Current Events & Trends: July/August 2019

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July/August 2019

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Current Events & Trends: July/August 2019

MP3 Audio (21.74 MB)

New abortion laws draw both sides’ battle lines

The debate over abortion in America appears to be coming to a head, as conflicting abortion laws have been passed in state legislatures in recent months. “‘This has been the most active legislative year in recent memory,’ said Steven Aden, general counsel of Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group” (Sabrina Tavernise, “‘The Time Is Now’: States Are Rushing to Restrict Abortion, or Protect It,” May 15, 2019).

On one side, some state governments wanting to maintain and promote the legality of abortion have passed radically permissive measures. On the other side, some states have imposed tight restrictions, with legislators eager to protect life and possibly spark a challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous 1973 Roe  v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion throughout the country.

This comes in anticipation of the matter possibly being taken up by the Supreme Court following Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the court last fall. Many see him as a conservative who might help overturn Roe v. Wade (which is why liberals vehemently opposed his nomination in U.S. Senate hearings).

The debate over abortion is a major divide in the United States. Some brand it a political issue we should avoid discussing. But the fact is that this is a directly moral issue. Intentionally taking the life of an unborn human being is murder. And we must stand up for the protection of the innocent (see Proverbs 24:11-12).

Some new state restrictions have become known as “heartbeat laws” for prohibiting abortion after six to eight weeks of pregnancy, the point at which a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Besides being upset with that limited window of time, the pro-abortion crowd is up in arms over the new prohibitions being without general exceptions for cases of rape and incest—rather, only when the mother’s life is at risk. But attacking the narrow time frame and lack of exceptions is really aimed at overthrowing restrictions altogether.

USA Today reports: “Just 1% of women obtain an abortion because they became pregnant through rape, and less than 0.5% do so because of incest . . . Yet the battle over exceptions for both has garnered outsized attention in the national abortion debate” (Alia Dastagir, “Rape and Incest Account for Hardly Any Abortions. So Why Are They Now a Focus?” May 24, 2019).

Such extreme cases are touted to provoke the public into immediate emotional rejection of anti-abortion legislation—a tactic that often works. However, the lack of exceptions for rape and incest in the new laws takes the issue head on, making the case for the unborn as human beings.

Consider that if a horrific act such as rape results in a new human life, the answer to that sin is not to kill the baby—an innocent third party. Rape is an awful reality of this corrupt world, but adding another sin against someone else’s on top of it only compounds the wrong.

Of course, one of the biggest arguments made in favor of abortion is that lawmakers shouldn’t be able to tell women what to do with their bodies. But there are many laws that tell people what they can or cannot do with their bodies, such as prohibitions of illicit drugs, of public indecency, and especially of actions that can harm another. And abortion definitely harms another. Are you entitled to drop an infant if it is in your arms?

Yes, a pregnant woman carries a new life in her body, but it’s not her life that’s being terminated. When the heart inside the mother is stopped during abortion, it’s not the mother’s heart that is stopped. It’s the new heart in the new, separate human life that is stopped.

If the circumstances that brought about the child are unbearable for the mother, she should be helped to cope during the pregnancy and after. And if keeping and raising the child after the birth are too difficult for her, there are other options. Many are eager to adopt.

The abortion debate is a matter we should remain acutely aware of. A nation’s tolerance of the murder of the innocent is revealing of its morality and character. And failure here is a cause for God’s judgment (see Numbers 35:33). For decades the United States and other countries have been horrible failures in this regard. (Sources: The New York Times, USA Today.)



Drone delivery to impact jobs and privacy

On April 23, 2019, Wing Aviation became the first certified drone delivery company to be awarded an Air Carrier Certification from the United States Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA Certifies Google’s Wing Drone Delivery Company to Operate as Airline,” NPR, April 23, 2019).

This clears the way for fast direct-to-home delivery of packages by unmanned aerial drones, potentially reducing shipping times to a matter of hours in many cases for online shopping. Wing Aviation is owned by Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google formed during a 2015 restructuring of the company. Online retail giant Amazon has also been developing a commercial drone delivery service for years and will surely not be far behind.

This would impact daily life in obvious ways, with delivery drones zipping about becoming a common sight and perhaps even an occasional hazard. But the real story is how this could potentially impact jobs and raise privacy concerns.

E-commerce sales are increasingly replacing traditional brick-and-mortar shopping and are widely credited with increasing store closures. If a drone can deliver a package almost as quickly as a person can drive to the store and purchase it and do so at a comparable cost, a further decrease in traditional in-person shopping is inevitable, along with a loss of the jobs that in-person shopping provides.

Meanwhile, these drones require cameras to fly, and the data-hungry companies behind them are eager to leverage the visual data they could collect into additional profit. While current attitudes toward user privacy would make this extremely unpopular, nevertheless “Amazon has patented technology that allows a drone to scan and collect data from houses it passes on its flight path” (“Amazon’s Drones May Collect Valuable Data on Their Fly-Overs,” Forbes, Aug. 28, 2017).

Consumer fears about how large technology companies might collect more data than anticipated have grown in recent years. Google, Amazon and Apple deny that their digital assistants analyze or store recordings when not called into use. However, that unnerving potential does exist and could one day become a reality.

Long before Alexa, Siri and Google Home were common, Google was already snooping on the text of its users’ emails to place individually targeted advertisements—the primary motive imagined for such covert data collection. Still, fears abound about the many ways this data could be used to manipulate and spy on consumers or be misused by criminals if it falls into the wrong hands.

The growing trend in modern society is to sacrifice our privacy for convenience, and by participating in these technologies we have willingly entrusted vast amounts of our personal information in the hands of for-profit corporations. Large-scale drone delivery takes this a step further, as it could expose the data of even those who are not participating if their home is on a drone delivery route.

Could such information gathering be commandeered by increasingly tyrannical government? The Bible points to a European-centered surveillance state on the horizon controlling people’s participation in the marketplace. (Sources: Forbes, NPR.)



Failed Brexit plans lead to May’s resignation

In 2016 the British stunned the world when they voted to leave the European Union. That was three years ago. Prime Minister Theresa May failed to get a proposal passed on going forward with Britain’s exit, or Brexit. On May 24, 2019, she resigned as prime minister with a tearful statement in front of 10 Downing Street, headquarters of the Government of the United Kingdom and the prime minister’s residence.

May had presented three proposals for withdrawing the nation from the European Union, but all had failed. After Members of Parliament rejected the third deal on March 29, a new exit deadline was agreed on by the EU and the UK—October 31 of this year.

Key points in the withdrawal agreement include:

“How much money the UK will have to pay the EU in order to break the partnership—that’s about £39bn [or $49 billion].

“What will happen to UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU, and equally, what will happen to EU citizens living in the UK?

“How to avoid the return of a physical border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland when it becomes the frontier between the UK and the EU” (“Brexit: Your Simple Guide to the UK Leaving the EU,” BBC News, May 21, 2019). One of the biggest points of contention has been how to handle the Irish border.

If a new prime minister were to put together a deal that’s quickly approved by Parliament, Brexit along these terms could happen before the Oct. 31 deadline. Or there could be a Brexit with no deal, which some warn will have serious economic repercussions,  while others see it as freeing Britain’s economy to thrive. Or Brexit could be put off further and further, or perhaps even overturned.

We shall see how aggressively the next prime minister acts on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. (Source: BBC News.)



German chancellor warns of “dark forces” in Europe

In an extensive interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a strong warning about Europe’s future, stating that “dark forces” are rising across the continent.

An article reporting on the interview began: “German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said ‘there is work to be done’ in Germany to face up to the dark forces that are finding mainstream support there and in other parts of the world.

“‘In Germany, obviously, they always have to be seen in a certain context, in the context of our past, which means we have to be that much more vigilant than others,’ she said” (Luke McGee, “Angela Merkel Warns Against Dark Forces on the Rise in Europe,” CNN, May 29, 2019).

Also discussed was a recent upsurge in anti-Semitic attacks: “In recent days, German Jews were warned by a leading government official not to wear kippahs [Jewish skullcaps or yarmulkes] in public, following a rise in anti-Semitic attacks. Addressing the rise in anti-Semitism, Merkel said that Germany has ‘always had a certain number of anti-Semites among us, unfortunately.’

“‘There is to this day not a single Synagogue[,] not a single daycare center for Jewish children, not a single school for Jewish children that does not need to be guarded by German policemen,’ she added.”

The chancellor further spoke of facing up “to the specters of the past” and of needing to head off the negative effects that come when younger generations lose touch with history’s lessons: “We have to tell our young people what history has brought over us and others.”

Hearing these words from a European leader whom some have called the most powerful woman in the world, we should ask: What lies ahead for Europe?

Most do not realize that God’s Word, the Bible, contains much about Europe’s past, involving the rise of great empires over many centuries, as well as its future. One final imperial power is foretold to rise again. The Bible shows that today’s “dark forces” will soon grow much darker. (Source: CNN.)



Australia election shock as conservatives hold power

Upending poll indications, Australians in May 2019 voted to keep the conservative Liberal-National Coalition in power, with leader Scott Morrison remaining as prime minister. (He had become prime minister in August 2018 after challenges between other party leaders.)

The New York Times reported: “Scott Morrison, Australia’s conservative prime minister, won his first full term in office on Saturday [May 18], confounding expectations that the country’s voters were ready for a change in course after six years of tumultuous leadership under his party. The polls had pointed to a loss for Mr. Morrison’s right-leaning coalition for months” (“Morrison Wins in Australian Election, Confounding Pollsters,” May 17, 2019).

Morrison called the result a “miracle” in his victory speech.

Conservative-leaning populism seems to be a growing trend among the world’s democracies. Economist Tyler Cowen observed in a Bloomberg opinion piece:

“Sometimes political revolutions occur right before our eyes without us quite realizing it. I think that’s what’s been happening over the last few weeks around the world, and the message is clear: The populist ‘New Right’ isn’t going away anytime soon, and the rise of the ‘New Left’ is exaggerated.

“Start with Australia, where Prime Minister Scott Morrison won a surprising victory . . . Before the election, polls had almost uniformly indicated that his Liberal-National Coalition would have to step down, but voters were of another mind. With their support of Morrison, an evangelical Christian who has expressed support for President Donald Trump, Australians also showed a relative lack of interest in doing more about climate change. And this result is no fluke of low turnout: Due to compulsory voting, most Australians do turn out for elections” (“The New Right Is Beating the New Left. Everywhere,” May 20, 2019).

While such a shift may be welcome in various respects, we should ponder where these trends will eventually lead. Much has to change to bring about end-time developments foretold in Bible prophecy. Yet far-reaching change is proceeding. (Sources: Bloomberg, The New York Times.)

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