Posts Tagged ‘persecution’

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.

Signs of the End-Times (9/21/17)

September 21, 2017

Signs of the End Times

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

End-Time Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where is the USA Seen in Scripture?

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

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

Latest Signs

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

Signs of the Times (9/20/18)

September 20, 2017

Attacks on Religious Liberty Up 133% in 5 Years

Attacks on religious liberty have jumped by 133 percent in the last five years, according to a new report by the First Liberty Institute, a conservative legal group. Its annual report, “Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America,” asserts that in the last year, there has been a 15 percent increase in attacks on religious liberty in the U.S. with more than 1,400 religious liberty incidents. In 2011, the group reported that there were 600 cases of attacks on religious liberty. “It’s school cases, it’s military cases, it’s open public places cases, employment cases. Unfortunately, it is not one particular area, it’s across the board. So really it is just the tip of the iceberg because what’s published is really a fraction of what is actually happening,” First Liberty CEO and Chief Counsel Kelly Shackelford said. The First Liberty report comes after the conservative advocacy group Family Research Council released a report earlier this year that said there had been a 76 percent increase in religious freedom violations over the past three years.

U.S. Aid to Palestinian Authority Funding Terrorists

While the Palestinian Authority teaches extreme hatred toward the Jews and incentivizes acts of terror, the U.S. sends hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars each year in “aid” money that is placed in the hands of terrorists and their families, reports Liberty Counsel. Sen. Ted Cruz says the Palestinians give over $300 million to terrorists and their families each year out of the $700 millions of direct and indirect aid to the Palestinians. “Our tax dollars are footing the bill to reward terrorists who kill American and Israeli citizens!” notes Liberty Counsel. The Trump administration has announced its “strong support” for the Taylor Force Act, a bill that restricts U.S. economic aid to the West Bank and Gaza until the Palestinian Authority stops paying terrorists who are guilty of violence against Israelis and Americans. The Palestinian Authority has devoted almost half of its U.S. foreign “aid” money to rewarding acts of terror against Israelis and innocent bystanders, as was the case in the death of American war hero Taylor Force, for whom the bill is named. Last month, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the Taylor Force Act and sent it to the full Senate who have yet to vote on it.

Another Missile Launch by North Korea

North Korea launched another missile Friday, the rogue nation’s first missile launch since its massive nuclear test more than a week ago, prompting U.S. officials to issue a sharp round of condemnation. The missile was launched eastward early Friday from Sunan, the site of Pyongyang’s international airport. It flew over northern Japan before landing in the Pacific Ocean, according to U.S. Pacific Command. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called the missile a reckless act by the North Koreans, adding that the missile “was fired over Japan and put millions of Japanese in duck and cover.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the latest round of sanctions from the United Nations Security Council “represent the floor, not the ceiling” of actions that need to be taken against North Korea. North Korea’s military is clandestinely building a nuclear-powered submarine, according to a Japanese newspaper report, the latest provocation by Pyongyang in an escalating clash with the U.S. and its allies in a region already on edge.

In his President Trump’s first address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if the U.S. was forced to defend itself or its Asian allies. He denounced Pyongyang’s “reckless” pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and taunted North Korea leader Kim Jong Un with a campaign-style nickname. “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime,” he said. The morning after his aggressive speech to the United Nations, President Trump on Wednesday blamed his predecessors – and previous political rival Hillary Clinton – for North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. “After allowing North Korea to research and build Nukes while Secretary of State (Bill C also), Crooked Hillary now criticizes,” Trump tweeted.

Terror Attack in London

An apparent terrorist-planted explosive set off a small fire on a train at a London subway station during the busy morning rush hour Friday, resulting in 22 non-serious injuries from the fire as well as from people being trampled by panicked commuters fleeing the scene, police said Friday. Police say the bomb did not fully detonate. The incident happened shortly after 8 a.m. local time, when London’s Underground system is crowded with commuters and children going to school. Most of the injuries were flash burns. It was Britain’s fifth terrorist attack this year. The Islamic State claimed credit for that attack through an affiliated unit. British police said Saturday that they had made a “significant” arrest by taking an eighteen-year-old man into custody in the port city of Dover. A 21-year-old man was arrested late Saturday night in Hounslow in west London under the Terrorism Act, authorities said.

Judge Rules DOJ Can’t Withhold Grants from Sanctuary Cities

A federal judge issued a ruling Friday that blocks the Justice Department from requiring cities to cooperate with federal immigration authorities in order to be considered eligible for federal law enforcement grants. The ruling blocks nationwide enforcement of two of the three new conditions the Justice Department sought to impose on jurisdictions seeking funds through the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, which doles out nearly $400 million to state and local agencies each year. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced new stipulations in July as a means to ensure that local jurisdictions were cooperating with federal immigration agents and not working to shield illegal immigrants from deportation. But Chicago officials sued, arguing that the attorney general had no authority to add the new eligibility conditions to the grant.

Trump Signs Charlottesville Congressional Resolution With a Signing Statement

In sending the president a joint resolution condemning “racist violence” in Charlottesville, Congress gave President Trump a choice: sign the resolution and reject white supremacists, or veto it and align with the far right. Trump chose a third option: Sign it — but with a signing statement attached. In it, Trump said that Americans “oppose hatred, bigotry, and racism in all forms. No matter the color of our skin or our ethnic heritage, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God. We are nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal.” He also continued to blame “both sides” for the violence, holding the left-wing “Antifa” protesters equally responsible.

U.S. Rushes Hurricane Irma Aid to Caribbean Islands, Not Cuba

The U.S. government is providing humanitarian aid to a string of Caribbean islands devastated by Hurricane Irma, but Cuba — just 90 miles off the coast of Florida — is not among them. The guidelines for U.S. assistance include a requirement that a host country must request help. Cuba — a proud adversary in a decades long battle with its superpower neighbor — is not inclined to do so. The Category 5 hurricane, the worst to hit the communist island since 1932, spent 24 hours grinding away over northern parts of Cuba, damaging more than 4,000 homes, inundating downtown Havana with knee-high floods and destroying thousands of acres of cane sugar. More than 3.1 million people — a quarter of the island’s population — lost water service. Small beach towns also were destroyed on the northern coast, causing millions of dollars in losses and leaving thousands homeless. At least 10 people were killed.

Trump Urges U.N. to Cut Waste and Mismanagement

In his first address to the United Nations, President Trump said Monday that the U.N. must cut its wasteful spending and end mismanagement. “The United Nations was founded on truly noble goals,” Mr. Trump told diplomats at U.N. headquarters in New York. “Yet in recent years the United Nations has not reached its full potential because of bureaucracy and mismanagement.” Trump said the U.N. budget has increased by 140 percent and its staff has more than doubled since 2000, but “we are not seeing the results in line with this investment. The president praised U.N. Secretary General António Guterres for undertaking reforms of the world body “to better serve the people it represents.” “I know that under the secretary general, that’s changing, and it’s changing fast,” Mr. Trump said, adding that he supports the push “to focus more on people and less on bureaucracy.”

New Health-Care Plan Stumbles Under Opposition from Governors

Senate Republicans and the White House pressed ahead Tuesday with their suddenly resurgent effort to undo former president Barack Obama’s signature health-care law, even as their attempt was dealt a setback when a bipartisan group of governors and several influential interest groups came out against the proposal. Powerful health-care groups continued to rail against the bill, including AARP and the American Hospital Association, both of which urged a no vote. The measure marks the last gasp of Republican attempts to dramatically gut Obama’s Affordable Care Act. In a letter to Senate leaders, a group of 10 bipartisan governors argued against the Graham-Cassidy bill and wrote that they prefer the bipartisan push to stabilize the insurance marketplaces that Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) had been negotiating before talks stalled Tuesday evening.

Insurers Help Fuel the Opioid Crisis

At a time when the United States is in the grip of an opioid epidemic, many insurers are limiting access to pain medications that carry a lower risk of addiction or dependence, even as they provide comparatively easy access to generic opioid medications, reports the New York Times. The reason, experts say: Opioid drugs are generally cheap while safer alternatives are often more expensive. Drugmakers, pharmaceutical distributors, pharmacies and doctors have come under intense scrutiny in recent years, but the role that insurers — and the pharmacy benefit managers that run their drug plans — have played in the opioid crisis has received less attention. ProPublica and The New York Times analyzed Medicare prescription drug plans covering 35.7 million people in the second quarter of this year. Only one-third of the people covered, for example, had any access to Butrans, a painkilling skin patch that contains a less-risky opioid, buprenorphine. And every drug plan that covered lidocaine patches, which are not addictive but cost more than other generic pain drugs, required that patients get prior approval for them. In contrast, almost every plan covered common opioids and very few required any prior approval.

80 Arrested in St. Louis Protests Over Police Officer’s Acquittal

St. Louis Riot police arrested dozens Sunday night following the latest round of clashes with demonstrators protesting the acquittal of a white police officer in the shooting death of a black man. At least 80 arrests were made in what was the third night of violence in the city, with hundreds of people protesting Friday’s court decision. Both Friday and Saturday, the protesters got agitated and confronted the police officers. The violent agitators reportedly damaged property and sprayed unknown substance on police officers. One cop suffered a leg injury and was taken to the hospital. After ignoring the call to disperse, arrests were made before midnight by officers wearing riot gear. Mayor Lyda Krewson told reporters at a late-night news conference that “the vast majority of protesters are non-violent,” and the violence was perpetrated by “a group of agitators,” Reuters reported.

Teens Not Grasping Adulthood

Today’s teens are on a slow road to adulthood, putting off risky behaviors from drinking to sex, but also delaying jobs, driving, dating and other steps towards independence, according to a new study based on 40 years of survey data. Compared to teens from the 70s, 80s and 90s, today’s teens “are taking longer to engage in both the pleasures and the responsibilities of adulthood,” said Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the lead author on the study published Tuesday in the journal Child Development. “The whole developmental pathway has slowed down,” she said, with today’s 18-year-olds living more like 15-year-olds once did. Only 29% of 9th graders had sex, down from 38%. About 29% of 8th graders drank alcohol, down from 56%. Just 32% of 8th graders had worked for pay, down from 63%.

Economic News

The Federal Reserve is going on the financial equivalent of a diet. The central bank announced that it will begin selling off some of its $4.5 trillion in assets, a sign of its leaders’ confidence in the economy. The move begins the process of gradually unwinding the massive and unprecedented stimulus program instituted after the 2008 financial crisis. The Fed will sell off $10 billion in assets in October and slowly raise the rate of sales in the months to come.

Unfunded pension liabilities hit $1.3 trillion in fiscal 2016 in U.S. states, a $56 billion or 4.5 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, Moody’s Investors Service reported. The credit rating agency attributed the higher adjusted net pension liability for the 50 states to underperforming investment returns, low interest rates and insufficient contributions to retirement systems for government workers. It projected the liability will grow again in fiscal 2017 to $1.7 trillion. Overall, fiscal 2016’s $1.3 trillion unfunded liability equaled 122 percent of state revenue.

Motorists and homeowners throughout Texas and Florida as well as those who live anywhere from Alabama to Wyoming could see their premiums rise, as insurance companies pay out billions of dollars to customers whose properties were destroyed or damaged. The estimated U.S. insured losses, excluding any National Flood Insurance Program claims, are $20 billion to $25 billion from Harvey and $40 billion to $60 billion from Irma. Insurers are looking to stay flush as they cover their reinsurance policies while trying to prepare for any extreme future weather that could harm their customers.

While the U.S. homeownership rate has climbed slightly since reaching a 50-year low in 2016, it remains near a generational low at just 63.7%. Simply put, more people are choosing to rent than buy their homes in recent years than at any point since the 1960s. Seventy percent of Americans surveyed believe that people these days will need to rent well into their 30s to be able to save enough money to buy a home. Thirty-five percent of Americans say that they would prefer renting a home over ownership to maintain a flexible lifestyle, since the average person changes jobs about 12 times during his or her career. Americans are increasingly valuing experience over ownership, and this is particularly evident in the younger Millennial generation — the 18-to-35 age group. While previous generations have valued ownership more, millennials seem to be willing to sacrifice homeownership if it means they can afford to spend more money on experiences (e.g. travel).

Universities known for being hotbeds of campus protest and liberal activism are struggling with declining enrollments and budget shortfalls, and higher education analysts say that’s no coincidence. According to a document leaked to The Oberlin Review, the school’s student newspaper, the small liberal arts college famous for social justice hoaxes has had trouble attracting and retaining students, missing this year’s enrollment mark by 80 and racking up a $5 million budget deficit in the process. Similar shortfalls are being experienced at other universities known for liberal social activism.

Puerto Rico is years into an economic crisis. Now it’s facing a natural disaster with the landfall Wednesday of Hurricane Maria. Puerto Rico’s government owes $74 billion to bondholders, and an additional $50 billion in pension obligations to teachers and almost all other government employees. In May, it filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Many residents are moving from the island for the mainland United States, leaving it with few skilled workers to handle the rebuilding and development process. Without workers and funds, Puerto Rico will have a very difficult time recovering from this latest disaster.

40 Million Slaves in the World

More than 40 million people were estimated to be victims of modern slavery in 2016 — and one in four of those were children. Those are the findings of a new report produced by the International Labor Organization (ILO), a U.N. agency focusing on labor rights, and the Walk Free Foundation, an international NGO working to end modern slavery. The report estimates that last year, 25 million people were in forced labor — made to work under threat or coercion — and 15 million people were in forced marriage. According to the report, women and girls accounted for 71 percent of slavery victims, including 99 percent of those in the commercial sex industry and 84 percent of victims of forced marriages. Children made up around 37 percent of those forced to marry, as well as 18 percent of forced labor victims and 21 percent of victims of sexual exploitation.

The Ethnic Cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar

The United Nations’ top human rights official called Myanmar’s (Burma’s) ongoing military campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority group in that country’s Rakhine state “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Using a pretext of rooting out Islamist insurgents, Burma’s military, together with Buddhist villagers, are terrorizing the Rohingya, emptying and razing their villages, and attempting to hound them out of the country. Of a total of 1.1 million Rohingya that remained in Burma despite repeated waves of violence since the late 1970s, more than 400,000 have fled to neighboring Bangladesh in just the past month.

Israel Claims UN Ignored Intel on Secret Iran Nuke Sites

Israeli officials have reportedly accused the U.N. organization tasked with ensuring Tehran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal of ignoring information it received detailing forbidden nuclear military research and development being carried out at several sites across Iran. The officials said that “a Western entity” told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of sites that Iran failed to disclose under the deal – which offered Iran relief from punishing sanctions in exchange for having it roll back its nuclear program – but the body failed to investigate or carry our inspections at the locations, Haaretz reported Sunday.

Trump Calls for End to Iranian Nuclear Deal

President Trump on Tuesday signaled he is close to ditching the Iran nuclear agreement struck by former President Barack Obama, by saying the deal is an “embarrassment to the United States” in his first address to the United Nations General Assembly. “We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program,” Trump said. Making his debut appearance at the annual United Nations General Assembly, U.S. President Donald Trump accused Iran of exporting “violence, bloodshed and chaos” and of seeking to project its influence in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere in a region rife with sectarian conflicts between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu praised Trump in his U.N. address sand aid he seeks to “address together the terrible nuclear deal” with Iran.

Iran is Arming Houthis in Yemen

The top American admiral in the Middle East said on Monday that Iran continues to smuggle illicit weapons and technology into Yemen, stoking the civil strife there and enabling Iranian-backed rebels to fire missiles into neighboring Saudi Arabia that are more precise and far-reaching. Iran has been repeatedly accused of providing arms helping to fuel one side of the war in Yemen, in which rebels from the country’s north, the Houthis, ousted the government from the capital of Sana in 2014. The officer, Vice Adm. Kevin M. Donegan, said that Iran is sustaining the Houthis with an increasingly potent arsenal of anti-ship and ballistic missiles, deadly sea mines and even explosive boats that have attacked allied ships in the Red Sea or Saudi territory across Yemen’s northern border.”

Earthquakes

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck near Mexico City Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said, killing at least 225 people and leaving multiple people reportedly trapped in collapsed buildings. Nearly 100 people were confirmed dead in Mexico City alone, where dozens of buildings were brought down by the temblor Officials confirmed at least 71 fatalities in Morelos state after the quake struck about 70 miles southeast of Mexico City. The tremor, which was about 31 miles deep, hit near the small town of San Juan Raboso. The earthquake toppled buildings, sent rescue workers digging through rubble for survivors and knocked out power to millions.

Wildfires

As wildfires continue to blacken parts of the West, the Forest Service has already spent more than $2 billion this year battling the blazes, a record in one of the nation’s worst fire seasons. Wildfires ravaged the West this summer. As of last Thursday, 64 large blazes were burning across 10 states, including 21 fires in Montana and 18 in Oregon. In all, 48,607 wildfires have burned nearly 13,000 square miles. The fires have stretched firefighting resources, destroyed more than 500 homes and triggered health alerts as choking smoke drifted into major Western cities. As of Saturday, 8,378,990 acres have burned nationwide so far this year, up from 4,776,167 acres last year. The emphasis on firefighting means that money for prescribed burns, insect control and other prevention efforts is diverted to putting out fires in a self-defeating cycle. The end result is that small trees and vegetation remain in the forest for future fires to feed on.

Weather

Hurricane Maria slammed into the small Caribbean island of Dominica Monday night with “mind-boggling” devastation, according to the country’s prime minister, leaving at least nine dead and two missing. There is still little word from the small island of Dominica as of Wednesday morning due to power and communication outages. Maria has made landfall in eastern Puerto Rico Wednesday morning as the strongest landfall on that island in 85 years, with sustained winds of 145 mph and life-threatening gusts nearing 200 mph. By midmorning, Maria had fully engulfed the 100-mile-long island as winds snapped palm trees, peeled off rooftops, sent debris skidding across beaches and roads, and cut power to nearly the entire island.

Maria is expected to continue on a northwest track, moving along the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic on Thursday before skirting the southern Bahamas early on Friday. It is then predicted to swing to the north into the open Atlantic and move between the American East Coast and Bermuda.

Jose, a Category 1 hurricane in the western Atlantic, will continue to produce dangerous high surf and rip currents as it moves parallel to the Eastern Seaboard in the upcoming week. Rain and tropical storm-force winds could also brush portions of the East Coast.

The already-catastrophic 2017 hurricane season shows no signs of letting up. And we still have more than two months to go. The hurricanes that have formed this year — seven so far — are about double the average to date, as is the energy generated by the storms. For the first year in recorded hurricane history, which dates to 1851, two Category-4 hurricanes (Harvey and Irma) slammed into the United States the same year.

Barbuda has been left completely devastated by Hurricane Irma. An estimated 95% of Barbuda’s structures are damaged, and the entire island of around 1,800 people has been evacuated. Evacuees from Barbuda were sent to Antigua, which did not suffer the same level of damage from Irma. Though Barbudan evacuees are safe, people are living in cramped quarters in government facilities and nursing homes, including some 500 school-aged children. Now that school is back in session, Antigua must find room for these students.

At least four people have been killed and 10 more were injured by Typhoon Doksuri as it made landfall in Vietnam last Friday. The provinces of Ha Tinh and Quang Binh were hardest-hit, with upwards of 100,000 homes sustaining damage. Nearly 300,000 residents fled their homes in Vietnam ahead of Doksuri.

Signs of the Times (9/14/17)

September 14, 2017

Irma Aftermath at End under Weather

Important Religious Freedom Case Goes to Supreme Court

Potentially “huge ramifications” for religious liberty – that’s what is at stake, says the American Family Association, as a Colorado cake shop case is to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in October. In 2012, cake shop owner Jack Phillips declined to provide a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple based on his faith and lost before Colorado courts. Attorney General Sessions’ Department of Justice has submitted a 34-page “friend of the court” brief to the nation’s top court encouraging a ruling in favor of Phillips. “We’ve seen over a dozen examples specifically of Christian business owners who are being driven out of business by various commissions and bureaucrats because of their religious beliefs,” AFA spokesman Walker Wildmon said. “And this case could be a turning point at the Supreme Court for religious liberty and frankly for the First Amendment rights of people of faith.”

U.N. Agrees to Toughest-Ever Sanctions Against North Korea

The U.N. Security Council on Monday agreed on its toughest-ever sanctions against North Korea that passed unanimously after the United States softened its initial demands to win support from China and Russia. The sanctions set limits on North Korea’s oil imports and banned its textile exports in an effort to deprive the reclusive nation of the income it needs to maintain its nuclear and ballistic missile program and increase the pressure to negotiate their way out of punishing sanctions. “Today, we are attempting to take the future of the North Korean nuclear program out of the hands of its outlaw regime,” said Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The new sanctions come on top of previous ones that cut into North Korea’s exports of coal, iron ore and seafood. Haley said that more than 90 percent of North Korea’s reported exports are now fully banned by sanctions. President Trump called for a complete U.N. blockade of North Korea to stop all imports and exports.

President Trump Renews 9/11 Emergency Proclamation

President Trump has become the third president to renew a post-9/11 emergency proclamation, stretching what was supposed to be a temporary state of national emergency after the 2001 terror attacks into its 17th year. But the ongoing effects of that perpetual emergency aren’t immediately clear, because the executive branch has ignored a law requiring it to report to Congress every six months on how much the president has spent under those extraordinary powers, USA TODAY reports. Exactly 16 years ago Thursday, President Bush signed Proclamation 7463, giving himself sweeping powers to mobilize the military in the days following terrorist attacks that crashed planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field. It allowed him to call up National Guard and Reserve troops, hire and fire military officers, and bypass limits on the numbers of generals that could serve. Presidents Bush and Obama renewed that emergency each year. And on Wednesday, Trump published a now-routine notice in the Federal Register extending the emergency for the 16th time, explaining simply that “the terrorist threat continues.” But as Trump extends the emergency into a third presidential administration, legal experts say a review of those powers is long overdue.

Supreme Court: No Expansion of Travel Ban’s Refugee Exemptions

The Supreme Court handed President Trump a temporary victory Tuesday, blocking a lower court decision that would have greatly expanded the number of refugees exempted from his controversial travel ban. The high court is scheduled to hear arguments next month in the broader constitutional challenge to the travel ban from states and immigrant rights groups. The current dispute is over which immigrants and refugees can enter in the meantime. Trump administration lawyers asked the court on Monday to set aside last week’s federal appeals court ruling that would allow more refugees into the United States while the case is pending. That ruling was due to take effect Tuesday because the lower court had said thousands of refugees were “gravely imperiled.” The administration argued that by granting entry to any refugees who had been matched up with a resettlement agency in the U.S., the lower court went far beyond the type of personal relationship Trump required.

Trump’s Debt Deal with Democrats Stuns GOP

President Trump has stunned Republican lawmakers with his abrupt decision to strike a deal with Democrats for a short-term increase in the debt ceiling tied to Hurricane Harvey relief money. The president made the deal during a White House meeting Wednesday with the top congressional leaders of both parties. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had wanted a longer-term increase in the debt ceiling that would also cover hurricane relief funding. Instead, Trump sided with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in agreeing to a three-month deal that would both fund the government and raise the debt ceiling through mid-December. The deal averts the threat of a shutdown or even default for now, but virtually guarantees a congressional showdown before the end of the year. It appeared to some observers that Trump grew weary of the ongoing back-and-forth negotiations and decided to strike an agreement to end it. Fox News reported that Trump wanted to come out of that meeting with the decks cleared so he could get Congress to focus on tax reform – his big legislative agenda item this fall.

Trump Also Working with Democrats about DACA

President Donald Trump is moving closer to a deal with Democrats that would protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation and put off funding for his marquee campaign promise of a border wall along the US-Mexico border, reports CNN. The bombshell developments, which were first announced in a statement Wednesday night by Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi and reiterated by Trump himself Thursday morning, were met with immediate outrage from conservatives and put pressure on the President’s Republican allies in Congress. The two Democratic leaders announced that following a dinner at the White House, they had “agreed to enshrine the protections of (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.” Trump insisted on Twitter Thursday morning that “no deal was made” on DACA, and Schumer and Pelosi later issued a statement clarifying that what was agreed upon was Trump supporting congressional actions to put DACA protections into law. The wall will come later, he said.

Russian Meddling Documented in 27 Countries Since 2004

Russia has meddled in the affairs of at least 27 European and North American countries since 2004 with interference that ranges from cyberattacks to disinformation campaigns, according to an analysis by a surveillance organization. The alleged Russian interference was compiled by the Alliance for Securing Democracy of the German Marshall Fund, a nonprofit organization that fosters closer bonds between the United States and Europe. The meddling started in former Soviet republics allied with the West and spread to Western Europe. More recently, Canada and the United States were targeted. The U.S. Congress and an independent prosecutor are investigating possible Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election. On Wednesday, Facebook said an internal investigation uncovered $100,000 in advertising spending by hundreds of fake accounts and pages, likely operated out of Russia, which sought to sow political division during the U.S. presidential election. The ads were traced to a Russian “troll farm,” a Facebook official said.

Equifax: 143M U.S. Consumers Affected by Criminal Cybersecurity Breach

Credit reporting company Equifax announced Thursday that a cybersecurity data breach could have impacted about 143 million U.S. consumers. The company said in a statement the unauthorized entry occurred mid-May through July 2017, as criminals exploited a website “vulnerability” to access files ranging from social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers. Hackers also accessed the credit card numbers of about 209,000 consumers in the U.S. and other documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people in the U.S. Equifax said it discovered the breach on July 29, 2017 but did not publicly disclose the information until Sept. 7, 2017. Three Equifax executives sold stock prior to the announcement. The company has set up a website for consumers Opens a New Window. that will help them identify if their information was affected. It will also send notices directly in the mail to consumers that have had credit card numbers or dispute documents with personal identifying information compromised. “The Equifax data compromise was due to (Equifax’s) failure to install the security updates provided in a timely manner,” said the Apache Foundation, noting that the exploited flaw was found, reported and fixed two months prior to the hack. Several class-action lawsuits have been filed.

Hackers Can ‘Whisper’ Commands to Alexa, Siri, Google Now

Your digital assistant of choice, be it Alexa, Siri, or Google Now, should only carry out the voice commands you issue. But it turns out these assistants are not as loyal as we thought, and all a hacker has to do is whisper to them, reports PC Magazine. A research team at Zhejiang University in China figured out how to issue commands to the digital assistants provided by Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, and Huawei that nobody else can hear. That includes Alexa, Cortana, Google Now, Huawei HiVoice, Samsung S Voice, and Siri They named the technique DolphinAttack, and it’s possible due to a security flaw in the way these assistants work. The DolphinAttack takes advantage of the 20kHz and above frequencies that humans can’t hear. A voice command is recorded and then translated it to an ultrasonic frequency version. Microphones still pick up the ultrasound just like a normal voice command and therefore treat it as such. Issuing commands to make a call, open a web address, even to unlock a door will all work with the appropriate silent command. Modifying a smartphone to issue such commands costs around $3, the researchers say.

U.S. Bans Russia’s Kapersky Security Software

The U.S. government on Wednesday moved to ban the use of a Russian brand of security software by federal agencies amid concerns the company has ties to state-sponsored cyberespionage activities. In a binding directive, acting homeland security secretary Elaine Duke ordered that federal civilian agencies identify Kaspersky Lab software on their networks. After 90 days, unless otherwise directed, they must remove the software, on the grounds that the company has connections to the Russian government and its software poses a security risk. “The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems, directly implicates U.S. national security.”

White Christians Swing from Majority to Minority in U.S.

Those Americans who identify as white Christians are now considered to be a minority of the country’s population, according to a new survey. The number has dipped below 50 percent for the first time, a transformation fueled by immigration and by growing numbers of people who reject organized religion altogether, said a report released Wednesday by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). While Christians overall remain a large majority in the U.S., at nearly 70 percent, white Christians – once a mainstay of the country’s religious life — now comprise only 43 percent of the population. About 17 percent of Americans now identify as white evangelical, compared to 23 percent a decade ago. The survey also found that more than a third of all Republicans say they are white evangelicals, and nearly three-quarters identify as white Christians. By comparison, in the Democratic Party, white Christians have become a minority shrinking from 50 percent a decade ago, to 29 percent currently.

International Planned Parenthood Surpasses 1 Million Abortions in 2016

One of the world’s most extensive and prolific abortion networks has passed a tragic milestone. In 2016, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), for the first time reported in its history, aborted more than one million unborn baby boys and girls in a single year. IPPF, a London-based international pro-abortion organization, maintains a vast network of affiliates (Member Associations) across the globe that actively perform and/or advocate for abortion. IPPF maintains 142 Member Associations worldwide and is currently active in 171 countries. Planned Parenthood Federation of America is IPPF’s Member Association in the United States. IPPF claims that its network has contributed to over 950 legislative or policy changes worldwide since 2005. IPPF claims the organization contributed to more legislative and policy changes in 2016 than at any other point in its history. In 2016, IPPF also significantly increased its reach among the youth in the domain of sex education. According to the Financial Statements 2016, over 28.1 million adolescents and young adults were given “comprehensive sex education” programming through one of IPPF’s Member Associations

Economic News

U.S. median income hit $59,039 in 2016, the highest ever reported by Census Bureau. Middle-class household income set an all-time record last year, besting the previous high set in 1999, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday. Median income is a key measure of the economic health of the U.S. middle class, which struggled during the slow economic growth of the early 2000s and was devastated by the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession. The nation’s poverty rate fell to 12.7 percent in 2016, with 40.6 million people living in poverty, 2.5 million fewer than in 2015, the agency reported. The poverty rate hit its post-recession peak in 2010 at 15.1 percent and is now slightly above where it was in 2007.

The U.S. dollar is cooling off after a red-hot surge. Though it rose in the weeks following President Trump’s election victory last November, the greenback has steadily fallen this year. It’s now down to its lowest level since January 2015. Since January 1, 2017, the dollar is down 11%. Financial analysts point to disappointment with the progress of President Trump’s agenda, as well as Europe’s economy picking up steam as the primary causes. Also, investors are disappointed over the diminishing prospects of another interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve this year.

A study released last summer by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, claimed the Red Cross had spent $124 million — or a quarter of the money donors gave after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti — on internal expenses. Since 2014, National Public Radio and ProPublica have teamed up for investigations into Red Cross spending. Those reports argue that the agency, whose main role is as a blood broker, spends just a small fraction of its money on its high-publicity disaster relief programs and has made “dubious claims of success.” The reports specifically slammed the agency’s response to Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac in 2012. And last year, the Red Cross came under more fire for its response to flooding in Louisiana with numerous complaints from relief workers and organizers who often were left without promised assistance.

Hurricane Harvey packed such a powerful punch that more than a dozen Gulf Coast oil refineries are still hurting two weeks after the storm struck Texas. Five oil refineries remain shuttered as of Monday. Refinery comeback efforts have been disrupted by flooding, damage, power outages and challenges created by the sudden nature of some shutdowns. All told, about 2.4 million barrels of daily refining capacity in Texas is offline because of Harvey. At one point, about 4 million barrels of refining capacity was shut down. Gasoline prices spiked around the United States. The good news, however, is that gas prices have stopped spiking. The average price has held steady for five days at $2.67 a gallon, up from $2.36 a month ago, according to AAA.

Christianity is Dying in Germany, Islam Rising

There are about 47 million Catholics and Protestants combined in Germany, representing roughly 60 percent of the German population, but that number is falling by 500,000 a year, according to the Gatestone Institute. All across Germany, churches now sit mostly empty on Sunday mornings, and it’s a problem for Catholics and Protestants alike. In 2016 alone, the German Catholic Church lost 162,093 faithful attendees and closed 537 parishes, according to data from the German Bishops’ Conference. One-quarter of all German Catholic communities that existed in 1996 have now closed. Similarly, in 2016, 340,000 German Protestants died while 190,000 people left the church. Only 25,000 people joined the church. While Christianity is dying in Germany, Islam is on the rise. Historian Walter Laqueur wrote that Germany had about 700 “little mosques and prayer rooms” in the 1980s but “more than 2,500 at the present time” – and that was in 2009. Today, Turkey controls 900 mosques or religious communities in Germany. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is committed to building more mosques in European capitals, just as he has built 17,000 Islamic prayer sites in Turkey since taking power.

Iran Sanctions Up for Renewal

President Trump must decide by Thursday whether to once again waive economic sanctions on Iran, a task imposed on him by a deal he holds in contempt and appears to be preparing to ditch, reports the Washington Post. But despite his concern that Iran is an international threat, Trump is expected to waive sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors for the second time since taking office. If not, the United States will be in breach of the landmark 2015 deal that is a legacy of the Obama administration. Even if Trump waives sanctions, as he must by law reassess every 120 days, it comes as Iran and the agreement it negotiated with six world powers are coming under increasing attack. In a series of public critiques of the deal and Iran’s behavior, administration officials appear to be laying the groundwork to kill the existing agreement, possibly by finding a way to reopen it for modifications. The next and most consequential decision on the horizon is Oct. 15, when Trump must decide whether Iran is fully complying with its commitments under the deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The president is required to revisit the issue every 90 days, and in July he reportedly was angry that his advisers offered no options except to certify it. More than 80 nuclear nonproliferation specialists issued a joint statement Wednesday saying the agreement “has proven to be an effective and verifiable arrangement that is a net plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.”

Earthquakes

At least 90 people died after a massive earthquake hit off the southwestern coast of Mexico late Thursday. The magnitude-8.1 earthquake struck off the coast of Mexico’s Chiapas state. The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake’s epicenter was 54 miles southwest of Pijijiapan, Mexico, not far from Guatemala. It had a depth of more than 40 miles. Some people continued to sleep outside, fearful of more collapses, as strong aftershocks continued to rattle the town, including a magnitude 5.2 jolt early Sunday. Local officials said they had counted nearly 800 aftershocks of all sizes since late Thursday’s big quake, and the U.S. Geological Survey counted nearly 60 with a magnitude of 4.5 or greater. The powerful quake caused buildings to sway violently and people to flee into the streets in panic as far away as the Mexico City. Chiapas Governor Manuel Velasco said the quake was the strongest on record in state history, topping a magnitude 7.9 quake in 1902; and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said the quake was the strongest earthquake Mexico has experienced in 100 years.

Wildfires

Several fires believed to have been caused by lightning continue to burn across Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front, prompting mandatory evacuations and the closure of a lake. Officials shut down Lake Frances in Pondera County Tuesday so fire crews can use the water to battle the blazes. “The western fires are not stopping,” incident commander trainee James Casaus, who is working with the team managing three fires on the Front, told the Great Falls Tribune. “They’re just getting bigger.” Twenty-one large (over 100 acre) wildfires are burning in western Montana, having already consumed 413,000 acres (645 square miles), more than half the size of Rhode Island. In addition, 25 large wildfires are burning in Oregon and Washington, with a total of 766,000 acres torched, as the northwest drought continues.

Weather

Irma has finally disappeared from the map after a nearly two-week onslaught of destruction, death and terror. Now, millions of people from the wiped-out Caribbean island of Barbuda to the devastated Florida Keys try to piece their lives back together. The storm is responsible for the deaths of least 68 people, with 32 of those in battered Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. More than 2.6 million customers were still without power in Florida as of Thursday morning. Florida fruit growers and farmers fear the damage Irma wrought on the state’s citrus, sugar cane and vegetable crops will be significant. FEMA estimates that 25% percent of the homes in the Keys were destroyed. Another 65 percent suffered major damage. At least 99 percent of structures were at least partly damaged in hard-hit Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin/St. Maarten, the US Virgin Islands, and Turks and Caicos. The situation remains dire in parts of the Caribbean with some residents running out of food and water as power outages linger. The Dutch Red Cross said more than 200 people were still listed as missing on St. Maarten, the Dutch side of St. Martin. Looting has become rampant.

With Texas and Florida still digging out from Harvey and Irma, Hurricane Jose inched closer to the U.S. mainland Thursday, but forecasters said the storm would likely shift northward in the next few days and skirt the Mid-Atlantic on its way up the coast. While a U.S. landfall was not totally out of the picture yet, particularly in the mid-Atlantic and New England areas, tracking models show Jose likely remaining well offshore. On Thursday morning, Jose was located about 510 miles south-southwest of Bermuda moving west at 3 mph. It was packing sustained winds of 75 mph.

Signs of the Times (9/6/17)

September 6, 2017

For Irma Information see Weather at End of Newsletter

North Korea Claims It Detonated a Hydrogen Bomb

North Korea claimed Sunday to have detonated a hydrogen bomb that can be mounted on a missile capable of reaching the mainland United States. The claim, although unverified, will sharply increase tensions between the Pyongyang regime and the rest of the world. The bomb was a two-stage weapon with a yield that analysts said could make it a “city buster.” South Korea and Japan confirmed that North Korea had conducted its sixth nuclear test Sunday, with the explosion so powerful it was felt in northeastern China. Tensions have already been running high, with Kim repeatedly defying international condemnation and continuing to launch ballistic missiles, while President Trump issuing increasingly blunt and threatening warnings. South Korea strengthened the deployment of a controversial U.S.-made missile defense system and launched a huge show of military might on Monday. North Korea has made rapid advances in its nuclear weapons program, but the rogue nation probably can’t yet reach U.S. cities with nuclear-tipped missiles, analysts say.

The blast that shook the ground at North Korea’s test site Sunday instantly erased lingering skepticism about Pyongyang’s technical capabilities and brought the prospect of nuclear-tipped North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of devastating a major city one step closer to reality, U.S. analysts and weapons experts said. South Korea’s defense minister on Monday said it was worth reviewing the redeployment of American tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula to guard against the North, a step that analysts warn would sharply increase the risk of an accidental conflict. U.S. officials are urging governments to cut off all fuel supplies to North Korea, which is “begging for war.”

What Does North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Want?

Analysts say that it would take five concessions in order for North Korea to back down from their threats of war against South Korea, Japan and the U.S., according to the USA Today. First, he would need a guarantee of no overthrow attempts; second, that North Korea be allowed to keep their nuclear weapons; third, all sanctions against North Korea would have to be completely lifted; fourth, the U.S. would have to remove all troops from South Korea; and fifth, a formal peace treaty ending the 1950-1953 Korean War. A formal peace treaty would provide a huge economic and political boost for North Korea. Without negotiations, the Trump administration warned Sunday of a “massive military response” against North Korea and President Trump threatened to halt trade with China after Pyongyang conducted the alarmingly powerful nuclear test.

Trump May Withdraw from South Korean Trade Pact

The Trump administration could give notice to South Korea as early as this week that it plans to withdraw from a bilateral trade agreement that has been in effect since 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday. President Donald Trump has long slammed the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, or KORUS FTA, and the ensuing rise of the nation’s trade deficit since it was implemented, the Journal reported. Negotiations this summer have been tense — and American officials say that Seoul remains unwilling to make significant changes to the agreement. The question remains of whether the White House is seriously considering withdrawing from the agreement. U.S. business groups have called on its members to reach out to legislators to stop any withdrawal, the Journal reported.

DOJ Concludes No Evidence of Obama Wiretapping

The Justice Department confirmed in a court filing there is no evidence that Trump Tower was targeted for surveillance by the Obama administration — contradicting President Trump’s controversial claim first made in March. A “Motion for Summary Judgment” filed Friday evening in D.C. district court says neither the FBI nor the Justice Department’s National Security Division have records confirming wiretaps that Trump accused the Obama administration of ordering. The document was submitted in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by American Oversight, a government watchdog group.

Trump Fades Out DACA, but Gives Congress Opportunity to Save It

The Trump administration on Tuesday formally announced the end of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) — a program that had protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. The Department of Homeland Security will stop processing any new applications for the program as of Tuesday and has formally rescinded the Obama administration policy. The Justice Department also announced a plan to continue renewing permits for anyone whose status expires in the next six months, giving Congress time to act before any currently protected individuals lose their ability to work, study and live without fear in the U.S. Trump called on Congress to replace the policy with legislation before it fully expires on March 5, 2018. In the five years since DACA was enacted, the nearly 800,000 individuals who have received the protections have started families, pursued careers and studied in schools and universities across the United States. The business community and education community at large has joined Democrats and many moderate Republicans in supporting the program, citing the contributions to society from the population and the sympathetic fact that many Dreamers have never known another home than the U.S.

Houston Faces Ongoing Threat of Mold, Fumes & Toxic Water

Residents of Harris County, Texas, returning to an estimated 156,000 homes flooded by Harvey face dangers from mold, electrical hazards and deadly fumes and toxins in the receding water. Thirteen of the 41 toxic Superfund sites in Texas were flooded and “experiencing possible damage” as a result of Hurricane Harvey, federal environmental officials confirmed Saturday. The death toll has risen to at least 42, with a house-by-house search for survivors continuing. An estimated 156,000 dwellings in Harris County — more than 10% of all structures — were damaged by flooding, according to the flood control district. More than 457,000 people have applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance by Friday. More than 121,000 survivors have already been approved for more than $83.4 million in assistance from FEMA. The Red Cross and its partners sheltered 42,399 people in Texas, and another 1,487 in Louisiana, according to FEMA.

Small Towns Still Struggling in Harvey’s Wake

While the Houston urban area has understandably captured the country’s attention post-Harvey, small communities in Texas have waged their own struggles dealing with the storm’s aftermath. Colorado River water levels crested Thursday at 50.5 feet, inundating much of Wharton in waist-deep water. The town as a whole has less than a 1-foot difference in elevation. Officials estimated that more than 60% of Wharton’s 9,000 residents had floodwater in their homes or on their properties. “At one point, we were boxed in on all of our exits due to waters, or due to the neighboring cities having a mandatory evacuation. Our emergency medical services couldn’t get to a hospital,” said Wharton’s city spokeswoman, Paula Favors, human resources director and city secretary.

Economic News

North Korea’s biggest ever nuclear test has sent a fresh wave of nervousness through global markets. Stocks in nearby countries like South Korea and Japan slid as investors moved money into assets considered safer bets, such as gold. Wall Street’s ‘fear gauge’ jumped 34% and the Dow Jones Industrial stock average dropped 240 points Tuesday.

The elderly American population in this country is set to explode, given the retirement of baby boomers and an improvement in medical care, medicines, and medical care access. Right now, there are approximately 48 million people aged 65 and up, but by 2035 that figure is expected to climb to 79 million. That’s a 65% increase in 18 years, and it’s going to be a major strain on the Social Security program. As the number Social Security recipients increases, the number of workers providing that all-important payroll-tax revenue won’t be growing by nearly enough to offset the baby boomer exodus from the workforce. Between 2017 and 2035, the SSA is estimating that the worker-to-beneficiary ratio, which currently sits at 2.8-to-1, could fall by 21% to 2.2-to-1. Raising payroll taxes on the wealthy, or all workers, are solutions currently under consideration.

Europe Overrun with Jihadists

EU Counter-terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove estimates more than 50,000 jihadists are now living in Europe. “Three years ago, it was easy to identify someone who has become radicalized,” de Kerchove told El Mundo. “Now, most fanatics disguise their convictions. We do not have exact figures, but it is not difficult to do approximate calculations. United Kingdom… has 20,000. France, 17,000. Spain much less, but more than 5,000, I suppose. In Belgium, almost 500 have gone to Syria and there are about 2,000 radicals or more. I would not venture to a specific figure, but tens of thousands, more than 50,000.” In a separate interview with a Belgian publication, de Kerchove said Europol, the European police office, has identified at least 30,000 active jihadist websites.

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, also known as Frontex, has previously warned that Islamic terrorists are using the refugee crisis to slide into Europe undetected and plan attacks across the continent. In total, about 130,000 migrants arrived in Europe during the first eight months of 2017, according to the International Organization for Migration. More than 10,000 of those arrived in Spain by water, and thousands more entered Spain by land. Meanwhile, authorities detained 2,474 people trying to cross the Romanian border illegally during the first six months of this year, according to Balkan Insight.

German law-enforcement officials are busy tracking down dozens of members of Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the most brutal jihadist groups in Syria. The jihadists are suspected of slaughtering hundreds of Syrian soldiers and civilians. Police have identified roughly 25 of them and apprehended a few, but dozens more are thought to be hiding in towns and cities across Germany, according to the Gatestone Institute. The suspected terrorists entered Germany posing as refugees. More than 400 migrants who came to Germany as asylum seekers in 2015 and 2016 are now under investigation for being members of Middle Eastern Islamic jihadist groups, according to the Federal Criminal Police.

Islamic State

Islamic State fighters in Libya shot and beheaded groups of captive Ethiopian Christians, a video purportedly from the extremists showed Sunday. The attack widens the circle of nations affected by the group’s atrocities while showing its growth beyond a self-declared ‘caliphate’ in Syria and Iraq. The release of the 29-minute video comes a day after Afghanistan’s president blamed the extremists for a suicide attack in his country that killed at least 35 people — and underscores the chaos gripping Libya after its 2011 civil war and the killing of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Syria

Syrian government forces and their allies reached the eastern city of Deir el-Zour on Tuesday, ending a nearly 3-year-old ISIS siege on government-held land near the Iraqi border, Syrian state TV reported. State TV said troops advancing from the west reached the outskirts of the city and broke the siege after ISIS defenses “collapsed.” Breaking the siege marks another victory for President Bashar Assad, whose forces have been advancing on several fronts against ISIS and other insurgent groups over the past year. Syrian troops and allied militiamen, backed by Russia’s air force, have for months been advancing toward Deir el-Zour, the provincial capital of the oil-rich province of the same name. The breach is expected to end a nightmare siege for tens of thousands of people trapped in a handful of neighborhoods.

Myanmar

Tens of thousands of refugees are trapped on the border into Bangladesh without basic food and medicine amid operations by the Myanmar military, which have already killed hundreds. Satellite photos released by Human Rights Watch Saturday showed what they are desperate to escape — entire villages torched to the ground in clashes between Myanmar’s armed forces and local militants. More than 73,000 Rohingyas have now fled across the border since August 25, the United Nations said Sunday. But in northern Rakhine State there are reports of at least another 30,000 Rohingyas trapped in hilly terrain without basic supplies of food, water or medicine. The Rohingya, a Muslim minority in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, are considered some of the most persecuted people in the world. Myanmar, also known as Burma, considers them Bangladeshi and Bangladesh says they’re Burmese.

Earthquakes

One of the strongest earthquake to hit Idaho in years struck the southeastern region of the state Saturday night, followed by more than 40 smaller quakes throughout the night. According to the Idaho State Journal, residents in Caribou County were startled by the 5.3-magnitude earthquake that hit shortly before 6 p.m. local time Saturday. No structural damage or injuries were reported. The United States Geological Survey said the initial quake was relatively shallow at a depth of 6.2 miles and was located about 10 miles east of Soda Springs, Idaho. The quakes were also felt in cities in northern Utah and throughout southeast Idaho. Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said he hasn’t experienced anything like the quakes in his 40 years of service in Idaho.

Wildfires

Dozens of wildfires burning in western U.S. states have sent smoke into cities from Seattle to Denver — prompting health warnings and cancellations of outdoor activities for children by many school districts. The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, a federal agency that coordinates wildfire-fighting, said 80 large fires were burning on 2,200 square miles (5,700 square kilometers) in nine Western states. A growing Oregon wildfire, the Eagle Creek fire, covered parts of Portland’s metropolitan area Tuesday with ash and forced the shutdown of a lengthy stretch of highway through the state’s scenic Columbia River Gorge. The 16-square mile (41-square kilometers) fire east of Portland forced hundreds of home evacuations. Embers from the fire drifted in the air across the Columbia River — sparking blazes in neighboring Washington state. The wildfire grew rapidly late Monday and overnight, giving authorities just minutes to warn residents on the Oregon side of the river to leave their homes. Authorities say they believe the blaze, which started Saturday, was caused by a 15-year-old boy and friends using fireworks. A 30-mile (48-kilometer) section of Interstate 84 was closed in both directions because of thick smoke and falling ash and because flames reached the roadway in some spots.

A fast-moving wildfire in northern Utah swept down a canyon Tuesday — destroying structures, forcing evacuations and closing highways. At least five homes burned and more than 1,000 people were evacuated as high winds fed the flames in the canyon north of Salt Lake City. Thick black smoke closed parts of two highways as firefighters struggled to fight the blaze fueled by winds gusting up to 40 mph. Outside California’s Yosemite National Park, a wind-fueled fire made its way deeper into a grove of 2,700-year-old giant sequoia trees on Labor Day. Officials said the fire had gone through about half the grove but had not killed any trees. Elsewhere in Northern California, a fire destroyed 72 homes and forced the evacuation of about 2,000 people from their houses. The fire burned 14 square miles in the community of Helena about 150 miles south of Oregon. A wildfire burning near Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state grew to more than 29 square miles and heavy smoke blanketed many cities in Washington state. The air quality in Spokane, Washington, was rated as hazardous.

A wildfire in northern Los Angeles was the largest wildfire in the city’s history, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Saturday. At least 700 homes in Los Angeles, Burbank and Glendale were evacuated as the La Tuna Canyon wildfire threatened structures in the Sunland-Tujunga area of northern Los Angeles. At least three buildings have been destroyed. Flames jumped over highways Friday night as firefighters worked to corral the blaze, which was fueled by hot, dry, windy conditions. “Our biggest concern is the wind and weather,” Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas said. Officials canceled evacuation orders Monday citing progress against the fire.

Weather

Hurricane Irma slammed into islands in the northeast Caribbean with devastating force early Wednesday, damaging buildings and sending debris flying with winds estimated at 185mph. The National Weather Service says the eye of Irma, a Category 5 storm and the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, passed over the island of Barbuda at 1:47am, the AP reports. The storm ripped the roofs off of buildings, including the island’s police station, and damage was also reported on the neighboring island of Antigua. Many residents on both islands have fled to shelters, fearing the storm will destroy their homes. The storm tore off rooftops and knocked out all electricity on the French islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy. Other Leeward Islands, including Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, and Nevis, are under hurricane warnings, as are Puerto Rico, the US and British Virgin Islands, and the Dominican Republic, reports Reuters. The National Hurricane Center has warned of “life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards” for places in Irma’s path. The center predicts that Irma will hit the other Leeward Islands on Wednesday morning before passing over the Virgin Islands and close to northern Puerto Rico later in the day. Cruise ships bound for Caribbean destinations are being diverted.

As the dangerous Category 5 Hurricane Irma barrels toward southeast of Florida, officials have declared disasters and ordered evacuations throughout the Sunshine State. About 420,000 people living in Miami Evacuation Zones A and B along the coast have been told to flee. The last time a similar evacuation was ordered was for Hurricane Wilma in 2005. A state of emergency has been declared for all counties in Florida, and residents across the region are trying to stock up on food, water and other essentials. The order frees up funding for emergency protective measures such as shoring up beach dunes, preparing for evacuations and building emergency beams. The U.S. military ordered the evacuation of over 5,000 personnel and their families from a Naval Air Station in Key West. Airlines canceled hundreds of flights for Wednesday and more for Thursday and Friday.

High temperatures set all-time records in California this past weekend. San Jose set a new record high for September on Friday when the thermometer reached 108 degrees, as did the Oakland International Airport with a high of 101 degrees. Most impressive is the new all-time record high set on Sept. 1 in San Francisco when the mercury soared to 106 degrees, breaking the previous record of 103 degrees set in June 2000. To put this in perspective, the average high on Sept. 1 is 70 degrees. San Francisco’s high temperature topped out at 102 degrees Saturday, making it only the third time since 1874 that the city has seen back to back days with highs over 100 degrees.

  • 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 (9/2/17)

September 2, 2017

President Trump Calls for National Day of Prayer

President Trump has declared Sunday as “A National Day of Prayer”— joining with Texas Governor Greg Abbott who has called on Texans to pray for recovery efforts and those suffering from Hurricane Harvey. “As response and recovery efforts continue, and as Americans provide much-needed relief to the people of Texas and Louisiana, we are reminded of Scripture’s promise that ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,’” the proclamation states. The President said it is appropriate “during times of great need to ask for God’s blessing and God’s guidance.” President Trump signed the declaration Friday after meeting with faith leaders in the Oval Office. “We invite all Americans to join us as we continue to pray for those who have lost family members and friends, and for those who are suffering from this great crisis,” the President said in his remarks.

Trump Pledges $1 Million to Harvey Relief Efforts

With the recovery process just beginning in some parts of Texas on Thursday, following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, President Donald Trump pledged $1 million of his own money to aid relief efforts, which got little notice from the mainstream media, and not even one mention from NBC. “President Trump today pledged $1 million of his own money to disaster relief. The White House has asked for suggestions as to where that money should go,” reported Co-Anchor Margaret Brennan in a news brief on CBS Evening News. Brennan then touted Vice President Pence’s efforts saying: “Today, Vice President Mike Pence comforted victims in Rockport, Texas. Then he got to work, rolled up his sleeves in 90-degree heat and helped clear debris in the city.”

Fake Photos Plaguing the Internet

As a captivated nation watched a historic storm ravage the Texas coast, people around the country shared extraordinary images of Harvey and its aftermath. Unfortunately, some of them aren’t real. The shark ostensibly swimming along a flooded freeway in Houston is a doctored image has been online for years, but still managed to fool a Fox News reporter). The airplanes presumably submerged on the tarmac in Houston actually shows New York’s LaGuardia Airport. And the one showing President Obama serving food to people evacuated from the Houston floods actually was shot at a homeless shelter in Washington, D.C., where Obama and his family served Thanksgiving dinner in 2015. Doctored photos aren’t reserved for natural disasters. After President Trump held a rally in Phoenix last week, his supporters shared an image of what was purportedly a massive crowd in the streets ahead of his speech, but the photo is actually an aerial shot from the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers championship parade.

Humanitarian Efforts Help to Minimize Harvey’s Misery

From good Samaritan Cajuns to pet lovers in Austin with pickup trucks and motorized canoes, humanitarian efforts are underway in Houston and beyond to minimize the misery of flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez this week called upon anyone with a “high-water, safe boat or vehicle” to pitch in — and like clockwork the boats arrived. Hundreds of boats from around the region, as well as others from the “Cajun Navy,” have been traversing the flooded streets of Houston for days. Aid groups, accustomed to widespread disaster declarations, expected the Harvey relief effort to be among their biggest ever. The Salvation Army of Georgia said its Harvey intervention would be the “largest and longest emergency response” in the history of the organization. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief said it began sending teams to Texas before Harvey made landfall on Friday and will likely be in Houston “for months to come.”

In the midst of deadly Tropical Storm Harvey’s assault on Texas, people stepped up to help those trapped by rising floodwaters and shut out from basic necessities, with heroes forming human chains, delivering pizzas on kayaks and engaging in dramatic rescues. However, others tried to profit from the tragedy through scams, price gouging and fraud. The Texas Attorney General’s Office said it received about 600 complaints as of Tuesday, adding the “number is rising,” according to the San Antonio Express. Officials warned about fake fundraisers being shared and urged people to only donate to established organizations. Looters were also posing as helpers.

Flooded Texas Chemical Plant Explodes Three Times

Multiple explosions were reported at the flooded Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, early Thursday morning just a day after the company’s CEO warned of an unpreventable, imminent explosion. One deputy was rushed to the hospital after inhaling fumes and nine others hospitalized themselves after the explosion, the Harris County Sherriff’s Office said.  Because of the volatile chemicals – organic peroxides commonly used by the plastics and rubber industries – stored at the plant, the company and local authorities agreed that “the best course of action is to let the fire burn itself out,” the Houston Chronicle reported. All residents within 1.5 miles of the chemical plant in Crosby were already told to evacuate Tuesday because of the rising risk of an explosion. All workers at the plant were evacuated Tuesday over the threat. The plant has been heavily flooded by more than 40 inches of rain, causing its refrigeration system and backup power generators to fail. Officials yet again watched in helpless horror Friday evening as a chemical plant exploded and caught fire in Crosby, Texas, for a third time.

FEMA: Emergency Housing for Hurricane Harvey a Long Difficult Process

After search-and-rescue efforts wind down for survivors of Harvey, federal officials warned Texas that housing for thousands of displaced residents could be a long-term problem that in prior storms was fraught with unhealthy trailers and hundreds of millions of dollars wasted. “The state of Texas is about to undergo one of the largest recovery-housing missions that the nation has ever seen,” FEMA Administrator Brock Long said during a news conference Monday. “It’s a long process. Housing is going to be very frustrating in Texas. We have to set the expectations.” For displaced survivors, FEMA’s goal is to move them out of shelters and into temporary housing near where they work, and then a return to a permanent residence, Long said. Anyone in a shelter or without financial means to replace their housing in 18 counties qualifying for individual disaster assistance can receive aid for a motel or to rent an apartment. Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana and wreaked havoc across the Gulf Coast in August 2005. FEMA did not end its temporary housing mission for Katrina until February 2012.

National Flood Insurance Program in Dire Straits

The National Flood Insurance Program has faced criticism for years that it provided lousy customer service while compiling $25 billion in debts that federal managers concede policyholders will never be able to repay. Now Hurricane Harvey’s record rainfall in Texas will funnel as many as 100,000 more claims into a system that is set to expire Sept. 30 unless Congress — unable to agree for years on a long-term fix — can reach a compromise to keep it afloat. Past storm victims who filed flood insurance claims complained of being shortchanged and made to feel like criminals. But former federal officials said not having coverage is even worse because regular homeowner insurance doesn’t cover floods, and disaster aid is capped and means-tested. Early estimates say only about 1 in 5 homes in the greater Houston area are covered by flood insurance, which could lead uninsured families wiped out by Harvey to abandon their properties or take on heavy debts.

Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Texas Immigration Bill

A federal judge in Texas late Wednesday temporarily blocked key provisions of an impending state law that banned sanctuary jurisdictions in the state. The law was slated to go into effect on Friday. The SB4 bill established civil penalties for local government and law enforcement officials who didn’t comply with immigration laws and detention requests. Additionally, under the law, government entities would be fined $25,500 for every day the law was violated. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who signed the bill in May, said the judge’s preliminary injunction would be appealed “immediately,” and he is confident that the law will be upheld as constitutional. But critics of the bill have come out in support of the preliminary injunction, claiming that Senate Bill 4 would have led to rampant discrimination and made communities less safe.

David Daleiden Fined $200,000 for Releasing Undercover Abortion Videos

A federal judge hit pro-life undercover investigator David Daleiden and two of his lawyers with a heavy fine this week after they released undercover footage of a National Abortion Federation conference. Townhall reports U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick, who has ties to the abortion industry, ordered Daleiden and attorneys Steve Cooley and Brentford Ferreira to pay $195,359.04 in fines on Monday. In July, Orrick held Daleiden and the two lawyers in contempt for releasing the videos in violation of a court order. Orrick quickly forced the videos to be taken down after they were released in May. In June, Daleiden’s lawyers asked that Orrick recuse himself from the case, arguing that he has had a long relationship with a group that partners with Planned Parenthood, and his wife has publicly supported abortion online.

Colleges that Blocked Free Speech Facing Fallout

Both the University of Missouri and Evergreen State College have been rocked by left-wing demonstrations, some of which administrators in both schools allowed. Now both have had to deal with falling enrollment and a decline in funds – and there are fears the situation could spread to other schools. Jacqueline Pfeffer Merrill of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a nonprofit that advocates for a variety of higher education issues, told Fox News, “When they look to what college to pick, parents and students are thinking of the largest investment their family is likely to make beyond the purchase of a home.” There is increasing concern, she said, “about a lack of openness to having a full conversation” amid a growing intolerance of views that are different or considered offensive.

  • These ‘offensive’ viewpoints are mostly Conservative and Christian

Economic News

Hurricane Harvey is now the second most destructive storm in U.S. history, behind only Hurricane Katrina. The devastation is massive: 46 dead and an estimated $80 billion in damage — so far. Harvey could end up being the most expensive of all. It depends on what happens in the coming weeks. The longer homes stay flooded and businesses remain closed, especially the major oil refineries that supply a substantial amount of the country’s gasoline, the bigger the hit to Texas and the entire U.S. economy. Gas prices are at the highest level in two years after Harvey shut down 20 percent of U.S. refining capacity. Americans across the country are seeing a hit to their wallets from the added costs, and the country might not be able to export oil for a while.

Harvey may have ruined up to one million vehicles along the Texas Gulf Coast, according to automotive data firm Black Book. Black Book says more than 500 dealerships in the Houston area were affected. In the Houston area, about one in seven cars may have been destroyed, according to analysts from Evercore ISI, an investment banking advisory and research firm. Sandy is believed to have destroyed about 250,000 vehicles, while Katrina ruined about 200,000, according to Cox Automotive.

Estimates indicate that only about one-in-five homes in the greater Houston area are covered by flood insurance, a scenario that will likely drive hundreds of thousands of people and business owners to abandon their properties or take on heavy debts, not to mention heightened pleas from local governments for more federal subsidies. The Consumer Federation of America estimates only about 20% of homeowners with flood damage in the region have insurance protection.

Flooding in the southeast Texas city of Port Arthur prompted officials to begin shutting down the nation’s largest oil refinery. Motiva told media outlets it began shutting its Port Arthur refinery around 5 a.m. Wednesday “in response to increasing local flood conditions” and will remain closed until flood waters recede. Motiva refinery is owned by Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil giant, Saudi Aramco. Motiva joins 12 other refineries that have shut down as a result of flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey. Gas prices spiked overnight Thursday and are up about 17 cents a gallon since Hurricane Harvey struck Texas. Meanwhile, a pair of oil companies announced Friday that two more spills occurred in Texas because of Harvey’s flooding.

Hurricane Harvey took direct aim at the country’s Gulf Coast energy production facilities. But the blow is being softened by huge supplies of shale. The shale revolution didn’t exist when Hurricanes Katrina and Rita pummeled the Gulf a decade ago and sent gas prices soaring. This time, hotbeds of shale in places like North Dakota, far from the reach of the storm, should limit the damage at the pump. The shale boom has transformed the energy landscape and vaulted the United States to the upper echelon of global oil producers, behind only Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The Trump administration has tapped an emergency stockpile of crude oil in response to the major refinery outages in the U.S. Gulf Coast caused by Hurricane Harvey. Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced Thursday that he authorized 500,000 barrels of crude oil to be drawn down from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The reserve is made up of a complex of tanks and deeper underground storage caverns. The move is aimed at shielding Americans from gasoline prices, which have begun to rise sharply due to a shortage of gasoline caused by refinery shutdowns. Port closures have also left refineries still operating with less access to crude oil shipments.

The U.S. economy picked up steam during the second quarter, notching the fastest pace of growth in two years. During the first full quarter with President Trump in charge, economic growth hit 3%, according to revised estimates released by the government on Wednesday. It’s more than double the pace of the first three months of 2017. The economic momentum was driven by stronger consumer spending and healthier business investment. Trump promised 4% growth on the campaign trail, but his administration has since set a goal of 3%.

However, the U.S. economy added just 156,000 jobs in August as unemployment ticked up slightly to 4.4 percent, federal economists reported Friday. The growth missed expectations of job growth continuing over 200,000 a month. Average hourly wages rose 3 cents last month to $26.39, up 2.5 percent from a year ago. The data shows the manufacturing, construction, healthcare and mining industries all grew. sThe report does not include any effects from Hurricane Harvey, as the collection of the data used for the report was completed before the storm struck.

Persecution Watch

Israel’s religious establishment is taking its persecution of Messianic Jewish believers in Jesus to a new level. A rabbinic court, or Sanhedrin, has ruled that a Jew who believes in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah is no longer considered a Jew for purposes of marriage in Israel. This makes it impossible for two Messianic Jews to get married inside the country. All marriages in Israel are controlled by religious authorities, whether Jewish, Islamic, Christian or Druze, according to laws first handed down under the Ottoman Empire. These laws were retained by the British Mandate and continued after the state of Israel was founded in 1948. The judges wrote that if the couple “declares before the court they have completely given up their Christian beliefs, including their belonging to a Messianic Jewish community and missionary activities, the court will discuss their matter anew.”

Israel

Ambassador Danny Danon announced a “victory for Israel in the Security Council” regarding the adoption of a new resolution forcing the UN peacekeeping mission to act against Hezbollah’s buildup. According to the decision made upon the annual renewal of this mandate, UNIFIL, the UN’s peacekeeping mission, is now required to expand its reports to the Security Council and take deliberate action against Hezbollah’s violations. UNIFIL’s presence on the ground will increase significantly, and troops will be required to tour the Hezbollah-controlled areas of southern Lebanon. UNIFIL must also report all instances of Hezbollah’s violations and attempts to deny access immediately. “This is a significant diplomatic achievement that could change the situation in southern Lebanon and expose the terror infrastructure that Hezbollah set up on the border with Israel,” Danon stated.

The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) secured a massive federal court victory this week in the most significant U.S. federal court case in defense of Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state ever undertaken. Just over a year ago a group of Palestinian activists, led by the head of a family of notorious terrorists, Bassem al-Tamimi, filed a $34.5 billion dollar lawsuit in federal court against numerous organizations that support the State of Israel. This lawsuit was meant to accomplish in court what the terrorists could never do themselves – eliminate the Jewish State, or at the very least weaken and frighten her supporters into submission. The ACLJ sent a senior team of lawyers to defend these claims. Working with the other law firms representing other clients, they filed numerous responses including a motion to dismiss the case. Friday, the federal court issued an opinion that dismissed the case. The court noted that it lacks jurisdiction to hear this case, including the fact that the lawsuit is “replete with non-justiciable political questions.”

North Korea

U.S., Japanese and South Korean warplanes carried out a show of force against North Korea. Two U.S. B-1B supersonic bombers from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and four U.S. F-35 stealth fighter jets from the Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, Japan, joined four South Korean jets and two Japanese warplanes for the exercises Wednesday. During the 10-hour mission, the U.S. and Japanese warplanes flew over waters near Kyushu in western Japan before the American and South Korean aircraft flew across the Korean Peninsula and practiced their attack capabilities with live-fire in a training area.

Russia

The Trump administration has ordered three Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States closed following the expulsion of American diplomats from Russia, the State Department said Thursday. Last month, Russia demanded that the U.S. diplomatic presence there be reduced by hundreds of people. In retaliation, the State Department has ordered the Russian government to close its consulate general in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington, D.C., and a consular annex in New York City. These closures must be complete by Saturday. The diplomatic reprisals underscore the continued deterioration of relations between the nuclear-armed nations, with more acts of payback likely to come. And they appear to place President Trump’s hopes for closer ties with Russia further out of reach, notes the Washington Post.

Germany

The U.S. and U.K. blanketed Germany with at least 1.3 million tons of bombs during World War II, and as much as 10% of that never exploded. The Smithsonian reported in 2016 that more than 2,000 tons of unexploded munitions are found in the country annually. That would make the discovery of an unexploded bomb in Frankfurt this week relatively unsurprising—if not for its sheer size. The 2-ton bomb is an HC 4000 and has the ability to impact buildings more than half a mile away. Its discovery has spurred what Deutsche Welle reports is the biggest evacuation since the end of WWII: Some 70,000 people, or roughly 10% of the city’s population, will need to leave their Frankfurt homes on Sunday.

Iraq

Iraqi forces have seized the strategically important town of Tal Afar from ISIS, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Thursday. An operation to retake the northwestern town, captured by the extremists on June 16, 2014, began 10 days ago. Tal Afar was the last town still under the control of ISIS militants in Iraq’s Nineveh province following the liberation of Mosul, about 45 miles to the east. Al-Abadi also issued a warning to any fighters for ISIS, also known as Daesh, who remain in Iraq. “We say to the criminals of Daesh: Wherever you are, we are coming for liberation, and you have no choice but to die or surrender.”

India

India’s economy is having a difficult year. The South Asian nation’s gross domestic product grew 5.7% in the quarter ended June, the government said Thursday. That’s a big drop from the quarter before and much slower than the 7.1% growth it recorded in the same period last year. It’s the weakest rate of growth in three years. The slowdown has ended India’s claim to be the world’s fastest-growing major economy and is being blamed on big reforms introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, including last year’s sudden ban on 86% of the country’s cash, and the recent introduction of a national goods and services tax.

Kenya

Kenya’s Supreme Court on Friday overturned the result of last month’s presidential election and ordered a new vote within 60 days. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory, which the court said came about due to an unfair vote, was declared null and void. It is the first time a presidential election result in East Africa’s economic hub has ever been nullified. Members of the opposition danced and cheered with joy in the streets after the ruling. Supporters of opposition candidate Raila Odinga, 72, said they felt vindicated. The six-judge bench at the country’s top court ruled 4-2 in favor of a petition by Odinga, who claimed that electronic voting results were hacked in favor of Kenyatta. Odinga’s lawyer said a scrutiny of the forms used to tally the votes had anomalies affecting nearly 5 million votes.

Wildfires

Numerous wildfires continue to plague drought-stricken eastern Montana, Washington and Oregon. Thirty-one large (over 100 acres) wildfires are currently burning in Montana, having already consumed over 363,000 acres. Twenty-three large fires are burning in Washington and Oregon, with over 372,000 acres already torched. The weather forecast is for mostly dry conditions, making the task for thousands of firefighters much more difficult.

Wildfires ravaging parts of California have triggered evacuations in the southern part of the state, while fires further north prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to issue an emergency declaration. At least 200 homes remain under evacuation orders Saturday as a large wildfire threatened to destroy structures in the Sunland-Tujunga area of northern Los Angeles. Flames jumped over highways Friday night as firefighters worked to corral the blaze, which was fueled by dry, windy conditions. As of early Saturday, the fire burned through about 1,500 acres and is now 10 percent contained. Gov. Brown declared a state of emergency Thursday in Trinity County north of San Francisco due to the Helena Fire, which has burned 8 square miles and is 0 percent contained as of Saturday morning.

Weather

Nearly all waterways in and around Houston have crested and water is starting to recede, the Harris County Flood Control District said Wednesday. The piece of good news for flood-battered Houston came hours after Tropical Storm Harvey made a second landfall just west of Cameron, La. Harvey dropped substantial amounts of rain on Louisiana before moving on to Arkansas, Tennessee and parts of Missouri. Tropical Storm Harvey has broken the all-time contiguous U.S. rainfall record from a tropical storm or hurricane, the National Weather Service said Tuesday. East of Highlands, the Cedar Bayou gauge has picked up 51.88 inches of rain from Harvey, the weather service said. This broke the record of 48 inches set in Medina, Texas, from Amelia in 1978. It’s just under the all-time U.S. rainfall record from a tropical cyclone, which was 52 inches in Hawaii from Hurricane Hiki in 1950.

Tuesday night into Wednesday, torrential rainfall triggered massive flooding in the cities of Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, with reports of water in homes. Jack Brooks Regional Airport, near Port Arthur, picked up a staggering 26.03 inches of rain Tuesday alone, more than doubling their previous calendar-day rainfall record from September 1963. Their total since Saturday is an incredible 43.27 inches of rain. The Neches River at Beaumont is expected to reach record flood levels by late in the week, topping the Oct. 22, 1994 record crest, flooding numerous homes in northeast Beaumont and Rose City. Beaumont, Texas, has lost its water supply, city officials say, due to flooding on the Neches River. Residents in Beaumont, Texas, waited in lines that stretched for more than a mile Friday for bottled water after flooding on the Neches River knocked out the city’s water utility system. The Houston Independent School District announced Wednesday all students will eat all school meals for free during the 2017-2018 school year thanks to the USDA waiving eligibility rules. The storm impacted more than 1 million students in 244 public and charter school districts statewide, the Texas Education Agency said. At least 16 hospitals in Texas are closed due to flooding as of Wednesday.

Thursday, significant flash flooding was reported in parts of Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee, including the Nashville metro area, from Harvey’s remnants. Numerous roads were closed and county schools were closed Friday in Simpson County, Kentucky. Harvey’s long-lived odyssey of rain is in its final chapter, spreading heavy rain into the Ohio Valley Friday, potentially triggering additional flash flooding. Although rain has come to an end in flood-ravaged southeast Texas, rivers will remain high for days to come as recovery efforts continue. A confirmed tornado caused minor injuries and left behind damage Thursday in Alabama as flooding prompted officials in Tennessee and Kentucky to urge some residents to evacuate.

Tropical Storm Lidia has resulted in four deaths in Mexico and it continues to bring the threat of flooding rain, strong winds and some storm-surge flooding. Lidia made landfall on the Baja California Peninsula west of La Paz Friday morning and will continue to impact the region into this weekend. The remnants of Lidia may also bring a few showers and thunderstorms in the Desert Southwest and coastal areas of California later this weekend.

Signs of the Times (8/24/17)

August 24, 2017

Earthquake Hits Yellowstone During Solar Eclipse, Eruption Feared

As tens of thousands of people gathered in Yellowstone National Park Monday morning to witness the once-in-a-century solar eclipse, the area was hit by a 3.2 magnitude earthquake. This recent tremor, though not large, is part of an ongoing series of quakes that began June 12. Experts believed the unusually large swarm of earthquakes would gradually die down but by the beginning of August, over 1,400 minor tremors had been recorded at the site.  Monday’s tremor, following a 2.5 magnitude quake at 7:23 PM Sunday night, indicates that the earthshaking problem is unlikely to simply go away. Should the super-volcano erupt, the threat to the Earth, said NASA scientist Brian Wilcox, “is substantially greater than an asteroid or comet threat.” As a result, scientists are investigating how to cool off the seismic hotspot in order to prevent a catastrophic super-eruption. NASA announced this week that it is working on plans to drill six miles down into the volcanically active region and pump water into the magma at high pressures. The water would return to the surface at 662 degrees Fahrenheit, bringing some of the volcano’s heat with it. The project is massive, estimated to cost $3.46 billion, and admittedly risky, possibly setting off a massive eruption.

Kindergarten Teacher Holds Transgender Transition Celebration

A number of angry parents are considering legal action after a charter school kindergarten teacher staged what one critic calls a transgender “transition ceremony” in class for a five-year-old boy without informing parents beforehand. Parents only found out what happened from their kids, says Jonathan Keller of the California Family Council, a Focus on the Family-founded group that’s advising the parents. But Rocklin Academy Schools has countered that it didn’t have to tell parents about the transgenderism lesson that has left a number of five-year-olds shaken and disturbed. Because gender identity isn’t sex education, the administration said, it’s not subject to California’s parental consent and opt-out laws, reported Fox40News. Moreover, the school said that gender identity and gender expression are prohibited grounds for discrimination in the state. Not to accept a five-year-old “trans girl” could leave the Sacramento-area charter school board open to lawsuits.

‘Free Speech’ Rally Fizzles as Thousands of Counter-Protesters Swarm Boston

By their sheer numbers, thousands of anti-racist protesters marching through downtown Boston on Saturday effectively prevented conservative activists from mounting a “Free Speech Rally” in the aftermath of deadly clashes last week in Virginia. Only a handful of rally-goers, some wearing red “Make America Great Again” Trump caps, appeared to navigate their way through waves of marchers pouring into the Boston Common area, where the “Boston Free Speech” event was planned. During a post-rally press conference, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans thanked the mostly peaceful protesters and police officers. “I’m just fortunate that none of the officers got hurt, none of the public got hurt,” said Evans, speaking with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh behind him. “Overall it was a good day for our city in that we won’t tolerate hatred and bigotry. People came out to say Boston is united.” President Donald Trump went clearly conciliatory towards the counter-protestors on Twitter, a sharp contrast to previous comments following the Virginia protests last weekend. “I want to applaud the many protestors in Boston who are speaking out against bigotry and hate. Our country will soon come together as one!” Trump wrote.

Rise of Antifa Alarms Free-Speech Advocates

Even those who despise neo-Nazis are worried about the rise of the “antifa,” the masked protesters whose stock rose after they took on white supremacists at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, reports the Washington Times. The antifa, which stands for “anti-fascists,” may be the sworn enemies of Nazism and racism, but the radical left-wing protesters also aren’t fans of the First Amendment, having shut down scheduled speeches by conservatives Milo Yiannapoulos and Ann Coulter earlier this year in Berkeley, California. The guiding principle behind the movement, which has its roots in prewar Europe, is to defeat “fascists” before they can gain a foothold in government and society in order to avoid another Nazi Germany. If that means using threats, intimidation and even violence to muzzle so-called “fascists,” then so be it, said Mark Bray, author of “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook,” which is scheduled for release Sept. 12. “Antifa are anarchists and communists and socialists who are revolutionaries and don’t have any inherent regard for the law,” said Mr. Bray, a visiting scholar at the Gender Research Institute at Dartmouth College.

Protesters at Trump’s Phoenix Rally Used Gas Canisters, Rocks to Assault Police

A group of anti-Trump demonstrators used gas canisters, rocks and bottles to assault police Tuesday night and create havoc at what officials said was mostly a peaceful protest in Phoenix. Video captured by a local reporter also shows a smoking object being thrown at police while hundreds of officers attempted to keep order at a rally after President Trump’s speech at the Phoenix Convention Center had ended. “A very small number of individuals chose criminal conduct,” Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams told reporters late Tuesday. The individuals broke down fencing and “at one point, dispersed gas into and at the police officers,” Williams said. The violence resembled the mayhem perpetrated by Antifa groups, militant far-left “anti-fascist” groups that have protested Trump at other venues.

Federal Judge Again Throws Out Texas Voter ID Law

A federal judge Wednesday rejected Texas’ revised voter identification requirements, handing another court defeat to the state’s Republicans over voting rights. Texas has spent years fighting to preserve both the voter ID law — which was among the strictest in the U.S. — and voting maps that were both passed by GOP-controlled Legislature in 2011. Earlier this month, a separate federal court earlier found racial gerrymandering in Texas’ congressional maps and ordered two of the state’s 36 voting districts to be partially redrawn before the 2018 elections. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos rejected a watered-down version of the voter ID law that was signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this year. The judge’s new ruling came three years after she struck down the earlier version of the law. The new version was supported by the U.S. Justice Department, which once opposed the law but has reversed its position since President Donald Trump took office. Judge Ramos said Texas didn’t go far enough with its changes and said that criminal penalties Texas attached to lying on the affidavit could have a chilling effect on voters who, fearful of making an innocent mistake on the form, simply won’t cast a ballot.

DOJ Ends Obama’s Choke Point Program

The Trump Justice Department is ending an Obama-era program that had attempted to cut off credit to shady businesses but came under fire from Republicans for unfairly targeting gun dealers and other legitimate operations. Just days after top House Republicans had pressed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to shutter Operation Choke Point, the department confirmed in a response letter that the program is dead. “All of the Department’s bank investigations conducted as part of Operation Chokepoint are now over, the initiative is no longer in effect, and it will not be undertaken again,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said in the Aug. 16-dated letter, calling it a “misguided initiative” from the prior administration.

Spanish Police Kill Suspected Terrorist Van Driver

All terror suspects identified as part of the 12-person extremist cell responsible for coordinating the deadly Spain attacks last week, including a former imam, are either dead or under arrest, authorities said Monday. The man thought to be the driver in the Barcelona van attack was shot dead by Spanish police Monday after authorities announced he also was suspected of killing the owner of a hijacked getaway car. The fugitive was wearing a bomb belt, authorities said. Younes Abouyaaqoub was shot when officers confronted him in Subirats, a rural area known for its vineyards about 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Barcelona. Abouyaaqoub, 22, had been the target of an international manhunt that had raised fears throughout the region since last Thursday’s van attack in Barcelona. Authorities said Monday they now have evidence that Abouyaaqoub drove the van that plowed down the city’s famed Las Ramblas promenade, killing 13 pedestrians and injuring more than 120 others. They said Abouyaaqoub, who was born in Morocco and has Spanish residency, also is suspected of carjacking a man and stabbing him to death as he made his getaway, raising the death toll between the Barcelona attack and a related attack hours later to 15. Another vehicle attack occurred early Friday by other members of what Catalonia regional police have described as a 12-member extremist cell killed one person and wounded several others in the coastal town of Cambrils. That ended in a shootout with police, who killed five attackers.

6 Police Officers Shot in Florida and Pennsylvania

Six police officers were shot overnight during separate incidents Friday in Florida and Pennsylvania. Officer Matthew Baxter was shot and killed while responding to a suspicious activity call Friday evening in Kissimmee, Florida. Officer Sam Howard was shot during the same incident and died Saturday afternoon. Two other officers were shot with a high-powered rifle while responding to reports of an attempted suicide late Friday night about 200 miles away in Jacksonville. In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, two state troopers were shot Friday evening outside a store in Fairchance, a borough of around 2,000 about 60 miles south of Pittsburgh. Both officers survived but the suspect did not. A total of 135 police officers died while on the job last year, according to The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. More than 900 civilians were shot and killed by police during that same span, according to The Washington Post.

Blacks & Hispanics More Under-Represented at Top Colleges Than 35 Years Ago

Even after decades of affirmative action, black and Hispanic students are more underrepresented at the nation’s top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago, according to a New York Times analysis. The share of black freshmen at elite schools is virtually unchanged since 1980. Black students are just 6 percent of freshmen but 15 percent of college-age Americans. More Hispanics are attending elite schools, but the increase has not kept up with the huge growth of young Hispanics in the United States, so the gap between students and the college-age population has widened. Blacks and Hispanics have gained ground at less selective colleges and universities but not at the highly selective institutions. Elementary and secondary schools with large numbers of black and Hispanic students are less likely to have experienced teachers, advanced courses, high-quality instructional materials and adequate facilities, according to the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Persecution Watch

Pakistan is one of the most pernicious persecutors of Christians ever, reports the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ). Pakistani Christians are tortured, raped, and burned alive. Some are falsely accused of blasphemy and sentenced to execution by hanging because of their faith. Others face mob violence and governmental abuse and injustice. “Despite the increasing extremism, the Pakistani government persistently fails to protect Christians from violence or bring its perpetrators to justice. Even worse the government of Pakistan itself is one of the world’s worst jihadist persecutors of Christians. Yet it receives the most U.S. foreign aid of any nation.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s “fake hate” threat against Liberty Counsel and all pro-faith, pro-family Americans is escalating by the day. Apple’s announcement of a $1 million gift to the SPLC has further proliferated the SPLC’s attack campaign. J.P. Morgan — the nation’s largest bank — just announced it was donating $500,000 to SPLC, and yesterday, George Clooney through his foundation is donating $1 million. Apple has also enabled direct donations through its iTunes store, funneling potentially millions more to SPLC for its attacks. “These “endorsements” are further cementing the SPLC as the clearinghouse of the radical Left’s purge campaign that includes marginalizing people of faith and pro-family groups,” notes Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel.

Last week, CNN listed the American Family Association as a “hate group” which could easily incite violence and place AFA employees and supporters in harm’s way. After much outcry from AFA supporters and other pro-family organizations, CNN has since issued a correction and removed AFA from its website. However, CNN continues to link to the Southern Poverty Law Center website which still falsely lists AFA as a “hate group.” “While AFA wants CNN to fully retract the story, it is a positive sign that our voices are being heard.”

Economic News

Americans retreated from buying homes in July as sales sank 1.3% to their lowest level of the year. The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that sales of existing homes slipped 1.3% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.44 million. Despite the second straight monthly drop, sales are 2.1% higher than a year ago. But purchases are starting to slow as fewer properties are coming onto the market. The number of existing homes listed for sale has plunged 9 percent over the past 12 months to 1.92 million properties. This steep drop in inventory has led to prices consistently climbing faster than wages.

The delivery economy is growing so fast that government statistics seem unable to keep up. Food delivery, once largely limited to pizza and Chinese takeout, has exploded. The idea that virtually the entire world of retail and dining is available to consumers at home with a few taps of their smartphone keys has given rise to armies of delivery people, with announcements about new delivery options coming weekly. DoorDash, which started four years ago with only a few drivers, now has 100,000 “dashers.”  Postmates started in 2011 with only a few hundred delivery people and now has more than 65,000, reports USA Today. Pizza Hut announced it would hire 14,000 delivery drivers. Walmart is working with Uber to create a delivery service. Mobile delivery and take out accounted for 60% of all restaurant traffic in 2016.

Sears Holdings said Thursday that it would close another 28 Kmart locations as it continues its cost-cutting campaign amid a precipitous decline in the department-store sector. The Kmart closures add to a list of 330 Sears or Kmart locations shuttered or set to be closed later this year as the retailer seeks stability. Kohl’s said Tuesday that it is cutting floor space in “nearly half” of its stores as the department-store sector reels in competition with Amazon and nimble fast-fashion retailers. Unlike competitors Macy’s and J.C. Penney, Kohl’s has avoided major rounds of closures in recent years despite struggles for department stores.

Islamic State

A week after a terrorist van attack in Barcelona, Spain, left 15 people dead and more than 100 injured, the Islamic State released a video warning more attacks were imminent in the Iberian Peninsula. In the video, two ISIS fighters are heard speaking in Spanish proclaiming that Al Andalus, a region in central and southern Spain once controlled for more than five centuries by Muslims, would once against become “part of the caliphate.” “If you can’t make the hegira [journey] to the Islamic State, carry out jihad where you are; jihad doesn’t have borders,” one of the men says. “Spanish Christians: Don’t forget the Muslim blood spilled during the Spanish Inquisition,” Muhammad Ahram said in the video. “We will take revenge for your massacre, the one you are carrying out now against the Islamic State.”

At least 11 people have been beheaded in southern Libya following an attack apparently carried out by the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). Nine fighters loyal to the Libyan National Army (LNA), the force aligned with Libya’s eastern government, and two civilians were executed following an assault on a checkpoint 300 miles south of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in Jufra. The onslaught against the LNA forces, under the command of Gaddafi-era General Khalifa Haftar, comes as Libyan military sources warn ISIS is regrouping following catastrophic defeats in December 2016. The Times of London reported there were now believed to be 1,000 ISIS fighters in Libya.

Although Islamic State is losing fighters and territory in Iraq and Syria, it remained the world’s deadliest militant organization last year and the number of its attacks actually increased, according to a report from the University of Maryland. Islamic State operatives carried out more than 1,400 attacks last year and killed more than 7,000 people, representing a roughly 20% increase over 2015, according to the university’s Global Terrorism Database. The increase occurred even as overall militant attacks worldwide and resulting deaths fell about 10% in 2016.

North Korea

The Trump administration is imposing sanctions on 16 mainly Chinese and Russian companies and people for assisting North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and helping the North make money to support those programs. The Treasury Department says the penalties are intended to further isolate North Korea for its nuclear and missile tests. The 16 do business with previously sanctioned companies and people, work with the North Korean energy sector, help it place workers abroad or evade international financial curbs. The measures block any assets they may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from transactions with them.

Afghanistan

America’s longest war is going to get longer after President Trump late Monday outlined a strategy for the U.S. military in Afghanistan that gives the Pentagon the authority to increase troop levels and “fight to win” the nearly 16-year-old conflict. In a televised address, Trump admitted his initial instinct was to withdraw U.S. forces from the country. Instead, he unveiled a “path forward” mostly at odds with what he had been saying about Afghanistan for years. In his address Monday night, he conceded that troop withdrawal could lead to a security vacuum filled by terrorist groups including the Islamic State. The President is giving the Pentagon authority to ramp up troop levels in Afghanistan by several thousand, but said they would not divulge actual troop numbers. The president’s decision, several officials said, was less a change of heart than a weary acceptance of the case made by military leaders during months of debate. “This entire effort is intended to put pressure on the Taliban, to have the Taliban understand you will not win a battlefield victory,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday, the aim being to get them to the negotiating table.

Yemen

After two and a half years of war, little is functioning in Yemen. Repeated bombings have crippled bridges, hospitals and factories. Many doctors and civil servants have gone unpaid for more than a year. Malnutrition and poor sanitation have made the Middle Eastern country vulnerable to diseases that most of the world has confined to the history books. In just three months, cholera has killed nearly 2,000 people and infected more than a half million, one of the world’s largest outbreaks in the past 50 years. Yemen has long been the Arab world’s poorest country and suffered from frequent local armed conflicts. The most recent trouble started in 2014, when the Houthis, rebels from the north, allied with parts of the Yemeni military and stormed the capital, forcing the internationally recognized government into exile. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Arab nations launched a military campaign aimed at pushing back the Houthis and restoring the government. The campaign has so far failed to do so, and the country remains split between Houthi-controlled territory in the west and land controlled by the government and its Arab backers in the south and east. Many coalition airstrikes have killed and wounded civilians, including strikes on Wednesday around the capital. The bombings have also heavily damaged Yemen’s infrastructure, including a crucial seaport and important bridges as well as hospitals, sewage facilities and civilian factories.

Brazil

Brazil has opened a massive swath of the Amazon to mining. The government has abolished a reserve that straddles the northern states of Pará and Amapá, a move that opens the vast area to mineral exploration and commercial mining. The reserve, which was established in 1984, covers 18,000 square miles, an area twice the size of New Jersey. The government, which has previously said that the region is rich in minerals, gold and iron, framed the decision as an effort to bring new investment and jobs to a country that recently emerged from the longest recession in its history. Brazil said that mineral extraction would only be allowed in areas where there are no conservation controls or indigenous lands. An official report from 2010 said that up to two-thirds of the reserve is subject to such protections.

Earthquakes

Two people were killed and at least 39 were injured when a 4.3 magnitude earthquake struck the Italian island of Ischia Monday night. Firefighters worked overnight and into Tuesday morning to rescue three young brothers trapped under the rubble of a collapsed structure, and all three were removed from the building alive. The temblor was recorded at a depth of 6 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The resort island is located just off Naples.

Wildfires

Hundreds of people in Oregon near the path of totality of Monday’s eclipse were ordered to evacuate Friday as a raging wildfire closed in. The late afternoon order threatened to create more tie-ups on rural and narrow roads already expected to be burdened with up to 200,000 visitors coming to the area from all over the world to watch Monday’s total solar eclipse. About 1 million people are expected in Oregon, where the moon’s shadow first makes landfall in the continental U.S. About 600 residents were told to leave the tourist town of Sisters, Oregon, and authorities said Saturday another 1,000 people had been told to be ready to leave if necessary. No structures had been lost and no injuries have been reported since the fire began last week.

In California, authorities issued an evacuation order for the small town of Wawona as a week-old fire in Yosemite National Park grew and air quality reached a hazardous level. The U.S. Forest Service said the fire grew to more than 4 square miles overnight due to winds from thunderstorms. Authorities ordered people to leave as air quality was expected to worsen. The fire has closed campgrounds and trails in the national park since it began a week ago.

Weather

The Trump administration disbanded a 15-person advisory committee that helped communicate scientific climate change findings to businesses and government officials. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) acting chief Ben Friedman notified the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment that its charter would not be extended after its expiration on Sunday. Members of the committee lambasted the Trump Administration’s decision to dissolve the advisory committee. The move by the Trump administration was the latest roll-back of Obama-era climate change protection and adaptation policies. Last week, the Trump administration revoked an executive order that required strict building standards for all federal building projects to better prepare for sea level rise flooding. Earlier this year, Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord and cancel payments to the Green Climate Fund.

The Arctic is warming about twice as fast as other parts of the planet, and even in sub-Arctic Alaska the rate of warming is high. Sea ice and wildlife habitat are disappearing; higher sea levels threaten coastal native villages. But to the scientists from Woods Hole Research Center who have come to Alaska to study the effects of climate change, the most urgent is the fate of permafrost, the always-frozen ground that underlies much of the state. The permafrost is no longer permanent. Temperatures three feet down into the frozen ground are less than half a degree below freezing. Starting just a few feet below the surface and extending tens or even hundreds of feet down, the premafrost contains vast amounts of carbon in organic matter — plants that took carbon dioxide from the atmosphere centuries ago, died and froze before they could decompose. Worldwide, permafrost is thought to contain about twice as much carbon as is currently in the atmosphere.

A “quickly strengthening” Tropical Storm Harvey is now forecast to become a “major hurricane” before making landfall on the Texas coast and bring “life-threatening flooding” to portions of the state, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday. The storm’s maximum sustained winds are now 65 mph, but is forecast to grow into a “major hurricane” when it approaches the middle Texas coast on Friday, according to the NHC. Harvey is forecast to make landfall late Friday night or early Saturday morning along the south-central Texas coast, possibly as a Category 3 storm with winds upwards of 115 mph.

Typhoon Hato killed at least 16 people in Macau and southern China. Another 153 were injured amid extensive flooding and power outages. Flooding and injuries were also reported in Hong Kong, which lies across the water 40 miles from Macau, but there were no reports of deaths. Hato’s fierce gales blew out windows on skyscrapers in the Asian financial capital, raining shattered glass onto the eerily quiet streets below. Hong Kong’s weather authorities had raised the hurricane signal to the highest level for the first time in five years.