Posts Tagged ‘christianity’

Signs of the Times (2/26/18)

February 26, 2018

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

Trump Calls for Arming Teachers

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

Trump Imposes ‘Largest Ever’ Sanctions Against North Korea

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

Supreme Court Keeps DACA Immigration Program in Place for Now

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

State Department Launches $40 Million Initiative to Counter Russian Meddling

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

Pro-Faith Groups Had Been Targeted by FBI & IRS

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

California Overrun by Homelessness

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

No Link Between Medicinal Marijuana Legalization and Teens Recreational Drug Use

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

Demand for Exorcisms Up Threefold in Italy

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

Economic News

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

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

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

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

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

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

Persecution Watch

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

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

Middle East

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


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

North Korea

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

Signs of the Times (2/21/18)

February 21, 2018

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

Florida Shooter Known by Police & FBI

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

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

School Shootings on the Rise

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

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

Dozens of School Attacks Prevented Last Week

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

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

Trump Proposes Modest Gun-Control Measures

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

Supreme Court Lets Stand CA Gun Waiting Period

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

Russia Exploits Florida School Shooting

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

13 Russian Nationals and 3 Russian Companies Indicted for Election Meddling

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

Congressional Efforts on Immigration Fail

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

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

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

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

Economic News

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

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

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

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

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

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

Persecution Watch

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

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

Middle East

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

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


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

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


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

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

North Korea

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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

Signs of the Times (2/15/18)

February 15, 2018

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

School Shooting in Florida Kills Seventeen

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

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

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

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

Trump’s Approval Rating Rising

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

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

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

State Department Receives Funds Transfer to Fight Foreign Meddling

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

One in Six Children Live in War Zones

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

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

Refugees Cost U.S. Billions

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

Military Adds Names to Gun Ban List after Texas Massacre

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

College Republicans’ Patriot Prayer Rally Disrupted by Leftist-Protesters

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

State Legislatures Tackling Free Speech on College Campuses

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

Florida’s Citrus Crop Severely Impacted by Irma and Disease

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

Economic News

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

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

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

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

Middle East

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

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


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

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

North Korea

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


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


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


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


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

Polar Vortex

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


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

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

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

Signs of the Times (1/31/18)

January 31, 2018

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

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

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

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

Illegals Commit Crimes at Double the Rate of Natives

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

Three Dreamers Caught Smuggling Immigrants

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

Border Wall Prototypes Virtually Impenetrable Test Show

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

Sweden Coping with Surge in Immigrant Violence

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

House Calls for Release of Memo Detailing FBI Surveillance Abuses

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

Senate Fails to Pass 20-Week Abortion Ban

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

EPA Relaxes Rules for Major Polluters

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

Opioids Kill 175 People a Day in U.S.

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

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase Tackle Health Care Costs

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

Chinese Scientists Clone Monkeys for First Time

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

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

Persecution Watch

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

54,259 U.S. Bridges Deemed Structurally Deficient

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

Economic News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Puerto Rico

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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’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 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.


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.


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.


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 (1/16/18)

January 16, 2018

Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.  with long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation. (Psalm 91:14-16)

Government Shutdown Looming Friday

Congress has until Friday to reach an agreement on a number of thorny issues, and the talks don’t appear to be going very smoothly right now. That means President Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill are hurtling toward a government shutdown, with funding set to run out at midnight on Jan. 19. Lawmakers are currently faced with tight budget caps, agreed to in 2011, that limit how much they can spend for the rest of fiscal year 2018 and beyond. Both Republicans and Democrats want to lift those caps — GOP leaders want a big boost for defense; Democrats say any defense increase should be paired with an equal hike for domestic programs. In addition, the partisan debate over how to deal with the Dreamers — the 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — grew more acrimonious last week. That leaves the two sides seriously divided with an agreement appearing unlikely. There are also sharp disagreements over a disaster aid package for Texas, Florida and other places devastated by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

DHS Restarts Obama DACA Amnesty after Judge’s Ruling

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is back up and running, Homeland Security announced this weekend, saying President Trump’s attempt to phase out the Obama-era deportation amnesty is on hold while they fight a court case that ordered them to begin accepting applications again. Only those among the 800,000 or so previously approved can submit applications for renewal, under the judge’s order. And those covered by DACA will no longer be granted advance parole, which had become a shortcut pathway to citizenship in the Obama administration. The move could lessen the pressure on Congress, which is facing a Democratic-led shutdown showdown later this week over the issue. Democrats had insisted that the new spending bill, due by Friday, must also grant full legal status to illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” many of whom have been protected by the DACA program.

Trump Administration Releases Report on Foreign-Born Terrorists

The Trump administration on Tuesday released a terrorism report aimed at bolstering its push for stricter limits on legal immigration to the United States. The report found that of 549 terrorism-related convictions in U.S. federal courts since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 402 of the defendants (73%) were foreign-born. The report also found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents deported 1,716 individuals with “national security concerns” between 2001 and 2017. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that the findings prove that the U.S. must end “chain migration” — the long-standing ability of U.S. citizens and green card holders to sponsor their relatives abroad to enter the U.S. — and the diversity visa lottery. “This report is a clear reminder of why we cannot continue to rely on immigration policy based on pre-9/11 thinking that leaves us woefully vulnerable to foreign-born terrorists,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement.

Trump Transforming Federal Judiciary

2017 was one of the most transformative years in the federal judiciary. The White House, after winning confirmation for Neil Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court seat held by the late conservative icon Antonin Scalia, has moved with record speed to fill vacancies on the lower federal courts. As of mid-December, nineteen of Trump’s sixty-six total nominees this year have been confirmed by the Senate. By comparison, then-President Barack Obama had made only 26 choices – including Justice Sonia Sotomayor – half of whom were confirmed by the end of 2009. The impact under Trump is especially being felt on the appellate level. the part of the judicial system that is responsible for hearing and reviewing appeals from legal cases that have already been heard in a trial-level or other lower court. This is where Trump and conservatives have been losing cases for many years after the appellate courts became ultra-liberal under Obama.

Flu in U.S. Now an Epidemic, Kills 20 Children

Cases of influenza have reached epidemic proportions, touching nearly all parts of the United States and killing more than 100 and at least 20 children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. The flu is now widespread in all states except Hawaii and the District of Columbia. At least 60,000 cases of the flu have been reported. California has been particularly hard hit, with at least 27 deaths of people under 65 attributed to the flu. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state public health emergency Friday because of the flu. Schools in Alabama, Idaho, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas have closed because of outbreaks. The influenza season started earlier and seems to be peaking now, about a month earlier than normal. The CDC notes that this year’s vaccine is only expected to be about 32 percent effective.

Hawaiian Alert About Incoming Missile Sent in Error

An early-morning emergency alert mistakenly warning of an incoming ballistic missile attack was dispatched to cellphones across Hawaii on Saturday, setting off widespread panic in a state that was already on edge because of escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea. The alert, sent by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, was revoked 38 minutes after it was issued, prompting confusion over why it was released — and why it took so long to rescind. Officials said the alert was the result of human error and not the work of hackers or a foreign government. The mistake occurred during a shift-change drill that takes place three times a day at the emergency command post. A flaw in the alert system delayed sending out a cellphone correction. As a result, a “cancellation template” would be created to make it easier to fix mistaken alerts. A new procedure was instituted Saturday requiring two people to sign off before any such alert is sent. The false alert prompted calls for major improvements to America’s disaster notification systems.

Kentucky First State to Require Some to Work for Medicaid

Kentucky received the green light Friday to require many of its Medicaid recipients to work in order to receive coverage. The Bluegrass State thus becomes the first state to act on the Trump administration’s unprecedented change that could affect millions of low-income people receiving benefits. Under the new rule, adults age 19 to 64 must complete 80 hours of “community engagement” per month to keep their care. That includes working a job, going to school, taking a job-training course or volunteering. Kentuckians also will be required to pay up to $15 a month for their insurance, with basic dental and vision being eliminated entirely. However, those benefits can be earned back through a rewards program, such as getting an annual physical, completing a diabetes or weight management course or participating in an anti-smoking program. “There is dignity associated with earning the value of something that you receive,” Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said.

Christian Conservatives Being Marginalized by Prejudice

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s radically pro-abortion prime minister, blasted pro-life advocates Wednesday amid a nation-wide outrage about barring pro-life groups from a federal grant program. Trudeau referenced recent changes to the Summer Jobs program that requires applicants adhere to Canadian rights — including access to abortions, and protections for LGBT Canadians. The program funds summer job placements for not-for-profit organizations, public sector employers and small businesses, the Canadian Press reported. In the past, both pro-life and pro-abortion organizations have received grants to offer jobs to young adults. However, pro-abortion political leaders recently cut off grants to groups that will not bow to the altar of abortion on demand.

PragerU is a conservative educational non-profit that reaches millions of young people on the internet every day, but YouTube is censoring their videos. PragerU recently filed a lawsuit against video giant YouTube for its systematic censorship of our videos. YouTube has chosen repeatedly to restrict and/or demonetize 50 PragerU videos for violating their “Community Guidelines.” Those guidelines are meant to protect users against viewing sexual content, violent or graphic content, and hate speech. If you’ve seen any PragerU videos, you know that they contain nothing even remotely close to any of these categories. “YouTube has restricted videos on topics ranging from religion to the history of the Korean War to free speech on college campuses,” notes PragerU. Think about the millions of actually inappropriate videos on YouTube and then ask yourself, “Why are PragerU’s educational videos restricted?”

A conservative Christian actor has been banned from a Comicon convention due to his political leanings. The Daily Caller reports that the founder and promoter of East Coast Comicon, Cliff Galbraith, announced that he will not be inviting actor Kevin Sorbo to the convention. Galbraith explained his reasoning for not inviting Sorbo: “I turned down Kevin Sorbo for East Coast Comicon. He’s pals with Sean Hannity. I just can’t do it.” Some who saw Galbraith’s post and also have liberal leanings urged him to also ban other actors such as Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, James Wood, Jon Voight, and Chuck Norris who are known to have conservative viewpoints. Sorbo would have been a candidate for East Coast Comicon due to his role as Hercules in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and as the main character is the sci-fi series Andromeda. Sorbo has also starred in faith films such as Soul Surfer and God’s Not Dead.

  • These are just a few of many recent examples of liberal organizations banning people because of prejudice, and yet they’re the same ones who accuse Christians of being hateful and prejudicial.

Paradox: Economy Up, Food Bank Clients Up Too

Food banks in cities that have seen strong job growth and soaring home prices are seeing increased demand from locals struggling to make ends meet and relying on assistance to feed their families. “There’s this hunger paradox: You would think the wealth would rise all boats, but it hasn’t, and it’s created a major crisis and we are seeing families live on their last legs,” said Cat Cvengros, vice president of development and marketing at Second Harvest of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties in California. n 2008, when the economic crisis was heating up, the Ballard Food Bank in Seattle had almost 26,000 families visit. In 2016, that number jumped to nearly 40,000 — a nearly 50% increase. Second Harvest is serving more people than ever, averaging more than 257,000 people every month from 2016-2017, up from 176,731 people per month from 2007-2008. That’s 46% increase over 10 years.

Many of the people using food banks have jobs — often more than one. At Second Harvest, the majority of the families with children have working parents. Flourishing job markets in cities like San Francisco, Seattle and Denver have brought in a surge of new residents competing for a limited supply of housing. That’s pushing up real estate prices dramatically. Rents have nearly doubled in some places. Another reason is that the jobs available since the recovery are lower-paying jobs than those lost during the recession.

Economic News

The U.S. dollar has already lost nearly 2% of its value against other currencies in 2018 and is trading at its lowest level in more than three years. This follows a 10% decline for the dollar in 2017. Signs of life in Europe’s economy, particularly Germany and France, are causing some investors to flock to the euro instead of the dollar. Some analysts suggest that political dysfunction in the United States is also pushing the dollar down. President Trump said on several occasions in 2017 that he thought the dollar was too strong and wouldn’t mind if it lost some of its value

Retail sales were up 5.5% during the November and December holiday shopping season compared to the previous year. Retail sales advanced 4.2% in 2017 compared to 3.2% in 2016. An 11.5% gain in online shopping was a big driver of that increase. But online still only accounts for an estimated 20% of consumer purchases. Sales at traditional brick-and-mortar retailers rose a healthy 4.1% to push the industry to its best gain in seven years. Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, increased at a 2.2% annualized rate in the third quarter 0f 2017. Overall, the economy grew at a 3.2% pace in the third quarter.

A growing number of companies benefiting from tax cuts are showing their employees the money. One-time cash bonuses are the most popular way companies are sharing the windfall they expect from paying less in taxes. Many employers are boosting hourly pay. And a small number say they will increase matching contributions to workers’ 401(k) plans. The conservative group Americans for Tax Reform has compiled a list that shows that more than 125 U.S. employers, both big and small, have announced plans for bonuses and pay increases after the corporate tax rate was cut to 21% from 35%. According to ATR’s latest tally, at least 2 million American workers will “receive special bonuses” in the wake of tax reform.

Persecution Watch

On January 9, Chinese authorities demolished the $2.6 million building of a 50,000-member evangelical congregation in the country’s northern Shanxi province. It’s the second large church building to be demolished in the province in the past month. People’s Armed Police forces used excavators and dynamite to destroy the building in Linfen, which had been financed by the congregation. The church is among the nation’s unregistered congregations, meaning it is not within the government-controlled system and therefore is deemed illegal by the communist regime. China guarantees “freedom of religion” in its law but not in practice, as authorities use technicalities such land or building violations to destroy churches. The state-run Global Times newspaper cited an unidentified local official claiming the church did not hold the necessary permits.

The past week has seen renewed conflict across Syria, reports Barnabas Aid. In a Christian area of Damascus near Bab Sharqi (East Gate), a shell fell on a church compound killing seven Christians and wounding others. Aleppo, which has had peace for a year, is now seeing fighting again and there is a major battle in Idlib. The Christian community in Homs mourns a new death every week or so; there was particular sorrow when a group of young Christian women, university students, died all together as their bus was targeted just before Christmas. The remaining Christian community in Syria is under great pressure and desperately needs your prayers.


They are risking their lives to bring freedom to Iran, and vow to continue their protests. “These uprisings have just begun. People are not at all willing to give up,” one activist told Fox News from the streets of Iran. The defiance comes as President Trump announced Friday that he is waving sanctions against Iran under the controversial 2015 nuclear deal one last time, and gave the European allies four months to change the terms of the agreement or he may seek to scrap it. The protesters demand even harsher sanctions. “They should impose major sanctions on the regime,” one protester demanded. Another added there “should be sanctions for human rights violations.” The protesters are members of the long-banned opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The group is calling for Iran’s oil exports to also be subject to sanctions, the ability of the Tehran regime to access the international banking system to be cut off, as well as other punitive measures.

Iran said Saturday that the 2015 nuclear deal with the United States and other key world powers “cannot be renegotiated in any way,” rejecting President Trump’s threat to pull out of the agreement if the other parties do not fix its “disastrous flaws.” Trump, after months of railing against the agreement, signed a waiver on Friday keeping the deal in place for at least 90 days but called for changes, particularly removal of so-called “sunset clauses” that allow Iran to gradually resume advanced nuclear activities in the next decade.

Islamic State

Islamic State militants fleeing strongholds in Syria are leaving behind a treasure trove of records detailing everything from the terror group’s finances to personnel documents on individual fighters. ISIS kept meticulous records, including directives and orders marked with official stamps. Over the past three years, the coalition and local forces have seized “hundreds of terabytes” of data from ISIS computers and storage devices in northern Syria, where U.S.-backed forces are operating, according to the coalition headquarters. Each terabyte can hold more than 80 million pages of Microsoft Word documents. “We did learn a lot about their organizational structure, how they communicated, how they facilitated personnel and finances,” Major General James Jarrard said.

The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) planned to attack the Statue of Liberty in New York City with pressure cooker bombs, it was revealed Tuesday. Munther Omar Saleh, 21, and Fareed Mumuni, 22, both from New York, have pleaded guilty to conspiring to support ISIS and plotting a bomb blast in the city in February 2017, but new details of their plot have come to light. Court filings released ahead of the sentencing of Saleh and Mumuni next month show that they had received instructions on how to build a pressure cooker bomb from an English ISIS operative, and that the pair’s targets included the Statue of Liberty and Times Square. A key figure in the plot was Australian jihadi Neil Prakash, one of the country’s most dangerous militants, who remains in Turkish custody.


A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up in central Baghdad early Monday, killing 27 people and injuring scores more in the first major attack in the capital since Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State in December. The attack breached one of Baghdad’s most secure areas, underscoring the urgency of what Iraqi and American officials have said is a crucial transition from combat to traditional counterterrorism. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings, which came as electoral coalitions began taking shape this week ahead of expected national elections in May. Previous elections have been marred by spasms of terrorism, and Monday’s violence raised concerns that despite the military victory over the Islamic State, this campaign season would be no different.

The future of Iraq remains complicated and challenged by the power of Shiite militias beholden to Iran. The Badr Organization, Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), and Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH)—the three most powerful militias—are part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a government sanctioned umbrella group composed of predominantly Shiite fighters funded by and allied with Iran. Several of the groups fought extensively on behalf of Iran in Syria. One of the factors behind the most recent violence in Iraq is the sectarian divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims in that country, which has customarily made Iraq and Iran enemies.


The U.S. government has issued a warning for American travelers to ‘exercise extreme caution’ in France because of the threat of extremist attacks, after French security services revealed they had foiled as many as 20 plots in 2017. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told Le Progres newspaper that France is no longer safe from the threat of extremism. ‘We have to be vigilant everywhere,’ he said. ‘Today no part of the territory is free of risk.’ A day later, the State Department issued an advisory on its website that told tourists to be extra careful in the country for fear of a spontaneous extremist attack or the execution of a well-planned plot.


A burst of lava that spurted like a fountain and flowed down the side of the Philippines’ most active volcano sent more villagers scrambling for safety Tuesday, as officials warned tourists from entering the danger zone. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said the lava flowed as much as 1.2 miles from the cloud-shrouded crater of Mount Mayon, while ash fell on several villages in northeastern Albay province. At least 34,000 people have been displaced by Mayon’s eruption from two cities and six towns. Many of the people took shelter in schools turned into evacuation centers. The Institute has recorded at least nine tremors in the area, four of which accompanied lava fountains from the volcano, according to Reuters. The activity could mean a possible hazardous eruption is coming within a few days.


A 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck near the coast of Peru early Sunday, leaving at least one person dead and causing damages and power outages. More than 20 have been injured. Officials are working to confirm reports of 17 missing miners, The epicenter was 26 miles south-southwest of the small town Acari in the Arequipa district, with the earthquake hitting at 4:18 a.m. EST at a depth of about 7.5 miles.


For the fourth time this season, a winter storm is impacting the South with snow and ice that has shut down roads, schools and air travel for millions. Winter Storm Inga is bringing snow and ice to the South on Tuesday and will also spread accumulating snow to the East Coast through Wednesday. This won’t be a particularly heavy snow and ice event in much of the South and Northeast, but it will be enough to cause travel problems in those regions. A long band of light to locally moderate snow is ongoing from the interior Northeast southwestward into Kentucky, Tennessee, northern Alabama, northern Mississippi, southern Arkansas, northern Louisiana and Texas.

Thousands were without power last Saturday as Winter Storm Hunter clobbered the Northeast and New England with up to 16 inches of snow in some areas of New York. According to, more than 10,000 residents were without power in New Jersey Saturday morning, while nearly 7,000 remained without power in Massachusetts. A group of 10 hikers was rescued overnight after becoming trapped by two swollen creeks in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest. On Friday, a large pileup closed Interstate 40 in western Tennessee. Residents in the Vermont town of Swanton were forced from their homes overnight by flooding from Winter Storm Hunter.

Days after a series of Southern California mudslides killed at least 20 in Montecito, officials issued new mandatory evacuations Thursday for parts of the city, so crews could focus on rescue and cleanup efforts. No residents will be allowed to return to their homes, and the order might be in place for one or two weeks. Friday morning, officials said at least 4 were missing, but the number could continue to fluctuate as they investigate all missing-person reports. A major coastal highway remained closed in Southern California. Known locally as the Ventura Freeway, California Highway 101 connects Los Angeles with points north, including Santa Barbara, and is closed for “ongoing rescue/recovery & extensive clean-up/repairs,” the California Department of Transportation said in a tweet Saturday.

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 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.”


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.