Posts Tagged ‘gay agenda’

Signs of the Times (11/28/17)

November 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

ADF Fighting Gay Rights & Abortion With the First Amendment

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

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

SPLC Criminalizing Christianity

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

Free Speech Win for Pro-life Students in California

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

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

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

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

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

Uber Hid 2016 Breach, Paid Hackers to Delete Stolen Data

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

Internet Has Become ‘World’s Largest Surveillance Network’

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

Scientists Implant Human Brain Cells in Mice

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

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

New Suicide Machine Includes Detachable Coffin

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

Australia State Legalizes Assisted Suicide

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

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

Bird Flu Rises in South Korea

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

Persecution Watch

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

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

Economic News

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

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

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

Middle East

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

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

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


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


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


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

Outer Space

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

North Korea

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


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


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


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

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

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

Signs of the End-Times (9/21/17)

September 21, 2017

Signs of the End Times

As the Signs of the Times newsletter has evolved and been made available through multiple platforms (email, blog, Twitter, Facebook and website), it is being used for multiple purposes. Initially developed for prayer groups, it is also now trusted as a news source. Therefore, I have limited my personal commentary and will offer my observations from time to time in this new, adjunct report which is exclusively focused on the end times.

End-Time Update

When I was meditating about recent events, it came to me that the world is going to the pits! That got me to thinking about what that expression meant:

  • The dictionary says the pits are “any place of pain and turmoil.” That certainly described a lot of what is going on in the world today

Then the Lord told me that this is an anacronym for what lies ahead

  • P = Prepare – We are currently in a window of time giving us time to prepare. But prepare for what?
    • Not just to survive, but to help and save people
    • Preparing spiritually is more important than anything else, but also physical/emotional/mental
    • We have to conquer fear, hate, anger, depression, etc. or they will bring us down (Prov. 24:10)
  • I = Intensification – As the end-days evolve, everything will intensify
    • g. weather, earthquakes, war, hostility, persecution, murder, etc.
  • T = Tribulation – It’s not here yet, but it’s coming
    • But first, there will be a major war, followed by a peace pact with many signers (Daniel 9:27) ushering in the “man of lawlessness” (2Thess 2:3) and the one-world government (Rev. 13)
  • S = Salvation – i.e. the rapture, but not before we go through a lot of tribulation

So, where are we now?  We are in the time period Jesus called ‘the beginning of sorrows’ (Matthew 24:8)

  • The recent solar eclipse over the United States was a sign – one which drew a line across the U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina
    • Genesis 1:14: And, God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years”
  • But even more so is the next eclipse to come in 7 years. Usually, there are many more years between eclipses in which a total black out of the sun occurs across the U.S.
    • Seven is an important Biblical number indicating divine completion
    • The next eclipse will draw another line across the U.S. from Texas to Maine. The crossing point of the two eclipse paths is St. Louis
  • In essence, the two lines form an X over the U.S. So, what does this mean?
    • I believe it means that America has 7 more years to get right with God or else it is finished as a world power
    • So, let’s get praying as never before!

Where is the USA Seen in Scripture?

It is quite revealing that Scripture says nothing about the world’s greatest superpower – unless it is the Babylon in Revelation. Short of that, it seems as though the USA is set to play a limited role in the end times.

  • However, there is one Scripture to consider. Most end-time prophecy is symbolic in nature. The U.S. came out of England whose crest symbol is that of a lion. The symbol for the USA has been the eagle. We see these two symbols in Daniel 7:4
    • The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.
    • This would indicate that the USA will have its wings plucked off and become an inconsequential player in the end-time scenario

Latest Signs

  • Extreme Weather (Harvey/Irma/Maria)
    • Extreme end-time weather is prophesied in Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)
  • The “Deep State” – run in U.S. by Obama – under the New World Order
    • Bureaucrats and judges have been put in place to tear down Christianity and build up a secular humanistic one-world government (Revelation 13)
  • Wars & Rumors of Wars – there have always been wars and rumors of wars, but never involving so many nations with nuclear weapons (U.S., Russia, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea and soon Iran)
    • The volatile situation with North Korea or a confrontation with Iran could easily trigger a world war
  • Political/military alignment of Russia with Iran (Persia) – as was prophesied in Ezekiel 38-39 prior to a worldwide war against Israel
  • LGBTQ Agenda – Throughout much of the western world, so-called ‘progressives’ have successfully been undermining God’s ordained family structure or one man and one woman
  • Agenda 21/30 – The cause of sustainability and climate change (global warming) are being used as the foundation to form the one-world government of Revelation 13
  • Technocracy – Science over Religion – Technology has become the means by which the New World Order will be established, but technology will give the technocrats control over our lives
    • Internet of Things (e.g. appliances, heat, etc.) – Smart Cities – Smart Meters – Smart Homes – sounds good until they are employed against us
  • Increased Persecution of all things Christian – With little fanfare in the media, an average of 900,000 Christians have been killed per year for their faith over the past decade
  • Digitizing money – The technocrats want to do away with cash – India has been their trial horse where all large denominations have been outlawed
    • With our money simply being blips in a computer somewhere, it will be very easy to erase all the funds of Christians who refuse to take the mark of the beast
  • Computer Chips are being put into people now– employees, medical data, animals – RFID chips
    • These chips (or something similar) will be the mark of the beast without which people will not be able to buy or sell – Taking the mark of the beast will forfeit your salvation (Rev. 13:17, 14:11)
  • Tolerance of everything but Christianity
  • Calling good evil and evil good – Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness (Isaiah 5:20)
  • Itching Ears – For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. (2Timothy 4:3)
  • Self-Centered, Self-Indulgent, Self-Righteous – But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. (2Timothy 3:1-5)

Signs of the Times (4/26/17)

April 26, 2017

American Aid Workers Credit Trump for Release from Prison in Egypt

An American woman and her Egyptian husband who were aid workers in Egypt and were imprisoned over allegations of child abuse and trafficking have been released and have arrived back in the U.S. The Washington Examiner reports that Aya Hijazi and Mohamed Hassanein had been imprisoned in Egypt for three years. President Trump has reportedly been influential in securing the couple’s release. Hijazi and Hassanein waited in prison while the Obama administration carried out unsuccessful negotiations for their release. A family member of the couple even credited Trump with “personally” stepping in to secure the couple’s safe return to the U.S. Trump hosted Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Sissi at the White House on Sunday, and the release of the American couple was reportedly part of that talk.

Congress Faces Looming Government Shutdown by This Weekend

The Senate returned Monday night, and the House returned Tuesday from a two-week recess, leaving just three days when both chambers will be in session to wrangle out a funding agreement. President Trump began to edge away Monday evening from demanding that funding for his promised border wall be included in a must-pass spending bill, reducing the chances of a government shutdown at the end of the week by making clear he’s flexible on that timeline. His earlier demand that it be included represented a significant impasse in budget talks, and the latest comments potentially could pave the way for a bipartisan deal just days ahead of the government shutdown deadline. White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway confirmed to “Fox & Friends” Tuesday morning that the wall does not need to be funded this week, but she said it remains a “very important priority.” Congress is under pressure to pass a $1 trillion spending bill that would pay for government agencies; if the bill fails to pass by midnight Friday, it will trigger a partial government shutdown.

Judge Blocks Trump’s Order to Cut Funding for Sanctuary Cities

President Trump on Wednesday accused political opponents of “judge shopping” in their bid to block some of his signature executive orders and vowed to take his case to the Supreme Court – after a federal judge blocked his attempt to cut off sanctuary city funding. That ruling, and another suspending his ban on travel from certain majority-Muslim countries, both involved federal judges in California. The San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in February upheld a Hawaii judge’s ruling against the travel ban. A District Court judge also based in northern California said Tuesday the Trump administration couldn’t threaten to take away funding from cities that have policies favorable to illegal immigrants. Trump vowed to take the cases to the Supreme Court which has reversed 79 percent of the Ninth Circuit’s cases from 2010-2015, the third highest rate of any circuit court, according to Politifact.

Trump Proposes Corporate Tax Cut, Increase in Standard Deduction

President Trump on Wednesday called for a significant increase in the standard deduction people can claim on their tax returns, potentially putting thousands of dollars each year into the pockets of tens of millions of Americans, according to two people briefed on the plan. The change is one of several major revisions to the federal tax code that the White House will propose when it provides an outline of the tax-overhaul pitch Trump will make to Congress and the American people as he nears his 100th day in office, reports the Washington Post. Trump will also call for a sharp reduction in the corporate tax rate, from 35 percent to 15 percent, as well as lowering the tax rate for millions of small businesses that now file their tax returns under the individual tax code. These companies, often referred to as “pass throughs” or S corporations, would become subject to the 15 percent rate proposed for corporations. White House officials think these changes will give Americans and companies more money to spend, expand the economy and create more jobs. Critics, however, say that this ‘trickle down’ economic theory has not worked in the past and will put the government further into debt.

Unprecedented Spike in Homegrown Terrorism

John Kelly, secretary of homeland security, said Tuesday the FBI has open investigations into terrorists in all 50 states. In his first wide-ranging address on the terrorist threat since taking office, Kelly also said there have been at least 37 “ISIS-linked plots to attack our country” since 2013. Kelly said there have been 36 homegrown terrorist cases in 18 states in the past year alone. “We’ve seen an unprecedented spike in homegrown terrorism,” he divulged. “These are the cases we know about – homegrown terrorism is notoriously difficult to predict and control.” Terrorists inside the U.S. are plotting attacks “every single day,” according to the secretary. Those who enter the country undetected pose the biggest threat to the country. “We don’t get to vet them,” Kelly noted. “We don’t know their intentions. We don’t know they’re here. They slip into our country unnoticed, living among us, and we are completely blind as to what they are capable of.”

The New U.S. Housing Crisis

A decade after the Great Recession, there is a new American housing crisis: a flood of people entering the rental market, a trend of nationwide rent prices rising faster than incomes, and a breakdown of the government program designed to bridge the gap. The federal government spends $20 billion each year on that program, distributing Section 8 vouchers that allow people to find housing and have the government pay most of the rent. However, the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported to Congress that 7.7 million poor American households have severe housing needs. For every 100 low-income households, there are only 39 affordable places to live. Housing authorities across the country have filtered people into lottery systems and waiting lists to handle the demand for Section 8 vouchers, with little way to know how long the wait will be. Some Arizona families wait as long as six years.

New Trump Executive Order Could Undermine National Monuments

President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday calling into question the future of dozens of national monuments proclaimed by the last three presidents to set aside millions of acres from development. In asking Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for an unprecedented review of national monuments, Trump may force a question never before tested in the 111-year history of the Antiquities Act: Whether one president can nullify a previous president’s proclamation establishing a national monument. Trump’s executive order takes aim at 21 years of proclamations beginning in 1996. That time frame encompasses the “bookends” of two of the most controversial national monument designations in recent history: President Clinton’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996 to President Obama’s Bears Ears National Monument in 2016. Both are in Utah, and faced opposition from the congressional delegation and state officials. Zinke was careful Tuesday to say there’s no predetermined outcome to his review.

Pollsters Fail to Mention Trump Would Still Beat Clinton

President Trump took a few more shots Monday at his old nemesis – the pollsters who confidently predicted his loss last year – after new surveys were released playing up the president’s low approval ratings at the end of his first 100 days. But the same polling also buried some more positive news for the president: he’d still beat Hillary Clinton in a head-to-head matchup, according to one survey. The Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that 43 percent said they would support Trump if the election were held today, compared with 40 percent for the former Democratic nominee, Clinton.

Fracking Does Not Contaminate Groundwater Says Duke Study

A major anti-fracking argument by environmentalists may not have the facts to back it up, a new study conducted by Duke University found. Fracking has not contaminated groundwater in northwestern West Virginia, according to the study.  “Based on consistent evidence from comprehensive testing, we found no indication of groundwater contamination over the three-year course of our study,” explained Avner Vengosh, the professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. While the study concluded that fracking didn’t directly contaminate groundwater, the researchers did say accidental spills of fracking wastewater could be dangerous to surface water in the area. To complete the research, water samples from 112 drinking wells in northwestern West Virginia were evaluated during a three-year period.

Persecution Watch

A lesbian high-school math teacher in Florida just banned Christian ninth-grade students from wearing cross necklaces in class. The teacher called the Christian crosses “gang symbols” and forced the ninth grader to remove her cross necklace during class, telling the young girl the cross was “disrespectful.” Liberty Counsel says, “Sadly, this is the nature of our battle against the radical LGBT agenda. Their goal is simple. They want to intimidate us and bully us into silence. And they will attack anyone who stands in their way to push their agenda.” Liberty Counsel sent a letter to the school district demanding the administration to stop this teacher’s attacks on student religious expression and to prohibit this teacher from pushing her personal LGBT agenda on students.

The Christian Action Network says that the U.S. Department of Education is funding an Islamic education program in the public schools that crosses the line from academics to indoctrination. The curriculum includes 10 lesson plans on the “Five Pillars of Islam” and “Prayer in Muslim Life” and “Ramadan Observance. Teachers are to quiz students on such questions as, “What does a Muslim prayer sound like?” and “What are some of the things that Muslims say while they are praying?” Students are expected to construct a poster on the “Five Pillars of Islam.” These are then posted in the classroom and in the halls. You can only imagine the reaction of the ACLU and other civil libertarians if students were asked to make a poster of the Ten Commandments and then put those posters up in their room or in the school hallways.

Economic News

Consumer confidence dipped in April but remained near a 16-year high amid solid job and income growth. An index of Americans’ outlook fell to 120.3 from a downwardly revised 124.9 in March, the Conference Board said Tuesday. That’s still near the all-time high of 128.6 reached in December 2000. Consumer confidence is closely watched because it can indicate future consumption, which makes up about 70% of economic activity. In recent months, however, both consumers and businesses have voiced high levels of optimism in surveys that has not yet translated into stronger spending.

The Dow Jones industrial average shot up more than 200 points early Tuesday, powered by strong earnings from key companies in the blue-chip stock-market gauge, including Caterpillar and McDonald’s. Technology stocks also rallied, pushing the Nasdaq composite above 6,000 for the first time. The Dow’s strong move builds on Monday’s 216-point gain driven by market-friendly results in the first round of France’s presidential election. The 30-stock average is on track for its first back-to-back gains of more than 100 points since Jan. 24-25, when it topped 20,000 for the first time.

The wealth of the top 0.1% has vastly improved in recent decades, and the top 10% have also done quite well. But the median household’s wealth has declined by close to 40% in real terms (adjusted by inflation) from its peak in 2007, reports NewsMax Finance. Median household increases in wealth are also tenuous because the main component of household wealth is pension fund assets which have been seriously underfunded. The top 0.1% of U.S. households own more than the lower 90% of households. It’s this ever-growing disparity between the super-wealthy and the average citizen—and its overall impact on the economy—that is most troublesome.

Male physicians are getting paid a lot more than their female colleagues. Among all physicians, females earn an average of 74 cents for every dollar a man makes, according to a new report from Doximity, a social network for healthcare professionals. That translates to female physicians earning roughly $91,000 less a year than their male counterparts. Even when broken down by medical specialty, there is no area where women earn as much as men. The report was based on 36,000 responses from full-time, licensed U.S. physicians who practice at least 40 hours a week.


Israel’s National Authority for Cyber Defense announced on Wednesday that it had, in recent days, fought off a cyberattack against 120 Israeli organizations including several private companies, government ministries, public institutions and universities. A private analytical firm assessed that the cyber-attack was similar to past attacks linked to Iran’s government. Also on Wednesday, an attempted terrorist stabbing attack by a knife-wielding Palestinian man on Israeli security forces stationed near Huwara in the West Bank was prevented when the attacker was shot and wounded before being arrested. The terrorist was treated at the scene while no one else was hurt in the incident.

Islamic State

Iraq’s military has turned the tables on the Islamic State’s drone tactics by improvising its own unmanned aircraft to drop grenades and other small munitions on the militants in the key battle for Mosul, U.S. officials say. The development comes as the threat from Islamic State drones has been effectively neutralized with the help of U.S. and coalition forces, which rushed counter-drone technology to the battle for the city. Earlier this year Mosul became a proving ground for the emerging threat of cheap drones used by terror groups. The militants were using the small unmanned aircraft for both attacks and surveillance.


Basking in his referendum win this month, which altered the constitution to give him sweeping new powers, Erdogan appears intent on testing the limits of his opponents, and some of his allies, too. Turkey carried out airstrikes against U.S. allies in Syria and Iraq on Tuesday. A day later, it was revealed that his government had detained another 1,000 “opposition” figures, in an ongoing purge that has outraged Europe. The airstrikes in Syria and Iraq mark an escalation by Turkey and put it in direct conflict with the US-led coalition’s mission against ISIS there. Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the America’s main ally the fight against ISIS in Syria, said more than 20 of their fighters together were killed in the airstrikes Tuesday. The People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish faction of the Syrian Democratic Forces, is considered a terrorist group by Turkey’s government, while it is armed and supported by the United States.


U.S. military officials said they have seen an increasing number of small arms provided by the Russian government, including machine guns and antiaircraft weapons, in the hands of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan over the past 18 months. U.S. officials have complained that the Kremlin has interfered on the Afghan battlefield on the Taliban’s side, but Monday’s comments marked the most serious U.S. charges yet. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who arrived in Kabul on an unannounced visit on Monday, said it would be a violation of international law for Russia to provide the Taliban with weapons.


Police detained 29 people in Paris on Sunday after “anti-fascist” demonstrators became violent – hurling glass bottles and firecrackers and setting cars ablaze. Six officers and three demonstrators were injured during the protests at the Place de la Bastille. Several businesses sustained damage. Many of the left-wing protesters said they were angry at the first-round results of the presidential election in which centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen emerged as the two top vote getters. Macron and Le Pen will both square off in a runoff scheduled for May 7. Le Pen, the leader of the anti-immigrant, anti-Islam National Front party, has accused her rival of being “weak” in the fight against Islamic terrorism. She has pledged to “put back France in order.” A senior French Muslim leader has called on the country’s nearly 5 million Muslims to “vote massively” to make Macron president.

North Korea

A former Korean-American professor reportedly has been arrested in North Korea, raising to three the number of U.S. citizens now detained by Kim Jong Un’s regime. The Yonhap news agency in South Korea reported that the U.S. citizen, identified by his surname Kim, was arrested Friday at Pyongyang International Airport as he was attempting to leave the country. Yonhap described Kim as a former professor at the Yanbian University of Science and Technology in Yanji, Jilin, China. Yonhap said Kim, in his late 50s, had been involved in aid programs in North Korea and had most recently been there for about a month. The reason for his arrest was not immediately available.

North Korea on Tuesday reportedly conducted a huge live-fire drill that involved up to 400 artillery pieces, which may have been supervised by the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, as the U.S. added a nuclear-powered submarine to its fleet of vessels powering toward the region. Meanwhile, the entire U.S. Senate has been invited to the White House for a briefing on Wednesday about the North Korea situation.


A U.S. Navy destroyer had another close encounter with an Iranian Revolutionary Guard “fast attack craft” in the Persian Gulf Monday. The Iranian ship, with its weapons manned, came within 1,000 yards of the guided missile destroyer USS Mahan. Officials said the Mahan altered course to avoid the Iranian warship, sounded the danger signal, fired flares and manned its own weapons. The Iranian ship did not come closer than 1,000 yards and no warning shots were fired. “Coming inbound at a high rate of speed like that and manning weapons, despite clear warnings from the ship, is obviously provocative behavior,” said one American official in describing the Iranian actions.

Despite U.S. government conclusions to the contrary, Iran is cheating on the 2015 nuclear deal and is actively weaponizing nukes, according to the National Council of Resistance of Iran. NCRI unveiled intelligence and satellite imagery in recent days that is says it proof of Iranian actions that violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It also alleges that the activity is taking place in areas and facilities that are off limits to regular inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency.


Protesters sprawled in lawn chairs, worked on math homework and played cards on main roads and highways around Venezuela Monday as part of a sit-in against the government. In Caracas, thousands of protesters shut down the capital city’s main highway to express their disgust with the increasingly embattled socialist administration of President Nicolas Maduro. They turned the road into a kind of public plaza, with protesters laying out picnics, reading books and reclining under umbrellas they brought to protect them from the blazing Caribbean sun. Protesters dragged concrete slabs, garbage and even a bathtub into the road. Protesters in least a dozen other cities also staged sit-ins Monday, with some constructing barricades to stop traffic. The protest movement is entering its fourth week, and has become increasingly deadly. On Sunday, a 21st death was linked to the unrest that began almost a month ago over the Supreme Court’s decision to gut the opposition-controlled congress of its powers. Food shortages and high inflation have plagued oil-rich but cash-starved Venezuela for months.


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, whose controversial war on drugs has left more than 8,000 dead in just nine months, is encountering increased opposition from one of the country’s most powerful institutions: the Roman Catholic Church. Priests and bishops in this heavily Catholic nation were initially quiet after Duterte assumed office last summer and began a violent crackdown on suspected drug dealers that included vigilante death squads. But this year, the powerful Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines issued a pastoral letter that condemned Duterte’s war on drugs as a “reign of terror.” Despite the church’s condemnations, his war on drugs has not slowed down. Duterte condemned the Catholic Church, using provocative language. He called Pope Francis “a son of a bitch,” and last month called the church one of the “oligarchs of this country.”


For the first time since the 1880s, the United Kingdom was fully powered without the use of coal for an entire day. On April 21, Britain’s energy demands were met for 24 hours with no need for coal generation. The country was powered with a mix of 50 percent gas, 21 percent nuclear, 12 percent wind, 8 percent imports, roughly 6 percent biomass and about 4 percent solar power. The coal generation was born in 1882 when public coal-powered electric supply first began in the U.K. “The first day without coal in Britain since the Industrial Revolution marks a watershed in the energy transition,” Greenpeace U.K. head of energy Hannah Martin told the Guardian. “A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable, and in 10 years’ time our energy system will have radically transformed again.”


A 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck just off the coast of Chile Monday evening, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The tremor shook the South American country at 6:38 p.m. local time. The epicenter was located about 25 miles west of Valparaiso, Chile, at a depth of 15.5 miles. Buildings swayed in the Chilean capital city of Santiago, some 70 miles to the east. Chile is no stranger to massive earthquakes. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. An 8.8 magnitude quake in 2010 triggered a large tsunami; the seismic event was one of the largest ever recorded and was responsible for at least 500 deaths.


A large Arizona wildfire grew to more than 20.000 acres (31 square miles) overnight as winds continue to fan the flames. In the small town of Sonoita, residents of more than 80 properties were ordered to evacuate as the so-called Sawmill fire burns in the Coronado National Forest in southern Arizona. Nearly 90 other homes have been voluntarily evacuated. A 15-mile stretch of State Route 83, which cuts through the mountains from Sonoita north toward Tucson, has been closed. The fire that began on Sunday is “human caused” and under investigation. Conditions in the region have been exceedingly dry. Green Valley has seen just 0.43 inches of precipitation since Feb. 1 – about 25 percent of their average for that period. “It only takes a cigarette flicked out of a moving vehicle,” he said. “Or maybe even a hot vehicle pulling off the side of the road into this dense underbrush that can create a fire,” said a Green Valley Fire Department spokesperson.

Scattered rainfall in Florida gave firefighters some relief in the fight against wildfires that have consumed homes and caused thousands to evacuate. However, the threat of the blazes remains and the rain will not be enough to end the drought. The Florida Forest Service said that more than 115 wildfires were burning in the Sunshine State over the weekend and almost 30,000 acres had been torched. In Collier County, all evacuation orders related to a fire in the area were lifted Sunday, according to the Collier County Sheriff. The blaze known as the 30th Avenue Fire had grown rapidly since it broke out on Thursday and several homes were destroyed. Another 2,000 homes had been evacuated on Friday and 5,000 homes had been placed under a voluntary evacuation order. As of Monday, 11 square miles have been consumed by the blaze which was 65 percent contained.


Heavy rainfall in parts of Florida triggered flooding that left behind damage and caused power outages Sunday. The deluge is part of a slow-moving weather system forecasted to bring the risk of a few severe storms and flooding rainfall to the Southeast states into the evening. Localized areas of South Florida picked up more than 6 inches of rain Sunday. Heavy rain, combined with high tide, triggered significant flooding of multiple streets in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, early Monday morning. Sunday and Sunday night, parts of the southern Appalachians were hardest hit. Roads were flooded and closed in Surry and Wilkes Counties, North Carolina. Torrential rain triggered widespread flash flooding in the Raleigh, North Carolina, metro area early Tuesday morning, swamping homes, businesses, closing roads and stranding vehicles. Crabtree Creek north of downtown Raleigh, rose over 17 feet since Monday morning at Old Wake Forest Road, topping levels at which water enters businesses and homes in the area.

Portions of the Northeast will enjoy a taste of summer late this week into the weekend and some cities, including Washington D.C., could record their first 90-degree day of the year. The jet stream will bulge northward into eastern Canada to allow a warm, southerly wind flow to develop across the East, which will send temperatures to the warmest readings of the year so far in parts of the region. Temperatures will be 15 to 30 degrees above average for the final week of April. However, severe thunderstorms, including a threat for tornadoes, will be a threat for the next several days through at least the weekend in parts of the South and Midwest. In the Rockies and High Plains, a snowstorm is likely to mark the end of April.

Signs of the Times (11/1/16)

November 1, 2016

Supreme Court Takes Up School Bathroom Rules for Transgender Students

The Supreme Court said Friday that it will decide whether the Obama administration may require public school systems to let transgender students use bathrooms that align with their gender identity, putting the court once again at the center of a divisive social issue. School districts across the country are split on how to accommodate transgender students amid conflicting guidance from courts, the federal government and, in some cases, state legislatures that have passed laws requiring people to use public restrooms that match the sex on their birth certificates. The justices accepted a petition from the School Board of Gloucester County, Va., seeking to overturn a lower court’s order that 17-year-old Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male, be allowed to use the boys’ restroom during his senior year of high school. It is the most high-profile case the eight-member court has accepted since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February. The case will not be heard until next year, and it is unclear whether Scalia’s seat will be filled by then.

A Wide Variety of Significant State Ballot Measures on Tap

While this year’s explosive presidential politics have drowned out battles at the state level, voters across the country nevertheless face a daunting number of weighty ballot questions on Nov. 8 – ranging from an effort to abolish the death penalty to one that would usher in a state-run health care system. Other states are jumping on the bandwagon of weighing marijuana legalization, while minimum-wage hikes, gun control and even a statewide plastic-bag ban are being put to voters. As usual, California leads in the number of statewide ballot measures with 17, including ones that revisit two hot-button social issues from the past. At the top of the list are two competing measures regarding the death penalty – one (Proposition 62) putting an end to it and replacing it with life without parole. The other (Proposition 66) puts time limits on appeals in an attempt to fast-track executions. If both measures get a majority, the one that receives the most “yes” votes wins. California is also voting on Proposition 58, which would allow public schools to restart controversial bilingual programs.

In neighboring Nevada, voters are considering a far-reaching electricity deregulation measure known as Question 3. If approved, it would insert language into the state constitution to require an “open, competitive retail electricity market.” Supporters see it as a way of breaking the public utility monopoly and jump-starting a marketplace filled with clean, alternative energy providers. Colorado voters are being asked to approve ColoradoCare, which would finance a $36-billion “universal healthcare” system to cover almost all Coloradans. To do so, Amendment 69 imposes a 10-percent payroll tax on employers, who would pay two-thirds of it, and employees, who would pay the remaining third. Voters in Democratic-leaning Oregon also are being asked to slap a tax increase – 2.5 percent on gross sales in excess of $25 million – on some of the state’s largest employers. Five states are considering the legalization of marijuana for recreational uses (Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada).

Minimum-wage fights will play out on five state ballots. Arizona, Colorado and Maine voters will consider initiatives that would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. Washington’s minimum-wage measure would raise it to $13.50 by 2020 and mandate that many employers provide paid sick leave. In South Dakota, voters face a referendum on a law that would lower the minimum wage for under-18 workers from $8.50 an hour to $7.50 an hour – an effort supporters say would reduce teen unemployment.

FBI Roils Election with Email Probe

In an unprecedented move, FBI Director James Comey threw a monkey-wrench into the November 8 Presidential election by sending a letter to Congress indicating that the FBI is reopening the Hillary Clinton classified email probe. The basis for reopening the closed case was the additional emails found on disgraced Congressman’s Andrew Weiner’s laptop. Weiner is under investigation for sexting a 15-year old girl. Thousands of emails involving Clinton and her top aide, Huma Abedin, Weiner’s estranged wife, were found on the laptop. While no charges were filed against Clinton in the original probe that called her handling of classified material “extremely careless,” a renewed probe could possibly result in criminal charges which would throw the election into turmoil. Clinton has asked for a full disclosure of these emails while Abedin has apparently retreated off the campaign trail into hiding. The Department of Justice reprimanded Comey for taking an investigation public in violation of normal FBI protocol.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch ‘Pleads the Fifth’ Over Iran Payment

According to a new report from The Washington Free Beacon, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is refusing to answer any questions about her role in the Obama administration’s $1.7 billion cash payment to Iran that coincided with the release of several Americans in Iranian custody. Effectively, she’s “pleading the fifth” to avoid incriminating herself over these payments, according to lawmakers and communications made public in the Free Beacon report. At issue is a series of questions asked by U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) over how the payment to Iran was approved and delivered. In an Oct. 24 response, Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik responded on Lynch’s behalf, refusing to answer the questions and informing the lawmakers that they are barred from publicly disclosing any details about the cash payment. The response from the attorney general’s office is “unacceptable” and provides evidence that Lynch has chosen to “essentially plead the fifth and refuse to respond to inquiries regarding [her] role in providing cash to the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism,” Rubio and Pompeo wrote on Friday in a follow-up letter to Lynch.

NAACP Sues North Carolina Over Voting Registration Purge

The NAACP filed suit in federal court on Monday against the North Carolina State Board of Elections, arguing that state officials in at least three counties have canceled “thousands” of voter registrations. Lawyers for the civil rights group say that boards of elections in Beaufort, Moore and Cumberland counties have canceled thousands of voter registrations after a small number of individuals challenged the registration of approximately 4,500 voters based “exclusively on mass mailings that were returned as undeliverable.” They argue the “en-masse” cancellation was done in violation of the National Voter Registration Act that prohibits systemic voter removal programs within 90 days of a federal election and that it disproportionately targeted African-American voters. CNN identified several who are alive and still living within the county. “In many cases, voters purged by defendants still reside at the address where they are registered to vote, or have moved within the county and remain eligible to vote there,” NAACP lawyers argued. Under North Carolina law any voter in a county can challenge the eligibility of any other county voter up to 25 days before the election.

Migrants from Around the World Sneaking Across U.S. Border

Arrest data from the Homeland Security Department reported that an increasing number of people from around the globe have tried to sneak in the U.S. among the hundreds of thousands of other, mostly Latin American migrants caught at the Mexican border within the last year. More than 408,000 people were caught illegally crossing the Mexican border in the last year. The arrests suggest a rising trend in migrants searching for an alternative route into the U.S. from across the seas to South America, then over land to Central America and finally through Mexico before arriving at the U.S. border illegally. While in the past Mexico has led the numbers for most immigrants using the border to come to the U.S. illegally, that number has since dropped significantly in recent years. India and China are now among the top 10 countries of origin for people caught trying to sneak into the United States. In 2013 Mexican immigration authorities arrested fewer than 1,000 migrants from Asia and Africa, while the number rose to nearly 11,000 from January through August of this year. The uptick in arrivals of people from other continents, combined with an increase in overall border crossings in the last 12 months, has led to a spike of more than 40,000 people being held in immigration jails.

Obamacare Price Increases Vary Widely by State

As Obamacare enrollment began Tuesday, the impact of an average 22% rise in benchmark plan prices will vary wildly depending on where you live. While Obamacare plans on some state exchanges will have modest price increases, others will have staggering hikes. The premium for the benchmark plan is more than doubling in Arizona, to an average of $422 a month for a 27-year-old enrollee. In Oklahoma, it’s increasing 69% to $424. Monthly premiums range from a low of $219 in New Hampshire and Massachusetts to $760 in Alaska. Nationally, 85% of those enrolled receive a tax credit, which is based on the price of the second-lowest cost silver plan and an enrollee’s income. These subsidies put a limit on how much enrollees have to pay, thus passing along the price increase to taxpayers.

Deadly Fire Shuts Down Key U.S. Pipeline

A crucial pipeline that carries gasoline and other fuel to the U.S. East Coast has been shut down for the second time in two months, bringing a new threat of price hikes at the pump. A fire broke out Monday afternoon along a section of the Colonial Pipeline in Alabama, killing one person and injuring five others, the pipeline operator said. Images from the scene showed a massive plume of flames and smoke towering over nearby trees. The blaze, which continued to rage late Monday, prompted the closure of the pipeline, which stretches from Houston to New York and provides gasoline for 50 million people, according to company estimates. AAA said the shutdown is likely to cause gas prices to rise in the southeastern and mid-Atlantic regions of the country. In early September, part of the pipeline was closed for nearly two weeks because of a huge gasoline leak. That caused gas prices to spike by 28 cents in Georgia and 17 cents in Tennessee, according to AAA.

U.S. Inmates Launch a Nationwide Strike

Last month, on the 45th anniversary of the infamous Attica Prison uprising, tens of thousands of U.S. inmates launched a nationwide protest that continues today, according to advocates who helped organize the effort. The inmates’ grievances are as varied as the states they came from: Pennies for labor in South Carolina, racial discrimination in California, excessive force in Michigan. However, they share an overarching goal: End legalized slavery inside American correctional facilities. Jails and prisons don’t have to be comfortable, but the US Supreme Court has said they’re not supposed to be dangerous or dehumanizing. Yet the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution, while banning slavery, allows prisoners to work for little to no pay, in what inmate advocates say crosses the limits of human decency, amounting to modern-day servitude. Since September 9, the Incarcerated Workers’ Organizing Committee, a prisoner rights advocacy group, estimates as many as 50,000 inmates have taken part in coordinated strikes planned through social media on cell phones and snail mail across nearly two-dozen states, claims that have not been independently verified.

Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops Unfulfilled

The controversy over genetically modified crops has long focused on  fears that they are unsafe to eat. But an extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides. The promise of genetic modification was twofold: By making crops immune to the effects of weed-killers and inherently resistant to many pests, they would grow so robustly that they would become indispensable to feeding the world’s growing population, while also requiring fewer applications of sprayed pesticides. Twenty years ago, Europe largely rejected genetic modification at the same time the United States and Canada were embracing it. Comparing results on the two continents, using independent data as well as academic and industry research, shows how the technology has fallen well short of the promise.

Economic News

Europe and Canada just signed a wide-ranging free trade agreement on Sunday, to make it easier and cheaper to conduct trans-Atlantic trade in goods and services. European officials say the deal, which eliminates 99% of tariffs, will ultimately save European companies 500 million euros or about $548 million per year. The deal, called CETA, also makes it easier for European companies to bid on Canadian government contracts, and vice versa. Europeans will get easier access to investments in Canada, and vice versa.

Mexico’s economy only grew 2% between July and September, compared to the same time a year ago, the government announced Monday, it’s worst quarterly growth in two years. The government has cut spending, manufacturing production has been weak and consumer confidence has declined, all holding down overall growth. Low oil prices, and weak demand from Americans also held back Mexico during the quarter, economists say. Trade with other nations — largely with America — makes up over a third of Mexico’s economy.

Islamic State

Tens of thousands of men, women and children have been snatched from their homes and forced into the center of Mosul as the battle intensifies to drive ISIS out of Iraq’s second-largest city. Using these civilians as human shields is ISIS’s attempt to hold onto the city, the jewel of its self-proclaimed caliphate. No one expected the militants to surrender Mosul without a fight. But for Iraqis still living under ISIS control in the city and surrounding areas, every option now is grim. It’s a horrifying prospect: be killed by ISIS or be killed in the attacks to defeat ISIS.

Iraqi forces were on the doorstep of ISIS-held Mosul on Tuesday, encountering snipers, landmines and road-blocking boulders to edge ever closer to the key city. Troops came within hundreds of meters from Mosul on Monday evening and are now the closest they’ve been since launching an operation two weeks ago to wrest the city from more than two years of ISIS rule. Officials have said that entering Mosul will likely trigger the fiercest fighting seen yet in the offensive, and that the battle is expected to be fought “street to street,” or even “house to house.”


The U.S. government has ordered all civilian family members of its Istanbul consulate staff to leave Turkey because of increasing threats from terrorist organizations, according to a travel warning issued Saturday by the U.S. State Department. “The Department of State made this decision based on security information indicating extremist groups are continuing aggressive efforts to attack U.S. citizens in areas of Istanbul where they reside or frequent,” the warning said. Turkey has become increasingly volatile in the past year because of terrorist attacks at home and its involvement in the Syrian civil war.

Turkey has detained 13 journalists in an ongoing wave of government crackdowns following a coup attempt in July. The Turkish government has accused the journalists of publishing stories to “legitimize the coup d’etat” just before the July 15 coup attempt. The journalists are accused of crimes on behalf of enemies of the state. Supporters of the newspaper, including opposition politicians, protested the move outside the publication’s Istanbul offices Monday. The arrests followed a weekend during which more than 10,000 public servants were fired and over a dozen media companies were shut down.


India and Pakistan say 13 civilians have been killed in cross-border shelling from both sides of the Line of Control, the de facto border between the two countries in the disputed region of Kashmir. At least seven civilians on the Indian side of the Line of Control were killed Tuesday and 15 others injured in shelling that came from the Pakistani side, according to local Indian authorities. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that six civilians on the Pakistani side had been killed by shelling from India Monday, and eight injured. Neither side has responded to the allegations of ceasefire violations that have been made against the other. India and Pakistan have been fighting over the region since both countries gained their independence in 1947.


Many Haitians are still struggling to get clean drinking water after Hurricane Matthew contaminated or damaged reservoirs and pipe networks across the country’s southern peninsula. Sewage from the latrines that are commonly used in rural Haiti overflowed, ocean storm surge damaged infrastructure and wells were submerged by flooded rivers carrying cholera bacteria. Now, nearly a month after the Category 4 storm hit the island nation, residents cannot get enough clean water to drink, let alone bathe, in places like the town of Coteaux, adding to the misery in an area where many people lost their homes, crops and livestock. Roughly 90 percent of the piped water supply systems in southwest Haiti were damaged by the storm. Many people still had been sleeping in cars or evacuated to shelters or hotels in other areas after a pair of strong jolts on Wednesday, and 1,300 had been evacuated to the coast, with more to follow.


Central Italy was rocked by a 6.6 magnitude earthquake Sunday morning, making it the latest temblor to strike the region since Wednesday. The quake was centered about 4 miles north of Norica, Italy, and hit at 7:40 a.m. local time. Last Wednesday’s 6.1 and 5.5 magnitude earthquakes were also centered in this same general area, along with many aftershocks in the following days. The head of Italy’s civil protection agency, Fabrizio Curcio, said there were no immediate reports of deaths, but that some people had suffered injuries as numerous buildings that had resisted the previous temblors collapsed. Many roads were blocked by rockslides. More than 15,000 people are being housed in temporary shelters. Several churches were destroyed, including the 14th century Basilica of St. Benedict, built on the traditional birthplace of St. Benedict, founder of the Benedictine monastic order; and the Cathedral of St. Mary Argentea, known for its 15th century frescoes. Experts say they can’t exclude the possibility that there will be more, possibly stronger aftershocks in the area near Norcia .


Dozens of daily record highs were broken Monday, making it the hottest Halloween on record in parts of the heat-weary South and Plains states. Records fell in Atlanta, Georgia (86 degrees), Huntsville, Alabama (88 degrees), and Tallahassee, Florida (90 degrees). A number of other cities reached 90 degrees on Halloween, including Colby, Kansas, Dodge City, Kansas, Garden City, Kansas, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Meridian, Mississippi, Montgomery, Alabama, Albany, Georgia, and Macon, Georgia.

Signs of the Times (9/20/13)

September 20, 2016

Terrorist Bomb in New York City

A powerful explosion from a explosive device injured at least 29 people in New York’s popular Chelsea neighborhood on Saturday night. N.Y. Gov. Cuomo says the NYC blast was ‘terrorism. The explosion came just after 8:30 p.m. ET at 133 W. 23rd St., between Sixth and Seventh Avenue in a neighborhood known for its vibrant nightlife. City officials said police located the explosive device in the street next to a trash bin. The explosion was so powerful it blew out the windows in a nearby building. The city’s fire department said none of the victims had life-threatening injuries, but witnesses reported seeing victims cut by shrapnel, metal fragments and glass. After an initial news conference, a second device believed to be a pressure cooker was found on West 27th Street, four blocks from the initial blast on West 23rd, according to New York Police Department. The NYPD tweeted at about 2:24 a.m. ET Sunday that, the “suspicious device on West 27 Street” had been safely removed by the bomb squad.

A suspect was taken into custody Monday after authorities issued a wanted poster, raided an apartment and began to link the blast with another bomb found in the city and others in New Jersey. Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Afghan descent, was taken into custody following a shootout in Linden, N.J. Bollwage said Rahami and at least one officer was wounded. Authorities were led to suspect by a fingerprint found on an unexploded device, A notebook found on New York and New Jersey bombings suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami contained ramblings about terrorists and also mentioned Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American imam who was a spokesman for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The reference to Awlaki, who was killed in 2011 and has been a source of inspiration for several terrorist attacks. Authorities say Rahami’s wife left America a few days before the attack. Rahami was “completely different” after what friends thought was a trip to Afghanistan several years ago. Two years before Ahmad Khan Rahami went on a bombing rampage in New York and New Jersey, his father told the police that the son was a terrorist, prompting a review by federal agents, according to two senior law enforcement officials as reported in the New York Times.

Several Bombs Found in New Jersey, One Explodes at Charity Race

A pipe-bomb-style device detonated in a garbage can at the start of the route of a Marine Corps charity race at Seaside Park Saturday morning, injuring no one but sparking a massive law-enforcement response and suspicions of terrorism. The device went off about 9:35 a.m. ET near the starting point of the Seaside Semper Five 5K. At a brief news conference Saturday afternoon, Brad Cohen, the Special Agent in Charge of the Newark FBI Office, said the agency was taking the lead in investigation, specifically the agency’s Joint-Terrorism task force. The Elizabeth, N.J., mayor says a suspicious device exploded outside a train station early Monday. The device was one of five that two men found in a trash can.

Islamic Terrorist Stabs 8 People in Minnesota Mall

A man dressed as a security guard who talked about Allah stabbed eight people at a shopping mall Saturday evening before he was fatally shot by an off-duty police officer. ISIS on Sunday morning claimed responsibility for the attack, saying, “The executor of the stabbing attacks in Minnesota yesterday was a soldier of the Islamic State and carried out the operation in response to calls to target the citizens of countries belonging to the crusader coalition,” the statement said. According to St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, the shooting happened inside Macy’s. Eight patients were taken to St. Cloud Hospital. On Sunday morning, hospital Communications Specialist Chris Nelson told the Times that five were released, and three were admitted with injuries that were not life-threatening. Anderson said the attacker, who was armed with a knife, reportedly made references to Allah during the attack and asked at least one person whether they were Muslim. The attacker has been identified as 22-year-old Dahir A. Adan. Adan went to college in St. Cloud and worked for a private security firm at the time of the attack.

Syria Charges U.S. Led Attack on Syrian Forces

The U.S. military said it halted a series of airstrikes Saturday in eastern Syria after Russia warned the United States that it mistakenly struck and killed Syrian military forces. The Russian Defense Ministry said 62 Syrians were killed in the strike, and the Syrian government said the coalition airstrike allowed the Islamic State to advance around Deir el-Zour province where the attack took place. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said U.S. forces halted the attack when informed by Russia it was possible they were striking Syrian regime personnel and vehicles. She said U.S. officials were investigating the incident. The accusations come only days after the United States and Russia reached a fragile ceasefire agreement in Syria that was designed to lead to broader military cooperation between the two countries in Syria.

World Leaders Gather to Combat Superbugs

Global health experts are so alarmed by the threat of superbugs that the United Nations will convene heads of state to tackle the health problem. World leaders will gather on Wednesday with doctors and other experts for a high-level meeting to discuss the root of the problem – antimicrobial resistance – at the UN General Assembly. They are expected to adopt a political declaration that would then go to the full assembly to be adopted as a resolution. Superbugs threaten to plunge the world into a dangerous, post-antibiotic era in which germs we’ve long been able to control become deadly. Antimicrobial resistance happens when bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms mutate after being exposed to drugs, such as antibiotics or anti-viral medications, and those medicines grow less effective over time. A recently-published review commissioned by former British Prime Minster David Cameron found that 700,000 people worldwide die of drug-resistant infections every year, and the toll could reach 10 million a year by 2050 – surpassing annual deaths from cancer, experts warn.

Hundreds of Deportees Mistakenly Granted Citizenship

More than 800 immigrants who had been ordered deported were mistakenly granted U.S. citizenship because of gaps in fingerprint recordkeeping, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General reports. The immigrants were from “special interest” countries and had previously been ordered deported or removed from the U.S., the report said. But the immigrants beat the system by simply using another name or birth date to apply for citizenship. Homeland Security investigations resulted in two immigrants being stripped of citizenship, but “very few” of the 858 cases of citizenship have been investigated to determine if the citizen should be denaturalized or criminally prosecuted, the report added. The inspector general’s office found that fingerprints were missing from Homeland Security digital records because paper-based fingerprint cards used prior to 2008 were not consistently uploaded into the digital system.

Colorado’s Failed Marijuana Experiment

Since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, teen marijuana use is 74% higher than the national average, reports the Center for Arizona Policy. Newborns testing positive for marijuana are on the rise. In one hospital alone, half of newborn babies test positive for marijuana. Marijuana-related fatal car crashes have increased 67% since legalization. Marijuana-related emergency room visits by visitors to the state doubled in the first year and are up 49% overall. Despite promises to the contrary, the black market in Colorado thrives. Colorado’s attorney general says illegal dealers are “hiding in plain sight.” Surrounding states have taken legal action against Colorado in an effort to stop the importation of marijuana into their states. There are more pot shops than both McDonald’s and Starbucks.

More Bathroom Insanity

This past week the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) pulled all championship events out of North Carolina for the 2016-2017 season simply because that state passed a law, known as HB 2, which requires men and women to use the restroom or locker room corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate. In essence, the North Carolina legislature said men use the men’s room and ladies use the ladies room, reports the American Family Association. By doing this, North Carolina was simply protecting women and children from sexual predators and voyeurs. Along with punishing North Carolina, the NCAA is forcing all potential championship host sites to fill out an “Anti-Discrimination Policy” questionnaire that assures men have access to female bathroom facilities. Question number six from the policy reads, “…does your institution have provisions that interfere with any person’s choice of bathroom or locker room?”

Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Reaches All-Time-Low

According to a new Gallup poll, Americans’ trust in the mass media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly” has sunk to a new low of 32 percent, down eight percentage points from last year. The measure has been on a steady decline for more than a decade. “Over the history of the entire trend, Americans’ trust and confidence hit its highest point in 1976, at 72%, in the wake of widely lauded examples of investigative journalism regarding Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. After staying in the low to mid-50s through the late 1990s and into the early years of the new century, Americans’ trust in the media has fallen slowly and steadily,” Gallup’s report states. Only 14 percent of Republicans trust the media, Gallup reports, a sharp decline from 32 percent in 2015 and the lowest recorded measure of confidence among members of the party in 20 years. 51 percent of Democrats and 30 percent of independents expressed trust in mass media, compared with 55 percent and 33 percent in 2015.

Abortion Update

According to Charisma News, Donald Trump has made the most unequivocal pro-life commitment that any presidential candidate has ever made. If elected, Trump has committed to nominating pro-life Supreme Court justices, signing into law the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, defunding Planned Parenthood as long as they continue to perform abortions, and to making the Hyde Amendment a permanent law, making sure taxpayer dollars do not go to funding abortions. Trump has also appointed a pro-life advocate to head up his campaign’s pro-life coalition. Marjorie Dannenfelser is the head of the pro-life organization the Susan B. Anthony List and has fought for the pro-life cause for over two decades.

Persecution Update

This week, Hungary, which has during the past year come under pressure for its handling of Europe’s mass migration crisis, has become the first government to open an office specifically to address the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Europe. “Today, Christianity has become the most persecuted religion, where out of five people killed [for] religious reasons, four of them are Christians,” Hungary’s Minister for Human Capacities, Zoltan Balog said. “In 81 countries around the world, Christians are persecuted, and 200 million Christians live in areas where they are discriminated against. Millions of Christian lives are threatened by followers of radical religious ideologies.” The move sets a precedent on the international stage. It comes after Hungary’s right-wing conservative Prime Minister, Victor Orban, drew criticism in the EU by saying Europe should focus on helping Christians, before helping millions of “Islamic people” coming into Europe.

Immigrant Update

With less than two months to go before the presidential election, the Obama administration has dedicated another $10 million to groups that assist with quickly naturalizing immigrants, in addition to the $19 million the Obama administration spent just a few months ago for the same reason. According to Judicial Watch, the money is to be disseminated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to various groups that offer naturalization pathways and educational courses to new immigrants. The fresh $10 million will reportedly help more than 25,000 immigrants from more than 50 countries in the citizenship process, according to USCIS. The move comes just over a year after Obama formed a Task Force on New Americans, a special group dedicated to helping green card holders become U.S. citizens.

Since the Balkan route to northern Europe closed in March, and with Austria and France imposing tight controls along their borders, Switzerland is now the preferred transit corridor for migrants bound for countries within the European Union. But Switzerland has also increased security along its border with Italy, deploying helicopters and a drone over the region to keep out illegal immigrants. Nearly all the migrants at Como, Italy, have tried — and failed — to cross the Swiss border. Some are so desperate they walk along busy highways or hike on remote mountain trails to reach Switzerland. And one migrant even tried to sneak into the country crammed into a suitcase, before being intercepted at the border when guards became suspicious of the shape and the weight of the bag.

Economic News

The wage gap between blacks and whites is the worst it’s been in nearly four decades, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. Last year, the hourly pay gap between blacks and whites widened to 26.7%, with whites making an average of $25.22 an hour compared to $18.49 for blacks, the EPI found. Almost 40 years ago, in 1979, the wage gap between blacks and whites was 18.1%, with whites earning an inflation-adjusted average of $19.62 an hour and blacks earning $16.07 an hour. What’s driving the wage gap has little to do with access to education, disparities in work experience or where someone lives, EPI found. Rather, the researchers found “discrimination…and growing earnings inequality in general,” to be the primary factors.

Americans wasted over $2 billion last year putting expensive premium gasoline into cars that don’t need it, the automobile ownership group AAA said Tuesday. Most car engines in America are designed to run on regular gasoline and, despite the superior-sounding name, premium gasoline provides no benefit over cheaper regular gasoline in those engines. Premium has a higher octane rating than regular gas. That means it’s able to tolerate higher pressures inside the engine. Engines designed to run on regular don’t operate at pressures high enough to require the extra octane, so putting premium fuel into an engine that doesn’t require it is simply a waste of money, AAA said. That means Americans spent more $2.1 billion on more expensive fuel for no reason, the group calculated. About 16% of Americans drive vehicles that actually do require premium fuel, though. These are mostly high-performance or luxury models. Using cheaper regular fuel in these engines can cause damage.

The Bank for International Settlements is warning that conditions are right for a “full-blown banking crisis” in China.  Since the last financial crisis, there has been a credit boom in China that is really unprecedented in world history.  At this point the total value of all outstanding loans in China has hit a grand total of more than 28 trillion dollars.  That is essentially equivalent to the commercial banking systems of the United States and Japan combined.  While it is true that government debt is under control in China, corporate debt is now 171 percent of GDP, and it is only a matter of time before that debt bubble bursts.  The Bank for International Settlements warned in its quarterly report that China’s “credit to GDP gap” has reached 30.1, the highest to date and in a different league altogether from any other major country tracked by the institution.”


Israeli security agencies were on maximum alert throughout the country Monday following a string of renewed terrorist attacks knife over the weekend which continued Monday. Two Israeli Border Police officers were severely wounded Monday morning by a Palestinian terrorist wielding a knife. He was shot by nearby officers and was also listed in critical condition at an area hospital. Later on Monday, another attack was attempted at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, leaving one officer lightly wounded and one terrorist dead with the other being wounded.

UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon issued a scathing criticism Thursday of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent labeling of demands by the Palestinian Authority to eject all Jewish residents of the West Bank from their homes as “ethnic cleansing.” Elsewhere, a statement by the French government condemned Israel for demolishing structures France had built in the West Bank without proper licenses.

Islamic State

Just weeks after ISIS suffered a major loss when its chief spokesman was taken out in an air attack, the US announced it had killed his close associate in a strike. The US has now killed two of the “very few” ISIS leaders in the last two months. Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, has seen his small inner circle getting much smaller, said U.S. officials Monday.

Iraqi forces aided by the U.S.-led coalition have retaken half the territory the Islamic State group once held in the country, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday during a visit to Baghdad. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken also announced $181 million to address a humanitarian crisis that has festered in Iraq despite progress on the battlefield. More than 3.3 million Iraqis remain displaced from their homes due to violence, according to the United Nations. Despite a series of major defeats in recent months, IS still controls Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Iraq hopes to launch an operation to retake Mosul this year, which U.N. and U.S. officials say could displace another 1 million people.


Four days into a cease-fire in Syria’s civil war, aid convoys have yet to reach civilians in government- and rebel-held areas of Aleppo, as Russian troops prepared to deploy along a key road getting for supplies through. Syrian government forces have been replaced by Russian troops on Castello Road, which leads to rebel-held areas of the besieged city, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group. Humanitarian aid could arrive in rebel-held parts of Aleppo later Friday, but other obstacles remain, the group said, citing violence, and objections from other parties on the ground. Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that Russia needs to pressure the Syrian government to let aid through to Aleppo and other areas or the United States will not set up a joint facility to coordinate attacks on terrorists and share intelligence. Kerry called the delays in humanitarian aid to Aleppo “repeated” and “unacceptable.” The United Nations suspended aid deliveries to Syria on Tuesday, hours after a convoy carrying humanitarian aid to rebel-held parts of Aleppo was attacked killing around 20 people.

South Sudan

Over one million refugees have been forced to flee the conflict and violence in South Sudan. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, but just two years later, internal fighting broke out between government leaders. This sparked an ongoing conflict that has internally displaced 1.6 million people and exiled another million. South Sudan now ranks with Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia as countries that have displaced over one million refugees. Many of South Sudan’s refugees are seeking asylum in neighboring countries. Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Congo and Central African Republic have all accepted tens of thousands of South Sudanese refugees.


Russian President Vladimir Putin’s political party, United Russia, has won a majority in the country’s parliamentary elections. According to a report from Russian state-run news agency Tass, United Russia won 54.28% of the vote, with 93% of all votes counted. Tass says preliminary results from the Central Election Commission suggests the party will win 343 seats of the 450 up for grabs. The Communist Party is expected to win 42 seats with 13.54% of the votes, ahead of the Liberal Democratic Party with 39 seats and the Fair Russia Party with 23 seats. Turnout for the State Duma vote was 47%, according to Tass — well down on the 60% five years ago.


Officials are warning residents in the Southeast about possible gas shortages in the coming days after a gasoline spill south of Birmingham, Alabama, forced the shutdown of a key pipeline that supplies fuel to millions along the East Coast. Crews were working to ensure the gasoline did not reach nearby rivers. The pipeline spilled between 6,000 and 8,000 barrels of gas, Colonial Pipeline announced. The pipeline, which was shut down last Friday, normally transports 1.3 million barrels of refined gasoline and other petroleum products each day and is a major supplier of fuel from Houston to New York Harbor. Gas prices are spiking in the Southeast because of the broken pipeline — and some drivers are having trouble finding gas at all on Monday.

A massive sinkhole opened up underneath a storage pond in Florida, causing more than 200 million gallons of contaminated wastewater from a fertilizer plant to leak into one of the state’s main underground resources of drinking water, reported Saturday. According to Mosaic, the world’s largest supplier of phosphate, the hole opened up beneath a pile of waste material called a “gypsum stack.” The 215-million-gallon storage pond sat atop the waste mineral pile. The company said the sinkhole is about 45 feet in diameter. The sinkhole, discovered by a worker on Aug. 27, is believed to reach down to the Floridian aquifer, the company said in a news release. Aquifers are vast, underground systems of porous rocks that hold water and allow water to move through the holes within the rock.

Toxic algae has shown up in more than 40 state lakes and waterways from Los Angeles to the northern reaches of California, the highest count in state history. Water agencies have been caught off guard by the growing extent of the algae, which is triggering health warnings, the closing of swim areas and a reduction in park visitors and revenues. The cyanobacterium, which occurs naturally, can cause gastrointestinal problems and allergic reactions in people and sickness and death among pets and wildlife. The cyanobacterium has blossomed during the state’s drought. Some lake managers are testing herbicides to reduce algae blooms, but experts say there is no quick solution. “There is no silver bullet,” said Beverley Anderson-Abbs, an environmental scientist with the state Water Resources Control Board. “Generally, the best thing to do is to stay out of the water until the bloom is over.”


A wildfire at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County, California, has forced officials to postpone the launch of a commercial satellite. The fire broke out Saturday in a remote canyon at the South Base of Vandenberg. The Atlas V rocket was scheduled to launch Sunday from the base, carrying the WorldView-4 satellite, which is slated to take high-resolution images of Earth, according to NASA Space Flight. As of Sunday, the fire dubbed the “Canyon Fire” had scorched 2,200 acres with no containment. Hundreds of state, federal and local firefighters have been dispatched to battle the blaze.

Firefighters are battling another wildfire in northern California that has prompted the evacuation of a campground as well as several ranches and private developments near Mammoth Lakes. Officials with the U.S. Forest service said the wildfire, dubbed the “Owens River Fire,” broke out Saturday afternoon about 7 miles north of the ski resort town along State Route 395. The fire has burned at least 6,000 acres of brush and timber in Inyo National Forest. The fire is 20 percent contained.


The death toll continues to rise in the wake of Super Typhoon Meranti, which slammed Taiwan, China and several northern Philippines islands with fierce winds, heavy rain and massive waves, killing 30 with 15 still missing. Chinese authorities have reported 13 people are have died in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces and another 14 people remain missing. In Taiwan, officials reported two people dead and 38 injured. Chinese officials also said Typhoon Meranti was responsible for destroying 1,600 homes and displacing 33 million people. At least 10 ships came unmoored in Kaohsiung Harbor during the storm. Many villages were poorly equipped to withstand another battering after Super Typhoon Nepartak hit the island in July, according to the China Post. As Meranti advanced toward Taiwan as a massive super typhoon, the storm dealt a violent blow to several small islands in the northern Philippines.

Typhoon Malakas ripped through southern Japan on Tuesday, dumping torrential rain and causing widespread flooding. After clipping Taiwan, the typhoon made landfall in Kyushu shortly after midnight local time, packing winds of up to 100 miles per hour. More than 600,000 were evacuated prior to the storm’s arrival. Air and railway transportation was halted during the storm, mainly in the west and southwest regions of the country, and more than 114,000 households lost power in Kyushu.

Signs of the Times (8/29/16)

August 29, 2016

New Wave of Islamic Terrorist Sent to Attack Europe/UK

Increasing numbers of terrorists have been sent by ISIS using fake documents to sneak into Europe in order to carry out terror attacks. The alert came as the EU’s top law enforcement officer who revealed that increasing numbers of jihadists are using fake documents to sneak into Europe. Others were exploiting the “industrial scale” production of false documents by criminals to obtain EU passports and move freely over the continent. Britain was also warned Monday of a rising threat from Islamic State fighters sent “on mission” from Syria. Europol’s director Rob Wainwright said ISIS had taken a “strategic decision” to send its fanatics to attack the continent in an attempt to distract attention from battlefield defeats in its heartland.

Black Pastor Blasts ‘Black Lives Matter’ Over Abortion

Clenard Childress, senior pastor for New Calvary Baptist in New Jersey, says that the Black Lives Matter movement needs to separate itself from Planned Parenthood. In a column in, he said, “There has never been a stranger paradox than the announcement that Planned Parenthood is in collaboration with ‘Black Lives Mattes,’ the epitome of oxymoronic examples. Black Lives Matter is partnering with an institution which was designed with the hope of completely eliminating African American people. Some would call this genocide, for this same organization is responsible for over twenty million African Americans missing by sanctioned murder in America.”

  • Previous studies have shown that a higher proportion of black babies are aborted than for whites

Fewer Americans Believe in God, More Leaving the Church

A new study has revealed that more and more Americans are leaving church, and one of the reasons is lack of belief in miracles. A Pew Research Center study revealed that half of Americans who have left church say they no longer believe in God. The number of people in the country who don’t believe in God is also increasing the study says. These so-called “nones” say they left church and stopped believing in God for a number of reasons, some of which include not liking organized religion, “common sense,” and believing science trumps miracles. Many respondents mentioned ‘science’ as the reason they no longer believe in religious teachings. Other reasons people cited for leaving church and not believing in God included “Learning about evolution when I went away to college, “Too many Christians doing un-Christian things,” and “Because I think religion is not a religion anymore. It’s a business…it’s all about money.”

  • Science doesn’t refute religion, it reveals how God’s creation functions

Christian Business Wins Court Battle Over Employing Transgender

The Christian owner of a Michigan funeral home has won a legal battle which allowed him to maintain the right to fire an employee who failed to comply with the funeral home’s policies. The Christian Institute reports that Thomas Rost, a devout Christian who believes God has called him to minister to grieving families through his business, came under fire after he dismissed an employee who began dressing as a female, though the employee was biologically a male. Rost’s funeral home has a gender-specific dress code, and since being hired in 2007, Anthony Stephens had complied with it. However, in 2013, Stephens decided to dress like a female and insisted he be called Aimee. Rost told Stephens he was free to dress how he wished at home, but had to comply with the dress code while at work. Stephens refused, and was therefore dismissed. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission brought the case against Rost’s funeral home, alleging that Stephens was dismissed unfairly. Alliance Defending Freedom, the organization defending Rost, stated, “The government must respect the freedom of those who are seeking to serve the grieving and vulnerable. They shouldn’t be forced into violating their deepest convictions.”

Judge Allows 3 at N.C. University to Choose Restrooms

A federal judge temporarily ruled Friday that the University of North Carolina can’t block two transgender students and an employee from using bathrooms that match their gender identity. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder partially granted a preliminary injunction to the students and the employee in response to their lawsuit challenging a state law that decreed restroom use was limited to biological gender. The injunction applies only to the plaintiffs, the judge said. But he indicated he also expects them to succeed in their claim that the law known as state House Bill 2 violates the federal Title IX law, which bars sex discrimination in schools. His decision represents a win for the American Civil Liberties Union and Justice Department, which had sued to block the law. His final decision on the law won’t come until after a November trial.

Fentanyl in Pain Relievers Killing Many Americans

Synthetic fentanyl showing up in the street drug supply is an enormous game changer,” says Carol Falkowski, CEO of Drug Abuse Dialogues, a group that helps track drug trends for the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “It means anybody who purchases illegal drugs can unknowingly be taking fentanyl, which is 100 times stronger than morphine.” All it takes is a dose of fentanyl the size of three grains of sand to kill. Fentanyl is an opioid. Its effect on the body is exactly like heroin, or any other opiate-based medication. But fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin. Fentanyl powder is cheap and easy to obtain on the dark web, experts warn, making it attractive to those manufacturing it into pill form mixed with other drugs. Those counterfeit drugs are sold on the street, and are usually labeled as something less potent. Even forensic scientists can’t tell whether some of the pills sold on the street are counterfeit or not just by looking at them. Those who take fake prescriptions likely have no idea if fentanyl is inside, or how much. Pills found in Prince’s Minnesota home were reportedly marked as hydrocodone, but when tested the pills turned out to have fentanyl in them.

Cheaper Takata Airbags Known to be Dangerous

In the late 1990s, General Motors got an unexpected and enticing offer. A little-known Japanese supplier, Takata, had designed a much cheaper automotive airbag, the New York Times reports. G.M. turned to its airbag supplier — the Swedish-American company Autoliv — and asked it to match the cheaper design or risk losing the automaker’s business. But when Autoliv’s scientists studied the Takata airbag, they declined, pointing out that the Takata airbags relied on a dangerously volatile compound in its inflater, a critical component that causes the airbag to expand. Today, that compound is at the heart of the largest automotive safety recall in history. At least 14 people have been killed and more than 100 have been injured by faulty inflaters made by Takata. More than 100 million of its airbags have been installed in cars in the United States by General Motors and 16 other automakers.

  • Once again, corporate greed supersedes safety (as in the VW electronic cover-up of high emissions)

Obama Creates Largest Ocean Reserve by Decree

President Obama, with the stroke of a pen, created the world’s largest ocean reserve on Friday off Hawaii, days after designating a massive federal monument in Maine – moves that have angered local lawmakers who accuse the president of disregarding the impact on residents. Obama used a presidential proclamation to expand the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii by over 400,000 square miles. The preserve now stretches 582,578 square miles, the world’s largest marine protected area. “The expansion provides critical protections for more than 7,000 marine species … [and] will allow scientists to monitor and explore the impacts of climate change on these fragile ecosystems,” the White House said in a statement. But the decision drew sharp criticism from the fishing industry and even fellow Democrats, as it will drastically expand the area where commercial fishing and drilling is banned.

The announcement came after Obama used his executive authority to create the National Park Service’s newest national monument at Katahdin Woods and Waters in Maine. The new monument was created as part of the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service. The White House said the monument will protect 87,500 acres and will bolster the forest’s resilience against the impact of climate change. The monument’s creation, though, was opposed by state lawmakers and critics who warn it will hinder efforts to rebuild a forest-based economy in the region.

Health-Care Exchange Sign-Ups Far Short of Forecasts

Enrollment in the insurance exchanges for President Obama’s signature health-care law are less than half the initial forecast, pushing several major insurance companies to stop offering health plans in certain markets because of significant financial losses. As a result, the administration’s promise of a menu of health-plan choices has been replaced by a grim forecast: Next year, more than 1 in 4 counties are at risk of having a single insurer on its exchange, said Cynthia Cox, who studies health reform for the Kaiser Family Foundation. The success of the law depends fundamentally on the exchanges being profitable for insurers — and that requires more people to sign up, notes the Washington Post. In February 2013, the Congressional Budget Office predicted that 24 million people would buy health coverage through the federally and state-operated online exchanges by this year. Just 11.1 million people were signed up as of late March. The law requires every American to get health coverage or pay a penalty, but the penalty hasn’t been high enough to persuade many Americans to buy into the health plans. Even those who qualify for subsidized premiums sometimes balk at the high deductibles on some plans.

America’s First Offshore Wind Farm Ready to Go

The turbines stand like sentinels off the coast of this tiny island, each rising twice as high as the Statue of Liberty. Workers attached the final 240-foot-long blades just days ago, turning the nation’s first offshore wind farm into a reality, reports the Washington Post. When residents look out at the altered horizon from their gray-shingled houses, some see progress, the birth of a promising industry, a way to ditch the 1 million gallons of diesel fuel that Block Island burns each year for power. Others see an expensive eyesore, a boondoggle that they contend will enrich private investors while burdening the state’s ratepayers and doing little to improve daily life here. One group went even to federal court in an unsuccessful effort to stall the project. America’s inaugural foray into offshore wind power is modest compared with the sprawling developments that have existed in Europe for decades. The five-turbine, 30-megawatt project, which is set to start operating this fall, will feed into New England’s electrical grid via underwater cables and provide enough energy to power about 17,000 homes.

Zika Update

The Food and Drug Administration has recommended screening the entire US blood supply for the Zika virus, it announced Friday, noting that screening donated blood is already underway in Florida and Puerto Rico. The new recommendation applies “across the board to anyone collecting blood,” explained Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. This includes very large blood collection establishments, such as the American Red Cross, and some very small establishments, such as academic centers, he said. The Red Cross said it will phase in universal testing. Currently, it is conducting Zika tests in five southeastern states and will expand testing to four additional states in the south central and southwestern US over the next two weeks.

Persecution Watch

When Pope Francis visited Cuba in September 2015, many thought the milestone event could signal a breakthrough in the campaign to promote religious freedom in the Caribbean island nation. But now the memory of that papal visit seems to have been forgotten as Cuba’s communist regime has launched a renewed crackdown on the Christian faith with reports of churches destroyed, pastors imprisoned, religious leaders’ personal property seized and Christians violently stopped from worshipping. In its latest report, the Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) says the Cuban regime has launched a major crackdown against churches and has seized and demolished at least 1,400 church buildings. The regime is justifying its action by claiming that the churches are unregistered, and therefore, illegal. The report cites more than 1,000 cases of religious freedom violations, including the “destruction of church property, arbitrary detention and other forms of harassment, in particular seizure of religious leaders’ personal belongings.”

Economic News

American consumers boosted spending at a slower pace in July, while their incomes accelerated slightly. Spending grew 0.3% in July following a 0.5% increase in June, the Commerce Department reported Monday. Spending on durable goods such as autos rose by a solid 1.6%, but spending for nondurable goods fell. The overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew at an anemic annual rate of 1.1% in the April-June quarter, marking a full year in which growth has limped along at an annual rate of 1.2%

The economy has been mired in a funk since late last year, but there’s cause for optimism: Business startup activity has returned to near pre-recession levels. About 550,000 new businesses were launched each month last year, on average, up from 466,000 in 2013, according to figures released this month by the Kauffman Foundation based on Census Bureau and Labor Department data. That’s the highest level since 2009 and 2010. Meanwhile, the number of business startups with one additional employee – a subset that better captures firms that contribute significantly to economic growth — is also rising. There were 398,000 additional-employer businesses that were a year old or younger last year, up 7% from 2014 and the most since 2008, according to the Labor Department.

Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve, signaled Friday that a rate hike is still on the table later this year. “I believe the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened in recent months,” Yellen said in a speech in Jackson, Wyoming. But Yellen was vague on timing. The Fed’s committee next meets in late September. It also has a meeting in early November, however, it’s unlikely the Fed would raise rates right before the U.S. elections.

Uber may be the most valuable privately held company in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s making money. The company lost at least $1.27 billion in the first half of this year, according to Bloomberg News. Bloomberg reported that Uber’s head of finance Gautam Gupta shared the losses during a call with shareholders on Friday. Uber is said to have lost $520 million in the first quarter, and $750 million in the second quarter of 2016.

Islamic State

A suicide car bombing claimed by the Islamic State group in Yemen’s southern city of Aden on Monday killed at least 45 pro-government recruits, officials said. Over 60 wounded were being taken to three area hospitals. The men were at a staging area near two schools and a mosque when a pickup truck suddenly accelerated through the building’s gate as a food delivery arrived, exploding amid the crowd, witnesses said. Yemen is embroiled in a civil war pitting the internationally recognized government and a Saudi-led coalition against the Shiite Houthi rebels aligned with ISIS.

ISIS has released a video online showing five young boys killing five prisoners. The video identifies the children, dressed in camouflage and holding handguns, as British, Egyptian, Kurdish, Tunisian and Uzbek. The men they kill were Kurdish prisoners, according to the video. Authorities in the region say ISIS is increasingly using children to commit acts of terrorism, exploiting them through propaganda and sending them out to kill. The terrorist group maintains an army of child soldiers, stolen from their families and indoctrinated to their cause. The children have been as young as seven years-old.

  • The sheer depravity of ISIS abundantly demonstrates their evil roots and reveals that their god is Satan


A helicopter dropped two barrel bombs on a funeral wake for children in the Syrian city of Aleppo, killing at least 16 people, Syrian monitoring groups said. The wake was being held Saturday in the rebel-controlled neighborhood of Bab al-Nayrab, the same area where 15 people were killed in a barrel bombing Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday. Barrel bombs — oil drums filled with explosives and shrapnel and dropped by aircraft — killed more than 3,000 civilians in Aleppo 2014, according to a report last year by Amnesty International. The human rights organization said barrel bombs are a common tactic of the Syrian government, which has been fighting rebels in a civil war since 2011.


Kurdish militants on Friday attacked a police checkpoint in southeast Turkey with an explosives-laden truck, killing at least 11 police officers and wounding 78 other people, the state-run news agency said. The attack struck the checkpoint some 50 meters (yards) from a main police station near the town of Cizre, in the mainly-Kurdish Sirnak province that borders Syria. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack which was the latest in a string of bombings targeting police or military vehicles and installations. Authorities have blamed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, for those attacks.


Dangerous confrontations between Iranian and American warships in the Persian Gulf are up more than 50 percent in 2016 compared with this time last year, according to a U.S. defense official – despite the highly touted nuclear accord, as well as a recent $1.7 billion U.S. payment to Tehran. The latest incidents of provocative Iranian behavior flared in the Persian Gulf earlier this week, including one filmed by the U.S. Navy. The video showed four Iranian gunboats from its Revolutionary Guard Corps coming within 300 yards of USS Nitze, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. Through the first six months alone of 2016, there were 26 dangerous confrontations that U.S. military officials called “unsafe and unprofessional.”

Iran has deployed the Russian-supplied S-300 surface-to-air missile defense system around its Fordow underground uranium enrichment facility, Iranian state media reported on Monday. Iranian state TV on Sunday aired footage of deployment of the recently delivered missile system to the nuclear site in the central Iran. ‘Our main priority is to protect Iran’s nuclear facilities under any circumstances,’ Brigadier General Farzad Esmaili, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) air defense force told state TV.

  • Iran wants to be prepared when the world learns of their duplicity in developing their nuclear weapons


Mayors do not have the right to ban burkinis, France’s highest administrative court ruled Friday. The Council of State’s ruling suspends a ban in the town of Villeneuve-Loubet, near Nice, and could affect cities around the country that have prohibited the full-length swimsuit commonly worn by Muslim women. More than 30 French towns have banned burkinis, which cover the whole body except for the face, hands and feet. Officials say the ban on the burkini was a response to growing terror concerns. Human rights activists argue that such measures are illegal, and that pushes to outlaw the garment are Islamophobic.


Lifeless bodies lying on the streets of the Philippines are a visceral sign of new President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, reports CNN. So far more than 1,900 people have died. Of those more than 700 have been killed in police operations since Duterte took office in late June, according to police statistics. Many of the unsolved deaths are attributed to vigilantes. Duterte’s tough talk on the country’s drug and crime problems won him the election and, 60 days on from his inauguration, he remains extremely popular. A Senate inquiry is underway into the police and the extrajudicial killings. Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa told the committee there was no shoot to kill order, but people are happy with what the police are doing, despite mistakes by officers. But for all the plaudits, there are families heartbroken, jails swamped, rehab centers overwhelmed.


Police killed three suspected militants, including the alleged mastermind behind the attack which left 22 people dead at an upscale bakery in Dhaka, Bangladesh, authorities said on Saturday. The alleged planner, Bangladeshi-Canadian Tamim Chowdhury, was killed during a police house raid in the district of Narayanganj, said counterterrorism official Monirul Islam. Bangladesh police chief A.K.M. Shahidul Hoque said the militants belonged to Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh, or JMB, a banned Islamist group in Bangladesh.


The nation’s creeks and streams may be tainted with hard drugs. A new study found amphetamines polluting water sources in Baltimore, CNN reports. Researchers who tested samples from six streams around the Maryland city found them tainted with “amphetamine concentrations are high enough to alter the base of the aquatic food web.” The drugs got there after they were flushed down the toilet by users either purposefully or through excretions. Limited filtering systems at wastewater treatment plants or “leaks in the sewer” enable the release of the drugs into the environment. Any living presence in those streams from moss to water bugs—and the creatures that eat them like fish and birds are at risk. A 2014 study found that meds flushed into the environment could be causing a global wildlife crisis, reported the Guardian.


As strong aftershocks continue to rattle central Italy days after a large magnitude 6.2 earthquake, officials are losing hope of finding additional survivors, with the death toll rising to almost 300. The aftershocks damaged the devastated town of Amatrice even further. On Friday, the biggest aftershock, measured by the U.S. Geological Survey as a 4.7, shook the town at 6:28 a.m. local time. The town’s mayor, Sergio Pirozzi, said the aftershocks damaged two major roads, which may isolate the town at a time when rescue crews and aid workers are using the streets to get in and out of town. That severe aftershock was preceded by more than 50 tremors overnight and was followed by another nine in the next hour — part of the nearly 1,000 aftershocks that have rocked Italy’s central Apennine Mountains since the original 6.2-magnitude quake early Wednesday.


Heavy rains pounded the Kansas City metro area Friday night, prompting water rescues and closing roadways. A slow moving line of storms developed north of the Kansas City metro area and inched into downtown dropping two to five inches of rain. The Kansas City Fire Department assisted with water rescues in multiple parts of the downtown area. A flash flood emergency was in effect – the first ever by the National Weather Service Kansas City office. Thousands of Indianapolis residents were in the dark Friday morning as a round of damaging storms rolled through the city, knocking down trees and power lines. These storms came just two days after a round of severe weather spawned a handful tornadoes in the Hoosier State.

In India, heavy monsoon rains over the past week led to flooding as the mighty Ganges River overflowed its banks, submerging large parts of the Hindu holy town of Varanasi. Thousands of devotees were kept away by floodwaters, which also swamped nearby Allabahad. More than 200,000 people in Uttar Pradesh state have been evacuated and are living in relief camps after floodwaters entered homes in some 800 villages across large swaths of the state. Rainfall is common during India’s monsoon season from June through September, but rainfall this season has been particularly heavy after two years of drought across the northeastern states of India.


Signs of the Times (8/25/16)

August 25, 2016

Texas Judge Temporarily Blocks Obama’s Transgender Directive

A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked an Obama administration directive on bathroom rights for transgender students in U.S. public schools. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth issued the preliminary injunction Sunday. Texas and 12 other states asked O’Connor to halt the directive after the federal government told U.S. public schools in May that transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their chosen gender identity. That announcement came days after the Justice Department sued North Carolina over a state law that requires people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the gender on their birth certificates. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch had likened that law to policies of racial segregation. Republicans have argued such laws are commonsense privacy safeguards.

Gender Confusion in Schools

It didn’t take long for the federal government’s new gender identity policy to cause confusion in public schools. A memo from one assistant principal in Albuquerque, New Mexico, told teachers not to refer to students as boys or girls. The case mirrored one in Charlotte, N.C., where teachers have been advised to stop calling children “boys and girls,” according to a training presentation on transgender issues. Instead, the progressives who control Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools want teachers to identify the youngsters as either “students” or “scholars.” The Albuquerque school later rescinded the change, but parents were incensed over the ongoing confusion. According to the Albuquerque Public School district’s newly implemented “Non-Discrimination for Students: Gender Identity and Expression” policy, students shall have the right to be addressed by a name and pronoun corresponding to their chosen gender identity.

  • The world is going insane and the inmates are taking over

Major Study Undermines Gay Agenda

A major new report, published Tuesday in the journal The New Atlantis, challenges the leading narratives that the media has pushed regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, reports Charisma News. Co-authored by two of the nation’s leading scholars on mental health and sexuality, the 143-page report discusses over 200 peer-reviewed studies in the biological, psychological and social sciences, painstakingly documenting what scientific research shows and does not show about sexuality and gender. The major takeaway, as the editor of the journal explains, is that ‘some of the most frequently heard claims about sexuality and gender are not supported by scientific evidence. The study finds that gays are not born that way and they can possibly change; non-heterosexuals are about two to three times as likely to have experienced childhood sexual abuse when compared to the general population; non-heterosexual subpopulations are at an elevated risk for a variety of adverse health and mental health outcomes; and the idea that “a person might be ‘a man trapped in a woman’s body’ or ‘a woman trapped in a man’s body’—is not supported by scientific evidence.

Kim Davis Wins the Fight for Religious Freedom

Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has won the fight for religious freedom after a federal judge issued an order dismissing all three 2015 marriage license lawsuits against her Monday. Despite the ACLU’s attempt to continue the case against Kim Davis and assess damages against her, the federal district court dismissed the case, closed the files and ordered all the pending cases to be removed from the docket. Davis, represented by Liberty Counsel, spent six days in jail last year for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in violation of her right to freedom of conscience. Davis would not issue the licenses because they had her name and authority on them. Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, said. “County clerks are now able to perform their public service without being forced to compromise their religious liberty.”

Twitter Suspends 235,000 Accounts for Extremism

Twitter said it has suspended 235,000 accounts for violating policies on the promotion of extremism and terrorism over the past six months, bringing the overall number of suspended accounts to 360,000 in the last year. The company has also expanded the teams that review reports of misuse of the networking service, which had become a go-to tool for some terror and extremist groups looking to get their message out. Twitter said daily suspensions are up more than 80% since last year and that such suspensions jump just after terrorist attacks, when presumably extremists wish to tout their success. Twitter said it is working to disrupt extremists’ ability to quickly create replacement accounts by expanding the teams that review reports of behavior that violates its terms and agreements. These teams work 24 hours a day, the company said.

U.S. Opioid Deaths Skyrocketing

An increasing heroin epidemic has plagued the nation’s urban and rural communities alike. Cabell County, West Virginia was hit with 26 overdoses in a four-hour span last week. The wave of misery was focused in a Huntington public housing complex, where victims injected from a batch of the drug believed to have been laced with Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid up to 100 times more potent than morphine. It was the latest cluster of overdoses to take place in communities ranging from gritty cities to rural farmlands. Overdoses involving heroin and synthetic drugs like “spice” left two dozen hospitalized earlier this month in Ohio; killed two and sickened 16 two months ago in New Haven, Conn.; and hospitalized 33 last month in Brooklyn. Incidents of large-scale overdoses like these bring headlines, but public health and law enforcement officials say the underlying opioid crisis gripping the nation claims most of its victims quietly, one or two at a time. In Cabell County, there have been at least 440 overdoses this year, including 26 fatalities. CDC statistics show West Virginia has the highest per capita rate of lethal overdoses in the nation, followed by New Mexico, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio.

Tanning Industry Blames 10,000 Salon Closings on ObamaCare

Business owners around the country say the little-noticed 10 percent tax on tanning in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul has crippled the industry, forcing the closing of nearly 10,000 of the more than 18,000 tanning salons in the U.S. The tax, similar to that imposed on tobacco, is meant to discourage a practice known to increase the risk of cancer. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network says those who use tanning beds before age 35 increase their lifetime risk of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, by 59 percent. Congressional experts also projected the tax would raise about $2.7 billion to help expand health coverage for uninsured Americans, but the industry says it actually has raised just a fraction of that. The industry has spent millions lobbying to repeal the tax, which it says destroyed 81,000 tanning jobs.

Obamacare Options Dwindling

Many consumers will find they have few choices when shopping on the Obamacare exchanges for 2017. Industry giants Aetna, UnitedHealthcare and Humana are scaling back their presences on the exchanges. And smaller insurers, including more than a dozen co-ops funded by the federal government to foster competition, have gone out of business or are dropping out of the program. Nearly 36% of markets may have only one insurer participating on the exchanges, up from 4% this year, reports CNN. And nearly 55% may have two or fewer choices, up from 33% in 2016. Most affected by the upheaval in the Obamacare markets are the residents of Pinal County, Arizona. This rural county outside of Phoenix has the dubious distinction of being the first place without any options since the exchanges opened in 2014. Federal and state regulators must now scramble to deal with this unprecedented situation.

Louisiana Flood Update

The historic flood in southern Louisiana claimed 13 lives and the ticket for property losses is ever climbing. State officials at midweek estimated 40,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and 11,000 people were in shelters following a 25-inch downpour. By week’s end, the Red Cross said, some 32,000 people had stayed at least a night in its shelters. Two-thirds of the shelters had emptied by Friday, but for some Louisianians there was no home to return to. State officials estimated that 75% of the homes in East Baton Rouge Parish and some 90% of the homes in adjoining Livingston Parish were flooded or damaged. Parts of Louisiana still have over two feet of standing water as of Tuesday morning.

Economic News

The annual deficit has been on a downward trajectory since 2009. But that streak could end this year. The Congressional Budget Office now projects this year’s deficit will rise to $590 billion, or 3.2% of the economy. That’s up from $438 billion, or 2.5% of GDP in 2015. The majority of that increase is due to slower-than-expected growth in the first half of the year and lower-than-expected revenue coming into the federal government. The biggest chunk of mandatory spending is the automatic payments of Medicare and Social Security benefits, which are growing as the population ages and health costs rise. By contrast, so-called discretionary spending — which basically pays for most other things (education, defense, cybersecurity, national parks, infrastructure scientific research, etc.) — is on track to fall to its lowest level as a share of the economy since 1962.

A scarcity of affordable homes on the market helped drag down existing homes sales in July as low inventory levels and higher prices put an end to a four-month climb. Existing home sales fell 3.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million from a revised 5.57 million in June, according to the National Association of Realtors. That includes transactions of single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops. The West was the only region that posted sales growth, rising 2.5% to an annual rate of 1.23 million, yet still slightly below a year ago. Meanwhile, the median sale price showed no sign of cooling down. It climbed 5.3% to $244,100 from a year ago, the 53rd straight month of year-over-year growth.

America’s economy has a problem: Workers just aren’t producing as much as they once did. Output per American worker (known as “worker productivity”) is at its lowest level since the 1970s, according to government data. Throughout the 1990s, worker productivity shot up by 2.2% a year, on average. In the early 2000s, it went up a brisk 2.6% a year. Since the Great Recession, it’s been crawling along at barely more than 1% a year, on average. Now it’s getting worse. The latest reading came in at negative 0.5% for the period between April and June, meaning that American workers were less productive this spring than a year ago. The U.S. is in an alarming productivity slump, and it’s not clear how to fix it.

Companies are sitting on near record levels of cash. In a healthy economy, businesses typically spend money on new factories, tools and research. That’s not happening. Businesses are either hording cash in their bank accounts or using it to buy back stock. Those activities do little to help the economy. Some blame the U.S. election. Sixty-two percent of business economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics this summer said “uncertainty about the national election” is holding back growth, mostly because companies are hesitant to invest for the future. Other experts point to increased regulatory compliance costs.

Cheap gas and an improving economy have been blamed for a soaring number of traffic deaths for a second straight year. Traffic deaths nationally jumped 9% in the first six months of 2016 compared to the same period last year, according to preliminary numbers from the National Safety Council. That’s 19,100 deaths overall. The NSC report was released a month after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 2015 saw the most traffic fatalities on U.S. roads since 2008. The NSC concluded that the increased fatalities are in part a result of the uptick in the U.S. economy, and the fall in gas prices. On average, gas prices fell 16% from 2015 to the first six months of 2016. Those lower prices and more spending money led to a 3.3% increase in the amount of miles driven from January to May of this year. Florida has seen a particularly grisly increase with traffic deaths up 43% since 2014, according to the NSC. During that time, Vermont’s traffic fatalities surged by 82%, and Oregon’s by 70%, but because they are less populous states they don’t involve as many vehicles as Florida.


The Israeli military carried out a series of airstrikes in the Gaza Strip late Sunday, targeting Hamas positions in response to a Palestinian rocket attack that hit an Israeli border town earlier in the day. Palestinian Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Qidra said two Palestinians, including a 17-year-old boy, were lightly wounded. Palestinian officials said nearly all of the airstrikes took place in northern Gaza, near the Israeli border. While most of the attacks targeted Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, one struck a military camp used by the smaller Islamic Jihad group. Israel accused Hamas of trying to “inflict pain, cause fear and to terrorize” Israelis in the middle of the summer vacation period. Sunday’s rocket attack struck the Israeli border town of Sderot in the middle of the day and disrupted what has been a quiet summer in the volatile area. The rocket landed in a residential area, exploding next to a house. There were no injuries.

Islamic State

Turkey sent tanks and special forces over the Syrian border Wednesday to capture an Islamic State stronghold, and push Kurdish YPG forces from its southern border, as the capital Ankara looks to boost its military involvement in the Syrian conflict. However, U.S. forces supporting anti-Islamic State operations in Syria are working with the YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist group seeking Kurdish independence. The offensive targeted the border city of Jarablus, a key ISIS supply line. Turkish artillery launched intense fire on Jarablus followed by Turkish warplanes bombing Islamic State targets in the town. Turkey has vowed to “cleanse” Islamic State militants from its borders following a weekend suicide bombing at a Kurdish wedding in southern Turkey (see below) Turkey blames the Islamic State for the attack..


An explosion at a wedding ceremony hall late Saturday in Turkey’s southeastern city of Gaziantep has left at least 50 people dead and 90 injured, government officials said. Twenty-two children were killed. The suicide bomber was between 12 and 14 years old, Turkey’s president announced Sunday, blaming the Islamic State terror group for the massacre. Gaziantep is about 76 miles from Aleppo, the Syrian city devastated by five years of civil war and recent Russian and Syrian-state airstrikes. The war has risked destabilizing Turkey, a NATO ally that’s experienced a wave of terror attacks this year and whose government resisted an attempted military coup in July. There have been at least five terror attacks in Turkey in the first half of this year. A child wearing an explosive belt was stopped and disarmed by Iraqi officials in the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk one day after a boy about the same age killed 51 people in a suicide bombing in the Kurdish region of Turkey. The youth, age 12 or 13, was captured before he could detonate his explosives belt in Kirkuk’s Huzairan neighborhood.


Iraq has executed 36 men convicted of taking part in the Islamic State group’s massacre of hundreds of soldiers in 2014, according to Iraqi officials. The men were hanged at the Nasiriyah prison in southern Iraq on Sunday. ISIL captured an estimated 1,700 soldiers after the group overran Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit in 2014. Shortly after taking Tikrit, ISIL posted graphic images of gunmen shooting the men dead after forcing them to lie face-down in a shallow ditch. The Speicher massacre sparked outrage across Iraq and partially fueled the mobilization of Shiite militias in the fight against ISIL. Iraqi forces arrested dozens of men allegedly linked to the massacre after retaking Tikrit in 2015 with the help of U.S.-led airstrikes. The men executed on Sunday were sentenced to death by an Iraqi court earlier this year.


Russia will stop using a base in Iran for airstrikes targeting militants in Syria for the time being, Iran’s foreign ministry said Monday. Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters in Tehran on Monday that the strikes were “temporary, based on a Russian request” and were “carried out with “mutual understanding and with Iran’s permission,” according to the Associated Press. He said the Russian mission “is finished, for now” and that Russia “has no base in Iran.”


An American service member was killed Tuesday in Afghanistan, the first combat casualty there since January, the military announced. Another U.S. service member and six Afghan troops were also wounded in the attack.  The roadside bomb attack occurred in Helmand province where Taliban forces have been gaining ground against Afghan government security forces. The U.S.-led NATO coalition bolstering Afghan troops have scrambled in recent days to keep them from losing Helmand province, the restive area home to many Taliban members. About 100 U.S. special operations forces were sent there Monday to train and advise Afghan forces who were struggling to control the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.

Thirteen people were killed in an attack on Kabul Universitythat began Wednesday evening in the Afghan capital, reported CNN on Thursday. Two gunmen were killed after police entered a building hours after the shooting started. A third attacker was killed when he detonated an explosives-laden car Wednesday night in front of the university wall. The 13 killed included seven students, three police, two security guards and a doorman. Thirty students were injured in the attack, for which no group has claimed responsibility.


Nigeria’s military said Tuesday it believes an airstrike has “fatally wounded” Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, but there was no way to confirm yet another claim of the death of Nigeria’s Islamic extremist leader. The statement does not say how the military got the information but identifies other commanders as “confirmed dead” in an air raid on Friday. The statement comes as Secretary of State John Kerry is to meet in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, with President Muhammadu Buhari, on a visit to discuss Islamic extremism and regional security. Shekau, according to a BBC profile, is known as a “fearless loner” with a photographic memory, a complex and often paradoxical man who is part intellectual, part terrorist.

North Korea

A ballistic missile fired from a North Korean submarine on Wednesday flew about 310 miles, the longest distance achieved by the North for such a weapon, Seoul officials said, putting all of South Korea, and possibly parts of Japan, within its striking distance. North Korea already has a variety of land-based missiles that can hit South Korea and Japan, including U.S. military bases in those countries. But its development of reliable submarine-launched missiles would add weapons that are harder to detect before liftoff. North Korea claimed that it now has the ability to strike the U.S. from its submarine platform.


Last week, the United Nations acknowledged some responsibility for the cholera epidemic in Haiti that broke out six years ago, killing more than 9,000 people. But the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that despite this admission the UN cannot be sued in U.S. courts. The victims and the families of the victims have 90 days to decide whether they would like to appeal the case up to the Supreme Court. Cholera wasn’t reported in Haiti until UN peacekeepers from Nepal arrived. Nepal had an active cholera epidemic at the time. The UN had been steadfastly denying this since the first case of cholera in Haiti was reported, in fall 2010. In order to keep people in Haiti from getting cholera, the country needs proper water and sanitation systems. But despite everything that’s happened, those still don’t exist there.


The longest-running armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere is coming to a close as the Colombian government reached a historic peace accord with rebel leaders Wednesday in Havana. The final round of negotiations between the leaders of the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC yielded the “termination of armed confrontation” and the “end of the enormous suffering the conflict has caused,” according to a joint statement. The two sides have battled for five decades in the remote corners of Colombia’s jungles and mountains, leaving more than 220,000 Colombians dead, forcing 360,000 to flee the country and displacing about 6.7 million Colombians from their homes. The peace accord still must be certified in a national referendum, which will ask voters to approve or reject the deal. After Wednesday’s signing, Santos said he would send the agreement to Congress and that the national vote will take place Oct. 2.


With Olympic festivities and distractions largely gone, Brazil faces a long uphill battle to resurrect its economy that’s deep in recession. Its political crisis will be back on the spotlight again soon: President Dilma Rousseff faces an impeachment trial that starts on August 29. Rousseff was suspended for six months after Brazil’s senate voted to begin the impeachment process in May. Her vice president and now bitter rival, Michel Temer, took over as interim president. It’s upon him to reestablish the public’s faith in the government after an unprecedented corruption scandal at Brazil’s state-run oil company, Petrobras. Brazil is in the midst of its longest recession since the 1930s and over 11.6 million people are unemployed. Between April and June, the unemployment rate in Brazil was 11.3%, up from 8.3% a year ago.


A large, damaging 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck three towns in central Italy at 3:36 a.m. local time Wednesday morning (9:36 p.m. EDT Tuesday night), killing at least 247 people, many while they slept. The death toll is expected to rise as countless others are missing in the debris. Much of the heart of Amatrice, a town of about 2,700 in the province of Rieti, Central Italy, has been reduced to rubble. Rescuers arrived Wednesday morning in Amatrice and were combing through debris in the hopes of finding survivors.  One woman was pulled out of a collapsed building alive with her dog. Meanwhile, rescuers had rescued dozens alive from the rubble in the devastated town of Pescara del Tronto, to the north in the Marche region of central Italy. Italian news agencies had reported several deaths in that town too. The quake’s epicenter was 4.1 miles west-northwest of Accumoli, Italy, and a little more than 100 miles northeast of Rome. More than 30 aftershocks have been reported since the initial quake, seven of which were greater than 4.0 in magnitude.

Central Myanmar was hit by a powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake on Wednesday, killing at least three people a day after another tremor struck the Southeast Asian nation. The quake struck 15.5 miles west of Chauk, at a depth of 84km, the US Geological Survey said. Tremors were felt as far away as Thailand, Bangladesh and India, sending fearful residents into the streets. At least 66 stupas (dome-shaped Buddhist shrines). in Bagan have been damaged, a spokesman from the department of archaeology told the BBC. The ancient capital is a major tourist site, home to thousands of Buddhist monuments. A 22-year-old man was killed in the town of Pakokku due to a building collapse.


Thirty-five large, uncontained wildfires were burning in the West, and firefighters were making initial attacks on another 112 new blazes to prevent them from spreading. Firefighters in the region mostly faced windy, dry conditions that have fanned flames that destroyed buildings and forced evacuations in California, Washington, Montana, Utah and Idaho. Late last week, the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, upped what it calls the National Preparedness Level to 4, one shy of the highest level, as competition for limited firefighting resources increased.

A series of wildfires burning near Spokane, Washington, destroyed at least 18 homes and continued to expand due to weather conditions that allowed for rapid growth. One of the fires has forced the evacuation of hundreds of people. The blazes in the Spokane region erupted Sunday afternoon. Together the three blazes scorched over seven square miles of terrain. A fire burning on the Spokane Indian Reservation was 30 percent contained. That fire covered more than 27 square miles and had destroyed at least 13 homes on the reservation, said Jamie Sijohn, a spokeswoman for the tribe.


Reports of at least 10 tornadoes in three states were reported Saturday night. Some of the greatest damage from the severe storms was reported southeast of Grandville, Michigan, where two possible tornadoes touched down Saturday afternoon, causing downed trees, power lines and damaged at least one home. Unofficial storm reports indicate that six touchdowns occurred in Michigan on Saturday, five of them from one thunderstorm. Consumers Energy reports at least 21,000 customers in the dark in Allegan, Barry, Kent and Ottawa counties. Major flooding prompted water rescues in northeast Iowa early Wednesday morning after up to 7 inches of rain fell during heavy thunderstorms. Damage is still being assessed across the Midwest on Thursday morning after a series of tornadoes tore paths across Indiana and Ohio. Miraculously, only minor injuries have been reported in both areas where widespread damage has been confirmed.

Dozens of people have died and hundreds of thousands more have been evacuated after monsoon rains have flooded several Indian states. The rains have pushed the Ganges River and its tributaries to their limits, the Associated Press reports, flooding about 20 districts of the states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Officials told the AP that as of Monday morning at least 17 people have died in Madhya Pradesh, 14 in Bihar and nine in Uttar Pradesh because of drowning, electrocution or injuries from collapsed houses. Roughly 600,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in a dozen districts.

Typhoon Mindulle is roaring over Tokyo after making landfall earlier Monday, one of two storms which have lashed Japan over the past two days, killing one person and injuring 11. A third typhoon is predicted for later this week. Hundreds of flights have already been canceled and parts of the country have been left flooded after typhoons Mindulle and Kompasu caused strong winds and pouring rains. At least 100,000 people were told to evacuate in Kanagawa prefecture ahead of the storm’s arrival.

Signs of the Times (8/12/16)

August 12, 2016

Churches Enact New Security Measures in Face of Terror Threats

“Many churches are now hiring self-defense instructors for classes or security guards that include off-duty police,” said Ryan Mauro, a professor of Homeland Security at Liberty University and national security analyst for the Clarion Project. “If you are an Islamist terrorist seeking self-glory, executing a priest will bring you more attention than executing an average civilian. While no lethal terror attacks have occurred inside a U.S. church to date, experts like Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, notes the threat tally is growing. In February, Khial Abu-Rayyan, 21, of Dearborn Heights, Mich., was arrested after he told an undercover FBI agent he was preparing to “shoot up” a major church near his home on behalf of ISIS. A month earlier, the Rev. Roger Spradlin of Valley Baptist Church – one of the biggest congregations in Bakersfield, Calif. – told attendees that they had received a threat written in Arabic. Last September, an Islamic man clad in combat gear was charged with making a terrorist threat after entering Corinth Missionary Baptist Church, in Bullard, Tex., and claiming that God had instructed him to kill Christians and “other infidels.” A year earlier, police were called to Saint Bartholomew’s Catholic Church in Columbus, Ind., after the house of worship was vandalized with the word “Infidels!” along with a Koranic verse sanctioning death for nonbelievers. Similar graffiti was found that same night at nearby Lakeview Church of Christ and East Columbus Christian Church. And in France, a priest had his throat slit by a terrorist just last week.

Thirteen States Ask Court to Stall Obama Transgender Bathroom Order

Some 13 states led by Texas asked a federal judge Friday to halt the Obama administration’s order to allow transgender students in U.S. public schools to use the restrooms of their choice. The hearing in Fort Worth was the latest episode in the battle between the federal government and various states opposed to the policy change. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor heard arguments over the states’ request for a preliminary injunction to halt the Obama directive just weeks before school re-opens for the fall. It is not known when the judge might issue a ruling. The White House in May told the nation’s public school districts that they must allow transgender students to use bathrooms matching their chosen gender identity or risk losing federal funding. States responded with a joint lawsuit challenging the order. The other states involved are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

California’s Christian Colleges Get Relief

A California state senator says he will amend a bill that would have forced Christian colleges to give up their beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity or lose state aid for low-income students wanting to attend their schools, reports the Los Angeles Times. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens), is dropping a provision that would have removed a religious exemption to anti-discrimination laws for faith-based schools. Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, told CBN News last month that the bill would have used the leverage of state financial aid to try and prevent faith-based schools from using religious beliefs as criteria in admissions and hiring decisions. Now it appears that the threat is eliminated, for now.

Suicides in Homosexual ‘Marriages’ Much Higher than for Heterosexuals

A new study from Sweden reveals that homosexuals who “marry” each other are 270% more likely to commit suicide than those in heterosexual marriages. This is according to a study published in the May issue of the peer-reviewed European Journal of Epidemiology. The risk, the authors acknowledge, could be as high as 480%. Homosexuality has been a celebrated lifestyle in Sweden for decades. If there is any place on earth where homosexuals can indulge in their passions with no fear of reprisal or disdain, it’s Sweden. But despite all the tolerance and affirmation they receive, “married” homosexuals are still committing suicide at 2.7 times the rate of heterosexual married couples. The Netherlands is probably the most gay-friendly nation in the world. Yet studies there, according to Life Site News, indicate that homosexuals experience exaggerated rates of “mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse disorders, suicide attempts, eating disorders, and panic attacks.”

Majority of Americans Favor Abortion Restrictions

A recent survey has found that the majority of Americans favor more restrictions on abortion, even if they are pro-choice. The Christian Institute reports that the study, commissioned by the Knights of Columbus and carried out by The Marist Institute for Public Opinion, surveyed 1,009 people for a week in July. The survey found that nearly eight in 10 Americans favor more restrictions on abortion. Additionally, 62 percent of those who identified as pro-abortion, also agreed that there should be more restrictions. Additional findings of the survey were that 56 percent of people questioned said that health care providers should not be forced to perform abortions if it went against their religious beliefs. Forty-one percent of those who identify as pro-abortion also agreed with this. “The American people have spoken clearly on their desire for abortion restrictions, less taxpayer funding of it, and common sense regulations on this industry to protect women’s health. Our courts, politicians, candidates and parties should heed this consensus,” said Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus.

‘Purpose-Driven Life’ Turned Michael Phelps’ Life Around

Michael Phelps has won several more gold medals at this year’s Olympics and is, by far, the all-time leader in Olympic gold medals. However, if it wasn’t for a Christian friend, former football star Ray Lewis, Phelps might have committed suicide in 2012 following his gold medal haul in London. Following his retirement, Phelps told ESPN that he struggled to figure out who he was outside the pool. In his words, “I was a train wreck. I was like a time bomb, waiting to go off. I had no self-esteem, no self-worth. There were times where I didn’t want to be here. It was not good. I felt lost.” After self-medicating with marijuana and alcohol, he cut himself off from family and other loved ones and “thought the world would just be better off without me . . . I figured that was the best thing to do — just end my life.” Lewis convinced Phelps to enter rehab and gave him a book to read while he was there: “The Purpose-Driven Life” by Rick Warren. The book changed Phelps’ life. Within a few days, Phelps called Lewis and told him, “You saved my life.” As Phelps told ESPN, Rick Warren’s book “turned me into believing there is a power greater than myself and there is a purpose for me on this planet.”

Marijuana to Remain Illegal under Federal Law

Marijuana advocates who hoped the cascade of states moving to legalize medical marijuana would soften the federal stance on the drug were disappointed Thursday when the Drug Enforcement Administration announced it will keep marijuana illegal for any purpose. Marijuana will remain a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Substances in Schedule 1 are determined by the Food and Drug Administration to have no medical use. States that allow marijuana for medical use or legalize recreational use remain in defiance of federal law. The announcement published Friday in the Federal Register relaxes the rules for marijuana research to make it easier for institutions to grow marijuana for scientific study. The DEA currently authorizes just one grow facility in Mississippi. In reaching its conclusion, the DEA said a Health and Human Services evaluation shows marijuana has no ‘‘currently accepted medical use’’ because “the drug’s chemistry is not known and reproducible; there are no adequate safety studies; there are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts; and the scientific evidence is not widely available.”

Network of 330,000 Cash Registers Hacked

One of the largest point-of-sale payment systems in the hospitality industry, used in restaurants and hotels globally, has been breached by a Russian organized crime group. The breach occurred in systems run by MICROS Systems, which was purchased by Oracle in 2014. Oracle security engineers found malware in some systems run by MICROS and identified the affected systems and blocked malicious processes and unauthorized network connections, the company said in an undated letter and FAQ sent to customers Monday. Whether actual customer financial data was accessed by the hackers in unknown. The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based company said it would contact customers whose data was affected by the malware. According to Oracle, MICROS point of sale programs were used by hotels, food and beverage facilities and retailers at more than 330,000 sites in 180 countries in 2014.

US Fertility Rate Falls to Record Low

The US fertility rate fell to the lowest point since record keeping started more than a century ago, according to statistics released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The fertility rate is the number of births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 to 44. In the first three months of 2016, the fertility rate in the US fell to 59.8 births per 1,000 women. The US fertility rate has been in a steady decline since the post-World War II baby boom. Back at its height in 1957, the fertility rate was 122.9 births per 1,000 women. The latest quarterly CDC data also indicate the larger pattern of women having babies later in life. As birth rates increased among women in their 30s and 40s, the rate among teenagers and women in their 20s dropped. The average age when women had their first child increased from 24.9 in 2000 to 26.3 in 2014.

Terrorism Update

Germany unveiled a raft of proposals Thursday to ramp up security after a spate of attacks in the country, two of them claimed by the Islamic State. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the plans include creating thousands of security jobs, and making it easier to detain individuals deemed to be threats to public safety and to deport foreign terror suspects, German news agency DPA reported. Authorities are also considering screening the social media profiles of migrants. The plans would be in place by the end of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s third term in late 2017, he said, according to DPA. Germany saw four attacks in the space of just one week last month, three of them carried out by asylum-seekers.

Canadian police shot and killed an Islamic State sympathizer, thwarting what authorities believed was a suicide bomb plot. The suspect, Aaron Driver, 24, was previously banned from associating with extremists from ISIS. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said it “received credible information of a potential terrorist threat” in a statement Wednesday. “A suspect was identified and the proper course of action has been taken to ensure that there is no danger to the public’s safety,” it added, without elaborating.

Economic News

Consumers pulled back in July after a spring shopping spree as retail sales were flat for the month of July. Economists expected a 0.4% increase. A core measure of retail sales –that excludes the volatile categories of autos, gasoline, food services and building materials – was unchanged. Auto sales rose 1.1% while gasoline station sales fell 2.7%. Sales fell 0.5% at department stores, 2.2% at sporting goods stores, 0.5% at apparel shops and 0.2% at restaurants and bars. After Americans spent cautiously in the early part of the year, they opened their wallets in April May and June. But the surge in consumer spending in the second quarter was more than offset by weak business investment and stockpiling, resulting in economic growth of just 1.2% at an annual rate.

Retailers continue to face a challenging environment in 2016, with Macy’s becoming only the latest top name to announce a wave of store closings this year. Macy’s (M) said it will close 100 of its 675 full-line locations amid falling profitability. Other top retailers closing stores in 2016 so far include: Sports Authority with 460 stores shutting down; Walmart is closing 269 stores, including 154 U.S. locations; Aeropostale with 154 stores closing; Kmart/Sears with 78 stores closing. Retail stores are suffering as online sales continue to rise.

In the second quarter, total household debt increased by $35 billion to $12.3 trillion, according to the New York Fed’s latest quarterly report on household debt. That increase was driven by two categories: auto loans and credit cards. While auto loans have been rising at a steady clip for the past six years, rising credit-card balances are a new development. After the recession, households cut back on credit-card use until 2014. Since then, card balances have risen by about $70 billion. From 2008 to 2013, total household debts dropped by more than $1.5 trillion. But first student-loan and auto-loan balances began to rise, and then mortgages and finally credit cards. Total household debt balances are still $400 billion below their 2008 peak. Credit-card debt had declined as households cut back on their use and as financial institutions cut off credit. These effects were particularly pronounced among people with low credit scores. Now, credit cards are returning among individuals with low credit or subprime credit scores.

OPEC smashed an all-time oil production record in July, pumping relentlessly despite the low prices. The oil cartel produced just over 33.1 million barrels of oil per day in July, up 46,400 barrels compared to June, it said in a new report released Wednesday. That’s over a million barrels a day more than it produced on average in 2015 and 2 million more than in 2014. The cartel has been pumping relentlessly for the last two years, aiming to defend its market share despite the collapsing oil prices. OPEC produces just under 35% of crude oil globally. That compares with the low of 32.6% it produced in April 2014. Total production in the United States, including crude and other forms, is expected to drop to an average of 13.6 million barrels a day this year, a drop of almost 3% compared to 2015.


A Palestinian man used a screwdriver to stab an Israeli man in the neck and back in Jerusalem on Thursday, the first such attack after a five-week lull in assaults by Palestinians that began last fall. The assailant, who was not identified, fled the scene and was being sought by security forces. Israel has clamped down on such attacks by retaliating against the assailants’ families rather than cracking down on all. “Unlike in the previous intifada (uprising), Israel has seen much higher rates of success in isolating the terrorists from their communities,” rather than applying collective punishment and further inflaming the tensions that spur revenge attacks, said Shlomo Brom, an Israeli strategy analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

Islamic State

U.S.-led coalition aircraft destroyed an estimated $11 million worth of oil and trucks over the weekend in the largest single airstrike this year against the Islamic State’s black market oil trade in Syria. Waves of aircraft destroyed 83 oil tankers sitting in the open in Sunday’s attack. The attacks were ordered after a pilot spotted some vehicles gathering in Deir ez-Zor province, a key oil-producing region in Syria controlled by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. The coalition command sent a surveillance aircraft over the area. The command then quickly directed A-10 attack planes, F-16s and two coalition aircraft, which together launched more than 80 weapons, including bombing and strafing runs, at the vehicles. After the coalition bombing campaign began two years ago, militants have since learned to avoid concentrating their forces or supplies in the open to avoid airstrikes. “This is a very good indication that they’re having trouble commanding and controlling their forces,” Air Force Lt. Gen, Jeffrey Harrigian said.

Syrian activists said airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group’s de factor capital of Raqqa on Thursday killed at least 20 civilians in a new round of bombardment that came as Turkey called on Russia to carry out joint operations against the Islamic State. Turkey also announced that they will resume its airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, months after they were suspended amid a major row with Moscow. Turkey had temporarily suspended its limited participation in the airstrikes campaign by the U.S.-led coalition, following soured relations with Moscow after Turkish air force jets downed a Russian warplane on the Syrian border in November.


Ukraine’s president ordered the army to be on combat alert Thursday on the country’s de-facto border with Crimea and on the front line in eastern Ukraine following Moscow’s accusations that Ukraine sent in “saboteurs” to carry out attacks in Crimea. Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014 following a hastily called referendum. The move sparked Russia-backed separatists to begin fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine, where deadly battles are still ongoing. The Russian intelligence agency FSB on Wednesday said one of its officers and an army soldier were killed over the weekend in two separate incidents while fending off what Moscow described as a series of attacks by Ukrainian “saboteurs.” Ukraine rejected the claims as “fantasy” and “a provocation.” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on his official Twitter account Thursday that the army will be put on combat alert not only on the de-factor border with Crimea but also the line of contact in eastern Ukraine, where both sides were supposed to have pulled back heavy weapons.


Russia has just marked 18 months of a deep and painful recession. The country’s economy was 0.6% smaller in the second quarter of 2016 than the same period last year, according to official data published on Thursday. But there is a glimmer of hope for Russians who have seen their living standards suffer over the last year and a half — the pace of the slowdown is starting ease. The economy shrank by 1.2% in the first quarter, following a 3.7% plunge in 2015. Russia has been hit by a double whammy of low oil prices and economic sanctions, and has not grown for six consecutive quarters. The sanctions imposed on Moscow over its role in the crisis in Ukraine have severely curtailed investment into the country, and cut Russian firms off from European and American finance.


At least four people were killed and dozens wounded when a series of bombs went off in areas popular with tourists across Thailand over the last 24 hours. At least four of the blasts occurred in the beach resort of Hua Hin, about 120 miles southwest of the capital Bangkok, on Thursday and Friday. A street vendor was killed and about 20 people wounded, some of them tourists from Britain, Germany, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands in the Thursday attacks. Two more bombs went off in Hua Hin on Friday morning, killing one person and wounding four. Other bombs also went off in Patong Beach in the southern resort of Phuket and in the southern provinces of Trang. Separatist insurgents are likely to be suspected of carrying out the attacks, the BBC reported.


Venezuela is extremely short of most staple food categories: meat, fish, fruits, sugar and bread. The government just doesn’t have enough money to pay for them. It’s created a staggering humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, CNN Money reports. Looting and riots have rocked the country. The declines in exports of certain food categories are staggering. Venezuelans “can’t buy bread and meat and all you can really get is cereals,” says Chris Rogers, a research analyst at Panjiva. Venezuela’s economy has plunged into a deep recession and the country is fast running out of cash. The key problem behind Venezuela’s inability to pay its bills is that the value of its currency, the bolivar, has plummeted dramatically in the last couple of years. Venezuela is the world’s worst-performing economy this year, according to the International Monetary Fund which warns that inflation could skyrocket over 700%.


A Southern California wildfire has surged in size and put thousands of homes in potential peril. Smoke plumes roiling from flaming ridges of the San Bernardino Mountains blew all the way across the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas as the blaze forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes Monday. Firefighters aided by 16 aircraft battled flames that spread across nearly 10 square miles on the northern side of the rugged mountain range east of Los Angeles. People in some 375 homes were ordered to evacuate. Residents of about 5,000 more were advised that they may want to evacuate.

At least four people are dead, multiple homes destroyed and thousands evacuated after high winds whipped raging infernos in Portugal and on a Portuguese island in the Atlantic Wednesday. Three elderly people were killed and hundreds injured in Funchal, the capital of Portugal’s Madeira Islands, after fires swept into the city overnight. The Madeira fire forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 residents and tourists in the islands. Residents described chaotic nighttime scenes on Tuesday, with people fleeing the flames by car at high speed on the wrong side of the road. At least186 wildfires were counted Wednesday on Portugal’s mainland in the midst of the prime tourist season, with hot, dry and windy weather fueling the flames. Ninety-five miles north of Lisbon on the mainland, a fourth fatality was reported after a forest watchmen died when another blaze engulfed the caravan he was sleeping in.


The National Weather Service declared a flash flood emergency Friday morning as rising water entered St. Helena Parish Hospital and a local nursing home and isolated the towns of Greenburg, Louisiana, and Osyka, Mississippi. Up to 10 inches of rain had fallen in some locations across the region by Friday morning. The heavy rain will continue over Louisiana and Mississippi through at least Saturday morning Tangipahoa Parish officials told the Baton Rouge Advocate that about 75 people have been saved from flooded homes so far. Water rescues have also been reported in Centreville, Mississippi. Numerous schools have been closed across Louisiana after hours of heavy rain were too much for waterways in the region. Flash flood emergencies were issued for Pike County and parts of Amite and Wilkinson counties in Mississippi.

Flooding in Florida has led to at least one rescue as rain continues to fall across the Gulf Coast region Tuesday. Mandatory evacuations were ordered for the Fort Pickens campground on Santa Rosa Island near Pensacola in response to the anticipation of intense rain and flooding still on the way. In Largo, raw sewage flowed from several manholes across the city Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Record-shattering temperatures this summer have scorched countries from Morocco to Saudi Arabia and beyond. Parts of the United Arab Emirates and Iran experienced a heat index — a measurement that factors in humidity as well as temperature — that soared to 140 degrees in July, and Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, recorded an all-time high temperature of nearly 126 degrees. Temperatures in Kuwait and Iraq startled observers. On July 22, the mercury climbed to 129 degrees in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. A day earlier, it reached 129.2 in Mitribah, Kuwait.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme (Daniel 9:26b, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Signs of the Times (8/8/16)

August 8, 2016

Supreme Court Agrees to Stay Transgender Bathroom Order

With the Supreme Court out of session and still down one justice, it seemed unlikely the high court would take any action on a Virginia school district’s request to stay a lower court’s order regarding a transgender student, reports Charisma News. The justices split 5-3 on the request, which lifts—until the court can issue its own opinion on the case—the Gloucester County School District’s obligation to allow “Gavin” Grimm to use opposite-sex bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers. “Gavin” is a biological girl who suffers from a psychological disorder in which she believes she is a boy. Following a “joint guidance” issued by the Obama Administration’s education and justice departments, a lower federal court ruled the Virginia school district had to allow Grimm to use opposite-sex facilities. After Democratic-appointed Associate Justice Stephen Breyer joined with the court’s four GOP appointees to stay that order, it would seem no school district is bound to follow the Obama Administration’s transgender mandate. Breyer said he agreed to the stay as a “courtesy” and to “preserve the status quo” until the Supreme Court can hear the case next year. A ruling would be unlikely until next spring, at the earliest.

High Court in Ireland Rules an Unborn Baby Has a Right to Life

A High Court judge has ruled that the word ‘unborn’ in the Irish Constitution means an “unborn child” with rights beyond the right to life which “must be taken seriously” by the State. The Irish Times reports that Justice Richard Humphreys said an unborn child, including the unborn child of a parent facing deportation, enjoys “significant” rights and legal position at common law, by statute, and under the Constitution, “going well beyond the right to life alone”. He also said that Article 42a of the Constitution, inserted by a 2012 referendum, obliges the State to protect “all” children and that because an “unborn” is “clearly a child”, Article 42a applied to all children “both before and after birth.” Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute said that this was a significant ruling which confirmed that the unborn baby was deserving of all the rights and protections to which every other person was entitled. She added that the ruling was a blow to those who were seeking to discriminate against children before birth and who argued that the preborn child was not fully human or entitled to human rights.

FBI Documents Confirm IRS Targeted the Tea Party

A government watchdog says FBI documents it has obtained confirm an orchestrated effort by the IRS to target tea party groups, One News Now reported last week. Judicial Watch obtained 294 pages of FBI documents that reveal top IRS officials knew about the targeting of tea party groups and other conservative groups two years before disclosing it to Congress and the public. The scandal centers around conservative groups that were seeking non-profit status so they could legally form an organization. Besides tea party groups, hundreds of other groups were flagged, too, including pro-life groups, a conservative Hispanic group, a conservative Hollywood group, pro-Israel groups, and a voting-rights group. Claims that liberal groups were also targeted was found to be an exaggeration after the IRS inspector general scrutinized the records. The scandal was first blamed on “rogue agents” in the Cincinnati office, but that claim was dropped when it became public that high-ranking officials in Washington, D.C. were instructing those agents to flag applications.

First Commercial Mission to Moon Approved

he U.S. government has given a Cape Canaveral company the go-ahead to fly the first commercial mission to the moon. The first-of-its-kind approval announced Wednesday morning clears the way for Moon Express to fly a robotic lander about the size of the “Star Wars” drone R2-D2 to the lunar surface as soon as next year. A startup with Silicon Valley roots and investors, Moon Express becomes the first from a growing group of entrepreneurial space firms lining up to fly missions beyond near-Earth orbit. SpaceX hopes to launch an unmanned “Red Dragon” mission to Mars as soon as 2018. Planetary Resources wants to mine asteroids. And Bigelow Aerospace, which recently attached a prototype habitat to the International Space Station, envisions lunar and Mars bases. Each at some point will need an approval like the one given to Moon Express by the Federal Aviation Administration, which led a months-long review also involving the White House, State Department, NASA and Defense Department.

Drowsy Driving Causes Thousands of Accidents

Drowsy driving is a common but neglected problem responsible for thousands of deaths each year in crashes that cost more than $100 billion, concludes a report by state safety advocates released Monday. Drowsy driving hasn’t received the attention of drunken or distracted driving, partly because diagnosing the problem is difficult. Many crashes involve a single car and driver, and definitive clues as to the cause are lacking. Police cited drowsy driving in at least 72,000 crashes from 2009 through 2013, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Those accidents included 41,000 injuries and 800 deaths, NHTSA said. However, the AAA Foundation estimates that drowsiness causes an average 328,000 crashes per year, with 109,000 involving 6,400 fatalities. Risks of drowsy crashes are similar to drunken driving, with less scanning of the road and even nodding off at the wheel, according to the report. Slower reaction times, more frequent eye closure and failure to pay attention are among the risks.

10 Refugees Form Olympic Team to Compete in Rio

A team of 10 refugees are makomg Olympic history by being the first team of refugees ever to compete in the Olympic Games. According to The New Yorker, the team is made up of six men and four women, all of whom have stories of overcoming not only athletic challenges, but challenges of actual survival. The team is comprised of two swimmers from Syria, two judo competitors from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a marathoner from Ethiopia, and five middle-distance runners from South Sudan. The 10 participants were selected from a group of 43 refugees by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The opening ceremony in Rio featured a tribute to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are struggling worldwide. Thomas Back, the president of the IOC, stated, “These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem. We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village, together with all the athletes of the word. The Olympic anthem will be played in their honor, and the Olympic flag will lead them into the Olympic Stadium. These refugee athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills, and strength of the human spirit.”

Zika Update

At least 41 American service members, including one pregnant woman, have been diagnosed with the Zika virus while on active duty overseas, a Pentagon spokesperson told Fox News Wednesday. The Pentagon said that seven family members of those servicemen and women also have contracted the virus, which usually leads to mild symptoms, but can cause severe birth defects in children and has been linked to paralysis and birth defects. All of the troops contracted Zika overseas, and are being treated at undisclosed locations. The two types of mosquitoes known to carry the virus— including its primary vector, the Aedes aegypti— are found at nearly 200 stateside installations ranging from Texas and Florida to New York, reported.

Economic News

The labor market turned in a strong showing for the second straight month in July as employers added 255,000 jobs, following 287,000 new jobs in June. The unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.9%, the Labor Department said Friday, as the sharp rise in employment was offset by a similar-size increase in the ranks of those looking for jobs. Businesses added 217,000 jobs, led by professional and business services, health care and finance. Federal, state and local governments added 38,000. This makes two straight months of solid job increases following May’s anemic 24,000 jobs. Average hourly wages rose 8 cents to $25.69 and are up 2.6% the past year. Every month, the U.S. economy must create at least 150,000 new jobs just to keep up with population growth.

Bitcoin owners targeted by hackers last week may lose about 36% of their money. Bitfinex, the Hong Kong-based exchange that was hacked, has started to bring its platform back online. It was shut down last week after 119,756 bitcoins, worth more than $65 million based on exchange rates at the time, were stolen from some users’ accounts. Bitfinex said it decided “after much thought, analysis and consultations” to generalize the losses across all users. That means even people who weren’t affected by the hack will find that 36% of the value of their accounts will be replaced by a “token” labeled BFX. The company said it will use those tokens to keep track of customers’ losses and will work to compensate the accounts in the future.

Since oil prices began to fall in mid-2014, cheap crude oil has been blamed for 195,000 job cuts in the U.S., according to a report published on Thursday by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, and the shedding of jobs may not be over yet. It’s an enormous toll that is especially painful because these tend to be well-paying jobs. The average pay in the oil and gas industry is 84% higher than the national average, according to Goldman Sachs. The cuts have occurred at a time when many other segments of the American economy have been adding jobs.

Islamic State

A U.S.-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias have seized nearly all of the strategic northern Syrian city of Manbij after a more than two-months’ long offensive against ISIS militants, a rights group reported Saturday. The militias, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, are now sweeping through the city, located in the northeast part of Aleppo province. Operations are still under way in the center of town and some ISIS members are still hiding there, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Activists CNN has spoken to in the city say ISIS still controls at least one neighborhood and intense clashes are ongoing in others.

ISIS militants have captured up to 3,000 people displaced from their homes trying to flee conflict zones in northern Iraq, the United Nations said Friday, reportedly killing 12 of them. The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday that an estimated 100 to 120 ISIS militants had captured around 1,900 civilians. It said the militants were using the captives as human shields in fighting against Iraqi forces. The move is the latest by ISIS militants to retain a grip on swaths of the country as Iraqi forces, backed by US-led airstrikes, try to recapture Mosul, ISIS’ most significant stronghold outside Syria. There are more than 4 million internally displaced persons in Iraq, according to data from the UN refugee agency.

Islamic State claimed responsibility on Sunday for an attack by a machete-wielding man in Belgium that left two female police officers seriously injured, the group’s Amaq news agency said on Twitter. Shortly before the claim, Belgian prosecutors had identified the assailant as a 33-year-old Algerian, K.B., who had lived in Belgium since 2012, saying that he may have been inspired by terrorism. The attacker, who shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) during the assault on Saturday, was shot by police and died of his injuries.


After months of being pummeled from the air and by Syrian artillery, an Islamist-led rebel coalition has made a dramatic breakthrough in relieving the siege of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. Their assault — the first test for a new group born out of al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate — appears to have taken the exhausted Syrian army by surprise. If consolidated, the rebels’ offensive — which they have dubbed “The Great Battle for Aleppo” — could change the landscape of the conflict in northern Syria. What is beyond dispute is that the renewed fighting, and the waves of regime airstrikes and rocket attacks launched in response, is inflicting yet further suffering and destruction in Syria’s oldest city. The rebel offensive has been led by Jabhat Fateh al Sham, formerly the al Nusra Front. Two weeks ago, al Nusra very publicly declared it was breaking its long-standing ties with al Qaeda to build closer alliances with other jihadist and rebel groups in Syria.


Turkey’s ruling party on Friday ordered a purge of followers of a U.S.-based imam the government blames for masterminding the country’s failed July 15 coup. The order came a day after Turkey issued a warrant for Fethullah Gulen’s arrest, a move seen as a prelude to a formal extradition request. The government has branded Gulen’s movement a terrorist organization and has launched a sweeping crackdown on its alleged followers since the attempted coup, which left more than 270 people dead. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to arrive in Turkey later this month, amid strained relations with Washington over the possible extradition of Gulen.


Scores of people were killed Monday in a suicide bombing at the main gate of a hospital in southwestern Pakistan. At least 64 people were killed in the incident at the Civil Hospital in the city of Quetta in the Balochistan province. An additional 92 people were being treated for injuries. The explosion, which was followed by gunfire, struck the entrance to the hospital’s emergency department. Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the blast. A number of people have been killed in Quetta in incidents linked to separatist insurgents, sectarian tensions and crime, the BBC said. Reuters reported that several lawyers were among those killed in recent weeks.


Taliban militants attacked a convoy carrying about a dozen foreign tourists including three Americans in Afghanistan. Police were escorting the tourists when the ambush happened about 90 miles from the western city of Herat. The tourists were heading to see historical monuments in Herat. The Washington Post said at least six people were injured. It reported that the tourists in the convoy included six Britons and one German and said that efforts were underway to airlift the victims to Herat by helicopter. In another incident Thursday, six people aboard a Pakistani military helicopter were taken hostage by the Taliban after it crashed in Afghanistan.


At least 14 people were killed Friday when alleged Christian terrorists attacked a market in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, authorities said. Fifteen others were hurt in the attack, including 12 with serious injuries. The attackers are believed to be part of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, a Christian separatist group that India has classified as a terrorist group. Three attackers opened fire about 11 a.m. at the market in Kokrajhar, authorities said. The army killed one of the assailants, and authorities are looking for the other two


The increasingly tense situation on the frontline between government forces and separatists in eastern Ukraine has resulted in a spike in civilian casualties, according to new figures released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The agency documented 69 civilian casualties in eastern Ukraine in June, including 12 dead and 57 injured — nearly double the figure for May and the highest figure since August 2015. July saw 73 civilian casualties, including eight dead and 65 injured. More than half the total casualties recorded in the past two months were caused by shelling, while the remaining part were caused by mines, booby traps and improvised explosive devices.


Brazil has deployed the largest security contingent in Olympic history — up to 100,000 officers — to secure the city of 6.5 million people. With many of them decked out in camouflage uniforms and carrying assault rifles, it has created a distinctly military feel in a city more accustomed to flip flops and bikinis. Most of the major roads leading to and from Olympic venues are lined with a combination of military, federal and state police. Teams of motorcycle officers sit in rows around the city, ready to serve as rapid response units. Even the view from iconic Copacabana Beach has been obscured in recent days by a Brazilian navy warship cruising just offshore. While there have been reports of muggings, assaults and one person shot dead on Friday night outside the opening ceremony, there hasn’t been the kind of widespread mayhem predicted by some leading up to the Games.

The Rio Olympics opened to big pageantry but relatively low ratings in the United States for NBC. Friday’s broadcast of the Rio opening ceremony brought in an overnight rating of 16.5 — the lowest overnight rating for a summer Olympics opening ceremony since 1992 when the games were held in Barcelona. The opening of the London games in 2012 had a 23.0 overnight rating. The network may even have to compensate advertisers for lower-than-expected viewership by giving them free ads later.


A once top-secret subterranean U.S. nuclear base in northern Greenland is thawing out, potentially exposing the environment to radioactive coolant, PCBs, and raw sewage that the military originally believed would stay entombed for millennia. The hazardous waste could emerge by the end of the century, according to a new, peer-reviewed study published Thursday in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. Camp Century was a U.S. base built on the Greenland ice sheet in 1959. To the public, its mission was scientific tasks such as drilling for ice cores. But it also doubled as a top-secret site for testing nuclear missiles during the height of the Cold War. Codenamed Project Iceworm, it was a test base to see if launch sites could be built close enough for missiles to reach the Soviet Union. The camp included a series of tunnels roughly 50 feet underground. It was one of five ice-sheet bases in northern Greenland.


Last week the most dangerous volcano in Mexico erupted and three major volcanoes in Indonesia all erupted within the space of just 72 hours. Mexico and Indonesia are both considered to be part of “the Ring of Fire,” and all along the perimeter of the Pacific Ocean volcanoes are starting to go off like firecrackers right now, reports Charisma News. According to Volcano Discovery, 25 volcanoes in areas that are considered to be within the Ring of Fire have erupted recently. Our planet appears to have entered a time of increased seismic activity, the report notes. In Mexico, some scientists are becoming concerned that this recent activity may be building up to “a major disastrous eruption” by Mt. Popocatepetl near Mexico City.


A wildfire that began just after noon on Sunday and consumed 1,500 acres within eight hours brings the total number of active fires in California to 20. The Pilot fire, located 50 east of Los Angeles in the San Bernardino National Forest, spread quickly through dry timber and brush and forced the evacuation of dozens of homes in Summit Valley, California. Hindered by the mountainous terrain near Pilot Rock Conservation Camp above Silverwood Lake, firefighters battled the rapidly-spreading fire through the night into Monday morning, but the fire remains 0 percent contained. Several highways in the area were closed because of the fire.

Federal officials say 27 large wildfires across the West are being fueled by hot, dry temperatures often combined with high winds, which is making conditions difficult for thousands of firefighters. The fires have destroyed dozens of homes and have forced evacuations. The 2-week-old wildfire churning through the ruggedly scenic coastal mountains north of California’s Big Sur has grown to more than 84 square miles. But an army of 5,500 firefighters established containment lines on about a third of the perimeter. A total of 57 residences and 11 outbuildings have been destroyed and a bulldozer operator has been killed in an accident since an unattended campfire ignited the blaze July 22.

Firefighters have started two simultaneous emergency burns trying to stop an 81-square-mile wildfire that on Friday moved to within a few miles of a small town in mountainous central Idaho. Nearly 1,500 firefighters are battling the blaze burning timber in rugged terrain. Numerous fire lines have had to be abandoned as flames moved north. About 25 miles of State Highway 21 remains closed. Utah authorities say a rural wildfire near the Idaho border has torched about 30 square miles and destroyed three structures. Fire officials hope to have full containment by Sunday on the largest wildfire in Wyoming this summer. The fire in the Bridger-Teton National Forest has been burning since July 17 when it was started by lightning. It has burned about 49 square miles of timber, but firefighters have gained 84 percent containment.


At least three homes collapsed Thursday and thousands of people were left without power after a severe storm hit New Orleans. The homes collapsed at around 4 p.m. local time, as heavy rain and high winds moved through the area. The storm produced wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour that knocked down power lines and trees across the metro New Orleans area.

Hurricane Earl has weakened to a tropical depression after strengthening into a modest tropical storm in the Bay of Campeche Friday night. Earl made landfall early Thursday morning near Belize City as a Category 1 hurricane with estimated maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. Six people were killed in the Dominican Republic Sunday into Monday as this system passed near the island. Now, the main concern going forward will transition to excessive rainfall and major flooding. Earl was the first hurricane to landfall in Belize, or anywhere in the western Caribbean Sea west of Jamaica, since Ernesto almost exactly four years ago. Mountain communities in two Mexican states are recovering from weekend mudslides that killed 39 people during heavy rains brought by remnants of Hurricane Earl.

At least 21 are dead, six are missing and 60 have been hospitalized after torrential rain hit the Macedonian capital of Skopje, authorities said Sunday. Police and army helicopters have been dispatched to search for the missing and hundreds have been evacuated from the flood zone. The system brought heavy rain, strong winds and thunderstorms into the city and its northern suburbs late Saturday. The floods destroyed hundreds of homes and vehicles and roads are still impassable. Several areas remain without electricity.

Signs of the Times (8/3/16)

August 3, 2016

Newspaper Rejects Ad Because it Includes the Word ‘Christian’

A Tennessee newspaper has caused a stir for refusing to run an advertisement placed by a Christian store. reports that Lois McGinnis and her family own Cedar Springs Christian Store in Knoxville. The McGinnis family owns two store locations, but recently decided to close the second location. McGinnis called the local newspaper, the News Sentinel, to place a going-out-of-business ad. When McGinnis opened the newspaper the day the ad was scheduled to run, it wasn’t there, so she called the newspaper office. The employee whom she spoke with explained to her why the paper hadn’t run her ad: “She said our ad did not run because it contained an offensive word,” McGinnis told Fox News’s Todd Starnes. “I asked what that offensive word was and she said the offensive word was ‘Christian.’”

  • This is but a harbinger of the times to come when being Christian is not just offensive to secular America, but a hate crime

Satanic Temple Pushing for After School Satanist Clubs

The Satanic Temple is promoting an after school program called the After School Satan Club that they hope to establish in public schools this school year. According to The Washington Post, members of the Satanic Temple hope that their after school program will compete with the Christian program, the Good News Club, that is allowed in public schools. Members of the Satanic Temple who are proponents of the program say that the purpose of the club would not actually be to worship the devil, but rather to promote rational thinking. Doug Mesner, the Satanic Temple’s co-founder, says that “Satan” is just a “metaphorical construct” that represents the rejection of tyranny of the human mind. In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Christian clubs were allowed in public schools because to exclude them would be to violate the right to free speech. Proponents of the satanist clubs hope to capitalize on this precedent.

  • Freedom of speech is paramount, but this development shows how well a non-metaphorical but real Satan continues to undermine the One True God and the One True Savior.

Illinois Gov. Signs Bill Forcing Christian Doctors and Pregnancy Centers to Promote Abortion

Abortion is now the official state-preferred choice for Illinois women in unexpected pregnancies, after Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 1564 into law Friday afternoon, reports Rauner, a Republican, held veto power over the legislation, but he went against the wishes of his own party in approving the legislation. “We are extremely disappointed in Gov. Rauner for siding with pro-abortion Democrats by signing SB 1564 and expanding abortions in Illinois,” Emily Zender, executive director of Illinois Right to Life said in a press release. “This radical bill is a direct assault on the consciences of medical professionals and the missions of community supported pregnancy help centers.

ISIS Recruiting Citizens to Commit Homeland Terrorism

Believing he was answering a holy call, Harry Sarfo left his home in the working-class city of Bremen last year and drove for four straight days to reach the territory controlled by the Islamic State in Syria. He barely had time to settle in before members of the Islamic State’s secret service, wearing masks over their faces, came to inform him and his German friend that they no longer wanted Europeans to come to Syria. Where they were really needed was back home, to help carry out the group’s plan of waging terrorism across the globe, reports the New York Times. Sarfo told the Times that ISIS has ‘loads of people’ living in European countries and waiting for commands to attack the European people. The operatives belonged to an intelligence unit of the Islamic State known in Arabic as the Emni, which has an external operations branch, dedicated to exporting terror abroad. Interrogation records show that operatives are selected by nationality and grouped by language into small, discrete units, tasked with plotting their own attacks.

DC Police Officer Charged with Aiding ISIS

A Washington, D.C. metro transit authority police officer was charged on Wednesday with trying to provide material support to ISIS — the first time a law enforcement officer has been charged with an ISIS-related crime. Nicholas Young, 36, who has served with the department since 2003, was arrested Wednesday morning by FBI agents. Young allegedly sent mobile-based gift card IDs to a law enforcement source last week with the understanding that the cards would be used by overseas ISIS fighters to communicate, according to a copy of the indictment viewed by The Washington Post. Young has been monitored by the FBI since September 2010, The Post reported.

Navy Ship to be Named after Renowned Pedophile

The Navy is set to name a ship after the late homosexual rights icon and San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, according to a Congressional notification obtained by USNI News. The July 14, 2016 notification, signed by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, indicated he intended to name a planned Military Sealift Command fleet oiler USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO-206). Harvey Milk was the first homosexual activist elected to public office in the United States and was assassinated in 1978. Milk, who served in the Navy at a time it was illegal for homosexuals to do so often bragged about being a pedophile. Milk was “a sexual predator who preyed upon teen boys”, notes the American Family Association.

Migrant Update

A record 1.3 million migrants applied for asylum in one of the 28 member states of the European Union, Norway or Switzerland in 2015, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from Eurostat, the EU’s statistical agency. The previous 700,000 high water mark was set in 1992 around the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since 1985, Europe has received about 11.6 million asylum applications, the analysis showed. About half of all applications in 2015 came from just three war-torn countries: Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Since 2012, Germany has emerged as the primary destination for asylum seekers in Europe, receiving 442,000 asylum applications in 2015 alone. Hungary was second with 174,000 applications and Sweden third with 156,000 asylum requests.

Zika Update

For the first time, the Zika virus has prompted public health officials to warn pregnant women to avoid traveling to a part of the continental United States, in the wake of a growing outbreak of the disease in South Florida. For the first time, the Zika virus has prompted public health officials to warn pregnant women to avoid traveling to a part of the continental United States, in the wake of a growing outbreak of the disease in South Florida. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning to women who are pregnant to avoid unnecessary travel to the affected area, which is just north of downtown Miami.

The Zika epidemic that has spread from Brazil to the rest of Latin America is now raging in Puerto Rico — and the island’s response is in chaos. Infections are skyrocketing and many residents fail to protect themselves against bites because they believe the threat is exaggerated. Federal and local health officials are feuding, and the governor’s special adviser on Zika has quit in disgust, reports the New York Times. There are about 5,500 confirmed infections on the island, including 672 pregnant women. But experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they believe that is a radical undercount. Tests on donated blood, the most reliable barometer of the epidemic’s spread, show that almost 2 percent of the donors were infected in the last 10 days.

Economic News

Manufacturing activity grew at a slower pace in July as low oil prices and a weak global economy amplified by the United Kingdom’s Brexit vote continued to hamper the industry. An index of factory activity dipped to 52.6 from 53.2 in August, the Institute for Supply Management said Monday. A reading above 50 means the sector is expanding; below 50 indicates contraction. Although sluggish, manufacturing activity nevertheless expanded for the fifth straight month after a string of declines. A weak global economy has clobbered manufacturers’ exports, while a strong dollar has magnified the effects by making U.S. goods more expensive for overseas customers. Meanwhile, low oil prices have dampened drilling activity and the related production of steel pipes and other materials.

Consumer spending grew at a healthy pace for the third straight month in June. Personal spending, which measures how much Americans pay for everything from cars to haircuts, rose 0.4%, matching May’s rise, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. In April spending increased 1.1%, the biggest jump in almost seven years. Household consumption makes up more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy. Personal income, including wages and salaries, gained a moderate 0.2% in June, and has risen steadily in recent months as employee earnings have picked up. The personal saving rate fell to 5.3% from 5.5% in May, a sign that consumers are becoming less cautious.

Crude oil prices plunged 4% on Monday, sliding to $39.86 a barrel Monday. It’s the first time the price has been below $40 a barrel in nearly four months. It rose slightly on Tuesday to go just above $40. Oil prices are now down more than 22% since topping out above $51 a barrel in early June. The price had peaked at $107 in June 2014. The recent selling has been driven by a realization that the epic oil glut remains largely intact — and some U.S. oil companies may make it worse by starting to drill more. Not only is there an historic oversupply of crude, but gasoline inventories are now at record highs, despite the fact that it’s summer driving season.

Islamic State

U.S. warplanes carried out airstrikes in Libya Monday, targeting Islamic State forces near their stronghold in the coastal city of Sirte, the Pentagon announced. Libyan’s interim government requested the attack, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said. The Islamic State has established a presence in war-torn Libya and in Afghanistan. They have been struck by U.S. warplanes in support of local ground forces in both countries. In February, an airstrike in Libya killed 49 fighters from the Islamic State. Additional airstrikes will continue as forces aligned with the Libyan Government of National Accord continues to take ground from ISIS, Cook said.

According to the group IntelCenter, which tracks acts of terrorism, there has been a significant attack directed or inspired by ISIS every 84 hours since June 8 in cities outside the war zones in Iraq, Syria, Sinai in Egypt and Libya. CNN’s tracking of attacks supports that conclusion. More than half of those attacks have been beyond big cities in places “not traditionally under threat of terrorist attacks,” says IntelCenter. This rash of random, low-tech but deadly attacks has fueled public unease in Europe and eroded faith in governments to tackle the threat of terrorism or discern who might turn to violence.


Dozens of families and some opposition fighters started leaving besieged rebel-held neighborhoods in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Saturday after the government opened safe corridors for civilians and fighters who want to leave. The government had completely closed the main road into rebel-held areas of Aleppo on July 17, effectively besieging the 300,000 people living there. Earlier this week, Syrian President Bashar Assad offered an amnesty to rebels who lay down their arms and surrender to authorities in the next three months. Opposition activists denied reports that Aleppo residents were leaving rebel-held neighborhoods of the city, saying that state media was attempting to falsely suggest that civilians were fleeing the area in large numbers.

A Russian helicopter was shot down Monday after delivering aid to the Syrian city of Aleppo, killing all five people on board, Russian state media reported. It was the biggest single loss of life for Russia in Syria since Russian warplanes started carrying out airstrikes in September 2015 in the country ravaged by war for the past five years. Video footage showed dozens of men cheering around the flaming wreckage, some of them taking photographs with their phones and others yelling, “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”). An empty rocket pod lay next to the wreckage, raising questions about whether the helicopter was carrying aid. Rescuers in Syria said Tuesday a helicopter dropped barrels filled with toxic gas, seriously injuring dozens of people, not far from where a Russian transport helicopter was shot down the day before, Reuters reported.


The United States has spent more than $17 billion to provide weapons, ammunition, and other military equipment to Afghanistan’s struggling defense forces, even as the number of Afghans enlisted in these services dips amid a resurgence in Taliban-backed violence, according to new figures published by a government oversight body. The United States has spent nearly $13 billion to arm the Afghan National Army as of May 31, 2016 and another $4.2 billion on weapons for the Afghan National Police, according to figures from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The latest tally of U.S. expenditures for these forces comes amid a new surge of violence in Afghanistan caused by the Taliban, which President Obama said had been “toppled” on Monday. As the United States continues to send great amounts of taxpayer aid to the war-torn country, the strength of its security forces have reached new lows, casting doubt on the ability of American and allied forces to completely hand off security control of the country, reports Fox News.


The Obama administration secretly airlifted $400 million in cash to Iran in January to settle a decades-old legal dispute just as the Iranians were releasing four Americans detained by Tehran, The Wall Street Journal reported. The Journal, citing U.S. and European officials and congressional staff briefed on the operation, said wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currency were flown into Iran on an unmarked cargo plane. The money was the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the administration reached with Iran to resolve a 37-year-old dispute over a failed arms deal signed just before the fall of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979. The legal wrangling was being arbitrated before the international tribunal in The Hague. According to the Journal, senior U.S. officials denied the payment was a quid pro quo for the release of the prisoners. They said the timing was coincidental. Republican lawmakers are fuming say the transaction has put more Americans at risk of being taken hostage.


In Ethiopia, up to ten million people are in danger of starvation. Two failed rainy seasons followed by catastrophic flooding have destroyed crops across large parts of a country in which the persecution of Christians is growing. The present famine is the worst it has been in the past fifty years. In Zimbabwe, over four million people are in critical danger of starvation. Approximately 11.5 million of the population live off the food they grow themselves, but drought has caused between 95% and 100% crop failure. Many families are reduced to one meal a day, sometimes less; children are too weak from hunger to go to school; unable to get jobs, hardly anyone has money to buy what scarce food there is. Barnabas Aid has been helping in the region since the food crisis of 2008-9, working through local churches to reach the most needy and vulnerable Christians in both Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.

  • Just $13.50 will help feed a family of five for a month. Donate here


A U.N. humanitarian convoy under military escort came under Boko Haram gunfire during an ambush in northeast Nigeria’s Borno state, the United Nations and Nigerian military said Friday. Three humanitarian staff members and two soldiers were injured. The convoy was returning to Maiduguri late Thursday after making delivery of much-needed food supplies to a camp of 24,000 impoverished people displaced by Boko Haram raids in the town of Bama. Several relief groups were part of the convoy. The attack prompted a temporary suspension of U.N. humanitarian assistance missions in the area pending a reevaluation of the security situation, a UNICEF statement said.


A 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean early Saturday. The quake occurred at a depth of 117 miles some 19 miles south-southwest of the uninhabited island of Agrihan in the U.S. territory, the U.S. Geological Survey said. A barely noticeable wave of about two inches was recorded in Saipan, the largest of the islands. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands lies about 5,800 miles south-southwest of California’s Pacific shore. The quake was felt in the neighboring territory of Guam.


Southern New England’s lobster population has gotten so low that fishermen may need to start throwing back smaller lobsters just to keep the species from being wiped out. The region’s historic lobster fishery may be facing new restrictions because of a population decline that hasn’t been seen before. As the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission looks for ways to help preserve the species, the group released a report suggesting the lobsters could be preserved by increasing the minimum harvesting size, and the commission’s lobster board may take action on the population decline Thursday. New England lobster fishing is one of America’s oldest industries, and it was worth more than a half-billion dollars last year. But the catch south of Cape Cod has plummeted as ocean temperatures have risen. The lobster catch sank to about 3.3 million pounds in 2013, down from a peak of about 22 million in 1997. The fishery commission’s report states that management strategies can do only so much if environmental conditions persist.


The deadly wildfire burning south of Monterey, California, the Soberanes Fire, has grown to more than 43,000 acres, larger than San Francisco. According to the latest CalFire incident report updated Monday morning, there are more than 5,000 firefighters battling the blaze that is now 18 percent contained. Fifty-seven homes and 11 structures have been destroyed, while another five structures were damaged from the fire. Some 2,000 structures remain threatened. The fire claimed the life of Robert Reagan, a 35-year-old father of two daughters from Fresno County, last week after his bulldozer overturned on steep terrain while he worked to combat the fire. CalFire said the fire continues to “burn in steep, rugged and inaccessible terrain” and they estimate that it will continue to burn until the end of August. Authorities have determined that an illegal, abandoned campfire caused the massive wildfire.

More than a dozen homes have reportedly been destroyed by the Roaring Lion wildfire near Hamilton, Montana, that has scorched more than 4,400 acres and forced evacuations. Authorities say the number of homes destroyed has risen to 14 and Ravalli County commissioners declared a state of emergency on Monday. According to an incident report, about 500 homes have been evacuated or warned they may have to evacuate. The fire, which broke out around 2 p.m. Sunday about five miles south of Hamilton, quickly grew to 2,000 acres within a period of seven hours. The fire grew so rapidly that the initial attack team had no chance of containing the wildfire. Authorities expanded evacuation orders to over 700 homes Monday.


After battling a major wildfire that made world headlines in May, Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, Canada, is drying out after facing a natural disaster of another kind — flash flooding. The fire in May, fueled by dry conditions and high winds, destroyed about 10 percent of the buildings in the city and forced the evacuation of 88,000 people. Now, after a weekend of heavy downpours, the community is reeling once again after being inundated with so much water that flooding occurred in parts of the city. More than 3 inches of rain fell, with the majority falling within two hours Sunday morning, according to CTV. In fact, more rain fell on Sunday than Fort McMurray’s average rainfall for the entire month of July. The heavy rains led to residents still recovering from the devastation of fire waking up to flooded basements, sewer backups and flooded parking lots. Power outages were also reported across the city.

Monsoonal rains swept through the Phoenix metro area Tuesday afternoon, causing major flooding, which led to water rescues and the evacuation of several schools, but no deaths or injuries. Some areas in the Phoenix metro picked up two or more inches of rain within an hour. The Phoenix Fire Department said officials made numerous water rescues amid the heavy rains, including one man forced to climb atop his vehicle along Interstate 17. The highway was closed in both directions at Indian School Road due to flooding. Flooding also caused additional closures and delays on Interstate 10. Both highways were open again by Wednesday morning. A flash flood deluged Yarnell, Arizona, on Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 2, and then receded as quickly as it hit, leaving a thick coating of mud everywhere. The rushing waters were highly localized, as heavy rains fell on the slope blackened by June’s Tenderfoot Fire, and, with no vegetation to slow the flow of rainwater and hold the soil in place, the water gushed right through town, covering Highway 89 in several inches of slippery, black mud.

A state of emergency was declared in Ellicott City, Maryland after major flooding destroyed much of its downtown area. A torrent of floodwaters swept through Ellicott City, Maryland, Saturday night sweeping cars away, damaging buildings, and prompting water rescues. One fatality had been confirmed and at least two people were still missing as of Saturday morning. Gas leaks also occurred in downtown Ellicott City along Main Street. Natural gas service had been turned off in the downtown area and it is unclear how long it will be before it is restored. There is extensive structure damage to multiple businesses, residential areas, along with sidewalks and streets. Ellicott City, an affluent unincorporated community of 65,800 people and famous for its historic downtown, is about 12 miles west of Baltimore. Video from the scene shows cars being swept away in roads that look like rivers.