Hundreds of people near the Florida-Alabama border were being rescued from floodwaters brought on by Hurricane Sally on 16 September. Authorities fear many more could be in danger in the coming days. ‘We had four months of rain in four hours’, said the Pensacola fire department. Sally has weakened since making landfall as a Category 2 hurricane, but the devastation was visible across Southern states by nightfall. Sally continues to slowly move northwest causing torrential rain over eastern Alabama and western Georgia. Pensacola and parts of Florida and Alabama are submerged, with rivers approaching dangerous levels. Numerous counties are under curfews to keep residents safe. A commissioner in Florida said they are still in evacuation and lifesaving recovery missions, as historic and catastrophic flooding threatens more communities. There could be thousands of evacuations. Pray for the families and businesses in areas looking like war zones.
Year after year, Uttar Pradesh is identified as the state where most Christian Indians are persecuted. 86 of the 366 violent attacks on Christians recorded in 2019 took place in Uttar Pradesh, and 2020 has seen little improvement. While the pandemic probably reduced the rate of persecution, recent reports indicate the number of attacks on Christians is increasing as India emerges from lockdown. ‘I would have been killed if God hadn’t been with me,’ Pastor Alok Tomar recently told International Christian Concern. ‘I was worried that I would not survive as the torture was so intense. Different ones took turns as I was beaten with lashes from the police belt.’ Pastor Tomar was telephoned and told to report to the police station immediately. ‘I felt safe because I was going to the police station.’ He was accused of forced religious conversions and kept in custody and tortured for three days by the police. It was another four days before he was given bail.
Kenya’s locust problem hasn’t gone away. In fact, Kenyans could see a third generation of the insects destroy vegetation across the country. This is the worst locust outbreak for the region in 70 years. Locusts have already caused a great deal of destruction in Kenya and surrounding countries this year. Favourable weather conditions could contribute to a return of the swarm. The last one found a route through the Rift Valley, the breadbasket of Kenya. They devastated everything that was green as they moved; they also left eggs to hatch later.
A new charge against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman jailed in Iran, is "a new stage in a long-running political game", her husband Richard has claimed. "She is clearly being held as a bargaining chip," Mr Ratcliffe said. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is nearing the end of her sentence for spying charges, which she denies. But on Tuesday, she was told she would face a new trial. The Foreign Office said British officials will try to attend the trial. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Tehran in April 2016. She had been visiting her parents with her young British-born daughter, Gabriella, who is now six. The dual national was sentenced to five years in prison over allegations of plotting against the Iranian government - although no official charges have ever been made public. Gabriella has now returned to the UK. Mr Ratcliffe said his wife and other dual nationals are being held hostage because Iran wants the UK to pay a decades-old debt (£400m) over an arms deal that was never fulfilled.
Antarctica’s ‘Thwaites Glacier’ which is a thousand miles from the nearest research base, has been investigated by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey. The glacier is melting rapidly due to warmer water entering the glacier via huge oceanic channels 600 meters below the surface. This glacier, roughly the size of Great Britain, already accounts for 4 per cent of world sea level rise each year. The accelerating meltdown of the most vulnerable glacier in Antarctica would add over 25 inches to global sea levels - inundating coastal areas and cities such as London and New York.
Talks are now set to begin in Qatar this week, aiming to put an end to two decades of war and the loss of thousands of lives in Afghanistan. They were meant to begin in March, but instead were held up for months by wrangling over a prisoner exchange plan. The final batch of 400 Taliban prisoners were released last week clearing the path for these talks. The next stage of the process, talks between the Taliban and Afghan government, or "intra-Afghan negotiations", will revolve around an actual "peace deal". Officials, and indeed ordinary Afghans, hope a ceasefire can be agreed although, until now, the Taliban have seemed determined to continue fighting until their demands are met. They see violence as their best form of leverage, and are cautious of allowing their fighters to lay down their weapons, in case it becomes difficult to redeploy them or they drift towards rival militants in the Islamic State group. Negotiators will also try to establish some kind of agreement on a political future for the country. The task seems daunting. How to reconcile the competing visions for the country? On the one hand the "Islamic Emirate" that the Taliban adhere to, on the other, the more modern, more democratic Afghanistan built over the past two decades.
Pastors around the world are facing destitution and even starvation because of the devastating impact of Covid on church tithes. Churches in countries that rely on cash tithes are forced to close their doors, Many pastors are struggling to feed themselves, let alone give anything to those turning to them for help. Wage earners are unemployed or unable to work due to the pandemic. In India, finding alternative sources of income has been virtually impossible for some of the pastors. Relief distributions are carried out by local administrations but Christians are ignored for being Christians. Sub-Saharan Africa reported similar situations. Pastor Adane in rural Ethiopia said Covid had affected all church income streams, making it impossible to pay staff. He said, ‘Because of Covid-19, the church is in great trouble’.
Commissioner of Public Lands said new fires are starting in every corner of the state. 60+ hikers and campers were rescued by military helicopters. A fire in Southern California was sparked by a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device used to reveal a baby’s gender. That fire is only 7% contained. Hundreds of homes have been lost. From California to Minnesota millions are choking and wheezing from toxic smoke blanketing the area and blocking sunshine. Pray for those with chest complaints struggling to breath. See also