News Briefs for January 21, 2017
Trump Brings Populism to Washington
The 45th President of the United States blazed onto the campaign trail more than a year ago with a message that stunned the Washington establishment, reports CNN. He was going to be a pure populist. He promised to give voice to “forgotten Americans.” He said he would restore wealth to a middle class left behind in the economic resurgence. In his first address as commander in chief Friday, he delivered that very same message. His words were a remarkable repudiation, not only of his predecessor’s agenda, but what he views as a failure of government of all political stripes. There was no explicit embrace of Republican values, no clear ideological bent — only a vow to reshape government to serve the “tens of millions” of frustrated Americans who rose up to support his campaign. He rebuked the “small group in our nation’s capital” that “has reaped the rewards the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.”
“The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer,” and viewed his vows as “an oath of allegiance to all Americans.” He also made repeated calls for unity, as well as compassion for “mothers and children trapped in poverty in inner cities,” Americans affected by “shuttered factories” that “have left our shores,” and people impacted by crime, gangs and drugs “that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.” “Most Importantly, we Are Protected by God,” Trump affirmed. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas became the first African-American to administer the oath of office at a presidential inauguration.
World Reaction to Trump’s Inauguration Varies
On the streets, in small gatherings and in the halls of government, people around the globe weighed in on US President Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday, anticipating how his policies may play out on the international stage. But it was Russia’s officials who tweeted some of the most celebratory messages, with one senator calling the day “a defining moment in history.” A Women’s March in Brussels elicited criticism of Trump’s offensive comments about women and alleged cases of sexual harassment. The demonstration drew participants from a range of countries, including Norway and Spain. Cuba’s state media paid little attention and China cast a wary eye in what could be a more contentious relationship between the world’s two largest economies. Trump received a warm congratulations from India’s prime minister, but Iran ripped the U.S. for its policies in Syria. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent him a welcoming tweet, “”Congrats to my friend President Trump. Look fwd to working closely with you to make the alliance between Israel & USA stronger than ever.” Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto tweeted nearly two hours after Trump’s address, congratulating the new leader and expressing a desire to strengthen the relationship between the countries.
More Than 200 Arrested in D.C. Protests on Inauguration Day
President Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day was slightly marred by noisy demonstrations, shoving matches and sporadic clashes with cops that resulted in more than 200 arrests. Three-thousand members of local, state and federal law enforcement — backed by 5,000 National Guard members and police officers from as far away as New Jersey — patrolled the streets as the evening’s festivities got under way as the of protesters threatened more disruptions. Acting Police Chief Peter Newsham said that by around 6:30 p.m. ET things had calmed down, but authorities were still monitoring several groups. The worst fracas on Friday erupted in Franklin Square, about a mile-and-a-half from Capitol Hill, just before Trump’s swearing-in ceremony got underway, police said. Six police officers suffered minor injuries when protesters flung bricks, trash cans and other objects, and ignited small fires. Four businesses were vandalized and sustained significant damage and, demonstrators also torched a limousine. All of the 217 people arrested on Friday were charged with rioting,
Pro-Choice Women’s March on Washington Dumps Pro-Life Group
The day after the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, as many as 200,000 women will march on Washington to “send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.” Pro-life women will be welcome at the event, they say, but organizers removed one pro-life group after backlash over the weekend. The group in question, New Wave Feminists, say they want to “take feminism back from those who have corrupted it.” In statements on their blog, they tie this corruption to those who support abortion. “Abortion creates a world that is undeniably anti-woman,” the NSF said. The march’s organizers issued a statement addressing the removal Monday. “The Women’s March’s platform is pro-choice and that has been our stance from day one.”
UN Ambassador Nominee Nikki Haley Will Oppose Making Abortion a Human Right
During her confirmation hearing Wednesday, Trump UN Ambassador nominee Nikki Haley told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that she will oppose abortion on an international level, saying she is “strongly pro-life.” The United Nations appointment is important as pro-abortion nations are pushing the United Nations to make abortion a so-called human right. Previously, the Obama administration had joined those other nations to push abortion on an international level. As UN Ambassador, South Carolina Governor Haley could help stop that effort and work to ensure that unborn children are respected in that International body.
U.S. Abortions Drop Below One Million Annually
For the first time in more than four decades, abortions dropped below 1 million annually in the United States, according to a new report from the Alan Guttmacher Institute. The pro-abortion research group, considered to have the most comprehensive abortion numbers for the U.S., reported an estimated 926,200 abortions in 2014 and 958,700 in 2013. Notably, the pro-abortion researchers partially attributed the decline to pro-life efforts. In the past, Guttmacher and other abortion advocacy groups have avoided giving pro-lifers credit for the declines.
Trump Signs Anti-ObamaCare Executive Order
President Trump signed an executive order late Friday giving federal agencies broad powers to unwind regulations created under the Affordable Care Act, which might include enforcement of the penalty for people who fail to carry the health insurance that the law requires of most Americans. The executive order, signed in the Oval Office as one of the new president’s first actions, directs agencies to grant relief to all constituencies affected by the sprawling 2010 health-care law: consumers, insurers, hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, states and others. It does not describe specific federal rules to be softened or lifted, but it appears to give room for agencies to eliminate an array of ACA taxes and requirements.
Fox News Poll: Views on ObamaCare Shift
The number of voters who want Obamacare completely repealed is at a new low — as is the number who wants to keep it as is. And for the first time, more favor expanding the law than killing it entirely. Yet a new Fox News Poll also finds a majority continues to favor at least partial repeal of the health care law. The poll, released Thursday, finds 57 percent of voters favor doing away with all (23 percent) or parts of Obamacare (34 percent). On the other hand, 41 percent would expand it (28 percent) or leave the law as is (13 percent). Since 2010, between 54-61 percent have favored repealing at least some of the law, and 31-41 percent have favored keeping or expanding it. What’s new is only 23 percent want the law repealed entirely. That’s down from 32 percent in July 2015 and a high of 39 percent in June 2013.
Gen. James Mattis, Gen. John Kelly Confirmed for Trump Cabinet
Gen. James Mattis was confirmed as Secretary of Defense and Gen. John Kelly was confirmed as Secretary of Homeland Security, the first of Trump’s Cabinet nominees to be officially voted upon Friday. Mattis was approved by a vote of 98-1. Trump signed the commissions for Mattis and Kelly later Friday. Vice President Mike Pence swore in both Generals. Noting the Senate approved seven of former President Obama’s Cabinet nominees on the first day of his administration in 2009, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chastised Democrats for refusing to consider confirmation of more of Trump’s nominees.
Republicans Move to Slash Obama-Era Rules
After just two weeks of work, the House has already passed several sweeping bills that, if enacted, would roll back scores of Obama administration regulations and make it significantly harder for future presidents — including Trump — to write similar rules. One measure would allow Congress to eliminate a host of regulations in one fell swoop, while another would make it harder for agencies to issue rules to begin with. Next month, the House is expected to take up more targeted measures that would use fast-track procedures to undo several recent rules issued by executive-branch agencies. The effort to eliminate existing regulations and place curbs on future ones has garnered almost unheard-of unanimity among fractious House Republicans and heralds sweeping changes to federal labor, environmental and financial oversight as the GOP takes control of Washington.
Former Texas Governor Perry Changes His Positions
In Rick Perry’s confirmation hearing for his nomination as Energy Secretary, he modified his positions on climate change and eliminating the Energy Department. Perry said he believes the climate is changing, contrary to what Trump has said in the past. “I believe the climate is changing,” he said, adding “some is caused by human activity.” He added that he wants to figure out how to deal with it so that it doesn’t jeopardize productivity in the U.S. Perry also said in his hearing that he regrets saying in the past that he wanted to get rid of the energy department. “My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking. In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.”
Obama Gives Another $500 Million to Global Climate Fund
With just three days left in office, the Obama administration has doubled an initial $500 million commitment to a fund that helps developing nations fight climate change and adapt to its consequences. The State Department’s announcement Tuesday brings U.S. contributions to the Green Climate Fund to $1 billion since 2016. The fund helps poor countries reduce carbon emissions by promoting clean energy and spurring private investment in the field. President-elect Donald Trump and a number of GOP lawmakers have complained that support for the fund wasn’t specifically approved by Congress. The administration argues the current fiscal year’s budget allows it to take the money from an unobligated portion of a total of $4.3 billion in economic support fund assistance.
Obama Commutes the Most Sentences Ever
President Barack Obama granted 330 commutations, the White House announced Thursday, the most commutations given in a single day by a US president. The move brings the total number of individuals who sentences Obama reduced to a total of 1,715 commutations and 212 pardons, including 568 who had been sentenced to life in prison. The large majority of sentences Obama commuted Thursday — and in total — were those that came from nonviolent drug offenses. In comparison, George W. Bush commuted 11 and pardoned 189 while Bill Clinton commuted 61 and pardoned 396.
Economic News – Domestic
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen gave the U.S. economy a nearly clean bill of health, two days before Donald Trump arrives at the White House. “Now, it’s fair to say, the economy is near maximum employment and inflation is moving toward our goal,” Yellen said in a speech Wednesday in San Francisco. She touted the economy’s performance over the last several years, noting that over 15 million jobs had been added since 2010, and that unemployment had dropped to 4.7% from 10% in 2009. But she admitted the economy’s recovery has “been a long, slow slog.” Yellen reiterated that she and other Fed leaders expect to raise rates a “few times a year” until 2019.
Saudi Arabia tried to kill off the U.S. oil boom. Instead, it just made the industry more efficient. The U.S. shale industry is “much leaner and fitter” following a massive slump in oil prices last year, according to the International Energy Agency. “Not only is the [U.S.] rig count rising, but recent reports tell us that the productivity of shale activity has improved in leaps and bounds,” the IEA said in a new report released Thursday.
Economic News – International
Banks are already preparing to move thousands of jobs out of Britain after Prime Minister Theresa May revealed that she supported a complete break with the European Union, as voters decided last year. May said Tuesday that Brexit meant the U.K. would also cease to be a member of the European Union’s single internal market. That is forcing banks and financial services based in Britain to shift jobs and operations to the EU to ensure they can continue to do business across the bloc’s 27 remaining members.
According to figures released by the Treasury Department on Wednesday evening, China’s holdings of U.S. government bonds fell $66 billion in November to $1.05 trillion. It is the sixth straight month that China has reduced its exposure to U.S. Treasuries. Since May, the value of China’s Treasury holdings has dropped by nearly $195 billion. Japan passed China in October to become the largest foreign owner of U.S. debt. However, Japan also cut back on its Treasury holdings in November, reducing them by $23.3 billion to about $1.11 trillion. This is the fourth straight month that Japan has pulled back on U.S. debt. It has cut its holdings by $46 billion since July. The selling began before Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. Russia boosted its Treasury position by $12 billion, but its debt holdings pale in comparison to Japan and China.
As Italy looks for fresh ways to cope with the hundreds of thousands of migrants bottled up in the country, one solution is rising to the top of the agenda: deportation. The pressure on Rome to ease its migration problem is growing after the country saw a record 180,000 migrants arrive by boat last year, bringing the total of seaborne arrivals to about half a million since the start of 2014. The revelation that the Tunisian man accused of a deadly attack on a Berlin Christmas market had evaded an Italian expulsion order also has given Italy new impetus to toughen its stance. In response, the new government of Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni is set to unveil plans Wednesday to open 16 new detention centers throughout the country to hold migrants who receive expulsion orders, enabling Rome to raise the number of forced repatriations. They are also ordering police to intensify efforts to find illegal migrants.
Police forces throughout Israel were on high alert Wednesday following morning clashes between police and residents of an unrecognized Beduin village in the Negev which left one police officer and his alleged assailant dead. Arab-Israeli MK Ayman Odeh of the Joint (Arab) List faction was also wounded in the melee which occurred as police entered the unrecognized village of Umm al-Hiran to carry out demolitions of illegally constructed buildings. According to police accounts, soon after they entered the village a truck driven by Yacoub Abu al Kian, a 50 year-old school teacher with ties to the Islamist Movement (which is the Israeli-Arab franchise of the Moslem Brotherhood) “accelerated his car towards the officers to carry out a ramming attack.” He was successful in hitting several officers including 34 year-old Erez Levy, who was killed as a result of the attack. Surviving officers then fired on the vehicle, killing al Kian.
In 2013, the only legal decision about who rightfully owns the West Bank was issued by Versailles Court of Appeal who ruled that Israel, not the Palestinians, is the legal occupant of the West Bank. The case involved the building of the Jerusalem light rail system. A French company won the bid and the job was completed in 2011. The rail line extends across Jerusalem all the way to the east side and the and the so-called ‘occupied territories’. The PLO filed a complaint with the High Court (Tribunal de Grande Instance) of Versailles France, against Alstom and Veolia, because the construction of the tram is illegal since the UN, the EU, many NGOs and governments consider that Israel illegally occupies the Palestinian territories. The court rejected all the PLO arguments and concluded that Israel has legal rights to the territory, a decision that the mainstream media has conveniently ignored.
Since declaring its caliphate in June 2014, the self-proclaimed Islamic State has conducted or inspired more than 140 terrorist attacks in 29 countries other than Iraq and Syria, where its carnage has taken a much deadlier toll. Those attacks have killed at least 2,043 people and injured thousands more, according to CNN.
U.S. B-2 bombers struck and destroyed two ISIS camps in Libya Wednesday night, with initial estimates that over 80 militants were killed, U.S. officials said Thursday. There were no women or children in the area, the official said. The mission, expected to be the last, was approved several days ago by the President Obama. The strikes were on external actors who were actively “plotting attacks in Europe,” Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told reporters. “They (the ISIS fighters) posed a security threat to Libya, the region, and US national interests,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement. “While we are still evaluating the results of the strikes, the initial assessment indicates they were successful.” A U.S. defense official said the militants were seen immediately beforehand carrying weapons, wearing tactical vests, holding mortars and standing in formation.
The U.S. Air Force conducted a second “major strike” in consecutive days killing over 100 Al Qaeda fighters at a training camp in northern Syria on Friday. A single U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber and an undisclosed number of drones dropped 14 precision-guided bombs at noon eastern time Thursday on an Al Qaeda “basic training” camp in Syria west of the city of Aleppo near the border with Turkey. A Pentagon official described the fighters as “core Al Qaeda,” and said the camp had been operational since at least 2013. The latest strike was President Barack Obama’s last as commander-in-chief.
A bomb exploded Saturday in a market in a northwest tribal region that borders Afghanistan, killing 22 people and wounding at least 50, officials said. The explosion took place when the market was crowded with retailers buying fruits and vegetables from a wholesale shop. Lashker-e-Jhangvi, a banned sectarian militant group that has attacked minority Shiites Muslims in the past, claimed responsibility for the attack. Shiites are a minority in Sunni-dominated Pakistan.
Boko Haram extremists attacked a refugee camp in Nigeria on Thursday evening, with reports suggesting the death toll could be as high as 170. Over 100 Boko Haram fighters launched the attack as soldiers battled for hours trying to repel them, according to witnesses. The attack came after Nigeria’s air force bombed a camp housing Boko Haram refugees multiple times on Tuesday. Nigerian officials called the attack an accident. Medical charity Doctors Without Borders said on Friday that “around 90” people were killed in the bombing. The charity also noted that residents and community leaders said the death toll could potentially be as high as 170.
A swarm of moderate earthquakes struck central Italy Wednesday afternoon, shaking many of the same towns that were devastated by a pair of strong earthquakes last year. The U.S. Geological Survey said three earthquakes of magnitude 5.3 or higher were located near the town of Amatrice. The largest tremor was a 5.7, which was reported 3 miles west-southwest of Amatrice at 11:14 a.m. local time. Shaking was felt as far away as Rome, and as a precaution, the subway was shut down in Rome, and parents were asked to pick up their children from school early. No deaths have been reported. Heavy snow in central Italy crippled travel in recent days, which will further complicate rescue and relief efforts.
An outbreak of severe thunderstorms is expected this weekend in parts of the Gulf Coast and Deep South, with damaging winds, tornadoes, and heavy rain triggering flash flooding. Four people were killed when a tornado touched down in the city of Hattiesburg, Mississippi early Saturday morning as many residents slept. Firefighters and police were going door-to-door to rescue tornado victims. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said that structural damage was reported in Forrest, Lamar and Perry Counties in the area. Search and Rescue teams were dispatched to help emergency management officials in the Hattiesburg area. Interstate 59 north of Hattiesburg was also closed due to debris.
Hundreds of travelers were stranded in Oregon Friday after Winter Storm Kori forced officials to close more than 200 miles of Interstate 80. In addition, Interstate 82 was also shut down between I-84 and the Washington border. Earlier in the week, parts of I-90 near Snoqualmie Pass were closed due to snow slides and freezing rain that caused multiple spinouts. Hundreds of truck drivers and other travelers left stranded in motel rooms or along the side of the road. More than 20 people escaped injury when a flood swept cabins and vehicles down a coastal canyon as the second in a trio of storms drenched California with heavy rain and brought more snow to the mountains. After years of dry weather, California has been buffeted by rain and snow this winter. Northern California has gotten the lion’s share and most of that region has now emerged from drought.
Two leading U.S. science agencies Wednesday jointly declared 2016 the hottest year on record, surpassing the previous record set just last year — which, itself, had topped a record set in 2014. Average surface temperatures in 2016, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, were 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than 2015, and featured eight successive months (January through August) that were individually the warmest since the agency’s record began in 1880. The average temperature across the world’s land and ocean surfaces was 58.69 Fahrenheit, or 1.69 degrees above the 20th century average of 57 degrees, NOAA declared. NASA concurred with NOAA, also declaring 2016 the warmest year on record in its own dataset that tracks the temperatures at the surface of the planet’s land and oceans. NASA actually found a bigger leap upward of temperatures in 2016, measuring the year as .22 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the prior record year of 2015. The agency also noted that just since the year 2001 the planet has seen “16 of the 17 warmest years on record.”
- Records only go back to 1880. Historically, warm and cold cycles can go on for much longer, so it is not conclusive that this is an ongoing trend. However, end-time prophecies support weather getting warmer and more extreme (Daniel 9:26b, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)
This news brief contributed by Pastor John Jacobsen, author of a number of exciting Christian fiction novels about the End Times (see www.johnajacobsen.com). You can contact him on Facebook or purchase his books at Amazon.com at: https://www.amazon.com/End-Beginning-John-Jacobsen-ebook/dp/B005DTO2SO