Posts Tagged ‘Healthcare’

Signs of the Times (12/8/17)

December 8, 2017

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces.” (Psalm 122:5-7)

Trump Officially Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

Speaking from the Diplomatic Reception room at the White House Wednesday, President Trump officially declared that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel. “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” Trump said. “This is a long overdue step to advance the peace process…This is nothing more, or less, than a recognition of reality.” In his remarks, Trump said, “Jerusalem is not just the heart of three great religions, but it is now also the heart of one of the most successful democracies in the world,” Trump said. “Israel is a sovereign nation with the right, like every other sovereign nation, to determine its own capital.” The President repeatedly addressed concerns about a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians being hindered as a result of the recognition. He argued that failing to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as verified by law and Congress through the Jerusalem Embassy Act, has done nothing to move the region closer to a peace deal. “We cannot solve our problems by making the same failed assumptions and repeating the same failed strategies of the past. Old challenges demand new approaches,” Trump said. “The record is in, after two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a peace agreement.”

“Israel will always ensure freedom of worship for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. President Trump, thank you for today’s historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The Jewish people, and the Jewish State will be forever grateful,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said following President Trump’s Announcement. “We’re profoundly grateful for the President for his courageous and just decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to prepare for the opening of the US embassy here. This decision reflects the President’s commitment to an ancient but enduring truth, to fulfilling his promises and to advancing peace.”

  • Jerusalem was first the capital of Israel nearly 3,000 years ago, long before Islam and Palestinians existed. During its long history, Jerusalem was destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times, according to Wikipedia. It was a Roman colony when Jesus was born. Muslims captured it in 637 A.D. and the Crusaders retook it in 1099. In 1948, following World War II, Israel was reestablished with Jerusalem as its capital. However, this displaced thousands of so-called Palestinians who now lived there. Jerusalem is now divided into four quadrants, one each for the Jews, Muslims (East Jerusalem), Christians and Armenians. The dispute over Jerusalem will ultimately lead to a war that brings the anti-Christ to power (the first beast of Revelation 13), which will mark the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation (Daniel 9:27)

Hamas Calls for New ‘Intifada’ and Clashes Erupt in West Bank

The leader of the terrorist group Hamas called for a new “intifada” or uprising against Israel Thursday after President Trump announced the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and said the United States would begin the lengthy process of moving the Embassy to the city. The exhortation to revolt came as clashes between hundreds of Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops erupted across the West Bank Thursday. Demonstrators in Gaza burned posters of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as U.S. and Israeli flags, as part of “three days of rage” that began Wednesday. Protesters in cities and towns threw stones at Israeli forces, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Smoke was seen rising over Bethlehem. At least 2 Palestinians were killed and 17 injured, one seriously, in Thursday’s clashes, but Friday, the Muslim holy day, could be a bigger test when Palestinians gather for mass prayers. Trump’s controversial decision upended decades of U.S. policy on Jerusalem and countered long-standing international assurances to the Palestinians that the fate of the ancient city, claimed by Israelis and Palestinians, would be determined in negotiations.

Supreme Court Allows Trump Travel Ban to Take Full Effect

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that President Trump’s immigration travel ban against six majority-Muslim countries can take full effect while legal challenges against the latest version are still tied up in courts. The high court’s identical orders in two challenges to the ban mean that most travelers from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Chad cannot enter the United States while the cases proceed. Lower courts had exempted more travelers who they said had “bona fide” connections to the United States, such as the grandparents and in-laws of citizens. By allowing the full travel ban to take effect for now, the justices may be signaling that they are likely to uphold it on the merits at a later date — an interpretation the American Civil Liberties Union disputed. “It’s unfortunate that the full ban can move forward for now, but this order does not address the merits of our claims,” said Omar Jadwat, who directs the ACLU’s immigrants’ rights project.

Congress Averts Shutdown with 2-Week Stopgap Bill

Congress passed a short-term spending deal Thursday, sending to President Trump a bill to avert a partial government shutdown and setting up a heated budget fight later this month. Trump has indicated that he will sign the deal, preventing a government stoppage that had been set to take effect at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. The deal does not resolve numerous debates over domestic spending, immigration and funding for the military that brought the government to the brink of partial closure, leaving party leaders with a new Dec. 22 deadline to keep the government open. Democrats are pushing for the next government funding bill to include increased domestic spending, legal status for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children and other party priorities. Some Republicans are pushing for increased defense spending, while others have made shrinking the government their top objective. Republicans have majorities in both chambers of Congress, but they cannot pass spending bills alone. In the Senate, a 60-vote supermajority is required to pass most major legislation, and Republicans control just 52 seats.

Arrests Along Mexico Border Drop Sharply Under Trump

The number people caught trying to sneak over the border from Mexico has fallen to the lowest level in 46 years, according to Homeland Security statistics released Tuesday that offer the first comprehensive look at how immigration enforcement is changing under the Trump administration. During the government’s 2017 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, U.S. border agents made 310,531 arrests, a decline of 24 percent from the previous year and the fewest overall since 1971. The figures show a sharp drop in arrests immediately following President Trump’s election win, possibly reflecting the deterrent effect of his rhetoric on would-be border crossers. Arrests of foreigners living illegally in the United States surged under Trump. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers made 110,568 arrests between Trump’s inauguration and the end of September, according to the figures published Tuesday, a 42 percent increase over the same period during the previous year. But the number of people expelled from the United States declined about six percent during the government’s 2017 fiscal year, in part because the drop in illegal border crossings left the agency with fewer people to deport.

FBI Attempting to Retrieve Guns from Those Who Should Have Been Denied

A USA TODAY review found that federal authorities sought to retrieve guns from thousands of people who should have been blocked by background checks from buying the weapons. These are people with criminal records, mental health issues or other problems that would block them from buying weapons. Or someone like Devin Kelley, who had a domestic violence record but still purchased a rifle used in the Texas church massacre in November that killed 26 people. More than 4,000 requests were made last year by the FBI to retrieve weapons, the largest number of such requests in 10 years. But the government has a mixed record in retrieving these guns, notes the paper.

  • Another example of why you can’t trust government agencies to do the job right in the first place. More laws won’t matter if enforcement has so many holes.

More Than 100 Powerful Men Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Since the allegations of sexual abuse by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein surfaced on Oct. 5, women have been stepping forward to publicly share their stories of sexual misconduct. Although many of the accusations originally focused on Hollywood, more than 100 high-profile men across industries — including tech, business, politics and media — have since faced claims ranging from sexual harassment to rape. Many have resigned or been fired from high-level positions. Also coming into focus are the many others who knew about the sexual misconduct and did nothing about it or actually condoned it.

  • For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. (Luke 8:17)
  • For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. (Ephesians 5:12-13)

Cocaine Kills as Many Blacks as Opioids Kill Whites

The American opioid crisis is only part of an overall drug abuse emergency in the U.S. Cocaine-related overdose deaths among non-Hispanic blacks are on par with overdose deaths caused by heroin and prescription opioids among whites, according to a study published Monday in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine. “Numerous U.S. national surveillance studies and media reports have highlighted an alarming rise in drug poisoning deaths in recent years,” said Meredith Shiels, a co-author of the study and an investigator at the National Cancer Institute. Death rates are “rising most rapidly among white Americans,” she said. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16,849 Americans died due to an overdose in 1999, and in 2015, the number of overdose fatalities reached 52,404. Overall, rates of overdose deaths increased by 5.5% per year between 1999 and 2015. Most of that increase has been attributed to opioid-related deaths among white persons. Cocaine was the largest contributor to overdose deaths among black men and women.

New Initiative Fighting Online Christian Censorship

Censorship of Christian and conservative speech online by tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and Apple is the target of an initiative called Internet Freedom Watch, launched Thursday by the National Religious Broadcasters. The initiative has established a website, InternetFreedomWatch.org, to document cases of censorship of Christian content. NRB, has published a chart with more than 30 instances of Internet censorship. Last week, FCC chairman Ajit Pai accused Twitter and other tech companies of being disingenuous by arguing for a free and open Internet while they “routinely block or discriminate against content they don’t like.” Pai, appointed by President Trump to head the agency, called out Twitter for appearing to have a “double standard when it comes to suspending or de-verifying conservative users’ accounts as opposed to those of liberal users.”

Americans Give More to Charity than Any Other Country

According to Giving USA, American giving rose to $390 billion last year, a 3% increase over the prior year. Americans give about 3% of their collective income to charity, more than the citizens of any other country. According to the National Philanthropic Trust, the vast majority of U.S. citizens donate to charity, and 91% of high net-worth do so. The average household contributes $2,520 a year. The U.S. gives $40 billion to more than 100 countries, Altogether, the U.S. is the most giving nation on earth.

Bitcoin Frenzy Driving Price Up, Up, Up

2017 has become the year bitcoin went big. It started the year worth less than $1,000 but has soared above $16,000. Back in 2011, it was worth less than a dollar. It is being bought and sold by investors in a frenzy, driving the price higher and higher. Some leading economists and financiers are calling bitcoin a bubble and a fraud, but industry insiders say they think it’s only going to get bigger as it gains more widespread acceptance. Unlike the U.S. dollar or Japanese yen, digital currencies such as bitcoin aren’t issued by central banks like the Federal Reserve. Instead, they are “mined” by computers using complex algorithms. Payments in bitcoin can be made without traditional middlemen such as banks and without the need to give your name. That made bitcoin popular with criminals and others who wanted to move money anonymously. It’s also been adopted by businesses around the world as a way to pay for everyday things like groceries, train tickets and haircuts. Its price has taken off this year as mainstream investors have become more interested.

Economic News

U.S. employers added 228,000 jobs in November as unemployment stayed the same at 4.1 percent, the Labor Department reported Friday. The growth slightly outpaced Wall Street analysts’ expectations as the labor market continued to expand after being hampered by hurricanes earlier this fall. The unemployment rate, a measure of the number of people actively looking for a job but who have not yet found one, has not dipped below 4 percent since December 2000. Workers’ average hourly earnings, meanwhile, grew by 5 cents, up 2.5 percent from this time last year. Productivity growth remains low, he said, inching up at an average annual rate of 1.2 percent over the last eight years, compared to its historic rate of 2.1 percent from 1974 to 2017.

Americans’ assessments of the economy remain relatively strong, according to a new Gallup poll. Gallup said its U.S. Economic Confidence Index was at +9 for the week ending Dec. 3. This score is similar to the previous week’s +11 and slightly above the average weekly level of economic confidence during the year so far (+6). “During this period, there have been a number of signs indicating that the economy is strong — including the lowest unemployment rate in nearly two decades, a stock market that continues to flirt with new highs and stronger-than-expected GDP growth. Given these inputs, it is not surprising that many Americans report being optimistic about the economy, particularly current conditions,” Gallup explained. “The tax bill per se is not widely popular with Americans, but its relationship to a rising stock market is an indirect effect that most likely does register positively with the public,” Gallup said.

About one in five small businesses are majority female-owned, and the number of such firms grew by 22% between 2007 and 2015, according to a recent report published by the Federal Reserve Banks of New York and Kansas City. More than 970,000 small firms now have majority female ownership. The Fed defines a small business as a company with 500 or fewer employees. That’s far fewer than the 3 million male-run firms, a number that grew by about 6% over the same period.

A last-minute deal was made early Friday in the faltering talks between Britain and the European Union over Britain’s exit (Brexit) from the European Union. The deadlocked talks faced a Friday deadline or risked being derailed ahead of a summit in Brussels next week that will seek to lock-in the terms of Britain’s EU withdrawal fee, the status of Irish borders and the rights of citizens hit by Brexit. The agreement paves the way for negotiations on the trade deal between Britain and the bloc after the divorce.

Middle East

The Israeli Defense Forces struck two terror targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire from the northern Gaza Strip that landed in Israeli territory and to an earlier launch that landed within the Gaza Strip,” an IDF spokesman said. “The IDF sees the terror organization Hamas as responsible for events in the Gaza Strip.” The IDF said the strikes on Gaza had been carried out with tank fire and from an aerial vehicle.

Iran

France and Germany agree that Iran must reverse its ballistic missile program and end its “hegemonic temptations” across the Middle east, the French foreign minister said on Monday. Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman earlier on Monday said Paris should know that Iran’s missile program is not an issue that can be negotiated. German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said the two countries would continue to defend the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s intelligence agency announced Tuesday that a series of joint U.S.-Afghan operations had killed a top leader of the extremist al-Qaeda network along with scores of other members. Omar bin Khatab was the second most important leader of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent and the most senior leader to have been ever killed in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led war that ousted the former Taliban rulers in late 2001, said an official with the Afghan National Directorate of Security. Bin Khatab, also known as Omar Mansoor, was killed in the Gilan district of Ghazni province southwest of the capital.

Congo

At least 14 United Nations peacekeepers were killed in eastern Congo in one of the deadliest attacks on the international forces in years, U.N. officials reported Friday. U.N. officials said 53 peacekeepers also were wounded in the attack, and at least five members of Congo’s military were killed. Heavily armed rebel fighters attacked a forward operating base in a remote part of North Kivu province Thursday night, firing rocket-propelled grenades and destroying at least one armored personnel carrier, U.N. officials said. The firefight went on for at least three hours, and the majority of those killed and injured were from Tanzania. The death toll is the highest for U.N. peacekeepers in a single incident since 1993, when 23 “blue helmets” were slain in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Wildfires

Several large wildfires continue to burn across Southern California, fanned by Santa Ana winds. At least 200,000 people have been ordered to evacuate their homes because of the fires. At least 150 structures have been destroyed and 116,000 acres torched. The body of a woman was discovered Wednesday night in a burn zone near the town of Ojai. Authorities ordered evacuations for several neighborhoods in Bel-Air and closed both directions of the 405 Freeway as a new wildfire began to char land Wednesday morning in Southern California. Earlier, a fire was reported Tuesday morning in the Kagel Canyon area, east of Ventura and north of Los Angeles. The largest of the fires, named the Thomas Fire, was sparked first and has since burned more than 101 square miles just north of Santa Paula. The Lilac fire in San Diego County has burned at least two people, destroyed 22 structures and consumed 2.000 acres, prompting officials to order mandatory evacuations.

Thursday a text alert about the dangerous fire conditions was sent to 12 million residents in the southern part of the Golden State It was the widest alert the state Office of Emergency Services has ever issued.  “The fire growth is just absolutely exponential,” Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen told the Associated Press. “All that firefighters can do when we have winds like this is get out ahead, evacuate people and protect structures.” Officials say the state is in for the worst Santa Ana wind conditions they’ve ever seen, posing a potential risk to the city of Los Angeles.

Weather

Winter Storm Benji has already delivered a rare snow event to parts of south and coastal Texas, and will blanket a 2,000-mile-long swath from the Deep South and Northeast into this weekend with the season’s first snow, for many. Already over 100,000 customers have lost power in the storm and schools have been shut down in the South. The southern extent of the snow swath right now is something not often seen, extending from Deep South and coastal Texas into Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, north Georgia, and the southern Appalachians. Much of the Houston metro area picked up 1 to 2 inches of snow.

The weather in the world’s most northerly town of Longyearbyen is much tame than it should be. Residents and experts fear this tight-knit community of 2,000 — where polar bears outnumber people — is at risk of disappearing because temperatures are rising at an accelerated pace compared to the rest of the world. “Every single consecutive month has been above average,” said Kim Holmén, international director of the Norwegian Polar Institute. “We have tremendous increase in the wintertime temperatures, almost 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) increase over the past 30 years or so.” The snow melts earlier in the spring, and the glaciers are diminishing by about 2 feet per year in thickness. Melting permafrost and higher temperatures have caused havoc here in recent years, triggering sometimes deadly avalanches on the steep mountains that flank the town. Houses have been destroyed, while roads and some areas have been closed or declared unsafe to live because of the risk.

Signs of the Times (11/15/17)

November 15, 2017

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2Timothy 3:1-5)

Australians Vote to Legalize Gay Marriage

Australians have said they support gay marriage in a postal survey that ensures the Parliament considers a bill to legalize same-sex weddings this year. The Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday 62% of registered adults who responded had voted for the reform in an unprecedented two-month survey. The conservative government had promised to allow the Parliament to consider a bill to create marriage equality in Australia in its final two-week session that is due to end on Dec. 7. While gay marriage could be a reality in Australia by Christmas, some government lawmakers have vowed to vote down gay marriage regardless of the survey’s outcome. Ireland is the only other country in the world to put the divisive issue to a popular vote, with 62% of those who voted supporting a change in the constitution to allow gay marriage.

FBI Begins Investigation of Planned Parenthood Selling Aborted Baby Parts

The FBI is seeking documents from Congress after it held hearings on the Planned Parenthood abortion business selling the body parts of aborted babies for profit — potentially breaking both federal and state laws in so doing. As a first sign of a criminal probe, the FBI recently requested un-redacted documents from the Senate regarding Planned Parenthood in response to a 2015 undercover investigation by the Center for Medical Progress that exposed the abortion industry for harvesting, trafficking and selling the body parts of babies victimized by abortions. The request was made in recent days, the sources said, to the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), last December referred Planned Parenthood and several other abortion providers to the FBI for investigation after a lengthy probe into the transfers of fetal tissue. “Today’s move by the FBI gives us hope that justice will be served for the millions of Americans who have fallen victim to the deceptive and exploitive practices of the abortion industry,” said Jeanne Mancini, President of March for Life.

Global Emissions Up 2% Despite U.S. Drop

The Paris climate pact is off to a rocky start due to a huge increase in Chinese pollution this year, researchers said Monday in a report that finds U.S. emissions are still dropping despite President Trump’s decision to pull the nation from the global agreement. Several studies released by the Global Carbon Project and presented Monday at a United Nations climate conference in Germany say that worldwide carbon emissions are projected to rise about 2 percent in 2017 after they’d been flat for three years, according to preliminary estimates of this year’s data. The culprit, the data show, is China, which had kept its emissions in check in recent years but now is seeing a massive uptick in pollution. Under the Paris pact, China agreed to cap its emissions by 2030, meaning it’s free to ramp up pollution between now and then. More broadly, researchers say the data show the Paris agreement so far is not working as intended. “Global commitments made in Paris in 2015 to reduce emissions ­­Climate Research.

Digital Pills Raise Fears About Big Brother

For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a digital pill — a medication embedded with a sensor that can tell doctors whether, and when, patients take their medicine. The approval, announced late on Monday, marks a significant advance in the growing field of digital devices designed to monitor medicine-taking and to address the expensive, longstanding problem that millions of patients do not take drugs as prescribed. Experts estimate that so-called nonadherence or noncompliance to medication costs about $100 billion a year, much of it because patients get sicker and need additional treatment or hospitalization, reports the New York Times. Insurers might eventually give patients incentives to use them. Another controversial use might be requiring digital medicine as a condition for parole or releasing patients committed to psychiatric facilities. “It’s like a biomedical Big Brother,” said Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chairman of psychiatry at Columbia University and New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

NSA Shaken to Its Core By Security Breach

America’s largest and most secretive intelligence agency was deeply infiltrated some fifteen months ago, and the fallout has shaken the N.S.A. to its core, reports the New York Times. The Shadow Brokers, a mysterious group had somehow obtained many of the hacking tools the United States used to spy on other countries. Current and former agency officials say the Shadow Brokers disclosures, which began in August 2016, have been catastrophic for the N.S.A., calling into question its ability to protect potent cyberweapons and its very value to national security. The agency regarded as the world’s leader in breaking into adversaries’ computer networks failed to protect its own. Fifteen months into a wide-ranging investigation by the agency’s counterintelligence arm, known as Q Group, and the F.B.I., officials still do not know whether the N.S.A. is the victim of a brilliantly executed hack, with Russia as the most likely perpetrator, an insider’s leak, or both. Three employees have been arrested since 2015 for taking classified files, but there is fear that one or more leakers may still be in place. And there is broad agreement that the damage from the Shadow Brokers already far exceeds the harm to American intelligence done by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who fled with four laptops of classified material in 2013.

YouTube Blocks Jihadist Videos in ‘Watershed’ Moment

YouTube has removed thousands of propaganda videos from late al-Qaeda-linked cleric Anwar al-Awlaki amid mounting pressure from governments and counterterrorism advocates. For years, hundreds of hours of the jihadist cleric’s talks and lectures were easily accessible on the site. As of this autumn, a search for “Anwar al-Awlaki” on YouTube gave more than 70,000 videos ranging from his years as a mainstream American imam to his time with Al Qaeda in Yemen, the New York Times reported. The same search on Sunday (12 November), however, yielded just 18,600 videos, most of which were news reports, documentaries and scholarly material about his life and death. The Counter Extremism Project called it a ‘watershed’ moment in the response of a social network to the threat of terrorism.

Somalian Charged in Bloody Stabbing at Mall of America

For the second time in just over a year, a Somalian “refugee” has stabbed shoppers with a knife at a Minnesota mall. The first case, on Sept. 17, 2016, was a clear act of jihad when Dahir Adan injured 10 people in the Macy’s at the Crossroads Center Mall in St. Cloud after asking his victims, chosen at random, if they were Muslim. But on Sunday night a man identified as Mahad Abdiaziz Abdirahman, 20, of Minneapolis stabbed two men at the Mall of America after they tried to stop him from stealing clothes inside the dressing room at Macy’s. Minnesota has the largest population of Somali refugees in the U.S., with numbers approaching 100,000, and Gov. Mark Dayton has told residents of the state that if they are not comfortable living among the refugees they “should find another state.”

FEMA Denies Texas Churches Hurricane Damage Benefits

Several churches in Texas were denied hurricane damage benefits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency – sometimes even as they were working with the government to provide benefits to others, according to a lawyer involved in a lawsuit over the issue. “The court has set the clock ticking on FEMA’s irrational religious discrimination policy,” said Daniel Blomberg, a lawyer for Becket, a nonprofit religious liberty law firm representing three churches. U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison ruled against FEMA’s request to delay the case until the end of the month. The churches, Harvest Family Church, Hi-Way Tabernacle and Rockport First Assembly of God, all were impacted by Hurricane Harvey in August. Their facilities were flooded, even while they were providing benefits to community members, but the government said they would not be allowed to participate in standard recovery aid programs. “Discriminating against houses of worship – which are often on the front lines of disaster relief—is not just wrongheaded, it strikes at our nation’s most fundamental values,” Becket said.

Geoengineering the Weather Appears to be Backfiring

Artificially cooling Earth to counter global warming is a ‘risky strategy’, new research has shown, reports Technocracy News. Scientists have previously suggested that imitating volcanic eruptions bing fire aerosols into the atmosphere would help to cool the planet down. The aerosols, one of many ‘geoengineering’ techniques proposed as a way to deal with climate change, would cool Earth by block incoming solar radiation. But this could have a devastating effect on global regions prone to violent storms or prolonged dry spells, new research has shown. If aerosols are injected into the northern hemisphere, they could cause severe droughts in Africa, while if they are injected in the southern hemisphere, they could trigger a wave of tropical cyclones in northern regions of the globe. In response, the researchers, from the University of Exeter, have called on policymakers worldwide to strictly regulate any large-scale geoengineering programs in the future.

Human Fertility Declining Due to Pesticides

Human fertility is declining, and recent studies suggest conventional food may be a significant contributor to this disturbing trend, seen in both men and women. Pesticides have repeatedly been implicated in worsening fertility, and one of the most recent studies adds further support to this hypothesis. The study,1,2 published in JAMA Internal Medicine, evaluated the influence of factors known to affect reproduction on the reproductive success of 325 women between the ages of 18 and 45 (mean age 35), who underwent in vitro fertilization (IVF). Compared to women with the lowest pesticide exposure, women with the highest exposure had an 18 percent lower IVF success rate. They were also 26 percent less likely to have a live birth if they did become pregnant. Analysis suggests exchanging a single serving of high-pesticide produce per day for one with low pesticide load may increase the odds of pregnancy by 79 percent, and the odds of having a live birth by 88 percent

Vehicle Recalls Increasing, Many Remain Unrepaired

The steady stream of recalls masks the fact that about 30% of recalled vehicles remain unrepaired on America’s roads, according to federal statistics. Last year was a record for U.S. vehicle recalls — more than 53 million in 927 separate recalls — but those numbers are only the latest, with the total number of recalls increasing in each a back to 2011 when the number stood at 13.6 million, according to information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. There are numerous reasons recalled vehicles go unrepaired even though getting them fixed does not cost the vehicle owner. These range from perceptions about the severity of the recall to a lack of available parts, but most often vehicle owners simply do not know that their vehicle is under recall. “The greatest challenge is making contact with the current owner of the vehicle. Vehicles may change hands many times over their lifecycle,” said Mark Chernoby, chief technical compliance officer for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Puerto Rico Asks Congress for $94 Billion in Aid Relief

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has asked Congress for a $94.4 billion relief package for the beleaguered U.S. territory in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. During a Monday news conference, Rosselló told reporters he is seeking $46 billion to restore housing through the Community Development Block Grant Program, $30 billion through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rebuild critical infrastructure and $17.9 billion through other federal grant programs for long-term recovery. Congress has already approved nearly $5 billion in aid to the territory that lost more than 472,000 homes to the Category 5 hurricane that made landfall Sept. 20. Nearly two months after the storm, almost 60 percent of the island remains without electricity, FEMA reported. Rosselló also asked Congress to exclude Puerto Rico from a proposed excise tax of 20 percent for merchandise manufactured abroad, asserting that products made in Puerto Rico and imported into the U.S. should be considered domestic products.

Economic News

Americans’ debt rose to a new record high in the second quarter on the back of an increase in every form of debt: from mortgage, to auto, student and credit card debt. Aggregate household debt increased for the 13th consecutive quarter, rising by $116 billion (0.9%) to a new all-time high. As of September 30, 2017, total household indebtedness was $12.96 trillion, an increase of $605 billion from a year ago and equivalent to 66% of US GDP, versus a high of around 87% in early 2009. After years of deleveraging in the wake of the 2007-09 recession, household debt has risen more than 16.2% since the trough hit in the spring of 2013.Tthe New Your Fed explicitly warned that credit card and auto loan “flows into delinquency” have increased over the past year. The fed is concerned about the sharp rise in delinquency for auto loans made to subprime borrowers by auto-finance companies, usually through auto makers or dealers.

Venezuela defaulted on its debt, according to a statement issued Monday night by S&P Global Ratings. The agency said the 30-day grace period had expired for a payment that was due in October. The debt default risks setting off a dangerous series of events that could exacerbate Venezuela’s food and medical shortages. Wall Street and other major financial centers around the globe could potentially be facing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, and the ripple effects could be felt for years to come. Venezuela already has another 420 million dollars of debt payments that are overdue. S&P warns that Venezuela could embark on a coercive debt restructuring. in 2012, Greece imposed a coercive debt restructuring on private sector investors, and Argentina has restructured its dollar-denominated debt twice this century. Investors could take substantial losses, and there would no doubt be lawsuits lasting for years.

  • The biggest winners from distressed debt restructurings are always lawyers.

More than half of Americans have not gotten a bump in salary over the past 12 months, a new survey finds, despite a tight labor market that’s making it harder for employers to find workers. Fifty-two percent of those polled didn’t see their paychecks budge the past year, but employees with more education and higher incomes are more likely to get a raise, the Bankrate.com survey shows. Thirty percent got a raise at their current job, 10% landed a better paying job and 8% scored both within the 12-month period.

With more women working and having fewer babies, there comes a point when there are not enough worker bees to support the growing number of elderly who retire every year in countries like Germany, Italy, Greece and Spain. Economists agree that any nation with a fertility rate of less than 2.1 children per woman will not replace its aging population and ultimately fall into decline All of these countries have dismal fertility rates of between 1.3 and 1.5 children per woman of child-bearing age. Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S. are not much better at 1.8 children per woman. Only the rise in immigration is making up for the birth dearth, reports WorldNetDaily.

Israel

Mexico has reportedly announced that it will change its voting strategy at the United Nations (UN) and other international bodies by stopping to vote in favor of the Palestinians. According to Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth daily, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Figari contacted Israeli Ambassador to Mexico Yoni Pelad and told him of the shift in strategy for all upcoming voting procedures related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In mid-September, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his first-ever official visit to Mexico. During his historic visit to Latin America, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in Mexico City and signed several agreements that bolster the ties and cooperation between the two countries. During the same month, Israel provided humanitarian aid to the country following a powerful earthquake there.

Islamic State

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a joint statement on Saturday vowing to continue the fight against ISIS in Syria until the militants are completely defeated, Reuters reported, citing the Kremlin. The statement was released after the two leaders chatted briefly during the APEC summit in Danang, Vietnam. It was also reported that Washington and Moscow were nearing an agreement on Syria for how they hope to resolve the Arab country’s civil war once ISIS is defeated. The U.S.-Russian agreement that was being discussed focused on three elements, officials told The Associated Press: “deconfliction” between the U.S. and Russian militaries, reducing violence in the civil war and reinvigorating U.N.-led peace talks.

Syria

The Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a firm warning to the U.S. and other foreign forces in Syria, telling them their presence was a violation of international law and accusing them of making matters worse for the war-torn country that days ago declared victory against the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). The ministry issued the statement in direct response to remarks by Defense Secretary James Mattis, who suggested a day earlier that U.S. forces would not be leaving anytime soon. Unlike allies Russia and Iran, which intervened against Syrian insurgents and jihadis at the request of Assad, the U.S. entered the conflict without President Bashar al-Assad’s permission and has actively supported insurgents seeking for his removal. With ISIS essentially defeated, the ministry urged Washington and its allies to exit immediately. “The presence of U.S. forces or any foreign military presence in Syria without the consent of the Syrian government constitutes an act of aggression and an attack on the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic as well as a gross violation of the charter and principles of the United Nations,” the ministry quoted an official source as saying.”

A Syrian war monitoring group says the death toll from airstrikes on a market in northern Syria Monday has climbed to 61. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says there were six women, five children, and three police officers among those killed in the three strikes on Monday on the market in the opposition-held town of Atareb. The Observatory said it couldn’t determine whether Russia or the Syrian government was behind the attack. The opposition Syrian National Coalition accused Russia, Syrian President Bashar Assad’ chief military backer.

Europe

A cloud of radioactive pollution spread over Europe after a possible “accident” at a nuclear facility in Russia or Kazakhstan, French nuclear safety officials confirmed last Friday. France’s nuclear safety institute, IRSN, picked up faint traces of ruthenium 106, a radioactive nuclide that is produced when atoms are split in a nuclear reactor and which does not occur naturally, in three of its 40 monitoring stations late September. Faint traces were also detected in Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. There has been no impact on human health or the environment in Europe, a French official stressed, but he added that detection of such a cloud was “absolutely not normal”. IRSN, the technical arm of the French nuclear regulator, said in a statement it could not pinpoint the location of the release of radioactive material but that based on weather patterns, the most plausible zone lay south of the Ural mountains, between the Urals and the Volga river. This could indicate Russia or possibly Kazakhstan, it said. At the source of the leak, the quantity of ruthenium 106 released was “major”, between 100 and 300 terabecquerels, it said, adding that if an accident of this magnitude had happened in France it would have required the evacuation or sheltering of people in a radius of “a few kilometers around the accident site”.

Poland

An estimated sixty-thousand nationalist protester disrupted Poland’s Independence Day events Saturday, waving flags and burning flares as they marched down the streets of Warsaw. Demonstrators carried banners that read “White Europe, Europe must be white,” and “Pray for an Islamic Holocaust.” Some wore masks and waved red and white Polish flags, chanting “Death to enemies of the homeland,” and “Catholic Poland, not secular.” Some wore masks and waved red and white Polish flags, chanting “Death to enemies of the homeland,” and “Catholic Poland, not secular.” While the vast majority were Poles, other protesters came from all over Europe. One of the lead organizations behind the nationalists’ march is the National Radical Camp, which has previously taken to the streets to protest against Muslim immigration, gay rights, the EU and anything it considers undermines Polish Catholic values.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s military said early Wednesday that it had taken custody of President Robert Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state and one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, in what increasingly appeared to be a military takeover in the southern African nation. After apparently seizing the state broadcaster, ZBC, two uniformed officers said in a short predawn announcement that “the situation in our country has moved to another level.” While denying that the military had seized power, they said that Mr. Mugabe and his family “are safe and sound, and their security is guaranteed. We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,” said the main speaker, who was identified as Maj. Gen. S. B. Moyo, the army’s chief of staff.

Environment

Eight states in the central U.S. are dealing with the beginnings of a water crisis. For decades, water levels in the Ogallala aquifer have been in decline. Irrigators are to blame, experts say, pumping out the groundwater faster than the rain can refill it. Over the past six years, water levels have declined twice as fast as the previous 60, according to the Denver Post, which analyzed federal data to create their report. The drawdown has become so severe that streams are drying at a rate of 6 miles per year and some highly resilient fish are disappearing. In rural areas, farmers and ranchers worry they will no longer have enough water for their livestock and crops as the aquifer is depleted. Also known as the High Plains Aquifer, the Ogallala underlies 175,000 square miles, including parts of Colorado, Wyoming Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas.

Low-lying Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to rising seas, and its coastal people face daily uncertainty as the water and erosion snatch away their land. Some 26,000 families in Bangladesh lose their homes and way of life to climate-driven erosion every year, according to Deutsche Welle. Small islets, known as “chars,” are particularly hard-hit, as are the more than 4 million people who live on them. Erosion from rising seas and storm surge continually changes the landscape, with islets becoming submerged every year and new ones forming, forcing thousands to flee to new chars as theirs disappear.

New Delhi officials will lobby Monday for a plan to ration the use of private cars amid a grimy cloud of pollution so foul that United Airlines has halted flights to India’s capital, while many residents wore masks for their Sunday strolls. Many schools have been closed since the toxic air mass descended on the region almost a week ago. The government has banned most construction and industrial activity. Most trucks and heavy vehicles have been parked. Residents were urged to stay inside and wear masks outside. “It comes inside the house, even if you close your windows,” Shyami Sodhi, a Delhi resident, told Sky News. “It’s difficult to breathe.”

Earthquakes

A powerful magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck the Iraq-Iran border region Sunday, killing at least 530 people across both countries. The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter was 19 miles outside the Iraqi city of Halabja. The semi-official Iranian ILNA news agency reported at least 14 provinces were impacted by the quake. Around 7,500 people were injured. Many survivors in Iran were still awaiting badly needed aid on Wednesday, three days after the quake struck Sunday. Desperate, some families tried to set up temporary shelters, using straw collected from nearby farms. The delay in getting help to the needy came as public order broke down in many instances where aid was being delivered in the Iranian Kurdish region. It was the deadliest earthquake in the world this year, surpassing a 7.1 magnitude tremor in Mexico that killed more than 350 people on Sept. 19.

Weather

Many cities in the Midwest and Northeast experienced the coldest temperatures so far this season over the weekend. Dozens of daily record lows have been tied or set, from Atlantic City, New Jersey (21 degrees) to New York City’s Central Park (24 degrees) to Buffalo, New York (19 degrees). Temperatures in the single digits were reported as far south as southwest Pennsylvania Saturday. Thanks to fresh snow cover, clear skies and light winds, International Falls, Minnesota, plunged to a low of 14 degrees below zero Friday morning. This was the earliest-in-season the “Nation’s Icebox” had ever been that cold, beating the previous record from Nov. 12, 1966, when they were 15 degrees below zero. The upper Mississippi Valley, northern Rockies and Northwest have already seen extreme winter weather conditions. Duluth averages 86.1 inches of snow throughout the entire winter, according to 30-year average data (1981-2010) from the National Weather Service. Through Nov. 13, the city had already measured 20.5 inches. Havre, Montana, had picked up 17.5 inches of snow as of Nov. 13.

At least 14 people were killed in flash floods that flooded homes and washed out a section of a major highway in an area along the edge of Athens, Greece, on Wednesday. The flooding occurred because of a powerful storm that struck overnight and dumped heavy rain on the area. Vehicles were washed down flooded roadways and deposited in piles, destroyed from the impact. Walls collapsed, creating more debris in the muddy streets. Officials feared the death toll could continue to rise as search crews look for missing people in homes and streets that were inundated on the western outskirts of Athens.

Texas faces a six-fold risk of hurricane flooding similar to that experienced during Hurricane Harvey in the next 25 years, a new study says. Published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology meteorology professor and hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel found that extreme weather events with 20 inches or more of rain could become far more common over Houston and other parts of Texas in the decades to come. According to Emanuel, the chances of “biblical” amounts of rain totaling 20 inches or more falling over Texas from 1981 to 2000 were only 1 in 100 or less. Today, the probability is 6 in 100.

  • Extreme weather is an end-time phenomena (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Signs of the Times (11/10/11)

November 10, 2017

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

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

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

Planned Parenthood’s Tactics Exposed

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

Air Force Failure Enabled Texas Gunman to Obtain Firearms

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

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

AR-15 the Weapon of Choice in Mass Shootings

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

Domestic Violence Trait Shared by Majority of Mass Shooters

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

GOP Loses Elections, Control of Congress in Jeopardy

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

Trump Asks Congress for More Defense Budget

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

Trump Calls Out Japan for Defensive Passivity

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

Trump Complaints About Global Trade Policies to Vietnam

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

DHS Ends Protected Status for Nicaraguans, Hondurans Get Extension

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

Trump Cracks Down on U.S. Travel to Cuba

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

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

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

Largest U.S. Insurers Band Together to Fight Addiction

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

Homelessness ‘Exploding’ on West Coast

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

Economic News

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

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

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

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

Israel

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

Islamic State

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

Saudi Arabia

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

Somalia

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

North Korea

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

China

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

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

Environment

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

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

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

Weather

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

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

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

Signs of the Times (11/6/17)

November 6, 2017

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

Christians Are the Most Persecuted Group in the World

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

26 Killed in Texas Church Shooting

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

U.S. Leads World in Gun Violence

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

Terror Attack in New York City – Update

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

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

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

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

Antifa Rallies Fail to Attract Numbers Expected

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

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

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

126 Million Facebook Users Saw Russian Fake News

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

Millennials Prefer Socialism over Capitalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Federal Flood Insurance Program Broke

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

Economic News

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

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

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

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

North Korea

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

Saudi Arabia

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

Yemen

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

Spain

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

Weather

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

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

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

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

Signs of the Times (10/31/17)

October 31, 2017

Therefore, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. (1Corinthians 4:5)

Investigations of Russian Meddling Makes Both Dems & GOP Nervous

Amid the escalating criminal investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election, every corner of the city finds itself preparing for the unexpected. Democrats fret that President Trump might try to shut down the inquiry. The only person with any significant control over events, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, offered no hints Monday on his next move beyond the day’s bombshells — legal filings that included the indictment of two former Trump campaign officials and the guilty plea of a third. Hours after the first indictments landed, a leading Democratic lobbyist, Tony Podesta, announced that he would leave his firm after its apparent role in a Ukrainian lobbying campaign was described in court papers. “We are in a real testing time for democracy,” said Thomas Mann, a scholar at the Brookings Institution. “You really have to go back to Watergate to find anything of this scope and dimension.” Supporters of the president say the only charges filed so far have nothing to do with the original purpose of Mueller’s probe. Former U.S. Attorney Joe diGenova says the charges only involve activities from 2006-2015, before Paul Manafort got anywhere near the Trump campaign.

Christian Film “Let There Be Light” #2 in Per-Screen Average

The independent Christian Film, “Let There Be Light”, ranked No. 2 in per-screen average in movie theatres across the nation during its debut weekend. It garnered $5,071 per screen on some 373 screens Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The only film beating it out was “Jigsaw,” which earned $5,525 per screen, though with a far larger initial distribution of 2,941 screens. The film’s creators expect distribution to expand to far more theaters this week. “This is about a deep hunger on the part of the forgotten American people. They still crave entertainment that enriches and offers hope, and are tired of Hollywood’s typically negative, violence-glorifying, and sexually graphic fare,” star and co-writer Kevin Sorbo said, particularly after recent revelations about several Hollywood actors and producers being sexual predators.

Gay Icon Little Richard Renounces Homosexuality

Iconic musician Little Richard is renouncing his past life of sexual immorality, saying he believes same-sex relationships are “unnatural affections.” In an extensive interview with Three Angels Broadcasting Network, Little Richard says he has repented and turned to Jesus Christ for salvation. “God made men, men and women, women. You’ve got to live the way God wants you to live … He can save you,” the 84-year-old singer told the Christian broadcaster. The singer admits he fell to the temptations of the entertainment industry. “So much of people just doing everything and don’t think about God. Don’t want no parts of Him… But we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The only holy, righteous person is Jesus and He wants us to be just like Him because, in order to go to Heaven, we’ve got to look like Him,” Richard continued.

British Christians Think Four of the Ten Commandments Not Relevant

According to a poll by YouGov, only six of the ten are important to British Christians, with most saying the other four are not “important principles to live by” in the 21st century. The four commandments which many Christians feel are less relevant today are the first four in the Decalogue, specifically those that deal with mankind’s relationship with God. The first of the Ten Commandments –I am the Lord thy God, You shall have no other God before me – is one of the least important, with 64% of Christians saying it is irrelevant in the modern world; 57% consider worshipping idols no longer an important prohibition; 62% think taking the Lord’s name in vain is okay now; and keeping the Sabbath holy is the least relevant say 69% of Christians.

Federal Judge in D.C. Blocks Trump’s Transgender Military Ban

A federal judge in Washington blocked the Trump Administration’s proposed transgender military ban, writing in a strongly worded opinion that the policy “does not appear to be supported by any facts.” U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued the preliminary injunction Monday, finding that a group of transgender service members would have a strong chance of prevailing in their lawsuit to have the ban declared unconstitutional. The injunction remains in place until the lawsuit is resolved or a judge lifts it. A presidential directive was set to take effect in March that would have blocked military recruitment of transgender people and would have forced the dismissal of current transgender service members.

Up to 200 Killed at North Korea’s Nuclear Test Site

Up to 200 workers could have been killed after a tunnel collapsed at North Korea’s nuclear test site. Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi said around 100 people were trapped when the unfinished tunnel caved in at the Punggye-ri site, which lies south of the Mantapsan mountain, 50 miles from the border with China. Another 100 people could have died in a second collapse as they attempted to rescue their trapped colleagues, TV Asahi reported. North Korea said it tested a hydrogen bomb at Punggye-ri on Sept. 3 — its sixth and most powerful nuclear test. A day later, a Chinese nuclear scientist warned that future tests at the facility could blow the top off the mountain and leak radioactive waste, the South China Morning Post reported.

Hurricane Death Total in Puerto Rico Disputed, Thousands Fleeing

Questions are swirling over Puerto Rico’s official death toll after government officials confirmed over the weekend that more than 900 cremations have been carried out in the U.S. territory since Maria made landfall on Sept. 20. After two weeks of investigation, Buzzfeed reported Friday that numerous funeral home and crematorium directors said they had been given permission to cremate the bodies of people who died as a result of Hurricane Maria without autopsies being performed. According to the report, the directors of the funeral homes and crematoriums told the media outlet that they don’t have a specific designation for people who die as a result of natural disasters like hurricanes, so they report the victims as having died of natural causes. However, Héctor M. Pesquera, the secretary of the Department of Public Safety reiterated that the death toll stands at 51.

Puerto Ricans still without electricity more than five weeks after a massive hurricane devastated the island are fleeing to the U.S. mainland by the thousands. A massive wave of nearly 75,000 Puerto Ricans have arrived in Florida since Hurricane Maria slammed the U.S. territory on Sept. 20. Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917, nearly 20 years after the Spanish-American War, which ended with the U.S. taking possession of the island, converting it into a U.S. territory. As U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans are free to move at will to the U.S. mainland. Between 114,000 and 213,000 Puerto Ricans are expected to leave the island due to Hurricane Maria, according to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College.

Opponents Outnumber White Nationalists at Tennessee shout Fests

Opponents outnumbered white nationalists Saturday in peaceful “White Lives Matter” rallies in Murfreesboro and Shelbyville, Tennessee, that were punctuated by taunts and chants from both sides. In Shelbyville, the site of the first rally, some 200 white nationalists — met by nearly twice as many counter protesters — carried a Confederate flag and chanted for closed borders and deportations at a mid-morning gathering. At one point, counter protesters’ shouts of “Black Lives Matter” were met by white nationalist chants of “blood and soil.” The two sides, however, were kept well apart as law enforcement officers funneled them onto sidewalks on opposite sides of a four-lane road. The rallies had raised fears in the community of a repeat of the Charlottesville, Va., rally in August that turned deadly. In Murfreesboro, a town of 130,000 people, wary business owners had boarded up windows downtown and residents held a prayer vigil Friday night near the rally site. Organizers of the rallies had said they aimed at protesting refugee resettlement and immigration to Middle Tennessee, specifically noting the presence of Somali and Sudanese people in the region.

Skyrocketing Premiums, Slim Choices Await Obamacare Customers

Obamacare customers will see higher premiums and fewer choices when they begin enrolling Wednesday for coverage next year, according to a series of studies that found the health care law’s struggles are growing. Obamacare customers will see higher premiums and fewer choices when they begin enrolling Wednesday for coverage next year, according to a series of studies that found the health care law’s struggles are growing. But there are bargains to be had, the government said. In a quirk of pricing and government controls, top-level gold plans may be cheaper than silver plans in some states, the HHS report said. According to CNN, premiums for silver Obamacare plans will increase by an average of 37 percent next year.

Google Provides New Home for Jihadists Driven From YouTube

Google has taken steps to remove terrorist propaganda from its YouTube video-sharing site after investigations exposed the extent of the material and advertisers withdrew millions of dollars of business. However, experts have warned that the tech and publishing giant is failing to police its Google Drive file-storage and sharing service, which has become a key repository for terrorist propaganda, including calls for attacks in the West. The Counter Extremism Project wrote to Google three weeks ago warning that Drive’s terms of service, which state that ‘we do not necessarily review content”’ were enabling the spread of terrorst propaganda.

Economic News

The U.S. economy unexpectedly maintained a brisk pace of growth in the third quarter as an increase in inventory investment and a smaller trade deficit offset a hurricane-related slowdown in consumer spending and a decline in construction. Gross domestic product increased at a 3.0 percent annual rate in the July-September period after expanding at a 3.1 percent pace in the second quarter, the Commerce Department said on Friday.

Consumer confidence, as measured by the Conference Board, climbed in October to 125.9 — the best level of the recovery from the Great Recession. Confidence hasn’t been this high since December 2000. Confidence among households in the $125,000 and over income group increased sharply, but optimism among low-income consumers was mostly lower. Wages and salaries, which account for 70 percent of employment costs, rose 0.7 percent in the third quarter. They increased 0.5 percent in the second quarter. Wages and salaries were up 2.5 percent in the 12 months through September.

Unfunded pension liabilities in the fifty U.S. states reached a record $13 trillion, Moody’s Investors Service reported. Pension liabilities jumped 4.5% between 2015-2016. The report projects that state pension debt will jump to $1.7 trillion by the end of 2017. Illinois is in the worst shape, with its unfunded liabilities amounting to 487% of its annual revenue. Alaska is second worst at 443% of income. The best state is North Carolina, with its unfunded liabilities just 24% of revenue. A Bloomberg analysis in June showed that pension problems are getting worse in 43 states.

The federal government is now 20.4 trillion dollars in debt according to the latest data. Over the past decade, the national debt has been growing at a rate of more than 100 million dollars an hour. Each American citizen’s share of the debt is more than $60,000, so if you have a family of five your share is more than $300,000. Debt cannot grow much faster than the nation’s Gross Domestic Product indefinitely. At some point the bubble will burst.

Rents have increased rapidly across U.S. housing markets as the share of renting households has risen faster than the number of new units. A survey published Thursday by Apartment List, suggests escalating housing costs may be straining renters’ resources. Eighteen percent of respondents couldn’t pay the full rent due in at least one of the past three months, according to the poll of 40,000 renters. Of those who have registered for the listing site this year, 3.3 percent said they had been evicted in the past, up from 2.8 percent in 2015.

Americans are saving at the lowest pace in nearly 10 years. The savings rate in September fell to 3.1%, according to Commerce Department data released Monday. That’s the weakest level since December 2007, just as the U.S. economy was entering the worst of the financial crisis amid the Great Recession. Savings hit its peak of 11% in December 2012 and has been tailing lower since. The savings drop came amid a 0.4% increase in personal income for Septembers.

Thanks to the ongoing retirement of the baby boomer generation and ever-increasing life expectancies, the ratio of workers to Social Security recipients is expected to decline in the coming years. Starting in 2022, the expected result is that the Social Security program will begin to run a deficit, which is expected to continue and get worse as time goes on. In 2034, the trillions of dollars in Social Security’s reserves will have been completely depleted unless changes are made to the program or payroll taxes are increased. Otherwise, incoming revenue will only be enough to cover 77% of Social Security benefits.

Israel

A recently proposed bill that would permit the Israeli government to annex communities in Judea and Samaria into a Jerusalem-based district has apparently run into opposition from the Trump administration. This development runs counter to reports from the State Department last week that the US would not oppose the legislation, which is not the first time that Trump officials and State have failed to see eye-to-eye on issues related to Israel. The legislation, entitled the Greater Jerusalem Law, would have brought close to 20 communities in areas captured during the 1967 Six Day War under the jurisdiction of the Israeli capital. The Greater Jerusalem Law envisioned bringing together around 150,000 Israelis into the Jerusalem district, in addition to transforming Arab villages outside the security barrier into an independent municipality within Greater Jerusalem

Islamic State

When it came to recruiting foreigners to flee the comforts of home for the battlefields of Iraq and Syria, ISIS succeeded like no other — encouraging more than 40,000 fighters from more than 110 countries to travel to the fighting fray both before and after the declaration of the ‘caliphate’ in June 2014. Subsequently, authorities have warned about the threat of returning jihadists to their homeland and since the falls of Mosul, Raqqa and the rapidly receding footprint of ISIS, such fears have come to the forefront. According to a new report, “Beyond the Caliphate: Foreign Fighters and the Threat of Returnees,” released this week by the Soufan Center — a Washington-based security intelligence consultancy — there are now at least 5,600 citizens or residents from 33 countries who have returned home.

The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State should prepare to maintain a presence in the region to train and support ground forces even after the imminent collapse of the militant group’s so-called caliphate, the top coalition commander said Friday. Any decision about a long-term commitment of U.S. troops in Iraq would come from the White House, which has not yet publicly discussed its future plans. Commanders want to avoid a repeat of 2011 when the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq led to the Islamic State’s invasion of Iraq three years later.

Somalia

Islamist extremists attacked a Mogadishu hotel Saturday with a car bomb, a suicide vest, grenades and firearms, killing at least 23 people, including a baby, wounding more than 30 and trapping dozens of people on the building’s upper floors. The attack on the Nasa-Hablod hotel, near the presidential palace, appeared to have devolved into an ongoing battle between militants and government security forces Saturday night. Al-Shabab, Africa’s deadliest extremist group, claimed responsibility for the attack. Two of the five attackers were killed on the first floor, Hussein said. The others hurled grenades and cut off the building’s electricity as night fell. Al-Shabab has been involved in 987 of 1,827 attacks by militant Islamist groups in Africa this year, according to the Africa Center for Security Studies in Washington, D.C. The Somali group has had a long affiliation with al-Qaeda but now appears to be cooperating with ISIS.

Yemen

Despite international efforts to deter Houthi militias in Yemen since their takeover of Sanaa in March 2015, Iran has been repeatedly accused of continuing to back the group. And with pro-government forces reclaiming two-thirds of Yemen, Iran’s involvement in arming and training Houthi militias has been reported by regional and Western sources. Coalition leaders stated that Hezbollah members are supervising the training of the rebels. Iran’s support has come in the midst of the rising defeat of the Houthis on battlefronts and their recent strong disagreements with ousted President Saleh. This caused Iran to supply the militias with more long-range ballistic missiles that were smuggled into the country, according to Gulf observers.

Spain

The Spanish Senate gave the central government in Madrid unprecedented powers over Catalonia on Friday just minutes after the breakaway region declared independence, sharply escalating a constitutional crisis in the center of western Europe. The central government easily won permission to take over control of Catalonia. On Saturday, Spain began to assert control over Catalonia, sacking the region’s president, his ministers, diplomats, police chiefs and transferring all authority to the central government in Madrid. Catalonia’s secessionist president did not appear in public, but issued a prerecorded call for citizens to mount “a democratic opposition” to the takeover. The widening impasse has left little middle ground in Spain for possible compromises and has spilled over to the European Union, whose leaders fear another internal crisis after major upheavals such as Britain’s exit from the bloc and the financial meltdown in Greece.

North Korea

The North Korean dictatorship boasted that they have tested a hydrogen bomb underground in September. Such a hydrogen bomb has the power to destroy Manhattan, killing 8.5 million New York City residents in a couple of seconds. But, there is a prospect potentially even more deadly and terrifying, writes Congressman Trent Franks in TownHall.com. “A hydrogen bomb, exploded within Earth’s atmosphere over a central location like Kansas could potentially mean ‘lights out’ for the entire contiguous U.S.A.  The electromagnetic pulse emitted from such an explosion in the atmosphere could destroy electronic devices for thousands of miles. This could include all the devices we regularly depend upon that require electronics to function – vehicles, our water and plumbing systems, heating and air conditioning, refrigeration… just to name a few.

So, what can we do? Franks says, first, we need to strengthen and harden our national electric grid. To do so is not as expensive as the risk. We must simultaneously ratchet up our missile defense capability and technology at flank speed. A space-based missile defense layer would provide us with the ultimate high ground and ensure we could shoot down an enemy missile as it ascends — when it is most vulnerable. This “boost-phase defense” is a capability we currently do not have. Furthermore, we must increase our Ground-Based Interceptor inventory to 100. These GBIs are currently the first and last line of defense against any nuclear missile attack directed toward the American Homeland.”

Environment

Global carbon dioxide levels are higher than they’ve been in millions of years. Released Monday, the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin concluded global carbon dioxide concentrations reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, an increase from 400.0 ppm a year earlier. It’s a 145-percent rise in carbon dioxide concentrations since the Industrial Revolution began around 1750. It has been some 3 to 5 million years since carbon dioxide levels were this high on Earth; the last time it happened, sea levels were 30 to 60 feet higher than they are now, and global temperatures were several degrees Celsius warmer, the study also said.

Warm weather and strong winds are keeping thousands of Monarch butterflies from migrating south this year, scientists say. The butterflies are usually in Texas by this time of year on their autumn migratory path from Canada to Mexico. Journey North, a website devoted to tracking the butterflies, noted that as of Saturday, the leading migratory edge remains 400 miles to the north of where they should be. It also noted that this is the latest migration they have ever recorded.

Weather

More than a million people in the Northeast were in the dark Monday morning after a powerful coastal storm packing winds up to 80 mph hit the region overnight. The region was hit particularly hard, with 50-plus-mph gusts recorded from Massachusetts to Maine. The storms also forced dozens of school districts to cancel classes Monday. In Campton, New Hampshire, some residents were ordered to evacuate overnight as the water level quickly rose at the Campton Dam. The downed trees and power lines caused issued beyond power outages. Long Island Railroad services were interrupted between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma in New York. In Connecticut, several state parks announced closures Monday because of the storm. Along the coast and some inland waterways, flooding was caused by either the heavy rainfall, waves piled up along the shore, or both.

A strong low-pressure system combined with an early season blast of Canadian arctic air provided the first snowfall of the season for much of the Upper Midwest on Friday. As much as 8 inches of snow had accumulated in the area by 10 a.m. Saturday. Four people have been killed in accidents. A truck driver was killed when his semi skidded off a snow-covered bridge into a river in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Transportation and the State Patrol reported multiple traffic incidents in and around Duluth, as well as more than 100 crashes and 125 spinouts statewide by noon, including another fatal accident near Brainerd in central Minnesota.

Officials in the central Argentina province of Cordoba said a fierce hailstorm struck several towns Thursday afternoon, dumping as much as five feet of hail in just 15 minutes. According to La Nacion, roads were closed in La Cruz following the severe storm, and crews worked for hours to free vehicles from the deep hail. No injuries were reported. The storm, which dumped hail as big as tennis balls, reportedly damaged homes and cars and forced some families to evacuate, according to Los Andes.

A powerful storm packing high winds and torrential rainfall tore through Central Europe Sunday, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands and killing at least five. Storm Herwart left massive power outages in Germany, Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic as winds with gusts of up to 110 mph tore down trees and power lines. Several injuries resulting from the storm have also been reported in Germany. The storm also shut down several train connections in Germany. Flooding from the Elbe River in northern Germany inundated Hamburg’s famous fish market, along with a parking garage and several streets.

Signs of the Times (10/26/17)

October 26, 2017

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Millennials Turning to Witchcraft in Place of Religion

Research and studies are showing that more Americans are interested in spirituality, but are less interested in organized religion. This trend is especially true for millennials. According to a report from MarketWatch.com, interest in spirituality, astrology, and witchcraft is soaring among millennials. One study has even shown that over half of young adults in the U.S. believe astrology is a science. The psychic services industry, which involves things such as tarot card reading, palm reading, mediums, and astrology has also grown to be a $2 billion industry. Melissa Jayne, the owner of Catland, a “metaphysical boutique” in Brooklyn, New York, said she has seen interest in these types of spirituality increase recently, particularly among millennials. “Whether it be spell-casting, tarot, astrology, meditation and trance, or herbalism, these traditions offer tangible ways for people to enact change in their lives,” she said. Danielle Ayoka, another spiritist whose business profits from the trend in witchcraft, astrology, and similar interests, adds that these things have become increasingly mainstream: “When I started my journey in 2010, I was the weirdo. Now it is becoming more and more normalized, and I believe it is because more people are looking to heal. Millennials are much more open-minded,” she said.

Vice-President Pence Vows U.S. Aid for Persecuted Christians

In an address Wednesday night, Vice President Pence said, that “President Trump has ordered the State Department to stop funding the ineffective relief efforts of the United Nations and from this day forward, America will provide support directly to persecuted communities through USAID,” bringing a message of solidarity and hope for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East. “The Bible tells us that all who desire to live a godly life through Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” Pence said. “Sadly, today, Christianity is under unprecedented assault in the ancient land where it first grew. Tonight, I came to tell you, help is on the way. President Trump and I and our entire administration are working tirelessly to protect these ancient communities.” Christians and religious minorities have endured ongoing torture in the Middle East, actions the Trump administration calls by name: genocide. “They are crimes against humanity and we will call them what they are,” Pence said.

HHS Says Life Begins at Conception in Draft of 2018-2022 Strategic Plan

The Department of Health and Human Services defines life as beginning at conception in a draft of its new strategic plan, which would run from 2018 to 2022. “HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception,” the department says in the introduction of its draft plan recently released. The Obama administration had similar language in its HHS strategic plan, but did not include the “beginning at conception” phrase, the Hill reported. The change is a sign of the Trump administration’s pro-life stance. “While we may refer to the people we serve as beneficiaries, enrollees, patients, or consumers, our ultimate goal is to improve health care outcomes for all people, including the unborn, across health care settings,” the strategic plan states.

ACLU Succeeds in Killing Teen’s Unborn Baby

The pro-abortion America Civil Liberties Union Wednesday confirmed that an illegal alien teenager who was being cared for in a shelter in Texas has had the taxpayer-funded elective abortion that she was demanding. The action, authorized just one day earlier by six Democrat-appointed judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, was blasted by a variety of organizations across the nation for creating a new “right” to abortion at taxpayer expense even for those who have broken U.S. laws to enter the country. Pro-life organizations pleaded with the government to appeal immediately, but the ACLU had already arranged with an abortionist to do the procedure right away. WorldNetDaily reported that six Democrat-appointed judges on an appeals court set the stunning precedent of an abortion “right”, while three Republican appointees on the court opposed the abortion demand.

IRS Admits It Targeted Conservative Groups

After a years-long lawsuit by the ACLJ (American Center for Law & Justice) against the IRS, the agency admitted in federal court to wrongfully targeting the Tea Party and conservative groups for their political beliefs and has issued an apology. In the proposed Consent Order filed late Wednesday night, the IRS not only acknowledges the Obama Administration‘s wrongdoing, it consented to a court order barring it from ever taking such discriminatory action against conservative groups again. It took five years for the ACLJ to achieve that victory in court. Jay Sekulow, ACLJ Chief Counsel, said, “It is impossible to overstate the importance of this victory. It sends a powerful message to the deep state bureaucracy. We will defeat the lawlessness.”

Most Americans Now Favor Renegotiating the Iranian Nuclear Deal

A strong majority of voters – including most Democrats – said the U.S. should renegotiate the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, according to a recent poll. Furthermore, there is broad support for any new deal to be ratified by Congress, rather than implemented as an executive agreement, as former President Obama did in 2015. According to the latest Harvard-Harris survey, 70 percent of respondents said the 2015 Iran deal should be renegotiated and verified by Congress, including 85 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of independents and 57 percent of Democrats. Overall, 60 percent of polled voters said the deal is a bad one for the U.S., with two-thirds of voters saying Iran has not complied with the terms of the agreement. Half of Democrats agreed that Iran has not held up its side of the bargain.

U.S. House Passes Bills Targeting Iran’s Missiles, Hezbollah Activity

The House of Representatives passed four bills on Wednesday that would sanction Iran’s ballistic missile activity and Hezbollah’s terrorist practices. The bill targeting Iran’s missile work – which has earned bipartisan support – would require the president to report to Congress details of Tehran’s missile supply chain, and determine whether its program violates international law. The U.S. would further sanction Iranian individuals and agencies involved in the missile work, as well as “foreign entities that supply material” to the program. If passed into law, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps will likely bear the brunt of the sanctions, given its role in Tehran’s ballistic missile development. The bill follows up on previous sanctions legislation targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program, and reasserts that U.S. policy is “to prevent Iran from undertaking any activity related to nuclear-capable ballistic missiles,” referencing the ability of ICBMs to carry nuclear payloads.

  • Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir addressed a conference in London on Tuesday, saying among other things that “(Iran’s behavior) is not acceptable, and there will be consequences to the Iranians. This is what President Trump has said, and we are very supportive of that…the international community needs to support those (sanctions) in order to send a very strong message to Iran that your behavior, your nefarious activities, have consequences.”

House Passes Budget Paving the Way for Trump’s Tax Reform Plan

The House of Representatives on Thursday narrowly approved a $4 trillion budget that paves the way for Republicans on Capitol Hill to begin focusing on tax reform. The vote was 216-212, with 20 Republicans, including conservatives unhappy about deficits and debt, opposing it. The Senate passed the measure last week and the House endorsed it without changes. The tax bill is the top item on the GOP agenda and would be Trump’s first major win in Congress. The goal is a full rewrite of the inefficient, loophole-laden tax code in hopes of lower rates for corporations and other businesses to spark economic growth. Key decisions about tax brackets, including a new bracket for high-income earners, remain up in the air. Trump says he opposes curbing 401(k) donations, however, which tossed a monkey wrench into the process.

Trump Signs Order Resuming Refugee Admissions with Extreme Vetting

President Trump resumed refugee admissions into the United States on Tuesday, signing an executive order that lifted his previous seven-month moratorium and replacing it with what he has called “extreme vetting.” The move came as the previous moratorium — originally expected to last 120 days but extended by President Trump in June — was set to expire on Tuesday. The executive order allows immigration officials to restart the Refugee Admissions Program, but with “special measures” to screen refugees “whose entry continues to pose potential threats to the security and welfare of the United States.” Those measures include more in-depth interviews of families seeking refugee status and biometric information to be checked against a various federal watch lists and databases. But 11 countries are deemed to have too high-risk to have its citizens be treated as normal refugees, and will be admitted on a limited case-by-case basis while the administration conducts another 90-day review.

The 11 countries were identified by refugee agencies as Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In all but two of the countries on the list — North Korea and South Sudan — Islam is the dominant religion. This more restrictive, scaled-down version would have banned half of the refugees admitted to the U.S. last year. The new program bars refugees coming from 11 countries that made up 44% of the 53,716 refugees admitted to the U.S. in the 2017 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, according to a USA TODAY analysis of State Department data.  President Obama raised the annual cap on refugees to 110,000 in his final year in office as countries around the world struggled to respond to the ongoing global migration crisis. But Trump lowered that to 55,000 in 2017 and has set a cap of 45,000 for 2018, the lowest cap since Congress passed the Refuge Act in 1980.

Congressional Inquiries About Russian Collusion Stall

All three committees looking into Russian interference — one in the House, two in the Senate — have run into problems, from insufficient staffing to fights over when the committees should wrap up their investigations. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s inquiry has barely started, delayed in part by negotiations over the scope of the investigation. Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, while maintaining bipartisan cooperation, have sought to tamp down expectations about what they might find. Nine months into the Trump administration, hopes are dwindling that Capitol Hill would provide a comprehensive, authoritative and bipartisan accounting of the extraordinary efforts of a hostile power to disrupt American democracy, notes the New York Times.

Congress Approves $36.5 Billion Disaster-Relief Package

Congress gave final approval Tuesday to a $36.5 billion emergency spending plan to pay for ongoing relief from recent natural disasters. The spending deal includes $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to natural disasters stretching from the storm-scarred beaches of Puerto Rico to the scorched vineyards of Northern California. The bill also forgives about $16 billion of the National Flood Insurance Program’s debt, freeing up money under its borrowing limit for additional loans; $576.5 million to address wildfires in the West; and $1.2 billion for nutrition assistance programs that will provide low-income Puerto Rico residents relief after Hurricane Maria slammed the island. Aid for Puerto Rico dominated the latest round of emergency funding. More than 80 percent of the island still is without power more than a month after the storm, and concerns are growing that a failure to restore electricity and provide basic services to residents could cause a mass exodus to the mainland United States.

  • Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló expressed his gratitude for all the Trump administration has done for Puerto Rico. “The truth of the matter is, the president has responded,” he said in an MSNBC interview. “He has responded to all of our petitions. I’ve had enormous access to the president and to his staff and they have done so quickly. We are very grateful for that and I wanted to answer truthfully.”

Senate Repeals Rule Allowing Class-Action Suits Against Banks

U.S. consumers are on the verge of losing the right to sue their banks and credit card companies through class-action lawsuits. Vice President Pence broke a 50-50 Senate tie Wednesday night, narrowly approving the repeal of the rule that blocked financial companies from requiring consumers to resolve disputes via individual arbitration proceedings. The Senate vote followed earlier House approval and now goes to President Trump for expected signing. The action hands Wall Street and the financial industry a victory while dealing a defeat to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal watchdog that approved the rule in July. Created as a new safeguard after the national financial crisis, the watchdog agency had moved to ban most mandatory arbitration clauses found in the fine print of agreements that consumers typically agree to automatically and often unwittingly when they open a checking account or get a credit card.

President Trump Declares Opioid Crisis a National Health Emergency

President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis to be a national emergency, and said that the government will be taking new steps to stem the crisis, including research into new types of painkillers, raising awareness of the issue, removing a certain painkiller from the market, and by encouraging people to not start taking drugs at all. Trump said the opioid epidemic has now become deadlier than car accidents and gun violence in this country. In order to reduce opioid addiction and deaths, Trump said that the border wall will be constructed, since 90 percent of heroin in the country comes from south of the border. Additionally, the NIH will begin research on a non-addictive painkiller and into new techniques for treating opioid addiction. On the issue of fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opiate that comes mostly from China, Trump said that he will speak about the issue with Chinese President Xi, and will embolden the post office to inspect packages to look for the drug.

Americans Are Retiring Later, Dying Sooner and Getting Sicker In-Between

Data released last week suggest Americans’ health is declining and millions of middle-age workers face the prospect of shorter, and less active, retirements than their parents enjoyed. The U.S. age-adjusted mortality rate rose 1.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to the Society of Actuaries. That’s the first year-over-year increase since 2005, and only the second rise greater than 1 percent since 1980. Americans in their late 50s already have more serious health problems than people at the same ages did 10 to 15 years ago, according to the journal Health Affairs. At the same time that Americans’ life expectancy is stalling, millions of U.S. workers are waiting longer to call it quits. The age at which people can claim their full Social Security benefits is gradually moving up, from 65 for those retiring in 2002 to 67 in 2027. Almost one in three Americans age 65 to 69 is still working, along with almost one in five in their early 70s.

Most Baby Foods and Formulas Tested Positive for Arsenic

An alarming study released Wednesday found many baby food products test positive for arsenic, including 80% of infant formulas. And, that’s not the only dangerous contaminate found. An alarming study released Wednesday found many baby food products test positive for arsenic, including 80% of infant formulas. And, that’s not the only dangerous contaminate found. About 530 baby food products were tested. researchers found 65% of products tested positive for arsenic, 36% for lead, 58% for cadmium and 10% for acrylamide. All of these chemicals pose potential dangers to developing infants, especially affecting fine motor skills and cognition. Mainstream brands including Gerber, Enfamil, Plum Organics and Sprout were among the worst offenders. Plus, 60% of products claiming to be “BPA free” tested positive for the industrial chemical bisphenol A.

U.S. Infrastructure in Bad Shape

An estimated 17% of American dams — 15,500 in total — are categorized as high hazard potential, meaning their failure would almost certainly result in loss of life. Meanwhile, 11.2% of roads are in poor condition, which ultimately lead to vehicle damage and traffic delays. Perhaps most troubling is the state of disrepair of bridges across the country as tens of thousands are classified as structurally deficient by the federal government. The estimated cost of repairing roads, bridges, and dams in the United States is projected to top $2.4 trillion by 2025. Other necessary infrastructure repairs, including railways, airports, and wastewater infrastructure would cost an additional $2.2 trillion. Infrastructure repair is one rare issue that often garners bipartisan support in Washington. While President Donald Trump previously proposed spending $1 trillion on fixing the country’s infrastructure, he recently abandoned his plans to form a Council on Infrastructure. The states with the worst infrastructure are (according to a USA Today analysis), Hawaii, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and California. The states with the best infrastructure are, Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Georgia and Wyoming.

Economic News

Existing home sales rose modestly in September, but the pace was still 1.5% below the year-ago level, the National Association of Realtors said Friday. The chief culprit in the decline is a national housing supply that remains at a 20-year low of 4.2 months — the time it would take to run out of homes for sale if no new units were added – down from 4.5 months a year ago. A six-month inventory is considered balanced. Economists expect supplies to stay low at least for the next year, making house-hunting more challenging for buyers and further pushing up prices. Home building has been hindered by shortages of construction workers and available lots.

Sales of new U.S. homes jumped last month to the highest level since October 2007, a sign that Americans — unable to find existing homes — are turning to new construction. New home sales leapt 18.9% in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 667,000, the most in a decade, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. Sales rose in all regions including the South, where they increased nearly 26%. The measure of new home sales is based on contract signings, so the number was likely lifted by those looking to replace homes destroyed or damaged by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

A slew of American blue chips reported strong earnings and outlooks Tuesday, including Dow components Caterpillar, 3M and United Technologies as well as GM, tool maker Stanley Black & Decker and Big Pharma titan Eli Lilly. The good news helped push the Dow up nearly 200 points to a new all-time high. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq hit record highs once again as well. The Dow is now up more than 18% this year, while the Nasdaq has gained more than 22.5%. The solid results also come on the heels of healthy earnings from big banks JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America earlier this month. Most American companies are still doing quite well. Consumers are continuing to spend on new cars and phones and take out loans for mortgages.

More Than 75% of Europe Bound Migrant Youth Face Exploitation

Many migrant children and youth have been subjected to forced labor and prostitution in Europe. UN officials have called on the European Union to create “protection corridors” for children migrants fleeing to Europe. More than three in four migrants between the ages of 14 and 24 report being subjected to forced labor, sexual abuse, child marriage and other forms of exploitation, the UN’s children and migration agencies said in a study published Tuesday. Children from sub-Saharan Africa are most at risk of exploitation, with 83 percent of those attempting to reach Europe via Libya having experienced some form of abuse. The agencies said racism likely played a major part in the significant difference between the groups of children and young adults. “If you try to run, they shoot you. If you stop working, they beat,” the report quoted Aimamo, a 16-year-old unaccompanied minor from Gambia, as saying. “We were just like slaves.” It is largely the guards and security workers at the refugee accommodation centers that are the exploiters, the report says, particularly in Berlin.

North Korea

Aside from threatening nuclear war against the United States, North Korea is also suspected of secretly developing a vast biological-weapons program that could unleash fear and death in crowded cities, a Harvard University study warns. “North Korea is likely to use biological weapons before or at the beginning of a conflict to disrupt society and create panic, incapacitate societies, and/or cause a significant military diversion,” says the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. “It is theoretically possible that North Korean sleeper agents disguised as cleaning and disinfection personnel could disperse BW agents with backpack sprayers,” the Harvard report said. North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un is believed to be developing biological agents such as anthrax, cholera and smallpox, London’s Daily Mail reported.

Syria

US-backed Kurdish and Arab forces say they have captured Syria’s largest oil field from ISIS, the latest in a series of recent setbacks for the jihadists in the east of the country. In 2014, ISIS seized control of the al-Omar oil field, the country’s largest and most important oil facility, which once had the capacity to produce 75,000 barrels of oil per day. The Syrian Democratic Forces, said that the group had “liberated” the oil field in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, driving ISIS fighters “out of the fields with little damage” on Sunday. ISIS’ oil production has been “reduced from a peak of approximately $50 million per month to currently less than $4 million per month.”

Niger

U.S. officials revealed that nearly 1,000 US troops are on the ground in Niger, a massive force for the tiny country, but that this is now the “hub” for U.S. military operations in Western Africa. This only became public knowledge after four U.S. special forces were killed in an ambush by Islamic militants. Niger has hosted a US drone base for years, and about 100 troops were reported deployed in 2012. Somewhere between then and now, this increased ten-fold, and those troops started engaging in patrols. African Command says there are no armed U.S. warplanes in West Africa at present, but that they rely on French warplanes. Details on what exactly being a ‘hub’ means are scant, since these operations were meant to be kept secret.

Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and his ruling coalition retained a two-thirds majority in Sunday’s national elections, an outcome he said shows support for a stronger military and a hard line on North Korea.  Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the ruling coalition won 312 seats in the 465-seat lower house of parliament, exceeding a two-thirds majority at 310, and other parties had 143 seats. A two-thirds supermajority gives Abe and his allies the ability to push through changes to Japan’s pacifist constitution to allow a more robust, conventional military. Abe made his strong military stance a key point in the campaign, calling the threat from North Korea one of the two crises facing Japan, along with its rapidly aging population.

Indonesia

An explosion and raging fire at a firecracker factory Thursday near Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, left at least 47 people dead and dozens injured, police said. The death toll could rise as many of the people who escaped the factory suffered extensive burns. The fire broke out at the factory in a warehouse complex in Tangerang, a city in Banten province on the western outskirts of Jakarta. A police report said the fire spread after an explosion and that the factory’s roof collapsed.

Wildfires

Fires fed by winds and hot and dry conditions in Southern California shut down highways and sent firefighters scrambling to contain them Tuesday. In Rancho Cucamonga, officials shut down the 210 Freeway in both directions and northbound 15 Freeway due to a brush fire that erupted near the intersection of the two roadways. Firefighters in Jurupa Valley battled a blaze that was sparked in a lumber yard and spread across several acres. The so-called Clay Fire shut down a major highway and forced a county animal shelter to evacuate. Red flag warnings remain in effect through Wednesday in parts of Southern California. Very hot, dry air combined with wind gusts of 45 to 55 mph will lead to ripe conditions for rapid development and spreading of wildfires.

Weather

Israel’s water crisis is intensifying. The prolonged drought in Israel has led to a water shortage so critical that even Israel’s world-leading waste treatment and desalinization infrastructure is not adequate to address the ongoing crisis. “No one imagined we would face a sequence of arid years like this, because it never happened before,” said Uri Schor, spokesman for Israel’s Water Authority.

Game 1 of the 2017 World Series in Los Angeles on Tuesday was the hottest World Series game on record. The first-pitch temperature was 103 degrees at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday at 5 pm. The high temperature in downtown L.A. was 104 degrees earlier in the afternoon, crushing the previous record-latest-in-season 104-degree high by 8 days (Oct. 16, 1958). The previous hottest-known World Series game was another game 1, this time on Oct. 27, 2001, in Phoenix, when the first-pitch temperature was 94 degrees.

Severe storms hammered the Carolinas and Virginia Monday evening, and there were nine confirmed tornadoes. More than 70,000 homes and businesses remained without power Tuesday morning. Eight minor injuries were reported, but no deaths. There were at least four reports of possible tornadoes in South Carolina.

Severe storms with damaging winds and heavy rainfall struck Hawaii early Tuesday morning. The Maui Police Department tweeted early Tuesday that there was an island-wide power outage from the storms and that Maui Electric was working to restore power. Maui has a population of about 150,000.

Typhoon Lan made landfall early Monday morning, Oct. 23, in southeastern Japan, where a combination of flooding rain, high winds and pounding surf battered the country, lashing the country’s main island of Honshu with winds up to 105 mph, killing two people. Shingu, in Wakayama Prefecture in southern Japan, recorded more than two feet of rainfall from Friday morning into early Monday morning.

  • End-time weather will continue to grow more extreme ((Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Signs of the Times (10/17/17)

October 17, 2017

Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (2Thessalonians 2:1-4)

ISIS Uses Las Vegas Shooting as Blueprint for Lone Wolves in U.S.

The Islamic State, also called ISIS, may or may not have had anything to do with the Las Vegas attack that killed 58 innocent Americans and injured 500 on Oct. 1. However, by claiming credit for Paddock’s attack at the same time the FBI has been silent on the shooter’s motive, ISIS is exploiting it for a propaganda coup, according to national-security experts. This past weekend, ISIS used the Vegas attack in a chilling appeal for “lone wolves” to take sniper shots at American motorists traveling down highways and to lay small bombs in rural roadways, as reported by WorldNetDaily. ISIS drew from the Las Vegas attack and its carefully planned carnage to suggest new operations for lone wolves, reports Site Intelligence Group, a respected chronicler of what it calls “extremist” activity around the world whether right wing, left wing or Islamic. In its Knights of Lone Jihad, series, ISIS declares, “May Allah facilitate more attacks like this to our brothers who are preparing to hit in their own lands the nations that fight the Muslims. You can carry many attacks on groups [of] kuffars similar to the one that our brother carries out in Las Vegas.”

Michelle Obama’s Library Uses Demonic Drag Queen to Read LGBTQ Books to Children

The Michelle Obama public library in Long Beach, California, has presented to children who are part of its young readers program a huge array of diversity and “inclusion” agendas. However, they went over the top when a demonically costumed drag queen, Xochi Mochi, read to children for LGBTQ History Month. It happened at the Obama library for the “Drag Queen Story Hour,” a part of a collaboration between the LBPL, the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, the Genders and Sexualities Alliance Network and the LGBTQ nonprofit Imperial Court of Long Beach, according to the Long Beach Public Library’s calendar. The event description reads: “Join us for a celebration of LGBTQ History Month! All ages welcome! Celebration will include: Drag Queen Story Hour featuring Xochi Mochi at 12pm, a community art hour at 1pm and an LGBTQ History Timeline Workshop starting at 2pm. Brought to you by a collaboration between the Long Beach Public Library, The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, the GSA Network and The Imperial Court of Long Beach.”

Former Transgender: It’s Insane to Ignore Underlying Mental Illness

Alarmed that an overwhelming number of transgender youth are harming themselves, a former transgender says they need help, not affirmation. Research from the University of Cambridge reports that 96 percent of transgender youth harm themselves, including cutting and suicide attempts. Approximately 400 Scottish students were surveyed for the study, which showed that 40 percent of trans youth have attempted suicide. That number mirrors figures cited by the trans community in the United States. The alarming numbers are not new, says Walt Heyer, who transitioned from male to female in his 40s before reverting back. Heyer now speaks and writes about the transgender issue at age 74 after living as “Laura” for eight years. Heyer has stated his struggles began at the age of five when his grandmother began dressing him in female clothes and a relative began sexually abusing him shortly thereafter.  Heyer says the medical community is rushing transgenders into a life-altering surgery without treating the underlying causes. “Sixty to seventy percent of them,” he says of transgenders, “are suffering from undiagnosed and untreated comorbid disorders such as bipolar disorder, dissociative disorder, body dismorphic disorder, even schizophrenia.”

Boy Scouts to Allow Girls to Join

The Boy Scouts will soon include girls, and not everyone’s happy about it. The 107-year-old organization announced Wednesday that younger girls will be allowed to join Cub Scouts and that older girls will be eligible to earn the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout. “The historic decision comes after years of receiving requests from families and girls,” Boy Scouts of America said in a statement. BSA said the expansion is also aimed at helping busy families consolidate programs for their children. BSA membership has been declining for years. In 2016, the organization reported 2.3 million youth members, a huge decrease from the peak in 1972 of 6.5 million members. The announcement drew praise from scouting leaders, mixed reactions from women’s groups and criticism from Girl Scouts USA. “The need for female leadership has never been clearer or more urgent than it is today — and only Girl Scouts has the expertise to give girls and young women the tools they need for success,” Girl Scouts USA said.

Federal Judge Blocks Third Version of Trump’s Travel Ban

A federal judge on Tuesday largely blocked the Trump administration from implementing the latest version of the president’s controversial travel ban, setting up yet another legal showdown on the extent of the executive branch’s powers when it comes to setting immigration policy. The decision from Judge Derrick K. Watson in Hawaii is sure to be appealed, but for now, it means that the administration cannot restrict the entry of travelers from six of the eight countries that officials said were either unable or unwilling to provide information that the United States wanted to vet their citizens. The latest ban was set to fully go into effect in the early morning hours of Wednesday, barring various types of travelers from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela. Watson’s order stops it, at least temporarily, with respect to all the countries except North Korea and Venezuela.

California Governor Stands Up for Religious Freedom

In a decision surprising to many, the governor of far-left California has supported the right of religious institutions to exercise their faith in hiring decisions. California recently became a “sanctuary state” that ignores federal immigration laws, has led the fight against traditional marriage and, among many other legislative measures, restricted the right of Christian counselors to help overcome same-sex attraction. But now Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed AB 569, a bill that would restrict the freedom of religious institutions to make hiring decisions consistent with their beliefs. Brown returned the bill without his signature, explaining to the legislature that it conflicts with the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, which has an exception for religious institutions.

California Declares Emergency to Fight Hepatitis A Outbreak

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday declared a state of emergency to combat a hepatitis A outbreak that has claimed 18 lives in San Diego. Brown said the federally-funded supply of vaccines is inadequate. His proclamation allows the state to buy vaccines directly from manufacturers and distribute them. He said the state would place an order Monday or Tuesday and supplies would reach the state soon after. California has distributed 81,000 federally-funded vaccine doses since the outbreak began and local jurisdictions have acquired more but the supply is insufficient, said Dr. Gil Chavez, epidemiologist at the California Department of Public Health. California is experiencing the largest hepatitis A outbreak in the United States transmitted from person to person — instead of by contaminated food — since the vaccine became available in 1996. The state says the majority affected are homeless, drug users, or both.

Puerto Rico Still Struggling

More than three weeks after Hurricane Maria ravaged this island, more than 35% of the island’s residents — American citizens — remain without safe drinking water. Some residents are turning to potentially risky sources to get by, including water flowing from a hazardous waste site. Only 14 percent of the island has seen its power restored and only 53 percent of the island has cell service. The death toll was raised to 48 Saturday after a review of medical records.

Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone Largest in World

Nitrogen fertilizers and sewage sludge runoff from factory farms are responsible for creating an enormous dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. As fertilizer runs off farms in agricultural states like Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and others, it enters the Mississippi River, leading to an overabundance of nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus, in the water. This leads to the development of algal blooms, which alter the food chain and deplete oxygen, resulting in dead zones. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is the largest recorded dead zone in the world,1 beginning at the Mississippi River delta and spanning more than 8,700 square miles — about the size of New Jersey. The fishing industry is taking a big hit, each year getting worse. Nancy Rabalais, professor of oceanography at Louisiana State University and an expert on dead zones, has measured oxygen levels in the Gulf since 1985. She blames agricultural runoff entering the Mississippi River for this growing environmental disaster. Recent measurements reveal the area has only half the oxygen levels required to sustain basic life forms. A study published last year revealed nitrogen builds up far below the soil surface, where it can continue to leach into groundwater for 35 years. This means environmental concerns would persist for decades even if farmers were to stop using nitrogen fertilizers altogether.

With or Without Obamacare, Insurers are Thriving

President Trump is continuing his push to try and put an end to the Obamacare — with or without Congress. But the big five health insurers have been doing just fine since the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, took effect more than seven years ago. So have three other smaller insurers. All eight have outperformed the broader market. The S&P 500 is up about 220% since the law went into effect – insurers even more. The gains come despite the fact that it has been a tumultuous seven years for the industry. Most health insurers have thrived in spite of the uncertainty because of growth in other areas of the health insurance market, such as employer-based plans and Medicare and Medicaid coverage. President Trump boasted Friday that his recent executive orders to dismantle Obamacare had driven down the stocks of insurers.

Drug Industry Derails DEA’s War on Opioids

In April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets. By then, the opioid war had claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise. A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns.

Digital Currencies Shaking Up World Economies

It’s time for the world’s central banks and regulators to get serious about digital currencies, according to the head of the International Monetary Fund. Global financial institutions are taking risks by not watching and understanding emerging digital currencies that are already starting to shake up the financial services and global payments system, according to IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. “I think that we are about to see massive disruptions,” Lagarde told CNBC in a Facebook Live interview on the sidelines of the IMF Annual Meetings in Washington D.C. The digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin no longer stands alone as many more are being introduced on a regular basis. Lagarde didn’t rule out that the IMF could at some point develop its own cryptocurrency. She pointed to the IMF’s Special Drawing Right (SDR), a currency the IMF created to serve as an international reserve asset, that could incorporate technology similar to cryptocurrencies. Intelligence sources say Russia’s President Putin has ordered the country to develop its own digital cryptocurrency.

  • The global elite are intent on minimizing if not eliminating the use of cash. When most of our savings and transactions are digital, it will be very easy to flip a switch and take control of our money – e.g. to enforce the ‘mark of the beast’

Central Banks Now Control Over 99% of World’s Money Supply

Today, less than 0.1% of the population of the world lives in a country that does not have a central bank. A central bank manages a nation’s currency, money supply, and interest rates. Central banks also oversee the commercial banking system of their respective countries. In contrast to a commercial bank, a central bank possesses a monopoly on increasing the monetary base in the country, and usually also prints the national currency. Central Banks have been behind the enormous increase in world debt which has officially hit the 217 trillion-dollar mark according to the Institute of International Finance, although other estimates put this number far higher. This is 327% of the world’s annual economic output (GDP), meaning that debt exceeds income by more than three times. Never before in human history has our world been so saturated with debt. But it’s only the people at the top of the pyramid who benefit from the debt which is why the gap between rich and poor continues to grow. It has gotten to the point that eight men have as much wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion people on this planet combined.

  • This is how the global elitists are enslaving the masses to bring about the one world government prophesied in Revelation 13.

Economic News

The U.S. government will dole out nearly 2 million work permits this year to immigrants who for the most part came to the country illegally or have some other tentative status, but who have been granted a foothold thanks to a loose immigration policy, according to statistics released last week. Almost all of those permits are discretionary, meaning the government could deny them if officials choose to do so. The statistics were released as part of President Trump’s commitment to more transparency in the immigration system, under the terms of his April “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, and are giving researchers new insights into how the legal immigration system affects the job market. Meanwhile, the country’s main technology guest-worker program has essentially become a pipeline for Indians to gain a foothold in the U.S. job market, according to the statistics, which show that people from India filed nearly 75 percent of all applications this year for H-1B worker petitions, the main high-skilled guest-worker program.

What percentage of the U.S. budget goes toward foreign aid? Your answer might be 10% or even 25%. It’s much less. Foreign aid is only 1% of our annual federal budget and includes both economic aid and security assistance. Another question people have been asking is what proportion of that aid goes to Israel – the answer is just 6% of the 1%. Israel is not the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. Afghanistan costs American tax payers $4.7 billion per year from both the economic and security assistance budgets. The $3.1 billion in security assistance to Israel is far less than what the United States spends on other countries like Korea, Japan and Germany if you also take into account the larger Department of Defense budget for things like overseas military bases. While the United States and Israel closely cooperate on multiple levels, the only U.S. service personnel on the ground in Israel are a few dozen stationed at an Israeli facility housing a U.S. military radar installation.

Israeli Aircraft Strike Assad Regime Missile Battery

Israeli aircraft were fired upon by an anti-aircraft missile battery manned by troops loyal to Syria’s Assad regime Monday morning. They returned fire and destroyed the battery, which was stationed approximately 50 kilometers east of Damascus. IDF Spokesman Brig.Gen. Ronen Manelis declared “we see the Syrian regime as responsible and see these missiles as a clear Syrian provocation, and it will not be accepted.”

North Korea

North Korea says it might be willing to engage in diplomacy with the United States over its missile program – but only after it has an ICBM capable of reaching “all the way to the East Coast of the mainland U.S.” The comments, made Monday, followed shortly after word that a congressional subcommittee on homeland security heard from two experts who have been studying America’s vulnerability to an existential threat – a real-life “doomsday scenario.” They testified that if just one of the nuclear weapons North Korea is now known to possess could be directed toward the heartland of the U.S. and detonated in the upper atmosphere, it could fry the electrical grid with an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), paralyze communications and transportation nationwide, instantly plunge the country back into a 19th century-style existence and cause 90 percent of Americans to starve to death in one year. On Monday, CNN quoted a North Korean official affirming Pyongyang’s dedication to acquiring a long-range ICBM.

Amid all the attention on Pyongyang’s progress in developing a nuclear weapon capable of striking the continental United States, the North Koreans have also quietly developed a cyberprogram that is stealing hundreds of millions of dollars and proving capable of unleashing global havoc, notes the New York Times. Unlike its weapons tests, which have led to international sanctions, the North’s cyberstrikes have faced almost no pushback or punishment, even as the regime is already using its hacking capabilities for actual attacks against its adversaries in the West. And just as Western analysts once scoffed at the potential of the North’s nuclear program, so did experts dismiss its cyberpotential — only to now acknowledge that hacking is an almost perfect weapon for a country that is isolated and adept at secrecy.

Islamic State

The Islamic State’s capital in Syria fell to U.S.-backed forces Tuesday, the most significant defeat for the militant group since it burst onto the world stage three years ago as a seemingly invincible force. The defeat of the Islamic State in Raqqa after a four-month battle with U.S.- backed forces leaves only remnants of the group along the Euphrates River Valley stretching between Iraq and Syria. ISIS fighters have been pushed out of most of their major strongholds in both countries, bringing to a crashing end the group’s ambitious vow to create a powerful “caliphate” it would rule across the Middle East. What was supposed to be a cataclysmic battle ended relatively quickly as exhausted militants in the northern Syrian city surrendered, attempted to flee or were killed by coalition airstrikes and ground attacks. The defeat in Raqqa doesn’t spell the end of the group, which has transformed itself from an occupying army to a global terror network as it has been ousted from Iraqi and Syrian strongholds.

Philippines

The Philippines city of Marawi has been liberated from ISIS-affiliated militants following a five-month standoff, President Rodrigo Duterte announced Tuesday. Around 20 to 30 militants remain in the city, holding about 20 hostages. Fighting continues in Marawi, despite Duterte’s declaration of liberation. General Eduardo Ano, Chief of Staff for the AFP, told reporters in Marawi that since such a small number of militants remain in a small area of the city, it can be considered a law enforcement matter and mopping-up operations against those militants are now underway.

Iraq

The United States has made an urgent call for calm in northern Iraq as Kurdish fighters and Iraqi forces — two of Washington’s key allies in the region — clash over disputed territory. Iraqi forces seized the coveted oil-rich city of Kirkuk on Monday after three years under Kurdish control. The Kurds took control of the city after it was abandoned by Iraqi government forces during ISIS’ lightning offensive in 2014. But Iraqi Prime Minsiter Haider al-Abadi ordered the operation to “secure” it on Sunday, weeks after the Kurds held an independence referendum claiming the disputed city as their own. At least 16 Kurdish fighters were killed in the operation, Kurdish Peshmerga commanders said, claiming Iraqi forces used US-supplied weapons against them. President Trump insisted Washington would not take sides in the dispute.

Afghanistan

The Taliban unleashed a wave of attacks across Afghanistan on Tuesday, targeting police compounds and government facilities with suicide bombers in the country’s south, east and west, and killing at least 74 people, officials said. Among those killed in one of the attacks was a provincial police chief. Scores were also wounded, both policemen and civilians. In southern Paktia province, 41 people — 21 policemen and 20 civilians — were killed when the Taliban targeted a police compound in the provincial capital of Gardez with two suicide car bombs. Among the wounded were 48 policemen and 110 civilians. The Ministry of Interior said in a statement earlier on Tuesday that after the two cars blew up in Gardez, five attackers with suicide belts tried to storm the compound but that Afghan security forces killed all five terrorists.

Somalia

The death toll from twin bombing attacks in the heart of Somalia’s capital rose to over 300 as of Monday as emergency crews pulled more bodies from cars and buildings demolished by the Saturday blasts, which officials called one of the deadliest attacks to hit Mogadishu since an Islamist insurgency began in 2007. President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo declared three days of national mourning and called for donations of blood and funds to help the victims. The truck explosions left at least 300 others wounded, and the toll was expected to rise. The Somali government blames on the Islamist al-Shabab extremist group, which vowed to step up attacks after the U.S. and Somalia’s new president announced new military action against it earlier this year. “This is the deadliest incident I ever remember” since the 1990s, when the government collapsed, a shaken Senator Abshir Ahmed said in a Facebook posting.

Wildfires

Rising winds fanned the Northern California wildfires again over the past weekend, forcing hundreds more people to flee from their homes in the state’s fabled wine country and destroying more buildings. With 40 confirmed deaths in Northern California, this has been the deadliest week of wildfires in state history. Officials say roughly 5,700 homes and businesses have been destroyed and about 150 people are still missing. At least 10,000 firefighters are working to control these blazes. There’s an estimated $1.2 billion in damage in Santa Rosa alone. A new fire in California’s wine country prompted more evacuations early Saturday in Santa Rosa as wildfires continued to rage. “We’ve lost almost 5 percent of the housing stock in Santa Rosa,” Mayor Chris Coursey said. Containment on some of the massive wildfires blazing in Northern California has slowly increased amid the unprecedented crisis. The 55-square mile Tubbs fire is one of the largest of 17 wildfires burning through California. As of Saturday morning, it was 44 percent contained, according to Cal Fire. About 25,000 of the approximately 100,000 residents under mandatory evacuation orders have been allowed to return to their homes on Monday.

As of Monday morning, at least 41 people have died and dozens more were injured in Spain and Portugal due to a series of wildfires. Unseasonably warm weather was to blame for the deadly fires in northern and central Portugal, according to Civil Protection Agency spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar. They spread quickly in densely forested areas, and because of the warmth, the fire situation remains “critical,” Gaspar also said. In Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the country’s fires were started by arsonists. Firefighters might get more favorable conditions in the coming days, with cooler, wetter weather in the forecast.

Weather

Thousands were evacuated and flights canceled Sunday after Tropical Storm Khanun began to lash Southern China with heavy rain and strong winds. The typhoon prompted the evacuation of 4,041 coastal residents in Fujian Province and more than 17,000 ships carrying nearly 28,700 crew members returned to port. As of Sunday afternoon, more than 260 arriving and departing flights at the Meilan International Airport in Haikou have been canceled.

Tropical Cyclone Ophelia hammered portions of Ireland and the western United Kingdom with damaging winds on Monday, downing trees, knocking out power to thousands and killing at least three people. Some roofs have been blown off. Wind gusts topped 70 mph in several locations, including one gust to 119 mph on Fastnet Island off the southern coast of Ireland. Wildfire smoke from Portugal and Spain, as well as Saharan dust, was drawn northward by Ophelia into the U.K. and France. Ophelia has gone the farthest east a Category 3 hurricane has ever travelled in the Atlantic Basin in recorded history.

Signs of the Times (10/13/17)

October 13, 2017

Therefore, I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?… For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:25, 32-34)

Thousands of Christians Gathered in D.C. for Prayer and Worship Event

Thousands of Christians from all over the country gathered this past weekend in Washington, D.C. to worship and pray for a “spiritual shift” in America. The event, called America’s Tent of Meeting, brought together some 30,000 at the National Mall. The ATM event was sponsored by Awaken the Dawn. Speakers at the event included Mike Bickle, of the International House of Prayer and Francis Chan, of We Are Church. Attendees prayed in shifts for 24 hours a day until the event ended Monday morning. There were 58 prayer tents— one for each state and eight more regional tents. “I see Awaken the Dawn as part of a bigger story that God is telling,” said Michael Beardslee of Phoenix, Arizona, in an interview with The Christian Post. “With our country and the mess that it’s in and the disunity, I thought ‘Lord Jesus, thank you that somebody got a vision of unity and of what that would look like.'”

Trump Pledges Fealty to Religious Freedom, Traditional Values

President Donald Trump assured a high-profile gathering of Christian conservatives on Friday that his administration will defend religious organizations, promising a return to traditional American values. Trump pledged to turn back the clock in what he described as a nation that has drifted away from its religious roots. He bemoaned the use of the phrase “Happy Holidays” as a secular seasonal greeting and vowed to return “Merry Christmas” to the national discourse. He noted, as Christian conservatives often do, that there are four references to the “creator” in the Declaration of Independence, saying that “religious liberty is enshrined” in the nation’s founding documents. “I pledged that in a Trump administration, our nation’s religious heritage would be cherished, protected and defended like you have never seen before,” Trump said. “Above all else in America, we don’t worship government. We worship God.” President Donald Trump defended his pro-life views and actions as president, saying, “To protect the unborn I reinstated a policy first put in place by President Reagan, the Mexico City Policy.” He added, “We cherish the sacred dignity of every human life. We are all made by the same God in heaven.”

AG Sessions: Respect Christian Business Owners’ Rights

While people debate whether a religious business owner should be forced to conduct business in a way he or she does not agree with, the attorney general of the United States believes that Americans too often ignore what the United States Constitution actually says about the issue. During an interview with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s Faith Nation, host David Brody asked whether a Christian cake baker has the right not to sell a cake to someone if they’re having a “gay” wedding. “The matter is in litigation, but I would just say to you that too often we have ignored what the Constitution actually says,” Sessions responded to CBN’s Brody. “It says Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof. So, the question is, the cake baker has more than just a personal view here. He has a religious view and he feels that he is not being able to freely exercise his religion by being required to participate in a ceremony in some fashion that he does not believe in.”

Gay Coffeeshop Owner Kicks Out Christian Group

A pro-life Christian group was told they had to leave a Seattle coffeeshop by the business’s gay owner. The Washington Times reports that members of the pro-life group Abolish Human Abortion came into Seattle’s Bedlam Coffee to order drinks following their time distributing pro-life pamphlets around the community. Once Bedlam’s owner found out that a pro-life Christian group had entered his business, he told them to leave. “I’m gay. You have to leave,” Ben Borgman says in the video of the encounter, posted to Facebook by Abolish Human Abortion. Many who watched the video called out the hypocrisy in our society today between those who approve of this gay coffeeshop owner having the right to kick this pro-life group out of his business and many of the same people who accuse Christian business owners such as bakery owner Jack Phillips of discriminating against gay people when he refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

  • Tolerance only seems to work in one direction both in society and in the courts where it’s okay to be biased against Christianity but not anything else

Judge Upholds Congressional Prayer Despite Atheist Challenge

Congress will continue opening sessions in prayer after a challenge to the tradition by an atheist. A federal court ruled against the lawsuit brought by Daniel Barker, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Barker argued he was denied the opportunity to give an opening invocation in Congress while other guest chaplains were allowed to do so. U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer said in her decision that House rules didn’t allow Barker to lead the prayer because he had left his faith. Collyer also pointed out opening prayer has been a part of Congress for more than two centuries and it doesn’t conflict with the establishment clause according to the United States Supreme Court. House Speaker Paul Ryan was quick to applaud the decision. “Since the first session of the Continental Congress, our nation’s legislature has opened with a prayer to God. Today, that tradition was upheld and the freedom to exercise religion was vindicated. The court rightfully dismissed the claims of an atheist that he had the right to deliver a secular invocation in place of the opening prayer,” Ryan said.

Trump Refused to Re-Certify Iran Nuclear Agreement

President Trump, who has called the Iran nuclear agreement the “worst deal ever,” has found a way to distance himself from it symbolically without causing an immediate rupture with Iran or U.S. allies who want to keep the accord in place. Trump announced Friday his refusal to re-certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 agreement, which prevents Iran from trying to develop nuclear weapons for at least a decade in exchange for relief from international economic sanctions. But Trump will not ask Congress to re-impose sanctions right away, a move that could prompt Iran to back out of the deal and resume its nuclear development program —much to the dismay of other world powers who signed onto the deal along with the U.S. Congress requires the president to certify Iran’s compliance with the agreement every three months. Despite Trump’s refusal to do so this time, there are many reasons why Congress may be unwilling to take punitive action against Iran on its own. For one thing, U.N. inspectors say Iran is in compliance, and there may be little appetite for a new crisis involving nuclear weapons on top of the mounting tensions with North Korea’ over its nuclear program. In addition, the deal has strong support among businesses eager to sign deals with oil-rich Iran. Boeing has a $3 billion contract to provide commercial aircraft.

Iran’s Nuclear Program Not Halted Says New Report

President Donald Trump is expected this week to “decertify” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known simply as the Iran deal, declaring that the agreement reached in 2015 by the U.S. and five other international powers is not in America’s national interest. The matter will then be tossed back to Congress, which will have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose hefty pre-2015 sanctions. While the President’s likely move has generated wide condemnation from foreign policy leaders — who reiterate that the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has maintained Iran is in compliance — a new 52-page investigative report by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), entitled: “Iran’s Nuclear Core: Uninspected Military Sites,” asserts that the country’s nuclear weapons program has far from halted. “It has been known for years that Iran has two nuclear programs — one is civilian and the other, the military, has the goal of giving Iran its first nuclear bomb,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the Washington office of the NCRI. “The civilian sector of the nuclear program has systematically provided a plausible logistical cover for the military sector, and acts as a conduit for it. The military aspect of the program has been and remains at the heart of Iran’s nuclear activities.”

German intelligence agencies have warned German companies that Iran is still trying to circumvent restrictions on the sale of dual-use items for its rocket and missile technology program, according to a document seen by Reuters on Wednesday. The BfV domestic intelligence agency reminded German firms in the document that sales of certain technologies remained illegal despite sanctions relief triggered by the landmark Iran nuclear deal of 2015. “It is important to note that Iran continues to pursue an ambitious rocket and missile technology program which is not affected by the sanctions relief,” the document said.

Trump Issues Executive Order on Health Care

The White House announced Thursday that President Trump has taken executive action on health care as Congress stalls on efforts to overhaul ObamaCare, calling for a plan that could let employers band together and offer coverage across state lines. The executive order aims to offer “alternatives” to ObamaCare plans and increase competition in order to bring down costs. According to officials, Trump will direct the secretary of labor to consider expanding access to Association Health Plans, which could allow employers to form groups across state lines offering coverage. The order also calls on other federal agencies to consider expanding coverage in less-regulated, low-cost, short-term insurance plans not subject to ObamaCare rules. The move comes after congressional Republicans repeatedly have been unable to pass legislation repealing or reforming the Affordable Care Act, which critics say has led to rising premiums and diminishing coverage options – in some cases forcing consumers to lose their previous plans and doctors. Trump’s executive order could clear the way for cheaper, more bare-bones insurance policies. The president, though, used the overnight decision to up pressure on Democrats to negotiate a “fix” to the “imploding” health care law.

Trump Plans to Immediately Halt Payment of Subsidies to Insurers

President Trump announced plans Friday to halt essential payments to insurers under the Affordable Care Act “immediately,” in a major blow to ObamaCare that is likely to draw a legal challenge. The White House said in a statement that the Department of Health and Human Services has determined there is no appropriation for so-called cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers under the ObamaCare law. Trump’s decision was expected to rattle already-unsteady insurance marketplaces. The president has previously threatened to end the payments, which help reduce health insurance copays and deductibles for people with modest incomes, but remain under a legal cloud. The Justice Department took swift action, notifying a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., in connection with a related lawsuit that an upcoming Oct. 18 payment “will not occur.” The decision is the latest effort in the president’s bid to ultimately “repeal and replace” what’s considered the signature legislation of his White House predecessor.

DOJ Issues ‘Last Chance’ Warning to Sanctuary Cities

The Justice Department on Thursday delivered a “last chance” warning to cities suspected of having “sanctuary” policies to drop their resistance to federal immigration officials. The DOJ announced that five jurisdictions “have preliminarily been found to have laws, policies, or practices that may violate” a key federal statute concerning cooperation with federal immigration officials. They are: Chicago, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia and Cook County, Ill. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a written statement that sanctuary cities “adopt the view that the protection of criminal aliens is more important than the protection of law-abiding citizens and of the rule of law.” Sessions earlier this year said any cities and counties out of compliance could lose certain federal grant money. However, a federal judge in September blocked Sessions from withholding those grants for now, while a Chicago lawsuit against the department plays out in the courts.

U.S. to Pull Out of UNESCO

The Trump administration said Thursday it is pulling out of UNESCO, citing concerns over financial issues and an “anti-Israel bias” among other problems at the cultural organization. The withdrawal will take place at the end of next year, according to a State Department statement. “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects U.S. concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO,” according to the statement. The U.S. stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member in 2011. UNESCO’s World Heritage program protects cultural sites and traditions around the world, according to the AP. The agency also works to improve education for girls in desperately poor countries and in scientific fields, to promote better understanding of the horrors of the Holocaust and to defend media freedom, among other activities, the AP said.

Puerto Rico Still Struggling After 3 Weeks

More than three weeks after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, more than 80 percent of the island is still without power. Just 63 percent of the island’s residents have access to clean drinking water, and only 60 percent of wastewater treatment plants are operating, according to FEMA. Organizations and charities on the U.S. mainland trying to send supplies to the island are facing a series of bottlenecks that are keeping help from reaching those most in need. The barriers range from a lack of communication to blocked roads to a shortage of vehicles and drivers to make deliveries. Tangled power lines across roads, washed out bridges and highways and knocked out cellphone towers and radio antennas across the island add to the difficulty. The backlog is impeding the delivery goods and equipment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, such as food and bottled water, bucket trucks, front-end loaders and 275,000 gallons of diesel and 75,000 gallons of gasoline.

Unanswered Questions in Las Vegas Massacre

Jesus Campos, the Mandalay Bay security guard shot by Stephen Paddock in the moments leading up to the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, was set to break his silence Thursday night with five television interviews. But, when the cameras were about to roll, and media gathered in the building to talk to him, Campos reportedly bolted, and, as of early Friday morning, it wasn’t immediately clear where he was. New discrepancies about the timeline of the attack — for which Las Vegas Police and MGM Resorts have given conflicting accounts – doesn’t dispute Campos is still a hero for saving a maintenance worker and possibly stopping additional shots. Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said Paddock fired about 200 bullets from his room at the resort starting at 9:59 p.m. on Oct. 1 — the volley in which Campos was hit — and then began opening fire on the music festival crowd six minutes later. Police had earlier said the opposite – that Campos was struck after Paddock started firing out the window.

Economic News

The International Monetary Fund upgraded its estimate for the pace of global economic growth in 2017 and next year, citing stronger growth in the first half of the year in the eurozone, Japan, and some emerging markets. Globally, the IMF upped its growth forecast to 3.6% in 2017 and 3.7% in 2018, which were both 0.1% higher than projections back in July. Global growth in 2016 was 3.2%. In July, the IMF lowered its forecast for U.S. growth to 2.1% for 2017 and 2018, down from earlier projections of 2.3% and 2.5%.

The United States in 2015 collected $14,794 per capita in tax revenue, according to data from the OECD, which is a group of 34 democracies with market economies. That’s well below what many other OECD members collected. Luxembourg took the top spot, with $42,655 collected per person. Norway came in second, collecting $30,140. As a share of the economy, the U.S. collected 26.4% of its gross domestic product in total revenue, well below the 34.3% OECD average. By that measure, Denmark takes the top spot at 46.6%. However, the top U.S. corporate rate is 35%. When combined with state and local business taxes, it’s just over 39% on average. That’s higher than the average rates of countries in the OECD. It’s also higher than that of the 15 largest economies in the world, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Social Security recipients will get a 2% increase in benefits in 2018, which is slightly lower than projected this summer but up sharply from the past two years. The cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) covers more than 61 million Social Security beneficiaries and more than 8 million recipients of Supplemental Security Income benefits. Some people get both. The average person will get about $25 more per month. The rate of the increase is tied to the Consumer Price Index. The Social Security Board of Trustees had projected in July that this year’s increase would be 2.2%. While it fell short of that amount, it came after an increase of 0.3% for 2017 and no change in 2016.

Middle East

Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas announced a deal Thursday that could end a decade long rift. The agreement between moderate Fatah, which governs the West Bank, and militant Hamas, which rules Gaza, also could help relieve mass suffering in Gaza and reduce chances of another war with Israel, officials say. Under the terms of the agreement, announced in Cairo, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas could resume governing Gaza a decade after Hamas overran the territory. Israel and the United States consider Hamas a terrorist group. Egyptian-led talks between Fatah and Hamas have been taking place since September. The two Palestinian parties — the secular, internationally-recognized Fatah and the Islamist, militant Hamas — have been at odds since Hamas swept the 2006 Gaza elections and engaged in violent street battles, ultimately ousting Palestinian Authority officials from the enclave.

Islamic State

Islamic State suicide attackers killed at least 50 people in a triple car bomb attack on Thursday among a group of refugees in northeast Syria, a medical source in the Kurdish Red Crescent said.  A large number of people were also injured by the three car bombs set off by the attackers, the source said. The attack took place at Abu Fas, near the border of Deir al-Zor and Hasaka provinces, said a war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The U.S. military is ramping up operations and bombing raids against the Islamic State in Libya, where the terrorist group’s fighters have increasingly found refuge as their territorial base shrinks in Syria and Iraq. U.S.-backed militias largely crushed the Islamic State’s Libya operation in late 2015, but signs that the group is gaining a new foothold in the North African nation began emerging last month. Images of Islamic State fighters moving through the vast deserts around their former stronghold in Libya’s northern coastal city of Sirte circulated through the terrorist group’s social media and online propaganda sites in mid-September. Libya is seen as a promising base for the terrorist group because a deep factional split has prevented the creation of a functioning national government in Tripoli since the ouster of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. While the Trump administration has publicly resisted a major U.S. military role in Libya, the Pentagon wasted little time responding to the flurry of Islamic State activity there. On Sept. 22, military officials announced that American fighter jets had been dispatched to pound an Islamic State encampment roughly 150 miles south of Sirte, Gadhafi’s hometown.

Afghanistan

An American woman, her Canadian husband and their three children who were kidnapped by a Taliban-affiliated group in Afghanistan five years ago have been freed, U.S. and Pakistani authorities said Thursday. The Pakistani army said its soldiers recovered the family in an operation based on U.S. intelligence. Caitlan Coleman and her husband Joshua Boyle were abducted in 2012 while traveling in Afghanistan and were held captive by the Haqqani network. Coleman, 32, from Stewartstown, Pa., was seven months pregnant when she was captured after travelling to Afghanistan via Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, Fox News reported. The couple had three children while in captivity. It is believed the family’s captors are holding two other American hostages: Kevin King, an university professor who taught in Kabul and was captured in August 2016, and Paul Overby, a Massachusetts writer, who vanished in May 2014. The news of the release comes a month after President Trump announced a new strategy to deal with Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying the Taliban and other militant groups would no longer find safe haven in Pakistan.

Philippines

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte suspended his controversial war on drugs this week, ending a bloody campaign that claimed thousands of lives and brought international condemnation. “This is better for the bleeding hearts and the media,” Duterte said in a speech Thursday. Duterte ordered the country’s police to disband anti-drug units and cease Operation Double Barrel, a campaign that targeted high-level dealers and street pushers. The crackdown resulted in almost 3,900 deaths, according to official police figures. However, rights groups and critics claim that thousands more have been killed in vigilante campaigns and extra-judicial killings. The moves comes amid a public outcry over the brutal police killings of three teenagers. It comes also a few weeks before the Philippines will face international scrutiny as the Southeast Asian country hosts the regional ASEAN economic summit Nov. 10-11. A delegation of European lawmakers held a press conference in Manila on Monday to condemn the drug killings. Duterte threatened to expel European ambassadors who have been critical of his drugs war tactics.

Volcanoes

Scientists working in and around Yellowstone National Park say that the supervolcano sitting under the tourist attraction may blow sooner than thought, an eruption that could potentially wipe out all life on the planet. Until now, the magazine reported, geologists had thought it would take centuries for the supervolcano to make the transition back to a more active state since its last eruption. According to National Geographic, researchers, from Arizona State University The discovery, which was presented at a recent volcanology conference, comes on top of a 2011 study that found that ground above the magma reservoir in Yellowstone had bulged by about 10 inches in seven years. analyzed minerals in fossilized ash from the most recent mega-eruption and found changes in temperature and composition that had only taken a few decades. About 630,000 years ago, National Geographic reported, a powerful eruption shook the region and created the Yellowstone caldera, a bowl 40-miles wide that forms much of the park. A previous eruption occurred 1.3 million years ago, — meaning that the system might be ready for another explosion. The researchers have determined that the supervolcano has the ability to spew more than 1,000 cubic kilometers of rock and ash — 2,500 times more material than erupted from Mount St. Helens in 1980 — an event that could blanket most of the United States in ash and possibly plunge the Earth into a volcanic winter.

Wildfires

More than 140,000 acres are burning in large, wildland fires throughout California. The wildfires exploded Wednesday, fueled by the return of strong winds, as authorities issued new evacuation orders and the death toll rose to 31 – a number officials believe is bound to grow. The series of 22 fires is already the worst in California history, and authorities say the situation is going to continue to get worse before it gets better. Firefighters will be struggling with windy conditions through the weekend. The fires have destroyed at least 3,500 homes and businesses. The blazes have left at least 180 people injured with nearly 400 still missing. More than 4,400 people are staying in shelters. At least six wineries have been destroyed. In just the past two days, fires in California’s wine country have produced as much small particulate air pollution as all the vehicles in the state produce in a year. The wildfires are also burning up marijuana farms in the so-called Emerald Triangle right before legal recreational sales were slated to begin in California.

Weather

Summerlike warmth is expected to continue in parts of the Midwest, South and East over the next one to two weeks, making many residents of these regions wonder if it’s October or August. The weather pattern that has persisted to some extent since mid-September is forecast to remain in place through at least mid-October, possibly into the end of the month. This consists of a large bulge in the jet stream, or upper-level ridge of high pressure, across the eastern U.S., allowing warmth to build and persist.

Hurricane Ophelia may strengthen into Friday and remains no threat to the United States, but could potentially brush parts of the Azores this weekend. From there, Ophelia may head for the Irish Coast. Ophelia is the 10th consecutive Atlantic named storm to become a hurricane in 2017. This ties the record for the most consecutive Atlantic named storms reaching hurricane strength.

Signs of the Times (10/9/17)

October 9, 2017

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:25-31)

Former Satanist Shocked Christians Celebrate Halloween

A former Satanist has issued a warning to Christians on the dangers of celebrating Halloween. In an article for CharismaNews.com, John Ramirez, who used to be a high-ranking priest within the Satanic Temple before miraculously having his heart opened to the Gospel, writes, “As devil worshippers, Halloween was very special to us, and we looked forward to celebrating it because we knew the implications and the dark power behind the night. It is very different from every other night in the witchcraft world. It would be like me saying to believers today, ‘How important to you are Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday?’ Halloween has that much weight and importance to those who dwell on the dark side.” He warns Christians that it is impossible to separate the dark origins of Halloween from the seemingly harmless practices of today.

Link Between Abortion and Breast Cancer Reported in China

Abortion is widespread in China, due to the country’s One Child Policy, and now the updated Two Child Policy. Reports have emerged of Chinese women being forced to undergo abortions or face harsh consequences, but to make matters worse, a study has now been released that shows a link between abortions and breast cancer in women, according to LifeNews.com. Dr. Joel Brind, professor of biology and endocrinology at Baruch College of the City University of New York and co-founder of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, notes that abortion has escalated in China and South Asia over the last few decades. Dr. Brind cites a study conducted by Dr. Yubei Huang which documented a 44 percent increase in breast cancer risk among women who had one or more abortions. If a woman had three abortions, the risk for breast cancer was increased up to 89 percent.

Attorney General Issues New Directive on Religious Freedoms

Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a sweeping directive to agencies Friday to do as much as possible to accommodate those who say their religious freedoms are being violated. The guidance effectively lifts a burden from religious objectors to prove that their beliefs about marriage or other topics are sincerely held. Under the new policy, a claim of a violation of religious freedom would be enough to override many anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people, women and others. The guidelines are so sweeping that experts on religious liberty are calling them a legal powder-keg that could prompt wide-ranging lawsuits against the government. “This is putting the world on notice: You better take these claims seriously,” said Robin Fretwell Wilson, a law professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “This is a signal to the rest of these agencies to rethink the protections they have put in place on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The American Center for Law & Justice said that the “Trump Administration has just delivered the final blow to President Obama’s abortion-pill mandate. The pro-abortion HHS Mandate forced Christian business owners, pro-life charities, and even Catholic nuns to pay for abortion pills. Now, the new Administration’s rules provide a permanent opt-out for Christian and pro-life businesses and charities – effectively gutting the abortion-pill mandate.”

Just Revealed: ISIS Plot Against NYC Foiled Last Year

A jihadist plot to attack New York City including Times Square and the subway system was foiled with the help of an undercover FBI agent, officials say. One man in the US and two others in Pakistan and the Philippines are under arrest and face charges of plotting the attacks which they hoped to carry out in the name of the Islamic State group. One of the suspects allegedly said he wanted to create ‘the next 9/11’. The trio allegedly used chat apps to plan their attack. It was prevented last year with the help of an undercover FBI agent – posing as an IS supporter – who communicated with the three plotters. Details of the alleged plot were released on Friday as prosecutors revealed the charges.

Las Vegas Shooter Led Secret Life, Had Help, Made Many Trips Abroad

The Las Vegas gunman behind the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history spent decades stockpiling guns and living a “secret life” that investigators may never be able to fully understand, said Clark County, Nev., Sheriff Joseph Lombardo. “What we know is Stephen Paddock is a man who spent decades acquiring weapons and ammo and living a secret life, much of which will never be fully understood,” the sheriff said, noting that he most likely had ‘help.’. Analysis of Paddock’s computer, cellphone and other electronic devices, found no obvious ideological motive, no clear connection to extremists or activist groups or outward display of mental illness, the Associated Press reported. Paddock was a retired, multimillionaire real estate investor with two homes and his own plane, Authorities also revealed that the weekend before the shooting, Paddock had rented a high-rise condo in a building that overlooked the Life is Beautiful alternative music festival in Chicago. Sheriff Joseph Lombardo also speculated that Paddock may have been “radicalized,” lending credibility to ISIS’ claim of responsibility. Paddock did indeed leave a note in his hotel room, but authorities say it wasn’t a suicide note or anything that provides an obvious clue about a motive for his shooting spree. Instead, they say it was a list of calculations for aiming his weapons to kill as many people as possible. An Australian man who was staying in the room next to the shooter in the Mandalay Bay has confirmed he witnessed multiple gunmen involved in the Las Vegas attack, reports Australia’s Courier-Mail.

Paddock’s Prior Life Details in 2013 Court Deposition

Details about Paddock’s life are contained in a 97-page court deposition obtained exclusively by CNN. Paddock was deposed October 29, 2013 as part of a civil lawsuit against the Cosmopolitan Hotel, where he slipped and fell on a walkway in 2011. Based on his own testimony, Paddock was a nocturnal creature who gambled all night and slept all day. He took Valium at times for anxiousness, and had the doctor who prescribed it to him on retainer. He wagered up to a million dollars a night, but wandered around glitzy Las Vegas casinos in sweatpants and flip-flops, and carried his own drink into the high rollers’ area because he didn’t want to tip the waitresses too much. However, Paddock’s testimony offers little insight into what could have prompted last week’s attack. He said that he had no mental health issues, no history of addiction and no criminal record. Paddock described himself as something of a rolling stone who split his time among California, Nevada, Texas and Florida, traveling at one point “maybe upwards of three weeks out of a month.” His de facto home was often one of the casinos, where he stayed in rooms that were provided for free “95% of the time.” Hotels often provide free rooms and amenities to big gamblers to entice them back to their casinos. In addition to his frequent forays into casinos and gun shops, Paddock took 20 cruises, many of them in Europe and the Middle East, reports Fox News and the Blaze, opening up the possibility of an ISIS connection.

White House & NRA Open to Regulations Against Bump Stocks

The White House and the National Rifle Association signaled Thursday that they are open to the idea of regulating the use of “bump stocks,” the rifle attachments that the Las Vegas shooter used to rapidly fire bullets on a crowd of concertgoers Sunday night. “Devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” the NRA said in a statement. Some lawmakers have proposed congressional legislation for bump stocks, while the NRA and others said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms should issue new regulations. “Clearly that’s something we need to look into,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., the second ranking Republican in the Senate, has said he would support hearings on bump stocks.

Border-Wall Funding Passes First Hurdle

The House Homeland Security Committee cleared the Border Security for America Act of 2017 on Wednesday. This bill  would authorize $10 billion for “tactical infrastructure” spending for a wall on the U.S.- Mexico border. The bill also substantially beefs up border security with an array of attachments aimed at halting a future wave of illegal immigration. The Border Security for America Act of 2017 would also: Add 5,000 new Border Patrol agents to safeguard the border; Add 5,000 new Customs and Border Protections officers to patrol the ports of entry; Mandate that government complete the biometric entry-exit system that was created two decades ago; and authorize governors to deploy their National Guard to help patrol the border.

Trump Administration Scrapping Obama-Era Coal Regulations

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced Monday that the Trump administration is moving to scrap the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s signature regulatory program to curb emissions from coal-fired power plants. He said that on Tuesday, he will sign a proposed rule to formally withdraw from the plan. The decision comes after President Trump in late March ordered a review of the controversial program, which was put on hold more than a year ago by the Supreme Court amid legal challenges from, among others, Pruitt himself. The Clean Power Plan aimed to reduce carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants by having states meet certain targets. Supporters see the plan as a critical plank in efforts to curb global warming, but critics contend it would kill thousands of jobs and take direct aim at the struggling U.S. coal industry. Pruitt can now expect a new wave of litigation from the other side of the debate, as environmentalist groups and allied Democrats are sure to challenge the rollback.

Trump Administration Releases Immigration Demands for DACA Bill

The Trump administration released a list of hard-line immigration demands late Sunday that threaten to derail a deal in Congress to allow hundreds of thousands of younger undocumented immigrants to remain in the country legally. The White House submitted a 70-point enforcement plan to Congress proposing the stiffest reforms ever offered by an administration — including a massive rewrite of the law in order to eliminate loopholes illegal immigrants have exploited to gain a foothold in the U.S. The plans, seen by The Washington Times, include President Trump’s calls for a border wall, more deportation agents, a crackdown on sanctuary cities and stricter limits to chain migration — all issues the White House says need to be part of any bill Congress passes to legalize illegal immigrant “Dreamers” currently protected by the Obama-era deportation amnesty known as DACA.  Trump announced plans last month to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that had provided two-year work permits to the dreamers that Trump called “unconstitutional.” About 690,000 immigrants are enrolled in DACA, but their work permits are set to begin expiring in March.

The Resistance Rises with Influx of Cash

It started as a scrappy grass-roots protest movement against President Trump, but now the so-called Resistance is attracting six- and seven-figure checks from major liberal donors. The movement foreshadows a once-in-a-generation reorganization of the American left that could dictate the tactics and ideology of the Democratic Party for years to come, notes the New York Times. If the newcomers prevail, they could pull the party further to the left, leading it to embrace policy positions like those advocated by Bernie Sanders, including single-payer health care and free tuition at public colleges. The upending of the left comes amid a broader realignment in American politics, with the Republican Party establishment also contending with a rising rebellion, driven by pro-Trump populists. Just as the new forces on the right are threatening challenges to establishment Republicans in upcoming primaries, some groups on the left have also begun talking about targeting Democratic incumbents in the 2018 midterm elections.

  • End-time divisiveness with continue to grow, not only in politics but in all spheres of society

Antifa Plotting a Mass Uprising

The far-left group known as “Antifa” (Anti-Fascists) has dramatically amplified its presence in the American political landscape since President Trump took office. Its violent tactics have been labeled terrorism by many, and there even exists a White House petition calling for the president to formally recognize the group as a terrorist organization. Now, the group and their cohorts may be planning a revolution, reports the Association of Mature American Citizens (a conservative alternative to AARP).  The Antifa-affiliated group “Refuse Fascism” is calling for demonstrators to gather on November 4, demanding the “Trump/Pence regime” must go. The group claims the Trump administration is fascist and therefore must be resisted. “This nightmare must end”, the Refuse Fascism website states in its call to action, “We will gather in the streets and public squares of cities and towns across this country… this whole regime is illegitimate and that we will not stop until our single demand is met (i.e. that the Trump Administration must step down or be forced out).

Nobel Peace Prize to Anti-Nuclear Group

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday to an international watchdog that campaigns to rid the world of nuclear weapons. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) won “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons,” the Nobel committee said in a statement. It comes as the United States and North Korea are engaged in a tense standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, and as speculation intensifies that President Trump could be preparing to abandon a two-year-old nuclear deal with Iran. ICAN is an umbrella group comprised of hundreds of non-governmental organizations in more than 100 countries that push for global nuclear disarmament. It was founded in Melbourne, Australia, 10 years ago, but is now based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Economic News

The U.S. economy lost 33,000 jobs in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma last month, the first decline since September 2010. However, the unemployment rate declined slightly to 4.2 percent. Average hourly wages rose 12 cents last month to $26.55, up 2.9 percent from a year ago. The number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits hit a two-year high in the first week of September (298,000). Before the two hurricanes, economists had estimated the nation would add about 75,000 jobs last month. Now they expect the job numbers to rebound in coming months. It’s the first decline in jobs in seven years.

A trickle of companies fleeing the restive Spanish region of Catalonia threatened to turn into a flood as a second major bank and two more firms said they would move their head offices to other parts of the country. CaixaBank, energy supplier Gas Natural Fenosa and Dogi International Fabrics said Friday they were moving their legal bases from Catalonia’s capital, Barcelona. Catalonia’s government was planning to make a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain early next week following a disputed referendum last Sunday in which two million Catalans voted to break away from Spain. These companies aren’t waiting to see how the politics play out.

Persecution Watch

The Islamic State is determined to completely eradicate all Christians from their ‘holy land.’ This underreported genocide continues even as ISIS loses its grip on its ‘caliphate.’ Iraq’s Christian population has dwindled from 1.5 million in 2003 to just 250,000 today. Christians are not the only victims. The Yezidi community shared many of the same fears of extinction. Today, 3,000 of their women and girls remain in ISIS captivity. Moreover, their land is “contested territory” by Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government. Multiple militias control it and few families have been able to return. The United Nations’ Security Council has at last agreed to formally investigate crimes against humanity committed by Islamic State in Iraq “motivated by religious or ethnic grounds.” While the resolution – which was unanimously passed by the Security Council on Thursday 21 September – does not specifically name any ethnic religious group, it has been widely recognized that Christians, Yazidis and Shia Muslims have been specifically targeted.

Eleven months ago, Bangladeshi police in riot gear marched into the desperately poor community of Christian Santal people in Gaibandah District.  Firing rubber bullets as they went, the police evicted the Christians, and then, helped by local Muslims, set fire to the wooden shacks in which the Christians lived. Leaving their meagre possessions behind, the Christians fled. Their houses burned on into the night. Three Christians died in the attack. Since those events on the night of 6 November 2016, thousands of Santal Christians have lived in makeshift tents. Their land has been seized to cultivate sugar cane. There is a government-owned sugar factory nearby. There has been a Christian presence amongst the Santal ethnic minority group since at least 1867 when the first Santal church was built. For years they have suffered exploitation and injustice from the Muslim-majority Bengalis.

Puerto Rico

Two weeks after Hurricane Maria toppled Puerto Rico’s communications towers, wrecked its electrical grid and knocked out power to water systems, medical officials said the island’s health system is “on life support.” Maria left the island’s medical system deeply damaged: Patients are dying because of complications related to the primitive conditions and difficult transportation issues; A lack of transportation in small towns makes it difficult to transfer patients to larger hospitals; Severe lack of communications on the island has resulted in less triage and coordination between hospitals; a greater number of patients than usual are arriving at large medical centers, which has stretched capacity; Doctors are afraid to discharge patients after surgery to places with unsanitary conditions. The 1,000-bed U.S. Naval Hospital Ship Comfort docked in San Juan, and will be used to help deal with the medical crisis facing this island of 3.4 million residents.

Puerto Rico’s agricultural sector was decimated by Hurricane Maria. Carlos Flores Ortega, Puerto Rico’s secretary of agriculture, said the area near the southern port city of Ponce, is known for plantains, bananas, papayas, coffee and citrus crops. “All of that has been wiped out,” Flores Ortega said. Ortega estimated the island lost 80% of its crops. The poultry sector lost 90% of its production and more than 2 million of its 2.6 million birds, along with numerous chicken coops and processing equipment. All the plantations have been destroyed. Flooding covered 51,000 acres of coastal area. Cows and other livestock floated away in the swollen rivers. Irrigation systems were lost, and ornamental and hydroponic facilities were damaged.

Russia

Google has reportedly uncovered proof Russian agents bought ads on YouTube and other platforms to spread disinformation during the 2016 presidential election. The company discovered thousands of dollars were spent on advertising on Google search, Gmail and its ad network DoubleClick, according to The Washington Post. Google, Facebook and Twitter are facing increased scrutiny from lawmakers trying to determine how propaganda and fake news from Russia was spread to U.S. voters. Last week, Facebook said 10 million users saw advertising linked to Russia aimed at spreading false information during the presidential election. Last month, Twitter told lawmakers it removed about 200 accounts tied to Russian groups purchasing ads on Facebook.

Spain

Spain faces a week of deep political uncertainty as the secessionist leader of Catalonia considered whether to make a unilateral declaration of independence, against the backdrop of a bitter standoff with the central government in Madrid. The French government said on Monday that it would not recognize an independent Catalonia, and that independence would result in automatic expulsion from the European Union. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he was determined to prevent a breakaway by the northeastern province, which is the powerhouse of the Spanish economy, in the wake of a banned referendum on October 1st that overwhelmingly supported the secession.

Niger

Three U.S. Army special operations commandos and several soldiers from Niger were killed Wednesday when they came under “hostile fire” in the west African country, the U.S. military said. The Green Berets were likely attacked by militants from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — the North African branch of the extremist group — in southwestern Niger, near the border with Mali, the AP reported. Two U.S. commandos who were wounded in the attack were taken to the capital of Niamey and were in stable condition. U.S. Africa Command said the forces were on a joint U.S.-Nigerien patrol when they were attacked. U.S. forces are in the country to provide training and security assistance to Niger’s military in their fight against extremists.

Wildfires

Mass evacuations were ordered Monday, including at least two hospitals, as wind-driven wildfires threatened California’s Napa Valley. Evacuations were taking place north of Santa Rosa, in Mendocino County, including a Kaiser Permanente Hospital on Bicentennial Drive and Sutter Hospital. The Tubbs fire, exploded from 200 acres to 20,000 acres overnight. The fire crossed Highway 101 in Santa Rosa and ignited structures west of the highway. The fire has reportedly burned structures at the Signorello Estate winery, north of Napa. Authorities have yet to confirm the total number of structures damaged by fires.

Weather

At least 22 people were killed Thursday after Tropical Storm Nate moved over Central America with clusters of heavy rain and gusty winds. Nicaragua had already been dealing with two weeks of persistent rainfall before the storm, which left rivers at high levels and the soil saturated. Costa Rican authorities said Thursday that there have been seven deaths in the country and 15 are missing.

Hurricane Nate gained strength on Saturday and made landfall in southeast Louisiana, near the mouth of the Mississippi River, as a Category 1 storm. The governors of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi declared states of emergency ahead of the storm, and counties along the coast issued curfews and ordered evacuations. Tens of thousands lost power along the Gulf Coast as Tropical Storm Nate made landfall. Major flooding was seen overnight in Biloxi, Mississippi, and Mobile, Alabama. No injuries or deaths have been reported in the U.S. Nate has now been downgraded to a tropical storm, but is still producing dangerous surge of 5 to 6 feet as well as flooding, winds, and torrential rain. Nate produced a swath of heavy rain from the Appalachians to parts of the Northeast through Monday.

Indian summer has settled in over the northeast following a cold spell. Old Forge, New York, in the Adirondack Mountains, saw a low of 26 degrees last Sunday morning and reached a high in the 70s on Wednesday, with 70-degree-plus temperatures possible again this weekend and early next week. Bradford, Pennsylvania, dropped to 27 degrees Sunday morning and is expected to see highs in the 70s several days into early next week. 80s are even possible on Saturday for the northeast region.

A storm bearing hurricane-strength gusts of wind knocked down trees and killed at least seven Thursday in northern Germany. Gusts of up to 75 mph were reported in Berlin by the storm dubbed ‘Xavier,’ prompting the halt of numerous flights at the city’s two airports. Public transportation was also temporarily shut down in the city, and in Wilhelmshaven, a 1,102-pound crane was toppled by the high winds. Berliner Zeitung reports that more than 2,100 emergency calls were received by the Berlin Fire Brigade as a result of the storm.

Signs of the Times (9/29/17)

September 29, 2017

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

Students Around the World Gather for ‘See You at the Pole’

Students across world are gathered Wednesday at their school’s flagpole for the 25th annual “See You at the Pole” prayer event. The event is a simple time of prayer for countries, families, teachers, and schools. The prayer rallies are led by students who gather at flagpoles for a time of prayer before the school day begins. The Christian Post reported that at least one million students participated in the event. This year’s theme was “Fix Our Eyes,” taken from Hebrews 12:2: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” “Only as we ‘Fix Our Eyes’ on Jesus will we find peace and have the opportunity to be a part of the solution instead of the problems in our country and world,” elaborated National Network of Youth Ministries field director Doug Clark.

Trump Releases New Tax Plan

The Trump administration released details of its new tax plan Wednesday, sending it on to Congress to work out the details. Working poor people could owe no income tax, filing a return could get much simpler, and there would even be a new credit for caring for elderly relatives under a proposed tax “framework.” The plan cuts the top corporate tax rate dramatically and creates a new top rate for small businesses that is lower than the top rate for individuals. It also eliminates two taxes paid entirely by the rich, while taking away a deduction for state and local taxes that is used most heavily in some of the most wealthy, and Democrat-dominated, states. Exactly how many other deductions and credits disappear to help pay for it all, and how much gets added to the deficit or must be offset with other budget cuts, will not be known for a while. As liberal groups decry the giveaway to those at the top of the income scale, Trump is selling the plan as a boost for working families.

Obamacare Repeal Shelved for Now

GOP senators were forced to acknowledge on Tuesday that their eleventh-hour push to repeal the Affordable Care Act had failed. For the second time in two months, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly conceded that he could not find 50 senators who would support partisan legislation to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, made all the more painful by the reality that Republicans control both chambers of Congress and the White House. Unlike the last failed attempt to repeal Obamacare in July, senators are in agreement that it is time for Republicans to move on to other things. With 10 months of the legislative calendar behind them, Republicans acknowledge they’ve lost precious time and cannot afford to make the same errors on tax reform and survive the 2018 midterms unscathed.

248 U.S. Counties Have More Voters than Residents

Lowndes County, Alabama, has been accused of having 131 percent of its total eligible population on its list of registered voters. Another 247 counties have the same problem, prompting the Public Interest Legal Foundation to send letters to officials, warning them to clean up their voter rolls or face legal consequences. There are 11 more Alabama counties with the problem. Kentucky has 41 counties with more voters than residents, Michigan 32, Iowa 31, Illinois 22, Mississippi 19, Colorado 17, Texas 12, Alabama 12, South Dakota 12, Nebraska 9, Georgia 6, New York 6, West Virginia 6, New Mexico 5, North Carolina 5, California 2, Louisiana 2, Montana 2, Virginia 2, Arizona 1 and Florida 1. PILF President J. Christian Adams said that during the 2016 election, 24 states had “bloated voter rolls.” “Voter fraud begins with corrupted voter rolls. Our nation’s voter rolls have records that cannot be distinguished between living or dead; citizen or alien; resident or relocated. We hear about possible cyber-attacks, but we aren’t doing enough to fix voter rolls that are certainly corrupt,” he said.

Moore Wins Republican Senate Primary Despite GOP Opposition

A former state judge who believes that “God’s law” can invalidate federal court decisions won Alabama’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate on Tuesday night, sending a clear warning to President Trump and GOP leadership that conservative grass-roots anti-establishment anger will continue to roil the party into the 2018 midterm elections. Roy Moore, who was twice suspended from his job as the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, defeated incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and was backed by Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Moore is now the front-runner to win the seat in the Dec. 12 general election. He will face Democratic candidate Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney in Alabama.

Domestic Terrorism Cases Equal to Jihadist Cases

The FBI has about 1,000 open domestic terrorism investigations — approximately the same number as more traditional jihadi terrorist cases — the bureau’s new director said Wednesday, as he sought to assure Congress that his agents take the domestic threat seriously. After last month’s clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, Democrats said they believe the Trump administration is too focused on radical Islam and isn’t paying enough attention to white supremacists and anti-government militants here at home. Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, said there have been nearly three times as many domestic terrorism incidents in the years since Sept. 11, 2001, as there have been foreign-inspired jihadi incidents. She said the combined death tolls are similar for both categories — 106 for domestic and 119 for Islamic extremists.

Detroit Again the Most Violent City in America

Detroit regained the title as the most violent big city in America in 2016, witnessing more murders last year than Los Angeles, which has four times as many people, according to new FBI crime figures released Monday. According to the FBI’s 2016 Uniform Crime report, 13,705 violent crimes — including murders, rapes, assaults and robberies — were reported in Detroit last year.  That’s a 15.7% increase from the year before, which saw 11,346 violent crimes in Detroit. The jump gave the Motor City the designation of No. 1 on the list of most violent cities in the U.S. with populations of more than 100,000.  Behind Detroit, rounding out the top five most violent big cities are St. Louis at No. 2, followed by Memphis, Baltimore and Rockford, Ill., according the FBI’s 2016 Uniform Crime Report.

Antifa Leader Arrested in Berkley

A well-known far-left organizer Yvonne Felarca, a teacher at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, was charged with battery and resisting arrest after leading a protest against a conservative group. Felarca is known as the leader of the far-left group By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN. Short for “anti-fascists,” these black-clad, masked and sometimes heavily armed activists more often resemble their supposed enemies as they attack peaceful protesters and police and during the riots they have conducted all around the country. Street clashes between conservatives and Antifa are now common in America’s cities. Berkeley, California, has been the site of several “Battles of Berkeley” in which violence is taken for granted. The violence by the hooded, black-clad protesters has been so extreme even Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., condemned Antifa and called for prosecutions.

Another Day, Another Cybersecurity Breach

Whole Foods Market — which was recently acquired by tech giant Amazon — said Thursday that hackers were able to gain access to credit card information for customers who made purchases at some of its in-store taprooms and restaurants. The company did not disclose details about the locations that were targeted or how many customers might have been effected. “When Whole Foods Market learned of this, the company launched an investigation, obtained the help of a leading cyber security forensics firm, contacted law enforcement, and is taking appropriate measures to address the issue,” the company said. Whole Foods says it plans to provide updates throughout the investigation.

Russia Used Web to Spread Disinformation & Division in U.S.

Twitter said Thursday that it had shut down 201 accounts that were tied to the same Russian operatives who posted thousands of political ads on Facebook, but the effort frustrated lawmakers who said the problem is far broader than the company appeared to know. The meetings between the company and congressional investigators were part of a widening government probe into how Russian operatives used Facebook, Twitter, Google and other technology platforms to widen fissures in the United States and spread disinformation during the 2016 campaign. Those companies have come under increasing pressure from Capitol Hill to investigate Russian meddling and are facing the possibility of new regulations that could affect their massive advertising businesses.

U.S. Withdraws Diplomats from Cuba over Sonic Attacks

The U.S. State Department is pulling out all families of employees and nonessential personnel from Cuba, after a string of mysterious attacks against U.S. diplomats. Twenty-one U.S. diplomats and family members became ill after fifty sonic attacks. Hearing loss and mild brain damage were experienced as a result of the sonic attacks. The Cuban government has vociferously denied any involvement in the attacks. The American embassy will continue to operate with a 60% reduction in staff. The U.S. will stop issuing visas in Cuba effective immediately because of the staff reductions. The decision is not described as a retaliatory measure. Officials say there will still be consular officials in the embassy available to assist U.S. citizens in Cuba. The State Department is also issuing a travel warning, urging Americans not to travel to Cuba because they could also be at risk as some of the attacks against diplomats have taken place at hotels where Americans stay.

Australians Request Urgent Prayer for Traditional Marriage

Australia is in the middle of a government mandated postal survey to decide the future of marriage between a man and a woman. The polls are predicting a defeat for those who believe in the biblical definition of marriage. Australian Christians are asking for prayer from all over the world for a “miracle for marriage” in Australia. The ballots must be posted back by the end of October. The Catholic Church has called for a month of ‘Prayer and Fasting for Marriage and Families’ through the month of October 2017. James Condon, a Commissioner with the Salvation Army, and the head of Strategic Church Relations for the National Day of Prayer & Fasting said, “Support for this historic initiative by the Catholic Church is gathering momentum. Key Aboriginal Christian leaders are also supporting this call for prayer and fasting to protect marriage from redefinition, noting that “Marriage between a man and a woman is sacred in Indigenous culture.”

  • Mercatornet, an Australian media outlet, has published a shocking catalog of violence, hate speech, discrimination and attempts to silence those opposed to the redefinition of marriage, most of whom it says are Christians.

Economic News

The stock market, undaunted by monster hurricanes, political tension and North Korea threats, keeps climbing to new heights. The Dow Jones Industrial Average soared another 5% during the third quarter, extending the Dow’s streak of winning quarters to eight in a row. It’s the longest winning streak since an 11-quarter boom that ended in September 1997. The current streak began during the final three months of 2015 and accelerated after last fall’s election. That’s five winning quarters on President Barack Obama’s watch and three under President Trump, who took office in January.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen conceded Tuesday that inflation may be weaker than Fed officials have anticipated, a development that could lead to a more gradual rise in interest rates. While several Fed policymakers have raised that possibility, Yellen’s remarks represent her most detailed and explicit acknowledgment that the Fed may have been too confident in its long-held view that inflation will soon pick up and move toward the Fed’s annual 2% target. The Federal Reserve’s measure of inflation fell to 1.4% in July from nearly 2% early this year. The Fed has raised its benchmark short-term interest rate three times since December to a range of 1% to1¼%. Last week, it maintained its forecast of three quarter-point rate hikes next year but cut its projection from three to two increases in 2019, lifting the rate to 2.9% by 2020.

The Conference Board says its consumer confidence index fell to 119.8 in September from 120.4 in August. Conference Board economist Lynn Franco says that confidence “decreased considerably” in hurricane-hit Florida and Texas. The reading still shows that U.S. consumers are in a mostly sunny mood, suggesting that “the economy will continue expanding at its current pace,” said Franco, the Conference Board’s director of economic indicators. The U.S. economy grew at a solid 3% annual rate from April through June, lifted by healthy consumer spending.

American households, including the middle-class, saw both their incomes and wealth rise significantly from 2013 to 2016 for the first time since the Great Recession, but the gap between rich and poor continued to widen. The richest 1% of families controlled a record-high 38.6% of the country’s wealth in 2016, according to a Federal Reserve report published on Wednesday. That’s nearly twice as much as the bottom 90%, which has seen its slice of the pie continue to shrink. The bottom 90% of families now hold just 22.8% of the wealth, down from about one-third in 1989 when the Fed started tracking this measure. The Fed acknowledged in the report that the distribution of wealth has “grown increasingly unequal in recent years.”

Orange juice drinkers may pay as much as $2.30 more for a gallon of orange juice as the result of the broad swatch that Irma cut through Florida’s citrus crop. Just how high OJ prices rise depends on whether Brazil can increase its exports to the U.S. to help cover the shortfall, according to experts in the futures markets. The Florida Department of Citrus estimates that 30% to 70% of the Sunshine State’s crop was destroyed. But the result price rises could be mitigated if consumers switch to other juices or juice blends.

Middle East

Israel suffered a diplomatic setback on Wednesday when the International Police Organization (Interpol) voted to accept the “state of Palestine” as a member, joining UNESCO and a number of world governments in granting statehood status to this entity. The proposal to accept “state of Palestine” as a member passed by a vote of 75 to 24, with 34 abstentions, at the annual Interpol convention currently in Beijing.

A Palestinian man killed three Israeli security officers Tuesday, and critically wounded a fourth, at the entrance to a settlement outside Jerusalem, in one of the deadliest attacks in a two-year spate of violence. The assailant, identified by police as Nimer Mahmoud Ahmad Jamal, 37, was shot dead by Israeli security forces at the scene. He had a valid permit to work in Israel and staged the attack by hiding among fellow Palestinian day laborers who were being checked by security forces. The attack came as Israeli security forces were on high alert due to the Jewish holidays. In the past, special observances such as Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur have marked a time of frequent terror attacks. The IDF has taken several measures against the family of Jamal. Tearing down terrorists’ homes is meant to serve as deterrence for potential terrorists plotting future attacks. The recent wave of Palestinian terror has claimed the lives of 55 victims in almost two years.

  • On its official Facebook page, the Nablus chapter of Fatah, the main party constituting the Palestinian Authority, called Nimr Mahmoud Ahmed Al-Jamal a “martyr.” This designation according to PA regulations means that Al-Jamal’s family will qualify for a 6,000 shekel ($1700) grant and monthly stipends up to 2,600 shekel ($737), reports the Palestinian Media Watch.

Islamic State

The Islamic State on Thursday released an apparent audio recording of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi amid speculation that he might be dead. The recording, which was not dated, is the first from al-Baghdadi in almost a year. In June, Russia’s military claimed it may have killed al-Baghdadi and other senior commanders in an airstrike in late May on the southern outskirts of Raqqa. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in July it had “confirmed information” that al-Baghdadi had been killed. Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman told news agencies he died in Deir az Zor province, about 80 miles southeast of the Islamic State’s defacto Syrian capital of Raqqa. ISIS wants to counteract their shrinking caliphate by instilling belief in their loyalists that Baghdadi is alive and well and still in charge.

Syria

With the U.S. consumed with domestic crises and a standoff with North Korea, Russia has quietly moved to press its advantage on the battlefield in Syria. A series of increasingly brazen Russian and Syrian airstrikes on U.S.-backed forces in Syria in recent days is the first step in a larger plan to co-opt American proxy forces fighting Islamic State and improve the Kremlin’s leverage to shape the postwar landscape, analysts say. Russian-backed forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad on Monday launched a heavy artillery attack in eastern Syria near positions of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the alliance of Kurdish and Arab paramilitary fighters battling Islamic State militants, coalition officials confirmed Thursday. Coalition officials maintain that Monday’s attack was a case of “accidental targeting,” but it was the third such strike against anti-Islamic State forces this month and was less than a week after Russian warplanes struck SDF units in the Islamic State-held territory of Deir el-Zour.

Afghanistan

The Taliban and the Islamic State both claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on Kabul’s airport Wednesday while Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg visited the Afghan capital. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter that Mattis’ plane was the target of the attack. Missiles hit in and around the Hamid Karzai International Airport hours after Mattis arrived for talks with Stoltenberg and Afghan officials and to meet U.S. forces. Najib Danish, spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said five people were injured when one of the rockets hit a house near the airport.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia announced Tuesday that women have the right to drive for the first time in the ultra-conservative kingdom. In a royal decree signed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz, the order on the right to drive said it will be effective immediately. But there are still many things women are banned from doing, including: women are not allowed to travel without the permission of a male guardian — usually their father or husband; they are not allowed to “dress for beauty” and must cover their hair and bodies in public under the law; a Saudi woman cannot open a bank account without her husband’s permission; they cannot eat freely in public and must eat under their face veil; and they must limit physical closeness with other men and be segregated from the opposite sex in most offices, banks and universities.

Austria

Austria on Sunday becomes the fifth European country to ban wearing full face veils such as the burqa and niqab in public, a move prompted by the recent wave of migrants from Muslim countries seeking asylum. The prohibition will also apply to scarves, masks and clown paint that cover faces to avoid discriminating against Muslim dress. The Anti-Face-Veiling Act applies to anyone in public places and buildings, including schools, shopping malls and public transportation. Other measures aimed at refugees to promote integrating them into Austria include compulsory courses to learn German and the country’s values. The new law has angered Muslim groups. The Islamic Religious Authority of Austria calls it an infringement on privacy, religious freedom and freedom of opinion.

Spain

Europe faces another high-stakes secession vote in the Catalonia district of Spain this weekend. This is the third secession vote following Scotland’s failed referendum on independence from the United Kingdom in the 2014, and the U.K.’s vote last year to leave the European Union, probably by 2019. This time around, Spain is in the hot seat as its semi-autonomous region of Catalonia pushes ahead Sunday with an independence referendum that Madrid says is illegal and wants to block. Catalonia is one of Spain’s 17 semi-autonomous regions. It is situated in the country’s northeast, Barcelona is its lively and tourist-friendly capital, and it’s home to 7.5 million people who have their own language, Catalan. Catalonia’s drive for independence in modern times can be traced to the Spanish Civil War, when the country’s military dictator Francisco Franco abolished any hopes of full autonomy. He suppressed the region’s culture, language and many civil liberties.

Uganda

Many Ugandans believe that sacrificial rituals can bring quick wealth and good health. Among those rituals, human sacrifice, especially of children, occurs frequently despite the government’s efforts to stop it. Seven children and two adults were sacrificed last year, said Moses Binoga, a police officer who heads Uganda’s Anti-Human Sacrifice and Trafficking Task Force. Seven children and six adults were sacrificed in 2015. Times are tough in Uganda, and people are looking to sacrifices to improve their fortunes. The worst drought in over half a century has hit parts of East Africa, leaving more than 11 million people in this nation facing food insecurity and 1.6 million on the brink of famine, according to the Ugandan government.

Puerto Rico

The largest airport in Puerto Rico is still crippled almost a week after Hurricane Maria stuck the island. Passengers hoping to escape the devastation have packed the main terminal, which has no air conditioning since it’s running on limited emergency power. Because of damage to radar and other equipment at the airport, only 10 commercial flights between San Juan and the mainland United States could take off and land on Monday. Only 10 more are scheduled for Tuesday, airport authorities told CNNMoney. Airlines have started flying larger than normal planes to handle as many passengers as possible on the few flights that can get in and out. Commercial airlines are also carrying tons of needed supplies, including bottled water and non-perishable food, medicine, blankets, cots, electrical generators and blood for the Red Cross. President Trump has waived the Jones Act in order to loosen shipping rules regarding Puerto Rico that island officials say would be a significant help for recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said the island faces a humanitarian crisis and he urged Congress to approve an aid package for the U.S. commonwealth, emphasizing that Puerto Ricans are American citizens. Otherwise, he expects a mass exodus or residents to the mainland. About 97% of the island’s 3.4 million residents were still without power Wednesday and many are out of food. A mountain of food, water and other vital supplies has arrived in Puerto Rico’s main Port of San Juan. But a shortage of truckers and the island’s devastated infrastructure are making it tough to move aid to where it’s needed most. Only 20% of truck drivers have reported back to work since Hurricane Maria swept through.

St. Thomas

The airport in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands has yet to resume commercial flights. The tower there was damaged by Hurricane Irma, and the FAA brought in a mobile tower to help manage traffic. But it had to take that tower back to the mainland ahead of Hurricane Maria to protect it from damage. The FAA airlifted a mobile air traffic control tower back to St. Thomas over the weekend to support relief and recovery missions there. Finding housing in St. Thomas for airport staff is has also been a challenge. The controllers who staff the tower in St. Thomas are being shuttled back and forth to San Juan every day.

Weather

September 2017, with Category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria and Category 4 Hurricane Jose, has been the most active month of any Atlantic hurricane season on record. Meteorologists use a parameter called the ACE (Accumulated Cyclone Energy) index, calculated by adding each tropical storm or hurricane’s wind speed through its life cycle. September had generated more ACE than any other calendar month on record. The ACE value for the month stands at 155.4, surpassing the previous record of 155.0 from September 2004. Included in this month’s ACE are Irma, Jose, Katia, Lee and Maria. All of those except Katia were long-lived hurricanes, and Lee and Katia were the only ones to not reach Category 4 or Category 5 intensity at their peaks.

Florida is dealing with an explosion of the mosquito population following Hurricane Maria flooding which left the state ripe for increased insect reproduction. Officials throughout the region had to hold off on any kind of insecticide spraying in the days immediately following the storm because they didn’t want pesticides floating into people’s homes with so many open windows (no power, no air conditioning in the hot humid state). Meanwhile, the flooding in Texas left behind by Hurricane Irma has caused numerous bacterial infections, with one person dead from necrotizing faciitis (more commonly known as a flesh-eating bacteria) and another from sepsis, an immune-system response to bacterial infection that causes widespread inflammation.

A massive iceberg calved off Antarctica on Saturday, the latest piece of ice to leave the continent. The U.S. National Ice Center measured the iceberg at 71.5 square miles, about three times the size of Manhattan. The iceberg shows signs of fracturing, meaning smaller pieces of ice may break off. Calving events have become more frequent, causing further ice losses to Antarctica and possible rising sea levels as a result. The break comes two months after a 2,200 square-mile piece of ice detached from Antarctica in July. At nearly the size of Delaware, the iceberg was one of the largest ever recorded. In 2014, a 255-square-mile iceberg also calved from Antarctica.