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Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
The Informer - July 27, 2016

On Watch in Washington July 27, 2016 Plain Text PDF Version

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

On Watch in Washington July 20, 2016 Plain Text PDF Version

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

On Watch in Washington May 25, 2016 Plain Text PDF Version

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 even more strongly supportive of abortion.”

The resolution was defeated 59 percent to 41 percent.

The quadrennial conference also saw some smaller pro-life victories. Lomperis blogged:

On pro-life issues, we … adopted a resolution decrying sex-selective abortion while describing abortion as “violent” and criticizing those done for “trivial reasons,” and allowed the expiration of a 16-year-old official UMC resolution bewailing an alleged “crisis” of some hospitals not offering abortions. While much work remains in more firmly establishing a clear pro-life commitment in our denomination, these were HUGE steps in the right direction.

Evangelicals celebrated the United Methodist Church’s decision yesterday to leave a pro-choice advocacy group it co-founded 43 years before.

At its general conference, delegates voted 425-268 to withdraw from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), an interfaith organization whose broad support extends to late-term and sex-selective abortions—a practice that the church’s social principles “unconditionally reject.”

“This is a necessary and good step towards affirming that the unborn are persons of sacred worth,” said John Lomperis, a conference delegate and United Methodist director at the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “This also shows the UMC moving away from other liberal, declining, ‘mainline’ denominations to embrace a new faithful, global identity.”

Lomperis’s evangelical colleagues at the conservative think tank praised the decision, as did Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore.

“It's a major victory for all gospel Christians. Let's sing some Wesley hymns in solidarity,” the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president tweeted.

Members of the United Methodist Church are less likely to support abortion than other mainline Protestants (including mainline Presbyterian, Lutherans, and Episcopalians). According to the Pew Forum, 58 percent believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared to 64 percent of all mainline denominations. (Around 36 percent of evangelicals said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.)

The UMC position on abortion states, “we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child.” The church supports abortion as a legal option in certain cases, but opposes late-term abortion, sex-selective abortion, and abortion as birth-control.

Given its members’ disagreement over abortion, the UMC has debated its relationship with the pro-choice coalition for years, including its past three quadrennial conferences. Supporters said retaining membership in RCRC—despite the clash in views between the church, its members, and the organization—allows them to maintain a “voice at the table,” the denomination stated.

This year, though, Methodists from Mississippi, Alabama, Florida North Carolina, Indiana, and Pennsylvania petitioned the UMC to finally withdraw from the RCRC, after being involved since 1973, the United Methodist Reporter (UMR) wrote.

The recent vote comes amid a national wave of pro-life furor, including stricter abortion regulations in dozens of states and plummeting abortion rates. The UMR quoted delegate Katherine Rohrs, who urged fellow delegates to vote against the church’s involvement:

RCRC refuses to talk about unborn children as just that. They refuse to condemn abortion as a form of birth control or gender selection.

They affirm abortion in any way….

I don’t speak for all young women who are United Methodist, but as a mother of two, I speak for those who have not been surrounded by the church’s support to cheer them on to life.

RCRC membership includes mainline Protestant organizations, Jewish denominations, and groups like Catholics for Choice. United Methodist Women and Methodist Federation for Social Action, an independent network, will remain members even after this week’s vote. Individual church members and clergy are also still involved; several spoke out to express their disappointment in the UMC vote and urge others to donate to the pro-choice cause.

At this year’s conference, the United Methodist Church failed to come to a decision on same-sex marriage. Days after a committee rejected a series of divestment resolutions, the church also voted to cut ties between its missions agency and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, which some consider anti-Israel. (Contributor: By Kate Shellnutt for Christianity Today)

Give thanks for faithful Christians in the United Methodist Church (UMC) who remain committed to biblical values and vote accordingly. Give thanks for victories in votes that clearly represent Bible-based convictions on the “humanness” and sanctity of unborn children. In other areas, the UMC is slipping away from its biblical foundations. Pray for a widespread return to God’s Word.

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude, verse 3)

 

ISLAMIC STATE AIMS TO DESTROY ISRAEL WITH SINAI TERRORIST FORCE

With a media blitz, the Islamic State has set its sights on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula as the next shot at expanding its empire and establishing a base from which to attack neighboring Israel.

The terrorist group’s propaganda units have gone into high gear for recruitment this month to build a force in Sinai large enough to one day conquer Jerusalem — the same way its fighters took over large parts of Syria and Iraq.

Last week, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned of the Islamic State’s presence in Sinai, where the group may have placed as many as 1,000 terrorists. The general’s concern is a signal that the U.S. faces another war front against the Islamic State in addition to Iraq, Syria and Libya.

More than a dozen Islamic State media arms in Iraq and Syria have produced videos narrated by a who’s who of hardened jihadis, who are surely on a U.S. kill list for daily airstrikes.

Islamic State propaganda promises recruits that they will one day “liberate” Jerusalem and end the state of Israel, according to analysis by the Middle East Media Research Institute, which tracks jihadi communications. The Egyptian army, the force standing in the way, is threatened with beheadings if soldiers continue to fight.

Such a massive propaganda effort for one mission is unusual for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL. Analysts says it means leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi views the land as increasingly important to his group’s ultimate goal of bringing down governments in the region and expanding its so-called caliphate, or Islamic state.

“I think ISIS sees the Sinai as a steppingstone for launching greater attacks against Israel, which would boost its claim to primacy in championing the Arab/Muslim cause against Israel, an issue that strongly resonates with many Arab Islamists,” said Jim Phillips, a Middle East analyst at The Heritage Foundation. “The Sinai cells also pose a long-term threat to Egypt, a key state with the largest Arab population. Nature may abhor a vacuum, but terrorists love them.”

Steve Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute, said the Islamic State is applying lessons learned in Anbar, Iraq, parts of which it controls, as it tries to persuade Egyptians and people in Hamas-controlled Gaza to join. Hamas is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

“One of the videos noted that ISIS in Sinai has learned from the experience of ISIS in Al-Anbar as the two areas are similar in terms of its desert geography,” Mr. Stalinsky said.

“They have been calling Egyptian and Gazans to join them. They believe that ISIS in Sinai will be the gate towards the liberation of Palestine,” he said.

For now, the Islamic State lacks the firepower to repeat its success in Anbar, where it captured a number of towns including the disputed Fallujah, after invading Iraq.

“Their strategy now in the Sinai is basically hit-and-run kind of attacks,” Mr. Stalinsky said.

Egyptian forces on the peninsula are hit by those attacks almost daily.

The Islamic State made an enormous statement in Sinai in October when it placed a bomb on Metrojet Flight 9268, sending the Russian airliner crashing onto the desert landscape. The Islamic State claimed it sabotaged the plane, killing 224 people, with explosives hidden in a soda can. If so, the bomb was likely placed on the plane by an Islamic State insider at the Sinai Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

“ISIS leadership views the Sinai province as a key extension for the organization outside of its core area of control in Syria and Iraq,” says an analysis by the Middle East Media Research Institute. “Indeed, the Sinai province is considered one of the most powerful and effective among these extensions.”

Mr. Phillips said the Arab Spring uprising centered in Cairo fed the Islamic State the fighters it needed in Sinai as many Islamists were released from prisons.

“Extremist groups flourished in the Sinai, where they recruited disaffected Bedouin tribes, which had long resented what they perceived to be neglect and marginalization at the hands of the Egyptian government,” he said. “The Sinai also offered a conduit to Gaza, where extremists received support from Hamas and other radical Palestinian Islamist groups.”

Counteroffensive

A sampling of some of the more than one dozen Sinai-centered Islamic State videos provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute:

  • Two jihadis in Iraq, Abu Qaswara Al-Masri, an Egyptian, and Abu Omar Al-Maqdisi, likely a Palestinian from Gaza, urge Egyptians to join the Islamic State in Sinai.

Al-Masri tells the Egyptian army: “We advise you to repent before we manage to find you. If we find you, there will be no other [fate] but beheading for you. There will be no mercy for you and you are aware of that. You have seen what the soldiers of the caliphate have done with your colleagues and you will see. I advise you to repent. I am a truthful adviser to you.”

  • Islamic State fighters Abu Suhaib Al-Ansari and Abu Omar Al-Ansari, in Iraq’s Ninawa province, appear in a recruitment video. Abu Omar Al-Ansari urges Egyptians to attack Egyptian government officials and “spill their blood and communicate with them with guns and explosives and turn them into corpses with bombs.” He specifically called on Gazans to travel to Sinai.
  • A video produced in Aleppo province, Syria, attacks the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as mainstream.

A fighter says, “You are the preachers for polytheism and falsehood, you are the ones who issued the fatwa for people to take part in the polytheist democracy, and you are the ones who issued the fatwa for people to vote for the pagan constitution, which puts sovereignty in the hands of the people instead of Allah.”

He added: “You have deceived your followers that [adhering to] democracy and entering the parliament will lead to [the implementation] of Islamic Shariah. Now, where is the Shariah, O enemies of Allah?”

The Brotherhood’s overriding goal is to spread Shariah, or Islamic law, around the world by undercutting secular governments.

Gen. Dunford, the Joint Chiefs chairman, raised alarm last week about the Islamic State’s growing presence in Sinai and said Egyptian forces had begun a counteroffensive against its units.

“We have seen a connection between the Islamic State in the Sinai and Raqqa,” Gen. Dunford told reporters, according to a dispatch by Voice of America. “We have seen communication between the Islamic State in the Sinai and the Islamic State in Libya and elsewhere, so we are watching that pretty closely.”

Raqqa is the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital in central Syria, from which it directs media operations and terrorist attacks.

“The Egyptians are taking the fight to the Islamic State right now,” he said aboard a flight for a NATO meeting in Brussels.

The Egyptian military said this weekend that it conducted a series of raids in Sinai that killed 51 Islamic State fighters, according to the Arab news site Al Bawaba.

“Just being able to have a presence and cause some disruption in between Egypt and Israel gives ISIS some propaganda value, at the very least, said retired Army Lt. Gen. James Dubik, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington. “It also causes Egypt to look both East and West and may, therefore, provide some operational flexibility to ISIS planning.” (Contributor: By Rowan Scarborough for The Washington Times)

This is complicated politically but very clear spiritually. Pray that our U.S. administration, principally President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be led to issue unequivocal U.S. support for Israel’s right exist and to flourish as a Middle East democracy. This will require God’s sovereign, over-ruling grace. Committed intercession will help shape history.

“All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations. (Ps. 22:27-28)

 

COURT VICTORY IN BATHROOM BATTLE

A week after the Obama Administration issued "guidance" to public schools that would result in students being exposed in bathrooms, showers and locker rooms, a court in California handed a victory to the proponents of a referendum to overturn that state's own "bathroom law."

On Friday, a Superior Court judge in Sacramento granted a motion to compel the production of documents requested by proponents of a referendum to overturn AB 1266. The Secretary of State and 55 counties had resisted production of these documents, citing privacy concerns.

"Today the court gave us a roadmap that we believe will ultimately allow us to prove that the necessary signatures were submitted to qualify the referendum," said Kevin Snider, Chief Counsel for Pacific Justice Institute. "We are pleased that the court rejected attempts by elections officials to prohibit access to this necessary information."

Before bathroom access became a national issue, California passed a statute that would allow access to public school facilities based on gender identity as opposed to biological sex. In the 90 days that followed passage of the law in August of 2013, Privacy For All Students (PFAS) collected more than 620,000 signatures of registered California voters to qualify a referendum to overturn the new law.

But elections officials disqualified more than one in five of the signatures leaving the referendum effort 17,276 signatures short of the requirement to qualify for the ballot. PFAS has been in court for more than two years, battling scores of government attorneys trying to withhold both the disqualified names and the reason for their rejection.

Gina Gleason, proponent of the referendum and member of the PFAS executive committee, was pleased with the outcome of Friday's hearing but was critical of government efforts to keep the referendum off of the ballot. "It is difficult to miss the irony of elections officials using privacy as grounds for opposing production of evidence to back their claims," said Gleason. "Privacy For All Students sought to qualify this referendum to protect the privacy of school children threatened with unwanted exposure under the new law."

In the matter heard Friday, backers of the referendum asked the court to compel Kings County to produce documents related to the invalidation of signatures, including the petitions submitted in support of the referendum. Objections to production of the requested petitions are based on concerns of privacy and confidentiality of voters' records, even though the party seeking these petitions possessed and controlled the petitions up until they were turned over to the counties to be counted. Kings County was a starting point as it is expected that petitioner will return to court to have other counties similarly compelled to produce these documents.

In addition to granting the motion to compel production of the requested documents, the court issued a protective order to assure that documents produced were treated as confidential.

Karen England, a privacy advocate and member of PFAS's executive committee noted, "The people of California object to bullies in bathrooms and bullies in elected office. We are now one step closer to maintaining privacy for all students in public school bathrooms, showers and locker rooms."  (Contributor: By Karen England for Christain News Wire)

Give thanks for Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner, who has overturned an earlier judicial attempt to suppress a bathroom privacy petition by claiming thousands of signatures were invalid. Now the door is open again for the citizens to be heard. Keep praying, as (sadly) our federal government does not want the people heard on this issue. (See the first article in this Alert.) Please continue to pray.

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Gen. 1:27)

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The Informer May 18, 2016

On Watch in Washington May 18, 2016 Plain Text PDF Version

SUPREME COURT REJECTS OBAMA’S BIRTH CONTROL PLAN

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected President Obama’s “accommodation” for religious nonprofits seeking to avoid complicity in their female employees’ birth control choices under Obamacare and sent both sides back to try to work out a better compromise.

In an unsigned order, the justices said they believe there is a way to get contraceptive coverage for women without forcing religious hospitals, schools and other charities that employ them to violate their own moral teachings, and they asked lower appeals courts to oversee the efforts to reach a deal.

“Both petitioners and the government now confirm that such an option is feasible,” the court said, citing both sides’ responses after the justices prodded them earlier this year.

Religious liberty advocates called the ruling a victory, while Mr. Obama and his allies took it as a defeat.

If the court had nine members, administration officials said, the decision might have been different.

“I won’t speculate as to why they punted, but my suspicion is that if we had nine Supreme Court justices instead of eight, then they wouldn’t have punted,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with BuzzFeed as he tried to pressure the Senate to confirm his nominee to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

The contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act has been controversial from the start. Religious groups such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, an elder-care charity run by nuns, say they want to avoid having their employee insurance pay for access to artificial contraceptives that violate church teachings.

Houses of worship are already exempt, but the administration has struggled with treatment of religiously affiliated charities. The administration eventually offered a compromise: Nonprofits wouldn’t have to pay for coverage but would still have to fill out a form alerting their insurers of their objections, which served as a trigger for the insurers to provide contraceptive coverage at no cost to the nonprofits through the same plans.

The Little Sisters and other faith-based groups said even signing the form made them complicit because their plans still included the contraceptives. The charities said that violates their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires the government to use the least-intrusive means of imposing its will when religious liberty is implicated.

The justices said their ruling doesn’t prejudge any of those issues. Instead, the court said it sees the chance for both sides to work out something else.

In an unusual move, several weeks after oral arguments, the justices invited a new round of briefs from both sides in the case and specifically suggested a compromise: religious nonprofits that object to contraception could tell their insurers that they don’t want their plans to cover methods to which they object on religious grounds.

Attorneys for the nonprofits said insurers could offer stand-alone contraceptive plans that individuals could buy on Obamacare’s exchanges. The Obama administration rejected that as unworkable and tried to wave aside the court’s suggestion, saying it was possible but tricky.

The justices seemed unmoved by the objections.

“Although there may still be areas of disagreement between the parties on issues of implementation, the importance of those areas of potential concern is uncertain, as is the necessity of this court’s involvement at this point to resolve them,” the justices wrote.

The justices said there is precedent for sending a case like this back to lower courts for more work. But in this instance, at least four appeals courts heard challenges and were split in their rulings.

That could make agreement among all sides more difficult, and the case could end up back before the justices.

Reaction to Monday’s order largely fell along party lines.

The White House said it planned to fight for its mandate. Democratic allies said women deserve to have their insurance cover birth control no matter who their employers are.

Top Republicans, meanwhile, said religious nonprofits should have the same type of blanket exemption given to churches, synagogues and mosques.

“The Little Sisters deserve more than a victory in court. The Sisters deserve relief from this mandate and an end to this ordeal,” said House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican. “The administration should resolve this as soon as possible so the Sisters can go on serving the poor in peace as they have for so long.”

The White House noted that Monday’s decision keeps the current system in place. But the Supreme Court said all of the nonprofits whose challenges were part of the ruling will not be subject to penalties while their cases are pending. (Contributor: By Tom Howell, Jr. for The Washington Times)

No one disputes the fact that “Obamacare” was conceived and born in dishonesty and deceit and then “sold” to the Congress through subterfuge and duplicity. That which was born out of deception cannot blossom into truth. Intercede for God to deal with root causes, including a nation in steep spiritual decline. Pray for President Obama, his advisors, and for a national turning to God.

“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)

 

ABORTIONS HIT HISTORIC LOW, BUT ONLY IN DEVELOPED COUNTRIES

A new analysis of global abortions shows a stark and troubling divide between what's happening in wealthier, developed countries and their poorer and less developed counterparts.

The paper, published Wednesday in the Lancet journal, (PDF Download) represents the most comprehensive analysis ever conducted on the subject. It shows an average of 56 million abortions took place annually worldwide from 2010 to 2014. That translates to 35 procedures per every 1,000 women of childbearing age, meaning that roughly 3.5 percent of women in this age group had an abortion.

The numbers are significantly smaller than a decade earlier -- from 1990 to 1994, there were on average 40 abortions annually per every 1,000 women -- and should be a cause for celebration for many in the reproductive-health field and for those who oppose abortion. But Gilda Sedgh, a principal research scientist with the Guttmacher Institute in New York and lead author of the study, cautioned in a call with reporters that "the global picture masks differences between the developed and developing world."

No matter how you crunch the numbers about the developed world, which includes the United States, abortion rates are falling. Rates have been declining for 25 years and are now at a historic low. There were 27 abortions per 1,000 women in 2010 to 2014, down from 40 per 1,000 in 1990 to 1994. Likewise, the total number of abortions fell from 12 million to 7 million.

But in developing countries during the same period, abortions went from 39 to 37 per 1,000 women while the total number of procedures spiked from 39 million to 50 million annually -- a situation that the authors blame on lack of access to modern methods of contraception that could have reduced unwanted pregnancies.

"We think this is because the desire for small families and precisely timed births has outpaced the uptake of contraceptive use," Sedgh said.

The study was based on statistical modeling of information collected from national surveys, official government statistics, and other published and unpublished studies, and it was funded by various countries as well as the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the United Nations.

Among the other major findings are that three-fourths of abortions took place among married women, challenging the popular notion that most abortions are sought by unwed teens.

Eastern Europe was the standout with the biggest drop in abortion rates, from 88 to 42 per 1,000 women. Rates also fell in Southern Europe, from 38 to 26; in Northern Europe, from 22 to 18; and in North America, from 25 to 17.

Researchers said western Europe was the only studied region with an increase in its abortion rate, which they said might have been because of a growing foreign-born population.

Beyond providing a breakdown on abortion around the world by major region, the study also touched on the sensitive legal and ethical debates about the procedure by breaking out numbers for the 58 countries where it is illegal or permitted only to save a woman's life. The authors noted that the rate in those countries -- representing most of South America, Africa and the Middle East -- is 37 per 1,000. That's "essentially" no different from the 34 per 1,000 rate in the 63 countries where abortion is legal.

The authors emphasized that these findings suggest that "restrictive abortion laws do not limit the number of abortions."

In a commentary piece also published by the Lancet, associate professor Diana Greene Foster of the University of California at San Francisco was critical of this reasoning.

"The obvious interpretation is that criminalizing abortion does not prevent it but, rather, drives women to seek illegal services or methods. But this simple story overlooks the many women who, in the absence of safe legal services, carry unwanted pregnancies to term," Greene Foster said. She argued that it does not make sense to assume "a one-for-one exchange of illegal abortion for legal abortion."

The paper's findings are consistent with other data released in recent years that show a positive trend in the reduction in unwanted pregnancies and births. This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the birthrate among American teenagers -- which was at crisis levels in the 1990s -- had fallen to an all-time low and that the decline affected all regions and all races.

While various cultural, educational and economic factors have been debated as reasons why some groups have higher rates of abortion than others, many physicians, researchers, women's right advocates and public health officials appear to now agree on a core factor: access to modern methods of birth control.

The past 10 years have been breakthrough ones for contraceptive innovations; women can now avail themselves of all kinds of  long-lasting, low-risk implantable and injectable alternatives to the daily pill. Yet much of this information and the availability of the new methods haven't filtered down to developing parts of the world.

"Clearly, efforts have to focus on these regions," said Bela Ganatra of the World Health Organization, who co-authored the study. She added that health officials recognize that not all unsafe abortions can be prevented by increasing access to contraception because some women are seeking the procedure due to rape or the failure of contraceptives or other factors. Another study is underway to try to ascertain more information about the situations that result in a safe or unsafe abortion, she said. (Contributor: By Arianna Cha for The Washington Post - Ariana Eunjung Cha is a national reporter. She has previously served as the Post's bureau chief in Shanghai and San Francisco, and as a correspondent in Baghdad.)

The tragedy of legalized abortion in the U.S. cannot be lessened by statistical analysis. Whether 38 per 1,000 pregnancies or “only 37,” the atrocity of multiplied abortions — the often-brutal killing of a not-yet-born innocent life — will not go unpunished by a righteous, holy God. The prayer focus here is for our nation, including the Church, to repent and declare our need for national cleansing.

“These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.” (Prov. 6:16-19)

 

DISLOYALTY TO THEIR PLEDGE AND PARTY

In 1996, 10 Republican presidential wannabes initially entered the race to battle for the nomination that ultimately went to Bob Dole. The initial list of candidates included a number of credible contenders and a few that never had a chance. There was Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, businessman Steve Forbes, former California Gov. Pete Wilson, Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, columnist and former White House speechwriter Pat Buchanan, and even former Ambassador Alan Keyes and California Rep. Bob Dornan. It was quite a group that wouldn’t be equaled in size until this year.

As the primaries approached, I found myself seated between Pat Buchanan and Sen. Specter on an interview program the day each had independently declared if the other somehow managed to procure the nomination, he would denounce him and refuse him support. Both were friends of mine; for different reasons, though, I was supporting neither. But I told them that in my opinion, at least if they entered the race, they had an obligation to support the winner — just as they had a right to expect that if they won, the others should support them.

“If you decide to play the game,” I said, “you have to be willing to accept the outcome.” I reminded them that Ronald Reagan lost to Gerald Ford in 1976, but didn’t take a walk or denounce the winner, though neither liked each other all that much. I said that I’d support the eventual nominee, looked at Sen. Specter and said, “Arlen, I don’t agree with you on much, but if you win the nomination, I’ll be right there fighting for you, and Pat should join us.”

Sen. Specter looked at me and said, “That’s easy enough for you to say because you know I’m not going to be nominated.” The Republican National Committee (RNC) “loyalty” pledge the party asked the candidates to sign last fall was designed to keep Donald Trump in line when he lost. The other candidates had no problem signing it at the time because they just knew he would never be nominated, but wanted his support if they were. The question of whether they would support whoever eventually won was posed first by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly during the August debate, but it was turned into a pledge by the RNC that the candidates were asked to sign.

That, however, was then. The most reluctant signer of the pledge at the time was Donald Trump because in addition to requiring the candidates to support the winner, it also required that they eschew any thought of a third party or independent bid should they lose. It was the fear that Mr. Trump might lose, take a walk and pull a Ross Perot that motivated the pledge, but the first part read: “I [name] affirm that if I do not win the 2016 Republican nomination for president of the United States I will endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is.” It is that language that now gives the presumptive nominee the high ground as many of those against whom he ran are saying they won’t endorse his candidacy.

Those who have said they cannot or will not endorse him include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who says flatly that none of them should be locked in by signing it in the first place. But they did, and although a number of them — like Mr. Trump himself — threatened to break their word along the way, they are the ones who are now doing so.

They therefore find themselves in a very different boat than House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has simply said he is not ready to endorse Mr. Trump because he didn’t enter the game himself, is not bound to do anything other than what his conscience demands, and certainly didn’t sign an agreement to endorse the nominee no matter who won. He and Mr. Trump can sit down, work out their differences and possibly reach an agreement that will allow them to move forward together this fall. But those who gave their word earlier are in no position now to ask for negotiations, or anything else.

They made the deal, signed the contract with a man who understands the “art of the deal,” and are now breaking it. (Contributor: By David Keene for The Washington Times - David A. Keene is Opinion editor at The Washington Times and a former president of the National Rifle Association.)

This article emphasizes the political turmoil about us in what all sides are calling “a critical election year.” As a ministry of prayer, IFA does not endorse; neither do we vilify or condemn any candidate. Pray that God will reveal Truth and give us, through the electoral process, leaders who are honest, God-fearing men and women. To share more fully in this ministry see GetOutThePrayer.com.

“But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (Mat. 5:37)

 

STONED DRIVERS ARE KILLING MORE AND MORE INNOCENT VICTIMS

Blake Gaston, 23, killed while riding his motorcycle in Seattle. He played the piano, guitar, drums, wrote music, and developed websites.

Elizabeth Kemble, 46, was killed by a car while walking across the street in Portland, Ore. She previously survived three kidney transplants, and dedicated her life to helping dialysis patients and hungry seniors.

Debra Majkut, 34, mother of two, killed while sitting on her couch with three children when a car smashed into her house.

And the list goes on and on.

Each person was killed by a person high on marijuana. And it is only going to get worse, given the trend towards increased legalization and liberalization of marijuana laws in the United States.

According to the Washington State Marijuana Impact Report, the incidents of marijuana-impaired driving are increasing dramatically. Fatal driving accidents have risen 122 percent between 2010 and 2014, according to the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission. Marijuana is big business in Washington state. There are more marijuana businesses than Starbucks in Washington state (despite the fact that Starbucks was founded in Seattle).

The traffic safety organization AAA has its own reports on marijuana use among drivers in fatal crashes, and the picture is equally bleak.

And don’t be fooled—the pot pushers are targeting youth with marijuana. Venders sell edibles that look just like other candies routinely eaten by kids. According to the impact report, 98 percent of student drug violations in Seattle Public Schools between September 2013 and May of 2014 were due to marijuana. In 2014, youth under the age of 20 made up 45 percent of Washington Poison Center calls. That number of calls has increased 80 percent between 2012 and the start of the legal market in 2014.

And things in Colorado are just as bad. The black market is thriving, despite the fact that the pot pushers promised that legalization would eliminate the black market. One in six infants and toddlers admitted to Children’s Hospital in Colorado with coughing, wheezing, and other symptoms of bronchitis tested positive for marijuana, according to a study found in the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Marijuana use for Colorado youth ages 12 to 17 years old has increased 20 percent since compared to the two-year average prior to legalization, according to the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area report of January 2016. Colorado youth past month use in 2013-14 was 74 percent higher than the national average compared to 39 percent higher in 2011-12. And the data for college-aged students in Colorado is equally disturbing.

As we have written before, legalizing marijuana is terrible public policy.

The science is clear and unambiguous—pot is a dangerous substance. It is not like alcohol at all. There is a reason it is classified as a Schedule I controlled dangerous substance, right along with heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. The American Medical Association, the American Lung Association, and other reputable doctors and scientists all reject legalization.

And now Blake, Elizabeth, Debra, and others are paying for this radical experiment with their lives. (Contributor: By Cully Stimson for The Daily Signal)

“Stoned” means marijuana, of course, and it is this poison, now legalized in some states, that is taking such a horrendous toll on innocent lives. What parents would feed their children a deadly weed, knowing it was not a healthy vegetable? Drugs invite demonic confusion, hallucination, and death. Pray for a new “great awakening.” Parents might want to share this article with their teens.

“Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared?” (Prov. 6:27-28)

 

LOSSES WITHOUT GAINS

"If you won't stand for something, you will fall for anything." -- quote attributed to numerous sources

Historically, when our nation has transitioned from one way of life to another, there has usually been some optimism about what was to come. That was true at the time of the American Revolution and it was true as we moved from an agrarian society toward the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th through mid-19th centuries.

Even during World War II, the song "White Cliffs of Dover" with its lyric "There'll be love and laughter and peace ever after. Tomorrow, when the world is free," looked forward to a better day. It didn't quite turn out that way, as wars persist, but optimism kept us going with the hope that a new and better world was about to dawn.

Today we are gripped not by optimism but by a deep pessimism, even cynicism, that permeates virtually every layer of our culture. According to a Real Clear Politics Poll, more than 66 percent of those surveyed think this country is headed in the wrong direction, yet like a man who is lost but refuses to ask for directions, we keep barreling full steam ahead.

While politics has always been a rhetorical combat sport, the insults thrown by Donald Trump and his supporters have taken political discourse -- if it can even be called that -- to a new and depressing low. Such language keeps us from solving, or even discussing, the real problems this country faces.

A book by an "anonymous congressman," titled "Confessions of Congressman X," is scheduled for publication on May 24, according to Daily Mail.com. In it, the writer, who is reportedly a man and a Democrat, mocks the country he supposedly serves as a "nation of naive, self-absorbed sheep." He says he and most of his colleagues never read the bills they vote on and spend most of their time raising money. "My main job," he writes, "is to keep my job, to get re-elected. It takes precedence over everything."

Given the behavior and history of so many members of Congress, who doubts his claim?

It was thought once that our leaders should possess good character. In this election, however, it appears voters will be forced to choose for president -- if they vote at all -- between a boastful, superficial, narcissistic, misogynist and a corrupt, entitled, shady, lying, unaccomplished woman who has ignored her husband's affairs in the pursuit of power.

Are these two candidates a reflection of our cynical and increasingly secular culture? They must be, otherwise so many voters would not have propelled them to the top of their respective parties. If we are willing to settle for less than the best, we can be sure that less is exactly what we will get.

Another character quality that is in decline is modesty. A new Calvin Klein ad features an "upskirt" photo of a young woman's underwear. Victoria's Secret catalogs and shopping mall displays, visible to children, feature barely clad women with "come hither" stares. Some of the sexiest films ever made were produced during Hollywood's "Golden Age" when women and men kept on most of their clothes. Films and TV today go for the blatant, mainstreaming sex scenes, flaunting nudity, so much so that a movie's "R" rating could just as easily stand for "raunchy" as "restricted."

Scriptwriters put words in the mouths of actresses that "would make a sailor blush," as the old saying goes. Yet, we are supposed to regard this as progress and equality.

Do I sound "old-fashioned"? There is something to be said about old things. Some things endure because they have proven to work for the individual and for society at large. Nations built to last generally do; nations allowed to rot from within do just that. (Contributor: By Cal Thomas for Town Hall)

Is there any daylight at the end of this long tunnel of chaotic confusion? How can so much evil be seen first as tolerable, then normal, and ultimately as good? And yet we know that God is in control, has not relinquished His throne, and will work out His purposes through providential control and oversight of every nation’s destiny. Pray for revival and renewal among all of God’s people. 

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)

 

GOING TO CHURCH COULD HELP YOU LIVE LONGER, STUDY SAYS

Many Americans say they attend church because it helps them stay grounded and gives them spiritual guidance. A new study suggests that regular attendance may also help increase their lifespan.

Researchers looked at data on nearly 75,000 middle-age female nurses in the United States as part of the Nurses’ Health Study. The participants answered questions about whether they attended religious services regularly every four years between 1992 and 2012, and about other aspects of their lives over the years.

The researchers found that women who went to church more than once a week had a 33% lower risk of dying during the study period compared with those who said they never went. Less-frequent attendance was also associated with a lower risk of death, as women who attended once a week or less than weekly had 26% and 13% lower risk of death, respectively.

Women who regularly attended religious services also had higher rates of social support and optimism, had lower rates of depression and were less likely to smoke. However, the researchers took into account these differences between churchgoers and non-churchgoers when they calculated the decrease in death rates of 13% to 33%.

Going to church could have a number of additional benefits that could, in turn, improve longevity, but the researchers were not able to examine them with the available data. Attendance could promote self-discipline and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, or it could provide an experience of the transcendent, said Tyler J. VanderWeele, professor of epidemiology in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. VanderWeele led the new research, which was published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

“Our study suggests that for health, the benefits outweigh the potentially negative effects,” such as guilt, anxiety or intolerance, VanderWeele said.

Most of the women in the study were Protestant or Catholic, so it is not clear whether a similar association would be found between religious service attendance and longevity for people of other Christian religions, Judaism or Islam.

The study also did not explore the association in men. Previous research suggests that male churchgoers also benefit, though their decrease in death rate is not as large as among women, VanderWeele said.

“There have been literally thousands of studies” looking at whether religion is good for your health, said Dr. Dan German Blazer II, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center. The findings have been mixed about whether aspects of religious devotion such as prayer and spirituality — such as reading the Bible or other religious literature — improve longevity.

“The one (aspect) that is significantly more predictive of good health is about religious service attendance,” said Blazer, who wrote an editorial about the new study in the same issue of JAMA Internal Medicine.

Most people report that they are spiritual, and it is possible that actually attending religious services is good for their health because they are taking actions that are in line with their beliefs, Blazer said. “You have a more integrated life in this sense.” However, this explanation is purely speculative, and studies have not explored this theory, he added.

The suggestion that attending religious services regularly could boost longevity has met with some criticism in the field. Other researchers have pointed out that the relationship could be due to other factors, such as the possibility that healthier people are more likely to go to church, perhaps because they are more mobile.

The main strength of the current study is that the researchers were able to look at whether participants reported attending religious services at several points over many years, making it easier to find out which came first, religious activity or disease and health outcomes, Blazer said.

Nevertheless, Blazer warns that it is important not to make too much of the new findings. “This study does not suggest that clinicians prescribe attending religious services as a way to be more healthy,” he said. It was not meant to assess going to church as an actual medical intervention.

On the other hand, the study does suggest that “clinicians who know their patients well and follow them over a period of time, like primary care doctors, inquire when it is appropriate about their religious beliefs and practices,” Blazer said. That way, if patients say that attending religious services is important to them, the doctor can help ensure that they maintain a good relationship with their church, temple or mosque.

This attitude about the place of religion in medical care is becoming more common among health care professionals and has been introduced into the curriculum of more and more medical schools, Blazer said. (Contributor: By Carina Storrs for CBS Philadelphia, CNN)

Other studies, parallel to this one, have proven even to non-religious physicians that prayer has a measurable, positive effect on some medical outcomes. Christians know the intangible benefits of church fellowship are actually beyond quantitative analysis, but the “carrot-and-stick” effect of inviting friends to church for “health benefits” might result in their salvation. Pray and invite!  

“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’” (Ps. 122:1)

 

CHILDREN'S BRAINS "LIGHT UP" AT SOUND OF MOM'S VOICE

A mother's voice may do far more than soothe her child, new research suggests.

When moms spoke, several areas of their children's brains were activated, the researchers reported. These included regions involved in emotion and reward processing, social functions, facial recognition and the detection of what is personally relevant.

But this heightened neurological reaction was reserved for mom alone, and not for other women, the investigators found.

"Many of our social, language and emotional processes are learned by listening to our mom's voice," study author Daniel Abrams, an instructor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, said in a university news release.

"But surprisingly little is known about how the brain organizes itself around this very important sound source. We didn't realize that a mother's voice would have such quick access to so many different brain systems," Abrams added.

Previous studies have shown that children favor their mother's voice, but the underlying mechanism for this preference was unclear.

"Nobody had really looked at the brain circuits that might be engaged," explained senior study author Vinod Menon, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford. "We wanted to know: Is it just auditory and voice-selective areas that respond differently, or is it more broad in terms of engagement, emotional reactivity and detection of salient stimuli?"

To answer these questions, researchers analyzed the brain scans of children listening to their mother's voices.

The study involved 24 children between the ages of 7 and 12 who were being raised by their biological mothers. All of the children had an IQ of at least 80 and none of the kids had developmental disorders, the researchers noted.

The children's parents answered questions about their child's communication skills, including their ability to interact and relate to others.

The children's mothers were recorded as they said three nonsense words.

"In this age range, where most children have good language skills, we didn't want to use words that had meaning because that would have engaged a whole different set of circuitry in the brain," Menon said.

Two mothers whose children were not involved in the study, and who didn't know any of the participants, were also recorded saying three nonsense words.

As the children listened to clips of the recordings of both their mother and the unfamiliar women, their brains were scanned using MRIs.

The researchers found the children could identify their own mother with 97 percent accuracy, even after listening to recordings less than 1 second long.

Several of the children's brain regions were more engaged by the sound of their mother's voice than by the stranger, the study revealed.

"The extent of the regions that were engaged was really quite surprising," Menon said.

The parts of the brain affected include areas involved in:

  • Hearing
  • Emotions
  • Reward processing
  • Processing information about the self
  • Perceiving and processing the sight of faces

"We know that hearing mother's voice can be an important source of emotional comfort to children," Abrams said. "Here, we're showing the biological circuitry underlying that."

Children with stronger connections between these brain regions when they heard their mother's voice also had the strongest social communication abilities, the researchers said.

"This is an important new template for investigating social communication deficits in children with disorders such as autism," Menon said.

"Voice is one of the most important social communication cues," Menon said. "It's exciting to see that the echo of one's mother's voice lives on in so many brain systems." (Contributor: By Mary Elizabeth Dallas for CBS News - The study was published May 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.)

These tests surprise no one but a committed evolutionist. Other studies have shown that babies in the womb are alive and can respond to various stimuli, with an increasing responsiveness to sound as the brain develops complexity. There are also spiritual and emotional responses. Remember the pre-born John the Baptist? Give thanks for this further evidence of functioning life in the womb.

“And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” (Lk. 1:41-43)  

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The Informer May 11, 2016

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JUSTICE DEPARTMENT LIKENS N.C. TRANSGENDER BATHROOM LAW TO JIM CROW RACISM

The federal government compared a North Carolina law regulating bathroom access by sex to Jim Crow, and North Carolina accused the federal government of grossly overstepping its authority, as both sides filed lawsuits and slung mud at each other Monday.

The legal brouhaha concerns North Carolina law HB2, which prohibits people from using public facilities of the opposite sex.

At a press conference, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the law discriminates against transgender people and compared it to the racial codes adopted after the Civil War.

“This is not the first time that we have seen discriminatory responses to historic moments of progress for our nation,” Ms. Lynch said. “We saw it in the Jim Crow laws that followed the Emancipation Proclamation.”

The attorney general said government should not be in the business of “legislating identity,” which she defined as forcing people to “pretend to be something or someone that they are not.”

While North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and a Republican legislature said the law is aimed at protecting women and children from predatory men, Ms. Lynch said the law provides “no benefit to society” and only “harms innocent Americans.”

The federal lawsuit levied against North Carolina says HB2 is in violation of three federal statutes: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of “sex” in employment; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of “sex” in education; and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, which prohibits funds for victims services from being allocated on a discriminatory basis of “gender identity,” which is listed as a separate category from “sex.”

North Carolina, meanwhile, said the agency has no authority to interpret federal sex discrimination prohibitions, which refer to an element of biology, as applying to gender identity, which is a psychological state that transgender activists are usually eager to distinguish from biological sex.

Gay rights groups praised the Justice Department for taking action against North Carolina, calling HB2 “a discriminatory and dangerous piece of legislation that violates federal civil rights law.”

“We commend Attorney General Lynch and the Justice Department for taking action to enforce the rule of law and protect the civil rights of all North Carolinians,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement.

But Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, said the Justice Department’s actions are “the best example of government overreach in the history of government overreach.”

“These changes to the Civil Rights Laws that the Obama administration is pushing have been proposed and rejected in Congress for years,” Mr. Backholm said in a statement. “The Executive Branch does not have the authority to change the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on its own.”

The attempt to interpret Title IX as applying to “gender identity” stems from a 2014 letter from the Department of Education, telling schools that discrimination against transgender students is impermissible under the statute.

Although courts have split on the issue, the most recent decision, handed down by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month, sided in favor of a transgender student in Virginia who said his high school discriminated against him by refusing to let him use the restroom of the opposite sex.

The school built several single-stall, private restrooms for students uncomfortable with sex-segregated restrooms to use, but the 4th Circuit said such accommodations were tantamount to the “separate but equal” ethos of segregation.

Travis Weber, director of the Center for Religious Liberty and the Family Research Council, said that ruling was based on the Justice Department’s own interpretation of the law. By writing, enforcing and interpreting legislation, Mr. Webber said, the agency has “unilaterally hijacked” the law.

“I think it’s kind of a joke that they’re claiming, ‘Look at what the law provides,’ but when you look at the legal argument, it’s based on their letter, their interpretation of the law,” Mr. Webber said.

The federal government became ensnared in the debate over the North Carolina law Friday, when the Justice Department sent an ultimatum to Mr. McCrory, threatening to pull federal funding from the state’s schools if the law was not repealed by Monday.

In its lawsuit, North Carolina asked a federal court for an injunction against the ultimatum, saying the timetable allowed by the agency was insufficient.

North Carolina’s legislative leaders said in the state’s lawsuit that allowing “anyone to use any public bathroom, locker room or shower based solely on that person’s self-declared gender ‘identity’” would “create an opportunity for sexual predators of any sexual orientation to abuse the policy to facilitate their predation.”

At the press conference, Ms. Lynch would not rule out cutting federal education funding for North Carolina schools but said no plan to do so is imminent.

“We are deferring on requesting the curtailment of funding now, but we do retain that right,” she said. “It would be premature right now to give a date on when we will actually take that step.”

The state’s public universities get about $1.4 billion from Washington, and their students receive about $800 million in federally backed loans.

The White House similarly refused Monday to rule out the threat, with press secretary Josh Earnest calling the North Carolina law “mean-spirited.”

The loss of federal funding would significantly hinder Mr. McCrory’s chance of re-election in November because he faces a difficult race against Democratic attorney general Roy Cooper.

Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro on Monday said Mr. McCrory is risking “billions of dollars in federal funding to uphold a law that never should have been passed in the first place.”

But Mr. McCrory said his opposition of the Justice Department’s order concerns not just bathrooms in North Carolina, but also the federal government’s ability to influence state policy across the nation.

“This is no longer just a North Carolina issue,” the governor said on Fox News Sunday. “This is a basic change of norms that we’ve used for decades through the United States of America, and the Obama administration is now trying to change that norm. Again, not just in North Carolina, but they’re ordering this to every company in the United States of America.”

Reporters at Ms. Lynch’s press conference were cognizant of the Justice Department order’s wide-ranging consequences. If North Carolina cannot prohibit people from using restrooms of the opposite sex, then can any state? she was asked.

“To the extent that we’re made aware of them, and we know that there are a few of them out there, we are monitoring and reviewing those situations as well,” Ms. Lynch said.

Perhaps that prompted lawmakers in California to act Monday, as the Assembly passed a bill on a 52-18 vote requiring that single-person public restrooms be gender-neutral. But, if it wasn’t enough for the 4th Circuit, some wonder whether that would be enough for the Department of Justice. (Contributor: By Bradford Richardson for The Washington Times)

Legal experts are saying U.S. Attorney General Lynch is reading into federal law provisions that do not exist. When she says the NC law is making people “pretend to be something or someone that they are not,” this is precisely what North Carolina’s law will prevent. If the federal government wins, states’ rights are crushed, which is why the November elections are critical. Please pray fervently.  

“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” (Jas. 5:17-18)

 

PUTIN SHOWS OFF RUSSIA’S MILITARY MIGHT, DELIVERS ‘STERN WARNING’ TO WEST

Russian President Vladimir Putin looked on as the pride of his country’s modernized military machine swept across Red Square on Monday at the annual event to commemorate the Soviet triumph over Nazi Germany in World War II more than seven decades ago.

But the present was never far away from Mr. Putin’s mind as the tanks, missiles, planes and men filed past.

In a short speech that indirectly referenced worsening relations with the West, Mr. Putin described the Soviet Union’s military triumph as a “stern warning to those who might want to test our strength.”

He also hit out at what he said were the West’s “double standards” in supporting rebel groups in Syria that Moscow believes are terrorist organizations.

Speaking in front of uniformed Soviet war veterans, Russia’s undisputed leader also insisted that the Soviet Union brought freedom to the people of Eastern Europe, with more than a hint that Russia’s rebuilding military might has once again allowed Moscow to project power beyond its borders.

The military hardware on display included jet fighters and an advanced air-to-surface missile system that have been used in Russia’s military campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad, a longtime ally.

More than 10,000 soldiers, 130 armored vehicles and over 70 aircraft took part in the elaborately choreographed Victory Day event, which was broadcast live in its entirety by state TV. Russia also showed off its tactical Iskander-M ballistic missile systems and Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile systems, as well as its latest Yars mobile intercontinental nuclear missile launcher.

No expense was spared, even to guarantee fair weather for the crowd of an estimated 400,000. Moscow city authorities spent about $1 million on seeding rain clouds ahead of the event, according to documents on the state procurement website. Overall, Russia is to spend some $4 million on “cloud-bursting” in Moscow ahead of public holidays this year.

Also on display was Russia’s advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile system, which has been used to protect Russia’s air base in Syria’s coastal Latakia province. In April, Russia started delivering an earlier version of the powerful missile system, the S-300, to Iran. The shipments were carried out in the face of strong opposition from the United States and Israel.

In the skies above central Moscow, a group of 10 advanced Sukhoi SU-35S multipurpose jet fighters trailed multicolored smoke to create a red, blue and white Russian flag. SU-35S jets were deployed to Syria in early February, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry.

In one sign of Russia’s increasing military confidence, a parallel Victory Day parade — complete with advanced military hardware and a parade of soldiers and veterans — was staged Monday in the Crimean post of Sevastopol, on the peninsula annexed by Moscow from Ukraine just two years ago, the Interfax news agency reports.

A Russian submarine was docked nearby, and Russian ships lined up in Sevastopol Bay to mark the festivities.

New Guard makes debut

Also at the Moscow parade was the public debut of the National Guard, an elite security force whose creation was announced by Mr. Putin last month. While the 400,000-strong National Guard is officially tasked with combating terrorism and organized crime, critics say, it will also serve as a guarantee of Mr. Putin’s personal safety in the event of mass anti-Kremlin protests, or even a coup attempt.

Mr. Putin later joined hundreds of thousands of Russians in a march called the “The Immortal Regiment” through central Moscow. Participants held up photographs of family members who fought in World War II, which people in Russia and other former Soviet states call the Great Patriotic War. Mr. Putin held up a photograph of his father, who was wounded in combat.

“We have to remember relatives who saved us from fascism,” Marina Suslova, a 39-year-old office worker, told The Washington Times. “If it wasn’t for their sacrifices, we might not be here today.”

Ms. Suslova said her grandfather was among the estimated 1 million Soviet soldiers killed at the 1942-1943 Battle of Stalingrad, a key turning point in the war. Some 23 million Soviet soldiers and citizens lost their lives fighting Nazi Germany. Almost every Russian has a family member who was killed in the conflict.

Critics charge, however, that Mr. Putin, who revived Soviet-style military parades on Red Square in 2008, has transformed the annual commemoration of the war into an opportunity to showcase Russia’s military hardware for an international arms market, while simultaneously boosting ultranationalist sentiments.

In the run-up to the parade, national television aired a “social advertisement” that depicted the “ghost” of a World War II Soviet boy soldier who, when asked by a group of modern-day children if dying is “frightening,” the ghost replies: “That’s not important. What’s important is that we won.”

Just days before the Red Square parade, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter accused Mr. Putin of “nuclear saber-rattling.” Tensions between Washington and Moscow have been exacerbated by a series of close military encounters in the Baltic Sea.

In late April, Washington accused a Russian jet fighter of performing “erratic and aggressive maneuvers” to intercept a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance plane over the Baltic Sea.

U.S. European Command spokesman Danny Hernandez said the Russian plane’s actions had the potential to “unnecessarily escalate tensions” between the United States and Washington.

Two days earlier, two Russian jets repeatedly buzzed the USS Donald Cook, a U.S. guided missile destroyer, in the Baltic. U.S. Navy officials described the maneuvers as a “simulated attack.”

Russia’s envoy to NATO said the U.S. destroyer was attempting to put “military pressure” on Moscow by sailing close to Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave between Lithuania and Poland. Russia recently deployed Iskander-M nuclear-capable missiles to Kaliningrad.

Russia has criticized Washington’s plans to station a third Army combat brigade in Europe in the coming year as part of a $3.4 billion initiative to reassure NATO allies of Washington’s commitment to their security and to act as a deterrent against Russian military aggression.

In language that shocked many Russians, Dmitry Kiselev, the presenter of Russian state TV’s main weekly news program, “Vesti Nedeli,” recently described NATO-Russian relations as “khrenovie,” a curse word that translates roughly as “crappy.” Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev was one of the few foreign leaders to attend this year’s Red Square parade. No Western leaders were invited. President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among the Western leaders who snubbed Kremlin invitations to attend last year’s Victory Day parade in response to Russia’s military action in Ukraine. (Contributor: By Marc Bennetts for The Washington Times)

This article from The Washington Times’ May 10 front page stands in stark contrast to our U.S. diminishing military strength. Several retired generals and senior officers have decried U.S. reduction in forces, fewer ships and planes, and the “social engineering” that pushes women into combat. Please watch and pray. No rational person wants war, but we must be ready to defend. Are we?

“Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.” (Lk. 14:31-32)

 

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS GET MORE WELFARE THAN AMERICAN FAMILIES

The households of illegal immigrants receive an average of about $1,000 more annually in federal welfare benefits than do the households of non-immigrant recipients, a new analysis finds.

According to the immigration control advocacy group, Center for Immigration Studies, which breaks down federal cost data from 2012, the welfare payout to likely illegal immigrant households averages $5,692 yearly, compared with the average $4,431 welfare payout to non-immigrant households collecting the benefit.

The CIS analysis study points out illegal immigrants are barred from directly receiving welfare, but may obtain it through their U.S.-born children.

All immigrant-headed households — legal and illegal — receive an average of $6,241 in welfare, 41 percent more than the $4,431 received by a non-immigrant household on welfare, according to the analysis.

The total cost is over $103 billion in welfare benefits to households headed by immigrants. A majority, 51 percent, receive some type of welfare compared with 30 percent of non-immigrant U.S. households, the analysis shows.

Immigrants receiving the most in the study of 2012 figures come from Mexico and Central America, which collect an average of $8,251 yearly, 86 percent higher than the benefits used by non-immigrant households, the analysis finds.

The breakdown also shows the average immigrant household collects 33 percent more cash welfare, 57 percent more food assistance, and 44 percent more in Medicaid dollars than the average non-immigrant household collecting those benefits.

Housing costs are about the same for both groups.

"While it is important for Americans to understand the rate of welfare use among immigrants, expressing that use in dollar terms offers a more tangible metric that is tied to current debates over fiscal policy. With the nation facing a long-term budgetary deficit, this study helps illuminate immigration's impact on the problem," report author Jason Richwine writes. (Contributor: By Newsmax)

No other nation has ever matched the U.S. in its open-hearted welcoming of immigrants and recognizing their participation in building our great country. Why, then, this reported financial imbalance in benefits? What is motivating President Obama? Why isn’t Congress offering balanced regulation? Why the disparity in these statistics? Pray for a return to equity and fairness.

“You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.” (Lev. 19:15)

 

ATHEIST GROUP TO SUE HOUSE CHAPLAIN

The leader of a group dedicated to promoting the separation of church and state filed a lawsuit Thursday against House Chaplain Rev. Patrick Conroy after he rejected a request to deliver a non-religious invocation on the House floor.

Dan Barker, president of the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, alleges that Conroy denied him an opportunity to deliver a guest invocation because Barker is an atheist. The lawsuit was filed in D.C. District Court on Thursday, the same day designated as the National Day of Prayer.

Barker also named Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and several members of Conroy’s staff in his suit in an effort to persuade the court to force the chaplain to allow him to address the House.

“I would really love the opportunity to participate in solemnizing Congress,” Barker said in an interview. “We hope that I, or an atheist, be allowed to deliver a guest invocation before Congress.”

The Office of the House Chaplain did not respond to several requests for comment.

The lawsuit is the result of a year-long effort led by Barker and the Freedom From Religion Foundation and reopens a long-standing fight over whether it is appropriate for a religious leader to open the daily session in Congress.

Barker may face a difficult time getting a court to rule in his favor, said Robert A. Destro, director of the law and religion program at the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University, because Congress has wide latitude under the Constitution to determine how it operates.

“This is a fundamental separation of powers problem,” Destro said. “The House and Senate are authorized by Article I to make their own rules.  The rules governing what the chaplain does rest on that power.”

The House and Senate both employ full-time chaplains to offer pastoral services to members, oversee the Congressional Prayer Room and occasionally conduct religious ceremonies. Conroy was nominated House chaplain in 2011 by then-Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and was elected by House members.

Conroy is responsible for delivering and overseeing an opening prayer that is delivered at the beginning of each daily session of the House. His office also coordinates a guest chaplain program where House members are invited to nominate clergy to fill the slot on an occasional basis.

Barker spoke with his congressman, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), in early 2015 about sponsoring him for one of the available guest opportunities.

Barker claims that approximately 40 percent of the daily prayers on the House floor were delivered by guest chaplains between 2000 and 2015. None of the 857 guest chaplains during that time were atheists, according to the lawsuit.

Pocan wrote to Conroy on Feb. 18, 2015, notifying the chaplain of the request and outlining Barker’s plans to “offer the House of Representatives a hopeful invocation focusing on leading a happy, loving, moral and purpose-filled life.” Barker later submitted his formal biography and a draft of the invocation he intended to deliver.

The request was eventually denied according to a December 2015 email sent by Conroy’s office. Staff members said that all previous guest chaplains have been “practicing in the denomination in which they were ordained.”

Barker was ordained as a minister of Christ in the Christian Center Church, in Standard, Calif., in 1975, and served as a pastor at several churches before publicly announcing his atheism, in 1984.

“Daniel Barker was ordained in a denomination in which he no longer practices,” the email from Conroy’s office said.

Barker claims he was discriminated against for being an atheist. The lawsuit claims that Barker has retained his ordination and has used the credentials to officiate weddings, including a ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Academy, in Colorado Springs.

Conroy explained to Pocan in a letter sent in January that it has been a long-standing requirement that guest chaplains must be “ordained by a recognized body in the faith in which he/she practices.”

“This is a substantive requirement — not a mechanical or check-the-box requirement,” Conroy wrote. “For example, I do not invite Member-recommended individuals who have obtained an Internet-generated ordination to serve as guest chaplains, even if they hold deep and long-standing religious beliefs.”

Pocan’s office declined to comment on ongoing litigation and is not expected to be named in the lawsuit.

Barker said he believes he fulfilled all of the requirements outlined by the chaplain’s office and feels the denial was “a slap in the face.”

“I am struck by the indignity of a government official deciding who is in and who is out on religious grounds,” he said. (Contributor: By Kelsey Snell for The Washington Post)

Pray for House Chaplain, Rev. Patrick Conroy, as he works through an odd contradiction of terms. By definition, atheism means “no god.” Dan Barker, former professing Christian, now a self-defined atheist, demands recognition to bring a non-religious invocation in a role defined for a person of belief. Perhaps God is calling Mr. Barker back to Himself. Pray for a restoration of faith.

“Truly, these [prior] times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by [Jesus Christ] whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)

 

IRAN CARRIES OUT NEW BALLISTIC MISSILE TEST

Iran successfully test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile capable of striking U.S. forces in the region as well as Israel, the third such test since the nuclear agreement with Western nations took effect in January, multiple defense officials confirmed to Fox News.

The rogue nation conducted the test in defiance of a United Nations resolution that calls on Iran to cease work on its ballistic missile program.

“Iran has to abide by U.N. resolutions with regard to ballistic missiles tests, and if they have violated or not been consistent with those resolutions, that clearly would be a concern for us,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said.

Any ballistic missile launch by Iran is tracked by U.S. military spy satellites which pick up the flash during launch. This case was no different, according to officials.

Gen. Ali Abdollahi, deputy chief of the armed forces' headquarters, said the latest missile tested is very accurate, within 8 meters. "Eight meters means nothing, it means it's without any error," he said. He did not elaborate.

In March, Iran test-fired two ballistic missiles -- one emblazoned with the phrase "Israel must be wiped out" in Hebrew -- that set off an international outcry.

Since December, Iran has shipped out its low-enriched uranium, disabled its heavy water reactor in Arak, and weeks ago sold more than $8 million worth of heavy water to the U.S. in compliance with the nuclear deal. However, Iran has ignored separate U.N. resolutions barring the Islamic republic from ballistic missile tests. Fox News was first to report a secret Iranian ballistic missile launch in November.

The test-firing was carried out two weeks ago, Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted Abdollahi as saying. Tasnim is close to the country's powerful Revolutionary Guard, which is in charge of Iranian ballistic missiles program.

The agency said the missile has a range of 1,250 miles -- enough to reach much of the Middle East. Iranian military commanders have described them as a strategic asset and a strong deterrent, capable of hitting U.S. bases or Israel in the event of a strike on Iran.

Analysts say Iran is likely seeking to demonstrate it is making progress with its ballistic program, despite scaling back on the nuclear program following the deal that led to the lifting of international sanction on Tehran.

Last month, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, chief of the Guard's airspace division, said a new, upgraded version of the Sajjil -- a solid fuel high-speed missile with a range of 1,200 miles that was first tested in 2008 -- would soon be ready.

But it was not immediately clear if the missile Abdollahi referred to was the new Sajjil.

The landmark deal does not include provisions against missile launches and when it came into effect on Jan. 16, the Security Council lifted most U.N. sanctions against Tehran, including a ban it had imposed in 2010 on Iran testing missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

To deal with the restrictions in the nuclear agreement, the council adopted a resolution last July, which only "calls on" Iran not to carry out such tests. (Contributor: By Fox News - Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Along with this report of Iran’s further humiliation of President Obama and the U.S., Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-VA) has released a statement: “This Administration has been unconscionably weak in its dealings with Iran, and that has only increased that regime's threats to the U.S. and our allies.” Pray for God’s mercy for America as our nation experiences rapid decline and loss of prestige and respect.     

“Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.” (Ps. 82:8)

 

6 THINGS TO WATCH AT THE METHODIST GENERAL CONFERENCE

The United Methodist Church General Conference convenes once every four years to make policy decisions and set the direction for the denomination.

Beginning Tuesday (May 10), 864 delegates, half of them clergy, will converge on the Oregon Convention Center in Portland for 11 days for the General Conference. More than 40 percent of those delegates will come from outside the U.S.

They’ll consider 1,043 proposals listed in the conference’s legislation tracking system.

Here are six of the most talked-about issues:

  1. LGBT inclusion

The United Methodist News Service tallied up more than 100 petitions alone on sexuality.

Several plans have been proposed to streamline all that legislation, including “The Simple Plan” supported by the Reconciling Ministries Network. That plan would change six paragraphs in the denomination’s Book of Discipline that forbid clergy from marrying same-sex couples and regional conferences from ordaining LGBT clergy. The denomination’s Book of Discipline calls the practice of homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

The Connectional Table, which coordinates Methodist missions, ministries and resources, has proposed the “Third Way Plan” to allow individual clergy to decide whether to perform same-sex unions. It’s similar to “A Way Forward,” another plan that would allow local church bodies to decide whether to perform same-sex marriages, and conferences to decide whether to ordain homosexual clergy.

[ADDITIONAL BULLETIN: CNN reported on May 10 that commensurate with the Portland conference, more than 100 Methodist Clergy have “come out” as gay and/or lesbian. The pre-planned group declaration is in defiance of current Methodist bylaws and thus seeks to force the bishops to accept or reject the position.]

  1. Abortion

Seven petitions suggest changes to the wording of the Book of Discipline’s paragraph on abortion. Several aim to strengthen language about preserving the life of a baby in the womb, while others encourage adoption and protection for health care professionals who do not want to participate in abortions as “a matter of conscience.”

Another petition, submitted by five annual conferences, encourages the General Board of Church and Society and the United Methodist Women to withdraw their membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, which it calls a “one-sided political lobby that opposes all disapproval or limitation of abortion.”

  1. Religious freedom

The General Board of Global Ministries has proposed a resolution calling on Methodists to “honor, respect, and advocate for religious freedom for all faith communities” and urging all governments to do the same.

  1. Welcoming immigrants and refugees

At least three pieces of legislation address the needs of immigrants and refugees.

One would update figures in the Book of Disciple about the number of migrants who have died crossing the border between the U.S. and Mexico — more than 3,860 between the years 1994 and 2009, it said. It also would direct churches to “welcome newly arriving immigrants into our congregations” and push a path to citizenship.

Yet another proposal would expand a section in the Book of Resolutions on Global Migration and the Quest for Justice.

And a new resolution titled “Housing for Persons on the Margins” would direct churches to work together to create housing for immigrants and refugees, among others.

  1. Divestment from companies supporting Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Four resolutions prepared by the United Methodist Kairos Response ask the Methodist denomination to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard—companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands — and end any other investments that relate to illegal settlements. The church already opposes the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Kairos Response isn’t the only group encouraging divestment; an advocacy group called Fossil Free UMC is calling on the church to divest from fossil fuel companies as well.

  1. Gun violence

A new resolution calls on Methodists not only to support those who have been affected by gun violence in their communities, but also to advocate for laws meant to prevent or reduce gun violence. (Contributor: By Emily McFarlan Miller for Religious News Service)

We mourn as David did for Saul: “How are the mighty fallen….” This was the church of the Wesleys, George Whitefield, and Francis Asbury, but the UMC has long been slipping away from God’s Word. Not all, of course. Apostasy (falling away) often begins in schools, as human wisdom judges the Bible to be obsolete. Few such have returned, but God is gracious. Pray He will revive such good roots.

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3-4)

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The Informer May 4, 2016

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NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER

The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance which will be observed on Thursday, May 5, 2016, inviting people of all faiths to pray for our nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. Since its inception, this day has continually united Americans from all socio-economic, political, and ethnic backgrounds in prayer while also encouraging personal repentance and righteousness in the culture. The National Day of Prayer belongs to all Americans and is a day that transcends differences, bringing together citizens to celebrate our most beloved freedom; the freedom to humbly come before God and seek His guidance in prayer.

Mrs. Shirley Dobson serves as the Chairman and Dr. Tony Evans serves as the Honorary Chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. The Theme for 2016 is Wake Up America and is based on Isaiah 58:1. <Click here for more information on this year’s National Day of Prayer. >

 

‘AS THE FAMILY GOES, SO GOES THE NATION’

There’s an old saying that many seem to have forgotten. But truer words were never spoken: “As the family goes, so goes the nation.”

America’s families are fractured like never before, and our country is breaking apart at the seams as a result.

While the Scriptures don’t necessarily give specific policy prescriptions for every issue we face, they do provide very specific principles for how to live as both as free people and decent human beings. And these principles for nourishing human interaction apply to each member of the family. God himself created marriage, and the Bible is filled with stories about what makes families thrive and what pits members against each other. If everyone were to perfectly follow the principles given throughout the New Testament, our country would be a slice of “Heaven on Earth” and our homes would only be filled with bliss.

But as my friend Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College points out, men are not angels. We fail. We rebel. We fail again. We are selfish. Did I mention that we fail?

Our great country’s prescription for federal government was formed through a beautiful document called the Constitution, which recognizes that individuals need a limited government to protect us from others who try to control us or deny our rights. The Constitution protects the God-given rights of individuals as well as protect us as a nation from enemies who would destroy us. But the power of the government is finite and limited. In fact, the 10th Amendment specifically says that if the powers aren’t listed in the Constitution itself, then it is left up to the states and individuals to make every other decision about how we will live.

Our government was not designed to usurp the power of moms and dads to raise their children as they see fit. Nor is it empowered to take care of or make decisions for our children (as those who support a “nanny state” seek to do.) As parents, our job is tough — but it is the most important undertaking of our lives. In fact, the book of Malachi makes clear why God created families: to produce godly children. That is a tough calling. But our Constitution allows us to openly and boldly share our faith with our children in word and deed without fear of government intimidation or sanction.

When moms and dads work within the framework of Scripture — which shows us how to have fulfilling, happy relationships — and as we defeat government policies that attempt to encroach upon our rights to raise our children in the way we deem best, our families will find great freedom and joy.

However, even with strong faith and the freedom to parent, the fact remains that we will often fail.

God himself pointed out mankind’s inevitable failings long ago. But the story did not end there. In a marvelous display of his immense love for us, he provided abundant grace through his only son, who took on our sins and paid the ultimate price that we might be forgiven.

God gives grace—abundant grace, amazing grace—when we fail in our interactions with him and others, including our family members. Such grace (defined as “unmerited favor”) comes to those who are truly repentant, who truly seek forgiveness and who are truly “turning from our wicked ways.”

My husband and I are going through Ephesians together and a description of that beautiful grace from Chapter One keeps filling my heart and mind with absolute joy. It’s the message I want to share with moms everywhere during these days leading up to Mother’s Day.

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us .”

Read that again, and focus on the word, “lavished.” Think for a moment about what “lavish” means: “to bestow something in generous or extravagant quantities.” Wow! How beautiful is that word picture? God doesn’t just tolerate us when we fail; he lavishes us with grace. He does not say he forgives and then holds a grudge; he lavishes us with grace, with favor. Say that aloud. Voice the truth and feel the power. Then meditate a moment on the sheer joy that comes with experiencing that kind of love.

To the moms who might be entering Mother’s Day feeling a bit regretful about past mistakes, or who have not taken every advantage that comes with living in a country that still mostly allows you to raise your children as you see fit, let God lavish you with his abundant, rich, delicious grace. Take the time to close your eyes, ask his forgiveness, and bathe your soul in the hope and joy that comes with a new beginning.

God’s grace is here for the asking. As long as there is breath in you, there is always a chance to mend the relationships in your life that are damaged. Breathe in his grace like rich, life-giving oxygen. Focus first on your relationship with God, then your family members (being deliberate to ask their forgiveness, too), then turn your attention to other relationships. Finally, commit to fighting to restore and protect the freedom God gave you to boldly teach your children to how to also experience His lavish grace. (Contributor: By Rebecca Hagelin for The Washington Times - Rebecca Hagelin is the author of “30 Ways in 30 Days to Strengthen Your Family”.)

Each generation faces its own spiritual battles, and alert Christians are aware that the family unit in the U.S. is under assault more directly and with ferocious evil intent than at any time in our history. Every parent knows it is true. Read the final paragraph of this essay again, and where you need to shore up family relationships, follow God’s leading to fight with spiritual weapons for those you love.     

“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)

 

U.S. DEBT UP MORE THAN $1 TRILLION

In the six months that have passed since then-retiring House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cut a budget deal with President Barack Obama that suspended the legal limit on the federal debt until March 15, 2017, the federal debt has increased by more than $1 trillion.

The Senate passed “The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015” with a vote held in the early morning hours of Friday, Oct. 30. Obama signed it on Monday, Nov. 2.

At the close business on Oct. 30, 2015, the total federal debt was $18,152,981,685,747.52. By the close of business on April 28, 2016—the latest date for which the Treasury has published the number--the total federal debt was $19,186,207,744,589.55.

That is an increase of $1,033,226,058,842.03.

On Monday, Nov. 2--the day Obama signed the Bipartisan Budget Act and thus suspended the debt limit--the debt took a big leap. It closed that day at $18,492,091,120,833.99—up $339,109,435,086.47 from its $18,152,981,685,747.52 closing on Friday, Oct. 30.

Prior to that, the part of the federal debt subject to the then-legal limit of $18,113,000,080,959.35 had been frozen just below that limit for more than seven months (from March 13, 2015 through Oct. 30, 2015), during a “debt issuance suspension period” that Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew had declared on March 13, 2015, to push back the date at which the debt limit would be exceeded.

In a July 29, 2015, letter to Speaker Boehner, Lew indicated he was planning to extend the then-ongoing debt issuance suspension period, and explained its basic operations.

“On March 16, 2015, the outstanding debt of the United States reached the statutory limit,” Lew wrote. “As a result, Treasury had to begin employing extraordinary measures to continue to finance the government on a temporary basis. These measures, which we have used in previous debt limit impasses, include a debt issuance suspension period with respect to investment of the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund and suspension of the daily reinvestment of Treasury securities held by the Government Securities Investment Fund of the Federal Employees’ Retirement System Thrift Savings Plan. The debt issuance suspension period currently lasts until July 30. Tomorrow, I expect to extend the debt issuance through October 30.”

According to the official summary of the law, Section 901 of the “Bipartisan Budget Act,” which Congress passed on Oct. 30 and Obama signed Nov. 2, provided that the “public debt limit is suspended through March 15, 2017.”

The $1,033,226,058,842.03 increase in the debt in the six months since then equals approximately $6,828 for each of the 151,320,000 persons whom the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated had a full or part-time job in the United States as of this March. (Contributor: By Terence P. Jeffrey for CNS News)

When we hear “billions” and “trillions,” most of us have no frame of reference in which to understand what the numbers signify. We do comprehend three things: 1) our national debt is out of control; 2) our elected leaders have no working plan to stem the tide of more indebtedness; and 3) financial ruin occurs when a nation can no longer borrow, and the U.S. is very close. With that, we need to pray.

“A good name is more desirable than great riches… better than silver or gold…. The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” (Prov. 22:1, 7)

 

TENNESSEE GOVERNOR SIGNS 'THERAPIST BILL' INTO LAW

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday signed a bill into law that allows therapists and counselors with "sincerely held principles" to reject gay, lesbian, transgender and other clients.

"Although Senate Bill 1556 has received attention for its perceived focus, my job is to look at the actual substance of the legislation," said Haslam, a Republican in his second term.

In a written statement to the media, he said two of his concerns had been addressed by this most recent version of the bill, which passed the state Senate on April 6. The first requires therapists and counselors to treat people who are an imminent danger to themselves or others. The second mandates the mental health professional arrange a referral to another counselor or therapist.

"The substance of this bill doesn't address a group, issue or belief system," the governor said. "I believe it is reasonable to allow these professionals to determine if and when an individual would be better served by another counselor better suited to meet his or her needs."

Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of the ACLU in Tennessee, expressed her disappointment, calling the law troubling.

"This measure is rooted in the dangerous [dangerous, really?] misconception that religion can be used as a free pass to discriminate," Weinberg said. "Allowing counselors to treat some potential clients differently from others based on their personal beliefs defies professional standards and could cause significant harm to vulnerable people."

Earlier this month, the Family Action Council of Tennessee touted its support for the bill, saying it was important to protect the religious beliefs and moral convictions of counselors and therapists.

The final version of the bill that became law no longer includes any references to religious beliefs. The language was changed by the Tennessee House and Senate after the April 6 vote.

The law went into effect with the governor's signature.

The debate over "religious freedom" laws is not unique to Tennessee. There have been some 100 bills proposed in legislatures across the United States in 2016 that invoke religion as justification to refuse services to gay people, according to Eunice Rho of the American Civil Liberties Union. (Contributor: By Steve Almasy for CNN - CNN's Jeremy Grisham and Keith Allen contributed to this report.)

Whether the skirmish is over a wedding venue or a therapist’s intellectual property (training and skills), these battles will continue as the LGBT community demands recognition and acceptance into mainstream culture. This is why Tennessee and other states are passing legislation to protect the freedom to decline services. Christians should pray for truth to prevail, while treating all with respect.

“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph. 4:31-32)

 

HOMEOWNERSHIP RATE FALLS TO THIRD LOWEST ON RECORD

The rate that Americans own their homes fell in the first quarter to the third lowest on record, another indication that worsening finances as well as changing preferences since the Great Recession are altering behavior.

The Commerce Department reported that the ownership rate fell a tenth to a seasonally adjusted 63.6% in the first quarter, marking the third lowest figure since the 63.5% low in the second quarter of 2015. The ownership rate was 67.8% in the quarter when the U.S. entered recession.

The diminished interest, or ability, to own a home comes at a time when mortgage rates are low but house prices are climbing.

Freddie Mac reported the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 3.66% in the week ending April 28. The 30-year mortgage has been below 4% throughout 2016, according to Freddie Mac data.

However, home prices are on the move, particularly out west. According to Case-Shiller data, prices nationally rose at a 5.4% clip in the 12 months ending February. Some cities including Denver and Portland are seeing double-digit percentage increases.

Rents also are picking up, however. The median asking price for rent was $870 in the first quarter, the Commerce Department reported, representing year-over-year growth of 8.9%. (Contributor: By Steve Goldstein for Market Watch)

U.S. economy is in upheaval. Personal finances fluctuate, and numerous homeowners cannot maintain mortgage payments. Pray for God’s mercy for America. May He awaken His Church to repent and rediscover the true riches found only in Jesus Christ. God’s Word calls believers to seek spiritual values first. Pray that through revival in the Church, many will turn to Jesus and be saved.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Mat. 6:33-34)

 

THE ROBOT REVOLUTION IN CAREGIVING

The game is simple, designed for a child and intended to teach users about diet and diabetes. I sit opposite Charlie, my diminutive fellow player. Between us is a touch screen. Our task is to identify which of a dozen various foodstuffs are high or low in carbohydrate. By dragging their images we can sort them into the appropriate groups.

Charlie is polite, rising to greet me when I join him at the table. We proceed, taking turns, congratulating each other when we make a right choice, and murmuring conciliatory comments when we don’t. It goes well. I’m beginning to take to Charlie.

But Charlie is a robot, a two-foot-tall electromechanical machine, a glorified computer. It may move, it may speak, but it is what it is: a machine that happens to look humanoid. How can I ‘take’ to it?

Charlie’s intended playmates aren’t sixty-something Englishmen, they’re children. Children naturally interact with dolls, imagining them to be sentient beings. It’s a part of childhood. But I’m an adult, for God’s sake. I should have put away such responses to dolls … shouldn’t I?

In truth my reaction to Charlie, far from being odd or childish, is pretty typical. Robots, of course, are hardly new. Over the last few decades we’ve had industrial devices that assemble cars, vacuum our floors, and shunt stuff around warehouses. But the 2010s have seen a rise in the attention paid to robots of the kind that most of us still think of as robots: autonomous machines that can sense their surroundings, respond, move, do things and, above all, interact with us humans. We all recognize R2-D2, WALL-E and scores of their lesser-known kin. The unnerving thing is that their nonfictional counterparts are extremely close at hand. Some press stories are exotic—those about ‘sexbots’ being among the more sensational—but many have featured robots at the less hedonic end of social need: disability and old age.

This has set me wondering how I might cope with the experience—not for an hour or a day, but for months, years. Not tomorrow, but very soon, I will have to get used to the idea of living with robots, most likely when I’m elderly and/or infirm. Contemplating this, my line of thought has surprised and disturbed me.

Modern medicine and increasing longevity have conspired to boost the need for social care, whether in the home or in institutions. “There’s a pressing requirement for robots in the social care of the elderly, partly because we have fewer people of working age,” says Tony Belpaeme, a professor in intelligent and autonomous control systems at Plymouth University. Traditionally among the poorest paid of the workforce, carers are an ever more scarce resource. Policy makers have begun to cast their eyes towards robots as a possible source of compliant and cheaper help.

The robots already in production, Belpaeme tells me, are principally geared to monitoring the elderly and infirm, or providing companionship while, as yet, performing only the most straightforward of physical tasks. Wait … companionship? “Yes,” says Belpaeme, deadpan, “Of course it would be better to have companionship from people … ” He points out that for all sorts of reasons this can’t always be achieved. “Studies have shown that people don’t mind having robots in the house to talk to. Ask the elderly subjects who take part in these studies if they’d like to have the robot left in the house for a bit longer, and the answer is nearly always yes.”

Consider our relationship with nonhuman entities of a different type: animals. The ancient bonds between us have changed, of course: hunting, transport, protection, and other such necessities have slipped to a secondary role. The predominant function of domestic animals in advanced industrial societies is companionship.

When medical researchers started to take an interest in the health effects of pet ownership, they began to find all sorts of beneficial consequences, physical as well as mental. Though somewhat debated, these include reductions in distress, anxiety, loneliness, and depression, as well as a predictable increase in exercise. Pets seem to reduce cardiovascular risk factors such as serum triglyceride and high blood pressure.

The pleasures of animals as companions—and the real distress that may follow their loss or death—are self-evident. Research in Japan has revealed a biological and evolutionary basis to the relationship, at least in so far as it applies to one group of pets. Japanese scientists measured the blood levels of oxytocin in dogs and their owners, had them gaze at one another for an extended period, then repeated the measurements.

If you already know that oxytocin is the hormone associated with building a bond between mothers and their babies, you’ll guess where this is going. Dogs have enjoyed a long period of domestication, during which their psychology as well as their physical attributes have been subject to intense selection. What the Japanese researchers found was that periods of mutual eye contact raised the oxytocin levels in both parties. In short, they uncovered the physiological basis of loving your dog.

Whether on account of chemistry or for other reasons, there is evidence that the majority of pet owners see their animals as part of the family. “This doesn’t mean they regard them as humans,” says professor Nickie Charles, a University of Warwick sociologist with a particular interest in animal–human relationships. Close links with animals are often in addition to rather than instead of relationships with family and friends. “But pets are easier and more straightforward, some owners say.”

The suggestion that nonliving things, including robots, might be able to evoke human responses that are quantitatively and even qualitatively comparable to our feelings about animals is contentious. Yet the evidence of common experience suggests that this is the case, even if we might not admit it or feel faintly uncomfortable if we do.

Who hasn’t shouted at a failing machine? The first vehicle I owned was a decrepit van that struggled even on modest inclines. More than once when driving the wreck I found myself putting an arm out through the window and using the flat of my hand to beat the door panel—like a rider on a horse’s flank. “Come on, come on,” I shouted at the dashboard. Only later did I contemplate the absurdity of this action.

Some such behavior is simply the relief of pent-up tension or anger—but not all. Think back to the mid-1990s and the advent of small egg-shaped electronic devices with a screen and a few buttons. They were called Tamagotchis. Bandai, the original Japanese manufacturer, described a Tamagotchi as “an interactive virtual pet that will evolve differently depending on how well you take care of it. Play games with it, feed it food and cure it when it is sick and it will develop into a good companion.” Conversely, if you neglected your Tamagotchi, it died. For a time, millions of children and even adults became willing slaves to the demands of these computerized keychain taskmasters. To read the complete article on robots and caregiving <Click Here>.  (Contributor: By Geoff Watts for The Atlantic)

Articles such as this one are presented here for general awareness. While robots have become a functional part of our world, we haven’t yet sensed a “moral connection” calling for intercession. But what if a robot, programmed as a “nannie,” injured a child due to mechanical failure? How far will artificial intelligence enter our personal lives? What are the implications? Pray accordingly.      

“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” (Ps. 20:7)

 

WANNA TALK ABOUT JESUS? YOU'LL NEED A PERMIT FOR THAT

North Carolina State University says it wants to "create that inclusive, welcoming environment." In other words, the only way to be truly inclusive and welcoming is to shut down the Christians and shove them into a closet.

A permit is required before students can talk about Jesus at North Carolina State University, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.

Grace Christian Life, a registered student group at NC State, filed suit over a policy requiring a permit for any kind of student speech or communication anywhere on campus – including religious speech.

In September 2015, the student group was told that without a permit, they must stop approaching other students inside the student union to engage in religious discussions or invite them to attend group events.

"It's an amazingly broad speech restriction," Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Tyson Langhofer told me. "Public universities are supposed to be the marketplace of ideas, not places where students need a permit just to exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms."

Alliance Defending Freedom is a law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases. They allege the Christian group has been singled out by the university.

"The University has not restricted the ability of other students and student groups to engage in expressive activity," the lawsuit states. "Grace has witnessed other students, student groups and off-campus groups handing out literature either without a permit or outside of the area reserved by their table permit."

A university spokesperson did not return my calls seeking comment.

NC State's rules were so draconian that the Christians were not even allowed to step from behind their table in the student union.

"Colleges are supposed to be places where ideas are freely shared – not gagged," Grace Christian Life president Hannalee Alrutz told me. "The only permit a student needs to speak on campus is the First Amendment."

It's true that the university does regulate student speech – written, oral or graphic.

ADF points to Regulation 07.25.12 that "requires a permit for any form of commercial or non-commercial speech, which the policy broadly defines as 'any distribution of leaflets, brochures, or other written material, or oral speech to a passersby (sic)…'"

"The policy specifics that any person 'wishing to conduct any form of solicitation on University premises must have the written permission of the Student Involvement (Office) in advance," ADF noted.

According to the lawsuit, a university official sent an email to another official concerned about the Christian club.

"There is an individual named Tommy who works for Grace who is essentially soliciting throughout the building," the email reads. "He walks up to a single person or duo of persons, starts with a hello and then starts the conversation into religion, ending with giving them a card."

The email goes on to explain how they've stopped other groups from engaging in similar behavior in order to "create that inclusive, welcoming environment."

In other words, the only way to be truly inclusive and welcoming is to shut down the Christians and shove them into a closet.

The lawsuit also provides some context on the university's attitude towards Christian ministry during the time that Grace came under attack.

Grace was a member of Chaplain's Cooperative Ministry, an independent, interfaith organization that supported individual campus ministries and planned jointly sponsored interfaith programs.

In October 2015, a university official met with the CCM to advise the group "on the speech restrictions imposed by the Speech Permit Policy."

"Solicitation is not allowed when conversation is initiated under one pretense different from the intended purpose ... inviting involvement in a certain ministry," the university official said in written minutes of the meeting.

In November 2015, the university dissolved its relationship with CCM because "the current environment of diversity and faith traditions within the university is not shown or mirrored well within CCM as it currently exists."

The lawsuit did not elaborate on the problematic "faith traditions" – but typically that means "Evangelical Christians."

ADF tried unsuccessfully to convince NC State to drop its unconstitutional speech policies – but they refused – hence the lawsuit.

"The courts have well established that a public university can't require permits in this manner for this kind of speech – and certainly can't enforce such rules selectively," ADF senior counsel David Hacker said. "Unconstitutional censorship is bad enough, but giving university officials complete discretion to decide when and where to engage in silence students makes the violation even worse."

Kudos to Grace Christian Life for standing up to a bunch of academic bullies who want to silence Christian voices. And thank goodness for bold believers like Miss Alrutz.

"I think this is an attack on my liberty as a citizen of the United States," she told me – warning that every freedom-loving American should be concerned.

"If they could do it to us – they could do it to anybody," she said. (Contributor: By Todd Starnes for One News Now - Todd Starnes is host of "Fox News & Commentary," heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is "God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values." )

Our goal in suggesting a prayer focus for each article is to avoid a shallow response and to touch the “high road” of intercession and go deeply to foundational issues. Free speech is the keystone of a government by, for, and of the people. The Founders’ vision was freedom, not a nation of slaves to an overbearing, dictatorial “federal monarchy.” Pray for a resolution that upholds free and open debate.

“But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.’” (Acts 4:19-20)  

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The Informer April 27, 2016

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WHY THE GLASS IS HALF FULL

It seems the news these days is nothing but bad. Through the media, we are told crime and violence rates are rising, rich cronies are getting richer and low-income earners are getting poorer, and war or rumors of war between countries across the globe run rampant.

But are things on Earth really getting worse than they were in the past, or do technologies such as the Internet just make it easier to learn about goings-on in far-flung parts of the world that would have occurred in the past without the common man knowing anything about them?

The answer, according to data collected by international organizations such as the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) may surprise some (if they get their news from politicians and the media.)

Objectively speaking, the human condition is getting better over time, not worse, thanks to the spread of free-market ideas across the world.

For example, data collected by HumanProgress.org, a project of the Cato Institute, suggests people on Earth have, on average, become more financially secure in just the past 10 years. According to figures from the OECD, the average amount of money any person could be expected to have saved after taxation rose by 40 percent from 2005 to 2015, jumping from $21,950 to $30,745.

Not only do people have more disposable income to save and spend as they please, they have more years in which they can use that money to enjoy life. Data from the World Bank show a baby boy born in 2014 has an average life expectancy of 69.1 years, while a boy born in 1960 had a life expectancy of only 51.9 years. Human medicine and technology have advanced so much in just the past 50 years that babies born today are expected to live almost 33 percent longer than their grandfathers.

Happiness and enjoyment of life’s blessings can’t be fully measured by economic or medical statistics. For example, what use would a long and prosperous life be if we didn’t have music in our lives? It’s a good thing, then, that there is more music to enjoy today than there was just 30 years ago.

According to MusicBrainz, an open-data online music encyclopedia, there have been more new albums and singles released in just 2015 than there were during the 14-year period spanning from 1980 to 1994.

If things are objectively getting better for people, then why do so many think things are getting worse?

Unfortunately, it’s not in the interests of our media to talk about all of the ways in which life is improving. To quote a fictional news reporter from popular video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, “Officials say there are still no reported casualties, which is truly unfortunate, as it makes for incredibly boring news.”

Lawmakers also have little use for reporting good news, because people may otherwise realize these improvements in human life occurred as a result of people freely conducting business with one another, without the help of government regulations and agencies. Instead, lawmakers and politicians focus on life’s negatives and propose more policies and politics as the solutions to the world’s problems, which are often caused by policies and politics.

Instead of believing the media and political spin that things are getting worse and government is the only answer, people need to research the facts and realize freedom has directly improved human happiness on Earth. It is quantifiable that wherever people are free, they have the means to be happy. (Contributor: By Jesse Hathaway for The Washington Times - Jesse Hathaway is a research fellow with the Heartland Institute.)

This positive analysis is based on two beliefs. First, things are good because life expectancy has increased. Second, the “bad news” seems worse because the Internet allows more rapid news release in our day. But intercessors focus on the spiritual pulse. Pray earnestly, as the U.S. is in deep debt, violence abounds, and we are losing our freedoms. But give thanks that God reigns and is in control.

“The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He dwells between the cherubim; let the earth be moved! The Lord is great in Zion, and He is high above all the peoples. Let them praise Your great and awesome name—He is holy.” (Ps. 99:1-3)

 

USING THE GARLAND NOMINATION TO ‘TRANSFORM’ AMERICA

While campaigning for president in 2008, Barack Obama promised to “fundamentally transform” America. And there can be little doubt that his vision is an America where the Second Amendment only applies to government officials, religious liberty exists only to protects private belief, unelected government agencies are given carte blanche to impose regulation on businesses and consumers, equal protection requires racial quotas, and the president can simply rewrite laws passed by Congress that displease him.

But this vision is squarely at odds with that of our nation’s Founding Fathers, who attempted to safeguard our liberties from such abuses through the U.S. Constitution. President Obama is well aware that the supreme law of the land constrains him from remaking the country in his own liberal image, and that to subvert it, stacking the court with liberal judges is an absolute prerequisite.

With the passing of strict constitutionalist Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia so near the end of Mr. Obama’s tenure, the fundamental balance of the court is in question. While the president has the constitutional power to nominate Scalia’s successor, many have argued that he should exercise his prerogative to leave such an important decision to the next president. After all, the Senate has a constitutional duty to give its consent, and the American people should likewise be given an opportunity to inform that consent through the upcoming election.

Mr. Obama’s ideological zeal precluded yielding to such a course, as nearly anyone could have predicted. Instead, the president nominated Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Cognizant that Judge Garland must be confirmed by a Republican-majority Senate, the White House went into immediate overdrive to characterize him as a “moderate” and “centrist” judge. Dutifully parroting the administration, liberal media pundits declared that Republicans would be hard-pressed to reject such a middle-of-the-road selection and called for confirmation hearings to begin without delay.

But with each passing day, we learn a bit more about Judge Garland. What has come to light so far tells us that rushing the nomination process is precisely the route the Senate should not take. Indeed, what we are learning is that the labels “moderate” and “middle of the road” were a deceptive attempt at masking the true nature of a full-on liberal judge upon whom Mr. Obama can count on to secure a liberal majority on the court for many years to come.

According to a recent analysis examining hundreds of Judge Garland’s cases, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) found that he ruled in favor of federal agencies 77 percent of the time and against businesses 90 percent of the time. In environmental cases, he sided with regulators nine out of 10 times while business were shut out 11 to zero. Environmental groups won 62 percent of their cases before him. Judge Garland ruled in favor of federal agencies in labor cases 79 percent of the time. While business lost 95 percent of labor cases, labor unions have never, ever lost a case heard by Judge Garland. The NFIB analysis asked “If that’s ‘moderate,’ what is a liberal?” For this reason, the NFIB came out against Judge Garland, taking a stand on a Supreme Court nomination for the first time in its 70-plus-year history.

Judge Garland’s liberal judicial record goes even further. He has clearly demonstrated that he doesn’t feel bound by the Second Amendment. He voted to reconsider an important gun rights decision that had struck down Washington D.C.’s gun ban. A U.S. law prohibiting federal gun registration didn’t stop him from siding in favor of the Clinton administration-backed National Instant Check System, which retained registration data for six months.

A deeper look at Judge Garland’s record reveals not a compromise selection designed to put Republican senators on the spot, but a liberal judge not bound by the text of the Constitution or its limits.

In truth, his lifetime appointment would represent a perpetual threat to the notion of limited government. As The New York Times has pointed out, a Supreme Court with Merrick Garland will be the most liberal court in 50 years.

The American people are one vote away from having their religious liberties endangered, from government agencies being given a blank check to regulate business and consumers without the consent of Congress, from having our Second Amendment rights threatened, and from having other rights we take for granted kicked to the curb.

In attempting to secure liberal domination of the Supreme Court with another judge to rubber-stamp his left-wing agenda, the president is not treating his constitutional duty with the respect it deserves. The U.S. Senate must stand firm and not allow the president, on his way out of office, to solidify his legacy by creating the most liberal court in decades. (Contributor: By j. Kenneth Blackwell for The Washington Times - J. Kenneth Blackwell, a former Ohio secretary of state, is a senior fellow for human rights and constitutional governance at the Family Research Council and a member of the policy board of the American Civil Rights Union.)

Many Americans, including President Obama’s supporters, know that his assessment of Judge Garland as a “balanced” interpreter of the law is neither accurate nor true. Based on his record, Judge Garland would ensure a liberal Supreme Court for years to come. Pray for the coming elections, that the Constitution will be recognized and upheld in the next president’s nomination.

“Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them…And let them judge the people at all times.” (Ex. 18:21-22)

 

RNC: NO RULE CHANGES BEFORE CONVENTION

The Republican National Committee's rules committee on Thursday chose to punt on changing rules for how a presidential nominee is chosen in a contested convention.

In avoiding a high-profile battle to simplify the rules, the committee rallied behind chairman Reince Priebus's repeated insistence that no changes should be made before the July convention.

The committee adjourned just one hour after it began without making any changes, including one that could have made it more difficult for party leaders to nominate a "white knight" candidate — someone not currently in the race  who could take on Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Committee members repeatedly warned against provoking the ire of the voters by suggesting rules changes just months before Republicans meet for the convention in Cleveland.

The meeting comes as GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump has repeatedly assailed the entire primary process as rigged, and as many rule committee members cited intense media scrutiny in the run-up to what's typically a wonky and dry event.

"We are basically in the seventh inning of the ball game and its not right to change the rules of the ball game in the middle," Georgia committeeman and rules committee member Randy Evans said.

"This is a very hotly contested election and any change that we make will be viewed with a large degree of cynicism.”

The RNC's standing committee doesn't have the final say on the convention rules -- that's left to the delegates elected to the convention rules committee. But the standing committee can make temporary changes to the rules that would need to be agreed on by the convention delegates.

The lion's share of the debate centered on a bid by a longtime Oregon committeeman Solomon Yue to change the rulebook to Roberts' Rules of Order, a common rulebook in government meetings.

Yue believes the change would create more transparency while also clamping down on the ability of party leaders to insert an establishment alternative into the race.

But after about 45 minutes of debate, the vast majority of the hall voted against the bid and quashed it. John Ryder, Tennessee's national committeeman who also serves as Priebus' general counsel, joined the group of lawmakers who spoke out against it.

Ironically, the standing committee operates using Roberts' Rules — so it used Roberts' Rules to block Roberts' Rules.

Yue framed the move as a way to protect grassroots delegates from potential overreach by the convention chairman, likely to be Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

He went on to bash 2012 chairman, then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), for a controversial incident where he read the results of a motion off of a TelePrompTer instead of further examining a contested vote.

"This is a politically supercharged year and we can't afford do have another incident like we had in 2012," he said.

"That would roil the convention and this party as well as cause us to lose in November the white house fight.”

While Yue had previously had harsh words for Chairman Priebus' push to block his proposal — private letters from Yue and committee chairman Bruce Ash castigating the chairman leaked in the days before the meeting — he told reporters he was satisfied that his voice was heard and looked forward to reintroducing the change again in the future.

After the meeting ended, RNC chief strategist Sean Spicer needled the press for that narrative by walking up and down the press row to joke about the "chaos," or lack thereof.

The 56-member committee met in a packed conference room at the Diplomat Hotel & Spa in Hollywood, Fla. filled with reporters and the rest of the RNC.

Despite the controversy, the meeting remained businesslike and cordial, with one delegate even going as far to praise the decorum of the room.

The only brief controversy came when Ash asked the RNC's special counsel to walk through the implications of the change. One committeeman, Massachusetts' Ron Kaufman, successfully blocked him from taking the stage by noting that the rules only allow committee members to speak.

Members had briefly considered postponing the motion to a later meeting, which would have kept Yue's hopes alive, but it resoundingly rejected that move.

Washington committeeman Jeff Kent argued that postponement would only bring the issue closer to the convention's doorstep and that the committee should settle the issue in front of the media and the world.

"Everybody is watching, everybody can see what we do. I would hate for us to take action right now that would send this to what would be described as a smaller committee without the cameras around," he said.

"Let’s not punt this down the road.”

Earlier in the meeting, the committee withdrew two other potential rule changes.

One of those measures would have eliminated the "carve-out" allowing four states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — to hold a primary or caucus before March 1 without penalty.

The other measure would have been a minor procedural change to how the RNC chairman and co-chairman are elected.

Enid Mickelsen, the Utah committeewoman who proposed the rules change at a previous meeting, told the committee she wanted to withdraw her resolution for another day.

"This is a discussion that we need to have again someday, but I would submit that this is not that day," she said in the opening minutes of the meeting.

"I will submit, Mr. Chairman, that in the supercharged political environment in which we find ourselves, this is not the time to be debating rules changes." (Contributor: By Ben Kamisar for The Hill)

In articles with such political nuances, we do not analyze but take the “King’s highway” of watchful prayer. Please intercede for the candidates and for the process. As believers, we must prepare our hearts and minds in prayer, then vote for the best candidates that God sovereignly provides, even if our own choices are not nominated. This is a year for the Church to pray and to trust God.

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He He turns it wherever He wishes. Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.” (Prov. 21:1-2)

 

RESTROOMS AND TRANSGENDER RIGHTS: A FLASH POINT IN THE GOP RACE

Cletus Abate was aghast after learning last week that the Pennsylvania legislature is considering a bill that would extend protections to transgender people, including allowing them to use the bathrooms they choose.

So she took a petition and packets outlining what opponents see as threats from the legislation to a Ted Cruz rally, handing them out to anyone who would listen, including the candidate himself.

“I’m here because Donald Trump came out on the news and said he doesn’t have a problem with transgender bathrooms,” Abate said.

Transgender rights have become an unlikely and heated issue in the presidential campaign after North Carolina enacted a law that, among other things, mandated that people use the restroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate.

Cruz has seized on Trump’s assertion that the North Carolina law, which also rolled back other protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people, was unnecessary and bad for business — corporations including PayPal and Deutsche Bank scrapped plans to create jobs in the state after the legislation was enacted. Trump said there has been “little trouble” with allowing people to use the restroom they want, though he later said that states should have the power to enact their own laws. Trump also said he would let transgender reality-television star Caitlyn Jenner use the women’s restroom at his properties.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he probably wouldn’t have signed the North Carolina law, while both Democratic candidates have condemned it.

“There’s been a significant amount of conversation about it on the presidential level,” said Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, who said 50 anti-transgender bills have been filed nationwide this year. “In terms of it being new territory, the answer is yes.”

Cruz’s argument centers on the idea that allowing transgender women to use women’s restrooms would lead to deviants dressing up as women and preying on young girls. His campaign released an ad accusing Trump of capitulating to the “PC police” and asking viewers whether a grown man pretending to be a woman should use a restroom with your daughter or wife.

“Donald Trump thinks so,” the ad reads.

Cruz has woven his support of North Carolina’s law into his stump speech. There has been some backlash: A woman holding a “Trans lives matter” sign protested outside of a stop Cruz made in Allentown, Pa., on Friday.

“As the father of two young girls, I can tell you it doesn’t make any sense to allow adult grown men strangers to be alone in a bathroom with little girls,” Cruz said at a rally here, drawing loud applause from the crowd.

He called Trump’s views on transgender people “political correctness on steroids.”

“Evil!” a woman in the crowd yelled.

President Obama weighed in on the issue Friday from Britain, which issued a travel advisory warning residents about the North Carolina law and another enacted in Mississippi that allows businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples on religious grounds.

“I want everybody here in the United Kingdom to know that the people of North Carolina and Mississippi are wonderful people,” said Obama, who also took a question from a person who claims no gender. “I also think that the laws that have been passed there are wrong and should be overturned.”

Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have forcefully condemned the laws, and Sanders said he would overturn them if elected president.

Here in Pennsylvania, the battle over transgender rights has been brewing for years. It is the only Northeastern state that does not extend anti-discrimination protections to gay and transgender people, which some members of the Republican-controlled legislature have attempted to change in session after session. They have found an ally in Gov. Tom Wolf (D), who this month issued executive orders barring gender-based discrimination against employees and job applicants in state government and its contractors. Pennsylvania’s physician general is a transgender woman.

The governor has called for passage of the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, which would provide protections to gay and bisexual people in housing, employment and public accommodations — including public restrooms. An employer does not need to construct new facilities to comply. The bill is stalled in the legislature because of a contentious battle over the budget.

Opponents here have seized on the national controversy over transgender rights, labeling it the “bathroom bill,” as many did in North Carolina.

Sally Keaveney, chief of staff to state Sen. Larry Farnese (D), who sponsored the legislation, said this is the first time opponents have used the specter of transgender people in bathrooms to fight a statewide anti-discrimination bill. A number of conservative groups have launched a website dedicated to defeating the bill. It urges Pennsylvanians to call their elected officials, highlights that the bill will affect the commonwealth’s public schools and claims such legislation will lead to an increase in sexual assault, something organizations who work with assault victims call a myth.

More than 30 municipalities in Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Scranton, both of which Cruz visited Friday, have passed transgender protections, according to Adrian Shanker, executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown.

“We are facing one of the most significant threats to religious liberty and privacy rights in the history of the Commonwealth,” reads the handout that Abate brought here, which she got from one of the organizations opposing the measure.

At least 18 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws barring discrimination against transgender people, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, and at least 200 cities and counties prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

Cruz has defended religious-liberty legislation in both North Carolina and Indiana, which has a primary May 3 and where controversy erupted last year after Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a law that many viewed as anti-gay.

Campaigning in Indiana over the weekend, Cruz said people have the right to do whatever they want, including if a man wishes to dress as a woman and use her home bathroom. Cruz said that he is fine with transgender people using a public unisex bathroom but that people do not have the right to impose their lifestyles on others.

Cruz said that if the law allows for a man to enter “a little girl’s restroom, and stay there and he cannot be removed because he simply says at that moment he feels like a woman, you’re opening the door for predators.”

Don Uber, a 69-year-old accountant from Apollo, Pa., agrees with Cruz. Uber, who has a 2-year-old granddaughter, said he is more concerned about male sexual predators dressing up as women and going into women’s restrooms with girls than he is about predators using men’s rooms near boys.

“They’re going to have other men in there that can protect the boys,” Uber said. “It’s our duty as men to be protectors, and opening up [women’s] bathrooms to men is failing our responsibilities.”

Uber said he believes the law will just allow men to walk into women’s rooms.

“You don’t even have to cross-dress. You can go in in a business suit and say, ‘I define myself as a female,’ and they’re okay with that,” he said.

Lizabeth Kleintop, a transgender woman and Moravian College professor from Bethlehem, Pa., said she uses women’s restrooms not because it is a choice, but rather because she identifies as a woman.

“Our interest in going to the restroom is to pee,” Kleintop said.

Cruz does have at least one transgender fan: Jenner, who has said she supports Cruz and would like to be his transgender ambassador. In the latest episode of her show, “I Am Cait,” Jenner was informed that Cruz supported a group of pastors that worked to defeat a Houston anti-discrimination ordinance. Jenner called Cruz “totally misinformed” about transgender people but said he can “take care of the big issues.”

A representative for Jenner declined to comment when asked about Cruz’s stance on the North Carolina law.

Abate said she’s willing to fight as long as it takes to defeat the bill. She insists that she is not bigoted and has gay and lesbian friends and family members but says she believes such legislation violates the rights of people, businesses and places of worship that don’t want transgender people in single-sex bathrooms.

Abate’s newly enacted crusade is now driving her political choices. For months she has supported Trump’s candidacy, but his transgender comments have made her reevaluate, just days before Pennsylvania’s Republican primary on Tuesday.

“I guess that I am going to be pulling the lever for Cruz,” she said. (Contributor: Katie Zezima for The Washington Post - Katie Zezima is a national political correspondent covering the 2016 presidential election. She previously served as a White House correspondent for The Washington Post.

According to the Bible, the LBGT position is topsy-turvy. God’s pattern is clear: male and female. When the Gospel reached the city of Thessalonica (Acts 17), those opposing the message said the apostles “have turned the world upside down.” In reality, the Gospel, when received, turns one’s world right-side up. Pray that a Gospel resurgence will save many and correct sexual confusion.   

“But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, ‘These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.’” (Acts 17:6)

 

JAPAN SUCCEEDS IN TEST FLIGHT OF FIRST STEALTH FIGHTER JET

Japan's first stealth fighter jet successfully took to the skies on Friday as the country joins a select group of world military powers wielding the radar-dodging technology.

Technological super power Japan, despite strict constitutional constraints on the use of military force imposed after World War II, has one of the world's most advanced defense forces and the development of the stealth fighter comes as it faces new security challenges in the form of China's expanding force posture.

The domestically developed X-2 jet took off from Nagoya airport in central Japan on its maiden test flight as dozens of aviation enthusiasts watching the event erupted in applause as it lifted off into the clear morning sky.

Television footage showed the red-and-white aircraft roaring into the air, escorted by two Japanese military fighters that were collecting flight data.

The single-pilot prototype safely landed at Gifu air base, north of Nagoya airport, after a 25-minute flight with "no particular problems," said an official at the defense ministry's acquisition agency.

It was an "extremely stable" flight; the pilot was quoted as saying by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the main contractor.

"The control of the aircraft went exactly as in our simulated training sessions," the pilot added.

The inaugural flight, which followed extensive ground tests, had been postponed due to bad weather and malfunctions of parts used in its escape system.

"The first flight has a very significant meaning that can secure technologies needed for future fighter development," Defense Minister Gen Nakatani told reporters.

"We also expect it can be applied to other fields and technological innovation in the entire aviation industry," Nakatani added.

The X-2, developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and 200 other firms, measures 14.2 meters (47 feet) long and 9.1 meters wide and was built as a successor to F-2 fighter jets developed jointly with the United States.

Its delivery to the defence ministry is expected as early as next month and the acquisition agency "will continue analyzing data and check its stealth technology capability," the agency official told AFP.

Presently, only the United States, Russia and China have been internationally recognized as having successfully developed and flown manned stealth jets, the agency said.

Japan began the project in 2009 and has reportedly spent about 39.4 billion yen ($332 million) to develop the aircraft.

The country was barred from developing aircraft for a number of years after its defeat in World War II but eventually produced the YS-11, a propeller passenger plane that began flying in the early 1960s.

In another aviation milestone in November last year, Japan's first domestically produced passenger jet, also developed by Mitsubishi Heavy, made its maiden test flight. (Contributor: AFP)

The free world helped rebuild Japan after World War II, thanks to the Marshall Plan, and it has been an innovative leader in autos, computers, and high-tech equipment. Pray that no aggressive military resurgence will re-appear and that Japan will flourish as a western ally and remain open to the Gospel.

“For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations.” (Ps. 22:28)

 

HUNDREDS OF FORMERLY ANTAGONISTIC HINDUS TURNING TO CHRIST

Hundreds of Hindus who were fiercely antagonistic toward Christianity have been turning to Christ.

According to Breaking Christian News, the 2008 murder of Hindu leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati sparked intense violence in the predominantly Hindu Kandhamal District in eastern India.

Radical Hindus spread the rumor that Christians were responsible for Saraswati’s murder, though non-Christian Maoists claimed to have killed him.

The Hindu radicals went on a rampage, destroying 300 churches and 6,000 homes, and displacing at least 50,000 people for months. Angry mobs also shot, burned, dismembered, beat, and raped Christians, in addition to making them undergo “reconversion” ceremonies, involving things like drinking water mixed with cow feces.

Many Christian were also persecuted for being part of lower castes in society.

Because of the severe persecution, many fled to the jungles, where more died from poisonous snakes or disease.

Recently, however, there are reports that those very jungles where many Christians died are becoming places where many Hindus are encountering the Lord.

"By God's grace we are holding evangelistic jungle camps everywhere the violence took place," said an indigenous religious leader. "It is God's doing. The violence took place almost everywhere in Kandhamal District. We held a jungle camp at one village church, and in 2008 that church building had been attacked, broken and set on fire, and the Believers had fled to the jungle for safety."

“They are happy to accept Jesus as their God and Savior and to live for Him in the midst of persecution. Thousands are gathering in the jungle camps in Kandhamal District to hear the living Word of God. People were happy and encouraged to live for Jesus and His kingdom,” he continued.

One woman, whose name is withheld for security reasons, was strongly opposed to Christianity and its people, but after she became disillusioned with Hinduism and other religions, she turned to Jesus because He miraculously healed her of an evil spirit.

"I was searching for this kind of life, and Jesus gave it to me. He is the only true and loving God,” she testified. (Contributor: By Veronica Neffinger for Christian Headlines)

This report of Hindus turning to Jesus Christ in areas once severely antagonistic to Christians and their faith is being repeated in other people groups as well, including among Muslims, many of whom are reportedly experiencing miracles of healing and visions of the Lord Himself. Give thanks for these manifestations of grace. Pray for new believers to become grounded and settled in their faith.  

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” (John 14:6)

 

ISIS SUSPECT REVEALS PLANS TO OPEN UP ROUTE FROM SYRIA TO U.S.

One of the American men accused in Minnesota of trying to join the Islamic State group wanted to open up routes from Syria to the U.S. through Mexico, prosecutors said.

Gules Ali Omar told the ISIS members about the route so that it could be used to send members to America to carry out terrorist attacks, prosecutors alleged in a document filed this week.

The document, filed Wednesday, is one of many filed in recent weeks as prosecutors and defense attorneys argue about which evidence should be allowed at the men's trial, which starts May 9.

The men — Omar, 21; Hamza Naj Ahmed, 21; Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 22; and Abdirahman Yasin Daud, 22 — have pleaded not guilty to multiple charges, including conspiracy to commit murder outside the U.S. Prosecutors have said they were part of a group of friends in Minnesota's Somali community who held secret meetings and plotted to join the Islamic State group.

Five other men have pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to support a foreign terrorist organization. A tenth man charged in the case is at-large, believed to be in Syria.

The government's document was filed in response to a defense request that prosecutors be barred from introducing evidence about possible attacks in the U.S.

Last week, Daud's attorney wrote that, absent any specific evidence that his client threatened the United States, any references to discussions about attacks would be prejudicial. To permit such references, as well as references to the Sept. 11 attacks or exhibits that show violent images of war crimes, "would cause the jurors to decide out of fear and contempt alone," defense attorney Bruce Nestor wrote.

But prosecutors said audio recordings obtained during the investigation show the defendants spoke multiple times about the possibility of attacks in the U.S. Among them, Omar spoke of establishing a route for fighters, Farah spoke of killing an FBI agent and another man who pleaded guilty talked about shooting a homemade rocket at an airplane.

Prosecutors wrote that they should be allowed to "play for the jury the defendants' own words, in which they discuss the possibility of returning to attack the United States." They also said the defendants watched videos and gruesome images, which they also want to play for the jury, and that a blanket ban on mentioning the 2001 attacks is inappropriate, noting that Omar had pictures of the burning World Trade Center towers and Osama bin Laden on his cellphone.

A phone message left with Omar's attorney wasn't immediately returned.

The FBI has said about a dozen people have left Minnesota to join militant groups fighting in Syria in recent years. In addition, since 2007 more than 22 men have joined al-Shabab in Somalia. (Contributor: Fox News Latino - Based on reporting by The Associated Press.)

Our southern porous U.S. borders continue to work against national security and make reports such as this espionage and infiltration program easily believable. Our open or loosely guarded borders, along with reduction in security personnel, make America an easy target for terrorists to enter the country. Pray for God’s mercy and for protection from a “fifth column” of internal terrorist cells.    

“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)

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The Informer - April 20, 2016

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THE CHAOS OF THE GOP CONVENTION HAS ALREADY BEGUN

The Republican race remains on track for a contested convention this summer, during which pretty much anything could happen. But we won’t have to wait until July for our first peek at the chaos. The Republican National Committee is convening in Florida later this week for its spring meeting, an event that is already exposing the fault lines that are likely to crack wide open in Cleveland this summer.

The traditionally low-key planning summit—which runs from Wednesday through Friday—is shaping up to be the opening skirmish in the coming three-month long war over the Byzantine rulebook that could decide which candidate walks away with the GOP nomination. The fighting got off to an early start over the weekend when one high-profile RNC member went public with his complaints, but it will really rev up when the RNC rules committee convenes.

Important thing to know: The rules committee doesn’t actually get to write the rulebook for this summer’s convention—it can only recommend changes that a second rules panel will consider this summer before deciding on its own rules package, which will then still need to be approved on the convention floor. How ideal!

Let’s take this to FAQ format. Fire away.

So, there are two rules committees?

Yep. There is the Republican Party’s Standing Committee on Rules, and the Republican National Convention’s Committee on Rules. The standing committee is made up of 56 GOP officials—one from each of the 50 states and six U.S. territories—and spends the four years between each national convention examining and discussing changes to both primary and convention rules. The convention committee, meanwhile, consists of 112 delegates—one man and one woman from each of the states and territories—and operates while the convention is actually in session.

That sounds … confusing.

To say the least. But the basic flow chart looks something likes this:

  • the standing committee draws up a suite of recommended rule changes,
  • which the full Republican National Committee then approves,
  • which the convention committee then considers in Cleveland when writing its rules,
  • which then must be approved by a majority vote on the convention floor.

Until that final vote happens, its best to consider the GOP rulebook a rough draft.

OK, then what are this coming week’s big fights about?

There are two major issues that could come up—either in the formal meeting or on its sidelines—that could ultimately decide whether a white knight or some other dark horse is able to ride onto the convention floor in the event Donald Trump doesn’t have the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination on the first ballot. The first is over a specific rule, while the second has do with the way the convention will be run.

OK, explain in order please.

The first concerns Rule 40(b), which was written in 2012 by Mitt Romney’s team to deny Ron Paul supporters the chance to stage a protest in prime time. The rule requires a candidate to have the support of a majority of at least eight state or territory delegations in order to have his or her name formally placed into nomination. If the eight-state rule stands this year, Trump and Cruz would likely be the only two candidates that would reach that standard, effectively turning the initial ballots into a contest between the two.

Who wants to change the rule?

John Kasich’s campaign has been the most vocal about rewriting 40(b), which makes sense given he’s won only his home state this year and would need a miracle to reach the threshold. The Ohio governor, though, is likely to find support from those establishment-minded RNC members and GOP delegates who have yet to give up hope that someone other than Trump or Cruz will emerge as the nominee—regardless of whether they’re backing Kasich or dreaming of some other, TBD alternative.

So how could that rule change?

Any number of ways. Republicans desperate to stop Trump and Cruz want to tweak that rule to include however many candidates would create the greatest chance of a deadlock in the early rounds of voting, thereby setting the stage for someone else to snag the nomination—be that one of the less-successful 2016 rivals (like John Kasich or Rick Perry) or someone who never actually competed during the primary season at all (like Mitt Romney or Condoleezza Rice). Those backing Trump or Cruz, meanwhile, will do everything they can to keep the rule in place and protect their candidates from being slayed by a white knight on the convention floor.

So if you’re not formally nominated, delegates can’t vote for you?

Actually, no, that’s not true. Even if Trump and Cruz are the only two people who are formally nominated, delegates can still cast their votes for someone else. Those delegates bound to John Kasich or Marco Rubio, or instance, will still be required to vote for their assigned man for as many ballots as are required to by state rules. Unbound delegates, meanwhile, can cast their votes for whomever they like, regardless of the names on the official list.

Then why is the rule so important?

Having your name placed into nomination comes with a number of important perks—the biggest of which is the chance to address the convention before the first vote—that are seen as crucial to amassing the support needed to win the nomination. Without that platform, a candidate who isn’t nominated will have a difficult time consolidating the non-Trump, non-Cruz vote to emerge as a legitimate alternative. And, even if they are able to, they would need to overcome the perception that the GOP establishment was pulling levers behind the scenes to snatch the nomination away from the two men who won the most states and delegates during the primary season.

Take Kasich, for example: If the rule is changed to allow his name to be placed into nomination, he’ll instantly become the clear alternative for any establishment-minded unbound delegates. But if it is not, he’ll look no different than all the other candidates who won a few delegates in a primary season dominated by Trump and Cruz. (Heck, based only on delegates won, Rubio could conceivably argue that he’s more deserving of the nomination than Kasich.) Without a clear alternative nominated, any establishment-minded unbound delegates may feel they have no other choice but to vote for Cruz in a bid to block Trump.

OK, and the other fight?

This one is less about a specific rule and more about how the rules are enforced. Traditionally, the convention runs according to the rules of order used by the U.S. House of  Representatives. That system affords a relatively large amount of power to the man or woman holding the gavel. But one RNC member is pushing a switch to Robert’s Rules of Order, which would shift much of the decision-making from the presiding officer—widely expected to be Paul Ryan this summer—to the 2,472 individual delegates, granting each of them the chance to wreak havoc on the process by raising objections and points of order. (The House rules, meanwhile, give the presiding officer a lot of leeway to deny such motions.)

Why would someone want to do that?

The man behind the proposal, Oregon GOP committeeman Solomon Yue, maintains that it is the only way to ensure that a contested convention unfolds out in the open. “We should operate in total political transparency,” he told Politico last week. While it’s unclear exactly how the switch to Robert’s rules would impact the proceedings, at least one member of the standing rules committee has suggested that it would make it more difficult for the GOP establishment to reopen the nominating process midconvention to offer the candidate of its choice—which they’d presumably want to do to give their preferred alternative the chance to address the convention and rally the establishment troops.

More generally, though, the switch would probably benefit Cruz, since he appears likely to arrive in Cleveland with the largest number of loyal delegates (even though many of his supporters will be required to vote for Trump on the first ballot or two as a result of their states’ primaries or caucuses). At the same time, Trump has made no secret that he’s willing to make life uncomfortable if he’s denied the nomination he thinks he’s earned, and this rule change would give his supporters plenty of opportunities to do just that on the convention floor.

And where does the RNC brass come down on the changes?

They’re not fans. “I don't think that it's a good idea for us next week—before the convention—to make serious rules changes or recommendations of changes right now,” Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus said during a Sunday appearance on CNN. “I think we are in a politically charged environment, I think it’s too complicated.”

But won’t things only get even more politically charged as we get closer to Cleveland?

Yep. (Contributor: By Josh Voorhees for Slate)

For prayer: Like the age-old real estate maxim stressing “location,” IFA’s response to all political party reports and debates is “Pray, pray, and pray.” If you haven’t yet signed up, consider registering for IFA’s pre-election intercessory initiative at GetOutThePrayer.com. Join thousands pledging to pray and then to vote following biblical principles that reveal God’s standards for elected officials.   

“Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over [the people] to be rulers….” (Ex. 18:21)

 

DANGER AHEAD FOR WORLD ECONOMY

The world economy is nearing what international policymakers fear could be a dangerous turning point, as populist uprisings in the United States and Europe threaten to unravel decades-old alliances that have fostered free trade and deepened economic ties.

The tension has reached boiling point in Britain, which in two months will vote on whether to leave the European Union. The International Monetary Fund, which wrapped up its annual meetings this weekend in Washington, warned that a so-called Brexit is a “real possibility,” one that could usher in a new era of uncertainty and undermine the already fragile global recovery.

But the unrest is not limited to the United Kingdom. Anti-EU parties are gaining steam across the continent, particularly in France and Germany, while U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are railing against America’s signature trade deals.

Fueling the furor are blue-collar workers on both sides of the Atlantic who feel left behind by international competition. Their frustration has given rise to political movements condemning the principles of globalization -- free trade and open borders -- that have been heralded as pathways to prosperity since the end of World War II.

“Trying to go back in time, trying to safeguard the achievements of the past will backfire. Because we cannot do that,” said Hans Timmer, the World Bank’s chief economist for Europe and Central Asia. “If countries step away from globalization, we will see a very negative economic backlash.”

At a minimum, disentangling long-standing economic relationships is almost certain to be messy: Ending Britain’s 43-year membership in the EU would trigger renegotiation of trade, financial and social welfare agreements with the rest of Europe. The mere prospect of Brexit sent the pound plunging to lowest levels in seven years. Recent polls show residents roughly split over the decision, with a sizeable faction still undecided.

Financial markets are bracing for a wild ride. Investors are betting London’s major stock index could swing by as much as 6.5 percent around the Brexit vote on June 23, according to an analysis by Macro Risk Advisors. This month, the Bank of England warned that departure could lead to another drop in the pound, cause credit to contract, and send interest rates higher for consumers and businesses.

The volatility alone could be enough to undercut current economic growth, though the true impact of a vote to leave would not be clear for years as Britain and the EU negotiated the terms of departure. A recent analysis by think tank Open Europe found that in a worst-case scenario, a bumpy exit could lower UK growth by 2.2 percentage points in 2030, although it said a well-executed departure could boost growth in the long-run.

The report also does not factor in the potential for Brexit to invigorate nationalist movements across Europe and the economic ripple effects. In France, the far-right National Front party has vowed to hold a referendum on EU membership if it comes to power in the nation’s presidential elections next year. An offshoot group in Germany has become the country’s third-largest party.

“What we’re basically facing is a very protracted period of uncertainty in which we don’t know what the world looks like,” said Colin Ellis, an analyst at Moody’s Investors Service.

The IMF this month lowered its outlook for the global economy this year from 3.4 to 3.2 percent -- the fourth time it has been downgraded -- and even that may be too optimistic. Officials said the risks to its forecasts are growing, and pointed to rising nationalist sentiment among them.

“There is a risk that middle class families and the poor actually remain behind, which would embolden the voices of protectionism and fragmentation,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said.

Economists have long argued that the benefits of globalization far outweigh the costs to workers who might be displaced by those half a world away. The IMF, along with the World Bank, are products of the post-war consensus that deeper economic integration can not only help end political strife, but also lead to mutual growth.

In many ways, it has worked. Economists often point to low prices on clothing and computers as evidence: Consumers in developed countries enjoy cheap products, while workers in emerging markets benefit from employment. The World Bank estimates that the number of people living in extreme poverty fell below 10 percent of the world population last year, down from more than a third in 1990.

The bank has set a goal of ending extreme poverty -- defined as living on less than $1.90 a day -- by 2030, and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim warned that shifting political sentiment could endanger that mission.

“This movement toward isolationism and the movement away from trade is very bad for poor people,” Kim said last week in Washington.

But many supporters of the nationalist movements in Europe and in the U.S. are older blue-collar workers who feel they have been shoved to the bottom of the economic pecking order. Manufacturing employment in the UK has plunged by about a third since 2000, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, while U.S. jobs have fallen by about 20 percent.

David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, analyzed the job market in American towns where businesses competed with Chinese imports. He found that unemployment remained high for at least a decade and workers suffered from lower income throughout their lives.

“There’s a sense that it hasn’t delivered,” IMF chief economist Maury Obstfeld said. He then added, “The problem is that trade creates winners and losers. And we haven’t figured out how to adequately take care of the losers.” (Contributor: By Ylan Q. Mui for The Washington Post - Ylan Q. Mui is a financial reporter at The Washington Post covering the Federal Reserve and the economy.)

International economies teeter, monetary systems spin out of control, and Planet Earth shakes from multiple devastating earthquakes (seven in six days from 6.9 to 7.8, Richter). Meanwhile, China flexes its “gold muscles” against U.S. dollars. But intercessors, take heart! God is always in full control. He guides His plans and purposes. Pray that perilous times will lead many to seek and find the Lord.

The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He dwells between the cherubim; let the earth be moved! The Lord is great in Zion, and He is high above all the peoples. Let them praise Your great and awesome name—
He is holy.”
(Ps. 99:1-3)

 

NORTH KOREA COULD BE PREPARING FOR FIFTH NUCLEAR TEST

North Korea appears to be preparing to conduct another nuclear test, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Monday, citing signs of increased movement near the North’s nuclear test site.

With a much-hyped congress of the communist Workers’ Party to be held early next month, Kim Jong Un appears to be trying to burnish his credentials, and analysts say a fifth nuclear test would be a sure way to do that.

“Recently, signs of preparations for a fifth nuclear test have been detected,” Park said during a meeting with her aides Monday. “We are in a situation in which we cannot predict what provocations North Korea might conduct to break away from isolation and to consolidate the regime.”

This came after the South Korean Defense Ministry said that North Korea’s next underground nuclear test may be of a miniaturized warhead, rather than of the standard atomic devices it is thought to have detonated ­previously.

“Given the latest developments, North Korea could carry out an underground nuclear warhead test, and we are keeping close tabs on it,” Moon Sang-gyun, a Defense Ministry spokesman, told reporters in Seoul on Monday.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported last month that Kim ordered “a nuclear warhead explosion test and a test-fire of several kinds of ballistic rockets able to carry nuclear warheads” to be carried out “in a short time.”

North Korea claims that it has mastered the technology to make nuclear weapons small and light enough to fit on a missile, but there has been no proof. But an increasing number of military top brass and private-sector analysts think that North Korea either will have made or will be on the brink of making such a technological advance soon.

South Korean officials warned Sunday that they had detected a noticeable increase in vehicles and people moving about the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, particularly near its north portal tunnel.

Analysts at 38 North, a website devoted to watching and analyzing North Korea, said that they also saw, in satellite imagery, increased movement around the north portal but that there was little evidence that Pyongyang was planning an imminent nuclear test.

“Nevertheless, that possibility can not be entirely ruled out since the North may be able to conduct a nuclear test on short notice with few indications that it intends to do so,” Jack Liu, a military analyst, wrote in a note on the site.

A fifth nuclear test would create another conundrum for the international community. Kim’s regime has proved impervious to coordinated efforts to change his calculus when it comes to the country’s nuclear program.

Last month, the U.N. Security Council passed the toughest sanctions yet against North Korea as punishment for its January nuclear test and a long-range rocket launch in February.

Yet Kim has remained defiant, issuing an almost daily barrage of threats and continuing to launch rockets and short-range missiles. An attempt to launch a previously untested intermediate-range ballistic missile last week was deemed to have failed.

At a forum in Seoul, Lim Sung-nam, South Korea’s vice foreign minister, said that more pressure and punishment against North Korea is needed.

“We can no longer afford to be pushed around by North Korea’s deceit and intimidation,” Lim said. “The leadership in Pyongyang must be pressed much harder until it changes its fundamental calculation regarding the value of its nuclear arsenal and delivery capabilities.”

In addition to supporting the tough U.N. resolutions, Park’s government has brought in unprecedented bilateral sanctions against North Korea, closing an inter-Korean industrial park and cutting off all humanitarian aid except to babies and pregnant women. (Contributor: By Anna Fifield for The Washington Post - Anna Fifield is The Post’s bureau chief in Tokyo, focusing on Japan and the Koreas. She previously reported for the Financial Times from Washington DC, Seoul, Sydney, London and from across the Middle East.)

IFA reports and prays into international events as they pertain to our own nation, the global Christian community, and/or Israel’s well-being. As for N. Korea’s military news, we urge intercessors to pray for restraint on all sides, as well as for our military leaders. Non-partisan watchdog agencies analyze and report with concern on diminishing American military strength.  Pray as you are led.

“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.’…Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” (Ps. 2:2-3, 10-11)

 

THE SAUDIS CHANNEL THE MAFIA

The mafia, in its heyday, ran lucrative protection rackets. Pay them and your business would be kept safe from “unforeseen” threats. Don’t pay them and your business might go up in smoke with you inside.

Today, things are more sophisticated.

The New York Times reports that Saudi Arabia, playing the role of mafia extortionist, has threatened to “sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”

The Saudis are estimated to hold about $750 billion in Treasury securities and other assets in the United States and the concern is that they might sell them before American courts could impose a freeze. The Obama administration opposes the bill, saying it could potentially open the kingdom to lawsuits from relatives of the dead and injured. So?

Why do the Saudis oppose this bill, which enjoys bipartisan support? Could it be because, as many believe, they helped facilitate the greatest mass murder in American history? Fifteen of the 19 men involved in the terrorist plot were Saudi citizens, and that country promotes the most extreme form of Islam known as Wahhabism.

Adding to the suspicion that there is more to be learned about Saudi Arabia’s role are 28 pages contained in the 9/11 Commission’s report censored by the Bush administration for “national security reasons.” Need more? According to government documents obtained by Judicial Watch, “160 subjects of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including but not limited to members of the House of Saud and/or members of the bin Laden family fled the U.S. (on chartered planes when all other aircraft were grounded) between Sept. 11, 2001 and September 15, 2001.”

In an April 10 appearance on the CBS program “60 Minutes,” former Florida Democratic Sen. Bob Graham, who chaired the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence at the time the report was being written, said: “I think it is implausible to believe that 19 people, most of whom didn’t speak English, most of whom had never been in the United States before, many of whom didn’t have a high school education, could’ve carried out such a complicated task without some support from within the United States.”

Mr. Graham thinks the hijackers received active support and guidance from rich Saudis, Saudi charities and top members of the Saudi government.

This is a matter that is easily resolved by releasing the 28 pages. The relatives of the dead have a right to know who funded the terrorist attack that killed their loved ones. Justice demands it and if compensation is awarded, the Saudis, who have made billions from oil sales to the West, can afford it.

The intent of the Senate bill is to clarify the immunity normally given to foreign governments. It says such immunity should not apply when nations are found culpable of committing terrorist attacks that kill Americans on U.S. soil.

The Obama administration claims that weakening the immunity law could put U.S. corporations, the American government and its citizens at legal risk because other nations might retaliate with similar legislation. The difference is that U.S. citizens are not hijacking planes and committing mass murder in other countries. The bill’s sponsors, notes The New York Times, “have said that the legislation is purposely drawn very narrowly — involving only attacks on American soil — to reduce the prospect that other nations might try to fight back.”

For too long Republican and Democratic administrations have ignored the actions and teachings of Saudi Arabia, including textbooks used in Islamic schools that denigrate Jews and other “infidels” and the building of mosques that some imams are using to spread hate and recruit suicide bombers.

This bipartisan bill should pass, and if the president vetoes it, he should explain his reason to the families of the dead. (Contributor: By Cal Thomas for The Washington Times - Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist. His latest book is “What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America” (Zondervan, 2014).)

The evidence appears to contain the proverbial “smoking gun” implicating the Saudi Kingdom and perhaps the ruling family. Pray that God will allow undeniable truth to emerge, and if reparations are owed to the victims’ families dating back to 9/11/2001, so be it. Pray for members of Congress to step up with courage to take the lid off this nearly 15-year mystery to discover if a cover-up has occurred.

 “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

 

A BUS EXPLODED IN JERUSALEM ON MONDAY, RAISING FEARS OF SUICIDE ATTACKS

A bus exploded in Jerusalem on Monday, wounding at least 21 people in what police said was a "terror attack," raising fears of a return to the Palestinian suicide bombings that ravaged Israeli cities a decade ago.

"There is no doubt that this was a terror attack," Jerusalem police commissioner Yoram Halevy said. He said it was too early to know the identity of the attacker or if it was a suicide bombing.

"We are investigating where the explosive device came from, who planted it, how it got on the bus. All this is in the initial stages of investigation," he said.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said 21 people were wounded in the attack, two seriously, seven moderately and the rest lightly. Another bus and a car nearby were also damaged by the explosion.

It was not clear how many people were on the bus at the time it exploded. Police said the blast was caused by an explosive device detonated at the back of the bus.

Bus driver Moshe Levy told reporters he checked his bus for bombs twice before he started his journey. He said he was in a traffic jam when "suddenly there was an explosion in the back, I immediately understood it was a terror attack, I opened the doors of the bus so people could escape and told them to get out."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed retaliation. "We will locate those who prepared this explosive device. We will reach the dispatchers. We will also reach those behind them. We will settle the score with these terrorists."

The blast came as jittery Israelis prepared for the Passover holiday amid a seven-month wave of Palestinian attacks, mostly stabbings, shootings and attacks where cars were used as weapons against civilians and security forces.

In that time, Palestinian attackers killed 28 Israelis and two Americans. At least 189 Palestinians have been killed. Israel says most of the Palestinians killed were attackers, with the rest killed in clashes with security forces.

For some, the bombing was reminiscent of attacks by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad last decade when the Palestinian groups sent suicide bombers to detonate their explosives in buses and cafes.

Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, issued a statement praising the bus bombing but did not take responsibility for it. Some mosques in Gaza also welcomed the attack with messages of praise broadcast from loudspeakers.

A spokesman for Hamas in Qatar, Husam Badran, said "This attack affirms to everyone one that our people will not abandon the resistance path."

The current round of bloodshed was triggered in September by unrest at a major Jerusalem shrine revered by both Muslims and Jews, and quickly spread to Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza border.

Israel says the violence is fueled by a campaign of Palestinian incitement compounded on social media sites that glorify and encourage attacks. Palestinians say the violence is due to a lack of hope for gaining independence after years of failed peace efforts. (Contributor: By Ian Deitch for The Associated Press and US News Report - Associated Press writers Fares Akram in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, and Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank contributed to this report.)

Even with this dreadful bombing, let us give thanks for God’s mercy in preventing worse carnage. But Israel’s troubles are not over, as Hamas and others are relentlessly committed to its destruction. Western Christians show God’s love through our prayers and friendship. It sounds “old,” but our greatest service is to continue to pray for peace and for Israel’s recognition of Jesus as Messiah.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces.’” (Ps. 122:6-7)

 

MARRIAGE YES, JUST NOT YET?

Contrary to popular belief, marriage isn’t dead. It’s not even dying.

The institution is probably more respected and admired than ever before — just not in a way that encourages millennials to partake in it.

You can see this in national survey data, recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about Americans’ views of various family arrangements.

At first glance the report suggests that Americans may indeed be less devoted to the sacrosanctity of marriage — or at least that we’ve become more tolerant of once-stigmatized non-marital sexual behaviors . In 2002, for example, slightly more than 6 in 10 Americans said they thought it was okay for a young couple to live together without being married. By 2011-2013, the period of the most recent survey, the share had jumped to more than 7 in 10.

Similarly, the report finds that Americans have gotten more accepting of women who bear and raise children out of wedlock, of unmarried 18-year-old couples who decide to have sex and of same-sex couples who adopt children.

On these and other familial and procreative arrangements, Americans have become measurably more liberal. But on one crucial measure, they have become much more conservative.

That measure is divorce.

Respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement that “Divorce is usually the best solution when a couple can’t seem to work out their marriage problems.” In 2002, about half of Americans disagreed. Within a decade, the share had risen to more than 60 percent. In the most recent data, younger Americans — a cohort with the lowest marriage rates on record, mind you — were especially likely to perceive divorce as an unacceptable response to marital strain.

How is it possible that Americans are simultaneously getting more traditional about marital commitment and less traditional about non-marital relations? How did we become more judgmental of divorce and less judgmental of people who “live in sin” or have children out of wedlock?

The answer lies in our evolving views of marriage itself.

Earlier generations saw marriage as a sort of foundational milestone, laid relatively early in life, that would help couples go on to achieve familial and financial stability. Today, it is seen more as a crowning achievement, appropriate and available only after lots of other boxes are ticked off first. And this brass ring ought to be indestructible by the time it graces your left hand.

Marriage has, in other words, gone from being a cornerstone achievement to a capstone one.

Marriage rates may have plummeted in recent decades, but the vast majority of never-married millennials still say they aspire to get hitched someday. They just want to get their ducks in a row first — and my, are those ducks multiplying. A survey from last fall found that young Americans believe they should wait to marry until they have a stable job, have reduced their debt levels or accumulated savings, have a college degree, have successfully cohabitated with their future spouse, have had previous serious relationships and even own their home.

We millennials still want our happily-ever-afters, but with an emphasis on the after.

Meanwhile, many of those intermediate milestones we now see as connubial preconditions have moved further out of reach. Mounting student loan debt, falling youth homeownership rates and stagnant or declining job opportunities are disqualifying many young Americans from this apparently elite institution, or at least turning them into less eligible bachelors and bachelorettes.

Wedlock is a luxury good that young Americans want, but view themselves — and just as important, their potential spouses — as too poor or otherwise unprepared to buy.

It is the layering of these two concurrent forces — the idealization of marriage, plus the declining marriageability (real or perceived) of so many of its would-be participants — that has ground down marriage rates, especially for lower-skilled Americans. And so young people put off marriage, though not necessarily the other milestones that used to almost exclusively follow marriage (such as childbearing).

It’s unclear why marriage has been elevated to such a high pedestal. Perhaps it’s the traumatic legacy of earlier decades of high divorce rates, which make today’s young people fear creating their own broken homes.

Or perhaps it’s the increasing association of marriage with wealthier, better-educated people. Elites have also adopted the capstone view of marriage and actually found it useful for forming more stable, successful, enduring unions.

So keep this in mind if you ever feel the temptation to urge some broke young couple to hurry up and get hitched already: Chances are they’re dragging their feet not because they don’t take marriage seriously but because they do. (Contributor: By Catherine Rampell for The Washington Post)

Intercessors, please note: While this article is essentially a secular analysis of recent survey data on marriage and divorce, the same issues and statistics are being dealt with among evangelical churches and their young adult “millennials” (see WORLD magazine, April 16). Pray for the young professionals with Christian roots. Many are influenced by secular standards rather than God’s Word.

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

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The Informer April 13, 2016

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VIDEOS SEIZED

Investigators working for California's Democratic attorney general, Kamala Harris, raided the home of anti-abortion activist David Daleiden this week—seizing undercover videos that Daleiden and his organization, the Center for Medical Progress, had used to target Planned Parenthood. Daleiden published the videos last August, [revealed footage showing] officials at the women's health organization arranging to illegally sell [infant body parts] for profit. The videos sparked a Republican-led fight to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding, but several state investigations have so far found no evidence the organization broke any laws. Daleiden was indicted by a Houston grand jury earlier this year in connection with fake driver's licenses he used to gain access to Planned Parenthood facilities. Daleiden said he followed the law in making the videos, and called the raid an "attack on citizen journalism." (Contributor: THE WEEK )

This is a classic “David vs. Goliath” battle, with the rich and powerful Planned Parenthood (PP) as Goliath and the smaller and (seemingly) weaker David Daleiden as David. However, the last chapter has not yet been written, and we all know how that fight ended. Intercede for Mr. Daleiden and keep the metaphor in mind as you pray. PP is a powerful force, but the contest is not over.

“Then David said to [Goliath], ‘You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.’” (1 Sam. 17:45)

 

NEW RELIGIOUS FREEDOM BILL

Mississippi became the latest front in the nationwide battle over gay rights this week, after Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed far reaching legislation that allows businesses and government employees to refuse services to LGBT people on the basis of religious objections. Under the legislation—which aims to protect the "moral convictions" of people who believe marriage is between a man and a woman and that a person's gender is "determined by anatomy and genetics" at birth—businesses and faith-based groups will be able to deny housing, jobs, and adoption services to gay people and to block transgender people from accessing bathrooms that match their gender identity. Government employees may also deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Gov. Bryant said the law "merely reinforces" the First Amendment tight of religious freedom and "does not limit any constitutionally protected rights" held under federal law. (Contributor: THE WEEK )

What could be more logical than the view that males should use Men’s Rooms and females, Ladies’ Rooms? A person “believing” he is a bird will not escape injury if he jumps off the roof of a tall building hoping to fly. The press calls the Mississippi decision a “battle over gay rights” rather than “states’ rights.” Give thanks for the MS decision, and pray for a return to national sanity.

“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)

 

PORNOGRAPHY: A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS

Last month, the Republican-led Utah House of Representatives became the first legislative body in the United States to pass a resolution declaring pornography “a public health hazard leading to a broad spectrum of individual and public health impacts and societal harms.” The liberal backlash criticized the measure as an antiquated bit of conservative moralizing, with the Daily Beast calling it “hypocritical” and “short-sighted.” “The science just isn’t there,” wrote Rewire, an online journal dedicated to dispelling “falsehoods and misinformation.”

The thing is, no matter what you think of pornography (whether it’s harmful or harmless fantasy), the science is there. After 40 years of peer-reviewed research, scholars can say with confidence that porn is an industrial product that shapes how we think about gender, sexuality, relationships, intimacy, sexual violence and gender equality — for the worse. By taking a health-focused view of porn and recognizing its radiating impact not only on consumers but also on society at large, Utah’s resolution simply reflects the latest research.

The statistics on today’s porn use are staggering. A Huffington Post headline announced in 2013 that “Porn Sites Get More Visitors Each Month Than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter Combined,” and one of the largest free porn sites in the world, YouPorn, streamed six times the bandwidth of Hulu in 2013. Pornhub, another major free porn site, boasted that in 2015 it received 21.2 billion visits and “streamed 75GB of data a second, which translates to enough porn to fill the storage in around 175 million 16GB iPhones.”

Extensive scientific research reveals that exposure to and consumption of porn threaten the social, emotional and physical health of individuals, families and communities, and highlights the degree to which porn is a public health crisis rather than a private matter. But just as the tobacco industry argued for decades that there was no proof of a connection between smoking and lung cancer, so, too, has the porn industry, with the help of a well-oiled public relations machine, denied the existence of empirical research on the impact of its products.

Using a wide range of methodologies, researchers from a number of disciplines have shown that viewing pornography is associated with damaging outcomes. In a study of U.S. college men, researchers found that 83 percent reported seeing mainstream pornography, and that those who did were more likely to say they would commit rape or sexual assault (if they knew they wouldn’t be caught) than men who hadn’t seen porn in the past 12 months. The same study found that porn consumers were less likely to intervene if they observed a sexual assault taking place. In a study of young teens throughout the southeastern United States, 66 percent of boys reported porn consumption in the past year; this early porn exposure was correlated with perpetration of sexual harassment two years later. A recent meta-analysis of 22 studies between 1978 and 2014 from seven different countries concluded that pornography consumption is associated with an increased likelihood of committing acts of verbal or physical sexual aggression, regardless of age. A 2010 meta-analysis of several studies found “an overall significant positive association between pornography use and attitudes supporting violence against women.”

A 2012 study of college-aged women with male partners who used porn concluded that the young women suffered diminished self-esteem, relationship quality and sexual satisfaction correlated with their partners’ porn use. Meanwhile, a2004 study found that exposure to filmed sexual content profoundly hastens adolescents’ initiation of sexual behavior: “The size of the adjusted intercourse effect was such that youths in the 90th percentile of TV sex viewing had a predicted probability of intercourse initiation [in the subsequent year] that was approximately double that of youths in the 10th percentile,” the study’s authors wrote. All of these studies were published in peer-reviewed journals.

Because so much porn is free and unfiltered on most digital devices, the average age of first viewing porn is estimated by some researchers to be 11. In the absence of a comprehensive sex-education curriculum in many schools, pornography has become de facto sex education for youth. And what are these children looking at? If you have in your mind’s eye a Playboy centerfold with a naked woman smiling in a cornfield, then think again. While “classy” lad mags like Playboy are dispensing with the soft-core nudes of yesteryear, free and widely available pornography is often violent, degrading and extreme.

In a content analysis of best-selling and most-rented porn films, researchers found that 88 percent of analyzed scenes contained physical aggression: generally spanking, gagging, choking or slapping. Verbal aggression occurred in 49 percent of the scenes, most often in the form of calling a woman “b----” and “sl--.” Men perpetrated 70 percent of the aggressive acts, while women were the targets 94 percent of the time. It is difficult to account for all of the “gonzo” and amateur porn available online, but there is reason to believe that the rented and purchased porn in the analysis largely reflects the content of free porn sites. As researcher Shira Tarrant points out, “The tube sites are aggregators of a bunch of different links and clips, and they are very often pirated or stolen.” So porn that was produced for sale is proffered for free.

The performers who make up the porn industry are also at risk, in ways that affect them as well as members of the broader public. Aside from frequent claims of sexual violence and harassment, film sets are often flush with sexually transmitted infections. In a 2012 study that examined 168 sex industry performers (67 percent were female and 33 percent were male), 28 percent were suffering from one of 96 infections. Even more troubling, according to the authors, was that the porn industry’s protocols significantly underdiagnosed infections: 95 percent of mouth and throat infections, and 91 percent of rectal infections, were asymptomatic, which, the authors argue, made them more likely to be passed on to partners both in and out of the sex industry. Since members of the industry have protested proposed safety measures requiring the use of condoms and other prophylactics, legislating to protect these performers has proven challenging.

Beyond the porn industry, legislators have begun to respond to yet another genre of pornography quickly proliferating on the Web: “revenge porn,” whose perpetrators post and disseminate sexually explicit photos of their victims (often their former girlfriends) online without their consent. Unsurprisingly, revenge porn has been linked to several suicides and has been used to blackmail and sexually exploit minors.

As the evidence piles up, a coalition of academics, health professionals, educators, feminist activists and caregivers has decided that they can no longer allow the porn industry to hijack the physical and emotional well-being of our culture. This means understanding that porn is everyone’s problem. Culture Reframed, an organization I founded and currently chair, is pioneering a strategy to address porn as the public health crisis of the digital age. We are developing educational programs for parents, youth and a range of professionals that aim to help shift the culture from one that normalizes a pornographic, oppression-based sexuality to one that values and promotes a sexuality rooted in healthy intimacy, mutual care and respect.

Parents and educators at every level need to know that if porn is not discussed in a research-based, age-appropriate sexual health curriculum, its effects will surely show up as sexual harassment, dating violence and inadvertent “child pornography” on students’ phones. Pornography can cause lifelong problems if young people are not taught to distinguish between exploitative porn sex and healthy, safe sex. As the research shows, porn is not merely a moral nuisance and subject for culture-war debates. It’s a threat to our public health. (Contributor: By Gail Dines for The Washington Post)

This report, sad as it is, has two cutting edges. The research is no doubt accurate: the pornography industry wrecks lives, victimizes participants, and distorts the sacredness of sex in marriage. But the second edge will allow unregenerate hearts to blame their “addiction” for sinful acts with partners. Pray for Christians who are trapped to seek freedom through the power of Jesus Christ.

“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)

 

PAYPAL STANCE: DO BUSINESS IN COUNTRIES HOSTILE TO GAYS

PayPal drew a line in the sand when North Carolina enacted a law prohibiting people from using the restrooms of the opposite sex, but critics say that line got washed away on the shores of Malaysia, a nation that consistently ranks among the least LGBT-friendly in the world.

The company canceled its plan to build a global operations center in Charlotte after the passage of HB2, which CEO Daniel Schulman called discrimination against the transgendered. He noted that the move would cost North Carolina 400 well-paying jobs.

But Malaysia’s Penal Code 187 — which punishes homosexual conduct with whippings and up to 20 years in prison — did not stop PayPal from opening in 2011 a global operations center there that it estimated would employ 500 workers by 2013.

“We chose Malaysia because of its highly skilled, globally competitive and multilingual workforce, in addition to a world-class business environment and technology infrastructure,” John McCabe, senior vice president for global operations, said at the time.

But PayPal is not an isolated corporation, nor is Malaysia an isolated country.

Whether it’s Apple opening stores in Saudi Arabia or American Airlines looking to dominate the Cuban travel market, many of the companies that have threatened to cut business ties to North Carolina over its bathroom bill are eager to do business in countries with regimes far more repressive of gays (and everyone else).

PayPal’s international headquarters are located in Singapore, where sexual contact between males is punishable by up to two years in prison, and even littering can be punished by flogging. The company has a software development center in Chennai, India, where same-sex marriage is prohibited.

Matt Sharp, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, said PayPal’s actions internationally speak louder than its words at home.

“They’ve got a political agenda that they’re trying to push in the U.S. But it definitely does not line up with what their actions are saying around the world in places like Malaysia and others,” Mr. Sharp said.

Apple is among the other major corporations that have taken to the pulpit to lecture North Carolina for its sins despite doing business with anti-gay foreign regimes. CEO Tim Cook was one of several high-profile tech CEOs who signed a letter to Republican Gov. Pat McCrory calling on him to repeal the legislation.

“We are disappointed in your decision to sign this discriminatory legislation into law,” the letter reads. “The business community, by and large, has constantly communicated to lawmakers at every level that such laws are bad for our employees and bad for business.”

But, as Mr. Sharp points out, that has not stopped Apple from opening stores in Saudi Arabia, where gay people are regularly executed in public and cross-dressing is also a criminal offense. Pro-gay and trans advocacy are illegal, as is every religion except Islam.

“We’ve seen the same thing with Apple and some of these other companies that are fine doing business in Saudi Arabia and other countries that are extremely oppressive of the LGBT community,” Mr. Sharp said.

North Carolina Rep. Robert Pittenger noted that PayPal also provides its payment services in countries where restrooms are the least of the transgender community’s worries.

“PayPal does business in 25 countries where homosexual behavior is illegal, including 5 countries where the penalty is death, yet they object to the North Carolina Legislature overturning a misguided ordinance about letting men in to the women’s bathroom?” said Mr. Pittenger, a Republican, in a statement. “Perhaps PayPal would like to try and clarify this seemingly very hypocritical position.” (Contributor: By Bradford Richardson for The Washington Times)

These discriminatory decisions by PayPal, Apple, etc., are clear examples of hypocrisy. They seek to “punish” North Carolina for banning mixed-gender bathroom use, yet they thrive in countries with far more restrictive laws against homosexual behavior, including execution. Pray for spiritual awakening all across America. Intercede for God’s mercy and for truth to prevail.  

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise. A fool’s wrath is known at once, but a prudent man covers shame.” (Prov. 12:15-16)

 

TENNESSEE BILL WOULD ALLOW COUNSELORS TO DENY SERVICES

A bill that would allow mental health counselors to turn patients away based on the counselors’ religious beliefs and personal principles has passed in the House in Tennessee, the latest state to introduce measures that opponents say legalize discrimination against gays, bisexuals and transgender people.

The Senate, which already passed the measure, still would have to approve an amendment adopted by the House.

The bill passed 68-22 Wednesday following a rancorous debate on the House floor. If it is signed into law, Tennessee would be the only state to allow counselors to refuse to treat patients based on the counselors’ own belief systems, said Art Terrazas, Director of Government Affairs for the American Counseling Association. The organization has called the bill an “unprecedented attack” on the counseling profession and government overreach.

Opponents of the measure say it would allow therapists to discriminate against gays and other people who are at their most vulnerable and need therapy. Proponents say it takes into account the rights of everyone, including the therapists.

“We are standing up for everyone’s right when we vote for this bill,” Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, told members before the vote.

Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, tried unsuccessfully to attach several amendments to the bill, including one that would force therapists to treat children who are victims of bullying. He said that Tennessee would be an outlier if it passes the legislation.

“It’s intriguing to me that this body is wanting to stand in the way of people seeking help in the state of Tennessee,” Clemmons said during the debate.

The bill would not allow counselors to turn away people who are in imminent danger of harming themselves or others.

The measure is part of a wave of bills across the country proposed by Conservative Christian lawmakers who are upset about the Supreme Court decision last year that effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

The Tennessee bill is both narrower and broader in scope than those recently presented in Georgia and Mississippi, which would allow religious clergy and many types of service providers the right to deny service to customers based on the providers’ religious beliefs. Georgia’s governor said last week that he would veto the measure; Mississippi’s governor signed it on Tuesday.

Tennessee’s bill limits itself to counselors, but allows them to deny services for reasons that go beyond religion.

The original version of the bill, first passed by the Senate, based any denial of services on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” The House amended that language to allow any counselor in private practice to refuse to treat a client and provide services relating to “goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with the sincerely held principles of the counselors or therapist.” The counselor would have to refer the patient to someone else.

Those in the counseling community say the law as it is written now is so broad that it would allow counselors to turn away patients for virtually any reason. As an example, Terrazas said, a therapist opposed to war or U.S. military policy could refuse to treat a veteran with post-traumatic stress syndrome under the bill.

The Tennessee Equality Project, which supports gay rights, condemned the House passage of the bill and called on the governor to veto the legislation. (Contributor: By Sheila Burke for The Washington Times and The Associated Press)

First, the bill has not yet been signed into law. Please pray for truth and justice to win. Second, the true purpose here is to protect therapists and counselors from financial destruction if or when they withhold services for reasons of conscience. When conscience can be stifled, bought or bullied, religious freedom is destroyed. Please pray as you are led, based on the truth of God’s Word.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Prov. 9:10)

 

U.S. MILITARY CHRISTENS SELF-DRIVING 'SEA HUNTER' WARSHIP

The U.S. military on Thursday christened an experimental self-driving warship designed to hunt for enemy submarines, a major advance in robotic warfare at the core of America's strategy to counter Chinese and Russian naval investments.

The 132-foot-long (40-metre-long) unarmed prototype, dubbed Sea Hunter, is the naval equivalent of Google's self-driving car, designed to cruise on the ocean’s surface for two or three months at a time - without a crew or anyone controlling it remotely.

That kind of endurance and autonomy could make it a highly efficient submarine stalker at a fraction of the cost of the Navy's manned vessels.

"This is an inflection point," Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Work said in an interview, adding he hoped such ships might find a place in the western Pacific in as few as five years. "This is the first time we've ever had a totally robotic, trans-oceanic-capable ship."

For Pentagon planners such as Work, the Sea Hunter fits into a strategy to incorporate unmanned drones - with increasing autonomy - into the conventional military in the air, on land and at sea.

It also comes as China's naval investments, including in its expanding submarine fleet, stoke concern in Washington about the vulnerability of the aircraft carrier battle groups and submarines that remain critical to America's military superiority in the western Pacific.

"We're not working on anti-submarine (technology) just because we think it's cool. We're working on it because we're deeply concerned about the advancements that China and Russia are making in this space," said author Peter Singer, an expert on robotic warfare at the New America Foundation think tank.

Work said he hoped the ship, once it is proven safe, could head to the U.S. Navy's Japan-based 7th Fleet to continue testing.

His goal is to have ships like the Sea Hunter operating on a range of missions, possibly even including counter-mine warfare operations, all with limited human supervision.

"I would like to see unmanned flotillas operating in the western Pacific and the Persian Gulf within five years," he said, comparing the protype ship to early drone aircraft.

The ship's projected $20 million price tag and its $15,000 to $20,000 daily operating cost make it relatively inexpensive for the U.S. military.

"You now have an asset at a fraction of the cost of a manned platform," said Rear Admiral Robert Girrier, the Navy's director of unmanned warfare systems.

Rules Of The Road

Developed by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the ship is about to undergo two years of testing, including to verify that it can safely follow international norms for operating at sea.

First and foremost is ensuring that it can use radar and cameras to avoid other vessels. Powered by two diesel engines, the ship can reach speeds of 27 knots.

The advent of increasingly autonomous ships and aircraft is stoking concern among some experts and activists about armed robotic systems that could identify people as threats and kill them.

During the christening ceremony in Portland, Work raised the possibility of someday positioning weapons on the Sea Hunter.

But he stressed that even if the United States ever decides to arm robotic naval systems such as Sea Hunter, any decision to use offensive lethal force would be made by humans.

"There’s no reason to be afraid of a ship like this," Work told reporters at the ceremony. (Contributor: By Phil Stewart for Reuter News Service - editing by John Walcott and Alan Crosby)

The prayer focus here is broader than a robotic drone-type ship. Intercessors are reminded of the very real threat of future open warfare as China and Russia, especially, continue to build their own, respective, naval strength. Pray for U.S. military leaders, including President Obama as Commander-in-Chief, for wisdom and appropriate steps to maintain national defense. Pray for God’s mercy.

“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)

 

DIABETES CASES HAVE QUADRUPLED IN JUST OVER 3 DECADES

It's a potentially fatal disease whose risks can in many cases be prevented through lifestyle measures. So why has diabetes seen a massive increase in sufferers?

The number of people living with the potentially fatal disease has quadrupled since 1980, to more than 400 million, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Worldwide, diabetes killed 1.5 million in 2012 alone, with high blood-glucose causing another 2.2 million deaths, the organization says.

In its first Global Diabetes Report, the WHO says a "whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach" is required to tackle the disease, which costs an estimated $827 billion annually in patient care and medicine.

Findings of the WHO report were published in the medical journal Lancet, and highlight inequalities between countries, as diagnoses and medicine are more accessible in high-income nations.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease caused by the body's failure to produce enough insulin to regulate blood glucose -- or blood sugar.

Raised blood glucose can eventually damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. Abnormally low blood glucose can cause seizures and loss of consciousness.

Type 1 diabetes is not currently preventable and sufferers require daily administration of insulin to survive.

Type 2 diabetes -- which results from the body's ineffective use of insulin -- is far more common and can be influenced by lifestyle as well as genetic and metabolic factors.

Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and impaired fasting glycemia (IFG) are elevated glucose levels not yet at the level of diabetes but which nonetheless increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Additionally, pregnant woman can develop gestational diabetes, increasing the risk of complications and the long-term risk of type 2 diabetes.

Why is diabetes on the rise?

The WHO says that between 1980 and 2014, the percentage of adults with diabetes increased from 4.7% of the global population to 8.5% (from 108 million to 422 million).The rise, it says, mirrors "the global increase in the number of people who are overweight or obese."

Among the WHO's key findings about exercise and :

  • In 2010 nearly a quarter of adults (18 and older) were classified as "insufficiently physically active."
  • Even more alarming were the figures on inactivity among adolescents, with 84% of female adolescents and 78% of males falling short.
  • In 2014, almost one in four adults aged over 18 years was overweight and more than one in 10 were obese.

Which countries are most affected?

"Prevalence is growing most rapidly in low- and middle-income countries," the report says.

The biggest estimated percentage rises were in the Western Pacific, African, Southeast Asia and Eastern Mediterranean regions -- with the last having an increase from 5.9% to 13.7% of the population.

Adult mortality rates from high blood-glucose increased globally over the same period, with the African, Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asia regions worst affected.

What can be done?

"Some risk factors for type 2 diabetes -- such as genetics, ethnicity and age -- are not modifiable," the WHO says, but others, such as weight, diet, exercise and smoking, are.

"At the individual level, intensive interventions to improve diet and physical activity can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in people at high risk."

It says all government sectors must "systematically consider the health impact of policies in trade, agriculture, finance, transport, education and urban planning -- recognizing that health is enhanced or obstructed as a result of policies in these and other areas."

The WHO suggests, for example, that urban planning could encourage physical activity by ensuring nonmotorized transport is accessible and safe, while taxation -- as in the case of Mexico -- could be enacted to try to reduce demand for sugary beverages.

Early diagnosis in primary health care settings is also key to avoiding poor health outcomes, the WHO says and must be easily accessible.

What about medicine to treat diabetes?

Just as basic technologies for diagnosis and monitoring of diabetes in low-income and lower middle-income countries are less accessible, so too is insulin, the WHO says.

Limited competition between a small number of multinational manufacturers can increase prices, with low-income countries generally paying the most for the treatment, it says.

"Governments' decisions about insulin purchasing-- tendering practices, choice of supplier, choice of products and delivery devices -- can have a huge impact on budgets and on costs to end users.

"Governments may recoup high costs by charging mark-ups to patients. In Mozambique, for example, insulin purchased from local wholesalers was 25% to 125% more expensive than that purchased through international tenders," the WHO says.

It says while insulin is reported as available in 72% of countries it varied widely by region and country.

"Only 23% of low-income countries (six countries) report that insulin is generally available, in contrast to 96% of high-income countries (54 countries).

"Further, the reported general availability of insulin in the WHO Region of the Americas and the European Region is more than double that of the WHO African Region and South-East Asia Region," the report says.

Any silver lining?

The WHO says the results of its 2015 Noncommunicable Disease Country Capacity Survey give an "encouraging global impression" that countries are addressing diabetes.

"Nearly three-quarters (72%) of countries have a national diabetes policy that is implemented with dedicated funding, and countries are also taking action at the policy level to address unhealthy diets and physical inactivity," it says.

But the WHO warns that policy needs to be translated into action, with less than half of countries with national guidelines or standards on diabetes actually implementing them.

A co-ordinated approach is needed.

New York banning smokeless tobacco at ballparks, other venues

"Everyone has a role to play -- governments, health-care providers, people with diabetes and those who care for them, civil society, food producers, and manufacturers and suppliers of medicines and technology are all stakeholders," the WHO says.

"Collectively, they can all make a significant contribution to halt the rise in diabetes and improve the lives of those living with the disease." (Contributor: By Susannah Cullinane for CNN News)

Based on the statistics, it is a safe guess that readers are more familiar with Type 2 diabetes than Type 1, which requires daily insulin for survival. Type 2 is often controlled through dietary disciplines and increased exercise (when possible). Concerned believers can add “works” to their prayers by 1) honest introspection, and 2) prayerful encouragement to friends and loved ones. Pray accordingly.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2)

 

A NEW MAN-MADE SHRIMP -  SIMULACRUM

Americans really like seafood — we consume about 4 billion pounds a year, and there is no way that various fisheries can compete with the demands of our gullets, as well as those of pescatarians worldwide.

While there have been various advances in raising seafood, including the United States' largest inland shrimp farm (which is located in Indiana and produces a quarter of a million shrimp a month), a start-up in San Francisco called New Wave Foods has another approach to seafood.

The biotech company was founded a year ago by Dominique Barnes, who studied marine conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Michelle Wolf, a materials scientist, and it plans to release a "popcorn shrimp" product that is entirely man-made within the next eight months, according to a report in The Atlantic.

Barnes told the Atlantic that the process of making the faux crustacean, out of red algae and protein powder, is like "baking a loaf of bread." New Wave won't be the first faux shrimp on the market, but because they are made of the same algae that shrimp regularly eat, these shrimp knock-offs claim to have a much closer nutritional profile that any previously produced.

Given the amount of shrimp, salmon, tuna, and other seafood that we consume per year, coupled with the rampant abuses endured by modern-day slave laborers to supply companies such as Whole Foods and Wal-Mart with shrimp , disrupting the industry with a simple substitute seems to be the most logical way to fix the problem. The company's first product will be breaded, but the creators' next project is to create a naked shrimp that can be used in lieu of shrimp cocktails, and then branch out to other seafood. (Contributor: By Matt Giles for Popular Science)

Editorial Note: While food items such as these may not necessarily be dangerous for human consumption, it is very important for intercessors to be aware of the trend of companies combining the words, “biotech” - “entirely man-made” with the word “food.”

We may expect an avalanche of such reports, so they do not shock us. We already have soy “meat” products, foods artificially flavored and dyed, plus cloning purporting to present “natural” products that are mass produced. “Watch and pray” already means “read the labels carefully and choose grocery items prayerfully.” Pray diligently, while being wise and cautious.

“Test all things; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thess. 5:21)

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The Informer April 6, 2016

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ZIKA’S STRUCTURE HAS BEEN REVEALED, BRINGING SCIENTISTS CLOSER TO A VACCINE

Zika, the mosquito-borne virus linked to microcephaly in the fetuses of infected women, just lost a little bit of its edge to researchers. On Thursday, a Purdue University team published the virus's structure for the first time in the journal Science.

By outlining the physical structure of the virus in near-atomic detail, they have made it possible for scientists to determine the unique properties that make Zika so dangerous — and how those abilities might be knocked out with vaccines and treatments.

Zika is a flavivirus — a member of the same family as other mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue, West Nile and yellow fever — and its strong similarity with those better-understood viruses was confirmed in the study. But scientists are most interested in what makes Zika different.

"Most viruses don't invade the nervous system or the developing fetus due to blood-brain and placental barriers, but the association with improper brain development in fetuses suggest Zika does," study author Devika Sirohi, a graduate student at Purdue, said in a statement. "It is not clear how Zika gains access to these cells and infects them, but these areas of structural difference may be involved. These unique areas may be crucial and warrant further investigation."

In an interview with The Washington Post, Purdue's Michael Rossmann, who co-led the team with Richard Kuhn, said that their examinations with an electron microscope had found significant changes to the Zika virus's surface.

It shares a basic structure with all flaviviruses: Genetic info in the form of RNA is surrounded by a fatty membrane, then encased in a protein shell with a 20-sided face. The protein shells are made of 180 copies of two different proteins, each composed of chains of different amino acids. Once inside a target cell, the virus breaks apart and forces the host to do its bidding, replacing the instructions coded into the cell's DNA with those programmed by viral RNA.

Zika differs most from other flaviviruses at a spot thought to be crucial to the cellular break-in. At this site, a carbohydrate molecule — made of different sugars — sits on the virus's protein shell. The so-called glycosylation site where Zika differs actually protrudes from the shell of the virus. In other viruses, similar protrusions act like strangers offering candy, tricking the human cell into binding with the invader. Like other flaviviruses, Zika seems to have a unique smattering of amino acids around that area.

"That makes it very different in a very important respect," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Post. While the findings don't begin to question how or why these changes might allow Zika to have such disastrous effects on fetal brain development, he said, "it provides a very plausible explanation for why we're seeing Zika do things these other flaviviruses don't do."

Rossmann compares studying a mysterious virus like Zika to opening the hood of a car and figuring out how the engine works — if you're from Mars, and it's the first car you've ever seen.

"All you can do is take it apart, put it together again, see that it's not working anymore, take it apart, put it together, over and over until you make it do its job, and then figure out how to keep it from doing that job," he said.

The hope is that all of that tinkering will lead to treatments — and one day, a vaccine. Now that they know the virus's structure in intimate detail, Rossmann explained, scientists won't be flying blind when they pull antibodies from patients. They'll be able to understand what structures on the virus are being interfered with and how vaccines might interfere in the same way.

"The daunting, concerning and yet sometimes exciting aspect of all of this is that, as the weeks go by, you know more and more," Fauci said. He pointed to recent cases that have highlighted new Zika risks: We now know that Zika is readily sexually transmitted, for example. It's also now clear that early blood tests and ultrasounds can miss signs of the infection and of harm to the fetus that come to light later. And while researchers used to think that only first-trimester infections were dangerous, they now have seen that expectant mothers infected later in pregnancy can expose their fetuses to the virus as well.

And that's worrisome, because Fauci doesn't think Zika is going away anytime soon. "I don't think it's going to be a come-and-go phenomenon," he said, comparing it with its cousin dengue — which has been a persistent public health problem for years. The NIAID hopes to have a vaccine in efficacy trials by early 2017, and he expects "a lot of active infections" will be around at that time.

Understanding the structure of Zika will certainly help make more effective vaccines, but there are months — and maybe years — of hard work ahead.

"I think, with this, we’ll be able to make a Zika vaccine," Fauci said. "But you never say never, and you never say always." (Contributor: By Rachel Feltman for The Washington Post)

The Purdue team’s discoveries, even to non-scientific eyes, sounds like Nobel Prize material, and without slighting the researchers’ brilliance in any way, we urge prayer for more of God’s wisdom and mercy in revealing the answers needed for an eventual treatment and, ultimately, a vaccine. Pray for ongoing success and that God will receive glory.

 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29)

 

FDA UPDATES RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ABORTION PILL

New recommendations for the abortion pill announced [last] Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration could increase use of the medication to terminate / [kill an unborn baby] a pregnancy in the United States.

The new label changes the recommended dosage of the two drugs used in the abortion process. It allows the treatment to be used up to 70 days into pregnancy - three weeks longer than the old guidelines. And it relaxes prescriber guidelines to allow, for example, a nurse practitioner to administer the drugs rather than a physician.

The reality on the ground will not change for most abortion patients, as doctors for years have been legally diverging from the old FDA protocol based on new research. But a handful of states, including Texas and Ohio, have laws requiring abortion providers to adhere at least in part to the FDA-approved label, leading some providers there to all but abandon the use of the abortion pill.

"The label change for medication abortion will mean that it will once again be a real option for Preterm's patients and women across the state," Chrisse France, executive director of Preterm, an abortion provider in Ohio, said in a statement. "We will no longer be forced to practice medicine mandated by politicians whose ultimate goal is to shut us down."

Anti-abortion groups noted that the new label carries over the old label's warnings of some of the dangers associated with the drug - including the very rare possibility of infection or death.

"The new label affirms the deadly realities of chemical abortion and underscores the need for in-person patient examination and follow-up care as well as the fact that the abortion drug regimen presents serious risks to women's health," Anna Paprocki, staff attorney for Americans United for Life, said in a statement.

The label change is effective immediately. It applies to Mifeprex, which is the brand name for mifepristone, one of the two drugs used in medication abortions. It blocks the production of progesterone, a hormone that prepares the lining of the uterus for a fertilized egg. A day or two after taking that drug, the woman takes the second drug, misoprostol, which causes the uterus to contract and expel the pregnancy.

The FDA said that the manufacturer of Mifeprex, Danco Laboratories, applied for the updated label as part of a "supplemental new drug application" submitted to the agency in late May. The company proposed that the treatment be used to end a pregnancy through the first 70 days of gestation - that's 70 days from the first day of the woman's last menstrual period. Under the original labeling, the treatment was to be used through the first 49 days of gestation.

The agency also approved changes in the doses of the drugs and the dosing regimen. Under the old regimen, a woman would take three Mifeprex tablets on the first day and two misoprostol tablets on the second day. Under the new label, a patient would take one Mifeprex tablet on day one and 4 misoprostol tablets 24 to 48 hours later. Women are advised to return to their health-care providers a week or two after taking Mifeprex, under the revised label. That was two weeks under the old label.

The agency initially approved Mifeprex in September 2000, and women can get it from their health-care providers such as clinics, medical offices and hospitals, and under the supervision of a certified prescriber. It is not available in retail pharmacies, or legally sold over the Internet.

The agency said that cramping and vaginal bleeding are possible side effects of the treatment, and that in some cases surgery will be needed to stop very heavy vaginal bleeding. Other potential side effects, the FDA said, include headache, diarrhea, dizziness and vomiting. (Contributor: By Sandhya Somashekhar and Laurie McGinley for The Washington Post and Sun Sentinel)

This is still abortion, and the medications are still not reliably proven as safe from unpredictable side-effects. Intercede for these babies’ mothers, as well as each respective father, will understand, by divine revelation, the extreme value of their pre-born children and will choose life, even for adoption, for these innocent lives.

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.” (Prov. 24:11 NIV)

 

U.S. COMMANDOS TRAINED TO STOP TERRORISTS WITH `DIRTY BOMBS'

U.S. commando units have been trained to seize and disable nuclear or radioactive bombs, providing a crucial last line of defense if terrorists get their hands on such weapons, according to the general in charge of the forces.

The U.S. Special Operations Command “has sufficient ‘render-safe’ capacity to respond to the most likely” scenarios involving weapons of mass destruction under the current analysis of threats, Army General Raymond Thomas has told lawmakers.

The Pentagon rarely discusses publicly its plans to use commandos if terrorists obtain a nuclear weapon or build a “dirty bomb” from radioactive material. While U.S. officials say there’s no sign yet that Islamic State has such a capability, the prospect was on Friday’s agenda for the Nuclear Security Summit of world leaders being hosted by President Barack Obama in Washington.

Thomas described the role U.S. commandos might play in written responses to the Senate Armed Services Committee before his confirmation as head of the Special Operations Command, a post he took this week. He moved up a rung from his previous role heading the Joint Special Operations Command, directly overseeing fabled -- and secretive -- units such as the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s SEAL Team 6.

‘Proper Threshold’

Even with U.S. special forces spending significant time conducting counterterrorism operations, Thomas said those deployments haven’t interfered with preparations to handle a weapon of mass destruction.

Thomas said his commandos have “found the proper threshold of maintaining the world’s foremost counterterrorism force” for missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere “while ensuring our counterproliferation forces, including the no-fail mission of render-safe, are manned, trained and equipped and prepared to address WMD threats as they arise.”

More about the Defense Department’s preparations for using commandos to disarm weapons of mass destruction can be found in the fine print of budget documents.

Funding Plans

From fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2021, the Pentagon plans to have spent more than $1 billion equipping the Special Operations Command with “a full spectrum” of counterterrorism technologies developed by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, according to budget documents supporting a $103 million request for fiscal 2017.

From fiscal 2010 to 2016, the threat-reduction agency received $655 million to spend on these technologies, and it’s proposing about $537 million in additional funding through 2021.

The program is intended to give special forces units the “tools to locate, identify, characterize, assess and attack WMD production and storage facilities with minimal-to-no collateral damage or loss of life,” according to the documents. One of last year’s accomplishments was described as development of a “precision shaped charge using a proven manufacturing process.”

The Special Operations Command’s embrace of the mission against weapons of mass destruction is something of a turnaround.

Maintain Ability

In 2010, Admiral Eric Olson, who then headed the command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in written answers that the commitment of elite commandos to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had compromised their skills to hunt worldwide for such weapons, diluting the capability.

The number of commandos “available for counterproliferation” was limited and their expertise was degraded by “the decreased level of training,” Olson said.

In March, Thomas told the panel, “I will continue to use current training and exercise programs” to “maintain our ability to meet our mission to counter” weapons of mass destruction.

He said he’ll also push for state-of-the-art technology and transfer “as much capability as is reasonable to forward-deployed” special operations units. (Contributor: By Anthony Capaccio for Bloomberg News)

An old and reliable principle of security is called “the need to know,” and we wonder why articles like this are published for any reader — friend or foe — to become knowledgeable as to what our military is doing to thwart terrorist bomb attacks. Since it is public knowledge, we reprint for intercessors to pray. As long as the horrors of war and terrorism exist, we appeal to heaven for God’s mercy.

For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” (Ps. 96:4)

 

SAUDI ARABIA BUYING UP FARMLAND IN U.S. SOUTHWEST

Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries are scooping up farmland in drought-afflicted regions of the U.S. Southwest, and that has some people in California and Arizona seeing red.

Saudi Arabia grows alfalfa hay in both states for shipment back to its domestic dairy herds. In another real-life example of the world's interconnected economy, the Saudis increasingly look to produce animal feed overseas in order to save water in their own territory, most of which is desert.

Privately held Fondomonte California on Sunday announced that it bought 1,790 acres of farmland in Blythe, California — an agricultural town along the Colorado River — for nearly $32 million. Two years ago, Fondomont's parent company, Saudi food giant Almarai, purchased another 10,000 acres of farmland about 50 miles away in Vicksburg, Arizona, for around $48 million.

But not everyone likes the trend. The alfalfa exports are tantamount to "exporting water," because in Saudi Arabia, "they have decided that it's better to bring feed in rather than to empty their water reserves," said Keith Murfield, CEO of United Dairymen of Arizona, a Tempe-based dairy cooperative whose members also buy alfalfa. "This will continue unless there's regulations put on it."

In a statement announcing the California farmland purchase, the Saudi company said the deal "forms part of Almarai's continuous efforts to improve and secure its supply of the highest quality alfalfa hay from outside the (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) to support its dairy business. It is also in line with the Saudi government direction toward conserving local resources."

Alamarai did not respond to CNBC requests for an interview. (Contributor: By Jeff Daniels for CNBC)

Many Americans cannot understand why foreign powers are allowed to purchase U.S. land and reap profits at our nation’s expense. As we see it, the anger being aroused in California and Arizona is justified. Perhaps the regulations will be changed by the next administration. The money is no doubt very attractive, but the expense to our country is beyond calculation. Pray into this as you are led.

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Tim. 6:9-10)

 

RUSSIA DOUBLING NUCLEAR WARHEADS

Russia is doubling the number of its strategic nuclear warheads on new missiles by deploying multiple reentry vehicles that have put Moscow over the limit set by the New START arms treaty, according to Pentagon officials.

A recent intelligence assessment of the Russian strategic warhead buildup shows that the increase is the result of the addition of multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, on recently deployed road-mobile SS-27 and submarine-launched SS-N-32 missiles, said officials familiar with reports of the buildup.

“The Russians are doubling their warhead output,” said one official. “They will be exceeding the New START [arms treaty] levels because of MIRVing these new systems.”

The 2010 treaty requires the United States and Russia to reduce deployed warheads to 1,550 warheads by February 2018.

The United States has cut its warhead stockpiles significantly in recent years. Moscow, however, has increased its numbers of deployed warheads and new weapons.

The State Department revealed in January that Russia currently has exceeded the New START warhead limit by 98 warheads, deploying a total number of 1,648 warheads. The U.S. level currently is below the treaty level at 1,538 warheads.

Officials said that in addition to adding warheads to the new missiles, Russian officials have sought to prevent U.S. weapons inspectors from checking warheads as part of the 2010 treaty.

The State Department, however, said it can inspect the new MIRVed missiles.

Disclosure of the doubling of Moscow’s warhead force comes as world leaders gather in Washington this week to discus nuclear security—but without Russian President Vladimir Putin, who skipped the conclave in an apparent snub of the United States.

The Nuclear Security Summit is the latest meeting of world leaders seeking to pursue President Obama’s 2009 declaration of a world without nuclear arms.

Russia, however, is embarked on a major strategic nuclear forces build-up under Putin. Moscow is building new road-mobile, rail-mobile, and silo-based intercontinental-range missiles, along with new submarines equipped with modernized missiles. A new long-range bomber is also being built.

“Russia’s modernization program and their nuclear deterrent force is of concern,” Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, which is in charge of nuclear forces, told Congress March 10.

“When you look at what they’ve been modernizing, it didn’t just start,” Haney said. “They’ve been doing this quite frankly for some time with a lot of crescendo of activity over the last decade and a half.”

By contrast, the Pentagon is scrambling to find funds to pay for modernizing aging U.S. nuclear forces after seven years of sharp defense spending cuts under Obama.

Earlier this month, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that Russia continues to pose the greatest threat to the United States.

“The one that has the greatest capability and poses the greatest threat to the United States is Russia because of its capabilities—its nuclear capability, its cyber capability, and clearly because of some of the things we have seen in its leadership behavior over the last couple of years,” Dunford said.

In addition to a large-scale nuclear buildup, Russia has upgraded its nuclear doctrine and its leaders and officials have issued numerous threats to use nuclear arms against the United States in recent months, compounding fears of a renewed Russian threat.

Blake Narendra, spokesman for the State Department’s arms control, verification, and compliance bureau, said the Russian warhead build-up is the result of normal fluctuations due to modernization prior to the compliance deadline.

“The Treaty has no interim limits,” Narendra told the Free Beacon. “We fully expect Russia to meet the New START treaty central limits in accordance with the stipulated timeline of February 2018. The treaty provides that by that date both sides must have no more than 700 deployed treaty-limited delivery vehicles and 1,550 deployed warheads.”

Both the United States and Russia continue to implement the treaty in “a business-like manner,” he added.

Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon official involved in strategic nuclear forces, however, said he has warned for years that Russia is not reducing its nuclear forces under the treaty.

Since the New START arms accord, Moscow has eliminated small numbers of older SS-25 road-mobile missiles. But the missiles were replaced with new multiple-warhead SS-27s.

“The Russians have not claimed to have made any reductions for five years,” Schneider said

Additionally, Russian officials deceptively sought to make it appear their nuclear forces have been reduced during a recent nuclear review conference.

“If they could have claimed to have made any reductions under New START counting rules they would have done it there,” Schneider said.

The Obama administration also has been deceptive about the benefits of New START.

“The administration public affairs talking points on New START reductions border on outright lies,” Schneider said.

“The only reductions that have been made since New START entry into force have been by the United States,” he said. “Instead, Russia has moved from below the New START limits to above the New START limits in deployed warheads and deployed delivery vehicles.”

Deployment of new multiple-warhead SS-27s and SS-N-32s are pushing up the Russian warhead numbers. Published Russian reports have stated the missiles will be armed with 10 warheads each.

Former Defense Secretary William Perry said Thursday that New START was “very helpful” in promoting strategic stability but that recent trends in nuclear weapons are “very, very bad.”

“When President Obama made his speech in Prague, I thought we were really set for major progress in this field [disarmament],” Perry said in remarks at the Atlantic Council.

However, Russian “hostility” to the United States ended the progress. “Everything came to a grinding halt and we’re moving in reverse,” Perry said.

Other nuclear powers that are expanding their arsenals include China and Pakistan, Perry said.

Perry urged further engagement with Russia on nuclear weapons. “We do have a common interest in preventing a nuclear catastrophe,” he said.

Perry is advocating that the United States unilaterally eliminate all its land-based missiles and rely instead on nuclear missile submarines and bombers for deterrence.

However, he said his advocacy of the policy “may be pursuing a mission impossible.”

“I highly doubt the Russians would follow suit” by eliminating their land-based missiles, the former secretary said.

Additionally, Moscow is building a new heavy ICBM called Sarmat, code-named SS-X-30 by the Pentagon, that will be equipped with between 10 and 15 warheads per missile. And a new rail-based ICBM is being developed that will also carry multiple warheads.

Another long-range missile, called the SS-X-31, is under development and will carry up to 12 warheads.

Schneider, the former Pentagon official, said senior Russian arms officials have been quoted in press reports discussing Moscow’s withdrawal from the New START arms accord. If that takes place, Russia will have had six and a half years to prepare to violate the treaty limits, at the same time the United States will have reduced its forces to treaty limits.

“Can they comply with New START? Yes. They can download their missile warheads and do a small number to delivery systems reductions,” Schneider said. “Will they? I doubt it. If they don’t start to do something very soon they are likely to pull the plug on the treaty. I don’t see them uploading the way they have, only to download in the next two years.”

The White House said Moscow’s failure to take part in the nuclear summit was a sign of self-isolation based on the West’s sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for the military takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea.

A Russian official said the snub by Putin was directed at Obama.

“This summit is particularly important for the USA and for Obama—this is probably why Moscow has decided to go for this gesture and show its outrage with the West’s policy in this manner,” Alexei Arbatov, director of the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the business newspaper Vedomosti.

A Russian Foreign Ministry official, Mikhail Ulyanov, told RIA Novosti that the summit was not needed.

“There is no need for it, to be honest,” he said, adding that nuclear security talks should be the work of nuclear physicists, intelligence services, and engineers.

“The political agenda of the summits has long been exhausted,” Ulyanov said. (Contributor:  By Bill Gertz for The Washington Free Beacon)

President Obama continues to reduce U.S. military strength, while Russian President Putin is moving his country in the opposite direction. Regardless of Mr. Obama’s goals, many analysts, including those of his own party, have expressed concern about our vulnerability should military force be required internationally. Pray for God’s mercy, and that America will repent and turn to the Lord.

“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)

 

FRANKLIN GRAHAM WARNS AMERICA: 'I FEAR THAT OUR END WILL BE NEAR'

Evangelical preacher the Rev. Franklin Graham has warned that much like the decline of the Babylonian empire close to 2,500 years ago, America may also be staring down at its end, unless it turns back to God.

"What's the writing on the wall for America? As a nation we are found lacking because of sin and disobedience to God's Holy Word. We have not honored Him. If we don't turn back to God, I fear that our end will be near," Graham wrote on Facebook Sunday.

He noted that 2,500 year ago, present day Iraq was known as the Babylonian empire, and boasted one of the largest armies in the world at the time.

"Its king, Belshazzar, was having a big party drinking and boasting with his wives, his mistresses, and his nobles," Graham described, referring to the account in the book of Daniel in the Bible.

He added: "While they were partying, the hand of God appeared and wrote a message on the wall, terrifying everyone including King Belshazzar. His face grew pale and his knees went weak. Daniel is called in to interpret the handwriting which says three things: 'Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.'"

After Daniel warns Belshazzar that he is guilty of worshiping false gods, the king is slain that very night, and the kingdom is lost.

Graham has made several such warnings in the past, declaring at his Decision America Tour that the U.S. is "being stripped of biblical heritage."

"Our country is going in the wrong direction. And I think some of the politicians that are running have tapped into the anger and the frustration in this country. And I want Christians to know that their vote does count and we've taken God out of government, schools and everything else and we need to get God back into it," Graham said back in February, urging people to vote in the presidential elections.

The evangelical, who leads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has further warned that news headlines suggest the world is unraveling, and Jesus Christ is coming to "wipe the slate clean."

"While the United States is focused on its own politics, the world is unraveling. The danger signals are everywhere. Beheadings, rapes, murders, bombings are taking place every day across North Africa through the Middle East, all the way to the borders of India," Graham said.

Speaking about Jesus, he added: "One day He is going to wipe the slate clean and 'create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind,' (Isaiah 65:17). For those who have trusted His Son Jesus Christ by faith, there is an eternal future with Him to look forward to." (Contributor: By Stoyan Zaimov for Christian Post)

First, we ask intercessors to give thanks for Rev. Franklin Graham and his God-ordained ascendancy as a spiritual spokesman and statesman. We believe God has raised him up to sound an urgent prophetic call to the Church in America. Second, please pray for him, as this calling makes him the focus of spiritual attacks and warfare. May many hear and respond to his warnings to repent.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord….” (Ps. 33:12)

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The Informer - March 30, 2016

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PAKISTAN EASTER BOMBING DEATH TOLL CLIMBS PAST 70

As Pakistan began burying its dead Monday, authorities counted 29 children among those killed by an Easter suicide bombing in an amusement park, victims of a terrorist attack that has re­inforced growing feelings of dread here.

Although 2015 was relatively quiet, horrified Pakistanis are again asking what their government can do to protect them from extremist violence.

More than 70 people in all were killed in the devastating attack Sunday in Lahore. Officials vowed to hunt down the Islamist militant bombers who claimed they targeted Christians — yet killed many of their Muslim brethren in the bargain.

Even after a week of terrorist violence in Iraq, Turkey and Belgium, the attack here nonetheless became a focus of global dismay.

It was the country’s worst terrorist attack this year and the deadliest attack in Pakistan since nearly 150 were killed at a school in Peshawar in late 2014 — a shock to the nation that led to an unexpectedly peaceful 2015. That calm period now seems to be over.

Security forces arrested a “number of terrorist suspects and facilitators” in at least five separate raids in cities across Punjab province, where Lahore is located, according to Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa, an army spokesman. ­Bajwa also said that “a huge cache of arms and ammunition” was recovered in the operations, but he did not say where the weapons stockpile was found.

Police in Lahore said Monday that they were investigating whether the suicide bomber — who detonated an explosives-packed vest in the crowded park Sunday evening — had accomplices. The blast ripped through crowds of families celebrating Easter and a school break, transforming a joyful scene into a spectacle of chaos and horror. The city was in a period of official mourning Monday, with schools and markets closed and little traffic.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis on Monday decried the Easter bombing as “vile and abominable” and called for Pakistan’s religious minorities to be protected. He urged authorities in Pakistan to “make every effort to restore security and serenity” to Pakistanis, according to the Vatican’s website.

Pakistani authorities noted that more Muslims than Christians were killed and injured. Of those who died at the scene, 14 were Christian, 44 were Muslim, and nine could not immediately be identified, according to Muhammad Iqbal, the superintendent of police for operations in Lahore.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Lahore, which is one of his political strongholds, to visit the wounded in one of the city’s many hospitals, his office said. He also announced that he was canceling a trip to Washington, where he had planned to attend this week’s nuclear summit.

A splinter faction of the Pakistani Taliban, Jamaat ul-Ahrar, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying, “It was our people who attacked the Christians in Lahore, celebrating Easter.”

Pakistan, a country of 190 million, has suffered for years from sectarian violence and Islamist militancy, including a Taliban-led insurgency in the tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan. Recent terrorist attacks targeting minorities and schools have left many ordinary Pakistanis scared and on edge.

“This shouldn’t be happening,” said Rani Farzand, a teacher and neighbor of an 8-year-old girl who died in the blast. “The kids are not safe in the parks, in the schools, in the mosques. Where should we send our children? What should we do?”

On Monday, little remained of the carnage at Gulshan-e-Iqbal park, a leafy oasis in Pakistan’s second-largest city.

Police had cordoned off the bloodstained area between a fountain and a bumper-car ride in the children’s amusement section where the bomb exploded. Objects were left like small grace notes — a jeweled sandal, mangled reading glasses, a child’s shoe.

At Jinnah Hospital in Lahore, where about half of the more than 300 injured were taken Sunday night, 67 remained hospitalized with a variety of injuries, including burns and shrapnel wounds, doctors said. Politicians and TV anchors weaved among the beds, where occupants were labeled “blast victim.”

Among them were two small children, their beds marked with signs saying “unknown.” Their family died in the blast, and they had yet to be linked with other relatives.

Some were clearly still in shock. Zeeshan Taaj, 23, had been walking through the park on his way back from a pickup cricket match when the bomb detonated. He injured his leg in the aftermath and is trying to come to terms with what he saw: “Fire and smoke,” he said. “I have seen chopped legs blown off, heads and dead bodies scattered all around me.”

A friend tried to comfort him by tucking a sheet around his still-bloodied leg wound.

In another bed, Tasleem Sultan, 40, described how she and four other adult family members took eight children to the kiddie amusement park Sunday night and found it bustling on the warm evening. Her niece, Zainab, 8, had donned her best red dress and put flower-shaped barrettes in her hair for the occasion. She rode an elephant on the merry-go-round. She was holding her aunt’s hand when the force of the explosion separated them.

Later, her father found Zainab, bleeding and lifeless.

“I was weeping. I am still in shock,” Jamshaid Iqbal, 35, said in an interview at his family home after her funeral. “Why isn’t the government protecting us?”

In Islamabad on Monday, thousands of Muslim demonstrators protesting the execution of Islamist assassin Mumtaz Qadri staged a sit-in inside the capital city’s “Red Zone,” which is home to a number of vital government institutions, including Parliament and the prime minister’s house. Qadri assassinated Punjab’s governor, Salman Taseer, in 2011 over the latter’s opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Most blasphemy cases are lodged against non-Muslims for violations such as desecrating the Koran, Islam’s holy book, according to rights monitors. The army was deployed Sunday night to protect government buildings after the protesters rampaged across the city, damaging property and setting buildings on fire. (Contributors: By Annie Gowen and Shaiq Hussain for The Washington Post - Erin Cunningham in Kabul, Babar Dogar in Lahore, and Haq Nawaz Khan and Aamir Iqbal in Peshawar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.)

Pray for survivors and the victims’ families. There is worldwide confusion over international leadership’s failure to call these attacks “Islamist terrorism.” Pope Francis called the bombing “vile and abominable,” but last November he said Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters. And Pres. Obama to call ISIS “Islamic terrorists.” Pray for clarity and global cooperation to stop these terrorist attacks.    

“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Mt. 24:7-8)

 

STRONG RELIGIOUS BELIEFS LINKED TO LOWER RATES OF DRUG ABUSE

For a religion in which wine plays such a central role, Christianity may prove surprisingly effective at curbing drug use, according to a study.

Study: http://drugabuse.com/featured/drugs-and-devotion/

Data analyzed by DrugAbuse.com in “Drugs and Devotion: Comparing Substance Abuse by Believers and Nonbelievers” show a correlation between religious belief and a reluctance to experiment with narcotics.

Americans who said they are not religious are more likely to have used a host of illicit drugs, ranging from marijuana and alcohol to Ecstasy and heroin. Nonbelievers in the study, for instance, were 12 times more likely to use LSD and more than four times likely than their religious counterparts to try cocaine in the past year.

Additionally, states with the lowest rates of religious belief had some of the highest rates of drug use. The least-religious state, Vermont, where only 32 percent of residents said religion is “very important” in their lives, had the third-highest rate of illicit drug use. The most religious state, Alabama, where 77 percent said faith plays a significant role in their lives, had the sixth-lowest rate of illicit drug use.

Greg Jao, director of campus engagement and vice president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, said several components of Christianity, such as its emphasis on truth and comprehensive view of eternity, discourage nihilistic tendencies that may open the door to drug use.

“For me as a Christian, part of what my faith in Jesus does is it calls me to face reality ruthlessly in my own life and in the world around me,” Mr. Jao said. “I think it changes my perspective and timeline. I’m challenged as a Christian to think in terms of eternity — so, yes, this year or decade may be bad, but it’s not the whole of my existence.

“And I think Christianity challenges you to actually experience God in the quotidian, day-to-day experience of life,” he said. “So my need for an altered, super high is quite low because, in fact, while I may not always be happy, there’s a deep experience of regular joy.”

The study supports the notion that Christian theology discourages drug use. When asked for “very important” reasons not to use marijuana, 67 percent of religious eighth- and 10th-graders said it is against their faith. Nonbelievers in the study had little reason not to use marijuana. Only 27 percent of nonreligious high school students said it would violate their beliefs.

But Gen. Arthur Dean, chairman and CEO of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, emphasized the role that community plays in snuffing out drug use.

“Being involved in a religious service is what we would call a protective factor, which means that you are less apt to get involved in drugs or other negative activities that young people are involved in, if you are involved in some kind of a faith community,” Mr. Dean said.

“What we find is that involvement in structured activities, whether they be religious or whether they be sports or other kinds of activities, all serve as protective factors,” he said. “I believe if you did research on them, you would find similar results that you found on religion.”

The study also supports the hypothesis that communal norms best explain lower rates of drug use among the religious. Fifty-nine percent of religious high school students said their friends don’t use marijuana, compared with 39 percent of nonreligious students; 62 percent of religious students said their boyfriend or girlfriend would disapprove of drug use, compared with 42 percent of nonreligious students; and 81 percent of religious high school students said their parents would disapprove of marijuana, compared with 62 percent of nonreligious students.

The religious eighth- and 10th-graders were also more likely to say marijuana is not widely available and that they would not like being around others who do use the drug.

Although he acknowledged the crucial role that community plays in reinforcing norms, Mr. Jao said Christianity specifically provides a remedy against addiction that other groups may not.

He said Christians believe they are “addicted to sin,” comparing the faith’s fundamental tenants of resisting temptation, confessing wrongdoing and transformation to addiction-fighting programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

“I don’t think it’s that religious groups map AA, I think AA has found what religious groups have always known to be true — if you acknowledge your life is out of control, if you turn to God or a higher power and do these things, you’re transformed,” Mr. Jao said. “The 12-step recovery method adopts the core practices of religious groups, and so it doesn’t surprise me that religious practice actually restrains drug and alcohol use.”

Mr. Dean said illicit drug use has declined since the 1970s and ‘80s but is beginning to climb again — especially among young people.

Sue Thau, a public policy consultant at the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, said the emerging emphasis on treatment and recovery for addicts has neglected crucial efforts to prevent drug use in the first place.

“Most of the strategies that are being proposed are treatment, recovery and even the criminal justice system — all of which we support,” Ms. Thau said. “But we’ve been somewhat disappointed that the prevention aspect of how to get on top of this has not gotten as much attention.”

Mr. Jao said religion can play more of a role in fighting drug use and fostering public virtue, but only if we let it.

“Religion in small ways challenges me daily to live out the fruits of the Spirit, and to demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control — all of which would be immense virtues,” he said. “Imagine if those played out in a presidential election.” (Contributor: By Bradford Richardson for The Washington Times)

Christians know from Scripture that they belong to God body, soul, and spirit. This belief that life is “under new management” is a powerful deterrent to addiction on medications or illegal drugs. Still, Christians are also subject to temptation and to controlling pain and other needs through drug use. Pray that these statistics become a means of drawing people to God’s power to save and deliver.

“Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Gal. 1:3-5) 

 

UTAH GOVERNOR SIGNS BILL REQUIRING ABORTION ANESTHESIA

The governor has signed a bill that makes Utah the first state to require doctors to give anesthesia to women having [their babies killed] at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later.

The bill signed by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert Monday is based on the [no longer] disputed premise that a [baby] can feel pain at that point.

“The governor is adamantly pro-life. He believes in not only erring on the side of life, but also minimizing any pain that may be caused to an unborn child,” Herbert spokesman Jon Cox said.

Many doctors in Utah and across the country are concerned that the requirement could increase the health risks to women by giving them unnecessary heavy sedation in order to protect a [baby] from pain that it may or may not feel.

Dr. Sean Esplin of Intermountain Healthcare in Utah said anesthesia or an analgesic would need to go through the woman in order to reach the [baby]. Doctors could give a woman general anesthesia, which would make her unconscious and likely require a breathing tube, or a heavy dose of narcotics.

No other U.S. state has passed this same law, said Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst at the abortion-rights nonprofit Guttmacher Institute. Montana lawmakers passed a similar law in 2015 requiring fetal anesthesia before surgeries, including abortions, performed after 20 or more weeks of gestation, but its Democratic governor vetoed the measure.

Twelve states ban abortions after around 20 weeks of gestation, while a handful of other states give women the option of having anesthesia.

Previous Utah law gave women the choice to have anesthesia during [the killing of the infant in the womb].

The new law by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, targets a small subset of women who have elective abortions beginning at 20 weeks. State law normally allows abortions until viability, which is at about 22 weeks.

But it could affect women in many other medical situations.

Utah law defines abortions in part as “the intentional termination or attempted termination of human pregnancy after implantation of a fertilized ovum through a medical procedure carried out by a physician or through a substance used under the direction of a physician.”

David Turok of the University of Utah’s obstetrics and gynecology department said that could apply to instances in which a woman is past her due date so the doctor induces labor or there’s a problem with the pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia, so it’s safer to deliver the baby early. These common procedures could now require general anesthesia, he said.

“You never give those medicines if you don’t have to,” Turok said.

Laura Bunker of the conservative group United Families International said if there is any chance a [baby] feels pain at 20 weeks, doctors should do everything possible to make sure they are comfortable.

The new law would not apply to women who must have an abortion because their life is at risk or the [baby] will not survive outside the womb.

Utah Medical Association CEO Michelle McOmber said her organization feels neutral toward the legislation. The association convinced Bramble to change its language from saying a [baby] “is capable of experiencing pain,” to it “may be capable of experiencing pain.” She said the association would have preferred that the proposal stated it is inconclusive whether or not the [baby] feels pain.

Bramble initially sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks entirely, but he changed course after the Legislature’s attorneys warned him that any such measure would likely be unconstitutional. (Contributor: By Hallie Golden for The Associated Press)

IFA’s editorial staff substituted the word “[baby]” for fetus, as the English word is stronger and more personal than the Latin. We also believe the 20-week baby’s experience of pain has been conclusively proven when the scientific evidence is examined by unbiased people. Give thanks for Gov. Herbert’s pro-life position and the Utah legislature’s focus on the baby’s pain.   

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.” (Prov. 24:11 NIV)

 

JUSTICE KENNEDY ASSERTS: OBAMA IS 'HIJACKING' NUNS' HEALTHCARE PLANS

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments last Wednesday in a case that will determine whether or not an order of Catholic nuns and over 30 other religious nonprofits will have to comply with an Obamacare contraception mandate that the organizations claim will make them complicit in violating their religious beliefs.

At the forefront of Zubik v. Burwell is the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns who care for the elderly, which holds that it is in violation of the Catholic faith to abide by the Obamacare contraceptive mandate to supply abortion inducing drugs and birth control coverage in the insurance plans of their employees.

As fines upwards of $70 million could be levied on the Little Sisters for not complying with the mandate, the nation's highest court must address whether or not the contraceptive mandate violates the religious liberty of the organizations and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

With the recent passing of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, the court is now down to four liberals, three conservatives and the perennial swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Should the court reach a 4-4 split in its decision, lower court rulings will be upheld. A split would mean that the Little Sisters will have won their case. But since eight of the nine appeals courts in the U.S. have ruled against petitioners on this issue, many of the organizations involved in the case would be forced to comply with the mandate.

Should Kennedy side with the liberals, the petitioners will most likely lose their case, as indications are that all four liberals on the court will side with Obama administration's argument.

The administration's main argument is that the Department of Health and Human Services has already supplied the religious organizations with an accommodation that will allow the nonprofits to opt out of paying for the abortifacients and birth control in health plans.

But under the accomodation, those organizations must allow the government to ensure that their health insurers are paying for the contested coverage. The organizations maintain that the accommodation still makes them complicit in their employees receiving those drugs.

Politico reports that Kennedy seemed split during the arguments.

At one point, Kennedy told U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli that the HHS accommodation seems like the government is "hijacking" the organization's health plans to provide the coverage rather than finding other ways that don't involve the organizations at all.

"If it's so free, why can't they just get it through another plan?" Kennedy was quoted as asking.

Kennedy, however, also suggested that larger institutions, such as universities, should not be exempt from the mandate in the same manner that smaller institutions like Little Sisters should.

"It's a very difficult thing for this court to write an opinion where if you have a religious exception, you have to treat a university the same," Kennedy said. "I just find that very difficult to write."

Meanwhile, Chief Justice John Roberts argued that the government's accommodation was more of a "hijacking" than an accommodation.

"Hijacking — it seems to me that's an accurate description of what the government wants to do," Roberts said.

"It's a question of who does the paperwork," Roberts added. "In one case, it's an administrative burden. In the other case, it's a violation of a basic principle of faith."

Paul Clement, an attorney who argued on behalf of the Little Sisters, told the court that the administration's accommodation turns the institution into "conscientious collaborator," instead of a "conscientious objector."

"My clients do not object to objecting," Clement said. "My clients would like to be a conscientious objector. The government is insisting that they be a conscientious collaborator."

Mark Rienzi, a lawyer with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty who also represents the Little Sisters, said in a statement shared with The Christian Post that there are other ways for the government to deliver the coverage without making the organization complicit.

"The government has many ways to deliver its services without using the Little Sisters of the Poor — alternatives that it says are as easy to use as shopping on Amazon or Kayak, and which it has already extended to millions of Americans," Rienzi said. "Yet the government admitted today that it is forcing the Sisters to violate their sincerely held beliefs. That's wrong and unnecessary."

Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, mother provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor, spoke outside of the Supreme Court building after the court hearing ended and wondered why the government it is forcing this mandate on the order when over one-third of Americans are not covered by the mandate.

"We don't understand why the government is doing this when there is an easy solution that doesn't involve us — it can provide these services on the exchanges," she said. "It's also hard to understand why the government is doing this when one-third of all Americans aren't even covered by this mandate, and large corporations like Exxon, Visa, and Pepsi are fully exempt, yet the government threatens us with fines of $70 million per year if we don't comply." (Contributor: By Samuel Smith for Christian Post)

Most Americans IFA talks to are deeply troubled that a Christian ministry such as the Little Sisters of the Poor would have to argue against the U.S. government for religious freedom over the Obamacare contraception mandate. Pray that this issue be settled for freedom of conscience in such matters. Our government, led by Pres. Obama, is wrong on this. Pray that his eyes be opened to the truth.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free,[a] and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. (Gal. 5:1)

 

OFFICIALS SAY GUANTANAMO TRANSFERS HAVE KILLED AMERICANS

Americans have been killed by prisoners released from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a senior Defense Department official told lawmakers last Wednesday, triggering sharp criticism from Republicans opposed to shuttering the facility in the wake of deadly attacks by the Islamic State group in Brussels and Paris.

Paul Lewis, the Pentagon's special envoy for Guantanamo detention closure, declined to provide the GOP-led House Foreign Affairs Committee with details. He would not say whether the incidents occurred before or after President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.

"What I can tell you is unfortunately there have been Americans that have died because of (Guantanamo) detainees," Lewis said during an exchange with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.

"When anybody dies, it is tragedy and we don't want anybody to die because we transfer detainees," Lewis said.

An Obama administration official said Lewis was referring to an incident that involved an Afghan prisoner released from Guantanamo while George W. Bush was president. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

During the Bush administration, 532 prisoners were released from Guantanamo, often in large groups to Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia - the two nationalities that made up the greatest number of prisoners.

The Obama administration has released 144 detainees after a screening process that involves representatives from six government agencies and departments who must make a unanimous decision to release.

Lewis testified before the committee along with Lee Wolosky, the State Department's special envoy for Guantanamo closure. They argued the prison is a powerful propaganda tool for the Islamic State group and keeping it open damages U.S. national security.

Republicans and a few Democrats in Congress have repeatedly thwarted Obama's effort to close the prison and blocked any attempt to move detainees to U.S. prisons in legislation the president has signed into law.

Wolosky said the Guantanamo prison did not prevent Tuesday's attacks in Brussels that killed at least 34 people and wounded more than 200 or the November 13 attacks in Paris.

"There are unfortunately going to be acts of terrorism, probably whether the facility is opened or closed," Wolosky said. "The proper analysis is, 'What are the risks of keeping it open in light of the very obvious use of that facility as a propaganda tool,' which, frankly, you should not have to question."

The committee's hearing marked the first open exchange between the Obama administration and Congress over the utility and future of the prison since Obama sent his plan for shutting it down to Capitol Hill last month. The proposal was greeted with firm opposition from Republicans, who declared his proposal to deliver an unfulfilled campaign promise a non-starter.

Republicans see the prison at Guantanamo as more essential than ever. With the Islamic State group carrying out deadly assaults in Europe and expanding its base in Libya, they said, there needs to be a place to hold terrorist suspects. Republicans have refused Obama's request that Congress change the law that prohibits moving detainees accused of violent extremist acts to U.S. soil.

The committee's chairman, Rep. Ed Royce of California, and other GOP lawmakers have also criticized the Obama administration for moving detainees to countries that are probably unable to ensure they don't resume the behaviors that got them locked up in the first place.

"Countries like Ghana and Uruguay aren't typical security and intelligence partners, but they are being asked to shoulder a heavy burden and responsibility," Royce said.

There are 91 men held at Guantanamo, down from nearly 250 when Obama assumed the presidency. Those left include 36 who are cleared for release if security conditions can be met in the countries where they will settle. Seven face trial by military commission, including five charged with planning and supporting the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001. Three others have been convicted.

The Director of National Intelligence reported this month that 5 percent of Guantanamo prisoners released since January 2009, when the U.S. began using the multi-agency screening process, have re-engaged in terrorism and 8 percent are suspected of it. That compares to 21 percent confirmed and 14 percent suspected under the earlier system.  (Contributor: By Richard Lardner for The Associated Press)

This is a complex, non-partisan issue that spans both President Obama’s leadership and that of the George W. Bush administration. The cost alone, plus principles of justice, should encourage prompt settlements of each case. It’s the American way that all prisoners should receive due process of law. Pray for Christian chaplains to be allowed in to share the Gospel.   

“But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24)

 

U.S. MILITARY’S ABILITY TO FIGHT MAJOR OVERSEAS WAR IN DOUBT

Beneath the positive press the military receives for preparing to mold women into the nation’s first female ground warriors this year, there is another story far more basic to war fighting.

Some lawmakers are warning that budget cuts, a troop drawdown and a decade and a half of wars have created spotty combat readiness, overburdened forces, more fatal accidents and beat-up weapons.

Weeks of congressional testimony from the top brass on next year’s $524 billion defense budget shows that many Army brigades and Air Force squadrons are less ready. The Marine Corps lacks sufficient aircraft to fully train pilots. The Army and Marine Corps can wage small wars but doubt they can meet the demands of a major conflict against, say, China or Russia, in a time frame called for in official military strategy.

After this sober news, the House Armed Services Committee sounded the alarm: “Concerns are growing louder and more frequent about the real-life consequences of cuts to personnel, training, equipment and other military resources as the security situation around the world becomes more precarious by the day.”

Rep. Mac Thornberry, Texas Republican and committee chairman, issued scary statistics. The Marine Corps’ major, or “Class A,” accident rate has shot up from an average of 2.15 per 100,000 flying hours to 3.96.

Each of our military services remains undersized, unready and underfunded to meet current and future threats,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. (Associated Press)

“Each of our military services remains undersized, unready and underfunded to meet ... more >

“We track this very closely, and the simple fact is that we don’t have enough airplanes to meet the training requirements for the entire force,” said Gen. Robert Neller, Marine commandant. “The force that’s deployed is trained and ready.”

“Our ability to meet other regional requirements for major contingency plans, we would build to do that, but we would probably not be able to do it within the time frame that the current plans call for us to arrive to participate in that conflict,” Gen. Neller said.

Gen. Mark Milley, Army chief of staff, said rotary pilots need a minimum of 14 flying hours a month to stay sharp but are getting only 10 hours. Meanwhile, the Army’s major accident rates are increasing.

“It does have our concern,” he testified. “Our aircraft accidents have increased, and we’re very concerned about it.”

Gen. Milley said the force, cut from more than 490,000 to a planned 450,000, is sufficient for counterterrorism missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the overriding strategy of being able to fight a major overseas war is in doubt.

“If that were to happen, then I have great concerns in terms of readiness of our force, the Army forces to be able to deal with that in a timely manner,” he said. “I think the cost, both in terms of time, casualties and troops, and the ability to accomplish military objectives would be very significant.”

The reason: The overall status of Army Combat Brigade teams to mobilize and deploy has dropped.

The Army supplies about 70 percent of troops and equipment requested by combatant commanders and has suffered nearly 70 percent of all war casualties since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“So you’ve got the largest force, the largest demand, the largest stress and the least budget,” he said.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, Arizona Republican, has taken to issuing a readiness report at each service’s budget hearing.

He said the Navy’s fleet of 272 ships “is too small to address critical security challenges” and that Navy aircraft carriers, the United States’ show of force around the world, are no longer constantly in the Persian Gulf region because of needed maintenance.

“The Marines have a requirement for 38 amphibious ships, but they only have 30 in the fleet,” he said. “And Marine Corps aviation is in crisis. Pilots are not flying.

“Each of our military services remains undersized, unready and underfunded to meet current and future threats,” he said.

Why the crunch? The overriding factor is the 2011 Budget Control Act that mandated across-the-board cuts and then limited agency spending. Last year’s bipartisan budget agreement provided some relief to the Pentagon — $25 billion. But a congressional aide says it is still $17 billion short for fiscal 2017, which begins Oct. 1.

Mr. McCain criticizes President Obama, saying that as commander in chief he should recognize the readiness crisis and ask Congress for more spending.

“Instead, the president chose to request the lowest level of defense spending authorized by last year’s budget agreement and submitted a defense budget that is actually less in real dollars than last year, despite the fact that operational requirements had grown,” the senator said.

Dakota Wood, a military analyst at The Heritage Foundation, said that while “the president can ask for whatever he wants,” it’s up to Congress to change the budget act.

“The president can only spend what Congress provides,” he said. “Thus, the funding problem plaguing the military can only be solved by Congress, which simply must find a way to deal with the country’s larger spending problem.”

One cure, he said, would be to repeal the Budget Control Act in favor of reforming the big “drivers of debt” — entitlements and yearly deficits.

Meanwhile, some relief comes from a separate defense budget account, Overseas Contingency Operations, at $59 billion next year, from which the services can replace some equipment.

“Though derided as a gimmick, by everyone involved, OCO funding is now consistently seen as the only way to get around baseline caps and provide the additional funding needed to stem the decline in readiness,” Mr. Wood said.

Meanwhile, Congress will continue to hear testimony like this:

“So half of our combat Air Forces are not sufficiently ready for that kind of a high-end fight against one of those great powers,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James.

“We have never been busier on such a sustained and global basis,” she added, “and we are doing all of this with roughly 200,000 fewer people and 79 fewer fighter squadrons than we had at the time of Operation Desert Storm. So we are a much, much smaller Air Force. We have been downsizing for years, and our people are very stressed and this simply needs to stop.”

Gen. Milley said the Army is ready to fight the Islamic State, al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups, but he worries about the ability to fully fight China or Russia, or Iran or North Korea, as the National Military Strategy says the Army must be ready to do.

“Right now, the readiness of the United States Army, all components of the United States Army, is not at a level that is appropriate for what the American people would expect to defend them,” the four-star general testified.

As for the great social challenge facing the armed forces — the introduction of women into direct ground combat — the topic hardly came up during hours of what are called “posture” hearings.

Joe Kasper, chief of staff for Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, said a number of lawmakers are pressing the military for answers behind the scenes.

“The administration already knows where they want to be on this issue and where they are going,” Mr. Kasper said, adding that women in combat likely will come up when the committee writes the 2017 defense budget. (Contributor: By Rowan Scarborough for The Washington Times)

Readers will draw their own conclusions from these hearings. No doubt President Obama’s weak stance toward military strength is a factor. However, the Constitution charges Congress with meeting budgeted defense needs, and much spending goes elsewhere. Pray for God’s mercy and that our U.S. defense be strong. Current deficits are a warning that the U.S. is not ready for war. Pray for a national spiritual awakening.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” (Ps. 127:1)

 

NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR SIGNS CONTROVERSIAL TRANSGENDER BILL

North Carolina's governor on Wednesday signed a bill blocking cities from allowing transgender individuals to use public bathrooms for the sex they identify as -- as well as restricting cities from passing nondiscrimination laws more broadly.

House Bill 2, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, puts in place a statewide policy that bans individuals from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex. The bill also reserves the right to pass nondiscrimination legislation to the state government, saying state laws preempt any local ordinances.

Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed the bill Wednesday night and tweeted, "Ordinance defied common sense, allowing men to use women's bathroom/locker room for instance. That's why I signed bipartisan bill to stop it."

The General Assembly went into special session earlier in the day to push through the legislation, a response to a nondiscrimination ordinance that the city of Charlotte enacted that, among other things, made it possible for transgender individuals to use the public bathroom of the sex they identify as.

The move enraged civil liberties groups and Democrats in the state. The bill passed the state House 82-26 and the state Senate 32-0, with Senate Democrats walking out and not voting in protest.

"Rather than expand nondiscrimination laws to protect all North Carolinians, the General Assembly instead spent $42,000 to rush through an extreme bill that undoes all local nondiscrimination laws and specifically excludes gay and transgender people from legal protections," said Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.

ACLU and other groups criticized the General Assembly for spending the money on a special session to pass the legislation, which they called rushed through and undemocratic.

"Legislators have gone out of their way to stigmatize and marginalize transgender North Carolinians by pushing ugly and fundamentally untrue stereotypes that are based on fear and ignorance and not supported by the experiences of more than 200 cities with these protections," Preston said.

Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, also decried the bill in a statement.

"Today's vote at the NCGA represents politics at its worst. Senator Berger and Speaker Moore should be ashamed of misleading their members to vote for the worst anti-LGBT legislation in the nation, which is sweeping beyond comprehension," Sgro said. "Protections for LGBT people against discrimination are common sense. This special session, where Berger and Moore rammed through hastily-crafted legislation was a farce of public policy."

The bill also got criticized by Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympian and celebrity who was born a man and recently transitioned publicly.

But North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore defended the bill.

"One of the biggest issues was about privacy," Moore said. "The way the ordinance was written by City Council in Charlotte, it would have allowed a man to go into a bathroom, locker or any changing facility, where women are -- even if he was a man. We were concerned. Obviously there is the security risk of a sexual predator, but there is the issue of privacy."

State Rep. Graig Meyer, a Democrat, said the "discriminatory law puts his health and safety at risk."

"When I arrived home tonight, my wife told me that one of her former students visited her at school today. The student told her that he now identifies as a transgender male," he posted on his Facebook page. "She loves this student. Today's discriminatory law puts his health and safety at risk. It's been a long time since I cried myself to sleep."

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, a Democrat, released a statement saying she was appalled by the bill's passage.

"This legislation is literally the most anti-LGBT legislation in the country," she said Wednesday [yes!].

U.S. Rep. David Price, D-North Carolina, also chastised the Legislature for prioritizing passing the bill over other issues. (Contributor: By Tal Kopan and Eugene Scott for CNN)

There is little to be said here. The gender issue has been clear since creation and doesn’t require special revelation. Despite loud protests, common sense and natural wisdom have triumphed. Give thanks for this North Carolina victory, not for a political party but for truth, decency, and the safety of children. The confusion fits the pattern of Romans 1 and will bring similar judgment. Pray accordingly.

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Gen. 1:27)

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The Informer March 23, 2016

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LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR CASE HEADS TO SUPREME COURT

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week in a group of cases challenging the Obamacare requirement that nonprofit employers offer their employees health care coverage that includes Plan B, ella, and other potentially life-ending drugs and devices, contraception, and sterilization.

The challengers in the consolidated cases, captioned Zubik v. Burwell, include the Little Sisters of the Poor; Priests for Life; East Texas Baptist University; Southern Nazarene University; Geneva College; the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.; and other religious charities.

The Government’s Mandate

Notably, the government is imposing its mandate on groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, who care for the elderly poor, but is exempting large corporations like Exxon and Pepsi Co.

The latter aren’t required to include these drugs and devices in their health plans because they’re grandfathered under Obamacare. Small businesses are also exempt from this mandate. The government has even acknowledged that the mandate could conflict with religious beliefs and has formally exempted houses of worship.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty estimates that the government has effectively exempted the health plans of 1 in 3 Americans from the coercive rule.

Yet the Obama administration insists that organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns who beg for funds for the elderly they serve and their own food, comply with the mandate or face $70 million per year in government penalties.

A Suitable Accommodation?

After religious organizations objected to the mandate, the Obama administration created an alternative enforcement mechanism that it claims is an “accommodation.”

The regulations require employers to notify the Department of Health and Human Services of their religious objection to providing such coverage in writing and provide contact information for their health plan insurer or third-party administrator.

The government then uses that notification as authorization to force coverage of drugs and devices that violate the employers’ beliefs using their existing health plan infrastructure. The government says that without the employers’ active participation in this scheme through the notice provisions, it cannot legally take over their plans as just described.

The government thinks this scheme satisfies the employers’ religious beliefs because the notification initiates the process of insurers and third-party administrators providing the mandated coverage at no cost to the insured. But the Little Sisters of the Poor and many other religious employers disagree.

They refuse as a matter of conscience to accept this mechanism because coerced subsidies were only part of the original mandate’s problem. If the federal government required employers to dispense these drugs and devices from a vending machine in their employee lounge, it would be no answer for the government to say, “Don’t worry; we’ll pay for the added cost.”

Similarly here, the Little Sisters and other religious employers would still play an indispensable part in the machinery that provides potentially life-ending drugs and devices through health plans and infrastructure that they are paying for and providing to their employees.

Several federal appeals courts have reviewed cases challenging these regulations brought by Christian colleges and ministries such as Catholic Charities, Priests for Life, and the Little Sisters of the Poor. These religious employers maintain that the Obama administration’s regulations violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law that bars the government from substantially burdening the free exercise of religion.

The government may overcome this prohibition only if it can show that the burden is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling interest.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

If this sounds familiar, that’s because the Supreme Court decided a similar case in the summer of 2014. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Court held that certain for-profit employers—such as the closely held family-run craft store chain—could not be forced to violate their religious beliefs by paying for potentially life-ending drugs and devices as part of their employee health insurance plan.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, pointed to the “accommodation” offered to non-profit religious employers as proof that the government could advance its asserted interest in providing women with free contraception while not trampling the religious beliefs of employers. The Court did not, however, address whether the alternative could still pose a substantial burden.

Zubik v. Burwell

Now the Court is presented with that very issue in Zubik v. Burwell. From the challengers’ perspective, the regulations impose a substantial burden by forcing them to engage in conduct that will trigger morally objectionable health care coverage, thereby making them complicit. If they refuse to comply, they face ruinous fines.

They see the “accommodation” regulations as “merely … another way to violate their religion.” But the government says the Little Sisters and other religious employers are mistaken about their role in the process.

The Obama administration maintains that it is federal law—not the employers’ act of signing a form—that leads to the provision of drugs and devices.

If that were the case, why, then, does the government continue to insist that these employers provide written notice on pain of millions of dollars in fines when the government already knows beyond any doubt that they object? Because the government says that it requires the Little Sisters and others to act in cooperation with the government’s scheme, and that’s precisely the problem.

While nearly all the appeals courts that have looked at the issue have ruled in favor of the administration, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit noted that the government must “come forward with evidence that the contraceptive mandate and the accommodation process are the only feasible means to distribute cost-free contraceptives to women employed by religious organizations and that no alternative means would suffice to achieve its compelling interest.”

Indeed, there are plenty of other ways for the government to provide no-cost contraception directly to women who want it—without hijacking employers’ health plans and trampling on religious freedom.

In the Hobby Lobby decision, the Court discussed the possibility of the government directly providing or paying for these drugs and devices while allowing employers to obey their consciences.

The government already does this under Title X for many low-income women. Thus, if the Court holds the administration to the high standard laid out by the Eighth Circuit, it may be a herculean task for the administration to prove that the “accommodation” regulations are the only way to ensure that women have access to free contraception.

Impact of Scalia’s Passing

It’s worth pointing out that the Little Sisters and other challengers lost a likely ally with the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia. He voted in the majority in Hobby Lobby. With only eight justices currently on the Court, the decision could end up as a tie vote of 4-4. Generally speaking, when there is a tie at the Supreme Court, the lower court ruling stands. In most cases, that’s not ideal for parties appealing a lower court ruling. But in this situation, a tie vote would mean that the circuit split remains, since the Eighth Circuit broke ranks with the other circuit courts, which issued erroneous pro-administration decisions.

President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland, voted against rehearing one of these cases when it was pending before his court.

In Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a three-judge panel ruled for the government, calling the accommodation process “a bit of paperwork.” When Priests for Life asked the full D.C. Circuit to rehear the case, Garland voted against rehearing it. This was over the protest of Judge Janice Rogers Brown, who explained why the three-judge panel got it wrong:

What amounts to “facilitating immoral conduct” … or “impermissible cooperation with evil” … are inherently theological questions which objective legal analysis cannot resolve and which “federal courts have no business addressing.”

You don’t have to agree with any of the organizations before the Court or share their beliefs to recognize that the government should not be able to force Americans to set aside their deeply held beliefs simply because they step outside the four walls of a church to serve the poor, heal the sick, or educate the next generation. (Contributor: Elizabeth Slattery for The Daily Signal)

Intercessors will find clearly defined prayer points in this article. It summarizes several current U.S. Supreme Court issues under one title. All are important; each demonstrates calculated prejudice and discrimination against closely held convictions of conscience in religious matters. Sadly, major pressure is coming from the U.S. government, though our Constitution upholds freedom. Pray!

“Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thess 5:21-22)    

 

CHINA, RUSSIA PLANNING SPACE ATTACKS ON U.S. SATELLITES

China and Russia are preparing to attack and disrupt critical U.S. military and intelligence satellites in a future conflict with crippling space missile, maneuvering satellite, and laser attacks, senior Pentagon and intelligence officials told Congress on Tuesday.

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of the Air Force Space Command, said the threat to U.S. space systems has reached a new tipping point, and after years of post-Cold War stagnation foreign states are focused on curbing U.S. space systems.

“Adversaries are developing kinetic, directed-energy, and cyber tools to deny, degrade, and destroy our space capabilities,” Hyten said in a prepared statement for a hearing of the House Armed Service strategic forces subcommittee.

“They understand our reliance on space, and they understand the competitive advantage we derive from space. The need for vigilance has never been greater,” the four-star general said.

Hyten said U.S. Global Positioning System satellites remain vulnerable to attack or jamming. The satellites’ extremely accurate time-keeping feature is even more critical to U.S. guided weapons than their ability to provide navigation guidance, he said.

Disrupting the satellites time capabilities would degrade the military’s ability to conduct precision strike operations used in most weapons systems today.

Hyten said a new joint military-intelligence command center is helping to monitor space threats, such as anti-satellite missile launches, covert killer robot satellites, and ground-fired lasers that can blind or disrupt satellites. The unit is called the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, located at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.

The Space Command also is creating 39 cyber mission teams that will be used for defensive and offensive cyber operations involving space systems.

Lt. Gen. David Buck, commander of Joint Functional Component for Space, a U.S. Strategic Command unit, testified along with Hyten that China and Russia pose the most serious threats to space systems.

“Simply stated, there isn’t a single aspect of our space architecture, to include the ground architecture, that isn’t at risk,” Buck said.

“Russia views U.S. dependency on space as an exploitable vulnerability and they are taking deliberate actions to strengthen their counter-space capabilities,” he said.

China in December created its first dedicated space warfare and cyber warfare unit, called the Strategic Support Forces, for concentrating their “space, electronic, and network warfare capabilities,” Buck said.

“China is developing, and has demonstrated, a wide range of counter-space technologies to include direct-ascent, kinetic-kill vehicles, co-orbital technologies that can disable or destroy a satellite, terrestrially-based communications jammers, and lasers that can blind or disable satellites,” Buck said.

“Moreover, they continue to modernize their space programs to support near-real-time tracking of objects, command and control of deployed forces, and long-range precision strikes capabilities,” the three-star general said.

Douglas Loverro, deputy assistant defense secretary for space policy, also warned about growing threats to satellites and outlined U.S. plans to deter future attacks.

Loverro said the United States does not want a war in space. “But let me be clear about our intent—we will be ready,” he said.

None of the five Pentagon and intelligence officials who took part in the budget hearing for military space efforts mentioned any U.S. plans or programs to develop anti-satellite missiles and other space weapons for use against Chinese or Russian space systems. The subcommittee, however, held a closed-door session after the public hearing.

A modified U.S. missile defense interceptor, the SM-3, was used in 2008 to shoot down a falling U.S. satellites in a demonstration of the country’s undeclared anti-satellite warfare capability.

Loverro suggested U.S. defense and deterrence of space attacks could involve counter attacks, possibly on the ground or in cyber space. But he provided no specifics.

“Today our adversaries perceive that space is a weak-link in our deterrence calculus,” Loverro said. “Our strategy is to strengthen that link, to assure it never breaks, and to disabuse our adversaries of the idea that our space capabilities make tempting targets.”

Many of the most important navigation, communications, and intelligence satellites were designed during the Cold War for use in nuclear war and thus incorporate hardening against electronic attacks, Loverro said.

For conventional military conflict, however, adversaries today view attacks on U.S. satellites as a way to blunt a conventional military response what Loverro called the “chink in the conventional armor of the United States.”

“In this topsy-turvy state, attacks on space forces may even become the opening gambit of an anti-access/area-denial strategy in a regional conflict wherein an adversary seeks to forestall or preclude a U.S. military response,” he said. “Chinese military strategists began writing about the targeting of space assets as a ‘tempting and most irresistible choice’ in the late 1990s, and the People’s Liberation Army has been pursuing the necessary capabilities ever since,” he said.

Rather than threatening foreign states’ satellites, Loverro said deterrence against foreign nations’ space attacks is based on defending against missile strikes or other attacks and making sure satellite operations will not be disrupted in war.

That would be carried out through partnering with the growing commercial space sector that is expected to deploy hundreds of new satellites in the coming years that could be used as back up systems for the Pentagon in a conflict.

Deterrence also will be based on increasing foreign partnerships with allied nations in gathering intelligence on space threats and other cooperation.

A space defense “offset” strategy will seek to reduce the advantage of using relatively low cost of missiles, small satellites, or cyber forces to attack U.S. satellites, Loverro said.

“An advanced U.S. satellite might cost upwards of $1 billion; missiles that could destroy such a satellite cost a few percent of that sum; co-orbital microsatellites cost even less; and lasers that might blind or damage satellites have an unlimited magazine with almost zero cost per shot,” Loverro said.

Deploying large numbers of low-cost satellites will not offset those advantages, he said.

Instead, Loverro offered vague plans for countering the threat. “A space offset strategy must employ a diverse set of resilience measures that complicate the technical, political, and force structure calculus of our adversaries, by arraying a complex set of responses, with few overlapping vulnerabilities and a combination of known and ambiguous elements,” he said.

Frank Calvelli, deputy director of the National Reconnaissance Office, the spy agency that builds and operates strategic intelligence and reconnaissance satellites, said a resurgent Russia and aggressive China are among several current national security threats.

Calvelli revealed that the agency in October launched a new satellite that carried 13 smaller “CubeSats.”

“The NRO sponsored nine of the CubeSats while the National Aeronautics and Space Administration sponsored the remaining four,” Calvelli said.

Among the missions of the CubeSats are software-defined radios “to provide beyond-line-of-sight communication for disadvantaged users in remote locations, and technology pathfinders to demonstrate tracking technologies, optical communications, and laser communication,” he said.

Four advanced intelligence-gathering satellites will be launched this year to support military operations and intelligence analysis and decision-making.

Calvelli also said space threats are prompting the Reconnaissance Office to develop “better and faster” systems in space and on the ground, along with better overall “resiliency”—a term used by the military to signify an ability to operate during high-intensity warfare.

The agency is investing substantial sums in bolstering defenses for space and ground systems to make them more survivable during space war.

“We are more focused on survivability and resiliency from an enterprise perspective than we have ever been and we have made significant investments to that end,” he said.

The agency also is “improving the persistence of our space-based systems, providing greater ‘time on target’ to observe and characterize activities, and the potential relationship between activities, and to hold even small, mobile targets at risk,” Calvelli said.

It also is upgrading its ground stations, which are used to control and communicate with orbiting satellites, including an artificial intelligence system called “Sentient.”

“Sentient—a ‘thinking’ system that allows automated, multi-intelligence tipping and cueing at machine speeds—is just one of those capabilities,” Calvelli said.

New ground stations also are being deployed that will empower “users of all types with the capabilities to receive, process, and generate tailored, timely, highly-assured, and actionable intelligence,” he said.

The comments were a rare public discussion of the activities of one of the most secret U.S. intelligence agencies.

Dyke D. Weatherington, director of unmanned warfare and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance at the Pentagon, said eight national security satellites were launched in 2015, including tactical and strategic communications, and navigation, position, and timing satellites.

Weatherington said the United States maintains a strategy advantage in space system but warned that is changing. “The rapid evolution and expansion of threats to our space capabilities in every orbit regime has highlighted the converse: an asymmetric disadvantage due to the inherent susceptibilities and increasing vulnerabilities of these systems,” he said.

While space threats are increasing, “our abilities have lagged to protect our own use of space and operate through the effects of adversary threats,” Weatherington said.

The Pentagon currently has 19 military-capable GPS satellites on orbit and a new generation of GPS satellites is being developed that will be produce signals three times stronger than current system to be able to overcome electronic jamming, he said.

The officials at the hearing also discussed plans to transition from the sole reliance on the use of Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines to launch national security satellites.

A new U.S. made engine, however, will not be fully developed until 2022 or 2023. (Contributor: Bill Gertz for The Washington Free Beacon)

This is a sobering article, a clear call to intercession. Military and intelligence leaders projected in a recent congressional hearing a scenario that would lead to global warfare. If U.S. satellite function is compromised, our nation will be vulnerable. Only national repentance and revival will invoke God’s favor. Pray as the Holy Spirit leads. Pray that the Church will lead the way back to God.

“What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord now in the presence of all His people.” (Ps 116:12-14)

 

BRITISH RESEARCHERS GET GREEN LIGHT TO GENETICALLY MODIFY HUMAN EMBRYOS

Britain’s first genetically modified human embryos could be created within months, after scientists were granted permission by the fertility regulator to carry out the procedure.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) regulator approved a licence application by Kathy Niakan, a stem cell scientist at the Francis Crick Institute in London, to perform so-called genome editing – also called gene editing – on human embryos.

The decision permits Niakan to study the embryos for 14 days for research purposes only. It does not permit them to be implanted into women. Niakan’s research is aimed at finding the genes at play in the early days of human fertilisation.

The decision was greeted positively by the Francis Crick Institute and British scientists but was met with anger and disqmay by those concerned that rapid advances in the field of genome editing is precluding proper consideration of the ethical implications.

Paul Nurse, director of the institute, said: “I am delighted that the HFEA has approved Dr Niakan’s application. Dr Niakan’s proposed research is important for understanding how a healthy human embryo develops and will enhance our understanding of IVF success rates, by looking at the very earliest stage of human development – one to seven days.”

The work, using embryos donated by couples with a surplus after IVF treatment, will look at the fertilised egg’s development from a single cell to about 250 cells. The basic research could help scientists understand why some women lose their babies before term and provide better clinical treatments for infertility, using conventional medical methods.

Niakan will use a powerful genome editing procedure called Crispr-Cas9 to switch genes on and off in early stage human embryos. She will then look for the effects the modifications have on the development of the cells that go on to form the placenta.

Crispr-Cas9 has revolutionised biomedical research since its invention three years ago. It allows scientists to make precise changes to DNA, and has the potential to transform the treatment of genetic disorders by correcting faulty genes.

Prof Robin Lovell-Badge, group leader at the Francis Crick Institute, said: “

The approval of her [Niakan’s] licence gives the exciting prospect that we will at last begin to understand how the different cell types are specified at these pre-implantation stages in the human embryo.”

Lovell-Badge said it would also provide invaluable information about the accuracy and efficiency of the technique, helping to inform the debate about whether genome editing could be used in future to correct faulty genes that cause devastating diseases.

That prospect remains a long way off but is already a subject of concern.

Dr David King, director of Human Genetics Alert, said: “This is the first step in a well mapped-out process leading to GM babies, and a future of consumer eugenics.” He claimed the government’s scientific advisers had already decided they were comfortable with the prospect of so-called “designer babies”.

Anne Scanlan, from the anti-abortion organisation Life, said: “The HFEA now has the reputation of being the first regulator in the world to approve this uncertain and dangerous technology. It has ignored the warnings of over 100 scientists worldwide and given permission for a procedure that could have damaging far-reaching implications for human beings.”

There are fears that changes to an embryo’s DNA could have unknown harmful consequences throughout a person’s body and be passed on down the generations.

Last year, leading UK funders called for a national debate on whether editing human embryos could ever be justified in the clinic. Some fear that a public backlash could derail less controversial uses of genome editing, which could lead to radical new treatments for conditions such as muscular dystrophy and sickle cell disease.

The US National Institutes of Health will not fund any genome editing research on human embryos at present.

But supporters of the HFEA’s decision said it had arrived at the right conclusion, balancing the benefits to research and ethical considerations.

“The ruling by the HFEA is a triumph for common sense,” said Darren Griffin, a professor of genetics at the University of Kent. “While it is certain that the prospect of gene editing in human embryos raised a series of ethical issues and challenges, the problem has been dealt with in a balanced manner. It is clear that the potential benefits of the work proposed far outweigh the foreseen risks.”

Sarah Norcross, director of Progress Educational Trust, called it “a victory for level-headed regulation over moral panic”.

Dr Sarah Chan, chancellor’s fellow at Usher Institute for Population Health Sciences and Informatics, University of Edinburgh, said: “We should feel confident that our regulatory system in this area is functioning well to keep science aligned with social interests.” (Contributor: By Haroon Siddique for The Guardian)

Additional Reading: About Human Germline Gene Editing

Science that fails to acknowledge God as Creator ultimately becomes atheistic. This article reminds us of those at Babel who, apart from God, attempted to reach “the heavens” (Gen. 11). God scattered them by confusing their language. Genetic manipulation violates God’s design and will do damage. Pray for spiritual revelation of Jesus Christ, in whom are hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge.       

“… Laodicea…that their hearts may be encouraged…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 2:1-3)

 

TEXAS GAME WARDENS ARE NOW LOOKING FOR POACHERS AND TERRORISTS

Up and down the Texas Gulf Coast, the state’s game wardens are on the water, looking for people fishing or hunting illegally.  But as we’ve reported, they sometimes come across things like illegal chemical dumpsites and more says Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Tom Harvey.

“Game wardens encounter all kinds of things on their patrols, including a lot of illegal fishing, and this is a new threat we’re gearing up to be able to address,“ Harvey told News 88.7.

That new threat is terrorism. One fear is that terrorists could try to smuggle radioactive material into the country by boat. The Port of Houston has for years had radiation detectors to scan cargo.

So now, besides guns and handcuffs, game wardens will have one more tool.

“We’ve acquired about a hundred devices that allow game wardens to detect radiological or nuclear emissions. These are little devices that can be worn on someone’s belt,” Harvey said.

They’re about the size of a cellphone and can help a warden determine if something suspicious is radioactive.  It wouldn’t necessarily have to be connected to terrorism: radioactive materials used in the energy and medical industries can be illegally dumped.

Game wardens began training with the radiation detectors in January and completed a mock exercise to find radioactive packages along the coast. (Contributor: By Dave Fehling for Houston Public Media)

Criminals are using state-of-the-art electronic gadgets to ply their illegal activities. Pray for the safety and success of the Texas Gulf Coast game wardens as they use similar technology to detect entry of illegal persons, drugs, and other materials. Their job is more difficult when our government no longer believes in controlling borders. Pray for revival, a returning to God for His mercy and blessing.

“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)

 

ISRAEL LAUNCHES FIRST EVER VIDEO DISTRESS CALL SERVICE

Israelis can now use their smartphones to make live video distress calls to emergency responders, a first-of-its-kind service that, if successful, could set a new standard for countries around the world.

Video chats, texting and location detection may be humdrum features for today's smartphone user, but they remain a puzzle to most emergency calling systems, which are outdated and only take voice calls.

This gap in technology, which developed countries are racing to close, leads to slower response times, miscommunications and many wasted resources, often to the detriment of people calling for help.

Israel on Wednesday became the first country to launch a nationwide platform in which emergency operators can see live video, chat via text messages and determine pinpoint location outdoors and indoors.

The system, downloaded as a phone app, was developed by a high-profile start-up called Reporty, whose chairman is former prime minister Ehud Barak. If successful, it could attract police, fire and ambulance services from around the world.

"This solution did not exist beforehand," said Eli Bean, director of Israel's Magen David Adom ambulance service. "It will allow us to get the information we need real time, and certainly reduce response time and improve the care we provide."

This could be for a simple emergency, like a sick family member, or a mass casualty incident, he said, referring to a Palestinian attack last week in Tel Aviv in which about a dozen people were stabbed at multiple spots along a boardwalk.

Had they been able to receive videos and, perhaps more importantly, the ability determine location of callers, he said, "no doubt we would have handled it differently".

In the United States, where about 240 million 911 emergency calls are made each year, the location of the closest cell tower may provide a general indication of the caller's location, but that is not always specific enough to guide rescuers.

Reporty's system quickly shows emergency operators an outside caller's exact location, said chief executive Amir Elichai.

For calls made inside a building, he said an algorithm uses nearby radio frequencies, like Wifi signals, to determine the caller's position, and its crowdsourcing technology makes it more exact as more people sign on. (Contributor: By Ari Rabinovitch for Reuter News Service - Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Many IFA-related intercessors pray regularly for Israel and things connected with that nation’s security, so this report is good news. Give thanks for Israeli advancements in this field of added protection, perhaps with a product that can be marketed to friendly nations for an economic boost. Israel needs Christians’ prayers and encouragement of U.S. commitment. Keep praying!

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved… I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not!...God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.” (Rom. 10:1; 11:1-2)

 

U.S. URGES NORTH KOREA TO RELEASE AMERICAN STUDENT

The Obama administration demanded North Korea release an American college student sentenced Wednesday to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly pilfering a propaganda banner as a souvenir.

Officials arrested University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, from Wyoming, Ohio, for allegedly "perpetrating a hostile act" in Pyongyang while traveling with a tour group in January. The nation's supreme court in a one-hour trial convicted Warmbier of subversion and meted out the punishment.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest accused North Korea of using “U.S. citizens as pawns to pursue a political agenda.”

Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have reached a fever pitch after the communist nation tested international patience by launching missiles. The U.S. has sought tougher sanctions against the country.

The allegations against Warmbier "would not give rise to arrest or imprisonment in the United States or in just about any other country in the world," Earnest said.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner urged North Korea to grant Warmbier a special pardon and release him.

Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the Associated Press he met with North Korean diplomats in New York on Tuesday to request Warmbier’s release. Richardson said based on past experience, North Korea could release Warmbier after sentencing.

“My concern now is that the U.S.-North Korean relationship is in very low, negative ebb, and I hope that does not affect a humanitarian negotiation for the release of Otto,” Richardson told AP.

The tour company, Young Pioneer Tours, which specializes in tours to North Korea, said it was working with "relevant authorities" to obtain Wambier's freedom, but North Korea said Warmbier's traveled as a tourist to disguise his real aim of destroying the unity of the nation with "the tacit connivance of the U.S. government."

At the University of Virginia, classmates reacted with disbelief to his sentencing.

“It doesn’t feel real, this just doesn’t happen to people. I can’t comprehend it," said student Alaina Patrick, who lived in the same dorm as Warmbier, and recalled that some hallmates had “crushes” on him.

Teachers and coaches at Wyoming High School where Warmbier, 21, graduated as salutatorian in 2013, describe him as a "great kid," a "leader" and an outstanding student.  He studies economics and global sustainability at the University of Virginia, which said it was in touch with his family.

Two weeks ago, North Korean officials presented Warmbier to the media in Pyongyang, where he apologized for trying to steal the banner from a staff-only area of the hotel where he was staying. He said he wanted it as a trophy for a church member in Wyoming. He called it the worst mistake of his life.

"On the early morning of Jan. 1, 2016, I committed my crime, of taking out the important political slogan from the staff-only area of the Yanggakdo International Hotel, which aimed at harming the work ethic and the motivation of the Korean people,” a weeping, trembling Warmbier told reporters. "I beg you, the people and government of the DPRK, for your forgiveness," he said, referring to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name. (Contributor: By John Bacon and Jane Onyanga-Omara for USA TODAY - Other contributors to this article: Gregory Korte, Hannah Hall)

Please pray for American student, Otto Wambier, who admits to his crime and is seeking mercy and a quick release from a 15-year sentence. The North Korean government will use this for publicity and no doubt want some sort of “deal” (as with Iran) in return. Several levels of diplomacy are at work, but American popularity is very low internationally. Pray for divine intervention.  

“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive, when their wrath was kindled against us…Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Ps 124:2-3, 5)

 

DEADLY LAW ON CALIFORNIA'S HORIZON

A California law allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs will go into effect in just 90 days. Under the End of Life Option Act, physicians can prescribe "aid-in-dying" drugs (mega-doses of barbiturates) to patients diagnosed with a disease that, within reasonable medical judgment, will cause death within six months.

The Act has been on hold for the past five months, as it was passed during a special legislative session that was called by Governor Jerry Brown to cut healthcare spending and address Medi-Cal funding shortfalls. The special session closed a few days ago, which means that on June 9, assisted suicide will be legal in California.

"The End of Life Act fundamentally changes the practice of medicine in California," says Alexandra Snyder, Executive Director of Life Legal Defense Foundation. "The new law violates the trust between vulnerable patients and their doctors, who should have an unequivocal commitment to protecting—not shortening—human life."

The original Principles of Medical Ethics of the American Medical Association provided that physicians "ought not to abandon a patient because deemed incurable." Patients already have the right to opt out of unwanted life-prolonging treatment. But now, under the guise of patient "autonomy," California will no longer protect the weak from pressure to end their lives prematurely.

"Aid-in-dying" proponents are working to abandon ever more patients to lethal drugs. They want to legalize doctor-assisted death nationwide. They want assisted suicide available even for those who are not terminally ill. Tragically, their efforts are often successful.

In Oregon, the number of patients who die by assisted suicide has increased by over 800% since the so-called "Death with Dignity Act" was passed. Canada is getting ready to enact legislation that will allow assisted suicide even for those with non-terminal conditions. In the Netherlands, mentally ill patients can go to pop-up clinics to be put to death by doctors who have never treated them.

Life Legal is preparing to challenge the End of Life Option Act before the June 9 implementation date. (Contributor: By Alexandra Snyder for Life Legal Defense Foundation and Christian Newswire - About Life Legal Defense Foundation: Life Legal Defense Foundation was established in 1989, and is a nonprofit organization composed of attorneys and other concerned citizens committed to giving helpless and innocent human beings of any age, and their advocates, a trained and committed voice in the courtrooms of our nation. For more information about the Life Legal Defense Foundation, visit http://www.lldf.org.)

As noted elsewhere in this week’s Informer, the endpoint of secularism is atheism and nihilism. If no God exists as Creator of life, then life’s structures have no purpose; life and death are both accidental and incidental. Only Christianity has foundational answers. We cannot blame unbelievers for their unbelief. Instead, pray for repentance and revival in the Church. God is the giver and sustainer of life.

“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good.” (Ps 14:1)

 

PRAYER RALLY BEFORE SUPREME COURT HEARS ORAL ARGUMENTS IN HHS MANDATE CASES

Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life and a U.S. Supreme Court plaintiff in the case Priests for Life vs. HHS announced today that on Tuesday night, March 22, Priests for Life will lead a national prayer rally for religious freedom in front of the U.S. Supreme Court from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The oral arguments in this case, with which six other cases have been consolidated, will be heard the next morning, March 23, when there will also be a rally outside the court. The consolidated case is called Zubik vs. Burwell.

All the plaintiffs and Friends of the Court in the case will be invited to participate, as will presidential candidates, members of Congress, national and local pro-life groups and religious organizations. Everyone who values religious freedom is urged to come.

Those who cannot be present physically are invited to join in the prayer campaign at www.SupremeCourtVictory.org.

Fr. Frank said: "At issue in this case is a very basic principle of American law: The government cannot punish a believer for living out his or her faith. Nor can the government decide that a particular belief is not worth protecting. This case has implications well beyond the HHS mandate. It affects the freedom to practice any aspect of one's religion in America."

Plaintiffs in the Priests for Life case also include Janet Morana, Executive Director, and Alveda King, Director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life and niece of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Priests for Life was the fourth organization to file a federal challenge to the HHS mandate, over four years ago. Since then, this case has made its way up through the court system, receiving adverse judgments but also injunctions protecting the organization from punishment for not obeying the mandate, which would require participation in the government's efforts to expand coverage for abortion-inducing drugs and contraceptives. (Contributor: Priests for Life - Priests for Life is represented in this case by the American Freedom Law Center. For information about the Priests for Life case, and the arguments involved, and to express your support, visit www.IStandWithPFL.com.)

Give thanks and intercede for Father Frank Pavone and Priests for Life. This notice for the Tuesday evening, March 22, prayer meeting will reach readers of The Informer too late for their participation, but all readers can pray for Father Frank, Priests for Life, and their untiring efforts on behalf of the innocent not-yet-born babies who are lost by way of abortion. America needs cleansing from its sin.

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?” (Prov. 24:11-12 NIV)

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The Informer March 13, 2016

On Watch in Washington March 16, 2016 Plain Text PDF Version

STRANGERS IN THEIR OWN LAND

As numbers go, “61” languishes in obscurity. But as applied to illegal immigration, 61 is “yuge,” as Donald Trump might say. It’s the number, in millions, of both legal and illegal immigrants who live in the United States. It’s the number, as a percentage of the U.S. population, of Americans concerned about the impact of mass migration on America as we have known it for going on three centuries. The number is further a measure of how Mr. Trump has crossed over from business to politics, to ride the issue to the front of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign.

A study published this week by the Center for Immigration Studies finds there now 61 million immigrants and their American-born minor children living in the United States, 45 million of whom are legal residents. Between 1970 and 2015, the proportion of immigrants to population increased by 353 percent — six times faster than the general U.S. population, which grew by 59 percent. Some states watch their numbers of immigrants rise much more steeply: in Georgia, 3,058 percent; in Virginia, 1,150 percent; and in Texas, 1,084 percent.

“These numbers raise a profound question that is seldom even asked, says Steven Camarota, the center’s director of research. “What number of immigrants can be assimilated?” This a question that the governing elites do not ask, but millions of Americans do. A survey conducted by the consulting firm A.T. Kearney and previewed by Bloomberg Businessweek, finds that 61 percent of Americans polled say “continued immigration into the country jeopardizes the United States.” The survey measures the opinion about not just the illegals, but about all immigration.

Mr. Trump’s critics say his brash star power is responsible for inflaming “xenophobic sentiments” among Americans, who are dismissed as “nativists” and ignorant “yahoos.” But if the governing elites had done something about these widespread fears and reservations, the Trump phenomenon would never have ruined their picnic. When, at a rally last week in Michigan, he scorched the Ford Motor Co. for its plans to move a Ford factory to Mexico, he was answered with chants of “Build the wall! Build the wall.” Like it or not, and the impotent elites don’t, it was economic reality talking, not ethnic hatred. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and even John Kasich acknowledge that.

The immigration issue isn’t simply about numbers and whether migrants will add or detract from the U.S. economy. It’s more fundamental than that. It’s whether the nation will remain moored to its founding values or be transformed into a place unrecognizable. Assimilation of newcomers eager to become Americans, once the goal and glory of America, has been fractured by the celebration of diversity, scorning English as the language that has tied the nation together. In New York City, for example, voters can fill out a ballot in any of six languages, and public schools, which should be teaching English as their first priority, must accommodate students in any of 180 tongues.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders refuse to acknowledge the threat of cultural suicide. Both say they’re committed to “comprehensive immigration reform,” but what they mean is accepting as many new arrivals as possible short of provoking civil unrest. The liberal aim is to eliminate all vestiges of America’s heritage to establish a new nation easily integrated into a global village without borders.

A majority of Americans understand that an American identity cannot survive open borders. When interviews on the street find that most passers-by do not even know who the nation’s capital was named for, it’s clear evidence that Americans will soon be strangers in their own land. (Contributor: The Washington Times)

Special PDF Download: http://www.cis.org/sites/cis.org/files/immigrants-and-their-children-16_1.pdf

Intercessors, note an important statement in this editorial: “Like it or not… it was economic reality talking, not ethnic hatred.” Any individual or group stating concerns about unlimited immigration risks being accused of hating what made our nation great: the flow of legal immigrants to the U.S. in the 1800s and early to mid-1900s. Pray for truth and justice to prevail.

“But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24)

 

MISSOURI SENATE PASSES BILL CRITICIZED AS ANTI-GAY

For 39 hours, seven Democrats in the Missouri Senate kept up a filibuster aimed at drawing attention to, and ultimately killing, a religious freedom bill that critics called anti-gay.

On Wednesday morning, they were finally cut short. The chamber’s Republican majority voted to end the filibuster and voted in favor of the bill, which if enacted would permit religious organizations and certain others to refrain from activities viewed as condoning or participating in same-sex marriage.

It is the latest and perhaps most dramatic example of the extraordinary opposition being stoked by religious liberties bills, which have proliferated in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year legalizing same-sex marriage nationally. Social conservatives say the bills are necessary to protect faith-based organizations and faith-driven businesses from being forced to condone a practice that clashes with their religion.

But such measures have been met with fierce opposition by gay rights supporters and others, including prominent businesses that warn it could harm commerce by painting the state as bigoted. They point to the example of Indiana, which took a hit to its reputation last year after the legislature passed its own religious protection law.

So far, that lesson appears to be reverberating nationally as several states have recently rejected bills painted as anti-gay or anti-transgender. Last week, South Dakota’s Republican governor vetoed a bill that would have required schoolchildren to use the bathroom that matched with their biological sex, which critics said was discriminatory against transgender students.

Also last week, the West Virginia legislature voted down a religious liberties bill after a backlash from employers including Marriott and AT&T. And in Georgia, a religious freedom bill faced dismal prospects after the state’s Republican governor suggested he would not support it in its original form.

The Missouri bill, which has yet to be voted on in the House, would put a measure on the November ballot that would amend the state Constitution to prohibit the state from penalizing religious organizations and others for their faith-based opposition to same-sex marriage. It appeared to be sailing through the Senate this week when the chamber’s small number of Democrats decided late Monday to mount a filibuster.

For nearly 40 hours, they spoke on a range of topics in hopes of delaying and derailing the bill, wandering from such subjects as George Washington to local authors to the Democratic presidential candidates. They spoke about how they believed future generations would frown on this bill if voters support amending the state constitution.

“By putting this in the constitution, we are tying their hands and we are saying to them we know better than they do about what kind of society they want to live in,” state Sen. Jason Holsman (D) said around hour 18 of the filibuster. “I don’t think that’s the case.”

The filibuster garnered attention, including from local employers such as Monsanto, which opposed the bill. “We call on other businesses and the [agriculture] community to join us in speaking out against discrimination in Missouri and around the world,” the company tweeted.

On the other side, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a Republican contender for president who has made protecting religious liberties a centerpiece of his campaign, tweeted a warning. “Missouri: Remember in November the Democrats who filibustered over 30 hours to fight against religious liberty.”

Gay rights groups condemned the bill’s passage but praised the senators who held up the filibuster. “Discrimination against LGBT people should never be sanctioned by the state, and we call on the Missouri House of Representatives to resoundingly reject this outrageous resolution,” Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the gay-rights group Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. (Contributor: By Sandhya Somashekhar for The Washington Post)

This battle has become fierce and bitterly divisive. It will not be won politically but only through prayer and revival in the Church, as believers rise up and insist on the recognition of God as Creator. The alternative is “national atheism,” beginning in public education and leading to an adult majority having zero concern for religious freedoms, bathroom privacy, or personal dignity. Please 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)

 

POPE LEAVES CATHOLIC CONSERVATIVES FEELING MARGINALIZED

Three years after the election of Pope Francis, Roman Catholic conservatives are growing increasingly worried that he is quietly unraveling the legacy of his predecessors.

Francis' popularity with most Catholics, and legions of non-Catholics, has given him the image of a grandfatherly parish priest who understands how difficult it sometimes is to follow Church teachings, particularly those on sexual morality.

Conservatives worry that behind the gentle facade lies a dangerous reformer who is diluting Catholic teaching on moral issues like homosexuality and divorce while focusing on social problems such as climate change and economic inequality.

Interviews with four Vatican officials, including two cardinals and an archbishop, as well as theologians and commentators, highlighted conservative fears that Francis' words and deeds may eventually rupture the 1.2 billion member Church.

Chatter on conservative blogs regularly accuses the Argentine pontiff of spreading doctrinal confusion and isolating those who see themselves as guardians of the faith.

"Going to bed. Wake me up when this pontificate is over," Damien Thompson, associate editor of the British weekly "The Spectator" and a conservative Catholic commentator tweeted last month. Thompson was among conservatives stung by a freewheeling news conference Francis gave on a flight home from Mexico.

In it, he stirred up the U.S. presidential debate by criticizing Republican candidate Donald Trump's immigration stance and made comments that were interpreted as an opening to use contraceptives to stop the spread of the Zika virus.

They were the latest in a line of unscripted utterances that have left many conservatives feeling nostalgic for the days of Francis's two predecessors, Benedict and John Paul, who regularly thundered against contraception, homosexuality and abortion.

"Every time this happens I wonder if he realizes how much confusion he is causing," said a conservative Rome-based cardinal who took part in the conclave that elected Francis three years ago and spoke on the condition of anonymity. He would not say if he voted for Francis because participants in conclaves are sworn to secrecy.

The Pope and the Pews

Another senior official, an archbishop in an important Vatican ministry, said: "These comments alarm not only tradition-minded priests but even liberal priests who have complained to me that people are challenging them on issues that are very straight-forward, saying 'the pope would let me do this' why don't you?'"

Francis first shocked conservatives just months after his election on March 13, 2013, when he said "Who am I to judge?" about Catholic homosexuals who were at least trying to live by Church rules that they should be chaste.

He caused further upset when he changed Church rules to allow women to take part in a male-only Lenten service, ruled out any campaigns to convert Jews and approved a "common prayer" with Lutherans for joint commemorations for next year's 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation.

An important crossroads in the conservative-progressive showdown is looming and might come as early as mid-March. It could reveal how far this politically astute pontiff wants to transform his Church.

Francis is due to issue a document called an Apostolic Exhortation after two years of debate and two major meetings of bishops to discuss the family - the Vatican's way of referring to its policies concerning sex.

The exercise, which began with an unprecedented poll of Catholics around the world, boiled down in the end to one hot-button issue - whether divorced Catholics who remarry outside the Church can receive communion at the central rite of Mass.

Conservatives say any change would undermine the principle of the indissolubility of marriage that Jesus established.

At the end of the synod last year, Francis excoriated immovable Church leaders who he said "bury their heads in the sand" and hide behind rigid doctrine while families suffer.

The gathering's final document spoke of a so-called "internal forum" in which a priest or a bishop may work with a Catholic who has divorced and remarried to decide privately and on a case-by-case basis if he or she can be fully re-integrated.

That crack in the doctrinal door annoyed many conservatives, who fear Francis' upcoming document may open the flood gates.

Whose Church Is It Anyway?

It is difficult to quantify Catholic conservatives. Liberals say they are a minority and reject conservative assertions that they are the real "base" of the Church.

"The overwhelming majority of Catholics understand what the pope wants to do, and that is to reach out to everyone," said another cardinal close to Francis.

Regardless of what their actual numbers might be, conservatives have big megaphones in social media.

"It really has gotten more shrill and intense since Francis took over because he seems to get only positive feedback from the mainstream media. Therefore in the strange logic of (conservative) groups, he is someone who is immediately suspect if only for that," said the Catholic blogger Arthur Rosman.

One of the leading conservative standard bearers, Ross Douthat, the Catholic author and New York Times op-ed columnist, has expressed deep worry about the long-term repercussions of the issue of communion for the divorced and remarried.

"It may be that this conflict has only just begun," Douthat said in a lecture to American conservatives in January. "And it may be that as with previous conflicts in Church history, it will eventually be serious enough to end in real schism, a permanent parting of the ways."

Previous Rupture

The last internal rupture in the Church was in 1988 when French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre consecrated bishops without Vatican approval in order to guarantee succession in his ultra-traditionalist group, the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).

The SSPX rejects the modernizing reforms of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, including the historic opening to dialogue with other religions. While it remains a small group, its dissent continues to undermine papal authority.

The conservative standard bearer in Rome is Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, a 67-year-old American who in 2014 told an interviewer that the Church under Francis was like "a ship without a rudder".

Francis was not pleased. That same year, he removed Burke as head of the Vatican's highest court and demoted him to the largely ceremonial post of chaplain of a charity group.

Conservatives are also worried about Francis' drive to devolve decision-making power on several issues from the Vatican to regional, national or diocesan levels, what the pope has called "a healthy decentralization".

This is an anathema to conservatives, who say rules should be applied identically around the world. They warn that a devolution of power would leave the Vatican vulnerable to the splits seen in the Anglican and Orthodox Churches.

"If you look at these two big Churches, they are not in very good shape," said Massimo Faggioli, a Church historian and associate professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. "That's why conservatives are nervous. They think Francis does not understand the danger." (Contributor: BY Philip Pullella and Tom Heneghan for Reuter News - Religion editor Tom Heneghan reported from Paris; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Janet McBride)

While God’s Kingdom “cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28), all human organizations representing His Kingdom are subject to foundational cracks that can and will bring them down—whether now or later. Many splits in religious structures bring forth new “reformation,” whereby the truth of the Gospel becomes clearer. Pray for God’s will and purpose to prevail at any and all costs.

“To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa. 8:20)

 

TRACING THE ROOTS OF ISLAMIC JIHAD

In an earlier column in these pages, “Reforming Islam,” I documented the need for Islam to experience an internal reformation. This is not just a question of abstract theology but directly relates to how we defeat Islamic terrorism, and how we are viewed in the Muslim world.

For example, ISIS, the foremost terror threat in the world today, in its claim of responsibility for last year’s Paris attack condemned America and its allies as “crusader nations.” Osama bin Laden did likewise. Bin Laden railed against “Crusaders and U.N.” when President Bush used the “C-word” after 9/11. He was widely criticized for it and dropped it.

Use of “Crusades” and “Crusaders” as terms of abuse is clearly meant to stir up Muslim masses that they are under assault, not that we are defending ourselves against jihad. Perhaps more importantly, it is designed to evoke feelings of culpability and defeatism among guilty Western liberals, who are ashamed of Western civilization and indifferent at best to its survival. Not surprisingly, when President Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast last year on the issue of terrorism, he attempted to minimize the Islamic element of the Islamic State’s barbarity: “Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

Let’s set the record straight. The Crusades were a series of wars launched by Western Europeans in the wake of devastating defeats inflicted on the Christian Byzantine Empire by the Seljuk Turks. The First Crusade was launched in 1096. It was the most successful one, capturing Jerusalem.

But the gains were only temporary, requiring the launch of repeated efforts to maintain the small feudal statelets carved out in the Holy Land. The last crusader stronghold, Acre in today’s Israel, fell in 1291.

All told, the Crusades occupied a brief period of just over two and one-half centuries. They were limited in scope and essentially were a counterattack, seeking to retake Christian lands earlier seized by the Muslims.

How do the Crusades compare to Islamic jihad? Following the death of Muhammad in 632, his successors, the caliphs — the same office ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi claims to have revived — began their unprovoked war of conquest against the Byzantines. Within a decade, the jihad had claimed then-Christian Egypt, Palestine, and Syria.

Muslim armies swept across North Africa and crossed over into Spain in 711, only to be finally stopped in France by Charles Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne, in 732. (At the same time, Muslim forces swept east, subduing Persia and reaching the frontiers of China.) Repeated assaults continued across the Mediterranean, including Arab sieges of Constantinople and conquest of Cyprus, Sicily, and Crete.

Motivated by Islamic jihad and lust for plunder and slaves — identical to today’s ISIS — not one of these assaults was defensive. These were not Muslim lands being liberated from occupation but Christian lands whose inhabitants experienced the horrors we see today in Syria, Iraq and now Libya with Israel waiting in the wings: amputations, beheadings, slavery and sex slavery (all of which are explicitly authorized by Allah in the Koran). When we see horrific videos of ISIS beheadings and the choosing of sex slaves, let’s remember it’s a scene repeated thousands of times before: in Jerusalem in 637, Egypt in 639, Spain in 711, and Constantinople in 1453. The only difference is that today there are cameras and instant worldwide communications.

The Islamic jihad against Christendom started more than four and a half centuries before anyone had even heard of a Crusade. The crusaders forced jihad into remission for a brief period from around 1100 to 1350, after which it resumed its full assault.

Most of Asia Minor — today’s Turkey — was quickly subdued as the Crusades ended. Islamic warriors of the new Ottoman Empire crossed into Europe at Gallipoli in 1356. In rapid succession the jihad overwhelmed Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, and southern Romania.

Constantinople fell in 1453. (This fulfilled the first part of a prophecy attributed to Muhammad and fondly cited by today’s jihadists that first they would take Constantinople and then Rome.) Bosnia, Croatia, Hungary, and Southern Austria and Poland all fell. Muslim slave-raiders ravaged the coasts of Italy, Spain, Sardinia, Corsica, and they ranged as far north as Ireland and Scandinavia. (The Barbary Wars fought by the infant United States were a response to that same activity, which lasted well into the 19th century. It was America’s first clash with jihad but certainly not our last.)

The Muslim advance only began to be seriously blunted in 1683, with the failure of the Turks’ second siege of Vienna. While the ideology of offensive jihad had not changed, its capabilities could not withstand the scientific and technological revolution that had begun to take hold in Christian Europe.

To sum up, aggressive Islamic jihad was launched against the Christians and lasted 450 years. For 250 years, Christian crusaders counterattacked. After that counterattack failed, renewed jihad lasted another 350 years.

It’s clear who the aggressors are, which only emphasizes that we cannot afford to engage in moral disarmament in the face of jihad and unreformed Islam. Unfortunately, under Mr. Obama, moral and actual disarmament is official U.S. policy. This must be reversed. (Contributor: By James A. Lyons for The Washington Times - James A. Lyons, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.)

It is generally acknowledged that President Obama has not helped Americans understand the Islamic threat to our nation’s future. He takes every opportunity to share fictitious U.S. history, touting Muslim involvement in the settling and growth of the United States. Pray for truth to prevail. Pray also now for the next U.S. president to strengthen the military against our enemies.

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Jn. 8:32)

 

GOD'S NOT DEAD 2

Dear Prayer Warriors,

I keep reading and hearing about all you are doing for the Kingdom. Thank you for all your hard work done in the Name of Jesus.

Just as launching the Presidential Prayer Team was a new opportunity for the Kingdom of God, there is another new opportunity to make a difference. There is a plethora of outstanding Christian films coming to theaters these days. One I’m most excited about is GOD’S NOT DEAD 2, which opens in theaters April 1. You can learn more about this powerful film at GodsNotDead.com.

Millions of people are seeing these Christian films, making them the largest evangelism events since the Billy Graham Crusades. I was part of the second Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade. All the prayer leaders were invited to a special gathering with Billy Graham himself speaking. He said that there is a correlation between the number of people praying and the number of people responding to the Gospel at the crusade. Prayer works!

Films like GOD’S NOT DEAD 2 are really evangelism tools. We’re not asking you to promote these Christian films. Others are doing that. We are asking all 111 national prayer networks to invite their prayer teams to cover each theater in prayer. First, by cleansing those screens on which unholy things have been shown. Second, to pray for the people either as they enter the theater or pray as they are watching the film.

Here are the two simple steps for you with GOD’S NOT DEAD 2:

  1. You will receive 3-4 emails from us over then next few weeks with PDF files for you to easily forward to your team. Each of these emails will contain short videos of the film or interviews with the actors/actresses.
  2. On your cover email, we ask you to instruct them to go to our website (GodsNotDead.com/theaters) where they can search using their zip code to find one of the 1,500 screens nearest to their home. We are asking God to provide one or more prayer warrior for the first weekend, Friday through Sunday April 1-3, at each of the 1,500 theaters for each showing (usually 4-5 a day).

If 1,500 theaters show the film 4 times over a 3-day weekend that would be 18,000 Gospel messages. If at each showing God’s Spirit moves in the hearts of only 2 people, that would mean 36,000 new people of faith that we will see some day in Heaven. PTL! That, of course, would not include other commitments that would be made. Let the praying begin!

Last of all we will send you a report and THANKS together with some stories about lives that have been changed.

Keep Praying!

Dr. Cornell (Corkie) Haan
Mission America Coalition, National Facilitator
Co-founder of the Presidential Prayer Tea

This is Alert is a letter IFA recently received from a supportive prayer ministry. Please follow the links and pray accordingly, as you are led. We have not previewed the film, but it appears from the trailer that it is supportive of biblical values. Pray for a positive spiritual impact and for many to be saved.

“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)

 

DECISION AMERICA TOUR UPDATE

Dear Intercessors for America,

We are happy to share an update as the Decision America Tour begins to move across America.

God is stirring His people to pray and stand together!

What we are seeing is remarkable! In February, Columbia, SC and Atlanta, GA saw huge crowds of 7,100 and 6,800 respectively, even with below freezing temperatures and short ramp-up times. (By comparison, at the Pittsburgh Festival in August 2014 we had 8,000-10,000 people per night - a great turnout - with 18 months of planning, huge committees, etc.) Honolulu had 2200 including a lot of young people!

God is using this Tour to fan the flame of what He is already doing in the hearts of His people in every state. Prayer is relationship, and God is calling us deeper! We are seeing God’s people encouraged in every state where the Tour has been and hearing reports of continuing impact!

Below is a testimony about a South Carolina Pastor:

On Sunday, my Pastor told his Church that he was beginning something new because he was honoring a prayer he made at the Capitol.  He went on to say that he had not been the Evangelist and Soul Winner that he used to be but that was going to change.  He shared some plans based on Franklin Graham’s message last Tuesday at the Capitol.  Listening that night, I heard a different minister stand there in front of a Congregation that is ready to follow where he leads them; I heard a minister that had been convicted by God standing at the Capitol on that windy day.  This is just one church; my prayer is that many other church members across our state heard a similar message Sunday from their Pastors. 

Would you please continue to keep this Tour - and its continuing impact - in your prayers as you pray for our nation? Will you encourage those you know to attend the upcoming rallies? We want to leave God’s people better connected and stronger in each state!

The following rallies are coming up this month:

March 15, Denver, Colorado
March 16 - Santa Fe, New Mexico
March 18 - Phoenix, Arizona
March 29 - Salt Lake City, Utah
March 30 - Carson City, Nevada
March 31 - Sacramento, California

Please feel free to pass this update along!

There is no limit to what God can do in response to the prayers of His people! It is a pleasure and privilege to serve in the Kingdom with you!

Warmly,

Cynthia Scott
National Prayer Coordinator
2016 Decision America Tour

Please give thanks and, if possible, participate in one of these five Prayer Tour rallies remaining in March. IFA’s leadership and staff are thankful for letters like these and the organizations behind them, reminding us that God is raising up many individuals and ministries to intercede across the country. Please pray for each of the five citywide rallies.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! …For there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.” (Ps. 133:1, 3)

 

PORTLAND, OREGON-BOUND COMBAT MISSILES FOUND ON PLANE

Serbia’s authorities are investigating reports that a cargo package bound for the U.S. containing two missiles with explosive warheads was found on a passenger flight from Lebanon to Serbia.

N1 television said the package with two guided armor-piercing missiles was discovered Saturday by a sniffer dog after an Air Serbia flight from Beirut landed at Belgrade airport.

Serbian media say documents listed the final destination for the AGM-114 Hellfire missiles as Portland, Oregon. The American-made projectiles can be fired from air, sea or ground platforms.

N1 reported Sunday that Air Serbia is helping in the investigation. The Serbian flag carrier says “security and safety are the main priorities for Air Serbia.”

Jennifer Adams with the Portland office of the FBI said, “The FBI is aware of the report and is looking into it. No further information is available at this time.”

Scott Winegar, the director of Homeland Security Education at Concordia University, told KOIN 6 News these have been heavily used by drones to fire on targets over the past few years.

He said the investigation as to where these came from needs to start with the Defense Department.

“The other organizations that we have in the US are not responsible for distributing Hellfire missiles. That’s a Department of Defense asset so, wherever it came from, it would have to have come through the Department of Defense’s logistical chain,” Winegar said. “If it came from the U.S., if it came from our allies, that’s going to muddy the waters.” (Contributor: The Associated Press)

Unaccounted for missiles with explosive warheads is not a good sign. For IFA, this is a “watch and pray” article, which means that while we count it as potentially important to U.S. security, not enough is known about the story to give us specific prayer direction—thus we watch and pray and then wait to see what it means. Please pray that accountability will be revealed.

“For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains…. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” (1 Thess. 5:3-6)

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The Informer March 9, 2016

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DRILLS: U.S., SOUTH KOREA PRACTICE STRIKING NORTH’S NUCLEAR PLANTS

The United States and South Korea kicked off major military exercises on Monday, including rehearsals of surgical strikes on North Korea’s main nuclear and missile facilities and “decapitation raids” by special forces targeting the North’s leadership.

The drills always elicit an angry response from Pyongyang, but Monday’s statement was particularly ferocious, accusing the United States and South Korea of planning a “beheading operation” aimed at removing Kim Jong Un’s regime. The North Korean army and people “will take military counteraction for preemptive attack so that they may deal merciless deadly blows at the enemies,” the North’s powerful National Defense Commission said in a statement.

The exercises come at a particularly tense time, with the international community — especially the United States and South Korea — looking to punish Pyongyang for its recent nuclear test and missile launch. The United Nations last week imposed its toughest sanctions yet on the North, and South Korean President Park Geun-hye is expected to unveil further, unilateral sanctions on Tuesday.

About 17,000 American forces and 300,000 South Korean personnel — a one-third increase from last spring’s drills — will take part in 11 days of computer-simulated training and eight weeks of field exercises, which will involve ground, air, naval and special operations services.

The exercises will revolve around a wartime plan, OPLAN 5015, adopted by South Korea and the United States last year. The plan has not been made public but, according to reports in the South Korean media, includes a contingency for surgical strikes against the North’s nuclear weapons and missile facilities, as well as “decapitation” raids to take out North Korea’s leaders. The JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported that Kim Jong Un would be among them.

The joint forces will also run through their new “4D” operational plan, which details the allies’ preemptive military operations to detect, disrupt, destroy and defend against North Korea’s nuclear and missile arsenal, the Yonhap News Agency reported. “The focus of the exercises will be on hitting North Korea’s key facilities precisely,” a military official told the wire service.

Christopher Bush, a spokesman for U.S. Forces Korea, declined to comment on the reports. “Alliance operational plans are classified, and we aren’t authorized to discuss them for operations security reasons,” he said.

USFK said in a statement that it had informed the North’s Korean People’s Army — through the U.N. Command, which controls the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas — about the exercise dates and “the non-provocative nature of this training.”

But North Korea apparently did not see it this way.

“We have a military operation plan of our style to liberate South Korea and strike the U.S. mainland ratified by our dignified supreme headquarters,” the North’s National Defense Commission said in its statement, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

It said it had deployed “offensive means” to strike South Korea and “U.S. imperialist aggressor forces bases in the Asia-Pacific region and the U.S. mainland.”

“If we push the buttons to annihilate the enemies even right now, all bases of provocations will be reduced to seas in flames and ashes in a moment,” the commission said.

North Korea is particularly sensitive to suggestions of attacks on Kim — as the furor surrounding the 2014 Hollywood film “The Interview” showed — and it has a habit of making threats on which it cannot follow through.

Last week, Kim ordered his military to be ready to use its nuclear weapons at any time, saying they were needed, given the “ferocious hostility” of new “gangster-like” sanctions imposed on Pyongyang.

The threats issued Monday were “absolutely not credible,” said Daniel Pinkston, a former Korean linguist with the U.S. Air Force who teaches at Troy University’s campus in Seoul.

“They would trigger everything North Korea wants to avoid, which is their absolute destruction in retaliatory attacks,” Pinkston said. “Second, if you are going to launch an attack against a much stronger adversary, why would you telegraph that? You’d want the element of surprise.”

Much of North Korea’s rhetoric is for domestic consumption, as Kim tries to burnish his leadership credentials ahead of a much-anticipated Workers’ Party congress in May, the first in 36 years.

Kim, however, has shown himself willing to use the means available to him to express his anger. Last year, during a period of increased tensions with South Korea, he ordered his military onto a war footing, sending army units to the demilitarized zone and submarines out of port.

South Korea and the United States said they will increase monitoring of North Korea during the exercises.

“We will carry out these exercises while keeping tabs on signs of North Korean provocations,” a South Korean official told reporters. “If the North provokes us during this exercise, the U.S. and our troops will retaliate with an attack ten-fold stronger.”

About 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea, the result of an security alliance formed during the Korean War. (Contributor: By Anna Fifield for The Washington Post)

[Addendum] North Korea threatens nuclear strike over U.S.-South Korean exercises

North Korea warned it would make a "preemptive and offensive nuclear strike" in response to joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises that began Monday.

The news was announced in a statement by the National Defense Commission of North Korea and published in the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

"As the joint military exercises to be staged by the enemies are regarded as the most undisguised nuclear war drills aimed to infringe upon the sovereignty of the DPRK, its military counteraction will be more preemptive and offensive nuclear strike to cope with them," the statement read.

The United States responded with a call for caution.

"We urge North Korea to refrain from provocative actions and statements that aggravate tensions and instead focus on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments," a senior administration official said Monday. "We are closely monitoring the situation on the Korean Peninsula in coordination with our Republic of Korea allies."

North Korea's bellicose words are typical around the time of annual military exercises, according to CNN's Paula Hancocks.

"They (North Korea) have threatened this before, and these kinds of threats are to be expected this time of year," she said.

But Hancocks noted that tensions this year are even higher than normal after recent action at the United Nations.

The Security Council voted last week to impose an array of sanctions against North Korea because of that nation's recent nuclear test and missile launch, both of which defied international sanctions. The resolution that brought about the sanctions aims to cripple the economic factors that fuel the North's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The North Korean news agency has blasted the sanctions as "unprecedented and gangster-like."

Discussions about new sanctions started after North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb in January, its fourth nuclear test.

Then, in February, Pyongyang said it had successfully launched an Earth satellite into orbit via the long-range Kwangmyongsong carrier rocket.

About 17,000 U.S. forces will participate in the joint military exercises with South Korea, according to United States Forces Korea.

The two exercises, "Key Resolve" and "Foal Eagle," will run until April 30. "Foal Eagle" will involve ground, air, naval and special operations forces from both militaries, USFA said. (Contributor: By Dana Ford for CNN)

 

 

Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Committee
<Click Here to download PDF>

 

Pray for restraint that no “accidental provocation” will set off an international incident that gets out of control. Dictators often use bombastic threats primarily to impress their own people, and Kim Jong Un is no exception. Also, U.S. military personnel and forces are spread thin globally, and our country cannot afford losses through careless speech and action. Pray accordingly.

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16:18)

 

NETANYAHU SAYS DECLINED TO MEET OBAMA DUE TO U.S. ELECTION CAMPAIGN

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cancellation of a proposed meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama put more strain on their troubled ties on Tuesday just before a visit to Israel by Vice President Joe Biden.

The White House said on Monday it was "surprised" to learn first from Israeli media that Netanyahu had decided against coming to a conference of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC in Washington on March 20, and the suggestion in some reports that among his reasons was Obama's unavailability to see him.

Zeev Elkin, an Israeli cabinet minister close to Netanyahu, countered that Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer had given the White House advance warning the trip might not happen.

It was the latest episode in a fraught relationship between the right-wing Israeli leader and Democratic U.S. president that has yet to recover from deep differences over last year's U.S.-led international nuclear deal with Israel's foe Iran.

Biden, whose 2010 visit to Israel was marred by acrimony over a Jewish settlement plan announced during his trip, arrives later in the day for talks on Wednesday with Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank.

With violence surging for the past five months, U.S. officials have said no peace breakthrough is expected during Biden's visit.

In Jerusalem on Tuesday, a 50-year-old Palestinian woman who tried to stab Israeli police officers was shot dead, a police spokeswoman said.

Since October, Palestinian stabbings, shootings and car rammings have killed 28 Israelis and an American. Israeli forces have killed at least 174 Palestinians, 116 of whom Israel says were assailants. Most others were shot dead during violent protests.

Netanyahu has hailed Biden's visit as a sign of Israel's "strong relations" with the United States.

Within hours, however, a flap erupted with the White House, which said that contrary to media reports, Netanyahu had been offered a March 18 meeting with Obama, ahead of the president's landmark Cuba visit on March 21 and 22.

Netanyahu's office said on Tuesday he would not attend the AIPAC event and voiced appreciation for Obama's willingness to host him.

It said Netanyahu was reluctant to be drawn into the U.S. presidential campaign, where candidates have been vying to assert their bona fides as friends of Israel.

In 2012, Netanyahu hosted then-Republican contender Mitt Romney in Israel in what many Democrats saw as a bid to undercut Obama's second-term run. Israel denied meddling. (Contributor: By Jeffrey Heller for Yahoo News and Reuters News Service - Additional reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Despite rising global anti-Semitism, most American Christians support Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decisions on behalf of Israel’s well-being. As a political leader, he follows his intuition and agenda. He is determined not to be pulled into our nation’s present political frenzy. Pray for divine restraint on Iran and ISIS and the control of civilian turmoil and knife attacks in Israel’s cities and towns.

“Now the Lord had said to Abram:…’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. 12:1,3)

 

RECORD 61 MILLION IMMIGRANTS IN U.S., 15.7 MILLION ILLEGALLY

There are a record 61 million immigrants and their American-born children in the United States, including an estimated 15.7 million illegally here, according to a new analysis of 2015 U.S. Census data.

The estimated number of undocumented immigrants is one of the highest ever.

The analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies found that 45.3 million, or three-fourths of the 61 million, are legal immigrants and their children. The report out Monday notes that the so-called "Gang of Eight" immigration bill supported by GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio would have doubled that number of legal immigrants.

"These numbers raise profound questions that are seldom even asked: What number of immigrants can be assimilated? What is the absorption capacity of our schools, health care system, infrastructure, and labor market? What is the effect on the environment and quality of life from significantly increasing the nation's population density?" wrote Steven Camarota, the Center's director of Research.

"With 45 million legal immigrants and their young children already here, does it make sense to continue admitting more than one million new legal permanent immigrants every year?" he added.

His report found that the normal pattern of immigration to the United States changed after 1970. At that time, there were 13.5 million immigrants, or about one in 15 U.S. residents.

But since 2000, the number of immigrants has increased 18.4 million, and now nearly one of every five U.S. residents are immigrants.

"The number of immigrants and their young children grew six times faster than the nation's total population from 1970 to 2015 — 353 percent vs. 59 percent," he added.

Camarota dug deep into Census Current Population Survey and other data to determine his estimate of 15.7 million illegals in the United States.

"Our best estimate is that in 2015 there were 5.1 million children with at least one illegal immigrant parent. Taken together, the best available evidence indicates that there were a total of 15.7 million illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born children in the adjusted December 2015 CPS, accounting for 25.7 percent of the 61 million immigrants and their children in the country," he said.

He broke the figures down state by state and Camarota said that "the number of immigrants and their minor children from 1970 to 2015 has been nothing short of astonishing." Some examples:

-- In Georgia, this population grew 3,058 percent (from 55,000 to 1.75 million), 25 times faster than the overall state population.

-- In Nevada, this population grew 3,002 percent (from 26,000 to 821,000), six times faster than the overall state population.

-- In North Carolina, this population grew 2,937 percent (from 47,000 to 1.43 million), 30 times faster than the overall state population. (Contributor: Paul Bedard for The Washington Examiner)

The average person cannot easily interpret these figures. Most Americans believe the U.S. should welcome the world’s “tired [and] poor,” but a fair question is, How long can unregulated immigration continue? With open borders and numbers rising from thousands to millions, there must be limits. Pray for equitable solutions by way of November’s elections. Study the issues, and plan to vote!

“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord….” (Acts 17:26-27)

 

U.S. STRIKES IN SOMALIA KILL 150 SHABAB FIGHTERS

American aircraft on Saturday struck a training camp in Somalia belonging to the Islamist militant group the Shabab, the Pentagon said, killing about 150 fighters who were assembled for what American officials believe was a graduation ceremony and prelude to an imminent attack against American troops and their allies in East Africa.

Defense officials said the strike was carried out by drones and American aircraft, which dropped a number of precision-guided bombs and missiles on the field where the fighters were gathered. Pentagon officials said they did not believe there were any civilian casualties, but there was no independent way to verify the claim. They said they delayed announcing the strike until they could assess the outcome.

It was the deadliest attack on the Shabab in the more than decade-long American campaign against the group, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, and a sharp deviation from previous American strikes, which have concentrated on the group’s leaders, not on its foot soldiers.

It comes in response to new concerns that the group, which was responsible for one of the deadliest terrorist attacks on African soil when it struck a popular mall in Nairobi in 2013, is in the midst of a resurgence after losing much of the territory it once held and many of its fighters in the last several years. The planned attack on American and African Union troops in Somalia, American officials say, may have been an attempt by the Shabab to carry out the same kind of high-impact act of terrorism as the one in Nairobi.

The fighters had just completed “training for a large-scale attack” against American and African Union forces, said Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

Pentagon officials would not say how they knew that the Shabab fighters killed on Saturday were training for an attack on United States and African Union forces, but the militant group is believed to be under heavy American surveillance.

The Shabab fighters were standing in formation at a facility the Pentagon called Camp Raso, 120 miles north of Mogadishu, when the American warplanes struck on Saturday, officials said, acting on information gleaned from intelligence sources in the area and from American spy planes. One intelligence agency assessed that the toll might have been higher had the strike happened earlier in the ceremony. Apparently, some fighters were filtering away from the event when the bombing began.

The strike was another escalation in what has become the latest battleground in the Obama administration’s war against terror: Africa. The United States and its allies are focused on combating the spread of the Islamic State in Libya, and American officials estimate that with an influx of men from Iraq, Syria and Tunisia, the Islamic State’s forces in Libya have swelled to as many as 6,500 fighters, allowing the group to capture a 150-mile stretch of coastline over the past year.

The arrival of the Islamic State in Libya has sparked fears that the group’s reach could spread to other North African countries, and the United States is increasingly trying to prevent that. American forces are now helping to combat Al Qaeda in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso; Boko Haram in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad; and the Shabab in Somalia and Kenya, in what has become a multifront war against militant Islam in Africa.

The United States has a small number of trainers and advisers with African Union — primarily Kenyan — troops in Somalia. Defense officials said that the African Union’s military mission to Somalia was believed to have been the target of the planned attack.

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, called the attack a “good example” of how the United States military can work with local partners to advance security.

“The removal of those terrorist fighters degrades Al Shabab’s ability to meet the group’s objectives in Somalia, including recruiting new members, establishing bases and planning attacks on the U.S.,” Mr. Earnest told reporters on Monday. He insisted that avoiding civilian casualties is a “very very high priority, both for moral reasons but also because extremist organizations like Al Shabab would just use the death of innocent civilians to try to recruit additional members and whip up additional anti-U.S. sentiment.”

Saturday’s strike was the most significant American attack on the Shabab since September 2014, when an American drone strike killed the leader of the group, Ahmed Abdi Godane, at the time one of the most wanted men in Africa. That strike was followed by one last March, when Adan Garar, a senior member of the group, was killed in a drone strike on his vehicle.

If the killings of Mr. Godane and Mr. Garar initially crippled the group, that no longer appears to be the case. In the past two months, Shabab militants have claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed more than 150 people, including Kenyan soldiers stationed at a remote desert outpost and beachcombers in Mogadishu.

In addition, the group has said it was responsible for a bomb on a Somali jetliner that tore a hole through the fuselage and for an attack last month on a popular hotel and a public garden in Mogadishu that killed 10 people and injured more than 25. On Monday, the Shabab claimed responsibility for a bomb planted in a laptop computer that went off at an airport security checkpoint in the town of Beletwein in central Somalia, wounding at least six people, including two police officers. The police said that one other bomb was defused.

At the same time, Shabab assassination teams have fanned out across Mogadishu and other major towns, stealthily eliminating government officials and others they consider apostates.

The Shabab have also retaken several towns after African Union forces pulled out. The African Union peacekeeping force, paid for mostly by Western governments, features troops from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Djibouti and other African nations.

The Shabab were once strong, then greatly weakened and now seem to be somewhere in between, while analysts say the group competes with the Islamic State for recruits and tries to show — in the deadliest way — that it is still relevant. Its dream is to turn Somalia into a pure Islamic state.

The Pentagon’s announcement of the attack in Somalia came as the Obama administration said it planned in the future to be more transparent about the number of casualties caused by the use of counterterrorism strikes outside declared war zones. Lisa Monaco, President Obama’s counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, said a report would be released “in the coming weeks,” on the total number of casualties caused by strikes since Mr. Obama took office. (Contributor: By Helene Cooper for The New York Times)

War is a horror, and the statistics are chilling. A “just war” includes the rationale that the killing of a smaller number of enemy troops prevents the killing of a larger number of the defender’s troops. Thus, to eliminate the Shabab and the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) could prevent the genocide of Middle East Christians and other non-Muslim people groups. Pray for a quick resolution.  

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.... And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Mt. 24:6, 14)

 

PLANNED PARENTHOOD PRESIDENT, TO SPEAK AT GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY

Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the largest abortion provider in the U.S., will speak at the nation’s oldest Catholic institution in April.

Ms. Richards was extended an invitation to speak at Georgetown University by the Lecture Fund, a nonpartisan, student-run organization that seeks to promote dialogue on the Washington, D.C., campus.

The Catholic Church has long been opposed to abortion and considers it a grave evil equivalent to murder. Since taking over as president of Planned Parenthood in 2006, Ms. Richards has overseen more than 2.8 million abortions, according to LifeSite, a pro-life media outlet.

Critics of the event say Georgetown is extending a platform to a set of beliefs diametrically opposed to church teaching.

“This is the latest in a long history of scandal at Georgetown University,” Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, said in a statement. “Disguised as an academic event, this is nothing more than a platform for abortion advocacy at a Catholic university and under the nose of the Catholic bishops, featuring a wicked woman who defends the sale of baby body parts and is responsible for the deaths of millions of aborted children.”

Georgetown defended the invitation on the grounds of academic freedom [Jesuit influence?].

“We respect our students’ right to express their personal views and are committed to sustaining a forum for the free exchange of ideas, even when those ideas may be difficult, controversial or objectionable to some,” the university said in a statement.

“Georgetown remains firmly committed to the sanctity and human dignity of every life at every stage,” the school said.

Previous speakers hosted by the Lecture Fund include Ann Coulter, a conservative commentator; Jon Favreau, a former speechwriter to President Obama; and Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal. (Contributor: By Bradford Richardson for The Washington Times)

Pray for strong alumni reaction. IFA does not foment division between “branches” of Christianity, but Georgetown University (GU) betrays its Roman Catholic heritage by supporting this brazen denial of the parent Church’s strong pro-life standards. By welcoming Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, GU officials openly support an affront to every vestige of human life sanctity.

“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)

 

BILL DE BLASIO MANDATES TRANSGENDER ACCESS TO NYC BATHROOMS

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday issued an executive order granting people access to the public facilities that correspond with their gender identity.

“We want people to know they can go about their lives and not be excluded,” Mr. de Blasio said during a press conference at the Chelsea Recreation Center. “That’s why this is so important. This is about affirming the right of someone to follow through on their own identity.”

The law will allow transgender people to use public bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex.

Bianey Garcia, a transgender woman and advocate who sits on the board of Make the Road New York, said she felt “humiliated” when she was prevented using the women’s restroom by a restaurant owner.

“That day I felt humiliated, but like so many others, I didn’t think of making a complaint or telling anyone because of fear, frustration and disbelief,” Ms. Garcia said. “Access to the ladies bathroom is my right as a transgender woman, as a human being.”

Opponents of expanding access to facilities on the basis of gender identity contend such laws will create a whole host of issues, from exposing young girls to older men in changing rooms, to discouraging bystander intervention when potentially predatory men are seen accessing women’s restrooms.

Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, said laws like Mr. de Blasio’s fail to understand that transgender people are not the only ones whose rights need to be protected.

“Here’s what we need to realize: Everyone in this debate has rights,” Mr. Backholm said. “Transgender people have the right to go to the bathroom. But everybody else in the state of New York or the city of New York or whatever state we’re in, they all have legal rights to privacy that are real. And the problem is governments choosing one person’s rights over everybody else, rather than recognizing that everybody has an interest here, and we need to behave like adults and make sure that nobody gets to say my rights trump your rights because I say so.”

The order is the latest victory for an emboldened nationwide transgender movement that seeks public recognition and acceptance through access to sex-segregated amenities.

The Charlotte City Council in North Carolina last month passed a similar mandate, but the state legislature said it plans to block the measure before it is ever implemented.

In South Dakota last week, transgender advocates scored a major victory when Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed a law that would have prohibited students in public schools from using opposite-sex restrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities.

But voters in Houston overwhelmingly defeated an anti-discrimination ordinance in November that would have granted transgender people access to restrooms corresponding with their gender identity. (Contributor: By Bradford Richardson for The Washington Times)

Older Christians—born before or just after WW2—have long-since given up defining America as a Christian nation. But now, we see worse: a country losing its civility. With “official” transgender confusion, along with steep moral decline, how are we to define current U.S. society? Christians must pray and take a stand. Gender and sexuality are defined by God, not personal preference.

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply….’” (Gen. 1:27-28)

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The Informer March 2, 2016

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SUPER TUESDAY RESULTS BY THE NUMBERS

Tuesday was the biggest day of the presidential primary calendar to date as Republicans and Democrats each fought 11 state contests.

The two top questions as Super Tuesday dawned were whether any Republican could stop Donald Trump’s march toward the nomination and whether Bernie Sanders could slow Hillary Clinton’s progress toward the Democratic nod.

Where do things stand as the dust settles?

WINNERS:

Donald Trump (R)

Trump once again answered the doubters in clear-cut fashion, winning seven of the 10 contests that had been called by just after midnight Eastern time.

Trump said at his victory rally in Florida that he was expanding the appeal of the Republican Party. Whatever the truth of that statement — and many of his critics would vigorously dispute it — there is no question about the breadth of his appeal to GOP voters. He won a diverse collection of states Tuesday from Vermont to Alabama.

The businessman’s strong performance guarantees that he will extend a delegate lead over closest rival Ted Cruz. Trump had added at least 192 delegates to his total by 1 a.m., according to Associated Press estimates, while Cruz, at the same time, was certain of only 132. That would leave Trump more than 100 delegates ahead overall.

Trump has also rebuffed the sharp attacks that Marco Rubio mounted against him in recent days. Rubio notched a late win in the Minnesota caucuses, giving him a glimmer of hope, but that was his only win of the night. Cruz’s victories in his home state of Texas — the biggest delegate prize of the night — and Oklahoma make it certain he will stay in, too.

A field that continues to contain three major candidates will be just fine with Trump.

On Tuesday night, a reporter asked him whether he felt that he was now the presumptive GOP nominee.

“I feel awfully good,” Trump replied.

Hillary Clinton (D)

Clinton’s edge among black voters helped her crush Bernie Sanders in the South. In Alabama, for example, she was about 50 points ahead of Sanders with 84 percent of results in. Overall, Clinton won seven states to the Vermont senator’s four.

That is expected to leave Clinton ahead of Sanders in the delegate count by a more than 2-1 margin. Clinton already enjoys a prodigious lead among the party officials and others who serve as unpledged superdelegates — and they have no reason to leave her now.

Clinton’s night was not unblemished: Sanders picked up victories in Minnesota, Oklahoma and Colorado as well as his home state of Vermont. But Clinton won the general election battleground state of Virginia and beat back Sanders in Massachusetts, making clear that she can best her left-wing rival on his home turf in the Northeast.

It was telling that Clinton barely mentioned Sanders in her victory speech, delivered in Florida. Instead, she attacked Trump by allusion, asserting that “the rhetoric we’re hearing on the other side has never been lower.”

Clinton is beginning to run a general election campaign. That says everything about the state of the Democratic primary.

Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

Cruz emerged as a winner by default. Having long sought to position himself as the only alternative to Trump, he is now the only non-Trump candidate with multiple victories.

Cruz’s desire for a one-on-one battle with Trump was crystal clear as he delivered his Tuesday night speech at the Houston-area Redneck Country Club.

Insisting that “tonight was another decision point,” he asserted, “So long as the field remains divided, Donald Trump’s path to the nomination remains more likely — and that would be a disaster for Republicans, for conservatives and for the nation.”

Still, Cruz has his own challenges. Trump has won at least 10 contests to his three.

And Trump’s wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee have demonstrated his success in cutting into Cruz’s expected strength among Southern evangelicals.

Cruz’s path to the nomination is very steeply uphill — but he is now even more clearly the second-place GOP candidate. And he has the rationale to keep going for some time.

Chris Christie (R)

Christie’s decision to endorse Trump on Friday — blunting the new anti-Trump offensive from Rubio — outraged some party insiders. It was a significant gamble from the New Jersey governor. But the potential upside is simple: Christie could become the first truly significant establishment figure to back the eventual winner.

By inching close to his goal, Trump helped Christie, too.

LOSERS:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Rubio’s late victory in the Minnesota caucuses wasn’t enough to rescue his night.

A candidate who purports to be the most electable choice has now won one GOP contest of the 15 held to date. He came up short in Virginia, his best hope of scoring a more substantive surprise.

As of midnight, it remained unclear whether Rubio was going to score the 20 percent of the vote required to win any delegates at all in a number of states.

The mere fact that Rubio’s win came so late in the night also meant Trump and Cruz had the opportunity to paint him as a loser in their speeches. “He hasn’t won anything, and he’s not going to win very much,” Trump jabbed.

Rubio can probably survive the night, but he emerges from Super Tuesday facing gale-force headwinds.

Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

In one sense, Sanders performed adequately on Super Tuesday, winning four contests.

But Sanders aspires to win the nomination, not merely run Clinton close, and by that measure the barriers keep getting higher.

His consistently weak support among African-American voters was evident in results from the Deep South. Sanders also lost Massachusetts, a state where his campaign had high hopes. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow described that result as a “disappointment” for the Vermont senator.

Sanders’s prodigious fundraising will let him stay in the race for some time. But the idea of him as the nominee looks less plausible with every big night in the race.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R)

The Ohio governor, who has been largely sidelined since his second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary early last month, got a sliver of light on Super Tuesday. He was only a few points behind Trump in Vermont and ran at a respectable level in Massachusetts, drawing about 18 percent of the vote there.

But none of it is enough to catapult Kasich into serious contention for the nomination.

And he will likely face even more pressure from establishment forces to withdraw, especially considering that Rubio plausibly could have beaten Trump in Virginia had it not been for the Ohio governor’s presence in the race. Trump’s margin of victory over Rubio in the commonwealth was just 3 points, and Kasich won 9 percent of the votes cast.

Kasich has fought an optimistic campaign, but he’s running out of road.

The Republican establishment

The anti-Trump forces in the GOP now confront the fact that they might be too late.

Even those who are less emphatic are in a difficult position.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for instance, has tried to stay out of the presidential race until his party settles on a nominee. But Ryan put that impartiality aside as voters in the Super Tuesday states were going to the polls, objecting to Trump’s initial failure to denounce former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke during a Sunday appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

It didn’t work.

Ryan, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other senior members of the party, must now decide how far they can go in trying to stop Trump — apparently in defiance of their voters’ wishes.

More broadly, the Super Tuesday results were the worst of all worlds from the establishment’s point of view: Trump dominated, but Cruz did well enough to stay in the race, and Rubio disappointed....

Ben Carson (R)

As of midnight, Carson’s share of the vote had reached double-digits in only one state, Alabama. There is simply no rationale for him to stay in the race. (Contributor: By Niall Stanage for The Hill)

As the dust settles over the Super Tuesday election results, ask the Lord to reveal to the U.S. citizenry all that they will need to know in order to vote for the best candidates in the 2016 elections in November. Pray for clear and truthful reporting of the news regarding all candidates. Pray for the protection of all candidates.

"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus." (Phil 2:3-5 ESV)

 

AG LORETTA LYNCH SAYS OBAMA CAN’T ENACT HIS GITMO PLAN ON HIS OWN

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Wednesday that federal law flatly prevents President Obama from sending the detainees from Guantanamo Bay to U.S. territory, hurting his ability to follow through on his new closure plan.

“That is the state of the law,” she said, pointing to the most recent defense policy law passed late last year, which cleared Congress on a bipartisan vote and which Mr. Obama himself signed into law.

Ms. Lynch said it’s her understanding the president’s plan, released Tuesday, is a “goal” and a challenge to Congress rather than an effort to circumvent lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

She said she supports the goal, saying the detention facility has become a security liability for the U.S.

The White House has tried to talk tough, saying that Mr. Obama won’t “take any options off the table” such as trying to close the prison by executive action. But Ms. Lynch’s comments seemed to undercut that.

“That would be prohibited from doing so. I’m not aware of any effort to do so at this time,” she said.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Wednesday that Congress is already readying a legal challenge should Mr. Obama try anyway.

“What boggles my mind is that the president is contemplating directing the military to knowingly break the law. Our law is really clear,” the Wisconsin Republican said.

The new plan, authored by the Defense Department, envisions 13 potential sites for housing up to 60 of the 91 detainees currently being held at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Mr. Obama is desperate to try to make good on his 2008 campaign pledge to close the detention facility. He’d initially vowed to shutter it within a year of taking office, and signed an executive order to federal agencies directing them to try to get it done.

Administration officials had eyed a maximum-security prison in Illinois as a likely transfer location.

But Congress — at the time controlled by Democrats — passed legislation stopping him from bringing any detainees to U.S. soil, and later ramped up those restrictions, saying the Defense Department secretary needed to personally certify the transfers of any detainees to be resettled in other countries.

Those restrictions have been maintained in the years since.

The White House dismissed Mr. Ryan’s threat to sue, with spokesman Josh Earnest saying Republicans “certainly seem to be in a pretty litigious mood these days.”

“If they spent just a portion of the time that they do in hiring lawyers at taxpayer expense to sue the president, to actually work with the president, to make progress on behalf of the American people, they would have a lot more to show for their work,” he said.

As long as the law bans transfer to the U.S., Mr. Obama may have to look to other countries to help make progress on his pledge of shuttering the prison.

Mr. Earnest said they are working to try to find countries willing and able to resettle the detainees, under the strict security arrangements required by the law.

Despite Ms. Lynch’s assurances Wednesday, Republicans remain wary. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said they remember several years ago, when the president swapped five Taliban warriors held at Guantanamo for the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

The Government Accountability Office later concluded Mr. Obama broke the law by rushing that transfer through without following the steps laid out in the law. (Contributor: By Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times)

Our prayer focus in these Alerts is to look for the primary issue rather than pray for symptoms. The larger question here is, what is best for U.S. national security? Pray that President Obama’s personal agenda and limited wisdom will be overruled by God’s mercy and guidance. Pray that Guantanamo Bay prisoners will be treated humanely and receive due process and trials for their crimes.

“Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; in You I take shelter. Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.” (Ps. 143:9-10)

 

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION PROMISES CRACKDOWN ON SANCTUARY CITIES

The Obama administration is preparing to crack down on sanctuary cities, Attorney General Loretta Lynch told Congress on Wednesday, saying she would try to stop federal grant money from going to jurisdictions that actively thwart agents seeking to deport illegal immigrants.

Her announcement marks a major policy reversal for the administration, which for years has opposed legislation that would have forced such a crackdown.

Ms. Lynch also said the federal Bureau of Prisons will no longer release illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities and instead will turn them over to immigration authorities to be deported. That is a response to last summer’s killing of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco.

“This is a very significant change, and we’re deeply grateful to you,” Rep. John Abney Culberson, Texas Republican, told Ms. Lynch at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee.

He promised to provide Ms. Lynch with a list of sanctuary jurisdictions and urged her to scour the list and see who is refusing to comply.

“If they insist on paying it out of their policy, and they won’t honor detainers, and they won’t share information, you know, don’t ask for federal money unless you follow federal law,” he said. “Delighted to hear you’re moving in that direction, and we’re going to work with you cooperatively and in a supportive way to ensure that that happens.”

The moves are bound to anger immigrant rights advocates, who for years have cheered as hundreds of county and city governments, jails, and sheriff’s and police departments have adopted sanctuary policies.

The administration has been caught in the middle of the fight.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency charged with conducting deportations, has pleaded for years for such a crackdown. But the Justice Department, formerly helmed by Eric H. Holder Jr., refused to cooperate.

That has changed under Ms. Lynch, who took office in April.

In a letter to Mr. Culberson this week, the Justice Department said if it determines a city or county receiving federal grants is refusing to cooperate with ICE agents, they cold lose money and face criminal prosecution.

The three programs at stake are the Byrne justice grants, the Community Oriented Policing Services program and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. That last one is particularly galling to enforcement advocates because it pays local jails for housing illegal immigrants — including jails that refuse to turn over those immigrants to be deported.

Mr. Culberson’s office said he will submit a list of sanctuary cities maintained by the Center for Immigration Studies, which built its list off data from ICE.

Hundreds of states, counties, cities and jail systems are on the list — though some of them dispute the characterization as sanctuaries.

The most prominent sanctuary cities are Cook County, which is home to Chicago, and San Francisco, where the killing of Steinle last year drew attention to the situation.

She was walking along the city waterfront with her father when she was slain, and prosecutors blamed an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times.

He was supposed to have been deported again last year after being released from federal prison, but San Francisco asked that he be transferred to stand trial on an old drug charge. After local prosecutors dismissed the charge, he should have been sent back to ICE, which asked that he be held, but the sheriff instead released him under the sanctuary policy.

Ms. Lynch said she is taking steps to make sure that can’t happen again. She said before the federal Bureau of Prisons will release an illegal immigrant prisoner to a local community, it will check to see if it’s a sanctuary.

If so, the bureau will refuse the local request and instead send the immigrant to ICE for deportation.

“Particularly where we are dealing with a jurisdiction that essentially is not prone to honoring the ICE detainers — and those vary across the country, they just vary over time and place — our policy is going to be that ICE will instead have the first detainer, and that individual go into ICE custody and deportation,” she testified.

Last summer, President Obama threatened to veto a bill in Congress to strip federal grants from sanctuary cities.

At that time, the White House Office of Management and Budget said forcing localities to cooperate with federal immigration policies “would threaten the civil rights of all Americans, lead to mistrust between communities and state and local law enforcement agencies, and impede efforts to safely, fairly, and effectively enforce the nation’s immigration laws.”

It’s unclear what changed minds within the administration.

But Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told Congress on Wednesday that jurisdictions refused some 15,000 requests to hold illegal immigrants in 2014, and instead released them into communities. That meant rather than taking custody from a prison, his agents had to go out and track them down, costing more money and putting lives in danger.

“That was creating a real public safety problem for us,” he said.

He said he made changes to his own programs to make them more palatable, and a number of big cities and counties have agreed to some levels of cooperation.

Still, his agents are having trouble rounding up illegal immigrants who were part of the surge from Central America.

He said agents will often knock on doors and know someone is home, but they are not allowed to enter unless they are invited inside. Many illegal immigrants have been told by Spanish-language press and advocacy groups to refuse to open the door, he said.

Mr. Johnson said there are also “sensitive” places he won’t let his agents go to capture illegal immigrants, such as hospitals, churches and schools. That also limits the chances agents have to nab someone.

Indeed, of some 1,600 illegal immigrants targeted in raids in January, just 121 were captured.

Mr. Johnson insisted that the raids would continue, drawing heat from congressional Democrats.

Rep. David E. Price, North Carolina Democrat, said one young illegal immigrant in his state was caught while on his way to school.

“There are just questions about seizing him up in that criminal element as he wasn’t anywhere near it,” Mr. Price said. (Contributor: By Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times)

The “sanctuary city” program is part of a larger issue of illegal immigration and confusion as to what constitutes homeland security. Changes must come in both Congress and the Administration. Our country cannot move forward while we have contradictory policies between deportation on one hand and almost no border security on the other. Pray for God’s mercy to restore America.

“Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell forevermore. For the Lord loves justice, and does not forsake His saints; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off.” (Ps. 37:27-28)

 

ARMY SOLDIERS CAN ‘SELF-IDENTIFY,’ NOT FACE DISCRIMINATION

In the Defense Department’s budget section on the Army, it states: “From the Secretary of the Army to the youngest private, the Army remains committed to ensuring the dignity and respect of Soldiers, civilians, and their families. A part of that respect is ensuring every Soldier and civilian has the opportunity to reach their highest potential. With the recent opening of all military occupations and positions to women, the Army will have access to a broader range of talent. The Army will provide every Soldier and civilian equal opportunities to rise to the level of their merit regardless of their gender, their race, or their self-identity.”

The term “self-identity” was not contained in the sections on the other three military branches and was not found in the budgets for past years.

Cynthia O. Smith, an Army spokeswoman at the Pentagon, told The Washington Times: “Treating all soldiers with dignity and respect is not a change in policy, it is a core value. Moreover, the language in the budget report is wholly consistent with past Army statements.”

Some observers say the term refers to transgender persons.

How the option to self-identify will change personnel policy is unclear. Some states now are debating laws on transgender people’s access to public bathrooms for women and men. The military is working to lift the ban on transgender troops, which presumedly would require regulations on proper access to bathrooms and showers.

Regardless, “self identity” in the military is not popular among social conservatives.

“That’s an opening for just about anything. Transgender, any faith or space alien,” said Robert Maginnis, a retired Army officer and critic of the Pentagon’s social agenda. “Before long, we’ll welcome anyone no matter their views or abilities. Be damned our readiness. That’s the progressives’ mantra.”

The Times asked the Office of the Secretary of Defense if “self-identity” is contained in any new personnel policies.

“The services may submit their budgetary proposals in language that they believe will allow us to understand their needs,” said spokesman Mark E. Wright. “OSD does not approve or disapprove this language. I refer you to the Army regarding their use of language.”

Under Mr. Obama, the U.S. armed forces are occupied with a social revolution.

The military has opened the ranks to open gays, launched a legal and bureaucratic war on sexual harassment, and this year will introduce women into ground combat units in infantry, armor and special operations.

Eric Fanning is awaiting a Senate vote on his nomination as the next Army secretary, and confirmation would make him the first openly gay service secretary. Mr. Fanning had served as acting Army undersecretary.

“It looks like Fanning is wasting no time in imposing LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] law on the Army, with transgender people being treated as a civil rights minority entitled to special rights,” said Elaine Donnelly, who runs the Center for Military Readiness. “Gender dysphoria requires treatment, in the same way that other conditions in which a person’s self-identify differs from reality deserve treatment. Full implementation could have serious consequences, especially among medical personnel who may be required to provide treatment that departs from prevailing medical ethics.”

Regarding transgender individuals, the Pentagon announced this month it plans to extend health coverage for hormone therapy and mental health treatments, but not for surgeries.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has the military on a path to lift the ban on transgender people later this year, but no final decision has been made. (Contributor: By Rowan Scarborough for The Washington Times)

It appears that military leaders at all levels, from President Obama as Commander-in-Chief to Defense Secretary Carter, continue to “experiment” with diversity, while America’s safety and security is threatened, including the role of women in direct combat. Sustained, unified intercession is needed here for changes in attitude at the highest levels. Pray now for November elections.

“For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: ‘Awake you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’” (Eph. 5:12-14)

 

TOP BORDER CHIEF TO AGENTS WHO OBJECT TO OBAMA AMNESTY: ‘LOOK FOR ANOTHER JOB’

Customs and Border Protection Commission R. Gil Kerlikowske told Border Patrol agents who object to President Obama’s amnesty policies that it’s time to “look for another job,” saying Tuesday that agents have to follow the orders of their superiors [rather than the law.]

Mr. Kerlikowske was objecting to testimony last month from the Border Patrol labor union chief, who said under Mr. Obama agents have been told to restore the discredited “catch-and-release” policy from a decade ago.

The commissioner disputed that, saying every illegal immigrant over the age of 14 who is encountered by agents is supposed to be fingerprinted, interviewed and put through the usual process, including being turned over to Immigration and Customs enforcement for decisions on deportation.

“We don’t need and don’t want — and I would not stand by if the Border Patrol was — releasing people without going through all of the formalities,” Mr. Kerlikowske testified to the House Appropriations Committee.

Mr. Kerlikowske also questioned the veracity of the labor union, the National Border Patrol Council, and its president Brandon Judd, saying the NBPC was “probably not the most knowledgeable organization about what’s actually going on.”

Last month Mr. Judd testified that his agents have been told not to bother arresting illegal immigrants, meaning the migrants never get into the criminal justice system, and the administration’s numbers don’t look so bad.

Mr. Judd said the releases are part of President Obama’s “priorities” program, which orders agents to worry chiefly about criminals, national security risks and illegal immigrants who came into the U.S. after Jan. 1, 2014. Mr. Judd said illegal immigrants without serious criminal convictions have learned that by claiming they came before 2014 — without even needing to show proof — they can be released immediately.

Mr. Kerlikowske, though, said Mr. Judd and fellow agents who object to Mr. Obama’s policies should be ushered out.

“Well if you really don’t want to follow the directions of your superiors, including the president of the United States and the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, then you really do need to look for another job,” he said.

Shawn Moran, vice president of the NBPC, took “great offense” to the commissioner’s remarks.

“When it comes to catch and release, Border Patrol agents are the only ones following the law. The commissioner can dress it up any way he likes, but even though we are documenting people, they are being released into American society, never to be seen again,” Mr. Moran said.

He said the NBPC is directly in touch with line agents in the field, and said Mr. Kerlikowske gets his information filtered by layers of “yes men” at headquarters. Mr. Moran said agents do follow orders, even when they disagree with them, but have the right to speak out against them as well, and said the series of policies is taking a toll on the agency.

“This is part of the administration’s strategy to demoralize and disrupt agents and completely dismantle immigration enforcement,” he said. “They’re going to make the job so unbearable because they know they have a very motivated workforce, a very patriotic workforce that wants to uphold the laws, yet we have the president of the United States and the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection directly going against the rule of law.”

Mr. Kerlikowske even appeared to acknowledge problems with the demoralized workforce.

Just minutes before he told agents to quit, he had told the committee that he’s having trouble filling the number of slots Congress has funded.

“We are not able to hire as fast as attrition,” he said, calling it “very concerning.” (Contributor: By Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times)

Any business having necessary personnel leaving faster than they are replaced is going to fail, and our nation’s border security is no exception. Management cannot walk in two opposite directions at the same time. Pray for clarity of purpose and a return to constitutional priorities of citizen protection by the federal government.

“For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8)

 

US ARMY WILL HAVE LASER WEAPONS BY 2023

The US Army is planning to deploy the first laser weapons in 2023, it has been revealed.

Mary J. Miller, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Research and Technology, told the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities 'I believe we're very close,' when asked how close the Army is to developing offensive and defensive directed-energy weapons.

She said the programmes would be extensively tested as the Army wants to understand the lasers' full capabilities 'before we offer it to a Soldier.'

'It's being done in a 'step-wise demonstration of capability,' she said.

'We have to make sure the lasers work and do the full set of scopes against the threats we project. And those threats include the counter-rockets, counter-artillery and counter-mortar as well as [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle] and cruise missile threats.'

Miller explained that the Army wants to understand the lasers' full capabilities 'before we offer it to a Soldier.'

Operators need to trust what lasers can do, she added.

'Lasers have been promised for a long time, but they've never held up and delivered what was asked for, so the operators are rightfully skeptical,' she pointed out.

'That's why the Army is taking lasers out into operational environments and testing them.

In the meantime, 'there will be steps along the way where we spin off lesser capable laser systems that can do good things on smaller platforms.

'Those will come out soon.'

The Air Force said it was already flying prototype weapons.

Dr. David Walker, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology and Engineering, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, said the Air Force is working with Special Operations Command to develop an offensive laser that will be fitted to AFSOC AC-130 gunships.

Part of that technology, he said, includes 'beam-steering and power and thermal management.'

'The Air Force is flying every day with lasers under its transport aircraft, using them as infrared countermeasure system,' so we too spun off lesser-capable laser systems and as we get larger power outputs and better thermal management out of smaller package lasers, we will build those powers into defensive to offensive capability as well,' Walker said.

The Navy's science representative described similar laser programs for ships, subs and Marines.

Air Force bosses have previously boasted combat lasers will be fitted to fighters planes by 2020.

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, is on track to demonstrate a working laser weapon on a fighter jet by 2020, it has revealed.

'It really is a national tipping point,' Kelly Hammett, chief engineer for the AFRL's directed energy directorate, told CNN.

'We see the technology evolving and maturing to the stage where it really can be used.'

The military hopes that the new generation of weapons could lead to radical changes in the way wars are fought, with planes having unlimited ammunition - as long as they have enough power.

'You could have an unlimited magazine ... loitering aircraft that could address and access a wide variety of targets, Hammett said.

'I believe we'll have a directed energy pod we can put on a fighter plane very soon,' Air Force General Hawk Carlisle has claimed at the Air Force Association Air & Space conference in a presentation on what he called Fifth-Generation Warfare, according to Ars Technica.

'That day is a lot closer than I think a lot of people think it is.'

The US Navy has already deployed a laser weapon at sea aboard the USS Ponce, capable of a range of attacks against small boats, drones, and light aircraft posing a threat, by blinding sensors or operators or heating elements to make them fail or explode.

Other laser weapons are also being tested by the Office of Naval Research for use on helicopters to protect against man-portable anti aircraft missiles.

Directed-energy weapons pods could be affixed to aircraft to destroy or disable incoming missiles, drones, and even enemy aircraft at a much lower 'cost per shot' than missiles or even guns, Carlisle suggested.

The front runner for the Air Force system is believed to be called the High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS), and will create a laser small enough to be mounted on a plane, and is expected to be ready for use by 2020.

General Atomics, the firm making, it, has revealed a full scale system is already under construction following tests.

The AFRL is also working on a defensive laser shield.

A 360-degree laser 'bubble' would surround a U.S. warplane.

They say the weapons shows 'unprecedented power' and are about to begin testing it against live targets on firing ranges.

'The goal of the HELLADS program is to develop a 150 kilowatt (kW) laser weapon system that is ten times smaller and lighter than current lasers of similar power, enabling integration onto tactical aircraft to defend against and defeat ground threats,' Darpa says.

It said the secretive trials 'demonstrated sufficient laser power and beam quality to advance to a series of field tests.

'The technical hurdles were daunting, but it is extremely gratifying to have produced a new type of solid-state laser with unprecedented power and beam quality for its size,' said Rich Bagnell, yhe projects program manager.

'The HELLADS laser is now ready to be put to the test on the range against some of the toughest tactical threats our warfighters face.'

Ground-based field testing of the HELLADS laser is now expected to begin this year as an effort jointly funded by DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Following the field-testing phase, the goal is to make the system available to the military Services for further refinement, testing or transition to operational use.

The HELLADS program has been developing an electrically driven solid state laser at greatly reduced size and weight over lasers of similar power for tactical use.

The laser was developed by DARPA performer General Atomics

The weapons are expected to be used to shoot down drones.

'Enemy surface-to-air threats to manned and unmanned aircraft have become increasingly sophisticated, creating a need for rapid and effective response to this growing category of threats.

'High power lasers can provide a solution to this challenge, as they harness the speed and power of light to counter multiple threats.'

However, they are also likely to be used on bombing raids to target precise locations.

'Laser weapon systems provide additional capability for offensive missions as well—adding precise targeting with low probability of collateral damage.'

Following the tests, GA said 'based on the results of the unit cell demonstration, additional laser modules will be fabricated to produce a 150 kW laser that will be demonstrated in a laboratory environment.' (Contributor: By Mark Prigg for Daily Mail)

We must see the major issue. Optimum weaponry will not be effective if the nation’s war strategy is not properly defined. No rational person wants war, but when necessary and with a just cause, the government should aim at victory with the least number of casualties. Pray for a righteous policy to emerge, where our government is poised to protect and defend its citizens.

“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when [wicked men rule], the people groan.” (Prov. 29:2)

 

FOOD STAMP USERS NEAR RECORD HIGH

Despite the unemployment rate being at an eight-year low (4.9 percent as of January 2016), the number of people on food stamps remains near an all-time high which was 47,636,000 in 2013.

Why the disparity in the numbers? Well, the unemployment rate does not take into account people who are not in, or have dropped out of, the workforce altogether.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in January of this year that approximately 94 million Americans are not participating in the workforce.

But the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has been hovering around 46 million participants since 2011. The current figure, as of February 2016, stands at 45.8 million Americans receiving food stamps.

Bloomberg Business reported that the last time the unemployment rate was at five percent in April 2008, only 28 million Americans were on food stamps.

Several reasons explain the high numbers. Governments have made it easier to sign up for the program. More than 85 percent of eligible food-stamp recipients took assistance in 2013, the most recent year of available data, compared to 70 percent in 2008. The higher sign-up rate among those qualified accounts for 8.6 million more people on food stamps -- about half of the program’s total increase.

Well, at least President Obama put forth one program that has been easy to sign up for.

We now have a country based on government dependence. Heritage Foundation research fellow Robert Rector said, “Clearly there’s a group of people who are not in the labor force, and 10 years ago they would have been. Now they’re relying on food stamps.”

When we have a government full of enablers telling people that they don’t have to work to provide for themselves and their families, they create an atmosphere of dependence and reliance. (Contributor: By Nick Kangadis for MRCTV)

The larger picture is this: the food stamp number is a measure of encroaching socialism. For unemployment to be down and food stamp usage this high shows a steep decline in our once-thriving free enterprise system. Intercede for those who are legitimately poor, but too many citizens have become permanently dependent on a “benevolent” government to sustain them. Pray as you are led.

“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10)

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