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 Matthew 24:42  “Therefore be on alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming!"

New Russian Weapon Can Travel 27 Times The Speed of Sound

A new intercontinental weapon that can fly 27 times the speed of sound became operational Friday, Russia's defense minister reported to President Vladimir Putin, bolstering the country's nuclear strike capability.

Putin has described the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle as a technological breakthrough comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite. The new Russian weapon and a similar system being developed by China have troubled the United States, which has pondered defense strategies.

The Avangard is launched atop an intercontinental ballistic missile, but unlike a regular missile warhead that follows a predictable path after separation it can make sharp maneuvers in the atmosphere en route to target, making it much harder to intercept. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed Putin that the first missile unit equipped with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle entered combat duty.

"I congratulate you on this landmark event for the military and the entire nation," Shoigu said later during a conference call with top military leaders. The Strategic Missile Forces chief, Gen. Sergei Karakayev, said during the call that the Avangard was put on duty with a unit in the Orenburg region in the southern Ural Mountains. Putin unveiled the Avangard among other prospective weapons systems in his state-of-the-nation address in March 2018, noting that its ability to make sharp maneuvers on its way to a target will render missile defense useless. "It heads to target like a meteorite, like a fireball," he said at the time.

From "Associated Press"

Sign Of The Times:  75% Of Adults Aren't Friends With Any Of Their Neighbors

 

In decades past, it wasn't uncommon at all for the average family to know each and every one of their neighbors living close by on the same street. Those dwelling on the same block would regularly gather for holiday parties in the winter, and barbecues during the summer. As the years have gone by, however, people have slowly become more inclined to keep to themselves and shy away from even greeting or speaking to their neighbors.

Now, a new survey of 2,000 British adults shows the staggering extent to which the concept of a neighborhood community has fallen by the wayside. In all, 75% say they consider their neighbors mere acquaintances at best. Sadly, nearly a quarter wouldn't dream of knocking on one of their doors uninvited because there is "no sense of community spirit" in their neighborhood.

The survey, commissioned by Lottoland, also found that one in 10 modern adults mine as well be living next to an empty house as they only see their neighbors less than once per month. Still, four in 10 say they are at least "friendly" with a few of their neighbors, but still wouldn't call them actual friends. The average survey respondent reports knowing the names of just five people living on their street.

Shockingly, one in 20 couldn't name a single other person from his or her block. Many people are ultimately fine with not knowing their neighbors; 56% say they have no interest in getting to know those who live next door any better than they already do. But, the survey did find that people living in rural areas (18%) are more likely to have friends in their neighborhood than city dwellers (15%).

From "Study Finds"

The Real Bias In Cable News Isn't What You Think

                                                                                                                                                 

People's heads explode when they find out that - many years ago - I worked as a television producer at both MSNBC and Fox News. "So what are you?" they'll invariably ask, meaning am I a far-left, free-stuff-for-everyone loon or a far-right, lying Russian-puppet nut job? It's got to be one or the other, you know. At least that's what folks seem to think, based on questions I've gotten for years. Left-wing loons and right-wing nuts. This is the way Americans are conditioned to think these days. There's little room for nuance anymore; the last two decades have seen an accelerated erosion of the political middle, with folks identifying wholly with one tribe or another - and shunning those on the other side. Things are getting angrier and nastier, it seems, by the day. You do know, of course, that we're paying a price for this. Even as we criticize Washington politicians for their inability to tackle big problems - "compromise" is a dirty word - our own unwillingness to reach out to the other side is fueling everything from workplace stress to broken friendships. One study has claimed that "one in 10 couples (married or unmarried) ended their relationships over political disagreements, with millennials parting ways at a particularly high rate of 22%."

Many things are accelerating our national divide. Twitter TWTR, -0.25% and Facebook FB, +0.15% are leading culprits, fueling the tribalism that allows us to congregate with only one side - while mocking, belittling and dehumanizing the other. But Twitter and Facebook are also what I call subsidiary platforms, meaning much of what you find there migrated from elsewhere, notably cable news. Clips from shows rocket around social media, amplifying the views - right or left - of those posting them. Consumers of media today generally aren't looking to learn from or engage with others. They're looking for validation of what they want to believe, and the typically anti-Trump MSNBC and the pro-Trump Fox provide it.

This amplification gives the cable news channels greater influence than they deserve. Why do I say this? Because hardly anyone actually watches these channels to begin with. Take Tuesday, Dec. 3. It wasn't exactly a slow news day. The House Judiciary Committee - tasked with drawing up articles of impeachment against President Trump - was gearing up for dramatic testimony from four legal scholars. The president himself, meanwhile, was in London for two days of diplomacy with fellow leaders from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and some socializing with members of the British royal family. As usual, the three major cable news networks covered it all heavily, with armies of journalists on Capitol Hill, in London and elsewhere trying to dig up whatever scraps of information they could. But guess what? Hardly anyone watched. In the 4 p.m. hour, Eastern time, that day, for example, the combined audience for Fox New's Neil Cavuto, CNN's Jake Tapper and MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace was 4.41 million. In the 9 p.m. hour, Sean Hannity on Fox, Chris Cuomo on CNN and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow pulled in a combined 7.8 million.

Which means that out of a U.S. population of around 328 million, only 1.3% to 2.4% of Americans were tuned in, respectively. While 98% to 99% had better things to do. It's only the president of the United States being impeached, right? It has only happened twice before! No big deal! Count me among the overwhelming majority of Americans who don't bother watching. It might seem odd that a longtime Washington journalist like me, who's been trooping to the White House, Capitol and other places for many years, doesn't watch cable news, but I don't. It's not overly necessary, it's a time suck, and, perhaps most importantly of all, I don't think it's particularly healthy, either physically or mentally.

Question: Do you honestly feel better informed after watching cable news? One study by Fairleigh Dickinson University makes the claim that it actually makes you dumber, producing a "negative impact on people's current-events knowledge." Of course, you might not even be aware of this "negative impact" on your knowledge, because these channels are reinforcing what you wanted to believe in the first place. In other words: You feel more informed, but actually the opposite might be true.

From "MarketWatch"

 

Transgender Latina Makes History As Evangelical Lutheran Pastor

Before coming out as transgender, Nicole Garcia prayed daily that God would "fix" her. When her prayers weren't answered and the feeling in her gut didn't go away, she gave up on religion. Now, nearly four decades later, Garcia stands behind the pulpit at Westview Lutheran Church in Boulder, Colorado, and delivers weekly sermons to a congregation of more than 100 faithful as their ordained pastor. "Nobody can question my faith, my devotion to Christ, my devotion to the church. That's why I'm the pastor here," Garcia, who turned 60 Thursday, told NBC News. "Being trans is secondary."

Garcia, who delivered her first sermon at Westview earlier this month, is the first known transgender Latina to serve as a pastor within the 4 million-strong Evangelical Lutheran Church in America - an unanticipated position for someone who grew up in the Roman Catholic Church and left religion entirely for nearly 20 years.

In 2003, shortly after she started her transition, she became a Lutheran, and soon after began working with an organization called Reconciling in Christ, which works toward full acceptance of the LGBTQ community within the Lutheran denomination. Five years later, Garcia was elected to the group's national board of directors as their transgender representative, and in that position she continued to campaign for the advancement of LGBTQ people into pastoral positions. Garcia said she hopes her presence behind the pulpit encourages other LGBTQ people and people of color to step forward through faith.

From "NBC News"

Will The Federal Government's Nonstop Spending Binge Continue?

 

This is no way to run a government. That the largest economic entity in the world is running without an actual budget in place should be shocking; that it has become routine is downright depressing. Yet we have entered a new fiscal year without a budget in 12 of the last 20 years. In a company, leadership would promptly be fired for such fiduciary malfeasance.

But the story is on the verge of getting even worse. In August, Congress passed a massive $320 billion two-year increase to the existing spending caps, which allowed for $169 billion in additional spending for this year's appropriations -ostensibly to help move the process along. This $169 billion is not chump change even in the massive federal budget. It is enough to cover almost doubling the U.S. Army's budget, quadrupling Highway Trust Fund spending or writing a $500 check to every person in the United States.

Recall that these spending caps were originally put in place to force Congress to agree to savings elsewhere in the budget - if Congress couldn't live within the tight discretionary limits, they could find other better targeted savings. For the first four years of caps, they were reasonably successful, and though Congress lifted them, they also offset the costs (albeit with a bunch of games and gimmicks included in their offsets).

But the past two deals have been far more reckless. Starting in 2017, Congress lifted the caps -and then added even more spending - bringing the total increase to over $600 billion in four years, most of which was not paid for. Between 2017 and 2021, the caps on discretionary spending will have increased 21 percent. 

Last time there was a budget busting spending bill, the president promised he would "never sign another bill like this again," referring to a bill packaged together and released at the last minute without time for lawmakers to consider their priorities.

But throughout this economic expansion, instead of getting our fiscal situation in order, we have been on a non-stop borrowing binge, which harms our long-term growth prospects and our national security. It hinders our ability to fight a recession, make needed investments and leave a stronger nation to our children. To be sure, eschewing hard choices makes it easier for politicians, but that is far short of real leadership.

It is time for Congress and the president to, at the very least, take the Hippocratic oath to do no harm and not add more borrowing on top of our already massive national debt.

From "The Hill"

Facebook Says It Can Locate Users Who Opt Out Of Tracking

                                                                                                                                                 

 

Facebook can determine where users are even if they opt out of having their whereabouts tracked, the company revealed in a letter sent to US senators. In the missive, which was widely shared on social media Tuesday, Facebook explained ways it can still figure out where people are after they have selected not to share precise location data with the company. The social network, which was responding to a request for information by two senators, contended that knowing a user's whereabouts has benefits ranging from showing ads for nearby shops to fighting hackers and battling misinformation.

"There is no opting out. No control over your personal information," Republican Senator Josh Hawley said in a tweet. "That's Big Tech. And that's why Congress needs to take action." Facebook said that clues for figuring out a user's location include being tagged in a photo at a specific place or a check-in at a location such as at a restaurant during a dinner with friends.

People may share an address for purchases at a shopping section at Facebook, or simply include it in their profile information. Along with location information shared in posts by users, devices connecting to the internet are given IP addresses and a user's whereabouts can then be noted. Those addresses include locations, albeit a bit imprecise when it comes to mobile devices linking through telecom services that might only note a town or city. Facebook said knowing a user's general location helps it and other internet firms protect accounts by detecting when suspicious login behavior occurs, such as by someone in South America when a user lives in Europe. IP addresses also help companies such as Facebook battle misinformation by showing the general origin of potentially nefarious activity, such as a stream of politically oriented posts which might be aimed at a particular country.

Facebook said recently that it is ready for a data privacy law that is to go into effect in its home state of California at the start of next year. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) will give internet users the right to see what data big tech companies collect and with whom it is shared.

From "Yahoo News"

Tennessee's Connection To Possible Noah's Ark Discovery

A biblical story is getting new life thanks to new evidence of the possible existence of Noah's Ark.

Researchers say they have 3-D images of what they believe is The Ark in the Ararat Mountains in Turkey.

The man who was instrumental in these discoveries is a Tennessean named Ron Wyatt and, because of his discoveries, this site was eventually declared a national park. Ron has passed away, but a biblical researcher named Andrew Jones has taken over his work and led an expedition which produced these images of huge boat-shaped object buried in the Ararat Mountains.

"It's a man-made object and it's a ship form," says Andrew Jones. "We're not going to find a sign that says, 'made by Noah and sons,' but what other ship would it be on the side of a hill at 6,500-foot elevation in the mountains of Ararat?"

 

He says the ship is 515 feet long, which matches the biblical account of being 300 cubits.

Researchers have scanned the ground using a method called electrical resistivity. "If you shoot an electrical current below the ground and it hits a pocket of air, that has a different type of conductivity versus something like water or rock. So, the software can interpret the signals coming back and create a 3-D image." And that's what they've created: a 3-D image of what he believes is humanity's lifeboat.

"A perfectly preserved hull below the ground. Petrified, solid, hull of a ship and three different layers, just like The Bible says. There were 3 different decks on The Ark." Now, the team is working to figure out how to finally excavate the boat. Jones says they are working with the Turkish government and archaeologists will submit plans on how they want to proceed. However, if plans get approved it would still take a few years to excavate. They also expect to find things that would go along with the biblical story, possibly animal remains, and Jones says that's part of the reason for wanting to do an excavation.

From "Fox 17 Nashville"

A 5,000 Year Old Plan to Erase Debts Is Now a Hot Topic in America

 

In ancient Babylon, a newly enthroned king would declare a jubilee, wiping out the population's debts. In modern America, a faint echo of that idea -- call it jubilee-lite -- is catching on. Support for write-offs has been driven by Democratic presidential candidates. Elizabeth Warren says she'd cancel most of the $1.6 trillion in U.S. student loans. Bernie Sanders would go further -- erasing the whole lot, as well as $81 billion in medical debt. But it's coming from other directions too. In October, one of the Trump administration's senior student-loan officials resigned, calling for wholesale write-offs and describing the American way of paying for higher education as "nuts.''

 

Real-estate firm Zillow cites medical and college liabilities as major hurdles for would-be renters and home buyers. Moody's Investors Service listed the headwinds from student debt -- less consumption and investment, more inequality -- and said forgiveness would boost the economy like a tax cut. While the current debate centers on college costs, long-run numbers show how debt has spread through the economy. The U.S. relies on consumer spending for growth -- but it hasn't been delivering significantly higher wages. Household borrowing has filled the gap, with low interest rates making it affordable.

And that's not unique to America. Steadily growing debts of one kind or another are weighing on economies all over the world.

 

The idea that debt can grow faster than the ability to repay, until it unbalances a society, was well understood thousands of years ago, according to Michael Hudson, an economist and historian.

Last year Hudson published "And Forgive Them Their Debts,'' a study of the ancient Near East where the tradition known as a "jubilee" -- wiping the debt-slate clean -- has its roots. He describes how the practice spread through civilizations including Sumer and Babylon, and came to play an important role in the Bible and Jewish law.

 

Rulers weren't motivated by charity, Hudson says. They were being pragmatic -- trying to make sure that citizens could meet their own needs and contribute to public projects, instead of just laboring to pay creditors. And it worked, he says. "Societies that canceled the debts enjoyed stable growth for thousands of years.'' Forgiveness was good for the economy, would be a modern way of putting it. In an October paper, Moody's examined how that might apply if America writes off its student debts. There would likely be a "modest increase'' in household spending and investment, and eventually higher rates of home-ownership and business-formation, it said. Buying up student loans would increase the government's own debt -- but "only marginally," since it already owns three-quarters of them. After that one-time hit, budget deficits each year would be slightly bigger because of the lost revenue from loan repayments, equal to 0.4% of GDP in 2018.

 

Critics usually raise two key problems with debt forgiveness. One is about fairness. The other is known as "moral hazard'': Will write-offs today lead to more reckless borrowing tomorrow?

These questions "need to be carefully thought through" for student loans, says William Foster, a senior credit officer at Moody's and the report's lead author. "Who would benefit, who would miss out, what attempts at equal treatment there should be.'' Any plan would also have to address "what the situation would be for the next generation of students with regard to accumulating debt,'' he says.

 

Sanders and Warren plan to remove moral hazard by making state college tuition-free. But they've caught flak on the fairness question. A study by the Urban Institute said that wealthier households hold more student loans -- so writing them off would be regressive. Pete Buttigieg, another Democratic presidential contender, wants to direct financial support toward poorer students, saying there's no reason to subsidize richer ones. Economies can skew against age cohorts, as well as income groups. Foster says the idea of debt relief plays into "the bigger debate about prospects for young Americans today: Job opportunities, the cost of education, income levels and slower wage gains since the financial crisis.''

 

From "Yahoo Finance"

'Social Credit Score':  China Set To Roll Out ‘Orwellian' Mass Surveillance Tool

                                                                                                                                                 

China is developing a new high-tech system of mass surveillance and coercion aimed suppressing political dissent among its 1.4 billion people, while forcing American and Western businesses to conform to the government's communist policies if they want to operate there. The system that critics call an Orwellian national-level control system has been dubbed the Social Credit System (SCS) and was set for launch in the coming year, although recent reports from China now say the rollout could be delayed until 2021.

 

The massive system has been tested in several major Chinese cities and uses millions of surveillance cameras linked to supercomputers containing massive databases. Face and voice recognition technology then identifies and monitors people with the goal of controlling behaviors that range from dissident political activity to jaywalking, ostensibly as part of a financial credit monitoring system similar to those used in the West. "By 2020, China's rulers aim to implement an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life - the so-called social credit score," Mr. Pence said. "In the words of that program's official blueprint, it will ‘allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven, while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.'"

 

From "Washington Times"

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