf river to enter Bangladesh.


The Western Arctic caribou herd in Alaska is seeing a population increase after being on the decline for more than a decade. Aerial photographs taken of the Western Arctic herd counted 239,055 caribous, which raised the total estimated number of the caribou to 259,000, according to a release from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (DFG). This is a leap of more than 50,000 caribous from the 201,000 counted just a year ago. There were fewer productive cows exiting the population and an increased number of calves joining the herd.


A 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit near the Mexican coast Friday was so powerful that its impact was felt in Mexico City. Thirteen people are dead and 15 injured. The city is still dealing with the effects of a 7.1 magnitude quake in September of 2017that left hundreds dead. People were forced to flee swaying buildings and office towers in the country’s capital. The epicenter was roughly 23 miles northeast of Pinotepa in Oaxaca state, in a rural area near the Pacific coast and the border with Guerrero state. It had a depth of 15 miles.


An historical landmark is threatened, and residents have been forced from their homes in Bishop, California, as a more than 2,000-acre blaze burned in their community Monday. The so-called Pleasant Fire has consumed 2,250 acres and is only 15 percent contained as of Tuesday. Winds have been hampering efforts to put out the blaze as it moves toward structures. As many as 200 people have been evacuated.


Huge differences in temperature across the United States will be in place this week due to an amplified jet stream. This upper-level pattern will feature a southward dip in the jet stream over the western U.S. while the jet stream will then bulge northward over the East. Spring-like warmth will surge northward across the South and into parts of the Midwest and Northeast early to midweek. Meanwhile, artic chill will plunge down into the west.

Several homes were destroyed and at least two people were hospitalized after severe storms rolled through Johnson County, Texas, early Tuesday morning. The National Weather Service had not issued severe thunderstorm or tornado warnings, but the north Texas area was hit by three EF0 tornadoes.

Winter Storm Oliver’s snowy, icy impacts persisted into Wednesday, as poor travel conditions led to closures and slowdowns from the Pacific Northwest to Texas and into the Midwest. Schools were canceled or delayed Wednesday in several districts in Oregon and Washington after Oliver brought a second round of snow and ice to the region. Snow totals as high as 8 inches were reported in the Pacific Northwest, though most areas received only a couple of inches. Travel problems extended as far south as Texas, where many roads were ice-coated and dangerous. Oliver’s warm side melted snow and triggered flooding in parts of the South and Midwest, and at least one death has been blamed on the nasty weather.

Signs of the Times (2/15/18)

February 15, 2018

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

School Shooting in Florida Kills Seventeen

Another mass school shooting has once again inflamed the discussion of guns. Liberals want gun control, conservatives don’t. However, the problem in a fallen world of good and evil is that there is no perfect solution. In this world, we will always have evil, just as we will always have poor people and mentally-disturbed individuals. With gun control, there will still be guns, albeit fewer. Without gun control, more disturbed people will kill more often. The best we can do is to strike a balance to mitigate the worst-case scenarios. The perfect solution will not be available to us until Jesus returns to rule and reign over the new earth: Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. (Revelation 21:1)

  • For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth… The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, The lion shall eat straw like the ox, And, dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,” Says the Lord. (Isaiah 65:1,25)

Trump’s Budget Proposal to Include Border Wall & Defund Planned Parenthood

President Trump’s 2019 budget proposal will include $23 billion for border security and immigration enforcement, $21 billion for infrastructure, $17 billion to combat the opioid epidemic, and an increase of $200 million in aid to Israel. It would also defund Planned Parenthood. Those are among the highlights released by the White House in advance of the budget’s formal transmission to Congress on Monday. That’s the first step toward filling in the details of a two-year budget framework passed by Congress last week, which increased caps on both military and domestic spending. That compromise — specifically designed to win the support of Senate Democrats and avoid a filibuster — ended an 8-hour partial government shutdown Friday and signaled a budget truce for at least the next 19 months. The $23 billion for border security includes $18 billion toward the border wall along the Mexican border. $2.7 billion to detain up to 52,000 undocumented immigrants and $782 million to hire 2,750 more customs and immigration agents. The proposed budget calls for major spending reductions in Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and other social programs, reductions that have long been targeted by conservatives. But even with these reductions, which combine for more than $3 trillion in cuts over 10 years, it would not bring the budget into balance because of tax revenue lost to the recent tax cut and higher spending on other programs, particularly the military.

Trump’s Approval Rating Rising

A new Politico/Morning Consult poll reveals that President Trump’s approval rating went up, with 47 percent now backing his job performance, compared to 47 percent who disapprove of it. This is a three-point increase from a Jan. 10 Politico/Morning Consult poll. That survey showed 44 percent approved of Trump’s job performance, compared to 51 percent who disapproved. In addition, the poll found that 43 percent trust Republicans in Congress to handle the economy, compared to 32 percent who are confident in the Democrats to do it. Similarly, 42 percent back Republicans’ ability to handle immigration, while 36 percent trust the Democrats. In addition, 41 percent trust Democrats to handle healthcare, compared to 37 percent who are confident in the Republicans to do it. Politico is generally thought to be a left-leaning organization that has been quite critical of Trump.

U.S. Intel Chief Says Risk of Global Conflict Highest Since Cold War

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned Tuesday that the current risk of a global conflict is higher than at any time since the end of the Cold War. “The risk of interstate conflict, including among great powers, is higher than at any time since the end of the Cold War,” Coats told lawmakers during a hearing on worldwide threats before the Senate Intelligence Committee. “The most immediate threats of regional interstate conflict in the next year come from North Korea and from Saudi-Iranian use of proxies in their rivalry,” he said. “At the same time, the threat of state and non-state use of weapons of mass destruction will continue to grow.”  Coats also noted that U.S. adversaries and “malign actors,” including Russia and China will use several tactics, including cyber and information warfare to challenge U.S. influence around the world. According to Coats, the intelligence community remains unanimous in its assessment that Russia will target the 2018 US midterm elections.

State Department Receives Funds Transfer to Fight Foreign Meddling

The State Department is only now getting started to combat Russian meddling in U.S. politics, even as intelligence officials warn of threats to the 2018 midterm elections. An agreement to transfer $40 million from the Defense Department to State’s Global Engagement Center is expected to be approved this week to counter Russian influence that began before the 2016 presidential election. The center initially focused on countering terrorist propaganda, but Congress ordered it last August to add a new mission as well: election meddling by foreign governments. The center’s job is to focus on the issue of disinformation, whether it comes from Russia or China or any other country. A Democratic report on the Russian influence campaign abroad said the center’s efforts against Russia “have been stymied by the department’s hiring freeze and unnecessarily long delays” in transferring funds to support that mission.

One in Six Children Live in War Zones

More than 357 million children living in war and conflict zones, an increase of roughly 75% from the early 1990s, a report published Thursday by Save the Children says. Around half of those affected — 165 million children — live in “high-intensity” conflicts. Youngsters in the Middle East are most likely to live in an area classed as a war-zone, with two in five children living within 31 miles of a “conflict event.” Africa was ranked as second-most dangerous region. Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia topped the list of the most dangerous countries for children. Other hotspots include Myanmar, Bangladesh, Iraq and Yemen. There has also  been a marked increase in the killing and maiming of children. Since 2010, the number of U.N.-verified cases of has gone up by almost 300%.

  • Another end-time sign: For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. (Matthew 24:7)

Refugees Cost U.S. Billions

Federation for American Immigration Reform or FAIR has released a new study that suggests refugees and asylum seekers in the U.S. cost federal taxpayers a whopping $1.8 billion per year and $8.8 billion over a five-year span. The study also suggests that $867 million is tied up in welfare benefits that U.S. taxpayers pay. Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for FAIR, says resettling refugees in the United States and other western countries is only one means of protecting people. “In fact, it turns out to be the most expensive and least efficient way,” he claims. “I Not every situation that forces people out of their homes results in permanent exile, he says, and the U.S. should do a better job of recognizing there are limited resources to take care of those who are.t costs a lot of money to bring people to the United States, especially people who are fleeing their home countries who may not be coming here with marketable skills.”

Military Adds Names to Gun Ban List after Texas Massacre

Since an ex-US airman shot more than two dozen people in a Texas church in November, the US military has added more than 4,000 names to the nation’s list of dishonorably discharged military personnel banned from owning firearms — a sign of what has been a massive hole in the nation’s gun buying background check system. The gunman in the Sutherland Springs massacre had been kicked out of the military for assaulting his wife. By federal law, that should have prevented the shooter from purchasing his semiautomatic rifle, but the US Air Force later admitted it had not submitted his records to the FBI’s background check system. In the months since, the Department of Defense has scrambled to ensure all of its branches have properly updated the FBI’s system to track personnel kicked out of the military who are barred from owning firearms.

College Republicans’ Patriot Prayer Rally Disrupted by Leftist-Protesters

Five people were arrested as fights broke out and at least one American flag was burned Saturday after a college Republican rally in Seattle drew counter-protesters. College Republicans at the University of Washington had invited members of Patriot Prayer, a group in Vancouver, Wash., to speak in the university’s Red Square for a “freedom rally.” The goals were to bring conservatives together and promote free-speech rights. As the event got underway, supporters chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!,” and signs included one that read, “We died for liberty not socialism.” But more than 1,000 counter-protesters showed up to oppose the event. “We’re here to fight back against the far right and fascism on our campus,” one counter-protester said. After several skirmishes broke out, police responded with pepper spray. University of Washington police said those arrested were charged with disorderly conduct.

State Legislatures Tackling Free Speech on College Campuses

The pitched battle over campus free speech is expanding into state legislatures, with eight enacting laws on the issue, and more than a dozen others considering measures aimed at protecting First Amendment rights in colleges and universities. Florida, Nebraska and Texas are in the midst of acting on introduced bills on campus free speech, and measures are pending in roughly 10 other states. Republicans are the force behind the bills, which vary from one another in some aspects, but at their core seek to change policies and practices on college campuses that lawmakers and their supporters say disproportionately have been used to censor or curtail conservative speakers and student groups. A 2016 study showed there were 36 speakers disinvited from campuses across the country, and almost all were conservative. In some ways, this parallels the free speech campus movement of the 1960s, when it was the left fighting for freedom of speech at colleges.

Florida’s Citrus Crop Severely Impacted by Irma and Disease

Florida’s citrus industry is having its worst harvest in decades after Hurricane Irma and a persistent plant disease delivered a devastating blow to crops statewide. Irma impacted more than 421,000 acres of the Sunshine State’s citrus fruits and trees, resulting in $760 million in damage, according to a release from the Commissioner of Agriculture. The damage has caused the worst year for Florida’s oranges since 1945. A disease known as citrus greening, or yellow dragon disease, has also wreaked havoc on the state’s plants. It is spread by a tiny insect known as the Asian citrus psyllid, according to the USDA. The cureless virus has no health impact on people and animals, but it deforms fruits and makes them bitter. Irma also opened the door for canker, another harmful bacteria, to impact the trees.

Economic News

The Consumer Price Index rose at a faster than anticipated rate of 2.1% in January compared to a year ago, triggering fears of another rocky run on Wall Street. The Labor Department says overall consumer prices rose 0.5% in January, the most in four months. The monthly Labor Department report on the price of everything from gas to groceries caused investors to be suddenly very concerned about inflation. The stock market sell-off earlier this month that caused the Dow to fall over 1,000 points in a single day began after a Labor Department report showed wages grew at a more-than-expected pace in January. Now another key gauge of inflation — CPI — is showing a similar upward trend. Inflation around 2 percent is still very low, but Wall Street traders fear that this could be the beginning of a quick run up in wages and prices. Global markets have whipsawed for the past two weeks because of investors’ fears about inflation and faster interest rate hikes.

Long-term U.S. mortgage rates jumped this week to their highest level in nearly four years, a sign that the prospect of higher inflation is steadily increasing the cost of borrowing to buy a home. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages rose to 4.38% this week, up from 4.32% last week, the highest since April 2014. The rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans rose to 3.84% from 3.77% last week. Recent wage gains and rising prices are stoking concerns about inflation picking up, which has caused investors to seek higher interest rates.

Americans cut back on purchases of cars, furniture and a variety of other products in January, pushing retail sales down by 0.3%, the biggest decline in 11 months. The January decline, following no change in December, was the largest setback since a 0.5% fall in February of last year, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. The slowdown comes after a three-month stretch of sizzling consumer activity, from September through November, which had fueled the most robust holiday sales in a decade. Some of the weakness in January retail sales could be linked to the unusually high number of reported flu cases last month.

Nearly a third of Main Street businesses say it’s a good time to expand, the highest since the National Federation of Independent Business began asking in 1973. “Main Street is roaring,” said NFIB CEO Juanita Duggan. “The record level of enthusiasm for expansion follows a year of record-breaking optimism among small businesses.” Wages and prices are going up, too. About 31% of small businesses reported paying employees more, the highest since 2000. The share of owners raising prices rose to 11%, the highest in the NFIB survey in three and a half years. Overall, small business optimism rose in January to one of its highest readings ever. The NFIB attributed that to the passage of the Republican tax package in late December.

Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Sunday that the IDF had delivered “harsh blows” to Iranian and Syrian forces which had been responsible for launching a military drone into Israeli airspace on Saturday morning. In the ensuing clashes, an Israeli F-16I aircraft was lost to enemy fire, the first such incident in 35 years. “We will continue to harm anyone who attempts to harm us,” Netanyahu said. Meanwhile, reports indicated that the IDF was beefing up its forces in the north as a precaution pending further developments. Israel warned Syrian President Bashar Assad to stop letting his war-torn country be used by Iran as a launching pad for attacks.

Across Gaza, the densely populated enclave of two million Palestinians sandwiched between Israel and Egypt, daily life, long a struggle, is unraveling, reports the New York Times. At the heart of the crisis — and its most immediate cause — is a crushing financial squeeze, the result of a tense standoff between Hamas, the militant Islamist group that rules Gaza, and Fatah, the secular party entrenched on the West Bank. Fatah controls the Palestinian Authority but was driven out of Gaza by Hamas in 2007. The jails are filling with shopkeepers arrested for unpaid debts; the talk on the streets is of homes being burglarized. The boys who skip school to hawk fresh mint or wipe car windshields face brutal competition. At open-air markets, shelves remain mostly full, but vendors sit around reading the Quran. There are no buyers, the sellers say. There is no money. United Nations officials warn that Gaza is nearing total collapse, with medical supplies dwindling, clinics closing and 12-hour power failures threatening hospitals. The water is almost entirely undrinkable, and raw sewage is befouling beaches and fishing grounds.


Iran has unveiled a series of new homemade nuclear-capable ballistic missiles during military parades held this week. The parades come after a confrontation between an Iranian drone and Israeli forces in Syria on Saturday. The arsenal included a nuclear-capable medium-range missile that appears to share similarities with North Korean technology. Iran’s state-controlled media quoted military officials as saying that the missile “can be launched from mobile platforms or silos in different positions and can escape missile defense shields due to their radar-evading capability.”

Iranian police arrested around 100 money changers on Wednesday (Feb 14) as it scrambled to contain the decline of the rial, which has lost a quarter of its value in six months. Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, which lifted many international sanctions, had raised hopes that the currency would regain its lost value. Instead, the currency has continued to plummet, particularly after the arrival in office of U.S. President Donald Trump, whose threats to tear up the nuclear deal have scared off many foreign investors and prevented international banks from re-engaging with Iran. Iran’s banks have offered sky-high rates in recent years – often over 20 per cent – as they compete for deposits against many individuals and businesses who prefer to keep their money in dollars or real estate.

North Korea

Just miles from the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea — where some observers continue to fawn over Kim Jong Un’s sister and North Korea’s “smile diplomacy” — a trio of Americans remain detained in the Hermit Kingdom. Concern has grown for the three Korean-Americans — Kim Hak Song, Kim Dong Chul and Tony Kim — since the death of American college student Otto Warmbier last June after the he spent 17 months locked away in North Korea. The three detained Americans, ranging in age from 55 to 64, are being held on a variety of vaguely described offenses. The State Department noted that Ambassador Joseph Yun, the special representative for North Korean policy, met with the three Americans in North Korea in June, when Warmbier was released, but has not been seen since. The leaders of North Korea’s horrific prison camps encourage guards to beat prisoners to death and induce starvation, to the point prisoners appear as “walking skeletons,” “dwarfs” and “cripples” in rags, a U.S. State Department fact sheet revealed – especially for Christians, says one recent defector.


The British government says that Russia was behind a massive global cyberattack that hit major companies in June 2017. Foreign Office minister Tariq Ahmad said in a statement on Thursday that the Russian military was responsible for the attack, which initially targeted computers in Ukraine but quickly spread beyond its borderThe attack — called NotPetya — hit companies including British advertising group WPP, Oreo maker Mondelez, U.S. drugmaker Merck and global shipping company FedEx. “The destructive attack masqueraded as ransomware, but its purpose was principally to disrupt,” the U.K. government said in a statement. The Russian government said it “categorically denied the accusations.”


Poverty and hunger rates are soaring as Venezuela’s economic crisis leaves store shelves empty of food, medicine, diapers and baby formula. Some parents can no longer bear it. They are doing the unthinkable. Giving up their children, abandoning them or giving them to orphanages, reports the Washington Post. “People can’t find food,” social worker Magdelis Salazar said. “They can’t feed their children. They are giving them up not because they don’t love them but because they do.” There are no official statistics on how many children are abandoned or sent to orphanages and care homes by their parents for economic reasons. But interviews with officials at ten private and public organizations that manage children in crisis suggest that the cases number in the hundreds — or more — nationwide.


Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are pressuring the State Department to reform the way it handles deaths and injuries to U.S. citizens vacationing in Mexico. In a letter Monday to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said the more than 140 recently reported cases of tourists blacking out and getting injured or raped — and in some cases dying — after drinking small or moderate amounts of alcohol show that the department needs to take a more “proactive, victim-centric” approach. At the urging of Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the Office of Inspector General opened an inquiry in December into how the department has been handling reports from U.S. citizens who were injured or whose loved ones died while on vacation in Mexico. More than 140 people report having terrifying, sometimes tragic, experiences while visiting Mexico, most often while staying at upscale, all-inclusive resorts.


A massive sinkhole opened up in Rome on Wednesday, swallowing cars and prompting evacuations of nearby buildings. No injuries have been reported from the incident, which resulted in a more than 30-foot-deep chasm. At least six parked vehicles were pulled into the sinkhole, which ate a portion of a road in the Balduina area. Two buildings near the site were evacuated and other structures are being investigated for damage. Emergency crews have shut down a water pipeline damaged by the collapse of the road and water has been brought in to ensure there’s a supply for residents. Roughly 20 households were evacuated, and officials say if the families are unable to return home, they will be provided temporary shelter.

Polar Vortex

A split of the north polar vortex occurred this week due to warming in the stratosphere. The polar vortex is a persistent, large-scale, low pressure zone that rotates counter-clockwise at the North Pole (clockwise at the South Pole). There are now two smaller vortices: one over western Canada and another over Europe. The disruption of the polar vortex will lead to an outbreak of colder weather in both the eastern United States as well as Europe.


Midway through the winter, the Oswego County hamlet of Redfield, N.Y., remains the snowiest spot in all the Great Lakes. They broke 300 inches — that’s 25 feet — Thursday night. Last season, Redfield received a total of 350.5 inches of snow. As of Thursday, Houghton, Michigan was second with 227.2 inches. A neighboring Lake Superior town, Calumet, had 207.5 inches and Lacona in Oswego County had 186.3.

At least six deaths are being blamed on Winter Storm Mateo as it delivered a record ninth consecutive day of snowfall in Chicago, totaling 18.3 inches. Snow and freezing rain also fell in Michigan and Indiana Sunday. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport saw more than 200 flight cancellations due to the storm and Midway International Airport saw about 245. In Detroit, city road crews worked back-to-back 12-hour shifts since Friday morning clearing major roads. In Indiana, 26 counties were placed under travel restrictions. A Michigan pileup on I-94 in Kalamazoo County shut down the eastbound lanes and injured several people. At least 38 vehicles were involved over a stretch of three miles.

Tongan began its recovery Wednesday morning from the powerful Tropical Cyclone Gita, which lashed the South Pacific nation with damaging winds and flooding on Tuesday. No deaths have been confirmed from the storm, but at least 30 people were injured, three seriously. Damage was widespread, and the islands were reeling after a direct hit from one of the strongest storms to impact the nation in modern history. Countless homes have been damaged by the storm. Officials had not yet been able to restore power and water service to its citizens as of Wednesday morning.

Signs of the Times (1/31/18)

January 31, 2018

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath and distress them in His deep displeasure. (Psalm 2:1-5)

President Trump Calls for Unity in SOTU Address, Dems Don’t Buy It

President Trump delivered the third-longest State of the Union address Tuesday night — and it was a pretty traditional presidential performance. He largely remained on script. The president on several occasions said he wants to lead a unified America and reached out to Democrats to join hands in cooperation. “Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve.” Part of the problem for Democrats was that Trump’s speech was laced with arguments about controlling immigration, a policy that they flatly reject. Amid some jeers, he laid out a four-pillar immigration plan, one of the major debates that loomed over his first year in office. A CBS News poll released Wednesday found that 75 percent of Americans who watched President Donald Trump deliver his State of the Union address approved of the speech.

Here are some of the words Trump did not mention during his address: environment, climate, guns, women, diplomacy, and Canada. Trump mentioned Mexico only once and health care only once, noting that he is pushing to improve care for veterans. But Trump talked a lot about taxes, immigration and American strength. There was even an echo of Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength” when Trump said, “we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means of our defense.” Congress is facing another deadline to pass a budget to avoid a government shutdown — this time the money runs out Feb. 8 — and yet Republicans and Democrats are no closer to solving the key sticking point: what to do about the so called “DREAMers,” immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

Illegals Commit Crimes at Double the Rate of Natives

The crime rate among illegal immigrants in Arizona is twice that of other residents, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday, citing a new report based on conviction data. The report, from the Crime Prevention Research Center, used a previously untapped set of data from Arizona that detailed criminal convictions and found that illegal immigrants between 15 and 35 are less than 3 percent of the state’s population, but nearly 8 percent of its prison population. And the crimes they were convicted of were, on the whole, more serious, said John R. Lott Jr., the report’s author and president of the research center. His findings also challenge the general narrative that immigrants commit fewer crimes. Those past studies usually don’t look at legal versus illegal populations, Lott said. “The type of person who goes through the process to legally immigrate in the United States appears to be very law-abiding versus even the U.S.-born population. The reverse is true for undocumented immigrants — they are committing crimes, and more serious crimes.”

Three Dreamers Caught Smuggling Immigrants

A third person living in the United States under an Obama-era protection for illegal immigrants who entered the country as minors was arrested this week for allegedly trying to smuggle Mexican nationals into the U.S. Monday’s incident was at least the third human smuggling-related arrest this week in which agents nabbed a so-called “Dreamer.” Border Patrol officials said two Dreamers — one in the country legally under the DACA program and the other whose permission had expired — were arrested last week in separate smuggling incidents in California.

Border Wall Prototypes Virtually Impenetrable Test Show

Eight prototypes of President Trump’s border wall were recently constructed outside San Diego. The models recently underwent rigorous testing by special operation teams from El Paso and Florida. According to those familiar with the tests, the walls withstood cutting torches, jackhammers and concrete saws better than anything currently on the border, and were almost impossible to climb, thanks to anti-climbing and anti-perching features. The test results are secret and won’t be revealed for another two to three months, sources say. While Trump critics refer to the President’s wall as silly, stupid and useless, those who actually work on the border say fences are effective. “The evidence shows that barriers work,” says Pete Hermansen, a 22-year veteran of the Border Patrol and former director of the agency’s tactical and rescue teams. Before San Diego built a 46-mile fence in the late 1980s, border agents were overwhelmed by illegal traffic from Mexico. In 1986, the agency arrested 629,656 illegal immigrants, almost the population of Las Vegas. Today, the 60-mile sector is almost entirely fenced. Apprehensions last year fell to 26,086, a 95 percent drop.

Sweden Coping with Surge in Immigrant Violence

Sweden’s experiment with mass Islamic immigration is definitely bringing “diversity,” but it’s much more violent than liberals want to admit. The left-leaning European country “has been experiencing an unprecedented surge of gang shootings, bombings and sexual assaults,” reported the U.K. Times. “In Malmö, where a fifth of the 340,000 inhabitants are under 18, children as young as 14 roam the streets with Kalashnikov assault rifles and bulletproof vests,” the newspaper reported. “The average age of gang members is 22, the vast majority of them hailing from migrant families.” The situation is becoming so bad that Swedish officials are now admitting that they don’t have the resources to investigate rapes immediately, because violent gang crimes are so prevalent. “For a long time the Swedish establishment played down the decay of immigrant-dominated suburbs, but it can no longer ignore the explosion of violence,” reported The Times.

House Calls for Release of Memo Detailing FBI Surveillance Abuses

House Speaker Paul Ryan called Tuesday to “cleanse” the FBI as he openly backed the release of a controversial memo that purportedly details alleged surveillance abuses by the U.S. government. “Let it all out, get it all out there. Cleanse the organization,” Ryan, R-Wis., said.  He added: “I think we should disclose all this stuff. It’s the best disinfectant. Accountability, transparency — for the sake of the reputation of our institutions.” The committee vote on Monday was met with sharp objections from Democrats. The motion passed on a party-line basis. President Trump now has five days to decide whether he has any objections before the memo can be publicly released. Trump reportedly has said he will sign the release order. Last week, a top Justice Department official urged House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes not to release the memo, saying it would be “extraordinarily reckless” and could harm national security and ongoing investigations. Meanwhile, top FBI official Andrew McCabe has been “removed” from his post as deputy director, leaving the bureau after months of conflict-of-interest complaints from Republicans including President Trump.

Senate Fails to Pass 20-Week Abortion Ban

The U.S. Senate failed to pass a bill on Monday that would have banned abortion after 20 weeks. The bill, known as the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, fell short of passing by a vote of 51-46. Although two Republicans, moderates Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), voted against the bill, three Democrats, Joe Manchin (D-WV), Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN), voted for it. Nevertheless, the rest of the Senate Democrats opposed the bill. The bill was based on scientific evidence that unborn babies at 20 weeks or more gestation are capable of feeling pain. President Trump expressed said that it was “disappointing that despite support from a bipartisan majority of U.S. Senators, this bill was blocked from further consideration,” Sixty votes were required.

EPA Relaxes Rules for Major Polluters

The U.S. Environmental Agency has reversed a decades-old policy meant to reduce toxic air pollutant from “major sources” of air pollution. The agency’s “once in, always in” policy, part of the Clean Air Act, is being repealed, William Wehrum, head of the EPA’s air office, announced Thursday. The policy in place since 1995 mandated that a source of pollution deemed “major”, such as coal-fired power plants, would always remain so and be regulated as such. Wehrum said the policy was a misinterpretation of the Clean Air Act and didn’t take into account when such facilities no longer had the potential to emit pollutants that fell within prescribed criteria. The Clean Air Act defines a “major source” as a one that has the potential to emit 10 tons per year or more of a listed hazardous pollutant or 25 tons per year or more of any combination of hazardous air pollutants. The new interpretation allows facilities classified as “major sources” to be reclassified as “area sources” when emissions fall below major source thresholds. Once facilities are reclassified, they are subject to different regulatory standards.

Opioids Kill 175 People a Day in U.S.

On average, more than 175 Americans die each day of drug overdose, almost all of them opioid related. The daily death toll from drug overdoses is like a 737 crashing and killing all the passengers on board – every day. In 2016, more than 11 million Americans abused prescription opioids, nearly 1 million used heroin, and 2.1 million had an opioid use disorder from prescription opioids or heroin. If this pattern continues unchecked, it could claim 1 million lives by 2020. Suggested solutions run the gamut, from gathering key players to utilizing the army of recovering drug addicts to fight the problem. President Donald Trump’s opioid commission asked him to declare a national emergency. Trump stopped short of that, announcing a public health emergency, but vowed to battle “the worst drug crisis in American history. … We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic.” Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative says, “We have to prevent more people from becoming addicted. This requires much more cautious prescribing.” For the millions already addicted, “we have to ensure that effective outpatient treatment is easier to access than prescription opioids, heroin or fentanyl,” he said.

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase Tackle Health Care Costs

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are combining efforts to improve health care and lower its cost for their hundreds of thousands of U.S. employees. Collectively, the three companies have about 900,000 employees worldwide. An independent company, which “is free from profit-making incentives and constraints,” they say, will initially tackle technological solutions to deliver “simplified, high-quality and transparent” health care to employees at a economical prices. “Tackling the enormous challenges of healthcare and harnessing its full benefits are among the greatest issues facing society today,” Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder said in a statement. “By bringing together three of the world’s leading organizations into this new and innovative construct, the group hopes to draw on its combined capabilities and resources to take a fresh approach to these critical matters.” This new approach might then serve as a model for reinventing healthcare worldwide.

Chinese Scientists Clone Monkeys for First Time

For the first time, scientists say they created cloned primates using the complicated cloning technique that made Dolly the sheep in 1996. Shanghai scientists created two genetically identical long-tailed macaques. The monkeys are named Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong, a version of the Chinese adjective Zhonghua which means the “Chinese nation” or “people.” These two are not the first primates to be cloned. Scientists in 1999 created Tetra, a rhesus monkey, but used what researchers consider a simpler cloning method that produces a more limited number of offspring. In Tetra’s case, scientists split the embryos, much like what happens naturally when identical twins develop. In the case of Hua Hua and Zhong Zhong, researchers used modern technology developed only in the last couple of years to enhance the technique used to clone Dolly.

  • It’s only a matter of time before scientists attempt to clone human beings. The Chinese government doesn’t adhere to the same restrictive code of ethics that keep Western nations from doing so.

Persecution Watch

The Christian Post reports that Television producer, author, and speaker David Sams did an experiment in which he compared the answers of Alexa with those of Google Home. Sams reported that when he asked Google who Jesus Christ is, it responds, “Sorry, I’m not sure how to help” or “My apologies I don’t understand.” However, it was able to identify other religious figures such as Muhammad, Buddha, and Satan. “I even asked Google who is David Sams? Google knew who I was, but Google did not know who Jesus was, Google did not know who Jesus Christ was, and Google did not know who God was,” Sams said. “It’s kinda scary, it’s almost like Google has taken Jesus and God out of smart audio.”

54,259 U.S. Bridges Deemed Structurally Deficient

According to the 2018 American Road and Transportation Builders Association’s Deficit Bridge report, America’s bridges are aging and becoming more dangerous. Of the 612,677 bridges across the country, 54,259 are rated structurally deficient, including more than 1,800 interstate bridges that are crossed some 60 million times a day. The average age of a deficient bridge in the United States is 67 years, and one in three bridges (226,837) is in need of repair, including one-third (17,726) of interstate highway bridges. The data shows that cars, trucks and school buses cross the more than 54,000 identified bridges 175 million times every day. The analysis notes that a designation of deficient doesn’t necessarily mean the bridges are unsafe, just that they are in need of repair.

Economic News

Wall Street w The Dow climbed more than 200 points on Wednesday morning, signaling that the sell-off earlier this week may have been a blip instead of the start of a more serious downturn. The Dow’s two-day loss of 2% was its worst since September 2016. But the bounce also shows how the markets have suddenly become a bit more turbulent. The VIX (VIX) volatility index has spiked 30% this week to a five-month high. as rebounding Wednesday from the worst two-day tumble since President Trump’s election.

U.S. consumer spending rose solidly in December as demand for goods and services increased, but the increase came at the expense of savings, which dropped to a 10-year low in a troubling sign for future consumption and economic growth. The Commerce Department said on Monday consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, increased 0.4 percent last month after an upwardly revised 0.8 percent increase in November. Personal income rose 0.4 percent last month after advancing 0.3 percent in November. Wages increased 0.5 percent last month. Savings fell to $351.6 billion in December, the lowest level since December 2007, from $365.1 billion in the prior month.

Every major economy on earth is expanding at once, a synchronous wave of growth that is creating jobs, lifting fortunes and tempering fears of popular discontent, reports the New York Times. Europe has finally felt the effects of cheap money pumped out by its central bank. The United States has been propelled by government spending unleashed during the previous administration, plus a recent $1.5 trillion shot of tax cuts. Many economists are skeptical that the benefits of growth will reach beyond the educated, affluent, politically connected class that has captured most of the spoils in many countries and left behind working people whose wages have stagnated even as jobless rates have plunged.

The U.S. gross domestic product, a broad measure of the economy, increased by 2.3 percent in 2017. GDP growth slowed in the year’s fourth quarter to an annualized rate of 2.6, breaking a two-quarter streak of growth of more than 3 percent. The U.S. economy grew 1.5 percent in 2016 and 2.9 percent in 2015. It has grown every year since 2009, when it shrank 2.8 percent. The economy grew far faster in 2017 than during the year before, but the slower rate in the fourth quarter underscores the challenge the Trump administration will have in delivering the growth of over 3% that he has promised.

The Dow jumped more than 220 points on Friday to cap off another week with a fresh record high in the stock market. The Dow Jones industrial average continued its surge to kick off 2018, rallying nearly 545 points this week to extend its year-to-date gain to 7.7%. Also making fresh record highs Friday were the Standard & Poor’s 500 index and tech-dominated Nasdaq composite. Driving the gains on Wall Street — which some investors are calling a “melt-up” — is the continued optimism after the government’s big tax cut, a strong start to the quarterly profit-reporting season, and a massive influx of new investing cash into the market. A weakening dollar, which boosts sales and profits of big U.S. companies that do a lot of business abroad, and a strong global economy, is also powering stocks higher,

Home Depot is doling out bonuses of up to $1,000 to U.S. hourly workers, becoming the latest major national employer to hand out checks after President Trump’s corporate tax cut. Unlike national retailers Walmart and Starbucks, Home Depot did not announce plans to increase wages. Workers with at least 20 years of experience will get the full $1,000 bonus. All hourly workers will get at least $200.

Venezuela has lost half of its economy since 2013, and it’s getting worse. Unemployment will reach 30% and prices on all types of goods in the country will rise 13,000% this year, according to new figures published Thursday by the International Monetary Fund. This year will mark the third consecutive year of double-digit contractions in Venezuela’s gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity. The nation’s GDP declined 16% in 2016, 14% last year and it’s projected to fall 15% this year, according to the IMF.

Puerto Rico

More than four months since Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, nearly half a million customers are still without power, the Army Corps of Engineers said this week. Roughly 4,000 power restoration personnel are now working to restore the electricity to more than 450,000 customers. That effort will grow in the next few weeks as an additional 1,000 workers, along with hundreds of bucket trucks and other equipment, are being brought in to “accelerate progress,” according to a statement released by the Corps. The Corps has said it expects that the entire island will have power again by May.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will end food and water aid for Puerto Rico Wednesday after more than four months of providing desperately needed supplies to the devastated island in the wake of Hurricane Maria. FEMA said the decision comes after it has provided more than 17 million gallons of bottled water and nearly 60 million meals at a total cost of $2 billion. FEMA public affairs director William Booher said, “The commercial supply chain for food and water is re-established and private suppliers are sufficiently available that FEMA provided commodities are no longer needed for emergency operations.” He added that the agency will continue to support the Puerto Rican government as needed.


With some Iranians still protesting over state spending on the poor economy and foreign military ventures, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has green-lighted the siphoning of $2.5 billion from a currency-reserve fund to boost military spending. The announcement follows by less than two weeks an official clampdown on street protests over rising prices and other economic grievances that spread to more than 90 cities. Public anger had been stoked in December by price hikes but also word of a draft government budget that earmarked major funding for the country’s armed forces. President Hassan Rohani was reelected last year in a race dominated by pledges to create jobs in a country where national unemployment was reportedly around 12 percent last year, but more like 30 percent among young people.


A suicide car bomber packed an ambulance with explosives and drove toward a hospital in central Kabul, detonating his load in a busy area. The Afghan Public Health Ministry said the attack left at least 63 people dead and 151 wounded. Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack, which they said targeted police guarding a road leading to the former Interior Ministry in an area densely populated with civilians.


A volcano at the southeastern end of Luzon Island in the Philippines erupted Wednesday after days of smaller explosions that suggested something bigger was imminent. The Philippine government to order more than 81,000 residents to flee the area around Mount Mayon The Mayon Volcano first went off on last Wednesday, shooting ash more than 3 miles into the air. Lava shot nearly 2,000 feet into the air. Despite the clear danger from the exploding volcano, officials said they’re still getting reports that residents are sneaking back home. For that reason, they’ve considered cutting water and electric service to homes in the evacuation zone. Heavy rainfall in the Philippines has triggered dangerous mudslides just days after the volcano erupted.


Authorities were forced to evacuate several homes in Malibu early Monday morning as a wildfire quickly grew and threatened residents. The blaze was sparked just after 3 a.m. local time along Civic Center Way. It claimed 2.6 acres of land in about an hour, and officials were concerned it would advance on dwellings in the area. The National Weather Service warned of “critical fire danger” ahead of unusually warm temperatures and windy conditions. Santa Ana winds began over the weekend in Southern California, gusting 60-70 mph at times in the mountainous terrain.


Tokyo experienced its heaviest snowfall (9 inches) in four years on Monday, and other parts of Japan will see sea-effect snow pile up through this week. This weather pattern also allowed Tokyo to experience its coldest temperature in 48 years this week. Very cold temperatures infiltrated much of Japan behind this system, resulting in a low in central Tokyo of just under 25 degrees Fahrenheit or 4 degrees below zero Celsius on Thursday morning. This is the coldest temperature recorded here since January 1970.