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News Briefs for January 11, 2019

­­­­­­Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)

Biblical Arguments For & Against a Border Wall

A case can be made both for and against a border wall using Scripture:

  • Pro: God “fixed the borders of the peoples” (Deuteronomy 32:8) and delineated the borders of the Promised Land (Numbers 34:1-15; Ezekiel 47:13-23). We are to guard ourselves against those who would harm us (Luke 11:21; Proverbs 25:26; Nehemiah 4:17-18).
  • Con: Scripture teaches: “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21; cf. Leviticus 19:33-34; Deuteronomy 10:18-19; 24:19-22; Ezekiel 47:21-23; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5; Matthew 25:35, 40; Hebrews 13:2).

There are no perfect solutions in this fallen world of good and evil – that is, until Jesus returns to establish His Kingdom of mercy and justice. In the meantime, however, as we try to balance these two Biblical principles, we must remember that Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to love God and to love every human being, even our enemies (Matthew 22:34-40, 5:43-48).

Migrant Flu, Pneumonia & Tuberculosis Rampant at Border

Border authorities have been referring 50 people a day for urgent medical care, including tuberculosis, flu, pneumonia and even pregnant women about to give birth, CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said. Most of those in need of care are children, and a staggering 28 percent are under age 5, having been dragged along for the trip by parents who in many cases are hoping to use the children as a shield against speedy deportation from the U.S. The numbers were released after a full review was done of all children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection in the wake of two illegal-immigrant children who died in U.S. hospitals in December. McAleenan said most of those needing help were ill when they arrived at the border, and some appear to have made the initial decision to leave even while ailing, adding that he’s never seen anything like this before.

What If the Government Shutdown Lasts for Months?

On Friday, hundreds of thousands of federal workers didn’t receive their paychecks for the first time in this shutdown. Senators passed a bill Thursday to ensure all federal employees, whether they are still working or were furloughed, will be paid in full when the partial government shutdown ends. Saturday will be the  22nd day of the shutdown, the longest in U.S. history. President Trump says he will keep the partial government shutdown going until he gets funding for the border wall. If so, NBC news says the following effects may be triggered: 38 million low-income Americans lose food stamps; 6 million face an uncertain timetable for collecting tax refunds; 2 million without rental assistance and facing possible eviction; 800,000 federal employees plunged into dire financial straits; Shuttered parks and museums while overstressed airports cause tourism to tank; Federal court system slows to a crawl; Disaster relief money doesn’t get to storm-ravaged areas.

  • Of course, this is a ‘doomsday’ scenario unlikely to fully manifest – Trump is more likely to declare a national emergency and use the Army Corps of Engineers to build the wall. White House officials also said Friday that they are considering diverting disaster relief funds toward building the wall.

New California Governor to Expand Health Coverage for Illegals

Newly sworn-in California Gov. Gavin Newsom has vowed to provide “sanctuary to all who seek it.”  Newsome also proposed extending state health care coverage to more illegal immigrants living within the Golden State’s borders. Hours after assuming office, Mr. Newsom released sweeping health care proposals to raise the age limit for illegal aliens covered by Medi-Cal from 19 to 26, which would make California “the first state in the nation to cover young undocumented adults through a state Medicaid program,” according to a Monday release from the governor’s office. Mr. Newsom, who ran on a universal health care platform, also proposed expanding Obamacare subsidies to middle-class earners and reinstating the Obamacare individual mandate at the state level. “No state has more at stake on the issue of health care. California must lead,” said Mr. Newsom in a statement. “We will use our market power and our moral power to demand fairer prices for prescription drugs. And we will continue to move closer to ensuring health care for every Californian.”

Anti-Trafficking Bill Signed into Law by President Trump

President Donald Trump has signed into law the Frederick Douglass Act, a bill authorizing $430 million to combat human trafficking. The measure, which was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), is designed to boost government efforts to prevent sex and labor trafficking and protect victims both nationally and internationally. The legislation received bipartisan support, with Rep. Karen Bass, a Democrat from California, co-sponsoring the bill. The legislation is named in honor of Frederick Douglass. Born into slavery around 1818, Douglass fought to abolish the institution. Serving as an American diplomat, he was the U.S. minister and consul general to Haiti for three years.

President Trump Halts FEMA Funds for California Wildfires

President Trump on Wednesday said he has ordered a halt to federal emergency funds for California to fight wildfires and manage its forests unless officials in the western U.S. state can “get their act together.” Trump accused the state of poor forest management. The state’s former top firefighter, Ken Pimlott, disagrees with Trump’s assessment. He said last month that California leads the nation in clearing away dead trees and thinning areas to remove fuel for fires. Insurance claims from the recent spate of California wildfires have topped $9 billion and are expected to grow, the state insurance commissioner reported last month.

Number of Abortion Facilities Continued to Decline in 2018

The number of abortion clinics in America continued to decline in 2018, following a trend that has seen an overall decrease of 159 abortion facilities since 2012, reports Operation Rescue. Overall, in 2018, 40 abortion facilities closed or no longer qualify as abortion clinics. Today, there are a total of 697 abortion centers left in America. That total includes 467 facilities that conduct surgical abortions – down dramatically from the high-water mark of 2,176 surgical facilities documented in 1991.  This represents a massive 79 percent decrease in the number of surgical abortion facilities over the past 27 years. Clinics that offered abortion drugs only, such as abortion pills or other chemical means, increased in number by 17 facilities to a total of 230.

Record Warming of Oceans is Accelerating

The world’s seas were the warmest on record in 2018, scientists announced Thursday. Also, ocean temperatures are rising faster than previously thought, a new paper said. Seas are warming as much as 40 percent faster than an estimate from a United Nations panel just five years ago. While 2018 was the 4th-warmest year on record in the atmosphere, it was the warmest year on record in the oceans, as was 2017 and 2016 before that. The unusual warmth in the seas is harming marine life and coral reefs. It’s also contributing to rising sea levels around the world as ice melts near Antarctica and Greenland.

  • End-time weather will continue to become more extreme (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11). “A third of the living creatures in the sea died.” (Revelation 8:9)

U.S. Cancer Death Rate has Declined for 25 Years

The rate of people dying from cancer in the United States has dropped steadily for 25 years, a new study says, but disparities remain between the rich and the poor. The overall nationwide cancer death rate fell continuously from 1991 to 2016 by a total of 27%, according to a study by the American Cancer Society. That translates to about 2.6 million fewer cancer deaths total than would have been expected if death rates stayed at their peak, which was seen in 1991. The data shows that the nationwide cancer death rate climbed during most of the  1900s, largely driven by jumps in lung cancer deaths due to smoking and tobacco use. The racial gap in cancer mortality is continuing to narrow – the cancer rate for blacks was 33% higher than whites in the mid-1990s, and the current data now indicate it’s just 14% higher. Between 2012 and 2016, the overall cancer death rate was about 20% higher among people living in the poorest counties in the United States compared with those in the most affluent counties. The socioeconomic inequalities in cancer mortality has widened over the past three decades overall. Meanwhile, on a global scale, the number of people around the world who have cancer appears to be growing, according to the World Health Organization.

USA Had World’s 3 Costliest Natural Disasters in 2018

The USA led the world in catastrophes last year. Racking up an overall damage cost of $16.5 billion, the devastating and deadly Camp Fire that ravaged California in November was the world’s costliest natural disaster in 2018. In second and third place last year were Hurricanes Michael ($16 billion) and Florence ($14 billion). Florence dumped heavy rain across the Carolinas in September, and Michael tore into the Florida Panhandle in October. Michael, which had a wind speed of 155 mph at landfall, was the fourth-strongest hurricane on record to hit the USA. It reduced the small town of Mexico Beach, Florida, to rubble. The disastrous Camp Fire, California’s deadliest on record with 86 fatalities, stood out for its ferocity: “Such massive wildfires appear to be occurring more frequently as a result of climate change,” said Torsten Jeworrek of insurance giant Munich Re. “Action is urgently needed on building codes and land use to help prevent losses.”

  • Extreme weather will continue to worsen as the end-times progress (Daniel 9:26b, Ezekiel 38:22, Luke 21:25, Revelation 8:7, 11:19, 16:8,11)

Economic News

The U.S. Postal Service lost $3.9 billion in 2018, attributing the losses to drops in mail volume and the costs of pensions and health care. It was the 12th year in a row the agency reported a loss despite growth in package shipping. Consequently, the Postal Service announced a 5-cent increase in the cost of the first-class forever stamps from 50 cents to 55 cents starting January 27th. The nickel increase is the largest percentage rise since 1991, when postage increased from 25 to 29 cents. Other mailing services will see price increases averaging about 2.5 percent.

It’s not just stocks: the global housing market is in for a rough patch, which has turned ugly for many homeowners and investors from Vancouver to London, with markets in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia already showing increased signs of softening. Macro factors have triggered a global economic slowdown that is unraveling luxury marketplaces worldwide, according to Bloomberg. As a result, a turning point has been reached, with home prices globally now under pressure, and rising mortgage rates leading to depressed consumer optimism, while also triggering a housing affordability crisis, S&P Global Ratings said in a December report. To make matters worse, a simultaneous drop in house prices globally could lead to “financial and macroeconomic instability,” the IMF warned.

Baby boomers were supposed to be retiring. Instead, they’re still driving U.S. job growth. Americans 55 and over made up about half of all employment gains in 2018 despite only representing a quarter of the total work force. Of the 2.9 million new jobs recorded by Labor’s survey of households last year, 1.4 million were taken by people 55 and over. And in December, 39.2 percent of Americans in that age group were working, the largest portion since 1961, according to the monthly employment report of the Labor Department.

According to a recent survey by Bankrate, nearly 40% of all Americans now have a side hustle. Of course, a side hustle can be almost anything, be it the full-time employee who drives for Lyft after work, or the stay-at-home mom who sells her art on Etsy, or the musician who teaches piano between gigs. But whatever the case, the advent of the gig economy means that these side hustles are not unusual. In fact, they are usually lucrative. According to Bankrate, the average side hustler earns about $8,000 a year.

The global market for smartphones is shrinking, and two of its biggest players are hurting badly. Apple and Samsung have both warned of slumping sales in the last quarter of 2018. Samsung’s South Korean competitor LG warned of an 80% drop in operating profit in the same period compared to the previous year. The industry declined around 1% in 2018, according to preliminary forecasts by tech consultancies Canalys and Counterpoint Research. That’s the first annual decline for the smartphone market ever. IDC, another research firm, has forecast that the drop will be as steep as 3%.The main drag has come from the world’s biggest smartphone market, China, where sales have been falling for almost two years. due to a slowing economy, a weaker currency and a long-drawn out trade battle with the United States.

Middle East

After years of advocacy work and 18 months of governmental research, Israel says it is ready to demand compensation for property and assets left behind by Jews who were forced out of seven Arab countries and Iran following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. “The time has come to correct the historic injustice of the pogroms” in those countries, and “to restore to hundreds of thousands of Jews who lost their property what is rightfully theirs,” said Israel’s Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel, who is coordinating the government’s handling of the issue. Israel is set to seek $250 billion in compensation from Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, and Iran. Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), an international umbrella group of Jewish community organizations, has estimated that some 856,000 Jews from 10 Arab countries fled or were expelled in 1948 and later, while violent riots left many Jews dead or injured.

During a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, the Israeli leader raised the issue of the United States’ recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Netanyahu said, “When you’re there, you’ll be able to understand perfectly why we’ll never leave the Golan Heights, and why it’s important that all countries recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.” Israel captured the area after Syria and three other Arab nations attacked the Jewish state in 1967’s Six Day War. Israel defeated the Arab forces and gained control of the Golan, in addition to all of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, the Gaza Strip, and the Sinai Peninsula. The international community has been reticent to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the strategically crucial territory.

Israeli Air Force fighter jets and an attack helicopter struck a number of terror targets at a Hamas military camp in the north of the Gaza Strip last Sunday night. The air attack was in retaliation for a missile that was launched earlier that evening from Hamas territory toward the Israeli city of Ashkelon. The missile was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile system. The Hamas missile launch may have been in retaliation an attack by Israeli military choppers on two Hamas positions east of the city of Khan Younis earlier Sunday evening in response to an improvised explosive device (IED) tied to a cluster of balloons that terrorists launched from Gaza into Israel.

Syria

President Trump’s national security adviser, John R. Bolton, rolled back on Sunday Trump’s decision to rapidly withdraw from Syria, laying out conditions for a pullout that could leave American forces there for months or even years. Bolton, making a visit to Israel, told reporters that American forces would remain in Syria until the last remnants of the Islamic State were defeated and Turkey provided guarantees that it would not strike Kurdish forces allied with the United States. He and other top White House advisers have led a behind-the-scenes effort to slow Mr. Trump’s order and reassure allies, including Israel. However, the first U.S. troops have begun to leave Syria, the New York Times reported Friday. The Pentagon is providing few details, except to say the U.S.-led coalition had “begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal.”

Egypt

Christians in Egypt are celebrating the dedication of the Middle East’s largest church for Coptic Christians. The building is a gift to the Church from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. He commissioned the cathedral in 2017 as part of a new capital being built outside of Cairo. He said the new church should be considered “a message of peace and love to the world.” Joel Rosenberg, who led a delegation of evangelicals to the dedication ceremony, said, “I really think it’s a game changer that a Sunni Arab Muslim President of the world’s largest Arab country has built a church, the largest in the Middle East and given it as a gift to the Christians of Egypt. We’ve never seen anything like it in history. And I think President Sisi is sending a message not just to his own people but to all Muslims that Muslims and Christians can live together in coexistence. That’s an extraordinary development.”

United Kingdom

More Britons want to remain a member of the European Union than leave, according to a survey published on Sunday which also showed voters want to make the final decision themselves. Britain is due leave the EU on March 29, but Prime Minister Theresa May is struggling to get her exit deal approved by parliament, opening up huge uncertainty over whether a deal is possible, or even whether the country will leave at all. The survey by polling firm YouGov showed that if a referendum were held immediately, 46 percent would vote to remain, 39 percent would vote to leave, and the rest either did not know, would not vote, or refused to answer the question.

China

Two Huawei executives have been arrested in Poland on charges of spying for China. Poland’s counterintelligence service confirmed on Friday that a Chinese citizen suspected of spying had been arrested. Polish state media identified the suspect as Huawei’s sales director in the country. Huawei is one of China’s leading tech companies. It sells more smartphones than Apple and builds advanced telecommunications networks in countries around the world. Huawei is viewed by U.S. government officials as a national security risk which has been dodging the sanctions on Iran and embedding spyware into its telecommunications products. Other countries have concerns too: Huawei has been prevented from supplying next-generation 5G equipment to Australia and New Zealand. The company has attracted greater scrutiny following the arrest of its chief financial officer last month in Canada.

Congo

The Congo’s Catholic Church has rejected the results of the Central African nation’s presidential election, saying they don’t match the data collected by its observers. There was widespread surprise Thursday after the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s electoral commission announced that opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi had won the presidency. The Catholic group known as the National Episcopal Conference of Congo, said it had deployed more than 40,000 observers to all polling centers across the country. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also said the election results did not match what was witnessed during the vote count. The results came after nearly two weeks of speculation and reports of irregularities in the December 30 vote. If deemed legitimate, it would be the country’s first democratic transition of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Environment

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions rose an estimated 3.4 percent in 2018, according to new research — a jarring increase fueled by a booming economy still largely dependent on fossil fuels. Even with the closing of several coal plants, it’s the biggest increase in eight years, according to a preliminary estimates published Tuesday. The surge comes as scientists say the world needs to be aggressively cutting its emissions to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change. The new research indicates that U.S. power-sector emissions rose by 1.9%. and that the transportation sector “held its title as the largest source of U.S. emissions for the third year running,” due to a growth in demand for diesel and jet fuel offsetting a modest decline in gasoline use.

Each year, monarchs in the western United States migrate from inland areas to California’s coastline to spend the winter The number of monarch butterflies turning up at California’s wintering sites has dropped by about 86% compared to only a year ago, according to the Xerces Society, which organizes a yearly count of the iconic creatures. That’s bad news for a species whose numbers have already declined an estimated 97 percent since the 1980s. The count so far shows that the number of monarchs at 97 sites has dropped from around 148,000 in 2017 to just over 20,400 this year. What’s causing the dramatic drop-off is a mystery.

Weather

A sprawling winter storm is spreading snow along a 1,500-mile path from Denver to New York City. It will crank up on Friday and should last until at least late Sunday before it peters out. Other big cities in the path of the storm include Kansas City, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Washington and Baltimore. St. Louis should see the most snow from the storm, with as much as 8 inches likely. Snow should start there on Friday morning, potentially leading to commuting issues. For many areas, this will be a long-duration winter storm event that lasts more than 12 hours and perhaps as much as 48 hours in some cases, AccuWeather said.

The threat of avalanches kept communities in the northern Alps on edge after a series of storms pummeled Central, Eastern and Northern Europe with heavy snow, killing at least 16. The latest storm left several dead over the weekend and trapped hundreds of tourists in alpine villages. Travel in the region has been crippled by the heavy snowfall, with numerous train connections halted and hundreds of flights canceled. Many roadways, including major highways, are closed because of the treacherous conditions. Some ski resorts have reported up to 7 feet of snow in higher elevations, forcing some resorts to close. Several people were injured Thursday after an avalanche triggered by heavy snow accumulation struck a hotel in northeastern Switzerland.

The series of storms started with a powerhouse tempest sweeping in from the North Atlantic into Scandinavia and northern Europe as the new year arrived. Strong onshore winds drove water levels up to 6 feet above normal Germany. Water levels in some parts of Denmark were the highest in two decades. The system then took a sharp nosedive into eastern Europe, driving moist cold air into the higher elevations and pouring out prolific mountain snow over parts of the Alps and other mountain ranges of eastern and southern Europe. Several feet of snow buried parts of southern Poland. Residents of some Italian villages resorted to digging narrow alleys to get through city streets. Heavy snow also triggered travel headaches in Greece. Snow in Istanbul, Turkey, delayed flights Friday and Monday. Much heavier snow fell over mountain locations of central and eastern Turkey. Heavy snow stranded motorists in the higher elevations of Lebanon Sunday and Monday.

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

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