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Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
The Informer - September 28, 2016

 

On Watch in Washington September 28, 2016 Plain Text PDF Version

WHICH CANDIDATE HELPED HIS OR HER CAUSE MOST?

Most people--and virtually all of the media--treat debates like boxing matches. Who won?

I don't think that's the most apt question unless one candidate has imploded....

Since no one scored a knockout, the most important questions are, "What did each candidate need to accomplish?" and “Did either one succeed?”

What Trump Needed to Accomplish

The Republican nominee needed to show he has the temperament and judgment to be entrusted with the vast power of the presidency. That means he had to be calm and deliberate while still pushing his positions. Simply walking onto the debate stage is an important step in appearing "presidential." But he did nothing to advance his case on that temperament-and-judgment score during the debate itself.

Instead, he behaved exactly as he did in the primaries, both in his answers and in his non-verbal reactions. That approach will reassure his base but do little to persuade undecided voters. Those are the ones who had questions in the first place.

On the secondary issues, I thought Trump put forth most of his signature viewpoints, but he was both too aggressive personally toward Clinton and too passive in skipping over the former secretary of state’s major vulnerabilities (her emails, private server, and the Clinton Foundation). He brought up her "stamina," but that was a misfire. She had a great answer waiting. In any case, her stamina won’t be an election issue unless Trump uses her secrecy to fuel suspicion about some undisclosed illness.

His most successful line of attack was to respond to each of her policy ideas by saying, "You've been in Washington forever. Why haven't you already done it?" That’s a great question, and it is one any “change” candidate has to pound home.

On the law-and-order issue, Trump was actually quite effective. The political danger for him (and any candidate on the right) is that it can look punitive against whole communities--vulnerable minority communities. Trump was very explicit in saying those were precisely the communities he wanted most to protect.

It is hard to know if that benign framing, plus his recent visits to black areas, will cut into Clinton's overwhelming lead in those communities, but it will play well among undecided voters, who largely understand the issue as one of protecting all law-abiding citizens from violent gangs.

The law-and-order issue will continue to resonate, both because it is a major voter concern and because moderator Lester Holt stepped in to support Clinton’s incorrect statement that stop-and-frisk is flatly unconstitutional.

What Clinton Needed to Accomplish

Hillary Clinton needed to do three things, beyond her aspirational goal of disqualifying Trump as a plausible president.

First, she need to shore up support from various segments of Barack Obama's winning coalition.

Second, she needed to show that she will be a steady, experienced, competent leader, in sure command of the issues, and, crucially, to draw a clear contrast with Trump on that. If she could show a “likable” side while prosecuting the case, all the better.

Finally, she needed to convey a positive vision for America going forward, some overarching vision that has been missing in her campaign so far.

How did she do?

Trump had been making inroads into her "Obama coalition," so she made direct appeals to women and especially to African-Americans, explicitly calling Trump a racist and lacerating him on the birther issue. She raised those issues pointedly and effectively. The question now is whether her charges annihilate Trump's law-and-order appeal to people who live in poor, dangerous communities.

No one doubts Clinton will be a steady, experienced leader. But she did not rebut Trump's explicit charge that her experience is bad experience, or his stress on her responsibility for Iraq and Libya. His charge that “yes, she’s experienced but it is bad experience" could be a major theme in October.

Still, Trump's whole approach to the debate raised questions about whether he can summon up a calm, prudent approach on major policy issues. Clinton raised the question herself in talking about NATO and nuclear weapons, but it was mostly Trump who hurt himself, another familiar theme in the campaign.

As for projecting some degree of likability, she was very successful. For such a high-stakes event, Clinton seemed relaxed and her smiles did not seem forced. If her goal was to convince people they could stand watching her for the next four years, she helped herself.

Clinton skipped lightly over one of the gaping holes in her campaign: What does she really want to do, other than "stay the course"? Donald Trump did not directly attack her on that lack of vision, but he repeatedly skewered her as a lifetime politician, committed to existing policies. That’s his single most effective theme in a “change” election. Clinton did not offer her only possible retort, which is, "I can actually use my years of experience to lead our country forward in these ways . . ."

Bottom Line

Neither candidate accomplished all their major goals.

Clinton probably shored up her minority constituencies by her direct attacks on Trump, especially on the birther issue, where he is vulnerable.

Her ability to press home her attacks while still seeming likable could well reverse her recent downward slide in the polls. But it is not enough to weaken Trump badly.

He lives to fight another day. He will continue to fight like the Donald Trump of the Republican primaries. He is not backing away from his stance as a full-throated, often abrasive nationalist, an outsider who touts his successful businesses as proof enough that he can get things done.

He may have learned that a little formal debate prep is not such a bad thing. He left a lot of his opponent’s vulnerabilities unexploited. She hit all of his. The question now is whether Clinton accomplished enough to stop her slide. (Contributor: By Charles Lipson forReal Clear Politics- RCP contributor Charles Lipson is the Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. He blogs at ZipDialog.com and can be reached at charles.lipson@gmail.com.)

The next president of our country will be dealing with the weight of issues affecting every aspect of our lives, and he or she will need to do so with integrity and sincerity. Winning or losing a debate is secondary to leading our country with a heart that is submissive to God. While debates can bring clarity to a candidate’s platform, voters need to seek wisdom that comes from heaven and pray to truly see the character of their chosen candidate.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17)

SEPARATING ECONOMIC SENSE AND NONSENSE

Why is it that many politicians and journalists can quickly grasp the idea that if the tax on cigarettes or soft drinks with sugar is increased, the demand for them will decline, but seem unable to understand that increasing a tax on labor, like a mandated increase in the minimum wage, will cause a decline in the demand for labor, leading to higher unemployment?

A number of years ago, I was on a European speaking tour with a couple of other economists. One had received a Nobel Prize in economics. He was exceptionally smart, a math whiz, and a most pleasant fellow. Among his many accomplishments, he developed investment models with others, which were used to forecast. One of the forecasts had turned out to be spectacularly wrong and costly. When chatting with him about the matter, I realized that the problem was the number of years of data they used was too few (more years of the necessary data were not available at the time) to give them the level of certainty they thought they had. In our conversations, I also came to understand that he had done only limited reading in economic history (it was not his field), and was unaware of various financial and monetary bubbles and crashes that have occurred over the last few centuries. Perhaps if he and his colleagues had been as well schooled in economic history as they were in applied mathematics, their risk assessments might have been different.

It is always disheartening to hear politicians propose policies that will not make citizens richer with more opportunities as claimed, but make them less wealthy with fewer options. Politicians who advocate for higher capital gains tax rates, higher taxes on the “wealthy,” higher inheritance tax rates, higher tariffs, more government spending and more regulations, fail to recognize, or admit, that all of this has been tried many times before, with disastrous results. They are either ignorant of economic history or are relying on the ignorance of the press and the people to buy such claptrap. Even more disconcerting are those economists who try to make an argument of why this time the outcomes from bad policies are going to be different — apparently to curry favor with the political and media class.

The high priests of many academic disciplines, with the intent of making it seem more difficult, create many unnecessary new words, when simple, commonly understood words in the English language will suffice in most cases. Economists have not only been guilty of that sin, but in recent decades, have developed the fashion of insisting that almost every academic article be expressed in mathematical terms, or at least have a mathematical appendix, even when totally unnecessary or inappropriate. The result has been that increasing numbers of economics students, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, have spent much of their time studying math rather than economic principles and history. In 2000, the noted economist Thomas Sowell wrote a very fine and well-reviewed introduction to economics, “Basic Economics: A Citizen’s Guide to the Economy,” proving that it was possible to write a clear, accurate and concise economics text without equations, graphs or jargon.

The great intellectual debate among non-socialist economists about the proper role of government during the last 80 years is largely between the followers of John Maynard Keynes and the Austrian school of economists led by F.A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, and their frequent Chicago school allies led by Milton Friedman. The great tragedy is many economic students graduate without knowing who Friedman and Hayek were, let alone their contributions to economic thought. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan were fans and disciples of Hayek, while many big-government types tend to be Keynesians. Without understanding the substantive debate between these two conflicting visions, it is hard for members of the press and the political class to present coherent thoughts on many public policy issues.

For those wishing to acquire basic economic literacy without the technicalities, I suggest the 2016 edition of short classic bestseller for non-economists, “Common Sense Economics: What Everyone Should Know About Wealth and Prosperity,” by James Gwartney and others. Again, for those who have no background in economics but would like to learn about money and the great bubbles and panics of the past, I recommend the very entertaining bestseller, “The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World,” by the distinguished historian Niall Ferguson. This book was adapted for an Emmy Award-winning PBS documentary. Finally, the single best one-volume book on the history of economic thought — both entertaining and dense in useful information, and now in its third edition — is Mark Skousen’s “The Making of Modern Economics: The Lives and Ideas of the Great Thinkers.” The above books provide what one needs to distill the sense from the nonsense about economics coming from the media and political class.(Contributor: By Richard W. Rahn forThe Washington Times- Richard W. Rahnis chairman of Improbable Success Productions and on the board of the American Council for Capital Formation.)

The economy remains one of the top concerns of most Americans, and the struggle is both national and personal. Pray for a president who will choose wise counselors, understanding how short term decisions affect long term prosperity.

“The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” (Prov. 12:15)

THE YEAR OF THE RETICENT VOTER

The signature sentence of this election begins with the words “In a country of 320 million . . .” I hear it everywhere.It ends with “how’d it come down to these two?” or “why’d we get them?

Another sentence is a now a common greeting among Republicans who haven’t seen each other in a while: “What are we gonna do?”

The most arresting sentence of the week came from a sophisticated Manhattan man friendly with all sides. I asked if he knows what he’ll do in November. “I know exactly,” he said with some spirit. “I will be one of the 40 million who will deny, the day after the election, that they voted for him. But I will.”

A high elected official, a Republican, got a faraway look when I asked what he thought was going to happen. “This is the unpollable election,” he said. People don’t want to tell you who they’re for. A lot aren’t sure. A lot don’t want to be pressed.

That’s exactly what I’ve seen the past few weeks in North Carolina, New Jersey, Tennessee and Minnesota.

Every four years I ask people if they’ll vote, and if they have a sense of how. Every four years they tell me—assertively or shyly, confidently or tentatively. This year is different. I’ve never seen people so nervous to answer. It’s so unlike America, this reticence, even defensiveness. It’s as if there’s a feeling that to declare who you’re for is to invite others to inspect your soul.

“I feel like this is the most controversial election ever,” said a food-court worker at La Guardia Airport. She works a full shift, 4 a.m. to noon, five days a week, then goes full-time to a nearby college. We’d been chatting a while, and when I asked the question she told me, carefully, that she hasn’t decided how she’ll vote, and neither have her family members. I said a lot of people seem nervous to say. She said: “Especially Trump people. They’re afraid you’ll think they’re stupid.”

Which is how I knew she was going to vote for Donald Trump.

It’s true: Trump voters especially don’t want to be categorized, judged, thought stupid—racist, sexist, Islamophobic, you name it. When most of them know, actually, that they’re not.

Voters who talk about 2016 are very careful to d___ both sides, air their disappointment, note that they’ve been following the election closely. They know each candidate’s history.

In Tennessee I asked a smart businessman who he’s for. He carefully and at length outlined his criticisms and concerns regarding both candidates. Then, as I started to leave, he threw in, from nowhere: “So I think Trump.”

When I talk to strangers—which I do a lot, and like it—I sometimes say dour, mordant things, to get them going by establishing that anything can be said. I say if Hillary Clinton is elected there will be at least one special prosecutor, maybe two, within 18 months, because her character will not be reborn on crossing the threshold of the White House; the well-worn grooves of her essential nature will kick in. If Mr. Trump is elected there will be a constitutional crisis within 18 months because he doesn’t really know what a president does, doesn’t respect traditional boundaries, doesn’t reflect on implications and effects. I always expect pushback. I am not getting it! I get nods, laughs and, in two recent cases, admissions that whoever wins they’d been wondering how soon impeachment proceedings would begin.

Oh, my pained and crazy country.

A final observation, underlying all. Under the smiles and beyond the reticence it is clear how seriously Americans are taking their decision, how gravely. As if it’s not Tweedledum and Tweedledee but an actual choice between two vastly different dramas, two different worlds of outcome and meaning. The cynic or the screwball? Shall we go to the bad place or the crazy place?

I returned knowing I was wrong about something. I thought everyone has been watching the election more than a year, everyone knows their opinion of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump, this thing is pretty much settled. No, it’s fluid. This cake is not baked.

I talked to Peter D. Hart, the veteran Democratic pollster. Are things as much in play as I think? Yes and no, he said. People do have a firm opinion of the two candidates, the clichés are set: “Hillary competent and cold, Trump an incompetent loose cannon.” But “the part that is evolving is a sense of what we need to do and where we need to go.” Everyone wants change, but people are deciding, “constructive change or radical change?”

Pollster Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies says nothing is settled. “Voters are angry at Clinton because she can’t tell the truth and they’re scared of Trump because they’re afraid he’s gonna start a war. There are times her un-truthiness outweighs their concern about him overreacting and starting a war. It goes back and forth.”

He disagrees with the “unpollable” premise: “It’s pollable. But if anyone says their results are cast in concrete, that’s a mistake. There’s a lot of fluidity.”

The veteran pollster Kellyanne Conway, now Trump campaign manager, says: “This thing is fluid in a way we don’t understand.” She is a close student of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign in all its aspects. Like Mr. Obama, she says, Mr. Trump is “a candidate built for the 21st century. . . . The most fundamental truth of politics is there’s no substitute for a great, magnetic, compelling candidate.”

She speaks of “undercover” Trump voters. “To call them hidden is a mistake. They’re undercover because they’ve gotten to the point they’re tired of arguing. . . . Some have been voting Democratic all their life, they voted for Obama, they’re tired of defending and explaining themselves” to family and coworkers. “They don’t want to proselytize.”

Mr. Hart said the debates are unusually important this year. “Trump is the central character—it’s his last opportunity to get a fresh look from voters. A debate is an open window. Voters suspend opinions and look afresh. Attitudes toward Trump have not changed—temperament questions, can he do the job?” This is a chance for him to “establish credibility at this stage of the game.” By contrast, “Hillary’s problems are not professional but personal—can I like her, does she understand me. . . . It’s an opportunity for her to get voters saying, ‘You know something, she’s not a bad egg.’ ”

Ms. Conway too says the debates are key. “People like a clash of the titans. They like a contest. These debates are the ultimate reality show—the stakes have never been higher.” After the Democratic convention the Clinton campaign, in a major miscalculation, “lowered the bar” for Trump, “calling him unfit, unpresidential.” That turned him into the underdog. “Americans love an underdog.”

Ms. Conway remembered what happened in 2008 when John McCain referred to his long experience. “Obama said if experience means you got us into this mess overseas and tanked the economy, maybe experience is overrated. We are turning this around on Clinton now.”

Mr. Trump’s advantage? “Americans love to say they think outside the box. Trump lives outside the box. Hillary is the box.” (Contributor: By Peggy Noonan forThe Wall Street Journal)

The many constituents who show a reluctance to cast a vote but understand the importance of voting demonstrate an unprecedented lack of confidence in the choice of candidates this year. Pray that ballots would be cast with confidence, trusting in God being able to use whomever is elected for His glory.

“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Eph. 3:12)

SENATE CLEARS WAY FOR $1.15 BILLION ARMS SALE TO SAUDI ARABIA

TheU.S. Senate cleared the way for a $1.15 billion sale of tanks and other military equipment to Saudi Arabiaon Wednesday, defending a frequent partner in the Middle East recently subject to harsh criticism in Congress.

The Senate voted 71 to 27 to kill legislation that would have stopped the sale.

The overwhelming vote stopped an effort led by Republican Senator Rand Paul and Democratic Senator Chris Murphy to block the deal over concerns including Saudi Arabia's role in the 18-month-long war in Yemen and worries that it might fuel an ongoing regional arms race.

The Pentagon announced on Aug. 9 that the State Department had approved the potential sale of more than 130 Abrams battle tanks, 20 armored recovery vehicles and other equipment to Saudi Arabia.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency said General Dynamics Corp would be the principal contractor for the sale.

Paul, Murphy and other opponents of the arms deal were sharply critical of the Riyadh government during debate before the vote, citing Yemen, the kingdom's human rights record and its international support for a conservative form of Islam.

"If you're serious about stopping the flow of extremist recruiting across this globe, then you have to be serious that the ... brand of Islam that is spread by Saudi Arabia all over the world, is part of the problem," Murphy said.

The criticism came days before lawmakers are expected to back another measure seen as anti-Saudi, a bill that would allow lawsuits against the country's government by relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

President Barack Obama has promised to veto that bill, but congressional leaders say there is a strong chance that lawmakers will override the veto and let the measure become law. Overriding a presidential veto requires a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate.

In Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is battling Iranian-allied Houthis, the Houthis have accused the United States of arming and supporting the Saudis, who intervened on the side of Yemen's exiled government.

The war has killed over 10,000 people and displaced more than 3 million.

But backers of the deal said Saudi Arabia is an important U.S. ally in a war-torn region, deserving of U.S. support.

"This motion comes at a singularly unfortunate time and would serve to convince Saudi Arabia and all other observers that the United States does not live up to its commitments," Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. (Contributor: ByPatricia Zengerlefor Reuters News - Editing by Grant McCool and Sandra Maler)

Agreements and treaties between different nations go back to ancient times. The Bible cautions against making alliances with unbelieving nations. Pray for our government to exercise caution and discernment when making foreign policy decisions and aligning our country with foreign nations.

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” (2 Cor. 6:14)

CHRISTIAN PASTORS FACE DEATH PENALTY IF CONVICTED IN SUDAN

Last December,two evangelical pastors from the Church of Christ in Sudan were taken from their churches and thrown into jail. Last month, the Rev. Abdulraheem Kodi and the Rev. Kuwa Shamal Abu Zumam were charged with numerous offenses, including waging war against the state, espionage and undermining Sudan’s constitutional system.

Their trial has begun. They could get the death penalty if they're found guilty.

Two other men, Czech aid worker Petr Jasek and Darfuri human rights activist Abduelmoneim Abdulmwlla, have also been detained. They, too, are accused of conspiring against the state, provoking hatred against or among sects and spreading false information.

Kodi and Zumam hail from the Nuba Mountains, a region that continues to be bombed and brazenly targeted by Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, in what human rights and Christian groups say is an effort to rid the country of the Nuba people — indigenous groups who do not fit the regime’s vision of an Islamic nation and are accused of supporting anti-government rebels.

Bishop of Kadugli Diocese, Reverend Andudu Adam Elnail – who is now based in South Carolina after fleeing Sudan in 2011 after government forces allegedly burned down his property when he refused to use his extensive church leadership outreach to endorse the President – told FoxNews.com.

Al-Bashir, the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the International Criminal Court — there is an outstanding warrant for his arrest in connection to war crimes in Darfur — took power in a 1989 coup and has long taken a stance of “one language (Arabic), one religion (Islam).”

Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services have accused the pastors of exposing state secrets. But their defenders say the claims against them have been concocted, and that they are being persecuted by al-Bashir and the Sudanese government. They are appealing desperately to the international community to intervene.

“We call for their protection and immediate release and urge that the U.N., U.S. government – including Congress – and other world communities demand the freedom of these two men of God and other prisoners,” said the Rev. Andudu Adam Elnail, bishop of Kadugli Diocese.

Elnail fled from Sudan five years ago after he refused to endorse al-Bashir and government forces allegedly burned down his property. Now based in South Carolina, he said Kodi and Zumam are in solitary confinement and are not allowed visits or phone calls with family members. He described Zumam whom he has known for many years, as a “humble and good man” in his mid-40s, a father of seven who has dedicated his life to family and faith.

“The government is not interested in the Christian religion. There is no freedom for us, we cannot build churches, we are treated as second-class citizens,” Elnail lamented. “We need the international community to pressure the government of Sudan to give us our freedom of religion.”

“The pastors are accused of sharing evidence of the government burning down churches in Khartoum and bombing churches in the Nuba Mountains,” said Philip Tutu, a native of the Nuba Mountains, who now resides in the U.S and advocates for the rights of the Nuba people.

“The government says its security policy is to keep this information confidential to avoid pressure from the international community.

“Clearly, the pastors are unfairly targeted. The hearings are postponed repeatedly. A lot of people are showing up for the hearings and not everyone is able to attend, including some attorneys for the pastors.”

The attorneys, who asked not to be identified, fearing government retaliation, stressed that more action is needed to support the pastors and to protect Christians in the Nuba Mountains, where they are deemed to be “atheists.”

A spokesperson from the U.S State Department said senior officials at the U.S Embassy in Khartoum have been tracking this case since the pastors were arrested and have repeatedly raised concerns about the matter.

“We are committed to working with countries to make tangible improvements in respect for religious freedom and continue to look for opportunities to address these issues with the government of South Sudan,” the spokesperson said.

Christian persecution is nothing new in war-torn Sudan, where churches are routinely razed and church leaders are targeted and taunted. And though Sudan has been designated a “Country of Particular Concern” by the U.S. State Department since 1999, the situation has worsened.

“Members of Sudan’s minority Christian community have been arrested, their religious buildings attacked, churches and educational institutions closed and their religious literature confiscated,” said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, S.J, chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

“The government will no longer issue permits for the building of new churches. Government policies and societal pressure promote conversion to Islam. Christians are pressured to deny their faith or convert to gain employment.”

Kiri Kankhwende, of the U.K-based advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said the situation for Christians in Sudan has particularly deteriorated since the secession in 2011 of South Sudan, which was championed as a foreign policy success story by the Obama administration but has since descended into civil war.

“Since then, the government has called for a 100 percent Islamic nation with a constitution based wholly on Shariah law,” Kankhwende told FoxNews.com. “The restrictions placed on Christians over the last five years indicate that the government is moving toward this goal.”

Amnesty International issued a joint letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council this month condemning the lack of freedom of religion in Sudan and calling on the government to release all individuals who have been arbitrarily detained. The independent Sudanese Human Rights and Development Organization has appealed to Pope Francis to exert his influence on Khartoum to help the jailed church leaders.

Open Doors USA, a Christian human rights organization, has called the persecution of Christians in Sudan akin to “ethnic cleansing” and stressed that the “right kind of attention” in the case of the Sudanese priests is vital.

“The more influential voices that can be heard on this issue, the more likely the government of Sudan is to at least consider objections to this miscarriage of justice,” said Open Doors president and CEO David Curry.

The Embassy of the Republic of Sudan in Washington, D.C., could not be reached for comment. The pastors’ trial is set to resume Wednesday. (Contributor: By Hollie McKay  forFox News)

We are blessed to have the freedom to worship and practice our faith in this country, but in many places around the world Christians are being persecuted and falsely accused due to their beliefs. Pray for the persecuted Church, and for these prisoners to be released.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4:8-9)

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Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
The Informer September 21, 2016

On Watch in Washington September 21, 2016 Plain Text PDF Version

POLLS ARE SPARKING ALARM

Hillary Clinton’s once formidable lead over Donald Trump in national and battleground polls is evaporating.

Trump has pulled into the lead in Florida and Ohio, two crucial states where he has trailed Clinton for most of the race, and several states that once looked out of reach for Trump — Colorado and Virginia, among them — suddenly appear competitive.

One survey showed Trump swinging to a lead in Nevada, a state that President Obama carried with ease during both of his presidential campaigns. And a poll of Iowa, which has only gone for the GOP nominee once in the last seven elections, found Trump ahead by 8 points.

The swing in national polls is equally dramatic.

While Clinton led Trump by an average of 7.6 percentage points one month ago, her advantage is now down to a meager 1.8 percent, according to the RealClearPolitics average.

“No question there’s a movement toward Trump right now,” said Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray. “When the media is focused on one candidate over the other, it’s generally negative. The media has been focused on Clinton and her health, and Trump smartly did not try to steal the limelight from her.”

The shift in the polls comes amid a brutal stretch for Clinton, who started last weekend by lumping half of Trump’s supporters into a “basket of deplorables” and then suffered a dramatic health scare while leaving a 9/11 memorial in New York City, only to later reveal a pneumonia diagnosis.

While the Clinton campaign has showed no public signs of panic, it is bringing the party’s heavy artillery to Ohio, dispatching Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to campaign in the state.

Democrats can take comfort in the Electoral College map, which gives Trump a narrow path to the necessary 270 votes. To win, he will likely have to pick off a blue state like New Hampshire or Pennsylvania, where he is still behind.

Yet the race is unquestionably moving into toss-up territory as Trump and Clinton prepare for a momentous debate on Sept. 26.

“The first debate is pivotal for Clinton if she’s going to arrest this drip and recover,” said Geoffrey Skelley, a polling analyst for University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “If she doesn’t, then this race stays on a knife’s edge. It’s gone from being unlikely that Trump could win, to a slightly uphill climb for him.”

A CBS News-New York Times poll released Thursday found Trump and Clinton locked at 42 percent support nationally.

Only 43 percent of Clinton’s supporters say they’re excited about casting a ballot for her, compared to 50 percent of Trump’s supporters who are excited to vote for him. More than a third of young voters — a diverse group that leans left and formed a key part of the Obama coalition — are supporting a third-party alternative over Clinton.

Election handicappers are taking a wait-and-see approach before declaring a fundamental shift in the race, believing it’s still likelier that Clinton will win enough battleground states to take the White House.

Forecasting models from the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and Frontloading HQ still show Clinton with a significant Electoral College advantage.

U.Va.’s model has Clinton running the table on the battleground states to win 348 electoral votes, which would be slightly better than Obama’s showing against Republican Mitt Romney in 2012.

But FiveThirtyEight’s forecasting model, run by data guru Nate Silver, finds Clinton’s likelihood of victory has plummeted from nearly 90 percent in August to 61 percent.

In the FiveThirtyEight forecast, Clinton ekes out a popular vote victory by 2.3 points and earns 290 electoral votes, compared to 246 for Trump. That’s a deficit that can be closed by moving two battleground states from Clinton’s column into Trump’s.

“I still think Clinton has a slight advantage,” said GOP pollster David Winston. “But it has definitely tightened up; this race is extremely volatile.”

Republicans have seen this movie before and are skeptical.

This week, conservative commentator Noah Rothman tweeted out a bevy of headlines from October of 2012 declaring that Romney had seized momentum and opened up a lead over Obama in the battleground states.

On Election Day, Obama out-performed the polls on the strength of his superior get-out-the-vote effort. He coasted to reelection, winning every battleground state except for one.

Democrats will once again have the advantage in money and ground game in 2016.

But pollsters caution that there is no analogue for the 2016 race.

Analysts have never had to handicap a race with two candidates as historically unpopular as Trump and Clinton. There are still an unusual number of undecided voters, and interest in the third-party candidates remains a wild card.

Those variables have pollsters struggling to forecast turnout, and importantly, the likely make-up of the electorate.

The uncertainty has fueled debate over polling methodologies as outlets have turned from sampling registered voters to screening respondents for those they believe are likeliest to vote.

“The incredible negatives these candidates have makes it very difficult to determine what a likely voter looks like,” said Winston, the GOP pollster.

Earlier in the cycle, Clinton outperformed Trump among likely voters. Now, the pendulum has swung in favor of Trump.

In the Monmouth University survey of Nevada that showed Trump ahead by 2 points, pollster Murray said he screened out a significant number of Hispanics — who presumably would have supported Clinton — because they answered questions in a way that indicated they were less likely to vote.

A Bloomberg poll of Ohio that found Trump ahead by 5 points among likely voters put the electorate at 43 percent Republican and only 36 percent Democratic.

“Our party breakdown differs from other polls, but resembles what happened in Ohio in 2004,” pollster Ann Selzer, one of the nation’s best pollsters, told Bloomberg. “It is very difficult to say today who will and who will not show up to vote on Election Day. Our poll suggests more Republicans than Democrats would do that in an Ohio election held today.”

Pollsters don’t know whether minority voters and college-educated whites will turn out for Clinton because they fear a Trump presidency. They doubt the third-party candidates will pull their current level of support, but are unsure if those voters will stay home or move to a major party candidate. And they don’t know if Trump’s enthusiasm advantage is enough to overcome the Democratic turnout machine.

“It’s hard to know what the polls mean right now because the vast majority are motivated to vote against the other candidate,” Murray said. “We’ve never had a situation like this. It’s unprecedented. You can’t compare it to anything in modern times.”  (Contributor: By Jonathan Easley for The Hill)

The divisiveness that has defined this election, even among Christians, takes the focus off of our King. As we move closer to Election Day, pray that we never forget the source of our hope, even in government, and that unity will prevail in the Body of Christ and in the nation.

 “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.” (John 17:22-23)

HERE’S WHAT TRUMP AND CLINTON SHOULD KEEP IN MIND AT FIRST DEBATE

Hillary Clinton needs to put a smile on her face. Donald Trump needs to avoid saying anything at all about her face.

Those are two of the tips from insiders for the major party candidates as they head toward their first, potentially pivotal debate. Among the others: They need to be careful. The public knows the two presidential candidates unusually well, so if they suddenly seem to be undergoing personality shifts, they’ll stumble.

“Trump’s got to worry about being overprepared and overtrained,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally. “You can’t stand there and try to remember what some adviser told you to say.”

Clinton has to avoid trying to become a blunt-talking personality like Trump. At the same time, she can’t be too detailed. “She doesn’t want to overtalk things,” said Steve Schale, who ran President Barack Obama’s 2008 Florida campaign.

Clinton and Trump are scheduled to debate for the first time on Sept. 26. They will face off again on Oct. 9 and 19. These, say the experts, are the key takeaways from 2016 campaign debates gone by: 

Don’t get too personal

It’s one thing to challenge a rival’s public record, but quite another to insult them personally. Trump’s lowest debate moment came a year ago.

He had criticized rival Carly Fiorina’s face before the debate, and at the debate, Fiorina hit back hard, “Women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” Fiorina said icily. Trump backed off, saying Fiorina’s “got a beautiful face.”

Fiorina’s response “wasn’t thought of in advance, tested with a focus group or written by Hollywood elites – it was Carly being Carly,” recalled Fred Sadler, her campaign manager. It gave her a brief boost into the GOP top tier, though she soon faded after controversy over her anti-abortion rhetoric.

Seize the agenda

Trump proved himself a master of controlling the debate and keeping opponents guessing what he’d do or say next. “One of his strengths is his spontaneity,” said Jeff Kaufmann, the chairman of the Iowa Republican Party.

Clinton must be careful not to fall into the trap of spending too much time reacting. She should heed the lesson of Jeb Bush, a former governor of Florida, who tried to match Trump’s insults at an February debate in South Carolina. Trump easily won the state a week later. Bush finished a distant fourth and was soon out of the race.

The lesson, said Dan Gerstein, a veteran Democratic political strategist, is that Clinton should quickly try to present herself as the true change agent. Don’t try to go one-on-one with Trump’s quips or insults, he said, because whether he’s correct or not, a lot of people see the media and the Washington establishment as villains that he’s effectively challenged.

Instead, Gerstein said, Clinton should stick to a central theme, that she’s been promoting change for years while he has no record. “She has to keep asking, ‘What have you done?’ ’’ said Gerstein, who helped prepare Connecticut Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman for his 2000 vice presidential debate and 2004 presidential primary debates.

Don’t get locked into your script

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was pretty much done after Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, scolded him repeatedly at a February debate for his “memorized 25-second speech.”

Clinton has a tendency to repeat her points, Gingrich said, so Trump has to be ready to disrupt her rhythm. “She is very prepared for a controlled environment,” Gingrich said.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a Clinton campaign surrogate, had this advice: “As long as she keeps a smile on her face and time after time after time shows she knows what she’s talking about and he doesn’t, that’ll make a difference.”

Make people like you

“These debates are ultimately about feelings. You want people to come away with a good feeling about you,” said Bob Mulholland, a California-based Democratic consultant.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, found that while he had command of issues and a solid ideological base, he couldn’t match Trump’s regular-guy appeal.

“Trump is willing to do what other candidates have rarely done,” said Saul Anuzis, a Cruz adviser. He comes off as real, as approachable, and that’s hard to match. “You don’t know what to expect,” Anuzis said.

Remember, this is not a primary debate audience

Primary candidates had different missions. Because there were many candidates, voters had the luxury of looking for someone who agreed with them on specifics.

Clinton sparred with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders over ideas and policy. Republicans began with a 17-person field, and the debates often became a demolition derby of sorts, not only a test of ideas but also an effort to demonize and eliminate many rivals.

Now that there are two general-election candidates, and each is trying to appeal to broader audiences, “you’re not debating the person onstage,” said Chris Lehane, who advised Al Gore during his 2000 presidential debates. “You’re speaking directly to the audience.” (Contributor: By David Lightman for McClatchy DC)

Pray that the candidates stick to the issues and refrain from personal attacks.  In scripture, Ezekiel speaks of a righteous man judging fairly.  Pray that voters would be able to judge fairly based on the issues and not be manipulated by unjust opinions.

“He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between two parties.” (Eze. 18:8)

U.S. AND ISRAEL REACH AGREEMENT ON UNPRECEDENTED AMOUNT OF MILITARY AID

Israel and the United States have reached an agreement that will provide Israel an unprecedented amount of military aid over a decade.

The State Department said the agreement, known as a memo of understanding, will be signed Wednesday afternoon. Jacob Nagel, Israel’s acting national security adviser, arrived in Washington on Tuesday morning to sign on behalf of his country.

The agreement is expected to give Israel as much as $3.8 billion a year over 10 years, more aid than the United States has ever provided to any country. That represents a significant increase over the $3.1 billion the United States gives annually now, a figure that increases to about $3.5 billion a year with aid supplements approved by Congress. That is also much lower than the $4 billion to $5 billion a year that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought.

Netanyahu appears to have agreed to some other major concessions. The newspaper Haaretz reported that he agreed to limit Israel’s ability to lobby Congress for more aid, unless it is at war. The Israeli leader also agreed that Israel will not ask Congress for more aid to develop missile defense systems.

In another concession that was controversial in Israel’s ­defense industry, Netanyahu agreed to phase out a special arrangement that for decades has allowed Israel to spend 26 percent of U.S. aid on defense research, development and procurement. No other country receiving U.S. funding is allowed to do so. But Israel was granted that exception in the 1980s so it could build up its nascent defense infrastructure. With Israel’s defense industry now thriving, the Obama administration wanted U.S. aid directed to American companies providing goods and services.

U.S. officials declined to comment on the specifics of the agreement.

Negotiations for the aid package have been underway since November to replace a memo of understanding that will end in 2018. The new agreement will run from 2019 through 2028.

Salai Meridor, who was Israel’s ambassador when the last agreement was signed, welcomed the deal, despite some reservations.

“I don’t measure this relationship by the dollar number and whatever the exact number is. It is a reflection of the great relationship between the state of Israel and America,” he said.

But Meridor called it disappointing to have limitations on Israel requesting more aid from Congress in the future.

“Many of the important initiatives that have cemented the relationship have been the result of Congress’s initiative,” he said. “I think this is an element of the agreement we might all regret in the future.”

The talks have been complicated by substantive, political and personal differences. Netanyahu and President Obama have had a famously contentious relationship that reached a boiling point in 2015 when the Israeli leader appeared before Congress to lobby against the Iran nuclear deal.

The Obama administration wanted the increased military aid package completed before the end of his term to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to Israeli security after the agreement with Iran.

“It’s a good deal for Israel and a good deal for the United States,” said Ilan Goldenberg, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “It sends a signal to those in the region that the U.S.-Israel relationship is a bedrock in the Middle East. Whatever difficult relationship exists between the president and the prime minister, at a strategic level, the relationship is better than that. Even if Obama and Netanyahu don’t like each other very much, Israel and the United States are willing to make a commitment to Israel’s security.”

The agreement has political advantages for both leaders. Netanyahu has been criticized for his aggressive tactics on the Iran nuclear deal, with critics saying he has poisoned relations with Israel’s greatest ally. Obama has insisted that the United States remains Israel’s biggest protector, despite any personal and political differences with the prime minister.

“In financial terms, Israel maybe could have gotten more in the summer of 2015 than the summer of 2016,” said David Makovsky, a fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “But it’s still an increase. What seems to have driven the idea of coming to closure on this now is that both sides would like to get this done before the election.”

Israel remains concerned about the threat posed by Iran, particularly now that its isolation has been eroded with the Iran nuclear deal.

“We do not want this to be interpreted as being compensated for a deal we did not consent to,” said Eran Lerman, a former deputy national security adviser to the prime minister.

“We know Israel was not alone in the region of feeling worried about the consequences,” he added.

It remains to be seen whether the $3.8 billion a year represents a ceiling or a floor. The agreement appears to rein in Israel’s ability to ask for more money. But members of Congress, particularly those involved in appropriations, have expressed a reluctance to give up their ability to allocate money based on their sense of priorities. (Contributors: By Carol Morello and Ruth Eglash for The Washington Post - Eglash reported from Jerusalem. William Booth in Jerusalem contributed to this report.)

Give thanks for our administration’s commitment to the security of Israel, and pray that it continues. Also pray that personal differences are set aside as our nation stands with them as God commands.

“…for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye…” (Zech. 2:8)

CONCERN OVER COLIN POWELL’S HACKED EMAILS BECOMES A FEAR OF BEING NEXT

panicked network anchor went home and deleted his entire personal Gmail account. A Democratic senator began rethinking the virtues of a flip phone. And a former national security official gave silent thanks that he is now living on the West Coast.

The digital queasiness has settled heavily on the nation’s capital and its secretive political combatants this week as yet another victim, former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, fell prey to the embarrassment of seeing his personal musings distributed on the internet and highlighted in news reports.

“There but for the grace of God go all of us,” said Tommy Vietor, a former National Security Council spokesman for President Obama who now works in San Francisco. He said thinking about his own email exchanges in Washington made him cringe, even now.

“Sometimes we’re snarky, sometimes we are rude,” Mr. Vietor said, recalling a few such moments during his time at the White House. “The volume of hacking is a moment we all have to do a little soul searching.”

The Powell hack, which may have been conducted by a group with ties to the Russian government, echoed the awkwardness of previous leaks of emails from Democratic National Committee officials and the C.I.A. director, John O. Brennan. The messages exposed this week revealed that Mr. Powell considered Donald J. Trump a “national disgrace,” Hillary Clinton “greedy” and former Vice President Dick Cheney an “idiot.”

The latest hack could well spur a new rash of email deletions across the country as millions of people scan their sent mail for anything compromising, humiliating or career-destroying. It adds to the sense that everyone is vulnerable.

The soul searching is happening with a special urgency in Washington, where email accounts burst with strategies, delicate political proposals, gossipy whispers and banal details of girlfriends, husbands, bank accounts and shopping lists.

A television news anchor said that producers and staff members at her network had jokingly agreed at a morning news meeting to issue blanket apologies to one another if their emails were ever made public.

She said Mr. Powell’s emails had revealed him, a normally stoic public official, to be just as gossipy as everyone else, and added that the gossip, not classified information, was what people feared becoming public.

On Capitol Hill, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, said the news of Mr. Powell’s hacked emails had him thinking that Senator Chuck Schumer’s never-ending use of an old-fashioned flip phone “makes more sense than ever.”

“I think more and more people are realizing that there isn’t a thing you can say in an email that isn’t likely to be hackable or discoverable at some later point,” Mr. Durbin said, lamenting his own complacency.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, shrugged off the news. “I haven’t worried about an email being hacked since I’ve never sent one,” Mr. Graham said. “I’m, like, ahead of my time.”

But for another network anchor in Washington, who declined to be named for fear of becoming an even more prominent hacking target, the Powell disclosures led to a long night Wednesday that involved saving a few personal emails and then deleting his entire account. Everyone, he said, has sent emails they would not want released, including innocent messages that could be misinterpreted.

Washington may be behind other big cities in learning that lesson. Bankers on Wall Street have favored very brief emails since their conversations were splashed across front pages because of lawsuits filed after the financial crisis. In 2010, Goldman Sachs executives used the acronym “LDL,” for “let’s discuss live,” when a conversation turned at all sensitive.

Hank Paulson, a former Goldman Sachs chief executive, refuses to use email. Ben S. Bernanke, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, once set up an email account under the pseudonym Edward Quince in the hopes of greater privacy.

Similar precautions have been common in Silicon Valley since a 2009 Chinese state cyberattack on servers at Google and other tech companies. In Hollywood, a breach at Sony Pictures in 2014 spilled out gossipy secrets and persuaded film crews, actors and executives alike to adopt security measures they once considered paranoid. Studios have turned to a new class of companies with names like WatchDox that wrap screenplays with encryption, passwords and monitoring systems that can track who has access to confidential files.

“It has, without question, affected what I say in writing,” said Jordan Roberts, a writer and director whose credits include the coming comedic drama “Burn Your Maps.” The Sony hack gave him “a personal pause button that hopefully spares me future potential embarrassment for the sake of a quick and pithy and frequently unfounded, and almost always unnecessary, insult,” he said.

Joe Quenqua, who runs the entertainment practice at the DKC public relations firm, said by email that everyone thinks twice before shooting off an email. “Might it make for some more banal email exchanges? A bit less gossipy?” he wrote. “Sure, but it’s so simple: Better safe than sorry.”

Richard Gelfond, the chief executive of IMAX, said: “I used to be a little more tolerant of what others say in email. That ended.”

In some countries outside the United States, there has long been a more cautious approach to electronic communications. In Pakistan, politicians often agree to speak to reporters in person only after removing phone batteries or covering the microphones with a pillow. Many in the Middle East have migrated to more secure services like Telegram or Signal.

Many Americans have learned the hard way. Aaron E. Carroll, a pediatrician and research professor at Indiana University, discovered the dangers after writing a newspaper article defending artificial sweeteners that prompted health groups to demand his university emails. The groups hoped to prove links between Dr. Carroll and companies that make sugary drinks and snacks.

“It totally devastated me,” Dr. Carroll said on Thursday. “I was freaking out, not because I did anything wrong — all of a sudden, I was panicked about what have I said that was inappropriate or that could be taken out of context.”

Dr. Carroll, who said he had no connection to any food companies, engaged in a “scorched earth” policy in the weeks after his emails were handed over to the health groups. He deleted just about everything off his university email account and now clears out the account regularly.

“I’m a little more careful now. I’ll just walk down the hall instead of sending a long email,” he said, though he added that he still sent personal and work messages on the same account for convenience. “It has not changed my daily habits of email as much as you might think.”

That was also a sentiment on Capitol Hill, where some treated the prospect of a Powell-like hack lightly.

Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri said he was already a “late adopter” when it came to email because he never thought it was secure. He said he had been careful not to rely heavily on email when he was in charge of wrangling votes for Republicans in Congress.

“I think that a lot of people are now finding out why that should have been the case for lots of other people,” Mr. Blunt said.

Mr. Durbin, asked if he was worried enough to scour through his sent mail, sighed and shook his head.

“Oh, no,” he said. “The Russians will have to read it.” (Contributor: By Michael D. Shear and Nicholas Fandos for The New York Times)

Our words have impact, either to bless or curse people. What used to be considered private is now public domain thanks to ever changing technology, and offhand comments can have a devastating effect.  Pray that we would choose our words carefully and refrain from gossip and slander.       

“Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.” (Prov. 21:23)

CHRISTIANS TO UNITE IN TEXAS FOR 'THE GATHERING' TO PRAY FOR THE NATION

Christian leaders from across the country will unite in prayer next week at The Gathering, an ecumenical solemn assembly to ask God for forgiveness and seek His wisdom for spiritual transform in the nation.

The Gathering is expected to draw thousands of believers together and will feature nationally-renowned Christian leaders and pastors from diverse churches and denominations who will be leading people in prayer for their families, churches and the country. The event will be open to the public at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21 at Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas.

Speakers at The Gathering will including the event's main organizer, Pastor Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Pastors Greg Laurie and Ronnie Floyd, along with James Robison, Bishop Harry Jackson, Anne Graham Lotz, and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, among many others who can be seen here.

Rodriguez, who serves as president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said in an interview wih The Christian Post on Wednesday that he's participating in The Gathering because he believes, as a nation, "We stand at the precipice of losing our religious liberties via the conduit of judicial activism and legislative initiatives that view our Judeo-Christian values system as a threat to advancing a morally relativistic worldview.

"Complacency is captivity, we must pray, preach and vote," he added.

The solemn assembly, according to The Gathering website, will focus on praying for four areas of change in Americans' lives: personal, families, communities and the nation.

"Whenever a solemn assembly or sacred gathering has been called in Scripture, it has usually been called by those in leadership — whether that be a priest, prophet or king — and it has usually been called for leadership first," the site adds.

"Even in America, our historical records verify that prior to every national awakening, the spiritual leadership of the day has placed a heavy emphasis on gathering in smaller groups for fasting and prayer which then led to larger gatherings and greater change."

Among the scriptures cited by The Gathering is 2 Chronicles 7:14, which reads: "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

The Rt. Rev. Ray R. Sutton, dean of the Province and Ecumenical Affairs of the Anglican Church in North America, will also be among those offering their prayers at the event.

"My involvement is tied to my relationship with Dr. Tony Evans, who was a classmate of mine in seminary, and who has been a good friend over the years. We both labor in ministry in the Dallas area together," Sutton told CP.

"We have shared common concerns that the Great Commission needs not only to make converts, but disciples by 'teaching them all that Jesus commanded.' This means reaching families, and not just individuals. This also means being a witness in the culture."

When Sutton was asked by CP what he wants attendees and those watching online to take from the event, Sutton said he hopes they will be inspired to evangelize.

"I hope the Christians who watch and participate will be called to the fullness of the disciple-making commitment of the Great Commission," he said.

Other noteworthy guest speakers who will be at The Gathering include Southern Evangelical Seminary President Dr. Richard Land, Pastor Max Lucado, National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson and the Benham Brothers.

The Gathering will be free of political agendas and merchandise, according to the event's FAQ page. No offering will be received. No books will be sold. To register for the free event, click here. To watch the livestream, click here. (Contributor: By ChristianPost.com  and Foxnews.com)

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The Informer September 14, 2016

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EARLY VOTING BEGINS IN WHITE HOUSE RACE

Brace yourselves: Election Day has begun.

Some federal write-in absentee ballots, which are typically reserved for people serving dangerous foreign deployments or stints on submarines, have already started to come in. And that trickle of ballots will soon become a flood, with early voting set to begin in several states around the country.

The first round of early ballots will be dropped in the mail in North Carolina on Friday, kicking off a nearly nine-week sprint of early and absentee voting before the final results are tallied on Nov. 8.

Alabama elections officials will begin putting ballots in the mail on Sept. 15. By the following week, ballots from all 50 states will be on their way to members of the Armed Services and registered voters living abroad.

On September 23, voters in Minnesota will be the first with a chance to cast their ballots early, at in-person locations around the state. Polls open in South Dakota and Michigan the following day. By the end of September, voters in seven states will be able to cast ballots in person.

The popularity of early and absentee voting has exploded in the last decade and a half. In 2000, about one in five voters cast their ballots before Election Day. In 2016, more than a third of voters are likely to cast their ballots early this year, according to Michael McDonald, a political scientist who tracks the early vote at the University of Florida.

“We’ve been on an upward trend of early voting since really the late 1970s,” McDonald said. “Part of what we see in the upward trend is that more states will offer early voting options.”

Since the 2012 elections, in which 32 percent of voters cast ballots early, two states have made significant changes that give voters more access to early ballots: New Jersey now allows voters to obtain an absentee ballot without an excuse, four years after Hurricane Sandy shut down voting in some coastal cities. And Colorado now mails ballots to all of their registered voters.

Early voting can also help voters deal with a longer ballot, especially in states like Washington, California and Oregon where ballot measures can make for hours of reading.

“This year has a really loaded general election ballot, including a bumper crop of state and local measures, the White House, Congress, most of the legislature, judges and local races,” said Kim Wyman, Washington’s Secretary of State. “It is a lot to ask of our voters, and we’re pleased to have the convenience of vote-by-mail and a generous voting period, as we now think of ‘Election Day’ as being.”

Those who show up early are almost certainly hardened partisans, setting both parties on a scramble to chase their most likely supporters and bank as many votes as possible. The first to vote tend to be older, highly informed voters who are registered with a party — those likeliest to already know how they are going to vote. Those who show up later are younger, and much less likely to identify with a party.

Even before the first absentee ballots go out, the first vote has been cast. North Carolina officials said August 26 they had received a Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot from Francois Farge, a 51-year old Republican registered to vote in North Carolina but living in France. Click here to see where election ballots are now being sent out for absentee and early voting by state. (Contributor: By Reid Wilson, Garrett Evans, Sarah Mearhoff and Joe DiSipio for The Hill)

Whether you are voting early or on November 8, candidates will be making a campaign push in the last few weeks before the election to secure your vote.  Ask the Lord for wisdom, and as the votes are cast, let us remember the One who sits on the throne and know that His Kingdom will not be shaken.

“Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” (Isa. 9:7)

‘RELIGIOUS FREEDOM,’ ‘LIBERTY’ JUST ‘CODE WORDS’ FOR INTOLERANCE

The chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said that “religious freedom” and “religious liberty” have become merely “code words” for intolerance, “Christian supremacy” and committing every form of identity-politics sin, and thus they must yield before anti-discrimination laws.

The remarks, released Thursday in a report on “Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties,” is the latest example of an increasingly hostile reception in liberal circles to one of the six specified rights at the core of the First Amendment — the “free exercise” of religion.

“The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance,” said Martin R. Castro, a Chicago Democrat named USCCR chairman by President Obama in 2011.

“Religious liberty was never intended to give one religion dominion over other religions, or a veto power over the civil rights and civil liberties of others,” he said in the 307-page document.

At the heart of the “Peaceful Coexistence” report is a USCCR assertion that granting religious exemptions to nondiscrimination laws “significantly infringe” on the civil rights of those claiming civil rights protections on the basis of “race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”

Among the document’s recommendations is the assertion that the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, “protects only religious practitioners’ First Amendment free exercise rights, and it does not limit others’ freedom from government-imposed religious limitations under the Establishment Clause.”

It’s the area of sexual orientation and gender identity where the greatest conflicts lie, and the report offered little support to those who see their work or artistic expressions — creative photography, cake decorating or flower arranging, for example — as also expressions of their religious belief about marriage being the union of one man and one woman.

Individuals in each of these fields have come under fire from state and local civil rights agencies, with cases going against professionals in New Mexico and Washington state.

USCCR member Gail Heriot, a former George Mason Law School associate dean who now teaches at the University of San Diego, dissented from the majority opinion of the commission, including Mr. Castro’s statement.

“I’m troubled by the growing attitude that somehow anti-discrimination laws trump everything. We live in a more complex world than that,” she said in a telephone interview.

Others offered a harsher judgment.

“This commission is not only out of touch with reality, but also out of touch with our Constitution,” said Mat Staver, chairman of public interest law group Liberty Counsel, based in Orlando, Florida, before going on to call the report “an anti-American, anti-Constitutional, misinformed position.”

The emphasis on civil rights over free exercise, civil liberties experts say, could also spill over into other areas, such as religious schools and colleges seeking to hire teachers that affirm the sponsor’s doctrinal positions.

According to religious liberty expert Douglas Laycock, a University of Virginia Law School professor, the USCCR offered “no coherent reason” why the federal or state versions of RFRA don’t protect faith-based organizations or businesses, “except to say that civil rights are of ‘preeminent importance.’”

“This report gives no reason for preferring the rights of the same-sex couple, except that a majority of the [commission] chose up sides,” said Mr. Laycock, who was lead counsel for the plaintiffs in one of the key rulings in the field of religious freedom, the Hosanna Tabor case.

In that case the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that a church school could designate teachers of nonreligious subjects as “ministers” and hold such employees to specific doctrinal standards.

Mr. Castro declined a request to elaborate.

Asked whether the commission chairman had a responsibility to answer public questions about the “Christian supremacy” broadside, USCCR spokesman Brian Walch told The Washington Times, “The statement is for the record. We have no further comment other than the fact that his statement is his statement and it’s been released publicly.”

“There is no fair way to say that the concerns of the LGBT community are ‘preeminent’ over those of religious believers,” said Robin Fretwell Wilson, a University of Illinois law school professor who has written extensively on the subject.

However, Ms. Wilson adds, “Religious liberty will become code for discrimination and intolerance if opponents of nondiscrimination laws continue to claim the right, in the name of religious freedom, to block LGBT persons from enjoying protections that the rest of us take for granted. … We need thoughtful legislators to craft new thoughtful approaches to keeping the religious bakers in the business without saying gays can be turned away.” (Contributor: By Mark A. Kellner - Special to The Washington Times)

Confusing freedom of religion with intolerance promotes an atmosphere of hostility toward those who stand on biblical principles. Pray for our Constitutional rights to be protected. Pray also for perseverance for believers, that their freedom to work and publically express their faith would not be taken away.

“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Heb. 10:36)

HOW LIBERAL JUDGES TOOK CONTROL OF 70% OF US APPEALS COURTS

On the campaign trail in 2008, Barack Obama promised to fundamentally transform the United States of America. After nearly eight years as president, he has delivered on one front by reshaping the federal judiciary.

That revolution has been comprehensive, dramatic, and under the radar.

When Obama entered the Oval Office, liberal judges controlled just one of the 13 circuits of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Fifty-five successful presidential nominations later, liberal majorities now control nine of those appeals benches, or 70 percent.

Outside of legal circles the transformation of the influential federal appeals courts has gone largely unnoticed, though.

“The Supreme Court grabs the spotlight, but it hears fewer than 100 cases a year,” Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett said, “while the 13 federal courts of appeals handle about 35,000.”

More than one-third of the 179 judges on federal appeals courts owe their seat to Obama, Willett told The Daily Signal. “That’s a legacy with a capital L.”

Obama also has left his mark on the U.S. District Courts, which are the lower federal courts, successfully appointing 268 judges—seven more than President George W. Bush.

Obama didn’t push federal courts to the left by himself, though, since the Senate must confirm a president’s judicial appointments. And some conservatives complain that Senate Republicans handed over the keys to the judiciary without a fight.

“These nominees can’t be characterized as anything but radical liberals, and the senators knew that when they were voting,” said Ken Cuccinelli, a former attorney general of Virginia who is now president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee.

While there’s “no singular explanation” for how the majority of federal appeals judges flipped, Cuccinelli told The Daily Signal, Senate Republicans have adopted a strategy of “knee-jerk surrender” on nominees.

Republican leadership balks at that characterization, arguing that they’ve spent most of their time engaging in guerilla-style campaigns against an entrenched, determined Democrat majority.

“A Democrat president has been in office for eight years, most of that with a Democrat Senate, including several years of a filibuster-proof Democratic majority,” a spokesman for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told The Daily Signal.

While Republican opposition to Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, has remained consistent in the Senate, the strategy for appeals court nominees has fluctuated. Liberals describe it as aggressive, but conservatives belittle it as reserved.

There’s a decent case to be made for both interpretations.

A Republican minority in the Senate filibustered for months in 2013 to keep three Obama nominees—Patricia Ann Millett, Cornelia Pillard, and Robert Leon Wilkins—off the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The Senate eventually confirmed all three by narrow margins. But the GOP’s opposition was so stiff that, to overcome it, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid triggered a dramatic rule change known as “the nuclear option.”

To overcome Republican opposition at the time, under the Democrats’ new rules federal judicial nominees can advance to a confirmation vote with the support of a simple majority of senators and without the threat of a filibuster.

As a result, if a party holds the White House and a Senate majority, the president’s nominees are almost guaranteed confirmation.

But Republican antagonism to Obama’s nominees has not been constant.

While in the minority, Republicans often mounted little to no opposition to Obama’s court of appeals nominees. And since winning the Senate majority in the 2014 elections, Republicans have rubber-stamped two appeals justices—Kara Stoll for the Federal Circuit and Luis Restrepo for the 3rd Circuit.

As a result, Obama has fleshed out the judicial roster on the U.S. Court of Appeals, successfully appointing 55 of the 179 judges with little opposition.

Seven more of Obama’s appeals court nominees await consideration in the Senate. With a compressed congressional calendar and Election Day on Nov. 8, however, more confirmations before Obama leaves office seem unlikely.

The ideological makeup of the appeals court has more to do with justices retiring and dying off—“the natural process of attrition”—than politics, said Carrie Severino, chief counsel for Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative legal group.

“Obama was just very aggressive in getting those spots filled,” Severino told The Daily Signal. “And it’s paid off for him, especially on the D.C. Circuit Court [of Appeals], where there have been some really important cases that have come through.”

A conservative stronghold under President George W. Bush, Severino said, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit—which presides over West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina—“is now on the cutting edge of liberal activism.”

In April, that appeals court ruled 2-1 in favor of a transgender student’s right to use the boys’ restrooms and showers in public school. Two Obama appointees, Judges Henry Franklin Floyd and Andre Davis, outvoted Ronald Reagan appointee Paul Niemeyer.

The Senate had confirmed both overwhelmingly and without significant Republican hindrance—Davis in 2009 by a vote of 72-16 and Floyd in 2011 by a vote of 96-0.

The next president could tip the balance of the four remaining circuit courts of appeals still dominated by conservatives.

“It’s hands down the most fateful issue of the election,” said Willett, who is on Republicans’ short list for the Supreme Court.

“When Americans vote in November, they’re choosing not just a president but thousands of presidential appointees, including hundreds of life-tenured judges.”  (Contributor: By Philip Wegmann for The Daily Signal)

The significance of this election cannot be understated.  Judicial appointees will steer the direction of this country for many decades. Pray for judges who reflect godly values and exemplify godly leadership in making decisions for our country.

“Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. Do not pervert justice or show partiality.” (Deut. 16:18-19)

IN EVERY STATE, PESSIMISM ABOUT TRUMP, CLINTON AND THE IMPACT OF THE ELECTION

The presidential campaign has intensified long-standing political divisions, but there is one area of broad agreement among voters in both red states and blue states — a pervasive pessimism that no matter the outcome, the election will do little to unify the country, according to a Washington Post-SurveyMonkey survey of all 50 states.

Americans also say they fear they are being left behind by the cultural changes that are transforming the country. Asked whether the America of today reflects their values more or less than it did in the past, large majorities of registered voters in every state say the country reflects their values less.

But almost hidden behind those broad findings is another striking reality of America at the end of President Obama’s tenure in the White House. Those groups that fall roughly into the coalition that helped elect Obama to successive terms are more likely — in some cases significantly so — to say the country reflects their values more than it did in the past. Obama has pushed policies and taken executive actions that have played directly to that coalition.

The survey is the largest sample ever undertaken by The Post, which joined with SurveyMonkey and its online polling resources to produce the results. The findings from each state are based on responses from more than 74,000 registered voters during the period of Aug. 9 to Sept. 1. The extensive sample makes it possible not only to compare one state with another but also to examine the attitudes of various parts of the population, based on age, gender, ideology, education and economic standing.

Throughout the election year, various measures have highlighted the degree to which voters are unhappy, whether through measurements of the attributes of the two major-party candidates or in assessments of the direction of the country. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have lower favorability ratings than previous major-party nominees, and a sizable majority has said consistently that the country is seriously off track.

The Post-SurveyMonkey poll sought to assess the mood of the voters from several different angles in an effort to understand how worried voters are about the impact of a Clinton or Trump presidency on the country’s well-being “a great deal” or “a good amount.” The poll also attempted to capture how this fractious and boisterous campaign will affect the deep divisions that have defined politics for the past two presidencies.

At the same time, in a campaign in which national identity has become a central appeal of Trump’s message, and in a time when the tensions between factions of the electorate have intensified, the survey sought to understand how people see themselves against the backdrop of a changing America.

Nationwide, 55 percent of registered voters say that a Clinton presidency would threaten the nation’s well-being, while 61 percent say a Trump presidency would threaten the country’s well-being.

Only 4 percent nationally say neither would threaten the country’s well-being.

For some voters, the prospect of either Trump or Clinton provides a similar sense of alarm. Nationally, 21 percent say both candidates represent a threat to the nation’s well-being. That number peaks in Utah, where 38 percent cite both candidates as a threat.

Overall, majorities in 40 states say Clinton would be a threat to the country’s well-being while majorities in 44 states say the same of Trump.

The pattern across the states follows some predictable red-blue divisions. States with the highest percentages calling Trump a threat include such solidly Democratic states presidentially as Vermont, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Connecticut, Maine and California. Those most likely to say Trump represents a threat include women, younger voters, nonwhites, voters with college degrees or more and voters living in urban areas.

States with the highest percentages calling Clinton a threat are Wyoming, Idaho, North Dakota, Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Alabama and Louisiana. Demographically, she is more likely to be seen as a threat by men, those in rural areas and whites, particularly with less education.

Pessimism about the aftermath of the election is broad and deep. Nationally, 68 percent of registered voters say the election will do little or nothing to reduce the divisions that have marked American politics for years now, while 30 percent say it will do “a good amount” or “a great deal” to reduce them.

Across every state, at least 54 percent offer a gloomy prognosis of the impact of the election on the political divisions. Ironically, on this question, Republicans and Democrats are united in their sense of foreboding about the future, with more than 6 in 10 in each party taking a dim view. Independent voters are even more pessimistic, with independent men the most acidic in their assessments.

Geographically, the pattern of concern is similar, with urban, suburban and rural voters united and with red and blue states mixed together at either end of the spectrum. The most optimistic states include Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Hawaii, Florida, Kentucky and New York. The most pessimistic are Idaho, Vermont, Washington, Utah, Minnesota and Colorado.

Ideologically, those who identify themselves as very liberal are far more pessimistic than those who say they are very conservative, while African Americans, Hispanics and Asians are more optimistic than whites.

The question of whether the America of today reflects people’s own values produced split-screen results. On the one hand, there is broad agreement across the states that the country reflects people’s personal values less today than in the past. On the other hand, it’s clear that not all parts of the population view the country through the same negative lens.

Overall, 72 percent of registered voters nationwide say the America of today reflects their values less than it has in the past, while 26 percent say it reflects their values more than in the past. In every state, at least 65 percent express that conclusion.

There are some modest red-blue differences. In five deeply Republican states, at least 80 percent say America reflects their values less than in the past: North Dakota, Kentucky, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wyoming. The least-negative states are Maryland, California, Oregon, Hawaii and Vermont — although in no case do more than 33 percent of people express a positive view.

Those patterns point to an underlying reality of how Americans are divided at the end of Obama’s presidency. Among age groups, the youngest are more likely to say the country reflects their values than the oldest, and the progression is steady across the age spectrum. African Americans are more likely than whites to say the country increasingly reflects their values, 40 percent vs. 23 percent — although a 58 percent majority of black voters nonetheless say the opposite.

The biggest differences come when the electorate is viewed through partisan and ideological lines. Among Republicans, 93 percent say the country reflects their values less today than in the past. Democrats, however, split evenly — 49-to-49 percent. Independents are less pessimistic than Republicans but far less optimistic than Democrats.

That contrast is even more stark when liberals are compared with conservatives. A majority of self-identified liberals say the country reflects their values more while about 9 in 10 conservatives take the opposite view. Moderates are in between.

Regionally, there is little difference in how people answer this question, with about 7 in 10 in every region saying their values are reflected less today. But where people live within those regions does make a difference. Just under a third of voters in urban areas, 32 percent, say the country reflects their values more than in the past, compared with just 18 percent of rural voters.

There is also a relationship between Obama’s approval ratings in individual states and how people perceive their values reflected in the country generally. Those states with the largest percentages saying the country reflects their values more than in the past are also states where Obama’s approval rating is highest. Still, in all states where Obama’s positive ratings are at least 55 percent, no more than one-third express a positive view about how well the country reflects their values.

This Washington Post-SurveyMonkey 50-state poll sample was drawn among the respondents who completed user-generated polls using SurveyMonkey’s platform from Aug. 9 to Sept. 1, and results are weighted to match demographic characteristics of registered voters in each state. No margins of sampling error are calculated, as this statistic is applicable only to randomly sampled surveys. For full question wording and methodological details, visit wapo.st/pollarchive. (Contributor: Dan Balz and Emily Guskin for The Washington Post - Scott Clement contributed to this report. - Dan Balz is Chief Correspondent at The Washington Post. He has served as the paper’s National Editor, Political Editor, White House correspondent and Southwest correspondent. - Emily Guskin is the polling analyst at The Washington Post, specializing in public opinion about politics, election campaigns and public policy.)

While surveys can determine a sense of what people are feeling at a given time, they cannot explain the hope that believers have even when their circumstances are not aligned with their expectations.  Circumstances change and leaders come and go, but the Lord never changes and our hope for the future can only come from Him.

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” (Ps. 31:24)

OBAMA NOMINATES POSSIBLE FIRST MUSLIM-AMERICAN JUDGE TO FEDERAL COURT

Muslim-American groups are applauding President Barack Obama's nomination of a Washington lawyer to serve in U.S. District Court — a move that could make him the first ever Muslim-American federal judge, according to advocates.

If confirmed, Abid Riaz Qureshi would sit on the District of Columbia's federal bench, the White House announced Tuesday. Qureshi, who graduated Harvard Law School in 1997, is a partner in the D.C. office of Latham & Watkins LLP, specializing in healthcare fraud, securities violations, and cases involving the False Claims Act, according to a White House statement.

"I am confident he will serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice," Obama said.

Muslim-American organizations hailed the historic announcement.

"The nomination of Abid Qureshi to fill a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sends a message of inclusion that is welcomed by the American Muslim community and by all Americans who value diversity and mutual respect at a time when some seek division and discord," Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group, said in a statement.

While Muslim Americans have filled roles as state judges, none have served at the federal trial or appellate levels, according to Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy organization.

"A judiciary that reflects the rich diversity of our nation helps ensure the fair and just administration of the law, and it is vital for American Muslims to be included," Farhana Khera, former counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and executive director of Muslim Advocates, said in a statement. "Mr. Qureshi's profound commitment to the rule of law and justice for people of all backgrounds makes him an exceptional nominee."

News of Qureshi's nomination comes amid a heated presidential race in which Muslims have found themselves the subject of much debate, including GOP nominee Donald Trump's proposal of a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country.

With a few months left before Obama's term ends, it remains unclear whether Qureshi's nomination will make it out of Congress.

Jamie C. Glick, a spokesperson for Latham & Watkins, told NBC News in an email that Qureshi was unavailable for comment. Bill Voge, chair and managing partner of Latham & Watkins, congratulated Qureshi on his nomination and in a statement called him an exceptional litigator.

"He practices with the highest level of integrity and has made significant contributions to our firm, particularly with respect to Latham's pro bono program which he has led as global chair since 2012," Voge said. (Contributor: By Chris Fuchs for NBC News)

Ask God to bring men and women of integrity and biblical values into positions of leadership. Let us pray as Daniel prayed, and acknowledge Him as the One who determines times and seasons and raises up leaders. 

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others.” (Dan. 2:20-21)

MILLENNIALS MORE CONSERVATIVE THAN YOU MAY THINK

It might be time to rethink the millennial voter.

A new paper suggests that Americans are more politically polarized now than they've been in the past 46 years, and millennials are guiding this trend.

The young adults, who were born between 1980 and 1994, are currently more politically polarized than Generation Xers and Baby Boomers, according to the paper, which was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin on Wednesday.

Additionally, millennials are more likely to identify as conservative than either Generation Xers or Baby Boomers were at the same age, said Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and lead author of the paper.

"High school seniors are more likely to identify as political conservatives now compared to 10 years ago. Most surprising, more identify as conservatives now compared to the 1980s, presumably the era of the young conservative, such as the character Alex P. Keaton in the 1980s show 'Family Ties.' That goes against the common view of millennials as very liberal," said Twenge, author of the book about millennials

"So the current view of millennials as liberals might be due to their age -- young people are more likely to be liberal. But if you compare young people now to young people in previous decades, those now are more conservative," she said.

The new paper reviewed data on about 10 million American adults, collected from 1970 to 2015 as part of three separate surveys: the national Monitoring the Future study, the Higher Education Research Institute's American Freshman survey, and the General Social Survey.

The researchers examined and analyzed data from each survey, which included respondents' political party affiliations. They compared millennials' responses with those from Generation Xers and Baby Boomers.

The researchers discovered that overall twice as many adults had "extreme" political identifications in the 2010s compared to in the 1970s.

For instance, 1.6% of Americans identified as "extremely liberal" in 1972 compared to 3.7% in 2014. About 2.4% of Americans identified as "extremely conservative" in 1972 compared to 4.2% in 2014, according to the new paper.

"We were not really sure what to expect because [separate] research looking at Americans' responses to specific issues -- such as, government spending, taxes, military -- consistently shows that Americans are not polarized on the vast majority of the issues," said Ryne Sherman, associate professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University and a co-author of the study.

"However, our research does show increasing polarization in terms of political identification," he said. "This is intriguing because it suggests that Americans are becoming increasingly divided over a relatively small number of differences."

Why have American adults shifted over time to becoming more polarized? Follow-up research is needed to find a definite answer, but there are some correlating factors, Sherman said.

"Small differences between groups can give rise to polarization as leaders repeatedly emphasize these small differences and members rally around them," Sherman said.

For instance, Twenge said, "We know from other research that millennials are more supportive of LGBT rights, gender equality and racial equality compared to previous generations. Given that, it suggests that millennial conservatives may be focusing on issues other than these, for example, economic issues, gun rights."

A focus on these issues might be perpetuated in the media, Sherman added.

"The rise of 24-hour news networks, the internet, and social media allows even greater control over the kinds of information, and from who we access information, making these social identity processes even more powerful," he said. "Interestingly, millennials spent nearly their entire lives with 24-hour news and the internet. Thus, this group has been most exposed to the 'echo chamber' sort of effect."

The data showed that millennials are the most polarized political group that the United States has seen in some time, given their age, Sherman said.

Furthermore, "they are not the extremely liberal and Democrat generation that many anticipated," he said, as the researchers found that the polarization that has emerged in the millennial generation may be driven by conservatives.

The data showed that, as entering college students, 23% of millennials identified as leaning far right, compared to 17% of Baby Boomers and 22% of Generation Xers.

Less than half -- 47% -- of millennials identified as "middle-of-the-road," compared to 50% of Baby Boomers and more than half -- 53% -- of Generation Xers.

Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers both as the United States' largest living generation and as the largest generation in the American electorate.

The upcoming presidential election in November just might be the last dominated by Baby Boomers and previous generations, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the nation's Census Bureau, which was released last month.

As of July, some 126 million millennial and Generation X adults were eligible to vote, making up 56% of the country's eligible voters, compared to only 98 million of Baby Boomers and adults from prior generations, who make up 44% of voters, according to the Pew analysis.

However, other experts argue that the new paper may not necessarily show the political attitudes of millennials to greatly differ from other generations at the same age.

The paper concludes that the millennial generation is relatively conservative in part because the temporal starting point of the data analysis is the early and mid-1970s, said David Hopkins, assistant professor of political science at Boston College, who was not involved in the paper.

"At that particular time, however, young people were especially unlikely to identify as Republicans or conservatives because of the short-term effects of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. If we exclude the 1970s from the analysis, it looks by my reading of the tables and figures as if the political attitudes of the young have remained fairly stable over time, and in some respects they have liberalized somewhat," Hopkins said about the new paper.

"I do think it's possible that some people have overstated the degree to which millennials are to the ideological left of older voters," he said. "I think this paper helps to confirm that the ideological polarization of elites has had a measurable effect on the attitudes of young voters, and that no generation — including the millennial generation — is in fact politically homogeneous."

Andrew Gelman, professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University, who was not involved in the new paper, also pointed out how millennial voters may be influenced by the era in which they were born.

"If you look at the cohort of young voters who came of age during George W. Bush's presidency, they're mostly Democrats, which makes sense as Bush was a highly unpopular Republican. The young voters who came of age during Obama's presidency are more split, which makes sense because Obama is neither popular nor unpopular; he has an approval of about 50%," Gelman said.

"Political and partisan polarization in the United States has increased a lot in recent decades; this is well known and there are many explanations for it but no single story," he said. "The parties are more ideological than they used to be."

Along with becoming more divided, the data exposed a large and ongoing shift in American adults' political affiliations becoming increasingly independent.

In 1989, only about 30% of adults identified as independent, but by 2014 that number rose to about 46%.

"Although these differences may seem small, when we consider these on the scale of 240 million adults in the United States we are talking about a large number of people," Sherman said.

"A change in 2% is close to 5 million. ... Moreover, 13 of the 46 elections in United States history, in which we have the popular vote recorded, were decided by less than 4% of the vote."

Additionally, 59% of millennials identify as being politically independent, which "in my view, is the most impactful for politics. Political parties are going to find it more and more difficult to reach millennial voters," Twenge said.

For that reason, Sherman said that it's important to continue conducting this research.

"Political attitudes reflect American culture and values. Moreover, they shape future social, geopolitical and economic policies of the country -- well, at least in theory they are supposed to," he said.

"As such, understanding changes in political attitudes over time and across generations can help us better understand where we have come from and where our nation is headed." (Contributor: Jacqueline Howard for CNN News)

Millennials are growing up in an America where news is broadcast 24 hours a day and the media has influence over their lives as never seen in the past. Understand the importance of praying for and connecting to the generation that will define the future of our country.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Tim. 4:12)

OPEN INVITATION TO A NATIONAL PRAYER GATHERING

America is at a tipping point!

You are invited to the last national prayer gathering just before our election. It will be a time of hearing from 25 top experts about the crucial issues facing the USA. We will respond in all-out prayer, seeking the One who can pull us back from the brink and give our nation a new beginning. If you have a heart to seek God’s face at this crucial time for our troubled nation, this gathering of ministry leaders and intercessors is for you.

Seeking God’s Face for the Deliverance and Destiny of America:
An Invitation to the National Prayer Assembly, October 27–28, 2016, Washington, D.C.

Registration fee:  $120 per person. You must register each person individually. The fee will include beverage service throughout, lunch on Friday, and our meeting space overlooking Washington, D.C. We are encouraging both prayer and fasting as part of the Assembly if you are able to do that for the first day of this gathering. In addition, a 40-day call to prayer with fasting up to the election will be in progress having begun on September 30.

To Register:  https://intre.org/?297

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The Informer September 7, 2016

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RUSSIA SUSPECTED OF ELECTION SCHEME

U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are investigating what they see as a broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in U.S. political institutions, intelligence and congressional officials said.

The aim is to understand the scope and intent of the Russian campaign, which incorporates cyber-tools to hack systems used in the political process, enhancing Russia’s ability to spread disinformation.

The effort to better understand Russia’s covert influence operations is being coordinated by James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence. “This is something of concern for the DNI,” said Charles Allen, a former longtime CIA officer who has been briefed on some of these issues. “It is being addressed.”

A Russian influence operation in the United States “is something we’re looking very closely at,” said one senior intelligence official who, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. Officials also are examining potential disruptions to the election process, and the FBI has alerted state and local officials to potential cyberthreats.

The official cautioned that the intelligence community is not saying it has “definitive proof” of such tampering, or any Russian plans to do so. “But even the hint of something impacting the security of our election system would be of significant concern,” the official said. “It’s the key to our democracy, that people have confidence in the election system.”

The Kremlin’s intent may not be to sway the election in one direction or another, officials said, but to cause chaos and provide propaganda fodder to attack U.S. democracy-building policies around the world, particularly in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

U.S. intelligence officials described the covert influence campaign here as “ambitious” and said it is also designed to counter U.S. leadership and influence in international affairs.

Their comments came just before President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin talked privately about cyberspying and other matters on the sidelines of the Group of 20 talks in China. After their meeting Monday, Obama acknowledged tensions over digital espionage and said the United States had strong capability in this area. “Our goal is not to suddenly, in the cyber arena, duplicate the cycle of escalation we saw when it comes to other arms races in the past,” Obama said.

One congressional official, who has been briefed recently on the matter, said “Russian ‘ active measures’ or covert influence or manipulation efforts, whether it’s in Eastern Europe or in the United States,” are worrisome.

It “seems to be a global campaign,” the aide said. As a result, the issue has “moved up as a priority” for the intelligence agencies, which include the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security as well as the CIA and the National Security Agency.

Some congressional leaders briefed recently by the intelligence agencies on Russian influence operations in Europe, and how they may serve as a template for activities in the United States, were disturbed by what they heard.

After Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) ended a secure 30-minute phone briefing given by a top intelligence official recently, he was “deeply shaken,” according to an aide who was with Reid when he left the secure room at the FBI’s Las Vegas office.

The Russian government hack of the Democratic National Committee, disclosed by the DNC in June but not yet officially ascribed by the U.S. government to Russia, and the subsequent release of 20,000 hacked DNC emails by WikiLeaks, shocked officials. Cyber analysts traced its digital markings to known Russian government hacking groups.

“We’ve seen an unprecedented intrusion and an attempt to influence or disrupt our political process,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, speaking about the DNC hack and the WikiLeaks release on the eve of the Democratic convention. The disclosures, which included a number of embarrassing internal emails, forced the resignation of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Members of both parties are urging the president to take the Russians to task publicly.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) in a statement urged Obama to publicly name Russia as responsible for the DNC hack and apparent meddling in the electoral process. “Free and legitimate elections are non-negotiable. It’s clear that Russia thinks the reward outweighs any consequences,” he wrote. “That calculation must be changed. . . . This is going to take a cross-domain response — diplomatic, political and economic — that turns the screws on Putin and his cronies.”

Another Republican, Sen. Daniel Coats of Indiana, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday that if Moscow is indeed trying to influence the U.S. election, “such actions would be an outrageous violation of international rules of behavior and cannot be tolerated.”

Administration officials said they are still weighing their response.

Russia has denied that it carried out any cyber-intrusions in the United States. Putin called the accusations against Russia by U.S. officials and politicians an attempt to “distract the public’s attention.”

“It doesn’t really matter who hacked this data from Mrs. Clinton’s campaign headquarters,” Putin said in an interview with Bloomberg News, referring to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. “The important thing is the content was given to the public.”

The Department of Homeland Security has offered local and state election officials help to prevent or deal with Election Day cyber disruptions, including vulnerability scans, regular actionable information and alerts, and access to other tools for improving cybersecurity at the local level. It will also have a cyber team ready at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center to alert jurisdictions if attacks are detected.

Last month, the FBI issued an unprecedented warning to state election officials urging them to be on the lookout for intrusions into their election systems and to take steps to upgrade security measures across the voting process, including voter registration, voter rolls and election-related websites. The confidential “flash” alert said investigators had detected attempts to penetrate election systems in several states.

Arizona, Illinois and both the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as the DNC, have been the victims of either attempted or successful cyberattacks that FBI agents with expertise in Russian government hacking are investigating.

Federal law enforcement and local election officials say the decentralized nature of the voting process, which is run by states and counties, makes it impossible to ensure a high level of security in each district.

“I have a lot of concern” about this year’s election, said Ion Sancho, the longtime supervisor of elections in Leon County, Fla. “America doesn’t have its act together.” Sancho, who has authorized red-team attacks on his voting system to identify its vulnerabilities, added: “We need a plan.”

Sancho and others are particularly concerned about electronic balloting from overseas that travels on vulnerable networks before landing in the United States, and about efforts to use cyberattacks to disrupt vote tabulations being transmitted to state-level offices. Encryption, secure paper backups and secure backup computers are critical, he said.

Tom Hicks, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, an agency set up by Congress after the 2000 Florida recount to maintain election integrity, said he is confident that states have sufficient safeguards in place to ward off intrusions. He noted that electronic balloting from overseas is conducted by email, not through online voting machines. The overseas voter “waives their right of privacy” by emailing the ballot, which is tabulated by election officials. The email may still be hacked, but it is not a systemic risk, he said.

Recently, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said he favors designating the voting systems used in the country’s 9,000 polling places as “critical infrastructure” — in other words, as vital to the nation’s safe functioning as nuclear power plants and electrical power grids.

Such a designation could mean increased DHS funding to localities to help ensure that voter registration, ballots and ballot tabulation remain free from interference. But it won’t happen before the November elections, federal and local officials said.

Russia has been in the vanguard of a growing global movement to use propaganda on the Internet to influence people and political events, especially since the political revolt in Ukraine, the subsequent annexation of Crimea by Russia, and the imposition of sanctions on Russia by the United States and the European Union.

The Baltic states, Georgia and Ukraine have been subject to Russian cyberattacks and other hidden influence operations meant to disrupt those countries, officials said.

“Our studies show that it is very likely that [the influence] operations are centrally run,” said Janis Sarts, director of the NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence, a research organization based in Riga, Latvia.

He also said there is “a coordinated effort involving [groups using] Twitter and Facebook and networks of bots to amplify their message. The main themes seem to be orchestrated rather high up in the hierarchy of the Russian state, and then there are individual endeavors by people to exploit specific themes.”

Sarts said the Russian propaganda effort has been “successful in exploiting the vulnerabilities within societies.” In Western Europe, for instance, such Russian information operations have focused on the politically divisive refugee crisis.

On the eve of a crucial postrevolution presidential vote in Ukraine in 2014, a digital assault nearly crippled the country’s Central Election Commission’s website. Pro-Moscow hackers calling themselves the CyberBerkut claimed responsibility, saying they were not state-affiliated, but the authorities in Kiev blamed Moscow. The Russians used a “denial of service” technique, flooding the commission’s Web server with a high volume of requests, which was meant to slow down or disable the network. (Contributor: By Dana Priest, Ellen Nakashima, and Tom Hamburger for The Washington Post)

Security during elections has been a concern for local and national officials for many years. Speculation of fraud and hidden agendas is continuing in this election cycle as well, promoting distrust of the election process among voters. As technology advances, pray for democracy to be protected and for voters to be able to cast their ballots with confidence.

“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Luke 12:2)

20 YEARS SINCE WELFARE 'REFORM'

As recently as April of this year, former president Bill Clinton defended the welfare reform bill he signed into law on August 22, 1996—twenty years ago today—as one of the great accomplishments of his presidency. The bill scrapped the welfare program known as Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) and created a new one that lasts to this day—Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). There was a grandiose idea behind the change: TANF was no simple safety net; it was also meant to be a springboard to self-sufficiency through employment, which it encouraged recipients to find work by imposing work requirements and limiting how long they could receive benefits.

Today, across the country, welfare is—at best—a shadow of its former self. In much of the Deep South and parts of the West, it has all but disappeared. In the aftermath of welfare reform, there has been a sharp rise in the number of households with children reporting incomes of less than $2 per person per day, a fact we documented in our book, $2 a Day. As of 2012, according to the most reliable government data available on the subject, roughly 3 million American children spend at least three months in a calendar year living on virtually no money. Numerous other sources of data confirm these findings. According to the most recent data available (2014), TANF rolls are now down to about 850,000 adults with their 2.5 million children—a whopping decline of 75 percent from 1996. TANF was meant to “replace” AFDC. What it did in reality was essentially kill the U.S. cash welfare system. (We use the term “cash welfare” to distinguish it from other forms of assistance, such as housing vouchers and food stamps, which have pre-designated uses.)

Cleveland, where the Republicans hosted their convention this year, is one of the poorest cities in the country and a place where the effects of this reform can be seen most plainly. What has happened to welfare in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland and its inner suburbs, is reflective of its fate elsewhere in the nation. Currently, the county’s TANF-to-poverty ratio (the fraction of poor families with children who are actually receiving help from the program) sits at 22 percent—right about at Ohio’s, and the nation’s, average. (In some states, it is dramatically lower, such as Georgia, where it is just six, and Texas, where it is five.)

What’s happened to poor people as a result? Since 2013, we’ve spent considerable time in the city trying to find out. Each year, we catch up with several families who, in 2013, had spent at least three months living without money income exceeding $2 per person per day. To deepen our perspective, we also spend time trying to understand what’s going on for the city’s poorest, more broadly speaking. Earlier this month, one of us—Kathryn—spent a day talking to supplicants at a west-side food pantry. She spent an afternoon walking the streets of one neighborhood, striking up casual conversations with residents as they took out the garbage or sat on their porches. Yet the toughest experience was when Kathryn went for a ride-along with bailiffs assigned to the Cleveland Housing Court as they went about their daily rounds, evicting a family from their west-side apartment mid-meal.

Prior to August 22, 1996, families such as that one—families with little or no cash income—were entitled by law to a check from the government, thanks to AFDC. The program had many flaws. Yet it provided a cash floor that could have eased the hardships of folks at the end of their ropes.

TANF ought to be able to help—albeit temporarily, as the name implies. Yet many of the people we have studied have never received it. One woman, a high-school graduate and a mother of two, told us she doesn’t think it’s worth it. She believes that in order to meet the program’s requirements, she would have to work full time at a make-work job, leaving her no time to find legitimate employment.

Others have tried to get it and failed. When one mother we know lost her job at Walmart after her only means of transportation failed, she initially refused to apply for TANF out of pride, insisting that she was a worker, not a leach on the government. Finally, after months of fruitless job search, plus a list of health diagnoses a mile long, she broke down and applied. Since then, she has been sent away three times, all for no legitimate reason we, as TANF experts, can discern. Now, she, her daughter, and her fiancé are tripled-up with friends in a house that lacks heat and running water but offers a free roof over her head.

And many more aren’t even aware TANF is available. During her visit to the west-side food pantry a few weeks ago, Kathryn met families camping in unfinished basements of friends, a couple who survived a Cleveland winter while sleeping in a tent (they advised finding a thick mattress to keep your body off the ground and to keep a candle burning), and a family in the process of breaking apart—the three children parceled off to relatives—until a laid-off Ford assembly line worker and his partner of 14 years, who cleaned suburban homes until her car was repossessed, can secure stable jobs and a place to live. When we asked why they didn’t apply for TANF, we were met with blank stares. If our experiences across the city this summer are any guide, many poor Clevelanders—even those in desperate straits—don’t even realize the program exists.

We’ve traveled to many different parts of the country getting to know people in need. While greedy, heartless landlords were sometimes a source of their troubles, their biggest problem—by far—has been the lack of access to a cash safety net—money—when failing to find or keep a job. In 21st-century America, a family needs at least some cash to have any chance at stability. Only money can pay the rent (though a minority of families get subsidies via a housing voucher). Only money buys socks, underwear, and school supplies. Money is what’s needed to keep the utilities on. Each of the families we followed—technically eligible if our reading of the rules is right—weren’t getting that money from TANF.

How did they survive? Nearly all had sold plasma from time to time, some regularly. In 2014, so-called “donations” hit an all-time high at 32.5 million, triple the rate recorded a decade prior. They collected tin cans for an average yield of about $1 an hour. They traded away their food stamps, usually at the going rate of 50 or 60 cents on the dollar. Some traded sex for cash or—more commonly—the payment of their cell phone bill, a room to stay in, a meal, or some other kind of help. One 15-year-old was lured into a sexual relationship with her teacher on the promise of food. Yet these desperately needy families either didn’t know the program existed, felt the stigma and hassle weren’t worth it, or had been rebuffed at the welfare office.

Some would argue that families are better off without cash welfare. Franklin Delano Roosevelt warned that welfare was “a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.” Yet even Ron Haskins, one of the Republican architects of the program, recognizes that the problem of “disconnected mothers”—those neither working nor on welfare—is “a serious policy issue, that its magnitude is increasing, and that in two decades the nation has not figured out how to address the problem.”

Why has TANF left so many needy families behind? Its advocates argue that it reduces dependency and promotes work. Its critics contend that the time limits and work requirements it imposes are too punitive. Yet a careful look under the hood reveals that both of these claims fail to grasp the fundamental nature of what TANF has become.

To put it plainly, TANF is not really a welfare program at all. Peter Germanis, a conservative expert on welfare policy and former Reagan White House aide, describes it best, as a “fixed and flexible funding stream”—think slush fund—for states, provided by what are known as “block grants.” Yes, some block-grant dollars are used to provide cash aid to struggling families. But three of every four dollars allocated to TANF is directed toward other purposes.

How can this be? After the 1996 welfare reform bill was signed into law, states were no longer obligated to give out a dime to those in need. The rules governing TANF are so flexible that states can potentially eliminate cash handouts all together. What’s more, TANF’s rules threaten to penalize states that continue to provide cash assistance, such as California, Minnesota, Oregon, and Vermont. It is easier to comply with TANF regulations by simply pushing people off the rolls, as Cuyahoga County has done.

Built into the very core of TANF are perverse incentives for states to shed families from the welfare rolls. If they do so, they get to keep the money and use it for other things. And outside of what’s spent on cash aid, there is virtually no meaningful oversight on how the rest of the money is spent.

If past is prologue, the dollars devoted to cash assistance will only continue to dwindle. Even in 2006, TANF had far greater reach than it does now. Meanwhile, counts of the number of families knocking on the doors of the nation’s food pantries have reached the highest point ever recorded. “Donations” of blood plasma in exchange for cash have tripled in the last decade. School-aged children are increasingly likely to be homeless or doubled up. In sum, on many measures, child and family wellbeing has taken a nosedive.

Welfare reform is certainly not the only factor driving these trends. An increasingly perilous low-wage labor market and a growing affordable-housing crisis are critical drivers too. Yet a simple thought experiment brings the role of welfare reform in focus. Imagine a world in which states are prohibited by law from denying any family who meets eligibility criteria. Now envision a world in which denying a family in need is perfectly legal, and states who do so get to keep the cash. This is America before and after welfare reform. On the eve of welfare reform, roughly seven in 10 poor families claimed cash aid; only about two in 10 now do so. If the safeguards governing AFDC were in place today, this sort of extreme poverty would be a fraction of what it is now.

What are states doing with their TANF dollars if they aren’t providing cash welfare to families? Some states, such as Ohio, spend a considerable portion on child care, no doubt a boon to the working poor, yet folks not in jobs or in work programs aren’t eligible. Likewise other states, such as Wisconsin, use some of their block grant to fund state tax credits that benefit the working poor.

But the remainder goes to an assortment of other activities not necessarily benefitting the impoverished at all. Michigan funds college scholarships for young adults with no children, under the rationale that doing so may reduce teen pregnancy. Texas spends a large chunk of its block grant on its child welfare-system, an expense the state would have to assume responsibility for otherwise. When TANF is used to pay for giveaways for the non-poor or to plug budget holes, it becomes welfare for states and not for people.

What states spend astonishingly little on—besides cash assistance—is helping the poor find employment. In 2014, Ohio—which is about at the national average here—allocated only 8 percent of combined federal and state TANF funding to vital “hand-up” activities linking recipients to jobs.

Ronald Regan brought the image of the infamous—albeit mythical—welfare queen into the national consciousness. Bill Clinton probably owes his first term in office to his promise to “end welfare as we know it,” and possibly his second to signing the reform into law. Both politicians railed against AFDC’s so-called “perverse disincentives.” TANF offered states a lot of flexibility to innovate, to allow a flowering of new ideas to help the poor. But that’s not what the country got. Instead it got a new kind of welfare queens: states. States, not people, are using TANF to close the holes in their budgets. It is states, not people, who are falling prey to the “perverse disincentives” of welfare. (Contributor: By Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer for The Atlantic)

As the conflict between reducing our national debt and assisting those in need continues, we as the Body of Christ can step in and help bridge the gap. As we freely give, those who are struggling will be drawn to the peace that only Jesus provides. Pray for the Church to be the hands and feet to give hope to the poor and an understanding of our Father’s great love for them.

“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” (Ps. 82:3)

CONSERVATIVE ICON PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY DIES AT 92

Conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, best known as the leader of the opposition to the 1970s Equal Rights Amendment, died Monday at age 92.

Eagle Forum, the grass-roots organization Mrs. Schlafly founded and presided over until her death, said in an online statement that she had died at her home in St. Louis surrounded by family members.

“Rest in peace, Phyllis Schlafly. Wife, mother, grandmother, author, lawyer, tireless voice of grass-roots conservative activism,” said conservative columnist Michelle Malkin.

“A woman of valor, a formidable friend and adversary, an American patriot,” said Weekly Standard editor William Kristol.

A polymath and a political combatant whose adversaries included communists at the height of the Cold War and feminists emboldened by the sexual revolution, Mrs. Schlafly will best be remembered for almost single-handedly derailing the Equal Rights Amendment as it neared ratification.

The amendment was approved by Congress in 1972 and within a year was ratified by 30 states. But Mrs. Schlafly argued that it disadvantaged stay-at-home mothers compared with their working counterparts. She formed the Stop ERA movement and established state chapters dedicated to thwarting the amendment at the local level.

Even after Congress extended the ratification deadline by more than two years, the Equal Rights Amendment never obtained approval from a necessary 38 state legislatures.

Her victory served as a precursor to the Reagan revolution, uniting the anti-communist and pro-family factions of the Republican Party in order to triumph at the ballot box.

“America has lost a great stateswoman, and we at Eagle Forum and among the conservative movement have lost a beloved friend and mentor, who taught and inspired so many to fight the good fight in defense of American values,” said Eagle Forum First Vice President Eunie Smith.

“There will never be another Phyllis Schlafly. Today is a day to celebrate her amazing legacy and to remember the profound difference she made in the conduct of American public policy. Thank you, Phyllis. We will not grow weary,” Ms. Smith said.

Mrs. Schlafly’s accolades include being named one of the 100 most important women of the 20th century by Ladies’ Home Journal and 1992 Illinois Mother of the Year.

Mrs. Schlafly burst onto the national scene in 1964 with her book “A Choice, Not an Echo,” a clarion call for conservatives to unite behind presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. More than 3.5 million copies of the book were sold.

She would go on to write more than 20 more books and more than 2,500 columns. Her 2012 book, “No Higher Power,” focused on the Obama administration’s “assault on religious freedom.”

She supported the traditional definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, although one of her sons came out as gay.

She was embroiled in national politics into her final days, penning recent op-eds on topics including the transgender bathroom debate and criticisms of the Obama administration.

A staunch pro-life Republican, Mrs. Schlafly played an active role in Republican National Conventions since 1952 and helped put a pro-life plank in every Republican Party platform since 1976. Although she participated in many political campaigns, she never won office herself.

“Your work is an example to all those who would struggle for an America that is prosperous and free,” President Reagan said at a tribute event for Mrs. Schlafly in 1984.

“When the histories of this era are seriously written, Phyllis Schlafly will take her place among the tiny number of leaders who made a decisive and permanent difference,” economist George Gilder wrote in his 1987 book, “Men and Marriage.”

Mrs. Schlafly was also an early and prominent supporter of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, lending her hard-earned conservative credentials to the billionaire businessman’s outsider White House bid.

“She was a patriot, a champion for women, and a symbol of strength,” Mr. Trump said in a statement. “She fought every day right to the end for America First. Her legacy will live on in the movement she led and the millions she inspired.”

A new book detailing her support for the real estate mogul, “The Conservative Case for Trump,” co-authored by Ed Martin and Brett Decker, is set to be released Tuesday.

The trio declared that Mr. Trump would prove “a surprising conservative choice,” advising,” Donald Trump is the most controversial Republican presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater, and could be the most conservative and successful since Ronald Reagan.”

Mrs. Schlafly and company also looked beyond the political theater and partisan outrage of the election season and cited the potential impact of Mr. Trump’s appointees to the Supreme Court, his immigration policy and his plan for an economic revival — which they compare to the “Reagan boom of the 1980s.”

The book also praised Mr. Trump’s defense of the First Amendment against an outspoken left, and why the Republican presidential nominee’s “fresh thinking” on defense could neutralize the threat of terrorism.

She was even sufficiently respected as an activist by those on the other side that radical feminist Catharine MacKinnon, in a 1982 debate with Mrs. Schlafly, claimed that her rival was a victim of sex discrimination because Ronald Reagan didn’t put her in his Cabinet.

“I do submit to you though, that any man who [among other things] had done effective and brilliant political, policy and organizational work within the party; had published widely, including nine books; was instrumental in stopping a major social initiative to amend the Constitution just short of a victory dead in its tracks and had a beautiful, accomplished family — any man like that would have a place in the current administration,” Ms. MacKinnon said, according to the transcript of her remarks in her own book, “Feminism Unbound.”

“She was widely reported to have wanted such a post … she certainly deserved a place in the Defense Department. Phyllis Schlafly is a qualified woman,” Ms. MacKinnon said.

Other feminists saw her differently. “I’d like to burn you at the stake,” Betty Friedan said to Mrs. Schlafly at a 1973 ERA debate at Illinois State University. Mrs. Schlafly coolly responded that such a comment “shows the intemperate nature of proponents of ERA.”

Phyllis McAlpin Stewart was born in St. Louis on Aug. 15, 1924. Her father was a machinist, and her mother was a librarian. Mrs. Schlafly was a dedicated Girl Scout and attended Catholic schools, including Academy of Sacred Heart.

She worked nights at an ammunition plant as she earned her bachelor of arts degree in 1944 as a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. She later received a master’s degree in government from Harvard University in 1945, law degree from Washington University Law School in 1978 and multiple academic honors, including an honorary doctor of humane letters from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008.

She married Mr. Schlafly, a lawyer and devout Catholic, in 1949 and began life as a stay-at-home mother in Alton, Illinois.

She challenged feminist thinking that said housewives lived in “a comfortable concentration camp” and women were “victims of patriarchy” who needed government to solve their problems.

“Feminism cannot be reconciled with conservatism,” Mrs. Schlafly told The Washington Times in 2012.

“Feminism still teaches that the role of a homemaker is demeaning to women and that women should plan their lives in the labor force with no space for marriage, husband or children.

“Conservatives, on the other hand, believe that American women are the most fortunate class of people who ever lived on earth. Those two dogmas are irreconcilable, and it explains why most feminists are Obama supporters,” she said.

Mrs. Schlafly is survived by six children, 16 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were pending Monday night. (Contributor: By Bradford Richardson for The Washington Times - Victor Morton, Jennifer Harper and Cheryl Wetzstein contributed to this report)

Thank the Lord for leaders who are willing to take a stand for Biblical truth, even against great oppression and popular support. Pray for courage as God calls leaders from the next generation to continue the work and not lose heart.

“Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” (Prov. 31:31)

SEOUL SAYS NORTH KOREA FIRES 3 BALLISTIC MISSILES

North Korea on Monday fired three suspected medium-range missiles that traveled about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) and landed near Japan in an apparent show of force timed to coincide with the Group of 20 economic summit in China, South Korean officials said.

North Korea has staged a series of recent missile tests with increasing range, part of a program that aims to eventually build long-range nuclear missiles capable of striking the U.S. mainland.

Such tests are fairly common when international attention is turned to Northeast Asia, and this one came as world leaders gathered in eastern China for the G-20 summit of advanced and emerging economies. China is North Korea's only major ally, but ties between the neighbors have frayed amid a string of North Korean nuclear and missile tests and what many outsiders see as other provocations in recent years.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the three missiles, all believed to be Rodongs, were launched from the western North Korean town of Hwangju and flew across the country before splashing into the sea.

A Joint Chiefs of Staff statement described the launches as an "armed protest" meant to demonstrate North Korea's military capability on the occasion of the G-20 summit and days before the North Korean government's 68th anniversary.

In early August, another Rodong missile fired by North Korea also traveled about 1,000 kilometers, the longest-ever flight by that missile.

All three missiles Monday fell in Japan's exclusive economic zone, the 200-nautical-mile offshore area where a nation has sovereign rights for exploring and exploiting resources, according to Tokyo's Defense Ministry.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the launches a "serious threat" to Japanese security and said that Tokyo protested to North Korea via the Japanese Embassy in Beijing.

The United States also condemned the launches, saying it was discussing with allies the proper response and plans to raise concerns at the U.N. The U.S. also plans to bring up the issue during the East Asia summit in Laos this week. President Barack Obama was to head to Laos on Monday evening.

Before Monday's launch, South Korean President Park Geun-hye met her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G-20 summit and criticized the North for what she called repeated missile provocations that are threatening to hurt Seoul-Beijing ties.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approached Park during a coffee break at the G-20 and agreed to cooperate closely, according to Japan's Foreign Ministry.

The latest firing won't help the push by Xi to get Park to scrap the planned deployment of a powerful U.S. anti-missile system in the South.

During their meeting, Xi warned Park that "mishandling the issue is not conducive to strategic stability in the region, and could intensify disputes."

China says the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system is meant to spy on China, while Seoul and Washington say the system is intended solely to defend against North Korea's missile threat.

Last month, worries about the North's weapons programs deepened after a missile from a North Korean submarine flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles), the longest distance achieved by the North for such a weapon. Submarine-based missiles are harder to detect before launch than land-based ones like Rodongs. In June, after a string of failures, North Korea sent an intermediate Musudan missile more than 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) high in a test launch that outside analysts said showed progress in efforts to acquire the ability to strike U.S. forces in the region.

The U.N. Security Council in late August strongly condemned four North Korean ballistic missile launches in July and August. It called them "grave violations" of a ban on all ballistic missile activity.

(Contributor: By Hyunk-Jin Kim for Associated Press - Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Josh Lederman in Hangzhou, China, contributed to this report.)

The bible speaks of times of testing, and we see this personally as well as on a global level. News reports of global threats can bring fear if we don’t keep ourselves focused on our Protector.  He promises to strengthen us, so we can confidently pray for conflicts to be resolved and pray against fear becoming our focus.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isa. 41:10)

CLEARING THE MINEFIELD OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

There’s been a lot of debate, appropriately enough, about University of Chicago dean John Ellison’s letter warning freshmen not to expect “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” on campus. Much of that debate has focused on free speech — and rightly so. But there’s a larger issue at play.

Mr. Ellison’s defense of academic freedom raises an important question: What’s a college education for? Is it simply for job training? Many people seem to think so. They go to get a certain degree that will enable them to pursue a certain career. Get in, study, get that sheepskin, get out, start making the bucks, right?

But that narrow view, however pragmatic it may seem, is a good way to cheat yourself. Because college should mean more than that. It should sharpen your intellect, expose you to new ideas, develop your ability to think critically, and enable you to reflect on the purpose of the well-developed life.

You can’t do that in the cramped atmosphere created by political correctness. You need academic freedom.

The brain isn’t a muscle in the physical sense, but in the educational sense, that’s exactly what it is. And a muscle that isn’t exercised atrophies. It’s weak and unable to do anything useful. You have to make it work.

So when you go into the gym, or slip on your jogging shoes, or do whatever exercise you do, you don’t coddle your body. You push it. It will tell you it’s tired, that the exercise is hard, that it wants to quit. It wants a “safe space,” but you don’t give it one, and why? Because you know it won’t get stronger unless you challenge it.

That’s exactly what a college education should do for your mind. You wouldn’t work with a trainer who gave you a bunch of powderpuff exercises and made sure you never broke a sweat. And why? Because you know it would be a waste of time — that you’d never improve, never get stronger.

Yet a lot of people expect a college professor — a trainer of the mind — to go easy on them. They demand “trigger warnings” before they encounter the horror of a different point of view. In fact, they prefer to be shielded altogether. They huff, they cry, they rage if they hear someone say something that doesn’t align with what they already think.

Of course, “think” is too generous a word for what they’re doing. They’ve adopted a certain worldview — not through the use of reason, but through osmosis. Their opinions on every topic under the sun carry the same weight as the laws of physics. Someone who doesn’t agree with them on, say, climate change, might as well be claiming the sun sets in the east.

It’s a sign of how coddled they’ve been since birth. Imagine going all the way through elementary and high school in a protective bubble. It’s a shame that college professors have to engage in such remedial work, and I don’t blame them for wanting to throw up their hands and pass the little darlings along. But just because everyone before them has abdicated their responsibilities doesn’t mean they should, too.

“Don’t try to shut folks out, don’t try to shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them,” President Obama said in a commencement speech at Howard University. “There’s been a trend around the country of trying to get colleges to disinvite speakers with a different point of view, or disrupt a politician’s rally. Don’t do that, no matter how ridiculous or offensive you might find the things that come out of their mouths.”

He’s right. So is John Ellison, who’s done his students a great favor. It’s time to stop tiptoeing through the minefield of political correctness. It’s time to read widely, listen carefully, debate respectfully — and think. (Contributor: By Ed Feulner for The Washington Times - Ed Feulner is founder of The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org).)

Our ability to think and reason is a gift from our Creator.  As students return to college this fall, pray that their minds would be renewed by the Word so they have the ability to discern right from wrong, and to be able to discuss their beliefs with wisdom and rationality.  

 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:2)

 

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ELECTION 2016: MEDIA DEFENDS AGGRESSIVE STANDARDS FOR COVERAGE

Several media figures are actively lobbying their peers to challenge Donald Trump more aggressively when interviewing him or his surrogates, or even block Trump's campaign from gaining access to the press in some cases.

Trump's campaign has benefited from billions of dollars worth of earned media, and has put him in a position where he doesn't have to run campaign ads as much, and yet still competes. However, more and more media figures are mounting an effort to end Trump's free ride.

On Sunday, Jorge Ramos, anchor for the Spanish-language Univision, became the latest news figure to urge other journalists to take a more active approach on covering the Republican nominee. Ramos indicated that more reporters need to act the way he did last year, by challenging Trump loudly and aggressively.

"And I think in this case, neutrality is really not an option," Ramos said on CNN. "I think we have to take a stand, and in this case, Donald Trump is a unique figure in American politics. We haven't seen this in decades, since probability Senator Joe McCarthy."

Ramos earned notoriety on the campaign trail last year for his famous clash with Trump on immigration. He was ejected from a press conference the candidate was hosting after calling out to Trump and repeatedly interrupting other reporters who had been called on to ask questions, though he was later allowed to return and debate Trump for about 10 minutes.

But Ramos isn't alone. Last week, liberal New York Times columnist Charles Blow argued on CNN that a Trump supporter who had joined him for the segment should not have been booked to appear at all.

After Paris Dennard, a GOP former White House staffer, said Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is attempting to suppress white voter turnout by accusing of Trump of racism, Blow said that his appearance on the show "is why people have a problem with us in the media."

"To let somebody like this come on and say what Hillary Clinton is doing is suppressing the white vote by pointing out what Donald Trump has said in his life, that's just patently false, ridiculous. … I'm not letting that slide," he said. "This guy should not be allowed to come on television and say something like that."

Since Trump launched his unlikely campaign last summer, reporters and media critics have grappled with how to cover Trump, whose unpredictability left many in the media confounded and flatfooted. Trump has rarely backed away from controversy, and is much more likely to strike back at critics with his favorite medium, Twitter.

Some in the media say his controversial remarks and policy positions, which often shift, demand a different level of coverage.

"If you view a Trump presidency as something that's potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that," wrote New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg in August. "You would move closer than you've ever been to being oppositional. That's uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, nonopinion journalist I've ever known, and by normal standards, untenable."

"But the question that everyone is grappling with is: Do normal standards apply? And if they don't, what should take their place?" he asked.

CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter said on his show in August that it's near treasonous for any journalist not to challenge Trump on his "dangerous" rhetoric.

"Journalists cannot just play these soundbites, quote these claims and then move on to the next subject," said Stelter. "We can't just let it seep into the discourse like it's normal. We have to stop and fact check and contextualize. … Right now, it's the Republican candidate for president who is trying to delegitimize our democratic process without proof. It is unpatriotic for any journalist or any interviewer to help him." (Contributor: By Eddie Scarry for The Washington Examiner)

Journalism’s first obligation is to tell the truth, in an unbiased and accurate manner. Voters in this heated election need facts to be able to determine which candidate aligns with their beliefs.  We urge you to prayerfully consider your sources of information as you seek God’s wisdom in this election.

“Have I not written thirty sayings for you, sayings of counsel and knowledge, teaching you to be honest and to speak the truth, so that you bring back truthful reports to those you serve?” (Prov. 22:20-21 NIV)

CONFRONTATIONS REVEAL NUCLEAR DEAL HAVING LITTLE EFFECT ON IRAN’S BEHAVIOR

pair of dangerously close encounters between the Iranian and U.S. navies in the Persian Gulf this week have raised fresh questions about Tehran’s intentions, a year after Obama administration officials hoped the much-touted nuclear deal would moderate the behavior of the Islamic republic and its military.

Iran’s military is going to “warn” and “confront” any foreign ships entering its territorial waters, the nation’s top defense official said Thursday, after four Iranian fast-attack craft buzzed the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze in the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, and the USS Squall, a coastal patrol ship, fired three warning shots a day later to deter boats under the command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard at the northern end of the heavily trafficked waterway.

Pentagon officials called the Iranian craft’s behavior “unsafe and unprofessional,” but the challenges on the high seas point to a bigger diplomatic headache over what Mr. Obama sees as a crowning achievement of his presidency.

U.S. officials say Iran has abided by its commitments on the nuclear program, but there have been few signs of change in Iranian behavior in other arenas, including tensions in the Persian Gulf, clashes with U.S. allies in the region and the civil wars in Syria and Yemen.

Congressional Republicans and critical private analysts have been angry about the Iranian behavior since late last year, when the Islamic republic conducted two tests of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles in defiance of U.N. sanctions and then staged a live-fire exercise dangerously close to a U.S. warship in the Persian Gulf.

The situation worsened in January, when Iran briefly detained 10 U.S. Navy sailors whose boats had drifted mistakenly into Iranian waters in the Gulf. The incident was resolved but cast a shadow over Mr. Obama’s scheduled State of the Union address.

Some Republicans said Iran was taunting the Obama administration after the nuclear deal last year in which world powers dramatically eased economic sanctions on Tehran in exchange for limiting its long-disputed nuclear programs.

Although administration officials hoped the deal might lead to a less-confrontational posture from Iran, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce, California Republican, said Iran continues to pursue policies that are “destabilizing the region.”

“Iran is on a roll, and the perception is that the administration is getting rolled at this moment,” Mr. Royce said in January. “We need to see more backbone, not backing down.”

Revelations this month of how the Obama administration worked out a $1.7 billion settlement of a failed Iranian missile sale in January at virtually the same time as the release of five American prisoners held in Iran has only fueled criticism that Mr. Obama is overlooking continued misbehavior by Tehran to preserve the nuclear deal.

“We now know the extraordinary lengths to which the Obama administration went to ensure this payment happened, including lifting sanctions on Iranian Air just one day before the transfer,” Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, said last week.

“Again and again, this administration gets caught dodging and weaving to avoid the truth,” he said.

Adm. John Richardson, U.S. chief of naval operations, said Wednesday that the incident involving the USS Nitze underscored continued naval tensions with Tehran.

Iran has lodged its own complaints since the nuclear deal was reached. It has accused the U.S. of delaying the lifting of economic sanctions and of discouraging other nations from investing in Iran.

Iranian leaders say the economic payoff from the deal has been disappointing.

Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan, Iran’s defense minister, told the semi-official Tasnim news agency that patrols designed to prevent intrusions into Iran’s territorial waters would continue.

Without referring directly to the latest incidents, Gen. Dehghan said, “If any foreign vessel enters our waters, we warn them, and if it’s an invasion, we confront.”

Testing U.S. resolve

But critics say it is increasingly clear that the Iranian military is intent on testing the Obama administration’s resolve.

One incident was in early July, when five Iranian boats suddenly maneuvered dangerously close to an amphibious U.S. Navy ship in the strait.

Gen. Joe Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, told The Wall Street Journal that such incidents could lead to grave miscalculations because U.S. sailors don’t always have time to figure out how to respond. The paper cited data indicating that U.S. Navy ships reported about 300 incidents with Iranian vessels last year.

While the vast majority of the incidents were minor, Navy officials were quoted as saying about 10 percent were of greater concern, including Iranian craft speeding toward, training weapons on or crossing the bows of U.S. ships.

A video posted online by the U.S. Naval Institute showed four Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy patrol boats speeding and weaving toward the American destroyers in broad daylight Tuesday, as the USS Nitze fired warning flares, sounded its whistles and attempted, unsuccessfully, to communicate with the Iranians.

The Nitze changed its course multiple times to avoid colliding with the Iranian boats. The maneuvers had to be carried out quickly close to several offshore oil rigs.

Despite the strong words from U.S. military officials, the Obama administration appeared loath to dwell on the incidents. Secretary of State John F. Kerry made no mention of the confrontations Thursday during a high-level diplomatic visit to Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main rival in the Middle East.

Mr. Kerry did, however, criticize the Iranians for engaging in aggressive actions on other fronts, particularly in Yemen, where Tehran-backed rebels overthrew a Saudi-backed government two years ago.

U.N.-sponsored negotiations to end 18 months of fighting in the impoverished country on Saudi Arabia’s southern border collapsed this month, and the dominant Iran-backed Houthi rebel movement has been firing mortars at targets inside Saudi territory.

Mr. Kerry lamented Iran’s role in the situation at a press conference with his Saudi counterpart, Adel al-Jubeir, asserting that the “threat additionally posed by the shipment of missiles and other sophisticated weapons into Yemen from Iran extends well beyond Yemen.”

“It is not a threat just to Saudi Arabia; it is a threat to the region, it is a threat to the United States, and it cannot continue,” he said.

It was not the first time the secretary of state has called out the Iranians for meddling in the affairs of other Middle Eastern nations. For years, Mr. Kerry and other Obama administration officials have publicly criticized Iran’s backing of Syrian President Bashar Assad with weapons and fighters from the Lebanon-based Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah.

Republican critics say the administration harsh statements aren’t enough, particularly when it comes to deterring Iran from other confrontational activities, such as the wave of ballistic missile tests the Islamic republic carried out in March.

After the tests, 12 Senate Republicans introduced a bill calling on the administration to level fresh sanctions on Iran as punishment.

“Tough words alone will not deter the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism from continuing to develop its ballistic missile program,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire Republican, said at the time. (Contributor: By Guy Taylor for The Washington Times - This article is based in part on wire service reports.)

Confidence in our government to provide safety and protect citizens from foreign threats is at an all-time low.  Words are meaningless unless firm boundaries are established and threats are disarmed.  Pray that our administration’s resolve to protect lives and territory would carry authority, and challenges to that resolve would be diffused quickly.

“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.” (Ps 5:11 NIV)

FACING HIGH LABOR COSTS FROM MINIMUM WAGE HIKES

Chicago restaurant abruptly closed this week, with ownership blaming the “rapidly changing labor market” and a 27 percent increase in base minimum wage costs over the last two years as culprits for the collapse.

Cantina 1910, a farm-to-table Mexican restaurant located in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood, opened in September 2015.

Former Cantina 1910 employees said they were shocked to find out late Sunday evening of the closing, DNAinfo reported.

“We are unable to further raise prices in this competitive restaurant market in order to sustain the labor costs necessary to operate Cantina 1910,” Mark Robertson and Mike Sullivan, Cantina 1910’s owners, said in an emailed statement to The Daily Signal.

In December 2014, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance to raise the city’s minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $13 an hour by 2019. The minimum wage for nontipped employees went up to $10.50 an hour on July 1.

“Unfortunately, the rapidly changing labor market for the hospitality industry has resulted in immediate, substantial increases in payroll expenses that we could not absorb through price increases,” the restaurant’s owners said. “In the last two years, we have seen a 27 percent increase in the base minimum wage, a 60 percent increase in kitchen wages, and a national shortage of skilled culinary workers.”

The owners say they “do not see a path forward” with mandatory paid sick leave and minimum wage set to increase in 2017. They stated:

As we look down the road, we are facing a Dec. 1 change in federal labor regulations that will nearly double required salaries for managers to qualify as exempt, a 2017 mandatory sick leave requirement and another minimum wage increase. Coupled with increasing Chicago and Cook County taxes and fees that disproportionately impact commercial properties and businesses, we are operating in an environment in which we do not see a path forward.

Raising the minimum wage wasa “much needed” and “an essential step in making sure that hard work pays off for all of our residents,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat and President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, said in a July 2015 statement.

Employment in the Chicago area’s leisure and hospitality sector sunk to a five-year low, according to government data, after a $1.75 an hour minimum wage hike went into effect in July 2015, Investor’s Business Daily’s Jed Graham wrote this past January.

“The law of demand states that when prices rise, customers buy fewer goods or services,” James Sherk, a research fellow in labor economics at The Heritage Foundation, says. “Cantina 1910’s closing is another demonstration that this economic law applies to businesses too.

“Chicago raised mandatory starting wages in the city, but the restaurant could not afford to stay in business at those prices. So it closed and all its employees lost their jobs. Heritage Foundation analysis finds that if Illinois mandated $15/hour starting wages this would cost over 300,000 jobs statewide.” (Contributor: By Leah Jessen for The Daily Signal)

Clear conflict exists between business owners seeking to stay competitive and employees seeking adequate compensation. We don’t have the answer, but we know we can seek the Lord because He is our provider and counselor.  Pray that a balance would be reached so both business owners and employees would prosper.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa.55:9 NIV)

ALMOST EVERYTHING THE MEDIA TELL YOU ABOUT SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY IS WRONG

A major new report, published today in the journal The New Atlantis, challenges the leading narratives that the media has pushed regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

Co-authored by two of the nation’s leading scholars on mental health and sexuality, the 143-page report discusses over 200 peer-reviewed studies in the biological, psychological, and social sciences, painstakingly documenting what scientific research shows and does not show about sexuality and gender.

The major takeaway, as the editor of the journal explains, is that “some of the most frequently heard claims about sexuality and gender are not supported by scientific evidence.”

Here are four of the report’s most important conclusions:

The belief that sexual orientation is an innate, biologically fixed human property—that people are ‘born that way’—is not supported by scientific evidence.

Likewise, the belief that gender identity is an innate, fixed human property independent of biological sex—so that a person might be a ‘man trapped in a woman’s body’ or ‘a woman trapped in a man’s body’—is not supported by scientific evidence.

Only a minority of children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood. There is no evidence that all such children should be encouraged to become transgender, much less subjected to hormone treatments or surgery.

Non-heterosexual and transgender people have higher rates of mental health problems (anxiety, depression, suicide), as well as behavioral and social problems (substance abuse, intimate partner violence), than the general population. Discrimination alone does not account for the entire disparity.

The report, “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” is co-authored by Dr. Lawrence Mayer and Dr. Paul McHugh. Mayer is a scholar-in-residence in the Department of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and a professor of statistics and biostatistics at Arizona State University.

McHugh, whom the editor of The New Atlantis describes as “arguably the most important American psychiatrist of the last half-century,” is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and was for 25 years the psychiatrist-in-chief at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was during his tenure as psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins that he put an end to sex reassignment surgery there, after a study launched at Hopkins revealed that it didn’t have the benefits for which doctors and patients had long hoped.

Implications for Policy

The report focuses exclusively on what scientific research shows and does not show. But this science can have implications for public policy.

The report reviews rigorous research showing that ‘only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.’

Take, for example, our nation’s recent debates over transgender policies in schools. One of the consistent themes of the report is that science does not support the claim that “gender identity” is a fixed property independent of biological sex, but rather that a combination of biological, environmental, and experiential factors likely shape how individuals experience and express themselves when it comes to sex and gender.

The report also discusses the reality of neuroplasticity: that all of our brains can and do change throughout our lives (especially, but not only, in childhood) in response to our behavior and experiences. These changes in the brain can, in turn, influence future behavior.

This provides more reason for concern over the Obama administration’s recent transgender school policies. Beyond the privacy and safety concerns, there is thus also the potential that such policies will result in prolonged identification as transgender for students who otherwise would have naturally grown out of it.

The report reviews rigorous research showing that “only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.” Policymakers should be concerned with how misguided school policies might encourage students to identify as girls when they are boys, and vice versa, and might result in prolonged difficulties. As the report notes, “There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender.”

Beyond school policies, the report raises concerns about proposed medical intervention in children. Mayer and McHugh write: “We are disturbed and alarmed by the severity and irreversibility of some interventions being publicly discussed and employed for children.”

They continue: “We are concerned by the increasing tendency toward encouraging children with gender identity issues to transition to their preferred gender through medical and then surgical procedures.” But as they note, “There is little scientific evidence for the therapeutic value of interventions that delay puberty or modify the secondary sex characteristics of adolescents.”

Findings on Transgender Issues

The same goes for social or surgical gender transitions in general. Mayer and McHugh note that the “scientific evidence summarized suggests we take a skeptical view toward the claim that sex reassignment procedures provide the hoped for benefits or resolve the underlying issues that contribute to elevated mental health risks among the transgender population.” Even after sex reassignment surgery, patients with gender dysphoria still experience poor outcomes:

Compared to the general population, adults who have undergone sex reassignment surgery continue to have a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes. One study found that, compared to controls, sex-reassigned individuals were about five times more likely to attempt suicide and about 19 times more likely to die by suicide.

Mayer and McHugh urge researchers and physicians to work to better “understand whatever factors may contribute to the high rates of suicide and other psychological and behavioral health problems among the transgender population, and to think more clearly about the treatment options that are available.” They continue:

In reviewing the scientific literature, we find that almost nothing is well understood when we seek biological explanations for what causes some individuals to state that their gender does not match their biological sex. … Better research is needed, both to identify ways by which we can help to lower the rates of poor mental health outcomes and to make possible more informed discussion about some of the nuances present in this field.

Policymakers should take these findings very seriously. For example, the Obama administration recently finalized a new Department of Health and Human Services mandate that requires all health insurance plans under Obamacare to cover sex reassignment treatments and all relevant physicians to perform them. The regulations will force many physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers to participate in sex reassignment surgeries and treatments, even if doing so violates their moral and religious beliefs or their best medical judgment.

Rather than respect the diversity of opinions on sensitive and controversial health care issues, the regulations endorse and enforce one highly contested and scientifically unsupported view. As Mayer and McHugh urge, more research is needed, and physicians need to be free to practice the best medicine.

Stigma, Prejudice Don’t Explain Tragic Outcomes

The report also highlights that people who identify as LGBT face higher risks of adverse physical and mental health outcomes, such as “depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and most alarmingly, suicide.” The report summarizes some of those findings:

Members of the non-heterosexual population are estimated to have about 1.5 times higher risk of experiencing anxiety disorders than members of the heterosexual population, as well as roughly double the risk of depression, 1.5 times the risk of substance abuse, and nearly 2.5 times the risk of suicide.

Members of the transgender population are also at higher risk of a variety of mental health problems compared to members of the non-transgender population. Especially alarmingly, the rate of lifetime suicide attempts across all ages of transgender individuals is estimated at 41 percent, compared to under 5 percent in the overall U.S. population.

What accounts for these tragic outcomes? Mayer and McHugh investigate the leading theory—the “social stress model”—which proposes that “stressors like stigma and prejudice account for much of the additional suffering observed in these subpopulations.”

But they argue that the evidence suggests that this theory “does not seem to offer a complete explanation for the disparities in the outcomes.” It appears that social stigma and stress alone cannot account for the poor physical and mental health outcomes that LGBT-identified people face.

One study found that, compared to controls, sex-reassigned individuals were about five times more likely to attempt suicide and about 19 times more likely to die by suicide.

As a result, they conclude that “More research is needed to uncover the causes of the increased rates of mental health problems in the LGBT subpopulations.” And they call on all of us work to “alleviate suffering and promote human health and flourishing.”

Findings Contradict Claims in Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Ruling

Finally, the report notes that scientific evidence does not support the claim that people are “born that way” with respect to sexual orientation. The narrative pushed by Lady Gaga and others is not supported by the science. A combination of biological, environmental, and experiential factors likely account for an individual’s sexual attractions, desires, and identity, and “there are no compelling causal biological explanations for human sexual orientation.”

Furthermore, the scientific research shows that sexual orientation is more fluid than the media suggests. The report notes that “Longitudinal studies of adolescents suggest that sexual orientation may be quite fluid over the life course for some people, with one study estimating that as many as 80 percent of male adolescents who report same-sex attractions no longer do so as adults.”

These findings—that scientific research does not support the claim that sexual orientation is innate and immutable—directly contradict claims made by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in last year’s Obergefell ruling. Kennedy wrote, “their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment” and “in more recent years have psychiatrists and others recognized that sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.”

But the science does not show this.

While the marriage debate was about the nature of what marriage is, incorrect scientific claims about sexual orientation were consistently used in the campaign to redefine marriage.

In the end, Mayer and McHugh observe that much about sexuality and gender remains unknown. They call for honest, rigorous, and dispassionate research to help better inform public discourse and, more importantly, sound medical practice.

As this research continues, it’s important that public policy not declare scientific debates over, or rush to legally enforce and impose contested scientific theories. As Mayer and McHugh note, “Everyone—scientists and physicians, parents and teachers, lawmakers and activists—deserves access to accurate information about sexual orientation and gender identity.”

We all must work to foster a culture where such information can be rigorously pursued and everyone—whatever their convictions, and whatever their personal situation—is treated with the civility, respect, and generosity that each of us deserves.  (Contributor: By Ryan T. Anderson for The Daily Signal)

At the very heart of this issue is the struggle with identity – within each person and how the world tries to offer solutions.  Our identity is found in Christ, and His promises to us are clear as sons and daughters of the King. Pray for an understanding of the wonderful way God created us and knew us even before we were born, and that those who are struggling could seek Him first.

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:27)

BLACK LIVES MATTER AND THE ENDLESS WAR AGAINST THE JEWS

The man who controls the language controls the conversation, as George Orwell rightly observed. The word that the left is trying, with a certain success, to appropriate now is “genocide.” Genocide is what Hitler set out to do, to exterminate Europe’s Jews (and who knows where his evil ambition would have gone from there).

The manifesto of the Black Lives Matter movement, with the connivance of intellectually slovenly academics, applies “genocide” to Israeli self-defense in Gaza. There’s neither logic nor data to prove it.

“Between 1939 and 1945,” writes Joseph Telushkin in the Tablet, an online magazine, “one-third of the Jewish people in the world were murdered. That was genocide. And since Israel took control of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 [as a result of a] war of self-defense, the Arab population in these two areas has gone from just over a million to 4 million. That is not genocide. It’s a population explosion.”

Facts are stubborn and persistent, but so are those who deny, manipulate and abuse them. Black Lives Matter, in protesting the shooting of young black men by police (and in the case of one or two of the young black men, they were asking for it) was a positive thing, but the movement now is trying to turn the rage against injustice to destructive rage against Israel. It’s an old phenomenon. Blame the Jews: They’re rich (most of them own department stores) and live the life of Riley, so why not?

Until now the Jew-baiters tried to camouflage their game, being careful to say they weren’t talking about the Jews, just the Zionists, the Jews who wanted to build and protect a Jewish homeland. When a black student at Harvard tried this line on Martin Luther King, he was having none of it. “When people criticize Zionists,” he told him, “they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”

This was a time when Jews and blacks marched together against segregation and racial abuse in the South, when racial reunion and solidarity seemed both close and far away. Now, after nearly eight years of the Obama era, it seems only far away, and the Jew-baiters now rarely bother to camouflage Jew-baiting by calling it skepticism of Zionism.

Sometimes well-meaning but soft-headed people who would be shocked that anyone would call them insensitive and impolite, and certainly not bigots, join the angry conversation. Several Christian denominations of the Protestant persuasion have lately joined prominent academics to urge boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, the so called “BDS movement.”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest of many branches of the church of Martin Luther, approved resolutions demanding that the U.S. government suspend all aid to the Jewish state until “the military occupation of Palestinian land” is ended. The vote, 751 to 162 at the denomination’s triennial assembly earlier this month in New Orleans, was not even close.

“By adopting this investment screen,” the denomination spokesmen said, “[we are] taking an important step to ensure that we are not profiting from, or complicit in, injustice in the Holy Land and elsewhere.”

Soft heads do not necessarily afflict other denominations to quite this degree, though there’s ignorance aplenty when some people gather not necessarily in the name of the Christ, but in the name of the gods of political correctness. Similar anti-Israel resolutions failed at the quadrennial conference of the United Methodist Church, either by vote or by bottling them up in conference committees. The good news was that by a decisive vote the denomination voted to distance itself from the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, which promotes and encourages the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Many Jews themselves, blinded by an inability to discern the friend from foe, sometimes choose their friends unwisely. These are sometimes called “self-hating Jews,” a harsh name given not by Christians or secular Gentiles, but by other Jews. I would watch my language. I was told by an editor many years ago, in a kinder, gentler era when I was but a young reporter, “never allow your typewriter to put on paper the letters ‘j, e and w’ in succession. You’ll only hurt someone’s feelings.”

One of the most famous of what Joseph Telushkin calls the self-hating Jew was Rosa Luxemburg, an early Communist and Marxist philosopher, murdered by German authorities. When she was asked to denounce pogroms, she declined. “Why do you come to me with your special Jewish sorrows? I cannot find a place in my heart for the ghetto. I feel at home in the entire world wherever there are clouds and birds and human tears.”

Both Lenin and Trotsky mourned her death, and Lenin called her “an eagle.” But her anguished father told her that “an eagle soars so high he loses sight of the earth below. I shall not burden you any more with my letters.” Her father knew best. (Contributor: By Wesley Pruden for The Washington Times - Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.)

The rising tide of anti-Semitism is not a new concept, but needs much prayer coverage as division and violence are increasing in this country and elsewhere. The Lord wants, as scripture says “… all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”, and as we pray for the peace of Jerusalem let us also pray for peace in our own cities.

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” (Deut. 7:6)

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The Informer August 24, 2016

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VP HOPEFULS RANKED AS OPPOSITES

With voter approval rates for Hillary Clinton averaging a negative 10.9 percentage points and those for Donald Trump at a negative 28.6 percentage points,it’s conceivable that their vice presidential choices will tip the scales for undecided voters in November.

The press and commentators analyzing both parties (except for some die-hard Bernard Sanders acolytes) generally agree that popular Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia is Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s ideal running mate — a well-mannered, modulated moderate from a key swing state.

The press and political sages have called Mike Pence the perfect ticket mate for Mr. Trump because he has stood firmly on the right in the U.S. House and in his current role as Indiana governor.

But what if Mr. Kaine is not the perfect model of a modern political moderate and Mr. Pence is not the Barry Goldwater of the modern conservative movement? By one measure, Mr. Kaine is not the moderate Democrat his backers suggest he is.

“The fact that Hillary Clinton selected as her running mate the most liberal elected official in all of Congress tells a lot about her real agenda,” said Dan Schneider, executive director of the American Conservative Union, which compiles a widely cited scorecard of legislators’ votes.

Going all the way back to 1964, when Lyndon B. Johnson selected Hubert H. Humphrey as his running mate, no vice presidential nominee has earned a perfect zero on the ACU rating system — not Humphrey on the Democratic ticket, not 1972 Democratic nominee Edmund Muskie (or “Crying Ed,” as Mr. Trump might have referred to him), not George McGovern’s running mate, Tom Eagleton (or “Crazy Tom,” as Mr. Trump might have called him), not President Carter’s vice president, Walter F. Mondale, nor Geraldine Ferraro, who was Mr. Mondale’s running mate when he was the 1984 Democratic presidential nominee.

The four most recent Democratic vice presidential nominees — Al Gore, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards and Joseph R. Biden — are in double digits on the ACU scorecard, voting conservative at least some of the time while serving in Congress.

Was there ever a centrist on a Democratic ticket? You bet, said Mr. Schneider. “And the name will surprise you: Michael Dukakis’ running mate, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, earned an ACU lifetime rating of 40.5 percent.”

“Lloyd Bentsen was a true centrist,” the ACU executive director said. “His ACU rating is actually closer to [George H.W. Bush Vice President] Dan Quayle’s than it is to Tim Kaine‘s.”

Mr. Kaine, who rates a rock-bottom zero from the ACU based on his Senate voting record since his election in 2012, is clearly no Lloyd Bentsen, at least with ACU calibrations.

The scales of ideological interest groups like the ACU’s and its liberal counterparts are not the same, however. GovTrack also ranks legislative voting records but says it is nonideological and nonpartisan.

Mr. Kaine “ranks as the 11th most conservative of the 46 Democratic senators, according to GovTrack’s ideology analysis,” wrote GovTrack Insider’s Jesse Rifkin. “He was also further to the right of every other Democratic senator considered a possibility to become Clinton’s running mate, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sherrod Brown of New Jersey.”

Mr. Rifkin gave Mr. Schneider and the ACU their due, noting that the Democratic vice presidential candidate is “still further to the left than every Republican” now serving in the Senate.

The GovTrack writers also note that Mr. Kaine voted with Democrats 96 percent of the time in the last Congress. “That’s more than any Republican did in their own party.”

Is Mr. Pence the liberal nemesis he is cracked up to be?

The liberal American Civil Liberties Union slapped him with a measly 7 percent rating, and the NAACP gave him a mere 22 percent.

Like Mr. Kaine, Mr. Pence gets a legislative score of zero — but from NARAL Pro-Choice America, a leading pro-choice group. (Contributor: By Ralph Z. Hallow forThe Washington Times)

Vice-presidential candidates are chosen for political reasons. It’s called “balancing the ticket.” Sen. Tim Caine fully matches Hillary Clinton’s extreme liberalism and the Democrat platform. Gov. Mike Pence, a conservative evangelical, reflects the Republican platform. Pray that values voters will examine both party platforms and consider voting pro-life. The platform contrasts could not be more stark.

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live....”(Deut. 30:19)

ADMINISTRATION LOOKS TO TWEAK CONTRACEPTIVE MANDATE

Three months after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered both sides to seek out a compromise on Obamacare’s birth control mandate, religious nonprofits that oppose it are mobilizing to win the fight, while the administration is saying it’s ready to tweak the rules.

The Health and Human Services Department has asked the public to weigh in through next month on ways to ensure women get access to contraceptives including the morning-after pill and accommodate faith-based schools, hospitals and charities that refuse to pay for something they consider sinful.

Justices in May said they believe there’s a way to do both, and have asked the lower courts to oversee the efforts to reach a new deal.

But for the pro-life side, the only acceptable outcome is to be left out of it.

“Our position in the whole matter hasn’t changed, namely, that whatever the government or the insurance companies do, we want no involvement whatsoever in being the bridge between our employees and the objectionable coverage the government wants to provide,” said Father Frank Pavone, executive director of Priests for Life, which challenged the rules. “Therefore, the government cannot simply stand by its regulations in their current form.”

Several weeks into the feedback period, all but a handful of the 140 or so comments fielded by HHS have sided with the religious groups, saying the Founding Fathers expressly protected religious freedom. Yet rather than offering Solomonic solutions, many of the commenters are telling the government to provide the drugs and services itself.

“If contraceptive coverage is deemed so important by the government, then the government should offer that coverage directly to those employees who cannot obtain it through their religious employers,” a commenter from Maryland said. “This a simple and obvious solution.”

Hoping to press its advantage, Priests for Life said it has alerted a “few hundred thousand” supporters about the comment period and will hold webcasts and conference calls on the issue, so they can provide knowledgeable feedback to the government in the coming weeks.

The contraceptive mandate is part of the Obama administration’s policies in carrying out Obamacare. HHS said most employers must provide insurance that covers dozens of FDA-approved contraceptives, including birth control pills or the morning-after pill that some religions object to as sinful.

Houses of worship were exempt from the mandate, but religious-based charities, including some private schools or Catholic hospitals, were not. Instead, the government offered an accommodation requiring the nonprofits to opt out of the coverage through a written form, which would then trigger the insurers or the government to step in.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns dedicated to caring for the elderly, and a number of other charities objected, saying that signing the form made them complicit in providing the contraceptives they object to.

The administration still thinks its accommodation is consistent with a 1993 law designed to protect religious freedoms, though it said it won’t prejudge the outcome of the public comment period, which lasts until Sept. 20.

“Information gathered through this [request for information] will be used to determine whether changes to the current regulations should be made and, if so, to inform the nature of those changes,” said HHS spokeswoman Marjorie Connolly.

Mark Renzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said the best way for the government to settle the long-running debate is to provide contraceptives through Obamacare’s exchanges or other federal programs, carving the nonprofits out completely.

“I think it would take a whole lot of chutzpah for the government to say we’re going to stick to the current scheme,” he said.

Yet Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, which defended the mandate, said her organization and like-minded groups plan to weigh in during the comment period. While it is not clear what they will say just yet, the ACLU will not support any proposal “that takes contraception out of the employees’ comprehensive health plan.”

“Maybe some new ideas will emerge in the comments,” Ms. Amiri said. “Frankly, the government has bent over backwards trying to appease the employers in these cases.”

For its part, HHS says it is committed to respecting the beliefs of religious employers, though it also said that any solution must ensure that women “seamlessly receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.”

The nonprofits say that could be a problem, since they don’t want to be involved in any way.

“They want to make the coverage ‘seamless’ and as easy as possible for the employee,” Father Pavone said, “but the problem is that the more seamless it is, the more complicit we are asked to be.” (Contributor: By Tom Howell Jr. forThe Washington Times)

This is “the problem that will not go away.” Pray for Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life and all those who are standing fast against government opposition to sacrosanct religious convictions. Such convictions will not allow them to dispense contraceptive materials. The administration is determined to overcome. Pray for clear-cut victory, that religious freedoms will prevail.

“And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’”(Mark 12:17)

THE REALITY OF A PIPE DREAM

Socialism is still in vogue, regardless of its sorry record all over the world for the last century.The Free Stuff Army is on the march, especially in the United States.

There’s something about deploying the government as a mugger to obtain the fruits of someone else’s labor that appeals to the worst in us. But it invariably leads to poverty, dishonesty and even tyranny.

Years ago, I visited Jamaica when it was under a socialist government. Things had deteriorated. Trying to fool the people, the government ordered imported goods to be repackaged as locally produced.

I asked a guy in Kingston when I saw a bottle of Johnson & Johnson baby powder where the factory was, and he laughed and said, “There is no factory. They just rebottled the powder and slapped a ‘Made in Jamaica’ label on it.”

Instead of serving wine from California or Europe, the Jamaican restaurants featured reconstituted vintages labeled “Made in Jamaica” that could have doubled as industrial floor cleaners.

Eventually, the island’s government rejected much of the nonsense borrowed from Castro’s Cuba, and the Jamaican economy got going again.

A common myth perpetuated in academia and the media is that a straight-line axis would put the Nazis and Fascists on the far right and the Communists on the far left, with Socialists in the middle. But the Communists, Nazis and Fascists are all, in fact, on the far left under the umbrella term of Socialism. On the far right would-be anarchists who believe in no government. America, with its limited government and guarantees of individual liberty, is somewhere in between.

To sort this out, here’s a tale of two cows that I didn’t originate but did embroider a bit.

Anarchy:You have two cows. You sell milk at a price your neighbors want or they kill you and take the cows.

Fascism:The state takes both and sells you the milk.

Communism: The state takes both and gives you milk — but only if you have party connections or stand in the right line.

Nazism:The state takes both and shoots you if you’re Jewish, a gypsy or a troublesome Christian.

Socialism:The government takes one and gives it to someone else. Then they come for the other, accusing you of being selfish and hateful.

Finally, there’sCapitalism: You have two cows. You sell one for a fair price to your neighbor . and buy a bull.

Speaking of family matters, in the 1930s, J.D. Unwin, an Oxford anthropologist, released “Sex and Culture,” a study from every continent over 5,000 years. He found that all cultures throughout history honored marriage, and those that abandoned monogamy soon were depleted of energy and were destroyed. This helps explain the fall of Greece and Rome.

Now, why is this important? It’s because Socialism has been at war with marriage and the family since the late-18th century. The most prominent socialist thinkers, including Rousseau, Marx and Engels, promoted the sexual revolution in which marriage and family were devalued in order to eliminate loyalties other than to the state.

Like a stoned freak at Woodstock, Engels championed “free love,” the opposite of commitment and fidelity. Like most leftist thinkers, Marx, Engels and Rousseau were cads who betrayed their own wives and children.

Today’s socialists and progressives support not only more governmental redistribution but every aspect of the sexual revolution, from no-fault divorce to pornography, abortion, the ever-widening LGBTQ agenda and the legal assault on marriage. All of it leaves women and children at the mercy of the state. When families fail, the state grows to pick up the pieces.

As Hoover Institution scholar Thomas Sowell has observed, “The black family survived centuries of slavery and generations of Jim Crow, but it has disintegrated in the wake of the liberals’ expansion of the welfare state.”

C.S. Lewis said that the left’s agenda is to make religion private and pornography public. That summarizes the ACLU’s ongoing legal campaign to fundamentally transform America from Bedford Falls into Pottersville.

During the 20th century, Europe flirted with every possible variety of socialism, making it the bloodiest century in history. On the positive side, the 20th is also known as “the American Century,” when we became the wealthiest, freest, most powerful nation in history. This was no accident. It resulted from a conscious will to be as free as possible from arbitrary power, recognizing where ultimate power lies.

In his farewell address, George Washington said that: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness.”

As America drifts from our spiritual origins, there are signs of the socialist disease: rising obsession with redistribution and sensate entertainment, loss of virtue and respect for innocent life, mounting public and private debt, and an ever-growing government.

But as Yogi Berra would say, “it ain’t over till it’s over.”

If enough Americans reassert our spiritual heritage and legacy of liberty and free market economics, we won’t succumb to Socialism. There is no reason apart from just giving up that America cannot continue to be a beacon of freedom. (Contributor: By Robert Knight forThe Washington Times- Robert Knight is a senior fellow at the American Civil Rights Union.)

This is a good warning article. Let us “watch and pray.” But we also acknowledge that America is close to succumbing to out-and-out socialism, if not communism, where the state rules and our U.S. Constitution is all but obliterated. This is not pessimism, but a call to much prayer. We urge all readers to study the political issues and platforms, then vote for the values you believe.

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”(Phil. 4:8)

CLINTON MUST TESTIFY ON EMAIL, BUT IN WRITING

Hillary Clintonwill have to give testimony about her secret email server and account, but it will be in writing rather than in person, a federal judge ruled Friday, delivering a partial victory to the Democratic presidential candidate.

Mrs. Clinton will have until the middle of November — after the election — to answer those questions, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled.

But the State Department must quickly process and release any of the emails the FBI has recovered from Mrs. Clinton’s accounts that are sought in the open-records lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch. Judge Sullivan said those must be released by Sept. 30.

The judge said Mrs. Clinton has “unique firsthand knowledge” of why she refused to use the department’s official email and instead set up a system that shielded her communications from public view for years. But the judge said putting a former Cabinet secretary under oath in person would be too burdensome when written questions would suffice. He also insisted that Judicial Watch be careful about the extent of its questioning.

“The Court directs Judicial Watch to propound questions that are relevant to Secretary Clinton’s unique firsthand knowledge of ‘the creation and operation of clintonemail.com for State Department business, as well as the State Department’s approach and practice for processing FOIA requests that potentially implicated former Secretary Clinton’s and Ms. Abedin’s emails and State’s processing of the FOIA request that is the subject of this action,” Judge Sullivan wrote, referring to Huma Abedin, one of Mrs. Clinton’s top aides who has already given testimony.

Judicial Watch, a conservative public interest law firm that has been trying to pry loose many of the details about Mrs. Clinton’s time as State Department secretary, argued for in-person testimony on the basis that it was the only way to handle follow-up questions that might arise.

The judge, though, said Mrs. Clinton has spoken publicly and left such a broad record that Judicial Watch can anticipate follow-up responses. He also left open the chance that Judicial Watch could come back to the court for follow-ups.

Judge Sullivan said Judicial Watch can take a sworn deposition from John Bentel, a former chief of the information management section that was supposed to handle Mrs. Clinton’s records.

Mr. Bentel, according to an internal investigation, told employees that Mrs. Clinton’s email arrangement had been approved by the department’s legal staff — a claim the investigators were unable to sustain — and told employees not to discuss the situation again.

Another State Department employee, Clarence Finney, who managed open-records requests for Mrs. Clinton’s documents, was excused from testifying. Judge Sullivan said it wasn’t clear what additional information he would be able to provide.

Despite being in charge of her correspondence, Mr. Finney was apparently unaware of Mrs. Clinton’s secret email account.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the ruling will help shed light on Mrs. Clinton’s behavior.

“We will move quickly to get these answers,” he said. “The decision is a reminder that Hillary Clinton is not above the law.”

But Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, told “Fox News Sunday” that Judicial Watch and Republicans on Capitol Hill are hounding Mrs. Clinton. Top House Republicans have sent a referral to the Justice Department to prosecute Mrs. Clinton for lying to Congress about her emails.

“I think what is being requested by my congressional colleagues is strictly a partisan witch hunt,” he said.

Mrs. Clinton exclusively used the email account tied to a server she kept at her home in New York for her government business. After being prodded by a congressional probe, she belatedly handed more than 30,000 messages she said were work-related back to the government in December 2014 — and deleted at least 30,000 other messages.

The FBI looked into the account and found Mrs. Clinton did mishandle classified information — but said no prosecutor would be able to make a case against her.

Still, the FBI found thousands of other work-related emails Mrs. Clinton didn’t turn over to the State Department. The FBI has since provided those emails to the department, which is working to catalog them by next week and to explain how it will make them public. (Contributor: By Stephen Dinan forThe Washington Times)

Please pray fervently for our nation. We ask each reader to work with your church, your prayer group, and with us to “Get Out the Prayer.” America’s major issue is not Mrs. Clinton or her email reporting practices. Our country’s challenges are first spiritual. Mrs. Clinton’s truth issues are a symptom not a cause. Pray for national spiritual renewal and revival in the Church.

“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”(Isa. 55:6-7)

HARD TRUTHS ABOUT INNER-CITY DYSFUNCTION

Growing up, I watched a lot of Westerns. In addition to the cowboy hero,the town sheriff was almost always a model of integrity. He stood for law and order against bank robbers, cattle rustlers and horse thieves all trying to disrupt the peace.

A contemporary and real-life version of those fictional characters is Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County, Wis.

Sheriff Clarke has been trying to restore law and order after several nights of rioting following the shooting death of 23-year-old Sylville Smith by a Milwaukee police officer. Smith had a lengthy criminal record, longer than some people’s resumes. He should have been in prison.

Sheriff Clarke has appeared numerous times on the Fox News Channel, but not so much in other media. On Monday, The Washington Post carried a story about the riots and ignored Clarke, choosing instead to quote Milwaukee’s chief of police, Edward Flynn. I suspect that’s because Clarke speaks some hard truths, which many liberals do not want to hear.

In an appearance Monday on Fox, Clarke, who is African-American, offered his explanation for the major cause of riots in Milwaukee and other cities: “You know what encourages this? The growth of the welfare state. These are underclass behaviors. Seventy percent of the kids born in Milwaukee are born without an engaged father in their life. So I look at the progressive policies that have marginalized black dads. They push them to the side and say ‘you’re not needed.’ Uncle Sam is going to be the dad, he’s going to provide for the kids, he’s going to feed the kids. Uncle Sam has been a horrible father. Uncle Sam does not love these kids. He might keep a little food in their mouths and that is about it. But we all know the importance of an intact family, what it can do to shape the behavior of kids.”

Clarke called progressive policies “a total disaster,” not only in Milwaukee, but in Chicago, Baltimore, New York and elsewhere. “These progressive policies have hit the black community like a nuclear blast and until we reverse this government dependency, that’s what creates all of this and it encourages it by the way, along with some questionable lifestyle choices.”

His answer? “Until the black community does a self-evaluation and until they begin to self-criticize about some of the lifestyle choices they are making, this stuff is going to continue to fester.”

A young African-American man found by a TV camera during the weekend riot said: “The rich people, they got all this money, and they not trying to give us none.” Really? All of that tax money spent on anti-poverty programs for the last 50 years never trickled down to him? This poisonous attitude has been promoted by progressives and has not helped the poor rise above their circumstances.

This young man should talk to Clarke about changing his attitude. Some self-evaluation and an internal readjustment would do more for him than any anti-poverty program the Democrats could dream up.

Why do African-Americans continue to vote for liberal Democrats who have done little to help them and, in fact, often cause more harm than good?

Again, Clarke gets it right: “Until we push back against this progressive ideology, this dangerous ideology that has been very destructive to the black community and that’s what I’m trying to do -- it’s Job One right now in terms of messaging -- this thing is only going to get worse.”

Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated op-ed columnist. He joined Fox News Channel in 1997 as a political contributor. (Contributor: By Cal Thomas forFox News)

Give thanks for Sheriff David Clark of Milwaukee, Wis. Pray for his safety and for his message to be widely heard and understood. He is an African-American public servant who represents law enforcement and understands that the welfare state cannot bring freedom to a population steeped in “free” provision. The coming election is a vote for or against socialism.

“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies.” (2 Thess. 3:10-11)

 

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Two top House Republicans say Hillary Clinton appears to have lied to Congress , laying out a case Monday that they said could sustain perjury charges against the Democratic presidential nominee for failing to give an honest accounting of her use of a secret email server while she was secretary of state.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah said evidence the FBI collected during its investigation of Mrs. Clinton's email practices contradicts what she herself told Congress in testimony last year.
The two chairmen have officially referred the matter to the Justice Department for prosecution - though Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and her top aides have gone to great lengths this year to protect Mrs. Clinton from legal jeopardy, including matters involving her email and questions about the mixing of Clinton Foundation and State Department business.
Mr. Goodlatte and Mr. Chaffetz said FBI Director James B. Comey's depiction of what he called Mrs. Clinton's "extremely careless" email practices pokes holes in a number of statements Mrs. Clinton gave to Congress during her 2015 testimony to the House committee investigating the Benghazi terrorist attack.
Mrs. Clinton testified at that time that she never sent or received information marked classified, but Mr. Comey told Congress last month that three such documents were in fact marked at the time she handled them via email.
Mrs. Clinton also testified that when she belatedly agreed to comply with open-records laws and return her work-related emails to the government, she had her attorneys go "through every single email." But Mr. Comey said Mrs. Clinton's attorneys used only search terms and subject lines to decide which emails to return and did not read each one.
The FBI director said his investigators discovered thousands of work-related messages Mrs. Clinton failed to turn over to the State Department, raising questions about yet another statement in Mrs. Clinton's testimony last year. Mr. Comey also said Mrs. Clinton had multiple servers during her time using the secret account.
"Although there may be other aspects of Secretary Clinton's sworn testimony that are at odds with the FBI's findings, her testimony in those four areas bears specific scrutiny in light of the facts and evidence FBI Director James Comey described," the chairmen said in a letter Monday referring the case to U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips, the chief federal prosecutor for the District of Columbia.
Mr. Phillips' office referred questions to the Justice Department, which didn't respond to a request for comment Monday afternoon.
Protecting Mrs. Clinton
The Justice Department has repeatedly protected Mrs. Clinton during her presidential campaign, refusing to pursue charges that she mishandled classified information and fighting an effort to force her to testify under oath in a court case about her emails.
The department also reportedly refused an FBI recommendation to investigate the Clinton Foundation - a decision that is also coming under scrutiny on Capitol Hill.
"At this point, the American people and Congress are owed answers," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who has been investigating the tangled relationships between Mrs. Clinton and her aides at the State Department, and the Clinton Foundation and other Clinton-related organizations.
Members of Congress were expecting to get a look Monday at the FBI's notes of its interview with Mrs. Clinton during the email investigation.
The notes could provide more insight into whether Mrs. Clinton was truthful in her 2015 testimony, though one key Democrat said releasing the documents set a bad precedent for the FBI.
"Witnesses will be less likely to cooperate if they feel private statements to investigators may become political fodder for Congress," said Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. "These interview statements also come very close to pre-decisional work-product, and their release will have an impact on the nature of internal deliberations for years to come."
He also predicted that someone would leak the notes to the press.
Another potential obstacle emerged Monday when the State Department said it wants to review the FBI's notes and other materials on Mrs. Clinton's emails before they are handed to Congress, The Associated Press reported.
State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told reporters that the department has asked the FBI to allow it to see any documents provided to Congress that contain sensitive information
"The State Department respects the FBI's desire to accommodate the request of its committees of oversight in Congress, just as we do with our oversight committees," Ms. Trudeau said. "We have cooperated, and we will continue to cooperate with the FBI every step of the way."
After a year of investigation, Mr. Comey recommended against pursuing criminal charges against Mrs. Clinton.
The director said dozens of email chains involving Mrs. Clinton contained information that was classified at the time and that three of the messages had the classified marking - a "(C)" designation next to paragraphs indicating they contained secret information.
However, the FBI chief said that while anyone at that level of government should have known what those markings were, Mrs. Clinton was not "sophisticated" enough to understand what she was handling.
Mr. Comey said he recommended against prosecuting Mrs. Clinton because even though she was "negligent," he couldn't show she was aware of the risks she was taking with national security.
Former President Bill Clinton last week said Mr. Comey was making too big of a deal out of the classified markings in his wife's case.
"They saw two little notes with a 'C' on it - this is the biggest load of bull I've ever heard - that were about telephone calls that she needed to make," he said. "The State Department typically puts a little 'C' on it to discourage people from discussing it in public in the event the secretary of state, whoever it is, doesn't make a telephone call. Does that sound threatening to the national security to you?" (Contributor: Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times )
Pray for the emergence of truth and for the responsible authorities to act on it. Either Mrs. Clinton lied under oath or she did not. If the evidence indicates she did lie, she should be indicted. If not, both sides should move on. The people closely involved no doubt know the truth. Pray for God to allow that truth to be exposed. Only then will U.S. citizens be free to evaluate other pre-election aspects.
"Then Jesus said...  ' And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free...Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.'"
(John 8:32, 36)

 
DONALD TRUMP WANTS 'EXTREME VETTING' TO STOP TERRORISTS AT BORDER
Donald Trump called for "extreme vetting" to root out potential terrorists  attempting to enter the United States, as the Republican presidential nominee Monday rolled out a three-pronged strategy to fight and win what he described as an ideological war pitting radical Islamists against the West.
The immigration plan fine-tuned Mr. Trump's proposal during the Republican primaries to temporarily ban all Muslims from entering the U.S.
Many Democrats and Republicans criticized that plan as unconstitutional and un-American, but Mr. Trump still proposed a temporary travel ban on people from terrorist hotbeds until U.S. officials establish a test to measure cultural and civic compatibility with American values.
Sticking closely to a prepared set of remarks, the presidential candidate said a new immigration policy was needed immediately to stop a pattern of terrorist attacks inside the United States, including the Boston Marathon bombing and the mass shootings in San Bernardino, California, and Orlando, Florida.
Mr. Trump said President Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton failed to appreciate or effectively combat the danger.
"A Trump administration will establish a clear principle that will govern all decisions pertaining to immigration: We should only admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people," Mr. Trump said in the speech in Youngstown, Ohio.
Focusing heavily on terrorism and conflicts in the Middle East, Mr. Trump offered relatively few remarks on other issues and hotspots around the globe.
Even so, he did include a number of clear breaks with U.S. foreign policy establishment orthodoxy, including arguing for a broad partnership with Russia in the fight against the Islamic State group and saying the U.S. military should have seized and held Iraqi oil after the 2003 invasion to cut off Islamic State funding and provide a source of money to pay for U.S. veterans' health care and benefits.
 
Mr. Trump said the pattern of homegrown terrorist who are immigrants or the children of immigrants underscored the need to vet immigrants, asylum seekers and foreign visitors based on their attitudes toward America.
"I call it 'extreme vetting,' " said the New York billionaire. "Our country has enough problems. We don't need any more, and these are problems like we've never seen before."
The screening would exclude people who support Shariah law, he said, referring to the legal system based on Islam that some followers believe supersedes secular law.
"In the Cold War, we had an ideological screening test. The time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today," he said.
Presenting the threat of terrorism in the starkest terms, Mr. Trump said tougher immigration policies must be part of an aggressive strategy to eradicate radical Islam's "ideology of hatred," much like the U.S. defeated Nazis and the Soviet Union in the 20th century.
Mr. Trump's plan to test people who want to enter the United States mirrored some of the requirements on the citizenship test. However, the test would be applied to people seeking to visit or temporarily live in the U.S.
Terrorism is a top issue in the presidential campaign and potentially Mr. Trump's best opening to challenge Mrs. Clinton, who served as secretary of state under Mr. Obama as the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, grew into a global powerhouse.
Mr. Trump began his address minutes after Mrs. Clinton and Vice President Joseph R. Biden were savaging his foreign policy and questioning his fitness to be commander in chief during a joint rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
A Pew Research Center survey last month found that 84 percent of registered voters nationwide named the economy as a "very important" concern in the election, and 80 percent named "terrorism."
Clinton and the Islamic State
A week after accusing Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton of being founders of the terrorist group, Mr. Trump detailed how the Islamic State spread on Mrs. Clinton's watch as secretary of state, including her failed policies in Libya and Syria.
"Incident after incident proves again and again: Hillary Clinton lacks the judgment, the temperament and the moral character to lead this nation," he said. "Importantly, she also lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS and all the many adversaries we face - not only in terrorism, but in trade and every other challenge we must confront to turn this country around."
The other two prongs of Mr. Trump's strategy against terrorism involved foreign policy.
Mr. Trump advocated for a concerted effort abroad to destroy the Islamic State and other radical Islamic terrorist groups, including military strikes on their strongholds, cutting off their financial resources and using cyberwarfare to shut down their online propaganda and recruiting tools.
In supporting those efforts, he proposed to end U.S. nation-building efforts in troubled states and to team up with countries that back the campaign against radical Islamic groups. He said Cold War foe Russia could be a valuable ally in the fight despite tensions on other fronts.
"We cannot always choose our friends, but we can never fail to recognize our enemies," said Mr. Trump.
John R. Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who has been supportive of Mr. Trump, told Fox News that the candidate demonstrated "command on the subject matter" and appeared presidential.
However, the speech did little to satisfy Mr. Trump's critics in national security circles.
"The policies and 'pillars' that were offered as solutions were often vague, and it is not clear they'd actually solve the serious challenges that exist in the region," said Brian Nussbaum, a terrorism analyst at Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy at the University at Albany, State University of New York. "As in several other areas of policy, Trump's approach to foreign policy and national security seems a bit nebulous, focused on slogans rather concrete policies."
Ahead of the speech, the Clinton campaign called Mr. Trump "erratic," "thin-skinned" and "vindictive" and blasted his foreign policy proposals.
"Simply put, Donald Trump is unfit to be our commander in chief. This isn't overcranked campaign rhetoric - national security experts across the political spectrum are issuing the same warning," Clinton campaign senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan wrote in a memo.
The ferocity of the pre-emptive strike against Mr. Trump underscored how vulnerable Mrs. Clinton is to criticism about terrorism and her record as secretary of state.
The memo argued that Mrs. Clinton, who also was first lady and a U.S. senator, was "uniquely qualified" to be commander in chief, compared with Mr. Trump, who he said was "uniquely unqualified."
"The choice is clear," Mr. Sullivan wrote. "It's not a choice between a Democrat and a Republican, but between a responsible leader who will keep us safe, and a volatile man who threatens our security." (Contributor: By S.A. Miller for The Washington Times )
Intercessors should not allow this kind of "he said, she said" rhetoric to drive their prayers and thinking during the election campaign. Mr. Trump's concern for terrorist infiltration isn't wrong, but we must rise in prayer above the bickering. We urge readers again to pray, seek God's wisdom, compare the competing party platforms, then vote as you believe conscience and God's Word direct.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind." (Jas. 1:5-6)
 
 
BLACK LIVES MATTER BLINDSIDES JEWISH SUPPORTERS WITH ANTI-ISRAEL PLATFORM
The Black Lives Matter movement blindsided its Jewish supporters with the recent unveiling of its social and political policy agenda , a far-left manifesto that strays well beyond police brutality and accuses Israel of "genocide" and "apartheid."
"The U.S. justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people," said the platform's "Invest-Divest" policy brief.
Through foreign aid to Israel, which the platform describes as an "apartheid state," Americans are made "complicit in the abuses committed by the Israeli government," the brief says.
The strong anti-Israel language stunned liberal Jews, many of whom have expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement's protests against shootings by police of unarmed black men.
 "It is a real tragedy that Black Lives Matter - which has done so much good in raising awareness of police abuses - has now moved away from its central mission and has declared war against the nation state of the Jewish people," said Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan M. Dershowitz in a Friday column in The Boston Globe.
He called on the Movement for Black Lives coalition to rescind the anti-Israel component of the platform, issued Aug. 1 and backed by 67 groups, including Color of Change, which is funded by top Democratic Party donors George Soros and the Center for American Progress.
The liberal Ford Foundation announced last month that it would partner with Borealis Philanthropy, Movement Strategy Center and Benedict Consulting on a six-year commitment to fund "the organizations and networks that compose the Movement for Black Lives."
Although Mr. Dershowitz said that many Black Lives Matter supporters "may have no idea what the platform says," he described the platform as "the closest thing to a formal declaration of principles by Black Lives Matter."
"The genocide paragraph may well have been injected by radicals who are not representative of the mainstream. But now that it has officially been published, all decent supporters of Black Lives Matter - and there are many - must demand its removal," Mr. Dershowitz said.
An editorial Monday on MassLive in Massachusetts blasted the anti-Israel plank under the headline, "Attacking Israel dilutes Black Lives Matters' cause."
Progressives, meanwhile, have cheered the inclusion of the anti-Israel language, praising the document for linking the Palestinian and Black Lives movements.
"The affirmed solidarity of the Black Lives movement with the Palestinian experience imbues the Palestinian struggle for human and national rights with renewed energy," Zeina Azzam, executive director of the Jerusalem Fund and Palestine Center in Washington, D.C., said in a column. "As Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'"
One of the platform's authors, Ben Ndugga-Kabuye of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, said that black activists feel connected to the Palestinian conflict.
"The way we look at it is, we take strong stances," Mr. Ndugga-Kabuye told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. "The demand we're making is we're against the U.S. continuing funding and military aid to the government of Israel. These are all things that are going to be in debate."
Pro-Palestinian messages are commonplace at Black Lives Matter protests, which routinely attract a hodgepodge of activists ranging from the Communist Party USA to fracking foes to opponents of food made with genetically modified organisms.
What the ambitious policy agenda shows is that Black Lives Matter itself is a creation of the progressive movement, not an organic response to outrage sparked by recent police shootings of unarmed black men, said Republican strategist Michael McKenna.
In addition to condemning Israel, the platform includes demands for race-based reparations, breaking up large banks, voting rights for illegal immigrants, fossil fuel divestment, an end to private education and charter schools, a "universal basic income" and free college for blacks.
Said Mr. McKenna sarcastically: "I'm shocked that Black Lives Matters turns out to be a political movement holding down the left flank of the Democratic Party. I mean, what are the chances that an organization bankrolled by the usual suspects would turn out to be shills for the policy prescriptions of ... the usual suspects?"
The billionaire Mr. Soros donated in one year more than $33 million through his Open Society Foundations to groups affiliated with Black Lives Matter.
"[Black Lives Matter] is what it is - a political movement designed (immediately) to improve turnout for [former] Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton, argue mostly unarguable points, create fear and uncertainty in society, and just generally advocate for ridiculous and noxious policy positions," Mr. Kenna said in an email.
The Movement for Black Lives platform also creates more tension within the Democratic Party coalition with Jewish voters, many of whom have been frustrated by President Obama's hard line on Israel and outreach to hostile nations such as Iran.
Roz Rothstein, CEO of the pro-Israel organization StandWithUs, warned that the "hyperbolic, inaccurate and dishonest language" threatened to drive a wedge between the black and Jewish communities, which have traditionally worked together to advance civil rights.
"The Black Lives Matter movement has done much to highlight these issues in recent years and to reinvigorate a much needed discussion on race relations," StandWithUs said in a statement. "That is why we are so deeply disappointed that the recently released Movement for Black Lives platform demonizes and dehumanizes Israelis with false accusations of 'genocide' and 'apartheid.'"
The Movement for Black Lives policy is "slanderous, deeply offensive to the vast majority of the Jewish community, and damaging to longstanding relationships between Jewish and Black communities," said the statement.
In its introduction, the platform says that "we recognize we have a shared struggle with all oppressed people; collective liberation will be a product of all of our work."
"We are intentional about amplifying the particular experience of state and gendered violence that Black queer, trans, gender nonconforming, women and intersex people face," the platform says. "There can be no liberation for all Black people if we do not center and fight for those who have been marginalized."  (Contrbutor: By Valerie Richardson for The Washington Times)
The anti-Semitism in the Black Lives Matter agenda should surprise no one with biblical orientation. When ancient Israel turned its back on God, their resultant behavior was as bad as or worse than their pagan neighbors. In a similar pattern, George Soros' Jewish roots lose meaning when displaced by atheism. Pray that U.S. leaders will not desert Israel; consequences for our nation would be drastic.   
"I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." (Gen.12:3)
 
                                                                      
 
 
MILWAUKEE UNREST
Violent unrest continued in Milwaukee late Sunday and early Monday morning, a second night of tension after a fatal police shooting over the weekend . While the unease did not reach levels seen a night earlier, when multiple buildings were set on fire, it still suggested that the simmering anger could linger for days in Wisconsin's biggest city.
In a sign of how officials were trying to manage the situation and considering further steps, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) on Monday said a 10 p.m. weekday curfew would be strictly enforced for teenagers. He also said that officials had spoken to the city attorney's office to be prepared in case they decide a "more widespread curfew" is needed.
"Parents, after 10 o'clock, your teenagers better be home, or in a place where they're off the streets," Barrett said at a news briefing. Speaking of the areas where demonstrations have occurred, he said: "This is not the place where you go to gawk. It is not the place you go to take pictures. It's not the place you go to drive your car around right now."
Police said an 18-year-old man was shot Sunday night in the Sherman Park area, which has been the center of the demonstrations, and officers said they used an armored vehicle to get the teenager to the hospital. The 18-year-old was shot in the neck at 11 p.m., and was continuing to receive medical treatment Monday, police said.
Milwaukee police also said that seven law enforcement officers were injured during the unease overnight Sunday and into Monday, and they said at least one officer was taken to the hospital for treatment.
Four Milwaukee officers were injured, including two of whom had glass fragments in their eyes after concrete was thrown through the glass of their squad car, said Edward A. Flynn, the Milwaukee police chief. He also said three Milwaukee county sheriff's deputies were injured by bricks and rocks thrown at their bodies.
Flynn also said that a riot helmet worn by one officer had a "graze wound to the back of it, probably from a firearm," he said.
"This was not an evening of insignificant risk for our officers," Flynn said. "But I am grateful to report, and they would be proud to know, that they successfully protected the community last night."
According to police, 14 people - 11 men and three women - were arrested overnight Sunday and into early Monday morning for disorderly conduct. All of the people arrested were from Milwaukee.
Three police cars were damaged, while one store had its windows broken, the police said. Authorities also said that their ShotSpotter system - which tracks gunshots - was activated 30 times.
"Gunfire remained a problem last night, as well as gunfire in the vicinity of officers that were attempting to ... restrain what disorder did occur," Flynn said at a briefing Monday. He said police officers never returned fire overnight Sunday, adding that there was "one reported use of police force," though he did not elaborate on what force was used.
There were reports of shots fired in parts of the city throughout the night, police said, and video footage from the scene showed crowds facing off with police officers clad in riot gear. Authorities said they used armored vehicles to move into the crowds, while police were also ordering people gathered on the streets to disperse.
Even as the city reeled in the aftermath of the demonstrations, authorities also released more details about the shooting that sparked the protests.
Police said that the man who was shot Saturday - identified as 23-year-old Sylville K. Smith - was chased by an officer after fleeing a traffic stop about 3:30 p.m. According to Flynn, the Milwaukee police chief, Smith ran to a fenced area and turned to the officer while holding a gun.
The officer, who has not been identified, fired at Smith, hitting him twice and killing him.
Flynn said there was no evidence that Smith fired the gun he had, which he said held 23 bullets at the time.
This shooting was captured by the officer's body camera, Flynn said during a news conference Sunday. On Monday, Flynn pushed back at suggestions that Smith was unarmed when he was shot, saying again that Smith had a gun in his hand when he was shot. Barrett also said that while he had not seen the full video of the shooting, he saw a still image showing a gun in Smith's hand.
Flynn also said Monday that the autopsy of Smith showed that the 23-year-old was shot in the chest and arm.
Smith was the 16th person shot and killed by police so far this year in Wisconsin, according to a Washington Post database tracking such shootings.
In the hours after that shooting, protests in Wisconsin's largest city gave way to heated demonstrations that drew national attention. Police said six businesses were set on fire Saturday night and early Sunday morning, while four officers were injured during the chaos.
On Sunday morning, community members gathered to help clean up debris from the fires. Smith's relatives pleaded for peace after the shooting, saying they were heartbroken by his death but adding that the violence would not help anyone.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., a prolific conservative commentator on cable news and social media, blamed "failed liberal urban policies" for Saturday night's riots. Clarke, who frequently appears on Fox News and pillories President Obama, was a featured speaker at the Republican National Convention last month, where he compared the Black Lives Matter protesters to anarchists.
"The social order in Milwaukee totally collapsed on Saturday night," Clarke told Fox Business Network on Monday. "And when the social order collapsed, tribal behavior takes over. And when tribal behavior takes over, the law of the jungle replaces the rule of law, and that's why you end up with what you saw."
Clarke had asked that the Wisconsin National Guard be mobilized after the violence Saturday night. Gov. Scott Walker (R) said Sunday he activated the Wisconsin National Guard to be ready to help if called upon by law enforcement officials in Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Police Department said in the middle of the night that it had not called on the National Guard, saying that local police and other agencies were still responding.
"I join Milwaukee's leaders and citizens in calling for continued peace and prayer," Walker said in a statement. "It is also important for citizens to know that Wisconsin is the first state in the nation to have a law requiring an independent investigation anytime there is a shooting by a law enforcement officer that leads to a death. I will not comment on the specifics of the case as it is now under this investigation. I do, however, hope people will give law enforcement the respect that they deserve for working so hard to keep us safe."
Cities across the country have been propelled into national headlines in recent years after unrest sparked by how police use force, particularly deadly force. This summer, the nation has also remained on edge after police shot and killed black men in Minnesota and Louisiana, followed quickly by shooting attacks that killed officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
Police said the officer who shot and killed Smith is a 24-year-old who has been with the department for six years, three of them as an officer. He was not injured and has been placed on administrative duty during the investigation.
Flynn, the police chief, said that the officer is African American, as was Smith. He also said that police were concerned about the officer's safety and that he was with relatives outside Milwaukee.
The shooting on Saturday is being investigated by Wisconsin's Division of Criminal Investigation, under a state law signed in 2014 that requires the agency to investigate such deaths.
"I am saddened by the senseless destruction caused by a handful of citizens in Milwaukee and appeal for calm," Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said in a statement. "I know the vast majority of Milwaukee residents are law-abiding citizens who want and deserve safe neighborhoods and communities. ... I pray that the law enforcement officers and firefighters who are working to protect the citizens of Milwaukee will be safe throughout this ordeal and that no other journalists or innocent citizens will be further harmed."
Schimel vowed that the state would "work expeditiously to ensure a thorough and transparent gathering of the facts."
The state agency also investigated the shooting death last year of Anthony Robinson Jr. in Madison. When it concluded its probe, it handed the findings to the local district attorney, who said he would not pursue charges.
The current unrest in Milwaukee follows protests and anger last year when the Justice Department said that a former Milwaukee police officer who shot and killed Dontre Hamilton - a man with mental-health problems killed in 2014 - would not face civil rights charges stemming from that shooting.
Not long after, the Justice Department said that its Office of Community Oriented Policing Services would begin what is known as a collaborative reform process with the Milwaukee police force.
These kinds of reviews are not like the "pattern or practice" probes carried out by the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division - like the one just concluded in Baltimore - which can end with agreements involving court orders. Collaborative reviews, by comparison, involve a review of a police department's polices and practices, followed by an assessment and publicly released progress reports.
Milwaukee is one of several major American cities still dealing with a recent spike in bloodshed and violence. Last year, homicides in the city spiked significantly, increasing to 146 deaths from 86 a year earlier. The city also saw increases in the overall numbers of violent crimes, according to police statistics. (Contributor: By Mark Berman for The Washington Post )
Intercessors, arise! Our nation is broken from top to bottom. Many state governments and many of our cities are in disarray, with rioting and shooting reminiscent of "the old West." It is as though we are two nations coexisting side by side, yet with very different goals and values. Church influence is fading rapidly. Pray for repentance and revival in the Church to a renewed unity in prayer.
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge [of My law, where I reveal My will]. Because you [the priestly nation] have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you from being My priest." (Hos. 4:6 Amp.)   

 
DEADLY YELLOW FEVER VIRUS ON BRINK OF SPREADING TO EUROPE AND AMERICAS
A deadly African virus is on the brink of spreading to Europe and the Americas  amid the largest outbreak in more than 30 years, a charity has warned.
Yellow fever can cause bleeding from the ears, eyes and nose, organ failure, jaundice and death in the most severe cases, and is considered such a threat that many African nations refuse entry to anyone who has not been vaccinated.
Yet despite those regulations, thousands of suspected cases have been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after the disease crossed the border from Angola.
Other cases have already been reported in Uganda and in Kenya, and earlier this year China notified the World Health Organisation (WHO) of 11 cases imported by migrant workers coming back from Africa.
Save The Children has dispatched a rapid response unit of experts to DRC to assist with an emergency vaccination programme. They will support a government drive to inoculate half a million people in the capital of Kinshasa in just 10 days, starting on Wednesday.
Heather Kerr, Save the Children's country director for the DRC, told The Independent the urgent action was being taken to prevent the "worrying" prospect of the disease spreading further.
But the charity has concerns that there are just seven million doses of yellow fever vaccine in global emergency stocks - not enough to cover the capital Kinshasa's population of 10 million, let alone cope with an international outbreak.
Health workers in DRC have already been ordered to dilute the vaccine to one-fifth of its normal strength in order to help stocks stretch further. This provides cover for up to one year - normally, the vaccine works for life.
Ms Kerr said there had been nearly 100 confirmed deaths from yellow fever in DRC since the disease entered the country, with hundreds more deaths in Angola and thousands of suspected cases across the region as a whole. She added that the current numbers were seen as "conservative".
The WHO warned the figures could rise to 10 to 50 times higher, describing it as the worst outbreak since 1992, when it took six years to contain the virus and more than 4,500 people died. Death rates in yellow fever outbreaks can be as high as 50 per cent, though the current strain is estimated to have killed around 20 per cent of those infected.

The virus can only be passed on by the Aedes mosquito, the same vector as for Zika and dengue, but once it arrives in a region it can in theory be spread anywhere where the insects are present. That includes most of Latin America, the US, Asia, northern Australia and much of southern Europe.
Citing the cases in China, Ms Kerr said: "It already has a history outside Africa. If a person is travelling, they have yellow fever and there are the same mosquitoes [there], that's how it can be passed on. It can't be passed from person to person.
"We're concerned about what is going on here in DRC and neighbouring Angola. There is no cure, so the best thing we can do is prevention - getting a vaccination campaign started and reaching as many people as possible."
Save The Children hopes the campaign can buy enough time for scientists to add to limited global stocks of the vaccine. Charities have previously raised concerns over the management of what little there is - particularly after around one million doses "went missing". 
"We know stocks are limited," she said. "So if it spreads very widely, that would be worrying. But that's why we need a preventative campaign now. The production of the new vaccine is happening - it is just a question of when those will be ready."
Ms. Kerr said the current outbreak was particularly concerning because it exposes failures in the system to check travelers in Africa have been inoculated against the virus.
"You are always asked for your yellow fever vaccination card when you come into the DRC and sometimes when you move, now, but that needs to be applied more rigorously.
"In the past we had stocks available to vaccinate people coming in who hadn't already received it, but I think they are all being used now for this campaign. [These checks] are definitely something that needs looking at." (Contributor: By Adam Withnall for Independent News )
This article speaks for itself; little comment is needed. Pray for researchers and first responders who can be on the front lines of risk. Pray for God's mercy to stem a wider outbreak of yellow fever. Pray for rapid vaccine production. Ironically, God has power to heal and to contain an epidemic, but He has been ignored or rejected for so long by so many, it is as though He does not exist. Pray for Africa!     
"Through the Lord 's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." Lam. 3:22-23)
 
 
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The Informer - August 10, 2016

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DEMOCRATS FEAR 'OCTOBER SURPRISE'

As Hillary Clinton supporters fret about a WikiLeaks “October surprise,” dozens of defense and security experts from both parties are urging the Obama administration to take tough action if it concludes that Russia orchestrated a series of cyberattacks on the Democratic Party.

But based on past U.S. handling of foreign-sponsored cyberassaults, it could take months or even years to mount such a response — action that could encompass anything from public shaming or economic sanctions to indictments or retaliatory hacking. Even the most optimistic timeline, according to interviews with former security and law enforcement officials, could delay a forceful U.S. reprisal until just weeks before the very presidential election that the hackers may be trying to influence.

“I’m sure they’re cognizant of [the] timeline,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, who served as director for cybersecurity policy at the White House National Security Council until last October, and is now head of cybersecurity strategy at Illumino. “That doesn’t mean that they’re going to take action sooner or later.”

The administration insists it has improved its ability to respond quickly to cyberattacks, and officials increasingly say they support publicly calling out foreign nations that hack the United States. One administration official noted that it took just five weeks for President Barack Obama to impose economic sanctions against North Korea in response to the destructive late-2014 hacking of Sony Pictures.

Yet current and former officials acknowledge that constructing a public response isn't an instant task. Merely preparing a declassified explanation of who perpetrated an attack or readying economic sanctions takes weeks. Bringing criminal charges — as the Justice Department has done with state-backed hacking suspects in Iran and China — can require years.

And the U.S. has never leveled any official public reprisal for hacking by Russia, despite years of evidence that hackers linked to Vladimir Putin’s regime have carried out intrusions of the White House, State Department and Pentagon.

Obama himself preached caution at a news conference this week. Imposing penalties, he said, “requires us to really be able to pin down and know what we’re talking about.”

The prospect of a lengthy wait is unnerving for Clinton supporters, who see potential repeats of last month’s mass release of Democratic National Committee emails as one of a handful of unpredictable curveballs that could still toss the White House to Donald Trump. Democrats have charged that the website WikiLeaks dumped the emails as part of a Russian effort to aid Trump, who has praised Putin and expressed doubts about U.S. commitments to allies in Eastern Europe.

Russia has denied having anything to do with the DNC hacks or a separate breach aimed at donors to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But if the U.S. concludes that Putin’s regime is to blame, a growing chorus of security hawks says the White House must make it clear that such meddling in the U.S. political system cannot stand.

“If in fact you could definitively or strongly develop a case for attribution against Russia, that in fact the Russians should be confronted with it and we should confront them publicly with it,” former Obama administration National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said Thursday during a POLITICO Playbook breakfast.

“I don’t think countries are paying a price for this kind of activities,” Stephen Hadley, who held the same post under George W. Bush, said at the same event.

Calls for action have also come from several congressional Democrats and Republicans who serve on defense, law enforcement or intelligence committees, as well as a bipartisan group of 31 security and counterterrorism experts who urged Obama to “take prompt actions” that would “deter foreign actors from pursuing such tactics in the future.”

“This is not a partisan issue,” wrote the experts from the Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group, who included Bush Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and former CIA directors Michael Hayden and William Webster. They added: “Our president should be chosen by American citizens, not by foreign adversaries or interests.”

But Clinton supporters worry that Russian-backed hackers may indeed have free rein to try to influence the November election, depending on what information they’ve stolen and when they plan to release it. (The Aspen group also warned that the hackers may “salt the files they release with plausible forgeries” to worsen the fallout.)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose site released the DNC emails July 22, has refused to confirm or deny their origins but has told CNN that he might release “a lot more material," noting that “they are having so much political impact in the United States.”

Democrats like veteran political strategist Craig Varoga can easily see the worst-case scenario. “In all likelihood, Russia and Assange are already planning an October surprise to influence our election and otherwise destabilize the Western alliance,” he said in an interview.

“We may be headed into uncharted waters, and this has the potential to spiral out of control,” said longtime Democratic operative Jim Manley, a former spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

No Democrats interviewed would speculate about what material could come out in future leaks, although known cyberattacks have already successfully infiltrated the DNC, DCCC and a data analytics program used by Clinton’s campaign. Trump also publicly urged Russia to obtain the 33,000 emails deleted from Clinton’s old personal server, although he later claimed he was being “sarcastic.”

WikiLeaks’ release of the first cache of nearly 20,000 DNC emails was well-timed to cause turmoil on the eve of the Democrats’ July convention, forcing the resignation of Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and stoking accusations that party insiders had conspired to undermine Bernie Sanders’ upstart presidential campaign. The fallout continued this week, when interim DNC chair Donna Brazile ousted three top officials, including CEO Amy Dacey, communications director Luis Miranda and chief financial officer Brad Marshall.

Private-sector cybersecurity experts have said the DNC emails appear to have been pilfered by hackers linked to Russian intelligence agencies, and intelligence officials have privately reached similar conclusions. Cyber experts have identified ties between Russia and an alleged hacker nicknamed “Guccifer 2.0,” who has taken credit for the intrusions and claims to have stolen documents from the computer that Clinton used as secretary of state.

“The prospect of something hanging out there is obviously unnerving, to say the least,” a former DNC official told POLITICO.

Lawmakers urging a public White House response include the top Democrats on both Intelligence panels, Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, as well as Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), top Judiciary Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). They’ve said that at the very least, the administration should publicize the results of its probe into the hacks.

Some Democrats have said Putin could have ample reason to want to see Trump in the White House, noting that the New York real estate magnate has praised him as a “strong leader” and has expressed doubts about whether the U.S. would defend NATO nations that come under Russian attack. Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort also has ties to Putin’s allies, having served as a longtime adviser to Moscow-backed former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

An official U.S. government rebuke of Russian hackers for targeting the DNC would call even more attention to those ties. But it could also backfire, allowing the Trump campaign to accuse Obama of intervening to salvage Clinton’s presidential hopes.

“Is the Democratic administration going to take a particular action … or is this something that can be dealt with, and maybe is better dealt with, after November?” asked Ed McAndrew, a former cybercrime prosecutor with the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware.

Still, the White House would have some political cover given the cries from both Democrats and Republicans for action.

Many cyber policy experts have pressed for indictments of the DNC hackers, an approach the administration has employed only twice before for government-backed cyberattacks. In 2014, it charged five members of the Chinese military with hacking U.S. companies. And earlier this year, the DOJ brought indictments against seven Iranian-backed hackers accused of infiltrating a range of financial companies and a dam in upstate New York.

Both cases stretched out for years.

“In the cyber arena, when you’re talking about a federal indictment, you’re talking about months or years, not days or weeks,” said one former National Security Council official, who also handled cyber matters at the DOJ.

In addition to the highly technical process of tracing each intrusion to a specific computer, prosecutors then try to prove that a particular person executed the attack at that computer, or show that the “digital fingerprints” are unique to that individual, said Peter Toren, a cybercrime attorney and former DOJ cyber prosecutor.

Presenting this evidence in court could also expose valuable secret surveillance footholds in Russian intelligence agencies.

Raj De, a former National Security Agency general counsel, said spy agencies are typically “very reticent to burn sources and methods for any activity.” Revealing such tactics could even open up the NSA to lawsuits over its surveillance operations.

Together, these factors mean that getting such an indictment before November “would be an impossibility,” according to one former DOJ National Security Division prosecutor.

Sanctions could serve as a more expedient option. That was the case the November 2014 hack of Sony Pictures, which led the White House to hit Pyongyang with economic penalties in early January 2015. Since then, Obama has issued an executive order empowering the Treasury Department to go after foreign individuals or organizations engaged in “malicious cyber-enabled activities” that target government and private sector computer networks.

“It’s easier to level sanctions than to prosecute someone without jeopardizing intelligence sources and methods,” said Michael Vatis, a cybercrime attorney with Steptoe & Johnson and former national security-focused DOJ official, via email.

Still, it may be hard to match the quick turnaround on the Sony incident, several current and former officials warned.

Preparing sanctions is “not a quick process,” said Gleicher, the NSC’s former director for cyber policy. And with the DNC hack, he added, “there's just more factors to analyze and consider,” given America’s delicate relationship with Russia and the sophistication of the attacks on the Democrats.

Treasury declined to say whether officials were discussing DNC hack-related sanctions.

Despite the public silence, it’s possible that the U.S. may already be hitting back with some kind of secret cyber campaign. Hadley advocated that approach during Thursday’s POLITICO event, saying the U.S. should send the message to foreign hackers that “if you intrude in our systems, we are going to take away your capacity to do it in the future.”

“Quietly, out of the public mind, tit for tat,” Hadley said. “You do that enough, and people start doing the cost-benefit analysis.”

But current and former officials say the White House is gradually favoring a public outing of foreign hackers.

“Post-Sony, I think people are … increasingly appreciating the value of [public] attribution,” said De, the former NSA general counsel, who now leads the cybersecurity and data privacy practice at law firm Mayer Brown.

A senior Justice Department official told POLITICO that recent realignments within the DOJ and FBI were helping the administration accelerate breach investigations. Previously, the official said, the DOJ National Security Division wasn’t necessarily talking to FBI digital investigators. In the past few years, the teams have become more integrated.

“We weren’t set up like his before,” the official said. “Hopefully, [the new alignment] will inform conversations about how to handle Russia.”

But one congressional Republican source warned, “The genie is out of the bottle — you can’t put it back in.”

“Even some kind of response to Russia is not going to change the fact there’s [truthful exposure of] information out there,” the person said. “There will be information put out, I would expect every month.” (Contributor: By Eric Geller and Cory Bennett for POLITICO - Martin Matishak, Darren Samuelsohn and Tim Starks contributed to this report.)

With 14 weeks until Election Day, hundreds of speculative news stories will be written, reminding us of evangelist Mordecai Ham’s observation two generations ago: “I read the newspaper to see what man plans to do; then I read my Bible to see what God purposes to do.” Good advice today. Rumors abound, but God is in control. As “workers together with [God],” we pray with full confidence in Him.

“We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” (2 Cor. 6:1)

 

41 U.S. MILITARY MEMBERS HAVE NOW CONTRACTED ZIKA

CNN has learned there are now 41 members of the military who have been diagnosed with the Zika virus since testing began earlier this year.

Eight new cases have been recorded in the last week, a Pentagon official told CNN.

One of the military service members is a pregnant female. Under Pentagon health policies, female service members are permitted to move out of countries where Zika exists.

In addition, a senior State Department official told CNN there have been two confirmed Zika cases among US diplomats serving overseas. The diplomats were serving in countries where Zika has already been contracted.

The military tracks the number of cases reported among the ranks each week. Earlier Wednesday, the number stood at 33, but a new update has now been provided.

In addition, seven military dependents have been diagnosed with Zika, an increase of one case since the previous week.

The Pentagon said that all the exposures happened outside the US, but some of those who have had it or may currently have it may be in the United States, as there is no quarantine for Zika.

Even before the update, number of confirmed Zika cases in the US military nearly doubled in the last month. On June 29 there were 18 cases.

Military and diplomatic personnel are advised to follow the same rules as civilians to protect themselves in mosquito-infested areas, such as wearing appropriate clothing and using insect repellant.

The Army is collaborating with outside partners to develop a Zika virus vaccine, according to the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Walter Reed is working with Sanofi Pasteur, a major vaccines developer and manufacturer. (Contributor: By Barbara Starr and Elise Labott for CNN News)

Further reading on recent discoveries regarding Zika research: Zika Babies Defy Predicted Patterns

Pray for the 41 military members infected with the Zika virus, especially for the pregnant mother, that no harm will come to her or the baby. Other reports tell us there is a central zone in Miami where the Zika-carrying mosquito is flourishing. Pray for God’s mercy, as epidemiologists search for a vaccine breakthrough to curb the spread of the disease. Pray that those infected will turn to the Lord.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Ps. 46:1)

 

ENTIRE CHURCH IN U.S. ON ISIS KILL LISTS

As many as 15,000 Americans are on various "kill lists" that the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist organisation has put out, with many of them not knowing that they have been marked for death.

Writing for Charisma News, author Michael Synder says some of those who are in the kill lists have been notified by the FBI. However, many have not received FBI notification and are unaware that they have been marked for death. Since the lists are not publicly available, Americans would not know whether their names are on the kill lists.

Circa News was able to obtain samples of the kill lists and found out that of the 24 people marked for death whom they contacted in Texas, 22 of them did not know they were on such a list.

Synder says last week, he was contacted by someone who told him that the FBI had informed him that he and his wife were on the ISIS kill lists.

Even more alarming was their discovery that other members of the couple's church—including their pastor—are also on kill lists.

Where did ISIS get those names?

Synder says the terrorist group apparently got the names from church directories posted on the Internet, "and so now an entire church has ended up on an ISIS kill list."

Islamic terrorists are not afraid to target and kill innocent people in western Europe and the United States as proven by their attacks in Orlando, Dallas, Nice, and Baton Rouge, Synder says.

He urges churches to start taking security a lot more seriously. He cites a recent report about a 21-year-old Islamic radical who purchased a gun and admitted to police that he planned to go into a Detroit megachurch and start shooting people inside on a Sunday morning.

After he was arrested and subsequently charged in court, the suspect told authorities that since he could not do his jihad in the Middle East, he intended to "do my jihad over here."

The members of that church in Detroit should be thankful that the authorities were able to stop that plot in advance, "because the carnage would have been off the charts," Synder says. (Contributor: By Hazel Torres for Christian Today)

This is an alarming report, yet not unexpected. It may induce fear in some but also put many on alert. Although a political “hot potato,” there can be little question that ISIS terrorists are in the U.S., either as “lone wolves” or in organized, undercover groups. Pray for divine wisdom for security personnel to become aware of imminent danger and to take appropriate, protective action.

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23)  

 

AMERICA’S ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINES ARE EASY TARGETS

This week, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump openly speculated that this election would be “rigged.” Last month, Russia decided to take an active role in our election. There’s no basis for questioning the results of a vote that’s still months away. But the interference and aspersions do merit a fresh look at the woeful state of our outdated, insecure electronic voting machines.

We’ve previously discussed the sad state of electronic voting machines in America, but it’s worth a closer look as we approach election day itself, and within the context of increased cyber-hostilities between the US and Russia. Besides, by now states have had plenty of warning since a damning report by the Brennan Center for Justice about our voting machine vulnerabilities came out last September. Surely matters must have improved since then.

Well, not exactly. In fact, not really at all.

Rise of the Machines

Most people remember the vote-counting debacle of the 2000 election, the dangling chads that resulted in the Supreme Court breaking a Bush-Gore deadlock. What people may not remember is the resulting Help America Vote Act (HAVA), passed in 2002, which among other objectives worked to phase out the use of the punchcard voting systems that had caused millions of ballots to be tossed.

In many cases, those dated machines were replaced with electronic voting systems. The intentions were pure. The consequences were a technological train wreck.

“People weren’t thinking about voting system security or all the additional challenges that come with electronic voting systems,” says the Brennan Center’s Lawrence Norden. “Moving to electronic voting systems solved a lot of problems, but created a lot of new ones.”

The list of those problems is what you’d expect from any computer or, more specifically, any computer that’s a decade or older. Most of these machines are running Windows XP, for which Microsoft hasn’t released a security patch since April 2014. Though there’s no evidence of direct voting machine interference to date, researchers have demonstrated that many of them are susceptible to malware or, equally if not more alarming, a well-timed denial of service attack.

“When people think that people think about doing something major to impact our election results at the voting machine, they think they’d try to switch results,” says Norden, referring to potential software tampering. “But you can do a lot less than that and do a lot of damage… If you have machines not working, or working slowly, that could create lots of problems too, preventing people from voting at all.”

The extent of vulnerability isn’t just hypothetical; late last summer, Virginia decertified thousands of insecure WinVote machines. As one security researcher described it, “anyone within a half mile could have modified every vote, undetected” without “any technical expertise.” The vendor had gone out of business years prior.

The WinVote systems are an extreme case, but not an isolated one. Other voting machine models have potentially vulnerable wireless components; Virginia’s just the only one where a test proved how bad the situation was.

The worst part about the current state of voting machines is that they don’t even require outside interference to undo an election. “They’re all computers. They run on tens of thousands of lines of code,” says Norden. “It’s impossible to have a perfectly secure, perfectly reliable computer.”

That’s true, but in fairness, most computers aren’t quite this imperfect, either.

A Good Kind of Audit

So electronic voting machines aren’t ideal. The good news is, it’s entirely possible to mitigate any potential harm they might cause, either by malice or mistake.

First, it’s important to realize that electronic voting machines aren’t as commonplace as one might assume. Three-quarters of the country will vote on a paper ballot this fall, says Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a group that promotes best practices at the polls. Only five states—Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and New Jersey—use “direct recording electronic” (DRE) machines exclusively. But lots of other states use electronic machines in some capacity. Verified Voting also has a handy map of who votes using what equipment, which lets you drill down both to specific counties and machine brands, so you can see what’s in use at your polling station.

More than half of the states conduct post-election auditing, by checking vote totals against paper records, to ensure that the votes are accurate. Both Smith and Norden agree that this sort of auditing is the single best way to guarantee confidence in election results, as does MIT computer scientist Ronald Rivest, who has written extensively [PDF] on voting machine issues.

The problem is that not every state does post-election audits. And even some that require them by law, namely Pennsylvania and Kentucky, don’t actually use voter-verifiable paper trails, meaning they have no way to complete an audit. And progress toward more and better auditing is slow; Maryland just put an auditable system in place this year, Smith says, and will pilot it during the fall election. Over a dozen states still have no audit procedure at all.

The problem with putting these auditing systems in place is the same one keeping more reliable voting machines from the booths in the first place: a lack of money and political will. There’s new voting equipment out there that’s much more secure than the machines states purchased in bulk a decade or more ago, but only a handful of states and municipalities—Rhode Island, DC, and parts of Wisconsin among them—have upgraded in the past year.

“The money’s not there right now,” says Norden. “We interviewed election officials who told us what they were hearing from their state legislators and others who would be funding this type of equipment, and they say come back to us after there’s some kind of crisis.”

Which, if they wait long enough, is exactly what they’re going to get.

Rigging the Vote

For what it’s worth, electronic voting machines have been this hackable in previous elections as well, and there’s no indication—even in Virginia—that there’s ever been any interference.

This year feels different though, in no small measure because of Russia’s alleged responsibility for the DNC hack. If Putin would go so far as release those emails, would he pursue a direct assault on our vulnerable voting machines as well?

The short answer? Nyet.

“Putin’s not very nice, but he’s not stupid,” says Ryan Maness, a visiting fellow at Northeastern University who specializes in international cyber conflict and Russian foreign policy. “If they were going to mess with the voting machines and the vote-counting software, they wouldn’t have done the DNC hack.”

Maness argues that the DNC hack and subsequent email release has put a spotlight on Russia. The blowback from such direct interference in a United States election would be too severe. Besides, Maness says, Putin’s main objective was likely to embarrass Hillary Clinton, rather than elevate Trump. And he’s certainly achieved that much already.

But even if Maness is wrong, the even better news is that the three states that will likely decide the election—Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania—have voting machines that are in relatively good shape. Florida has an audit requirement in place, while Ohio not only conducts audits, Smith says, it has an “automatic recount provision,” where close races trigger a manual recount without requiring a candidate to request one. “Pennsylvania is of the most concern” among those three, says Smith, “based on the fact they have so many paperless DREs in use.” Even there, though, election officials will actively deploy paper ballots in the event that those machines fail.

Still, unlikelihood that Russia would tamper with our voting machines hasn’t lifted the sense of unease around the election. When Donald Trump suggests the election might be “rigged,” he’s referring to a host of potential disruptions, from the times and dates of scheduled debates to whatever else he might bend to his narrative. In November, should he lose, he’ll find the voting machines to be an easy target.

That suspicion is the real danger of electronic voting systems, and especially of those that can’t be easily or effectively audited. If you can’t guarantee that there was no tampering—which not every state can—it might not matter if any actually took place. In the wrong hands, the doubt itself is damaging enough. (Contributor: By Breitbart Tech for Breitbart News and Wired News)

IFA began its ministry in 1973, thus praying through 10 presidential elections, and our oldest staff “veteran” cannot recall a single cycle in which the issues of voting machine tampering, voter fraud, and election rigging were not front and center. Now the focus includes international hacking. Pray for honest vote counts and integrity among polling officials. Above all, trust God to reveal His purposes.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6)

 

GOVERNMENT TO LIFT MORATORIUM ON CROSS-SPECIES, ‘CHIMERA’ RESEARCH

The National Institutes of Health is planning to lift a moratorium on funding for research studying the effects of injecting animal embryos with human stem cells.

The agency last year issued a moratorium for such funding while it studied the issue further. But NPR is reporting the NIH plans to lift that reprieve and allow scientists to conduct so-called “Chimera” experiments under strict and closely monitored parameters.

“They want to take human stem cells and put them inside these animal embryos, in the hopes that the human stem cells, which can become any kind of cell or tissue in the body, will become integrated into the embryos and then develop into animals that have partially or even fully human parts in their bodies,” said NPR health correspondent Rob Stein on Thursday.

Scientists say the experiment could lead to major medical breakthroughs that could save countless human lives, such as the ability to grow human organs that could be used to save the lives of patients in need of transplants.

Additionally, researchers hope growing human body parts in animal embryos will allow them to study those parts more closely, perhaps leading to medical breakthroughs in how to cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

But the experiments bring up difficult ethical questions about how to treat potentially partially human species.

“Critics say that this is dangerous because it blurs the line between humans and other species and starts to raise questions about what are these creatures,” Mr. Stein said. “Are they animals or are they partially human? And if they are partially human, how do we treat them?”

A survey released by the Pew Research Center last week indicates Americans are squeamish when it comes to the prospect of gene editing — at least on human subjects — viewing such experiments as meddling with nature.

Although some said they were both concerned and excited about the prospect, 68 percent of respondents expressed some worry about the idea of editing the genes of babies in order to reduce the risk of disease.

In order to alleviate those concerns, the NIH would not permit funding for experiments on primate embryos. Chimera experiments would also have to go through extra layers of scrutiny, especially if they run the risk of drastically changing the brains of the animals, which researchers worry could induce a human-like state of sentience.

The general public will reportedly have one month to comment on the lifting of the moratorium before it goes into effect. (Contributor: By Bradford Richardson for The Washington Times)

Natural man will always push the limits of his mortality in attempting to be his own creator, just as he harbors the desire to control his own destiny. The human mind does not want to acknowledge God or recognize His right to rule. At some point, God intervenes and says, “Enough!” Pray for God to open hearts and minds, leading researchers to humble themselves before God, and be saved.  

“Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision.” (Ps. 2:1-4)

 

CHRISTIANS IN RUSSIA REFUSE TO STOP SHARING THE GOSPEL DESPITE PUTIN'S BAN

Christians in Russia have said they are determined to preach the Gospel and fulfill the Great Commission despite tough new laws signed by President Vladimir Putin that ban evangelism outside of churches.

The Slavic Centre for Law and Justice, an affiliate of the American Center for Law and Justice, said a new manner of carrying out missionary work in Russia will have to be established.

The law bans all missionary activities in residential areas and requires Christians who want to share their faith with others, even on the internet, to obtain authorization documents from a religious association. It also imposes a fine of $75 to $765 if the violator is a Russian citizen, and a fine of up to $15,265 in case of an organization, while foreigners would be deported, The Christian Post reported last month.

"A number of restrictions on missionary work were introduced and legal liability was put in place for the violation of these new laws," the SCLJ explained, promoting a webinar on Thursday that will address the issue.

The organization is set to review the changes to Russia's law when it comes to freedom of conscience and the activities of religious institution; the rights of foreign citizens to conduct missionary activities in Russia; and how to carry out missionary work in the world's biggest country without breaking the law.

"Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Russia and pass along the information about this webinar to your pastor and any others who may know about missionaries in Russia who could find it useful," the ACLJ added in a statement. "We will continue defending Christians around the globe to ensure their rights to share their faith are protected."

Thousands of churches across Russia came together in prayer and fasting in July against Putin's law, which effectively punishes any kind of religious evangelization outside of churches.

The law is aimed at stopping the spread of terrorism and extremism, but punishes those who seek to share their faith in places that are not state-sanctioned houses of worship.

Hannu Haukka, president of Great Commission Media Ministries, told National Religious Broadcasters at the time that the new legislation is the most restrictive move in "post-Soviet history."

"This new situation resembles the Soviet Union in 1929. At that time confession of faith was permitted only in church," Haukka said. "Practically speaking, we are back in the same situation. These anti-terrorist laws are some of the most restrictive laws in post-Soviet history."

Others, such as Thomas J. Reese, chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, also criticized the law, warning that it would "make it easier for Russian authorities to repress religious communities, stifle peaceful dissent, and detain and imprison people."

Reese added that neither the new measures "nor the currently existing anti-extremism law meet[s] international human rights and religious freedom standards."

SCLJ attorney Vladimir Ryakhovsky said that July 7, the day Putin signed the bill, was a "black day on the calendar." He added that the politicians behind the law "do not understand religious practice," but asked Christians not to "succumb to panic when [the government] threaten[s] you with all kinds of horror stories." (Contributor: By Stoyan Zaimov for Christian Post)

Give thanks for these brave Christian believers who will not stop spreading the Gospel though they might place themselves in danger. Pray for them as God leads you. Considering Russia’s history of suppressing religious rights, plus other oppressive restrictions, this positive yet respectful resistance ought to encourage Christians in the U.S. who are legally free to share their faith as they wish.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Rom. 1:16)

 

CHINA TO LAUNCH UNBREAKABLE QUANTUM SPY SATELLITE

Scientists in China are set to launch the world’s first ‘quantum satellite,’ which could one day make for an ultra-secure global communications network.

The 1,300 pound craft contains a crystal that produces pairs of entangled photons, which will be fired to ground stations in China and Austria to form a ‘secret key.’

Entangled photons theoretically maintain their link across any distance, and according to the scientists, any attempts to breach this type of communication would be easily detectable.

The satellite is set to launch from Jiuquan Satellite launch Center later this month, and if initial experiments in this two-year mission prove successful, it could soon be followed by a fleet of others, according to Nature.

The researchers are working to prove that particles can remain entangled across great distances – in this case, nearly 750 miles.

Earlier efforts to demonstrate quantum communication have shown this can be up to just over 180 miles, and scientists now hoping that transmitting the photons through space will push this even farther.

When travelling through air and optical fibres, protons get scattered or absorbed, Nature explains, posing challenges to the preservation of the fragile quantum state.

But, photons can travel more smoothly through space.

Achieving quantum communication at such distances would enable the creation of secure worldwide communications networks, allowing two parties to communicate using a shared encryption key.

In quantum physics, entangled particles remain connected so that actions performed by one affects the behavior of the other, even if they are separated by huge distances.

So, if someone were to attempt to listen in on one end, the disruption would be detectable on the other.

Over the course of the two-year mission, the researchers in China will conduct a Bell test to prove the existence of entanglement at such a great distance.

And, they will attempt to ‘teleport’ quantum states, according to Nature, meaning the quantum state of the photo will be rebuilt in a new location.

Researchers from Canada, Japan, Italy, and Singapore have also revealed plans to conduct quantum experiments in space, including one proposed aboard the International Space Station.

This experiment would attempt to create a reliable and efficient means for teleportation.

By achieving quantum teleportation, the researchers say they could create a telescope with an enormous resolution.

‘You could not just see planets,’ Paul Kwiat, a physicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign involved with the Nasa project, ’but in principle read licence plates on Jupiter’s moons.’

In its first task, the Chinese craft will fire the photon pairs to stations in Beijing and Vienna, to generate the encryption key.

But as the work continues, it may soon be joined by others.

‘If the first satellite goes well, China will definitely launch more,’ Chaoyang Lu, a physicist at the -University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, told Nature.

To create a network that connects the world, roughly 20 satellites would need to be deployed. (Contributors: By Cheyenne Macdonald for Daily Mail)

China’s technical expertise is recognized globally, though the vast country has shown little if any interest in exploring the solar system until now, nor is the West fully aware of China’s political goals in space. However, peaceful cooperation in producing a telescope more powerful than the Hubble would reveal dazzling space photos. Pray for God’s glory to be revealed in peaceful exploration.      

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.” (Ps. 19:1-2)

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The Informer - August 3, 2016

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GOP CONFIDENCE IN SENATE MAJORITY BUILDS

Republicans are growing much more optimistic about their chances of saving their Senate majority.

Less than 100 days before the election, unconventional Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has yet to become the albatross many Republicans feared.

In the critical states of Ohio, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, GOP candidates are running as strongly as they were before Trump became the party’s presidential nominee.

“If the election were held today, it’d be exactly like a midterm election. Good campaigns are going to win. There’s no landslide,” said David Carney, a New Hampshire-based Republican strategist. “The bases are baked in. I don’t see dramatic shifts anywhere.”

Republicans and Democrats say the fight to win control of the 115th Congress will start in earnest this weekend, now that both parties have laid out their markers during national conventions.

“Democrats haven’t really started the process of tying Trump around Republican necks,” said Jon McHenry, a prominent Republican pollster. “The swing state Republicans who hold their seats this fall will be those with a good story of vision and accomplishment to tell that allows them to run independently of Trump.”

The Hill interviewed more than a dozen strategists involved in the battles for the House and Senate in reporting this story. Those strategists laid out two starkly different paths each party is pursuing: Democrats hope to nationalize elections by tying Trump to every Republican running for office. Republicans hope to localize races by focusing on issues specific to their constituents.

Republicans hold 54 seats in the Senate, which means Democrats must win four seats and the White House to reclaim control of the Senate, or five seats to win an outright majority.

Democrats are favored to win back Republican-held seats in Illinois and Wisconsin, and both sides' surveys show Democrats ahead in Indiana. Polls show the three critical states at the fulcrum of Senate control — Ohio, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania — effectively tied. If a backlash against Trump does hurt Republican candidates, Democrats are closely watching GOP incumbents in Missouri, Arizona and North Carolina, too.

The GOP holds 247 seats in the House, meaning Democrats must claw back an improbable 30 seats to win control.

Neither party’s internal surveys show evidence of a developing wave, but the tumult and turbulence of an unpredictable year could tilt the field at any time.

“This is a fascinating time to be in this business, because at any moment, something can happen that shakes things up, at least for a while. The shelf life of a poll to me has gotten shorter and shorter,” said Ann Selzer, who conducts polls for media outlets across the country. “People keep thinking that the normal rules apply.”

Both sides are honing their messages ahead of the 100-day stretch run.

Democrats say their pitch to voters will reflect the mood of this week’s convention in Philadelphia, where Clinton, President Obama and Vice President Biden laid out a decidedly more optimistic vision of the country than Trump and fellow Republicans did last week in Cleveland, while simultaneously eviscerating Trump.

“This isn’t a referendum on Trump; it’s more than that. It’s very much a vision to move the country forward,” said Lauren Passalacqua, a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokeswoman. “These [Republican] candidates were vulnerable even before we all took the nomination of Donald Trump as an option.”

Republicans expect to spend more of their time focusing on distinctly local issues, rather than their presidential candidate. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte have highlighted the growing opioid epidemic claiming lives in their states. Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey has attacked Democratic rival Katie McGinty over sanctuary cities.

“Republicans are running their campaigns like they’re running for sheriff. Their messages are specific, targeted and local,” said Greg Blair, an spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “We will make sure that voters are casting their ballots in Senate races based on Senate candidates, not whatever might be happening up, down or sideways on the ticket.”

Both parties have begun placing television advertising buys ahead of November’s elections, offering revealing clues about each side’s priorities.

The DSCC has reserved airtime in eight states, six of which are held by Republicans: Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The committee has also reserved time in Colorado and Nevada, seats Democrats currently hold.

The NRSC has made reservations in New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where they are defending vulnerable incumbents, and in Nevada, where Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid is retiring.

In Wisconsin, polls show GOP Sen. Ron Johnson trailing former Sen. Russ Feingold, the Democrat he beat in 2010, and a prominent outside group backed by the network of conservative donors led by billionaires Charles and David Koch recently canceled advertising time in the state, a strong signal that Republicans believe Johnson may not be savable.

Sen. Mark Kirk trails Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D) in Illinois. Notably, the NRSC has yet to reserve airtime there. But senior Republican aides on Capitol Hill say the NRSC has recently begun including Kirk’s race in PowerPoint presentations to major donors, a potential sign of renewed confidence that the race may not be over yet.

Internal surveys conducted by both Democrats and Republicans show former Sen. Evan Bayh (D) leading Rep. Todd Young (R) in Indiana after Bayh made a late re-entry into the race this month. Neither side has fully engaged, but Republicans say they are preparing an advertising blitz to paint Bayh as a Washington insider.

After those three seats, the Democratic path to 51 becomes more complicated.

Both sides are aggressively focusing on five states: Ohio, where polls show Portman and former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) essentially tied; Pennsylvania, where Toomey holds a slight lead over McGinty; New Hampshire, where polls show Ayotte in a dead heat with Gov. Maggie Hassan (D); Florida, where Sen. Marco Rubio (R) leads his likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D); and Nevada, where Rep. Joe Heck (R) is battling former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) for retiring Reid’s seat.

All five Senate seats are in presidential swing states, making it imperative that Democrats and Republicans lock in advertising rates before Trump and Clinton begin snatching up available airtime.

That has spurred both sides to reserve advertising time early: The DSCC and the Senate Majority PAC, which backs Democratic candidates, have bought up a combined $30 million in Ohio alone. The NRSC and the three largest Republican-backing outside groups have bought $30 million in Ohio airtime as well. Democratic groups have reserved $20 million in tiny New Hampshire, while Republican groups have booked $27 million on Ayotte’s behalf.

The sheer amount of money flooding into key states will allow Senate candidates on both sides to craft an independent image for themselves, strategists said, an important factor given that both Trump and Clinton are seen unfavorably by a broad swath of voters.

“These Senate campaigns are just entities in and of themselves. In terms of your image as a candidate, your campaign can control that in a way that we haven’t been able to at any point up until the last four years,” said Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Beyond the most competitive races on the map, Democrats and Republicans are looking to three more states where a wave election could jeopardize incumbents.

Both sides say Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) faces a real race against former state Rep. Deborah Ross (D); Democrats have yet to make a financial investment in the race, but even Republicans acknowledge they are worried about Burr’s low name identification.

Republicans are cautious, too, about Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R) chances for reelection in Missouri. Blunt has aggressively raised money for the NRSC in recent years, but if he finds himself in an unexpectedly close race, some Republicans worry the committee will have already committed too many resources to states like Florida and Indiana to ride to Blunt’s rescue. A Mason-Dixon survey conducted for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Friday showed Blunt leading his Democratic rival, Jason Kander, by a slim 47 to 44 percent margin.

And in Arizona, Sen. John McCain (R) has voiced concerns about the impact Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric may have on his prospects, especially among Hispanic voters. McCain faces a conservative challenger in Arizona’s August primary, and he is likely to face Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) in November.

Buoyed by polling that shows Trump running close to Clinton in key states, Republican senators who were once leery of Trump’s presence on the ticket have thawed in recent weeks. Portman endorsed Trump and spent time in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention, though he did not appear on stage. Toomey told young Republicans in Pittsburgh he was getting closer to backing his party’s nominee.

If Democrats have any serious advantage 100 days out, it is an organizational edge that Republicans will struggle to match. The Clinton campaign has been coordinating with Senate campaigns in battleground states for months, sharing data, voter lists and even offices: The Clinton campaign shares a headquarters with Feingold in Wisconsin, has four joint offices with Democratic campaigns in North Carolina and 18 offices shared with McGinty’s campaign in Pennsylvania.

The nature of the Senate map, in which Republicans are defending more than twice as many seats as Democrats, always meant the GOP would be playing defense this year. But the Trump-led disaster that Republicans once feared has yet to develop, which has party strategists in high spirits.

“If you’d have given Senate Republicans this exact situation in January 2015, they would have taken it before you got the last word out of the sentence,” Holmes said. (Contributor: By Reid Wison for The Hill)

For prayer: With no intentional disrespect toward any of the experienced political forecasters or analysts cited in this article, the simple truth is that no one knows or controls the future except God. The psalmist said it best when he proclaimed, “The Lord reigns; let the people tremble” (Ps. 99). IFA encourages our readers first to pray diligently for God’s will, then vote intelligently.

“The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! … The Lord is great in Zion, and He is high above all the peoples.” (Ps. 99:1-2)

 

A LOOK INSIDE 4 IMPORTANT GOALS OF THE LGBT MOVEMENT

Despite being proud of advances they’ve made during eight years under President Barack Obama, leaders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movement say they still have work to do.

“The future of the LGBT movement hinges largely on the outcome of this election,” Kevin Jennings, executive director of the Arcus Foundation, said at a global LGBT summit held in Philadelphia during the Democratic National Convention.

Jennings, issuing a warning to a mostly friendly audience, said there are “two very different visions for LGBT equality in the Republican and Democratic platforms.”

More than 25 prominent leaders of the national LGBT movement, including elected officials and other influential voices, gathered for the four-day event called the Equality Forum.

The Daily Signal attended several panel discussions featuring speakers such as Janson Wu, executive director of the advocacy group GLAD; James Esseks, director of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and AIDS project at the American Civil Liberties Union; and Evan Wolfson, former president of Freedom to Marry, a campaign largely credited with winning the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Looking forward, speakers said, priorities include defeating “anti-LGBT” bills, supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth through new school policies and curriculum and partnering with outside organizations on minority-driven issues such as gun control and criminal justice reform. They called for Congress to amend the Civil Rights Act to add protections in places of public accommodation, among other changes.

LGBT advocacy groups also are involved in an array of lawsuits they believe could have a major impact, including a Pennsylvania case where a transgender women alleges discrimination by her former employer.

The Equality Forum didn’t conclude without controversy.  As panelists talked about outreach to millennials, blacks, and other minorities, one reporter stood up and asked why, if they care so much about diversity, was their panel comprised of four middle-aged white men?

Speakers acknowledged the problem, and admitted a double standard.

“If we’re going to talk about millennials and people of color, it’s important to talk with them and not to them,” the Arcus Foundation’s Jennings said.

The two dozen or so moderators and panelists included women, African-Americans, and Asian-Americans, but most appeared to be white, middle-aged men.

The ultimate goal, leaders said throughout the week, is to make life easier for the next generation of LGBT youth by passing laws and implementing policies they argue would make the world a more tolerant place.

Wu, executive director at GLAD, said:

We have got to do so much more around ensuring that LGBT children and young people are fully included, integrated, and celebrated in every aspect of life—in their families, and schools, and communities, and faith communities. If we really do that, then we can break the cycle of harm that has caused so many of us to have a lot of trauma and problems as adults.

Here’s a breakdown of four of the LGBT movement’s specific strategies, as described at the Equality Forum.

  1. Passing the Equality Act

Passing this federal legislation is perhaps the most important short-term goal. Wolfson, the former president of Freedom to Marry, called it “unfinished business.”

The Equality Act, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation and gender identity among prohibited categories of discrimination.

According to one of the most influential LGBT advocacy groups, the Human Rights Campaign, the legislation would apply to areas of “employment, housing, access to public places, federal funding, credit, education, and jury service.”

Conservatives worry the measure undermines First Amendment rights to free speech and religious liberty.

They say it would limit the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, forcing private business owners to violate their religious beliefs about marriage and mandating that people be allowed into restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, and similar facilities based on their gender identity.

“The ‘Equality Act’ is a misnomer,” wrote Ryan T. Anderson, an expert on marriage and religious liberty at The Heritage Foundation, which is the parent organization of The Daily Signal. “The bill does not protect equality before the law, but unnecessarily and unjustly violates freedom by creating special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, more than 80 corporations have signed on in support of the measure, including Target, Facebook, American Airlines, and Apple. (See chart below.)

Esseks, of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that support was largely a result of the relationships the LGBT movement built with private businesses while working to legalize same-sex marriage.

Conservative groups such as 2nd Vote, which urges Americans to vote with their wallets and boycott companies that financially back measures such as the Equality Act, criticize the role of large corporations.

Robert Kuykendall, spokesman for 2nd Vote, said:

    Big business is helping carry the water for the policy goals of Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT advocacy organizations that are leading a dangerous assault on religious liberty on multiple fronts. The alliance between the Human Rights Campaign and its corporate sponsors like Target and Bank of America is a principle driver of the LGBT political movement.

LGBT leaders appeared confident such corporations would continue working with them as allies and that, with  a Democrat majority in Congress, they could pass the Equality Act with a few Republicans on board.

  1. Defeating State and Local Laws

The biggest threat LGBT leaders said they’re facing is what they call “anti-LGBT” legislation proposed by conservatives in state and local governments.

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on same-sex marriage, many people of faith concluded they needed laws to protect their conscience rights so that they can run businesses, adoption agencies, and charity organizations in accord with their deeply held religious beliefs.

Specifically, these state laws—which advocates call Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs) after the 1993 federal law—aim to protect from discrimination or punishment those who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, that sexual relations should be reserved for marriage, and that gender identity is based on biological sex.

Wolfson, who spent decades advocating same-sex marriage, didn’t pay much mind to those concerns.

“Religion is not the reason people are bigots,” he said. “It’s the excuse.”

With more than 200 such measures popping up last year, Equality Forum panelists said they were dealt a major challenge from opponents who they believe are trying to use religion as a reason to discriminate.

“We knew there was going to be a backlash, but the backlash was bigger than I thought it was going to be,” the ACLU’s Esseks said, speaking of the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision. “That’s an enormous onslaught of organized legislative activity coming at us.”

To defeat their opponents, LGBT groups plan to go state by state to strike down religious freedom measures and, instead, implement their own laws on sexual orientation and gender identity.  They said they intend to do this until new federal law or court decisions negate that necessity.

“The national conversation around this is night and day different from where it was last fall,” Esseks said, expressing confidence the tide is shifting in their favor. “We finally got over being awkward and shy about talking about restrooms.”

  1. Going to Court

Panelists said they have their eyes on an array of court cases that they believe could greatly affect the future of the LGBT movement’s agenda, including the Pennsylvania case in which a transgender woman is suing the outdoor recreation company Cabela’s, a former employer.

The employee, Kate Lynn Blatt, took the legal action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on sex, and the Americans With Disabilities Act, arguing Cabela’s did not provide reasonable accommodations for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Blatt’s supervisor “called her a ‘he-she,’ a ‘lady-boy,’” and insisted Blatt, hired as a seasonal stocker, wear a name tag with the name James rather than Kate Lynn, Wu said.

“And then when it came to the question of which bathroom she should use, [the supervisor] wouldn’t allow her to use the women’s restroom in the store, and instead, suggested that maybe she should go to the Dunkin’ Donuts across the street,” Wu said.

“This is clear discrimination based on your transgender status,” he said.

GLAD is assisting in the case, Blatt v. Cabela’s Retail Inc. The case is important, Wu explained, because of a “first of its kind litigation strategy” with the potential of overturning exclusions for transgender individuals under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

“If we’re able to remove or overturn this exclusion, then we’ve just opened up really important protections for transgender people in public accommodations,” he said.

While LGBT leaders are eyeing other legal cases—many of them involving transgender Americans—some experts said they aren’t overly concerned with cases in which private business owners, citing religious beliefs, decline to provide wedding-related services. These include bakers, photographers, and florists.

“We’re doing very well in those cases,” Esseks said. “We’ve won almost all of them.”

And if one were to land before the Supreme Court? Esseks said:

Justice [Anthony] Kennedy says people are free to believe whatever they want to believe [and] that gives me significant hope the court will say that’s not what religious freedom looks like, what you’re asking for is a license to discriminate, and that’s not something we’ll constitutionalize.

  1. Partnering With Black Lives Matter and Others

The LGBT leaders also said they are beginning to discuss how they can be more supportive of other minority rights groups, specifically Black Lives Matter.

Drawing a parallel to Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton’s declaration in 2011 that “gay rights are human rights,” Jennings, the executive director of the Arcus Foundation, said that “the rights of black people are gay rights, and the rights of gay people are black rights.”

“If we remain silent then we lose, in my mind, the ability to complain when we are the victims of similar treatment,” he said. “We would lose all credibility.”

But Wolfson said he hopes LGBT organizations take more of a back-seat approach, allowing groups such as Black Lives Matter to remain in the driver’s seat.

“[We] don’t plan to lead the entire effort on curbing gun violence, but to bring meaningful contribution and meaningful voice to action,” he said.

Leaders also expressed interest in supporting criminal justice reform, the feminist movement, access to abortion, and gun control.

Gun control should be of great concern to the transgender community, said Jay Brown, communications director for the Human Rights Campaign.

“It’s all too often that there’s another [transgender] murder and it’s all too often that it goes unnoticed.”

By helping other movements, Brown said, the LGBT community will help itself.

“When you broaden access for one group, you broaden access for everyone.”

‘Make Your Dream Happen’

Overall, the tone of the Equality Forum was optimistic. Small efforts, such as introducing transgender individuals to those who never met one before, are making a huge difference, leaders remarked.

But “being out and being visible,” said Brown, who is openly transgender himself, “comes with great risk.”

So these efforts are slow, he said, and are a work in progress.

The overall message to youth who struggle to accept their identity: Dream big.

“Believe in your dream and make your dream happen,” Jennings said.

Shannon Minter, litigation director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told an audience of about 30 not to stop at tolerance and acceptance.

“We have got to do so much more around ensuring that LGBT children and young people are fully included, integrated, and celebrated in every aspect of life—in their families and schools and communities and faith communities,” Minter said. “If we really do that, then we can break the cycle of harm that has caused so many of us to have a lot of trauma and problems as adults.”

GLAD’s Wu said:

    Let’s dream bigger for a second and let’s think about students—all students, not just LGBT students—learning about LGBT history and contributions to the literature, and then let’s even dream bigger than that and let’s think about inclusive health and sex education and think about the impact that would have, particularly with regards to the HIV epidemic … There’s so much more that we can imagine if we’re able to imagine it and we work hard at it. (Contributor: By Kelsey Harkness for The Daily Signal)

We should admire those who hold LGBT views for their diligent work and perseverance in advancing their cause. They are strong through unity. Christians who hold fast to a heterosexual relationship in marriage as the biblical and God-sanctioned position often do not work or pray in unity. We must put our own house in order and present a unified, prayerful, and loving witness to the freedom Jesus Christ brings through the Gospel.

“But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.’” (Mt. 12:25)

 

CDC ISSUES HISTORIC TRAVEL WARNING OVER MIAMI ZIKA OUTBREAK

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an unprecedented travel warning Monday, advising pregnant women and their partners not to travel to a small community just north of downtown Miami, where Zika is actively circulating. This is the first time the CDC has warned people not to travel to an American neighborhood for fear of catching an infectious disease, according to agency spokesman Tom Skinner.

The warning came after 10 additional people in Florida were found to have been infected with Zika virus after being bitten by local mosquitoes, bringing the total to 14.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden announced the development in separate news conferences Monday. The new cases were found by door-to-door surveys of 200 people in their homes and businesses, and they were identified by urine and blood samples that tested positive for the virus or an antibody.

Late last week, Florida state health officials confirmed that four people had contracted Zika from mosquitoes in the same 150-square-meter area. It's a mixed-use development with upscale as well as economically stressed businesses and homes, which Frieden said complicates mosquito control efforts.

"New test measurements over the weekend showed a risk of continued active transmission in that area," Frieden said. "Because of this finding, we are advising pregnant women not to travel to that area and if they have traveled there on or after June 15 to visit their health care provider for testing."

June 15 is the earliest day, said Frieden, that local health officials believe the mosquitoes could have passed the virus, which they obtained by biting a person who had returned to the United States with the disease. Since four out of five people with Zika have no symptoms, it's possible that "person zero" had no idea they were infectious.

"With 40 million travelers to and from areas where Zika is actively circulating, many can come back who feel perfectly fine," Frieden said. "But the virus could be hitchhiking in their blood. That's why everyone who travels to one of those areas should use insect repellent for at least three weeks after they return."

Additional precautions recommended by the CDC about the Miami outbreak include:

  • Pregnant women who live in or travel to the area should be tested for Zika infection in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy, even if they have no symptoms of the virus.
  • Pregnant women and their male and female partners who live in the area should prevent mosquito bites and use proper sexual protection for the length of the pregnancy, or abstain from sex altogether.
  • Male or female partners of pregnant women who have traveled to this area should use safe sex measures for the rest of the pregnancy.
  • Women and men who have traveled to the affected area should wait eight weeks to conceive after their return, while men with symptoms should wait a full six months.

Scott wasted no time in asking for CDC assistance.

"Following today's announcement, I have requested that the Centers for Disease Control activate their emergency response team to assist (the Department of Health) in their investigation, research and sample collection efforts," Scott said. "Their team will consist of public health experts whose role is to augment our response efforts to confirmed local transmissions of the Zika virus."

CDC personnel are already on the ground in Florida, Frieden said, with more members of the community emergency response team arriving over the next few days. Their first task will be to understand why local mosquito control efforts failed.

"In Miami, aggressive control measures are not working as well as we would like," he said. "The mosquitoes could be resistant to the pesticides being used, or the mosquitoes could be hiding in what we call 'cryptic' breeding places that are hard to find, like very small amounts of water where they can hatch.

"The Aedes aegypti is a really tough mosquito to control," Frieden added. "When Key West had an outbreak of dengue, which is carried by the same mosquito, that outbreak continued for more than a year. It's a demonstration of how intensive the efforts need to be to control the mosquito."

On-the-ground testing could take several weeks, Frieden said, stressing that precautions should continue to be taken by everyone living in the area or traveling to and from it. Those precautions include applying insect repellent containing 25% DEET to uncovered skin, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants that are thick enough to repel a mosquito bite, using air conditioning and screens on doors, and removing standing water where mosquitoes lay eggs.

U.S. health officials had warned that there would be local transmission of the virus from mosquitoes but say they don't expect it to be widespread, as has been seen in Puerto Rico and throughout the Americas. That's based on outbreaks of two similar mosquito-borne diseases, dengue fever and chikungunya. The reason is largely because of living conditions, including mosquito-control efforts and regular use of air-conditioning.

The vast majority of cases of Zika in the United States have been from travel to other countries where the virus is actively circulating, a total of more than 60 countries and territories.

Nearly every state is reporting cases of the virus; only Idaho, South Dakota, Wyoming and Alaska have not reported it. Until the announcement Friday in Florida, none of those cases was from local mosquito transmission. Fifteen of those individuals were infected by sexual transmission, and there is one case of a laboratory-acquired infection. (Contributor: By Sandee LaMotte for CNN News)

Pray for wisdom for the research personnel to avoid becoming infected. With most of the Zika focus on the Olympic Games in Brazil, it may be difficult for many Americans to think of the threat as being as close to home as Miami. But the Zika virus is in our midst, and the country must deal with the possibility of sudden escalation. Pray for God’s mercy and for the CDC travel warning to be effective.   

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23)

 

DHS GRANTS SYRIANS TEMPORARY AMNESTY

Homeland Security granted a new temporary amnesty Monday to more than 8,000 Syrians living in the U.S. right now, saying they can remain for up to 18 months longer no matter what their legal status.

Secretary Jeh Johnson issued “temporary protected status” to Syrians, saying that if they are in the U.S. as of Monday and continue to reside here permanently, they can apply for work permits and other documents to remain and live in the U.S. without fear of being ousted.

His order applies to some 5,800 Syrians who were granted status under the original 2012 TPS program, and 2,500 new arrivals who don’t have a more permanent status here.

“Syria’s lengthy civil conflict has resulted in high levels of food insecurity, limited access to water and medical care, and massive destruction of Syria’s infrastructure. Attacks against civilians, the use of chemical weapons and irregular warfare tactics, as well as forced conscription and use of child soldiers have intensified the humanitarian crisis,” Mr. Johnson said in announcing the new program.

Those eligible for TPS include any Syrian illegal immigrants who have managed to sneak into or remain in the U.S. beyond their visa expirations over the last four years.

TPS is intended to be humanitarian relief for those whose home countries face a massive natural disaster or war that makes returning both dangerous for the individual, and a potential burden for the home country’s government.

Some 13 countries are currently listed.

But the Syrian listing comes at a time of heightened concern over foreign fighters who may have trained with the Islamic State and who are searching for ways to conduct attacks in Europe and the U.S.

Those fears have already beset the U.S. refugee program, where President Obama has pledged to resettle some 10,000 Syrians in the U.S. in fiscal year 2016.

The refugee program far overshadows what authorities expect from the new TPS designation. The 2,500 Syrians expected to receive temporary status is only slightly more than the 2,443 Syrian refugees accepted for resettlement in the U.S. in the month of July alone.

All told, some 7,654 Syrians have been resettled so far this fiscal year. And with two months left in the fiscal year, Mr. Obama is easily on track to meet his 10,000 goal.

Those with serious criminal records or who authorities are able to determine to be national security risks are supposed to be rejected for TPS.

An in-person interview is not listed as one of the requirements for being approved for TPS, though officials can request an interview if someone lacks a birth certificate, passport or other primary document establishing their identity.

Proving identity and establishing someone’s criminal history are some of the biggest hurdles for Syrian refugees, according to American security officials, who say that the U.S. lacks access to Syrian systems that are usually used to verify someone’s history and check his or her criminal record.

Applications for TPS can be submitted at any time, though they won’t begin to be approved until October. The window for applying runs through Jan. 30.

The protected status runs 18 months, through March 31, 2018. (Contributor: By Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times)

Pray for God’s mercy to be attendant on these who are true refugees seeking to escape from the horrors and suffering of war-torn Syria. This decision, however, appears to have political overtones, and the present administration does not seem to recognize the potential danger that terrorists may be lurking among the thousands settling here. Ask God to give U.S. security officials insight and wisdom.   

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the
watchman stays awake in vain.”
(Ps. 127:1)

 

TEXAS SHALE OIL HAS FOUGHT SAUDI ARABIA TO A STANDSTILL

Opec's worst fears are coming true. Twenty months after Saudi Arabia took the fateful decision to flood world markets with oil, it has still failed to break the back of the US shale industry.

The Saudi-led Gulf states have certainly succeeded in killing off a string of global mega-projects in deep waters. Investment in upstream exploration from 2014 to 2020 will be $1.8 trillion less than previously assumed, according to consultants IHS. But this is a bitter victory at best.

North America's hydraulic frackers are cutting costs so fast that most can now produce at prices far below levels needed to fund the Saudi welfare state and its military machine, or to cover Opec budget deficits.

Scott Sheffield, the outgoing chief of Pioneer Natural Resources, threw down the gauntlet last week - with some poetic licence - claiming that his pre-tax production costs in the Permian Basin of West Texas have fallen to $2.25 a barrel.

"Definitely we can compete with anything that Saudi Arabia has. We have the best rock," he said. Revolutionary improvements in drilling technology and data analytics that have changed the cost calculus faster than almost anybody thought possible.

The 'decline rate' of production over the first four months of each well was 90pc a decade ago for US frackers. This dropped to 31pc in 2012. It is now 18pc. Drillers have learned how to extract more.

Mr Sheffield said the Permian is as bountiful as the giant Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia and can expand from 2m to 5m barrels a day even if the price of oil never rises above $55.

His company has cut production costs by 26pc over the last year alone. Pioneer is now so efficient that it is already adding five new rigs despite today's depressed prices in the low $40s. It is not alone.

The Baker Hughes count of North America oil rigs has risen for seven out of the last eight weeks to 374, and this understates the effect. Multi-pad drilling means that three wells are now routinely drilled from the same rig, and sometimes six or more. Average well productivity has risen fivefold in the Permian since early 2012.

Consultants Wood Mackenzie estimated in a recent report  that full-cycle break-even costs have fallen to $37 at Wolfcamp and Bone Spring in the Permian, and to $35 in the  South Central Oklahoma Oil Province. The majority of US shale fields are now viable at $60.

This is a cold douche for Opec. It has been an article of faith among Gulf exporters that hedging contracts had kept US shale companies on life-support and that there would be a brutal cull as these expired in the first half of this year.

No such Gotterdamerung has occurred. A few over-leveraged players have gone bankrupt, but Blackstone, Carlyle and other private equity groups are waiting on the sidelines to buy distressed assets and take over the infrastructure.

The crucial mid-tier drillers have weathered the downturn. Many are still able to raise funds at low cost. Total output in the US has fallen by 1.2m barrels a day to 8.5m since the peak in April 2015 but production has been bottoming out. Today's frackers can just about cope with oil prices in the $40 to $50 range.

Opec may now have to brace for a longer war of attrition than they ever imagined. Global inventories of crude oil remain near all-time highs, record volumes are being stored on tankers off-shore.

Forest fires in Canada, rebel attacks in Nigeria, and other global upsets took 4m barrels a day off the global market at one stage over the May-June period, masking the continued world glut. These disruptions are subsiding. Lost output has dropped to nearer 2m barrels a day. That is a key reason why US crude prices have fallen 20pc to $41 over the last six weeks.

Morgan Stanley says the long-awaited rebalancing of the global markets has been delayed for yet another year until mid-2017.

Worse yet for Opec, consultants Rystad Energy say that 90pc of the 3,900 drilled but uncompleted wells - so-called 'DUCs' - are profitable at $50. This implies an overhang of easy supply waiting to hit the market. Citigroup expects an extra 1m barrels a day in late 2016.

Once that is cleared, shale drillers will have to build new rigs. Mr Sheffield said Pioneer can do this is 135 days flat, a dramatic contrast to deep-water mega-projects that can take seven to 10 years.

This agility has changed the nature of the oil cycle. It means that Opec faces an unprecedented headwind from mid-cost producers. Stalwarts Anadarko and Hess say they will wait for $60 before investing heavily, but they are already preparing the ground.

The losers are high-cost projects elsewhere: off the coast of Nigeria and Angola, in the Arctic, or the oil sands of Canada and Venezuela's Orinoco basin.  Roughly 4m to 5m barrels a day of future supply has been shelved around the world.

This sets the stage for an oil shortage and a price spike later this decade. Whether Opec can survive that long is an open question. Most of the cartel need prices of $100 to fund their regimes.

Venezuela is already in the grip of hyperinflation and food riots. Nigeria's currency peg was smashed last month, and the naira has fallen 60pc. Angola has turned to the International Monetary Fund, Azerbaijan to the World Bank.

Saudi Arabia has deeper pockets but its net foreign reserves have fallen from $737bn to $562bn, even though it is borrowing money abroad to slow the loss. It burned through another $11bn last month.

Riyadh is trying to curb the country's culture of subsidy and entitlement, but was forced to sack a minister and backtrack after a 500pc rise in water prices set off an outcry. It is the famous social contract from cradle-to-grave that keeps the House of Saud in power.

The IMF says the budget deficit will be 13pc of GDP this year, but nobody really knows since true military spending is secret and subsidies for Egypt and a nexus of clients in the Saudi sphere are opaque. Riyadh probably has a safe reserve buffer for another eighteen months at current oil prices before perceptions change and capital flight turns serious.

If West Texas really can boost output by another 3m barrels a day at anywhere near $55 a barrel - as Mr Sheffield claims - the Saudis may have to dig in for a very long and painful siege. (Contributor: By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard for Telegraph)

This is an important U.S. victory in moving toward independence from OPEC domination. Give thanks for the successful production of Texas shale oil. Saudi Arabia, a professed U.S. ally, has long been a major “bully” in OPEC leadership. Now, with our own steady production, the U.S. can fight back to “even the playing field.” Pray for continued success, a sign of God’s blessing, as He owns it all.

‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Hag. 2:8)  

 

IDF CHIEF LANDS IN U.S. FOR CROSS-COUNTRY WORK VISIT

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot landed in the United States Sunday to meet with members of the American military and Department of Defense, as Jerusalem and Washington hammer out the final details of an aid package for the coming years.

He was slated to speak with his American counterpart, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, along with other defense officials, as he travels through Washington, DC, Florida and Utah.

Eisenkot will inspect the squadron of Israeli F-35 fighter jets, which will be delivered to the Israeli Air Force by the end of the year, and will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington cemetery. He will also visit the US military’s special forces base in Florida, the army said in a statement.

“[Eisenkot and members of the US Department of Defense] will also discuss current security challenges, the regional security assessments in the Middle East and military cooperation,” the army said.

While Eisenkot is in America, he will be replaced by his deputy, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan.

“Eisenkot will be accompanied by his wife, Hannah Eisenkot, the Defense Attaché [to the US], Maj. Gen. Yaacob Ayish, and the head of international military cooperation, Brig. Gen. Erez Meizel,” the army said.

Last week, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that the acting head of Israel’s National Security Council, Brig. Gen. (Res.) Yaakov Nagel, would travel to Washington on Sunday for meetings with his US counterparts in order to work toward the signing of a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding on security assistance with the United States.

The current memorandum, which expires at the end of 2017, guarantees Israel $3 billion annually in assistance. The new agreement is widely expected to be larger, though most of the aid can only be spent in the United States.

JTA contributed to this report. (Contributor: By Judah Ari Gross for Times of Israel)

Pray for the safety of IDF Chief Eisenkot while he is in our country. Pray for a successful tour, plus fruitful negotiations both immediately and for the future. Pray for renewed ties of mutual trust and loyalty between the U.S. and Israel. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

“I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3)

 

AMERICAN CHRISTIANITY MAY BE COLLAPSING. WHAT SHOULD WE DO?

When Chicken Little said the sky is falling, we all laughed. Well, maybe it's time we stopped laughing.

It seems Chicken Little may be on to something.

My friend Rod Dreher is as sane and stable as anyone I know, and he's saying, in essence, that the sky is falling. I reference his new article in The American Conservative, called "The Coming Christian Collapse."

He begins by saying that the two-thirds of millennials who were raised religiously unaffiliated still have no denominational identity today. Unlike previous generations, they're not joining churches as they get older and raise kids.

Second, Rod says, "Millennials, even those who identify as Christians, are shockingly illiterate, both in terms of what the Bible says and more generally regarding what Christianity teaches."

This growing biblical illiteracy has led to a moral decline of our young people into consumerism, drug abuse, sexual liberation, and civic and political disengagement.

Third, Rod says that the working class has largely abandoned the church, and that if the middle class follows suit, as appears likely, the church will be in a world of hurt. He quotes the late Michael Spencer, who warned of a coming evangelical collapse: "We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught."

These are chilling words. We talk a lot on BreakPoint about external threats to our souls, and rightly so. But as Abraham Lincoln once said in another context, "If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher."

Yet I am hopeful, as every Christian must be. As my colleague John Stonestreet says so often, we are part of the grand story of the universe. And God is the author of that story. Yes, as Peter reminds us, we will have to suffer "various trials." But why? "So that the authenticity of [our] faith . . . may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7)".

This is not new. Back in the '30s and '40s, German Christians had to take a clear stand or be absorbed or compromised by evil — and some, like Bonhoeffer, chose the cross. Look at our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. Now, I'm not ready to say we American Christians may soon have to apostasize or die, but I can't help but think of the words of the late Cardinal George, who said he would die in his bed, his successor would die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.

So, what do we do? We repent — repent of our sins, the sins of the church, and, yes, the sins of our nation: the sins of pride, racism, sexual libertinism, greed, lust for power, and a callous disregard for human life among them.

Second, we must recommit ourselves to Jesus. We need to seek the mind of Christ, to think and to act as Christians, to know our Bible and to live by it in the power of the Spirit, "making the most of your time, for the days are evil." We must commit anew to forming a biblical worldview and evaluating everything in our lives in light of it.

We must recommit our time and our treasure to evangelism, missions, and Christ's command in Matthew 25 to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and visit the prisoner. Christian faith is not a nice add-on to our agendas, it's the very marrow of our lives.

The question is this: Will we love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves?

But don't be intimidated by the internal and external challenges we face. Remember that God can do very much with very little, and that success doesn't depend on political or cultural power. While the Church may face trials, the gates of hell will not prevail, and Christ's victory is assured. (Contributor: By Eric Metaxas for Christian Post)

These challenges are real, and we cannot avoid them. The writer says the Church needs to repent, which is always in order. With that, we must prepare our teens for the onslaught of college academia and the assault on everything they have been taught. If not, we will sacrifice them on the altar of secularism. Pray for yourself, your family, and your church to move closer to God.

“Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘… I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.’” (Mat.16:16-18)

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The Informer - July 27, 2016

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U.S. OFFICIALS WARNED DNC OF HACK MONTHS BEFORE THE PARTY ACTED

Federal investigators tried to warn the Democratic National Committee about a potential intrusion in their computer network months before the party moved to try to fix the problem, U.S. officials briefed on the probe tell CNN.

The revelation raises questions about whether the DNC could have done more to limit the damage done by hackers suspected of working for Russian intelligence.

The DNC brought in consultants from the private security firm CrowdStrike in April. And by the time suspected Russian hackers were kicked out of the DNC network in June, the hackers had been inside for about a year.

A person briefed on the DNC's response says the warning from the FBI and other agencies wasn't specific, and that the extent of the problem wasn't clear when the initial warnings came. DNC officials hired outside help after additional indications surfaced that their systems were compromised.

The DNC breach occurred around the same time as breaches of U.S. government systems at the State Department and the White House. Analysts from the National Security Agency found signatures in those breaches that led them to suspect there were other intrusions outside the government, including at the DNC.

"I talked to the general counsel of the DNC today and he assures me that every step along the way when we were notified of these issues that we changed systems, changed procedures," said DNC vice chairwoman Donna Brazile to CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "But these hackers are so sophisticated that they changed procedures. So yes, it went on for more than a year, but at no time did we ignore the warning from the FBI or any other federal officials."

Earlier on Monday, the FBI confirmed it was investigating a hack into the DNC, the first acknowledgment from the agency that they are probing the incident, which U.S. officials suspect came from a Russian cyber attack.

Fallout over the emails led DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to announce her resignation Sunday.

"The FBI is investigating a cyber intrusion involving the DNC and are working to determine the nature and scope of the matter," the agency said in a statement. "A compromise of this nature is something we take very seriously, and the FBI will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace."

The suspected Russian hack is part of a wave of Russian cyber attacks aimed at political organizations and academic think tanks in Washington, U.S. officials briefed on the investigations say.

Over the weekend, Wikileaks began publishing emails from the DNC. The group didn't identify the source. But the campaign of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton pointed the finger at Russia, saying the release of stolen emails was intended to help Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Wasserman Schultz resigning as party leader

The FBI has sent experts to meet with the Republican National Committee, as well as the major campaigns, to discuss their security measures, the officials say. No similar intrusions have so far been detected at the RNC or the campaigns of the two major party candidates, the officials say.

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" Sunday about that "changes to the Republican platform to make it more pro-Russian," which could provide some of the motive behind the hacks.

"I don't think it's coincidental that these emails were released on the eve of our convention here, and I think that's disturbing," he said.

Trump told The New York Times in an interview last week, that if he's elected the U.S. wouldn't defend NATO allies against Russian aggression if they haven't "fulfilled their obligation to us."

Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., denied that his father's campaign had anything to do with encouraging Russians to hack the DNC.

"I can't think of bigger lies, but that exactly goes to show you what the DNC and what the Clinton camp will do," Trump told Tapper on "State of the Union".

Even before the emails were posted on Wikileaks, the White House convened a security meeting to review what was known, U.S. officials told CNN.

Democrats, including some in Congress, are trying to pressure the White House to publicly name Russia as the perpetrator, in the way the government named North Korea in the Sony hack and China for hacking various U.S. companies. The Obama administration has resisted publicly naming Russia despite evidence gathered by U.S. government investigators showing Russian behind cyber-attacks on U.S. government agencies and even the public release in 2014 of a hacked phone call between U.S. diplomats in Ukraine that was caused embarrassment for the U.S.

At the State Department Monday, spokesman John Kirby refused to say Russia was responsible, citing the ongoing investigation.

"It goes without saying that issues of cyber security will be a topic of discussion between us and our Russian interlocutors on a continuous basis. I don't have any specific conversations to speak to and nor would I as this matter's under investigation by the FBI," Kirby said. "I think we need to let the FBI do their work before we try to form any conclusions here in terms of what happened and what the motivation was behind it. The FBI's spoken to this. We're going to respect that process."

James Trainor, assistant director for FBI's cyber division, told CNN in a recent interview that the bureau has been working with political organizations and think tanks to put more resources into the security of their computer networks. He wouldn't discuss the DNC or the role of Russia, but spoke generally about the increased number of such intrusions.

"There's been aggressive targeting of that sector, the various campaigns, think tanks in the Washington, DC area," Trainor said.

The "targeting of any candidate or any party (that) has political intelligence," Trainor said. "There's value in information there if you're a nation state actor, so (it) shouldn't be surprising."

Private-sector cyber security investigators hired by the DNC concluded that hackers working for the Russian government were behind the year-long breach of the DNC. The investigation found intrusions by two Russian hacking groups.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, dismissed claims. When asked by a reporter, "What do you say of the U.S. accusations that Russia hacked the Democratic Party emails?," Lavrov replied "Well, I don't want to use four-letter words."

At least one of the DNC intruders is believed to be behind other breaches of non-classified U.S. government systems at the White House, State Department and other agencies, security experts believe, based on an analysis of malicious software in the breaches.

The FBI and other U.S. agencies involved haven't yet officially attributed the DNC attack to Russian government hackers. But evidence gathered by the FBI so far points to groups that are known to U.S. counter-intelligence for carrying out intrusions for the Russian government, the officials briefed on the probe say.

The release of the emails over the weekend, however, raised new questions among government and private sector security officials.

It's possible that other hackers took advantage of the DNC's vulnerabilities and also stole information, U.S. officials said. But the intrusion so far appears to bear the hallmarks of a Russian intelligence operation.

Foreign spy agencies routinely try to collect information on U.S. elections, and there were some cyber attacks against political campaigns detected during the 2012 election cycle.

Typically, spy agencies collect such information to try to better inform their governments about U.S. politics. U.S. spy agencies do the same overseas.

Russian spy agencies have published embarrassing information to try to influence political events in countries they consider part of their sphere of influence. But to publicly release vast troves of stolen data to try to influence a U.S. election is beyond the scale of what U.S. counterintelligence officials have seen.

Whether Russian intelligence agencies provided the stolen information to Wikileaks, either directly or through middlemen, is now a top issue for U.S. investigators to resolve, the U.S. officials briefed on the probe say. The answer won't likely come until well after the election.

The impact of the release of the DNC hacked emails was almost immediate, prompting the ouster of the head of one of the two major political parties.

Since the hackers were in the DNC systems for about a year, U.S. officials expect more data releases. (Contributor: By Evan Perez for CNN)

More Reading: Kremlin dismisses US Democratic email hack claims as 'absurd' (AFP)

For prayer: Electronic spy “warfare” is a fact of 21st-century life. Pray for an appropriate response by authorities. IFA does not comment on such reports from a partisan viewpoint. We report, pointing readers toward God’s providence and urging fervent prayer for mercy for our nation. Political leaders with whom we disagree are not our “enemies,” and our “weapon” is intercession. God is in control.  

 “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Lk. 12:2-3)

RUSSIAN WARPLANES REPORTEDLY BOMBED U.S. BASE IN SYRIA

Russian warplanes reportedly bombed a secret military base in Syria used by elite American and British forces last month.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the Russian strike on the CIA-linked site was part of a campaign by Russia to pressure the White House to agree to closer cooperation in the Syrian skies, U.S. military and intelligence officials said.

Despite the fact that some forces could have been killed and the bombing dampened relations between Russia and the Pentagon and CIA, the White House and State Department still persued a compromise.

The U.S. and Russia agreed to a pact last week to target airstrikes against the Al Qaeda affiliate in the region – Nusra Front – despite objections from the Pentagon and CIA. Russia agreed to stop airstrikes on U.S.-backed rebels and restrain the Syrian air campaign. The two sides are still talking about designations where Russia would need U.S. approval to conduct an airstrike.

According to The Wall Street Journal, deal backers in the White House and State Department believe U.S. airstrikes on the Nusra Front in areas that were previously occupied by Russian forces would provide protection for allies in Syria.

However, officials in the Pentagon and CIA contend that Washington bowed to Moscow in the deal and believe that the U.S. needs to confront Russia.

The Russian strike on the base occurred on June 16. The U.S. and British forces help maintain what is described as a buffer zone in Jordan. Forces go into Syria to help protect Jordan from Islamic State, U.S. officials told The Journal. Forces didn’t spend the night, due to security reasons.

Nearly a day before the strike, 20 of 24 British special forces pulled out of the base. The U.S. tracked a Russian plane heading toward the base. The warplane dropped a cluster bomb, according to U.S. and rebel officials.

After the first strike, U.S. central command air operations center in Qatar called Russia’s air campaign headquarters in Latakia, Syria to tell them that the base shouldn’t be attacked.

However, Russian forces struck again nearly 90 minutes after the call was made. Russian pilots didn’t respond to U.S. calls using frequencies the two sides had previously agreed to use in case of an emergency.

At least four rebels were killed in strikes.

Russian officials initially told the Pentagon that the military thought it was an Islamic State facility, but U.S. officials rejected the notion because of what they described as a unique way the base was fortified, The Journal reported.

Russians then said that the Jordanians had given them the go-ahead to strike the base, but the U.S. double-checked and said no such authorization was given. Later, Russia told the U.S. that their headquarters wasn’t in position to call off the strike because the U.S. didn’t provide them with the proper coordinates of the base.

U.S. officials said that the Pentagon had never asked the Russians to steer clear of that area because it wasn’t close to the front lines and Russian aircraft didn’t operate in that part of Syria anyway.

The strike has increased the distrust between U.S. and American forces in Syria. According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. didn’t want to give Russia any more information than they had to.

Since the strike, the U.S. has told Russia to steer clear of the Jordanian border. (Contributor: By Fox News)

Again, we refuse to politicize our approach to the news. All who pray consistently for America know that our country needs a huge infusion of God’s grace and mercy. U.S. international status is low. We are suspect by many who want to see more strength and decisive leadership. Pray that principle will rule over pragmatism and fear. Will the Church lead the nation in a return to spiritual renewal?

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov. 14:34)

 

U.S. APPROVES UN USE OF FORCE TO PROTECT (?) CIVILIANS IN CONFLICT

The United States has announced its support for a set of principles that give a green light for U.N. peacekeeping troops and police to use force to protect civilians in armed conflicts. [This agreement was signed by President Obama July 1, 2016.] (Click here to read the Executive Order)

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told a high-level U.N. meeting Wednesday focusing on the responsibility to protect civilians that the United States was "proud" and "humbled" to join 28 other countries that have pledged to abide by the 18 pledges.

U.N. peacekeepers from these 29 countries are now required to act in cases where civilians are in danger.

"The Kigali Principles are designed to make sure that civilians are not abandoned by the international community again," she said, recalling how U.N. peacekeepers left Rwanda before the 1994 genocide and Srebrenica before the 1995 massacre. (Contributor: The Associated Press)

Pray for justice tempered with mercy. Although UN motives are suspect when it comes to relations with the U.S., pray that these principles will be effective to protect civilian citizens when international conflict breaks out. The most effective prayer is for God’s will to prevail, as He puts up rulers and takes them down in fulfilling His purposes.

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.” (Dan. 2:20-22)

EXILED AT HOME: RUSSIA'S BELIEVERS CRY OUT TO GOD OVER LAW BANNING CHRISTIAN TALK

Thousands of churches in Russia are coming together to fast and pray just days after President Vladmir Putin signed a new anti-terrorism bill into law that severely restricts Christians' freedom of faith.

The "Yarovaya" law is intended to limit the spread of terrorism and extremisim, but church leaders say it punishes any kind of religious evangelization outside of the church.

"This new situation resembles the Soviet Union in 1929. At that time confession of faith was permitted only in church," Hannu Haukka, president of Great Commission Media Ministries, told National Religious Broadcasters. "Practically speaking, we are back in the same situation. These anti-terrorist laws are some of the most restrictive laws in post-Soviet history."

Haukka told Charisma News vial email that about 7,000 evangelical and Protestant churches are fasting and praying because the new law is in direct conflict with the purpose and mission of the Gospel.

Under the law, foreign missionaries will not be allowed to speak at a church unless they have a work permit from Russian authorities. Furthermore, any discussion about God with non-believers would be considered missionary activity and punishable by law.

This means that anyone as young as 14 who is found preaching could be persecuted. Additionally, religious activity in a private home is not allowed.

"It is impossible for believers to comply with the requirements not to express their religious beliefs and to be silent even in their own homes as required by the legislation," Seventh Day Adventist's Moscow-based Euro-Asia Division said.

The ministry went on to say that the religious situation in the country will grow considerably more complicated.

"Many believers will find themselves in exile and subjected to reprisals because of our faith," they said.

The legislation puts churches in a very difficult position and throws Russia back into it's Soviet-era KGB.

NRB President Jerry A. Johnson has called on the U.S. government to pressure Russia to repeal what he described as an "unjust law."

"Let's pray this new iron curtain of Christian persecution in Russia will be lifted quickly and without harm to our brothers and sisters in Christ," Johnson said. (Contributor: CBN News)

Give thanks and intercede for the 7,000 evangelical and Protestant churches that are praying and fasting for the repeal of this law. We know the New Testament enjoins Christians to be submissive to civil government insofar as possible, but there is precedent, when government oversteps to silence believers’ voices, that “holy disobedience,” regardless of cost or consequences, must be followed.

“And the high priest asked them, saying, ‘Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name?’ … But

Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’” (Acts5:28-29)

VERMONT DOCTORS PUSH BACK AGAINST ASSISTED-SUICIDE REQUIREMENT

Vermont doctors and health care professionals are pushing back against an interpretation of state law that they say requires them to help kill patients who wish to die.

Members of two medical groups, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and Christian Medical & Dental Associations, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against officials in two state medical agencies responsible for the interpretation.

The lawsuit says these agencies have interpreted a 2013 physician-assisted suicide law, Act 39, in a way that would require health care professionals to counsel terminally ill patients about the option to commit suicide.

Additionally, under such an interpretation of the law, if medical professionals are not willing to help patients end their lives, then they must refer them to physicians who will, the lawsuit says.

Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Steven H. Aden, who represents the medical professionals, said this reading of the law violates the First Amendment and certain aspects of Obamacare.

He said the government “shouldn’t be telling health care professionals that they must violate their medical ethics in order to practice medicine.”

“These doctors and other health care workers deeply believe that suffering patients need understanding and sound medical treatment, not encouragement to kill themselves,” Mr. Aden said in a statement. “The state has no authority to order them to act contrary to that sincere and time-honored conviction.”

A Frequently Asked Questions page on the Vermont Department of Health’s website says Act 39, in conjunction with the Patient’s Bill of Rights, requires doctors to inform patients about their right to kill themselves.

“Do doctors have to tell patients about this option?” it reads. “Under Act 39 and the Patient’s Bill of Rights, a patient has the right to be informed of all options for care and treatment in order to make a fully-informed choice.”

The Patient’s Bill of Rights requires doctors to notify patients of “all options” with regard to palliative care.

Mr. Aden said the agencies have adopted an extreme interpretation of what “palliative care” entails, saying his plaintiffs “generally support” providing care to suffering patients.

“I mean, that’s pain relief, management of end-of-life care — good things,” he said. “But they read that in conjunction with the Act 39 to require ‘all options’ for assisted suicide be counseled for.”

George Eighmey, president of the assisted-suicide advocacy group Death with Dignity, which helped draft Act 39, called the lawsuit “baseless” and “frivolous.”

He said Act 39 does not mandate counsel or referral for physician-assisted suicide, and the lawsuit’s real complaint lies with the Patient’s Bill of Rights. He suggested Act 39 was lumped into the complaint for political purposes.

“The Patient Bill of Rights specifically says that a patient has the option and that physicians must inform them of all of their end-of-life options,” Mr. Eighmey said. “Now, if they choose to make that a referral under the Patient Bill of Rights, that’s a different story. And if they want to go after the Patient Bill of Rights, that’s their right to do that. But they’re not — they’re going after the Death with Dignity law, which does not mandate the referral.”

Linda Waite-Simpson, Vermont director for Compassion & Care and a former Democratic member of the state House of Representatives, concurred that Act 39 does not require physicians to refer patients to doctors who will perform physician-assisted suicide.

“But physicians should not impose their personal ethics and values on their patients and deny their legal right in Vermont to receive information about their end-of-life care options so they can make an informed decision about their treatment options,” Ms. Waite-Simpson said in a statement.

Several officials from the Vermont Board of Medical Practice and the Office of Professional Regulation are named in the lawsuit. David Herlihy, director of the former, said he had not seen the lawsuit and accordingly declined to comment. The latter agency could not be reached for comment before press time.

Three other states — California, Oregon and Washington — legislatively permit physician-assisted suicide. None of those laws has been interpreted to require physicians or medical professionals to counsel or refer patients to doctors willing to help them commit suicide.

However, the Vermont lawsuit comes amid a “disturbing trend” of religious medical professionals being forced to violate the tenants of their faith, Mr. Aden said, pointing to lawsuits against Catholic hospitals that refuse to perform abortions.

“It is part of a disturbing trend, disregarding and even attacking individuals for conscientious beliefs,” he said. “In this case, the conscientious objection to killing a patient is under the Hippocratic Oath and goes back thousands of years.” (Contributor: By Bradford Richardson for The Washington Times)

Pray for doctors and all health-care professionals who are being pressured to violate conscientious beliefs in their vows to “first, do no harm.” These dedicated practitioners understand that patients have rights, but those who serve them needn’t help them toward the ultimate step of suicide. Pray for an awakened Church to stand against the persistent “crusade” to push God out of American life.

“For whoever finds me (divine wisdom) finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord; but he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; all those who hate me love death.” (Prov. 8:35-36)

U.S. CARDINAL SAYS ‘CHRISTIAN NATIONS’ IN WEST MUST COUNTER ISLAMIC INFLUX

Amid heightened tensions over ISIS-fueled terror attacks and anti-Muslim rhetoric, a prominent U.S. cardinal says Islam “wants to govern the world” and Americans must decide if they are going to reassert “the Christian origin of our own nation” in order to avoid that fate.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, a Rome-based prelate known as an outspoken conservative and critic of Pope Francis’ reformist approach, said in an interview on Wednesday (July 20) that Islam is “fundamentally a form of government.”

While Catholic teaching recognizes that all Abrahamic faiths worship the same God, Burke criticized Catholic leaders who, in an effort to be tolerant, have a tendency “to simply think that Islam is a religion like the Catholic faith or the Jewish faith.”

“That simply is not objectively the case,” he said.

Burke, who was once archbishop of St. Louis, stressed that he did not want to be “disrespectful” of Islam or “generate hostility.”

But he said he worries that many people do not understand that, in his view, “when they (Muslims) become the majority in any country they have the duty to submit the whole population to Shariah,” as the Islamic code of law is known.

The cardinal is a canon lawyer who headed the Vatican’s court system before Francis named him chaplain of the Knights of Malta, a Rome-based charitable order.

Burke was speaking by telephone from his home state of Wisconsin, where he was spending time this summer while doing interviews for a new book, “Hope for the World: To Unite All Things in Christ.” The book is an extended interview with a French journalist and it covers a range of often controversial topics.

Speaking to RNS, Burke said that individual Muslims “are lovely people” and can speak “in a very peaceful manner about questions of religion.”

“But my point is this: When they become a majority in any country then they have the religious obligation to govern that country. If that’s what the citizens of a nation want, well, then, they should just allow this to go on. But if that’s not what they want, then they have to find a way to deal with it.”

He said that in some cities in France and Belgium with large Muslim populations “there are little Muslim states” that are effectively “no-go zones” for government authorities – an assertion that is widely disputed.

But Burke claimed “these things aren’t anomalies for Islam. This is the way things are to go. … And if you do understand that and you are not at peace with the idea of being forcibly under an Islamic government, then you have reason to be afraid.”

He cited historical examples of famous military clashes between Muslim forces and the forces of Christian nations of Europe, such the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 and the Battle of Vienna in 1683, both of which marked defeats for the Ottoman Empire.

“These historical events relate directly with the situation of today. There’s no question that Islam wants to govern the world,” Burke said.

When asked how the West should respond, the cardinal did not cite or endorse specific proposals, like those championed by the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and other conservatives, to ban or limit Muslims coming into the U.S.

“I think the appropriate response,” he said, “is to be firm about the Christian origin of our own nation, and certainly in Europe, and the Christian foundations of the government, and to fortify those.”

He said that form of government permits all people to exercise their religious faith – “as long as it’s not against good order” – and “practices that tolerance which follows from Christian charity.”

“I think we have to insist on that. We have to say no, our country is not free to become a Muslim state.”

Those comments elaborate on an answer that Burke gives in the new book, in which he says of Islam that “the (Catholic) Church really should be afraid of it.”

That is a marked contrast to the approach of Francis and most other church leaders, who have called for dialogue with Islam and a welcoming attitude toward Muslim refugees fleeing strife in many lands.

Official church teaching has for decades also recognized Islam as an Abrahamic faith whose followers worship the same God as Jews and Christians.

Burke has frequently made news with his sharp criticisms of Francis’ pontificate (he once called it “a rudderless ship”) and the pope’s more pastoral approach. The cardinal has also called on church leaders to be more forceful in battling abortion rights and gay marriage and has said the church has become too “feminized.” (Contributor: By David Gibson for Religious News Service - David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker.)

Pray for Cardinal Raymond Burke who, for several years, has found balance between faithfulness to his Roman Catholic Church vows and his conscience, in warning of the danger from Islamic supremacy. It appears that he is to his Church what Rev. Franklin Graham is to the evangelical Church in the U.S. Pray that more Christian leaders will be aware and speak out with a united voice.

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Eph. 6:11-13)

SCIENTISTS PLAN FIRST HUMAN TEST WITH GENE EDITING TOOL

Chinese scientists are embarking on what appear to be the first human trials with the Crispr gene editing tool, the latest effort by the country’s researchers to master a technology that might someday be a potent tool in developing therapies worldwide.

The group led by Lu You, an oncologist at the south-western Sichuan University West China Hospital, has recruited the first patient for a ten-people clinical trial, which will activate immune cells using Crispr and infuse them back into patients to fight lung cancer. Due to potential risks in using the pioneering treatment for humans, the team has decided to treat the first group of three patients one at a time, Lu said in a phone interview.

Formally called Crispr-Cas9, the genetic editing tool acts like a pair of precise molecular scissors that can cut out unwanted sections of DNA and insert desired ones. The team is using it to remove a gene that encodes a protein named PD-1, which normally keeps the immune cells in check but is also used by cancer cells to hide from the immune system.

The engineering is intended to switch on the immune response to attack cancer. In the pharmaceutical industry, antibody drugs directly blocking the PD-1 protein including Merck & Co.’s Keytruda and Opdivo sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. have become new growth engines for the companies.

"If this technology has good safety and shows certain efficacy, it has wide applications," said Lu. If successful, it has the potential to become an alternative biotechnology treatment to replace or complement the existing single antibody drugs, Lu said. Lu’s group received approval from the ethics board of the West China Hospital, one of the top facilities in the country.

Early Stage

They will observe the first patient for two months after injecting the Crispr-edited cells and if there is no problem, proceed to give the second patient the same treatment. If the first group of three patients responds well, they may be able to accelerate after that.

"We’ve learnt from past lessons that safety comes first. You have to make clear its safety profile before its preliminary efficacy can be discussed," said Lu. Patients must have the PD-L1 bio-marker and should have tried three to four lines of existing treatments available in China and failed to benefit from them, he said.

Lu acknowledges it is still very early days. The Phase I trial only tests if the technology is safe and Lu said his biggest worry is about overly activated immune cells attacking not just the cancer but also healthy cells, creating conditions similar to autoimmune diseases like lupus. Another problem is the possibility of unwanted mutations happening at sites other than the intended gene.

Chinese scientists have said they were among the first in using Crispr to make wheat resistant to a common fungal disease, dogs more muscular and pigs with leaner meat. In the southern city of Guangzhou, Chinese researchers sparked an international ethical debate last year after tweaking the genetic make-up of human embryos using Crispr for the first time. (Contributor: By Bloomberg News — with assistance by Hui Li)

Readers can readily see both the promise and the warnings implicit in the use of this new gene-editing tool. As with similar discoveries, it has the potential to bring healing and at the same time, to generate new problems. IFA shares early reports for intercessors to be aware and to watch for later developments. Pray for God’s glory to be revealed and for positive, healing applications.   

“…and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:2-3)

CHRISTIAN STUDENTS IN CHINA BARRED FROM GOING TO COLLEGE UNLESS THEY STOP GOING TO CHURCH

Chinese students attending a Christian house church in the central Guizhou province are being threatened by government authorities who are warning them that if they don't stop going to the church, they will be barred from going to college.

"This notice was sent to all of the schools in Huaqiu," explained Mou, the person that human-rights advocacy group China Aid said was in charge of Huaqiu Church. "They (public security) intend to cleanse us and ask us to join the Three-Self Church."

The house church members have also reportedly been pressured into signing a document vowing that they will not take minors into the church. Additionally, parents have been told that they will be sued if they bring their children to church, while the children themselves will not be allowed to take the college entrance exam or be admitted into the army.

House churches in China face regular crackdowns from the Communist Party, which fears the rise of Christianity in the world's most populous nation, with followers of Christ outnumbering members of the Party.

Even state-run churches have faced religious freedom challenges in the past couple of years, with an ongoing-campaign continuing to tear down church buildings and church rooftop-crosses over alleged building code violations in several Chinese provinces. Protests from Christian pastors and church members have led to hundreds of arrests.

China Aid explains that children younger than 18 are not allowed to receive any religious education. The Three-Self Patriotic Movement, a government-run Protestant church, does not permit the "brainwashing" of teenagers or children by bringing them to religious services.

Mou added: "Yesterday morning, I questioned a government official in our township, saying, 'We do not accept the way you handled our church's public meetings. … What regulations does the central government have prohibiting [church] meetings? Let us see them.' He said, 'The higher level leadership ordered us to do this; we are just doing [as they say].' Huaqiu is in a dark place."

Churches in the Pingyang County, Wenzhou have meanwhile been told to hand over all of their tithes and donations to government officials, the Texas-based human rights agency said in a previous report. One local Christian man, who wasn't named, said government officials interfere in church affairs and seek to manage the donations that churches receive, as well as their long-term projects.

"We have to obtain their (the government's) permission if we would like to buy equipment or decorate the church. We will have to ask for permission for any expenses more than a few thousand yuan ($300)," the Christian man said.

He added that government officials have also asked to speak to the congregations during services, and church leaders have had to set up tables for them. (Contributor: By Christian Post)

Pray for Chinese house church leaders and believers who suffer persecution and other discriminatory harassment and worse. Many pastors are in prison. Communism is atheistic, and government leaders want to wipe out the true Church. Intercessors must remember that today’s socialism is tomorrow’s communism. Pray that our U.S. government will not turn that way. Pray for renewal in our churches.

“Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death…’” (Rev. 12:10-12). 

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The Informer July 20, 2016

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REPUBLICAN OFFICIALS APPROVE CONVENTION RULES, TRIGGERING UPROAR

Republican officials hastily adopted a set of much-contested convention rules Monday, setting off an unruly protest from anti-Donald Trump delegates on the first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Those anti-Trump forces had hoped to challenge the rules that bind delegates to vote for the presumptive GOP nominee, as part of a last-ditch bid to at least disrupt his march to the nomination. But the convention's presiding officer, Arkansas GOP Rep. Steve Womack, abruptly put the rules to a vote -- twice -- and declared them approved by voice.

This prompted loud objections from Trump opponents, who shouted “roll call vote" in a dramatic showdown that effectively ended the Never Trump movement, but also underscored the deep divisions that remain in the party even as the Trump campaign claims the GOP has united.

Those delegates were hoping for a state-by-state vote on the rules that bind delegates to back Trump.

“I have no idea what’s going on right now,” Utah Sen. Mike Lee said Monday, who helped lead the failed uprising. “This is surreal.”

Following the votes, almost all of the Colorado and half of Iowa delegations walked out. Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and members of his state's delegation were screaming "shame" amid the vote; he later told CNN the RNC "violated its rules."

The Trump camp was said to be "livid" at the revived push.

"This is a big headache," one official told Fox News.

Anti-Trump delegates tried to force a vote after collecting signatures calling for one. They claimed to have more than enough support, including a majority of the delegates in nine states, to technically allow them to file a report challenging the convention rules.

But Womack said from the podium that delegates from three states withdrew their signatures. He then declared that the effort had fallen short.

The three delegations that dropped out of the effort to challenge the rules package were the District of Columbia, Minnesota and Maine. Alaska did not file the paperwork properly, while Iowa dropped out after the fact.

Womack took the unusual step of calling for two separate voice votes. He declared the pro-Trump delegates victorious both times despite the loud chorus of boos from the crowd.

Rory Cooper, senior adviser with the Never Trump group, blasted party officials, saying in a statement: “Delegates presented party officials with more than enough states to force a roll call vote on the floor. There is no excuse for strong arming delegates and skirting the rules to silence these members of the party.”

North Dakota delegate Gary Emineth, who had a role on the Trump Victory fundraising committee, resigned in protest following the floor fight over the way the anti-Trump forces were treated.

“They want a kumbaya moment. Why can’t we have a little drama?” he said. He also had strong words for RNC Chairman Reince Priebus; asked if Priebus should resign, he said “yes.”

The anti-Trump forces wanted to change a rule that requires delegates to vote for the candidate they were committed to by the primaries and caucuses. Under current party rules, Trump’s nomination is essentially secured since he’s accumulated more than the 1,237 delegates required to win.

While Trump wasn't in danger of losing the delegates he needs to get nominated, the stamina of the anti-Trump movement is an embarrassing setback for the presumptive nominee.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, downplayed the events Monday morning during a press briefing with reporters.

“We don’t expect anything to come out of the rules committee,” Manafort said.

At a separate event he said, “It’s not a movement. It’s some rogue, recalcitrant delegates.”

Other delegates had threatened to walk out if the rules weren't changed.

"We won't sit around and coronate a king," said Colorado delegate Kendal Unruh, who like many insurgents backed vanquished presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

The convention's rules committee earlier had defeated the dissidents seeking to make the changes late last week, thanks to an alliance between the Trump campaign and RNC leaders on that panel. For a short time, it seemed to sideline the movement.

Manafort has said there is no longer a viable "stop Trump" movement, only some "malcontents" who don't represent the broader Republican Party.

Despite the tension, Manafort insists that the GOP is not showing signs of strain but instead is coming together in a show of party unity.

“Ninety-four to 95 percent have come together,” Manafort said.

Still, high profile Republicans have decided to skip the convention – as well as withhold their endorsement of the New York real estate mogul.

Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush said they would not attend the Cleveland convention – which seemed fine with Manafort.

“They are part of the past,” Manafort said. “We think that the unification is happening and we hope that when the Bush family decides to participate again in the political process, that they will join us. We would welcome them handily. We’ve reached out to them but healing takes time.”

Manafort called Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s decision not to speak at the event “a difficult situation.”

“It’s a difficult situation when the home state governor doesn’t participate in the convention process … We invited him. We wanted him to participate, he chose not to. We think that's the wrong decision. There were no conditions put on him.”

Aside from dealing with the rules package, delegates also approved the party platform during Monday’s afternoon session including language that Christian conservatives cheered as the most conservative statement of party principles in recent memory.

The GOP convention approved language reaffirming the party's opposition to gay marriage and bathroom choice for transgender people.

And new language condemning same-sex parenting says: "Children raised in a traditional two-parent household tend to be physically and emotionally healthier, less likely to sue drugs and alcohol, engage in crime or become pregnant outside of marriage." (Contributor: By Fox News - Barnini Chakraborty and Fox News' Bret Baier and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Pray that the Lord will speak into the hearts of all freedom- and God-loving Americans regarding this very important 2016 election. The lives of the unborn are in the balance. The issue of Constitutional law for all Americans hangs in the balance. The next president will have the opportunity to appoint several conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices, affecting many years to come.

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me." (Rev. 3:20 NIV)

 

BATON ROUGE MURDERS: IF KILLING COPS BECOMES THE NEW NORMAL...

Waking up to the news [this past] Sunday that three more of our nation’s police officers were gunned down, and several others injured, in Baton Rouge, La. hit me like a sledgehammer to the gut. It should for all Americans.

In light of recent events in Dallas, where 5 area police officers were killed in an unprovoked mass-killing just over a week ago, the most recent violence seems almost inconceivable.

Just days ago, thousands of mourners gathered to remember the officers gunned down in Dallas. Politicians, clergy, local leaders, and others from across the political spectrum came together and called for reconciliation, mutual understanding, and peace.

And then this happened on Sunday.

Having spent over 18 years in law enforcement, the recent attacks on law enforcement officers cause me understandable grief and concern. But it also raises further questions as to just how the modern-day police officer will be able to cope — and function — in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Being a police officer is already hard work. It’s dangerous and thankless. For most officers, though, it’s a calling — a desire to serve one’s community.

But given recent events, what once could be thought of as “routine” in police work must now be considered potentially extraordinary.

What feelings must resonate within the patrolman who is responding to a call of domestic violence or simple larceny? Am I the next target? Is this really a routine call for service or is it an ambush?

No longer can the patrolman simply worry about the reported crime itself but rather he or she must approach these events as though they are potentially walking into the next Dallas or Baton Rouge.

And that is no way to function as a police officer. The stress, strain, and uncertainty would be unbearable.

Officers being ambushed by criminals is nothing new. America saw it up close and personal on December 20, 2014 when NYPD officers Wenjin Liu and Rafael Ramos were gunned down in their patrol vehicle during the height of anti-police sentiment in the wake of the death of Eric Garner.

But today feels different.

What we are experiencing right now no longer feels isolated. It no longer feels extraordinary. Sadly, this extreme violence against our men and women in blue is beginning to feel routine.

And that is particularly frightening.

Our society cannot operate — cannot function — when we normalize this type of violence against the very people dedicated and tasked with upholding the rule of law.

No matter your background, political leanings, or your broader ideology, every single American must collectively stand up and say enough is enough.

Scott G. Erickson is the Founder and President of Americans in Support of Law Enforcement. (Contributor: By Scott G. Erickson for Fox News - Scott G. Erickson is the Founder and President of Americans in Support of Law Enforcement.)

Pray that the rule of law and order will once again be lifted high in the hearts of all Americans. We reflect upon the evil of this past week’s destructive actions and call upon the Lord for His healing hand, especially for those who have lost loved ones in these senseless murders.

"Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord." (Rom. 12:19 NIV)

 

TURKEY'S LAST HOPE DIES

Friday night’s failed coup was Turkey’s last hope to stop the Islamization of its government and the degradation of its society.  Reflexively, Western leaders rushed to condemn a coup attempt they refused to understand. Their reward will be a toxic Islamist regime at the gates of Europe.

Our leaders no longer do their basic homework.The media relies on experts-by-Wikipedia. Except for PC platitudes, our schools ignore the world beyond our shores. Deluged with unreliable information, citizens succumb to the new superstitions of the digital age.

So a great country is destroyed by Islamist hardliners before our eyes—and our president praises its “democracy.”

That tragically failed coup was a forlorn hope, not an attempt to take over a country. Turkey is not a banana republic in which the military grasps the reins for its own profit.  For almost a century, the Turkish armed forces have been the guardians of the country’s secular constitution. Most recently, coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980 (with “non-coup” pressure in 1997) saw the military intervene to prevent the country’s collapse.

Each time, the military returned the government to civilian rule as soon as that proved practical.  My own first experience of Turkey came just before the 1980 coup. Turkey was broke and broken. The economy was in such a shambles that you could not buy a cup of Turkish coffee in Istanbul. I walked because taxis and public transportation had no fuel.  Murderous political violence raged. Reluctantly, the generals stepped in and saved their country.

Friday night, mid-grade officers led a desperate effort to rescue their country again. They failed. The West cheered. Soon enough, we’ll mourn.

The coup leaders made disastrous mistakes, the worst of which was to imagine that the absence of President Erdogan from Ankara, the capital, presented the perfect opportunity.  Wrong.  In a coup, the key is to seize the leaders you mean to overthrow (as well as control of the media).  Instead of fleeing into exile, Erdogan was able to return in triumph.

So who is the man our own president rushed to support because he was “democratically elected?” Recep Tayyip Erdogan is openly Islamist and affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which President Obama appears to believe represents the best hope for the Middle East. But the difference between ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t one of purpose, but merely of manners:  Muslim Brothers wash the blood off their hands before they sit down to dinner with their dupes.

With barely a murmured “Tut-tut!” from Western leaders, Erdogan has dismantled Turkey’s secular constitution (which the military is duty-bound to protect).  His “democracy” resembles Putin’s, not ours.  Key opposition figures have been driven into exile or banned.  Opposition parties have been suppressed.  Recent elections have not been held so much as staged.  And Erdogan has torn the fresh scab from the Kurdish wound, fostering civil war in Turkey’s southeast for his own political advantage.

Erdogan has packed Turkey’s courts with Islamists.  He appointed pliant, pro-Islamist generals and admirals, while staging show trials of those of whom he wished to rid the country.  He has de facto, if not yet de jure, curtailed women’s freedoms.  He dissolved the wall between mosque and state (Friday night, he used mosques’ loudspeakers to call his supporters into the streets).  Not least, he had long allowed foreign fighters to transit Turkey to join ISIS and has aggressively backed other extremists whom he believed he could manage.

And his diplomatic extortion racket has degraded our own military efforts against ISIS.

That’s the man President Obama supports.

And the leaders of the ill-fated coup? What did they stand for?  Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s legacy and a secular constitution.  One of the great men of the last century, Ataturk (an innovative general by background) pulled Turkey from the wreckage of World War One, abolished the caliphate, suppressed fanatical religious orders, gave women legal rights and social protections, banned the veil, promoted secular education for all citizens of Turkey, strongly advocated Westernization and modernization…and promoted a democratic future.

The officers who led the collapsed coup stood for all those things. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry opposed them.

By Saturday morning, it was clear that the mullahs and mobs behind Erdogan had won. Erdogan will use the coup as an excuse to accelerate the Islamization of his country and to lead Turkey deeper into the darkness engulfing the Muslim world. His vision is one of a neo-Ottoman megalomaniac.

NATO, which operates by consensus, will find itself embracing a poisonous snake.  New crises will reawaken old fears in southeastern Europe, which western European states will dismiss condescendingly, further crippling the badly limping European Union.  Syria will continue to bleed.  And educated, secular Turks will find themselves in a situation like unto that of German liberals in the 1930s.  We may see new and unexpected wars.

A desperate, ill-planned coup has failed in Turkey. Here comes the darkness.

(Contributor: By Ralph Peters for Fox News - Fox News Strategic Analyst Ralph Peters is a retired U.S. Army officer and former enlisted man.)

his article purports “no hope”, but there is always hope in the Lord. He can do anything that He desires to do on behalf of a people surrendered to Him. Pray for the righteous people of the Lord to be protected in Turkey. Pray that America will not foster or advance the "Moslem" doctrine in Turkey. Cry out to the Lord to expose the darkness of the Muslim Brotherhood promoted by many in this current U.S. administration.

"...if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." (2 Chron. 7:14 NIV)

 

THOUSANDS OF EVANGELICALS CROWD THE MALL

Rappers and pastors, spoken word poets and authors appealed Saturday to tens of thousands of mostly young evangelicals gathered around the Washington Monument in baking heat to recommit to prayer and hope at a time of intense racial and political polarization and growing secularism.

People streamed into prayer tents, asking volunteers for prayers to “reset” their lives, their families, their country. They got on their knees by the thousands, appealing to God to end racism. They told personal stories of division in their lives that brought them to the capital for what aimed to be one of the bigger faith outreach events in the United States in years. They cited Ferguson, Mo.; Orlando; Dallas; and Nice, France.

But as much as people said they came because of frustrations and disappointment with American institutions, there was a striking absence of talk of the 2016 presidential race, or anything even remotely political. It was a dramatic shift from big evangelical gatherings of previous generations, which were highly partisan — on the conservative side.

“A lot of millennials and Americans and others are really frustrated with the political process and division and hate and are longing for a leader we can look to, and that’s Jesus,” said Nick Hall, the 34-year-old evangelist and event planner who organized “Together.” “We aren’t trying to overthrow or impose anything, and we don’t want to be the Moral Majority.”

The event, scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., ended just after 4 p.m. because of the excessive heat. U.S. Park Police and Hall said that emergency medical technicians were assisting a large number of people who had fainted in the heat.

In the seven hours the event lasted, attendees heard the Grammy-winning musician Lecrae rap an intense critique of American power structures, Australian evangelist Christine Caine preach about the need for Christians to be positive and encouraging, and writers Ann Voskamp and Amena Brown recite a poemprayer weaving images of Native Americans, slave ships and cotton pickers.

In the audience was Heather Crowe, who came from Pennsylvania with her daughter and other female relatives seeking healing. Recently neighbors and even relatives had chided her 18-year-old daughter for dating an African American, saying, “Are you serious?” Between her sadness over the racist comments and the recent police-involved killings of black men, she said a big Christian concert suddenly seemed needed. Her family is white.

“It became more apparent we needed to be here, to feel like we were united,” Crowe said. “As a mother, you’re anxious for what the future holds for her. I’ve always told her to be a light in the darkness.”

The event featured some of the most prominent musicians and evangelists in contemporary evangelical Christianity. It was aimed at more theologically conservative young evangelicals, with organizers calling it a “reset” for Christians who feel exhausted from battling the mainstream culture and sidelined by secularism.

“I think a lot of believers that are teenagers feel that they’re the only Christian on their [sports] team, the only Christian who works at the McDonald’s where they work.” The huge concert style gathering shows these young people that “the church is alive,” Mark Hall, a youth pastor who is the lead singer of the rock band Casting Crowns, said after their set.

But this event’s attendees and its lineup were unusually diverse — including gospel musician Kirk Franklin and Dallas pastor Tony Evans, who are African American, and the mega-preacher Francis Chan, whose parents were from China, and Ravi Zacharias, who is of Indian descent. And while parts of evangelical America do not accept women as preachers, the event also gave women equal billing with huge figures such as mega-preachers Chan and Mark Batterson of Capitol Hill.

In one of the most pointed moments of the day, Lecrae rapped “Welcome to America”: “Must be a thief; she locked the doors when I was walking by. ... It’s hard to dream when your water ain’t clean. . . . Made in America. Mama told me that I belong here. Had to earn our stripes, learn our rights, fight for a home here. But I wouldn’t know anything about that; all I know is drugs and rap. ... You better come save me, America.”

Anjelica and Joseph Tynes, an African American couple who attended the event, said they arrived hoping to hear a message of racial reconciliation aimed at evangelicals.

Anjelica said she wondered beforehand whether a one-time event could really make a difference, but when she saw the crowd on the Mall, she changed her mind. In fact, she thought the day of prayer would do more for racial healing than the presidential election could.

“If Trump’s in office, we’re responsible to pray for Trump,” she said. “If Hillary’s in office, we’re responsible to pray for Hillary.”

The Tyneses, like many others on the Mall, said they would not discuss whom they will vote for, preferring instead to devote the day to prayer. There wasn’t a political sign or shirt in sight.

Yonatan Estifanos, an engineer from Prince George’s County, said he hasn’t chosen a presidential candidate yet. “God can use anybody,” he said.

Among the few to engage in political discussion during the event were Adam Gordon, 32, and Josh Brooks, 25. Brooks said he’s thinking he will vote for Trump if the polls in November show him with a chance of winning New York, where the two friends live. Gordon burst out, “Why?”

“Better than Hillary,” Brooks said.

Gordon shook his head. “Please don’t tell me you’re using Christianity to vote for Donald Trump,” he said, adding that he would vote for a third-party candidate since he thinks neither Trump nor Clinton is sufficiently opposed to abortion.

Paul Yi, 17, pointed out a lack of Asian Americans in the lineup, despite the large patches of Asian Americans in the audience. He attended the event with members of his Korean American church in Maryland.

But Yi said: “It’s no problem. We’re all here to worship God. Don’t look at the worshipers.”

Rene Aviles, 35, came with his wife and two children in hopes that they would learn about unity in an embattled country. He said he would have liked to see more Latino speakers in the lineup, considering they are part of the largest minority group in evangelicalism at 11 percent.

“Deep down as a born El Salvadorean, yeah, that would have been nice to see,” Aviles said.

Almost all of the people appearing at the event Saturday were evangelical, but Hall shared a greeting from Pope Francis.

Francis did a promotional video for the event, encouraging viewers to “Give [Jesus] a try! You don’t have anything to lose!” but some evangelical leaders discouraged too much involvement of the Catholic leader.

“We’re not saying it’s time to compromise scripture,” Hall told the crowd. “But there is something about reaching across the aisle. . . . We didn’t come for a show, we didn’t come for a concert. . . . We need to hear from heaven!”

In an interview last week, Hall said his goal was just to hold a huge, love-Jesus rally — something that has been mostly absent from American public life since the days of Billy Graham’s famed crusades.

“Everything now is protests: ‘I’m against this,’ or ‘I hate that.’ We really believe there is a longing to come together. We don’t have to agree on everything, but we can come together around the hope of Jesus,” he said. “There are moments when God’s people come together, and God does something that can heal, change, define generations.”

Mike and Tina Shannon, who drove from Fort Myers, Fla., with their twin 11-year-olds, said Together was thrilling because it was so nonpolitical and encouraging for religious Christians.

“At the end of the day, there’s only one king. When it comes to politicians, all we can do is pray for them,” said Tina Shannon.  (Contributor: By Michelle Boorstein, Julie Zauzmer, and Kirkland An for The Washington Post)

Give thanks to the Lord for His Presence in the crowds on the National Mall this past week. Pray that there will be many more opportunities to present the love of Jesus in open gatherings during this election season. Encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to promote prayer for America. Exercise your God-given right to freedom of expression. For those of you familiar with IFA, consider promoting the Get Out The Prayer campaign in your area of influence (visit www.GetOutThePrayer.com)

"What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs." (Matt. 10:27 NIV)

 

A REFUGE FOR GRANDPARENTS STEPPING UP TO RAISE THEIR GRANDCHILDREN

The medicated patches that are supposed to numb the pain in Olivia Chase’s knees won’t stay affixed, so she adjusts them, once again, and pushes forward on her rolling walker.

She has to keep walking.

She walks at 7:30 a.m. to catch a bus to take her 7-year-old grandson to summer school. She walks at noon into her church to drop off his camp registration form. She walks at 5 p.m. to pick him up from school and take him to swim practice. She walks and walks, until 7 p.m., when, finally, she and her grandson step into the one-bedroom apartment they share in Northwest Washington, a place where there is no room to entertain company because the living room is his bedroom.

“Sometimes I go until I can’t go,” says Chase, who is 60.

The walls have not yet been erected on a plot of land in Mount Vernon Triangle for a 12-story ­affordable-housing development, but Chase and others are already hoping it will serve as a refuge for families such as theirs: grandfamilies.

The building will be the first of its kind in the city — and one of only a handful in the nation — offering subsidized housing and services for grandparents raising grandchildren.

It will be a place, developers and city officials say, designed for two vulnerable populations: those growing up and those growing old.

“This is as big a problem as homelessness or anything else we’re facing right now,” said Daniel Henson, a developer behind the $84 million project, which will be funded with public and private dollars. Fifty of the 223 apartments for low-income residents will be set aside for grandfamilies.

“I’m hoping we can be a model, and we can begin to address what I think is a major issue moving forward,” Henson said.

Nationally, the number of grandfamilies — about 2.7 million at last count — appears to be growing because of the ­opioid-addiction crisis and the priority that child-welfare agencies now place on keeping families united, experts say.

In the District, where rising real estate costs pose a heavy burden on low-income residents, about 1,000 grandfamilies need subsidized homes, officials estimate.

Chase has already contacted city officials to ask how she can apply to be among the first residents when the project known as Plaza West opens in 2018.

Finding services in one place that she and her grandson currently seek across the city would shorten their often-long days, she says. And then there is the benefit of having neighbors with similar family structures.

“When you’re in school and you see a lot of mommies and daddies, even though you know you have your grandma, I think there is still a void,” Chase says. “But being in an environment where you see people are just like you, it gives him a different window to look out of, a different sense of identity.”

This hit her as they sat in a movie theater on a recent evening, watching the animated film “Finding Dory.” The blue tang fish, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, was just about to meet her parents when she realizes they aren’t where she thought they would be. Chase looked over and saw her grandson in tears.

‘Will I be here?’

On a Monday morning, Chase is the first to arrive at a support group tailored to grandparents who are raising grandchildren.

She didn’t plan to be here at 60, sitting at a table topped with pastries and juice, discussing how season passes to Six Flags work.

Chase raised three boys alone while working as a nuclear medicine technologist. Her oldest son lives in California and her middle son in New York. She watched her youngest son, Oliver Sowell, join the military, serve in Iraq and come back “much different than he left.” In 2010, he was convicted of capital murder in Texas and given a life sentence without the possibility of parole. His wife, who was also involved in the incident in which a woman was fatally shot outside an illegal gambling room, was sentenced to 48 years in prison. The two had been staying with Chase before their arrest and left her to care for their infant son, Richard.

“I was 53 years old with this 3-month-old baby and really in shock,” recalls Chase, who has received disability payments since 2002. She knew nothing about day care when someone suggested she enroll the child in a program at Martha’s Table. Richard was 11 months old when President Obama visited the center and lifted him up. Chase shows off a picture of the moment that she keeps on her phone.

The six grandmothers at the support group all brag about their grandchildren, even as they vent about them.

“I have to share this, y’all,” says Cassandra Gentry, 64, who sports a short crop of white hair and silver hoop earrings. She tells how the music instructor at her grandson’s school asked to meet with her after his performance in a 1970s-themed production. “She said, ‘Brace yourself, you have a natural-born actor.’ ”

The women swap stories and laugh about how boys don’t like to share beds and how children nowadays prefer 7-Eleven pizza or carryout drenched in mumbo sauce over home cooking.

But in other moments, the conversation turns serious. One grandmother says her 22-year-old grandson still asks for money, and she’s tired of giving it. When another woman asks whether her grandchild will receive her Social Security benefits when she dies, the woman next to her says the only reason her own grandchildren are entitled to hers is because their father killed her daughter and then lost his parental rights.

Organizations that work with grandfamilies say that often these families are forged through death, drugs or other traumatic circumstances.

Donna Butts, who heads the District-based Generations United, says her nonprofit organization advised city officials that support services had to be integrated into the Plaza West project for it to succeed.

Grandparents who step up to take care of their grandchildren are twice as likely to live in poverty as their peers, and they are also more likely to say they skipped a meal or medication to provide for the children, Butts says.

At the same time, she says, they save taxpayers more than $4 billion a year nationally by keeping their grandchildren out of the child-welfare system.

“People need to realize we all have a stake in this issue,” Butts says.

At the support group, run by Howard University’s School of Social Work, the women talk about the children in their lives, but also about themselves. They discuss fears, and hopes.

“I wonder will I be around for him,” Gentry says. “I lost a lot of friends these last two or three years. They just checked out of here, 64, 65 years old. And I’ll be 70 when this baby graduates. Will I be here?”

Chase says she has started to think about “life after Richard.” She’s going back to school, she tells the group.

“I still want my life to be useful up until whenever that is, you know, the end,” she says. “You know 60 is the new 30. In this city, really, this city is age-friendly, they are age-supportive. In many ways, I feel this city is my family.”

‘This has to go deeper’

The concept for Plaza West grew out of a family. Yvonne Williams says her father, Smallwood Williams, the founder of Bible Way Church near Union Station, had a vision for the strip of land near K Street and Interstate 395 before he died in 1991. He wanted to see the grounds used for an intergenerational center.

“He left us with that core concept,” says Williams, 77. He couldn’t have known then how the crack epidemic would leave an increasing number of grandparents raising grandchildren or how opioids would do the same decades later. “We started to say: ‘This has to be more than a community center. This has to go deeper than that.’ ”

The church, which has created 500 affordable-housing units in the city, presented the concept to developers it had partnered with previously. The result is Plaza West.

At a groundbreaking ceremony last month, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) lauded the project. “Plaza West shows us what is possible when we work together,” she said. About $20 million in public funds will be used for the project; the rest is coming from private investment.

Sarah Constant, managing director of Mission First Housing Group, says the number of units is limited to 50 because research indicates it is the ideal size. The grandfamily section will have its own entrance and amenities, including 24-hour concierge service, separate play spaces for children of different ages and a library where grandparents can gather.

Williams has high hopes for the development. “I’ve already asked the Lord in heaven, ‘We want some Harvard scholarships as well as Howard scholarships,’ ” she says. “It’s not just getting your high school diploma. It’s expanding horizons.”

‘They have to have shoes’

Addie Brinkley, 62, just wants a place where smoke from cigarettes and marijuana won’t seep into her home and trigger her granddaughter’s asthma.

In the hotel where she lives with the 12-year-old and the girl’s 10-year-old sister, there is no escape from it. But they have little choice.

For 14 months they have been homeless, living in city-provided temporary housing. Brinkley works in the mailroom at the National Institutes of Health, where she has been employed for 42 years, but she says her paycheck is not enough to support three people. She also says she doesn’t qualify for a monthly stipend from the city’s Grandparent Caregiver Program. Currently, 492 caregivers, including Chase, are enrolled in the program.

“They say, ‘God don’t put more on you than you can bear,’ ” Brinkley says one recent afternoon. The 12-year-old is in summer school, but the 10-year-old had to join Brinkley at work because she doesn’t have alternative care.

When the girls came to live with her nine years ago, Brinkley says she was working two eight-hour jobs as well as part-time security work and had to quit all but the NIH job. Opportunities to advance arose there, but she says she couldn’t take advantage of them because she couldn’t read. Now, she’s trying to earn a high school diploma.

“I can survive for me, but you got to make sure these kids are well taken care of,” she says. “If I don’t buy myself a coat, they have to have coats. If I don’t buy myself shoes, they have to have shoes.”

Chase knows sacrifice, too. But as she pulls herself slowly from a public pool one afternoon and sits on her walker, she isn’t thinking about her aching knees that should be replaced. She thinks about how the boy speeding through the water in neon green shorts keeps her moving. “I probably wouldn’t be swimming if I didn’t have him,” she says. “I wouldn’t do a lot of things if I didn’t have him.”

She wouldn’t be on the PTA, or know about Minecraft, his favorite video game. She wouldn’t know how to “whip and nae nae” or be planning to chaperone a camping trip to North Carolina.

She wouldn’t be smiling proudly, even as the rain starts falling at 6:30 p.m., as she shows off a shirt Richard gave her after completing a 5K run. It reads, “We are D.C.”  (Contributor: By Theresa Vargas for The Washington Post)

Ask the Lord to bless those families who will be helped by this unique approach. Pray for godly oversight of the administrative decisions needed to allow this program to thrive. Pray for the protection of elderly citizens who will depend upon righteous actions by those placed in leadership of this facility.

"But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Tim. 5:8 ESV)

 

IRAN GETS FIRST MISSILE SHIPMENT FOR S-300 SYSTEM

Iran has received the first batch of missiles for the S-300 missile defense system, the Iranian Tasnim news agency reported on Monday.

The news agency said the missiles indicate that Moscow is supplying Tehran with the advanced S-300 PMU2 system rather than the PMU1, information it said has been kept under wraps.

Russia began delivery of the S-300 missile defense system to Iran in April, according to the Iranian foreign ministry.

The sale of the S-300 system has been reported by both Russia and Iran as imminent since the signing of the nuclear deal last year.

In April, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jaberi Ansari told local media that the delivery of the system had already begun.

“We had already announced that despite several changes in time of delivery, the deal is on its path of implementation. Today I should announce that the first part of these equipment has arrived in Iran and delivery of other parts will continue,” Ansari said, according to the Mehr news agency.

The Russian-made missile defense system is one of the most advanced of its kind in the world, offering long-range protection against both airplanes and missiles.

In 2010 Russia froze a deal to supply the system to Iran, linking the decision to UN sanctions instituted because of Tehran’s nuclear program. Putin lifted the suspension in July 2015, following Iran’s deal with six world powers that curbed its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.

Israel has long sought to block the sale to Iran of the S-300 system, which analysts say could impede a potential Israeli strike on Tehran’s nuclear facilities. Other officials have expressed concern that the systems could reach Syria and Hezbollah, diluting Israel’s regional air supremacy.

The Israeli Air Force has trained for a scenario in which it would have to carry out strikes in Syria or Iran on facilities defended by the Russian-made S-300 air defense system.

In an interview late last year, IAF commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel said the S-300 was a “significant but not insurmountable challenge” for the IAF. (Contributor: By Times of Israel Staff for Times of Israel - Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.)

ADDENDUM:

SECRET ADD-ON TO IRAN DEAL ALLOWS STEPPED-UP NUKES PRODUCTION BY 2027

The document was given to the AP by an unnamed diplomat whose work has focused on Iran’s nuclear program for more than a decade.

In what reportedly is the only part of last year’s Iran nuclear deal not made public, the Islamic Republic will be able to resume key nuclear production in just over a decade.

An Associated Press article published Monday said the news agency had obtained a document saying that when the restrictions are lifted, Iran will need only six months to build a bomb — lower than the current estimates of a year.

The document was given to the AP by an unnamed diplomat whose work has focused on Iran’s nuclear program for more than a decade. Its authenticity was confirmed by another diplomat.

The diplomat who shared the document said it was an add-on agreement to the main deal that is formally separate but actually is an integral part of the deal. Iran and the six countries that negotiated the deal, including the United States, approved the add-on.

While some of the constraints extend for 15 years, documents in the public domain are vague about what happens after the first 10 years of the agreement, according to the AP.

The document obtained by the AP says that as of January 2027, Iran can start replacing its mainstay centrifuges with thousands of advanced machines. The new machines will enable Iran to enrich at more than twice the rate as it is now, according to the AP.

“We have ensured that Iran’s breakout time comes down gradually after year 10 in large part because of restrictions on its uranium stockpile until year 15,” an unidentified diplomat told the AP. “As for breakout times after the initial 10 years of the deal, the breakout time does not go off a cliff nor do we believe that it would be immediately cut in half, to six months.”

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, reached on July 14, 2015, lifts economic sanctions in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and many in the American Jewish community opposed the deal. (Contributor: By JTA for The Jerusalem Post)

It boggles the mind why any responsible state (Russia in this case) would encourage or contribute weapons to any state that threatens the existence of peace. Iran has expressed repeatedly that it wants to wipe off the map any state that does not agree with their Islamic agenda. This illicit regime occupying their government projects this mantra of destruction. Pray that this evil empire will be brought to its knees by the one true God while there is yet time to repent. The Lord does encourage us by His Word: “every knee shall bow!”

"'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.'" (Rom. 14:11 NIV)

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The Informer June 29, 2016

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SUPREME COURT RULING IMPERILS ABORTION LAWS IN MANY STATES

By striking down tough abortion restrictions in Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court has emboldened abortion-rights activists nationwide and imperiled a range of anti-abortion laws in numerous states.

Many anti-abortion leaders were openly disappointed, bracing for the demise of restrictions that they had worked vigorously to enact over the past few years.

The Supreme Court has decided “the abortion industry will continue to reign unchecked as mothers are subjected to subpar conditions,” said Heather Weininger, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life.

On the other side of the debate, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards hailed the ruling as “an enormous victory for women,” and joined her abortion-rights allies in vowing to quickly seek gains beyond Texas.

“Far too many women still face insurmountable barriers, which is why we are taking this fight state by state,” she said. “It’s time to pass state laws to protect a woman’s constitutional right to abortion, and repeal ones that block it.”

The Texas rules struck down Monday by the Supreme Court required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and forced clinics to meet hospital-like standards for outpatient surgery. Supporters of the Texas law, and similar laws enacted in other states, said both provisions were necessary to ensure safe, high-quality care for women. Opponents of the laws said abortion already is a very safe procedure, and contended the real motive of the laws was to reduce women’s access to abortion.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, which led the legal challenge, similar admitting-privilege requirements are in effect in Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee, and are on hold in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. The hospital-like outpatient surgery standards are in place in Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and are on hold in Tennessee, according to the center.

Monday’s ruling is likely to remove an ongoing threat to the only abortion clinic still operating in Mississippi. A Texas-style law there would have shut down the Jackson Women’s Health Organization clinic, but enforcement of that law had been blocked pending resolution of the Texas case.

The sponsor of the Mississippi law, state Rep, Sam Mims, said he now expects that the law is doomed. It requires doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics; providers at the Jackson clinic had been unable to obtain such privileges.

“It’s very disappointing that … it seems like these five justices are more concerned about access to abortion than health care to the women,” Mims said in a phone interview.

In Alabama, Attorney General Luther Strange said his office is ending the legal fight over its law requiring abortion doctors to have hospital-admitting privileges. The state had been appealing a judge’s 2014 decision finding Alabama’s law unconstitutional.

If the admitting privilege requirement was enforced, as many as four of the state’s five abortion clinics could close.

The legislative director of Louisiana Right to Life, Deanna Wallace, said the Supreme Court decision doesn’t automatically invalidate Louisiana’s Texas-style law, but it “does not predict a favorable forecast for its future.”

In several states, including Oklahoma, Kansas, Michigan and Missouri, state officials said they were reviewing the status of their abortion restrictions in light of the high court ruling

In Pennsylvania, a Democratic state senator, Daylin Leach, said he would introduce legislation seeking to repeal a 2011 law that tightened requirements at abortion clinics. The law requires such clinics to comply with the same safety standards as outpatient surgery centers, including requirements for wider hallways and doorways, bigger operating rooms, and full-time nurses.

The law was signed by then-Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, in the aftermath of a Philadelphia criminal case in which an abortion provider, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, was convicted of killing newborn babies during illegal, late-term abortion procedures performed in filthy surroundings.

An abortion-rights lawyer, Sue Frietsche, said the law inflicted heavy financial burdens on abortion clinics throughout Pennsylvania and contributed to the closure of several of them.

Looking ahead, a key question for both sides in the abortion debate is to what extent Monday’s ruling will affect other types of abortion restrictions, beyond the two provisions at stake in the Texas law.

For example, more than a dozen states have passed laws banning most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain at that stage. Several states have recently banned dilation-and-extraction, a common second-trimester abortion technique which opponents have depicted as “dismemberment abortion.” Some states now require a 72-hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion.

Nancy Northup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said her legal team will be reviewing these and other laws to determine if they are now vulnerable in the aftermath of Monday’s high court ruling.

In the ruling, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the Texas requirements provided few, if any, health benefits for women, while placing “an undue burden” on their constitutional right to seek an abortion.

The question ahead, Northup said, is whether other types of state restrictions also pose such a burden.

“It’s going to be interesting to see if responsible lawmakers realize they need to start upholding women’s rights or continue with this game of Whack-a-Mole that’s been going on,” said Northup, referring to states that launched new anti-abortion legislation even as earlier measures were blocked by litigation. (Contributor: By David Crary for Associated Press)

The blistering dissents by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito (with Chief Justice John Roberts signing off on Alito’s opinion) tell the story of this 5-3 decision. Has God allowed this travesty in both logic and law to spotlight the need for a president who will nominate justices with sensitivity to the law and not ideology? How many more lives (women and babies) will be lost? Please pray!

"I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19)

RYAN ROLLS OUT SWEEPING TAX CUT PROPOSALS AS PART OF ELECTION-YEAR AGENDA

House Republicans on Friday unveiled their plan for sweeping tax reform, a key pillar of the Republican agenda for years that is not being discussed much on the campaign trail this year.

The tax proposal is the sixth and final element of a policy agenda rolled out in recent weeks by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) in an effort to help House Republicans establish a policy platform independent of their presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

The platform includes planks on healthcare, national security, regulatory reform and reducing poverty.

“With this plan, everyone in our country—the anxious and the eager, the Old America and the New America—can unite and build a confident America,” Ryan said of the House GOP agenda Friday morning.

The tax plan would slash rates across the board — by 20 percent for businesses and 33 percent for individuals, simplify the tax filing process and restructure the international tax code.

The plan embraces long-standing Republican principles like cutting rates and eliminating deductions while embracing a business consumption tax that is increasingly popular in conservative think-tank circles.

Though the GOP proposal leaves out details — such as which specific deductions would be eliminated and how much the plan would cost —  it offers a fuller alternative to the deep rate cuts pitched by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“The blueprint is the beginning of our conversation with the American people, and we look forward to hearing their ideas,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Tex.). “This is not our tax code — this is the American people’s tax code, and we need their input.”

Ryan, the former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, vowed to continue vetting options for overhauling the tax code when he became speaker last year.

The proposal shares some themes with ideas released by Trump, but the presumptive GOP nominee has proposed much steeper rate reductions. Trump has said he would cut the top individual rate to 25 percent and the top corporate rate to 15 percent while also eliminating the estate tax. He has said he would offset the cost of the tax cuts by eliminating most deductions for individuals and businesses.

That plan has been criticized by economists on both the left and the right. In December, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimated that Trump’s plan could cost the federal government as much as $9.5 trillion over 10 years.

The release of the tax plan Friday caps a three-week string of agenda-related events. The propals does not include enough detail about the proposed cuts and changes to deductions to contain an official estimate from congressional scorekeepers of how it would impact the federal deficit.

The plan assumes that a GOP-led tax regime would eliminate all Obamacare taxes, which are expected to bring in around $600 billion over a decade. It also assumes that a package of expiring tax breaks and benefits would be made permanent.

Tax reform is a perennial topic for Republicans who argue that high tax rates, a complicated filing system and antiquated business rules are creating a drag on the economy.

But reform talks have stalled in recent years as negotiators get hung up over which deductions and credits to eliminate in order to make up for revenue lost from cutting rates. That’s because many of the big-ticket tax benefits — like the state and local sales-tax deductions and the research and development Tax credit — also have major constituencies that lawmakers don’t want to offend.

The GOP plan avoids taking a stand on those critical issues, leaving those decisions to later negotiations.

One of the more controversial elements of the plan will be to tax small businesses at a top rate of 25 percent. Small-business groups have long argued that they should be taxed at the same rate as corporations.

Republicans chose the 25 percent rate because they believe other savings in the tax code would make up for the difference and help businesses remain competitive, according to a senior GOP aide.

Democrats generally agree that the tax system is broken, but the two sides have been deadlocked for years over how far rates should be cut and how much revenue the government should receive from income tax, among other critical issues.

The individual side of the GOP plan includes a variety of proposals:

  • Cut the top individual tax rate from 39.6 to 33 percent. The plan would also streamline the number of tax brackets from seven to three — 12, 15 and 33 percent.
  • Replace itemized deductions with a higher standard deduction. The plan would cut most individual tax breaks and benefits except the earned income tax credit and deductions for mortgage interest, charitable giving and education expenses. Republicans would instead increase the standard deduction to $12,000 from $6,300 for single individuals and to $18,000 for single individuals with a child. Married couples filing jointly would see their deduction increase to $24,000 from $12,600.
  • Postcard-sized tax returns. The plan pledges to allow most individuals to file their taxes on a form the size of a postcard, an idea that became popular during the GOP primary debates earlier this year.
  • Eliminate the alternative minimum tax and the estate tax.
  • Cut tax rates on investment income. Investment income is currently taxed at a top rate of 20 percent — lower than the top rate for ordinary income. The GOP plan would further reduce that rate by allowing taxpayers to deduct 50 percent of their net capital gains, dividends and interest income. That would create a new rate structure of 6 percent, 12.5 percent and 16.5 percent.
  • Increase the child tax credit. The proposal would streamline existing child credits into a single $1,500 credit and a $500 credit for non-child dependents.

On the business side the proposals include:

  • Cut the top corporate tax rate to 20 percent. The top rate for corporations is currently 35 percent. Republicans argue a 20 percent top rate will make the United States more competitive with both emerging markets and competitors in countries like Japan and China.
  • Allow businesses to immediately and fully write off capital investments. Republicans have long said that allowing businesses to write off major capital investments will encourage greater investment and growth.
  • Shift to a “territorial” system of international taxation and border adjustments. There is strong support in the business community for the U.S. to shift to a territorial system in which companies would not be taxed on income earned overseas. Republicans argue that the current system, which taxes foreign-earned income when companies reinvest the money in the U.S., encourages companies to stockpile cash offshore. The GOP plan shifts to a territorial system that would only tax companies based on the location where goods are sold. (Contributor: By Kelsey Snell for The Washington Post)

IFA has said before in this space that until Senate and House members will be governed by the same laws they write for the rest of the populace, proposed tax “reform” will revolve around who pays most and where the money will come from. Rep. Ryan no doubt means well, but positive tax changes will not come until government spending is reigned in. Please pray accordingly.  

"Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended." (Romans 13: 1-3 NIV)

CALIFORNIA SENATE BILL 1146 POSES THREAT TO CHRISTIAN COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES

The state of California, due to its size, association with the entertainment industry, accompanying celebrities, and huge economic impact has long lead the nation as a cultural trendsetter. Recently, a very controversial piece of legislation passed the state Senate, and is expected to clear the General Assembly, which has potentially draconian implications for Christian religious freedoms and previous constitutionally protected civil liberties.

Among other things, this bill seeks to limit the religious exemptions from federal Title IX regulations that colleges and universities use for hiring instructors, teaching classes and conducting student services in line with their constitutionally protected exercise of faith. The author of the bill, Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, is part of the state legislature’s seven member California Legislative Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Caucus, which advocates specifically for LGBT rights.

Lara stated, “All students deserve to feel safe in institutions of higher education, regardless of whether they are public or private. California has established strong protections for the LGBTQ community and private universities should not be able to use faith as an excuse to discriminate and avoid complying with state laws.” Thus far, he has refused to give audience to, or compromise with, the potentially affected 42 Christian colleges and universities requesting to meet with him to discuss the implications or proposed modifications of the bill.

The straightforward implications of this legislation would mean:

  • Christian colleges and universities will no longer be able to require a profession of faith for their students or faculty
  • Schools will no longer be able to integrate core tenets of their faith throughout their curricula, a key distinctive of most institutions of traditional higher Christian education
  • Schools will no longer be able to require chapel attendance, an integral component of the life of a Christian college or university community
  • Schools will no longer have the freedom to allow professors or administrators to pray in class or student assemblies, including graduations, and will be vulnerable to lawsuits if a student expresses offense or protest
  • Schools will no longer be able to require mandatory core units of Bible courses—again, a key part of a traditional Christian higher educational experience
  • Schools will no longer be able to permit their athletic teams to lead faith-based community service programs
  • Schools will no longer be able to maintain distinct gender specific restrooms, shower facilities or dormitories—if a student self identifies as different from their biological gender, the school must accommodate his/her request to use opposite gender facilities and live in opposite gender housing

Obviously, if this bill becomes law, it will dramatically affect the ability of Christian colleges and universities to function in a traditional and straightforward Christian manner. Thus, it threatens every practice that makes religious institutions of higher learning distinct from secular ones.

As Christian counselors, it is time for us to energize, organize, galvanize and mobilize the Christian community with a clarion call to pray and act according to our remaining freedoms, both as citizens of this great country and the heavenly kingdom. We must find meaningful and respectful, yet authoritative, avenues through which we can respond, invite dialogue, mediate, and find workable ways to navigate through these complex and concerning issues confronting our society and profession.

AACC Advocacy --- What You Can Do

If you have interest in helping formulate a Christian counselling and mental health advocacy board in all 50 states, we are taking initial steps to mobilize such an entity in each state and create a national advocacy team for our field of ministry. We are looking for academics, researchers, clinicians, ministry leaders, and other experts related to our field to be involved.

The time to convene our hearts and minds is now, for such a time as this. Our initial goal will be to have an exploratory organizational meeting with these leaders at the Mega National Christian Counseling Conference in Dallas from September 15-17, 2016, and a full convocation at the 2017 “Break Every Chain” World Conference in Nashville from September 27-30. (Contributor: Rev. Jared Pingleton, Psy.D.
Vice President of Professional Development AACC)

Such a political movement, typically starting in California, is a blatant attempt to destroy Christian expression in the state, then across the U.S. With due respect to the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), the proper response must come from Church leaders who will rise up and say “no” to this arrogant attempt to restrict religious freedom. Pray for Church renewal.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1 NIV)

CHRISTIANS CHOOSE PRAYER OVER DONALD TRUMP, HILLARY CLINTON

Caught between the presidential candidacies of Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, a group of Christians is choosing a third way out: prayer.

Get Out the Prayer 2016 is mobilizing believers to influence the political process not only with their votes, but through appeals to a higher authority.

Dave Kubal, president of Intercessors of America, which is spearheading the effort, said Christians are exasperated with the inability of the political process to halt America’s moral decline. Intercessors of America is a nonprofit group founded after Roe v. Wade to turn around America’s moral decline.

“We’ve taken over Congress from a Republican point of view, and not much has changed,” he said. “The nation’s morals continue to decline, we continue to spend more money than we take in, and it’s just a nation in crisis.”

The spiritual campaign has facilitated the creation of prayer groups and “Prayer at the Poll” events around the nation, encouraging Christians to pray regularly for America’s elected leaders and those running for office.

“When leaders understand that they answer to a higher power, they make different decisions, so it’s critical that we have leaders who have a fear and reverence toward God,” Mr. Kubal said. “A democracy can only be upheld by a virtuous populous, and we need virtuous, God-fearing leaders.”

Other prominent Christians have taken similar stances with regard to the 2016 race.

At a Wisconsin prayer rally on Wednesday, evangelist Franklin Graham said he did not trust either major political party’s candidate for president.

Instead, Mr. Graham repeatedly told the crowd that “the most important thing we can do today is pray for America,” All God’s People, a Christian blog, reported.

“Your vote matters; don’t stay home,” he said. “I’m not telling you who to vote for; God will tell you who to vote for.”

Polls suggest Christian voters aren’t thrilled with either major political party’s candidate for president.

An NBC News poll last month found that just 31 percent of evangelicals have a favorable opinion of Mr. Trump, compared to 19 percent who view Mrs. Clinton favorably. (Contributor: By Bradford Richardson for The Washington Times)

We were pleased to see this positive article in The Washington Times (despite a small mistake in citing our name). We are glad for all positive publicity focused on our initiative to emphasize prayer during this election year. If you haven’t already done so, you may sign up at www.GetOutThePrayer.com to network with intercessors in your area and around the country.

"for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance." (Philippians 1:19 NIV)

RIGHTEOUS GOVERNMENT – DISCOVERING GOD’S CONTROVERSY WITH US

Fifty-five years ago the United States, in the persons of seven Supreme Court justices, told God to leave our public schools. Jesus said “bring the children to me” (Mk. 10:14, Luke 16:18) and these men said “No, the government will have them for itself and You can get out.”  God, His divine Majesty grievously offended, withdrew and now three generations of young Americans have spent roughly 30 hours a week for twelve years of their lives in a place where there is no truth, because the Truth has left.  There are subjects useful to the state, but almost nothing about character or morals.  The result of this is evident in our streets and the manifest corruption of virtually every aspect of American popular culture.

Nothing calls more urgently for God’s forgiveness than this horrible sin.  Furthermore, this was done as millions of Christians said and did nothing about this obscenity being foisted upon the nation.  While some did vigorously protest, the vast majority stayed silent.  We have done what ancient Israel did, and God’s Word is as relevant to us today as it was when Moses spoke to them as God, I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; for they are a perverse generation, sons in whom is no faithfulness. They have made Me jealous with what is not God; they have provoked Me to anger with their idols.” (Deut 32:20-21)  The entire chapter is instructive for us today.

Serious Christians will see this event and its aftermath as the root cause of our current social agony.  From young people who live totally without discipline to random acts of violence to the rise of Islamic terrorism striking unarmed Americans, God’s withdrawal from us becomes more and more evident.

There is only one remedy: we must repent with weeping and fasting as though our very lives and those of our children depend on it.  We as a nation have spit in God’s face and He does not forget such things.  If we do not seek God’s face, the consequences of our neglect will be far worse than what we have already experienced.  Let us therefore seek God’s will above all else, repent of our great national sin and find His forgiveness along with the salvation of our nation. (Contributor: Jim Kohlmann for Intercessors for America)

Readers of The Informer are familiar with Jim Kohlmann, IFA’s Florida Area Director, and his passion for a return to righteous government in our nation. He has outlined a pathway of intercession we can follow to see revival, renewal, and restoration. Please join in accordingly.

"Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people." (Proverbs 14:34 NKJV)

INSIDE A SECRET GOVERNMENT WAREHOUSE PREPPED FOR HEALTH CATASTROPHES

When Greg Burel tells people he's in charge of some secret government warehouses, he often gets asked if they're like the one at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the Ark of the Covenant gets packed away in a crate and hidden forever.

"Well, no, not really," says Burel, director of a program called the Strategic National Stockpile at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thousands of lives might someday depend on this stockpile, which holds all kinds of medical supplies that the officials would need in the wake of a terrorist attack with a chemical, biological or nuclear weapon.

The location of these warehouses is secret. How many there are is secret. (Although a former government official recently said at a public meeting that there are six.) And exactly what's in them is secret.

"If everybody knows exactly what we have, then you know exactly what you can do to us that we can't fix," says Burel. "And we just don't want that to happen."

What he will reveal is how much the stockpile is worth: "We currently value the inventory at a little over $7 billion."

But some public health specialists worry about how all this would actually be deployed in an emergency.

"The warehouse is fine in terms of the management of stuff in there. What gets in the warehouse and where does it go after the warehouse, and how fast does it go to people, is where we have questions," says Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University.

I recently asked to go take a look at one of the warehouses, and was surprised when the answer was yes. I was told I was the first reporter ever to visit a stockpile storage site.

Since I had to sign a confidentiality agreement, I can't describe the outside. But the inside is huge.

"If you envision, say, a Super Walmart and stick two of those side by side and take out all the drop ceiling, that's about the same kind of space that we would occupy in one of these storage locations," Burel says.

A big American flag hangs from the ceiling, and shelves packed with stuff stand so tall that looking up makes me dizzy.

"We have the capability, if something bad happens, that we can intervene in a positive way, but then we don't ever want to have to do that. So it's kind of a strange place," says Burel. "But we would be foolish not to prepare for those events that we could predict might happen."

The Strategic National Stockpile got its start back in 1999, with a budget of about $50 million. Since then, even though the details aren't public, it's clear that it has amassed an incredible array of countermeasures against possible security threats.

The inventory includes millions of doses of vaccines against bioterrorism agents like smallpox, antivirals in case of a deadly flu pandemic, medicines used to treat radiation sickness and burns, chemical agent antidotes, wound care supplies, IV fluids and antibiotics.

I notice that one section of the warehouse is caged off and locked. Shirley Mabry, the logistics chief for the stockpile, says that's for medicines like painkillers that could be addictive, "so that there's no pilferage of those items."

As we walk, I hear a loud hum. It's a giant freezer packed with products that have to be kept cold.

Just outside it, there are rows upon rows of ventilators that could keep sick or injured people breathing. Mabry explains that they're kept in a constant state of readiness. "If you look down to the side you'll see there's electrical outlets so they can be charged once a month," she says. Not only that—the ventilators get sent out for yearly maintenance.

In fact, everything here has to be inventoried once a year, and expiration dates have to be checked. Just tending to this vast stash costs a bundle — the stockpile program's budget is more than half a billion dollars a year.

And figuring out what to buy and put in the stockpile is no easy task. The government first has to decide which threats are realistic and then decide what can be done to prepare. "That's where we have a huge, complex bureaucracy trying to sort through that," says Redlener.

The process goes by the clunky acronym PHEMCE and involves agencies from the Department of Defense to the Food and Drug Administration. They're looking to acquire or develop products that can meet the threats.

"A lot of under-the-hood, background work goes into identifying what the size, the scope, the special needs are, and what medical countermeasures exist or need to be made," says George Korch, senior adviser to the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services. "That then drives the rest of the process for research, development, procurement, stockpiling, et cetera."

There is often debate, he says, but at the end of the day they have to reach a consensus and move forward.

"We could start stockpiling cobra antivenom if we really wanted to, but should we?" says Rocco Casagrande, who runs a consulting firm called Gryphon Scientific.

The government recently hired Gryphon to do an analysis of how well the stockpile was positioned to respond to a range of scenarios based on intelligence information. "The studies that were done before have all been one-off. They've all been looking at a single type of attack at a time, or a single type of weapon of mass destruction," says Casagrande. "They haven't looked across all threats to make decisions about whether you should buy A versus B."

The results can't be discussed publicly, says Casagrande, but "one thing we can say is that across the variety of threats that we examined, the Strategic National Stockpile has the adequate amount of materials in it and by and large the right type of thing."

The trouble is, increasingly the new medicines chosen for the stockpile have some real limitations.

"These are often very powerful, very exciting and useful new medicines, but they are also very expensive and they expire after a couple years," says Dr. Tara O'Toole, a former homeland security official who is now at In-Q-Tel, a nonprofit that helps bring technological innovation to the U. S. intelligence community.

O'Toole chairs a recently formed committee at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which the government asked to study the stockpile program and offer advice. She says as the inventory of the stockpile goes up and up, the budget to maintain that inventory is staying flat.

"This is an unsustainable plan," she says. "And we don't think there's enough money to do what the stockpile says it must do, already."

That's because getting stuff out of the stockpile to the people who would need it is a major challenge. Imagine if there's a major anthrax attack, and there's just 48 hours to get prophylactic antibiotics to more than a million people.

"It is not going to be easy or simple to put medicines in the hand of everybody who wants it," says O'Toole.

Back at the warehouse, Mabry and Burel show me all the ways they're set up to expedite delivery. For example, one of the first things you see when you walk into the warehouse is rows of 130 shipping containers. "This is the 12-hour push package, approximately 50 tons of material," says Mabry.

This collection of stuff could help after a variety of disasters, and it's designed to be delivered to a city or town within hours. Mabry shows me how the outside of each container has a pouch. "That has the information that anyone would need if they were to receive this, so they could very easily identify what is in this," she explains.

The people who would receive this container — or anything else from the stockpile — are state and local public health workers. They're the ones who have to figure out how get pills into mouths and shots into arms.

But local public health officials have had budget cuts and are drastically underfunded, says Paul Petersen, director of emergency preparedness for Tennessee.

"Many jurisdictions across the U. S. have less staff and less resources available to them to surge up in large-scale events," says Petersen. "I mean, that's a risk."

While they do have plans for emergencies, and lists of volunteers, he says, "they're volunteers. And they're not guaranteed to show up in the time of need."

Over and over, I heard worries about this part of the stockpile system.

"We have drastically decreased the level of state public health resources in the last decade. We've lost 50,000 state and local health officials. That's a huge hit," says O'Toole, who wishes local officials would get more money for things like emergency drills. "The notion that this is all going to be top down, that the feds are in charge and the feds will deliver, is wrong."

She'd also like to see more interest from Congress in all of this — because it's a national security issue. "These will be do-or-die days for America, should they ever come upon us," O'Toole points out.

And having a stockpile in a warehouse will be just the beginning. (Contributor: By Nell GreenfieldBoyce for NPR)

This report raises many questions. Readers will likely compare these storage facilities to insurance premiums paid for policies against injury, damage, and fire. Such payments are necessary, but we hope we never have to file a claim. Considering a widespread national disaster, let us pray for God’s mercy. Pray for a repentant nation with open hearts for spiritual revival.

"But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land." (Leviticus 26:40-42 NIV)

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The Informer June 22, 2016

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ERIC METAXAS: AMERICA IS COMMITTING 'SUICIDE' BY TURNING AWAY FROM IT'S DIVINE CALLING

Eric Metaxas speaking at the In Defense of Christians Inaugural Summit, Washington, D.C, Sept. 11, 2014.

New York Times best-selling author and radio host Eric Metaxas is warning that the United States is in danger of becoming "America in name only" if Americans don't stand up to protect the liberties and values of self governance that made the nation a blessing to the entire world.

In a new book released last week titled If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty, the 53-year-old Metaxas explains that the American republic was created by the nation's Founding Fathers to be shared with the entire world.

But, Metaxas stresses that Americans today have become too complacent with their freedoms and are too willing to give up their ability to govern themselves. He argues that complacency displayed today towards the rights and responsibilities of Americans to hold their governments accountable will cause America, as the world knows it, to perish.

"We have to live our lives in this nation in such a way that we are an example to the whole world and they want to have what we have," Metaxas told The Christian Post in an interview last Friday. "Christian faith is at the heart of that idea, it wasn't just a secular idea about a government, it was about a community that had never been tried before where people would live in harmony."

"These were ideas that were very new at the time and we forget what a wild and unprecedented idea that self government was when we began this country in 1776," Metaxas said. "We have lost a proper reverence for it. It is a crazy, wild idea that was almost destined to fail unless everything went right. We shouldn't take it for granted."

As the secularization of the American society over the last 40-plus years has resulted in crackdowns on religious freedom and limits on faith in the public square, Metaxas asserts that the Founding Fathers understood that faith and virtue are what enable freedom and self governance to flourish.

Metaxas relies on the concept known as the Golden Triangle, which he borrowed from British author and social critic Os Guinness, to prove his point. The Golden Triangle is the idea that freedom requires virtue, virtue requires faith and faith requires freedom.

"All of the founders, including the ones we think of as somewhat secular — Franklin and Jefferson — knew that a robust expression of Christian faith was at the very heart of the success of the American experiment," Metaxas told CP. "There was no doubt in the minds of any of them that virtue and faith were utterly crucial to the success of this experiment in self government and true liberty for all. The extent that we have forgotten that and utterly pushed that away, we have destroyed the very thing that will allow us to continue to be who we have been and to be better than who we have been. That's a vital part of what we have to relearn."

Metaxas writes that the title of the book is a reference to words spoken by Benjamin Franklin when he was asked while leaving the Constitutional Convention whether or not America was to be a monarchy or republic. Franklin's response was, "A republic, if you can keep it."

"In other words, this is going to take the people to take care of it, to cultivate it. This is not something that runs on its own accord. It doesn't go by itself. The people have to take an active role in governing themselves," Metaxas told CP.

"I think we have forgotten that in the last 40 years. Unless we take dramatic steps to reacquaint ourselves with what it is that makes this country work and what it is that made this country great, we are going to see, in short order, this great nation disappear. This nation will become America in name only, which would be one of the greatest tragedies in the history of the world."

It wasn't just the creators of the U.S. Constitution who understood that the principles of American liberty could be lost if it is not properly guarded by the people.

According to Metaxas, President Abraham Lincoln believed that America was chosen by God to "bless the world with freedoms that we had enjoyed." However, it was up to the people to govern in accordance with "moral law."

"Just as the Jews had been chosen by God to bring his Messiah into the world, and through that the Messiah to lead the whole world to the God they worshiped, so for Lincoln America had been chosen by God to bring a new kind of nation into the world, and through that nation to lead the whole world to take part in that national experiment in liberty for all," Metaxas wrote. "But for those like Lincoln, who perceived it rightly, the only thing to question was whether we could acquit ourselves as God wished us to do in this mission to the rest of the world…"

When Lincoln faced the crisis of the Civil War, Metaxas wrote that Lincoln knew that he had moral law on his side and that turning away from moral law would have resulted in the loss of God's blessing on America.

"Either we would turn from the great sin of slavery forever, or we would perish," Metaxas wrote. "We were a country on a mission to the whole world, but first we must get our own house in order. If we could not survive the agony of so doing, we would surely fail in our God-given mission to the world beyond our shores."

Metaxas also criticized the modern American education system for not teaching students the ideas of American exceptionalism and American universities for actively "teaching against" those ideas.

Just as America could have perished if it didn't abolish slavery, Metaxas wrote that the nation could "flip into oblivion quickly" if it continues to ignore the country's "God-given mission."

"So if we turn from our calling — whether intentionally or merely by forgetting what that calling is — we commit suicide," he says in the book. "And if we turn away from that moral law, we forfeit the blessings of God." (Contributor: By Samuel Smith for The Christian Post)

Eric Metaxas has earned the right to be heard, and the warnings in his new book, If You Can Keep It, should be considered seriously by all concerned citizens. The issue in America is not, “Which party?” but whether, consistent with our original heritage, we will be a free people. The Church must lead the way back to God with unified intercession. There is no other way. We must pray big prayers with strong faith. 

“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—" (Eph. 6:17-18)

CIA DIRECTOR JOHN BRENNAN: ISIS WORKING TO SEND OPERATIVES TO THE WEST

CIA Director John Brennan will [reported to Congress last  Thursday] that Islamic State militants are training and attempting to deploy operatives for further attacks on the West and will rely more on guerrilla-style tactics to compensate for their territorial losses.

In remarks prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee, Brennan says IS has been working to build an apparatus to direct and inspire attacks against its foreign enemies, as in the recent attacks in Paris and Brussels — ones the CIA believes were directed by IS leaders.

"ISIS has a large cadre of Western fighters who could potentially serve as operatives for attacks in the West," Brennan said, using another acronym for the group. He said IS probably is working to smuggle them into countries, perhaps among refugee flows or through legitimate means of travel.

Brennan also noted the group's call for followers to conduct so-called lone-wolf attacks in their home countries. He called last week's attack in Orlando a "heinous act of wanton violence" and an "assault on the values of openness and tolerance" that define the United States as a nation.

He said IS is gradually cultivating its various branches into an interconnected network. The branch in Libya is likely the most advanced and most dangerous, but IS is trying to increase its influence in Africa, he said. The IS branch in the Sinai has become the "most active and capable terrorist group in Egypt," attacking the Egyptian military and government targets in addition to foreigners and tourists, such as the downing of a Russian passenger jet last October.

Other branches have struggled to gain traction, he says. "The Yemen branch, for instance, has been riven with factionalism. And the Afghanistan-Pakistan branch has struggled to maintain its cohesion, in part because of competition with the Taliban."

He called IS a "formidable adversary," but said the U.S.-led coalition has made progress combatting the group, which has had to surrender large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and has lost some of its leaders in airstrikes. IS has struggled to replenish its ranks of fighters, Brennan said, because fewer of them are traveling to Syria and others have defected.

"The group appears to be a long way from realizing the vision that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi laid out when he declared the caliphate two years ago in Mosul," Iraq, Brennan said.

He said the group's ability to raise money has also been curtailed, although the group still continues to generate at least tens of millions of dollars in revenue each month, mostly from taxation and from sales of crude oil.

"Unfortunately, despite all our progress against ISIS on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group's terrorism capability and global reach," he said.

"In fact, as the pressure mounts on ISIL, we judge that it will intensify its global terror campaign to maintain its dominance of the global terrorism agenda." (Contributor: By Deb Riechmann for The Associated Press and McClatchy DC News)

CIA Director Brennan had hard facts to undergird his report then he called ISIS a “formidable adversary.” Will we have more terrorist attacks on American soil? Please pray for God’s mercy and protection. From the Boston Marathon bombing to the San Bernardino event, then to what happened 10 days ago in Orlando, Americans are asking why our government can’t protect from these attacks. Please pray.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)

RIGHTEOUS GOVERNMENT – STANDING FOR THE TRUTH

Righteous government is simply public policy of which God approves and the election to public office of those who have that agenda.  It is easy to say.  The hard part is doing it.  A sincere person who loves both God and his country must do three things to prove that this is genuinely important.  The Bible speaks: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked bear rule, the people mourn.” (Prov. 29:2)

The three things are these: 1) Register to vote in the political party where you believe God would be pleased to have you register.  2) Learn the truth about every person whose name will appear on your ballot as a registered voter.  3) Vote at every legal opportunity.  To register is easy, to vote a bit more bother.  But to learn something about those who would hold the power to govern?  This is where all too many Christians simply refuse to go.

For many it is just too much trouble.  They think it pleases God that they are ignorant of the things in the world and that they have chosen to disdain the rights which so many bled and died to give them.  This is serious error.  Millions around the world would give all they possess to have such rights – those who languish under dictators, kings, emperors and radical religious leaders.  Because most of us paid nothing for these rights, we may esteem them lightly.  What if they should be taken away?

God is not mocked.  In a republic like ours, we get the government we deserve.  Either those who have some understanding of righteousness will prevail, or control will be seized by others who have regard neither for God nor for righteousness.

There is a fourth thing.  We must, if we are serious, first pray according to I Tim. 2:1-3 for our leaders at every level.  Today’s city council member may be tomorrow’s senator.  And if we are true to the spirit of the Word of God, we will pray this way: “O Lord, You perfectly know the hearts of all men. Among our civil leaders and those who would be so, raise up the righteous and cast down the wicked.  You know who they are.  Thank you for hearing our prayer.  Amen.”

What if every church service, every Bible study, every prayer meeting and every time of personal devotion began with that entreaty to the Most High?  What would our country look like then? (Contributor: By Jim Kohlmann for Intercessors for America)

Jim Kohlmann, long-time intercessor, is IFA’s State Director in Florida. Here, he shares a practical perspective. First, intercede for elections, calling on God to raise up candidates who will lead in the fear of the Lord. Second, take time to learn candidates’ positions on vital issues and then vote accordingly. Those who will not vote forfeit the right to complain about results.

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” (1 Tim. 2:1-2)

IRAN'S KHAMENEI THREATENS TO 'SET FIRE' TO NUCLEAR DEAL IF WEST VIOLATES

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, threatened last Tuesday to "set fire" to the nuclear deal sealed with world powers if U.S. presidential candidates reneged on the agreement.

Republican candidate Donald Trump said last August it would be hard to "rip up" the deal, but if elected president he would "police that contract so tough they don't have a chance".

Iran can expect a shift in relations with the United States to a more aggressive posture under a Republic president, a reversal of the warming trend nurtured by Democratic President Barack Obama.

"The Islamic Republic won't be the first to violate the nuclear deal. Staying faithful to a promise is a Koranic order," Khamenei said, according to state media. "But if the threat from the American presidential candidates to tear up the deal becomes operational then the Islamic Republic will set fire to the deal."

He did not identify any candidate and said he did not see a difference between Democrats and Republicans in the comments that state media said he made in a meeting with senior officials including President Hassan Rouhani, who championed the agreement.

Hillary Clinton, who Obama has endorsed to succeed him in the Nov. 8 election, said in March in a speech to a pro-Israel lobby group in Washington that Iran still posed a threat to Israel and needed to be closely watched.

She was secretary of state under Obama during his first term.

The United States and Europe lifted sanctions on Tehran in January under the deal that curbed Iran's nuclear program. However, some restrictions remain, including on financial transactions, slowing Iranian hopes to reintegrate with world markets.

Khamenei noted that sanctions had not been completely lifted, issues with Iranian banks had not been resolved and that Iranian money that was being kept in other countries had not been returned.

"The nuclear deal has holes which, if they were closed, would reduce or cancel its disadvantages," he said.

He added: "Some think that we can get along with the Americans and solve our problems. This is an incorrect idea and a delusion."

The Supreme Leader also told the officials, who had gathered for a meeting to commemorate the holy month of Ramadan, that the issue of insurance for oil tankers had not been resolved.

Khamenei said Iran had met its obligations by halting the enrichment of uranium at 20 percent and shutting down nuclear facilities in Fordow and Arak.

Earlier, Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, urged the United States to do more to encourage banks to do business with Iran. (Contributor: By Babak Dehghanpisheh and editing by Alison Williams for Reuter News Service)

In this ongoing drama, observers from all political viewpoints believe that President Obama was finessed by Iran into a deal that threatens Israel and the United States. It is no longer debatable as to which country gained more, and the next administration will have to undo damage to U.S. safety and prestige, if God allows. Intercede for spiritual renewal. One day, O Lord, all nations shall come and worship before You.
“Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.” (Rev. 15:4)

U.S. THIRD FLEET EXPANDS EAST ASIA ROLE AS TENSIONS RISE WITH CHINA

The U.S. Navy's Third Fleet will send more ships to East Asia to operate outside its normal theater alongside the Japan-based Seventh Fleet, a U.S. official said on Tuesday, a move that comes at a time of heightened tensions with China.

The Third Fleet's Pacific Surface Action Group, which includes the guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance and USS Momsen, was deployed to East Asia in April.

More Third Fleet vessels will be deployed in the region in the future, said a U.S. official who requested anonymity. He and a second official said the vessels would conduct a range of operations, but gave no details.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims, as well as close military ties with the United States.

China has been angered by what it views as provocative U.S. military patrols close to islands that China controls in the South China Sea. The United States says the patrols are to protect freedom of navigation.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry said if U.S. actions had a destructive impact on regional peace and stability and the interests of countries in the region, then China would "definitely be opposed and concerned".

"How the U.S. military uses its taxpayers' dollars to carry out deployments is its own affair," ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing. "I'm not concerned about it. What I'm concerned about is regional peace, security and stability."

The Third Fleet, based in San Diego, California, traditionally has confined its operations to the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean's international dateline.

Japan's Nikkei Asian Review quoted the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift, as saying on Tuesday that the move came in the "context of uncertainty and angst in the region," an apparent reference to China's behavior.

Swift argued that the Navy should utilize the "total combined power" of the 140,000 sailors, over 200 ships and 1,200 aircraft that make up the Pacific Fleet.

The Seventh Fleet consists of an aircraft carrier strike group, 80 other vessels and 140 aircraft. The Third Fleet has more than 100 vessels, including four aircraft carriers.

Chinese officials have blamed the rising tension on the United States. "I think before Americans' so-called ‘rebalancing in Asia-Pacific,’ the South China Sea was very quiet, very peaceful," Liu Xiaoming, China's ambassador to Britain, told Reuters in an interview last week.

"China was talking to the neighboring countries. We had a Declaration of Conduct. And the Philippines was talking to us. Once the Americans came in, so-called `rebalancing,' things changed dramatically.""They want to find an excuse to have their strong military presence in the South China Sea and in the Asia Pacific. If it is so quiet, what is the reason for them to be there?" he asked.

Greg Poling, director of Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, said on Tuesday that the move appears to be part of President Barack Obama's plan to shift 60 percent of U.S. naval assets in Asia as part of his rebalance of resources to the region in the face of China's rise. (Contributor: By Idress Ali and David Brunnstrom for Reuter News Service - additional reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by John Walcott and Leslie Adler)

We have quoted from the old hymn before to encourage intercessors: “Nations may rise and nations fall: Thy changeless purpose rules them all.” The psalmist tells us that all the nations belong to the Lord. What is the value of quoting Prov. 21:1, if we do not believe that the “king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord”? U.S. international policy and prestige is weak. We pray for God’s unfolding plan.

“For the kingdom is the LORD’s, and He rules over the nations.” (Ps. 22:28)

WHITE HOUSE REJECTS INCREASED ISRAEL MISSILE DEFENSE FUNDING

The Obama administration last Tuesday opposed a call by US lawmakers to increase government funding for Israel's missile defense program by $455 million above the 2017 fiscal year budget request.

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget issued the rejection of the proposal made by the US House of Representatives in a Statement of Administration Policy on defense appropriations released last Tuesday.

In May, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended a major increase in spending on Israeli missile defense programs – quadrupling a budget line proposed by the Obama administration.

The increase, supported unanimously and across party lines in the committee, proposed $600 million in funding for fiscal year 2017 – an increase of $113 million from last year and $454 million over US President Barack Obama's request.

In response to the White House's statement Tuesday, the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC said it was "deeply disappointed" by the US administration's measure that "has criticized Congress for funding US-Israel missile defense cooperation."

"On a bipartisan basis, Congress has increased funding above administration requests this year, as it has done for well over a decade," said The American Israel Public Affairs Committee in a statement.

AIPAC lauded Congress for its support, and stressed that funding for Israel's missile defense program - which includes systems such as the Iron Dome, David's Sling and the Arrow - is vital to the country's defense against growing regional threats.

The increased aid proposal was primarily intended to "continue the modernization" of Israel's multi-tiered missile defense systems– already among the most advanced in the world– and funds are apportioned to specific programs. The Senate bill included a notable increase in support for the David's Sling medium-range program, Israel's newest tier of advanced missile defense.

Meanwhile, key voices inside the Israeli government have argued that it is in Israel’s interests to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to govern US military aid for the next decade while President Barack Obama is in office, as a way of locking in support for the deal from wider swaths of the American public.

According to this reasoning, Obama is a progressive president and, as such, if he signs the deal it would be tantamount to buy-in from a wider spectrum of Americans. (Contributor: By The Jerusalem Post staff for The Jerusalem Post - Michael Wilner and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.)

UPDATE: House approves defense aid to Israel despite veto threat

House of Representatives passes defense spending bill which includes $635.7 million for U.S.-Israel missile defense programs.

The United States House of Representatives on Thursday passed a $576 billion defense spending bill which includes $635.7 million for U.S.-Israel missile defense programs, despite a threat by the Obama administration to veto the bill, The Jewish Insider reports.

The fiscal 2017 defense appropriations bill includes $268.7 million in research and development funding for U.S.-Israel cooperative missile and rocket defense programs; $25 million in research and development funding for U.S.-Israel directed energy activities, such as laser technologies, to combat missiles and rockets; $72 million for procurement of the Iron Dome rocket defense system; $150 million for procurement of the David’s Sling missile defense system; and $120 million for procurement of the Arrow-3 missile defense system.

It passed by a majority of 282-138, noted the report.

In addition, the House included $42.7 million for U.S.-Israel anti-tunnel cooperation to continue developing technologies for dealing with the challenge of locating, mapping and destroying terrorist tunnel networks from Gaza.

The passing of the bill comes despite the fact that earlier this week, the White House announced its objection to the Congressional proposal to increase funding for Israeli missile defense in 2017.

White House officials on Wednesday night played down the statement objecting to the proposal, explaining that the administration believes any additional aid to Israel should be part of the 10-year military aid agreement the two countries are now negotiating, and not in the 2017 defense budget, as Congress proposed.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby defended the administration’s opposition to the funding increase on Wednesday, calling it “the largest such non-emergency increase ever.” Kirby added that the increase “would consume a growing share of a shrinking U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s budget”, according to The Jewish Insider.

The current defense agreement between Israel and the United States remains in force until 2018, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been urged to accept President Barack Obama’s 10-year military aid package which reportedly includes a total of $145.8 million for Israeli missile defense programs, a sharp drop in financial support.

A total of $3 billion in defense aid is given annually, but Netanyahu has asked for an increase to $5 billion annually, in light of the greater need for security due to the growing Iranian threat after the nuclear deal.

In a statement released following Thursday’s vote, AIPAC commended the GOP-controlled House “for significantly bolstering its support of U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation,” which will “help Israel defend its citizens against rocket and missile threats, and contribute to America’s missile defense programs.”

“As Israel faces dramatically rising security challenges, AIPAC urges inclusion of these vital funds in the final versions of the Fiscal Year 2017 defense authorization and appropriations bills,” AIPAC added, according to The Jewish Insider.  (Contributor: By Ben Ariel for Arutz Sheva)

It is a fair observation to note that President Obama does not view Israel through the traditional lens of U.S. affinity, which is as an ally and the only democracy in the Middle East. He is often tentative in his statements, and he and Prime Minister Netanyahu have a tepid relationship at best. Our “job” is to intercede as “workers together with God,” as He brings forth His purposes among the nations.

“We then, as workers together with Him, also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:1-2)

51% OF U.S. MUSLIMS WANT SHARIA; 60% OF YOUNG MUSLIMS MORE LOYAL TO ISLAM THAN TO U.S.

A considerable portion of U.S. domestic and foreign policy is based on the assumption that Islam in the U.S. will be different: that Muslims here believe differently from those elsewhere, and do not accept the doctrines of violence against and subjugation of unbelievers that have characterized Islam throughout its history. But on what is that assumption based? Nothing but wishful thinking. And future generations of non-Muslims will pay the price.

Meanwhile, An Islamic Fifth Column Builds Inside America,” by Paul Sperry, IBD, October 1, 2015

In berating GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson for suggesting a loyalty test for Muslims seeking high office, CNN host Jake Tapper maintained that he doesn’t know a single observant Muslim-American who wants to Islamize America.

“I just don’t know any Muslim-Americans — and I know plenty — who feel that way, even if they are observant Muslims,” he scowled.

Tapper doesn’t get out much. If he did, chances are he’d run into some of the 51% of Muslims living in the U.S. who just this June told Polling Co. they preferred having “the choice of being governed according to Shariah,” or Islamic law. Or the 60% of Muslim-Americans under 30 who told Pew Research they’re more loyal to Islam than America.

Maybe they’re all heretics, so let’s see what the enlightened Muslims think.

If Tapper did a little independent research he’d quickly find that America’s most respected Islamic leaders and scholars also want theocracy, not democracy, and even advocate trading the Constitution for the Quran.

These aren’t fringe players. These are the top officials representing the Muslim establishment in America today.

Hopefully none of them ever runs for president, because here’s what he’d have to say about the U.S. system of government:

  • Muzammil Siddiqi, chairman of both the Fiqh Council of North America, which dispenses Islamic rulings, and the North American Islamic Trust, which owns most of the mosques in the U.S.: “As Muslims, we should participate in the system to safeguard our interests and try to bring gradual change, (but) we must not forget that Allah’s rules have to be established in all lands, and all our efforts should lead to that direction.”
  • Omar Ahmad, co-founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the top Muslim lobby group in Washington: “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Quran should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.”
  • CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper: “I wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future.”
  • Imam Siraj Wahhaj, director of the Muslim Alliance in North America: “In time, this so-called democracy will crumble, and there will be nothing. And the only thing that will remain will be Islam.”
  • Imam Zaid Shakir, co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, Calif.: “If we put a nationwide infrastructure in place and marshaled our resources, we’d take over this country in a very short time. . . . What a great victory it will be for Islam to have this country in the fold and ranks of the Muslims.”…

[Note: Thomas Jefferson had our U.S. marines fighting on the shores of Tripoli; over these Muslim differences early in our  nation’s founding. From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli we will fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea;…”]  (Contributor: By Robert Spencer for Jihad Watch)

We must pray and speak up. By insisting that all Muslims in the U.S. are peaceful and no act of terror is related to radical Islamist terrorism, President Obama is calling the terrorist perpetrators liars. For example, Orlando killer Omar Mateen repeatedly identified himself as tied to the “Islamic State,” but Mr. Obama said, in essence, “No, you are not.” Intercessors, please look at this honestly and pray.

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20)

CHRISTIANS ARRESTED IN NEPAL FOR SPREADING THE GOSPEL

Seven Christians have been arrested in Nepal for spreading the Gospel by handing out Bible handbooks to as many as 885 students in the Dolakha district.

International Christian Concern said the Christians have been charged with attempting to convert people to Christianity in the Hindu-majority nation, which has been illegal since 2015.

The arrested Christians include principles from two schools, along with five staff members from Teach Nepal, a Christian organization.

ICC, which reports on Christian persecution around the world, revealed that a relative of one of the arrested said police officers are cracking down hard on Christians.

"The police treated them as if they were criminals, placing everyone in handcuffs. The officer who is in charge of this arrest refuses to listen to anyone and is making the Christians' lives hell," the relative said.

The Christians were then asked to sign a document admitting that the distribution of Bible-material is a violation of the law, and pledging that they will never do it again, but they all refused to sign the paper.

Christians in the country have spoken out against the 2015 law, stating that it can be used to oppress religious freedom and the growth of Christianity in the South Asian nation.

"The Christian community in Nepal believes that this is a very serious case," a Christian pastor from Nepal, who wasn't named, told ICC. "Although we are working hard to release the prisoners, the people here are nervous after hearing about this case. We feel that we have to be careful about everything that we do."

Tensions have been high between government authorities and Christians ever since the 2015 law. Last September Hindu extremists  warned all foreign Christian missionaries to leave the country, accusing them of "corrupting" the nation.

"From today, the Morcha declares Nepal a Christian-free Hindu nation. We warn all the Christian religious leaders to leave Nepal, and appeal to all those who converted to Christianity to return home [convert back to Hinduism]," the statement from the radical Hindu group read at the time.

Fides News Agency noted that Christian missionaries defied those warnings, however, and pledged to continue "their mission of dialogue and proclamation of the Gospel of charity toward all."

ICC's Regional Manager for South Asia, William Stark, said that the latest arrests are concerning for all Christians in the country.

"Last year, many were concerned when Nepal adopted its new constitution that included the controversial Article 26. Christians feared that this article would be a weapon used to stop the growth of the Christian community," Stark explained.

"Today, Nepalese Christians have seen their fears realized with seven Christians being put through 'h...l' simply for sharing their faith. No one should fear arrest and imprisonment for sharing their faith. ICC calls for the immediate release of these seven Christians and for Nepal to review and amend Article 26 of their constitution as it clearly violates the religious liberty of all citizens of Nepal." (Contributor: By Stoyan Zaimov for Christian Post)

India’s religious heritage is Hindu, but a Christian witness has flourished for centuries. Examples are William Carey, often called “the father of modern missions,” and Amy Carmichael, who, with her helpers, rescued countless girls from slavery and worse. Note that the anti-Christian law dates only from 2015, which is suspect. Intercede for the release of these seven and for the Gospel to prevail.

“Is not My word like a fire?” says the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29)

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The Informer June 15, 2016

On Watch in Washington June 15, 2016 Plain Text Version

OMAR MATEEN, ORLANDO SHOOTER MOST  LIKELY A HOMOSEXUAL

The ex-wife of Omar Mateen, who killed 49 and maimed 53 at an Orlando gay nightclub on Sunday, said the shooter may have been [a homosexual].

Speaking on her behalf in Portuguese to a Brazilian television station, the ex-wife’s fiancé, Marco Dias, said Mr. Mateen had “gay  tendencies,” noting that the shooter’s father once called him gay in front of his wife.

He also said the “FBI asked her not to tell this to the American media,” the New York Post reported.

The claim comes after one of Mr. Mateen’s former male classmates said the killer asked him out on a date “romantically,” the Palm Beach Post reported. He said they occasionally attended gay bars after class at the Indian River Community College police academy in 2006.

“We went to a few gay bars with him, and I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer,” the former classmate said.

Several patrons at the Pulse nightclub, the location of the shooting spree, reported seeing Mr. Mateen at the club at least a dozen times.

Kevin West, a regular patron at the Pulse, told the Los Angeles Times he used to frequently message Mr. Mateen on Jack’d, a gay dating app.

Chris Callen, a drag queen who performs under the name Kristina McLaughlin, told the Canadian Press that the shooter was a regular at the club.

“It’s the same guy,” Mr. Callen said, the Canadian Press reported. “He’s been going to this bar for at least three years.”

Ty Smith, Mr. Callen’s husband, dismissed the notion that Mr. Mateen snapped after seeing two men kissing, a widely reported anecdote in the media.

“That’s bullcrap, right there,” he said, the Canadian Press reported. “No offense. That’s straight-up crap. He’s been around us. Some of those people did a lot more than [kiss] outside the bar. … He was partying with the people who supposedly drove him to do this?”

Mr. Mateen reportedly pledged his support to the Islamic State terror group before being killed in a shootout with authorities. (Contributor: By Bradford Richardson for The Washington Times)

As we have said, IFA’s midweek “Alert” ministry is about prayer and intercession, not political analysis of the news. As intercessors, we feel compassion, but we do not allow soulish sympathy for the killer’s alleged sexual confusion to blur the fact that he was a demonized terrorist who committed mass murder. Pray for victims’ families; ask God to save many through this atrocity.

[The Apostle Paul, a former “terrorist” himself, wrote:] “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Tim. 1:15)

 

TRUMP TAKES ON ‘RADICAL ISLAM’

The terror massacre at a packed Orlando nightclub reverberated across the presidential campaign trail Sunday, as the candidates condemned the deadliest shooting in U.S. history -- and Donald Trump ripped President Obama and Hillary Clinton for avoiding the term “radical Islam” in doing so.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee went so far as to say Obama should “step down” for not using the term and Clinton should “get out of this race” if she won’t either.

“If we do not get tough and smart real fast, we are not going to have a country anymore,” Trump said in a statement. “Because our leaders are weak, I said this was going to happen -- and it is only going to get worse. I am trying to save lives and prevent the next terrorist attack. We can't afford to be politically correct anymore.”

Obama, speaking from the White House on Sunday, said the nightclub massacre in which 50 people were killed and at least 53 others were wounded is being investigated as an “act of terror,” though did not say whether it was tied to radical Islam.

The gunman, Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, was heard shouting "Allahu Akbar" while engaging officers, law enforcement sources told Fox News.

Mateen also called 911 during the shooting to pledge allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Fox News has learned.

ISIS reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, though it’s unclear if the shooting was actually directed by the group or only inspired by it.

All these details, surrounding the deadliest terror attack on the U.S. homeland since 9/11, have fueled tensions in the presidential race at an already-combustible time.

Trump has faced intense criticism from members of both parties for his calls to temporarily ban Muslim immigration to the U.S.

In the wake of the Orlando attack, Trump again defended his proposals, saying on Twitter: “What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning. Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban. Must be tough.”

Trump originally was planning to deliver a speech Monday in Manchester, N.H., focused on the Clintons.

In the wake of the Orlando attack, it will also focus on security and immigration issues, Fox News is told.

Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders also condemned the attack, while speaking to reporters outside his home in Burlington, Vt.

Earlier Sunday, Clinton released a statement unequivocally calling the massacre an “act of terror.”

“For now, we can say for certain that we need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad. That means defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are, countering their attempts to recruit people here and everywhere, and hardening our defenses at home. It also means refusing to be intimidated and staying true to our values,” she said.

She also called it an “act of hate” -- a term Obama also used -- since the attacker targeted an LGBT nightclub during Pride Month. And she said the country needs to “keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals.”

Clinton did not reference radical Islam.

Meanwhile, a joint campaign rally with Clinton and Obama set for Wednesday in Green Bay, Wis., has been postponed in light of the attack, according to a White House official.

Obama also ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff “as a mark of respect for the victims of the act of hatred and terror perpetrated on Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Florida.”

Florida GOP Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency, which will make additional resources available for local authorities.

He offered “thoughts and prayers” to all those affected by the attack, particularly the victims and their families, and praised the efforts of the first-responders. (Contributor: Fox News)

It is no longer “news” that President Obama is unwilling to use the words “radical,” “Islamic,” and “terrorist” in the same sentence. Media outlets are eager to turn this into another political battle. We encourage intercessors to rise above the political fray and pray for the families of the victims, for God’s comfort and His redemptive purposes to prevail in the aftermath of the terrorist killings.

“[Jesus said,] ‘The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.’” (John 10:10)

 

CALIFORNIA POISED TO ADOPT ULTRA-LEFTIST K-12 HISTORY CURRICULUM

Stanley Kurtz reports that California is on the verge of approving a new and sharply leftist K-12 curriculum framework for history and social sciences. The move, he adds, “has national implications, since textbooks retooled to fit California’s changing history frameworks are often used much more widely.”

Stanley describes the new California curriculum this way :

On immigration, it is anti-assimilationist; on family and sexuality, it is radically anti-traditionalist; on terrorism, it tends to “blame America first;” on the 1960s, it highlights and implicitly lauds the most radical “black, brown, red, and yellow power movements;” on politics, it paints a halo over progressives while perpetrating a hit job on conservatives; on economics, it elevates Keynesian liberalism and ignores everything else; on military history, it is silent or slyly antagonistic; on contemporary politics, it reads like an anti-globalization protest pamphlet.

Stanley provides specifics to back up his description. Here are some of them.

On assimilation:

Instead of simply presenting the across-the-board political and cultural consensus of the Progressive Era in favor of assimilation, the authors of the framework feel it necessary to insist that the ideal of immigrant assimilation is no longer appropriate, and was probably based on some combination of bigotry and selfishness when it flourished.

On sex and sexuality:

Treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) sexuality—and of sexuality in general—is a novel addition to California’s history curriculum. No other 11th grade theme receives more coverage, as the framework goes well beyond an account of the post-sixties gay-rights movement. Students also learn about “Boston marriages” during the Progressive Era (marriage-like relationships between two women, often but not always asexual), drag balls during the Harlem Renaissance, and the like.

The subtext is decidedly “liberationist,” with a constant implication that traditional morality and family structures are oppressive and outdated. Sometimes the bias is pronounced, as in the section on the AIDS epidemic, where the framework bemoans “AIDS hysteria” and the consequent regrettable “retreat” from “sexual liberation movements.”

No balancing material is offered.

On terrorism:

The advent of Islamist terrorism gets virtually no substantive treatment in this supposedly updated 11th grade curriculum, although it is mentioned several times in passing. For example, although we learn that the attacks of September 11, 2001 prompted increased immigration enforcement at the Mexican border, we learn nothing of substance about the greatest foreign attack on American soil, or its aftermath.

On Iran:

The section on the Cold War broadly hints that CIA involvement in the overthrow of the Mossadegh government of Iran in 1953 was responsible for the Iranian Revolution of 1979, and for the rise of contemporary Islamism in the Middle East as well. This way of looking at the American role in the Iranian coup of 1953 remains highly contested, while the leftist theory that Islamic radicalism is nothing but blowback from America’s actions in the Middle East is even more problematic and controversial.

So the new 11th grade framework features a thoroughly biased and one-sided treatment of the central foreign policy challenge of our time.

On World War II:

The account skips lightly over American victories, concentrating instead on the loss of Bataan, “one of the most grievous defeats in American military history.” Somehow the new framework has contrived to teach World War II, America’s greatest military victory, in such a way as to have students concentrate on America’s most grievous military defeat.

On Democrats and Republicans:

The 11th grade history framework lavishes attention on progressives and Democratic presidents, recounting the expansion of the federal government in the most sympathetic terms. By contrast, Republican presidents are either ignored or painted in a bad light. Students are never offered a coherent explanation of what conservatives believe.

The proposed curriculum isn’t a done deal. The California State Board of Education meets on July 13 of this year to consider final approval.

But it may be too late to stop this train. If so — if the changes cannot be stopped — Stanley warns that states, school districts, and parents who prefer a more fair and traditional approach to American history will need to redouble their efforts to monitor textbook adoption. Textbooks compatible with the new California curriculum should be systematically avoided.

Stanley concludes:

The best long-run solution would be the creation of an educational testing company advised by the finest traditionally-inclined scholars and capable both of competing with the College Board’s leftist AP curriculum, and of authorizing and encouraging the creation of new and better American history textbooks. (Contributor: By Paul Mirengoff for Power Line)

Home schooling is not a viable solution for every family. Yet the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) receives many new inquiries each time a public school system threatens to steal the hearts and minds of the nation’s students. Pray fervently against these curriculum changes. As Jesus said of the tares among the wheat, “An enemy has done this.”

“So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’” (Mat. 13:27-28)

 

THE ADMINISTRATION'S NAVY FARCE

Rep. Randy Forbes speaks out on the Farsi Island incident and other threats to our diminishing seapower.

On January 12 two U.S. Navy riverine boats were sailing south through the Persian Gulf to Bahrain near Iran’s Farsi Island. One of the boats had broken down and the other stayed with it. Six Iranian boats surrounded them and demanded their surrender at gunpoint. The Americans did. They were forced to their knees and taken into captivity on the island.

It’s not clear how the Iranians treated the U.S. sailors, but we know a few key facts. The Iranians seized Navy computers aboard the boats and copied their contents. The sailors were interrogated individually — constantly — and paraded before Iranian television crews. In footage broadcast internationally, they were apparently compelled to admit that they were in the wrong for entering Iranian waters — though the evidence showed they had not — and to apologize for doing so.

But every American soldier, sailor, airman and Marine is trained to refuse to aid the enemy in that manner. It’s a violation of their duty to do so. So were they abused? Tortured? Threatened with immediate execution? We don’t know because the Obama administration has classified everything about how the sailors were treated.

They were released after about sixteen hours. The only reaction from President Obama was a statement by Secretary of State John Kerry thanking the Iranians for their cooperation and patting himself on the back for effective diplomacy. There was never even a word condemning the Iranians for violating international law by seizing the American boats in international waters.

Two weeks ago Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) got our attention when he said that the classified information about the incident, if made public, would shock the American people. He said that we would be shocked by not only how Iran treated our sailors but also how the Obama administration responded. As Forbes pointed out, Obama did nothing at all to help the sailors while they were in captivity.

Forbes is chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. I spoke to him Thursday about the Farsi Island incident and some other key seapower issues.

Information is properly classified only when its release would damage the national security of the United States or one of our allies. That means, to put it simply, information shouldn’t be classified just because it would be politically embarrassing. But that’s apparently what happened in the case of the Farsi Island incident.

I asked Forbes directly: had anyone from the administration told him what the rationale was behind the decision to classify the Farsi Island information? He answered just as directly: no, they hadn’t. There hasn’t been even an attempt to justify that decision.

Moreover, Forbes said that he believed that the Navy would agree to declassify and release the information, but that it hadn’t received permission to do so from the president or the secretary of defense. Forbes told me that he believed that the information would be made public eventually — in weeks or months — but it probably wouldn’t happen before the November election.

The inescapable conclusion is that the administration’s refusal to release the Farsi Island incident information is purely a political decision to help protect Obama’s nuclear weapons deal with Iran. Letting the Farsi Island information out now would give Republican opponents of the deal ammunition that could be highly useful in their campaigns this summer and fall.

Because Obama regards that deal — which guarantees Iran nuclear weapons — as a key part of his legacy, he won’t do anything to help arm its opponents. You can bet that if Hillary Clinton is elected president, we’ll never see that information declassified and made public.

Forbes spoke derisively about Obama’s foreign policy. His philosophy, he said, is pretty simple. When you give in to bullies, they get bolder and raise the stakes. He said, “The Russians are now flying over our ships at about thirty feet above the deck. We see the Chinese telling us we can’t even do a port call in Hong Kong. We see them intercepting our P-3s and trying to literally push us out of the South China Sea.

“And we see the Iranians’ actions” (such as the firing of missiles fifteen hundred yards from the carrier USS Harry S. Truman last December), “… and the fact that they seized the two Navy riverine boats in January in violation of all maritime rules.”

Forbes said, “The Iranians get bolder. They’re telling us to get out of the Persian Gulf or they’ll shut the Strait of Hormuz.”

Forbes, the leading advocate in the House of restoring American seapower, believes this is all due to Obama’s knuckling under whenever America is challenged. He’s right. He said that Congress should stand up and demand greater challenges to nations such as Iran when the next Iranian sanctions bill comes up.

But it will take a lot more: a lot of money and time to restore the seapower we need to have to protect America’s interests and allies abroad.

Forbes pointed out that as soon as Obama came into office he began about $780 billion of cuts in defense spending over ten years to which sequestration added another $500 billion in cuts. He said that one of the first things the Obama administration did was issue gag orders for everyone in the Pentagon — both military and civilian — so that they couldn’t even tell Congress what repercussions there would be from its massive cuts.

The Marine Corps is a good example. The reports that the Marines were going to museums to cannibalize parts for aircraft were, Forbes said, true. He added that the Marines tried to see what foreign ships were available to deliver them to trouble spots because we don’t have enough sealift ships to do it.

I asked Forbes about the fact that although we have ten carriers — and soon will have eleven — we have only enough pilots and aircraft to outfit six. He agreed that there was a grave shortfall in strike fighters.

Forbes told me that the Navy had testified to his committee that three out of four strike aircraft aren’t going to be ready for combat for at least twelve months. He said that the Navy is cannibalizing parts from some aircraft to outfit others. And it’s not just the aircraft that are being cannibalized.

The submarine force usually has priority over other ships for repairs, but the Navy is being forced to cannibalize parts from submarines to keep others at sea. All classes of ships are being affected.

Forbes said, “In 2007, the Navy could meet 90 percent of our combatant commanders’ needs around the globe. This year, they’ll only meet 42 percent.”

He gave the example of one of our submarines that went into drydock for repairs that had been estimated to take 28 months. It actually took over 40 months. In that time, the whole crew sat ashore. The captain of the ship, Forbes said, resigned in frustration saying he hadn’t signed up just to sit in a shipyard.

The Navy’s total fleet is down to 272 ships. President Obama, Forbes said, wanted to reduce it by another twelve percent and Congress refused. (The Chinese have 300 surface vessels and plan to have at least 78 submarines as well within two years.)

Forbes, and many of his colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee, are trying to restore sanity to defense spending but there is, in truth, not much they can do. If the next president doesn’t take this on as Job 1, the shortfalls will grow, which means our capability to perform essential national security missions will continue to shrink. (Contributor: By Jed Babbin for The Spectator)

This article is important to intercessors for two reasons. First, the issue is urgent. Reducing U.S. military power and our “readiness to defend” further weakens our nation’s position in the present international scene. Second, pray for Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA). He is a “watchman on the wall,” bringing a conservative viewpoint and consistently calling for a return to constitutional balance.

“Again the word of the Lord came to [Ezekiel], saying, ‘Son of man, speak to … your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head.’” (Ezek. 33:1-4)

 

ADMINISTRATION  ‘DANGEROUSLY’ MISCALCULATING CHINA’S MILITARY GOALS AND CAPABILITIES

As Washington and Beijing spar in a dangerous game of one-upmanship to determine who will control the strategically critical waterways of the South China Sea, some defense observers and regional analysts worry that the U.S. effort will prove an exercise in futility in the long term against the full weight of China’s growing military and economic prowess.

China’s strategy of slowly but methodically building up military installations in the Spratly Islands, the Scarborough Shoal, the Fiery Cross Reef and other strategic points within the sea, coupled with Beijing’s increasingly assertive territorial claims, has elevated tensions in Washington and unsettled U.S. allies in the region.

The White House and Pentagon have taken solace in the fact that China’s military ambitions have been tempered by its commercial interests, according to a Defense Department review of the country’s strategic footprint in the Asia-Pacific region.

“China still seeks to avoid direct and explicit conflict with the United States,” Pentagon analysts concluded in a report issued in April. “China’s leaders understand that instability or conflict would jeopardize the peaceful external environment that has enabled China’s economic development.”

But some warn that Pentagon strategists are making a serious miscalculation of China’s military goals and capabilities, as well as of American preparedness to curb those ambitions, by relying on the belief that the country’s economic needs will prove a durable bulwark against military action in Asia.

“We believed that American aid to a fragile China whose leaders thought like us would help China become a democratic and peaceful power without ambitions of regional or even global dominance,” said Michael Pillsbury, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Chinese Strategy. “Every one of the assumptions behind that belief was wrong — dangerously so.”

China has taken a number of steps “to send messages to the rest of the world” about its willingness to defend its interests, said Dean Cheng, senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center. Among those messages: that Beijing is “inflexible” in defending its South China Sea claims and that it has embarked on “major military reforms which will make it a much more capable opponent.”

Even the Defense Department analysts noted that China is “focused on developing the capabilities they deem necessary to deter or defeat adversary power projection and counter third-party — including U.S. — intervention during a crisis or conflict,” the April report states.

Over the long term, “China’s military modernization is producing capabilities that have the potential to reduce core U.S. military technological advantages,” according to the Pentagon.

The trends are not favorable: A Center for Strategic and International Studies report this year mandated by Congress concluded that China will have so many aircraft carriers in the area within 15 years that the sea will be “virtually a Chinese lake, as the Caribbean or the Gulf of Mexico is for the United States today.”

This cat-and-mouse game between China and the U.S. and its allies boiled over recently when Beijing scrambled a team of fighter jets to track a U.S. warship as it sailed by a disputed patch of land in the heart of the South China Sea.

While such incidents in the past raised the hackles of military leaders in Beijing and Washington, most were resolved quietly through diplomatic channels. But the Chinese response to the U.S. ship’s traverse through the Fiery Cross was particularly sharp.

That response could signal China’s determination to dominate the open seas as its shoreline becomes increasingly backed by military force, the head of U.S. Pacific Command told Congress.

China’s military is actively “changing the operational landscape in the South China Sea,” Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, warned members of the Senate Armed Services Committee last year.

After decades of the U.S. military serving as the decisive power and security arbiter in the region, China in recent years has pushed a different message: It’s time for Washington to butt out. Ahead of broad-ranging talks this week between top U.S. and Chinese diplomats and financial officials, the lead Chinese negotiator told reporters over the weekend that Washington should let countries bordering the South China Sea work out their conflicts on their own.

“In fact, the United States is not a claimant in the South China Sea dispute, and it has said it takes no position on territorial disputes,” said Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang. “So we hope the U.S. can stick to its promise and not choose sides, and instead base its stance on the rights and wrongs of the case.”

Raising the stakes

Chinese commanders in May ordered a team of fighter jets into the skies above the Fiery Cross Reef near the Spratly Islands after the USS William P. Lawrence conducted a “freedom of navigation operation” close to the reef, also claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

The U.S. ship’s course near the Fiery Cross, which Beijing maintains falls within Chinese territorial waters, was also part of a suspected surveillance mission to observe the 10,000-foot runway newly constructed on the reef, Chinese officials said.

“The action by the U.S. threatens China’s sovereignty and security, endangers the safety of people and facilities on the reef and harms regional peace and stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told the state-run Xinhua News Agency at the time. China “will continue to take measures to safeguard our sovereignty and security.”

The U.S. warship’s mission was a “simple act of provocation” designed to further inflame regional rivalries and embolden U.S. allies to take action against China, he said.

The Pentagon defended the action, noting that the American warship was operating in international waters in compliance with global rules of the sea.

Obama administration officials have tried to downplay the drama of the Navy missions through the South China Sea by insisting that they are simply passing through widely recognized international waters.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry rejected outright China’s claim that the operation was intended to provoke an armed response from the American warship.

“This is not a pointed strategy calculated to do anything except keep a regular process of freedom of navigation operations underway,” he said.

But the practice of American warships trolling the South China Sea in various shows of force was a lackluster strategy to check Beijing militarily.

“The United States continues to send mixed messages through its [Freedom of Navigation Operations] program, which was designed to maintain freedom of the seas,” said The Heritage Foundation’s Mr. Cheng.

“In reality, the United States has still avoided actually conducting military activities of any sort off the Chinese man-made islands, despite there being no legal reason not to do so.”

Some warn that the U.S. cannot match China if it seeks short-term fixes while Beijing plays a longer game. As long as China avoids a direct provocation that leads to war, the scales will continue to tip in its favor.

The South China Sea islands — and the suspected energy riches under its seabed — may not “really [be] the objective of Chinese expansion,” analyst Phil Reynolds wrote in a recent survey of the South China Sea standoff.

“Rather, the goal of China’s grand strategy may be to successfully challenge the United States in the eyes of the world. If China is correct, any actual conflict with the United States will not end in an all-out war. Intense pressure from the international community will quickly lead to a negotiated settlement. This is a win for China.” (Contributor: By Carlo Munoz for The Washington Times)

Along with these provocations, China is becoming more closely allied with Russia, while U.S. leadership in global affairs has diminished. With that, President Obama has been reducing U.S. military strength (see previous news item), both in personnel and equipment, which invites aggression. Pray for a national spiritual awakening and for God’s mercy and grace for America.

“Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps truth forever, who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord gives freedom to the prisoners.” (Ps. 146:5-7)   

 

REFUGEE EXPLAINS MASS CONVERSIONS FROM ISLAM

More and more Muslim refugees have been converting to Christianity in Europe, according to reports from churches. One of the new converts told RT: “I have been spat on, told that I've betrayed Islam, but through what I've learned I can forgive them.”

In Austria there have been at least 300 applications for adult christenings in the first three months of 2016 alone, with up to 70 percent of those said to be refugees, the Guardian reported.

At Berlin's Trinity church the congregation has recently grown from 150 to almost 700, the newspaper said.

In Hamburg more than 80 Muslim refugees from Iran and Afghanistan converted to Christianity and were baptized last week alone, German magazine Stern reported.

“I’ve been spat on, told that I've betrayed Islam. But through what I've learned, I can forgive them,” one man who was recently baptized a Christian told RT in Hamburg.

“Since I became a Christian I fear no one,” a young woman added.

Among the most popular reasons behind the conversion is faith in a new religion, triggered by “lack of freedom” in Islam, and gratitude to Christians offering help to refugees fleeing war-torn countries.

"I've been looking all my life for peace and happiness, but in Islam, I have not found it," Shima, an Iranian refugee, told Stern magazine. "To be a Christian means happiness to me," she added.

"In Islam, we always lived in fear. Fear God, fear of sin, fear of punishment. However, Christ is a God of love," another Iranian refugee, Solmaz, told the German daily.

On the flip side, living in a mostly Muslim community can turn out to be a real challenge for a Christian refugee.

“You can see clearly that conversions are not really taken into consideration as an advantage for accepting an asylum case. We have even seen many cases where Christians have been sent back even if they were Christians already before they came to Europe. The risk is too great for most of them to convert. Traditionally this is punished, at least expulsion from the family up to beatings and even killings against family members who convert,” geopolitical analyst and consultant Rainer Rothfuss told RT.

Migrants dance in front of the railway station during the Germany to spend €93.6bn on refugees until 2020 - report

Opponents of Europe's open-door policy have also voiced their concerns. Many fear that migrants can take advantage of the asylum system by claiming Christianity, hoping that conversion may somehow speed up their asylum applications.

“There are some refugees that have understood that the way Islam is handled in state ideology is part of the political program of the country they have fled. And so if they then want to convert to Christianity this is very welcome of course. But there might be some refugees who learned that conversion to Christianity helps receive the status of asylum. Then of course it may be a different situation and I think all in all there should be a portion of skepticism towards this phenomenon,” Frank Hansel, member of the right-wing Alternative for Germany party, told RT.

Europe is currently facing its worst refugee crisis since World War II. Most asylum seekers arriving on the continent are from the Middle East and particularly Syria, where 250,000 people have been killed and more than 12 million displaced since a civil war began in 2011, according to UN figures.

Last year alone some 1.8 million asylum-seekers entered the European Union, fleeing war and poverty in Middle-Eastern countries, according to data from the European Union border agency Frontex. Around 1.1 million refugees came to Germany in 2015. (Contributor: By Reuters News Service)

Give thanks for these well-documented accounts. Rev. Franklin Graham said recently, "The god of Islam and the God of the Bible are not the same. The god of Islam wants you to die for him. The God of the Bible sent His Son to die for us.” Muslims coming to Jesus for salvation are leaving a religion of hatred and committing to the true God of love and grace.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:16-19)

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The Informer June 8, 2016

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REPUBLICANS SET TO UNVEIL ELECTION-YEAR POLICY

House Republicans released their election-year agenda Tuesday....

The last agenda, the House GOP’s 2010 Pledge to America, had a decidedly mixed record of success, falling short on vows to repeal Obamacare, balance the budget, freeze hiring of new federal employees, permanently ban taxpayer funding for abortions and enforce sanctions against Iran.

Instead, Republicans settled for half-measures: Lawsuits to try to limit the reach of Obamacare, cuts to Congress’ own budget and investigations into Planned Parenthood’s funding.

“They made good plans, they didn’t make smart pledges. They didn’t have the votes, didn’t have the president,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum and former director of the Congressional Budget Office.

Republicans are hoping for better success this time as they release their 2016 agenda, dubbed “A Better Way.” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan will kick things off Tuesday with an anti-poverty address in the Anacostia neighborhood of the District of Columbia.

Mr. Ryan will discuss national security on Thursday, followed by events in the coming weeks on innovation, the Constitution, tax reform and health care, which should include the GOP’s long-awaited replacement to Obamacare.

“I think what Ryan’s doing is very important,” said former Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose 1994 agenda, the “Contract with America,” helped Republicans retake the House after decades in the minority. “He’s helping start a conversation about solutions rather than just problems. And he is putting the Republican Party in a position of being positive and forward-looking, rather than being ‘anti-.’”

The push comes nearly six years after the GOP unveiled its Pledge to America at a family-owned lumber company in Northern Virginia.

In 45 pages Republicans outlined what they would do after riding a tea party wave to the House majority, from cutting taxes to spur the economy to repealing Obamacare and ensuring that suspected terrorists were tried in military, not civilian, courts.

“We recognize that these solutions are ambitious, and that we are proposing them at a time of intense public district in politicians and the political system,” its drafters wrote at the time.

House Republicans rode the pledge to victory, taking control of the House on the strength of the tea party revolt.

And in the early going, in 2011, conservatives said the signs were positive. GOP leaders had an Obamacare repeal bill on the floor by mid-January, and they pushed to rein in spending after a series of government bailouts and D.C. directives to lift the country out of a recession.

Congress also quickly passed a bill to repeal Obamacare tax-reporting requirements, and approved a short extension of all of the Bush-era tax cuts.

“There was an active effort to take on President Obama and secure conservative policy victories. The problem is, beyond that point, they seemed to retrench and shy away from direct confrontation,” said Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action, a conservative pressure group.

Yet 2011 “sequester” caps on federal spending have been loosened repeatedly, and the GOP’s pledge to cut off Obamacare funding yielded mixed results — a wholesale push led to a government shutdown in 2013, though a piecemeal attack on reimbursements to insurers resulted in a federal court victory last month.

Republicans retook the Senate in 2015, but the party still struggled to exact conservative victories, as Mr. Obama vetoed a fast-track bill to repeal his signature health care law and defund Planned Parenthood over its abortion practice.

Conservatives say Republican leaders in Congress failed to use the tool the Constitution gives them — the power of the purse — to force concessions from the president.

“There was never any real effort to defund Planned Parenthood,” Mr. Holler said. “The real effort would have happened on the funding bill.”

Other 2010 pledges left unfulfilled were to rein in Mr. Obama’s expansive regulations on U.S. businesses and to make all of the Bush-era tax cuts permanent.

By contrast, the 1994 Republican “Contract with America,” spearheaded by Mr. Gingrich, led to a series of balanced budgets and even prodded President Bill Clinton into signing an overhaul of welfare.

Mr. Gingrich, however, cautioned against comparing the 2010 pledges to the 1994 contract, saying Republicans now are working in the shadow of the Obama presidency, without the tools to rein him in.

Now Mr. Ryan, who accepted the speaker’s gavel after intraparty fighting nudged Speaker John A. Boehner out last fall, wants to enter the post-Obama era as the “party of ideas.”

“Let’s face it: People know what Republicans are against. Now we are giving you a plan that shows you what we are for,” the speaker said over the weekend.

Mr. Ryan said he endorsed Donald Trump, the de facto GOP presidential nominee, last week because the billionaire businessman would help turn the House policy agenda into “laws to help improve people’s lives.”

But Mr. Ryan has advanced his agenda independently of Mr. Trump, and analysts like Mr. Holtz-Eakin say it should give down-ballot Republicans a platform to stand on outside of Mr. Trump’s orbit. (Contributor: By Tom Howell Jr. for The Washington Times)

Since its inception more than 40 years ago, IFA has encouraged non-political prayer and fervent intercession for our nation. From 1976, we have prayerfully participated in 10 presidential election cycles, and we have never violated our mandate. Politically, things are murky in our nation just now, and spiritually confused. Intercessors, keep praying for God’s glory and purpose to prevail.

“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. For who is God, except the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?” (Ps. 18:30-31)

 

THE FATAL SICKNESS OF FREE STUFF

Socialism always triggers a downward spiral.

The U.S. economy has been going nowhere for seven years, and there are increasing fears that it is going into a recession with only 38,000 jobs being created last month. At the same time, Venezuela, the country with the largest oil reserves on the planet, is sinking into economic chaos. None of this need happen. The disease is the same — only the fever is higher in Venezuela.

Politicians, at least going back to ancient Rome (with its bread and circuses), quickly understood that they could buy temporary support from the people if they were promised “free stuff.” As Margaret Thatcher famously said: “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” The Obama administration, realizing it could not get major tax and spending proposals through Congress, resorted to sleight of hand by lying about the true costs of many of their programs, notably Obamacare. They also used various regulations to enhance their control over the economy without doing serious cost-benefit analysis, which has resulted in a massive misallocation of resources. Some estimates now show the costs of regulations have exceeded the cost of the tax system. And perhaps most destructive of all, they followed near-zero interest rate policies (in part to disguise the true cost of the government debt) that hit savers with what is, in effect, a huge tax increase to finance this scheme. A saver who used to expect perhaps 3 percent on savings, above the rate of inflation, now receives less than the rate of inflation (which is the same as a tax increase). This again has resulted in a massive misallocation of resources from productive to less- or non-productive activities that destroy economic growth and job creation.

The amazing and disappointing fact is that every student or even casual observer of socialism knows that it always fails because it destroys the incentives for hard work, creativity and initiative. Most countries that have tried it end up as thuggish places because more and more coercion is required to control the people. Sixty years ago, Cuba and Venezuela were the richest counties on the Caribbean and were only exceeded by Argentina in per capita income in Latin America.

During the past 60 years, the United States has had real growth of about 3 percent per year — respectable but not spectacular. Poorer developing countries normally grow at a faster rate until their per capita incomes begin to reach the levels of the rich countries, at which point growth tends to slow. The accompanying table contains data of several countries that undertook very different economic policies. The numbers show their per capita income change relative to that of the United States over the 60-year period. Chile, for example, had a per-capita income of only about 23 percent of the U.S. back in 1955, but now has a per-capita income of about 42 percent. For the first half of the period, Chile did not have a coherent set of economic policies, including several years of Marxist economics, and actually became poorer relative to the U.S. But for the last 30 years, Chile has embraced free-market policies within the rule of law, protection of private property and free trade, causing it to grow much faster than the U.S.

Cuba, the darling of the left, has become relatively poorer compared to the United States and almost all of Latin America, with a total loss of civil liberties. And the many naive swallow the Kool-Aid and overlook the continuing disaster. Sixty years ago, South Korea by contrast was desperately poor, much poorer than Cuba or Venezuela, but now is a rich country with a per-capita income 65 percent of the U.S. This miracle was achieved by embracing free-market economics.

Sweden and Switzerland were both high-income developed countries 60 years ago, but while Sweden built a comprehensive welfare state, Switzerland maintained a smaller government approach. The Swedish model ran into difficulty in the 1980s and 1990s, so the level-headed Swedes partially reversed course by reducing tax rates and the relative size of government, including instituting a voucher system for education and Chilean-like largely private social security system, which enabled them to grow again. The smaller government Swiss model worked even better, allowing them to overtake the U.S. in per capita income.

And finally back to Venezuela, which grew rapidly on the basis of oil revenues, and by 1978 per capita incomes were almost 70 percent of those in the United States. But as a result of welfare statism and socialism, its relative incomes are back where they were 60 years ago, the stores are empty and people are hungry.

Socialism has at least a two-century unblemished record of untold human misery. Yet in the eyes of all too many, including much of the press, the romance of the idea dwarfs the reality. Prosperity and freedom can only flourish when the majority stands up to those who advocate the childlike fantasy of socialism. (Contributor: By Richard W. Rahn for The Washington Times - Richard W. Rahn is on the board of the American Council for Capital Formation and is chairman of Improbable Success Productions.)

Read again the first sentence of the article’s final paragraph: “Socialism has at least a two-century record of untold human misery.” It is clear from history that socialism serves its leaders but makes slaves out of the general population. It breeds dictators rather than leaders who serve. It rises from ignorance of God’s Word. Pray for a resurgence of godly servant-leaders in the Church.

“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (Mt. 20:25-28 NIV)

 

HILLARY AND THE 'WHAT IF' SCENARIOS

Some believe that soon after Tuesday's final presidential primaries the FBI will interview Hillary Clinton about her handling of emails while she was secretary of state. What comes next is the subject of much speculation.

One of the better speculators is Bradley Blakeman, who served as a member of President George W. Bush's White House staff.

We spoke in the "green room" at Fox News before our separate interviews. The following is culled from our conversation.

Blakeman says the FBI has deliberately waited to interview Hillary Clinton until after the primaries because the bureau did not want to interfere with the nominating process. He thinks the FBI is "likely" to recommend to the Department of Justice whether or not she should be indicted for violating what she says are agency rules and what others call the law between now and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, which begins July 25.

If she is indicted before the convention, Blakeman says, it will give the party an opportunity to make changes in the rules that could result in an alternate nominee.

Here is the intriguing part about Blakeman's scenario: "If a grand jury is empaneled, or if she were to be indicted before the convention, the Democrats would have to let her go." If an indictment were to come after the convention, he says, it presents a different problem because each state needs to certify their ballots before November. If an indictment occurs after the states have certified their ballots, it would be nearly impossible to replace Hillary Clinton with another candidate.

Here's where things might get even more interesting. In states where ballots have been certified, the party would have to go to court to ask that Clinton's name be replaced. "They also have another problem," says Blakeman. "Once the convention ends, how do they reconvene to substitute Hillary? They have no rules for that."

What if a court denies a ballot change? Blakeman says the Supreme Court would almost certainly have to decide. That might look to many like a replay of the 2000 election in which the court certified Florida's vote count, awarding the state's electoral votes -- and the election -- to George W. Bush.

But what if the court -- with its one vacancy -- divides 4-4? In that case, the lower court ruling would prevail and if that court decided to strike Hillary Clinton's name from the ballot, a write-in would be the only option.

"Timing is not on Hillary's side," says Blakeman, who thinks "the silver lining for Hillary is that, if she were indicted, there is no doubt Obama would pardon her on January 19 as he walks out the door. She will never have to answer for her crimes."

What about any others who might be indicted, such as top aides Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills? If they are indicted, but not pardoned by the president, will they go public? It's the stuff of big book contracts.

Should any of these scenarios prove true, as Blakeman thinks they might, President Obama, unlike President Ford and his pardon of Richard Nixon, will never have to face the voters and be held accountable for his action.

In this unpredictable election season, any one -- or all -- of these scenarios are possibilities, including the ultimate scenario: the delegates turning to Vice President Joe Biden to save them from Hillary and defeat in November. (Contributor: By Cal Thomas for Town Hall)

IFA’s ministry is not speculative. We use these news articles to encourage prayer that God will fulfill His purposes for our nation through His providential guidance among the “players” on the national stage. Rees Howells, intercessor of the last century, said, “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” Pray for a “great awakening” in the Church to lead the nation back to God.

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” (Isa. 59:1-2)   

 

PRAYING FOR RIGHTEOUS GOVERNMENT

“Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psa. 127:1)  In this season of fervent political activity, Christians need to keep these words firmly in mind. God will decide who becomes president of the United States, as well as who succeeds in obtaining other offices. It is His universe, His power, and His right (Daniel 2:21).

But He will decide based upon our prayers – their fervency, frequency, and the number of those who care enough to pray. Scriptures that attest to this are Isa 62:6-9 and James 5:16-18. Does God, who is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35), care more for Jerusalem than for the United States wherein there are a thousand times as many Christians?

Satan attacked this country viciously in 1960 when he put in the heart of professional atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair the idea of removing God from every public school in our country. The U.S. Supreme Court was likewise influenced; God was ordered out and He left. Look at our public schools today, and much of the fruit of them. The attack continues because for nearly two centuries the United States was the engine of salvation for the world, giving more money and sending more missionaries than all the rest of the nations in the world combined. Destroy America and that effort may cease so that millions who might otherwise have heard the Gospel face entering the lake of fire rather than the joy of the Lord. “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psa. 11:3). This is no accident, what is happening to our country today. This is war.

It is hard to believe that God’s perfect will is to destroy us. But our prayers will determine the outcome. If we are indifferent, God may conclude that we haven’t been chastened enough. If we are united, fervent, and consistent in seeking His will, He may be pleased to deliver us. In the latter case, if further destruction be our lot, we will at least know that we sought righteous government consistent with His will. We can be confident that He will say to us regarding this, “Well done.” (Contributor: By Jim Kohlmann, IFA Florida State Director)

“Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psa. 127:1)

 

ADMIRAL WARNS: RUSSIAN SUBS WAGING COLD WAR-STYLE ‘BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC’

Russia has stepped up its submarine operations and is regularly probing U.S. anti-submarine networks in a new “Battle of the Atlantic,” the commander of U.S. 6th Fleet said.

In an article for the U.S. Naval Institute’s June issue of Proceedings, Vice Adm. James Foggo III outlined a new era in U.S. and Russian submarine warfare he dubs “The Fourth Battle of the Atlantic.”

In his piece, Foggo compares the current uptick in Russian submarine posture to the great submarine battles between the Allies and the Germans in World War I and World War II and the Soviets and the U.S. during the Cold War.

“Once again, an effective, skilled, and technologically advanced Russian submarine force is challenging us. Russian submarines are prowling the Atlantic, testing our defenses, confronting our command of the seas, and preparing the complex underwater battlespace to give them an edge in any future conflict,” Foggo wrote.

“Not only have Russia’s actions and capabilities increased in alarming and confrontational ways, its national-security policy is aimed at challenging the United States and its NATO allies and partners.”

Since the Russian seizure of Crimea in 2014, Russian Navy surface ships, aircraft and submarines have been much more active in presence operations – particularly the submarines.

Russian officials have been open about increased submarine operations over the last two years. Russian Navy head Adm. Viktor Chirkov said in March of 2015 that submarines operations have increased by 50 percent.

“This is logical and necessary to guarantee the security of the state,” he said at the time in Russian state-controlled press.

While Russian surface ships and aircraft trail behind their U.S. equivalents technologically, Russia has maintained a strong submarine industrial base since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In late 2014, the U.S. officer in charge of the U.S. submarine construction told a conference he was so impressed with the Russian Navy’s new Yassen-class attack submarine he had a model built of the first-in-class attack boat K-329 Severodvinsk.

“We’ll be facing tough potential opponents. One only has to look at the Severodvinsk, Russia’s version of a [nuclear-guided missile submarine] (SSGN),” then-Program Executive Office submarines Vice Adm. Dave Johnson said at the time.

“I am so impressed with this ship that I had [the Navy] build a model from unclassified data.”

In addition to nuclear submarines, the Russians are improving the technological capability of their diesel-electric submarines, including the ability for Russian Kilos to launch long-range Kalibir NK cruise missiles.

“These are the platforms that are the most challenging for us to deal with because of their inherent stealth,” Foggo wrote.

“As demonstrated last December by Kalibr launches into Syria from the Eastern Mediterranean, Russian leaders will use such weapons at will, without the same qualms we have about collateral damage.”

All told, Foggo outlines an “arc of steel” of Russian submarine strength from the Arctic to the Black Sea.

“Combined with extensive and frequent submarine patrols throughout the North Atlantic and the Norwegian Sea, and forward-deployed forces in Syria, Russia has the capability to hold nearly all NATO maritime forces at risk,” he wrote. (Contributor: By Sam LaGrone for USNI News - Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He was formerly the U.S. Maritime Correspondent for the Washington D.C. bureau of Jane’s Defence Weekly and Jane’s Navy International. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.)

An old hymn reminds us, “Nations may rise and nations fall; Thy changeless purpose rules them all.” Is God lining up the nations toward the “final conflict”? Only He knows. Our calling is to spiritual warfare, principally, the ministry of intercession. “Watch and pray,” our Lord said, and the Apostle Paul wrote, “Praying always, with all prayer and supplication …” If we obey, we will be ready.

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—“ (Eph. 6:14-18)

 

MILITARY DISCLOSES AT LEAST 11 TROOPS INFECTED WITH ZIKA VIRUS THIS YEAR

At least 11 U.S. troops have been infected with the Zika virus since January, nearly all of whom traveled to countries where the mosquito-born illness is prevalent, a Pentagon health report published Friday disclosed.

In addition, four dependents of servicemembers — which can include spouses and children — and two military retirees contracted the illness, according to the report. It underscored the risks to military personnel of child-bearing age exposed to the virus during deployments.

A fetus infected with the Zika virus during the first three months of pregnancy has about a 1% to 13% chance of developing microcephaly, an abnormally small head usually caused by incomplete brain development, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among the 17 infected are four women, though none were pregnant, said Dr. Jose Sanchez, deputy chief of Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch.

Troops suffering from the Zika were four soldiers, three Airmen, a Marine and three members of the Coast Guard, according to Sanchez. The first confirmed case was diagnosed in late January, the report said.

Fifteen of the 17 had traveled to South America or the Caribbean. They included four who visited Columbia, three who went to the Dominican Republic and three who visited Puerto Rico. One person had traveled to Brazil, which is dealing with a Zika epidemic.

"It is a fair assumption that the military is at higher risk for mosquito-borne infections," said Amesh Adalja, a senior associate the Center for Health Security at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  "The military is stationed all over the world and often have prolonged outdoor exposure, enhancing the likelihood they will be bitten."

The military should make sure that servicemembers and their families "are made completely aware of the risks and the measures required to protect themselves from both mosquito and sexual transmission," Adalja said. "Mosquito repellents for troops in active Zika zones will be essential, as will minimizing standing water mosquito breeding sites on military bases.

The Pentagon this year ordered heightened monitoring for certain mosquito species at military installations in 27 states and the District of Columbia in response to the Zika virus crisis, according to Military Times. The Pentagon called for monitoring, trapping, testing and eliminating water sources as breeding grounds, the newspaper reported.

The Pentagon also offered to relocate family members of active-duty personnel and civilian Defense Department employees assigned to regions at higher risk for infecting people with the virus, Military Times reported.

More than 600 people in the continental U.S. have been infected with Zika, including 195 pregnant women. All of those cases were related to travel. More than 1,100 cases of Zika, including 146 involving pregnant women, have been detected in the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the disease is spreading among local mosquitoes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The true number of Zika cases could be much higher. Only about 20% of people infected with Zika have symptoms, which can include fever, rash, joint pain, pink eye and headache.

Zika is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito species, found in much of the southern U.S., as well as the Americas, Africa  and Asia. Scientists say it's possible that Zika also may be spread by the Aedes albopictus, whose range stretches as far north as New England, according to the CDC.

The people at highest risk from the Zika virus are pregnant women because the virus can cause devastating birth defects in fetuses, according to CDC director Thomas Frieden. The CDC encourages pregnant women to avoid traveling to areas with Zika outbreaks.

Infected men also can spread Zika through vaginal, oral or anal sex, according to the CDC. It’s not known if infected women can pass the virus to men.

The CDC has issued guidance to help reduce the risk of sexual transmission.

If a man has had a possible Zika exposure and has a pregnant partner, he should wear condoms or abstain from sex for the duration of the woman’s pregnancy, according to the CDC.

If a man has had symptoms of Zika, he should consider using condoms or abstaining from sex for six months, according to the CDC.

Men who have traveled to a Zika-affected area, but who have not had symptoms, should consider using condoms or abstaining from sex for eight weeks, according to the CDC.

Women who’ve traveled to Zika-affected areas should delay trying to get pregnant until eight weeks after their symptoms start; if they don’t have symptoms, they should avoid trying to conceive for eight weeks after being exposed. (Contributor: By Greg Zoroya and Liz Szabo for USA Today)

While we have no explanation or analysis as to why this plague-like epidemic is spreading from Brazil to other nations, including our own, we do know from Scripture and history that God is in control and has used such events to draw entire people-groups to Himself. We can pray for healing and for God’s mercy in giving science researchers a vaccine. And our U.S. military always needs our prayers.

“As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” (Ps. 103:13-18)

 

SMUGGLING NETWORK GUIDED ILLEGALS FROM MIDDLE EAST TERROR HOTBEDS TO U.S.

A smuggling network has managed to sneak illegal immigrants from Middle Eastern terrorism hotbeds straight to the doorstep of the U.S., including helping one Afghan who authorities say was part of an attack plot in North America.

Immigration officials have identified at least a dozen Middle Eastern men smuggled into the Western Hemisphere by a Brazilian-based network that connected them with Mexicans who guided them to the U.S. border, according to internal government documents reviewed by The Washington Times.

Those smuggled included Palestinians, Pakistanis and the Afghan man who Homeland Security officials said had family ties to the Taliban and was “involved in a plot to conduct an attack in the U.S. and/or Canada.” He is in custody, but The Times is withholding his name at the request of law enforcement to protect investigations.

Some of the men handled by the smuggling network were nabbed before they reached the U.S., but others made it into the country. The Afghan man was part of a group of six from “special-interest countries.”

The group, guided by two Mexicans employed by the smuggling network, crawled under the border fence in Arizona late last year and made it about 15 miles north before being detected by border surveillance, according to the documents, which were obtained by Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican.

Law enforcement asked The Times to withhold the name of the smuggling network.

It’s unclear whether the network succeeded in sneaking other “special interest” illegal immigrants by border officials, but the documents obtained by Mr. Hunter confirm fears of a pipeline that can get would-be illegal immigrants from terrorist hotbeds to the threshold of the U.S.

Just as troubling, the Border Patrol didn’t immediately spot the Afghan man’s terrorist ties because the database that agents first checked didn’t list him. It wasn’t until agents checked an FBI database that they learned the Afghan may be a danger, the documents say.

“It’s disturbing, in so many ways,” said Joe Kasper, Mr. Hunter’s chief of staff. “The interdiction of this group … validates once again that the southern border is wide open to more than people looking to enter the U.S. illegally strictly for purposes of looking for work, as the administration wants us to believe. What’s worse, federal databases weren’t even synced and Border Patrol had no idea who they were arresting and the group was not considered a problem because none of them were considered a priority under the president’s enforcement protocol. That’s a major problem on its own, and it calls for DHS to figure out the problem — and fast.”

Mr. Hunter wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson this week demanding answers about the breakdowns in the process.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the chief agency charged with sniffing out smuggling networks, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol and initially failed to find the terrorist connections, declined to comment. Homeland Security, which oversees both agencies, didn’t provide an answer either.

The group of six men nabbed inside the U.S. — the Afghan and five men identified as Pakistanis — all made asylum claims when they were eventually caught by the Border Patrol. Mr. Hunter said his understanding is that the five men from Pakistan were released based on those claims and have disappeared.

The government documents reviewed by The Times didn’t say how much the smugglers charged but did detail some of their operation.

Would-be illegal immigrants were first identified by a contact in the Middle East, who reported them to the smuggling network in Brazil. That network then arranged their travel up South America and through Central America, where some of them were nabbed by U.S. allies.

In the case of the Afghan man with terrorist ties, he was smuggled from Brazil through Peru, then Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.

He was caught near a ranch 15 miles into the U.S. after his group’s movements were detected by one of the Border Patrol’s trucks. He told agents his group had crawled under the border fence near Nogales.

In the documents obtained by Mr. Hunter, Homeland Security officials said they considered the case a victory because it showed how they can use apprehensions on the southwest border to trace smuggling networks back to their sources.

But the documents had worrying signs as well. When agents first ran the man through the Terrorist Screening Database, he didn’t show up as a danger. Indeed, KNXV-TV in Arizona reported in November that authorities said “records checks revealed no derogatory information about the individuals.”

That turns out not to be true, according to the documents. The Afghan man was listed in the FBI’s Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database as having suspect relations.

Mr. Hunter told Mr. Johnson that the discrepancy between the databases was troubling.

The government documents also said some of the special-interest aliens caught at the border were previously identified by authorities in other Latin American countries — but had different sets of biometric identifiers associated with them. That raised questions about whether those countries are sharing accurate information with the U.S.

Networks capable of smuggling potential terrorists have long been a concern, but the Obama administration tamped down those worries, arguing that the southwest border wasn’t a likely route for operatives.

Still, evidence has mounted over the past couple of years, including a smuggling ring that sneaked four Turkish men with ties to a U.S.-designated terrorist group into the U.S. in 2014. They paid $8,000 apiece to be smuggled from Istanbul through Paris to Mexico City, where they were stashed in safe houses before being smuggled to the border.

At the time, Mr. Johnson said the men were part of a group fighting the Islamic State and questioned whether they should have even been designated as part of a terrorist group.

But behind the scenes Mr. Johnson’s agents were at work trying to roll up smuggling rings under an action dubbed Operation Citadel.

Lev Kubiak, assistant director at ICE Homeland Security Investigations’ international operations branch, testified to Congress this year that Operation Citadel resulted in 210 criminal arrests in 2015. One part of the effort, known as Operation Lucero, dismantled 14 human smuggling routes, including some operations designed to move people from the Eastern Hemisphere to Latin America and then into the U.S., he said. (Contributor: By Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times)

Most of us know the meaning of “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” In this case, we can either give thanks for an apprehended terrorist or be concerned that he wasn’t caught sooner. Meanwhile, our beloved nation limps from crisis to crisis because it is broken and weighed down by corporate sin (abortion), a flagging economy (few new jobs), and increasing deficits.  Where to turn but to God?

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23)

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The Informer June 1, 2016

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NUMBER ONE CONCERN: IS TRUMP A MAN OF HIS WORD?

The number one concern: Is Trump a man of his word?

Donald Trump in baseball capDonald Trump will be the Republican candidate for president in 2016 – and evangelicals are trying to find a way to make peace with that.

The healing is set to begin on June 21 when about 500 evangelical leaders will meet with Donald Trump in New York City. Among them will be Christian apologist and radio talk-show host Dr. Alex McFarland, who says evangelicals want first of all to know Trump is a man of his word.

"The number-one thing that I, as a conservative, want to hear is that some of his promises will be held true through an administration, if he is elected," McFarland shares with OneNewsNow.

As a former Democrat and pro-abortion candidate, Trump will have something to prove to the group. He says he's now pro-life, although he's had a couple of "misstatements" on that subject. He's more liberal than most evangelicals on gender and sexuality issues, although he says he doesn't support same-sex "marriage." And he's had to walk back a couple of statements on religious freedom.

Consequently, McFarland says he'll be looking for strong comments by Trump on "protecting the free-speech rights of Christians [and] our strong defense of morality and marriage, [America's] relationship with the nation of Israel, strong national defense, and of course the economy."

The religion and culture expert says many evangelicals ding Trump for some of his less-than-Christian traits. "They fear that Donald Trump is driven by ego; [that] he's a narcissist, he's a man who's proud of his accomplishments," he offers. "I want to say that may definitely work in the nation's favor."

He argues that the White House needs someone who will not accept second place and will go hard after – in the candidate's words – "Making America Great Again." McFarland also says Trump can help his cause by surrounding himself with good people.

"The name first and foremost in my mind, at least, as part of the 'brain trust' if not a VP pick, might be Mike Huckabee," McFarland suggests. (Rankings: Trump's top 10 VP picks, The Hill)

In a recent OneNewsNow poll, readers were asked what two questions they would ask Trump at next month's meeting with evangelical leaders. The top two answers align closely with issues mentioned by McFarland: "Why is religious freedom central to American values?" and "Why is America's relationship with Israel crucial?" (Contributor: By Steve Jordahl for One News Now)

The proposed meeting lacks universal agreement among evangelicals, with differences on both sides as to the propriety and value of such a gathering. Pray that conflicting viewpoints might be shelved so as to find a sufficient level of agreement for a polite and candid exchange, plus a unified witness to Mr. Trump. Pray that the leaders will remember that help for America must come from the Lord.  

“Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help … whose hope [instead] is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth … Who keeps truth forever … the Lord gives freedom to the prisoners.” (Ps. 146:3, 5-7)

LONG-DREADED SUPERBUG FOUND IN HUMAN AND ANIMAL IN U.S.

The antibiotic resistance factor MCR, which protects bacteria against the final remaining drugs of last resort, has been found in the United States for the first time—in a person, and separately, in a stored sample taken from a slaughtered pig.

Department of Defense researchers disclosed Thursday in a report placed online by the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy that a 49-year-old woman who sought medical care at a military-associated clinic in Pennsylvania last month, with what seemed to be a urinary tract infection, was carrying a strain of E. coli that possessed resistance to a wide range of drugs. That turned out to be because the organism carried 15 different genes conferring antibiotic resistance, clustered on two “mobile elements” that can move easily among bacteria. One element included the new, dreaded gene mcr-1.

The discovery “heralds the emergence of truly pan-drug resistant bacteria,” the DOD personnel, Patrick McGann, PhD of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and Kurt Schaecher, PhD of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, along with eight colleagues, write in the journal report.

Dr. Beth Bell, director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the CDC has begun working with the researchers and the Pennsylvania Department of Health to understand how the woman came to be carrying the highly resistant  bacterium. (Later Thursday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf confirmed the case, and the CDC joint investigation, in a statement.) The DOD researchers who described her case, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, provided no other information on her case, except to say that she had not traveled in the previous five months, suggesting she did not pick up the bacterium outside the U.S.

“It is extremely concerning; this is potentially a sentinel event,” Bell said in a phone interview. “There is a lot that needs to be done in terms of contact tracing and field investigation, to have a sense of who else might have been exposed or might be carrying this resistant bacterium.”

Bell disclosed that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will shortly announce the first identification of MCR in the United States in an animal. It was found in a stored sample of pig intestine that was collected as part of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, a shared project of the CDC, USDA and Food and Drug Administration that looks for resistant foodborne bacteria in people, animals and meat.

“We have been intentionally looking for this since MCR was first announced,” she said.

The Department of Health and Human Services subsequently confirmed the pig finding in a blog post Thursday afternoon.

The existence of MCR was reported for the first time just last November, in a report by British and Chinese researchers who said they had found the gene in people, animals and meat in several areas of China. Subsequently it has been found in people, animals or meat in at least 20 countries across the world.

MCR is so troubling because it confers protection against colistin, the last remaining antibiotic that works against a broad family of bacteria that have already acquired resistance to all the other antibiotics used against them. Colistin has worked up to this point because it is a toxic drug from the early days of the antibiotic era, seldom prescribed because of its side effects; because it was used so infrequently, bacteria had not adapted to it. But because it is effective, if harsh, agriculture adopted it instead, using it widely and legally for prevention of diseases in food animals. By the time medicine discovered it needed the drug back, resistance to colistin was already moving from agriculture into the human world.

Colistin is not actually used in animals in the United States, though it has been approved for use by the FDA. That makes the arrival of colistin resistance a mystery that will have to be plumbed through genetic sequencing.

Advocates who track antibiotic resistance, especially in agriculture, reacted to the news of US colistin resistance with the gravity it deserves.

“This shows that we are right on the verge of getting into the territory of routine bacterial infections being untreatable,” Steven Roach, the food safety program director at the Food Animal Concerns Trust, said by phone. “It underscores the failure of both the federal government and Congress, and the industry, to get a grasp of the problem. We can’t continue to drag our feet on taking needed action.”

The Pennsylvania woman’s diagnosis occurred thanks to a system set up within the DOD after MCR was discovered. Since last fall, any E. coli that was already resistant to a family of drugs known as ESBLs (extended-spectrum beta-lactams), as hers was, has been sent up the chain to Walter Reed, to be scrutinized for colistin resistance. That kind of systematic checking for antibiotic resistance, known as active surveillance, is rare in the United States. Most civilian surveillance systems are patchy; they focus only on foodborne illnesses, or rely on physicians or labs to report diagnoses, or draw from a few state health departments with already well-funded labs.

“This shows how much we need comprehensive surveillance, so that things are not discovered by accident,” Bell said. The CDC recently received additional funding under the Obama Administration’s national strategy for antibiotic resistance that will allow it to begin to set up regional lab networks. “We’ll be able to identify things systematically, identify clusters and begin contact investigations quickly,” she said.

“The first known case of MCR-1 in a U.S. patient underscores the urgent need for better surveillance and stewardship programs to combat antibiotic resistance,” agreed Dr. David Hyun, an infectious-disease specialist who is a senior officer in a long-running antibiotic resistance project at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

If there is any good news in the announcements of MCR’s appearance in the United States, it is that it has not, as yet, combined with other resistance genes into a completely untreatable organism. Bacteria acquire resistance genes like gamblers amassing a hand of cards, but the way the “cards” arrive is not step-wise—bad resistance, and then worse resistance, and then the worst—but randomly. What that means, in this case, is that the Pennsylvania E. coli possesses ESBL resistance (bad) and colistin resistance (worst)—but it remains susceptible to other intervening categories of drugs. (The stored pig sample has a yet different resistance pattern, colistin plus what is known as ASSuT, for the drug families represented by ampicillin, streptomycin, sulfas and tetracycline.)

But the random roulette of bacterial genetic recombination makes it more likely that an untreatable combination—of, for instance, colistin resistance plus carbapenem resistance, which the CDC has previously called “nightmare bacteria”—might occur. In fact, it already has occurred in patients in China, where MCR was first identified.

“We’re one step closer to carbapenem-resistant and colistin-resistant E. coli  bumping into each other in someone’s gut,” Lance Price, a molecular biologist and the director of the Antibiotic Resistance Action Center at George Washington University, said by phone. “It doesn’t matter in which direction the transfer takes place—if the carbapenem-resistant strain picks up colistin resistance, or if the colistin-resistant strain picks up carbapenem resistance. It’s double jeopardy.”

Once bacteria begin to collect resistance to multiple families of antibiotics, the speed and direction of their spread becomes hard to predict, because using any of the antibiotics to which they are resistant allows them to increase in number. (Not because the drugs affect the resistant bugs—they don’t—but because they kill susceptible organisms nearby, freeing up additional living space and food.) That makes it crucial to create surveillance systems that can identify them early.

The Department of Defense system that detected the Pennsylvania organism is a model for how surveillance ought to be carried out, Price said: “We need active surveillance for multi-drug resistant or high-priority resistant organisms, in animals and people, throughout the U.S.” (Contributor: By Maryn McKenna for National Geographic)

Those who do research and those who report in this field have been telling us for several years that some sort of “crisis time” is coming with the growing cycle of resistance between the so-called “super bugs” and the increasingly powerful drugs to fight such infestations. Intercessors, please pray for providential mercy toward our country. Pray for a nationwide turning back to God.

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23)

5 SURPRISING INSIGHTS ON THE SUPREME COURT'S UPCOMING ABORTION CASE

One current Supreme Court case stands at the center of the abortion debate in America — Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a legal challenge brought by Texas abortion providers claiming state safety regulations of abortion centers are "unconstitutional."

State Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, who authored the Texas pro-life law under scrutiny, has seen conflict erupt nationally over what she calls "common sense medical safety standards." On May 16, Laubenberg briefed the national prayer coalition Texas Loves Life via conference call.

"The coalition Texas Loves Life exists solely to pray for the Supreme Court, believing for life to be upheld as the court considers this important Texas pro-life law," says Matt Lockett of Bound4LIFE International. "We are thrilled to have Representative Laubenberg share her considerable expertise with people of faith who stand on the power of prayer."

Recent coalition conference calls, primarily featuring pro-life leaders in Texas, are available online and reveal surprising insights into this ongoing court case.

  1. According to a leading survey, the Texas law has saved 40,000 lives since enacted.

Formerly an abortion clinic director, Carol Everett now serves as president of The Heidi Group — one of the state's largest pregnancy care center networks.

"We recently surveyed our network of 183 life-affirming pregnancy centers in Texas, who reported increases as high as 300 percent of women using our ultrasound and other services," said Everett.

She continued, "Working from that detailed survey, we estimate at least 40,000 lives have been saved in Texas since HB 2 was enacted in 2013."

  1. This case is about whether the abortion industry should have any regulations.

Recognizing the importance of this case, 174 members of the U.S. Congress signed on to an amicus brief in support of the Texas pro-life law. Zach West, legal counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee and lead author of the brief, addressed pro-life prayer leaders on one of the first calls.

"This is the first case in about ten years that is significant to abortion policy; the last major case was in 2007," reported West. "We're going to see if the Supreme Court is actually serious in the language it has used in the past, indicating that the abortion industry is not free and immune from health regulations."

West summed up the key question before the Supreme Court: "Can the abortion industry be regulated, or are they untouchable? This law isn't asking very much. The state legislature should be able to determine whether abortion providers are excepted from health laws that protect women."

  1. Planned Parenthood has been staging events in Texas to sway public opinion.

Paul Nelson, who leads a weekly pro-life prayer gathering at the World Prayer Center in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, relayed headlines he has seen in Texas media on the latest conference call.

"Cecile Richards, the President of Planned Parenthood, has not backed down at all. She has been here in Texas, stirring up people to try to shift public opinion against this pro-life law. She has been working hard on behalf of the views she holds," said Nelson.

News accounts confirm a recent San Antonio rally benefiting Planned Parenthood, as well as several interviews Richards has provided to Texas-based media outlets.

Nelson also noted: "I'm thankful for Bound4LIFE, which rallied us back into formation to pray for this case. The battle is not over."

  1. Clinics have shut down because they chose economic benefit over patient safety.

"All the way up to the Supreme Court, pro-abortion groups are challenging these basic health and safety standards," recounted Nicole Hudgens, policy analyst for state-based group Texas Values, referring to the battle over HB 2.

"The real reason why abortion clinics are shutting down in Texas is because the clinics and the abortionists are choosing economic benefit over women's health and safety," she stated.

Hudgens continued, "We care about the child in the womb, but we also care about the mother who is carrying that child. That's why this law is so important. We at Texas Values know this law, fully enacted, will help prevent another woman from dying in a sub-standard abortion facility."

  1. Once before, Justice Kennedy changed his vote at the last minute on a crucial case.

Allan Parker, President of The Justice Foundation, recalled 1992 abortion policy case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, saying, "Shortly after oral argument, the justices meet again together and take a preliminary vote. On that day in 1992, Justice Anthony Kennedy initially voted with the majority to reverse Roe v. Wade and eliminate abortion as a constitutional right."

"After the vote is taken, then the justices begin to write their opinions. This is the phase that the current court is in," Parker continued. "The judges are free to change their minds; something in the written documents may alter their thinking or discussion of the justices may lead to consensus."

About the 1992 case, Parker concluded, "Several months after Casey was argued, Justice Kennedy changed his mind. He did not go back all the way to upholding abortion as an absolute right — which is actually what they're asking him to do in this case, to strike down all state regulations on abortion. Kennedy changed, and all of the justices are allowed to do that until the decision is announced."

The eight Supreme Court justices continue to deliberate this case, with a decision expected to be released by the end of June. National pro-life and prayer groups have participated in the Texas Loves Life coalition, including 40 Days for Life, Students for Life of America and United Cry. (Contributor: By Josh M. Shepherd for Christian Post)

The prayer focus here is clear to us all. We are grateful for the tenacity of many intercessors who have pledged before God that they will not stop praying until the scourge of abortion is seen for what it is. The truth is a reality that so many refuse to face, that “abortion stops a beating heart” and that “the ‘fetus’ is a child, not a choice.” Please continue to intercede.

“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” (Isa. 55:6-7)  

OFFICIALS IN 12 STATES TO SUE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

Officials in 12 states, including Texas, say they will sue the White House over its new transgender directive in schools, once again pitting the Lone Star State against an administration they have relished fighting.

Three individual school districts and a number of states joined Texas' federal lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas and obtained by CNN. Joining Texas are Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia. Two school districts in Arizona, one school district in Texas and Maine Gov. Paul LePage are also listed as plaintiffs.

Mississippi intends to join the other states in suing the White House, Gov. Phil Bryant said Thursday.

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the state's attorney general, Ken Paxton, would challenge the controversial order, which tells school district to allow transgender students to use the restroom of their choice. No other details were immediately available Wednesday about the number of states joining in on the suit. Abbott announced the litigation in a tweet.

Abbott, a former state attorney general himself, has made his lawsuits against the Obama administration a touchstone of his political profile. The state is currently awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Obama administration's executive actions on immigration.

Obama has defended the directive as a measure to prevent bullying for "vulnerable" students.

"I think that is part of our obligation as a society to make sure that everybody is treated fairly, and our kids are loved, and protected, and their dignity is affirmed," he told BuzzFeed News in an interview last week.

The nonbinding guidance was distributed jointly by the Departments of Education and Justice earlier this month. (Contributor: By Theodore Schleifer for CNN)

We continue to follow this story with heart-felt prayers. We touched on it last week, and the momentum continues. May God grant mercy and give persevering grace to these state officials as they seek to overturn this push by President Obama and his administration to force an “unnatural” blurring of sexual and gender identity on schools. Intercede that this momentum be reversed.

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20)

ZIKA FEARS PROMPT 125 PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERTS TO CALL FOR OLYMPICS TO BE MOVED FROM RIO

A group of 125 prominent scientists, doctors and medical ethicists released a letter calling for this summer's Olympic Games to be postponed or moved from Rio de Janeiro due to the ongoing Zika virus outbreak in Brazil.

In a letter directed to World Health Organization Director Dr. Margaret Chan, the group said that new findings about the Zika virus should result in the games being moved or postponed to safeguard the thousands of athletes, staff and reporters scheduled to attend the games.

"Currently, many athletes, delegations, and journalists are struggling with the decision of whether to participate in the Rio 2016 Games," the group wrote. "We agree with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommendation that workers should 'Consider delaying travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission'. If that advice were followed uniformly, no athlete would have to choose between risking disease and participating in a competition that many have trained for their whole lives."

New information about the Zika virus was cited by the group in the letter as an additional reason to postpone or move the games. The disease has been found to cause the birth defect microcephaly in pregnant women and has also been linked to an immunological reaction called Guillain-Barré syndrome.

"That while Zika’s risk to any single individual is low, the risk to a population is undeniably high. Currently, Brazil’s government reports 120,000 probable Zika cases, and 1,300 confirmed cases of microcephaly (with another 3,300 under investigation), which is above the historical level of microcephaly," the group said.

The group of experts also pointed out that current mosquito-killing programs in Rio were ineffective and that when they looked at dengue fever, which is spread by the same mosquitoes that spread Zika virus, the infections were up markedly in 2016 compared to the previous two years.

The group also claimed the WHO had a conflict of interest due to a decades-long partnership with the International Olympic Committee and said previous statements by WHO officials have been "troubling."

"To prejudge that 'there's not going to be a lot of problems,' before reviewing this evidence [on Zika virus effects] is extremely inappropriate of WHO, and suggests that a change in leadership may be required to restore WHO's credibility," the group wrote.

The WHO and the International Olympic Committee did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for comment.

Art Caplan, director of the NYU Division of Medical Ethics and co-author of the letter, told ABC News that the group was not alleging any wrongdoing by the WHO or IOC but wanted to bring up these issues to spark a dialogue about the risks involved and encourage health officials unrelated to the Olympics to weigh in.

"What we’re really focused on is can we have transparent, open, frank, televised, out-in-the-open discussion with experts" unconnected to the Olympics, Caplan said. "We think WHO is close to the IOC. ... They work together a lot."

The big fear, Caplan said, is that the giant sporting event will enable the transmission of the virus through infected travelers to other parts of the globe that have yet to be affected by the disease.

"We’re worried about bringing the mosquito back to places it isn’t, like India," Caplan aid. "You have people who will be infected and ... there are people literally coming from everywhere."

Earlier this month, the director of the WHO addressed Zika virus fears amid the Olympics, saying the WHO would not call for the games to be moved but that they were using a "targeted approach" to decrease transmission and warning those most at risk not to visit the country.

"I do share the concern of some athletes and travelers and, as I said, it is very much an individual decision," Chan said at the time. "The role of WHO is to provide them with support so they can make the right decision." (Contributor: By Gillian Mohoney for ABC News)

Because of the planning and hosting the summer Olympic Games, there will be strong resistance to a change of venue from Rio de Janeiro. But the Zika virus is a genuine threat and international travel for the Games will expedite its spread. Pray for individuals involved and governments to make wise decisions to prevent an international epidemic. We need God’s mercy to prevail and protect us all. 

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts….” (Ps. 95: 6-8)

HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS DEFY ATHEISTS, RECITE LORD'S PRAYER AT GRADUATION

It was the best kept secret in East Liverpool, Ohio.

Just moments before the graduation ceremony at East Liverpool High School on Sunday, the senior class gathered in a nearby auditorium. Together, they decided to do something that would make national headlines.

The week before students learned they would no longer be allowed to perform “The Lord’s Prayer” – a graduation tradition dating back some 70 years.

The school district banned the song after the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained that “The Lord’s Prayer” violated the U.S. Constitution and promoted religion.”

Fearing a possible lawsuit, the district dropped the tradition – which seemed to appease the group of perpetually-offended atheists, agnostics and free-thinkers from Wisconsin. You can read more about these loathsome bullies in my best-selling book “God Less America.”

The school district’s decision devastated the entire community -- especially students in the high school’s esteemed music program.

“It breaks my heart,” choir director Lisa Ensinger told me. “Our students are really sad.”

It appeared a cherished tradition would be eradicated to satisfy the bloodlust of a bunch of out-of-town bullies.

And that brings me back to the senior class – gathered in that room last Sunday. They were lining up to march when some of them began talking about that long time tradition – now outlawed.

“Pretty much everyone was in agreement,” senior Bobby Hill told me.

The graduating class had decided to defy the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“The class thought it was wrong that we were being forced to remove it,” Bobby said.

Bobby’s father was sitting in the bleachers inside the gymnasium when he received a text message from his son.

“He told me when and how they were going to do it,” Mr. Hill told me. “I was thrilled to find out.”

Just after the valedictorian welcomed the crowd, the seniors stood to their feet and began committing an act of disobedience.

“Our Father which art in Heaven…”

“I was very proud to see the youth, our future leaders, decide to stand up for what they believed in,” Mr. Hill said. “I can’t lie—I teared up.”

It was an emotional moment – a poignant example of Americans standing up for what they know to be true – for what they know to be right.

“I’ve always taught my two boys to stand up for what you believe is right,” Mr. Hill said. “The same lesson my parents taught me. It doesn’t matter if it’s over religion or something else – take a stand.”

Technically, the graduation class did not break any rules. They were ordered not to sing “The Lord’s Prayer.” The school district did not say anything about reciting “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Clever, kids.

Meanwhile, back in Wisconsin those meddling menaces from the Freedom From Religion Foundation are muttering under the breath, “Curses, foiled again.” (Contributor: By Todd Starnes for Fox News - Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations.)

This is a “good news” story about some students with righteous convictions. Give thanks for this class of high school graduates who would not be silenced. God’s Word is powerful, and He will reward their determination to recite the traditional “Lord’s Prayer” even in the face of atheistic intimidation. Pray that this account will inspire others to stand up for their freedoms.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” (Gal. 5:1)

PLANNED PARENTHOOD CO-OPTS STATE LEGISLATURE TO SUPPRESS FREE SPEECH

Planned Parenthood is sponsoring legislation in California to criminalize the publication of evidence of its business practices, which include harvesting and selling the body parts of aborted babies.

Assembly Bill 1671 would make it a crime to publish confidential conversations with health care providers—even if those conversations disclose criminal activity. Moreover, the bill includes volunteers and independent contractors of abortion clinics as "health care providers." This means anyone who posts a photo or video of an interaction with an abortion clinic employee or volunteer—including clinic escorts—could be prosecuted under the bill. AB 1671 provides for penalties of up to $10,000 per violation and one year in state prison.

Legislative analysts expressed concern that the bill would violate the First Amendment, which "gives the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in democracy." The U.S. Supreme Court has held that "prior restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights."

The original, broader version of the bill, which did not single out health care providers for protection, drew opposition from the California Newspaper Publishers Association and animal rights activists. After the bill was amended to more specifically target anti-abortion investigative activities, these groups withdrew their opposition. Neither the ACLU nor any other civil liberties or journalism organization has voiced opposition.

AB 1671 is a direct attack on the efforts of David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress to expose Planned Parenthood's illegal practice of selling fetal body parts for profit. Since the release of Daleiden's videos, eleven states have voted to defund the nation's largest abortion provider.

"California legislators are willing to trample on the right to free speech to protect Planned Parenthood's financial interests," said Alexandra Snyder, Life Legal Defense Foundation's Executive Director. "AB 1671 violates the First Amendment rights of all Californians and we urge legislators to oppose this unconstitutional bill."

AB 1671 passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee yesterday (May 26, 2016) and appears to be headed to the Assembly floor for a vote. (Contributor: By Alexandra Snyder for Christian Newswire)

Pray against this assault on free speech and truth. Christians preach and teach the Gospel of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. But the Gospel also presents the truth of God’s wrath and judgment on all who will not repent of their sins. Planned Parenthood seeks here to rob the citizens of California of God-given rights. This is dictatorship in the making. Please intercede.  

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.” (Eph. 5:6-7 NIV)

FRANKLIN GRAHAM: WE NEED MORE DANIELS

Evangelist Franklin Graham is proclaiming that the time has come for Christians to see America as their mission field and stand up like the Old Testament prophet, Daniel, did for God’s Truth — and shine His light in an increasingly godless nation.

When the son of the iconic world evangelist, Billy Graham, spoke to a crowd from the steps of the North Dakota State Capitol during his 26th stop on the Decision America Tour in Bismarck, he expressed a grave concern about the next generation of Americans.

"Daniel, in the Bible, lived in one of the most heathen, pagan countries in the world, but became prime minister under seven kings and two empires," the younger Graham shared. "We need Daniels today."

It starts with the youth

Spreading the Old Testament message from the book of Daniel to her students, 7th-grade Bible teacher Lois Johnson from Williston Trinity Christian School, has made it a mission to raise “Daniels” in her classes so that they will “stand up and stand out in a secular society.”

"I just see the need for prayer in our country," said Johnson, who drove four hours to attend the event sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). "I thought it was a great opportunity for our students to experience this, especially since it's such a pivotal year in America."

When others on campus heard that Johnson was going across the state to attend the event, her entire middle school decided to make it a field trip —including many parents and Williston Trinity Christian School Principal Cory Fleck.

"It is very special — in our country — to have this opportunity," expressed Fleck, who joined 3,100 other North Dakotans at the Decision America Tour. "We are also aware that these freedoms could be taken away from us. I think that's why I felt the importance to come here. And if the students don't understand their rights as Americans — and as Christians — we'll be overrun, eventually."

Counting our blessings

Angela Nible, who teaches social studies at Williston, said that it was important for her students to attend a public prayer rally so they could experience exercising their religious freedom as Americans and learn to appreciate how blessed they — and their parents — are to be able to choose a Christian education.

"It's so important to have educational options — whether it's public school, Christian school or homeschool," Nible stressed. "And to be able to come together like this and meet with the whole family of God is a freedom I don't take for granted. I hope this freedom continues. It's really important."

Traci Shirk — a colleague of Johnson, Fleck and Nible at the Christian middle school — shared that the prayer rally served as a reminder to students that the only reason why America is free and blessed is because of God.

"We talk a lot about politics and we study the history of our country, but we as Christians need to define who we are —our founding fathers were Christians,” Shirk explained. "We need to speak up and remind [the students] that our country is founded on faith and that's what will keep us strong — and that's what will keep our country blessed. These students need to experience what it's like to pray for our country, represent our country and have a voice for our country and our God."

Setting the standard

As Billy Graham comes closer to his 100 birthday, 5th and 6th grade Bible teacher Andrea Black pointed out the timely nature of the BGEA event in getting students better acquainted with the acclaimed evangelist’s — and the significance of his ministry over the decades throughout the world.

"I have talked about Billy Graham in class, and I explain to the students that he has lived an uncompromised life of ministry," Black shared. "When someone can live that long and not compromise, we should listen to what he has to say. And now, to see his son here carrying on that legacy is a wonderful thing."

Black sees Billy and Franklin Graham as role models for Christian youth —and she longs for her students to become more than modern-day Daniels — she wants them to become champions of faithfulness and Christian beacons for posterity.

"I want them to understand [that] their parents have put them in a Christian school because it's important to them," Black impressed. "It's up to them to carry on that legacy to the next generation." (Contributor: By Michael F. Haverluck for One News Now)

IFA’s leadership has watched Franklin Graham emerge with God’s distinctive favor and grace as a trusted prophetic voice for truth across America. We urge persistent intercession for God’s protection and guidance for Mr. Graham as he speaks to the youth of their opportunity to stand as “modern-day Daniels.” Give thanks for the Graham family, and pray for a national turning back to God.

“But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus….” (Acts 5:29-30)

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The Informer May 25, 2016

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THE TRANSGENDER BATHROOM BILL

On May 13, the Department of Education, Civil Rights Division, issued a letter to schools, with a weight and consequence behind it that will forever change religious freedom and child safety in our nation.

The “bathroom bill” was started in North Carolina and became a line drawn in the sand by a brave North Carolina governor, Pat McCrory. It could be the “shot heard ‘round the world” for this issue in our nation. Shortly after the bathroom bill standoff began between the White House’s Justice Department and the North Carolina Governor, the administration expanded their reach and battle to school administrators across the nation.

The letter cites Title IX, originally introduced to give girls and women equal treatment and access to sports in schools, now being used by this administration to mandate equal treatment and facilities for transgender students. It states in part, “… a school’s Title IX obligation to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections or concerns. As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students.

By making this issue a “civil rights” issue, they bring in a whole new classification of prosecution, enforcement, and consequence for those opposed to or not upholding the law. While the letter goes on to say that this is a recommended practice from the Department of Education, they later share a 25-page document that outlines that federal school funding is tied to the compliance of this one issue.

The Obama Administration just doubled down.

Now a civil rights issue in their argument, what are the consequences for good and protective families and administrators who are trying to protect the children in their care from those who would force their transgender and whimsical identity desires on the remainder of those they share a restroom, locker room, and even a dormitory with? The answer is, prosecution for a hate crime. Even talking against this issue will be prosecutable under this administration’s Justice Department. Where does that leave parents, pastors, and grandparents who are just as concerned for the children’s well-being?

The fight on this one issue alone is a large one. It is not just about bathrooms. It is not about equal access for those confused children who are calling themselves transgender. It becomes a religious freedom issue that threatens the very ability for the Church to speak plainly and clearly on what the Word of God says about issues in our culture. It essentially outlaws free speech by those who cite God’s Word. This movement by the administration is calculated and becomes a narrow door to a broad field of applications and implications for our nation.

People are already beginning to formulate a response. The “bathroom bill” in North Carolina brought out protective parents, grandparents, and other decent people everywhere who seek to strike down this ludicrous bill.

“A group of North Carolina parents are joining forces to fight the Obama administration over its policy that forces public schools to allow transgender students into restrooms, showers, and locker rooms that are opposite from their biological sex. “It’s not safe for my daughter,” Tammy Covil, a mother from Wilmington, N.C. told The Daily Signal. The parents, part of a nonprofit called North Carolinians for Privacy, allege in a lawsuit filed May 10 against the Department of Justice and the Department of Education that the federal government is forcing them to choose between their children’s privacy and educational future.

“This is tantamount to extortion,” said Donica Hudson, a mother of three from Charlotte, N.C., “to threaten to take away our public funding, for education, no less, if we don’t allow them to come in and jeopardize the safety and privacy of our children.”

There comes a time for civil disobedience—many are calling for that with this matter. David Limbaugh, a conservative writer, calls this issue a “hill to die on.”   Writer and theologian Michael Brown states, “Across the nation, parents, school boards, principals, administrators, and teachers must say no to President Obama and his administration. They must do it for the sake of the children. They must do it for the sake of moral sanity. They must do it to honor the Lord.”

Brown goes on to share facts about the transgender issue—facts that the Obama administration will not acknowledge or share:

  • Kids who identify as transgender represent the tiniest minority of the population, perhaps two or three out of a thousand.
  • The great majority of kids who identify as transgender do not do so once they pass through puberty, so for most of them this is a temporary condition.
  • Some parents of transgender-identified kids, along with LGBT activists, have rejected compassionate solutions for these kids (such as letting them use a faculty, single-stall bathroom). Instead they insist that the child’s struggles be imposed on the rest of the students.
  • Parents of transgender-identified kids, along with LGBT activists, have also sought to introduceradical transgender curricula to students as young as 5.
  • Schools are ignoring reports of other children feeling violated, embarrassed, and even traumatized by the presence of kids of the opposite biological sex in their bathrooms and locker rooms, and the parents of those traumatized kids have been told that nothing can be done because of laws against discrimination based on gender identity.
  • Already one university that introduced gender-neutral shower stalls had tore-evaluate its policy after heterosexual males were caught using cell phones to record the girls showering in the adjoining stalls.
  • Some kids have admitted to using transgender identity as a way topush back against the “dominant society.”
  • In the vast majority of cases, we are not talking about children with biological or chromosomal abnormalities, and mental health professionals and brain scientists still do notagree as to the exact nature of transgender identification. (Is it a mental disorder? Is perception now reality? Is it the best course of action to give hormone blockers to children, followed by sex-change surgery and then hormones for life?)
  • The American College of Pediatricians (branded a “hate group” by its radical critics) issued a documented statementurging “educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex. Facts — not ideology — determine reality.” (The statement is titled, “Gender Ideology Harms Children.”)

How can Americans get behind the movement to stand firmly against this blackmail against families and schools by the Obama administration?

Virginia State Delegate David LaRock shares that in addition to praying about this issue fervently, action is needed to be able to stave off the administration’s mandates. He, like many other believing and conservative lawmakers in our nation, are quickly crafting legislation that will help render this action by the Department of Education ineffective. Sharing your thoughts with lawmakers, school board members and school administrators as well as others in authority is an important way to speak out and be counted. This sample information sheet is a helpful source of information for communities to share with the public to educate them about the issue facing their schools and community. The top part of the fact sheet contains a sample email or letter concerned citizens can use in writing to local leaders. This letter was created for families in Virginia—tailor it to fit your state.

Sign a petition. The Family Research Council has one already created. You can sign it here.

This issue is not one that believers should take lightly. It is a turning point for those who wish to see America turn from the traditional Judeo-Christian values, and introduce confusion, and further indoctrinate our young people against the traditional family. It is planned and it is evil. What will you plan to do to stop it? (Contributor: By Kris Kubal for Intercessors for America)

This summary of the issues involved calls for a “faith plus works” response. First, we invite all believers to intercede fervently and urgently due to underlying principles of modesty and personal rights being violated. Second, we ask that you pray about becoming involved in a legal protest, such as signing a petition and writing letters to legislators at both the state and federal levels.

“And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, ‘Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.’” (Neh. 4:14)

 

500 EVANGELICAL LEADERS TO MEET TRUMP TO TEST HIS FAITH, VALUES

As many as 500 top evangelical and social conservative leaders, including Dr. Ben Carson and Tony Perkins, will have a closed-door meeting with Donald Trump on June 21 in New York City to ascertain what he has to offer to the country.

"Our goal is to be able to have a conversation that could lead to a better understanding of what Donald Trump has to offer to the country," said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, according to Fox News, which says Trump has agreed to meet with the evangelical and social conservative leaders.

Perkins, along with Bill Dallas of United in Purpose, worked with former Republican candidate Carson, who has endorsed Trump, to arrange the meeting.

"I want to be actively supportive of a candidate who can help turn this nation around. With Trump – I'm not there yet. I hope to be there – but I'm not there right now," Perkins told Fox News' Todd Starnes.

Those leading the efforts include Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, Faith and Freedom Coalition's Ralph Reed, Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America, Bob McEwen, Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association, Kelly Shackleford of First Liberty, American Values President Gary Bauer, Family Leader President Bob Vander Plaats, and megachurch pastors Jack Graham and Ed Young.

"There is no preconceived outcome here," Perkins added. "I'm hoping we can have a conversation that could lead to helping conservative leaders make a decision about what to do in this election."

SBC's Floyd said the meeting will help Christians share their hearts with Trump. "None of us have endorsed Mr. Trump, nor have we condemned Mr. Trump," he was quoted as saying. "This is about the possibility of being able to appoint the next four Supreme Court justices. This is about the dignity of human life from the womb to the tomb. This is about religious freedom. I'm not about to sit at home and not express something. I'm accountable to God and I believe I'm accountable to my fellow Americans."

On Friday, Trump also sent a two-minute video message to the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference in California.

"We're going to take care of minority unemployment. It's a huge problem. It's really unfair to minorities and we are going to solve that problem and it's going to be solved once and for all," Trump said in the video. "We're going to bring back jobs. You're going to start paying taxes after you make a lot of money. Hopefully that's going to be soon. We're going to make great, great trade deals. So important."

He continued, "We're going to stop drugs from pouring into our country. We're going to strengthen our country. People are going to come into our country, but they're going to come in through a process. They'll come in legally but we're going to stop the drugs and we are going to curb our debt."

Trump added, "We're going to take care of you. We're going to work with you. You're going to be very happy. You're going to like President Trump." (Contributor: By Anugrah Kumar for Christian Post)

Please pray as you are led for this meeting in June. We know the Constitution does not require the President of the United States to be a believer, so religious leaders should build bridges, give a witness, and gain understanding. Donald Trump does not profess to being a Christian, but God can work His purposes through any human instrument. Pray for divine wisdom, and plan to vote.

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Prov. 21:1)

 

OIL TURNS POSITIVE AS FOCUS TURNS TO U.S. SUPPLY OUTLOOK

Oil reversed early losses to turn positive on Tuesday, as investors awaited crude oil inventory data from the United States that was expected to show a shrinking supply overhang.

Brent futures LCOc1 had gained 26 cents to $48.34 a barrel by 1242 GMT, after closing down 37 cents in the previous session.

U.S. crude futures CLc1 rose 14 cents to $48.49 a barrel, having settled down 33 cents the day before.

Commercial crude stocks in the United States likely fell by around 2.5 million barrels to 538.8 million in the week ended May 20, a Reuters poll showed.

The American Petroleum Institute releases inventory data later on Tuesday, while figures from the U.S. government's Energy Information Administration are due on Wednesday.

The API is scheduled to release its data at 2030 GMT, while the EIA numbers are due to at 1430 GMT on Wednesday.

"I think the market is preparing for the (U.S.) crude stock data today and tomorrow," said Andy Sommer, senior energy analyst at Axpo Trading in Dietikon, Switzerland.

Oil was stronger earlier in the session, gaining support from a report that Iraq's oil output has reached 4.7 million barrels per day (bpd) and exports are running at a record 3.9 million bpd.

However Falah Alamri, Iraq's OPEC governor and head of the State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO), said at a conference in London that a decision to stop production of 170,000 bpd of Kirkuk crude, and the impact of bad weather and maintenance had slowed output.

A meeting of the OPEC exporter group, including Iran, is scheduled for June 2.

Plans for a deal between OPEC and non-OPEC producers to shore up crude prices by freezing output fell apart in April when Saudi Arabia demanded that Iran, its main rival for influence in the region, participate.

A strike in France limited the market's gains by denting crude demand in Europe as refineries were disrupted by pickets.

French police using water cannon and tear gas broke up a strike picket that was blocking access to a large oil refinery in the southern port area of Marseille in a government-versus-union showdown over labor law reforms.

Sommer at Axpo Trading added that gains were likely to be short-lived, and that prices were likely to fall again in the coming weeks.

"There's an ongoing trend of increasing supply. Supply from unplanned outages in Nigeria and Canada are likely to come back," he said, referring to disruption caused in the two countries by protests and wildfires. (Contributor: By Simon Falush for Reuters News Service - Editing by Dale Hudson and David Evans)

Unless you are an investor in oil stocks, this news affects you by higher prices at the pump. However, our prayer focus is not on lower prices but for a shaky economy that exists on debt credit rather than on real wealth. Tennessee is calling for a return to the gold standard; other states may follow, but our national debt continues to rise toward $20 trillion. When will our nation crash? Please pray. 

“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Ps. 127:1)

 

EVANGELICALS CHEER PRO-LIFE VOTE AT METHODIST CONFERENCE

In one of the last actions of its 10-day General Conference, United Methodist delegates voted 445 to 310 to repeal the denomination’s 40-year-old official resolution supporting Roe v. Wade.

Paired with the earlier vote to withdraw from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), the church took “two MAJOR steps in the right direction,” tweeted John Lomperis, the United Methodist director at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

The Book of Resolutions statement in support of legal abortion was adopted in 1976. It reads, in part:

We believe that continuance of a pregnancy that endangers the life or health of the mother, or poses other serious problems concerning the life, health, or mental capability of the child to be, is not a moral necessity. In such cases, we believe the path of mature Christian judgment may indicate the advisability of abortion. We support the legal right to abortion as established by the 1973 Supreme Court decision.

“In our system, resolutions automatically expire after eight years unless a General Conference re-adopts them,” Lomperis told CT. “The New York national headquarters of United Methodist Women submitted a petition to this General Conference to not only re-adopt this resolution, but also to amend it to make it ev