Posts Tagged ‘abortion’

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

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.

Russia

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.”

Venezuela

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.

Mexico

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.

Sinkholes

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.

Weather

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.

Iran

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.

Afghanistan

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.

Volcanoes

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.

Wildfires

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.

Weather

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.

Signs of the Times (1/20/18)

January 20, 2018

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

Government Shut Down Midnight Friday

The federal government ran out of funding at midnight, but you may not have noticed. In fact, it could be several days before the full impact of the shutdown is felt by the public. Government agencies began the process of shutting down after Congress failed to pass a spending bill to keep them operating. But not every government employee was sent home. Federal workers deemed “essential” are still on the job, and key government functions — such as national security operations and law enforcement work — remain up and running. Other agencies have residual funds that will keep them operating for several days. But if the shutdown drags on, they, too, could run out of money and have to close their doors. Meanwhile, The mail is still being delivered, Social Security checks are still being processed, the Medicare and Medicaid programs are still running, and veterans’ hospitals are still operating. Airports are still operating, and air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration officials are still on the job. During the last shutdown, in 2013, the Obama administration closed park entrances and put up barriers around national monuments. That policy sparked a public outrage when veterans were turned away from the World War II Memorial in Washington. This time, is national monuments and parts of most national parks will remain open during the shutdown.

Shutdown Politics: Dems & GOP Blame Each Other

President Trump on Saturday morning continued to blame Democrats for forcing a government shutdown overnight, arguing his opponents are “far more” concerned with illegal immigration than the U.S. military and protecting the country’s southern border. He calls it “shutdown politics”. Democrats in Washington were quick to assign blame to Trump. “There’s no one more to blame for the position we find ourselves than President Trump,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor early Saturday. “Instead of bringing us all together, he’s pulled us apart.” Schumer called it the “Trump Shutdown”.

  • Too bad we can’t get rid of the politicians altogether who generally are only interested in casting aspersions on the other party and, most importantly, getting reelected.

U.S. House Passes Major Pro-Life Bill

In a major pro-life victory, the U.S. House passed a bill today protecting babies born alive during botched abortions. The vote took place on the same day that hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers witnessed to life in the nation’s Capital during the annual March for Life. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (H.R. 4712) aims to protect babies who have managed to survive an abortion. The bill states that if a baby survives an abortion, that baby is entitled to the same level of care that any other newly-born baby would receive. The bill requires that living babies be transported to a hospital for care, instead of being left to the devices of the abortionist. The bill also establishes penalties if health professionals do not provide this level of care. It also allows the mother to sue if her living baby is killed by intent or neglect. The vote was 241-183, including 6 Democrats.

Trump Becomes First President to Address March for Life

In the first-ever live streamed address of a sitting president to the March for Life, Republican President Donald Trump vowed his administration will work to uphold the sanctity of life. “Under my administration, we will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life,” the president told cheering crowds of hundreds of thousands that packed Washington Mall Friday. This year’s March for Life, which organizers say is the “largest annual human rights demonstration in the world,” marks 45 years since the Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade ruling on January 22, 1973, struck down abortion laws. Since that time, an estimated 60 million children in the womb have been legally killed in the United States. The United States is “one of only seven countries to allow elective late term abortions along with China, North Korea and others,” Trump said. “It is wrong, it has to change.”

Second Women’s March Underway Saturday

On the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March that swelled the streets of Washington and cities worldwide, activists reconvened Saturday in the nation’s capital and around the country with new determination to flex their power in the voting booth and on the ballot. The gathering also comes on the anniversary of the inauguration of President Trump, whose election in many ways gave the movement its first impetus. Hundreds of gatherings are planned Saturday and Sunday across the country, as well as in Beijing, Buenos Aires, Nairobi and Rome, under the banner the #WeekendofWomen on social media. In Washington, the rally was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET with musicians and civil rights activists meeting at the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial for speeches, followed by a march to the White House at 1 p.m. ET. Even organizers are not expecting the huge crowds that swarmed the capital, and other cities, in 2017 in the wake of Trump’s election. The protests this year go beyond just fighting for women’s rights in general, though that is still a primary focus. Indeed, according to the Women’s March website, the organization’s platform has expanded to include immigrant, worker and disability rights, and environmental justice, among other things.

White House Announces Religious Freedom Day

On Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump publicly proclaimed January 16 as the national day of religious freedom. Each year, the president will declare January 16 as Religious Freedom Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the passage of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom in 1786, written by former President Thomas Jefferson. He called on Americans to celebrate the day, so as to “remind us of our shared heritage of religious liberty.” The president’s announcement addressed both religious freedom internationally and within the United States. In his speech, President Trump first emphasized the United States’ unique role in encouraging and maintaining religious liberties. He also reminded the public of his commitment to early American principles, which will assist our “fundamental freedom underlying our democracy.”  The proclamation also promised continued condemnation of extremism, terrorism, and violence against people of faith as we “strive for the day when people of all faiths can follow their hearts and worship according to their consciences.”

Healthcare Workers Get More Protection for Religious Exemptions

Federal officials announced Thursday that a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the Health and Human Services Department’s Office for Civil Rights will protect doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who have moral or religious objections to providing certain services. The move, which accompanies a broad policy aimed at abortions and treatment for transgender patients, is being applauded by conservative groups and criticized by women’s, LGBT rights and physician groups. It advances an executive order that President Trump signed in May directing agencies to expand religious liberty under federal law.

Trump’s Approval Rating Lower than Expected – Gallup

President Donald Trump’s job approval rating is well below what would be expected at a time when Americans’ views are improving about the economy and the future of the country, Gallup reported Tuesday. The recent
Gallup poll shows Trump’s latest job approval is 38 percent — but should be between 47-54 percent based on the dual measures of voters’ views of the economy and direction the nation is taking. “Despite improved consumer attitudes about the economy in 2017, Trump’s average first-year job approval rating was historically low,” Gallup said. Gallup says the low number is due to subpar character ratings and lower-than-predicted job approval.

9 of 12 National Park Service Advisory Board Members Quit

Nine of the 12 members of the National Park Service advisory board resigned in protest this week, saying Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has ignored pleas for a meeting and has “set aside” protection of the nation’s natural treasures. Board chairman Tony Knowles, a Democrat and former governor of Alaska, said in a resignation letter to Zinke that the group has been waiting for a year to meet and “continue the partnership” between the board and Interior officials. The board’s tasks included advising Zinke and the National Park Service on the designation of national historic and natural landmarks. The board also provides input on a wide range of issues from climate change to the administration of the Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act. Last spring, Zinke suspended the work of more than 200 advisory boards, committees and subcommittees pending a review. Some returned to duty, others have been altered or dropped and still others remain dormant.

North and South Korea Agree to Form First Unified Olympic Team

North and South Korea agreed Wednesday to field a joint women’s hockey team at next month’s Winter Olympics and the two countries will march in to the opening ceremony under a single flag, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Unification. The agreement came during a third round of talks between the rival Koreas at the border village of Panmunjom, located in the demilitarized zone that separates the peninsula. It is the most striking breakthrough yet in a wave of sports diplomacy that began last week when the two countries sat down for the first time in over two years to discuss the North’s participation in the Winter Games. The North will send a large delegation to the Games, including a 230-member cheering squad and a 30-member taekwondo demonstration team. A 140-member orchestra from the North will also join the delegation, with performances scheduled for Seoul and Gangneung.

Veteran Affairs Office Moves to Help Whistleblowers

Since President Trump created a whistleblower-protection office at the Veterans Affairs by executive order in April, the office has stepped in to help more than 70 VA employees by delaying discipline against them until further investigation can be conducted. It’s unclear what the end results will be. The director of the office, Peter O’Rourke, told USA TODAY in an exclusive interview that 41 of those cases remain open and a “very small number” of the others were decided in favor of the employees. The office, which has operated largely in secret until now, had a rocky start and still faces staffing challenges and deep skepticism among some whistleblowers that it will succeed in the long run. But the early moves to help them are nonetheless drawing praise from longtime advocates who say they are unprecedented.

U.N. Fails to Stem Rapes by Peacekeepers in Africa

The United Nations became embroiled in one of its worst scandals in 2014 when shocking allegations surfaced that U.N. peacekeepers were raping women and children in the impoverished, war-battered Central African Republic. Today, blue-helmeted soldiers and U.N. staff still rape with impunity despite pledges by U.N. leaders to end the abuses, victims allege. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres acknowledged the exploitation and pledged when he took office a year ago to crack down. In August, he appointed a victims’ rights advocate. U.N. officials vowed to improve funding and staffing for sex abuse cases. Atul Khare, under-secretary general, said those efforts have led to a 50% drop in assaults on children by peacekeepers across the globe during the first 11 months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. “We believe our new strategy is bearing some initial fruit,” said Khare, who conceded that “even one allegation is one too many.”

More Online Discrimination

Social media giant Facebook is once again under scrutiny for attempting to silence a conservative Christian agenda. Alveda King, MLK’s niece and pro-life activist, recently discovered that efforts to advertise her documentary had been removed by Facebook. The film, Roe vs. Wade, brings awareness to the “real untold story” of abortion in America. January 22 is the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to allow abortion. The Christian Post reported that after the decision was protested, Facebook lifted its ban, and in an emailed statement said, “the pro-life ad was originally disapproved in error and was correctly approved upon appeal.” Hollywood actors Jon Voight and Nick Loeb will star in the first-ever movie to, as Loeb told LifeNews, tell “the untold story of how [abortion activists] lied and manipulated Jane Roe, the media, and the courts into the decision to allow abortion in 1973.”

Economic News

Consumer sentiment unexpectedly declined in January to a six-month low as American households viewed the economy less favorably, a University of Michigan report showed Friday. The consumer sentiment index dropped to 94.4 from 95.9 in December. The current conditions gauge, which measures Americans’ perceptions of their finances, decreased to 109.2, the lowest since November 2016, down from 113.8. in December. The decline in sentiment included a decrease in a measure of buying conditions for big-ticket goods, indicating consumer spending may slow early this year after a solid holiday-shopping season.

Apple Inc. moved hundreds of billions of offshore cash back into the U.S. as a result of the recent tax cut bill which reduced the tax rate on such foreign profits. The iPhone maker announced Wednesday that it would make the move, paying about $38 billion in taxes on the money. Apple also indicated that they would be spending tens of billions on domestic jobs, manufacturing and data centers in the coming years. Apple, which has come under major criticism for building much of its popular products in China, announced Thursday that they would be opening another corporate campus and create another 20,000 jobs.

The surge of Brent crude prices over the last few weeks to $70 may be rattling OPEC, raising questions about the longevity of the collective production cuts. OPEC officials didn’t think they would have to consider the group’s production cuts until its June meeting. But with Brent at $70, the market is watching for clues about OPEC’s resolve — and some tiny cracks appear to be forming.

U.S. oil production is booming and is forecast to surge beyond the output from heavyweight Saudi Arabia and rival Russia this year, a global energy agency said Friday. U.S. oil production, which has already risen to its highest level in nearly 50 years, will push past 10 million barrels a day in 2018 as higher prices entice more producers to start pumping, particularly in shale oil, which requires higher prices in order to break even.

China’s economy gained steam in 2017, expanding at a 6.9% pace in 2017 in its first annual increase in seven years, according to data released Thursday that exceeded economists’ forecasts as well as the government’s target rate. Buoyant consumer spending and robust exports helped drive the faster expansion.

Middle East

The Trump administration has settled on a location for the new US embassy in Jerusalem and plans to move into the facility by 2019. Rather than design and build a new embassy compound, which officials say could take several years and cost as much as a billion dollars, the State Department has decided to retrofit an existing US consular facility in the West Jerusalem neighborhood of Arnona, which sits near the Green Line, the de facto border of Israel before the 1967 war. Trump’s recognition last month of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and plans to relocate the embassy there inflamed tensions in the region and sparked outrage across the world. Both Israelis and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their historic capitals.

  • Israel’s claim goes back more than 3,000 years, while Islam’s claim is about 1,300 years ago

Iranian President Hassan Rohani issued a statement Tuesday denouncing the U.S. plan to build a 30,000 member “border security force” in the predominantly Kurdish region of northeast Syria, joining his voice to that of Russia and Turkey who had previously made similar statements. Also on Tuesday, German police raided several Iranian institutions it accuses of being fronts for Iran’s spy agencies to monitor Jewish and Israeli organizations in Germany. Media reports indicated that the raids occurred in the states of Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria and Berlin, but resulted in no arrests.

Iran

Iran’s rulers have inflicted death by torture and gunfire on citizen protesters in a crackdown since the Dec. 28 street uprising erupted, the main opposition group said Tuesday. The Europe-based National Council of Resistance of Iran says the Islamic republic’s ubiquitous security apparatus has arrested more than 8,000 citizens and killed at least 50. The council attributes at least five deaths to torture. President Trump has spoken out in support of the protesters. The opposition group said protests have spread to 130 cities. The protesters complain of dismal economic conditions, of military adventures in Iraq and Syria, and of being ruled by clerical Shiite Muslim hard-liners led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

India

India has successfully test-fired a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the country’s Defense Ministry said Thursday. The nuclear-capable Agni-V is believed to be India’s most advanced ICBM. It was fired Thursday morning India time from Abdul Kalam island off the coast of the eastern state of Odisha. The ministry called the test a “major boost” to the country’s defense capabilities. India is believed to have around 120 to 130 nuclear warheads in its arsenal, according to the Federation of American Scientists, compared to several thousand for the U.S.

Earthquakes

Not only did Winter Storm Inga dump several inches of snow in parts of Tennessee and Missouri, a magnitude 3.6 earthquake rattled the region Tuesday. According to the United States Geographical Survey, the earthquake struckThe quake occurred in the New Madrid fault zone, which is the most seismically active zone east of the Rockies, according to USGS. just before 11 a.m. near Caruthersburg, Missouri, located on the Mississippi River about 100 miles north of Memphis. No injuries or damage was reported.

Reno’s southern neighborhoods have been shaking, ever so gently, for seven days now. Earthquake-detecting instruments in the area have picked up almost 250 small temblors since late Jan. 11. The largest in the swarm so far, which hit Tuesday afternoon, measured a 2.7 on the Richter scale, a magnitude that University of Nevada, Reno seismologist Ken Smith described as pretty small. “You’d have to be right above it to really feel anything,” he said, noting they’ve gotten a few dozen reports from people who have felt the jolts. The magnitude would have to increase to a 4.0 or more for many people to feel it. Swarms of small earthquakes can sometimes act as warning systems for larger events to come. Nevada is the third-most seismically active state in the nation.

A bright light and what sounded like thunder in the sky across the Detroit metropolitan area Tuesday night was a meteor, the National Weather Service has confirmed. According to the United States Geological Service, the meteor caused a magnitude 2.0 earthquake around 8:10 pm. The American Meteor Society says the strike, captured in a dashcam video, was visible in six states and in Canada, ABC reports. The USGS says the quake was 5 miles west-southwest of the Michigan town of New Haven, around 40 miles north of Detroit.

Landslides

Officials have issued evacuation orders in preparation for the inevitable collapse of a ridge in a fertile farming region in Washington State. The slow-moving landslide threatens to spill onto a few dozen homes and a vital highway that sit below the ridge. Experts say the slide could happen as soon as late January or early February above Union Gap, a small agricultural town in the rolling brown foothills of the Cascade Range. A chunk of one ridge about the size of 24 football fields is expected to break off, spilling an estimated 4 million cubic yards of rocks and dirt. Washington residents have become particularly wary of landslides after dozens were killed in a 2014 slide that crashed through a tiny community and traversed a state road just north of Seattle.

Weather

Winter Storm Inga became the fourth winter storm to impact the South this season, and travel once again became hazardous Wednesday on icy, snowy roads across the region. Up to 6 inches of snow fell on some areas in the region on Tuesday. From Texas to the Carolinas – and even in parts of the Florida Panhandle – reports of ice-covered bridges and roadways were widespread Tuesday and Wednesday, and authorities urged residents to stay home. Millions of children across the South enjoyed snow days, and hundreds of flights were canceled at airports not used to dealing with wintry conditions. States of emergency were declared in Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina because of the storm. At least ten people have died from the storm’s impacts, and four more deaths were believed to be the result of the brutal cold that followed. Winter Storm Jaxon is now moving in the west and will sweep across the nation over the weekend into early next week.

Frozen pipes have caused an unprecedented amount of water loss on Galveston Island, Texas, city officials said Thursday. More than 3,000 reported water leaks due to frozen pipes. As a result, water reserves dropped to below 60 percent of capacity from the leaks, forcing the city to enact water restrictions.

A powerful storm system swept across Europe Thursday, bringing strong winds that were responsible for at least eleven deaths and a widespread travel shutdown. The storm system caused problems from England to Romania as it raked much of the continent, and several injuries were also reported. Two men were killed in separate incidents of falling trees or branches in the Netherlands and a third death was reported south of Brussels, Belgium. In Germany, a death was confirmed at a campsite near the Dutch-German border when a camper was crushed by a falling tree. Millions of travelers experienced widespread delays and flight cancellations.

There’s cold, then there’s Siberia cold. Oymyakon, Russia — already considered the world’s coldest permanently inhabited town — sank to a mind-numbing 88 degrees below zero on Tuesday. Amazingly, 88 below isn’t even the record low temperature in this remote, diamond-rich Russian region of Yakutia, a part of Siberia. But it wasn’t far from the record of 89.9 degrees below, the coldest-ever officially recorded for a permanently inhabited settlement anywhere in the world Although students routinely go to school when it’s 40 below, school was canceled throughout the region this week.

2017 was once again one of the hottest years on record, ranked as the second-warmest by NASA and third-warmest by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Temperature records for the planet, monitored independently by both agencies, go back to 1880. The hottest year on record remains 2016. The six hottest years have all occurred since 2010 and 17 of the 18 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001. Sea ice continued its declining trend, both in the Arctic and Antarctic.

  • End-time weather will be more extreme, not just warmer (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Signs of the Times (1/11/18)

January 11, 2018

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

New Photos of Babies in Womb at 3 Weeks Reveal Life

The notion that life begins at conception has long been debated between pro-life and pro-abortion advocates. While Planned Parenthood and other leftist organizations have tried to convince women that their babies are merely a cluster of cells, more and more research has continued to attest to the opposite. A recent photoshoot posted to Flickr by Lunar Caustic offers a breathtaking high-resolution look into life inside the womb as early as 3 weeks. That’s before many women even know that they’re pregnant. The stunning photos captured by this talented photographer were shared by Live Action earlier this year, and have since created waves of support for the pro-life community across the web. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood/s largest abortion provider in Ohio has been putting up a series of billboard messages, including: Abortion is a blessing; Abortion is sacred; Abortion is a family value; Abortion is hope; Abortion is a second chance; Abortion is liberty; Abortion is health care; and Abortion is good medicine.

Supreme Court Refuses to Alter Mississippi’s Religious Freedom Law

The high court on Monday refused to intervene in a legal fight over Mississippi’s “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” (HB 1523), which took effect on October 10, 2017. That decision leaves in place the decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed the law to take effect. The law protects freedom of conscience concerning three primary issues: (1) that sex is defined at birth and is immutable, (2) that marriage is the exclusive lifelong union of one man and one woman, and (3) that the biblical view of human sexuality is absolute. Those who maintain those three primary beliefs will be protected against government discrimination in the state of Mississippi.

U.S. Intelligence Underestimated North Korea Nuclear Development

At the start of Donald Trump’s presidency, American intelligence agencies told the new administration that while North Korea had built the bomb, there was still ample time — upward of four years — to slow or stop its development of a missile capable of hitting an American city with a nuclear warhead. Within months, those comforting assessments looked wildly out of date, reports the New York Times. At a speed that caught American intelligence officials off guard, Chairman Kim Jong-un rolled out new missile technology — based on a decades-old Soviet engine design, apparently developed in a parallel program — and in quick succession demonstrated ranges that could reach Guam, then the West Coast, then Washington, D.C. And on the first Sunday in September, he detonated a sixth nuclear bomb. After early hesitation among analysts, a consensus has now emerged that it was the North’s first successful test of a hydrogen weapon, with explosive force some 15 times greater than the atom bomb that leveled Hiroshima. Yet the inability of the C.I.A. and other American intelligence services to foresee the North’s rapid strides over the past several months now ranks among America’s most significant intelligence failures, current and former officials said in recent interviews.

First North-South Korea Talks in 2 Years Yield Breakthrough

The Winter Olympics has brought a thaw in relations between the Koreas: After talks in the truce village of Panmunjom on Tuesday, a South Korean official announced that North Korea will be sending a delegation including officials, athletes, and a cheer squad next month to the Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, reports Reuters. South Korea’s Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung says negotiators also discussed allowing the reunification of families separated by the Korean War in time for next month’s Lunar New Year holiday. The South has also proposed having athletes from the two Koreas march together at the opening ceremony under the same flag for the first time since 2006, the BBC reports. The International Olympic Committee says it has “kept the door open” for the North to take part in the Games, which begin Feb. 9. The Panmunjom negotiations are the first high-level talks between the Koreas in more than two years. Analysts, however, say that before North Korea agrees to moves like family reunifications or military talks with the South, it is likely to demand that Seoul halt or at least scale back joint military drills with the U.S., the AP reports.

Trump Administration Says Nearly 200,000 Salvadorans Must Leave

Nearly 200,000 people from El Salvador who have been allowed to live in the United States for more than a decade must leave the country, government officials announced Monday. It is the Trump administration’s latest reversal of years of immigration policies and one of the most consequential to date. Homeland security officials said that they were ending a humanitarian program, known as Temporary Protected Status, for Salvadorans who have been allowed to live and work legally in the United States since a pair of devastating earthquakes struck their country in 2001. Salvadorans were by far the largest group of foreigners benefiting from temporary protected status, which shielded them from deportation if they had arrived in the United States illegally. The decision came just weeks after more than 45,000 Haitians, the second largest group, lost protections granted after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, and it suggested that others in the program, namely Hondurans, may soon lose them as well. Nicaraguans lost their protections last year. The Trump administration has been committed to reining in both legal and illegal immigration, most notably by ending protections for 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers, beginning in March unless Congress grants them legal status before then.

Federal Judge Gives Respite to ‘Dreamers’

A federal judge’s decision Tuesday to block Trump administration plans to phase out protections for so-called undocumented “dreamers” brought sharp backlash Wednesday from the White House, calling the injunction “outrageous.” The order by U.S. District Judge William Alsup issued Tuesday says safeguards against deportation must remain in place for the nearly 690,000 immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program while a legal challenge to ending the Obama-era program proceeds. It remained unclear Wednesday when the DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers” could resume applying for renewals of their work permits as a result of the California ruling, which Alsup said should apply nationwide. Advocates said it would depend on the Department of Homeland Security, which runs the program. The Trump administration has vowed to challenge Alsup’s ruling. Judge Alsup referred to a Trump tweet in explaining his decision. Trump had expressed support for DACA on Twitter in September. “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!” the president tweeted.

Trump Reverses Obama’s Regulatory Increases

The final bill for Obama’s new regulations in the last two weeks of his presidency topped$ 5.8 billion, reports Constitution.com. Obama came to office claiming that he would cut regulations. On the other hand, that regulatory burden took a dramatic move in the opposite direction once Donald Trump took office. According to the Washington Examiner, Obama’s first 100 days in office cost America 141 times more than Trump’s. The regulations proposed by the Trump administration totaled in at $28 million compared to Obama’s $4 billion. Since then, Trump has eliminated many of Obama’s new regulations.

Trump-Appointed Regulators Reject Plan to Rescue Coal and Nuclear Plants

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Monday unanimously rejected a proposal by Energy Secretary Rick Perry that would have propped up nuclear and coal power plants struggling in competitive electricity markets. The independent five-member commission includes four people appointed by President Trump, three of them Republicans. Its decision is binding. At the same time, the commission said it shared Perry’s stated goal of strengthening the “resilience” of the electricity grid and directed regional transmission operators to provide information to help the commission examine the matter “holistically.” The operators have 60 days to submit materials. At that time, the agency can issue another order.

House Votes to Renew Surveillance Law Despite Privacy Objections

The House voted Thursday to renew for six years a controversial surveillance program that collects the content of Americans’ email, text messages, photos and other electronic communication without a warrant. The vote was 256-164 to extend the program, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The Section 702 program was originally approved by Congress in 2008 to increase the government’s ability to track and thwart foreign terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. It was designed to spy on foreign citizens living outside the U.S. and specifically bars the targeting of American citizens or anyone residing in the U.S. But critics say the program also sweeps up the electronic data of innocent Americans who may be communicating with foreign nationals, even when those foreigners aren’t suspected of terrorist activity. The Senate still must vote. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has vowed to filibuster the legislation passed by the House, but the Senate is ultimately expected to approve the bill.

Trump Administration Advises States to Impose Work Requirements for Medicaid

The Trump administration issued guidance to states early Thursday that will allow them to compel people to work or prepare for jobs in order to receive Medicaid. It would be the first time in the half-century history Medicaid if such a requirement were implemented. The letter to state Medicaid directors opens the door for states to cut off Medicaid benefits to Americans unless they have a job, are in school, are a caregiver, volunteer or participate in other approved forms of “community engagement” — an idea that some states had broached over the past several years but that the Obama administration had consistently rebuffed. The new policy comes as ten states are already lined up, waiting for federal permission to impose work requirements on able-bodied adults in the program. Three other states are contemplating them. Health officials could approve the first waiver — probably for Kentucky — as soon as Friday

2017 Costliest U.S. Disaster Year Ever Recorded

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria combined with devastating western wildfires and other natural disasters to make 2017 the most expensive year on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Monday. The disasters caused $306 billion in total damage in 2017, during with 16 separate events caused more than $1 billion in damage each. Hurricane Harvey, which included extreme flooding in Houston and the surrounding area in August and September, caused $125 billion in damage, the year’s most expensive disaster. Hurricane Maria, which in September set off a fatal and ongoing humanitarian crisis in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and elsewhere, caused $90 billion in damages. Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September and caused $50 billion in total damages, NOAA reports. Western wildfires cost $ 18 billion and caused 54 deaths, the report found. Other large costs came from tornadoes, droughts, severe weather events, flooding and other causes.

Economic News

Americans’ outstanding credit card debt hit a new record in November, highlighting a more confident U.S. consumer but also flashing a warning signal of potential trouble down the road. Revolving credit, mostly credit cards, increased by $11.2 billion to $1.023 trillion, the Federal Reserve said Monday. That nudged the figure past the $1.021 trillion highwater mark reached in April 2008, just before the housing and credit bubbles burst. Over the past year, revolving credit has surged by $55.1 billion, or 5.7%.

Credit scores increase by generation, according to data computed by Experian. Generation Z (age 18-20) is the lowest at 634, but they’re just getting started and have an average debt of just $2,047. Millennials (21-34) score 638, but have accumulated debts averaging $222,000 of which $198,303 is mortgage debt, the rest being student and credit card debt. Generation X (35-69) scores 658, with total average mortgage debt of $231,774. This group also has a high rate of late debt payments at 0.54% and the most average nonmortgage debt at $30,304. Baby Boomers (50-50) score 730 and still have substantial mortgage debt at an average $188,828. They’re also in pretty good financial shape, with a low late payments rate of just 0.3%. The so-called Silent Generation (70+) have the highest average credit score of 729. Their average mortgage debt is surprisingly high for their age at $156,705 but other debts are low, as is their late payment frequency of just 0.12%.

After a successful holiday sales season, department stores are showing signs that they have figured out how to fight back against online giant Amazon — or at least hold their own. With their traditional business models threatened, retailers got creative. They formed new, interesting partnerships; tried to make shopping in person more entertaining and cranked up their own e-commerce efforts. And it paid off. Target, Kohl’s, Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Nordstrom reported stronger than expected holiday sales that contributed to an industry-wide sales bump of 4.9%. That was the biggest increase since 2011.

Walmart is raising its starting wage from $9 per hour to $11 an hour because of the new tax law. Walmart also said they would expand parental leave and promised bonuses for some workers. The country’s largest employer, which has more than 1 million hourly workers, says the changes would take place beginning in February. “Tax reform gives us the opportunity to be more competitive globally and to accelerate plans for the U.S.,” Doug McMillon, president and chief executive of Walmart, said in a statement. Walmart said the pay increase will apply to all of its hourly workers in the United States, including those at its Sam’s Club stores. The decision could pressure other employers to follow suit and comes after rival Target raised its hourly starting wage to $11 recently.

Persecution Watch

Online censorship of Christian and conservative organizations has been rapidly increasing. The West Virginia-based ministry Warriors for Christ repeatedly has had its Facebook pages removed by Facebook, according to the Christian Post. Its main page, which has more than 225,000 followers, was removed again last week, allegedly for “hateful, threatening or obscene” content. The biggest issue seems to be the ministry’s stance on homosexuality, Pastor Rich Penkoski said. However, they also stand strong for unborn babies’ rights and sexual purity, he said. “We talk about abortion. We talk about adultery. We talk about fornication. Nobody ever talks about that stuff,” he said. One Twitter employee said in a Project Veritas video that such censorship is often done without the person or organization knowing, through a ‘shadow ban.’ “They don’t know they’ve been banned, because they keep posting and no one sees their content. So, they just think that no one is engaging with their content, when in reality, no one is seeing it,” he said.

North Korea claims the No. 1 spot on the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List—an annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution. With more than 50,000 people in prison or labor camps, such a ranking is little surprise for the totalitarian regime that controls every aspect of life in the country and forces worship of the Kim family. But the new report reveals an alarming trend as countries driven by Islamic extremism, such as Afghanistan (No. 2), reach persecution levels rivaling those in North Korea. Of the 50 countries on the Open Doors World Watch List, 30 saw an increase in persecution during the reporting period. Within the countries on the Open Doors World Watch List, approximately 215 million Christians experience high, very high or extreme persecution. Trends show that countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are intensifying persecution against Christians, and perhaps the most vulnerable are Christian women, who often face double persecution for faith and gender. Every day six women are raped, sexually harassed or forced into marriage to a Muslim under threat of death due to their Christian faith.

Middle East

The Palestinians’ head negotiator, Saeb Erekat, announced on Tuesday that any peace talks sponsored by the United States would be rejected until the Americans revoke their December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Erekat also reiterated the oft-cited PA position that any future deal must include Jerusalem, declaring, “There is no value to a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital.” Erekat’s comments are consistent with previous statements issued by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who declared that the U.S. had effectively resigned from its historical role as the primary peace broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Abbas has also maintained that he refuses to meet with American officials.

Britain’s chief diplomat Boris Johnson told the Palestinian Authority’s Riyad al-Malki on Monday that Jerusalem will ultimately be shared by Israel and a future Palestinian state, according to a statement from the British foreign office. “I reiterated the UK’s commitment to supporting the Palestinian people and the two-state solution, the urgent need for renewed peace negotiations, and the UK’s clear and longstanding position on the status of Jerusalem,” Johnson stated. The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted last month in favor of a nonbinding resolution condemning U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The resolution also represents a rejection of the US intention to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. The UNGA voted 128-9 with 35 abstentions to declare Trump’s declaration as “null and void.” The UK was among those that voted in favor of the resolution.

The U.S. froze a $125 million grant to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Israel’s Channel 10 News and the American Axios news site reported last Friday. The grant was due to be delivered on January 1 and that the amount frozen is one-third of the US annual funding to UNRWA. For now, the money has been frozen while the US reassesses the situation. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced earlier in the week that the Trump administration will halt aid to the Palestinians unless they agree to come to the negotiating table and participate in peace talks with the Israelis.

The Israeli military was on high alert in the West Bank Wednesday following a shooting attack on a car travelling down Route 60 the previous evening, which left an Israeli man dead. The victim, Rabbi Raziel Shevach, the father of six children, was severely wounded in the drive-by shooting attack and later succumbed to his wounds. Hamas issued a statement saying, “We bless the heroic Nablus operation which comes as a result of the Zionist occupation’s violations and crimes at the expense of our people in the West Bank and Jerusalem.” U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman criticized the Palestinians for the terror attack, saying, “look no further to why there is no peace.”

Syria

At least 17 civilians in the Syrian enclave of Eastern Ghouta were killed and dozens more injured in a day of government and Russian airstrikes, a rescue group and war monitor said. The White Helmets volunteer rescue group reported dozens of airstrikes in the area on Saturday, adding that four children were among the dead and 40 more people were injured. It said government airstrikes, backed by Russian air power, had begun nine days ago. The latest strikes come as the government steps up its offensive against the country’s last rebel-held areas.

Iran

A spokesman for the atomic energy agency in Iran issued a fiery statement Wednesday that if the US re-imposes any kind of economic or political sanctions on Iran, for any reason, it would be considered a violation of the 2015 JCPOA nuclear accord and the US would quickly be punished. He added that Iran has the capacity to quickly increase its uranium enrichment activities, although some analysts cast doubt on this assertion.

Jordan

Jordan said on Monday it had foiled an ISIS plot that included plans for a series of attacks on security installations, shopping malls and moderate religious figures, state media reported. State news agency Petra said the country’s intelligence department had arrested 17 members of the cell and confiscated weapons and explosives that the militant group had planned to use in the operation. The statement said the cell had waged a series of bank robberies and car thefts to get financing, and manufactured homemade explosives from material bought from local markets. King Abdullah, a Middle East ally of Western powers against Islamist militancy who has also safeguarded Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel, has been among the most vocal leaders in the region in warning of threats posed by radical groups.

Environment

Researchers suggest a generation of sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef were born mostly female because they were nested in warmer areas, raising concerns global warming might threaten the species. The study, published Monday in the journal Current Biology, found 99.8% of green sea turtles near adulthood and originating from the northern — and warmer —  part of the Great Barrier Reef were born female. A slightly younger group of juvenile turtles was found to be 99.1% female. The study analyzed more than 400 turtles and was conducted by researchers from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection in Australia. The lopsided gender split, the authors point out, could cause the population to collapse, or the species to go extinct, unless efforts are made to lower nesting temperatures.

Earthquakes

A 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck the Caribbean Sea Tuesday night, and although the U.S. Tsunami Warning Center issued advisories for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, overnight impacts were minimal. The tremor struck at 9:51 p.m. EST just over 25 miles from the coast of Great Swan Island, Honduras, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It had a depth of 6.2 miles. In Central America, the quake caused no injuries or notable damage. The region closest to the earthquake’s epicenter – especially the Swan Islands – is largely unpopulated.

Weather

The heaviest rain California’s L.A. Basin has seen since last February, has triggered mudslides, rockslides, and debris flows over areas recently charred by destructive wildfires. Parts of Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, near the Thomas fire burn area were particularly hit hard Tuesday morning, especially the town of Montecito. At least 17 deaths have been attributed to flooding and mudslides after the heavy rainfall. Hundreds of rescuers continue to search through the waist-deep for any remaining survivors as friends and family members awaited news. The worst impacts were seen in Montecito and Carpinteria, where 65 homes were destroyed and nearly 450 were damaged. Thousands of people in Southern California were placed under evacuation orders before the storms arrived, including Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties. But officials said only a small percentage of those ordered to evacuate actually left their homes.

Roads were snow-covered and dangerous across the heartland Thursday morning as Winter Storm Hunter continued its journey east. In North Dakota, a stretch of Interstate 29 from north of Fargo to the Canadian border was closed Thursday morning due to hazardous travel conditions. Hunter forced school districts to cancel or delay classes Thursday in Omaha, Des Moines, southeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin.

Record lows and dangerously cold wind chills gripped the Northeast Sunday, capping off a major Arctic outbreak that began in late December. Wind chills way below zero were widespread across the Northeast. Frenchville, Maine, saw its wind chill fall to minus 40 degrees. Several daily record low temperatures were broken or tied in the Northeast including Hartford, CT and Worcester, MA at minus 9 degrees. In New Hampshire, the summit of the White Mountains registered minus 36 Saturday morning, with a wind chill of minus 94, tying for the second coldest place in the world. The frigid cold temperatures have been wreaking havoc in North Carolina communities, breaking water pipes and leaving some without water, prompting a boil-water advisory.

Airlifts continued Wednesday for tourists trapped by heavy snow and an elevated avalanche threat in the Swiss alpine town of Zermatt. An estimated 13,000 tourists were cut off by the snow and avalanche threat. On Tuesday, some 300 to 400 tourists wanting to leave were airlifted out of the town, according to a Zermatt tourism official. Meanwhile, controlled avalanches were underway to reduce the threat from more than 39 inches of snow that fell within a 24-hour period over the weekend, adding to the already 10 to 13 feet of snowpack that has already accumulated on the mountains above Zermatt this season.

Signs of the Times (1/6/18)

January 6, 2018

Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. (Isaiah 60:1-2)

Iranian Unrest Leading to Salvations

Iranian-American Pastor Reza Safa, a former radical Muslim and founder of the Farsi-language Christian network TBN Nejat Television, has issued an urgent request for Christians around the world to pray for Iran and its people as political unrest rages in the Muslim controlled nation. “Today in Iran the Gospel is going forward as never before … The message of salvation through Jesus is impacting literally every major population center across the nation—despite aggressive efforts by Iran’s government to stop it. Over the past several years, countless thousands of Iranians have come to faith in Christ, so that today the nation of Iran is poised for positive change.”

  • Even as Iran harshly cracks down on the protesters, the light of Christ is shining ever brighter in the deep darkness. Let us each add to the light with our fervent prayers for the persecuted Iranian people.

Christian Bakers Lose Appeal Case

The Oregon Court of Appeals maintained a ruling against Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the bakery Sweetcakes by Melissa, which ordered the Kleins to pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple whose wedding cake the Kleins refused to make. The Kleins, represented by First Liberty Institute, may take the case to the Oregon Supreme Court next. According to First Liberty, “Aaron Klein explained that by making a wedding cake, they would be endorsing something that violated their beliefs, which is something they could not do.” The case was brought to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), which in 2015 ordered the Kleins to pay the women for “emotional damages.” The years long legal battle has taken a toll on the Melissa and Aaron, as well as their kids. The Kleins have received hate mail and threats, and due to the financial burden, they were forced to close down their bakery storefront. Melissa now sells bakery items exclusively online, and Aaron had to find work as a garbage collector to pay the bills.

Scientific Retraction a Major Blow to Evolution Theory

It was heralded as decisive proof of the theory of evolution. But Harvard biologist and Nobel Prize laureate Jack Szostak now has retracted a major paper that claimed to explain one of the most important questions about the origin of human life. In 2016, Szostak published a paper claiming he had found a way for ribonucleic acid (RNA) to replicate itself. Many proponents of evolutionary theory believe RNA was one of the first molecules to develop. However, RNA requires its own enzymes to replicate. Szostak and others were looking for evidence of “non-enzymatic replication of RNA,” which could supposedly assemble by irradiating materials that would have been present on Earth in an earlier time. If this could be created, it would show RNA could copy itself and could have evolved before DNA or proteins, bolstering the naturalistic explanation of life’s origins. However, Szostak recently retracted his paper after colleague Tivoli Olsen couldn’t replicate the findings. Szostak said the debacle was “definitely embarrassing.” He added, “In retrospect, we were totally blinded by our belief [in our findings] … we were not as careful or rigorous as we should have been.”

Louisiana Says Students Have Right to Pray, Read Bible in Public Schools

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., have released the Louisiana Students Rights Review, a 15-page guide that explains the religious freedom rights of teachers and students in public schools. The review says that public schools in the U.S. do not need to be “religion-free zones.” The document also says that just because schools have to stay neutral on religion, that shouldn’t keep students from practicing their faith on school property. However, the document did note that all religious activity has to be student-led and student-initiated. Faculty and teachers are allowed to organize bible studies and prayer groups outside of instructional time, according to the document. The document comes after a Louisiana mother sued the Webster Parish School District in December, claiming that the district was unconstitutionally promoting Christianity.

President Trump Receives ‘Pro-life Person of the Year Award’

President Trump has been given the 2017 Pro-Life Person of the Year Malachi Award by the pro-life group Operation Rescue, reports The Christian Post. “Operation Rescue is grateful Pres. Trump for having the courage to keep promises made during the campaign that provide greater protections for the pre-born and deny Federal funds from those who commit abortions,” said the group in a press release. “He has proven to be the most pro-life president we have had in modern history and has backed up his pro-life rhetoric with action like no other before him,” the statement continued. They then went on to list eight of Trump’s pro-life accomplishments, including appointing pro-life Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, denying public funding to abortions around the world, launching an investigation into Planned Parenthood, supporting the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and reversing the Obama-era mandate that states use to fund Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood’s Numbers Down, But Profit Up

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, quietly released its 2016-2017 annual report over the New Year’s holiday weekend. The report shows a decrease in the abortion giant’s number of patients from 2.5 million in 2015 to 2.4 million, a drop of almost 23% from the 3.1 million they reported ten years ago in 2006. Planned Parenthood performed 321,384 abortions over this past year, a very slight decrease from the 328,348 abortions in 2015. However, since 2006 the number of abortions Planned Parenthood performs annually has increased by nearly 11 percent. While the number of patients is decreasing, the organization’s excess revenue increased from $77.5 million in 2015 to $98.5 million this past year, a whopping 27% increase over the past year.

Refugee Admissions to U.S. Plummeted in 2017

President Trump had to battle the courts and intense opposition, but by the end of the year, he was able to slash refugee admissions into the United States to historic lows. From Inauguration Day to Dec. 31, his administration accepted 29,022 refugees, the lowest number since at least 2002, according to State Department data. The previous low (29,468) came in 2002, after the U.S. slowed down all avenues of legal immigration following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The decline will continue in 2018 because Trump established an annual cap of 45,000 refugees a year, the lowest cap since Congress created the Refugee Resettlement Program in 1980. Presidents have the authority to unilaterally set the annual refugee cap, which has been as high as 217,000 under President Reagan and hovered between 70,000 and 80,000 under the Bush and Obama administrations.

Majority of Refugees now Christian

Over the past year under the Trump administration, the majority of refugees admitted into the U.S. have been Christian. Under Obama, the majority of refugees were Muslim, but under Trump, 60 percent are Christian, reports the Washington Examiner. Additionally, only 13 percent of refugees admitted into the U.S. this past year have been Muslim, making the Christian to Muslim ratio roughly six to one. “The shift follows complaints by Christian groups that the Obama administration had overwhelmingly favored Muslims and ignored the plight of Christians, especially in Muslim nations,” said Nayla Rush, Center for Immigration Studies Senior Researcher.

Trump Asks Congress for $18 Billion for Border Wall

Trump’s administration asked Congress on Friday to set aside $18 billion over the next 10 years to build or extend the nearly 700-mile barrier that became a signature 2016 presidential campaign pledge. Another $15 billion $15 billion would cover technology, personnel and readiness. The estimate is the most detailed accounting yet of how much it will cost to make the border wall a reality. The proposal by Customs and Border Protection calls for 316 miles of additional barrier by September 2027, bringing total coverage to 970 miles, or nearly half the border. It also calls for 407 miles of replacement or secondary fencing. Trump’s border wall is perhaps the most complex of the president’s pending campaign promises, and it involves building and buying property in areas where construction would be difficult. However, Trump’s plan to coerce Mexico into paying for it appears dead. The White House said funding for the border wall and restrictions on so-called sanctuary cities must be included in any bill to grant legal status to illegal immigrant Dreamers.

Each day, 120 ‘Dreamers’ Lose Deportation Protection

Each day, about 120 of the young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers” lose their temporary protection from deportation. When President Trump announced on Sept. 5 that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on March 5, his administration gave DACA recipients with permits set to expire before then only one month to apply for a 2-year renewal. A total of 21,790 DACA recipients failed to reapply. That comes to 120 DACA recipients on average losing deportation protections daily, along with the work permits that come with them. The number is frequently cited by dreamer advocates to illustrate why it is important for Congress not to wait until March 5 to address the DACA issue. Trump gave Congress until then to come up with a legislative fix that would allow dreamers to remain in the U.S. permanently rather than continuing their temporary deportation deferments without a way to legalize their immigration status.

U.S. Muslim Population Expanding as are Attacks on Jews

Pew Research Center estimates that 3.45 million Muslims were living legally in the U.S. in 2017. That represents only 1.1 percent of the U.S. population but it’s up, by Pew’s estimates, it’s up 4.2% from 3.31 million in 2016. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, says Pew’s estimates are way off, and that the true number is roughly double, in the 6 to 8 million range. Pew estimates that 5.3 million Jews live in the U.S., but unlike the Muslim population, Judaism is not growing in America, due largely to low birthrates. Statistics show that the higher a nation’s Muslim population, the more anti-Semitic attacks occur in that nation. France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the U.K. have all seen increasing numbers of hate crimes against Jews and Jewish properties since they began importing mass numbers of Muslim migrants. It has gotten so bad in France and Germany that many Jews have been quietly migrating out of those countries in recent years.

Justice Department Cracks Down on Marijuana

The Justice Department sent a shiver of uncertainty through the now-thriving legal marijuana industry Thursday by rescinding Obama administration policies not to interfere with state laws allowing people to use pot for medical and recreational uses. Attorney General Jeff Sessions characterized the dramatic policy shift as a “return to the rule of law” in a memo outlining the change. Senior Justice officials said the Obama administration’s position had provided a “de-facto safe haven” for a now thriving weed industry. Sessions has long signaled his disagreement with the previous administration’s stance on pot. But the spare, one-page document did not contain any new specific guidelines for how the policy change would be enforced.

Almost Half of Puerto Rico Still Without Power

After months of efforts to restore power to hurricane-hit Puerto Rico, electricity provider AEE said Friday that 55% of households now had electricity. That means that some 660,000 customers out of a total 1.5 million are still without power. The town of Ciales, one of the island’s 78 municipalities, is still totally without electricity. AEE said that it had given priority to restoring power to shopping centers, hospitals and factories. Puerto Rico’s government also cautioned that a lot of work remained as crews were still uncovering unexpected damage after the Category 4 storm hit in September, blowing down power lines and crippling substations with winds of up to 154 mph. The island’s governor, Ricardo Rosello, appealed to U.S. utility companies Friday to send 1,500 workers to Puerto Rico to speed up electricity recovery efforts.

Trump Administration Opens Up Drilling in U.S. Continental Waters

The Trump administration unveiled a controversial proposal Thursday to permit drilling in most U.S. continental-shelf waters, including protected areas of the Arctic and the Atlantic. Under the proposal, only one of 26 planning areas in the Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean would be off limits to oil and gas exploration, according to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. He said the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management has identified 47 potential areas where industry companies can buy leases between 2019 and 2024, when the proposed period would begin and end. The Draft Five Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program was embraced by oil and gas industry groups but is expected to face withering opposition from a wide range of state officials and conservationists. “Nothing is final,” Zinke said in remarks at a news conference. “This is a draft program. The states, local communities and congressional delegations will all have a say” before the proposal becomes final in the coming months.

Trump Slashes Number of Federal Employees

Nearly a year into his takeover of Washington, President Trump has made a significant down payment on his campaign pledge to shrink the federal bureaucracy, a shift long sought by conservatives that could eventually bring the workforce down to levels not seen in decades. By the end of September, all Cabinet departments except Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Interior had fewer permanent staff than when Trump took office in January — with most shedding many hundreds of employees, according to an analysis of federal personnel data by The Washington Post. The diminishing federal footprint reverses a boost in hiring under President Barack Obama. The falloff has been driven by an exodus of civil servants, a diminished corps of political appointees and an effective hiring freeze. The White House is now warning agencies to brace for even deeper cuts in the 2019 budget it will announce early next year, part of an effort to lower the federal deficit to pay for the new tax law.

Economic News

The economy added 148,000 jobs in December, down from November but wrapping up a year of steady hiring, the government employment report said Friday. The U.S. economy added 2 million jobs in 2017. The jobless rate stayed at 4.1 percent last month, the lowest point since 2001, while the country hit its 87th straight month of expansion, with health care and professional services driving much of 2017’s the gains. Wages continued their slow climb, rising by 9 cents. That’s a 2.5 percent rise since December 2016 (but still below pre-recession levels). Retail lost 20,000 jobs in December, according to the BLS estimate, capping a year of shrinkage in the sector. About 67,000 positions vanished from stores in 2017, compared to an increase of 203,000 jobs in 2016.

Blue collar jobs are booming. The government said Friday that the construction industry added 30,000 jobs last month, with a big chunk coming from the hiring of more specialty trade contractors, like plumbing and electrical work. Manufacturers added 25,000 jobs. Construction and manufacturing combined added 406,000 jobs for all of last year. Some construction and manufacturing firms have been unable to find as much skilled labor as they need.

The value of the entire U.S. housing stock increased by 6.5 percent — or $2 trillion — in 2017, according to a report from Zillow. All homes in the country are now worth a cumulative $31.8 trillion. The gain in home values was the biggest since 2013, when real estate was in the early stages of its recovery from the recession. A home might be a worse investment next year, as the new federal tax law reduces key benefits to ownership. That includes a lower limit on the amount of debt eligible for the mortgage-interest deduction and a cap on state and local tax deductions.

The U.S. dollar started 2018 on the wrong foot, hitting its lowest point since mid-September. It plummeted despite factors that typically drive up the dollar, like the passage of tax cuts and an overall healthy U.S. economy. Compared to the world’s most traded currencies, the dollar fell nearly 10% last year. It’s down 2% since December 15. Political turmoil stemming from the 2016 election and better global growth were the main culprits, experts say.

U.S. car sales fell 2017 for the first time since 2009. Annual sales fell 1.8% to 17.2 million vehicles according to final figures from Autodata. But the average car price is actually climbing, so total revenue collected for U.S. car sales actually edged slightly higher. Consumers are buying more expensive models, such as crossovers instead of traditional sedans, and are also upgrading with more expensive features, such as automatic braking and lane detection warnings. Buyers paid an average of $35,082 per car in 2017, a record that is up 2.3% from a year earlier. Relatively easy access to credit and more leasing options are helping to boost both sales and prices.

Retailers are bracing for a fresh wave of store closings in 2018 that is expected to eclipse the rash of closings that rocked the industry last year. 2017 was a record year for both store closings and retail bankruptcies. Dozens of retailers including Macy’s, Sears, and J.C. Penney shuttered an estimated 9,000 stores — far exceeding recessionary levels — and 50 chains filed for bankruptcy. The number of store closings in the U.S. is expected to jump at least 33% to more than 12,000 in 2018, and another 25 major retailers could file for bankruptcy, according to estimates by the commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield. As if to underscore this dire forecast, Macy’s announced 5,000 more job cuts and the closing of 7 additional stores while more than 100 Sears and Kmart stores will close in March and April, Sears Holdings announced Thursday.

U.S. multinational companies are preparing to pay hundreds of billions of dollars in tax on profits they made overseas in the last 30 years. New American tax rules mean firms can no longer avoid paying tax on past international profits by keeping the money outside the United States. They must pay tax whether they bring this cash back to the U.S. or not. The new rules require U.S. companies to pay a tax of between 8% and 15.5% on overseas earnings made since 1987 if they remain offshore. After making this one-off payment, they’ll be able to bring the money back home without paying additional tax. Under the old law, they would have owed a top rate of 35% when bringing foreign profits back to the U.S. which made them reluctant to do so.

Israel

Energized by American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the country’s right-wing government has accelerated plans that imperil a two-state solution, solidifying Israel’s power and control over Jerusalem. In an all-night session, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, enacted a law early Tuesday making it much more difficult to negotiate Jerusalem as part of a peace process. The holy city is the most sensitive — and perhaps most important — issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with parts of the city claimed by both sides as their capital. The law was passed as an amendment to Israel’s Basic Law — the closest thing Israel has to a constitution — which gives it more political weight. The amendment stipulates that any attempt to transfer sovereign control of Jerusalem to a foreign entity needs to be approved by a super-majority of 80 Knesset members out of 120. Previously, the requirement was a majority of 61 members.

The IDF was on high alert in the south on Thursday, following a night of mortar and rocket attacks on Israeli communities bordering the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. The Air Force reported launching strikes on Hamas infrastructure in the Strip in response to the attacks, with no casualties reported by either side. Meanwhile, clashes between Palestinian rioters and Israeli security forces near Ramallah in the West Bank resulted in an armed rioter being shot dead Wednesday afternoon.

With Israel in drought for the last five years – the worst in the land in the last 40 years – thousands gathered at the Western Wall last week to pray for rain – and it came. Last Thursday. thousands responded to Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel’s call for a special prayer session at the Western Wall. Over the weekend, the rains came. The rains fell in Israel’s Golan Heights and Upper Galilee regions, replenishing the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s main source of water. In addition, about six inches of snow gathered on Mount Hermon’s upper slopes, and three inches fell on the mountain’s lower slopes.

North Korea

Kim Jong Un used his annual New Year’s Day speech on Monday to announce that he had a nuclear button on his desk, with the entire United States mainland within the range of his weapons. But the Naorth Korean leader said he would not use the weapons unless threatened. “This year, we should focus on mass-producing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for operational deployment,” Kim said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held out a rare olive branch to the country’s southern neighbor Monday, offering talks over sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next month. Kim struck an unusually conciliatory note in his annual New Year’s Day address, declaring his wish “for peaceful resolution with our southern border.” North Korea reopened a border hotline with South Korea on Wednesday, restoring a channel of direct dialogue and signaling a possible thaw in relations between the two Koreas after years of hair-trigger tensions. North Korea has accepted South Korea’s proposal for official talks, in what will be the first high-level contact to take place between the two countries in more than two years. At the request of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, President Trump agreed Thursday to delay regular joint military exercises during the Winter Games in South Korea next month.

Iran

At least 21 people in Iran have been killed amid anti-government protests, the country’s state TV said Tuesday. Hundreds of people have been arrested. Nationwide protests erupted Thursday in Iran’s second-largest city of Mashhad over economic issues and have since expanded to several cities. The demonstrations are the most serious political unrest in Iran since 2009 when millions took to the streets to protest alleged electoral fraud. Iran’s economy is in shambles, with an unemployment rate that Iran’s Interior Ministry estimates may be as high as 60 percent in some areas of the country. “Some armed protesters tried to take over some police stations and military bases but faced serious resistance from security forces,” state TV reported. Iranian judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani urged authorities to strongly confront rioters. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed Iran’s “enemies” on Tuesday for stirring up unrest in the country. The Trump administration is lobbying countries around the world to support protesters in Iran as violent demonstrations intensify, The Wall Street Journal reported

Afghanistan

A U.S. servicemember was killed and four were wounded during combat on New Year’s Day in eastern Afghanistan. Two of the wounded servicemembers are hospitalized in stable condition and the other two were returned to duty. The U.S. military did not release additional details about the engagement, but U.S.-backed Afghan forces have been combating the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan. U.S. troops are not engaged in direct combat in Afghanistan, but the Trump administration has authorized an increased number of advisers and expanded airstrikes in support of Afghan forces.

Pakistan

The Trump administration will suspend most security assistance to Pakistan, the State Department said on Thursday, expanding its retribution over militant safe havens that U.S. officials blame for ongoing violence in Afghanistan. The administration will freeze the aid payments but not allocate the money elsewhere, in order to reassess the situation over the coming year. For years, U.S. officials have complained that Pakistan has allowed the Taliban and other extremists to operate within its borders. Taliban leaders are widely believed to reside in Pakistan, helping to direct insurgent operations in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistan denies those allegations and says the United States has failed to acknowledge the efforts it has taken against militant groups.

Iceland

A new law in Iceland makes equal pay for equal work a must in the country — irrespective of gender, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality. Until now, women in Iceland have earned an average 19% less than their male colleagues. But those days are over. The new law, which went into effect New Year’s Day, covers about 150,000 workers in the country. The measure applies to 1,200 companies in Iceland that have at least 25 workers, and the firms will have to publish their wage scales.  There are courses to help the companies implement the new pay scales. Upon completion, the companies get a certificate that have to be renewed every three years. A statement from the Ministry of Welfare said the law was the world’s first equal pay law.

Earthquakes

A magnitude-4.4 earthquake struck the San Francisco area before dawn Thursday, rattling windows and silverware and waking many residents but causing little apparent damage. The quake, at 2:39 a.m. local time, was centered 1.9 miles from Berkeley, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said. It struck in the Hayward Fault area, which lies along the foot of the East Bay hills. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. Last week, two earthquakes more than three hours apart rattled the San Jose area, but no damage was reported. USGS said a magnitude-3.1 quake struck a few miles east of San Martin, then a 3.9. quake hit that was centered northeast of Alum Rock. The region, vulnerable for quakes, was last hit hard on Aug. 24, 2014. The South Napa earthquake, magnitude-6.0, killed one person, injured scores more and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

Weather

The ferocious “bomb cyclone” that hammered the East Coast with snow, ice, and wind Thursday may be gone, but in its place a blast of intense, Arctic cold has arrived. Dangerously low wind chill temperatures will continue over the next couple of days. Winter Storm Grayson has left at least eleven dead in triggered what officials believe is Massachusetts’ highest high tide on record as of Thursday.  Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said flooding from the “historic high tide” prompted the deployment of National Guard high-water rescue vehicles to aid residents and stranded vehicles. Storm surge poured into the streets in towns like Scituate, Massachusetts, flooding the roads with partially frozen salt water. The flooding stretched down into Boston’s Seaport and all the way up to the Maine coast. Scenes similar to the Massachusetts coast were seen in Kennebunkport, Maine, where roads were under water and chunks of ice flowed from the ocean onto the shore.

Grayson dumped over a foot of snow in a swath from the Virginia Tidewater to Maine. The top snow total was an estimated 20 inches near the town of Winn, Maine. Islip, New York, picked up 16 inches of snow. Winds at JFK Airport gusted over 50 mph. Central Park wound up with 9.8 inches of snow while Queens received 13.6 inches, the highest of the five boroughs. Boston’s Logan Airport reported a rarely seen low visibility of one-sixteenth of a mile, tallying 13.4 inches of snow. In New Hampshire, Henniker had seen 15.5 inches of snow, 13 inches fell in Concord. Frozen sharks have been appearing on Cape Cod beaches.

Grayson brought rare snow to north Florida, the first measurable snow since 1989 in Tallahassee, and coastal Georgia Wednesday before raking the coast of North Carolina and Virginia overnight. As the storm rapidly intensified, known as bombogenesis, wind gusts greater than 70 MPH hit the Outer Banks of North Carolina. On Wednesday ice and snow contributed to nearly 100,000 homes and businesses losing power in north Florida and south Georgia combined. An 80-mile stretch of Interstate 10 from Tallahassee eastward to Live Oak was closed Wednesday morning as slick conditions made travel on the roadway very risky. As cold temperatures continue to grip the South, water main breaks have been wreaking havoc in multiple cities. Frozen iguanas are falling out of Florida trees.

Wind chills 50 to 60 degrees below zero were recorded in the Dakotas and northern Minnesota last Saturday-Monday. The coldest wind chill observed was 58 degrees below zero in Hettinger, North Dakota, on Sunday morning. The coldest temperature in this Arctic outbreak so far is a reading of 45 degrees below zero in Embarrass, Minnesota, on Sunday morning. In parts of the Midwest and in New England, wind chills as cold as minus 45 degrees at times could lead to frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes. At least nineteen people have died as a result of the bitter cold in the central and eastern United States. Numerous animals have frozen to death. School districts canceled classes in several regions because of the cold. At least one person was killed in Buffalo on Tuesday after a pileup involving up to 75 vehicles shut down the snow-covered eastbound lanes of the New York State Thruway.

  • The Bible says end-time weather will be extreme, not just warm (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Signs of the Times (12/30/17)

December 30, 2017

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance. (Psalm 33:10-12))

Patriotism Looks Different to Christians & Conservatives

New nationwide research conducted by the American Culture & Faith Institute reveals that Americans’ ideas about patriotism are greatly influenced by factors such as their religious faith, age, political ideology, and race. Six out of every ten Americans (59%) characterize themselves as either “extremely” (23%) or “very” (36%) patriotic.  About one out of four adults took the middle ground, claiming to be “somewhat” patriotic (28%), while the rest of the public were either less patriotic or not sure. Conservatives (78%) and Republicans (81%) were more likely than their political counterparts to describe themselves as either “extremely” or “very” patriotic. Far lower on the continuum, but similar to each other, were Moderates (52%) and liberals (51%), with independents (57%) slightly more likely than Democrats (52%) to define themselves as at least “very patriotic.” People associated with the Christian faith rated themselves higher in terms of personal patriotism (64% extremely or very patriotic) than did those associated with non-Christian faiths (38%) or with no faith (40%). Within the Christian universe, Protestant Christians rated themselves more highly on the patriotism scale than did Catholics. While two-thirds of whites (65%) said they were either extremely or very patriotic, the same designations were embraced by about half of Hispanics (53%) and a minority of blacks (44%). Overall, just one out of every eight adults (13%) claims patriotism is on the rise while half of the nation believes it is waning.

U.S. Slashes UN Budget By $285 Million After Jerusalem Vote

The United States announced a $285 million cut in the United Nations’ “bloated” budget for next year, announced by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. A statement by the United States Mission to the United Nations reads: Today, the United Nations agreed on a budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. ‎Among a host of other successes, the United States negotiated a reduction of over $285 million off the 2016-2017 final budget. In addition to these significant cost savings, “we reduced the UN’s bloated management and support functions, bolstered support for key U.S. priorities throughout the world, and instilled more discipline and accountability throughout the UN system.” The move follows a contentious week at the U.N., after 128 nations voted in a “stunning rebuke” of President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Prior to the vote, Trump threatened to cut foreign financial aid to any countries who opposed the move.

China Caught ‘Red-Handed’ Supplying Oil to North Korea

President Donald Trump attacked China on Thursday following reports that Chinese ships transferred oil to North Korean vessels at sea in violation of U.N. sanctions over the North’s nuclear weapons program. On Tuesday, the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo cited unidentified South Korean government officials as saying U.S. reconnaissance satellites have spotted Chinese ships transferring oil to North Korean vessels some 30 times since October in seas off China. Trump said on Twitter that China had been “Caught RED HANDED,” adding he was “very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea.” China accounts for the vast majority of North Korea’s external trade and oil supplies. China’s foreign ministry has defended its enforcement of U.N. sanctions against North Korea. Last month, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned six North Korean shipping and trading companies and 20 of their vessels.

U.S. Has ‘Poor Relationship’ with Russia

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US and Russia have a “poor relationship,” a declaration made in a year-end New York Times op-ed he wrote assessing the State Department during his 2017 tenure. “On Russia, we have no illusions about the regime we are dealing with,” Tillerson said. “The United States today has a poor relationship with a resurgent Russia that has invaded its neighbors Georgia and Ukraine in the last decade and undermined the sovereignty of Western nations by meddling in our election and others.” He said in the piece, as he did earlier in December, that the U.S. will not have “business as usual” with Russia until the conflict ends in Ukraine. A State Department official told CNN last week that the U.S. would provide Ukraine with lethal anti-tank weapons.

Russia Slams U.S. Plan to Sell Anti-Missile System to Japan

Russia has accused the United States of violating an arms control treaty by agreeing to supply anti-missile systems to Japan. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claimed this was a breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, an arms control agreement between Moscow and Washington that has been in force for 30 years. Zakharova also said the deal with Japan was part of a bigger plan by the U.S. for a “global anti-missile system.” Japan’s cabinet approved a plan last week to buy two US-built Aegis Ashore missile defense systems as the country faces increasing hostility from neighboring North Korea. Russia is concerned about several U.S.-built defense systems, claiming they also have the ability to launch missiles.

44% of Americans Believe Media Makes Up Anti-Trump Stories

Nearly half of all Americans believe the media fabricate negative stories about President Trump, according to a new survey. Forty-four percent of respondents in the 2017 Poynter Media Trust Survey say the media invent “fake news” to make the president look bad. Seventy-seven percent of this cohort are Trump supporters, and 74 percent are Republicans. The survey found that a substantial minority of Americans, 31 percent, believe the media are the “enemy of the people,” a moniker Mr. Trump assigned to the national press in February. Among Trump supporters, that number is 63 percent. Twenty-five percent of Americans — and 42 percent of Trump supporters — say the government should “be able to stop a news media outlet from publishing a story that government officials say is biased or inaccurate.” Seventy-four percent of Democratic or Democrat-leaning respondents express “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of confidence in the news media. Republican confidence in the media, meanwhile, has continued its decades-long decline and currently sits at 19 percent. Overall, 49 percent of all Americans express “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of confidence in the press, compared to 50 percent who say they have “only some” or “hardly any” trust in the media.

New Research Shows Increased Risks of Same-sex Parenting

Contrary to the narrative pushed by academia and the mainstream media, there is increasing evidence that same-sex parenting has negative effects on children. An article published last month by Catholic University of America sociology professor Paul Sullins found children with same-sex parents suffer emotional problems two to three times as often as children raised by opposite-sex parents. Sullins’ research and that of University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus, show that children raised by same-sex parents have increased risks of emotional problems, depression, and sexual abuse. Despite this, the American Psychological Association has dogmatically endorsed a “no difference” theory—namely, that there is no difference between children raised by same-sex parents and opposite-sex parents. That conclusion was derived from data from the National Health Interview Survey, which is administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. However, the CDC has admitted to flaws in the data where up to 40% of couples designated as same-sex were opposite-sex. And yet, the faulty conclusion predominates.

Biotech Firm Caught Selling Heads of Unborn Babies

A grisly case out of the state of Michigan is once again putting the spotlight on the sale of aborted baby parts, reports LiveNews.com. A biotech firm has been caught selling the heads of unborn babies. There is no information on whether the babies died in miscarriages or were victims of abortions. But undercover agents on behalf of the Reuters news agency engaged in transactions to purchase the heads of those babies. Once officials were alerted, the biotech firm’s warehouse was raided. There, officials found the intact bodies of four additional unborn children. The firm is known as Restore Life and its website indicates that it works very closely with universities to provide them with cadavers for research. But the investigation by Reuters makes it clear that the biotech firm moved beyond cadavers to engage in the sale of parts from unborn children who may have been purposely killed in abortions.

40% of Births in U.S. Occur Out of Wedlock

A report from the Senate showed that about 40 percent of births in the United States happen out of wedlock. The Senate report, “Love, Marriage, and the Baby Carriage: The Rise in Unwed Childbearing,” was released this month. It was prepared by the vice chairman’s staff of the Joint Economic Committee at the request of Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah). The report found that “shotgun” marriages have fallen. In the early 1960s, 43% of unwed pregnancies led to “shotgun” marriages. Today, that number is 9%. The report also said that falling abortion rates has contributed to the uptick in births outside of marriage. The hike in non-marital births is likely a result of “moral, behavioral, and social changes” since the “Sexual Revolution overhauled the American landscape,” said Robert VerBruggen, deputy managing editor at the National Review.

Flu Widespread in 36 States, CDC Reports

Outbreaks of influenza are getting an early start this year in part because of cold weather gripping much of the USA and low efficacy associated with this year’s flu vaccine. It’s still too early to say whether this winter will be a bad season for the flu, but epidemiologists in 36 states already have reported widespread influenza activity to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in data released Friday. Twenty-one of those states show a high number of cases. Arizona has reported a nearly nine-fold increase in the number of cases compared with the same period last year. “This strain of flu is only somewhat covered by the vaccine that was given this year,” said Jennifer Radtke, manager for infection prevention at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. “They’re seeing that it’s anywhere from 10% to 33% effective.” Peak flu activity in the U.S. usually occurs around February. Vaccine effectiveness varies from year to year though recent studies show that a flu shot typically reduces the risk of illness by 40% to 60% among the overall population.

New Wave of GMOs Won’t Be Regulated

GMOs (genetically modified organisms) will quickly dominate the global food chain under a new mantra that gene editing is merely “accelerated breeding technology,” reports Technocracy News. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Agriculture states that GMO plants are not “regulated articles” because they don’t contain foreign pathogens from bacteria. Thus, the new breed of gene editors will not be regulated, monitored or required to conduct detailed testing, and yet they will contaminate the gene pool of the world’s food supply. “This is a horribly dangerous combination of greed and a Technocrat mindset that the ‘science is already settled,’” notes Technocracy News. To many scientists, the potential of gene editing seems nearly limitless, offering a new way to rapidly create plants that are drought-resistant, immune to disease, or improved in flavor. To GMO opponents, the new, unregulated plants are a source of alarm. For years, they have argued that GMOs should be opposed because they might be unsafe. What if they cause allergies or poison butterflies?

Economic News

Americans are ending 2017 feeling very good about the economy. Consumer confidence hit 122.1 in December, slightly below the 17-year high set in November of 128.6, according to the Conference Board’s index released Wednesday. Any reading over 100 indicates confidence in the economy. Confidence has been fueled by a few factors: The job market, the stock market rally and Republicans’ fiscal reforms. The U.S. job market is very strong. Unemployment in America is at 4.1%, the lowest level since 2000. Job openings are abundant too. The U.S. economy has gained jobs for 86 consecutive months, the longest streak in history, according to Labor Department figures going back to 1939. The stock market’s surge has also been another reflection of consumer confidence. The Dow is just under 25,000. It ended 2016 just below 20,000 points, showing a gain of about 25% for the year. The passage of tax cuts has also fueled consumer optimism. More consumers plan to make big-ticket purchases in the next six months, the survey reveals.

In 2017, the U.S. stock market posted its biggest annual gain in four years and extended a bull market that began in 2009 and is now the second-longest in history. Three of the four major U.S. stock indexes posted their best gains in four years in 2017. The Nasdaq composite, which benefited from large rises in well-known technology stocks like Facebook, Apple and Google-parent Alphabet, was the biggest winner with a gain of 28.2%. The Dow Jones industrial average, an index of 30 blue-chip stocks, rose 25.1%. And the large-company Standard & Poor’s 500 increased 19.4%.

Oil prices closed at their highest level in two and a half years on the final trading day of 2017. The late spike was driven in part by a pipeline explosion in Libya earlier in the week. U.S. crude oil prices spiked 1% Friday to more than $60 a barrel, the highest close since June of 2015. Last month, oil prices jumped after the Keystone pipeline shut down following an oil spill. Still, prices remain low compared with $100-a-barrel prices three years ago. Oil crashed in 2014 and 2015 and reached a low of $26 a barrel in 2016.

Middle East

An Israeli news report indicates that the U.S. and Israel have signed a secret accord to counter the growing threats from the Islamic Republic. The secret agreement was reportedly signed on December 12 at the White House following talks led by Israel’s National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabat and US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. It was preceded by in-depth discussions between senior defense and intelligence officials and experts from both sides. According to the report, the agreement is based on positions stated by President Donald Trump on October 13, when he announced that he decertified the Iran nuclear deal. Iran is the “world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” Trump said, noting that “the regime’s two favorite chants are ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel.’”

Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system blocked two missiles fired into Israel shortly before noon on Friday. A third landed in a community bordering Gaza. No injuries were reported, but a building was damaged. Israeli intelligence believes the rockets fired in recent weeks were launched by terror groups other than Hamas. However, Israel holds Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, responsible and retaliated in the early afternoon with a series of strikes targeting Hamas in northern Gaza.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) Quds Force Commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani pledged all of Iran’s “capabilities and potential” to the Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas, the group’s leader said on a pro-Iranian television station, The Times of Israel reported Tuesday. Quoting Soleimani, Hamas leader Yahye Sinwar said that the general assured him, “All our of capabilities and potential are at your disposal in the battle for the defense of Jerusalem.” Soleimani, according to Sinwar, added, “Iran, the Revolutionary Guards and Quds Force stand with all they have with our people in order to defend Jerusalem so that Jerusalem will endure as the capital of the state of Palestine.”

Afghanistan

At least 41 people were killed and 84 wounded on Thursday morning in a complex bomb attack that hit both a Shiite cultural center and the Afghan Voice Agency news organization in Kabul. The Islamic State, which has launched a number of attacks on Shiites across Afghanistan, claimed responsibility. Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said scores of people had gathered in the basement to mark the invasion of Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union in December 1979. Shiite leader Abdul Hussain Ramazandada said according to witnesses, at least one suicide bomber sneaked into the event and sat with attendees before detonating his device. The other explosions occurred as people fled, he said.

Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin says Wednesday’s explosion at a supermarket in the country’s second-largest city was a terrorist attack. At least 13 people were injured Wednesday evening after an improvised explosive device went off at a storage area for customers’ bags at the supermarket in St. Petersburg. Investigators say it was rigged with shrapnel to cause more damage. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Egypt

A gunman on a motorcycle opened fire Friday outside a church in a working-class Cairo suburb and a nearby store, sparking a shootout that killed at least nine people, including eight Coptic Christians in the latest attack targeting the country’s embattled Christian minority, the health ministry said. The attack comes just one week before the Coptic Christian community celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7 — a date based on the ancient Egyptian calendar. The Interior Ministry identified the assailant as Ibrahim Ismail Mostafa, who, the agency said, was involved in several previous militant attacks. The assailant had earlier opened fire at a nearby store owned by a Christian. Egypt’s Christian minority has been targeted by Islamic militants in a series of attacks since December 2016 that left more than 100 dead and scores wounded.

North Korea

The reported discovery of anthrax antibodies in a North Korean defector is renewing fears that the regime of Kim Jong Un is developing lethal biological weapons in violation of international law. A South Korean intelligence officer told that nation’s Channel A television that one of at least four soldiers who defected from the North this year had the antibodies in his system. Senior defense analyst Shin Jong Woo said the anthrax vaccine is probably given to North Korean soldiers working on biological weapons projects. Although rare in the United States, people can get sick with anthrax if they come in contact with infected animals or contaminated animal products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Contact with anthrax can cause severe illness and death if not treated, according to the CDC, which noted that anthrax is not contagious.

Iran

Iranians protesting the country’s strained economy gathered in Tehran and another major city on Friday, for the second day of spontaneous, unsanctioned demonstrations placing pressure on President Hassan Rouhani’s government. The semi-official Fars news agency reported that officials said around 300 protesters gathered in the western city of Kermanshah, the scene of a devastating earthquake in November that killed over 600 residents. In Tehran, fewer than 50 people protested at a public square. Protesters in Kermanshah chanted anti-government slogans such as “never mind Palestine, think about us,” “death or freedom” and “political prisoners should be freed.” They damaged some public property before police dispersed them. Police also arrested a small number of demonstrators in Tehran protesting price hikes and the president’s economic policy.

Astronomy

Stargazers are in for a quadruple treat in January: two supermoons, a blue moon and a total lunar eclipse will adorn the night sky. The first full supermoon of January, dubbed the Wolf Moon, will occur on New Year’s Day night into Jan. 2. It is the second supermoon in a trilogy that began in early December, according to NASA. A supermoon appears up to 30 percent brighter and up to 14 percent larger than normal as it makes its closest pass to Earth. The second supermoon, known as a blue moon because it is the second full moon in the calendar month, will occur in the U.S. on Jan.31. As a special treat, a total lunar eclipse, which occurs when the shadow of Earth passes over the surface of the moon, will occur that same night. Residents of the western United States will have the best chance to see the full lunar eclipse.

Earthquakes

A pair of shallow earthquakes occurred last Tuesday night in the San Jose area, rattling homes and the residents inside. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the first temblor, measuring 3.1 magnitude, occurred at 7:19 p.m. local time near the town of San Martin. It struck at a depth of about 4 1/2 miles. The second quake, a 3.9, occurred three hours later at 10:32 p.m. PST and was 5 1/2 miles deep near Alum Rock. Neither earthquake was responsible for injuries or notable damage. The earthquakes occurred along the Calaveras Fault. The USGS estimates a 7.4 percent chance of a 6.7 magnitude or greater earthquake in the next 30 years.

Wildfires

Fire officials in California say the largest wildfire in state history is almost fully contained, and on Wednesday morning, they delivered more good news: forward progress of the blaze is likely finished. The Thomas Fire burning in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties has consumed more than 440 square miles but has reached 89 percent containment. On Wednesday, fire officials said that “no forward progress of the fire is expected at this point. Visitors are encouraged to make plans to enjoy Santa Barbara, Ventura and surrounding areas.

Weather

Arctic air will keep the Midwest, East and South shivering into the start of 2018 with temperatures approaching record cold levels at times. Flint, Michigan, set an all-time December record low temperature of 17 degrees below zero on Thursday morning. Watertown, New York, fell to minus 32 Thursday morning, which shattered its daily record for Dec. 28 of minus 23. Daily record  lows for Dec. 28 were also tied Thursday morning in Toledo, Ohio (minus 8), and Paducah, Kentucky (10 degrees). Wednesday morning, International Falls, Minnesota, set a new daily record low when temperatures plummeted to minus 36; the previous record was minus 32. It was even colder in Embarrass, Minnesota, and Cotton, Minnesota, where morning lows were 40 below zero and minus 41, respectively. The long-lived Arctic cold outbreak will be reinforced this New Year’s weekend in the Plains, Midwest, South and East, shattering more daily records into the first days of 2018.

After over 5 feet of snow earlier this week, Erie, Pennsylvania, has more heavy snowfall in its forecast. Erie could receive more than a foot of new snowfall into this weekend as the lake-effect machine kicks into gear once again. Winter Storm Frankie hammered the northern Rockies and Northwest Friday with over a foot of snow, bitterly cold wind chills, even damaging ice in at least one location. A band of snowfall from Frankie is now extending into parts of the Northeast Saturday.

A prolonged dry spell, courtesy of a northward bulge in the jet stream over the Southwest, has been steering any storm systems north into the Rockies and Plains while the Southwest stays dry. It has been more than 80 days since the last measurable – 0.01 inches or greater – precipitation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A measly 0.02 inches of rainfall was recorded in Albuquerque on Oct. 5, with no measurable rain or snow in the city since then. Some locations in Arizona haven’t seen any measurable precipitation in over 3 months.

Signs of the Times (12/22/17)

December 22, 2017

“He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye. For surely I will shake My hand against them, and they shall become spoil for their servants. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me. Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says the Lord. “Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. And the Lord will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem. Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for He is aroused from His holy habitation!” (Zechariah 2:8-12)

U.N. Votes to Condemn U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem

Despite President Donald Trump’s threat to cut off U.S. funding to countries that oppose his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the vast majority of U.N. countries voted in favor of such a resolution on Thursday. A total of 128 nations voted to support the resolution that condemned the U.S. for its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its decision to eventually move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Nine nations, including the United States and Israel, voted against the resolution; 35 nations abstained from voting; and 21 delegations were absent. The nine countries voting “no” were the U.S., Israel, Guatemala, Honduras, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Marshall Islands and Togo. Among the notable abstentions were Australia, Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic and Mexico. It is also noteworthy that 21 of the 193 U.N. member states were absent for the vote including Kenya, Georgia and Ukraine which have close U.S. ties. Trump’s threat to cut off U.S. aid raised the stakes in Thursday’s U.N. vote and sparked criticism at his tactics, which one Muslim group called bullying or blackmail.

U.N. Imposes Tough New Sanctions on North Korea

The United Nations Security Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Friday that significantly choke off new fuel supplies and order North Koreans working overseas to return home within two years, in what may prove the last test of whether any amount of economic pressure can force it to reverse course on its nuclear program, reports the New York Times. The sanctions, adopted by a vote of 15 to 0, were the third imposed this year in an escalating effort to force the North into negotiations. China and Russia joined in the resolution, though American officials have charged that in recent months the Russians have secretly been opening new links to the North, including new internet connections that give the country an alternative to communicating primarily through China. The vote came just four days after the United States charged that Korea was responsible for the “Wannacry” cyber-attack that crippled computers around the world in May, and weeks after the country launched a new intercontinental missile that appears capable of reaching any city in the United States.

With Tax Bill, Republicans Attained 3 Objectives

President Trump signed the tax reform bill Friday. In one bill, Republicans said they were checking off three major parts of their agenda: The massive tax overhaul is coupled with a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate and authority to drill for oil in a remote Alaska refuge. The bill doesn’t fully repeal Obamacare but does chip away at one of the Affordable Care Act’s foundations. The bill they zeroes out the tax, or fine, levied against people who do not secure health insurance under the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. Republicans in Congress celebrated the passage of the biggest rewrite of the U.S. tax code in decades Wednesday, with President Trump calling it a “Christmas gift for hard-working Americans.” Workers will see the first glimpse of a tax cut in February at the earliest, but it won’t be until 2019 — when people file their taxes for next year — that most will know whether they will pay more or less to the federal government. In the meantime, tax attorneys, accountants and corporate payroll departments are scrambling to adjust to changes that won’t be official until Trump signs the bill in January. The bill also cut the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35%. Corporations not only applauded receiving a reduced tax rate, many of them wasted no time announcing plans to use some of their steep tax savings to boost their workers pay. Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bancorp said they plan to hike their company-wide minimum wages to $15 an hour. Other firms including Comcast and AT&T promised $1,000 bonuses.

  • Religious institutions may fall victim to this tax reform bill. According to a recent study by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, giving to religious organizations is likely to fall by nearly $4.8 billion in 2018. The itemized charitable tax deduction contributes up to 4.0% of individual giving, and with the standard deduction nearly doubled, there will be few itemizing in 2018.

Congress Votes to Avert Shutdown, Fund CHIP Program

Congress has once again forestalled a government shutdown — with a short-term funding measure through mid-January — and temporarily extended funding for health insurance for children from low-income families. The House voted 231-188 Thursday to approve a short-term spending bill that would fund most government programs at current levels through Jan. 19. The Senate quickly followed suit, passing the bill on a 66-32 vote. Congress was forced to act because the government was scheduled to run out of money at midnight Friday, raising the possibility of a partial shutdown heading into Christmas. Temporary funding is needed because Congress has been unable to agree on long-term government spending levels since the 2017 fiscal year ended last September. Instead, the government has been operating on a series of short-term extensions of last year’s budget. The temporary spending measure provides $2.85 billion in funding for the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, through the end of March. In a separate vote, the House also advanced an $81 billion package of disaster assistance funding for states and U.S. territories ravaged by recent hurricanes and forest fires. The Senate, however, won’t take up the measure until next year.

Judge Dismisses Emoluments Clause Lawsuit Against Trump

A federal judge in New York dismissed one of the lawsuits against President Trump’s business dealings, ruling Thursday that a watchdog group didn’t have standing to challenge whether the president’s continued connection to his hotel chain violates the Constitution’s emoluments clause. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had sued, saying that the president was benefiting from foreign government cash when employees of those governments held events or stayed at Trump hotels. The emoluments clause prevents the president from accepting a gift from another government without the consent of Congress. But Judge George B. Daniels said the group wasn’t able to bring the action. “Plaintiffs have failed to properly allege that defendant’s actions caused plaintiffs competitive injury and that such an injury is redressable by this court,” he wrote. The New York challenge is one of several that have been brought against Mr. Trump over his refusal to completely disassociate himself from his business empire. He has removed himself from day-to-day operations, leaving his sons in charge, but still earns money from the hotels, golf courses and other properties.

Trump Administration Secures Release of Several Detained Citizens

Amid all the debate over issues like the travel ban, the border wall and health care, senior officials in the White House and State Department have quietly worked behind the scenes to resolve a major concern of the president: securing the release of American citizens detained by foreign governments and terror groups. “Immediately after President Trump took office, he told Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson to prioritize bringing home Americans who’ve been wrongfully detained or held hostage in foreign countries,” said the White House spokesperson. “We are proud that we’ve been able to secure the release of several Americans as a result of U.S. diplomatic efforts.” While the administration has been successful in securing the release of numerous Americans held abroad, officials noted there are at least ten other U.S. citizens who are being wrongly detained.

Number of Abortion Facilities Shrinking in U.S.

Closures of abortion facilities far outpaced newly-opened facilities in 2017, reports Operation Rescue. In all, 49 abortion facilities – 35 surgical and 14 medication-only clinics – closed or halted abortion services. Only eight new surgical abortion facilities were opened, along with eleven new medication abortion facilities. Forty-five percent of all states had at least one abortion facility that closed or halted all abortion services this year. In 2017, there are 704 abortion facilities remaining in the U.S. Of these, 490 offer surgical abortions, often along with medication abortions. There are 214 facilities that offer only medication abortions. “We rejoice that the abortion cartel is imploding and closing down. We are making progress. But they are not going down without a fight,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue. “We continue to work and pray that we will soon see an end to abortion in our nation.”

  • Just as the sacrificing of children through fire to Molech brought judgment upon Israel (Jeremiah 19:4-6), so too is the U.S. experiencing judgment because of the children sacrificed on the altar of abortion.

8.8 Million Sign Up for Obamacare

About 8.8 million people have signed up for 2018 coverage on the federal exchange during an open enrollment season that was half the length of prior years and far less promoted, the Trump administration said Thursday. That’s only 400,000 fewer than signed up on healthcare.gov during open enrollment a year ago. Nearly 2.4 million consumers were new to the exchanges, while more than 6.4 million continued their coverage during the sign-up period, which ran from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15. More than 4.1 million people selected plans in the last six days, including those who were automatically renewed. Unlike in prior years, the Trump administration didn’t extend the enrollment deadline, though it did give people who couldn’t get through to the call center a little more time to sign up.

Military Issues New Rules for Transgenders

The US military has issued new guidance on how transgender individuals will be admitted to the armed services in the new year. The Pentagon is proceeding with plans to accept transgender applicants to the military on January 1 after a federal judge declined earlier this month to put the deadline on hold, the Justice Department has appealed that ruling. For any applicant who has undergone sex reassignment surgery or a medical treatment plan, the recruit will need to have been “stable” in their new gender for 18 months prior to entering the military. The memorandum defines “stable” as “medical and surgical interventions for gender transitions are complete with the exception of continued use of stable cross-sex hormone protocol, if applicable, no functional limitations of complications persist, and the individual is not experiencing clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

LGBQ Teens Have High Suicide Risk

LGBQ teens are more vulnerable to planning or attempting suicide, according to a research letter published Tuesday in the journal JAMA. Looking at answers in the 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey in the US, researchers found that 40% of high school students who are considered sexual minorities — who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual or questioning, meaning they are unsure of their orientation — were seriously considering suicide. Transgender teens were not included in the US government’s survey, but research has shown that transgender youth may face a similarly high, if not higher, suicide risk. Of the sexual minorities in the study, 34.9% were planning suicide and 24.9% had attempted suicide in the previous year. Compared with heterosexual teens, those numbers are exceptionally high: Of the straight teens in the study, 14.8% had seriously considered suicide, 11.9% had been planning suicide, and 6.3% had made an attempt in the past year, according to CDC data.

Life Expectancy Down for 2nd Straight Year in U.S.

Health researchers had some grim news for Americans this week: We are dying younger, and life expectancy is now down for the second straight year — something not seen in more than half a century. The primary culprit is the opioid epidemic, which is cutting down young adults at alarming and increasing rates, the researchers say. A baby born in the United States in 2016 could expect to live 78.6 years, a decrease of more than a month from 2015 and more than two months from 2014. That’s the first two-year decline since 1962 and 1963 when spikes in flu deaths were to blame. Before 2015, the last one-year decline was in 1993 and was attributed partly to the AIDS epidemic. The rest of the world is improving, seeing large declines in mortality and large improvements in life expectancy. Newborns in 29 countries, including Japan, Australia and Spain, had life expectancies above 80 years in 2015, according to the World Health Organization. The average global life expectancy was 71.4 and rising, according to that agency’s most recent report.

Economic News

The Tax Foundation analyzed the details of the final bill and said it is a pro-growth plan that will increase revenues by roughly $600 billion from expected economic growth, reducing the cost of the bill, the Free Beacon reported. The final Republican tax bill set for a House vote reportedly will boost gross domestic product by 1.7 percent, lift wages by 1.5 percent, and add 339,000 full-time jobs to the economy, according to the business-oriented foundation. However, the bill also would add $448 billion to federal deficits over 10 years with economic growth factored in, Bloomberg reported.

Corporate America caught fire in 2017, hauling in fatter profits than ever before. The lucrative year for big business, fueled by resurgent economic growth at home and abroad, helped spark a powerful stock market boom on Wall Street. Global companies that generate most of their sales outside the U.S. grew earnings twice as fast as those focused domestically, according to FactSet. Clearly, companies cashed in on newfound economic strength in Europe and Latin America as well as relative stability in China. For the first time in years, virtually all major global economies are growing at the same time.

The National Association of Realtors said Wednesday that sales of existing homes rose last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.81 million units. Home sales haven’t been this strong since December 2006, when properties sold at an annual pace of 6.42 million. However, the strong demand is depleting inventories of available home. In November, there were 1.67 million properties for sale, a 9.7% decline from a year ago. There is only 3.4 months’ supply of homes on the market, the lowest level ever tracked by the Realtors. The limited inventory has caused home values to rise faster than wages. The median home sales price increased 5.8% from a year ago to $248,000 in November. That price increase is more than double the rise in average hourly earnings, meaning that some Americans are being priced out of home ownership.

On or about Jan. 1, 18 states and 20 cities, including many in California, will hike their minimum wage because of laws or ballot initiatives that mandate gradual raises over several years or automatic cost-of-living increases. Later in the year, another three states and 18 cities and counties will boost their pay floors, according to the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group. Twelve of the states and many cities are set for relatively large increases as part of a multiyear phase-in, while nine states are rolling out smaller cost-of-living bumps. New York and more than a dozen cities are moving toward a $15 wage by 2022.

Bitcoin and several other major cryptocurrencies plunged Thursday evening New York time as the end of an exponential year of growth neared. Bitcoin plunged more than 20 percent to a low of $12,504 according to CoinDesk, down more than $3,000 from $15,820 less than 12 hours ago. Despite the sharp drop, the decline took bitcoin only to roughly two-week lows. The digital currency is still up more than 1,300 percent this year.

Korea

South Korea’s leader is urging the United States to postpone joint military drills if North Korea pauses its nuclear and missile tests before the 2018 Winter Olympics start in February in South Korea’s Taebaek Mountains. “If North Korea stops its provocations leading up to the Pyeongchang Olympics, it will greatly help in holding a safe Olympics,” South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said. South Korean officials stressed Wednesday that postponing the drills would be aimed at the South hosting a peaceful Winter Olympics, and not at ending the North Korean missile crisis. North Korea has fired 23 missiles since February, sparking international condemnation and sanctions. On Nov. 29, Pyongyang launched a new intercontinental ballistic missile it said was capable of striking the U.S. mainland, claiming to have achieved its goal of becoming a nuclear state.

Yemen

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen has said it intercepted a ballistic missile south of Riyadh on Tuesday, according to Saudi state television station Al Ekhbariya. The missile did not cause any damage. The missile was heading to a residential area in the Saudi capital, before it was intercepted, Saudi Arabia’s official news agency reported. A Houthi rebel spokesperson Mohammed AbdulSalam said on his Twitter account that the rebels fired the Burkan 2H ballistic missile, targeting the prestigious Yamama Palace hotel in the Saudi capital. The Burkan missile is an Iranian-modified scud missile. Last month, Saudi Arabia’s Defense Ministry said it intercepted a Houthi missile over an international airport in the Saudi capital.

West Africa

Barely two years after West African nations defeated a deadly Ebola scourge, they are confronting a new epidemic – corruption. The International Red Cross has admitted that its officials, local bankers, volunteers and others had embezzled more than $6 million in aid funds in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. In an internal audit, the Switzerland-based Red Cross said it discovered inflated purchase orders, payments to non-existent workers and padded expense accounts. Between March 2014 and January 2016, the Ebola virus killed more than 11,000 people in the three West African nations. Many of the approximately 17,000 Ebola survivors in the three countries are facing health complications from the sickness.

Indonesia

The Java Sea is rising and weather in Jakarta is becoming more extreme. Earlier this month another freakish storm briefly turned Jakarta’s streets into rivers and brought this vast area of nearly 30 million residents to a virtual halt. The primary problem though is not the weather. Instead, the capital of Indonesia itself is sinking. Jakarta is sinking faster than any other big city on the planet, so surreally fast that rivers sometimes flow upstream, ordinary rains regularly swamp neighborhoods and buildings slowly disappear underground, swallowed by the earth. The main cause: Jakartans are digging illegal wells, drip by drip draining the underground aquifers on which the city rests — like deflating a giant cushion underneath it. About 40 percent of Jakarta now lies below sea level.

Wildfires

Evacuation orders were lifted Thursday in Santa Barbara County, California, as firefighters continued to get a handle on the massive Thomas wildfire, that that prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to request a major disaster declaration from President Donald Trump. The Thomas Fire has claimed more than 425 square miles of land since it was sparked on the evening of Dec. 4, according to Cal Fire. The blaze is 65 percent contained as of Thursday night. The cost of fighting the massive fire has reached at least $110 million. Five of the state’s 20 largest wildfires have occurred since October.

Weather

Winter Storm Dylan moved into the Northwest and High Plains on Wednesday, causing hazardous travel conditions as it dumped heavy snow on several states. High winds knocked down trees and power lines in Bend, Oregon. Nearly 2,000 homes and businesses lost power in the area, as trees collapsed onto power lines, vehicles and buildings. Dylan dumped up to 40 inches of snow in Montana’s Glacier National Park. Dozens of locations in northern Montana, northern Idaho and northern Washington state have reported at least a foot of snow. Dylan is now spreading its wintry reach into the Great Lakes and is poised to produce a mix of snow and ice in parts of the Northeast starting Friday just in time for pre-Christmas holiday travel through Saturday. Several school districts in central and northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire opted to keep students home on Friday.

However, parts of the Midwest are nearing a record-long wait for the season’s first snow. Des Moines, Iowa, hasn’t seen measurable snow – at least 0.1 inch – since March 21, the day after spring officially arrived. In 134 years of records in Iowa’s capital city, the only time the first snow came later in the season was Dec. 26, 1939. A number of other locations from southern South Dakota into Iowa, western Illinois, Missouri and Kansas were also awaiting their first accumulating snow as of Dec. 20. That’s quite a contrast with a swath of the South from South Texas to the Florida Panhandle to North Georgia and the Carolinas that already picked up significant snow from Winter Storm Benji almost two weeks ago.

Signs of the Times (11/28/17)

November 28, 2017

For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.  Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.  (Romans 1:26-27))

Amid Sex Scandals, Hollywood Releases Gay Romance that Normalizes Man-Boy Sex

“Call Me by Your Name,” which opened nationwide Thanksgiving weekend, is about an older man’s affair with a 17-year-old boy.  And while the movie is garnering rave reviews. While promoting pederasty, the film has received high praise from leftist establishments. “Call Me By Your Name Just Officially Became This Year’s Oscars Frontrunner,” trumpets a W Magazine headline.  Rolling Stone declares it “the most romantic movie of the year” and “an instant classic.”  The New Yorker calls it an “erotic triumph, emotionally acute and overwhelmingly sensual,” and it is hailed by Entertainment Weekly as “gorgeous and intoxicating.”

  • Yet another end-time marker as God’s morality is turned upside down. Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness (Isaiah 5:20)

ADF Fighting Gay Rights & Abortion With the First Amendment

The First Amendment has become the most powerful weapon of social conservatives fighting to limit the separation of church and state and to roll back laws on same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Few groups have done more to advance this body of legal thinking than the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has more than 3,000 lawyers working on behalf of its causes around the world and brought in $51.5 million in revenue for the 2015-16 tax year, reports the New York Times. Among the alliance’s successes has been bringing cases involving relatively minor disputes to the Supreme Court — a law limiting the size of church signs, a church seeking funding for a playground — and winning rulings that establish major constitutional precedents. it hopes to carve out an even wider sphere of protected religious expression this term when the justices are to hear two more of its cases, one a challenge to a California law that requires “crisis pregnancy centers,” which are run by abortion opponents, to provide women with information on how to obtain an abortion, and another in which it represents a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding.

  • “We think that in a free society, people who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman shouldn’t be coerced by the government to promote a different view of marriage,” said Jeremy Tedesco, a senior counsel and vice president of United States advocacy for the group, which is based in Scottsdale, Ariz. “We have to figure out how to live in a society with pluralistic and diverse views.”

SPLC Criminalizing Christianity

Christianity is under attack as never before in the U.S. It’s happening daily in the so-called mainstream media, in the public square, on university campuses, in schools, on social media, and even in some courtrooms. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) “Hate Map” is now being trumpeted as the definitive word on ‘hate groups’ such as the American Family Association, Liberty Counsel and the American Center for Law & Justice.  Their “Hate” moniker is criminalizing Christianity. The SPLC has now begun adding some churches to its “Hate Map.” Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel says he is, “alarmed by the influence of the SPLC on so many channels of communication (Google, YouTube, Amazon, Twitter, Vimeo, Norton’s security software) and commerce (PayPal, Stripe, Discover Card, Prudential, Amazon). In short, the SPLC wants to destroy, punish, or silence anyone who shares our Judeo-Christian values. The SPLC and its allies want to shut down our right to speak, our right to exist, and our right to “buy and sell.” (Rev. 13:17).

Free Speech Win for Pro-life Students in California

A pro-life student group at Fresno State University won its fight this month against a professor who told a student she had no free speech rights on a college campus. Students for Life sued professor William Gregory Thatcher after he scrubbed out a pro-life message chalked on the sidewalk and told student leader Bernadette Tasy, “College campuses are not free speech areas.” Tasy, who heads Fresno State Students for Life, had gotten permission from school administrators in May to chalk pro-life messages near the school library. Shortly after she finished her work, a group of students began rubbing out the messages, telling her Thatcher encouraged them to do it. Rather than take the lawsuit to court, Thatcher settled last week, agreeing to pay Tasy and another student $1,000 each and take First Amendment training provided by Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). He also agreed to pay $15,000 in attorney’s fees.

States Prepare to Shut Down Children’s Health Programs if Congress Doesn’t Act

Officials in nearly a dozen states are preparing to notify families that a crucial health insurance program for low-income children is running out of money for the first time since its creation two decades ago, putting coverage for many at risk by the end of the year. Congress missed a Sept. 30 deadline to extend funding for CHIP, as the Children’s Health Insurance Program is known. Nearly 9 million youngsters and 370,000 pregnant women nationwide receive care because of it. Many states have enough money to keep their individual programs afloat for at least a few months, but five could run out in late December if lawmakers do not act. Others will start to exhaust resources the following month. Most CHIP families, who earn too much for Medicaid but too little to afford private insurance, are not aware lawmakers’ inaction is endangering coverage. The program, which is credited with helping to bring the rate of uninsured children to a record low of 4.5 percent, has been reauthorized several times over the years. Congress has been unable to agree on how to pay for the $15 billion program moving forward, however. President Trump’s 2018 budget proposed to cut billions from CHIP over two years.

FBI Trimmed Gun Check ‘Fugitives’ List From 500K to 778

The FBI in February narrowed its definition of “fugitive from justice,” resulting in the purge of tens of thousands of people from the criminal background check database, The Washington Post reports. Only people who have crossed state lines are now considered fugitives from justice, meaning fugitives who were previously barred from buying firearms can now do so. Previously, 500,000 people were identified as fugitives from justice. Now, there are 788. The move comes after Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz in 2016 urged the Justice Department to sort out a disagreement between the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives on whom was considered a fugitive from justice. The FBI said anyone with an outstanding warrant was banned from buying a gun, while the ATF contended a person was only considered a fugitive from justice if they had an outstanding warrant and had also traveled to another state. The Justice Department sided with ATF.

Uber Hid 2016 Breach, Paid Hackers to Delete Stolen Data

Uber disclosed Tuesday that hackers had stolen 57 million driver and rider accounts and that the company had kept the data breach secret for more than a year after paying a $100,000 ransom, reports the New York Times. The deal was arranged by the company’s chief security officer and under the watch of the former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, according to several current and former employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details were private. The security officer, Joe Sullivan, has been fired. Mr. Kalanick was forced out in June, although he remains on Uber’s board. The company tracked down the hackers and pushed them to sign nondisclosure agreements, according to the people familiar with the matter. To further conceal the damage, Uber executives also made it appear as if the payout had been part of a “bug bounty” — a common practice among technology companies in which they pay hackers to attack their software to test for soft spots.

Internet Has Become ‘World’s Largest Surveillance Network’

World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee has said that the internet has fallen into the hands of large corporations and governments and become the “world’s largest surveillance network”. Berners-Lee explained in an interview with The New York Times that his invention has steadily come under the control of powerful interests. Berners-Lee met a group of internet activists this week, including Brewster Kahle, head of the Internet Archive, and fellow internet pioneer Vint Cerf, in San Francisco at the Decentralized Web Summit to discuss ways of “re-decentralising” the internet, giving more control to individuals and ensuring more privacy and security. “The temptation to grab control of the internet by the government or by a company is always going to be there. They will wait until we’re sleeping, because if you’re a government or a company and you can control something, you’ll want it,” he said.

Scientists Implant Human Brain Cells in Mice

Just four short years ago, scientists first learned how to coax human embryonic stem cells to grow into a mass of brain cells research with the organoids is exploding, and some of the studies involve implanting human brain cells into rodents. The clumps of cells are tiny, about the size of a lentil or an unborn baby at six weeks of gestation, but they pulse with the same kind of electrical energy that stimulates actual brains, they spawn new brain cells, and they develop the six layers of the cortex, the brain region that controls thought, speech, judgment, and other advanced functions, STAT News reported. Researchers hope doctors eventually will use the organoids to treat brain injury, stroke, schizophrenia, and autism. It is entirely new ground, and “the science is advancing so rapidly, the ethics can’t keep up,” said Christof Koch, president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle.

  • While medical benefits might accrue from such research, the destruction of embryos and bioengineering new life forms is fraught with ethical dilemmas and a significant danger of unintended consequences.

New Suicide Machine Includes Detachable Coffin

A controversial new suicide machine has been released by Exit International, an organization that advocates for euthanasia. According to LifeNews.com, the new machine is called the Sarco capsule and comes with a detachable coffin, which supposedly streamlines the process of taking one’s own life. A potential user of the machine would need to access a code online to get into the capsule. The person then lies down in the capsule and pushes a button which releases liquid nitrogen. The oxygen level in the machine will rapidly drop, leading to a speedy death. According to ExitInternational.net, the main part of the machine can then be reused once the coffin is detached. The Sarco was created to meet the growing demand by the aging population for a better method of assisted-suicide, according to Dr. Philip Nitschke, who designed the machine.

Australia State Legalizes Assisted Suicide

The Australian state of Victoria is about to be the first in that country to legalize physician-assisted suicide and some euthanasia after its upper chamber of government voted to do so 22-18. The bill already passed the lower chamber 47-37 last month, meaning it’s all but officially become law. A final version will go back to the lower chamber for final approval. The bill originally would have allowed doctor-prescribed death for Victoria residents told they have 12 months or fewer to live. The newer version that ultimately passed only allows it for patients told they have six months to live. If a patient is unable to kill himself by personally taking the lethal dose of drugs, “a lethal injection may be administered,” The Guardian reported. “Euthanasia and assisted suicide are the opposite of care and represent the abandonment of the sick and the suffering, of older and dying persons,” wrote Victoria’s Catholic bishops in a pastoral letter in April 2017.

  • The culture of death is moving forward rapidly. Beyond legalizing assisted-suicide, efforts to restrict seniors from life-extending medical procedures and to destroy babies in the womb because of DNA defects continues to gain momentum.

Bird Flu Rises in South Korea

Local governments in South Korea have called on operators of farms close to venues that are to be used in February’s Winter Olympic Games to slaughter around 6,000 ducks and chickens after avian influenza was discovered on a duck farm in North Jeolla Province. The H5 strain of the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus – commonly known as “bird flu” – is common in bird populations but has also made the jump to humans. In July 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it had confirmed 630 cases in humans in the previous decade, resulting in 375 deaths. The concern about avian influenza is only the latest problem to hit the Winter Olympics, which are being held in South Korea for the first time. Temperatures during the Games are expected to average minus 4.8 degrees. Ticket sales to the showcase event have also been disappointing, citing fears over the threat of a North Korea missile attack.

Persecution Watch

The Bible lessons and radio interviews posted on the personal channel of Carl Gallups, a popular pastor and author, were terminated over Thanksgiving weekend without explanation, even though there had been no “marks” against it and Gallups rigorously followed the rules. It’s not the first time a faith-focused or conservative-oriented channel has been censored by YouTube. At least three other major cases developed this year, against columnists Michelle Malkin, Michael Brown and Dennis Prager, all of whom have conservative views. Nor is it the only time there’s been a hint that the company is not fond of conservative thought. An undercover video by Project Veritas captured Earnest Pettie, the brand and diversity curation lead at YouTube, admitting he helped “push to the top” the videos of an editor for the left-leaning New York Times. Meanwhile, videos promoting ISIS and violent jihad can be found on YouTube. So can those of the KKK, communists and Antifa.

The Sportsman’s Shop, a small gun store in East Earl, Pennsylvania, had a Facebook ad for American flags taken down. The company said they cannot advertise flags or clothing on the social media because their page promotes the sale of firearms and firearms-related items, such as ammo. The store was able to use Facebook’s digital advertising tools to promote products for a while until one day the staff no longer saw an ad for American flags, the Daily Caller News Foundation reported. One of Facebook’s advertising policies says, “ads must not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition, or explosives.” Although the flag ad did not promote the sale of firearms, their Facebook page did.

Economic News

The number of retail store closings in 2017 has already tripled the number from all of 2016. Last year, a total of 2,056 store locations were closed down, but this year more than 6,700 stores have been shut down so far. That breaks the record number of store closings of 6,163 during the Great Recession in 2008. So far this year, more than 300 retailers have filed for bankruptcy.

For only the second time in the last century, the number of farmers under 35 years old is increasing, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Census of Agriculture. Sixty-nine percent of the surveyed young farmers had college degrees — significantly higher than the general population. However, this new generation can’t hope to replace the numbers that farming is losing to age. But it is already contributing to the growth of the local-food movement and could help preserve the place of midsize farms in the rural landscape. These highly educated, ex-urban, first-time farmers are capitalizing on booming consumer demand for local and sustainable foods and who, experts say, could have a broad impact on the food system.

Mitsubishi Materials said Thursday that it had falsified data on multiple products — including components used in cars and airplanes — for more than a year, adding to Japan’s growing list of corporate scandals. Mitsubishi Cable Industries had been misrepresenting data on rubber sealants used in automobiles and aircraft, the company added. Data was falsified for around 270 million units sold between April 2015 and September 2017 to a total of 229 customers. Another subsidiary, Mitsubishi Shindoh, had been fudging details of some of its metal products for at least the past year, including brass and copper parts used in the automotive and electronics industries. At least 29 companies are believed to have bought the parts in question.

Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a 30-minute phone call Tuesday following Putin’s meeting a few hours earlier with Syrian President Bashar Assad. The meeting, Putin’s subsequent call with Netanyahu, and similar calls/meetings scheduled for Wednesday with US, Saudi, Egyptian, Turkish and Iranian leaders come as the multifaceted civil war in Syria appears to be almost over, with Putin emerging as the central player in the unfolding diplomatic, military and political drama. Putin hosted Assad in the resort city of Sochi Monday evening, ahead of a tri-lateral summit there scheduled for Wednesday with Putin, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Israel has reportedly relayed a rare and sharp message to Assad’s regime in Syria, stating that it will not accept Iranian bases or forces on its border and will act against them – and against Assad himself – if need be. While Israel has mostly refrained from intervening in the six-year-long civil war in Syria, it will change its policy and act against Assad’s regime if it feels threatened. Iran is actively working to establish a military presence in Syria, augmented by Shiite militias, and chiefly the Hezbollah terror group. Furthermore, Iran is reportedly working to build precision missile factories in the country as well as air and sea ports.

The vast majority of Israel’s Arabs, (73%), feel a sense of belonging in the Jewish state and 60% are proud to be Israelis, according to a new poll commissioned by the Israel Hayom daily and conducted by the New Wave Research Institute. Nearly two-thirds of respondents, (65%), define themselves as not religious, while 35 percent say they are religious. Almost half, Forty-six percent, identify as Israeli Arabs and 42 percent identify as Palestinian Arabs, while only 3 percent identify as Israelis. A total of 60% of those surveyed say they are “very proud” or “fairly proud” to be Israeli, while 37 percent say they are “not proud” to be Israeli citizens.

Egypt

An Islamist suicide bomber along with several gunmen launched an assault on a mosque in Egypt’s northern Sinai Peninsula during Friday prayers, marking one of the deadliest attacks on civilians during an insurgency against the government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, state media reported. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But Egyptian security forces have struggled for years to pacify a deadly insurgency by an Islamic State affiliate based in the Sinai Peninsula that has taken the lives of hundreds of police and military. At least 300 were killed and over 100 more injured. Egyptian security forces have struggled for years against an Islamic State affiliate based in the Sinai Peninsula that has killed hundreds of police, military personnel and civilians. Islamist attacks have targeted Coptic Christian churches in the past, but strikes against mosques have been rare. Many Sunni Muslim militant factions consider Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam, to be heretical.

Iran

A federal appeals court in New York on Tuesday revived part of a $1.68 billion lawsuit against Iran’s central bank, Bank Markazi, by families of soldiers killed in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon. By a 3-0 vote, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a lower court judge erred in dismissing claims against Markazi; Banca UBAE SpA, an Italian bank accused of engaging in transactions for Iran; and Clearstream Banking SA, a Luxembourg bank accused of opening accounts for Markazi and UBAE. It upheld the dismissal of claims against JPMorgan Chase & Co. The plaintiffs sought to recoup bond proceeds allegedly owned by Markazi and held by Clearstream, to partially satisfy $3.8 billion of judgments they had won against Iran after a federal court deemed them victims of state-sponsored terrorism. They accused the banks of fraudulently processing billions of dollars of bond proceeds owed to Markazi, and targeted cash held in a Clearstream account at JPMorgan in New York. Iran is one of several countries and organizations ordered by U.S. courts to pay damages to terrorism victims. However, such orders are often difficult to enforce.

Somalia

The U.S. military said it killed more than 100 Islamist militants in Somalia on Tuesday when it launched an air strike against al Shabaab, an al Qaeda-linked insurgent group that wants to topple the U.N.-backed government. The military’s Africa Command said the strike was carried out on a camp 125 miles northwest of the capital, Mogadishu and that the United States would continue to target militants. The strike was done in coordination with Somalia’s federal government, the Pentagon said. U.S. air strikes killing such a large number of militants in Somalia are rare, but not unprecedented. In March 2016, a U.S. air strike killed more than 150 al Shabaab fighters in Somalia. Somalia’s state news agency SONNA reported late on Tuesday that “about 100 militants” were killed when U.S. planes and Somali commandos attacked al Shabaab bases in the Bur Elay area of Bay region. Al Shabaab spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab denied the attack. “It is just…propaganda,” he told Reuters in Somalia.

Outer Space

An asteroid that sped through our solar system has drawn the attention of astronomers with its deep space origins and out of the norm characteristics. Named ‘Oumuamua, the asteroid is the first confirmed object that’s come from another star, according to a release from NASA. It was first discovered on Oct. 19 by a team of researchers at the University of Hawaii. . Its name, which is of Hawaiian origin, means “a messenger from afar arriving first.” The scientists realized it was different and from a solar system outside of ours due to its unusual motion. “This is the most extreme orbit I have ever seen,” NASA Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) scientist Davide Farnocchia said in the October release. “It is going extremely fast and on such a trajectory that we can say with confidence that this object is on its way out of the solar system and not coming back.” the scientists discovered that it is up to one-quarter mile wide and very elongated, very rocky with a slightly reddish hue.

North Korea

North Korea launched a ballistic missile Tuesday after a two-month pause, according to South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff. The last North Korean missile launched before today’s report was fired over Japan on Sept. 15. That launch capped a bout of activity that had heralded a number of technological developments in North Korea’s weapons program, including the test of its most powerful nuclear bomb yet.

Earthquakes

Within the past two weeks, 134 earthquakes have hammered a three-mile stretch around Monterey County on the San Andreas fault. The San Andreas fault stretches for more than 700 miles along the California coast. Seventeen of those earthquakes were of magnitude 2.5 or greater, and six of them were stronger than 3.0, with more tremors expected in the coming weeks. Overall, there have been 698 earthquakes in California over the past thirty days, according to Earthquake Track. Many believe that these quakes could be a warning sign that a much bigger quake is imminent. “Any time there is significant seismic activity in the vicinity of the San Andreas fault, we seismologists get nervous,” Thomas Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center.

Volcanoes

Mount Agung volcano spewed ash and stream on the Indonesian island of Bali on Tuesday, its first eruption since 1963. The minor explosion started around 5 p.m. and created a plume that rose roughly 2,300 feet from the volcano. Volcanologists say the eruption was caused by magma heating water, which is called a phreatic eruption, rather than a generally more dangerous eruption of magma itself. More than 140,000 people evacuated the region around the volcano when it was on high alert, though authorities urged some to return home who had left areas not in the official danger zone. Mount Agung erupted for a second time on Saturday, with an ash plume that rose to 4,900 feet.

Weather

Snow cover in the Lower 48 states have reached a low point not seen in late November in at least 14 years. On Nov. 26, only 3.5 percent of the contiguous United States had snow on the ground. Only late November 2006 had snow cover anywhere near as paltry as what we’re seeing currently. Among the typically snowy locations reporting no measurable snow cover as of Nov. 27 were Bangor, Maine; Marquette, Michigan; Syracuse, New York; and Grand Forks, North Dakota. Meanwhile, up to 20 inches of snow is forecast to fall over the next few days atop the highest volcanic peaks on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Dozens of daily record highs were set from the Desert Southwest to the Plains states during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and into the beginning of November’s final week, keeping some cities on track for setting a record for warmest November since record-keeping began in the late 1800s. Phoenix-area temperatures over the weekend challenged record highs that haven’t been touched for nearly 70 years. Sunday afternoon brought record-breaking heat to the area, with an 89-degree reading at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. On Monday, Tucson, Arizona reached 92 degrees (old record was 85 degrees in 1998); Casper, Wyoming had a high of 66 degrees (old record was 64 degrees in 1998); and Valentine, Nebraska saw a high of 84 degrees (old record was 75 degrees in 1998).

A powerful storm in the Bering Sea brought winds over 90 mph and huge surf to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands over the weekend. Another powerful storm will arrive late Monday into Tuesday. Hundreds were without power Sunday after high winds blew through parts of Nevada, downing power lines and overturning vehicles. A few locations saw gusts as high as 75 mph. Several semi-trucks and trailers were overturned by winds on U.S. Highway 395. The windy conditions also fed a brush fire that shut down Silver Lake Road and Moya Boulevard.

Signs of the Times (11/10/11)

November 10, 2017

Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. (Matthew 22:21)

President Trump is Filling Federal Courts with Scalia-Like Conservative Judges

President Donald Trump is filling federal bench seats with strict constitutionalists, Paul Strand said in a column in CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) News. “President Obama picked left-leaning jurists and George W. Bush safe, non-controversial nominees,” Strand said. “But Trump has been nominating judges in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia, who gave first priority to the U.S. Constitution and to the law as it’s written, rather than coming up with his own interpretations.” There are more than 100 judge vacancies and once chosen, their influence could “last 40,50 years and will have an enormous impact on the future of our country,” said Leonard Leo, of the Federalist Society and adviser to the president. “This president has an opportunity to potentially fill as many as 40 percent of the seats on the federal bench,” Leo said. “And that will just be transformative.” Most of Trump’s picks will sit on lower courts, where about 99 percent of federal cases are dealt with. Meanwhile, Democrats are fighting back. “The Democrats insisted on 30 hours of debate on (Idaho nominee) David Nye even though at the end of the day he was confirmed a hundred to nothing,” said John Malcolm, of the Heritage Foundation.

Planned Parenthood’s Tactics Exposed

Last month, a video featuring former Planned Parenthood employees was released by And Then There Were None, an organization dedicated to helping people in the abortion industry quit their jobs. As revealed by PPH’s former employees, the abortion giant is engaging in money-motivated campaigns of deception and employing manipulative tactics on their clients. As reported by LifeSite News, the video features two former Planned Parenthood managers, Sue Thayer and Shelly Guillory, who give a first-hand account of Planned Parenthood’s deceptive and manipulative practices. Guillory said that following a pregnancy test “If that pregnancy test was positive, the following morning she was scheduled to come in for counseling. We didn’t tell her we were scheduling her in to come and get an abortion, but when she came in that morning, she was scheduled for an abortion.” ‘The abortion industry has goals for numbers of, well, every procedure and product that they sell,’ said Thayer, a manager in Iowa for 17 years. ‘In all my years there, not in any of 17 centers all across Iowa did we have one adoption. Not once.”

Air Force Failure Enabled Texas Gunman to Obtain Firearms

The Air Force said it failed to follow policies for alerting federal law enforcement about Devin P. Kelley’s violent past, allowing him to purchase firearms before the shooting rampage that killed at least 26 churchgoers in Sutherland Springs, Tex. The former service member should have been barred from purchasing firearms and body armor because of his domestic violence conviction in 2014 while serving at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Kelley was sentenced to a year in prison and kicked out of the military with a bad conduct discharge following two counts of domestic abuse against his wife and a child, according to the Air Force. Kelley also escaped from a psychiatric hospital while he was in the Air Force, after making death threats against his superiors and trying to smuggle weapons onto the base where he was stationed, a 2012 police report shows.

Kelley fired 450 shots inside the church, leaving such destruction that the building may be beyond repair. Stricter gun controls could have resulted in more deaths during the Texas church shooting massacre because a neighbor might not have been able to shoot the gunman, President Trump said Tuesday. Trump went on to say that Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the nation, and “Chicago is a disaster,” citing the historic number of shootings there over the past few years.

AR-15 the Weapon of Choice in Mass Shootings

AR-15 style rifles have become the weapon of choice in recent mass shootings, including the Texas church shooting Sunday, the Orlando nightclub last year and Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. The National Rifle Association has called the AR-15 the “most popular rifle in America” and estimates Americans own more than 8 million of them. The NRA says, “the AR-15 has soared in popularity” because it’s “customizable, adaptable, reliable and accurate.” It is also versatile and can be used for “sport shooting, hunting and self-defense situations,” the NRA said, adding the ability to “personalize” so many of the rifle’s components “is one of the things that makes it so unique.” The site TacticalGear.com says the AR-15 (a civilian model of the military’s M-16) shoots farther effectively, fires more rounds per minute, is lighter and its service life is longer if properly maintained. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence also cited the AR-15’s versatility as the reason for its popularity.

Domestic Violence Trait Shared by Majority of Mass Shooters

Domestic violence is a trait often shared by U.S. mass shooters, whose rage can evolve into public manifestations like the horrific scene inside the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. Nationwide, about 57% of mass shooters killed family members between 2009 and 2015 — and about 15% of those shooters were previously accused of domestic violence, according to a study cited by the Texas Commission on Family Violence. Devin Patrick Kelley’s history of domestic violence is a recognized precursor of lethal eruption as batterers fight to maintain control, experts say. What may start as verbal abuse can turn to physical abuse, threats or introducing weapons in private. For some, when that is no longer effective, it reaches a crescendo ending in homicide — sometimes to include those not directly involved.

GOP Loses Elections, Control of Congress in Jeopardy

After a year of doubts, recriminations and special election misfires, Democrats finally got the big victories Tuesday they’d so desperately craved in the year since Donald Trump won the presidency. Across the map, in mayoral contests, state legislative races and ballot measures, everything broke Democrats’ way. All of a sudden, full control of Congress might be in serious jeopardy. Trump’s low approval ratings look toxic. And it could be much harder to convince incumbents to run — and to recruit candidates into open-seat races — in such a difficult environment. Democrats won races large and small Tuesday, starting with the New Jersey and Virginia governor’s races. The party won hotly contested mayoral races in Charlotte, North Carolina, and St. Petersburg, Florida. In Maine, voters approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Trump Asks Congress for More Defense Budget

President Trump asked Congress for another $5.9 billion for the military on Monday, as he continued an Asia trip aimed at countering what he called the “North Korean menace.” The addition to the administration’s 2018 budget request came just as Trump was leaving Japan for South Korea, where the U.S. has begun installing an anti-missile defense system known as THAAD. The request includes $4 billion for a missile defense and detection system on the Korean peninsula, $1.2 billion for 3,500 additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and $700 million to repair two Navy ships. The request comes as China and South Korea have resolved their dispute over the installation of THAAD batteries in South Korea, which China said threatened its national security. But South Korea has still been reluctant to add additional THAAD installations on the peninsula.

Trump Calls Out Japan for Defensive Passivity

President Trump pressed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday to purchase more military hardware from the United States and take a more active role in its defense against North Korea. Trump had privately questioned why Japan didn’t shoot down the North Korean missiles launched over the northern island of Hokkaido in August and September, according to a report Saturday by Japan’s Kyodo News Agency. The report, citing diplomatic sources, said Trump wondered why a nation of “samurai warriors” wouldn’t take action. At a news conference in Tokyo with Abe, Trump addressed the question, saying: “(Abe) will shoot them out of the sky when he completes the purchase of lots of additional military equipment from the United States.” While Trump’s comment might have been taken as part of his trademark bluster, the question of Japan’s military role remains a crucial issue both in Japan and around the region, especially with provocations from North Korea and China’s increasing assertiveness.

Trump Complaints About Global Trade Policies to Vietnam

President Trump arrived in Vietnam and told delegates of an Asia-Pacific economic summit Friday that countries have treated the U.S. unfairly with their trade policies. Claiming that trading partners are not playing by the rules — but not citing any by name — Trump pledged at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit to crack down on closed markets, currency manipulation and intellectual property theft. As he did in China, Trump said he did not blame other countries for taking advantage of the United States — he blamed previous administrations. “I wish previous administrations in my country saw what was happening and did something about it,” Trump said. “They did not, but I will… I am always going to put America first the same way that I expect all of you in this room to put your countries first,” Trump told APEC. “In the end,” he said, “unfair trade undermines us all.”

DHS Ends Protected Status for Nicaraguans, Hondurans Get Extension

The Trump administration has given 2,500 Nicaraguans with provisional residency 14 months to leave the United States, announcing Monday that it will not renew the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation that has allowed them to remain in the country for nearly two decades. But officials deferred a decision for the much larger group of 57,000 Hondurans who have been living in the United States with the same designation, saying the Department of Homeland Security needed more time to consider their fate. The decision was likely to displease immigration hard-liners who have urged the administration to end the TPS program on the grounds that it was never intended to bestow long-term residency to those who may have entered the country illegally. The two groups were shielded from deportation after Hurricane Mitch hit Central America in 1998, and their TPS protections have been routinely renewed ever since.

Trump Cracks Down on U.S. Travel to Cuba

President Trump cracked down on the ability of U.S. citizens to travel and do business with Cuba on Wednesday, a major step toward rolling back another Obama-era policy. Under new regulations that take effect Thursday, the Trump administration is banning Americans from doing business with dozens of entities with links to Cuba’s military. The move affects stores, hotels, tourist agencies and even two rum makers. President Obama’s administration ended more than 50 years of diplomatic isolation with its Cold War foe, reestablishing embassies in Havana and Washington and making it easier for Americans to visit their long-isolated Caribbean neighbors. Trump claimed during a speech in Miami in June that the U.S. gave away too much in exchange for too little. The White House has also blamed Cuba for a series of unexplained attacks against U.S. diplomats on the island, prompting the U.S. to cut back its staff in Havana and halt the processing of visas for Cubans trying to reach the United States.

FEMA to Transport Hurricane Victims in Puerto Rico to U.S.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will help transport hurricane survivors from Puerto Rico to the continental United States, with priority given to approximately 3,000 people who are living in shelters, the agency said. Hurricane survivors who want to temporarily relocate to the mainland, could end up in Florida or New York, as FEMA is working to establish agreements with both states. The two states were selected by Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello, according to FEMA. Both Florida and New York have sizable Puerto Rican communities. Florida has already seen tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans coming to its state after Hurricane Maria struck the island that is still struggling more than a month after the storm. About 60% of the US territory, which is home to approximately 3.4 million US citizens, is still without power.

Largest U.S. Insurers Band Together to Fight Addiction

The nation’s largest insurers signaled a new approach to the opioid crisis that has ravaged families across the country, declaring Wednesday that addiction deserves the same urgency and respect as cancer or diabetes, and should be treated as a chronic disease requiring long-term treatment and monitoring.  Adopting eight “principles of care,” 16 health insurers covering 248 million people said in a statement they would use their purchasing power to reward proven, evidence-based treatments, a step that could improve the quality of care available.  The goal is to “make sure future patients aren’t forced to cycle in and out of treatment, wondering why they don’t work,” said Gary Mendell, a former hotel executive who founded the non-profit Shatterproof after his son died from addiction. Shatterproof hosted the conference call announcement with executives from Cigna and Horizon. Shatterproof convened a national task force earlier this year that included experts and insurance executives.

Homelessness ‘Exploding’ on West Coast

Mainstream news outlets are reporting that homelessness is “exploding” out on the west coast. Over the past two years, at least 10 cities or municipal regions in California, Oregon and Washington have declared a state of emergency because homelessness has gotten so far out of control. Housing prices are soaring in Seattle thanks to the tech industry, but the boom comes with a consequence: a surge in homelessness marked by 400 unauthorized tent camps in parks, under bridges, on freeway medians and along busy sidewalks. San Diego now scrubs its sidewalks with bleach to counter a deadly hepatitis A outbreak. In Anaheim, 400 people sleep along a bike path in the shadow of Angel Stadium. Organizers in Portland lit incense at an outdoor food festival to cover up the stench of urine in a parking lot where vendors set up shop. With each passing day, more Americans fall out of the middle class, and the homeless populations in major cities all over the nation continue to grow.

Economic News

OPEC says growth in global oil demand will steadily lessen, but fossil fuels will remain the main energy source decades from now. The organization’s annual World Oil Outlook published Tuesday says renewables are projected to record the fastest growth, but their share of total energy supply is still anticipated to remain below 5.5% by 2040. The report by the 14-nation Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries says that the use of fossil fuels — 81% of the global energy mix in 2015 — will decline by 2040. But the cartel says they will still account then for 74% of all energy used.

More store closings have already been announced in 2017 than any other year on record. Since January 1, retailers have announced plans to shutter more than 6,700 stores in the U.S., according to Fung Global Retail & Technology, a retail think tank. That beats the previous all-time high of 6,163 store closings, which hit in 2008 amid the financial meltdown, according to Credit Suisse.

Americans’ confidence in the U.S. economy tilted slightly positive in October, with Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index at +3 for the month. Though the index’s current reading is on the low end of what Gallup has measured for 2017 so far, it remains well above the mostly negative ratings recorded from 2008 to 2016. Meanwhile, the stock market remains on a tear, with the Dow Jones industrial average up more than 5,000 points from where it was one year ago, up nearly 25%.

The three richest billionaires in the U.S., as measured by the annual Forbes 400 ranking, now own more wealth than the bottom half of the nation’s population combined, according to the report by the Institute for Policy Studies, a research organization focused on inequality issues. The fortunate three are Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, and financier and investor Warren Buffett. Their $264.1 billion in holdings outstrips the combined net worth of an estimated 160 million people, or 53 million U.S. households.

Israel

The U.N. has just created an anti-Israel lawfare slush fund, reports ACLJ (American Center for Law & Justice). It’s sending $18 million to the terrorist-led Palestinian Authority, specifically to fund a legal war on Israel. “U.N. agencies have called for Israel’s destruction. Hezbollah and Hamas are preparing for war. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is pursuing new, false war crimes charges against Israel (not the terrorists),” writes Jay Sekulow. “At the ACLJ, we’re launching our largest legal effort in defense of Israel. We’ve defeated legal attacks at the ICC before, and we’re preparing to do so again. Now, we’re preparing to directly take on the U.N.’s anti-Israel lawfare slush fund.”

Islamic State

Coalition airstrikes have declined by more than 50% as U.S.-backed forces in Iraq and Syria have largely destroyed the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate and surviving militants have been killed or fled. The number of coalition bombs and other weapons dropped to about in 850 in October, down from an average of 1,800-2,600 in previous months. The Islamic State has been pushed out of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and more recently Raqqa, the terrorist group’s de facto capital in Syria. The coalition ramped up airstrikes dramatically earlier this year as U.S.-backed forces went to battle against militants in both cities. As ISIS lost its grip on strongholds, the militants scattered, presenting fewer targets for coalition pilots.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia on Monday called the attempted missile attack on Riyadh’s main airport this weekend an “act of war” by Iran and vowed to retaliate. Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have been fighting Saudi-backed forces there for several years, claimed responsibility for firing the ballistic missile on Saturday. The missile traveled more than 500 miles before Saudi Arabia intercepted and destroyed it. The official Saudi Press Agency charged that debris from the missile proved that it was made in Iran and smuggled into Yemen. American officials have previously charged that Iran has armed the Houthi rebels. The UN’s humanitarian chief has sent a chilling warning that Yemen is facing the world’s worst famine in decades in which millions could die, if Saudi Arabia continues to block aid flowing into the war-torn nation. Saudi Arabia tightened its blockade on Yemen after Houthi rebels, who have taken over the national government and its assets, fired the ballistic missile last week.

Somalia

A U.S. drone strike killed “several militants” with al-Shabab in Somalia, the military said, as the Trump administration increasingly targets what has become the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa. A U.S. drone strike killed “several militants” with al-Shabab in Somalia, the military said, as the Trump administration increasingly targets what has become the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa. The U.S. military says it has carried out 22 airstrikes this year against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, as well as against the smaller Islamic State group presence in Somalia after the Trump administration approved expanded military efforts.

North Korea

North Korea’s nuclear test site is turning the area into a “wasteland” where “deformed babies” are being born and 80 percent of vegetation dies off due to nuclear radiation, nearly two dozen defectors told a South Korean newspaper Monday. Residents fear radiation contamination because of the high mortality rate for any form of life, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported. The defectors said drinking water in the town streamed down from Mount Montap, where the nuclear tests were reportedly conducted underground. They added authorities left residents in the area to fend for themselves and provided no warning prior to the detonations or protections thereafter. “I personally saw corpses floating down the river with their limbs severed,” one defector said, adding that local residents were also ordered to dig “deep holes for those tests.”

China

American and Chinese companies signed more than a dozen deals worth $9 billion as President Trump arrived in China on Wednesday for a visit likely to be dominated by tough trade talks and tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program. No details of the 19 agreements signed at a ceremony in Beijing attended by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and China’s vice-premier Wang Yang were immediately released, but such business contracts are a common fixture of visits by foreign leaders to China. Before arriving in Beijing, Trump used a speech to South Korea’s National Assembly to call on China to stop supporting North Korea, China’s largest trading partner. He said, “all responsible nations” needed to isolate Pyongyang.

China announced plans to institute Social Credit System that will be mandatory for all its citizens by 2020. It’s like a credit score system, but instead of just financial information, this one will also pull together a person’s political leanings, purchase history and even their social interactions to calculate their “trust score.” Chinese officials say it’s a way to influence their citizens’ behavior to benefit society and move their country forward, but others think it’s just the latest step in the country’s long history of state surveillance. The benefits of a high trust score include being fast-tracked to visas, to getting discounts on hotels, or car rentals, or insurance policies. If your trust score goes below a certain level, it could impact everything from where your children go to school, to what jobs you can apply for, and the type of mortgage that you can get.

Environment

Thousands of schools were closed in India and Pakistan and a public health emergency was declared as thick smog continues to make life miserable for hundreds of millions who live in the region. Air pollution has soared to four times above the World Health Organization’s limits in Pakistan’s major cities. Some of the worst air quality readings were in Delhi state, home to some 20 million people in northern India. In New Delhi, India’s capital city, air quality readings earlier this week revealed the dangerous air particles soared above 700 micrograms per cubic meter, well above recommended limits. Particulate matter, also known as particle pollution, is a complex mixture of extremely small particles (such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke) that get into the air. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects. Schools will remain closed through at least the end of the week, and most trucks were prevented from entering New Delhi in recent days. In Pakistan’s Punjab province, at least 10 people have died and another 25 have been injured since Monday in car accidents blamed on poor visibility due to the dense smog.

Just under the frozen wasteland of Antarctica, the world’s coldest continent, are some seriously hot rocks, 1,800 degrees, which are helping to melt its ice sheet and create lakes and rivers, a recent study found. The heat produced by the scorching hot rocks — officially known as a mantle plume — was measured at 150 milliwatts per square meter. That’s not far from the heat produced under Yellowstone National Park, which is measured at about 200 milliwatts per square meter. Study lead author Helene Seroussi of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory thought it was “crazy” that it would be there: “I didn’t see how we could have that amount of heat and still have ice on top of it,” she said. Although the heat source isn’t a new or increasing threat to the West Antarctic ice sheet, it could help explain why the ice sheet collapsed rapidly some 11,000 years ago and why it’s so unstable today, Seroussi said.

  • So, it’s not just global warming contributing to the melting of the ice sheets

Weather

An arctic blast will slide across parts of the Midwest and Northeast into this weekend. Many cities in the Midwest and Northeast will see their coldest temperatures so far this season. Daily record lows could be threatened in some cities. The blast of winterlike temperatures first descended into the northern Plains Wednesday. That cold air will sweep through the Great Lakes and into the Northeast by Friday, where highs may hold in the 20s and 30s in some areas. Parts of the interior Northeast saw their first snow of the season Tuesday, including Maine, which had yet to see a snowflake this season. Caribou, Maine, picked up its first trace of snow Tuesday, nearly a month later than the average date of Oct. 12th.

La Niña, the cooler sibling of El Niño, is back. The La Niña climate pattern — a natural cycle marked by cooler-than-average ocean water in the central Pacific Ocean — is one of the main drivers of weather in the U.S. and around the world, especially during the late fall, winter and early spring. Federal government forecasters announced La Niña’s formation Thursday. The Climate Prediction Center says this year’s La Niña (translated from Spanish as “little girl”) is on the weak side, but it should still continue through the winter. A typical La Niña winter in the U.S. brings cold and snow to the Northwest and unusually dry conditions to most of the southern tier of the U.S. The Southeast and Mid-Atlantic also tend to see warmer-than-average temperatures during a La Niña winter.

The death toll continued to rise in Vietnam after Typhoon Damrey dealt a severe blow to the country’s south-central region, where at least 69 people were killed and 30 remain missing. At least 116,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the powerful typhoon’s flooding, the Vietnam Disaster Management Authority said in a statement. Damrey has since dissipated, and water levels were dropping in some areas, but in others, problems persisted. This includes Hoi An, an ancient city that was a scheduled stop for of an upcoming economic summit that’ll be attended by President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders later this week.

Signs of the Times (11/6/17)

November 6, 2017

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

Christians Are the Most Persecuted Group in the World

According to the evangelical group Open Doors, one hundred million Christians face interrogation, arrest, torture, and/or death because of their religious convictions. Todd Johnson of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary documents that one hundred thousand Christians, eleven per hour, have been killed on average every year of the past decade. While 30 percent of the world’s population identifies as Christian, 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination around the world are directed at Christians. One scholar estimates that 90 percent of all people killed on the basis of their religious beliefs are Christians. Persecution against Christians is especially prevalent in the Muslim world. According to Newsweek, “In recent years the violent oppression of Christian minorities has become the norm in Muslim-majority nations stretching from West Africa and the Middle East to South Asia and Oceania. In some countries it is governments and their agents that have burned churches and imprisoned parishioners. In others, rebel groups and vigilantes have taken matters into their own hands, murdering Christians and driving them from regions where their roots go back centuries.” Newsweek notes: “A fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends leads to the conclusion that the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other. The conspiracy of silence surrounding this violent expression of religious intolerance has to stop. Nothing less than the fate of Christianity—and ultimately of all religious minorities—in the Islamic world is at stake.”

26 Killed in Texas Church Shooting

At least 26 people were killed and many more were injured in a deadly shooting at a Texas church on Sunday, November 5. Twenty wounded people are still in the hospital. The massacre killed about 4% of the small town’s population. The gunman entered First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas about 11:20 a.m. local time and opened fire on those gathered for Sunday worship. The victims included many children as well as elderly members of the congregation. The church’s pastor, Frank Pomeroy, lost his 14-year-old daughter. Police have identified the suspect as 26-year-old Devin Kelley. Kelley reportedly fled the church after a local resident attempted to fight back. He was found dead in his vehicle after crashing it near the county line. He suffered a gunshot wound, but it is unclear whether this wound was self-inflicted or incurred while in a chase with police. Kelley’s in-laws had previously attended services at the church but were not there during the deadly rampage. Kelley was court-martialed in 2012 for assaulting his spouse and their child, receiving a bad conduct discharge and 12 months of confinement. Kelley tried to get a license to carry a gun in Texas but was denied by the state. He had made threatening texts, and appeared motivated by his domestic situation, said his mother-in-law and a member of that church.

U.S. Leads World in Gun Violence

The U.S. saw on average 8,592 gun homicides each year — 2.7 gun homicides for every 100,000 people — between 2010 and 2015, according to the latest data from the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based research initiative that tracks guns. That’s more than five times the rate of Greece and neighboring Canada, tied for second place with 0.5 per 100,000 people. It’s more than 10 times the gun homicide rate of the Netherlands and France, with 0.2 per 100,000 people. Germany and Spain have an even lower rate, with 0.1 per 100,000 people.

Terror Attack in New York City – Update

Eight people were killed and 11 injured after a man drove a rented pickup truck onto a busy bicycle path leading to the 9/11 memorial in Lower Manhattan on last week. The male driver careened a rented pickup truck onto a pedestrian walkway and bike path north of the World Trade Center memorial in Lower Manhattan and then sped south, running over pedestrians and bikers. Officials identified the suspect as Sayfullo Saipov, a native of Uzbekistan who came to the U.S. in 2010. Authorities said that Saipov, 29, shouted “Allahu Akbar!” — “God is great” in Arabic — after jumping out of the truck. New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, said Saipov was “associated with ISIS and he was radicalized domestically.” CNN reported that police found a note from the driver in which he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. The attack is similar to terror attacks around the world in which terrorists used vehicles to inflict multiple casualties in Barcelona, London, Germany and Nice.

Saipov had been planning his attack for weeks, officials said, following interviews of Saipov in the hospital during which he bragged about the assault and said he was “proud” of the attack. He also left a note at the scene of the attack. Written in Arabic, it pledged allegiance to ISIS. Saipov came to the United States seven years ago from Uzbekistan under the Diversity Visa Program. The suspect had been on the radar of federal authorities, and those close to him had feared he was heading toward extremism, reports the New York Times. Saipov and his wife, Odilova, also an Uzbek, were married in Summit County, Ohio, on April 12, 2013. Saipov obtained a driver’s license in Tampa, Fla., in 2015. He listed his occupation as a truck driver. Saipov, who moved in recent months into an apartment in Paterson, N.J., also worked recently for Uber. He and his family — he reportedly has young children — attended the next-door Omar Mosque, one of several in New Jersey that the NYPD targeted as part of surveillance started in 2005 intended to identify “budding terrorist conspiracies.” The targeting program was criticized for profiling citizens based on religion and ethnicity. President Trump called on Congress to end the diversity lottery program.

U.S. Vulnerable to Lone Wolf Attacks, Experts Say

The terror attack that left eight dead in Manhattan on Tuesday could be a frightening indication of things to come in the war on terror in the U.S., experts cautioned. The simplicity of planning and carrying out similar attacks, in which a man drove a pick-up truck onto a bike path near the World Trade Center and plowed into cyclists, makes them difficult to guard against and prevent. “We’re vulnerable. Democratic societies are open and they can be penetrated,” said Charles Strozier, director of the Center on Terrorism at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “These sorts of things are brewing in basements around the country right now,” said John Shane, a professor of law and police science at John Jay. Bruce Hoffman of the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., said the Big Apple remains a prime target for terrorists. “If they can pierce New York’s defenses, it sends a very strong psychological blow by terrorists.” Runners planning to participate in Sunday’s New York City Marathon say the terror attack on Tuesday in lower Manhattan will not deter them from the race.

Antifa Rallies Fail to Attract Numbers Expected

A series of anti-government, leftist rallies were held in major cities nationwide last Saturday, but the turnout was far less than Antifa expected. Despite full page ads and free press attention, the turnout was low at many of Refuse Fascism’s rallies. The exception appears to have been L.A, where local news reported that close to 2,000 protesters gathered. The left-wing “Refuse Fascism” group used Nov. 4 as its kickoff for protests it says will continue “day after day and night after night ─ not stopping ─ until our DEMAND is met.” The “DEMAND” is the removal of President Trump and Vice President Pence. Tapping into movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Women’s March, Refuse Fascism said it hopes to protest non-stop, 24/7 “until this regime is driven from power.” The anarchist group, whose name comes from term “anti-fascist,” made news earlier this week for allegedly harassing a female reporter at Columbia University and for seven arrests at California State University, Fullerton, amid reports of head-punching and pepper-spraying.

UN Human Rights Committee Excludes Unborn Child from ‘Right to Life’

Despite pleas from more than one hundred governments and pro-life organizations, including the United States and Poland, the UN Human Rights Committee has excluded unborn children from the right to life in international law last week in Geneva. Despite pleas from more than one hundred governments and pro-life organizations, including the United States and Poland, the UN Human Rights Committee has excluded unborn children from the right to life in international law this week in Geneva. Not one of the members expressed any concern for babies in the womb capable of feeling pain, or brought up the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which expressly requires states to protect children “before birth.” The only snag for the committee was not from sovereign States but another part of the UN bureaucracy. The UN committee on disabilities asked that the draft be changed to avoid expressions that demean the disabled.

126 Million Facebook Users Saw Russian Fake News

As many as 126 million people — or one-third the U.S. population — may have seen material posted by a Russian troll farm under fake Facebook identities between 2015 and 2017, according to testimony presented by Facebook’s general counsel at a hearing before the Senate on Tuesday. The figure is the largest yet of the possible reach Russian operatives had on the giant social platform in the run-up to last year’s presidential election and afterwards. Facebook’s new disclosures indicate that a Kremlin-linked misinformation agency fed original content to users’ feeds, as well as in paid ads. Previously Facebook said 10 million people saw Russia-linked advertising that sought to sway U.S. voters. Social media companies are under pressure to respond to demands by lawmakers that they follow the same regulations on political ads as advertisers in newspapers and on radio and television currently do, including disclosures about who paid for the ads and bans on foreign entities running election-related ads.

Millennials Prefer Socialism over Capitalism

A majority of millennials would prefer to live in a socialist, communist or fascist nation rather than a capitalistic one, according to a new poll. In the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s “Annual Report on U.S. Attitudes Toward Socialism” 44% of the up and coming generation of millennials opt for socialism versus just 42% who said they were in favor of capitalism. Communism and fascism received 7 percent support each. Communism and fascism received 7 percent support each. “This troubling turn highlights widespread historical illiteracy in American society regarding socialism and the systemic failure of our education system to teach students about the genocide, destruction, and misery caused by communism since the Bolshevik Revolution one hundred years ago,” Mr. Smith said in a statement.

Opioid Commission Calls for Wide-Ranging Changes to Anti-Drug Policies

President Trump’s commission on the opioid crisis called Wednesday for a nationwide system of drug courts and easier access to alternatives to opioids for people in pain, part of a wide-ranging menu of improvements it said are needed to curb the opioid epidemic. The commission, headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), called for expanding drug courts — an alternative system that tries to channel substance abusers accused of crimes into treatment — into all 93 federal court jurisdictions. Currently they are in less than half. The 56 recommendations in the draft report also include requiring doctors and others who prescribe opioids to show they have received training in safe provision of those drugs before they can renew their licenses to handle controlled substances with the Drug Enforcement Administration. The panel also wants to mandate that providers check prescription drug monitoring databases to ensure that users aren’t “doctor shopping” for prescription drugs. The commission specifically declined to endorse the use of marijuana for pain, despite some studies suggesting that access to marijuana may decrease opioid deaths. Christie said that research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse “found that marijuana use led to a 2½ times greater chance that the marijuana user would become an opioid user and abuser.”

GOP Releases Tax Plan, Cutting Corporate and Middle-Class Taxes

Republican lawmakers unveiled the most sweeping rewrite of the tax code in decades, outlining a $1.51 trillion plan to cut taxes for corporations, reduce them for some middle-class families. The House plan is far from final and will ignite a legislative and lobbying fight as Democrats, business groups and other special interests tear into it. Representative Kevin Brady, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said the bill is estimated to cost $1.51 trillion over a decade. The plan establishes three tax brackets, 12, 25 and 35 percent, and also keeps a top rate of 39.6 percent for the highest-earners, collapsing the total number of brackets from seven. The plan would also cap the mortgage interest deduction by limiting it to loans up to $500,000. Despite internal discussions, the proposal as presented makes no changes to 401(k) retirement plans.

Disaster Relief Costing U.S. $200 Million Per Day

The United States is spending more than $200 million every day on disaster relief following a trio of hurricanes and a deadly wildfire event that struck over the past two months, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said. On Tuesday, FEMA Administrator Brock Long told a Senate oversight committee that the agency has never seen a challenge of this magnitude in its history. Long thanked the legislators for the $52 billion in emergency relief allocated so far, but said recovering from the recent spate of disasters will be tremendously expensive, requiring much more funding. Long said he also needs additional legal authority from Congress to build the power grid in Puerto Rico back better than it was before.

Federal Flood Insurance Program Broke

This hurricane season, as tens of thousands of Americans seek compensation for storm-inflicted water damage, they face a problem: The flood insurance program is broke and broken, reports The New York Times. The program, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has been in the red since Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005. It still has more than a thousand disputed claims left over from Sandy. And in October, it exhausted its $30 billion borrowing capacity and had to get a bailout just to keep paying current claims. Congress must decide by Dec. 8 whether to keep the program going.

Economic News

The U.S. economy added 261,000 jobs in October, a rebound after job losses in September due to the major hurricanes. Roughly 100,000 hospitality employees missed paychecks in September. The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.1 percent — the lowest level since 2000. Year-over-year wage growth declined to 2.4 percent, according to Friday’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Puerto Rico statistics are not included in the Labor Department’s monthly report.

China’s richest sovereign wealth fund is teaming up with Goldman Sachs to invest at least $5 billion in mostly U.S. manufacturing. China Investment Corp., better known as CIC, asked Goldman Sachs to partner with it on the private-equity fund, which will deploy money into manufacturing, industrial, consumer, healthcare and other U.S. businesses. News of the partnership comes as Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and other American business leaders join Trump this week in China and other Asian nations.

Gasoline prices have spiked for most of the U.S. — and especially the Midwest — during a period in which motorists are usually experiencing relief at the pump. Amid rising oil prices and ongoing refinery maintenance due to the lingering effects of Hurricane Harvey, fuel prices have jumped over the last week. The average national price of $2.52 per gallon on Friday morning was up 30 cents from a year ago and up 5 cents from a week ago, according to AAA. Pipeline and refinery problems caused the Great Lakes region to experience the biggest increases, Average gas prices in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio on Friday morning were $2.76, $2.75, $2.72 and $2.65.

Emblematic of the struggle facing U.S. department stores, Sears Holdings has already closed more than 350 Sears and Kmart stores this year. An additional 45 Kmart stores and 18 Sears stores will be closing in late January 2018, the company said Thursday. The 63 stores will remain open during the holiday season and employees at the closing stores will get severance pay and an opportunity to apply for other jobs within the retail chains. “Liquidation sales will begin as early as November 9 at these closing stores,” the company said.

North Korea

The only way to locate and secure all of North Korea’s nuclear weapons sites “with complete certainty” is through an invasion of ground forces, and in the event of conflict, Pyongyang could use biological and chemical weapons, the Pentagon told lawmakers in a new, blunt assessment of what war on the Korean Peninsula might look like. Pentagon leaders “assess that North Korea may consider the use of biological weapons” and that the country “has a long-standing chemical weapons program with the capability to produce nerve, blister, blood and choking agents.” The Pentagon repeated that a detailed discussion of how the United States would respond to the threat could not be discussed in public.

Saudi Arabia

In an extraordinary purge, Saudi Arabia’s newly formed anti-corruption committee has arrested at least 17 princes and top officials. The list includes Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the richest men in the world. The billionaire businessman owns 95% of Kingdom Holding, which holds large stakes in global companies such as Citigroup, Twitter, Apple and News Corp. In addition, three ministers were removed from their positions, and tens of former ministers were detained as part of the new anti-corruption campaign initiated by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, according to Saudi-backed broadcaster Al-Arabiya. King Salman ordered the new anti-corruption initiative as part of an “active reform agenda aimed at tackling a persistent problem that has hindered development efforts in the Kingdom in recent decades,” a press release from the Saudi Ministry of Communications said. Critics say that the 32-year-old newly-crowned king was also eliminating potential opponents, including two sons of the former king.

Yemen

Yemeni rebels on Saturday targeted an airport in Saudi Arabia’s capital with a ballistic missile. But the missile was intercepted over northeast Riyadh, the Saudi Ministry of Defense said in a statement carried on government-backed Al-Arabiya television. Airstrikes later in the day targeted Yemen’s capital Sanaa, shaking homes and breaking windows. Yemen’s Defense Ministry said the missile attack “shook the Saudi capital” and the operation was successful. The attack was conducted using a Yemeni-made, long-range missile called the Burqan 2H. Saudi airstrikes later in the day targeted Yemen’s capital Sanaa, shaking homes and breaking windows. Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of states against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who toppled Yemen’s internationally recognized government in 2015.

Spain

Brussels prosecutors said Sunday that ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and four ex-regional ministers were taken into custody to start the process of their possible extradition to Spain. Puigdemont and the four members of his disbanded Cabinet will be heard by an investigative judge later in the day. The Belgian judge will have to decide within 24 hours what comes next for the five separatist politicians wanted in Spain on suspicion of rebellion for pushing through a declaration of independence for the northeastern Catalonia in violation of Spain’s Constitution. If they are arrested, they will then be sent to jail as the extradition process continues. Dejemeppe said that the entire process from arrest to extradition, could take more than 60 days.

Weather

Diplomats and activists have gathered in Germany for two-week talks on implementing the Paris agreement to fight climate change. The 23rd conference of the parties, or COP23, will be opened Monday by Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama. The Pacific island nation is already suffering the impacts of global warming. Up to 25,000 people are expected to attend the talks. Participants will include diplomats from 195 nations, as well as scientists, lobbyists and environmentalists. The United States, which has announced its intention to pull out of the landmark Paris climate accord, will be represented by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon.

With the planet the warmest it’s been in the history of modern civilization, the federal government said Friday that “it’s extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” “For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence,” the report concluded. The document serves as Vol. 1 of the National Climate Assessment, a federally mandated report prepared by the nation’s top scientists every four years for the president, the Congress and the public. This assessment is the fourth such report.

As the climate continues to change, the seasons are seeing a shift as well, with winters coming later and leaving earlier than ever recorded. More than a century of data collected from weather stations across the U.S. shows that the first freeze of the year has been arriving further into the calendar. Researchers say this is is another sign of the warming climate, and that it has both good and bad consequences. For example, there may be more fruits and vegetables available, but there could also be an uptick in allergies and pests. The trend of ever later first freezes appears to have started around 1980, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data from 700 weather stations across the U.S. going back to 1895.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow hotter and more extreme, and there’s nothing humanity can do about it (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)