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News Briefs for May 17, 2019

­­­­­­From the end of the earth I will cry to You. When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. (Psalm 61:2-4)

More States Advancing Anti-Abortion Bills

State governments are on a course to virtually eliminate abortion access in large chunks of the Deep South and Midwest. Ohio and Kentucky also have passed heartbeat laws; Missouri’s Republican-controlled legislature just passed one. If a new Mississippi law survives a court challenge, it will be nearly impossible for most pregnant women to get an abortion there. Or, potentially, in neighboring Louisiana. Or Alabama. Or Georgia. The Louisiana legislature is halfway toward passing a law — like the ones enacted in Mississippi and Georgia — that will ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, about six weeks into a pregnancy. The states hope that a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court will approve, leading to the end of the constitutional right to abortion.

  • Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed the controversial Alabama abortion bill into law on Wednesday. The law will make nearly all abortions in the state illegal and make performing one a felony, punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison unless the mother’s health is at risk, with no exceptions for women impregnated by rape or incest. Televangelist Pat Robertson said the law has “gone too far” and was “ill considered.”
  • The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) vowed to sue. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Wednesday declared abortion is a “constitutional right,” in response to the total abortion ban in Alabama. The statement prompted swift rebukes demanding to know exactly where the constitution makes abortion a right.

House Passes LGBTQ ‘Equality Act’

Democrats on Capitol Hill passed legislation that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights law. If signed into law, the Equality Act would ban discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, education, federal programs and credit. And it would effectively obliterate the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That law stops the government from encroaching on a person’s religious liberty. Under the Equality Act, some Christian leaders say that churches may come under attack for discriminatory beliefs and practices. The law could force churches to be forced to host events and other celebrations against their beliefs. In addition, Natasha Chart, board chair of the Women’s Liberation Front, teamed up with Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America to warn that, “Under this bill, men and boys [who identify as women and girls] will take away women’s small business grants and hard-won spots on sports teams; they will be allowed to live in women’s domestic violence shelters and use our locker rooms.”

Parents Keep 700 Students Home to Protest LGBT Elementary Curriculum

Two days after a California school board approved new curriculum that includes LGBT history, parents of more than 700 students kept their children home in protest. The Rocklin School District Board approved the curriculum on May 1 by a vote of 3-2, requiring students in kindergarten through fifth grades to learn about the contributions of key LGBT figures in history and social studies curriculum. The board’s action was in response to a new state law requiring schools to include the contributions of “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans” in history lessons. Unlike sex-ed, there is no opt-out for parents in the law. “We believe that anyone who has made a significant contribution to society should, of course, be included in our history textbooks,” Rachel Crutchfield, spokeswoman for Informed Parents of Rocklin had said earlier in the week. “However, the concept of sexual orientation is far too complex of a topic for elementary-aged children.”

Charter School ‘Liberates’ Children at Gay Pride Event

Central Park School for Children in North Carolina held a week-long celebration of gay pride where they are urging boys and girls to liberate themselves, reports Todd Starnes. Recently, the charter school hosted a Pride and Liberation Event for boys and girls in grades K through 8. The children will be learning all about the LGBTQ movement – from drag queens to something called queer history. The Raleigh News & Observer reported the pride and liberation event was in response to bullying at the school. Journalist A.P. Dillon first reported about the school’s activities after someone sent her emails written by administrators. “The e-mail also said that they didn’t want teachers to tell this to the parents until they had actually rolled it out. So parents were going to be getting blindsided so I decided that I would go ahead and publish this,” Dillon said.

Texas County Votes 5-0 to Keep Courthouse Crosses

A small Texas town is rejecting demands from an atheist organization to remove crosses from the county courthouse, and it’s getting the support of the state attorney general’s office, too. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter in late April to officials in Coldspring, Texas, asserting that four white crosses on the sides of the building violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on government establishment of religion. But last week the San Jacinto County Commissioners voted unanimously, 5-0, to keep the crosses on the courthouse, KPCR-TV reported. More than 600 residents attended the commissioners’ meeting. The population of Coldspring, Texas, is about 900. The Texas Attorney General’s office applauded the commissioners’ decision and pledged its legal support if FFRF files suit.

VP Pence Warns Liberty University Graduates to Be Ready for Persecution

In a commencement speech delivered at Liberty University last Saturday, Vice President Pence told thousands of students that they should “be ready” for an increase in personal attacks on their faith. In a bid to encourage and equip young Christians to live out their calling in our modern secular culture, Pence warned that, increasingly, believers will be asked to “tolerate things” that go completely against their personal faith and spiritual convictions. “You’re going to be asked to bow down to the idols of the popular culture,” he explained, noting that it has become “acceptable and even fashionable to ridicule and discriminate against people of faith.” Pence noted that “some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs,” referencing the left’s blatant double-standards.

Migrant Update

The fiscal year ends Sept. 30 but given current trends which show a steadily increasing number of children and families attempting to sneak in, Homeland Security says it will exhaust its money to deal with the border situation well before then. “The problem we face is huge, short term fixes will not cut it, and we need sustained investment and additional emergency support at the Southwest border to overcome the humanitarian and security crisis. The president’s budget will do that,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said.

The Trump administration unveiled a multi-tiered plan to pay for construction of a Mexico border wall. The government intends to begin awarding the latest tranche of contracts Thursday, drawing on $2.5 billion from the Defense Department, primarily from budgets for drug interdiction and counter-drug activities, the Justice Department said in a court filing Wednesday. That amount is all that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is currently prepared to give President Donald Trump for the project, according to the filing. An additional $600 million will come from the Treasury Department’s Forfeiture Fund. A federal judge in Oakland, California, is scheduled Friday to hear a request by the Sierra Club to block Trump from diverting taxpayer funds for the project.

The Transportation Security Administration is preparing to send up to 400 workers to the southern border to assist with the rising number of Central American migrants, but officials say the move shouldn’t affect air travel as the summer travel season gets underway. TSA officials do not plan to include people who conduct security screenings at U.S. airports. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which is primarily responsible for securing the southern border and processing the record numbers of migrants crossing it, has already received help from thousands of National Guardsmen and active-duty military troops. Now, the Trump administration is seeking volunteers from across the federal government to help with the ever-growing number of migrants seeking asylum in the United States.

President Trump proposed a new immigration system Thursday that gives preference to high-skilled immigrants such as scientists and engineers. However, the plan deals only with legal immigration, not the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. or the roughly 3.6 million “Dreamers” who were illegally brought into the country as minors. Developed by senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, the plan is designed to create a “merit-based” point system for people seeking to enter the U.S., moving away from the mostly family-based immigration system in place today. The plan is certain to face resistance from lawmakers who believe it is more of a campaign document than a legislative proposal.

Google Top Stories Discriminates Against Conservatives

Google’s Top Stories box provides users with articles from left-leaning news organizations such as CNN 62.4 percent of the time — with only 11.3 percent coming from outlets that are considered conservative, according to a study by Northwestern University researchers. The researchers conducted an “algorithm audit” of the Google Top Stories box using data from late 2017 to determine the tech giant’s role in shaping which news its audience consumes. The Top Stories box – which is the three highlighted articles that appear with images at the top of any Google search – is among the most prominent real estate on the Internet. The researchers analyzed 30 “hard news” stories per day over a 30-day period, resulting in 6,302 links to various articles. The results indicate that liberal publications were prominently featured in Google’s Top Stories box — with CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, combining for a whopping 23 percent of Top Stories appearances during the sample period. Links to liberal CNN appeared in 10.9 percent of searches, while The New York Times made up 6.5 percent. By comparison, link to Fox News articles only appeared in 3 percent of the researchers’ searches.

Run, Hide, Fight

In an era where mass shootings are all too common, “run, hide, fight” has become a mantra. When faced with an active shooter, proponents say adults and students should try to escape the area or protect themselves. And as a last resort, they’re advised to counter the gunman, reports CNN. Whether they were acting on training or instinct, two students in the past two weeks chose the last option. Eighteen-year-old Kendrick Castillo lunged at a classmate who pulled out a gun at their suburban Denver school, while 21-year-old Riley Howell knocked a gunman off his feet at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The heroic actions of both students cost them their lives. But some experts say they acted appropriately, giving others around them time to run for cover and preventing the shootings from escalating.

U.S. Birthrate Lowest in 32 Years

America’s fertility rate and the number of births nationwide are continuing to decline. The number of births for the United States last year dropped to its lowest in about three decades, according to provisional data in a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2017 to 2018, the birth rate dropped 7% among teenagers aged 15 to 19; 4% among women 20 to 24; 3% among women 25 to 29; and 1% among women 30 to 34, according to the report. The birth rate rose 1% among women aged 35 to 39 and 2% among women 40 to 44. Overall, the provisional number of births in 2018 for the United States was about 3.79 million, down 2% from the total in 2017, according to the report. The data shows that the total fertility rate for the United States last year was 1,728 births per 1,000 women, a decrease of 2% from 2017 and a record low for the nation, and well below the replacement fertility rate of 2.1 required to maintain overall population stability.

The Stress and Strain of Motherhood Increasingly Difficult

Economic, cultural and even technological changes have dramatically altered the landscape of motherhood in recent decades, piling on new pressures and needs, reports the USA Today. In 1975, more than half of mothers stayed home with their kids. Today both parents work in 70% of families with children. Childcare costs on average $12,350 to $13,900 a year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In some cities, it’s double that. Dads are taking on more parenting responsibilities than ever, but surveys show it’s still unequal in more than half of households even when both parents work full-time. Nearly half of grandparents live more than five hours from their grandkids. Moms in 2016 spent 14 hours a week outside work on childcare, up from 10 hours a week in 1965, according to the Pew Research Center. Social media is pervasive, and research shows mothers who frequently compare themselves to others on social media feel more depressed, less competent and less positive about their co-parenting relationships.

Hospitals Not Protecting Mothers During Childbirth

The vast majority of women in America give birth without incident. But each year, more than 50,000 are severely injured. About 700 mothers die. Authorities estimate that half of these deaths could be prevented and half the injuries reduced or eliminated with better care. Doctors and nurses should be weighing bloody pads to track blood loss so they recognize the danger sooner. They should be giving medication within an hour of spotting dangerously high blood pressure to fend off strokes. They are among basic tasks that experts have recommended for years because they can save mothers’ lives. Yet hospitals, doctors and nurses across the country continue to ignore them, a USA TODAY investigation found.

71% of American Youth Unqualified for Military

Seventy-one percent of young people are ineligible to join the military, according to 2017 Pentagon data. The reasons: obesity, no high school diploma, or a criminal record. Steve Doster, Pennsylvania State director of Military Readiness for Council for a Strong America, says, “This is a very real risk to our national security.” The problem isn’t just a military one, though: It’s an issue for businesses as well because the vast majority of that age group isn’t eligible for a lot of other jobs either. The 29 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds who are qualified become prime targets for all recruiting: military, college and jobs. According to a recent RAND report, 52 percent of employers in Pennsylvania find it challenging to hire people with adequate skills, training or education.

E-Scooters Replacing Dockless Bikes in U.S. Cities

According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, Americans took nine million trips on dockless bikes in 2018. They took 38.5 million trips on shared scooters. The NACTO micromobility report said there were about 44,000 dockless pedal bikes deployed throughout the U.S. at the end of 2017, but almost all of them are now gone. “Most dockless bike share companies retooled their fleets to focus on e-scooters, and new e-scooter-focused companies emerged. There are now tens of thousands of e-scooters on the ground in U.S. cities,” the report said.

Economic News

China said Monday it will slap tariffs on more than 5,000 U.S. products in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s decision to raise duties on Chinese goods. China’s Ministry of Finance said the new tariffs would impact $60 billion in U.S. imports and would range from 5% to 25%. The tariffs will take effect June 1, which would give the two sides time to resume trade negotiations that broke off last week without reaching a new deal. The tariffs will impact a wide range of U.S. products, including coffee, beef, salmon, flowers and some fruits and vegetables.

In a significant step toward congressional approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the U.S. agreed to lift the tariffs in 48 hours in return for tough new measures to prevent Chinese steel from entering the U.S. via Canada or Mexico. The deal avoids quotas on steel from the two countries, which Canada and Mexico had opposed.

As lawmakers trade fire over contempt votes and impeachment, there’s been no progress toward reaching a budget agreement or extending the federal government’s ability to borrow before September, when the money runs out. That’s raising the ugly prospect of more than $100 billion in mandatory cuts as well as an unprecedented default on U.S. debt. The latest sign of the dysfunction gripping Congress came this week, when Republicans and Democrats continued to flounder in months-long negotiations over disaster aid for states recently hit by hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires, typically a subject that can easily win bipartisan consensus but has instead repeatedly fallen apart over unrelated issues.

Some disturbing data: Global exports are absolutely crashing and have now fallen to the lowest level since 2009; Auto sales in Europe have fallen for seven months in a row; U.S. auto loan delinquencies have reached the highest level since the last recession; U.S. credit card delinquencies have hit the highest level in eight years; Overall, 59 percent of all Americans are currently living paycheck to paycheck according to a recent survey by Charles Schwab.

Europe

Less than two weeks before pivotal elections for the European Parliament, a constellation of websites and social media accounts linked to Russia or far-right groups is spreading disinformation, encouraging discord and amplifying distrust in the centrist parties that have governed for decades, reports the New York Times. European Union investigators, academics and advocacy groups say the new disinformation efforts share many of the same digital fingerprints or tactics used in previous Russian attacks, including the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Fringe political commentary sites in Italy, for instance, bear the same electronic signatures as pro-Kremlin websites, while a pair of German political groups share servers used by the Russian hackers who attacked the Democratic National Committee. The activity offers fresh evidence that despite indictments, expulsions and recriminations, Russia remains undeterred in its campaign to widen political divisions and weaken Western institutions.

Middle East

An estimated 10,000 Palestinian residents of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip participated in riots and violent confrontations with Israeli troops guarding the border fence on Wednesday afternoon to mark “Nakba (Catastrophe) Day” as the Palestinians refer to the anniversary of Israel’s birth on May 15, 1948. Several incendiary balloons were also sent over the border into Israel, sparking large fires which destroyed crops, trees and buildings inside Israel. Large demonstrations were also held in PA administered cities in the West Bank and in Israeli-Arab villages and among Arab students in some universities.

Saudi Arabia said Monday two of its oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in attacks that caused “significant damage” to the vessels, one of them as it was en route to pick up Saudi oil to take to the United States. The U.S. has warned ships that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the region. America is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran. Saudi Araba said drones attacked one of its oil pipelines as other assaults targeted energy infrastructure elsewhere in the kingdom on Tuesday. Yemen’s Houthi rebels, whom Saudi Arabia has been fighting against since March 2015, said they launched a series of drone attacks on the kingdom, across the border from Yemen.

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has approved a new deployment of Patriot missiles to the Middle East, a U.S. official told Reuters on Friday, in the latest U.S. response to what Washington sees as a growing threat from Iran. The decision further bolsters U.S. defenses and comes after the Trump administration expedited the deployment of a carrier strike group and sent bombers to the Middle East following what it said were troubling indications of possible preparations for an attack by Iran on U.S. interests. The Patriot defense system is designed to intercept incoming missiles. Tensions between Iran and the United States have escalated sharply in recent weeks over new U.S. sanctions and Iran’s threat to restart uranium enrichment programs.

Iran

The U.S. military put its forces in Iraq on high alert and the State Department ordered all non-emergency employees Wednesday to leave the country immediately amid escalating tensions with Iran. It comes as some U.S. allies have expressed skepticism about the Trump administration’s claims that Iran poses a growing threat. The Trump administration has made applying “maximum pressure” on Iran a central tenet of its foreign policy. Trump has withdrawn the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, reimposed crushing economic sanctions and boosted the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf. In recent days, unease that Washington and Tehran could be headed toward military confrontation has mounted. President Trump sought to put the brakes on a brewing confrontation with Iran in recent days, telling the acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, that he does not want to go to war with Iran, administration officials said, while his senior diplomats began searching for ways to defuse the tensions.

Niger

Islamic militants ambushed and killed government soldiers near Mali this week. The bodies of 11 Nigerien soldiers missing since Tuesday’s ambush have been discovered, bringing the death toll to 28. Niger and other countries in the Sahel have been facing a growing militant threat from several Islamist groups. The Islamic State group has said it was behind the ambush. They are most active in neighboring Mali, but they often stage cross-border raids. The soldiers had been in pursuit of militants who attacked a high security prison.

Burkina Faso

Gunmen killed a pastor and five congregants at a Roman Catholic church in northern Burkina Faso in West Africa last Sunday, the authorities said, in the second attack on Christians in two weeks in a nation increasingly overrun by jihadists. Congregants were leaving the church around 9 a.m. local time in the town of Dablo, about 124 miles from the capital, Ouagadougou, when about 20 men circled them and opened fire, leaving at least six dead. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though violent Islamic extremism has been increasingly destabilizing the country.

North Korea

North Korea disclosed on Wednesday it is suffering its worst drought in nearly four decades, amid growing concerns the country is dangerously short on food. The state-run Korean Central News Agency said that only 2.1 inches of rain fell throughout the country in the first five months of this year, the lowest amount since 1982. The current conditions, described by KCNA as “extreme drought”, are expected to continue at least until the end of May. North Korean media outlets called on citizens on Thursday to find new sources of water. Earlier this month, United Nations food agencies said in a joint assessment about 10 million people in North Korea, about 40 percent of the population, were facing “severe food shortages” after the country had one of the worst harvests in a decade.

Venezuela

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó is confirming efforts in Norway to mediate between the opposition and the government of President Nicolás Maduro. The Venezuelan opposition has said Maduro used past negotiations to play for time and was not sincere about making concessions. Maduro says he is open to dialogue and that the opposition had been trying to seize power by force. Guaidó says any diplomatic process aimed at resolving the Venezuelan crisis must lead to the end of Maduro’s government, its replacement by a transitional administration and free and fair elections. The crumbling of Venezuela’s economy is the single largest economic collapse outside of war in at least 45 years, economists say, surpassing the fall of the Soviet Union. And Cuba’s disastrous unraveling in the 1990s. Venezuela, at one point Latin America’s wealthiest country, has not been shattered by armed conflict. Instead, poor governance, corruption and the misguided socialistic policies of President Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, have fueled runaway inflation, shuttered businesses and left much of the population in great distress dealing with extreme shortages of food and medical supplies. Many are fleeing the country.

Cuba

In the midst of a growing economic and food shortage crisis – in which Cubans are having to line up for hours to purchase basic food supplies in supermarkets – the Cuban government has introduced comprehensive rationing of staple products. Commerce Minister Betsy Díaz Velázquez told the state-run Cuban News Agency on Friday that the rationing would immediately begin nationwide, forcing cashiers to limit product quantities such as cooking oil, powdered milk, sausages, peas, chicken, eggs, rice, beans and soap it can sell to individual shoppers. General food stores in the nation of 11 million are owned and operated by the Communist government, and every citizen has been issued a ration book to purchase fundamental needs – a system that was introduced after the revolution sixty years ago. Those who run in more affluent circles are permitted to purchase more than the average Cuban. Cuba depends on importing more than 65 percent of its food products

Environment

Trash is everywhere on Earth, all the way from the top of Mount Everest to the very bottom of the ocean. Now, giant mounds of it are even washing up on the shores of otherwise pristine tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, according to a new study from Australia’s University of Tasmania. A mind-boggling 400 million pieces of trash – that’s 260 tons – were recently discovered on the beaches of the remote Cocos Keeling Islands, a chain some 1,300 miles northwest of Australia.  The trash included an estimated 373,000 toothbrushes and 977,000 shoes, according to the study. Plastic items accounted for over 95% of all debris recorded on the Cocos, a group of 26 tiny islands that are a territory of Australia. Plastic is abundant in and near the world’s oceans: Every year, an estimated 8 million to 12 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that are already in our marine environments, according to the Ocean Conservancy.

Carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere hit a new milestone over the weekend. Data from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii showed that carbon dioxide levels surpassed 415 parts per million on Friday. Carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have skyrocketed far higher than any levels in the last 800,000 years, data from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California – San Diego show, and levels have not been this high for millions of years. “This is the first time in human history our planet’s atmosphere has had more than 415ppm CO2,” said Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist. In the 800,000 years before the Industrial Revolution, CO2 levels didn’t surpass 300 ppm.

  • CO2 levels millions of years ago were higher than 2019 levels, and Earth’s temperatures were also much higher, notes the USA Today.

Earthquakes

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck Papua New Guinea on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. Residents in the area reported that the quake shook homes, rattled furniture, knocked items off shelves and tables and cut off power. The epicenter of the quake was about 28 miles northeast of Kokopo, in New Britain province. The city is on a smaller island northeast of the main island and about 495 from the A​ tsunami alert was issued for Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands but was later cancelled. capital of Port Moresby.

On Wednesday evening, Israelis in Jerusalem reportedly felt the ground shake during an earthquake that qualified as “minor” on the Richter scale. The earthquake registered as a 4.5 magnitude, according to a report by Arutz Sheva based on data collected by Geophysical Institute of Israel. According to the Geophysical Institute, the quake’s epicenter was in the ocean between Hadera and Haifa, several hundred miles away from the Israeli coast.

Wildfires

Mexico City residents have been warned to stay inside as the city is enveloped in a cloud of hazardous wildfire smoke, and meteorologists in the U.S. predict the haze could reach parts of the U.S. by the end of the week. The pollution is from several recent and current fires in the city and outlying areas. Smoke from the blazes is also hovering over the western Gulf of Mexico. Mexico City’s environmental commission said the city’s air is polluted with high levels of ash and other solid particles that can cause respiratory problems and other illnesses with prolonged exposure. There have been several fires in or near the city in recent days, including 13 brush fires, four fires on empty lots, two house fires, a forest fire and a blaze at an industrial warehouse. Meanwhile, fires in the southern states of Oaxaca and Guerrero have contributed to the crisis. At least 14 fires are burning out of control in Oaxaca, fueled by hot weather and high winds.

Weather

As the swollen Mississippi River continued to rise in the South over last weekend, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards declared a statewide emergency amid continuing torrential downpours and storms. In an effort to relieve stress on New Orleans levees, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carré spillway about 28 miles north of the city on Friday. The opening marks the first time the spillway has been used twice in a single year and only the 14th time it has been opened since it was built in the aftermath of a historic flood that swamped New Orleans in 1927. “Regional rainfall caused the Mississippi River to rise 6 inches in the past 24 hours with more rain expected through the weekend,” the Corps explained. The Upper Texas Coast and the Gulf Coast of western Louisiana has received “tremendous rainfall” last week, “300-600% of normal. Flooding caused about two dozen cars from a Norfolk Southern freight train to derail Saturday near Hillsdale, Mississippi. High winds and severe thunderstorms downed trees and damaged buildings in Alabama and Florida on Sunday, after a night of flash flooding in New Orleans that led to more than 200 calls to police, firefighters and ambulance services.

Recent rainfall has already-high water levels surging in the Great Lakes, contributing to flooding along the lakeshores in parts of Ohio and Michigan, and New York is expected to follow suit. Areas along the Lake Ontario shoreline are “at the precipice of a disaster,” according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as forecasts for additional rain threaten to push water levels past flood level. Over last weekend, New York state deployed more than 800,000 sandbags, hundreds of pumps and 920 feet of temporary dams in eight counties along Lake Ontario in preparation for potential flooding.

A line of storms moving across northern Illinois and central Indiana Thursday damaged buildings and a small airport near Chicago and brought down trees and power lines in central Indiana. A tree fell on a city bus near downtown Indianapolis Thursday evening as severe storms hit the area. Almost 50,000 homes and businesses were without power in central Indiana. Hail the size of tennis balls was reported by storm spotters in Vermillion County, Indiana. Several aircraft were reportedly damaged and windows were broken out of a building Thursday afternoon at the Sandwich Airport, about 60 miles west of Chicago.

Severe storms, with large hail, damaging winds and ground-hugging tornadoes, are expected to hammer major parts of Tornado Alley from Texas to South Dakota Friday in the first round of violent, unsettled weather expected to last into next week.

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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