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Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
The Informer May 27, 2015

On Watch in Washington May 27, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

FEDS SPENT $100 BILLION ON FOOD ASSISTANCE

The federal government spent $100 billion providing food assistance to Americans last year, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The lion’s share of spending comes from the food stamp program, which gave benefits to an average 46 million Americans in 2014, at a cost of $74.6 billion, according to a testimony from the GAO’s Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security Kay E. Brown before the House Subcommittee on Nutrition Wednesday.

The national school lunch program was second, costing $11.3 billion, followed by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) at $7.1 billion.

Other spending included $1.9 billion for nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico, and $10.7 million for the “Special Milk Program.”

Brown said there is a potential for overlap and “inefficient use of federal funds” due to the government’s “complex network of 18 food assistance programs, administered by three federal agencies,” which are unsure how effective the programs are.

“In 2010, research GAO reviewed suggested that participation in seven of these programs was associated with positive outcomes, such as improving nutrition among low-income households,” Brown said. “Little was known about the effectiveness of the remaining 11.”

The GAO provided a list of the 18 federal programs, which together served a total 109.9 million Americans in 2014. The list only provides the total number of participants for each program, and does not take into account the potential for individuals to participate in more than one program.

Brown said the GAO urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) address potential overlaps in their programs. The USDA commissioned a study on redundant programs in 2013, and then “decided to study the impact of participation in multiple food assistance programs on the nutritional status of participants.”

“While such a study will provide important information, it does not address GAO’s recommendation,” Brown said. “GAO continues to believe that further action is needed.” (Contributor: By Elizabeth Harrington for The Washington Free Beacon - Elizabeth Harrington is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Elizabeth graduated from Temple University in 2010. Prior to joining the Free Beacon, she worked as a staff writer for CNSNews.com.)

For prayer: It is no secret that the ever-expanding U.S. federal government has led, inevitably, to unavoidable waste, mismanagement, overlapping and competing authorities, non-accountability, “disappearance” of funds, and outright fraud. From “The Great society” onward, poverty issues and class struggles in America have not been solved but have continually increased. Until concerned, conservative citizens are willing to bring “Caesar” under control and into accountability through the ballot box, there will be no turning back. Please pray as conscience directs.

[Jesus said,] “‘Show Me the tax money.’ So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’ And He said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’” (Matt. 25:19-21)

 

MARINE VET’S BIBLICAL SIGNS LEAD TO COURT BATTLE

A court case working its way through the military justice system raises a basic question: Should a member of the military be allowed to post a religious passage in her place of work?

The case involves Monifa J. Sterling, a Marine veteran who was convicted in a court-martial at Camp Lejeune, N.C., of failing to go to an appointed place of duty, disrespecting a superior commissioned officer and four specifications of disobeying a lawful order. She was sentenced last year to a reduction in rank from lance corporal to private and given a bad-conduct discharge, a status that will stay on her military record and prohibits her from receiving benefits as a veteran.

It is a specific portion of Sterling’s past that is still in dispute, however. Sterling was found guilty of disobeying a lawful order in part because she refused to take down three signs in her workspace with the message: “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.” It’s a derivation of the biblical passage Isaiah 54:17, a motivational message that says that “no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper.”

Sterling, a Christian, had the message posted in three places around her computer – one for each part of the Holy Trinity, she said, according to court documents. Her boss, a staff sergeant, told her to take the signs down repeatedly, and did so herself when Sterling refused to do so. The senior Marine found their tone combative.

The case has been taken up by the Liberty Institute, a religious liberty advocacy group, and Paul D. Clement, a former solicitor general of the United States and current law professor at Georgetown University. Sterling should have been allowed to keep the religious signs in her Marine Corps office under provisions in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a 1993 federal law that granted broad freedom of religious expression, they argue.

A brief filed Tuesday by Sterling’s legal team requests that the case be reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which is considered one level below the U.S. Supreme Court. It comes after a lower court, the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Appeals, denied another appeal with some similarities.

The new appeal says the lower court was wrong to say that there was no evidence that Sterling’s posting of the signs was an exercise of religion because it was never demonstrated to be “part of a system of religious belief.” The Navy-Marine Corps appeals court noted that Sterling had never told her staff sergeant that the signs had a religious connotation, and it was reasonable for her to assume that Sterling had simply posted reminders for herself that adversaries could not harm her.

The Navy-Marine Corp appeals court also ruled that the judge in Sterling’s original case was right to rule on whether removing the sign had a valid military purpose, something Sterling contested.

“Military orders are presumed to be lawful and are disobeyed at the subordinate’s peril,” the appeals court found.

Sterling’s lawyers argue that it was unreasonable for the Navy-Marine Corps appeals court to ignore the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“There can be little doubt that the [appeals court’s] improperly narrow construction of ‘exercise of religion’ was materially prejudicial to LCPl Sterling’s substantial rights, for under a correct interpretation of that term, her conduct plainly constituted an ‘exercise of religion’ ” subject to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, said the new request for a review by the higher court.

An attorney at the Liberty Institute, Michael Berry, said that if Sterling wins her appeal and the case is ultimately re-tried, legal protections exist so that Sterling could not be sentenced to a stiffer punishment. It’s also possible the Marine Corps could simply decide to let the case go, especially since she already has left the service.

“A lot of times, they end up just saying ‘You know what? I feel like they got their pound of flesh, and they’re ready to move on,’ ” said Berry, a former Marine lawyer who is now senior counsel of military affairs for the Liberty Institute.

Expunging the bad-conduct discharge from Sterling’s record would have life-long implications for her, Berry added. Any time she applies for a job now and lists her military service, the punishment is listed.

The Marine Corps did not respond to a request Wednesday for comment. It’s unclear whether the higher court will take up the case, but a decision is likely later this summer, Berry said.

At least one other religious liberty advocate thinks the lower court’s findings should be left in place. Mikey Weinstein, the founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said the Marines appear to have handled Sterling’s case right the first time. His organization regularly advocates for keeping religion out of the military.

“We are a secular nation, and particularly so in the U.S. military,” he said.

Weinstein cited the 1974 Supreme Court case “Parker vs. Levy,” which held that the military is a “specialized society from civilian society” where stricter guidelines on free speech are permitted. They are necessary to maintain unit cohesion, Weinstein said.

But Berry said that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and new instructions issued by the Pentagon last year, members of the military should be afforded the same religious freedoms as civilians.

“The standard applies inside the military as outside the military,” Berry said. “The same standard that applies to federal employees applies to military employees as well.” (Contributor: By Dan Lamothe for The Washington Post)

For prayer: It appears Marine veteran Monifa J. Sterling’s religious rights have been violated and she herself treated harshly for displaying a Bible verse in her work station. Please pray for her and that her case will be reviewed in a fair and non-prejudicial way at the Appeals Court level. In such legal matters, we keep hearing of Mikey Weinstein, a self-professed atheist who actively campaigns against any mention of faith in military circles. Intercessors could serve this man by praying for his salvation. In doing so, Christians would seek to “bless” one who, at present, is an enemy of the Gospel.

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Pet. 3:12)

“’But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.’” (Luke 6:27-31)

 

CATASTROPHIC FLOODING HITS TEXAS AND OKLAHOMA

Days of flash flooding, tornadoes and historic rainfall across central Texas and Oklahoma swept away hundreds of homes and left at least five people dead and a dozen missing, emergency officials said Monday.

Rescuers in helicopters and pontoon boats rushed to save stranded residents across the southern Plains states over the Memorial Day weekend, as severe storms led fast-rising waters to overflow rivers and roads during flooding that the National Weather Service called “catastrophic.”

More than 1,000 people were evacuated and at least five were killed during hours of vicious winds and drenching storms, including a 14-year-old Texan whose body was found Monday in a deluged storm drain, officials said.

A longtime Oklahoma firefighter was swept away and killed Saturday night in Claremore, a small town outside of Tulsa, while helping save trapped families gathered for a girl’s fifth birthday party, TV affiliate FOX 23 reported.

A high school senior in Devine, Tex., died amid violently surging floodwaters while driving home from her prom Saturday night, police said.

An unidentified man’s body was recovered in San Marcos, Tex., along a flooded bank of the Blanco River. A 33-year-old Tulsa woman was also killed in a traffic accident Saturday evening after the car she was driving was rammed by a hydroplaning truck, police said.

In Mexico, a tornado that tore through the border city of Ciudad Acuña on Monday decimated a seven-block swath and killed at least 13 people, including three infants, authorities said. Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed, and more than 200 people were rushed to hospitals.

Twelve people, including three children younger than 10, were said to be missing Monday after two families took shelter at a house that was destroyed in the small town of Wimberley, Tex., where officials said more than 350 homes have been washed away.

The town, on the bank of the Blanco River between Austin and San Antonio, was one of the hardest hit in the weekend floods. The river swelled more than 30 feet there within three hours Sunday, scattering wet wreckage and overrunning nearby Interstate 35.

Torrential rainfall hurt search efforts, washing away police cars and flooding a fire station in San Marcos. The Oklahoma City Fire Department said it had rescued more than 70 people amid pummeling storms.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Monday added 24 counties — including Hays — to the 13 that were declared states of disaster this month, allowing them to tap extra resources to aid with the crisis.

Officials instituted a curfew Monday for the second night in a row, warning residents to stay away from rubble-strewn areas.

Tornadoes and heavy winds Sunday battered buildings in Texas and along the Mexico border, including at a ravaged Houston apartment complex at which two people were hurt. Emergency officials in Texas estimated the area had suffered millions of dollars in damage.

Dallas faced severe floods from the Trinity River, which joined the Red and Wichita rivers in rising far above its normal level. The city saw more than three inches of rain Sunday, making it the wettest May 24 in more than a century.

The rain has added to the wettest May on record for cities in several southern Plains states. Oklahoma City, which received four inches of rain last year, has recorded more than 27 inches this year.

The rain brought an end to Texas’s extreme droughts, and officials said Monday they were bracing for another round of battering storms and several inches of rain.

“It’s not over,” Hays County Judge Bert Cobb told a news conference Monday. “The rain is still here.” (Contributor: By Drew Harwell for The Washington Post)

For prayer: From earthquakes and tornadoes to drought, followed by unprecedented flash flooding with numerous fatalities, the forces of nature appear to be pummeling planet Earth with deadly force. We have asked in these alerts before — and we do so without supposing we have knowledge of God’s intentions — but the question must be considered: Is God, who controls the weather and all these natural phenomena, working to get the attention of our nation’s leadership? And, with that, does He want an awakened Church to call out in unity, with repentance for His mercy? Is this a divine testing, as in the days of Job?

“I am the Lord, and there is no other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things. Rain down, you heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness; let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together. I, the Lord, have created it.” (Isa. 45:6-9)

 

US-CHINA WAR 'INEVITABLE' UNLESS WASHINGTON DROPS DEMANDS OVER SOUTH CHINA SEA

China has vowed to step up its presence in the South China Sea in a provocative new military white paper, amid warnings that a US-China war is "inevitable" unless Washington drops its objections to Beijing's activities.

In the new policy document published on Tuesday, China outlined its plans to shift from a defensive military posture to placing emphasis on offensive capabilities.

Claiming that it faces a "grave and complex array of security threats", including challenges to its sovereignty over the South China Sea, the policy document released by the State Council says the military will step up its "open seas protection"

China's forces will no longer be limited to defence of the nation's territory but will project its military power further beyond its borders at sea and more assertively in the air in order to safeguard its maritime possessions, the white paper states.

While the air force will shift focus from "territorial air defence" to both offence and defence, the Chinese army will increase its global mobility and its artillery will improve its "medium and long-range precision strikes", it said.

In an editorial in The Global Times, a tabloid owned by the Chinese Communist Party through another newspaper, the paper described the construction of runways, harbour facilities and buildings on the disputed Spratly Islands as the nation's "most important bottom line".

The article – which appeared just days after a US aircraft ignored repeated warnings from the Chinese military to fly a reconnaissance mission over the islands – said Beijing does not want a conflict with the US, "but if it were to come, we have to accept it. (Contributor: By Julian Ryall for Telegraph)

For prayer: Last week we suggested in this space that China’s aggressive military stance in the South China Sea (often called “saber-rattling) was a signal to pray for the more dangerous implications of a possible U.S.-China confrontation on a broader level. Students of biblical prophecy have taught for years that a possible end-times configuration of nations might include a China-Russia confederation with focused hostility toward Israel. (See Ezek. 38.) Is this shaping up as a future scenario? Please intercede as led. In the end, no nation will “win.” Indeed, only God wins, and His purposes will triumph!

Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing…. To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him? … He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless.” (Isa. 40:15, 18, 23)

 

11 CHRISTIANS ARE KILLED EVERY HOUR

Bishop John McAreavey, chair of the council for Justice & Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishop's Conference, told the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade that Christian persecution is at an "unprecedented" high, pointing to statistics that show 11 Christians are killed every hour of the day.

Citing a Pew Research survery, McAreavey told the committee that Christian persecution is being gravely underestimated, as "Christianity is now the world's most oppressed religious group, with persecution against them reported in 110 countries."

He continued: "Many of these countries have significant trade links with Ireland. Persecution is increasing in China. In North Korea a quarter of the country's Christians live in forced labour camps. Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the Maldives all feature in the 10 worst places to be Christian.

"According to the International Society for Human Rights, a non-religious organization, 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed against Christians."

At least 100,000 Christians are killed every year because of their faith in Jesus Christ, McAreavey said, adding that an even greater number of believers are "being tortured, imprisoned, exiled, threatened, excluded, attacked and discriminated against on a widespread scale."

The bishop also shared statements from the Chief Rabbi of Britain, Jonathan Sacks, who recently said that the suffering of Christians in the Middle East is "one of the crimes against humanity of our time," comparing it to Jewish pogroms in Europe and asserted that he's "appalled at the lack of protest it has evoked."

The killing and torturing of Christians in the Middle East is "a threat to our common humanity and to the religious and cultural patrimony of the world" and places "peace and stability of the entire planet" at risk, the bishop continued.

McAreavey also addressed leaders of Western nations who've so far refuse to commit to helping Christians in the Middle East.

"Perhaps because of a fear of being seen as less than aggressively secular in their own country," he said, many governments of majority Christian countries in the West seem reluctant to give direct aid to churches and religious minorities."

He went on to argue that the West risks losing its own understanding of the importance of religion by ignoring the conflict in the Middle East and urged his fellow Catholics to appeal "to all governments and societies to affirm the vital importance of respecting the right to religious freedom and conscience as a fundamental principle of genuine pluralism in a tolerant society."

Some Christian leaders in the West have spoken out about the lack of aid persecuted Christians are receiving in the Middle East, including Rev. William Devlin of Infinity Bible Church in Bronx, New York.

Devlin has traveled to over 11 different countries including Kurdish Iraq where the persecution of Christians is rampant. He's urged other leaders to help by traveling to these nations with him, but told The Christian Post in an interview last week that he's disappointed in some of the excuses he's heard, with the number one reason being that the pastors cannot afford it.

As an answer to their excuses, Devlin said he will pay for pastors' airfare to travel to persecuted nations.

"My efforts are bearing fruit, and just hope that we can continue to get the call out there because I think it is a total embarrassment, it's a black eye in the face of Jesus that we are not going over there," said Devlin told CP.

Devlin plans to return to Iraq in July and hopes other pastors will go along with him.

Christian leaders from the East, such as Sister Diana Momeka, an Iraqi Catholic nun who was driven out of her home by ISIS in August of 2014, are also speaking out.

Momeka recently traveled to the U.S. to address Congress on the militant Islamic group's persecution of Christians in the region, and said the killing of believers could lead to the destruction of commonality between the Eastern and Western cultures if it continues.

"This is cultural and human genocide," she said during a congressional hearing on Wednesday, adding that the eradication of the Christian community has "placed the whole region on the edge of a terrible catastrophe."

"Christians have for centuries been the bridge that connects Eastern and Western cultures. Destroying this bridge will leave an isolated, inculturated conflict zone emptied of cultural and religious diversity." (Contributor: By Vincent Funaro for The Christian Post)

For Prayer: There is no biblical basis for Christians to “fight back” physically against persecution and martyrdom. Instead, we are instructed to identify with persecuted believers and to “battle” in faith through persevering prayer. Our major hindrance in spiritual warfare is often apathy and the larger Church’s disunity. Now, however, more Church leaders are raising unified voices to pray for and bring aid to “the suffering Church” around the world. We pray for those who kill Christians to repent and be saved. But we must not ignore Scripture that predicts the certainty of God’s vengeance and judgment on those who persecute and kill His people, and do not repent. The Thessalonians passage below is harsh, but it is the Word of God that cannot be ignored.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Ps. 116:15)

‘We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren … we ourselves boast of … your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, … manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer … [And] it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you … when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power…” (2 Thess. 1:3-10)

 

SURVEY FAIL - CHRISTIANITY ISN'T DYING

A new Pew Research Center survey found the Christian share of the American population declined almost 8 percentage points from 2007 to 2014. Drawing from this point, many continued their breathless claims that the Christian sky is falling.

Rather than predict the impending doom of the church in America, this latest study affirms what many researchers have said before. Christianity isn't collapsing; it's being clarified. Churches aren't emptying; rather, those who were Christian in name only are now categorically identifying their lack of Christian conviction and engagement.

Gallup recently found that weekly religious attendance as a percentage of the U.S. population is about where it was in the 1940s — hardly a statistical collapse.

Simply put, the strains of a funeral dirge aren't being played at the graveside of American Christianity because there is no body for burial.

Evangelicalism is growing

Yes, you read that correctly. Evangelical Christianity is growing in America. From 2007 to 2014 the number of evangelicals in America rose from 59.8 million to 62.2 million, according to Pew. (Contributor: By Ed Stetzer for USA Today)

For prayer and praise: Give thanks for greater headway of the Gospel worldwide, and pray for additional conversions as well as the “clarification” of which this article speaks, where true believers and those who only claim nominal church affiliation are being sifted and separated. Pray for an emergence of true followers of Jesus and for repentance and faith among church members, but who do not believe the Gospel and so are not saved.

“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.” (John 3:16-18)

“For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Rom. 10:10-13)

 

7 SIGNS THAT YOU MAY BE MISSING GOD’S WILL FOR YOUR LIFE

With more ways to be led astray today than ever, many Christians are finding it harder and harder to keep aligned with God’s will for their lives.

A Closer LookNoting the difficulties and trials believers experience on a daily basis, Joseph Mattera, who serves as overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church and Christ Covenant Coalition, calls the slipping away from God’s course “mission drift.”

To help Christians steer back into God’s chartered waters, the renowned Christian author sets up seven buoys as warning signs that they are being tossed by waves in their lives that their Savior did not intend.

Seven signs of missing the mark …

Here are the seven signs Mattera lays out in Charisma News to sound the alarm for believers — so that they can reroute their lives and return to God’s primary purpose and mission for which they were created.

  1. Continual frustration ─ The first indicator sounding the alarm that you’re out of God’s will is continual frustration — a clear sign that you are not walking in your calling.

“Continual frustration is one of the most obvious signs you are not walking toward what God has internally wired you to pursue,” Mattera explains. “Frustration may be a God-given sign to awaken you to the real passion and purpose He has assigned for you.”

The acclaimed author of Ruling in the Gates: Preparing the Church to Transform Cities asserts that those who are rarely experiencing the peace and joy of using their God-given talents for His glory are wandering in the desert, drifting away from the Promised Land of being in His will.

“A person suffering from mission drift will be going against the internal impulses from God that give them delight while being engaged in them,” Mattera notes. “Going against these internal impulses means that you are also doing things that do not match your gifts, passion and grace, which will also give you much frustration.”

Mattera urges Christians to be diligent and assess whether they are headed on a wrong way road, while trying to determine what it was that threw them off course.

“Those in continual frustration need to take much time reflecting to detect the source of their frustration,” Mattera informed. “Merely continuing in life in frustration is foolish, because you may look back at the end of your years and realize you wasted your whole life working in the wrong vocation.”

  1. Burnout ─ A clear sign that you are not walking in God’s grace is burnout — spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

“Another telltale sign you are suffering from mission drift is that you have to work hard at accomplishing things with very little fruit to show for it,” Mattera contends. “Jesus has called us to enter His rest (Matthew 11:28-30) and cease from our own labors (Hebrews 4:9-11).”

Living your life in burnout is similar to expecting a bottle of water with zero calories to provide adequate fuel to nourish your body. It may temporarily quench your thirst, but it will not provide sustenance and the needed strength.

“When in mission drift, we are not walking in obedience to the Lord … Hence, we are not being sustained by His grace and are working merely with fleshly strength,” Mattera argues. “This can soon lead to emotional or spiritual burnout if we don't readjust.”

  1. Lack of fruit ─ When all of your daily toils produce little to nothing for God’s kingdom, you are likely wandering off of God’s chosen path for your life. But if you’re aligned in God’s groove, you are floating in His power and producing the results to prove it.

“When you are hitting your sweet-spot regarding your calling, you are doing things that few can match,” Mattera points out. “Every person is unique and has a calling unlike any other.”

The difference between living a life directed by God and one mapped out by ourselves is similar to the contrast between day and night.

“When you are hitting the mark in your purpose, you will bear a lot of fruit just the way Jesus called us to (John 15:8),” Mattera continued. “When you are in mission drift, you do not maximize your effectiveness, which results in a lack of fruit.”

  1. Straying from your original vocational purpose ─ If you are not following your original career path and calling in your life, you are descending down the road of unfulfillment, as other motivations leading us away from using our God-given talents will prove fruitless and meaningless.

“When in mission drift, you have strayed away from the original calling God has given to you,” Mattera says.

God’s will for our lives doesn’t change, but our goals and intentions do. Mattera warns us to be aware of following our own GPS — instead of God’s.

“Every once in a while, I review my prophetic journal to make sure I am still pursuing the original calling God gave me when I first started serving Him more than 30 years ago,” Mattera shared. “The methods may change as I mature, but the mission remains the same since He chose us before the foundation of the world and gave us a purpose before we were even born (2 Timothy 1:9).

  1. Not focused, too spread out ─ Those who cannot concentrate their gifting in one area and find themselves scattered with too many objectives and activities have already taken a step or two in the wrong direction — away from God’s will.

“Activity does not necessarily result in productivity,” Mattera contends. “Many people are very busy running around focusing on minor things and neglecting the primary things God has called them to.”

He says that Christians must always remember to put first things first … or the lesser things will dominate our lives and lead us away from God’s purpose.

“I am not saying we should neglect the mundane and ordinary routines of life, but that we make sure within those routines we prioritize and manage our time in such a way that the most important things are taken care of first,” Mattera stressed. “When we don't prioritize our time, our activities will not match our purpose.”

  1. No time for key relationships ─ If you have no time to invest in the most important relationships in your life, you’re in a place where God doesn’t want you.

“The kingdom of God is built upon relationships, not ministry or work,” Mattera informs. “Everyone is called to invest in key relationships, whether it be our immediate family, spiritual children, mentors or key people we are called to ‘do life’ with.”

In a world that seems to be built upon the success of programs and actions steps needed to become victorious, people are often pushed to the wayside as simply a means of reaching a goal.

“The enemy would love for all of us to put programs before people, because at the end of the day the only thing we will take with us into eternity are people — not programs, real estate, money or the material things in life,” Mattera insists. “When you have no quality time for those key relationships, then most likely, you are suffering from mission drift. We need to proactively pursue those people who are the most important to us in life.”

  1. Doing good, but not doing what you do best ─ Getting complacent doing something that you do well, but that doesn’t tap into the God-given talent that He’s bestowed upon you keeps you at bay from accomplishing the greater things for which God intended you to achieve for His glory — not yours.

“The enemy of best is usually something good,” Mattera attests. “The enemy does not come in a red suit with a pitchfork; he comes as an angel of light. Hence, one of his greatest strategies is to get you so focused on doing something good for God or your family that it blinds you to what is best.”

Mattera emphasizes that to get into God’s will and stay there, believers must not get caught up in the diversions the enemy puts before us … and justify staying there out of convenience or to please man.

“To avoid mission drift, we always have to keep first things first and keep the main thing the main thing,” Mattera concludes. (Contributor: By Michael F. Haverluck for One News Now)

For prayer: We are thankful for this article and others like it. It provides a wise and non-judgmental “self-test” for Christians to take a measure of what our lives are accomplishing. To deal with these various challenges is to invite the Holy Spirit’s conviction and prepare one’s heart for spiritual growth. New steps toward God’s will and purpose for one’s life can only bring increased peace and joy. Intercessors may be helped by considering these various criteria personally and prayerfully and adjusting perspectives as God leads.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6)

 

COURT STOPS ABORTIONS AT PLANNED PARENTHOOD CLINIC IN FLORIDA

Planned Parenthood suffered a stunning loss this morning when the Fifth District Court of Appeals for the State of Florida upheld a trial court ruling that prohibited the abortion giant from running a "termination" mill at its office in Kissimmee. Life Legal Defense Foundation was supporting the enforcement of a valid deed restriction at the site. The case is listed as Planned Parenthood v. MMB Properties.

"Planned Parenthood followed its usual pattern when slipping into the Oak Commons Medical Court," said Mary Riley, Communications Director for Life Legal. "It decided that it didn’t have to abide by the agreement that governed properties at Oak Commons. It has no one except itself to blame for the frustration of its child-murder plans."

As the appellate court noted, "Planned Parenthood was aware of the restrictions and proceeded forward at its own peril."

Planned Parenthood purchased and occupied the property in Kissimmee, practically across the street from Disney World, in April of last year. When it became clear that the office was going to become an abortion mill, a cardiologist who also had an office at Oak Commons sued to enforce the restrictive covenant that forbade "outpatient surgical centers" at the site.

The trial court found for the cardiologist and his medical office and issued a temporary injunction against surgical procedures. But Planned Parenthood, intent as always on its primary purpose of killing babies, sued to challenge that decision. Incredibly, considering the facts, the appeals court issued a stay on September 24, permitting Planned Parenthood to go ahead with its abortion plans.

Today's decision by the Fifth District Court restores the temporary injunction. For now, Planned Parenthood won't be running one of its abortion mills at Oak Commons.

Planned Parenthood's activities at Oak Commons reflect a strategy operating nationwide. Aware that child-killing remains controversial, and that abortion facilities are undesirable neighbors, Planned Parenthood establishes its businesses by stealth:

In Aurora, Illinois, Planned Parenthood began construction of a giant abortion mill under the fictitious name "Gemini Office Development" – or "GOD" – so locals would think the new building housed clerical offices.

In Denver, Colorado, Planned Parenthood's contractor falsely listed United Airlines as property owner where he was building another abortion "clinic."

And, in South San Francisco, Planned Parenthood did a secret end-run around zoning laws with the help of a local politician who profited by renting his property to the Planned Parenthood.

"This morning's victory in the Oak Commons case is a solid rebuke to Planned Parenthood's deceptive strategy," said Riley. "Nevertheless, we expect them to continue to follow this pattern. They really don't have any choice. We intend to fight them wherever they sneak in. Keeping Planned Parenthood out saves children's lives." (Contributor: By Catherine Short for Christian Newswire and Life Legal Defense Foundation)

For thanksgiving and praise: Morally upright Americans can only give God great thanks and praise for every U.S. court level that sees through Planned Parenthood’s murderous ways and acts to curtail or strike down its implacable evil in relentlessly seeking to kill preborn, viable babies in the womb through any and all deceptive means possible. We are overjoyed at this ruling and pray for many more just like it. In the passage below, God is speaking as the voice of Wisdom.

“Hear instruction and be wise, and do not disdain it. ‘Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoever finds [Me] finds life, and favor from the Lord; but he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; all those who hate me love death.’” (Prov. 8:33-38)

 

TX LAWMAKERS APPROVE PROTECTION FOR PASTORS

Texas lawmakers are ensuring pastors and religious freedom remain protected in the Lone star State.

The pastor protection bill that passed the House and Senate, and will become law with the governor's signature, comes after pastors in Houston were targeted last year during a lawsuit filed against the city and its lesbian mayor.

The pastors, known as the "Houston Five" by supporters, drew attention to a petition drive denied by the City of Houston and the lawsuit that followed. The petition's backers sued Houston but the city, responding to the suit, subpoenaed local pastors for copies of sermons that supported the petition or simply criticized homosexuality.

Mayor Annise Parker withdrew the subpoeanas last fall amid nationwide outcy that the pastors were victims of homosexual activism.

Jonathan Saenz of Texas Values Action says other Texas pastors are facing similar harassment, including being asked to perform same-sex marriages.

Saenz, Jonathan (Texas Values)"And so that has put pastors in a very difficult position," says Saenz. "And also it causes distraction from the work that they do best, which is providing for the members of their church and being a blessing to the community."

Some texas lawmakers, anticipating that homosexual activists would make further attempts to pressure pastors, got to work.

In a press release, Saenz credits state Rep. Scott Sanford and state Sen. Craig Estes for urging the bill's passage.

Saenz says Texas legislators passed a bill that declares "government, at any level, should not and cannot be allowed to punish our clergy and churches for following their faith on marriage." (Contributor: By Charlie Butts for One News Now)

For prayer and praise: It was obvious from the start of this ill-fated confrontation started by Houston’s lesbian mayor who inexplicably thought she had the authority to censor the city’s pastors in their preaching and teaching of biblical truth, including the shame and sinfulness of homosexual unions. Give thanks for the courageous opposition of these pastors, and intercede that this pastoral solidarity with spread. Also, because intercessors are merciful and concerned for the lost, pray for Mayor Parker’s conversion and that she become a dedicated follower of Christ.

“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! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isa. 5:20-21)

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The Informer May 20, 2015

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SENATE FIGHT: NSA PHONE DATA COLLECTION TO EXPIRE

A major supporter of the National Security Agency’s anti-terrorism surveillance program, which allows the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, is pushing for an extension of the program, setting up a battle with critics who argue that Congress must fix the current law or let it expire.

"This has been a very important part of our effort to defend the homeland since 9/11," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday while defending the program in an interview on ABC's “This Week.” "We know that the terrorists overseas are trying to recruit people in our country to commit atrocities in our country."

McConnell, R-Ky., introduced a bill Thursday night that would temporarily renew the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act for two months.

The renewal would buy time for the Senate to debate, specifically, Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which authorizes the government to collect personal records without a warrant and has been the target of controversy since NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 that it was being used by the NSA to capture and retain millions of Americans’ personal phone records.

The provisions are currently scheduled to sunset on June 1.

Meanwhile, the House on Wednesday passed the USA Freedom Act, a bipartisan bill lawmakers said would end the NSA’s ability to use Section 215 for that type of data collection. Instead, it would allow private telecom companies to keep the records. Federal law enforcement would have to get a court order proving a link to a specific criminal investigation to collect such phone record data, and must use specific search terms to get permission to pore through the information.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., passed by a margin of 338-88.

This sets up a fight in the Senate with McConnell, who supports renewing the Patriot Act provisions, including Section 215, with no changes. He is supported by a number of senators, including Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., both of whom have publicly advocated a “clean” renewal of the Patriot Act. Still, McConnell is opposed by a number of Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republican members of the majority, like Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who McConnell is supporting for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, has said he will filibuster any attempt to renew the act without reforms.

“We are going to demand amendments and we are going to make sure the American people know that some of us at least are opposed to unlawful searches," Paul told The New Hampshire Union Leader this week.

"Everybody threatens to filibuster. We'll see what happens," McConnell said Sunday on “This Week.” "But we're talking about the security of the country here. This is no small matter."

Extra time to debate it might be necessary, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, acknowledged to reporters on Thursday. The Senate also is grappling with Congress’ say in the Iran nuclear deal, and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) fast track trade deal – two things McConnell has said need to be settled first, plus the authorization of highway funding.

“There’s a range of views” on the NSA,” Cornyn said, according to The Hill newspaper. “I don’t know how you get all that done plus (the highway bill) before we break.” The Senate is scheduled to go on break from May 23-31, according to its calendar.

The phone data collection program had been a secret until Snowden leaked documents proving its existence nearly two years ago. In that leak to the press, he showed that the NSA had been collecting millions of phone records since 9/11 – not the conversations, but dates, times and numbers – for the purpose of surveillance. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the program illegal on May 7, saying, "the [Patriot Act provisions] have never been interpreted to authorize anything approaching the breadth of the sweeping surveillance at issue here.”

The court did not go so far as to halt the program with an injunction, but left it to Congress to pass reforms.

Given these legal implications, and the fact the House is overwhelmingly in favor of changes, McConnell’s “clean” alternative and his attempt to delay matters will likely hit resistance, said Steve Vladeck, an American University law professor who teaches constitutional and national security law.

“If the Senate doesn’t pass something close to the USA Freedom Act, then all hell breaks loose,” he predicted in an interview with FoxNews.com. "The June 1 deadline is looming, it’s just a couple of legislative days away.”

A tougher version of the USA Freedom Act passed the House last year, but failed to get the 60 votes necessary in the Senate to proceed to a floor debate.

But even the USA Freedom Act has its own detractors, mainly critics who believe Section 215, which allows the government to secretly comb personal records without warrant, should expire. While the American Civil Liberties Union has not endorsed or opposed a specific set of reforms, it warned House members ahead of its vote that the Sensenbrenner/Conyers bill is lacking a number of privacy protections and includes loopholes through which the government could still engage in bulk surveillance.

“Though an improvement over the status quo in some respects, the USA Freedom Act does not go far enough to rein in NSA abuses,” the ACLU said in a May 12 letter to the House. In actuality, critics suggest, the USA Freedom Act may serve to codify the very activities the court was warning against.

Fox contributor Judge Napolitano agreed, calling it a Band-Aid, that “would actually legitimize all spying, all the time, on all of us in ways that the Patriot Act fails to do.”

Vladeck said the critics have a point. "There is no question that the USA Freedom Act is better than the McConnell [clean] bill, but I also think there is no question that the act that passed the House doesn’t go nearly as far as other reform bills that have been introduced,” he said. “The question is now: What kind of compromise is everyone going to be happy with?”

Libertarians say they won't be happy until all of Section 215, if not the entire Patriot Act, is scrapped entirely. They say its sweeping law-enforcement powers have tipped the balance against innocent Americans' civil liberties without providing a clear rationale for their usefulness in terror investigations.

“It’s your classic conundrum, whether the Congress should swallow the bad in order to get the good. It’s time to get beyond fighting in the weeds here,” said Jacob Hornberger, president of the Future of Freedom Foundation, in an interview with FoxNews.com.

“It’s time for the American people to look beyond that and say, ‘Is this what we want for a free society? Do we really need a NSA? Do we even need a Patriot Act?’ My argument is we don’t. These are antithetical to a free society.”

The Hill reported Thursday that supporters of the USA Freedom Act are already lining up against any temporary extension of the Patriot Act on the House side, which would be required in order to thwart the June 1 deadline.

Nevertheless, there are national security hawks in the Senate who will likely embrace the extra room for debate, especially if they need more time to get members on board to pass a clean renewal. “Contrary to irresponsible rumors, the [bulk surveillance] program is lawful, carefully monitored, and protects personal privacy,” said Sen. Cotton and Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., in an Op-Ed on Friday.

“As members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, we have carefully studied this program and are convinced that it’s an integral tool in our fight against terrorism.” (Contributor: By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos for Fox News)

For prayer: The debate between personal privacy and the government’s collection of citizens’ information is nothing new. However, the far-reaching NSA surveillance is a markedly increased activity since the terrorist attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center on 9/11/2001. Differences on the issue are sharp, and it appears that robust discussion and deliberation are essential. Please pray as you are led and as you feel is in our country’s best interest. Pray for a national turning back to God through revival. God’s mercy and protection will follow for a nation that serves the Lord.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed.” (1 Pet. 3:12-13)

 

U.S., CHINA SET FOR HIGH-STAKES RIVALRY IN SKIES ABOVE SOUTH CHINA SEA

When the U.S. navy sent a littoral combat ship on its first patrol of the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea during the past week, it was watching the skies as well.

The USS Fort Worth, one of the most modern ships in the U.S. navy, dispatched a reconnaissance drone and a Seahawk helicopter to patrol the airspace, according to a little-noticed statement on the navy's website.

While the navy didn't mention China's rapid land reclamation in the Spratlys, the ship's actions were a demonstration of U.S. capabilities in the event Beijing declares an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the area - a move experts and some U.S. military officials see as increasingly likely.

"It's not inevitable but if we are betting paychecks I'll bet that they will eventually declare one, I just don't know when," said a senior U.S. commander familiar with the situation in Asia.

ADIZs are not governed by formal treaties or laws but are used by some nations to extend control beyond national borders, requiring civilian and military aircraft to identify themselves or face possible military interception.

China sparked condemnation from the United States and Japan when it imposed an ADIZ in the East China Sea, above uninhabited islands disputed with Tokyo, in late 2013.

Chinese military facilities now under construction on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys, including a 3,000-metre (10,000-foot) runway and airborne early warning radars, could be operational by the year-end, said the U.S. commander, who declined to be identified.

Recent satellite images also show reclamation work on Subi Reef creating landmasses that, if joined together, could make space for a similar sized airstrip.

Growing concern in Washington that China might impose air and sea restrictions in the Spratlys once it completes work on its seven artificial islands is likely to be on the agenda when U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets Chinese leaders in Beijing this weekend for previously scheduled talks.

Tough To Enforce

Asia's rising power claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims.

China has said it had every right to set up an ADIZ but that current conditions in the South China Sea did not warrant one.

Enforcing such an ADIZ would be difficult even with two airstrips capable of handling fighter planes in the Spratlys, as well as an expanded airstrip on Woody island in the disputed Paracel island chain further north because of the distances involved, regional military officials and experts said.

The Spratlys for example lie more than 1,100 km (680 miles) from the Chinese mainland, putting China's well-equipped airbases along its coastline well out of reach.

"Even with the new reclamations, it is going to be a stretch for China to routinely enforce such a zone that far south," said Richard Bitzinger, a regional security analyst at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

The Japanese and U.S. military ignore the ADIZ above the East China Sea, as does Japan's two major carriers, ANA Holdings and Japan Airlines.

A study produced by the independent U.S. Congressional Research Service earlier this year noted that while China's air force actively monitors that zone with ground radar from its coastline, it had generally shown restraint in enforcement.

China's planes were unlikely to maintain a constant presence over the East China Sea, the study noted, citing a U.S. air force assessment.

Risk of Escalation

The South China Sea might prove more problematic for China given the complexity of the dispute and the possibility of challenges from the U.S. navy and air force.

Indeed, on Tuesday, a U.S. official said the Pentagon was considering sending military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around the Chinese-made islands.

China's Foreign Ministry responded by saying Beijing was "extremely concerned" and demanded clarification.

On Friday it accused the Philippines of working together with the United States to "exaggerate the China threat" over the Spratlys.

China had recently warned Philippine air force and navy planes at least six times to leave the Spratlys, the Philippine military commander responsible for the region said last week. The planes refused.

Zhang Baohui, a mainland security expert at Hong Kong's Lingnan University, said he was worried about the risk of confrontation from any U.S. show of force.

"It's reckless," he said, referring to Washington's latest plans.

"It has a built-in dynamic for unintended escalation," he added. "Are they willing to take the consequences of this escalation?"

At sea, tensions are already apparent.

The naval statement about the USS Fort Worth, which can also hunt submarines and support amphibious landings, noted the ship "encountered multiple People's Liberation Army-Navy warships" during its patrol. It did not go into detail.

"Our interactions with Chinese ships continue to be professional and (the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea) helps clarify intentions and prevent miscommunication," Commander Matt Kawas, the Fort Worth's commanding officer, said in the statement. (Contributor: By Greg Torode for Reuters - Additional reporting by Tim Kelly and Nobuhiro Kubo in YOKOHAMA, Japan; Editing by Dean Yates)

For prayer: Intercessors should consider the broader issue of Chinese-American relations, rather than focus only on China’s present “saber-rattling” in the South China Sea. On a parallel note, though not related to this article, Christians who track Chinese spiritual life are giving thanks to God for well-substantiated reports that churches in Hong Kong are presently experiencing revival in which thousands are turning from dead religion and finding life as followers of Jesus Christ. Even in the current democracy protests, Christians are leading the way with courage and non-violent responses. Read more on this at CT [Christianity Today] online.

“So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun; when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.” (Isa. 59:19)

 

WOMEN IN COMBAT: TEST FAILURES RAISE QUESTIONS

Military women washing out in two major tests this spring raises the question of whether a large enough female population exists to produce significant numbers of officers for front-line ground combat, an Army professor says.

Meanwhile, a feminist legal group has issued a report broadly critical of how the Pentagon is running the two-year transition assessment leading to a decision by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to open infantry and special operations to women by Jan. 1.

The National Women's Law Center said the program is mired in secrecy, is misusing women as research subjects and is allowing each service to go in its own direction in conducting research.

“Information has been scarce, progress to date has been spotty, and the services’ implementation processes raise several concerns,” the center said in a May 14 report. “The required quarterly progress reports of the services have not been made public. The extent to which the Department of Defense is overseeing the implementation of the plans is also unclear, but appears limited.”

In recent weeks, there were two important developments. Twenty-nine women attempted to pass the Marine Corps‘ Infantry Officer Course at the combat development base in Quantico, Virginia. All failed. The Corps hoped for a much larger group of volunteers — 100 or so. It says the relatively small turnout is a data point in deciding whether to recommend opening the infantry officer occupation to women.

The Army searched the ranks to find women who wanted to attempt its own grueling combat test: the Ranger course at Fort Benning, Georgia.

At the start, 113 women volunteered and entered the Ranger Training Assessment Course, a demanding, two-week exercise that also eliminates many men. Of the 113 women, 20 passed. One dropped out at the start of Ranger Course. Subsequently, the remaining 19 (16 officers and three enlisted) failed to complete the course. Of those, eight were recycled Thursday to attempt the course again, as is also permitted for men.

William J. Gregor, a professor of social sciences at the Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, has conducted studies on what he believes are the drawbacks of putting women in direct land combat. He says the Infantry Officer Course and the Ranger Course results show that the Pentagon will have to scramble to find even a small number of women who can be infantry officers and commandos — both highly demanding physical endeavors.

“The question then becomes, if you are recruiting for occupational specialties, where’s the next cohort? Where are the next 100 women?” Mr. Gregor said. “You just culled the Army for over 100 women, so where’s the next cohort? The same is true for every one of these programs.

“You’re expending valuable training time on populations that are unlikely to succeed. So what cost do you want to bear in continually trying with these experiments? This has nothing to do with raising an army.”

High cost of training

Former Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced in January 2013 that he had revoked the military’s regulation against women in direct land combat. The stated goal was to create a training atmosphere in which significant numbers of women, not just an isolated few, become land combatants.

Mr. Gregor has his doubts that can happen unless combat physical standard are lowered, and he suspects a lowering eventually will occur. Senior Pentagon officials pledge that they are committed to keeping standards the same, or gender-neutral, but have not ruled out lowering standards.

A big question is, once infantry is officially opened to women, how many teenage females will apply for that occupation?

“Are you going to recruit women into the infantry and then have them fail initial training?” Mr. Gregor said. “How long are you going to do that before you realize the cost of doing that is too high? Not only do you lose the training slots, but once they fail, you’ve go to reclassify them into a new occupational specialty. So from a manpower procurement standpoint, it doesn’t make any sense.”

One development that counters that argument is that a number of enlisted Marine women — 120 out of 350 — were able to pass the Infantry Training Battalion Course earlier this year in a pilot program.

With officers, as the Marine Corps sees it, if infantry is opened to women and female officers first get through the Basic School, they then would be eligible to try the Infantry Officer Course.

Said Capt. Maureen T. Krebs, a Corps spokeswoman: “I wouldn’t characterize it as finding a ‘pool of women’ but rather female Marine lieutenants who truly want to be infantry or ground intelligence officers would have the same opportunity as the male Marines to be selected for those occupational specialties and go through the course, meet the standards of the course, graduate and lead Marines in those units.”

Two female ground intelligence officers have tried the IOC and failed since the Corps opened that occupation to women in 2013. If an officer cannot pass IOC, he or she cannot become a ground intelligence officer.

‘If you pass, you pass’

The National Women's Law Center is not happy with how the Pentagon is managing the transition phase.

The center, for example, criticized the Marine Corps approach of studying whether gender-integrated combat units perform as well as all-male units. That pilot program is the ongoing Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, scheduled to end in July.

A woman should succeed or fail on what she does individually, not as a group, the women advocate group said.

“This would improperly be evaluating all women’s qualifications based on the performance of a few women. Instead, both women and men should be evaluated on an individual basis — measured against valid occupational standards,” the group’s report said.

The report also criticizes the Army for making the Ranger Course closed to women in the first place.

“If this Army assessment is intended to inform a decision on whether to recommend that Ranger units remain closed to women, it has many of the flaws of the Marine Corps‘ studies,” the law center said. “Women are being asked to volunteer but will not be able to join a Ranger unit, even if they qualify by completing the school.”

On the question of whether the military’s women population will produce sufficient numbers who want to be in frontline land combat, the women's center asserted: “There is no reason for delay in assigning women in open occupations to closed units, particularly because there are many currently serving women who are highly interested in serving in a greater range of positions and units.”

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman, defended how the military is moving toward combat integration.

“The successful integration of women into currently closed positions requires the department to be thoughtful and deliberate,” Lt. Cmdr. Christensen said. “The department is proceeding in a measured and responsible way to open positions to women. The department is committed to opening positions and occupations when and how it makes sense while preserving unit readiness, cohesion and the quality of the all-volunteer force.”

Since Mr. Panetta’s announcement, about 91,000 previously closed positions have been opened, he said.

It is a foregone conclusion that infantry will become mixed-gender. Mr. Carter has said that most, if not all, currently closed occupations will open sometime after the studies are submitted to his staff in September.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who will make recommendations to Mr. Carter on Navy and Marine Corps units such as SEALs and infantry, told midshipmen last week at the Naval Academy that everyone should be given a chance.

“The working assumption is all billets are going to be opened this year,” Mr. Mabus said. “My notion is you set up gender-neutral standards. If you pass, you pass. I don’t care what shape you are. I don’t care what gender you are.” (Contributor: By Rowan Scarborough for The Washington Times)

For prayer: There is little to be said here, other than the fact that we live in a topsy-turvy world. Someone has called the current military scene “Alice-in-Blunderland,” particularly with the blurring of male and female roles in direct combat. Please pray for the deeper philosophic issues and the damage being done by “politically correct” decisions that will damage both the women and the U.S. armed forces.  

“Therefore my people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge … 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! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isa. 5:13a, 20-21)

 

REPORT: SAUDIS MAY PURCHASE PAKISTANI ATOMIC BOMB

Saudi Arabia has reached out to its ally Pakistan to acquire “off-the-shelf” atomic weapons as a nuclear arms race begins to shape up with Shiite rival Iran, US sources said.

“For the Saudis the moment has come,” a former US defense official told the UK’s Sunday Times. “There has been a longstanding agreement in place with the Pakistanis and the House of Saud has now made the strategic decision to move forward.”

The anonymous former official said the US did not believe that “any actual weaponry has been transferred yet,” but declared that “the Saudis mean what they say and they will do what they say.”

Tensions between Tehran and the kingdom have grown in the past few months as Saudi Arabia stepped up its air campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. King Salman of Saudi Arabia refused an invitation to attend a landmark summit hosted by US President Barack Obama last week, amid ongoing angst over US-led nuclear talks with Iran.

Former Saudi intelligence head Prince Turki bin Faisal expressed the kingdom’s desire for a nuclear weapon last month at the Asan Plenum, a conference held by the South Korean-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies. “Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too,” he said, according to The New York Times.

Faisal also warned that the Iranian nuclear deal “opens the door to nuclear proliferation, not closes it, as was the initial intention.”

According to the Sunday Times report, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship for decades. Saudi Arabia has given Pakistan billions of dollars in subsidized oil, while the latter has unofficially agreed to supply the Gulf state with nuclear warheads.

“Nuclear weapons programs are extremely expensive and there’s no question that a lot of the funding of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program was provided by Saudi Arabia,” Lord David Owen, who served as England’s foreign secretary from 1977-1979, told the weekly publication.

“Given their close relations and close military links, it’s long been assumed that if the Saudis wanted, they would call in a commitment, moral or otherwise, for Pakistan to supply them immediately with nuclear warheads,” he added.

However, the report added, Lt.Gen. Khalid Kidwai, who helped pioneer Pakistan’s nuclear program, denied that Pakistan had ever granted Saudi Arabia access to its nuclear technology.

The main concern shared by US and European officials was that if Saudi Arabia were to acquire an atomic weapon, it could spur other Sunni nations to follow suit.

An anonymous British military official also told The Sunday Times that Western military leaders “all assume the Saudis have made the decision to go nuclear.”

The official added, “The fear is that other Middle Eastern powers — Turkey and Egypt — may feel compelled to do the same and we will see a new, even more dangerous, arms race.”

This position was also mirrored by other, non-Saudi Gulf states at a summit last week between the US and several Arab countries. One unnamed Gulf state leader attending the Camp David summit told The New York Times, “We can’t sit back and be nowhere as Iran is allowed to retain much of its capability and amass its research.” (Contributor: By Judah Ari Gross for The Times of Israel)

For prayer: The Middle East continues to draw the avid attention of Christian believers in that region as well as those from the United States. The primary focus and the biblical call for attention is to note how all the various Muslim nations’ activities will affect Israel and its new government coalition. Part of the unrest appears to be related to President Obama’s apparent vacillation on Israel, on one hand, and Iran’s nuclear development on the other.

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” (Ps. 121:1-4)

 

MYSTERY THREAT TO AMERICAN WARSHIPS IS LIKELY NORTH KOREAN

In 2013, the U.S. Navy's Pacific Fleet hinted at a mysterious and "newly discovered threat" to American warships. Whatever it was, it was serious  —  and had America's admirals spooked.

We knew the threat was probably a missile, because the Navy's only mention of it was inside a contracting request for a new electronics countermeasures system designed for surface ships.

The Navy awarded a $65-million contract to the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to develop the system within a "critically short" time frame.

Military & Aerospace Electronics, which first noticed the request, suggested that the threat was a radar-guided anti-ship missile from a country or terrorist group in the Middle East. We suggested a Chinese anti-ship missile.

It's neither. The threat is most likely from a country the United States is still technically at war with  —  North Korea.

More precisely, the threat is probably a North Korean Kh-35 anti-ship cruise missile.

The Navy's hurried development of a missile-defense system, begun just a year before the existence of the new North Korean cruise missile became public in the West, is a window into how the Pentagon is keeping tabs on the reclusive, hostile country  —  and how the U.S. responds to new dangers.

It's also a window into the world of open source intelligence, where ordinary people dig through publicly available information for nuggets of information governments don't necessarily want them to know.

The Pentagon didn't specify the exact nature of its new countermeasures system  —  officially designated AN/SLQ-59. But most likely, the device can jam the radars of anti-ship missiles. Almost every modern anti-ship missile has a small radar that guides the weapon and helps detect targets.

If you want to prevent an incoming missile from sinking your ship, the best way is to overwhelm it with electromagnetic interference. It's easier than shooting it down.

The Naval Research Laboratory and defense contractor ITT Excelis had developed a prototype of the electronic warfare system in 2012, and wanted help from industry to field the first system by 2014. The Pacific Fleet needed up to 24 of the systems.

So why does this have anything to do with a North Korean missile? Well, there are several reasons why.

The Kh-35 first attracted attention outside of Western military and intelligence circles in June 2014, when arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis noticed something unusual in a North Korean propaganda video.

North Korean videos typically feature action-packed montages at their very end, sometimes with tantalizingly brief clues showing off new weapons and capabilities.

The missile resembles an anti-ship missile, similar to the American Harpoon and French Exocet. The missile's canister launcher is visible, and although it resembles the launcher of the Russian Kh-35 anti-ship missile, it isn't a perfect match.

A number of people  —  myself included  —  volunteered to comb the Internet for clues. A search of anti-ship missile launches on YouTube made it clear it wasn't a Western design. It wasn't Chinese, either.

Plus, the footage was unique. North Korea didn't steal some other video of a missile and fence it off as its own. Pyongyang may bluster and make threats, but it doesn't bluff regarding capabilities.

The missile was indeed a Kh-35. Made by Russian defense contractor Zvezda, the Kh-35 flies at Mach 0.8 at just 10 to 15 meters above the ocean surface. It has a range of 70 miles.

It packs a 320 pound shaped-charge warhead, making it extremely dangerous to destroyer-sized ships.

Now recall that the Navy's request for a countermeasures system came from the Pacific Fleet, meaning the threat was a country in the Asia-Pacific region. The only countries even potentially hostile to the U.S. in that region are China and North Korea.

The U.S. and China are nowhere near coming to blows  —  ruling out China as the source of an "urgent need."

North Korea, on the other hand, has attacked American and South Korean ships before, including the 1968 seizure of the spy ship USS Pueblo and the 2010 sinking of the South Korean corvette ROKS Cheonan.

Spontaneous acts of violence are part of North Korea's foreign policy. Defending ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet from the Kh-35 would be an urgent priority indeed.

Exactly how and why North Korea got the Kh-35 is a good question. North Korea and Russia have become increasingly close during the Kim Jong Un era, and Pyongyang could have bought the missiles from Moscow.

Another possibility is Myanmar, which has openly purchased the Kh-35 from Russia, and has bought weapons from Pyongyang. North Korean technical advisers have assisted Myanmar's ballistic missile program  —  and may have assisted its nuclear weapons program.

It's possible that Pyongyang received anti-ship missiles in return for weapons … or nuclear know-how.

The Kh-35 missile connection isn't definitive. Nobody knows for sure how North Korea got its missiles, and it's even possible  —  albeit remotely  —  that they might be a totally new design.

With North Korea, it's hard to rule out anything. But the announcement of the threat, clues about the threat and the sudden appearance of the Kh-35 is an awfully big coincidence.

We'll probably never know how U.S. intelligence found out about North Korea's Kh-35. Still, thanks to open source analysis, we civilians have a pretty good idea they're there  —  and where they might have come from. (Contributor: By Kyle Mizokami for The Week)

For prayer: This is an “FYI alert” (“For your information”) for intercessors. Many Christians in the U.S. pray specifically for North Korea, asking God to open doors for the Gospel and for protection for the underground Church that suffers but is active in that rogue nation. Please pray for political prisoners who suffer for their faith. Note the biblical promise for when righteousness reigns after judgment.

“The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places, though hail comes down on the forest, and the city is brought low in humiliation.” (Isa. 32:17-19)

 

THE MOST DISTINCTIVE CAUSES OF DEATH BY STATE, 2001-2010

The resulting map <Click here for map.> depicts a variety of distinctive causes of death based on a wide range of number of deaths, from 15,000 deaths from HIV in Florida to 679 deaths from tuberculosis in Texas to 22 deaths from syphilis in Louisiana. The largest number of deaths mapped were the 37,292 deaths in Michigan from “atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, so described”; the fewest, the 11 deaths in Montana from “acute and rapidly progressive nephritic and nephrotic syndrome.” The state-specific percentage of total deaths mapped ranged from 1.8% (Delaware; atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, so described) to 0.0005% (Illinois, other disorders of kidney).

Some of the findings make intuitive sense (influenza in some northern states, pneumoconioses in coal-mining states, air and water accidents in Alaska and Idaho), while the explanations for others are less immediately apparent (septicemia in New Jersey, deaths by legal intervention in 3 Western states). The highly variable use of codes beginning with “other” between states is also apparent. For example, Oklahoma accounted for 24% of the deaths attributable to “other acute ischemic heart diseases” in the country despite having only slightly more than 1% of the population, resulting in a standardized mortality rate ratio of 19.4 for this cause of death, the highest on the map. The highest standardized mortality rate ratio after Oklahoma was 12.4 for pneumoconioses in West Virginia.

A limitation of this map is that it depicts only 1 distinctive cause of death for each state. All of these were significantly higher than the national rate, but there were many others also significantly higher than the national rate that were not mapped. The map is also predisposed to showing rare causes of death — for 22 of the states, the total number of deaths mapped was under 100. Using broader cause-of-death categories or requiring a higher threshold for the number of deaths would result in a different map. These limitations are characteristic of maps generally and are why these maps are best regarded as snapshots and not comprehensive statistical summaries. (Contributor: By Francis P. Boscoe, PhD; Eva Pradhan, MPH for CDC)

For prayer: These statistics will be of interest to some readers of our midweek alert as they follow such trends. As the authors conclude, the map is a snapshot, not an in-depth study. Pray accordingly.

“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Prov. 4: 20-23)

 

U.S. HOUSE PASSES BILL: PROTECTS PAIN-CAPABLE UNBORN AND LIVE-BORN ABORTION SURVIVORS

With the support of a vast majority of House Republicans, and due to the pro-life dedication of the House Republican leadership, the U.S. House of Representatives today passed landmark legislation, 242-184, to extend federal protections to unborn children who have reached 20 weeks fetal age, and those who are born alive during late abortions.

The bill was developed from model legislation developed by National Right to Life in 2010, enacted thus far in 11 states.

"This bill would save thousands of unborn babies annually from terribly painful deaths," said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. "It is now clear that the overwhelming majority of House Democrats believe that painfully dismembering babies, in the sixth month and later, is just fine – now let them try to explain that to their constituents."

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act has been the right-to-life movement's top congressional priority for the 114th Congress. Like the state bills, the proposed federal law would generally extend legal protect to unborn humans beginning at 20 weeks fetal age, based on congressional findings that by that point (and even earlier) the unborn child has the capacity to experience great pain during an abortion.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life, notes that the bill also contains important new federal protections for babies who are born alive during abortions. Johnson expressed puzzlement that the Associated Press calls a human who is born alive during abortions at 20 weeks fetal age as "the fetus" (as in this story on May 11: news.yahoo.com/house-gop-abortion-bill-requires-docs-help-fetus-213013607--politics.html), but referred to humans at exactly the same stage of development (20 weeks fetal age, 22 weeks of pregnancy) as "premature babies" and "preemies" in a May 7 story about a major new study showing that one-fourth of these babies survive long term when given active medical treatment. (hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_MED_PREEMIE_SURVIVAL).

"Apparently, some journalists think if a baby is born alive during an abortion, he or she remains a 'fetus' indefinitely," Johnson commented.

A one-page summary of the revised federal Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is available here: www.nrlc.org/uploads/fetalpain/HR36RevisionOnePagerNRLC.pdf.

The text of the bill, as passed today, is available here: www.nrlc.org/uploads/fetalpain/FranksSubstituteAmendmentHR36.pdf.

In a nationwide poll of 1,623 registered voters in November 2014, The Quinnipiac University Poll found that 60% would support a law such as the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks, while only 33% opposed such legislation. Women voters split 59-35% in support of such a law, while independent voters supported it by 56-36%.

Some of the extensive evidence that unborn children have the capacity to experience pain, at least by 20 weeks fetal age, is available on the NRLC website at www.nrlc.org/abortion/fetalpain and also here: www.doctorsonfetalpain.com. (Contributor: By Tatiana Bergum for National Right to Life and Christian Newswire)

For Prayer: Despite this victory in the House of Representatives, there is little or no chance such a bill will be approved by the Senate or signed into law by President Obama. Pro-life people of conscience in such matters of abortion and fetal pain should bear this in mind in preparing to vote in 2016. Pray for morally upright candidates to prevail. As you pray, let your current senators and congressional representatives know how you feel and how you intend to vote. Isn’t it time for abortion to become an absolute litmus test to win our votes?

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

 

HUNDREDS OF KENYAN PASTORS: STOP PREACHING HOMOSEXUALITY

Hundreds of Kenyan pastors have had enough of President Barack Obama’s aggressive push for African nations to forsake their religious convictions and fully embrace homosexual [sin] behavior and same-sex “marriage.

The Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, comprised of 700 pastors, welcomes Obama to visit their nation this summer — provided he stop pressuring Kenyans to forsake their religious convictions by endorsing the homosexual lifestyle.

“President Barack Obama is welcome to visit Kenya this summer — but please, leave the preaching to us,” the ecumenical coalition of religious leaders proclaimed.

Bishop Mark Kariuki, a megachurch pastor who advises some 700 pastors as the leader of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, says what isn’t welcome is a repeat performance of Obama scorning believers for not ascribing to his homosexual agenda.

“We would like to send a strong message to the U.S. president that the homosexuality debate should not become part of his agenda, as it has been his tendency whenever he comes to Africa,” Kariuki told Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper on Monday.

Mind your own business

Kariuki stresses that Obama’s past directives to the Kenyan nation — where his Muslim father was born — were not only authoritative in nature, but disrespectful of Kenyans’ traditions and belief systems.

“[Obama] should respect the faith, culture and people of Kenya when he comes in July,” Karuiki implored. “He should not put [homosexuality] as one of his main agenda[s] in the country.”

Christians aren’t the only ones in Kenya wary of Obama’s visit, as the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya (IRCK), along with members of the Kenyan Parliament have scheduled a protest of the president’s visit to a country many critics consider his homeland.

“We are not prepared to accept, hear or listen to anyone lecturing us on how our culture is good or bad,” said IRCK Chairman Adan Wachu.

Showing more boldness in his foreign policy when it comes to homosexuality than to his war on terror, Obama is believed to be overstepping his authority and jurisdiction by making his aggressive LGBT agenda the centerpiece of his international campaign — especially throughout the African continent.

“In June 2013, Obama provoked a clash with the president of Senegal, Mackey Sall, over the nation's rejection of the LGBT political agenda,” LifeSiteNews reports. “Standing alongside Sall just the day after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, Obama said that people should be accorded rights based on ‘sexual orientation.’”

At that time, Obama insisted that the world should adopt his endorsement of LGBT “rights,” declaring, “And that's a principle that I think applies universally.”

Believing the president was insinuating that his west African nation enforced discriminatory policies, Sall quickly retorted that Senegal “is not homophobic” and is “very tolerant” of its people.

Obama may have skipped the land of his forefathers on his $100-million African vacation in 2013, when he condemned the continents’ nations for their “anti-homosexual” policies, but Kenyan leaders nonetheless reproved the president’s statements.

“[Homosexuality] goes against our customs and traditions,” Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto declared while speaking at St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church in Maili Kumi. “We believe in God … This nation, the nation of Kenya, is sovereign and God-fearing.”

A call to destruction?

Archibishop of Nairobi Cardinal John Njue called out Obama and other international leaders for their role in the destruction of nations embracing the failed social experiment of homosexuality.

“Those people who have already ruined their society … let them not become our teachers to tell us where to go,” urged Njue, who also serves as president of the Kenyan Episcopal Conference. “I think we need to act according to our own traditions and our faiths.”

Many on the African continent have become disillusioned with the president since he took office in 2009, especially after completing his “evolution” to favor same-sex marriage in May 2012, when he ramped up his pro-LGBT agenda on a global scale.

“The standoff was a pretty pass for a president elected on the promise that he would restore tranquility and peace to America's relationship with other nations around the world,” LifeSiteNews’ Ben Johnson reports. “It was neither the first nor the last time that the president decided that advancing the homosexual agenda trumped indigenous African human rights issues.”

Support homosexuality … or else …

Using funding — or the retraction of it — to persuade other nations to be on board with the worldwide push to embrace homosexual behavior, Western nations are doing all they can to normalize the unbiblical practice around the world.

“In 2011, Western nations denied Malawi nearly $350 million, because the nation banned homosexual activity,” Johnson continued. “Wikileaks revealed the Obama administration coordinated with homosexual activists to promote the LGBT agenda in Sierra Leone.”

World Congress of Families Executive Director Janice Shaw Crouse says that Obama is indiscriminantly ramrodding the LGBT to uproot and destroy the religious and cultural mores that nations have embraced for millennia globally.

“[Obama’s actions are a form of] ‘cultural imperialism’ — exporting the sexual crusade of a very small minority of Americans with outsized influence [who have tried] to tear down the moral foundations of our nation, as well as the rest of the world,” Crouse told LifeSiteNews.

And it has been noted that Obama’s campaign to promote homosexuality has trumped his so-called war on terror.

“[R]ecently, both U.S. political and African religious leaders say the Obama administration withheld aid to help Nigeria fight Boko Haram, the Islamic terrorist organization, because the nation rejects same-sex ‘marriage,’” Johnson recounted.

It is believed that, if elected, leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will follow in Obama’s footsteps when it comes to pushing the homosexual agenda both domestically and abroad.

“There is a whole movement in which many people in the Obama administration are involved — Hillary Clinton at the forefront — that is pushing the ‘sexual rights’ agenda,” asserted Sharon Slater, who produced Cultural Imperialism: The Sexual Rights Agenda. “[African political leaders] were being blackmailed, bribed and bullied into accepting sexual rights that run counter to their religious and cultural values.”

Corroborating Christians’ and conservatives’ fears that former secretary of state Clinton would follow up Obama’s full-fledged propagation of the homosexual agenda, she candidly proclaimed last month that faiths opposed to homosexual behavior must denounce the moral precepts undergirding their beliefs derived from their holy scriptures.

“Religious beliefs [against abortion and homosexuality] have to be changed,” Clinton insisted. (Contributor: By Michael F. Haverluck for One News Now)

For prayer: The Christian response to this article can only be sadness, shame, and repentance on behalf of America’s leadership, primarily President Obama and his administration. “Unconscionable” may best describe the president’s hubris in trying to tell other nations how to behave and govern in matters of sexual identification and moral conduct. Pray for President and Mrs. Obama and their daughters, asking God to reveal Himself and to bring salvation to the White House and first family.

“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)

“For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Rom. 10:13)

On Watch in Washington May 20, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

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The Informer May 13, 2015

On Watch in Washington May 13, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

A QUIET NUCLEAR DEAL WITH CHINA

It seemed like a typical day for President Obama. He taped a TV interview on trade, hosted the champion NASCAR team on the South Lawn and met with the defense secretary in the Oval Office.

Not so typical was something that didn’t appear that day on the president’s public schedule: notification to Congress that he intends to renew a nuclear cooperation agreement with China. The deal would allow Beijing to buy more U.S.-designed reactors and pursue a facility or the technology to reprocess plutonium from spent fuel. China would also be able to buy reactor coolant technology that experts say could be adapted to make its submarines quieter and harder to detect.

The formal notice initially didn’t draw any headlines. Its unheralded release on April 21 reflected the administration’s anxiety that it might alarm members of Congress and nonproliferation experts who fear China’s growing naval power — and the possibility of nuclear technology falling into the hands of third parties with nefarious intentions.

Now, however, Congress is turning its attention to the agreement. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to hear from five Obama officials in a closed-door meeting Monday to weigh the commercial, political and security implications of extending the accord. The private session will permit discussion of a classified addendum from the director of national intelligence analyzing China’s nuclear export control system and what Obama’s notification called its “interactions with other countries of proliferation concern.”

The White House’s willingness to push ahead with the nuclear accord with Beijing illustrates the evolving relationship between the world’s two largest powers, which, while eyeing each other with mutual suspicion and competitiveness, also view each other as vital economic and strategic global partners. The Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade group, argues that the new agreement will clear the way for U.S. companies to sell dozens of nuclear reactors to China, the biggest nuclear power market in the world.

Yet the new version of the nuclear accord — known as a 123 agreement under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 — would give China leeway to buy U.S. nuclear energy technology at a sensitive moment: The Obama administration has been trying to rally support among lawmakers and the public for a deal that would restrict Iran’s nuclear program — a deal negotiated with China’s support.

Administration officials are using arguments similar to those deployed in the debate over Iran. They say the negotiations over the 123 agreement persuaded China to go a “long way” and agree to controls on technology and materials that are tighter than those in the current accord.

Congress can vote to block the agreement, but if it takes no action during a review period, the agreement goes into effect.

If Congress rejects the deal, “that would allow another country with lower levels of proliferation controls to step in and fill that void,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so he could talk more freely. “We go into it with eyes wide open,” he added. “Without it, we would be less able to press the Chinese to do better on this front.”

Although the current nuclear agreement with China does not expire until the end of the year, the administration had to give Congress notice with 90 legislative days left on the clock. Obama also hopes to seal a global climate deal in December featuring China — less than three weeks before the current nuclear accord expires.

Congress isn’t convinced yet.

“We are just beginning what will be a robust review process,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said in an e-mail. “These agreements can be valuable tools for furthering U.S. interests, but they must support, not undermine, our nation’s critical nonproliferation objectives.”

A quieter submarine?

Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, has been urging lawmakers to insist on requiring advance consent for the reprocessing of spent fuel from U.S.-designed reactors into plutonium suitable for weapons. He also is concerned about the sale of certain nuclear energy technologies, especially coolant pumps with possible naval use.

Charlotte-based Curtiss-Wright developed advanced coolant pumps for the U.S. Navy’s submarines. The same plant produces a scaled-up version for the Westinghouse AP1000 series reactors, each of which uses four big pumps. These pumps reduce noises that would make a submarine easier to detect.

That has become a bigger concern since China occupied and started building what looks like a military base on strategic (and disputed) reefs in the South China Sea.

An Obama administration official said the reactor coolant pumps are much too big to fit into a submarine. However, a 2008 paper by two former nuclear submarine officers working on threat reduction said that “the reverse engineering would likely be difficult” but added that “certainly, the Chinese have already reversed engineered very complex imported technology in the aerospace and nuclear fields.”

Sokolski thinks the choice between reactor sales and tighter controls is a clear one. “Since when does employment trump national security?” he asked rhetorically.

The United States has bilateral 123 agreements with 22 countries, plus Taiwan, for the peaceful use of nuclear power. Some countries that do not have such agreements, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Malaysia, have expressed interest in clearing obstacles to building nuclear reactors.

China and the United States reached a nuclear cooperation pact in 1985, before China agreed to safeguards with the International Atomic Energy Agency. IAEA safeguards went into force in 1989, but Congress imposed new restrictions after the Chinese government’s June 1989 crackdown on protesters in Tiananmen Square. The 123 agreement finally went into effect in March 1998; President Bill Clinton waived the 1989 sanctions after China pledged to end assistance to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and nuclear cooperation with Iran.

In December 2006, Westinghouse Electric — majority-owned by Toshiba — signed an agreement to sell its AP1000 reactors to China. Four are under construction, six more are planned, and the company hopes to sell 30 others, according to an April report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

When it comes to nuclear weapons proliferation, China is in a different category from other 123 agreement nations. It first tested a nuclear weapon in 1964 and now has an arsenal of about 250 nuclear warheads. So U.S. concerns have focused more on whether China has transferred technology to other countries.

“Concerns persist about Chinese willingness as well as ability to detect and prevent illicit transfers,” the CRS report said. “Missile proliferation from Chinese entities is a continuing concern.” The United States wants China to refrain from selling missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons, a payload of 1,100 pounds, as far as 190 miles. A State Department compliance report in 2014 said that Chinese entities continued to supply missile programs in “countries of concern.”

Reprocessing plutonium

Reprocessing is another key issue.

China has a pilot plant engaged in reprocessing in Jiu Quan, a remote desert town in Gansu province. Satellite photos show that it is next to a former military reprocessing plant, according to Frank von Hippel, a Princeton University physics professor who specializes in nuclear arms control. There is not even any fencing between the sites, he says.

“That’s been one of the hang-ups of the [reprocessing] deal” that China has been trying to negotiate with France for several years, von Hippel said.

Sokolski said the agreement proposed by Obama lacks a requirement for explicit, case-by-case U.S. permission for a reprocessing project using American technology or material from U.S. reactors. It gives consent in advance. And he fears that over the 30-year life of the new 123 agreement, China might want to compete with Russian and U.S. arsenals and make more bombs, for which plutonium is the optimal material.

Other weapons experts note that China already has enough surplus highly enriched uranium and plutonium to make hundreds of new bombs. China has indicated that it is interested in reprocessing so it can use plutonium as part of the fuel mix in civilian nuclear power plants. And it must offer the IAEA access.

Von Hippel is still concerned. “So if China right now is the great hope for the future of nuclear energy, soon it will be a major reactor exporter to the extent there’s a market,” he said. “So it’s a proliferation concern, and it’s also a nuclear terrorism concern. The more plutonium there is lying around, the more likely it is that someone will steal it.”

But the most politically sensitive issue in Congress might turn out to be dual-use applications of nuclear reactor parts.

The latest appropriations bill issued by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) last month would require an intelligence assessment of whether there was “minimal risk” that civilian nuclear technology would be diverted to any “foreign state’s nuclear naval propulsion program.”

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) said that the bill “doesn’t mention China by name, though I can’t think of another country for which it would be more applicable.” He said, “I would be reluctant to approve a 123 agreement unless I knew that the individual contracts would be properly reviewed.”

A Senate Armed Services Committee aide, who was not authorized to speak on behalf of the committee members and commented on the condition of anonymity, said the Senate would also focus on military applications of reactor technology for submarines, given rising concern about China’s aggressive posture in the South China Sea.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the committee, would not comment for this article, but he has recently questioned continuing engagement with China while it maintains an aggressive approach to regional issues. Last year, he opposed a proposed visit by a U.S. aircraft carrier to a Chinese port; later, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Car­ter said it would not take place. McCain also said it was a mistake to invite China to the 2016 international maritime military exercise in the Pacific known as RIMPAC.

The senior Obama administration official warned that “if we were not to complete an agreement or if restrictions were so onerous, then a lot of the work we’ve done to bring China into the mainstream and understand the programs they’re pursuing would be lost, and meanwhile our commercial interests would also be hurt.”

But the Armed Services Committee aide said: “This is not simply renewing a past agreement. The senators are going to address it in new strategic circumstances.” (Contributor: By Steven Mufson for The Washington Post - Steven Mufson covers the White House. Since joining The Post, he has covered economics, China, foreign policy and energy.)

For prayer: This is an “intercessors-should-be-aware” focus. No direct threats are involved, but China continues to advance in power and potential on the world stage. In addition, China owns much more of U.S. debt than most citizens realize. Please pray accordingly and as you are led.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters… Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.” (Ps. 24:1-2, 10)

 

LAKE MEAD WATER LEVEL FALLS TO A LANDMARK LOW

For Western states enduring a debilitating drought, the news is bone-dry bad: Anemic Lake Mead has hit a historic low level.

The surface of the sprawling reservoir outside Las Vegas late Tuesday afternoon fell to 1,079.76 feet above sea level — nearly 140 feet below capacity — as the prolonged drought continues to evaporate the beleaguered Colorado River system.

Mead's chalky white shoreline is advancing as the waters quickly recede.

For California, Arizona and Nevada, which draw water from Mead, a grim situation is about to get worse: Officials estimate that Mead will drop to the unprecedented low elevation of 1,073 feet as the hottest summer months bear down, with less snowpack in the Rocky Mountains to recharge the Colorado River.

"We're only at 38% full. Lake Mead hasn't been this low since we were filling it in the 1930s," said Rose Davis, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Las Vegas. "All the way around, this is bad news. There's not much good to say about 15 years of drought, no matter how you look at it."

Lake Mead, which meanders miles into the parched Nevada desert, held back by the Hoover Dam, is drawing closer to the 1,075-foot level, below which officials would declare a water emergency and begin rationing water allotments to Nevada and Arizona.

The more the water level drops, the greater the chances that Hoover Dam's hydroelectric output might be seriously affected, federal officials say. Federal forecasters originally predicted that the Colorado River would flow at 71% capacity this summer, but they now say the figure could fall to 50% or lower.

In recent weeks, Gov. Jerry Brown has mandated a series of water-saving measures to reduce urban water use by 25%. Officials say the new low levels at Lake Mead are not surprising but still painfully noted.

"Things like this don't surprise anyone — that's why mandatory cutbacks have been ordered in California," said Richard Stapler, a spokesman for the state's Natural Resources Agency. "This is something we pay very, very close attention to."

The Colorado River provides water for 40 million people across the Southwest and parts of Mexico — the majority of them in U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and Las Vegas. But as populations continue to climb — Las Vegas' population of 2 million is expected to double by 2060 — water experts say consumers need to take drastic measures or the water will one day run out.

"The death of Lake Mead should be a wake-up call to people across the West that we need to boldly address this drought," said Howard Watts, a spokesman for the Great Basin Water Network, a nonprofit group composed of environmentalists, ranchers and Native Americans that seeks to preserve the health of the Colorado River system.

"We've been slow to act, slow to react. Nobody knows when this drought is going to end. We need to become far more aggressive in areas of conservation to protect lake levels from falling even lower."

Environmentalists call for such no-nonsense steps as slashing indoor as well as outdoor water use, charging more for water and punishing abusers with precipitously higher rates, and disclosing house-by-house water use in residential bills to create more social pressure to conserve.

"We do have to eat, so we're not opposed to using water for agriculture," Watts said. "But everybody is going to have to make shared sacrifices, even making shifts in what's being grown by the Southwest's farmers."

Lake Mead hit its previous low in August, at 1,080.19 feet, officials said.

Las Vegas has long been at a disadvantage when it comes to Lake Mead water. A 1922 Colorado River water-sharing agreement among seven Western states — one still in effect nearly a century later — gives southern Nevada the smallest amount of all; 300,000 acre-feet a year, compared with California's 4.4 million annual acre-feet. An acre-foot can supply two average homes for one year.

This summer, officials will make their projection for Lake Mead water in January 2016. If the estimate is below 1,075 feet, rationing kicks in: Southern Nevada would lose 13,000 acre-feet per year and Arizona would lose 320,000 acre-feet. California's portion would not be affected.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials say there is a 21% chance of Lake Mead plunging below 1,075 feet next January. The odds increase to 54% for 2017.

"This situation reaffirms the seriousness of this drought. This isn't a new drought — it's been going on for 15 years," said Bronson Mack, a spokesman for the Southern Nevada Water Authority, an umbrella organization comprising seven water agencies. "We have seen this situation coming for some time, and it requires an immediate response from southern Nevada, from everybody."

Meanwhile, Lake Mead now resembles a mammoth desert mud puddle evaporating after a hard summer's rain.

The lake is ebbing as though a plug has been pulled from a bathtub drain; its shoreline forming a soap ring around its edges, a ring that will only grow in the dry summer months. The water is already so low that boat launch ramps need to be extended to reach the water.

"It's a surreal landscape out there," Davis said. (Contributor: By John M. Glionna for the LA Times)

For prayer: This has never been strictly a west coast issue! Readers know that from our first focus on the drought situation, we urged prayer for the entire U.S. Now, with Lake Mead’s involvement, a much wider segment of the country and people’s need for water is front and center. A question: Is God, even in His amazing grace, waiting for Christian leaders to unite and call for national repentance and intercession, that He might release the desperately needed rain? Intercessors will not discount the possibility that this drought is divine judgment. Will we understand the “If My people. . .” promise?

12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice.13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 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 will forgive their sin and heal their land.’” (2 Chron. 7:12-14)

 

DEM PATH TO A HOUSE MAJORITY COULD RUN THROUGH THE COURTS

Many Democrats are bullish on their chances of winning back the Senate next year, and most sound confident they can hold on to the White House. Few think they have a prayer of taking back the House of Representatives. So now they’re playing the long game — turning to the courts to help deliver what the ballot box won’t.

Top Democratic attorneys are arguing before state and federal courts that district maps drawn in a handful of states violate the Voting Rights Act by improperly packing African-American voters into a small number of districts, limiting their influence.

In Virginia, a U.S. District Court ruled last year that the commonwealth’s one majority-black district, stretching from Richmond to Hampton Roads, limited those voters. Now, legislators have until Sept. 1 to draw new maps.

The U.S. Supreme Court in March ordered a lower court to consider whether Alabama’s legislature similarly packed African-American voters into state legislative districts to minimize their influence. Last month, the high court ordered North Carolina’s Supreme Court to consider whether legislators there had done the same thing.

And in March, Florida’s Supreme Court heard arguments over whether new district maps violate state constitutional mandates that prohibit gerrymandering on a partisan basis.

In each case, the district maps at the heart of the legal complaints were drawn by Republican-controlled legislatures. And in each state, those maps helped Republicans secure overwhelming congressional majorities. Republicans control 10 of 13 House seats in North Carolina; 17 of 27 in Florida; eight of 11 in Virginia and six of seven in Alabama.

“No question, 2010 redistricting hurt us,” said Kelly Ward, who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Asked whether the party could win the 218 seats necessary to take back the majority, she said: “There’s always a chance, of course.”

The district lines drawn by Republicans after the 2010 census left Democrats with few real opportunities. David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report says just 28 House seats are truly competitive — and seven of those seats are held by Democrats. The party would need to win all of those, plus nine more solidly Republican seats, to win a majority.

The court cases in question today could change the balance of power in only a small handful of seats. Mark Gersh, a leading Democratic Party redistricting expert, estimated that his side could pick up two to three seats each in Virginia and Florida, and one to two seats in North Carolina.

But if courts rule in Democrats’ favor, those rulings would set a legal precedent for the next round of redistricting, when Democrats would have a stronger case against what they perceive to be racially-motivated redistricting that packs their voters into a smaller number of districts.

Republicans were able to draw those favorable maps after the 2010 census because of that year’s GOP landslide, which handed the party control of the House — and, more importantly, of state legislative chambers across the country, which are more subject to political waves than federal seats. All told, the GOP picked up more than 700 legislative seats that year — which translates into roughly 1 in 10 legislative seats in the entire country.

Because legislators in many states draw new maps every decade, the timing of the Republican wave couldn’t have been better for the GOP — or worse for Democrats.

“The 2010 redistricting situation was caused by this incredible Republican wave in which they won governorships and legislatures in states that would normally be competitive or lean-Democratic,” Mr. Gersh said. He pointed to states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida, which are competitive in presidential election years but which voted heavily Republican in that year’s midterm elections. (Contributor: By Reid Wilson for The Washington Post)

For prayer: This article gets into political intrigue, of which both major parties have been guilty. We urge intercessors to seek the Lord’s will in their voting and not to rely on redistricting techniques to win the 2016 election advantage. God often gives a nation the government it deserves. May the Church reawaken and call our country back to God’s ways. Moses challenged the people in his day, asking, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” How will America answer today?

“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)

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Prov. 16:33)

 

ONLY 16% OF BALTIMORE TEENS GROW UP WITH BOTH MARRIED PARENTS

Baltimore and other urban jurisdictions that have low levels of “intact” families are at high risk for social unrest, as evidenced in the recent violence, says a new report.

Families in the which the mothers are married to and living with their children’s fathers are the strongest generator of educated youth, low delinquency, economic growth and sexual mores, according to a report released Wednesday by the Marriage & Religion Research Institute (MARRI) at the Family Research Council.

Titled “Violence in Baltimore: Social Science Resources for Journalists and Public Officials,” the report notes that in Baltimore, only 16 percent of teens between the ages of 15 and 17 have been raised in home in which the children live with their married, biological parents.

This makes Baltimore one of the five “least intact” of the largest 45 U.S. cities, including Cleveland, at 15 percent; and the District of Columbia, Detroit and Memphis, Tennessee — each at 17 percent. The MARRI report bases its analysis on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s “American Community Survey, 2008-2010.”

(According to MARRI’s “Third Annual Index of Belonging and Rejection,” the five most intact cities are San Jose, California, at 56 percent; Seattle, at 54 percent; San Francisco, at 53 percent; Fort Worth, Texas, at 48 percent; and Mesa, Arizona, at 47 percent.)

“The crisis is in marriage and family,” said Bishop E.W. Jackson, a senior researcher for church ministries for the Family Research Council and president of Staying True to America’s National Destiny (S.T.A.N.D.).

The solutions lie in the direction of “love and fidelity and neighborliness to help those around,” said MARRI Director Patrick Fagan, who is also a senior researcher. “Government can do much good, but it cannot deliver love, fidelity or prayer. Leadership on these must come from other institutions.”

The MARRI report said data indicate that family intactness trumps race as a reason for societal ills: Regardless of whether families are white or black, crime rates are higher in chaotic, dysfunctional families, and lower in intact families.

“An impoverished boy from inner-city Baltimore will not escape criminal activity because Baltimore receives a stimulus bill from the President,” the report concludes.

“He will escape it if a caring teacher, compassionate pastor, or thoughtful adult mentors him so that he feels the support necessary to finish school, work at a job, and marry the mother of his children,” the report says. (Contributor: By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)

For prayer: One of IFA’s founders, Bible teacher Derek Prince, taught that at the root of many of America’s family problems was what he called “renegade fathers,” that is, men unwilling to accept the responsibilities commensurate with fatherhood. Mothers typically stay and nurture; it is most often the men who leave. Sometimes they cannot stay due to imprisonment. When such men meet Jesus Christ, their hearts are changed. Pray for widespread family restoration, where the hearts of the fathers are turned to their children and the children to their fathers.

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” (Mal. 4:5-6)  

 

STUDY FINDS FEWER CHRISTIANS, MORE UNAFFILIATED IN U.S.

The United States is becoming a little less Christian, and a little more unaffiliated to any faith, a major study on the nation's changing religious landscape suggested Tuesday.

"The United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world," with 70.6 percent of its population, or 173 million adults, identifying as Christian last year, the Pew Research Center said.

But that figure is down from 2007 when 78.4 percent called themselves Christian, Pew said in its 200-page study, titled "America's Changing Religious Landscape."

The decline is seen across many segments of American society, including whites, Latinos, women, men and those with or without a college education.

But it is particularly marked among younger American, and concerns Roman Catholics as much as mainstream Protestants.

At the same time, Christians are also a more diverse group, a reflection of the growing Latino population, the study found.

While Protestants in 2007 accounted for 51.3 percent of Americans with religious affiliation, that slipped to 46.5 percent in 2014, with 62 million Evangelicals and another 36 million belonging to mainstream Protestant denominations.

Roman Catholics, who in September will welcome Pope Francis on his first papal visit to the United States, number 51 million, down three million from 2007.

At the same time, the proportion of Americans claiming no religious affiliation -- the so-called "nones" -- has grown from 16.1 percent to 22.80 percent.

That group -- with a median age of 36 -- is increasingly younger, while non-Evangelicals and Catholics -- median age 52 and 49 respectively -- is trending older, the study found.

Non-Christian faiths grew in proportion from 4.7 percent in 2007 to 5.9 percent last year, with growth particularly robust among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a small base, it said.

Interfaith marriages are meanwhile growing in number, accounting for four marriages in 10 since 2010 compared to fewer than one in 10 prior to 1960.

Pew, which posted its findings on its www.pewresearch.org website, based its study on interviews with more than 35,000 people from June through September last year. (Contributor: AFP and Yahoo News Services)

For prayer: A factor missing from the above statistics is that many people identifying as Christians are only “cultural Christians,” not born-again followers of Jesus Christ. Many are in liberal churches identified with apostate denominations, people without biblical convictions. Such is reality, not cited here with a mean spirit. We urge intercessors to pray for widespread revival to awaken lukewarm church members who will turn to the Lord while there is still time.

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 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, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’” (Eph. 5:11-14)

 

MOBILE DEVICES AID TRANSLATION WORK AROUND THE WORLD

Bible translators are using tablets and smart phones on the mission field to efficiently work on projects. And technology is also helping to protect Bible translators.

Wycliffe Associates has launched a new initiative called "Tablets for National Translation," placing technology into the hands of national Bible translators who live and work in the most dangerous and hostile regions of the world, where Christians are targeted for severe persecution by extremists.

Bruce Smith, president and CEO of Wycliffe Associates, says smart phones and tablets are common around the world and so provide a cover for using the Bible in dangerous countries.

"Tablets arouse really little suspicion or no suspicion whatsoever from anybody who sees someone using a cell phone in public, whereas being caught with a Holy Bible or that kind of thing could be very awkward and very difficult in many circumstances around the world,” he explains.

“Having a cell phone arouses no concern at all and gives people direct access to either online or offline Bible resources that can be a part of assisting them and serving them as they do Bible translation themselves."

More than a dozen tablets have already been issued to national translators in the Middle East, and Wycliffe Associates hopes to distribute 500 tablets to national Bible translators in strategic locations around the world, at a cost of $300 per tablet. (Contributor: By Bill Bumpas for One News Now)

For prayer: Give thanks for the use of technology in making the Bible available to more people in more parts of the world, especially where owning or displaying a Bible is dangerous. Modern mission agencies, including Wycliffe Associates, have been quick to use technology to get out God’s Word, willing to be “all things to all people” in order to help people meet Jesus Christ through the Gospel.

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:12-13)

 

REAL-LIFE ‘DR. MOMS’ ON THE RISE

The number of real-life “Dr. Moms” has been growing in recent years, as highly educated women make time to have children, a new study says.

In the 1990s, about a third of women in their early 40s who had a master’s or higher degree were childless, said the Pew Research Center report released Thursday. But by 2014, this was the case for only 22 percent of highly educated women.

Instead, “post-graduate education and motherhood are increasingly going hand-in-hand,” wrote Gretchen Livingston, lead researcher and author of the report.

Even women who are medical doctors or have a doctorate have decided to tackle the rigors of diaper-changing and bottle-washing: Only 20 percent of such highly educated women were childless by the time they reached age 40-44 in 2014, compared with 35 percent of similarly situated women in 1994.

Another trend is that highly educated women are “opting for bigger families than in the past,” said the report, which was based on an analysis of Census Bureau population data from 1976 to 2014.

Today, six-in-10 women with master’s degrees or higher have two or more children. This is an increase from 51 percent seen in 1994, Ms. Livingston wrote.

Fueled in part by these increases in childbearing among highly educated women, childlessness among all women ages 40-44 “is at the lowest point in a decade,” the report said.

In both 1994 and 2014, about 15 percent of women reach the end of their fertile years without giving birth.

This is significantly lower than the 20 percent childlessness seen around 2006, the report said. But it is still higher than in the 1970s and early 1980s, when only about 10 percent of women reached their early 40s without giving birth.

The Pew study found that among racial groups, Hispanic and black women were likely to have large families: Fully 20 percent of Hispanic women and 18 percent of black women have four or more children. In comparison, just 11 percent of white women and 10 percent of Asian women have such large families, the report said.

The report clarified that due to limitations in the data, it only counted women who had given birth as mothers. However, it noted, 7 percent of children who live with a parent are with either an adoptive parent or a step-parent. (Contributor: By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)

For prayer: Ironically, many women wanting children today will still approve abortions for other women when “convenient.” We live in an upside-down world. However, we can give thanks for every baby’s life that is preserved. Pray for the protection and restoration of traditional families, which requires the preservation of traditional marriage.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.” (Ps. 127:3-4)

 

BBQ RESTAURANT TO HOST 'WHITE APPRECIATION DAY'

The Hispanic owners of a barbecue restaurant in Milliken say they plan to host a "White Appreciation Day" next month.

What started as a joke is now on the calendar. Edgar Antillon and Miguel Jimenez recently purchased Rubbin Buttz BBQ on Broad Street. On June 11, they plan to offer a 10% discount to all white customers and no one else.

"We have a whole month for Black History Month," Antillon said. "We have a whole month for Hispanic heritage month, so we thought the least we could do was offer one day to appreciate white Americans."

The men expect they might receive backlash and say they realize there's a history of racism in the USA.

"It's a perpetuation of racism," said Ricardo Romero, a civil rights activist and community organizer in Weld County. "It's wrong, if you're going to give a discount, give it to the whole community."

There could be legal repercussions as well, according to Jennifer McPherson of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.

"If someone felt like they were being discriminated against, they could come to the civil rights division and file a complaint in our office and we would investigate that," said McPherson.

Antillon says the discount isn't meant to discriminate, but instead bring people together. He added that he has been the target of racism in the past. He hopes opening up the discussion will prompt others to think differently about race.

"We're all American, whether you came from a different country or you were born here," Antillon said. "We're all American."

Antillon said he would consider offering a discount to other racial groups, but said it's unlikely to actually happen. (Contributors: By Kevin Massey and Whitney Wild for USA Today)

For prayer: This is another “intercessors-should-be-aware” focus. We offer no specific prayer direction. The restaurant proprietors have rights, of course, which should be upheld. But they are being charged with racism, which is deeply seated in America in many forms and at many levels. Most Christian leaders believe it can only be eradicated through spiritual revival. All human hearts are darkened and deceitful apart from the light of God’s Word.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jer. 17:9-10)

“The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” (Ps. 119:130)

 

AN EFFECTIVE INTERCESSOR

1.  Reminds the Lord of promises and appointments not yet met and fulfilled.

On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the Lord, take no rest for yourselves; and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. Isaiah 62:6-7 NASB

  1. Takes up the case of justice before God on behalf of another.

Yes, truth is lacking; and he who turns aside from evil makes himself a prey. Now the Lord saw, and it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice. And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede... Isaiah 59:15-16a NASB

  1. Builds up the wall of protection against the demonic forces in critical times of battle.

O Israel, your prophets have been like foxes among ruins. You have not gone up into the breaches, nor did you build the wall around the house of Israel to stand in the battle on the day of the Lord. Ezekiel 13:4-5 NASB

  1. Stands in the gap between God's righteous judgment, which is due, and the need for mercy on the people's behalf.

"And I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. Thus I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads," declares the Lord God. Ezekiel 22:30-31 NASB

Bringing all four of these definitions together we see the following: An intercessor is one who relentlessly reminds the Lord of His prophetic promises while identifying the needs for justice in our generation. We do spiritual warfare against the powers of darkness in the mighty name of Jesus while lifting a cry for mercy upon our spheres of delegated rule for Christ's name sake!

Are you attentive? Are you on the Alert? Are you watching with Him? Are you waiting on Him or is He waiting on Us? "Attention! Be on the Alert!" (Contributor: By Dr. James W. Goll for Prayer Storm - excerpt from “God Quits When Man Quits”)

Special note: Occasionally, we will close the week’s Informer with an inspirational article intended to encourage faithful intercessors in their God-given task as “watchmen on the walls.” This short Bible study is not issue-oriented but describes the work of intercession in cooperating with God as He carries out His purposes among the nations.

On Watch in Washington May 13, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

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The Informer May 6, 2015

On Watch in Washington May 6, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

OUR ECONOMIC ‘SLOW-ROLLING CRISIS’

Are the alarm bells finally clanging at the White House and in Congress? They should be. This week’s pitiful economic growth scorecard of 0.2 percent economic growth for the first quarter of this year means the Obama slow-growth machine grinds onward. It’s the slowest recovery in a half-century. The “Summer of Recovery” Joe Biden promised back in 2009 still hasn’t arrived — six years later.

This is a national crisis, not any less significant than the burning of Baltimore last week. Actually, the two may be tied together. Economist Arthur Laffer shows that racial rioting in big cities is negatively associated with an economic growth rate. In the late 1960s and 1970s, cities become war zones, but the rioting almost entirely disappeared in the high-flying 1980s and 1990s, when incomes were rising and job growth surged. Under President Obama’s slow-growth economy, urban unrest is bubbling over.

The attached figure compares the growth rate for this recovery versus those over the past 50 years. We are $1.6 trillion lower on current gross domestic product than we should be. Even more amazing: With a Reagan-style recovery, we’d have $2.5 trillion more output and income today. On average, every family in America would have $20,000 more annual income. That’s the crisis that has Americans feeling so angry. It is, to borrow a phrase from Mr. Obama about the Baltimore riots, “a slow-rolling crisis.” He could have meant the economy.

One finding in this latest GDP report is especially worrisome. Business “nonresidential fixed investment” — which is spending by companies on plant, equipment, facilities and technology fell by 3.4 percent. Spending on structures fell by an astounding 23 percent. This business spending statistic is a fairly good leading indicator of where the economy is headed. Business investment in this recovery has been slow, and that may be a result of the business bashing that goes on in Washington month after month. The Obama tax increases on capital gains and dividends — which are direct taxes on the returns from business investment — haven’t helped, either.

When we get bad news like this, there’s always some excuse from the White House. The weather. The labor strike at the ports this winter. Ebola. The euro-crisis. George W. Bush. Maybe next they can blame Herbert Hoover.

Some economists on the left such as Paul Krugman of The New York Times are blaming fiscal and monetary “austerity” in America and Europe. Austerity? The U.S. government has borrowed $7 trillion in six years. The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet has expanded by $3.5 trillion. This is austerity?

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama is still trying valiantly to put lipstick on this economic pig. His spin forever will be that he saved America from a second Great Depression. Really? Mr. Obama’s own White House estimates on job growth show that the economy performed worse than it would have without the trillions of dollars of government borrowing. In other words, we would have been better off not borrowing $830 billion back in 2009.

A new book by James Grant titled “The Forgotten Depression” should be required reading at the White House. It tells the story of the early 1920s when the economy crashed after Woodrow Wilson’s disastrous “progressivism.” When the economy tanked, President Harding simply let the recession burn itself out. By doing so, along with the Harding-Coolidge tax cuts, the result was the Roaring ‘20s, which was one of the most prosperous decades in American history.

Fortunately, there are natural tailwinds that should accelerate growth over the next year or so. Low energy prices are an underappreciated stimulus. The strong dollar is bringing record amounts of new investment and construction to the United States. Profits, especially for the tech sector and companies such as Apple and Google are still very high.

But there’s no getting back that nearly $2 trillion of GDP that is now permanently missing. It’s one reason for black rage in the cities. The Obama growth deficit is this president’s enduring legacy. We can now officially declare Obamanomics a grand failed experiment. Let’s hope the history books get it right so we are never, ever foolish enough to try this again. (Contributor: By Stephen Moore for The Washington Times - Stephen Moore is a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a Fox News contributor.)

For prayer: One doesn’t need an advanced degree in economics to know that no individual, family, or country can become stabilized financially when it continues to amass debt without a plan to pay it off quickly and efficiently. Pray for God’s mercy and a divine “wakeup call” for a return to the fiscal restraint that marked America’s development into the leading nation in the world. That came through vision, courage, ingenuity, hard work, fair play, and God’s blessing. Our many divisions — politically, socially, and spiritually — require healing and restoration. America cannot be blessed while we have turned away from God. Pray for widespread revival.

“Now, therefore,” says the Lord, ‘turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.” (Joel 2:12-13)

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mark 3:24-25)

 

NAVY MOVING CLOSER TO ACQUIRING STEALTH MISSILES

Top defense contractors are poised to compete in a major industry battle to develop autonomous missiles for the U.S. Navy that can kill enemy ships at sea and demolish air-defense radar sites inland.

Although the Navy has so far released few details on what it plans to buy, missile manufacturers like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Boeing are keeping a close eye on a program the Navy has dubbed “next-generation strike capability.”

The Navy is seeking funds in its 2016-2020 budget to begin the development of next-generation strike weapons, with the goal to start an industry competition in fiscal year 2017. But the Navy has yet to settle on specific requirements.

In about a decade or so, the next-generation strike capability, or NGSC, would supplement or replace the current Harpoon and Tomahawk cruise missiles. What remains unknown is whether next-generation strike will be a single missile or a mix of weapons that would include ship killers and land-strike missiles that would target enemy air defenses deep inland.

The decision to move forward with next-generation strike comes after years of internal debate on how the Navy should arm itself for potential maritime wars against rising powers like China. The U.S. Pacific Command has singled out a new anti-ship missile as an “urgent operational need.”

Of concern to PACOM and to naval advocates on Capitol Hill is the lack of anti-ship weapons aboard Navy surface combatants, and they fear that current ship-launched cruise missiles are not stealthy enough to be able to penetrate the most advanced air defenses. An extended reach of 1,000 nautical miles or more is a key priority in the next-generation strike program, so Navy ships can operate within range of Chinese surface combatants equipped with anti-ship cruise missiles.

The Navy already has tested a new anti-ship missile that can be fired from fighter jets and strategic bombers — known as the long-range anti-ship missile, or LRASM, made by Lockheed Martin. Started in 2009 under the auspices of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the LRASM is a modified version of the joint air-to-surface standoff missile-extended range that Lockheed built for the U.S Air Force. DARPA announced in February that an LRASM prototype scored three-for-three in consecutive flight tests.

“Once operational, LRASM would play a significant role in ensuring military access to operate in open ocean/blue waters and the littorals due to its enhanced ability to discriminate and conduct tactical engagements from extended ranges,” DARPA said in a news release.

A key feature of this missile is a terminal guidance system that would allow it to reach a target even if the military were denied access to GPS signals or other network links.

Lockheed officials said the company is independently developing a ship-launched variant in anticipation of a future competition. The Navy chose the air-launched LRASM over other systems offered by Raytheon and Kongsberg. Lockheed is producing 90 missiles for the Navy that will be deployed on Super Hornet fighters and Air Force B-1 bombers by 2019.

In next-generation strike, the Navy merged what used to be two separate projects: One called “offensive anti-surface weapon increment 2” and another dubbed “next-generation land attack weapon.” The new missile, or family of weapons, would have greater range, destruction power and survivability than the current Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile and the Tomahawk ship-launched land attack cruise missile.

Analysts for years have questioned the Navy’s efforts to keep up with growing technological advances by China and other nations. “China is building a modern and regionally powerful Navy with a modest but growing capability for conducting operations beyond China’s near-seas region. The question of how the United States should respond to China’s military modernization effort is a key issue in U.S. defense planning,” wrote naval analyst Ronald O'Rourke, of the Congressional Research Service.

China has acquired Russian-made anti-ship cruise missiles that are carried by Russian-made destroyers and submarines, and has developed other missiles domestically, O’Rourke said.

The implication for the U.S. Navy is that it needs aircraft and weapons with longer ranges. The Navy is “going to have to adopt an offensive mindset,” naval strategist Bryan Clark, of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower and projection forces subcommittee.

“Today's surface fleet is more focused on defeating enemy missiles and torpedoes, than attacking the aircraft, submarines or sub-ships that have launched them,” Clark said. “Surface forces need to focus on killing the archer instead of shooting down its arrows.” The archers in this case are aircraft, submarines, and surface ships that are able to launch anti-ship cruise missiles, Clark said. “Today, the surface ships we deploy don't have weapons that are able to reach enemy aircraft, ships or submarines until we're already well within range of their anti-ship cruise missiles.”

Missile manufacturers believe the Navy will communicate its next-generation strike wish list some time in 2016. Competitors are weighing how best to position themselves. If the Navy chooses to combine the anti-ship and land-attack mission and select only one manufacturer, the stakes would be huge. Pressure to keep costs under control could benefit companies that spend their own funds to upgrade existing missiles.

Lockheed is viewed as having the inside track because it is already producing an air-launched anti-ship cruise missile and is developing a ship-launched variant. The company is expanding its manufacturing plant in Troy, Alabama, said Hady Mourad, tactical missiles advanced program director at Lockheed Martin. He said the company spent $32 million of internal R&D funds to mature the technology.

What specifically Lockheed would propose for next-generation strike is still to be determined, said company spokeswoman Amy Cochrum. LRASM is being designed as an anti-surface maritime weapon, but with minor retrofits it could be become a dual-role missile, prosecuting both land and sea targets, she told National Defense. “Until U.S. Navy requirements are defined and communicated to industry, final configurations or variants would be speculation at best.”

The Boeing Co. recently unveiled a modernized version of the Harpoon missile but that is not likely to be a contender for next-generation strike, a company spokeswoman said.

Boeing is waiting to hear more about what the Navy wants before it decides on its offering. Designing a new missile is one possibility, but it is too soon to say, said Deborah VanNierop, spokeswoman for Boeing Phantom Works. “Next-generation strike capability is in the very early stages and currently there are no requirements,” she noted. Boeing’s advanced weapons team has “briefed the Navy on key technologies and system options,” VanNierop told National Defense. “The team plans to continue to engage with the Navy as they formulate their requirements.”

Raytheon, meanwhile, expects to enjoy a key advantage as the manufacturer of the Tomahawk missile, as the Navy already has invested huge sums into the program. The company also makes the joint standoff weapon, an air-launched glide bomb that initially competed against LRASM. Raytheon has teamed with Norway’s Kongsberg Defense & Aerospace to develop an air-launched anti-ship missile and a ship-launched version for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.

Next-generation strike will likely include “improvements to current programs as well as potentially follow-on technologies,” Dave Adams, Tomahawk program director, said in a statement. “Raytheon is working with the Navy to minimize risk and costs by using the proven Tomahawk and JSOW weapon systems.”

Both Tomahawk and JSOW, Adams said, can defeat modern integrated air defenses. “And with the improvements we are developing for Tomahawk, we anticipate that this will hold any high value moving target at risk out to greater than 1,000 miles on land and at sea. And, both JSOW and Tomahawk are already fully integrated on U.S. Navy platforms, saving an enormous amount of integration costs.”

Raytheon recently announced it funded the development of a multi-mode seeker for the Tomahawk Block 4 cruise missile. “This is a critical step in enabling the missile to strike moving targets on land and at sea,” said Mike Jarrett, vice president of Raytheon Air Warfare Systems. (Contributor: By Sandra I. Erwin for National Defense Magazine)

For prayer: The purpose of a strong defense should be for the protection of the country’s citizens from enemies, both domestic and foreign, not for aggressive goals. Even then, it is the Lord’s hand and purpose that keep a nation safe. God will uphold governments whose leaders are committed to His glory and purpose. The U.S. is no longer a predominantly Christian nation, but we ask all intercessors to join us in praying for a return to the directives of our Constitution.

“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. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows … (Ps. 127:1-2a)

 

POLL: RELIGIOUS LIBERTY TRUMPS GAY RIGHTS

Most Americans think the government should protect religious liberties over gay rights when the two come into conflict, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds, though fewer think most businesses should be allowed to turn away gay couples because of religious beliefs.

The survey uncovered nuanced views on gay rights as the Supreme Court considers, in a case heard this week, whether the Constitution gives same-sex couples the right to marry.

Americans are more likely to say that religious liberties are more important for the government to protect than the rights of gays and lesbians, by a 56 percent to 40 percent margin, the poll found. Just a quarter of Americans call gay rights a very or extremely important issue to them personally, while half call religious liberties a very or extremely important issue.

But fewer Americans — just 40 percent — think most business owners should be allowed to refuse service to gays and lesbians on religious grounds. That finding goes to the heart of the significant political fallout over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics charged was intended to allow businesses discriminate against gays and lesbians.

With public opinion apparently split, it’s an open question how gay rights will play in the 2016 campaign.

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference, said Republicans would be wise to make religious freedom a central issue because the broad debate highlights intolerance against Christians. “Religious freedom will emerge as a centerpiece, and Democrats will have an impossible time defending against it,” said Rodriguez, whose organization aligns with conservative Republicans on this issue.

Others think the issue could be perilous for the GOP. “Religious liberty works well with religious people, which is the GOP’s base, but the argument is easily turned on its head when the issue is discrimination against gay people,” said veteran Republican strategist John Feehery. “I think the GOP is better off talking about economic security and national security, while leaving this particular issue to the courts to decide.”

Although only a minority of poll respondents thought businesses generally should be able to discriminate against gays or lesbians, support was stronger for letting wedding-related businesses in particular refuse service to same-sex couples — 52 percent said so. That was down slightly since the beginning of February, when 57 percent said so in an earlier AP-GfK poll.

The new poll found a distinct split between Republicans and Democrats on the issue. Most Democrats opposed any such discrimination by businesses; most Republicans thought businesses should have the right to refuse service, whether generally or for wedding matters.

On marriage, just under half of Americans want it to be legal for gay and lesbian couples to wed in their states, while just over a third are opposed, according to the poll.

There is a significant partisan divide over that issue, too, but it could be a moot point in the 2016 campaign if the Supreme Court affirms same-sex marriage.

On the court case, 50 percent said the justices should rule that gay marriage must be legal nationwide; 48 percent said they should not.

Kelly Huston, a retired autoworker from Newtown Falls, Ohio, says he doesn’t object to gay marriage, just as he doesn’t object to a business refusing to serve gay patrons.

“I think a business owner should decide what they want to do in their business,” Huston said. “I’m not against gays. I’m against the government telling people how to run their businesses.”

The issue could play differently in some regions than others. For example, the survey finds 60 percent of Southerners, but only 45 percent of Northeasterners or Westerners, say wedding-related businesses should be allowed to refuse service to gay couples.

In New Hampshire, which hosts the nation’s first presidential primary election, a leading Republican official warns prospective candidates against a heavy focus on religious freedom.

“For the average Republican presidential primary voter in New Hampshire, that’s not one of the top six or seven issues,” said Steve Duprey, New Hampshire’s national Republican committeeman. “I don’t think there’s anybody who could win the New Hampshire primary running on religious liberty.”

The AP-GfK poll of 1,077 adults was conducted online April 23-27, using a sample drawn from GfK’s probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them. Contributor: Associated Press and The Santa Fe New Mexican)

For prayer: Prospective voters should brace themselves, as polls seem to rule the day, and with nearly 20 months before next year’s presidential election, it appears that the pollsters desperately want to know what each citizens thinks about every aspect of American life. We were taught since grade school not to compare “apples and oranges,” but the poll discussed above compares religious liberty, a God-given right, with so-called gay rights, where the homosexual viewpoint is a preference. Meanwhile, the field of candidates running for president continues to grow.

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)

Daniel answered and said: ‘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)

 

GERMAN MEASLES OFFICIALLY ELIMINATED IN NORTH, SOUTH AMERICA

Health officials say the first region of the world to rid itself of German measles is North and South America.

World Health Organization officials on Wednesday said it has been more than five years since there's been a case that originated in the Americas. Now, the only German measles cases are imported from other parts of the world.

German measles — also known as rubella — is a viral disease spread through coughing or sneezing. It's generally a mild illness, involving a three-day rash and low-grade fever. But when pregnant women get it, the illness can cause birth defects.

In 2004, health officials declared it eliminated in the United States.

German measles is the third infectious disease to be eliminated from the Americas. The other two are smallpox and polio. (Contributor: Fox News and Associated Press)

For prayer: With so much bad news and negative reporting going on in today’s culture, this report is good news, indeed, and should inspire us to give thanks to God for His mercy and kindness. While we do not rejoice that other parts of the world still are subject to this infection, we can and should be thankful for its being overcome in our hemisphere and in our lifetime.

“Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people, and praise Him in the company of the elders. (Ps. 107:31-32)

 

A REMARKABLE YEAR FOR BIBLE TRANSLATION

A new record in Bible translation may have been set in 2014 for the highest number of new Scripture translations published in one year. According to the 2014 Global Scripture Access Report, published this week by United Bible Societies, last year Bible Societies helped complete translations in 51 languages spoken by more than 1.3 billion people (1.2 billion Chinese speakers and 146 million speakers of other languages.)

Some of these translations were launched in countries facing significant challenges. In Nigeria, for instance, where militant Islamic group Boko Haram carried out deadly attacks, the Bible Society launched four new Bible translations. One of them, the Bura Bible, was completed and launched in December, despite a Boko Haram bomb attack on the Bura Bible translation office in September. All of these were first-time translations, potentially giving 2.1 million Nigerians access to the full Bible in their heart language for the first time.

Liberia, too, faced enormous difficulties last year, losing more people to Ebola than any other country, but the Bible Society there launched two first-time full Bible translations. The Bible in Kpelle and Southern Kisi, spoken by nearly a million people, arrived at a time when people needed God's Word in their language more than ever before. But Southern Kisi speakers, most of whom live in the worst affected area of Liberia - Foyah District in Lofa County - delayed their celebrations until January 2015, when the situation had stabilised.

"That day they forgot about Ebola and came out in great numbers to march in celebration of the first Bible in their language," notes Paul Stevens, who leads the Bible Society of Liberia.

These launches in Nigeria and Liberia were among 30 'first-time' translations published across the world last year in languages spoken by nearly 10 million people. 18 language groups received their very first full Bible, 10 received their first New Testament, and two received shorter portions of Scripture for the first time.

The full Bible is now available in 542 languages spoken by 4.9 billion people, while the New Testament is available in 1,324 languages spoken by a further 673 million people. 1,020 languages have shorter portions of Scripture, while 4,015 languages spoken by 460 million people are still without any Scripture at all. (Contributor: Andrea Rhodes for Christian Newswire and United Bible Societies)

For prayer: This is a praise report, as the written Word of God continues to advance and find eager readers in every tribe, nation, culture, and people group. Many years ago in Central America, a young American missionary named W. Cameron (“Uncle Cam”) Townsend was asked by a tribal leader, “Does God speak our language?” As a result, Wycliffe Bible Translators was born. The work of Bible translation is tedious and tiring, but the results allow people to hold a copy of the Scriptures in their hands. Often, they must be taught to read their own language after it is reduced to written phonetic symbols. Give thanks for those who have accepted this calling.

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12)

 

TWO MUSLIMS KILLED AFTER OPENING FIRE AT EVENT IN TEXAS

Two men opened fire outside an event holding a cartoon contest of the [false] Prophet Mohammed before they were shot dead by police in suburban Dallas Sunday night.

While details about the gunmen, including their religion or their motive, weren’t immediately known, the shooting — as was the case in France in January and Denmark in February — targeted a facility where depictions of the revered Muslim prophet was being caricatured.

And it quickly reignited the debate on free speech versus provocation.

The keynote speaker at the event in Garland was right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who was placed on an al Qaeda hit list. And it was organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative — considered an anti-Muslim group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

“The Islamic jihadis are determined to suppress our freedom of speech violently.” Pam Geller, president of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, told CNN. “They struck in Paris and Copenhagen recently, and now in Texas.”

Exchange lasted seconds

The men drove up to the Curtis Culwell Center in North Garland, got out of their car and began shooting just as the “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” inside was ending around 7 p.m. (8 p.m. ET).

An unarmed security guard, Bruce Joiner, was shot in the ankle. He was later treated and released from a hospital.

Garland police, who were helping with security, fired back, killing both gunmen. The exchange lasted about 15 seconds, police said.

“The first suspect was shot immediately,” Garland Mayor Douglas Athas told CNN. “The second suspect was wounded and reached for his backpack. He was shot again.”

The gunmen’s identities weren’t immediately released.

“We have no other indication that anyone else was involved,” Athas said.

Early Monday morning, FBI and local officials were checking the gunmen’s vehicle for explosives and the area around the center was blocked off.

Surrounding businesses, including a Walmart, were evacuated, as were attendees from the Curtis Culwell Center.

There is no immediate threat to the area, police said; the check for explosives was a precautionary measure.

“It’s a very slow, tedious operation that goes on,” Garland police spokesman Joe Harn said.

Heavy security for event

The American Freedom Defense Initiative said it specifically picked the venue, a school district-owned facility, because it hosted an event denouncing Islamophobia in January.

The Sunday night event invited cartoonists to send in caricatures of Prophet Mohammad. The group said it received more than 350 submissions. The winning entry would get $10,000.

There were about 200 people at the event, police said.

“Most of the people who were there were from out of state,” Athas said.

Security was tight. The school district brought in extra officers, and the group itself hired several more. Security costs, the group said, were upwards of $30,000.

Only those who purchased tickets ahead of time were admitted. They had to go through metal detectors.

“We were prepared for something like this,” Harn, the police spokesman, said.

Shortly after the shooting, a security officer in military fatigues interrupted the gathering to herd the attendees into an auditorium.

“There was an incident outside, a police officer has been shot. Two suspects have been shot. Possibly have explosives on ’em, okay?” he said. “I just need everybody to remain calm, become orderly and we’re going to take you into the auditorium a little further away from the front of this building. All right?”

Someone asked, “Were the suspects Muslim?”

“I have no idea right now,” he responded.

Depiction considered blasphemy

Depictions of the [false] Prophet Mohammed are considered blasphemous by many Muslims.

The prohibition against illustrating the [false] Prophet Mohammed began as an attempt to ward off idol worship, which was widespread in Islam’s Arabian birthplace. But in recent years, it has taken a deadly toll.

In January, gunmen attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine that has a controversial history of depicting Mohammad, and killed 12 people.

The next month, a gunman attacked a free speech forum in Copenhagen, Denmark featuring cartoonist Larks Vilks, who infuriated al Qaeda with his depictions of Mohammed.

In the United States, cartoonist Molly Norris is still in hiding, four years after she depicted the likeness of Mohammed on several items and was deemed a “prime target” for execution by Islamic extremists.

Shortly after the Sunday night shooting, a prominent Muslim leader in Dallas tweeted that the incident was “just what we didn’t want.”

“The community stayed away from event,” wrote Imam Zia Sheikh. “Seems like a lone wolf type of attack. Just what we didn’t want.”

‘Freedom of speech is under violent assault’

Wilders, the keynote speaker at the Garland event, is controversial for his anti-Islam views. He was placed on an al Qaeda hit list for his film “Fitna.”

The film, which Wilders released online in March 2008 to international outcry, features disturbing images of terrorist acts superimposed over verses from the Quran in an apparent attempt to paint Islam as a threat to Western society.

In 2011, Wilders was cleared on charges of inciting discrimination and hatred with the movie.

“The day we give away humor and freedom of speech is the day that we cease to exist as a free and independent people,” he told the attendees at the Garland event Sunday night.

Likewise, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, is also notorious for its anti-Muslim stance.

Its president, Pamela Geller, is “the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead,” the SPLC says.

“Who designated the SPLC as a legitimate authority? They are a radical leftist group who targets patriots, vets and even GOP presidential candidates,” she told CNN. “They have never named a jihadi group as a hate group.”

A conservative blogger, she first gained national attention with her group, “Stop the Islamicization of America,” and its vocal opposition to an Islamic community center planned near the site of New York’s ground zero, where the twin towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed by Islamist hijackers on September 11, 2001.

She said Sunday night she wasn’t expecting such an attack, but wasn’t surprised that it happened.

“This incident shows how much needed our event really was. The freedom of speech is under violent assault here in our nation. The question now before us — will we stand and defend it, or bow to violence, thuggery, and savagery?”

The relevance of the venue

Because of the Sunday night shooting, the Garland Independent School District canceled Advanced Placement testing at the Curtis Culwell Center.

The center is owned by the school district and rented out for sporting events, concerts and other gatherings.

In January, it rented the facility for an event titled “Stand with the Prophet,” which was meant to counter Islamophobia after the Charlie Hebdo attack. It drew several hundred attendees and about 200 protesters, and went off without incident.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative said it intentionally booked the venue because of the January event.

Culwell Center Director John Wildborn told the Dallas Morning News that the venue has yet to turn down an event because of content.

As for Geller, she said she plans on holding similar events.

“I will not abridge my freedoms so as not to offend savages,” she said. (Contributor: By KTLA)

For prayer: We can justifiably give thanks that if anyone had to die, it was the assailants and not those who were expressing their free speech in displaying caricature cartoons. Authorities have since learned that both of the shooters were Muslims, one an American-born convert. A subsequent report claimed ISIS ties, though the authenticity of the connection was not established. At any rate, the shooters were shot and killed within 15-20 seconds after inflicting one wound on a guard who was treated and released. We give thanks for the alert actions of the Dallas-area police.

“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)

 

FORCES FREE 275 FROM BOKKO HARAM

Hundreds of traumatized Nigerian women and children rescued from Boko Haram Islamists have been released into the care of authorities at a refugee camp in the eastern town of Yola, an army spokesman said.

The 275 women and children, some of whom had bandaged heads and arms, arrived in the camp ran by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) on Saturday night after days on the road traveling in pick-up trucks.

Nearly 700 kidnap victims have been freed from Boko Haram's stronghold in the northeastern Sambisa Forest since Tuesday, with the latest group of 234 women and children liberated on Friday.

"We don't have the facilities and resources to take care of these," army spokesman said. "The best organization in the country to take care of these people is NEMA."

Initial indications are that none of more than 200 schoolgirls snatched from their school dormitories in Chibok town in April 2014 were among the three groups released this week.

While Boko Haram has been kidnapping girls and women and turning them into cooks, sex slaves and human shields even before the attack on Chibok, it was that one incident that drew global attention to the six-year-old insurgency.

It is not known how many people Boko Haram has abducted but Amnesty International estimates the insurgenst, who are intent on bringing western Africa under Islamist rule, has taken more than 2,000 women and girls captive since the start of 2014.

Boko Haram is thought to have killed thousands of people but Nigerian troops alongside neighboring armies from Chad, Cameroon and Niger have won back swathes of territory from them in the last couple of months. (Contributor: Reuters and The Jerusalem Post)

For prayer: Let all who read this report from a place of safety give thanks for their own freedom and for those who have been set free in Nigeria. Christian relief and mission agencies have already begun to assist with the former captives’ restoration and to supply basic needs for subsistence. The suffering these women have gone through is beyond comprehension to people who have never known such upheaval. As this and other stories unfold, will we in America learn what our own country and culture would look like if Islamic terrorists gain a substantial foothold in North America? Let us intercede, turning to God in repentance and renewed commitment to seek His mercy and protection.

“Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Ps. 73:25-26)

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Ps. 147:3)

On Watch in Washington May 6, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

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The Informer April 29, 2015

On Watch in Washington April 29, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

HOMOSEXUAL MARRIAGE CASE IN JUSTICES' HANDS

The Supreme Court’s historic consideration Tuesday of whether the Constitution protects the right of [homosexual] couples nationwide to marry seemed to come down to a familiar arbiter: Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

That’s normally a safe haven for [homosexual] activists — Kennedy has written each of the court’s major victories advancing their movement. But the question after the hearing seemed to be whether forcing reluctant states to allow same-sex unions was a logical extension of the court’s rulings or too much, too fast.

Kennedy seemed to be working it out. On the one hand, he pressed lawyer Mary L. Bonauto, representing gay couples challenging states’ bans, to explain why the court should change the tradition of marriage as only between a man and a woman when the concept of same-sex marriage is so new.

“This definition [of traditional marriage] has been with us for millennia,” Kennedy said. “And it’s very difficult for the court to say, ‘Oh, well, we know better.’ ”

But by the end of the arguments, questioning John Bursch, the attorney representing four states that want to keep restrictive laws, Kennedy sounded more like one of the lyrical passages in one of his opinions.

“Same­-sex couples say, of course, we understand the nobility and the sacredness of the marriage,” Kennedy told Bursch. “We know we can’t procreate, but we want the other attributes of it in order to show that we, too, have a dignity that can be fulfilled.”

The justices are considering two simple-sounding questions: whether the Constitution requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and, if not, whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states where they are legal.

But the arguments were filled with discussions of equal protection and fundamental liberties, how an understanding of the Constitution changes with society, and when majority rule must give way to minority rights.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the member of the court who most seemed during arguments to be searching for middle ground, said a decision finding a constitutional right at this time would mean radical change and would short-circuit public debate.

“You’re not seeking to join the institution — you’re seeking to change what the institution is,” Roberts told Bonauto. “The fundamental core of the institution is the opposite-sex relationship, and you want to introduce into it a same-sex relationship.”

Roberts added later: “If you prevail here, there will be no more debate. I mean, closing of debate can close minds, and it will have a consequence on how this new institution is accepted. People feel very differently about something if they have a chance to vote on it than if it’s imposed on them by the courts.”

He also pointed to a different way to look at the case, rather than casting it as discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“I mean, if Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t,” Roberts said. “And the difference is based upon their different sex. Why isn’t that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?”

Bonauto wanted a clear ruling on the constitutional question. She said it was the states that had closed the debate, by passing constitutional amendments defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. Amending state constitutions and relying on majority vote for rights is not what the Constitution anticipates, she said.

“If a legal commitment, responsibility and protection that is marriage is off limits to gay people as a class, the stain of unworthiness that follows on individuals and families contravenes the basic constitutional commitment to equal dignity,” Bonauto said.

She was making her first argument before the Supreme Court but has been a pioneer in the legal movement to secure same-sex marriage, winning the first major case that found a right to same-sex marriage, in Massachusetts in 2003.

Bonauto received a boost from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who pointed out that definitions of marriage had already changed. “Marriage was a relationship of a dominant male to a subordinate female,” she said.

But there was resistance from the conservative justices, and a bit from one of the liberals, Justice Stephen G. Breyer. “Suddenly, you want nine people outside the ballot box to require states that don’t want to do it to change.”

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. asked that if the definition of marriage was simply a commitment between loving consenting adults, how could a state withhold that from siblings, or two women and two men who decided to marry. “Would there be any ground for denying them a license?” Alito asked.

Justice Antonin Scalia said that if the decisions on marriage continue to be made democratically by the states, those states could make religious accommodations that would not be possible if there was a decision that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right.

“Is it conceivable that a minister who is authorized by the state to conduct marriage can decline to marry two men if indeed this court holds that they have a constitutional right to marry?” he asked.

Bonauto said it was well established that clergy are not forced to perform actions that violate their religious beliefs.

The Obama administration weighed in on behalf of the couples, and Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. argued that withholding marriage violates equal-protection guarantees.

“In a world in which gay and lesbian couples live openly as our neighbors, they raise their children side by side with the rest of us, they contribute fully as members of the community . . . it is simply untenable — untenable — to suggest that they can be denied the right of equal participation in an institution of marriage, or that they can be required to wait until the majority decides that it is ready to treat gay and lesbian people as equals,” he said.

Bursch, a former Michigan solicitor general representing that state along with Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, pleaded with the justices to allow the democratic debate over same-sex marriage to continue.

“This case isn’t about how to define marriage,” he said. “It’s about who gets to decide that question. Is it the people acting through the democratic process or is it the federal courts? And we’re asking you to affirm every individual’s fundamental liberty interest in deciding the meaning of marriage.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor stopped him there. “Nobody is taking that away from anybody,” she said. “Every single individual in this society chooses, if they can, their sexual orientation or who to marry or not marry.”

Bursch said that the states’ interest in marriage was not to “deny dignity or to give second-class status to anyone. It developed to serve purposes that, by their nature, arise from biology.”

He said the states’ interest in marriage was keeping together men and women to care for the children that they intentionally or accidentally create.

Justice Elena Kagan asked Bursch if he believes that “if one allowed same-sex marriage, one would be announcing to the world that marriage and children have nothing to do with each other.”

He said the state has a child-centric interest in marriage, not to legitimize the relationships of committed adults.

Roberts dominated the second argument, about whether states could be forced to recognize marriages performed in states where they were legal.

The question would be moot if the court declares a constitutional right, but the second argument lent force to the idea that it might be the chief justice’s preferred path and could perhaps win a wider majority.

If states are forced to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, Roberts suggested, it would be “only a matter of time” before same-sex marriage settled in as a national norm. It would effectively allow “one state” or a minority of states to “set policy for the nation.”

At the same time, the Roberts line of questioning suggested he did not view that possibility with great alarm, at least as an alternative to a court decision holding that all states must permit same-sex marriages within their borders.

Isn’t it “quite rare for a state not to recognize” a marriage performed elsewhere? he asked.

The recognition of a constitutional right would mark the culmination of an unprecedented upheaval in public opinion about gay rights and a dramatic change in the nation’s jurisprudence. Same-sex marriages were practically unheard of in the nation until a Massachusetts court decision cleared the way for unions there just a dozen years ago.

Now, more than 70 percent of Americans live in states where [homosexuals] are allowed to marry, according to estimates.

The questions raised in the cases that the court will consider were left unanswered in 2013, when the justices last confronted the issue of same-sex marriage. A slim majority of the court said at the time that a key portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act — withholding recognition of same-sex marriages — was unconstitutional and in a separate case allowed same-sex marriages to resume in California.

Since then, courts across the nation — with the notable exception of the Cincinnati-based federal appeals court that left intact the restrictions in the four states at issue — have struck down a string of state prohibitions on same-sex marriage, many of them passed by voters in referendums.

When the Supreme Court declined to review a clutch of those court decisions in October, same-sex marriage proliferated across the country.

Couples may now marry in 37 states and the District of Columbia.

Public attitudes toward such unions have undergone a remarkable change as well. A recent Washington Post-ABC poll showed a record 61 percent of Americans say they support same-sex marriage. The acceptance is driven by higher margins among the young.

When the justices declined in October to review the string of victories same-sex marriage proponents had won in other parts of the country, it meant the number of states required to allow gay marriages grew dramatically, offering the kind of cultural shift the court often likes to see before approving a fundamental change.

The combined cases now before the Supreme Court are Obergefell v. Hodges. (Contributor: By Robert Barnes and Fred Barbash for The Washington Post - Mark Berman and Sandhya Somashekhar contributed to this report. Robert Barnes has been a Washington Post reporter and editor since 1987. He has covered the Supreme Court since November 2006. Fred Barbash, the editor of Morning Mix, is a former National Editor and London Bureau Chief for the Washington Post.)

For Prayer: The oral arguments were heard in depth yesterday (Tuesday, 4/28). The justices were not pushovers for the same-sex marriage presentations, poking back at the liberal side’s pro-homosexual agenda with some surprising retorts. As always, “the [justices’] hearts are in the hand of the Lord” (to paraphrase Prov. 21:1). Intercessors have been primed and active this week, and we urge continued prayer that God will overcome the high court’s liberal majority bias toward finding new so-called “rights” within our tattered U.S. Constitution (“rights” that the founders never dreamed of). Please continue to pray. This struggle is not even close to being over, regardless of the court’s decision.

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” (Prov. 21:1-3)

“Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Show us Your mercy, Lord, and grant us Your salvation.” (Ps. 85:6-7)

 

SENATE PANEL APPROVES LORETTA LYNCH - VOTE TO COME

The Senate Judiciary Committee cleared Sally Quillian Yates Thursday to be the next deputy attorney general, granting her bipartisan support that stood in stark contrast to the bitter partisan divide over Loretta Lynch, the women facing a final vote on becoming the top official at the Justice Department.

Ms. Yates was approved by the committee on an 18-2 vote, winning praise from Democrats who said she was qualified, and from Republicans who said she showed a willingness to be independent of the White House in a way that Ms. Lynch did not.

"The attorney general is not the president's lawyer," said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, who voted for Ms. Yates, saying she grasped that concept while Ms. Lynch, whom he planned to oppose, did not.

Ms. Yates's nomination now heads to the full Senate, where her approval is assured, given the support she had in committee.

Ms. Lynch, meanwhile, faces a vote later Thursday in the full Senate. If confirmed, she would be the first black woman to hold the top law enforcement post, earning a promotion from her current post as federal prosecutor in New York.

Ms. Yates, who is white, is a prosecutor in Georgia, and had strong support of that state's two Republican senators, which helped her nomination.

During her confirmation hearings she generally defended the president's policies but did say she viewed the role of the Justice Department as being an independent constitutional authority whose clients are the American people, not the president or Congress.

"This may seem to some like a small point. But it's important to me," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and chairman of the committee, who helped shepherd Ms. Yates's nomination through the panel.

He said Ms. Yates also showed a willingness to be forthcoming on certain questions, including confirming that the Justice Department gave legal advice by email to the White House on the prisoner exchange involving five Taliban warriors and Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, in May and June of last year. The swap happened on May 31, which Mr. Grassley said suggests the legal wrangling with the Justice Department continued even after the exchange went down.

Ms. Yates, who has been serving as acting deputy attorney general, said the department's Office of Legal Council won't release the substance of those emails because they are considered confidential legal advice.

"I do not intend to revisit that decision," she said in written responses to questions from Mr. Grassley. (Contributor: By Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times)

For prayer: The prayer focus here is not on Loretta Lynch personally but on the philosophy of government that has become paramount in the United States. A sense of gridlock exists that appears to have polarized and paralyzed the relationship between the executive branch (President Obama and his administration) and the U.S. Congress. Our country is deeply divided, and while ultimate solutions are in God’s hands, healing and reconciliation will only come as an awakened Church prays together in renewed unity. Please pray accordingly. Jesus said that a divided house or kingdom cannot stand.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.” (Ps. 133:1-3)

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mark 3:24-25)

 

CHINESE SCIENTISTS GENETICALLY MODIFY HUMAN EMBRYOS

In a world first, Chinese scientists have reported editing the genomes of human embryos. The results are published1 in the online journal Protein & Cell and confirm widespread rumours that such experiments had been conducted — rumours that sparked a high-profile debate last month2, 3 about the ethical implications of such work.

In the paper, researchers led by Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, tried to head off such concerns by using 'non-viable' embryos, which cannot result in a live birth, that were obtained from local fertility clinics. The team attempted to modify the gene responsible for β-thalassaemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder, using a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9. The researchers say that their results reveal serious obstacles to using the method in medical applications.

"I believe this is the first report of CRISPR/Cas9 applied to human pre-implantation embryos and as such the study is a landmark, as well as a cautionary tale," says George Daley, a stem-cell biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. "Their study should be a stern warning to any practitioner who thinks the technology is ready for testing to eradicate disease genes."

Some say that gene editing in embryos could have a bright future because it could eradicate devastating genetic diseases before a baby is born. Others say that such work crosses an ethical line: researchers warned in Nature2 in March that because the genetic changes to embryos, known as germline modification, are heritable, they could have an unpredictable effect on future generations. Researchers have also expressed concerns that any gene-editing research on human embryos could be a slippery slope towards unsafe or unethical uses of the technique.

The paper by Huang's team looks set to reignite the debate on human-embryo editing — and there are reports that other groups in China are also experimenting on human embryos.

Problematic gene

The technique used by Huang’s team involves injecting embryos with the enzyme complex CRISPR/Cas9, which binds and splices DNA at specific locations. The complex can be programmed to target a problematic gene, which is then replaced or repaired by another molecule introduced at the same time. The system is well studied in human adult cells and in animal embryos. But there had been no published reports of its use in human embryos.

Huang and his colleagues set out to see if the procedure could replace a gene in a single-cell fertilized human embryo; in principle, all cells produced as the embryo developed would then have the repaired gene. The embryos they obtained from the fertility clinics had been created for use in in vitro fertilization but had an extra set of chromosomes, following fertilization by two sperm. This prevents the embryos from resulting in a live birth, though they do undergo the first stages of development.

Huang’s group studied the ability of the CRISPR/Cas9 system to edit the gene called HBB, which encodes the human β-globin protein. Mutations in the gene are responsible for β-thalassaemia.

Serious obstacles

The team injected 86 embryos and then waited 48 hours, enough time for the CRISPR/Cas9 system and the molecules that replace the missing DNA to act — and for the embryos to grow to about eight cells each. Of the 71 embryos that survived, 54 were genetically tested. This revealed that just 28 were successfully spliced, and that only a fraction of those contained the replacement genetic material. “If you want to do it in normal embryos, you need to be close to 100%,” Huang says. “That’s why we stopped. We still think it’s too immature.”

His team also found a surprising number of ‘off-target’ mutations assumed to be introduced by the CRISPR/Cas9 complex acting on other parts of the genome. This effect is one of the main safety concerns surrounding germline gene editing because these unintended mutations could be harmful. The rates of such mutations were much higher than those observed in gene-editing studies of mouse embryos or human adult cells. And Huang notes that his team likely only detected a subset of the unintended mutations because their study looked only at a portion of the genome, known as the exome. “If we did the whole genome sequence, we would get many more,” he says.

Ethical questions

Huang says that the paper was rejected by Nature and Science, in part because of ethical objections; both journals declined to comment on the claim. (Nature’s news team is editorially independent of its research editorial team.)

He adds that critics of the paper have noted that the low efficiencies and high number of off-target mutations could be specific to the abnormal embryos used in the study. Huang acknowledges the critique, but because there are no examples of gene editing in normal embryos he says that there is no way to know if the technique operates differently in them.

Still, he maintains that the embryos allow for a more meaningful model — and one closer to a normal human embryo — than an animal model or one using adult human cells. “We wanted to show our data to the world so people know what really happened with this model, rather than just talking about what would happen without data,” he says.

But Edward Lanphier, one of the scientists who sounded the warning in Nature last month, says: "It underlines what we said before: we need to pause this research and make sure we have a broad based discussion about which direction we’re going here." Lanphier is president of Sangamo BioSciences in Richmond, California, which applies gene-editing techniques to adult human cells.

Huang now plans to work out how to decrease the number of off-target mutations using adult human cells or animal models. He is considering different strategies — tweaking the enzymes to guide them more precisely to the desired spot, introducing the enzymes in a different format that could help to regulate their lifespans and thus allow them to be shut down before mutations accumulate, or varying the concentrations of the introduced enzymes and repair molecules. He says that using other gene-editing techniques might also help. CRISPR/Cas9 is relatively efficient and easy to use, but another system called TALEN is known to cause fewer unintended mutations.

The debate over human embryo editing is sure to continue for some time, however. CRISPR/Cas9 is known for its ease of use and Lanphier fears that more scientists will now start to work towards improving on Huang's paper. “The ubiquitous access to and simplicity of creating CRISPRs," he says, "creates opportunities for scientists in any part of the world to do any kind of experiments they want.”

A Chinese source familiar with developments in the field said that at least four groups in China are pursuing gene editing in human embryos. (Contributor: By David Cyranoski & Sara Reardon for Nature.com)

For prayer: Intercessors, please note two opposing forces at work here. The first is that technology is developing rapidly that allows laboratory research to experiment with the building blocks of life at the gene level. This is now called “genetic editing.” The other “force” is the determination of the press to “get the story,” whether or not the news is ready for publication. Our own sense is to pray for caution and restraint in what is increasingly a research milieu that ignores the existence of God. The natural mind wants to create and control life, sort of like “building a tower to heaven” (see Gen. 11).

“And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’ But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, … ‘Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel …” (Gen. 11:4-9)

“Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (Ps. 100:3)

 

SALE OF U.S. ARMS FUELS THE WARS OF ARAB STATES

To wage war in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is using F-15 fighter jets bought from Boeing. Pilots from the United Arab Emirates are flying Lockheed Martin’s F-16 to bomb both Yemen and Syria. Soon, the Emirates are expected to complete a deal with General Atomics for a fleet of Predator drones to run spying missions in their neighborhood.

As the Middle East descends into proxy wars, sectarian conflicts and battles against terrorist networks, countries in the region that have stockpiled American military hardware are now actually using it and wanting more. The result is a boom for American defense contractors looking for foreign business in an era of shrinking Pentagon budgets — but also the prospect of a dangerous new arms race in a region where the map of alliances has been sharply redrawn.

Last week, defense industry officials told Congress that they were expecting within days a request from Arab allies fighting the Islamic State — Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt — to buy thousands of American-made missiles, bombs and other weapons, replenishing an arsenal that has been depleted over the past year.

The United States has long put restrictions on the types of weapons that American defense firms can sell to Arab nations, meant to ensure that Israel keeps a military advantage against its traditional adversaries in the region. But because Israel and the Arab states are now in a de facto alliance against Iran, the Obama administration has been far more willing to allow the sale of advanced weapons in the Persian Gulf, with few public objections from Israel.

“When you look at it, Israel’s strategic calculation is a simple one,” said Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The gulf countries “do not represent a meaningful threat” to Israel, he said. “They do represent a meaningful counterbalance to Iran.”

Industry analysts and Middle East experts say that the region’s turmoil, and the determination of the wealthy Sunni nations to battle Shiite Iran for regional supremacy, will lead to a surge in new orders for the defense industry’s latest, most high-tech hardware.

The militaries of gulf nations have been “a combination of something between symbols of deterrence and national flying clubs,” said Richard L. Aboulafia, a defense analyst at the Teal Group. “Now they’re suddenly being used.”

Saudi Arabia spent more than $80 billion on weaponry last year — the most ever, and more than either France or Britain — and has become the world’s fourth-largest defense market, according to figures released last week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks global military spending. The Emirates spent nearly $23 billion last year, more than three times what they spent in 2006.

Qatar, another gulf country with bulging coffers and a desire to assert its influence around the Middle East, is on a shopping spree. Last year, Qatar signed an $11 billion deal with the Pentagon to purchase Apache attack helicopters and Patriot and Javelin air-defense systems. Now the tiny nation is hoping to make a large purchase of Boeing F-15 fighters to replace its aging fleet of French Mirage jets. Qatari officials are expected to present the Obama administration with a wish list of advanced weapons before they come to Washington next month for meetings with other gulf nations.

American defense firms are following the money. Boeing opened an office in Doha, Qatar, in 2011, and Lockheed Martin set up an office there this year. Lockheed created a division in 2013 devoted solely to foreign military sales, and the company’s chief executive, Marillyn Hewson, has said that Lockheed needs to increase foreign business — with a goal of global arms sales’ becoming 25 percent to 30 percent of its revenue — in part to offset the shrinking of the Pentagon budget after the post-Sept. 11 boom.

American intelligence agencies believe that the proxy wars in the Middle East could last for years, which will make countries in the region even more eager for the F-35 fighter jet, considered to be the jewel of America’s future arsenal of weapons. The plane, the world’s most expensive weapons project, has stealth capabilities and has been marketed heavily to European and Asian allies. It has not yet been peddled to Arab allies because of concerns about preserving Israel’s military edge.

But with the balance of power in the Middle East in flux, several defense analysts said that could change. Russia is a major arms supplier to Iran, and a decision by President Vladimir V. Putin to sell an advanced air defense system to Iran could increase demand for the F-35, which is likely to have the ability to penetrate Russian-made defenses.

“This could be the precipitating event: the emerging Sunni-Shia civil war coupled with the sale of advanced Russian air defense systems to Iran,” Mr. Aboulafia said. “If anything is going to result in F-35 clearance to the gulf states, this is the combination of events.”

At the same time, giving the gulf states the ability to strike Iran at a time of their choosing might be the last thing the United States wants. There are already questions about how judicious Washington’s allies are in using American weaponry.

“A good number of the American arms that have been used in Yemen by the Saudis have been used against civilian populations,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, an assertion that Saudi Arabia denies.

Mr. Kimball said he viewed the increase in arms sales to the region “with a great deal of trepidation, as it is leading to an escalation in the type and number and sophistication in the weaponry in these countries.”

Congress enacted a law in 2008 requiring that arms sales allow Israel to maintain a “qualitative military edge” in the region. All sales to the Middle East are evaluated based on how they will affect Israeli military superiority. But the Obama administration has also viewed improving the militaries of select Arab nations — those that see Iran as a threat in the region — as critical to Israeli security.

“It is also important to note that our close relationships with countries in the region are critical to regional stability and Israel’s security,” Andrew J. Shapiro said in a speech in 2011, when he was an assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs. “Our relationships with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and many Gulf countries allow the United States to strongly advocate for peace and stability in the region.”

There is an unquestionably sectarian character to the current conflicts in the Middle East, nowhere more so than in the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen. The Saudis have assembled a group of Sunni nations to attack Houthi militia fighters who have taken over Yemen’s capital, Sana, and ousted a government backed by Saudi Arabia and the United States. Saudi officials have said that the Houthis, a Shiite group, are being covertly backed by Iran. Other nations that have joined the coalition against the Houthis, like Morocco, have characterized their participation in blunt sectarian terms.

“It’s a question of protecting the Sunnis,” Mbarka Bouaida, Morocco’s deputy foreign minister, said in an interview.

But Sunni nations have also shown a new determination to use military force against radical Sunni groups like the Islamic State. A number of Arab countries are using an air base in Jordan to launch attacks against Islamic State fighters in Syria. Separately, the Emirates and Egypt have carried out airstrikes in Libya against Sunni militias there.

Meanwhile, the deal to sell Predator drones to the Emirates is nearing final approval. The drones will be unarmed, but they will be equipped with lasers to allow them to better identify targets on the ground.

If the sale goes through, it will be the first time that the drones will go to an American ally outside of NATO. (Contributor: By Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper for The New York Times)

For prayer: The Middles East continues to be full of confusion. Who is a friend? Who is an enemy? It is not surprising that U.S. weapons are being recycled and turning up in various national alliances and agreements, many of which are focused against Israel. The greatest irony would be for American-made planes, weapons, and missiles, in some perverse twist, to be turned on Israel. Pray for the peace and protection of Israel in the midst of her sworn enemies. Ask God to bring restraint on those surrounding nations that want Israel destroyed. Pray, too, for Israel, as a nation, to turn to the Lord.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces.’ For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, ‘Peace be within you.’” (Ps. 122:6-8)

 

NEW ABORTION CONTROVERSY HITS CONGRESS

The same day that the Senate reached a deal on abortion language in a bill to combat human trafficking, the House of Representatives began considering legislation that is igniting a new controversy over the divisive social issue.

The House Oversight Committee approved a resolution on Tuesday night with a party line vote that would attempt to overturn a law passed by the District of Columbia Council in December that bans employers from taking punitive action against any employees for using abortion services or birth control. The bill could be scheduled for a full House vote as early as next week.

The new House resolution, sponsored by Tennessee Rep. Diane Black, says the D.C. law, the "Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act," accomplishes the opposite of what its name implies.

"This coercive measure would ban pro-life organizations in D.C. from even considering a job seeker's views on abortion as a condition of employment," Black said in a statement. "This is an affront to the conscience rights of every American who believes, as I do, in the cause of protecting the unborn. Congress must not remain silent while this injustice unfolds."

The Heritage Foundation and other conservative groups have pressed the GOP-led Congress to block the D.C. law. In an analysis published by two Heritage policy analysts, the group asserts that anti-abortion rights groups based in Washington would be faced with decisions about hiring candidates that could conflict with their beliefs.

"Organizations whose mission is to empower women facing unplanned pregnancies with physical and emotional support or who advocate for policies that affirm the dignity and value of both mother and child could be forced to provide health insurance for the life-ending procedure they oppose," the report states.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called this latest GOP abortion bill "outrageous."

"Allowing employers to fire employees for using birth control, or in vitro fertilization, or any other reproductive health care service is an unconscionable intrusion into workers' personal lives," said Pelosi in a written statement on Monday. "By disapproving D.C.'s law, House Republicans would even allow employers to fire employees for the reproductive health decisions that their employees' spouses and dependents make."

Debate on the measure in the oversight panel became both heated and personal [last] Tuesday.

"This is a continued attack on religion and a person's 1st Amendment rights of freedom of belief," Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Michigan, said the committee's markup on the bill.

But Democrats on the panel argued the GOP was once again raising a controversial issue and imposing its views on the District of Columbia.

"It is absurd and arrogant and ignorant that in 2015 we would be having these discussions," Democratic Rep. Watson Coleman of New Jersey said Tuesday. She added she would come back for the vote but refused to listen to the debate on the issue.

Congress has the authority under the Constitution to nullify a law passed by the District of Columbia government. To roll back the bill, both the House and Senate need to pass a resolution of disapproval 30 days after the measure was transmitted to Capitol Hill. The resolution would need to be signed into law by the President.

But the chances that this move by the House will actually overturn the law are low. Time is running out, since the legislation was sent up to the Hill on March 6, and even if the measure is approved by the full House and Senate, the President Barack Obama is expected to veto it.

Earlier this year many of the anti-abortion rights groups were disappointed when House Republican leaders pulled a bill from the bill that would have banned so-called "late-term" abortions for women who are beyond 20 weeks into their pregnancy. The decision to move this legislation could help quell the criticism from those groups as GOP leaders are still negotiating changes to that bill to address internal divisions. (Contributor: By Deirdre Walsh for CNN News)

For prayer: To bring this into sharp focus, this could mean, for example, that a Christian, pro-life, pregnancy-counseling ministry in Washington, DC could not ask an applicant for a counseling position whether she (or he) held pro-life or pro-abortion views. Nancy Pelosi said that to do otherwise would be “outrageous.” This is another ruse to discriminate against those who want to preserve the freedom to remain 100 percent pro-life. Please pray with wisdom and discernment.

“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)

 

SCIENTISTS CERTAIN THAT DRILLING IS CAUSING EARTHQUAKES

With the evidence coming in from one study after another, scientists are now more certain than ever that oil and gas drilling is causing hundreds upon hundreds of earthquakes across the U.S.

So far, the quakes have been mostly small and have done little damage beyond cracking plaster, toppling bricks and rattling nerves. But seismologists warn that the shaking can dramatically increase the chances of bigger, more dangerous quakes.

Up to now, the oil and gas industry has generally argued that any such link requires further study. But the rapidly mounting evidence could bring heavier regulation down on drillers and make it more difficult for them to get projects approved.

The potential for man-made quakes "is an important and legitimate concern that must be taken very seriously by regulators and industry," said Jason Bordoff, founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.

He said companies and states can reduce the risk by taking such steps as monitoring operations more closely, imposing tighter standards and recycling wastewater from drilling instead of injecting it underground.

A series of government and academic studies over the past few years — including at least two reports released this week alone — has added to the body of evidence implicating the U.S. drilling boom that has created a bounty of jobs and tax revenue over the past decade or so.

On Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey released the first comprehensive maps pinpointing more than a dozen areas in the central and eastern U.S. that have been jolted by quakes that the researchers said were triggered by drilling. The report said man-made quakes tied to industry operations have been on the rise.

Scientists have mainly attributed the spike to the injection of wastewater deep underground, a practice they say can activate dormant faults. Only a few cases of shaking have been blamed on fracking, in which large volumes of water, sand and chemicals are pumped into rock formations to crack them open and free oil or gas.

"The picture is very clear" that wastewater injection can cause faults to move, said USGS geophysicist William Ellsworth.

Until recently, Oklahoma — one of the biggest energy-producing states — had been cautious about linking the spate of quakes to drilling. But the Oklahoma Geological Survey acknowledged earlier this week that it is "very likely" that recent seismic activity was caused by the injection of wastewater into disposal wells.

Earthquake activity in Oklahoma in 2013 was 70 times greater than it was before 2008, state geologists reported. Oklahoma historically recorded an average of 1.5 quakes of magnitude 3 or greater each year. It is now seeing an average of 2.5 such quakes each day, according to geologists.

Angela Spotts, who lives outside Stillwater, Oklahoma, in an area with a number of wastewater disposal wells, said the shaking has damaged her brick home. She pointed to the cracked interior and exterior walls, and windows and kitchen cabinets that are separating from the structure.

"There's been no doubt in my mind what's causing them," Spotts said. "Sadly, it's really taken a long time for people to come around. Our lives are being placed at risk. Our homes are being broken."

Yet another study, this one published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, connected a swarm of small quakes west of Fort Worth, Texas, to nearby natural gas wells and wastewater disposal.

The American Petroleum Institute said the industry is working with scientists and regulators "to better understand the issue and work toward collaborative solutions."

With the evidence coming in from one study after another, scientists are now more certain than ever that oil and gas drilling is causing hundreds upon hundreds of earthquakes across the U.S.

So far, the quakes have been mostly small and have done little damage beyond cracking plaster, toppling bricks and rattling nerves. But seismologists warn that the shaking can dramatically increase the chances of bigger, more dangerous quakes.

Up to now, the oil and gas industry has generally argued that any such link requires further study. But the rapidly mounting evidence could bring heavier regulation down on drillers and make it more difficult for them to get projects approved.

The potential for man-made quakes "is an important and legitimate concern that must be taken very seriously by regulators and industry," said Jason Bordoff, founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.

He said companies and states can reduce the risk by taking such steps as monitoring operations more closely, imposing tighter standards and recycling wastewater from drilling instead of injecting it underground.

A series of government and academic studies over the past few years — including at least two reports released this week alone — has added to the body of evidence implicating the U.S. drilling boom that has created a bounty of jobs and tax revenue over the past decade or so.

On Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey released the first comprehensive maps pinpointing more than a dozen areas in the central and eastern U.S. that have been jolted by quakes that the researchers said were triggered by drilling. The report said man-made quakes tied to industry operations have been on the rise.

Scientists have mainly attributed the spike to the injection of wastewater deep underground, a practice they say can activate dormant faults. Only a few cases of shaking have been blamed on fracking, in which large volumes of water, sand and chemicals are pumped into rock formations to crack them open and free oil or gas.

"The picture is very clear" that wastewater injection can cause faults to move, said USGS geophysicist William Ellsworth.

Until recently, Oklahoma — one of the biggest energy-producing states — had been cautious about linking the spate of quakes to drilling. But the Oklahoma Geological Survey acknowledged earlier this week that it is "very likely" that recent seismic activity was caused by the injection of wastewater into disposal wells.

Earthquake activity in Oklahoma in 2013 was 70 times greater than it was before 2008, state geologists reported. Oklahoma historically recorded an average of 1.5 quakes of magnitude 3 or greater each year. It is now seeing an average of 2.5 such quakes each day, according to geologists.

Angela Spotts, who lives outside Stillwater, Oklahoma, in an area with a number of wastewater disposal wells, said the shaking has damaged her brick home. She pointed to the cracked interior and exterior walls, and windows and kitchen cabinets that are separating from the structure.

"There's been no doubt in my mind what's causing them," Spotts said. "Sadly, it's really taken a long time for people to come around. Our lives are being placed at risk. Our homes are being broken."

Yet another study, this one published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, connected a swarm of small quakes west of Fort Worth, Texas, to nearby natural gas wells and wastewater disposal.

The American Petroleum Institute said the industry is working with scientists and regulators "to better understand the issue and work toward collaborative solutions."

The Environmental Protection Agency said there no plans for new regulations as a result of the USGS study.

"We knew there would be challenges there, but they can be overcome," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said Thursday at an energy conference in Houston.

For decades, earthquakes were an afterthought in the central and eastern U.S., which worried more about tornadoes, floods and hurricanes. Since 2009, quakes have sharply increased, and in some surprising places.

The ground has been trembling in regions that were once seismically stable, including parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.

The largest jolt linked to wastewater injection — a magnitude-5.6 that hit Prague, Oklahoma, in 2011 — damaged 200 buildings and shook a college football stadium.

The uptick in Oklahoma quakes has prompted state regulators to require a seismic review of all proposed disposal wells. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry, has ordered dozens of disposal wells to stop operating or change the way they are run because of concerns they might be triggering earthquakes, said spokesman Matt Skinner.

"There are far more steps that will be taken," Skinner said.

Last year, regulators in Colorado ordered an operator to temporarily stop injecting wastewater after the job was believed to be linked to several small quakes. (Contributor: Alicia Chang for Associated Press)

For prayer: While we do not take these smaller earthquakes across the U.S. lightly, not any of them compares with the mega-earthquake (7.8 on the Richter scale) that has devastated Nepal and was responsible for the loss of more than 4,000 (and counting) human lives. It had been predicted for years as inevitable “someday,” when the earth’s crust shifted as it did along two major plates or fault-lines. We might ask why did Jesus speak of earthquakes in various places as part of “the beginnings of sorrows” and associated with the last days? As we grieve and mourn with these who have lost so much, let us realize that we who escaped also live fragile lives, sustained by God’s grace and mercy.

“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows.” (Mark 14:8)

“My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:20-23)

 

GIRL SCOUTS: 'GIRL' IS NOW OPTIONAL

A traditional values leader is exposing the Girl Scouts for its continued move toward far-left causes.

The latest announcement, says Linda Harvey of Mission America, is that little boys from kindergarten through high school can join the Girl Scouts, if the boy considers himself a girl.

"In other words, he calls the shots," Harvey says of young males. "He is the one that determines the rights and privacy of authentic girls."

Regarding transgender youth, the website for the Scouts states that if a boy is recognized as living as a girl, "then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe."

The Girl Scouts began the move by pushing liberal sex education, although some local groups refuse to follow along, and then the Scouts decided the girls could define God as they wish - or deny Him.

One News Now reported last year that the CEO of the Girl Scouts was trying to deflect ties to Planned Parenthood but pro-family watchdog groups, already tracking the association, reported otherwise.

The Girl Scouts were the targets of a "cookie boycott" last year after the group was accused of trumpeing Wendy Davis, the pro-abortion Democrat who ran for Texas governor.

In the latest news, a chapter is being organized for homosexual and lesbian families at the Utah Pride Center.

What the Girl Scouts are advocating, says Harvey, is "anything that is anti-Christian, and anything that would dishonor girls."

Meanwhile, a pro-family rival organization to the Girl Scouts, American Heritage Girls, is celebrating 20 years this year. (Contributor: By Charlie Butts for One News Now)

For Prayer: Many American parents, whether Christian or not, continue to grieve over the spiraling decline of the Girl Scouts from their once-noble history of helping to develop morally upright young women of character. The organization has become a political tool of the burgeoning Left-wing of American society. Pray for wisdom for Christian parents who must guard their daughters by removing them from the Girl Scouts and for the girls themselves who will leave friends and a familiar tradition. Give thanks for the American Heritage Girls and their growth as an alternative scouting program.

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you." (Psalm 32:8)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6)

 

PENTAGON'S NEW CYBER STRATEGY CITES U.S. ABILITY TO RETALIATE

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is due to unveil an updated cyber strategy on Thursday that will stress the military's ability to retaliate with cyber weapons, a capability he hopes will help deter attacks.

The strategy presents a potentially far more muscular role for the U.S. military's cyber warriors than the Pentagon was willing to acknowledge in its last strategy rollout in 2011 and singles out threats from Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

"The United States must be able to declare or display effective response capabilities to deter an adversary from initiating an attack," according to a copy of the document, obtained by Reuters ahead of its release.

The Defense Department, it said, must develop "viable cyber options" as part of the full range of tools available to the United States during heightened tensions or outright hostilities.

It should be able to use cyber tools to disrupt an enemy's command of networks, military-related critical infrastructure and weapons capabilities.

The full-throated acknowledgement of such possibilities in the unclassified document is a major shift from 2011 and reflects the U.S. hope that it will help dissuade potential enemies.

Officials note that other tools to respond include publicly identifying nations responsible and imposing sanctions.

Carter, speaking to reporters flying with him to California, where he is due to meet Silicon Valley executives and speak at Stanford University, said the primary focus of the cyber strategy was defense.

But he acknowledged that the new strategy was "more clear and more specific about everything, including offense."

"It will be useful to us for the world to know that, first of all, we're going to protect ourselves," Carter said, noting that deterrence included "a threat to retaliate against those who do us harm."

"We obviously have a capability to do that, not just in cyber but in other ways."

Carter's visit comes two months after President Barack Obama visited Silicon Valley, asking U.S. executives for closer cooperation in defending against hackers after high-profile attacks on companies like Sony Pictures Entertainment.

"The North Korean attack on Sony was one of the most destructive cyber attacks on a U.S. entity to date," the document said.

The document said Russia's cyber actors were stealthy but had unclear intentions and lambasted China's theft of intellectual property. Iran and North Korea had "less developed cyber capabilities" but overt hostile intent toward U.S. interests. (Contributor: By Phil Stewart for Reuter's New Service - Editing by Nick Macfie)

For prayer: It has been said that creating one level of weaponry for warfare constructs a platform for the next level that becomes even more damaging or lethal. If we must have sophisticated weapons, let them be for a strong defense and not for aggression against any nation. Someday, the Prince of Peace will reign, when swords will be turned into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Until then, please pray that our government will be strong to serve and defend its citizens.

“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)

 

FLORIDA PASSES BILL TO REQUIRE 24-HOUR WAITING PERIOD FOR ABORTION

The Florida Legislature passed a bill Friday that would require a 24-hour waiting period for abortions, [which allows a baby to live an extra 24 hours before being legally murdered by its mother] a time span Republicans said they hope will change some women’s minds before undergoing the procedure.

The issue prompted emotional debate in the Senate for nearly an hour, with Democrats saying the proposal was a roadblock to interfere with women’s rights [to murder her child in the womb] and Republicans saying that women should have to wait before making such a major decision [to legally murder her child]. The bill passed on a 26-to-13 party-line vote.

The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who holds antiabortion views. (Contributor: The Washington Post)

For prayer: Intercessors will want to support any measure that protects the lives of preborn babies, even if a few hours, as so much can happen to encourage the mother or the couple to have a change of mind or heart concerning the planned destruction of that tiny, innocent life. Pray for the success of all such measures that extend the waiting period. Pray for God’s mercy on our nation, as we continue to allow such unbridled, wanton killing of millions of healthy, viable, pre-born children. Notice that God’s Word says at least twice that man’s way vs. God’s way leads to death.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12)

“He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he [but] … There is a way that seems right to a man … its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 16:20, 25)

 

MISSISSIPPI TURNING

Some have heard of the movie, “Mississippi Burning.” It is the true account of one struggle for civil rights in the South in 1964. Four young men who were part of a movement called “Freedom Riders” came to Neshoba County, Mississippi in the summer of 1964 to teach African Americans to read, and to register them to vote. They were brutally murdered by the KKK; and Mt. Zion Church, where they had met, was burned to the ground. The FBI surged through the county, spurred on by national calls for justice, and the federal case for civil rights violations was prosecuted. The case became significant to the passage of the national Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although defendants were found guilty for federal crimes, the state of Mississippi refused to prosecute the murders.

In 2001, a group of intercessors was called together to pray into the spiritual strengths and weaknesses of Neshoba County. For the next four years, they prayed and sought the Lord for direction in how to overcome the spiritual strongholds that had taken this county captive. Through this process, they learned several valuable principles in prayer: Know your history; pray in the opposite spirit of what the enemy is doing; find, bless and honor those in spiritual authority; seek reconciliation with those who have been grieved; repent on behalf of those who have committed injustice; and persevere.

In 2004, 40 years after the murders were committed, they saw breakthrough. The State Attorney General of Mississippi, Jim Hood, met with some members of a coalition formed in Philadelphia, who were seeking to reopen the murder case. After serious consideration, he agreed. The trial was held at the Neshoba County courthouse, where the intercessors had been prayer-walking. Testimony from the federal investigation in 1964 was read into the record by family members of those who had originally testified. The intercessors attended the trial along with KKK members who were there to intimidate the elderly saint who had bravely stood alone, the families of the aggrieved, and the national media. Some of the original defendants in the case had since passed away. But Edgar Ray Killen, an operative for the KKK, was found guilty on June 21, 2005, exactly 41 years to the day that the murders had been committed. He had been a pastor of a local church for all those forty years.

As Jerry Mitchel, a reporter from the (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger, later wrote: “What happened in Philadelphia in 2005 continues to serve as an example for this state and this nation as we continue to move toward redemption.” Much has been written about the turn of events surrounding this piece of national history, but little has been mentioned about the power of prayer that transformed Mississippi burning into Mississippi turning. Adapted from the article “Mississippi Turning” by Karen Vercruse in the May 2015 edition of The Connecter (see page 2). To read more about transforming revival, click on The Mobilizer, a monthly newsletter on personal and community transformation.

For prayer: Once each month, on the fourth Wednesday, IFA will share an account like the above from one of our sister publications (either our First Friday Prayer Letter (FF PL), The Connecter, or from The Mobilizer, a monthly e-mail letter promoting and encouraging prayer and fellowship toward transforming revival. Please pray for all aspects of IFA’s ministry. If you wish to receive other IFA publications, click on the provided links. You may sign up to receive these and other special reports and prayer news. Thank you for continuing to pray for IFA’s outreach to intercessors.

 On Watch in Washington April 29, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

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The Informer April 22, 2015

On Watch in Washington April 22, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

REPUBLICANS SAY DRASTIC WATER RULES NOT THE ANSWER

For California Gov. Jerry Brown to crack down on shower-taking and toilet-flushing to save precious quarts of water as millions of gallons flow into the Pacific Ocean doesn’t make a lot of sense to Travis Allen.

The Republican Assembly member from Orange County is among those decrying the specter of dead lawns, dirty cars and neighborhood water watches as California braces for its first mandatory water reductions on urban consumption, which accounts for about 10 percent of the state’s usage.

“For the governor to come out and say, ‘Look, we all have to now take shorter showers and kill our front lawns and stop washing our cars,’ that is not the answer,” Mr. Allen said. “Forty percent of our water is going into the Pacific Ocean. The answer is, let’s stop sending that water into the Pacific, and let’s send it into our cities, into our homes.”

With everyday Californians now on the hook for drastic conservation measures, Republicans say the time has come to focus on the real culprit: a state and federal regulatory framework, fueled by environmental litigation, that requires a certain aquatic environment for at-risk fish while making it nearly impossible to build dams and other water-storage projects.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy described Mr. Brown’s April 1 executive order as the “culmination of failed federal and state policies that have exacerbated the current drought into a man-made water crisis.”

“Sacramento and Washington have chosen to put the well-being of fish above the well-being of people by refusing to capture millions of acre-feet of water during wet years for use during dry years,” the Bakersfield Republican said in a statement. “These policies imposed on us now, and during wet seasons of the past, are leaving our families, businesses, communities and state high and dry.”

Environmentalists have long blamed agriculture for absorbing more than its share of water, but figures from the California Department of Water Resources show that farming accounts for about 41 percent of applied water usage. Fully 48 percent is reserved for environmental purposes, which includes improving the health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its most famous inhabitant, the delta smelt.

So far Republicans, farmers and business interests have been unable to drum up much outrage over the situation, but that may change with the Democratic governor’s historic restrictions, prompted by a record low snowpack and fourth year of drought.

The order calls for urban water agencies to achieve a 25 percent reduction through methods such as increased rates, reductions in kitchen and bathroom faucet flow rates and converting 50 million square feet of lawn into “drought-tolerant landscaping.”

Environmentalists laud the stricter conservation order.

“The days of casual waste and inattentive consumption are over in California,” Steve Fleischli, water program director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “Now everyone will be expected to do his or her part to help save water.”

California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins called the governor’s move “the right step at the right time. Now it’s up to all of us to do our part.”

But Mr. Allen says he already is getting calls from his constituents, who see such measures as a drop in the bucket.

“I think the biggest backlash is actually coming from just normal people, who are taking a look and saying, ‘Look, urban consumption of water in California is 10 percent or less. And so how does not watering my lawn or taking a shorter shower, how is that going to improve the overall water situation in California?’ And the answer is, it’s not,” Mr. Allen said.

Watering the delta

U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, California Republican, said voters may have a tough time swallowing higher water bills and stiff fines — the State Water Resources Control Board allows fines of up to $500 per day for infractions — even as the federal Bureau of Reclamation empties water into the delta to improve conditions for the fish.

“It’s going to be very hard for him [Mr. Brown] to summon any kind of moral authority to fine people $500 if they waste a gallon of water on their lawns or sidewalks and yet have no problems wasting millions of gallons of water in the pursuit of making the fish perfectly happy,” Mr. McClintock said Saturday in an interview with WND/Radio America.

Not that House Republicans haven’t sounded this alarm before. The House approved legislation most recently in 2014 to restore some of the water now washing into the delta — and, ultimately, the ocean — for agricultural users. That bill died in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

This year Mr. McClintock has sponsored H.R. 1668, the Save Our Water Act, which he describes as “this radical idea that maybe when an area is suffering a severe drought, they shouldn’t continue to release water in order to adjust river water temperatures.”

Steve Martarano, spokesman for the FWS’s Bay-Delta Office, told ThinkProgress that allowing water to flow uncaptured from the Sierra Nevada mountain range to San Francisco Bay may appear wasteful, but it provides a host of environmental benefits.

“You frequently hear the criticism that delta outflow is just being wasted in the ocean,” said Mr. Martarano, “but it provides many other ecosystem functions: It dilutes pollutants, provides habitat for waterfowl and provides water-freshening benefits to the delta.”

The delta smelt, regarded as an “indicator species” for the health of the delta, is listed as threatened by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Last month, however, fish biologist Peter Moyle of the University of California, Davis said the species is “approaching the point of no return” in the wild, with only six caught in last month’s state survey, the lowest in 47 years.

“Prepare for extinction of Delta smelt,” he said in his March 18 post on the California WaterBlog, adding that the fish won’t disappear altogether because it’s being bred in two hatcheries.

Other delta fish in danger include two salmon species, the longfin smelt and the green sturgeon, leading critics to ask whether keeping water in the delta at the expense of crops and consumers has actually done any good.

“[T]he frustration we have is the agencies that oversee the delta have used the solution of eliminating more and more water from agriculture and providing that to environmental purposes,” said Gayle Holman, spokeswoman for the Westlands Water District, the state’s largest agricultural supplier. “But there’s been no identifiable benefit showing that fish species are rebounding or that the health of the delta is rebounding.”

Mr. Brown came under criticism from the left for exempting agriculture from his order, but he argues that farmers have borne the brunt of past restrictions. The current federal Central Valley Project water allocation is zero — for the second year in a row — while the California State Water Project has a 20 percent allocation, Ms. Holman said.

‘We need more water’

Dry spells are nothing new in California, but critics say the situation took a turn for the worse with a 2007 ruling by a federal judge that resulted in less water being pumped out of the delta in order to improve its health as well as the survival chances of the delta smelt.

Hardest hit by the ruling have been San Joaquin Valley farmers who depend on water from the delta to irrigate their crops. A half-million acres now lie fallow — plowed but not planted — in California’s Central Valley, the agricultural powerhouse known for its rich soil and plentiful fruit and nut crops, and where double-digit unemployment is now commonplace.

“You drive up and down the state on the [Interstate] 5 freeway, and you see the signs: ‘We need more water.’ It’s a common thing,” Mr. Allen said. “Farmers aren’t getting the water, they’re losing crops, trees are dying, and long-term there’s an economic impact and an impact on communities. It’s not good for our state.”

Ms. Holman points out that other factors have been cited for the decline of the fish, such as invasive species like the largemouth bass, striped bass and Asian clam, as well as ammonia and wastewater discharges from a local sanitation district.

“We’re not saying we don’t care about fish or we don’t care about the health of the delta, but thus far the solution has been to eliminate agricultural water deliveries and divert that water for environmental purposes,” she said. “And so there hasn’t been a balanced approach.”

Another issue is water storage. The massive State Water Project, launched in 1960, remains unfinished for a host of reasons, including opposition over the environmental impact. Mr. McClintock notes the state hasn’t built a major dam since 1979.

As the water crisis spills into the backyards of urban residents, Mr. McClintock says he hopes the result will be a “major reevaluation of the many leftist laws that have built up in our system.”

“A year ago, I was beating the drum to sound warnings on these policies, and nobody paid any attention,” Mr. McClintock said. “The reason they’re not paying attention is they don’t believe me. They don’t believe our policy could be so breathtakingly stupid as to dump millions of gallons of precious water in the middle of a drought to adjust river water temperatures.

“It’s such a bizarre notion, it doesn’t pass the smell test,” he said. “But those are the policies, they are being carried out, and, as our reservoirs [are] near empty, people are beginning to focus on that finally.” (Contributor: By Valerie Richardson for The Washington Times)

For Prayer: As regular readers know, we have encouraged prayer for the California water situation. Now we read that a huge amount of fresh water from the mountains is being dumped into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to regulate water temperature to help preserve an endangered fish. While fully appreciating environmental concerns, it makes little sense to put a fish above human needs. U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) said, “They (environmentalists) don’t believe our policy could be so breathtakingly stupid as to dump millions of gallons of precious water in the middle of a drought to adjust river water temperatures.” This places a frame of “politics” around the issue. Intercessors, please pray for balancing wisdom so that in the choices that must be made, the governor and political leaders will put the value of human life above that of the fish.

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 … Therefore justice is far from us, nor does righteousness overtake us; we look for light, but there is darkness! For brightness, but we walk in blackness!” (Isa. 59:1-2, 9)

“,,, professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” (Rom. 1:20-23)

 

FBI HOLDS “SPECIAL” MEETING IN JUÁREZ TO ADDRESS ISIS

Responding to Judicial Watch’s report earlier this week of ISIS activity along the Mexican border, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) supervisors called a “special” meeting at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juárez.

A high-level intelligence source, who must remain anonymous for safety reasons, confirmed that the meeting was convened specifically to address a press strategy to deny Judicial Watch’s accurate reporting and identify who is providing information to JW. FBI supervisory personnel met with Mexican Army officers and Mexican Federal Police officials, according to JW’s intelligence source. The FBI liaison officers regularly assigned to Mexico were not present at the meeting and conspicuously absent were representatives from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It’s not clear why DHS did not participate.

Publicly, U.S. and Mexico have denied that Islamic terrorists are operating in the southern border region, but the rapid deployment of FBI brass in the aftermath of JW’s report seems to indicate otherwise. A Mexican Army field grade officer and a Mexican Federal Police Inspector were among the sources that confirmed to JW that ISIS is operating a camp just a few miles from El Paso, Texas. The base is around eight miles from the U.S. border in an area known as “Anapra” situated just west of Ciudad Juárez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

Another ISIS cell to the west of Ciudad Juárez, in Puerto Palomas, targets the New Mexico towns of Columbus and Deming for easy access to the United States, the same knowledgeable sources confirm. During the course of a joint operation last week, Mexican Army and federal law enforcement officials discovered documents in Arabic and Urdu, as well as “plans” of Fort Bliss – the sprawling military installation that houses the US Army’s 1st Armored Division. Muslim prayer rugs were recovered with the documents during the operation.

“Coyotes” engaged in human smuggling – and working for the Juárez Cartel – help move ISIS terrorists through the desert and across the border between Santa Teresa and Sunland Park, New Mexico. To the east of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, cartel-backed “coyotes” are also smuggling ISIS terrorists through the porous border between Acala and Fort Hancock, Texas. These specific areas were targeted for exploitation by ISIS because of their understaffed municipal and county police forces, and the relative safe-havens the areas provide for the unchecked large-scale drug smuggling that was already ongoing.

Last August JW reported that ISIS, operating from Ciudad Juárez, was planning to attack the United States with car bombs or other vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED). High-level U.S. federal law enforcement, intelligence and other sources confirmed then that a warning bulletin for an imminent terrorist attack on the border had been issued. Agents across a number of Homeland Security, Justice and Defense agencies were placed on alert and instructed to aggressively work all possible leads and sources concerning the imminent terrorist threat. (Contributor: Judicial Watch)

For prayer: We have little comment here except to encourage intercessors and “watchmen on the wall” to pray fervently for God’s mercy for the United States. Judicial Watch is a trusted, steady source of investigative news concerning the law, and this report suggests that there are individuals in our own government who might be working against national security. Please pray as you are led. Try to discover all the facts in these situations to guide your intercession.

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mark 3:24-25)

 

U.S. MILITARY ‘HOSTILE’ TO CHRISTIANS

Soon there may only be atheists in the foxholes. Christians are leaving the U.S. military or are discouraged from joining in the first place because of a “hostile work environment” that doesn’t let them express their beliefs openly, religious freedom advocates say.

Michael Berry, senior counsel at the Liberty Institute, a Texas-based legal organization dedicated to defending religious liberty in America, said recent high-profile cases of military chaplains facing punishment for private counseling sessions that reflected the teachings of their religion could cause devout Americans who are qualified for military service to think twice about joining the military.

In December, a chaplain for a Ranger training battalion received an administrative letter of concern after a soldier complained that he advocated Christianity and used the Bible during a mandatory unit suicide-prevention training session. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers said the chaplain “used his official position to force his personal religious beliefs on a captive military audience” in an article the group posted on its website.

And, last month, a Navy chaplain was removed from his post and may lose his career after some sailors complained about his private counseling, in which he reportedly advocated against homosexuality and sex outside of marriage.

Mr. Berry represents both chaplains in question.

“People of faith are going to stay away from the military,” said Mr. Berry in an interview with The Washington Times.

“I can’t tell you how many moms and dads I’ve spoken to who say, ‘My son or daughter wants to join the military, [but] in light of what you’ve described, I’m not sure I want to let them join the military anymore,’ and I don’t blame them. I would have serious reservations about my own kids joining,” Mr. Berry said.

Douglas Lee, president of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, whose job it is to find people who want to be chaplains and make sure they’re also qualified to serve in the military, said growing religious hostility within the military is making it harder for him to find potential recruits and for the armed forces to maintain the chaplains it does have.

“I know people who get out, officers and chaplains, who’ve said, ‘I can’t serve the way I want to in this environment,’” said Mr. Lee, who also served as an Army chaplain. “People who’ve said, ‘Because of the religious liberty challenges I see, I think I’ll serve somewhere else.’”

Not being able to recruit or retain these individuals is very dangerous from a national security standpoint, said Mr. Berry, because they could be the military’s next group of leaders, but will never serve because they don’t think they’re welcome.

“We all used to sit around and talk about planning on spending 20 years, but at some point enough is enough,” he said.

Mr. Berry said he thinks the “hostile work environment” that is forcing the most religious persons out of the military is only getting worse, and that while in the past problems were mainly in the Air Force, religious liberty issues have spread throughout all the services.

“The problem is getting worse, not better, despite our efforts,” he said. “There is a culture [of] hostility [toward] religion in the military right now.”

While problems in the past have touched all religious groups, Travis Weber, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, said he’s seen a recent uptick and pattern of Christians facing persecution for religious expression.

Mr. Lee blamed a lack of education among commanders about where the line is to express religion in the workplace that causes a knee-jerk reaction to any show of religion.

A commander recently told a gate guard on a base in Georgia that he could no longer tell someone to have a “blessed day,” for example, though further review found that wasn’t a religious imposition, he said.

In the chaplain example last month, Navy Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Wes Modder was removed from his position counseling sailors and could be kicked out of the military for expressing his views on marriage and homosexuality in private sessions. Mr. Berry is representing Lt. Cmdr. Modder, who is still on active duty in Charleston, South Carolina, as the case is reviewed at a higher level.

Mr. Berry said this case even could set a precedent usable outside the military by establishing, as a principle, that the government can punish religious leaders based on the state’s moral disapproval of the church’s teachings, especially in matters of sex.

“If what happened to Chaplain Modder is allowed to stand, it could foretell more instances in which the government tells priests, ministers, chaplains, etc. that their views are unacceptable,” he said.

Mr. Weber said these types of punishments affect both troops and chaplains, since chaplains will feel the need to constantly be looking over their shoulder to avoid punishment, and service members will wonder if chaplains are being honest or just saying what they can say without getting in trouble.

Michael Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, said that while chaplains can believe whatever their religion teaches, those who think they must act on religious teachings about sex or sexuality have no place in the military.

“You can continue to believe that internally, but if you have to act on that, the right thing to do is to get out of the U.S. military, because you have no right to tell a member of the military that they’re inferior because of the way they were born,” he said.

The military had 2,837 active-duty chaplains as of December 2014, according to numbers provided by the Defense Department. The largest group was the Southern Baptist Convention, with 437 members. More than 200 chaplains are affiliated with the Roman Catholic church, while 26 are Jewish, and just one is Hindu.

“The Department of Defense respects, places a high value on and supports by policy the rights of members of the military services to observe the tenets of their respective religions or to have no religious beliefs,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, spokesman for the Defense Department. “The mission of the chaplain corps is to provide care and the opportunity for service members, their families and other authorized personnel to exercise their constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.”

Advocates agreed that chaplains play a crucial role in allowing troops to exercise their freedom of religion, no matter what religion that is.

Commanders have also relied on chaplains to act as combat multipliers, dealing with issues in the ranks like marriage crises or financial troubles that commanders often can’t address, Mr. Lee said.

Mr. Weinstein, however, said he thinks the chaplain corps would work better if chaplains were totally outside the military force structure and didn’t have a military rank.

In addition to posing a problem if a chaplain outranks whoever is seeking counseling, having religious leaders in the military serves as propaganda for Islamic extremist groups, who try to paint the U.S. military as the latest group of religious crusaders, he said. (Contributor: By Jacqueline Klimas for The Washington Times)

For prayer: Imagine yourself on a battlefield, seriously wounded. You wonder if you have more than a few minutes to live. A “chaplain” approaches. Perhaps he will say something to quiet your fears and bring you hope. You ask, “What’s on the ‘other side’?” Chaplain: “I have no idea.” You ask, “Will I ever see my Christian wife and our baby again?” Chaplain: “I doubt it.” No help, no hope; only, “Keep your chin up, buddy; be brave.” Such is the U.S. “chaplaincy of the future” if all voices of faith are silenced. With due respect for the freedom of unbelief, what else can an atheist offer? Jesus said, “If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit.” Pray for Chaplain Wes Modder and others like him. Pray for the U.S. troops he and other Christian chaplains might have ministered to, that God will lead them to the truth of the Gospel another way. Pray for a revival that will restore God-given rights to Christian ministers.

“So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 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 4:18-20)

 

ISLAMIC JIHAD COMES TO CAMPUS

The world is witnessing a resurgence of global anti-Semitism not seen since the 1930s and the “Final Solution.” In the Middle East, Hitler-admiring regimes like Iran, and Hitler-admiring parties like Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, are openly planning to finish the job the Nazis started. Even in America, until now the most hospitable place outside of Israel for Jews, the atmosphere is more hostile than at any time in the last 70 years.

According to the FBI, three-fifths of all religious hate crimes in America are now committed against Jews, while a recent Pew poll revealed that 54 percent of Jewish students have either been the subject of an anti-Semitic attack or witnessed one. The frequency of these attacks among college-aged students, moreover, is five times that of any other age group. The reason for this is obvious: Across the United States student groups associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, specifically Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the Muslim Students Association, are engaged in a vitriolic campaign against Israel and those students who support its right to exist. These organizations promote the propaganda of the terrorist organization Hamas, and call for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Students for Justice in Palestine, the more active of the two groups, claims to support a left-wing agenda of “social justice,” and “universal human rights.” Like the left itself, though, Students for Justice in Palestine doesn’t stand for the rights of Palestinians in the territories controlled by Palestinians, including the rights of Palestinians to disagree with each other without being targeted by their terrorist rulers. Instead, SJP’s sole agenda is the destruction of the Jewish state.

While SJP’s self-professed purpose is “to promote self-determination for the Palestinian people,” the organization defines the boundaries of this liberation as extending “from the river to the sea,” i.e., from the Jordan River on Israel’s eastern border to its western border on the Mediterranean. To advance this genocidal agenda, SJP endorses the lie that Israel was created on territory stolen from the Palestinians and, therefore, Jews illegally occupy Arab lands from which they must be purged.

In fact, Israel was created on land that had belonged to the Turks, who are not Arabs, for 400 years previously. In 1948 when Israel was created, there was no Palestinian political entity, no movement for a Palestinian state, and no people calling itself Palestinian. These core genocidal lies make up the primary agenda of SJP and its anti-Jewish allies, and are crowned by the ludicrous claim that Israel is an “apartheid state” with policies worthy of the “Nazis.” In fact, Israel is the only democratic and ethnically tolerant state in the Middle East, the only place where gays, Christians and women are safe. The real Nazis in the Middle East are the Arabs who openly call for the extermination of the Jews.

Despite its anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist agendas, SJP is funded by university fees. University administrations officially recognize the organization and grant it the privilege of erecting walls of hate, and conducting “die-ins” and other propaganda stunts in campus centers where other students can’t avoid being assaulted by their noxious accusations.

University administrators who refuse to rein in this hatred operate under pressure from faculty and student activists of the anti-Israel “social justice” left. These include the self-hating Jews of J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace, who join hands with their mortal enemies to condemn anyone who confronts SJP and the malignant forces it represents as “Islamophobes.”

As it happens, “Islamophobe” is a term coined by the Muslim Brotherhood to demonize its opponents, and the center of a campaign seeking a universal ban on critics as religious blasphemers. The campaign’s success can be seen in President Obama’s refusal to call the terrorist Islamic State “Islamic,” or to describe the war waged by the Islamic State, al Qaeda and other Islamic terror organizations as a religious crusade.

Thanks to the savageries of the Islamic State, however, Americans have begun to wake up and to see Jews as canaries in the mine, and to understand that what is happening to Jews is also happening to Christians and others in the way of Islamic Nazis. Nonetheless, the continuing successes of front organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine are ominous indicators of the dangers that confront us, and should be a wake-up call, too. (Contributor: By David Horowitz for Front Page Magazine - David Horowitz is author of the newly published book The Great Betrayal (Regnery 2014), which is a chronicle of the Democrats treachery in the war on terror before 9/11 to the death of Osama bin Laden.)

For prayer: David Horowitz is a man worth listening to, as he has proven through his books and talks to have keen insight into the confusing riddles in the Middle East and the increase in anti-Semitism both worldwide and rapidly rising in our own country, as is persecution against Christians. Pray for a widespread resurgence of faith in the Church, for transforming revival, for united and unified prayer, and for increased illumination from the Bible as to the powerful place a fasting to accompany intercessory prayer. Pray for your own college and university students who are forming their own worldview in their campus years.

“Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; they are mighty who would destroy me, being my enemies wrongfully …” (Ps. 69:4)

“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” (John 15:20-21)
DESPITE VICTORY, NETANYAHU IS STRUGGLING TO FORM COALITION

With a resounding election victory last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to have an easy path toward quickly establishing a coalition government with his traditional nationalist, religious and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies.

But after weeks of negotiations with potential partners, Netanyahu is finding the task harder than expected and is flirting with the idea of reaching out to his main dovish rivals to form a unity government. As he decides which path to take, he will seek an additional two-week extension to put his coalition together.

Which way Netanyahu goes will have broad implications. If he sides with the hard-line allies that he often calls his "natural" partners, Netanyahu will have a solid parliamentary majority of like-minded parties that could avoid much of the infighting that plagued the outgoing government and provide some welcome political stability at home.

But such a coalition — averse to peace moves with the Palestinians and in favor of expanded settlement construction in the West Bank — quickly would find itself on a collision course with the international community at a time when Netanyahu is already feuding with his allies over the moribund peace process and a nuclear deal with Iran that he loathes. A unity government that includes his leftist rivals would help blunt that looming international isolation.

Throughout the heated campaign, Netanyahu ruled out the possibility of joining forces with Isaac Herzog and his center-left Zionist Union and vowed to rule from the right.

Election results gave his Likud Party 30 seats and secured him a potential 67-seat majority of the 120-seat Knesset along with his traditional allies. In negotiations, however, these allies have made demands to head powerful government ministries, and an initial four-week window to form a new government is now set to expire.

On Monday, he is scheduled to meet Israel's largely ceremonial president, Reuven Rivlin, and seek a two-week extension. Under Israeli election rules, if he fails to form a coalition during that time Rivlin then can assign someone else the task of doing so.

Few expect it to come to that, and the 67-seat right-wing government seems to be the most likely outcome.

Netanyahu looks close to finalizing deals with two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and Yahadut Hatorah, who are seeking ministries and parliamentary committees with large budgets catering to their constituents. He also appears to be close to a deal with the centrist, economics-focused Kulanu party.

But large gaps remain with the two other pieces needed to complete the puzzle, the nationalist Jewish Home and Yisrael Beiteinu parties, both of whom are led by long-time Netanyahu associates who have a tumultuous relationship with the boss.

Despite disappointing election results, both parties are demanding top Cabinet posts and major influence that are disproportionate to their numbers. Netanyahu has yet to budge and has signaled he may leave them out.

Tsahi Hanegbi, the deputy foreign minister from Netanyahu's Likud Party, said the prospect of Herzog joining the coalition only was becoming a possibility due to the hard-ball approach of the right-wing parties.

"It is rising only as an extreme scenario whose chances of coming true are a result of the Jewish Home or Yisrael Beitenu, either both of them or one of them, stubbornly refusing to show flexibility," he told Israel's Army Radio Sunday.

While the threat may be a pressure tactic, there are large issues at stake. Despite his rhetoric, aides acknowledge that Netanyahu is concerned about clashes with his allies in the U.S. and western Europe.

Increased settlement construction, a prolonged absence of Palestinian peace talks and nationalist legislation that undermines Israel's democratic nature would surely draw a strong rebuke and perhaps even calls for sanctions and boycotts. With his relations with President Barack Obama at a low point following clashes over Mideast peace and the Iranian nuclear talks, there is a real fear that Israel's top ally may rescind its automatic protection of Israel at the United Nations and other international bodies.

Netanyahu has partnered with his adversaries in the past to shield himself from similar fallout.

In 2009, he added Labor Party leader Ehud Barak as his defense minister and point man to the West. And in his last government, he brought in dovish ex-foreign minister Tzipi Livni to be his chief peace negotiator.

Herzog is under heavy pressure from his followers not to offer Netanyahu that political cover again. Both men have denied reports of a secret meeting. Over the weekend, Herzog vowed to go to the opposition.

"Sitting in the opposition is not a default choice but a preference," he said. "Our place is in the opposition. We will replace the Likud government."

But Herzog's Labor Party, the main partner in the Zionist Union, has a long history of ousting its defeated leaders, so Herzog also may be tempted to jump at a chance to gain some influence and job security — most likely as Netanyahu's foreign minister. Herzog is the seventh leader of the party since it last won a national election in 1999.

Herzog's only hint of common ground with Netanyahu was a position paper issued by his party that backed Netanyahu's opposition to the recent U.S.-led framework nuclear deal with Iran. On this crucial matter, it said "there is no coalition or opposition" in Israel.

So far, Herzog's party rank-and-file seems to oppose joining Netanyahu and appears eager to watch a hard-line government fail. But there are also growing voices in Israel saying that Herzog's Zionist Union does not have the luxury to make that kind of cold political calculation.

"Its presence in the coalition is critical to preserving Israel as a liberal democracy," liberal columnist Carlo Strenger wrote in the Haaretz daily newspaper. "Ultimately, the idea of staying in the opposition is based on a deep illusion: It is that the liberal center-left is likely to regain power in the foreseeable future, and that Israel's electorate just has to realize how destructive the political right's policies are." (Contributor: By Aron Heller for The Huffington Post)

For prayer: Give thanks for reports like this, as it opens the eyes of Western Christians who like to think that Israel as a unified country standing as one in opposition to forces from Iran, ISIS, and Hamas. But such is not the case. Though God’s covenant with Israel and the land remains, and though the Israeli’s are tough people and determined to survive, most of the country’s various factions are out of step with each other and with God’s larger purpose, which is to open hearts to receive Jesus Christ, as Messiah. It has never been more urgent to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Pray for Israel to (re)turn to the Lord.

“Now, therefore,” says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him— “ (Joel 2:12-14a)

 

THE GLOBAL DAY OF PRAYER ON PENTECOST

Christians from all over the world will join in prayer and fasting on the day of Pentecost, May 24, 2015. You are urged to lift your voice along with many others around the globe on that day, focusing prayers in biblical hope for the glory of Christ and the blessing of the nations.

Just as the first Pentecost was preceded by ten days of continuous prayer, many intercessors will begin joining prayers together for ten days, beginning on Thursday, May 14. To make it feasible for many to join in this ten-day vigil, a Ten-Day Prayer Guide is available. It’s easily downloaded at no cost to be freely distributed. Find the Ten-Day Prayer Guide on the WayMakers website. Pray these prayers yourself, or even better, find creative ways to pray with others during these ten days, May 14-23.

The Global Day of Prayer offers a wonderful way for local congregations to pray with the world by using six or seven minutes to pray the biblically-beautiful prayer called, “A Prayer for the World.” Download the PowerPoint and PDF files of this prayer. Despite its name, this prayer is really a way to pray with the world. Explore the possibility of using this prayer as part of your services on Pentecost Sunday with leaders of your church. You can find more about the Global Day of Prayer on the WayMakers website.

Pentecost stands as a living promise that God has begun, but He has not yet finished, the fulfillment of all that He has promised. Nothing could be more fitting and refreshing as to pray in unity with many others for His transforming blessing to abound among all peoples for the glory of Christ.

For prayer: We encourage the work of all Christian prayer ministries, and we believe this is a valid call to global (international) prayer in unity with thousands of Christians around the world. The Ten-Day Prayer Guide is helpful. Click on the link here to get a free downloadable copy. Give thanks and pray for multitudes to learn of this initiative and to participate. Believers praying in unity pleases the Lord. Pray for multitudes to turn to the Lord and be saved.

“And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none besides Me. Look to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; the word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.” (Isa. 45:21-23)

 

AUSTRALIA CALLS WORLD TO PRAY & FAST FOR 7 DAYS FOR USA

"We in Australia believe it is our turn to bless the nation of America and pray for healing for the USA through prayer and fasting according to 2 Chronicles 7:14. We in Australia are grateful for the protection that America gave Australia and the nations of the free world during World War II." -Alison Jessup

The team behind Australia's National Day of Prayer and Fasting, along with other prayer leaders are calling the nations of the world to prayer and fasting for seven days for USA. This period of prayer will take place from April 30 - May 6, 2015. (Photo via Charisma News)

April 30 is America's National Day of Repentance, and May 7 is the 64th Annual National Day of Prayer.

Warwick Marsh, Australian coordinator, said, "April 30 is the 226th anniversary of George Washington's inauguration as a devout Christian president and the 152nd anniversary of Lincoln's Day of 'Humiliation, Prayer and Fasting' held during the devastating times of the Civil War. The theme for the USA National Day of Prayer on 7 May, 2015 'Lord Hear Our Cry' is taken from 1 Kings 8:28: 'Give attention to your servant's prayer and his pleas for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day.'"

View this prayer for America: click here. (Video)

Alison Jessup from Australia said, "We in Australia believe it is our turn to bless the nation of America and pray for healing for the USA through prayer and fasting according to 2 Chronicles 7:14. We in Australia are grateful for the protection that America gave Australia and the nations of the free world during World War II. The 1942 Battle of the Coral Sea, led by the USA, was the turning point in the Second World War for Australia."

Matt Prater from Australia said, "We are calling the nations of the world to join in prayer and fasting with our brothers and sisters in Christ in the USA. Last year we had people from over 40 nations join with us. This year we are believing for over 100 nations to join us in prayer and fasting for the USA."

And Lana Vawser from Australia said, "There is a fight for the destiny of the USA right now. The destiny of America hangs in the balance. The Lord is calling His people to arise and pray for the United States of America. It is time to contend." (Contributor: Breaking Christian News)

For prayer (and praise!): This effort on the part of Australian Christians for the U.S. could not be more welcome or come at a better time. Our country continues on a downward spiral. The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to hear arguments later this month and ultimately rule on whether same-sex “marriage” will be the law of the land, accepted throughout the U.S. And in this unprecedented time frame, Christians from another nation, half a world away, have pledged themselves to prayer and fasting for our national welfare. May God allow us to humble ourselves here in America, and to join with our Australian friends as they intercede for the United States. Our Scripture is the verse chosen for the upcoming National Day of Prayer (May 7), whose theme is , “Lord, hear our cry.”

“Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O Lord my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You today … “ (1 Kings 8:28)

“As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.” (Prov. 25:25)

On Watch in Washington April 22, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

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On Watch in Washington April 15, 2015

On Watch in Washington April 15, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

THE REDISTRIBUTION RACKET

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren appeared on one of the late night talk shows last week, beating the class warfare drum and arguing for billions of dollars in new social programs paid for with higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires. In recent years, though, blue states such as California, Illinois, Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland and Minnesota adopted this very strategy, and they raised taxes on their wealthy residents. How did it work out? Almost all of these states lag behind the national average in growth of jobs and incomes.

So, if income redistribution policies are the solution to shrinking the gap between rich and poor, why do they fail so miserably in the states?

The blue states that try to lift up the poor with high taxes, high welfare benefits, high minimum wages and other Robin Hood policies tend to be the places where the rich end up the richest and the poor the poorest.

California is the prototypical example. It has the highest tax rates of any state. It has very generous welfare benefits. Many of its cities have a high minimum wage. But day after day, the middle class keeps leaving. The wealthy areas such as San Francisco and the Silicon Valley boom. Yet the state has nearly the highest poverty rate in the nation. The Golden State, alas, has become the inequality state.

In a new report called “Rich States, Poor States” that I write each year for the American Legislative Exchange Council with Arthur Laffer and Jonathan Williams, we find that five of the highest-tax blue states in the nation — California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Illinois — lost some 4 million more U.S. residents than entered these states over the last decade (see chart). Meanwhile, the big low-tax red states — Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona and Georgia — gained about this many new residents.

One liberal economic think tank — the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy — recently issued a report on the states with the most and least “regressive” tax systems. The conclusion was that states should raise their income taxes on the rich to be more “fair.” Except it turns out that people are leaving the states that the think tank ranks as fair, and they are moving to the states the think tank ranks as economically backward.

The least “regressive” tax states had average population growth from 2003 to 2013 that lagged below the national trend. The 10 most highly “regressive” tax states, including nine with no state income tax, had population growth on average 4 percent above the U.S. average. Why was that? Because states without income taxes have twice the job growth of states with high tax rates. Unlike the experts at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, most Americans think that fairness means having a job.

Ohio University economist Richard Vedder and I compared the income gap in states with higher tax rates, higher minimum wages and more welfare benefits with states on the other side of the policy spectrum. There was no evidence that states with these liberal policies had helped the poor much and, in many cases, these states recorded more income inequality than other states as measured by the left’s favorite statistic called the Gini Coefficient.

The 19 states with minimum wages above the $7.25 per hour federal minimum do not have lower income inequality. States with a super minimum wage — such as Connecticut ($9.15), California ($9.00), New York ($8.75), and Vermont ($9.15) — have significantly wider gaps between rich and poor than states without a super minimum wage.

States are supposed to be laboratories of democracy, right? These laboratories are providing us with concrete evidence that Robin Hood policies don’t help make the poor richer, they make most people poorer. In other words, the blue states have tried the Elizabeth Warren “progressive” agenda and people are voting with their feet by fleeing in droves. The kinds of income redistribution policies that Ms. Warren and others endorse can only work by building a Berlin Wall so no one can leave — though I hope I’m not giving them any ideas. (Contributor: By Stephen Moore for The Washington Times - Stephen Moore is an economist at the Heritage Foundation and a Fox News contributor.)

For prayer: Without being political, we note that these trends have been going on for years. The cause of mass relocation is clear to conservative thinkers and fuzzy to liberal thinking. The difference in viewpoint is not a reflection of intelligence but of philosophy of government. Thus, we show no disrespect toward Sen. Warren. A clear example is the exodus for several decades of well-known Christian ministries from (high tax) California to more favorable venues (Texas, Colorado, etc.). The facts speak for themselves. Our prayer focus is, of course, far beyond the changes in population. Pray for our country to return to its constitutional foundations, whereby government serves and protects its citizens, encouraging economic freedom and business aspirations with reasonable taxes. Or will government rule and increase its power at the citizens’ expense? Please pray for a shift in values.

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 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. 6:31-34)

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” (Ps. 33:12)

 

BATTERING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM WITH ABORTION

In its latest attack on religious liberty, the American Civil Liberties Union, wants to force Roman Catholic organizations to provide contraception and abortions to unaccompanied immigrant children pouring over America’s southern border.

The ACLU is suing the Department of Health and Human Services to obtain documents that it claims show that Catholic relief agencies are not providing abortions or referrals for abortion.

It’s part of a national strategy to force faith-based facilities to perform abortions or face ruinous litigation and the loss of government contracts, and it comes despite the Supreme Court’s ruling last June against the ham-handed Obamacare dictate to force Christian-owned companies such as Hobby Lobby to provide abortifacients.

In March 2013, the Seattle branch of the ACLU threatened to sue a hospital district over a proposed contract with Catholic health providers unless the providers gave up their faith-based opposition to abortion, contraceptives, euthanasia and sterilizations.

In November 2013, the ACLU sued the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, alleging that its pro-life stance against abortion resulted in negligent care for a Michigan woman with a troubled pregnancy who eventually lost the child.

“It’s not just about one woman,” said Kary Moss, executive director of the Michigan ACLU, in a Newsmax report quoted in The Washington Times. “It’s about a nationwide policy created by nonmedical professionals putting patients in harm’s way.”

Hard cases make bad law, which brings us to the ACLU’s ploy to use the flood of illegal immigrant children as pawns in the ongoing attack on Catholic health care institutions.

Since Congress began debating President Obama’s policy of amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants, tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors have crossed into the United States from Mexico and Central America.

The lack of adult supervision has put many of the children at risk for beatings, robberies and rapes.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has contracts with the federal government to care for the arriving children. In 2014, the Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services had a total budget of $71 million, of which 93 percent was composed of federal grants and contracts, according to Breitbart.com.

The ACLU cites rape as a prime reason to force Migration and Refugee Services to dispense emergency contraception and to perform abortions or to refer the children to abortionists, either of which is a grievous sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

In an ACLU blog post, Brigitte Amiri, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project attorney, compared the bishops’ refusal to provide abortions with the controversy over Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Last week, Indiana lawmakers passed the RFRA bill, Gov. Mike Pence signed it, and then under media and corporate pressure they quickly amended it, turning it into a gay-rights bill in which “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” trump the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom.

Comparing Indiana’s original RFRA to the Catholic bishops‘ reluctance to violate their faith by providing abortions, the ACLU’s Ms. Amiri told reporters, “We think that the same principle applies here, that religious beliefs should not be used to harm others.”

Speaking of harm, Memories Pizza, a small, family-owned restaurant in Walkerton, Indiana, fell victim to a fierce social media onslaught, death threats and picketing, and was forced temporarily to close its doors. Its owner had told a local TV reporter in answer to a “gotcha” question that they gladly serve everyone but could not cater a same-sex ceremony because of their Christian beliefs in the sanctity of marriage. To no one’s surprise, the ACLU has not offered to defend them.

At an Easter prayer breakfast on Tuesday, Mr. Obama piled on, delivering a not-so-veiled shot at the pizzeria family and other Christians: “I have to say that sometimes when I listen to less-than-loving expressions by Christians, I get concerned. But that’s a topic for another day.”

Notably, Mr. Obama made no mention of the recent mass murder of Christian students by Somali Islamic militants at a university in Kenya, nor the Islamic State’s ongoing genocide of Christians in the Middle East. Nor the ACLU’s bullying of Catholic health agencies.

In the eyes of the president and his friends at the ACLU, apparently it all depends on who is being harmed by whom. (Contributor: By Robert Knight for The Washington Times - Robert Knight is a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a contributor to The Washington Times.)

 

For prayer: This report is crystal clear, needing little comment. Sadly, President Obama walks in lock-step with the ACLU in his determination to force abortion financing from all sources, including the venerable Roman Catholic Church. His recent “Easter prayer breakfast” was a charade, as not a single conservative Christian voice was present, but only those representatives, including religious personnel, who share his determination to make abortion a “normal” decision where everyone pays. Intercessors know how to pray into this. Our Catholic friends are standing strong, though all will pay a high price until God mercifully brings salvation to the White House OR grants America a better administration that honors the choice of LIFE! Isaiah could be describing America’s present day.

“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. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity.” (Isa. 59:1-3)

 

NORTHCOM: CHINA’S THREE MISSILE SUBMARINES A ‘CONCERN’

The Chinese Navy has deployed three ballistic missile submarines at sea capable of striking the United States with nuclear missiles, the commander of the U.S. Northern Command said Tuesday.

Adm. William Gortney, the commander, said the submarines are a “concern” and will be able to strike the United States when fully deployed with missiles and warheads.

The missile submarines are deployed in the South China Sea at a base on Hainan Island, according to a defense official.

“They’ve not loaded their missiles or begun strategic patrols,” the official said. “But we believe they are likely to begin this year.”

Gortney also stated explicitly that U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that North Korea is capable of mounting a small nuclear warhead on its new road-mobile KN-08 intercontinental missiles.

In a wide ranging interview with reporters at the Pentagon, the admiral also disclosed that Russia is engaged in political “messaging” by sending long-range nuclear bombers near the United States and will probably follow through with promises to fly Tu-160 Blackjack bombers near the southern U.S. coast.

On the Chinese sea-based nuclear threat, Gortney said: “They have put to sea their sea-launched ballistic missile submarines. I believe they have three in the water right now.”

Gortney said any time a nation has nuclear weapons and delivery systems that can reach the U.S. homeland, “it’s a concern of mine.”

It was the first time a senior U.S. military official voiced worries about Chinese nuclear missile submarines.

The four-star admiral in charge of the Colorado-based Northern Command in charge of homeland military defense said Chinese missile submarines are watched very closely.

“And you know, their very long-range capability is a function of how far do they reach,” he said. “So even from their own waters, they can reach part of our homeland. Hawaii is part of our homeland and they can reach Hawaii. And then the farther east they go, they can reach more and more of our nation.”

Asked if they have conducted sea patrols near U.S. coasts, Gortney suggested Chinese submarines could conduct underwater operations near U.S. shores in the future.

“We haven’t seen those patrols just yet, but it doesn’t mean that those patrols can’t exist in the future,” he said.

China in January conducted a flight test of the new JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile that is deployed on what the Pentagon calls China’s new Jin-class submarines.

A congressional commission reported that the JL-2 appears to have reached initial operating capability.

“The JL-2’s range of approximately 4,598 miles gives China the ability to conduct nuclear strikes against Alaska if launched from waters near China; against Alaska and Hawaii if launched from waters south of Japan; against Alaska, Hawaii and the western portion of the continental United States if launched from waters west of Hawaii; and against all 50 U.S. states if launched from waters east of Hawaii,” the U.S.-China Economic Security and Review Commission stated in its latest annual report.

Jin-class submarines can carry up to 12 JL-2 missiles, each of which is expected to have multiple warheads.

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the House Armed Services Committee Feb. 3 that the first missile submarine patrols were expected this year.

“In 2014, China twice deployed submarines to the Indian Ocean,” Stewart said. “The submarines probably conducted area familiarization to form a baseline for increasing China’s power projection.”

Gortney said he is not alarmed at the evolution of Chinese nuclear forces from silo-based ICBMs to road-mobile missiles and now missile-firing submarines.

“It doesn’t surprise me that they’re doing it,” he said. “We do the same thing. We’ve done that for years.”

China also has adopted a policy of not being the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict that Gortney said “gives me a little bit of a good news picture there.”

Rick Fisher, a China military affairs expert, said that Chinese missile submarine patrols have been expected for years. The missile submarine patrols, when launched, will mark “the end of China’s 40-year quest to build a submarine-based nuclear second-strike capability,” said Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

Fisher said China also is building more advanced missile submarines and possibly a longer-range version of the JL-2.

“It is conceivable that China eventually will deploy six to 10 SSBNs with slightly less than or over 100 submarine-launched ballistic missiles,” he said. SSBN is the acronym for a ballistic missile submarine.

On North Korea’s nuclear missile threat, Gortney provided the most detailed explanation to date of U.S. assessments of Pyongyang’s nuclear missile capability.

“Our assessment is that they have the ability to put a nuclear weapon on a KN-08 and shoot it at the homeland,” Gortney said, referring to North Korea’s six road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“We haven’t seen them test the KN-08 yet and we’re waiting to do that,” he added.

Asked if the assessment was based on excess caution, he said: “No, I think it’s a prudent decision by my assessment of the threat, and the threat to the nation.”

The assessment that the KN-08 could be armed with a nuclear warhead was made in the last one or two years, he said.

Gortney voiced confidence that U.S. missile defenses currently deployed on ships in Asia and at bases in Alaska and California can stop a North Korean missile attack.

“As the person that owns the trigger … I have high confidence that it will work against North Korea,” he said.

Gortney said he is “very concerned” by North Korea’s new KN-08 truck-mounted ICBM that can be moved on roads and hidden in shelters and caves.

“It’s a re-locatable target set that really impedes our ability to find, fix, and finish the threat,” he said.

“And so, as the targets move around, if we don’t have the persistence there and the persistent [intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance], which we do not have over North Korea at this time, that re-locatable nature makes it very difficult for us to be able to counter it.”

However, if the North Koreans fire one of the missiles at the United States, “I’m confident that we’ll be able to knock it down,” he said.

The KN-08 is deployed on Chinese-made transporter-erector launchers that were shipped to North Korea in violation of U.N. missile sanctions.

The Northern Command is preparing for Russia to conduct provocative strategic bomber flights along U.S. southern coasts.

Moscow announced last year that it would begin conducting bomber flights in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.

“The one that we expect would be either Blackjack bombers or large jet bombers, not the Bears that we see them flying elsewhere,” Gortney said.

“It wouldn’t surprise me that they do that,” he said. “We’re prepared for it, you know, to intercept them, should we need to, should we choose to.”

The Russians are conducting the flights as part of nuclear forces exercises and as political signals, he said.

“They’re messaging us, showing us that they have a long-range conventional reach or nuclear reach with their manned bombers,” he said.

Gortney said Russia under Putin has developed a far more capable military than the very large military of the former Soviet Union, and has a new military doctrine to go along with the buildup.

“You’re seeing that bear out. You’re seeing them employ that capability and that doctrine in the Ukraine,” he said. “At they same time they are messaging us … that they’re a global power.”

The aggressive flights were conducted with great frequency following the downing of a civilian airliner over Ukraine in July. At the time, Russian bombers were conducting flights near Canada, Alaska, and the English Channel.

Two Russian naval vessels also have been sailing near the United States. An intelligence gathering ship recently left Venezuela and another logistics ship sailed to Cuba.

Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon strategic affairs policymaker, said the admiral is correct about Russia planning Blackjack flights for political messaging.

“The Russian message is nuclear intimidation,” Schneider said. “There is no reason to fly bombers that far south when they carry nuclear cruise missiles with ranges of thousands of kilometers. They do this because they know the intimidation factor will be higher if the bombers come close to the United States.”

The same rationale is behind recent, large-scale Russian nuclear forces exercises near Crimea and Kaliningrad, where Moscow is deploying nuclear-capable Iskander M short-range missiles and Backfire bombers, along with recent nuclear threats by a Russian ambassador directed at Denmark, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threatening language regarding Ukraine.

“They want to scare us but not so much that we take measures to enhance our nuclear deterrent,” he said. “As long as we do little or nothing in response, these threats will continue to escalate.”

On the threat posed by the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL) terrorist group, Gortney said the threat that IS fighters will infiltrate through porous U.S. borders is less a worry than the current “very sophisticated” social media campaign being used by the group to recruit terrorists here.

“That’s how they are trying to attack us,” he said.

U.S. borders could be used, however by enemies that seek “seams” in defenses.

Gortney also said he is not in favor of building a third ground-based missile defense interceptor on the U.S. East Coast. He would prefer to spend the limited money available for missile defenses on other elements of missile defenses, such as sensors and other equipment.

“Our current approach is on the wrong side of the cost curve,” he said. (Contributor: By Bill Getz for The Washington Free Beacon)

For prayer: What was once called “saber-rattling” is now “missile-rattling.” Much of this is still “theoretical” to American daily life, as military and security experts don’t think an attack on the U.S. from a foreign power is imminent. However, our country’s enemies are real and potentially violent, and it is good for us to be reminded that national life is precarious and how necessary is God’s mercy. Please pray into Adm. Gortney’s observation that the current “very sophisticated” social media campaign is proving successful in our country in recruiting new potential terrorists. Whether “Brave” or not, it is a “new world” we live in, and every nation is vulnerable every day. Please pray as you are led.

“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. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows…” (Ps. 127:1-2)

 

UNCLASSIFIED WHITE HOUSE COMPUTERS VULNERABLE TO HACKERS

The White House acknowledged last week that the unclassified computer systems at the U.S. presidential mansion were vulnerable to hackers.

Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, made the remarks in response to media reports that Russian hackers got access to some sensitive White House information, such as President Barack Obama's private schedule.

Rhodes would not confirm that sensitive information had been accessed, nor would he comment on where the threat originated. But, he said, "There's always vulnerability,'' which is why the White House operates a separate, secure system for classified data.

"We have classified systems that are secure and we take regular precautions to secure our own classified networks as well. I think we were very up front in acknowledging a cyber intrusion last year, so that is not new. We don't talk about where cyber intrusions originate from because we are constantly taking actions to prevent them," Rhodes told reporters.

The U.S. government has been hit by several cyberattacks, including the hacking of unclassified computers at the White House and State Department, as well as the Twitter and YouTube accounts of U.S. Central Command, which oversees the military campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

Who's to blame?

Some of the attacks have been blamed on hackers in Russia, China and North Korea.

Earlier this year, the White House announced the creation of a federal agency to analyze threats to the nation's cybersecurity and determine strategy to combat them.

The Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center will coordinate cyber threat intelligence from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies. The center will operate under the guidance of the director of national intelligence. (Contributor: VOA News)

For prayer: Modern cyber warfare and its commensurate electronic spying reminds one of an old comic strip called “Spy vs. Spy,” where each side tried to outwit the other. Techniques are so sophisticated that a new branch of the hacking game now trains technicians to discern between real data (what is true) and the false leads planted to lead other governments astray. Long before electronic sophistication, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower sent false signals to the Nazi Command and thus took Normandy Beach on “D-Day” (WW II). The U.S. conquered then because our cause was just and God showed mercy. Today’s international scene needs a chastened U.S. and a repentant Church to cry out to God with a united heart to say, “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done. . .” Pray as led.

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

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I hope in Him!’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” (Lam. 3:22-25)

 

EMP: U.S. AEROSPACE COMMAND MOVING BACK TO COLD WAR BUNKER

The U.S. military command that scans North America's skies for enemy missiles and aircraft plans to move its communications gear to a Cold War-era mountain bunker, officers said.

The shift to the Cheyenne Mountain base in Colorado is designed to safeguard the command's sensitive sensors and servers from a potential electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack, military officers said.

The Pentagon last week announced a $700 million contract with Raytheon Corporation to oversee the work for North American Aerospace Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command.

Admiral William Gortney, head of NORAD and Northern Command, said that "because of the very nature of the way that Cheyenne Mountain's built, it's EMP-hardened."

"And so, there's a lot of movement to put capability into Cheyenne Mountain and to be able to communicate in there," Gortney told reporters.

"My primary concern was... are we going to have the space inside the mountain for everybody who wants to move in there, and I'm not at liberty to discuss who's moving in there," he said.

The Cheyenne mountain bunker is a half-acre cavern carved into a mountain in the 1960s that was designed to withstand a Soviet nuclear attack. From inside the massive complex, airmen were poised to send warnings that could trigger the launch of nuclear missiles.

But in 2006, officials decided to move the headquarters of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command from Cheyenne to Petersen Air Force base in Colorado Springs. The Cheyenne bunker was designated as an alternative command center if needed.

That move was touted a more efficient use of resources but had followed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of modernization work at Cheyenne carried out after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Now the Pentagon is looking at shifting communications gear to the Cheyenne bunker, officials said.

"A lot of the back office communications is being moved there," said one defense official.

Officials said the military's dependence on computer networks and digital communications makes it much more vulnerable to an electromagnetic pulse, which can occur naturally or result from a high-altitude nuclear explosion.

Under the 10-year contract, Raytheon is supposed to deliver "sustainment" services to help the military perform "accurate, timely and unambiguous warning and attack assessment of air, missile and space threats" at the Cheyenne and Petersen bases.

Raytheon's contract also involves unspecified work at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. (Contributor: AFP)

 

For prayer: Several national prayer leaders are agreed that our country cannot be protected without a return to God triggered by widespread revival and characterized by united, unified prayer from coast to coast and from south to north. “United” would mean all committed intercessors were praying, and “unified” would mean that they would be praying in “one accord.” If God’s people in our nation fully turn back to Him, He will respond in His mercy and power to once again be our Shepherd and Guide. Will that be our legacy here in the United States? Will the Church help shape history through prayer?

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.” (Ps. 133)

 

PENTAGON GEARING UP FOR ROBOT WARS

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work outlined the Pentagon’s plans for an advanced war-fighting strategy involving robot weapons and remote-controlled warfare.

In a speech to the Army War College Strategy Conference, Mr. Work said the “third offset strategy” will rely heavily on autonomous systems that will allow machines and U.S. technological superiority to win wars.

The strategy follows two earlier “offsets” — the use of asymmetric means to counter enemy advantages. During the Cold War, strategic deterrence and tactical nuclear arms were used to offset the Soviet Union’s ground force numerical advantages. In the 1970s, precision-guided conventional weapons were deployed to offset the quantitative shortcomings of foreign conventional forces.

Mr. Work said precision-guided warfare is reaching the end of its shelf life as foreign states have developed countermeasures.

The third offset will be designed to defeat states like China, which is developing niche, offset weapons such as anti-ship ballistic missiles and anti-satellite arms.

“The real essence of the third offset strategy is to find multiple different attacks against opponents across all domains so they can’t adapt, or they adjust to just one, and they died before they can adapt again,” he said.

Mr. Work said defense strategists are divided between those who seek to continue to focus on low-end conflict and those who say future wars will require high-end forces for use against competitor states with large militaries, like China and Russia. “We don’t have an answer right now” on which direction the Pentagon will go, he said.

The deputy defense secretary said the offset strategy calls for adapting “three-play chess” to modern warfare, in which U.S. military forces will employ highly skilled people operating advanced technological machines against less-capable forces.

Mr. Work said the “Air Sea Battle” concept, designed to break into Asia against Chinese missiles and submarines, has evolved into “Air Land Battle 2.0.”

“Air Sea Battle, in my view, kind of went wrong,” said Mr. Work, one of the concept’s architects.

The revised concept will involve avoiding being targeted by massive Chinese missile salvos or submarine attacks through “getting into their networks, blowing them up and keep them from seeing you,” he said.

Next, salvo attacks will be countered with defenses designed to hit missiles and destroy submarines and missile-carrying bombers before they fire. Last, after surviving the massed strikes, joint assault forces will be injected to make it an “air-land battle.”

“I believe that what the third offset strategy will revolve around will be three-play combat in each dimension,” Mr. Work said. “And three-play combat will be much different in each dimension [air, sea, land], and it will be up for the people who live and fight in that dimension to figure out the rules.”

“We will have autonomy at rest, our smart systems being able to go through big data to help at the campaign level and to be able to go through big data at the tactical level. So autonomy at rest and autonomy in motion,” he said.

The most difficult domain for robots is the ground.

“Just getting robots to move over terrain is one of the most difficult things you can imagine,” Mr. Work said.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon’s high-tech development center, is working on a program called Squad X that is focusing on human-machine interaction at the tactical level. The program includes ground robots, microdrones and squad-sized military units equipped with intelligence and super-lethal weapons that can cover large areas.

“And this is not as far away as you might think,” Mr. Work said, noting that the Army is conducting experiments with “manned and unmanned teaming” of Apache attack helicopters.

Robot-driven vehicles also are coming, along with human-sized robots used as porters, firefighters, countermine robots, and counter sniper robots. (Contributor: By Bill Gertz for The Washington Times)

For prayer: The primary focus for prayer here is not about robot development. Instead, please pray about the continual reduction of U.S. defense and war power, as the administration directs the Department of Defense. With the reduction of naval ships and missile development, along with the push for women to share equally in combat roles (for which they were not made and are ill-equipped), American military strength continues to weaken. This is undisputable and clear to any who follow the present trends. Congress may be awakening to its shared responsibility to govern. Intercessors, please remain alert and pray accordingly. No Christian wants warfare, but the U.S. Constitution mandates that we maintain a strong military for defense of our freedoms. We must continue to pray.

“In transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.” (Isa. 59:13-14)

 

NASA SET TO INVESTIGATE AMERICA'S MASSIVE METHANE MYSTERY

A small 'hot spot' in the U.S. Southwest is responsible for producing the largest concentration of the greenhouse gas methane seen over the United States - and is the subject of a major new investigation to find out why.

The hot spot, near the Four Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, covers only about 2,500 square miles (6,500 square kilometers), or half the size of Connecticut.

A recent Nasa map shows is produces more than triple the standard ground-based estimate - and researchers say they don't know why.

The Four Corners area (red) is the major U.S. hot spot for methane emissions in this map showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003-2009 (dark colors are lower than average; lighter colors are higher). The hot spot, near the Four Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, covers only about 2,500 square miles.

Methane

Methane is very efficient at trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Like carbon dioxide, it contributes to global warming.

To calculate the emissions rate that would be required to produce the observed concentration of methane in the air, the authors performed high-resolution regional simulations using a chemical transport model, which simulates how weather moves and changes airborne chemical compounds.

Researchers from several institutions are now in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest with a suite of airborne and ground-based instruments, aiming to uncover reasons for a mysterious methane 'hot spot' detected from space.

'With all the ground-based and airborne resources that the different groups are bringing to the region, we have the unique chance to unequivocally solve the Four Corners mystery,' said Christian Frankenberg, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, who is heading NASA's part of the effort.

Other investigators are from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) in Boulder, Colorado; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Last fall, researchers including Frankenberg reported that a small region around the Four Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah had the highest concentration of methane over background levels of any part of the United States.

An instrument on a European Space Agency satellite measuring greenhouse gases showed a persistent atmospheric hot spot in the area between 2003 and 2009.

The amount of methane observed by the satellite was much higher than previously estimated.

The satellite observations were not detailed enough to reveal the actual sources of the methane in the Four Corners.

Likely candidates include venting from oil and gas activities, which are primarily coalbed methane exploration and extraction in this region; active coal mines; and natural gas seeps.

Researchers from CIRES, NOAA's Earth Systems Research Laboratory and Michigan are conducting a field campaign called TOPDOWN (Twin Otter Projects Defining Oil Well and Natural gas emissions) 2015, bringing airborne and ground-based instruments to investigate possible sources of the methane hot spot.

Shiprock, New Mexico, is in the Four Corners region where an atmospheric methane "hot spot" can be seen from space. Researchers are currently in the area, trying to uncover the reasons for the hot spot.

The JPL team will join the effort on April 17 and fly two complementary remote sensing instruments on two Twin Otter research aircraft.

The Next-Generation Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRISng), which observes spectra of reflected sunlight, flies at a higher altitude and will be used to map methane at fine resolution over the entire region.

Using this information and ground measurements from the other research teams, the Hyperspectral Thermal Emission Spectrometer (HyTES) will fly over suspected methane sources, making additional, highly sensitive measurements of methane.

Depending on its flight altitude, the NASA aircraft can image methane features with a spatial resolution better than three feet (one meter) square. In other words, it can create a mosaic showing how methane levels vary every few feet, enabling the identification of individual sources.

Hotspot of total column methane anomalies centered over the Four Corners region from 2003 to 2009, when a satellite-based methane-measuring instrument was operational. The April study will focus on verifying the hotspot and determining the methane sources producing the exceptionally elevated methane concentrations.

With the combined resources, the investigators hope to quantify the region's overall methane emissions and pinpoint contributions from different sources. They will track changes over the course of the month-long effort and study how meteorology transports emissions through the region.

'If we can verify the methane detected by the satellite and identify its sources, decision-makers will have critical information for any actions they are considering,' said CIRES scientist Gabrielle Pétron, one of the mission's investigators. Part of President Obama's recent Climate Action Plan calls for reductions in methane emissions.

The research team also includes scientists from the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder; the U.S. Bureau of Land Management; and the state of New Mexico.

Is this the cause? The Four Corners coal-fired power plant, near Farmington, is one of the targets Nasa wants to investigate as a possible cause of the methane

In each of the seven years studied from 2003-2009, the area released about 0.59 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere.

This is almost 3.5 times the estimate for the same area in the European Union's widely used Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research.

In the study published online today in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, researchers used observations made by the European Space Agency's Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Chartography (SCIAMACHY) instrument, which measured greenhouse gases from 2002 to 2012.

The atmospheric hot spot persisted throughout the study period.

A ground station in the Total Carbon Column Observing Network, operated by the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory, provided independent validation of the measurement.

To calculate the emissions rate that would be required to produce the observed concentration of methane in the air, the authors performed high-resolution regional simulations using a chemical transport model, which simulates how weather moves and changes airborne chemical compounds.

Research scientist Christian Frankenberg of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, first noticed the Four Corners signal years ago in SCIAMACHY data.

'We didn't focus on it because we weren't sure if it was a true signal or an instrument error,' Frankenberg said.

The study's lead author, Eric Kort of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, noted the study period predates the widespread use of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, near the hot spot.

This indicates the methane emissions should not be attributed to fracking but instead to leaks in natural gas production and processing equipment in New Mexico's San Juan Basin, which is the most active coalbed methane production area in the country.

Natural gas is 95-98 percent methane.

Methane is colorless and odorless, making leaks hard to detect without scientific instruments.

'The results are indicative that emissions from established fossil fuel harvesting techniques are greater than inventoried,' Kort said.

'There's been so much attention on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, but we need to consider the industry as a whole.'

In just one place in the United States do four states meet. The borders of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona intersect at Four Corners, west of the confluence of the Mancos and San Juan Rivers.

Coalbed methane is gas that lines pores and cracks within coal.

In underground coal mines, it is a deadly hazard that causes fatal explosions almost every year as it seeps out of the rock. After the U.S. energy crisis of the 1970s, techniques were invented to extract the methane from the coal and use it for fuel. By 2012, coalbed methane supplied about 8 percent of all natural gas in the United States.

Frankenberg noted that the study demonstrates the unique role space-based measurements can play in monitoring greenhouse gases.

'Satellite data cannot be as accurate as ground-based estimates, but from space, there are no hiding places,' Frankenberg said.

In March 2014 the Obama Administration announced a strategy to reduce methane emissions under its Climate Action Plan.

The strategy includes improving the measurement and monitoring of methane emissions and assessing current methane emissions data. (Contributor: By Mark Prigg for Daily Mail)

Watch Video

For prayer: In this long article from The Daily Mail.com, we find several clues to alert intercessory “watchmen” as to where the reporter is focused. The “slant” of the article is that the methane buildup is not good and that the cause is from active or former coal mines. The reporter asks the question: “Is this the cause [of the methane buildup]? The Four Corners coal-fired power plant, near Farmington, is one of the targets NASA wants to investigate as a possible cause of the methane.” If the methane buildup is being caused by anything to do with coal, and the president and his administration want “to reduce methane emissions under its Climate Action Plan,” then we might expect legal action to pinpoint coal as a “global-warming culprit.” Please pray as you are led. This article is transitional, not urgent. Keep watching and praying. Our overarching need is for the U.S. to turn back 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. ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isa. 55:6-9)

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NETANYAHU WINS STRONG!
After a bruising campaign focused on his failings, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel won a clear victory in Tuesday’s elections and seemed all but certain to form a new government and serve a fourth term, though he offended many voters and alienated allies in the process.

With 99.5 percent of the ballots counted, the YNet news site reported Wednesday morning that Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud Party had captured 29 or 30 of the 120 seats in Parliament, sweeping past his chief rival, the center-left Zionist Union alliance, which got 24 seats.

Mr. Netanyahu and his allies had seized on earlier exit polls that showed a slimmer Likud lead to create an aura of inevitability, and celebrated with singing and dancing. While his opponents vowed a fight, Israeli political analysts agreed even before most of the ballots were counted that he had the advantage, with more seats having gone to the right-leaning parties likely to support him.

It was a stunning turnabout from the last pre-election polls published Friday, which showed the Zionist Union, led by Isaac Herzog, with a four- or five-seat lead and building momentum, and the Likud polling close to 20 seats. To bridge the gap, Mr. Netanyahu embarked on a last-minute scorched-earth campaign, promising that no Palestinian state would be established as long as he remained in office and insulting Arab citizens.

Mr. Netanyahu, who served as prime minister for three years in the 1990s and returned to office in 2009, exulted in what he called “a huge victory” and said he had spoken to the heads of all the parties “in the national camp” and urged them to help him form a government “without any further ado.”

“I am proud of the Israeli people that, in the moment of truth, knew how to separate between what’s important or what’s not and to stand up for what’s important,” he told an exuberant crowd early Wednesday morning at Likud’s election party at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. “For the most important thing for all of us, which is real security, social economy and strong leadership.”

But it remained to be seen how his divisive — some said racist — campaign tactics would affect his ability to govern a fractured Israel.

Mr. Herzog also called the election “an incredible achievement.” He said he had formed a negotiating team and still hoped to lead “a real social government in Israel” that “aspires to peace with our neighbors.”

“The public wants a change,” he said at an election-night party in Tel Aviv, before the Likud’s large margin of victory was revealed by the actual vote count. “We will do everything in our power, given the reality, to reach this. In any case, I can tell you that there will be no decisions tonight.”

Based on the results reported on YNet, Mr. Netanyahu could form a narrow coalition of nationalist and religious parties free of the ideological divisions that stymied his last government. That was what he intended when he called early elections in December. President Reuven Rivlin, who in coming days must charge Mr. Netanyahu or Mr. Herzog with trying to forge a coalition based on his poll of party leaders’ preferences , said shortly after the polls closed that he would suggest they join forces instead.

“I am convinced that only a unity government can prevent the rapid disintegration of Israel’s democracy and new elections in the near future,” he told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Both camps rejected that option publicly, saying the gaps between their world views were too large. Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Herzog started working the phones immediately after the polls closed, calling party heads to begin the horse-trading and deal-making in hopes of lining up a majority of lawmakers behind them.

The biggest prize may be Moshe Kahlon, a popular former Likud minister who broke away — in part out of frustration with Mr. Netanyahu — to form Kulanu, which focused on pocketbook issues. Mr. Kahlon leans to the right but has issues with the prime minister, and he said Tuesday night that he would not reveal his recommendation until the final results were tallied.

Kulanu — Hebrew for “All of Us” — won 10 seats , according to the tally YNet reported Wednesday based on 99.5 percent of ballots counted. That is enough to put either side’s basic ideological alliance over the magic number of 61 if they also win the backing of two ultra-Orthodox parties that won a total of 14 seats.

“The clearest political outcome is that Kahlon is going to be the kingmaker, and it really depends on how he is going to play his cards,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute. “It very much depends on Kahlon.”

Silvan Shalom, a Likud minister, told reporters that the prime minister would reach out first to Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party and to Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu, two archconservatives, and “of course Moshe Kahlon,” predicting a coalition “within the next few days” of 63 or 64 seats.

“Israel said today a very clear ‘yes’ to Prime Minister Netanyahu and to the Likud to continue leading the State of Israel,” Mr. Shalom said. “We’ll do it with our allies. We’ll have a strong coalition that is able to deal with all the important issues.”

The Zionist Union said, essentially, not so fast.

Nachman Shai, a senior lawmaker from the Labor Party, which joined with the smaller Hatnua to form the new slate, said Mr. Herzog could still form a coalition, thought he did not specify how, and advised the public to “wait and see.” “They’re trying to cash the check and create a certain atmosphere of victory," Mr. Shai told reporters. “We’ll do the same.”

The murky exit-poll predictions led to a murky reaction from the White House, where a spokesman said that President Obama remained “committed to working very closely with the winner of the ongoing elections to cement and further deepen the strong relationship between the United States and Israel, and the president is confident that he can do that with whomever the Israeli people choose.”

The Joint List of Arab parties won 13 seats, making it the third-largest parliamentary faction. Its four component parties previously had 11.

The unity seems to have lifted turnout among Arab voters to its highest level since 1969, said the list’s leader, Ayman Odeh. Arab parties have never joined an Israeli coalition, but Mr. Odeh has indicated that he would try to help Mr. Herzog in other ways in hopes of ending Mr. Netanyahu’s tenure.

Yesh Atid, a centrist party that won a surprising 19 seats in the 2013 election, its first, earned 11 this time. The Jewish Home lost votes to Mr. Netanyahu’s swing to the right and ended up with eight, according to YNet, down from its current 12. The ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu had six, and the leftist Meretz four.

A new ultra-Orthodox breakaway faction apparently failed to pass the raised electoral threshold to enter Parliament, which means its votes will be discarded, costing the right-wing bloc.

As the results of Israel’s tight election roll in, Israelis reflect on the issues they hope the next prime minister will make priorities.

Turnout was near 72 percent, four percentage points higher than in 2013, which analysts attributed to the surprisingly close contest between the Likud and Zionist Union.

“For the first time in many years, we see a serious strengthening in the two major parties,” said Yehuda Ben Meir of the Institute for National Security Studies. “Both parties are higher up at the expense of the smaller parties, which is good for stability, and it’s a move to the center. The larger parties are always more to the center than the satellite parties.”

But Mr. Plesner of the Democracy Institute said the results showed the need for electoral reform because Israel’s “system is so fragmented, so unstable, so difficult to govern.”

Tuesday’s balloting came just 26 months after Israel’s last election, but the dynamic was entirely different. In 2013, there was no serious challenge to Mr. Netanyahu. This time, Mr. Herzog teamed up with Tzipi Livni to form the Zionist Union, an effort to reclaim the state’s founding pioneer philosophy from a right-wing that increasingly defines it in opposition to Palestinian national aspirations.

They promised to stop construction in isolated Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, to try to renew negotiations with the Palestinians, and to restore relations Mr. Netanyahu had frayed with the White House. Mostly, though, they — along with Yesh Atid and Kulanu — hammered the prime minister on kitchen-table concerns like the high cost of housing and food.

Mr. Netanyahu talked mainly about the threats of an Iranian nuclear weapon and Islamic terrorism, addressing economics only in the final days. That was also when he made a sharp turn to the right, backing away from his 2009 endorsement of a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict and sounding an alarm Tuesday morning that Arabs were voting “in droves.”

Many voters complained about a bitter campaign of ugly attacks and a lack of inspiring choices.

“I am happy today to be able to vote, but I know I’ll be unhappy with the result, no matter who wins,” said Elad Grafi, 29, who lives in Rehovot, a large city south of Tel Aviv. Sneering at the likelihood of any candidate being able to form a coalition stable enough to last a full term, he added, “Anyway, I’ll see you here again in two years, right?”

In the Jerusalem suburb of Tzur Hadassah, Eli Paniri, 54, a longtime Likud supporter, said he “voted for the only person who should be prime minister: Netanyahu.”

“I am not ashamed of this,” Mr. Paniri said after weeks of Netanyahu-bashing from all sides. “He is a strong man and, most important, he stood up to President Obama.”

(Contributor: By Jodi Rudoren for The New York Times - Reporting was contributed by Irit Pazner Garshowitz from Tzur Hadassah, Israel, and Tel Aviv; Isabel Kershner, Myra Noveck and Carol Sutherland from Jerusalem; Michael D. Shear from Washington; Diaa Hadid from the West Bank; Rina Castelnuovo from Beit Zayit, Israel; and Gabby Sobelman from Rehovot, Israel.)

Prayer focus: Christians who love and support Israel will begin this day with thanksgiving to God for yesterday’s election results, with full confidence that the divine will and purpose are being worked out through Mr. Netanyahu’s victory. We now pray that he will be successful in completing the formation of a conservative coalition and carry on with his message that Israel has the right to exist and will defend itself at all costs from those whose goal is Israel’s destruction. Let us pray fervently for a turning point from strong international anti-Semitism, including within our own U.S. government and intercede that Mr. Netanyahu and Israel will turn to the Lord and be saved.

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Prov 16:33)

“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)

 

WIND COULD SUPPLY A THIRD OF THE COUNTRY’S POWER NEEDS BY 2050

Wind power could provide more than a third of the country’s electricity by 2050 while yielding a net savings in energy costs paid by consumers, the Energy Department reported in a major study released Thursday.

Continued growth of wind energy—which has tripled since 2000 and now supplies nearly 5 percent of the country’s electric power—also could dramatically reduce air pollution and go a long way toward meeting the country’s goals on slowing climate change, the report said.

But the study also warned that consistent government policies were critical to avoiding “boom and bust” cycles for investment in wind energy. Congress must keep wind-friendly tax policies in place to minimize market uncertainty about future returns on investments in wind turbines, Energy Department officials said.

“With continued commitment, wind can be the cheapest, cleanest option in all 50 states by 2050,” Lynn Orr, the department’s undersecretary for technology and energy, said in unveiling “Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States

The report, an update on a similar study conducted in 2008, attempts to project the potential growth of the wind-power industry under a range of scenarios over the next 35 years, as well as the possible impacts on consumers and on the environment.

Already, it noted, the industry is experiencing dramatic growth in many parts of the country, aided by steadily falling costs that have made wind power an attractive option, even at a time of cheap natural gas prices. “In some parts of the U.S., wind is already the cheapest option for consumers,” Orr said.

Using what the report’s authors described as realistic, middle-of-the-road assumptions for future market conditions, the study projected that 20 percent of the country’s electricity would be generated from wind by 2030, and 35 percent by 2050. It predicted that significant wind-power facilities would soon be in place in every U.S. state as well as in off-shore wind farms along the coast.

The study does not examine the potential role of solar energy, which also has experienced dramatic gains in the past five years. A study earlier this month by the U.S. Energy Information Administration found that most of the growth in U.S. electricity generation currently is coming from solar and wind.

Trade groups representing traditional fuels also have predicted significant, though somewhat more modest, growth in renewables over the coming decades. A January report by the American Petroleum Institute projected that wind and other renewables would account for 12 percent of American energy consumption by 2040. That figure also includes energy used in transportation.

The Energy Department report said the shift to wind could result in a net price increase of about 1 percent for consumers by 2030, but would produce a overall savings of 2 percent by 2030. That’s in addition to savings in environmental costs, including lower levels of asthma-causing smog and soot and reduced emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, it said.

Wind’s environmental benefits “can address key societal challenges such as climate change, air quality and public health, and water scarcity,” while also providing U.S. jobs, U.S. manufacturing, and lease and tax revenues,” the report said. It cited the potential for the creation of 600,000 U.S. jobs from wind energy alone, including manufacturing positions in factories constructing wind turbines.

The recent gains in renewables were trumpeted by Secretary State John F. Kerry on Thursday in a speech that called for increased investment in solar and wind for both environmental and economic reasons. Kerry will help lead the Obama administration’s efforts to negotiate an international agreement on reducing carbon emissions later this year in Paris.

Kerry said clean energy offered not only a way to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, but also “one of the greatest economic opportunities of all time” as countries build the infrastructure for a new energy grid that does not rely on foreign imports.

“Want to put people to work? This is the way you put people to work,” Kerry said in the speech to the Atlantic Council. “The global energy market of the future is poised to be the largest market the world has ever known.”

“This is not a choice between bad and worse,” Kerry said. “Pursuing cleaner, more efficient energy is actually the only way that nations around the world can build the kind of economies that are going to thrive for decades to come.” (Contributor: By Joby Warrick for The Washington Post - Joby Warrick joined the Post’s national staff in 1996. He has covered national security, intelligence and the Middle East, and currently writes about the environment.)

Prayer focus: Without detracting from human invention, Christians will first give thanks to God as He unlocks more divine “secrets” for mankind’s welfare. Whether drawing from the Sun’s energy or the potential of “air in motion” to harness wind power, God has the ultimate prior claim on everything that enables the inhabitants of the planet Earth to survive, even to thrive. Pray that development of wind energy will reduce the stranglehold oil currently has on international economics. Notice from God’s Word how nature obeys the will of God and the voice of God instantly.

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” (Ex 14:21-22)

“And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But [Jesus] was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ But He said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’ Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, ‘Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’” (Mat 8:24-27)

 

SUSPECT IN SHOOTING OF 2 FERGUSON POLICE OFFICERS ARRESTED

A 20-year-old man charged Sunday with shooting two police officers watching over a demonstration outside the Ferguson Police Department had attended a protest there earlier that night but told investigators he wasn’t targeting the officers, authorities said.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch said suspect Jeffrey Williams told authorities he was firing at someone with whom he was in a dispute.

“We’re not sure we completely buy that part of it,” McCulloch said, adding that there might have been other people in a vehicle Williams is accused of firing from.

Williams is charged with two counts of first-degree assault, one count of firing a weapon from a vehicle and three counts of armed criminal action. McCulloch said the investigation is ongoing.

The police officers were shot early Thursday as a late-night demonstration began to break up following the resignation of Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson in the wake of a Justice Department report that found widespread racial bias in the police department.

“He was out there earlier that evening as part of the demonstration,” McCulloch said of Williams.

But several activists who’ve been involved in the protests since the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer told The Associated Press they were not familiar with Williams.

Williams used a handgun that matches the shell casings at the scene, McCulloch said. He also said tips from the public led to the arrest.

Williams, who St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said is black, is being held on $300,000 bond. County police spokesman Brian Schellman said he didn’t know whether Williams had an attorney or when he’d appear in court. A message left at the St. Louis County Justice Center was not immediately returned.

Brittany Ferrell, 26, a protest leader with the group Millennial Activists United, had just left a meeting with other leaders Sunday when word of the arrest circulated. She said no one in the group knew Williams, and they checked with other frequent protesters - who also hadn’t heard of him.

Ferrell suspected McCulloch tried to cast him as a protester to reflect negatively on the movement.

“This is a fear tactic,” she said. “We are very tight-knit. We know each other by face if not by name, and we’ve never seen this person before.”

John Gaskin, a St. Louis NAACP leader, said of Williams, “I don’t know him. I’ve never seen him.”

Williams, a north St. Louis County resident, was on probation for receiving stolen property, McCulloch said. “I think there was a warrant out for him on that because he had neglected to report for the last seven months to his probation officer,” he said.

Online state court records show a man by the name of Jeffrey Williams at the address police provided Sunday was charged in 2013 with receiving stolen property and fraudulent use of a credit/debit device.

There was no answer at the door at the small, ranch-style home. Several neighbors, including the people just across the street, said they didn’t know Williams. But one, 26-year-old Jason White, said “He was cool. I never heard of him doing nothing to nobody.”

Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement Sunday that the arrest “sends a clear message that acts of violence against our law enforcement personnel will never be tolerated” and praised “significant cooperation between federal authorities and the St. Louis County Police Department.”

Belmar previously called the shooting “an ambush,” and had said the two officers easily could have died, like two New York City officers who were shot and killed in their police cruiser in December.

A 41-year-old St. Louis County officer was shot in the right shoulder, the bullet exiting through his back. A 32-year-old officer from Webster Groves was wearing a riot helmet with the face shield up. He was shot in the right cheek, just below the eye, and the bullet lodged behind his ear.

The officers were released from the hospital later Thursday, and Belmar said Sunday that they “were getting better, not getting worse.”

The Ferguson police department has been a national focal point since Brown, who was black and unarmed, was killed by now-former police officer Darren Wilson. Wilson was cleared by the Justice Department’s report and a grand jury led by McCulloch declined to indict Wilson in November.

The federal report found widespread racial bias in the city’s policing and in a municipal court system driven by profit extracted from mostly black and low-income residents.

Six Ferguson officials, including Jackson, have resigned or been fired since the federal report was released March 4.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III and the City Council issued a joint statement saying they support “peaceful protesting” but “will not allow, nor tolerate, the destructive and violent actions of a few to disrupt our unifying actions.” (Contributor: By Jim Salter for Associated Press and The Washington Times)

Prayer focus: Ferguson, MO and its residents, including police officers and other officials, have been the focus of unrelenting scrutiny, social pressure, and violence from outside the town. The situation continues to be complicated, and intercessors should take due notice, evaluate the latest news headlines as best they can, and seek to intercede as they are led. Pray that many fearful citizens who need salvation will turn to the Lord.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mat 11:28-30)

 

AIR FORCE BASE BANS “HAVE A BLESSED DAY” THEN REVERSES

A Georgia Air Force base that made headlines after banning guards’ use of the phrase “have a blessed day” quickly reversed course and will now allow the saying, so long as those who use it “remain courteous and professional.”

Officials at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia, told gate guards that they could no longer “bless” those coming into the installation after a “non-religious” individual complained to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a group dedicated to the separation of church and state.

The unnamed individual claimed that it was inappropriate for guards to say “have a blessed day” on a multitude of occasions, leading the base to preclude employees from using the saying and, instead, encouraged them to say, “have a great day,” according to WMAZ-TV.

The brief policy change was made after the complainant sent an email to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, claiming that he or she is an active-duty member of the Air Force who is stationed at the base, detailing the supposedly inappropriate greeting.

“On no less than 15 occasions over the last two weeks, I have been greeted by the military personnel at the gate with the phrase,” the email read. “This greeting has been expressed by at least 10 different Airmen ranging in rank from A1C to SSgt. I found the greeting to be a notion that I, as a non-religious member of the military community should believe a higher power has an influence on how my day should go.”

A response to that message from Military Religious Freedom Foundation president Mikey Weinstein noted that, after a conversation with the commander at the base, it was decided that a more non-sectarian greeting would be used, leading the complainant to send a response to Weinstein, thanking him for his efforts.

“Thank you for the quick response to the situation at my base,” it read. “After your actions, the personnel at the gates have immediately changed their greetings to a more professional, ‘Have a nice/good day sir/maam.’”

But it appears that the purported ban was short-lived, as conservative commentator Todd Starnes reported that it didn’t take long for the ban to be reversed and overturned, with the base now proclaiming that “have a blessed day” is “consistent with Air Force standards.”

Here’s the full response that Starnes received when he inquired:

“We are a professional organization defended by a professional force. Our defenders portray a professional image that represents a base all of Middle Georgia can be proud of. Defenders have been asked to use the standard phrase “Welcome to Team Robins” in their greeting and can add various follow-on greetings as long as they remain courteous and professional.

The Air Force takes any expressed concern over religious freedom very seriously. Upon further review and consultation, the Air Force determined use of the phrase “have a blessed day” as a greeting is consistent with Air Force standards and is not in violation of Air Force Instructions.”

Weinstein told the Air Force Times that he will consult with attorneys to see whether any clients would like to sue in federal court over the matter, concluding that the “Air Force has not heard the last of this.” (Contributor: By Billy Hallowell for WMAZ-TV and The Blaze)

Prayer focus: We suggest an individual response to this story as each reader is led. The barrage of protests against anything remotely “religious” in the military or with any government-related agency or facility has become constant and routine. In reality, such complaints and lawsuits are aimed at Almighty God and at the integrity and authenticity of Jesus Christ. Intercede for widespread revival through which the Church will display spiritual authority, proclaiming the Gospel message in a compelling way that will produce permanent fruit.

[Jesus said:] “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:16-18)

 

DEBT RELIEF: TREASURY TAPPING TSP FEDERAL RETIREMENT

With the federal government due to hit its debt ceiling on Monday, the Treasury Department again will use financial maneuvers to stave off a default, including several involving federal retirement funds.

A letter to Congress Friday from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew notes that the government will be at its debt limit when a suspension enacted a year ago ends at midnight Sunday. “Because Congress has not yet acted to raise the debt limit, the Treasury Department will have to employ further extraordinary measures to continue to finance the government on a temporary basis,” he wrote.

One of those measures is called “disinvesting” the largest fund in the Thrift Savings Plan, the 401(k)-style retirement savings program for federal employees and military personnel, the government securities G fund. The fund consists of special-issue Treasury securities that are reinvested each business day and that count against the debt limit.

By not making the reinvestments, the Treasury in effect takes that obligation off the books, freeing up an equivalent amount of money for other uses. “After the debt limit impasse has ended, the G Fund is made whole. Therefore participants in the Thrift Savings Plan who contribute to the G Fund are unaffected,” the letter said.

As of February, the G fund held $193.9 billion of the $451.7 billion on investment with the TSP. The other TSP investment funds cannot be used for debt ceiling relief; they track stocks and other forms of bonds.

The Treasury has used a similar maneuver nine times in the past 20 years, most recently last February before the limit was suspended. Accounts continue to earn interest and the ability to take out loans or withdrawals against the money is unaffected.

“As always, we want to remind our participants that the G fund will be made whole once the debt ceiling issue is resolved and that participants will not lose a penny, thanks to the statutory protections afforded to the TSP,” TSP spokeswoman Kim Weaver said in an e-mail.

Although there is no direct financial impact on investors, in the past many have objected to use of the fund in that manner, since it consists of their personal investments, not a trust fund.

The Treasury meanwhile said it will also employ several other financial maneuvers, including one involving the federal retirement fund.

The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that such measures would provide sufficient operating cash for the government until October or November. (Contributor: By Eric Yoder for The Washington Post)

Prayer focus: This is all part of an ongoing political game in Washington, D.C., which is waged at least annually (if not more often) by the major political parties in Congress or by the Congress with or against the sitting president. No matter what happens and for all the shrill rhetoric, “the show goes on” and is ultimately settled. One political party usually blames the other side. This “juggling” often results in our country going deeper into debt. Pray for a widespread spiritual awakening and for the citizens to hold their congressional representatives accountable for guarding the treasury and lowering the debt. Elected officials are the people’s servants, not their rulers, and must be held accountable.

“Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” (1 Cor 4:2)

“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb 4:13)

 

IS IT TIME FOR THE JEWS TO LEAVE EUROPE?

For half a century, memories of the Holocaust inoculated the Continent against overt anti-Semitism. That period has ended—the recent fatal attacks in Paris and Copenhagen are merely the latest in a mounting tide. Today, right-wing fascist strains of Jew-hatred are merging with a new threat from radicalized Islamists, confronting Europe with a crisis, and its Jews with an agonizing choice.

“All comes from the Jew; all returns to the Jew.” — Édouard Drumont (1844–1917), founder of the Anti-Semitic League of France

  1. The Scourge of Our Time

The French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, the son of Holocaust survivors, is an accomplished, even gifted, pessimist. To his disciples, he is a Jewish Zola, accusing France’s bien-pensant intellectual class of complicity in its own suicide. To his foes, he is a reactionary whose nostalgia for a fairy-tale French past is induced by an irrational fear of Muslims. Finkielkraut’s cast of mind is generally dark, but when we met in Paris in early January, two days after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, he was positively grim.

“My French identity is reinforced by the very large number of people who openly declare, often now with violence, their hostility to French values and culture,” he said. “I live in a strange place. There is so much guilt and so much worry.” We were seated at a table in his apartment, near the Luxembourg Gardens. I had come to discuss with him the precarious future of French Jewry, but, as the hunt for the Charlie Hebdo killers seemed to be reaching its conclusion, we had become fixated on the television.

Finkielkraut sees himself as an alienated man of the left. He says he loathes both radical Islamism and its most ferocious French critic, Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s extreme right-wing—and once openly anti-Semitic—National Front party. But he has lately come to find radical Islamism to be a more immediate, even existential, threat to France than the National Front. “I don’t trust Le Pen. I think there is real violence in her,” he told me. “But she is so successful because there actually is a problem of Islam in France, and until now she has been the only one to dare say it.”

Suddenly, there was news: a kosher supermarket in Porte de Vincennes, in eastern Paris, had come under attack. “Of course,” Finkielkraut said. “The Jews.” Even before anti-Semitic riots broke out in France last summer, Finkielkraut had become preoccupied with the well-being of France’s Jews.

We knew nothing about this new attack—except that we already knew everything. “People don’t defend the Jews as we expected to be defended,” he said. “It would be easier for the left to defend the Jews if the attackers were white and rightists.”

I asked him a very old Jewish question: Do you have a bag packed?

“We should not leave,” he said, “but maybe for our children or grandchildren there will be no choice.”

Reports suggested that a number of people were dead at the market. I said goodbye, and took the Métro to Porte de Vincennes. Stations near the market were closed, so I walked through neighborhoods crowded with police. Sirens echoed through the streets. Teenagers gathered by the barricades, taking selfies. No one had much information. One young man, however, said of the victims, “It’s just the Feuj.” Feuj, an inversion of Juif—“Jew”—is often used as a slur.

I located an acquaintance, a man who volunteers with the Jewish Community Security Service, a national organization founded after a synagogue bombing in 1980, to protect Jewish institutions from anti-Semitic attack. “Supermarkets now,” he said bleakly. We made our way closer to the forward police line, and heard volleys of gunfire. The police had raided the market; the suspect, Amedy Coulibaly, we soon heard, was dead. So were four Jews he had murdered. They had been shopping for the Sabbath when he entered the market and started shooting.

I asked Finkielkraut a very old Jewish question: Do you have a bag packed?

France’s 475,000 Jews represent less than 1 percent of the country’s population. Yet last year, according to the French Interior Ministry, 51 percent of all racist attacks targeted Jews. The statistics in other countries, including Great Britain, are similarly dismal. In 2014, Jews in Europe were murdered, raped, beaten, stalked, chased, harassed, spat on, and insulted for being Jewish. Sale Juif—“dirty Jew”—rang in the streets, as did “Death to the Jews,” and “Jews to the gas.”

The epithet dirty Jew, Zola wrote in “J’Accuse …!,” was the “scourge of our time.”J’Accuse …!” was published in 1898.

The resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe is not—or should not be—a surprise. One of the least surprising phenomena in the history of civilization, in fact, is the persistence of anti-Semitism in Europe, which has been the wellspring of Judeophobia for 1,000 years. The Church itself functioned as the centrifuge of anti-Semitism from the time it rebelled against its mother religion until the middle of the 20th century. As Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Great Britain, has observed, Europe has added to the global lexicon of bigotry such terms as Inquisition, blood libel, auto‑da‑fé, ghetto, pogrom, and Holocaust. Europe has blamed the Jews for an encyclopedia of sins. The Church blamed the Jews for killing Jesus; Voltaire blamed the Jews for inventing Christianity. In the febrile minds of anti-Semites, Jews were usurers and well-poisoners and spreaders of disease. Jews were the creators of both communism and capitalism; they were clannish but also cosmopolitan; cowardly and warmongering; self-righteous moralists and defilers of culture. Ideologues and demagogues of many permutations have understood the Jews to be a singularly malevolent force standing between the world and its perfection.

Despite this history of sorrow, Jews spent long periods living unmolested in Europe. And even amid the expulsions and persecutions and pogroms, Jewish culture prospered. Rabbis and sages produced texts and wrote liturgical poems that are still used today. Emancipation and enlightenment opened the broader culture to Jews, who came to prominence in politics, philosophy, the arts, and science—Chagall and Kafka, Einstein and Freud, Lévi-Strauss and Durkheim. An entire civilization flourished in Yiddish.

Hitler destroyed most everything. But the story Europeans tell themselves—or told themselves, until the proof became too obvious to ignore—is that Judenhass, the hatred of Jews, ended when Berlin fell 70 years ago.

Events of the past 15 years suggest otherwise.

We are witnessing today the denouement of an unusual epoch in European life, the age of the post-Holocaust Jewish dispensation.

When the survivors of the Shoah emerged from the camps, and from hiding places in cities and forests across Europe, they were met on occasion by pogroms. (In Poland, for instance, some Christians were unhappy to see their former Jewish neighbors return home, and so arranged their deaths.) But over time, Europe managed to absorb the small number of Jewish survivors who chose to remain. A Jewish community even grew in West Germany. At the same time, the countries of Western Europe embraced the cause of the young and besieged state of Israel.

The Shoah served for a while as a sort of inoculation against the return of overt Jew-hatred—but the effects of the inoculation, it is becoming clear, are wearing off. What was once impermissible is again imaginable. Memories of 6 million Jewish dead fade, and guilt becomes burdensome. (In The Eternal Anti-Semite, the writer Henryk Broder popularized the notion that “the Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.”) Israel is coming to be understood not as a small country in a difficult spot whose leaders, especially lately, have (in my opinion) been making shortsighted and potentially disastrous decisions, but as a source of cosmological evil—the Jew of nations.

An argument made with increasing frequency—motivated, perhaps, by some perverse impulse toward psychological displacement—calls Israel the spiritual and political heir of the Third Reich, rendering the Jews as Nazis. (Some in Europe and the Middle East take this line of thought to an even more extreme conclusion: “Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism,” the president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said last year of Israel.)

The previously canonical strain of European anti-Semitism, the fascist variant, still flourishes in places. In Hungary, a leader of the right-wing Jobbik party called on the government—a government that has come under criticism for whitewashing the history of Hungary’s collaboration with the Nazis—to draw up a list of all the Jews in the country who might pose a “national-security risk.” In Greece, a recent survey found that 69 percent of adults hold anti-Semitic views, and the fascists of the country’s Golden Dawn party are open in their Jew-hatred.

But what makes this new era of anti-Semitic violence in Europe different from previous ones is that traditional Western patterns of anti-Semitic thought have now merged with a potent strain of Muslim Judeophobia. Violence against Jews in Western Europe today, according to those who track it, appears to come mainly from Muslims, who in France, the epicenter of Europe’s Jewish crisis, outnumber Jews 10 to 1.

That the chief propagators of contemporary European anti-Semitism may be found in the Continent’s large and disenfranchised Muslim immigrant communities—communities that are themselves harassed and assaulted by hooligans associated with Europe’s surging right—is flummoxing to, among others, Europe’s elites. Muslims in Europe are in many ways a powerless minority. The failure of Europe to integrate Muslim immigrants has contributed to their exploitation by anti-Semitic propagandists and by recruiters for such radical projects as the Islamic State, or ISIS.

Yet the new anti-Semitism flourishing in corners of the European Muslim community would be impoverished without the incorporation of European fascist tropes. Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, a comedian of French Cameroonian descent who specializes in Holocaust revisionism and gas-chamber humor, is the inventor of the quenelle, widely understood as an inverted Nazi salute. His followers have taken to photographing themselves making the quenelle in front of synagogues, Holocaust memorials, and sites of past anti-Jewish terrorist attacks. Dieudonné has built an ideological partnership with Alain Soral, the anti-Jewish conspiracy theorist and 9/11 “truther” who was for several years a member of the National Front’s central committee. Soral was photographed not long ago making the quenelle in front of Berlin’s Holocaust memorial.

The union of Middle Eastern and European forms of anti-Semitic expression has led to bizarre moments. Dave Rich, an official of the Community Security Trust, a Jewish organization that monitors anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom, wrote recently: “Those British Muslims who verbally abuse British Jews on the street are more likely to shout ‘Heil Hitler’ than ‘Allahu Akhbar’ when they do so. This is despite the fact that their parents and grandparents were probably chased through the very same streets by gangs of neo-Nazi skinheads shouting similar slogans.”

The marriage of anti-Semitic narratives was consummated in January of last year, during a so-called Day of Rage march in Paris that was organized to protest the leadership of the French president, François Hollande. The rally drew roughly 17,000 people, mostly far-rightists but also many French Muslims.

“On one side of this march, you had neonationalist and reactionary Catholics, who had strongly and violently opposed gay marriage, and on the other side young people from the banlieues [suburbs], supporters of Dieudonné, often from African and North African background, whose beliefs are based in opposition to the ‘system’ and on victimhood competition,” Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, the Paris director of the American Jewish Committee, told me. “What unites them is their hatred of Jews.” That day, on the streets of Paris, the anti-Hollande message was overtaken by another chanted slogan: “Juif, la France n’est pas à toi”—“Jew, France is not for you.”

Howard Jacobson, the Man Booker Prize–winning writer whose latest novel, J, is a study of a future genocide in an unnamed but very English-seeming country of an unnamed people who very much resemble the Jews, told me the book emerged from an inchoate but ever-present sense of anxiety. “I felt as if I was writing out of dread,” he said when we met recently near his home in London.

“It will never go away, this hatred of Jews … and the proof of this is that barely 50 years after the Holocaust, the desire for Jewish bloodletting isn’t over,” he said. “Couldn’t they have given us a bit longer? Give us 100 years and we’ll return to it.”

“I know this is a dangerous thing to say … but the Holocaust didn’t satisfy.”

I’ve spent much of the past year traveling across Europe, in search of an answer to a simple, but pressing, question: Is it time for the Jews to leave? Europe is a Jewish museum and a Jewish graveyard, but after the war it became, remarkably—and despite Hitler’s best efforts—home once again to living, breathing Jewish communities. Is it still a place for Jews who want to live uncamouflaged Jewish lives? (Read complete article...) (Contributor By Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic)

Prayer focus: As intercessors will note, this is not a typical newspaper article but a lengthy and in-depth analysis in The Atlantic (magazine). The author is an award-winning journalist who is Jewish and deeply aware of the rise in active, global anti-Semitism and its implications. The facts and attitudes disclosed are alarming, but we post it for the “watchmen on the wall” among us who avidly and prayerfully follow all things Jewish as they “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” Experienced intercessors will pray as they are led by the Holy Spirit of God. We have provided a link to the entire article, which we believe is worth reading now and for future reference as a prayer guide.

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Rom 10:1-4)

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

 

A POLICE GADGET TRACKS PHONES?

A powerful new surveillance tool being adopted by police departments across the country comes with an unusual requirement: To buy it, law enforcement officials must sign a nondisclosure agreement preventing them from saying almost anything about the technology.

Any disclosure about the technology, which tracks cellphones and is often called StingRay, could allow criminals and terrorists to circumvent it, the F.B.I. has said in an affidavit. But the tool is adopted in such secrecy that communities are not always sure what they are buying or whether the technology could raise serious privacy concerns.

The confidentiality has elevated the stakes in a longstanding debate about the public disclosure of government practices versus law enforcement’s desire to keep its methods confidential. While companies routinely require nondisclosure agreements for technical products, legal experts say these agreements raise questions and are unusual given the privacy and even constitutional issues at stake.

“It might be a totally legitimate business interest, or maybe they’re trying to keep people from realizing there are bigger privacy problems,” said Orin S. Kerr, a privacy law expert at George Washington University. “What’s the secret that they’re trying to hide?”

The issue led to a public dispute three weeks ago in Silicon Valley, where a sheriff asked county officials to spend $502,000 on the technology. The Santa Clara County sheriff, Laurie Smith, said the technology allowed for locating cellphones — belonging to, say, terrorists or a missing person. But when asked for details, she offered no technical specifications and acknowledged she had not seen a product demonstration.

Buying the technology, she said, required the signing of a nondisclosure agreement.

“So, just to be clear,” Joe Simitian, a county supervisor, said, “we are being asked to spend $500,000 of taxpayers’ money and $42,000 a year thereafter for a product for the name brand which we are not sure of, a product we have not seen, a demonstration we don’t have, and we have a nondisclosure requirement as a precondition. You want us to vote and spend money,” he continued, but “you can’t tell us more about it.”

The technology goes by various names, including StingRay, KingFish or, generically, cell site simulator. It is a rectangular device, small enough to fit into a suitcase, that intercepts a cellphone signal by acting like a cellphone tower.

The technology can also capture texts, calls, emails and other data, and prosecutors have received court approval to use it for such purposes.

Cell site simulators are catching on while law enforcement officials are adding other digital tools, like video cameras, license-plate readers, drones, programs that scan billions of phone records and gunshot detection sensors. Some of those tools have invited resistance from municipalities and legislators on privacy grounds.

The nondisclosure agreements for the cell site simulators are overseen by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and typically involve the Harris Corporation, a multibillion-dollar defense contractor and a maker of the technology. What has opponents particularly concerned about StingRay is that the technology, unlike other phone surveillance methods, can also scan all the cellphones in the area where it is being used, not just the target phone.

“It’s scanning the area. What is the government doing with that information?” said Linda Lye, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which in 2013 sued the Justice Department to force it to disclose more about the technology. In November, in a response to the lawsuit, the government said it had asked the courts to allow the technology to capture content, not just identify subscriber location.

The nondisclosure agreements make it hard to know how widely the technology has been adopted. But news reports from around the country indicate use by local and state police agencies stretching from Los Angeles to Wisconsin to New York, where the state police use it. Some departments have used it for several years. Money for the devices comes from individual agencies and sometimes, as in the case of Santa Clara County, from the federal government through Homeland Security grants.

Christopher Allen, an F.B.I. spokesman, said “location information is a vital component” of law enforcement. The agency, he said, “does not keep repositories of cell tower data for any purpose other than in connection with a specific investigation.”

A fuller explanation of the F.B.I.’s position is provided in two publicly sworn affidavits about StingRay, including one filed in 2014 in Virginia. In the affidavit, a supervisory special agent, Bradley S. Morrison, said disclosure of the technology’s specifications would let criminals, including terrorists, “thwart the use of this technology.”

“Disclosure of even minor details” could harm law enforcement, he said, by letting “adversaries” put together the pieces of the technology like assembling a “jigsaw puzzle.” He said the F.B.I. had entered into the nondisclosure agreements with local authorities for those reasons. In addition, he said, the technology is related to homeland security and is therefore subject to federal control.

In a second affidavit, given in 2011, the same special agent acknowledged that the device could gather identifying information from phones of bystanders. Such data “from all wireless devices in the immediate area of the F.B.I. device that subscribe to a particular provider may be incidentally recorded, including those of innocent, nontarget devices.”

But, he added, that information is purged to ensure privacy rights.

In December, two senators, Patrick J. Leahy and Charles E. Grassley, sent a letter expressing concerns about the scope of the F.B.I.’s StingRay use to Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general, and Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security.

The Harris Corporation declined to comment, according to Jim Burke, a company spokesman. Harris, based in Melbourne, Fla., has $5 billion in annual sales and specializes in communications technology, including battlefield radios.

Jon Michaels, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies government procurement, said Harris’s role with the nondisclosure agreements gave the company tremendous power over privacy policies in the public arena.

“This is like the privatization of a legal regime,” he said. Referring to Harris, he said: “They get to call the shots.”

For instance, in Tucson, a journalist asking the Police Department about its StingRay use was given a copy of a nondisclosure agreement. “The City of Tucson shall not discuss, publish, release or disclose any information pertaining to the product,” it read, and then noted: “Without the prior written consent of Harris.”

The secrecy appears to have unintended consequences. A recent article in The Washington Post detailed how a man in Florida who was accused of armed robbery was located using StingRay.

As the case proceeded, a defense lawyer asked the police to explain how the technology worked. The police and prosecutors declined to produce the machine and, rather than meet a judge’s order that they do so, the state gave the defendant a plea bargain for petty theft.

At the meeting in Santa Clara County last month, the county supervisors voted 4 to 1 to authorize the purchase, but they also voted to require the adoption of a privacy policy.

(Sheriff Smith argued to the supervisors that she had adequately explained the technology and said she resented that Mr. Simitian’s questioning seemed to “suggest we are not mindful of people’s rights and the Constitution.”)

A few days later, the county asked Harris for a demonstration open to county supervisors. The company refused, Mr. Simitian said, noting that “only people with badges” would be permitted. Further, he said, the company declined to provide a copy of the nondisclosure agreement — at least until after the demonstration.

“Not only is there a nondisclosure agreement, for the time being, at least, we can’t even see the nondisclosure agreement,” Mr. Simitian said. “We may be able to see it later, I don’t know.” (Contributor: By Matt Richtel for The New York Times)

Prayer focus: Articles such as this one are hardly news any longer. It appears that complete privacy is something from the past. No individual citizen can change these trends, but we can intercede for morally upright leadership to rise again in America through spiritual awakening that will call our nation back to God. Pray for God’s mercy to be extended and for a return to our roots. Pray for a new awareness of God in America and the conviction that He sees and knows the secrets of our hearts.

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb 4:12-15)

 

RURAL HOSPITALS STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE

Despite residents’ concerns and a continuing need for services, the 25-bed hospital that served this small East Texas town for more than 25 years closed its doors at the end of 2014, joining the ranks of dozens of other small rural hospitals that have been unable to weather the punishment of a changing national health-care environment.

For the high percentages of elderly and uninsured patients who live in rural areas, closures mean longer trips for treatment and uncertainty during times of crisis. “I came to the emergency room when I had panic attacks,” said George Taylor, 60, a retired federal government employee. “It was very soothing and the staff was great. I can’t imagine Mount Vernon without a hospital.”

The Kansas-based National Rural Health Association, which represents about 2,000 small hospitals across the country and other rural care providers, says that 48 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, the majority in Southern states, and 283 others are in trouble. In Texas alone, 10 have closed.

“If there was one particular policy causing the trouble, it would be easy to understand,” said Mark Holmes, a health economist at the University of North Carolina. “But there are a lot of things going on.”

Experts and practitioners cite declining federal reimbursements for hospitals under the Affordable Care Act as the principal reasons for the recent closures. Besides cutting back on Medicare, the law reduced payments to hospitals for the uninsured, a decision based on the assumption that states would expand their Medicaid programs. However, almost two dozen states have refused to do so. In addition, additional Medicare cuts caused by a budget disagreement in Congress have hurt hospitals’ bottom lines.

But rural hospitals also suffer from multiple endemic disadvantages that drive down profit margins and make it virtually impossible to achieve economies of scale.

These include declining populations; disproportionate numbers of elderly and uninsured patients; the frequent need to pay doctors better than top dollar to get them to work in the hinterlands; the cost of expensive equipment that is necessary but frequently underused; the inability to provide lucrative specialty services and treatments; and an emphasis on emergency and urgent care, chronic money-losers.

Rural health-care experts say that unless the problems of rural hospitals are addressed by state and federal officials, there could be a repeat of the widespread closings that followed an overhaul of the Medicare payment system 30 years ago. That 1983 change, called the prospective payment system, established fixed reimbursements for care instead of payments based on a hospital’s reported costs. It rewarded large, efficient providers, but 440 small hospitals closed before the system was adjusted in 1997 to help them. Those adjustments created the designation of critical-access hospitals for some small, isolated facilities, and exempted them from the fixed-payment system.

“And now, beginning in 2010, we’ve had another series of cuts that are all combining to create another expansion of closures just like we saw in the ’90s,” said Brock Slabach, senior vice president of the Rural Health Association. “We don’t want to wake up with another disaster.”

In Mount Vernon, a town of 2,678 people nestled in grassland and dairy country about two hours east of Dallas, family practitioner Jean Latortue has taken out a lease on the now-vacant hospital building to convert it into an outpatient and urgent care clinic at his own expense. Reopening may be a risky move, he acknowledged, but the need is there.

“The community went into panic mode,” he said. “I figured I had to step up.”

The nonprofit ETMC Regional Healthcare System, based in Tyler, Tex., closed the Mount Vernon hospital and two others of its then-12 rural hospital affiliates because it could no longer sustain operating losses that had persisted for five years.

Perry Henderson, senior vice president of affiliate hospitals for ETMC, and other experts cite three reasons for the rash of closures nationally.

Sequestration, the across-the-board federal budget cut that arose out of the legislative impasse between the Obama administration and congressional Republicans, has resulted in a 2 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursements since 2013.

“If Medicare is 50 percent of your revenue and you lose two points,” North Carolina’s Holmes said, “it can be a killer.”

Rural hospitals took a second hit from the health law’s reductions in special Medicaid payments to hospitals with large numbers of indigent and uninsured patients. Federal officials made the cuts assuming that most states would embrace the Medicaid expansion envisioned in the law, thus sharply reducing their number of uninsured. But 23 states, including Texas, have declined to do so.

Another issue is the deductibles charged by some of the new insurance plans created under the health law. In many cases, they “are running between $2,500 and $5,000,” and people can’t pay them, said Maggie Elehwany, chief lobbyist for the Rural Health Association.

Latortue, who came to Mount Vernon as an ETMC hospital doctor in 2008, appears undaunted by the challenges of reinventing the hospital, which was treating an average of eight inpatients a week when it closed. Still, he said, “I’m very busy, and patients need to be seen — we’ll be all right.”

At the new clinic, he intends to provide outpatient services, including lab work, and emergency care, stabilizing patients until they can be transferred to the Titus Regional Medical Center in Mount Pleasant, 16 miles away, or to a smaller facility in Winfield, eight miles away. He also plans a wellness clinic to treat obesity and will offer Botox and laser cosmetic services. A cardiologist and a gastroenterologist will make weekly visits, and he is also looking for an Ob-Gyn.

Still, none of this will replace the hospital, and his patients know it. “I live right behind the building,” said Mary Hunter, a fit grandmother of 73. “I’ve had very good health until my blood pressure spiked last week,” she said. “We retired in 2006 and moved here, partly because of the hospital. And now it’s gone.” (Contributor: By Guy Gugliotta for The Washington Post - This article was produced through collaboration between The Washington Post and Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service that is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.)

Prayer focus: Readers in urban areas who have doctors, hospitals, and all necessary medical services nearby are no doubt hard-pressed to identify with the plight of those in rural small towns, especially senior citizens, who have watched hospitals close and feel acutely the loss of convenient and necessary facilities they previously relied on. Give thanks for those like Dr. Latortue who choose to stay in small towns and serve, even at personal sacrifice. Pray for the Christian churches in such areas that contribute funds, often distribute food, and provide volunteers to teach classes on nutrition and prevention of disease through proper diet and personal care.

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Col 3:12-15)

 

THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS

Turn on the news and you expect to see people of different races and politics denouncing each other. That’s why what happened last week on “The Kelly File,” Megyn Kelly’s Fox News program, was so remarkable.

Following the expulsion of Parker Rice and Levi Pettit, two Sigma Alpha Epsilon members at the University of Oklahoma, upon the video release of a racist sing-a-long they led, Isaac Hill, the president of the university’s Black Student Association, told Kelly the students should be forgiven.

Miss Kelly, who is normally in complete control, was stunned and nearly speechless. It was not what she — or any of us — expected. Judgment, retribution, rioting, censorship, shaming, loss of job and prestige are the norm, not forgiveness, especially when the offending students, at the time, hadn’t asked for it.

Mr. Hill told Miss Kelly: “It is not smart to fight hate with hate. It is only logical to fight hate with love.”

This brings to mind what Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

What would have better served the interests of OU, Mr. Rice and Mr. Pettit and the larger student body? Instead of focusing on punishment and expulsion, shutting down the fraternity house and evicting all its residents, the goal should have been redemption. Redemption is a harder road to travel, but the destination should be to change the students’ thinking, not bludgeon them into silence where any racist thoughts might fester and grow worse.

Turn on the news and you expect to see people of different races and politics denouncing each other. That’s why what happened last week on “The Kelly File,” Megyn Kelly’s Fox News program, was so remarkable.

Following the expulsion of Parker Rice and Levi Pettit, two Sigma Alpha Epsilon members at the University of Oklahoma, upon the video release of a racist sing-a-long they led, Isaac Hill, the president of the university’s Black Student Association, told Kelly the students should be forgiven.

Miss Kelly, who is normally in complete control, was stunned and nearly speechless. It was not what she — or any of us — expected. Judgment, retribution, rioting, censorship, shaming, loss of job and prestige are the norm, not forgiveness, especially when the offending students, at the time, hadn’t asked for it.

Mr. Hill told Miss Kelly: “It is not smart to fight hate with hate. It is only logical to fight hate with love.”

This brings to mind what Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

What would have better served the interests of OU, Mr. Rice and Mr. Pettit and the larger student body? Instead of focusing on punishment and expulsion, shutting down the fraternity house and evicting all its residents, the goal should have been redemption. Redemption is a harder road to travel, but the destination should be to change the students’ thinking, not bludgeon them into silence where any racist thoughts might fester and grow worse. (Contributor: By Cal Thomas for The Washington Times)

Prayer focus: Students of the Bible know that there is no power in human relationships stronger than forgiveness. Forgiveness emanates from God and is the basis of redemption and salvation for those who repent and cast themselves on God’s mercy. Among Jesus’ last words as he hung on the cross was, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Give thanks for Isaac Hill, president of the Black Student Association at Oklahoma University. As this account of his gracious spirit of forgiveness spreads nationally, pray for reconciliation to come out of this initially ugly situation.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?’” (Mat 5:43-46)    

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On Watch in Washington March 11, 2015

On Watch in Washington March 11, 2015 Plain Text PDF

OBAMA’S WORDS: A MAJOR SHIFT

President Obama’s winding path on same-sex marriage reached a major new milepost Friday when his administration told the Supreme Court that the Constitution does not allow states to prohibit gay couples from marrying.

The filing’s bold language — “these facially discriminatory laws impose concrete harms on same-sex couples and send the inescapable message that same-sex couples and their children are second-class families” — captures the enormous shift Obama has made since he first sought the presidency in 2007.

After endorsing same-sex marriage nearly two decades ago, and then rejecting that idea eight years later, Obama has made expanding LGBT rights a hallmark of his domestic policy agenda. Casting it as the next chapter of the civil rights movement, the president has used language to reframe the public debate over sexual orientation and gender identity and his executive authority to expand federal benefits and protections for these Americans.

But the president’s legal strategy has been more complicated. His administration announced in 2011 that it would not defend the constitutionality of the key section of the Defense of Marriage Act that excluded gay couples from federal marriage benefits. In a 5-to-4 decision in 2013, the Supreme Court agreed.

At the same time, the administration stopped short of asking the justices to strike down all state prohibitions on same-sex marriage. That is the question the court will decide this term, with oral arguments scheduled for April 28.

The government’s brief this time is unequivocal that all state restrictions must end. It says that restrictions on gay marriage violate the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection and calls on the court to recognize that sexual orientation is a characteristic — like race or gender — that deserves special protection.

“In Loving v. Virginia, this court applied the ‘most rigid scrutiny’ under the Equal Protection Clause to invalidate state laws banning interracial marriage,” said the brief filed by Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. “There is similarly no reason to water down the otherwise appropriate level of scrutiny here.”

The brief draws heavily on the court’s DOMA decision, U.S. v. Windsor. The reasoning of that decision has led courts across the country to strike state bans on gay marriage. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit disagreed and upheld restrictions in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. It is that decision the Supreme Court will review.

Since taking office, the president has repealed the U.S. military’s practice of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which allowed for the expulsion of service members based on their sexual orientation; banned discrimination against LGBT Americans in the federal civilian workforce and among federal contractors; and has advanced the legal understanding that prohibitions on sex discrimination also apply to acts based on an individual’s gender identity.

White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who has played a key role in shaping the administration’s approach to gay rights, said in an interview before the filing, “We fight discrimination in every way we can.”

“We are delighted with the fact that when the president took office, same-sex marriage was legal in two states, and it is now legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia,” she said.

Obama has consistently advocated for greater legal rights for same-sex couples, although he has changed his position on same-sex marriage at points in his career. As an Illinois state senate candidate, he endorsed the idea in a 1996 questionnaire with an LGBT Chicago newspaper, a comment his aides later said was written by a campaign aide and not representative of his views. While running for U.S. Senate in 2004, Obama said marriage should be between only a man and a woman.

By December 2010, the president said his opinion on the matter was “constantly evolving,” and in May 2012, days after Vice President Biden surprised the White House by declaring that he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriage, Obama publicly endorsed it as well.

Most of the president’s allies had suspected for years that he backed the concept of same-sex marriage but was hesitant to embrace it in public for fear of losing support among African Americans.

Obama told BuzzFeed in an interview last month that he had made a distinction between his personal feelings and policy position. “I always felt that same-sex couples should be able to enjoy the same rights, legally, as anybody else, and so it was frustrating to me not to, I think, be able to square that with what were a whole bunch of religious sensitivities out there.”

Both he and Michelle Obama used the phrase that everyone “should be able to marry the person they love” in their stump speeches, a line that former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau said “often got some of the biggest applause” on the 2012 campaign trail.

On a more practical level, the administration has expanded benefits and safeguards for members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. Regardless of where they live, legally married same-sex spouses are now recognized for most federal and military benefits and can receive health-care coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Obama has appointed a record number of LGBT Americans to key senior administration posts, has nominated eight openly gay individuals to serve as U.S. ambassadors and has seated 11 openly-gay judges on the federal bench.

The administration’s brief was one of more than 70 filed with the Supreme Court supporting the couples in the four states and urging the justices to find that same-sex marriage should be available nationwide.

Among the supporters were GOP officeholders, religious leaders and more than 300 of the nation’s largest companies — including the Super Bowl champions New England Patriots and the World Series-winning San Francisco Giants.

Briefs on behalf of the states defending their laws and of their supporters will be filed in coming weeks. (Contributor: By Juliet Eilperin and Robert Barnes for The Washington Times - Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post's White House bureau chief, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998. Robert Barnes has been a Washington Post reporter and editor since 1987. He has covered the Supreme Court since November 2006.)

Prayer focus: President Obama is only part of the issue here, though promoting a deviant position. He is who he is, and Americans twice have elected him to the presidency. He has proven to be elusive and “flexible” (to say the least) with his statements and on many positions. We know intercessors are praying for him and his family. Please continue to pray for salvation for the first family. The president is no more or less a sinner than others who need Jesus Christ for forgiveness, changed attitudes, and eternal life. Pray, too, for God’s mercy for our country, your church, and for the Church at large, as it is through His people that God will turn our nation back to Himself. Meditate on David’s prayer of contrition and repentance.

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.” (Ps 51: 1-2, 6)

“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” (Prov 28:13)

 

NETANYAHU COULD BE DEFEATED

A week from Tuesday, on March 17th, millions of Israelis will go to the polls for one of the most consequential national elections of our times. We will be casting ballots for the political party of our choice, and in so doing choosing the makeup of the next Knesset (parliament) and our next Prime Minister.

As I’ve been traveling across the U.S. in recent weeks on The Third Target book tour, people have been asking me whether Benjamin Netanyahu will return as Prime Minister, particularly in the wake of his impressive but controversial speech to Congress.

The honest answer is: I have no idea.

There is a groundswell of “Anybody But Bibi” voters. Some 30,000 Israelis turned out the other night for a rally in Tel Aviv calling for Netanyahu to be defeated and removed from office. Most of the Israeli media hates Netanyahu and are doing everything they can to disparage and discredit him. The left-wing parties in Israel can’t stand Bibi and are throwing all they can at him. Some on the center-right have policy disagreements and/or personal frustrations with him in his ninth year as Israel’s premier. And President Obama’s top operatives are in Israel working to unseat the PM.

That said, polls show Israelis trust Netanyahu to be Prime Minister and to keep the country safe from Iran, ISIS and other threats significantly more than Yitzhak (“Bouji”) Herzog, head of the Labor Party, and Tzipi Livni, head of the Hatnua Party. (The two have formed the “Zionist Union” faction as the main opposition party to Bibi; if they come out on top, they have pledged that Herzog would serve as PM for two years, and then Livni for two years.)

What’s more, most Israelis feel that Netanyahu was right to go to the U.S. to speak about the Iran nuclear threat, and most do not trust President Obama to cut a good deal with Iran that would keep Israel safe.

“Asked whom they trust more to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat, 41% chose Netanyahu, while only 15% chose Obama, and a mere 6% chose Herzog,” noted Israel’s largest daily newspaper based on a new poll. “Some 46% of those polled said Netanyahu’s trip to Washington to address Congress was the right move, while 39% thought it was a mistake.”

At the moment, most polls show a dead heat between Netanyahu’s Likud Party and the Zionist Union, though one outlier poll yesterday showed Netanyahu’s team ahead by five seats.

It appears to be a jump ball between Netanyahu and Herzog. It could go either way. Thus, it is possible that Netanyahu could lose his position as PM this month, even as the showdown with Iran builds to a crescendo. I’m not predicting one way or the other, just trying to keep you up to speed.

Here’s the latest average of 12 Israeli polls conducted by 8 leading polling companies, according to a widely respected Israeli political analyst.

Zionist Union (Herzog/Livni) — 23.50

Likud (Netanyahu) — 22.83

Joint (Arab) List — 12.58

Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid) — 12.30

Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home/Naftali Bennett) — 11.91

Kulanu (Moshe Kahlon) — 8.25

Shas — 6.83

Yahadut Hatorah/UTJ — 6.66

Yisrael Beitenu (Avigdor Liberman) — 5.58

Meretz — 5.33

Yachad — 4.16

(Contributor: By Joel Rosenberg)

Prayer Focus: Conservative heroes and statesmen have frequently been disregarded and dropped by those who should be grateful. Primary examples: England’s treatment of Winston Churchill after WW2 and of Margaret Thatcher after she sided with the U.S. during the Cold War. Many Christians who support Israel believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu has acted courageously on behalf of his country’s interests — indeed, its survival. We believe, as Daniel did, that God raises up “kings” (national leaders) and puts them down. Pray for His determined will. Pray that God will be glorified and Israel will elect the leader and party to fulfill His purposes. Pray for Israel to turn to the Lord.

“Daniel answered and said: ‘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 what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.’” (Dan 2:20-22)

 

CLEANING UP THE CAMPUS BOONDOGGLES

Readers of this column are familiar with my argument that a conservative tide is sweeping the country, contrary to the mainstream media. In the off-year elections of 2010 and 2014, the gains made by conservatives have been substantial in governors’ mansions and in state legislatures. To be sure, they have been substantial in Washington, too, at the House and Senate level, but I would argue that they have been more consequential at the state level. There, old conventions that have been in place since the left-wing 1960s are being heaved out and a clamor of protest is being heard from the evicted. It can only get worse.

Since the late 1960s, state universities have established departments and “learning” centers that have nothing to do with education and everything to do with advocacy for a certain narrow points of view — say, minority studies, feminist studies, advocacy for the poor, people with eating disorders, chronic bedwetters — that sort of thing. State governments also have allowed taxpayers’ dollars to be skimmed off into similar projects. Now state governments, recently taken over by conservative Republicans — possibly even by tea partyers — are closing down such boondoggles and provoking howls of indignation from the so-called aggrieved.

Last week North Carolina made national headlines when its board of governors — appointed by the Republican-controlled legislature — shut down the University of North Carolina School of Law’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity and two other so-called “academic centers.” The board claimed that the shutdowns occurred because the centers were not producing work that was useful to the state’s educational goals. As a matter of fact, it seemed to me that all they were producing was propaganda for the failed policies of the past. Why should North Carolinians pay for such propaganda mills as the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity and the other two bogus academic institutes, East Carolina University’s Center for Biodiversity and North Carolina Central University’s Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change. Needless to say, when the board of governors met to announce its decision there were noisy demonstrators and not much civic engagement.

Educators at these North Carolina universities have been complaining about fanciful threats to academic freedom and the specter of political partisanship, but their complaints have come at an awkward time, particularly for the University of North Carolina. It claims to be one of the premier institutions of higher learning in the land, but a recently released study, “Cheated,” by Jay M. Smith and Mary Willingham, has come up with shocking findings, findings that do not put North Carolina’s bogus academic centers in a very good light.

According to the authors of “Cheated,” both of whom have been on the university’s faculty, during the past two decades the university has tolerated cheating, plagiarism and lax standards such as students taking fake courses — mostly basketball players and football players but also non-athletes. The center for this corruption was none other than the African and Afro-American Studies Department under professor Julius Nyang’oro and a department administrator. The book mentions basketball players at the University of North Carolina who could barely read at a third-grade level. Its wider point is that these students were cheated out of an education. They will never have a second chance at higher education and the vast majority will not go on to play in professional sports.

Other states are, of a sudden, giving close scrutiny to the boondoggles that have burdened their budgets over the years, for instance, Texas, where university regent Wallace Hall has braved the threat of prosecution to blow the whistle on serious corruption. After all, what is a Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity doing on a college campus, or an Institute for Civic Engagement? At the University of North Carolina, where reportedly star athletes are proficient in Swahili, some cannot read English at a grammar-school level. Is it not time to teach these Tar Heels to read and write while foregoing the Swahili at least until graduate school? (Contributor: By R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. for The Washington Times - R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the author most recently of “The Death of Liberalism,” published by Thomas Nelson Inc.)

Prayer focus: It is no secret that many university campus settings are in moral, social, and political crisis. Pray for Christian parents to have wisdom to prepare their children for campus environment and to choose the right college. We do not suggest that Christian colleges are free from risks, but statistics show that they are safer. Parents, are your children trained in how to protect themselves socially from predatory stalkers? Pray for a generation of young people to come forth with a grounded Christian worldview before going off to college. Pray for an awakened Church to preach and teach sound doctrine and not water down its message for popularity.

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” (Col 2:6-7)

“… that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting…” (Eph 4:14)

 

BOKO HARAM PLEDGES ALLEGIANCE TO ISLAMIC STATE

Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a new audio message believed to be recorded by the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau.

In the recording, a man identifying himself as Shekau vowed to follow Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and urged Muslims everywhere to pledge allegiance to the caliph, according to SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S.-based organization, USA Today reported.

“We announce our allegiance to the Caliph of the Muslims … and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity, in hardship and ease, and to endure being discriminated against, and not to dispute about rule with those in power, except in case of evident infidelity regarding that which there is a proof from Allah,” Shekau said in a tweeted message that went along with the video, according to The Associated Press.

The message, which was posted Saturday on Boko Haram social media accounts, was confirmed by Flashpoint Intelligence, a global security firm and NBC News consultant.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has not yet responded to the message, but Laith Alkhouri, director of MENA research and analysis at Flashpoint, said it is likely Boko Haram would be accepted.

“Boko Haram is not only one of the strongest groups to support ISIS, it’s also in [an] area ISIS has very little, if any, control,” Mr. Alkhouri told NBC News. “This gives ISIS the extra credibility and the additional territory to further its growth around the world.”

Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Group, added, “Boko Haram is now being elevated from a local jihadi group to an important arm of the Islamic State.”

On Sunday, hundreds of troops from Chad and Niger launched an offensive against Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria, CNN reported.

“Early this morning, troops from Niger and Chad launched ground and air raids against Boko Haram into Nigeria, and the operation is still continuing,” said a military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, CNN reported. “It is an intensive operation that is aimed at pulverizing Boko Haram and crippling their capability.”

Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language, is responsible for kidnapping hundreds of schoolgirls last year, killing thousands and causing nearly 1.2 million to flee northeastern Nigeria. (Contributor: By Jessica Chasmar for The Washington Times)

Prayer focus: Boko Haran goes in and out of news headlines depending on its most recent atrocious acts. This report is essentially saying “Terrorist group A has joined terrorist group B.” These separate identities all have a singular purpose, which is to bring murder and subjection to all non-Muslims. Pray for world opinion, including in the U.S., to reach the tipping point of indignation and righteous anger and take unified steps to say, “Enough!” We ask again, where is the World Court? Where is the United Nations?

“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Rom 12:19)

“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie, and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.” (2 Thess 2:9-12)

 

TAXPAYERS PAY $21 BILLION FOR UNPLANNED PREGNANCIES

Unintended pregnancies cost American taxpayers $21 billion each year, according to a new analysis released by the Guttmacher Institute. That averages out to a cost of about $366 per every woman of childbearing age in the U.S. Overall, more than half of U.S. pregnancies are unintended, and roughly 1-in-20 American women of reproductive age have an unplanned pregnancy each year.

Nationally there were 1.5 million unplanned births in 2010. Public insurance programs like Medicaid paid for 68 percent of those births. "On average, a publicly funded birth cost $12,770 in prenatal care, labor and delivery, postpartum care and the first 12 months of infant care; care for months 13–60 cost, on average, another $7,947, for a total cost per birth of $20,716," the study found.

Both the rate and cost of unplanned birth vary considerably by state. As a percent of all births, unplanned births ranged from 31.8 percent in New Hampshire to 56.8 percent in Mississippi. Overall, states in New England and on the West coast had the lowest rates of unplanned birth, while Southern states had the highest.

In some states -- Georgia, Mississippi and Oklahoma -- more than 80 percent of unplanned births were paid for by public dollars. Georgia taxpayers spent nearly $1 billion on unplanned births in 2010, as did taxpayers in Illinois. California spent $1.8 billion, while unplanned births cost the state of Texas nearly $3 billion dollars in 2010.

If these numbers seem high, they could be a lot higher. Current investments in family planning services, like contraception, family visits and STD testing, save taxpayers $15.8 billion and prevent 760,000 abortions each year, according to a 2014 analysis in the Milbank Quarterly. Guttmacher estimates that expanding these services further could cut the cost of unintended pregnancies by an additional $15 billion.

(Contributor: By Christopher Ingraham for The Washington Post - Christopher Ingraham writes about politics, drug policy and all things data. He previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center.)

Prayer focus: We will say up front that we are suspicious of the motivation behind this article. The Guttmacher Institute is no friend of the unborn, as it works closely with Planned Parent on all fronts to justify abortion as the “answer” to an unplanned (read: unwanted) pregnancy. Are people to be so shocked at these costs that they will choose to abort the innocent child because he or she is unplanned? Is that the goal? We urge caution and prayer for the right outcome. Please pray as conscience directs. Analyze this article personally and perhaps do research to discover what is behind all this talk of “expense.”

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Gal 6:7-9)

 

NASA SPACECRAFT ORBITING DWARF PLANET

The largest celestial body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter welcomes its first visitor Friday.

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft was due to slip into orbit around Ceres for the first exploration of a dwarf planet. Unlike other orbit captures that require thruster firings to slow down, the latest event is ho-hum by comparison, unfolding gradually and automatically.

Since Dawn is out of contact with Earth during the encounter, flight controllers won’t receive confirmation until hours later.

“The real drama is exploring this alien, exotic world,” said mission chief engineer Marc Rayman at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the $473 million mission.

Once circling Ceres, Dawn will spend the next 16 months photographing the icy surface to determine whether it’s active today.

Ceres is the last and final stop for Dawn, which launched in 2007 on a voyage to the main asteroid belt, a zone littered with rocky leftovers from the formation of the sun and planets some 4.5 billion years ago.

Dawn earlier spent a year at Vesta exploring the Arizona-sized asteroid and sending back stunning close-ups of the lumpy surface before cruising onto the Texas-sized Ceres.

The double trips are made possible by Dawn’s ion propulsion engines, which provide gentle yet constant acceleration and are more efficient than conventional thrusters.

As Dawn approached Ceres, it beamed back puzzling images revealing a pair of shiny patches inside a crater - signs of possible ice or salt.

Scientists hope to get a better glimpse when the spacecraft spirals closer to the surface to study whether previously spotted plumes of water vapor continue to vent.

Dwarf planets lately have become the focus of exploration.

This summer NASA spacecraft - New Horizons - is set to make the first visit to Pluto, which was demoted to dwarf planet.

Dawn almost never made it out to the inner solar system. The mission endured funding-related project cancellations and launch delays before it received the green light to fly. (Contributor: By Alicia Chang for The Associated Press)

Prayer focus: While all knowledgeable Americans marvel at the precise genius of NASA engineering and guidance systems, intercessors should note that the primary basis of space exploration is a search for life or of “life precursors” (water, etc.) that will further support Darwin’s evolutionary theory. (See the reporter’s glib assertion in paragraph 6 about “the formation of the sun and planets some 4.5 billion years ago.”) Pray that God, in His mercy, might reveal phenomena “out there” so startling and inexplicable that the academic and scientific communities will be forced to consider “Intelligent Design.” Give thanks for the Christians in science and math who are presenting facts and asking questions Darwin’s conclusions cannot answer.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.” (Ps 19:1-2)

“May you be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth. The heaven, even the heavens are the Lord’s; but the earth He has given to the children of men.” (Ps 115:15-16)

 

HOROMONE DISRUPTOR IN PLASTIC COMMON IN HOUSEHOLD ITEMS

New research regarding phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates) a known hormone disruptor found in hundreds of plasticized consumer products, adds to the growing scientific consensus of the public health danger they pose.

Analyzing data collected from 362 women, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health found that in pregnant women higher levels of the hormone hCG, which is targeted by phthalates, was correlated with an abnormality in anogenital distance in male babies. The higher the hCG in the mother's blood, the shorter the distance between the anus and the scrotum in the male infants. Short anogenital distance is also strongly associated with lower sperm count in males.

"Our study is the first to show that hCG is a target of phthalate exposure in early pregnancy and to confirm previous findings that it is a critical hormone in male development," epidemiologist Jennifer Adibi told the Endocrine Society Thursday at its annual meeting in San Diego.

Phthalates made big news in 2008 when the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that infants exposed to infant-care products, specifically baby shampoos, baby lotions, and baby powder, showed higher than normal levels of phthalates in their urine. Because they are known to disrupt hormones, several of them were severely restricted by Congress in children's toys and certain child-care articles.

Nonetheless, various kinds of phthalates, which make plastic durable but flexible, are found in everything from raincoats to nail polish to vinyl flooring.

Last year at least three major studies raised concerns about the ubiquity of phthalates. In July, in the journal Environmental Health, scientists reported that infants with normal diets, especially diets high in whole milk, cream and poultry, consume double the amount of phthalates the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe. Phthalates are known to migrate into food in a variety of ways, including through plastic food-packaging, gloves used in the preparation of food, conveyor belts that carry food during the packaging process and through the tubing used to milk cows. Phthalates are also used in some printing inks and adhesive labels found on many food wrappers.

In November of 2014, scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health reported that because of phthalates in intravenous tubing, blood and fluid bags, premature babies can be exposed to 4,000 to 160,000 times the amount of phthalates considered safe.

And in December, researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health linked prenatal exposure to phthalates to a more than six-point drop in IQ score compared with kids with less exposure.

In another study whose findings were presented at Thursday's Endocrine Society meeting, Canadian researchers found that phthalates in household plastic product as well as in the flame retardant coating on most furniture foam cushions, is associated with increased risk of autism. Rats exposed to phthalates showed behaviors similar to those seen in humans with autism spectrum disorders, including reduced social interactions and increased hyperactive movements. In general, male rats were more affected than females and demonstrated less maternal bonding than females.

Under the law, the Federal Drug Administration has no jurisdiction over cosmetic products and ingredients, including phthalates (with the exception of color additives), before they are sold to the public, and on its Web site the FDA says that it "does not have evidence that phthalates as used in cosmetics pose a safety risk."

Also, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Human health effects from exposure to low levels of phthalates are unknown. Some types of phthalates have affected the reproductive system of laboratory animals. More research is needed to assess the human health effects . . . " (Contributor: By Amy Ellis Nutt for The Washington Times)

Prayer focus: Conservative Americans treasure all remaining freedoms and do not relish additional government control. Yet we also realize that selfish profit motives in a fallen world can place the public at risk. Whether through ignorance or purposeful safety violations, some situations call for strict regulation for citizen safety. Pray that the U.S. Congress and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) might rise above lobbying pressures and “back home” interests. If you are a “concerned activist,” consider writing a letter to your representatives to about questionable products and risks.  

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night…. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” (Ps 1:1-3, 4-6)

 

STUDENTS PRAY ABOUT FRATERNITY INCIDENT IN PRAYER CIRCLE

Students and faculty gathered in the North Oval by the George Lynn Cross statue in response and watched a video of Sigma Alpha Epsilon members participating in a racist chant on a bus.

Attendees gathered in small circles and prayed, then they all joined together into one big circle for a large prayer. People prayed about the people affected by the video and asked for forgiveness for the ones involved in the incident.

“Don’t let the actions of a few people be indicative of an entire Sooner family,” one speaker in the prayer circle said.

Dillon Brown and his wife Sheyda Brown, both OU students, were the organizers of the prayer circle. Dillon Brown said that they both felt a need to gather God’s love in response to the events that transpired today.

“We were both just really broken,” Dillon Brown said. “Even though we aren’t black, hate hurts all.”

Sheyda Brown said she and her husband wanted to create a safe environment for people to express themselves about the video that was leaked on the Internet today.

“I had faith that God would do big things, and he did,” Sheyda Brown said. “People came and it was really inspiring to see… a bunch of people who didn’t know each other… get together and come together.”

After the group prayer circle, Dillon Brown instructed those at the event to pair up with another participant and “cover the campus in prayer.”

Many upstanding faces throughout the OU campus were present at the prayer circle, including the college of arts and sciences dean Kelly Damphousse, OU press secretary Corbin Wallace, and Student Government Association President Kunal Naik. Basketball players Isaiah Cousins and Frank Booker and football players Eric Striker and Charles Tapper attended as well.

One person with the group of students that included the athletes, who arrived later to the event, got the audience’s attention and told it to meet in the “academic center” dressed in “business casual” if they want to “help this cause.” Cousins said they were joining student advocacy group OU Unheard in its cause.

Unheard will demonstrate at 7:30 a.m. at the entrance of the North Oval tomorrow morning. OU’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter was disbanded by its national organization Sunday night as a result of the video leak. (Contributor: By Andrew Clark, Staff Reporter for The Oklahoma Daily)

WATCH VIDEO: <Click here!>

Prayer focus: This article demonstrates once again the power of prayer and God’s love over hatred and the evil spirit of racism. Give thanks that these prayer gatherings will show the OU student body, its faculty and other personnel, and the rest of our country that racial prejudice is arrogance at its worst. Pray for repentance and reconciliation and for OU to experience campus revival, with many conversions. Intercede for healing. Pray for Christian campus ministry organizations to take steps to show open hearts and open arms to people of all races and ethnicity, overcoming evil with good.

“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another, not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer…. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:10-12, 17-18, 21)

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On Watch in Washington March 4, 2015

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NETANYAHU: U.S. ON VERGE OF ‘BAD DEAL’ ON IRAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu challenged Congress on Tuesday to stand firm in the face of terrorist threats whether from Iran or the Islamic State, and accused President Obama of naivety in his negotiations to try to constrain Iranian leaders’ nuclear program.

With negotiations reaching a critical point, Mr. Netanyahu said Mr. Obama, desperate to avoid war, is about to make concessions that would leave Iran less than a year from capability to construct nuclear weapons, known as “breakout.” The prime minister said that kind of “bad deal” is worse than no deal at all.

Mr. Obama, who pointedly avoided even watching the speech to a joint meeting of Congress, said he later skimmed the transcript and dismissed the prime minister’s remarks as nothing new. But his opposition to the speech likely made it even more important — and certainly more difficult for Democrats, who were left divided over whether to attend and how to evaluate what the prime minister said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the speech insulting to Congress, but her top foreign relations colleague, fellow California Democrat Brad Sherman, said Mr. Netanyahu was spot-on.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, moved quickly to exploit Democrats’ divisions by announcing that he would force debate next week on a bill requiring Mr. Obama to submit any deal with Iran to Congress for its approval.

“This deal has two major concessions: one, leaving Iran with a vast nuclear program, and two, lifting the restrictions on that program in about a decade,” Mr. Netanyahu told a House chamber packed as if it were hearing a State of the Union address from a U.S. president. “That’s why this deal is so bad. It doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb; it paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”

Making his third such speech to Congress over the past two decades, Mr. Netanyahu delivered a lecture on nuclear centrifuges, timetables for enrichment, intercontinental ballistic missiles and the dangers Israel would face if it had to live in the shadow of a nuclear Iran.

Analysts said it was the most charged address by a foreign leader to a joint meeting of Congress in modern political history. Security outside the Capitol was at a maximum, with phalanxes of police patrolling the grounds and monitoring protesters. Inside, Democratic lawmakers wrestled with the question of whether to attend the speech.

Those who did show up faced difficult decisions about whether to applaud Mr. Netanyahu’s portrayal of the negotiations and his criticism of Mr. Obama’s diplomatic approach, where he is working with Germany and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the so-called P5+1 — to keep a unified front.

Mrs. Pelosi was particularly incensed, occasionally waving her hands in frustration and keeping a running commentary with her lieutenant, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, who sat next to her studiously writing notes about Mr. Netanyahu’s speech.

“I was near tears throughout the prime minister’s speech,” Mrs. Pelosi said in a statement afterward. “Saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States as part of the P5+1 nations, and saddened by the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation.”

Mr. Obama and fellow Democrats said two factors made the speech unseemly: House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, invited the Israeli prime minister before notifying the White House, and Mr. Netanyahu faces a re-election contest in Israel in two weeks.

The president refused to meet with the prime minister during his visit to Washington. Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who normally would preside over the session with Mr. Boehner, arranged to be out of town. His place was taken by Senate President Pro Tempore Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican.

Mr. Netanyahu began his speech by apologizing for the fuss. He specifically credited Mr. Obama with being a friend of Israel, both publicly and privately.

“I know that my speech has been the subject of much controversy,” he said. “I deeply regret that some perceive my being here as political. That was never my intention.”

But Mr. Netanyahu repeatedly questioned the administration’s negotiating stance and said the president ignores Iran’s long history of backing terrorism, its territorial aims and its stated goal of destroying Israel.

He also warned against using Iran’s cooperation in the fight against the Islamic State as a reason to believe it wants to be a cooperating member of the international community.

“When it comes to Iran and ISIS, the enemy of your enemy is your enemy,” he said. “The difference is that ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube, whereas Iran could soon be armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs.”

Mr. Obama, who scheduled a video conference with European leaders to discuss Ukraine at the same time as Mr. Netanyahu’s speech, later said there was little in the remarks to interest him.

“What I’m focused on right now is solving this problem,” he said. “I’m not focused on the politics of it, I’m not focused on the theater of it. And my strong suggestion would be that members of Congress, as they evaluate it, stay similarly focused.”

Mr. Obama said no deal with Iran has been finalized and that negotiations so far have pushed Iran somewhat further from nuclear weapons capability.

The Obama administration’s goal is to create a situation in which it would take Iran a year to create a nuclear bomb once it made the decision to go ahead.

Mr. Netanyahu, however, said the terms the White House is considering would leave “breakout” less than a year away and the goal should be to prohibit Iran from taking any path toward nuclear weapons capability.

The galleries were packed for Mr. Netanyahu’s speech, just as they were less than two months ago for Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address, but a practiced eye could spot the differences. The members of the Congressional Black Caucus who normally packed the aisle seats for a chance to be photographed with Mr. Obama were absent from those prime seats, replaced by Republicans eager to get Mr. Netanyahu’s attention.

In the spot where first lady Michelle Obama has sat for the past six years was Nobel Prize winning author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who received two standing ovations from the crowd. (Contributor: By Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times - Dave Boyer contributed to this report.)

Prayer focus: Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to the joint session of Congress speaks for itself. It will inevitably be interpreted according to the observer’s political convictions and worldview. Our encouragement to intercessors is to view this entire event through both historical and biblical lenses and to continue to pray for both our own U.S. leaders and for Israel. Focus, too, on the upcoming Israeli elections in two weeks. Proclaim God’s sovereign rule and 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)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.” (Ps. 46:1-3)

 

REPORT: OBAMA THREATENED TO SHOOT DOWN IAF IRAN STRIKE

The Bethlehem-based news agency Ma’an has cited a Kuwaiti newspaper report Saturday, that US President Barack Obama thwarted an Israeli military attack against Iran's nuclear facilities in 2014 by threatening to shoot down Israeli jets before they could reach their targets in Iran.

Following Obama's threat, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was reportedly forced to abort the planned Iran attack.

According to Al-Jarida, the Netanyahu government took the decision to strike Iran some time in 2014 soon after Israel had discovered the United States and Iran had been involved in secret talks over Iran’s nuclear program and were about to sign an agreement in that regard behind Israel's back.

The report claimed that an unnamed Israeli minister who has good ties with the US administration revealed the attack plan to Secretary of State John Kerry, and that Obama then threatened to shoot down the Israeli jets before they could reach their targets in Iran.

Al-Jarida quoted "well-placed" sources as saying that Netanyahu, along with Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon, and then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, had decided to carry out airstrikes against Iran's nuclear program after consultations with top security commanders.

According to the report, “Netanyahu and his commanders agreed after four nights of deliberations to task the Israeli army's chief of staff, Benny Gantz, to prepare a qualitative operation against Iran's nuclear program. In addition, Netanyahu and his ministers decided to do whatever they could do to thwart a possible agreement between Iran and the White House because such an agreement is, allegedly, a threat to Israel's security.”

The sources added that Gantz and his commanders prepared the requested plan and that Israeli fighter jets trained for several weeks in order to make sure the plans would work successfully. Israeli fighter jets reportedly even carried out experimental flights in Iran's airspace after they managed to break through radars.

Brzezinski's idea

Former US diplomat Zbigniew Brzezinski, who enthusiastically campaigned for Obama in 2008, called on him to shoot down Israeli planes if they attack Iran. “They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch?” said the former national security advisor to former President Jimmy Carter in an interview with the Daily Beast.

“We have to be serious about denying them that right,” he said. “If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a 'Liberty' in reverse.’"

Israel mistakenly attacked the American Liberty ship during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Brzezinski was a top candidate to become an official advisor to President Obama, but he was downgraded after Republican and pro-Israel Democratic charges during the campaign that Brzezinski’s anti-Israel attitude would damage Obama at the polls. (Contributor: By Mark Langfan for Israel National News)

Prayer focus: Intercessors need not speculate on this story. The air-strike confrontation did not happen, and the report, whether completely factual or not, is history. Meanwhile, these are historic days of near-biblical proportions. Pray that the international community will choose correctly between supporting Israel or Iran. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for the covenant land that was given to Abraham, then passed on to Isaac and to Jacob in perpetuity. Pray for God’s purpose to triumph.

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces.’ For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say ‘Peace be within you.’ Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek your good.” (Ps. 122:6-9)

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” (Prov. 21:1-3)

 

NETANYAHU: MY DUTY IS TO ENSURE ISRAEL'S SECURITY

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a visit to the Western Wall on Saturday night, just hours before flying to Washington on one of the most contentious visits there by an Israeli prime minister in recent memory.

With the Wall as his backdrop, Netanyahu said he wanted to visit Judaism’s holiest site before embarking on his trip Sunday morning to Washington, where his scheduled speech before Congress on Tuesday has placed him at loggerheads with the White House.

“I want to take this opportunity to say that I respect US President Barack Obama,” he stressed. “I believe in the strength of the relationship between Israel and the US and in their strength to overcome differences of opinion, those that have been and those that will yet be.”

Netanyahu reiterated his position that, as Israel’s prime minister, it is his obligation to worry about the country’s security, “and for that reason we strongly oppose the agreement being formulated between the world powers and Iran that could endanger Israel’s very existence.”

This is the first time since he became prime minister for the second time in 2009 that Netanyahu visited the Wall before embarking on a trip to the US. It came two days after a visit to his father’s grave in Jerusalem. His father, Netanyahu explained to the haredi radio station Kol Barama on Friday, always gave him advice at critical junctures in his life.

“He said to always look at the threats endangering our people,” Netanyahu said of his father, Benzion, a noted historian who died in 2012. “He said that one of the things that was lacking in Jewish history was seeing in real time what endangers our existence.”

The obligation incumbent on Israel’s leaders, Netanyahu said, is to identify the dangers in time and do everything they can to scuttle them.

“My responsibility is to worry not only about the State of Israel, but also the future of the Jewish people,” he said, “to stand up and raise our voice. Seventy, 80 years ago no one could raise their voice when there were plans to destroy us. Today there is, and it is my obligation.”

Netanyahu pointed to former prime ministers David Ben-Gurion, Levi Eshkol, and Menachem Begin as leaders who took action they felt was necessary, even though it ran contrary to strongly stated US policies.

“When there is something that is connected to our very existence, what do they expect the prime minister to do, bow his head and accept something that is dangerous in order to have good relations?” he asked. “I think the relations are strong enough to overcome the disagreements, and that Iran with an atomic bomb is much more dangerous than one disagreement or another [with the US].”

Government officials said that, as is Netanyahu’s custom, work on the speech to Congress will continue until it is delivered at 11 a.m. Tuesday morning. The officials said that Netanyahu genuinely believes this is an historic moment, and that in the best case scenario the speech could compel “policy makers to rethink concessions that they are willing to make to the Iranians.”

Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive in Washington Sunday afternoon and deliver a speech to AIPAC’s annual policy conference Monday morning that will focus on the strength of the US-Israel relationship. He is to have lunch with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders on Tuesday afternoon after delivering his address to Congress, and then fly back to Israel, arriving a few hours before the onset of Purim.

The prime minister noted the timing, saying that just as Jews on Purim remember the attempt in Persia in antiquity to destroy the Jews, “it is the same Persia with a regime that is waving the banner of destroying the state of the Jews. The means by which they intend on implementing this threat is with many atomic bombs.”

Netanyahu will be accompanied to Washington by Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, who was in Jerusalem last week helping him prepare for the trip with his top advisers and his wife, Sara. (Contributor: By Herb Keinon for The Jerusalem Post)

Prayer focus: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to the U.S. and yesterday, March 3, stood by invitation before our badly divided House and Senate, and gave a historical speech to a joint session of Congress. Mr. Netanyahu excelled in at least three ways. First, he warned Iran that Israel would not stand by to be annihilated; second, he made clear that Israel and the U.S. are friends, leaving it up to President Obama to agree or disagree; and finally, he spoke to the world that Israel will defend itself with or without the help of other nations. Give thanks for this Israeli statesman, for his courage and boldness. Please pray for him and for the U.S. Congress as you are led.

“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, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.” (Ps. 103:15-18)

 

NAACP SUES THE RADIANCE FOUNDATION

Abortion doesn’t advance colored people. And since we’re all colored people, killing our Posterity doesn’t advance any community. Abortion is a violent injustice that, like slavery, requires that we accept the lie that some human beings aren’t as equal as others. The NAACP (which inaccurately goes by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) believes and promotes the lie. Since February 2013, the nation’s oldest civil rights group has spent over half a million dollars suing The Radiance Foundation ... for what it charges as “trademark infringement, confusion and dilution.” This so-called infringement included The Radiance Foundation’s news articles that detailed the NAACP pro-abortion actions, suggesting a name more befitting of the abortion-pushing organization. Apparently, truth and parodying an organization’s name are not protected under the First Amendment.

We filed a declaratory action because the NAACP threatened to sue us, including monetary “damages”, for this bogus “trademark infringement”. Our suit simply asked the judge to dismiss this legal threat on the basis that it was our First Amendment right to criticize the NAACP’s abortion advocacy through parody/satire in news commentary. That request was denied.

The irony in this is rich. Rush Limbaugh has parodied the NAACP’s name since Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation, claiming that the organization is only concerned about the advancement of a certain kind of folk–liberal colored people. He continues to use the parody any time he speaks of the leftist organization. However, the NAACP isn’t suing a wealthy white broadcaster (who has an audience of millions every single day) for causing “confusion” of their brand. They’ve chosen, instead, to sue a black man, with far less means for daring to call them out. Is this yet another example of black-on-black crime?

In federal court, the once great civil rights group convinced Judge Raymond Jackson to disregard our civil rights as well as all of the documentation proving how radically pro-abortion the NAACP has become. The judge ruled against The Radiance Foundation, declaring that the parody we employed isn’t, technically, a parody because he didn’t find it to be “funny”. So, he banned us from even mentioning the parodied name or ever parodying the NAACP’s name in the future. Contradicting all presented evidence, Judge Raymond Jackson declared “the NAACP has no formal position or policy regarding abortion” despite the fact that the NAACP itself declared, in its own press release, that it “took an historic pro-choice position” back on February 24, 2004. (Download and read the outrageous Opinion and Order and the Permanent Injunction Ruling.)

There is no question about the NAACP’s position on abortion. They passed a resolution at their annual convention in 2004 erroneously entitled: “The March For Life”. Never let it be confused that the organization, which historically fought for the most disenfranchised among us, actually supports the March for Life that brings hundreds of thousands of prolife advocates to the nation’s capital each year to be educated and motivated to fight the social injustice of abortion. The NAACP resolution proudly supported the National Organization for Women (NOW), Planned Parenthood and NARAL radical abortion march on DC. (It was originally named the “March Against Fear” but renamed to the “March for Women’s Lives”.) This unapologetically pro-abortion event was originally pushed by NOW because Congress had passed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban. So the NAACP’s public foray into advocating for abortion was to demand what most Americans consider the most heinous and most violent form of abortion–partially birthing a child, then (for no medical reason) severing the child’s head from its body or crushing the skull and sucking the child’s brains out and dismembering the rest of the child, piece by piece.

The judge wrongly claimed on page 41 of the Order: “The NAACP has intentionally refrained from taking a stance on abortion, and certainly has not been alleged to advocate for the abortion of people of color.” Never mind the NAACP not only promoted the pro-abortion “March for Women’s Lives”, it led from the stage. Former NAACP President Julian Bond was a featured speaker at event as well as the keynote speaker at a fund-raising dinner for NARAL, the same year, where he praised the fact that “black women exercise this precious [abortion] at rates far exceeding their percentage of the population.” Never mind Planned Parenthood is a corporate sponsor of the NAACP’s annual conventions. Never mind the NAACP filed a lawsuit against the state of Arizona for its Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act, which banned sex-selection and race-based abortions. Never mind the recent president of the NAACP, Benjamin Jealous, was the keynote speaker at a Planned Parenthood of Southeast Georgia fundraiser where one could purchase a $1000-a-Margaret-Sanger-Founders-Circle package to help raise money for the political arm of the abortion chain.

Sixty percent of viable black pregnancies are aborted in New York City, the home of NARAL and Planned Parenthood. As highlighted in our TooManyAborted.com initiative, more black babies are aborted in New York City than are born alive: 1,223 black babies are aborted for every 1,000 born alive. Yet the NAACP has officially endorsed Governor Cuomo’s radical pro-Gosnell “Women’s Equality Act” that would eliminate all restrictions on abortion in a state that already aborts over 100,000 per year through the 249 abortion facilities in the state.

Over the years, The Radiance Foundation has published numerous articles on various news sites (all of which Judge Jackson ordered destroyed on our sites) about the NAACP’s pro-abortion actions. We’ve pointed out that Planned Parenthood co-sponsors the NAACP’s annual conventions and how the NAACP has shown its support of the nation’s largest abortion chain by frequently defending it. So, we satirically referred to the organization with a name more befitting of their pro-abortion advocacy–a name which we can’t even mention. We are prohibited by Judge Raymond Jackson of the U.S. District Court in Norfolk, VA to speak or write, not only of the parody that we’ve used to describe the actions of the NAACP, but to ever parody the NAACP in the future.

The irony never ends: the nation’s second oldest civil rights group suing a black man for exercising his second most basic civil right—the freedom of speech. This lawsuit is nothing more than a multi-million dollar organization’s attempt to bully someone who’s simply telling the truth. Our inner-cities are crumbling, two-parent married families barely exist, 72.3 percent of black children are born into homes without fathers, and the NAACP wants to silence us for pointing out its documented support of the killing of over 16 million black lives since Roe.

I believe this trial in life will have a happy ending. We’ve now officially appealed this case to the Fourth Circuit of Appeals and are being defended by Alliance Defending Freedom. Our hope is that truth and justice prevail and that our guaranteed, precious right to free speech is protected. Even more importantly, we hope that so-called “leaders” in the civil rights movement have their consciences awakened to realize no right is more valuable and in need of defense than the foundational Right to Life. Read supporting documents <Click Here!> (Contributor: Radiance Foundation - Alliance Defending Freedom allied attorney Charles M. Allen with the Glen Allen, Va. firm Goodman, Allen & Filetti PLLC is defending Bomberger and Radiance in The Radiance Foundation v. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA.)

Prayer focus: Christians who know the Bombergers and the work of the Radiance Foundation are virtually unanimous in supporting what these folks are doing and what they long to accomplish on behalf of black women and their exceedingly high abortion rates, women who are often used, abused, and deserted. We cannot tell the story of the Radiance Foundation here, but we can ask for prayer on their behalf and support them with much intercession. They are genuine, without guile, and want only God’s grace and help to pursue their unselfish ministry. Please pray for them and their family.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isa. 41:10)

“Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 37:1-4)

 

THE FATAL FLAW IN THE IRAN DEAL

A sunset clause?

The news from the nuclear talks with Iran was already troubling. Iran was being granted the “right to enrich.” It would be allowed to retain and spin thousands of centrifuges. It could continue construction of the Arak plutonium reactor. Yet so thoroughly was Iran stonewalling International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors that just last Thursday the IAEA reported its concern “about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed . . . development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”

Bad enough. Then it got worse: News leaked Monday of the elements of a “sunset clause.” President Obama had accepted the Iranian demand that any restrictions on its program be time-limited. After which, the mullahs can crank up their nuclear program at will and produce as much enriched uranium as they want.

Sanctions lifted. Restrictions gone. Nuclear development legitimized. Iran would reenter the international community, as Obama suggested in an interview in December, as “a very successful regional power.” A few years — probably around 10 — of good behavior and Iran would be home free.

The agreement thus would provide a predictable path to an Iranian bomb. Indeed, a flourishing path, with trade resumed, oil pumping and foreign investment pouring into a restored economy.

Meanwhile, Iran’s intercontinental ballistic missile program is subject to no restrictions at all. It’s not even part of these negotiations.

Why is Iran building them? You don’t build ICBMs in order to deliver sticks of dynamite. Their only purpose is to carry nuclear warheads. Nor does Iran need an ICBM to hit Riyadh or Tel Aviv. Intercontinental missiles are for reaching, well, other continents. North America, for example.

Such an agreement also means the end of nonproliferation. When a rogue state defies the world, continues illegal enrichment and then gets the world to bless an eventual unrestricted industrial-level enrichment program, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is dead. And regional hyperproliferation becomes inevitable as Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others seek shelter in going nuclear themselves.

Wasn’t Obama’s great international cause a nuclear-free world? Within months of his swearing-in, he went to Prague to so declare. He then led a 50-party Nuclear Security Summit, one of whose proclaimed achievements was having Canada give up some enriched uranium.

Having disarmed the Canadian threat, Obama turned to Iran. The deal now on offer to the ayatollah would confer legitimacy on the nuclearization of the most rogue of rogue regimes: radically anti-American, deeply jihadist, purveyor of terrorism from Argentina to Bulgaria, puppeteer of a Syrian regime that specializes in dropping barrel bombs on civilians. In fact, the Iranian regime just this week, at the apex of these nuclear talks, staged a spectacular attack on a replica U.S. carrier near the Strait of Hormuz.

Well, say the administration apologists, what’s your alternative? Do you want war?

It’s Obama’s usual, subtle false-choice maneuver: It’s either appeasement or war.

It’s not. True, there are no good choices, but Obama’s prospective deal is the worst possible. Not only does Iran get a clear path to the bomb but it gets sanctions lifted, all pressure removed and international legitimacy.

There is a third choice. If you are not stopping Iran’s program, don’t give away the store. Keep the pressure, keep the sanctions. Indeed, increase them. After all, previous sanctions brought Iran to its knees and to the negotiating table in the first place. And that was before the collapse of oil prices, which would now vastly magnify the economic effect of heightened sanctions.

Congress is proposing precisely that. Combined with cheap oil, it could so destabilize the Iranian economy as to threaten the clerical regime. That’s the opening. Then offer to renew negotiations for sanctions relief but from a very different starting point — no enrichment. Or, if you like, with a few token centrifuges for face-saving purposes.

And no sunset.

That’s the carrot. As for the stick, make it quietly known that the United States will not stand in the way of any threatened nation that takes things into its own hands. We leave the regional threat to the regional powers, say, Israeli bombers overflying Saudi Arabia.

Consider where we began: six U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding an end to Iranian enrichment. Consider what we are now offering: an interim arrangement ending with a sunset clause that allows the mullahs a robust, industrial-strength, internationally sanctioned nuclear program.

Such a deal makes the Cuba normalization look good and the Ukrainian cease-fires positively brilliant. We are on the cusp of an epic capitulation. History will not be kind. (Contributor: By Charles Krauthammer for The Washington Post)

Prayer focus: If we seem overloaded on a Middle East focus, it is because much of the free world, as well as Iran’s immediate neighbors, are zeroing in on whether the United States, through Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama’s complicated worldview, is giving that rogue nation too much leeway in the current nuclear talks, which appear to be going in Iran’s favor. This time in history has an urgency that impels intercessors to cry out to God for His mercy. Pray for President Obama to be given divine wisdom to see God’s perspective, as He rules and guides the destiny of nations.

“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth. Why should the [nations] say, ‘So where is their God?’ But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.” (Ps. 115:1-3)

“For I know that the Lord is great, and our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth….” (Ps. 135:5-6a)

 

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: THE FAUSTIAN BARGAIN WITH IRAN

Having admonished young Russians to fight corruption and demand freedom, Joe Biden stared at a packed Moscow University auditorium and said: “Don’t compromise on the basic elements of democracy. You need not make that Faustian bargain.”

Four years on, the US vice president’s boss is the one brewing a pact with the devil, ceding moral values for mortal gains. That, at least, is how both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog see the evolving deal between Iran and the P5+1 world powers.

The deal has yet to be formally presented, but its reported contours are clear: a supervision regime that would force the Iranians to slow down and expose their industrial progress toward the ability to build a nuclear bomb, keeping the capability at least a year away at any point during the agreement’s duration.

The Iranian capability to weaponize would be curtailed by three restrictions concerning Tehran’s high-grade uranium: its quantity would be cut; its grade would be capped; and its processing would be shrunk.

The cutting would be done the way it already was last year, when Tehran diluted a portion of its high-grade uranium; the capping would be to 5 percent, which is sufficient for civilian purposes but insufficient for producing a bomb; and production would be squeezed by limiting the amount of centrifuges, the tools of uranium’s enrichment.

This formula’s rationale is that the sanctions, which would be lifted gradually in return for transparency and slowdown, could be restored at any point. If by the time the deal’s duration expires the powers agree that Iran has fulfilled its commitments, Tehran would be allowed to use nuclear power for civilian purposes without international supervision.

The time frame for this structure is, reportedly, 10 years – during which Iran’s production of nuclear fuel would be drastically cut, followed by five years during which it would be incrementally restored. The deadlines for the framework and final agreements are, respectively, March 24 and June 30.

The Islamic Republic’s interlocutors are not made of one skin. Russia and China don’t feel threatened by Iran’s quest, as opposed to the Western powers.

Moscow, at the same time, has an economic interest that Iran’s oil remain in its wells, lest it further flood an already glutted energy market – where Russia wins most of its bread.

Beijing’s interest is the opposite of Russia’s, as it lacks the latter’s oil and gas, and at the same time has a sprawling industrial sector the size of which Russia will not have even a generation from now. China therefore has an interest in oil prices’ further fall and in Iran’s oil returning to the markets, and in fact sees in Tehran a strategic business partner. Then again, Beijing also sees an unruly and provocative Iran as bad for business.

Despite these variations, the talks’ tone is set by the Western powers, and within them by the US – whose negotiators reject the comparison between their dialogue with Tehran’s mullahs and that of Neville Chamberlain’s with Hitler.

The way US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are conducting this negotiation, its analogy is to them not the Munich Pact with Nazi Germany but the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), which produced limited disarmament agreements between the US and USSR.

The American-Soviet arms limitation talks began in 1969 in Helsinki, and resulted three years later in an agreement signed festively in Moscow by president Richard Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. The two superpowers agreed to limit their anti-ballistic missiles operations to one site each.

The American rationale was twofold: military and diplomatic. Militarily, the deal left most of the sides’ vast lands exposed to each other’s potential attack, thereby upholding each others’ nuclear deterrence.

Diplomatically, it triggered and cultivated a culture of dialogue that the Americans hoped would, in due course, help sensitize the formidable Soviets.

The analogy to the Iranian situation lies in the staunchly anti-Communist Nixon’s conclusion that dealing with America’s arch-rival was worthwhile – even though it clung to its Communist faith, human rights abuses and global interventions.

That is how the two superpowers continuously conducted dialogue and bargained, even while their proxies clashed worldwide, ultimately producing further deals about limiting the number of strategic launchers.

Unlike Hitler’s deals, which he violated one by one, the Soviets abided by theirs. In fact, the spirit of those talks was so positive that even after US president Jimmy Carter halted the SALT II agreement’s ratification process following Afghanistan’s invasion, Moscow and Washington still fulfilled its terms, voluntarily.

The Iranian situation is obviously different. Iran is not a superpower, its interlocutors don’t perceive it as threatening them directly and it is no match for any of them on any possible parameter – militarily, industrially or economically. Moreover, by the time SALT was negotiated, the Soviet nuclear arsenal had long been intact and growing – whereas the Iranians have yet to hold their first bomb.

Even so, the unfurling American attitude is inspired by the same mentality with which Washington treated the unconventional arms of the USSR in its last decades.

It is a dramatic shift. As former secretary of state Henry Kissinger put it in a congressional hearing last month, what began as an effort to deny Iran’s nuclear military capability has since become a negotiation over that capability’s scope.

This unfolding nuclear acquiescence comes coupled with a political free ride that Washington never gave the USSR.

WHILE NIXON’S diplomats negotiated disarmament with the Soviets, American politicians pressured the USSR on its human rights record.

This effort’s main weapon was the 1974 Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the US Trade Act, which tied US foreign trade to its partner’s human rights record. By withholding the USSR’s “most favored nation” status, the US waged on this front the war it avoided on the disarmament front: the war of ideas.

The war of ideas is for now a non-factor in the dialogue between Washington and Tehran. Obama’s tone for such tolerance was already set in his Cairo Speech of June 2009, where after faintly mentioning that “Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against US troops and civilians,” he affirmed that the US is “prepared to move forward” and that “the question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.”

That is how the sanctions against Iran remain confined to the nuclear situation, while for instance, Iran’s serial executions – 664 in 2013 and 721 last year, according to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center – and the ayatollahs’ jailing of thousands of dissidents, are treated as the Islamic Republic’s “internal affairs” and left diplomatically unopposed.

So is Iran’s regional meddling. With its recent snatching of Yemen, Tehran’s already decisive sway in Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut is now well on its way to its next strategic milestone, the Bab el-Mandeb strait – where Asia and Africa are but 28 kilometers apart, and where 4% of the world’s oil passes annually en route to the Suez Canal.

Iran’s expansionism is apparently under-appreciated by Obama.

A Yemen that orbits Iran is intolerable to nearby Egypt, which already has responded to the Iranian nuclear quest by two weeks ago signing a deal with Russia to build its own reactor. Similarly, Egyptian and Saudi messages of concern to Washington over the evolving deal with Iran have thus far fallen on deaf ears.

These aspects of Iran’s conduct are no factor in the negotiations, not to mention its role in the Syrian people’s butchery. As such, if sanctions are lifted without any Western demand concerning Iran’s domestic and regional conduct, the deal would be interpreted in Tehran as approval of its oppression and imperialism, not to mention its Islamism.

It follows, that all those displeased with the Obama administration’s Iranian policy will likely respond to his overtures by seeking a parallel sanctions effort that will aim not at Iran’s nuclear program, but at its treatment of its citizens and neighbors.

Responding to Israeli statements concerning the current negotiations, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said they were “a smoke screen” intended to divert attention from the Jewish state’s “atrocities against the Palestinians.”

It was the kind of broadside Soviet officials used to habitually make while talking arms control with the US, obviously unaware that their polity’s years were numbered. Then again, at no time since backing its establishment in 1948 did the Soviet Union deny the Jewish state’s right to exist.

In this regard, the current talks’ analogy is to Munich 1938 – and the bargain that Biden’s boss seems eager to strike is with the devil. (Contributor: Amotz Asa-El for The Jerusalem Post)

Prayer focus: In the weekly alerts, IFA is respectful of the office of the President of the United States. We are loyal citizens of our nation, knowing we live in the world’s best country, with the most freedom and opportunity, and enjoying the benevolent and most evident blessings of Almighty God, Creator and Sustainer of life. We are not, however, subjects of a monarchy, and there is no disloyalty in questioning administration policies we believe violate God’s principles, such as we are experiencing in today’s social climate. Thus we present controversial articles to “watchmen on the walls.” Please pray and intercede as your conscience directs.

“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. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus….” (1 Tim. 2:1-5)

 

MOTHER OF JAMES FOLEY FORGIVES JIHADI JOHN FOR BEHEADING SON

American journalist James Foley was beheaded in Syria last August by ISIS militant “Jihadi John,” now identified as Mohammed Emwazi. Christian Today reports Foley’s mother Diane has now told the Times that she has forgiven her son’s killer.

"It saddens me - his continued hatred. He felt wronged, now we hate him - now that just prolongs the hatred. We need to end it,” she said.

"As a mum, I forgive him. You know, the whole thing is tragic."

Foley’s father had previously said that he knew his son was in Heaven.

“We know Jimmy's free. He's finally free. And we know he's in God's hands...and we know he's in Heaven,” John Foley said at the time of the murder.

According to Attorney General Eric Holder, the United States is now considering how a method to kill or capture Emwazi.

“I think there is something to be said for holding accountable [and] getting at the people who are responsible for these barbaric acts,” Holder said.

“The vow that I can make to the American people, along with our allies, is that we will hold accountable all of the people who have been responsible for these heinous, barbaric acts...That is something that we are focused on each and every day.” (Contributor: Carrie Dedrick for Christian Headlines)

Prayer focus: Let us give thanks for this brave, compassionate, and extremely gracious and kind mother. She understands that the path of forgiveness is the pathway to freedom. Apparently, this is a Christian family. Pray that her example will go far and wide and will help other suffering victims, some in the grip of hatred, to forgive and acknowledge that, ultimately, God will judge righteously.

“And Abraham came near and said [to God], … ‘Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’” (Gen. 18:23a, 25)

“But I [Jesus] say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you….” (Matt. 5:44)

 

PRO-LIFE EFFORT KEEPS MAILMAN BUSY AT WHITE HOUSE

Pro-lifers are being asked to flood the White House with a message supporting life.

Life Envelope DayIt was once called "Red Envelope Day" but because of a trademark dispute it is now "Life Envelope Day."

The empty envelope symbolizes a life that was taken by abortion.

Organizer Rich Lepoutre says idea surfaced in 2008 after Obama was elected president. The first envelopes were mailed to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in 2009, approximately 2.3 million of them.

Lepoutre explains the now-annual action: "Folks who were pro-life, dealing with the obviously very much pro-abort President Obama, should send a letter, or an empty envelope, in as a protest."

For Life Envelope Day this year, Lepoutre says the date to remember is March 22. That is 60 days after January 22, the annual memorial of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Pro-lifers can send the red envelopes to the White House and also to state and national lawmakers who support abortion.

The 'Life Envelope' website allows users to send cards to U.S. public officials through the website at a minimal cost.

Lepoutre hopes the campaign will generate a minimum of 1.2 million envelopes, which represents the annual estimated number of abortions. (Contributor: Charlie Butts for One News Now)

Prayer focus: Do you have an opinion on this idea? Apparently, most people do. As we considered this largely symbolic act of sending an empty envelope to the White House, we noted responses of others to the article. The consensus was that a better plan would be to write a short, polite, personal note stating your opposition to abortion. After writing to the White House (President Obama), perhaps follow up with similar notes to your U.S. representative and both of your senators. Send it with prayer that our country would awaken to the egregious national sin of killing the innocent unborn.

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” (Ps. 139:13-16)

 

ISIS ERADICATING CHRISTIANITY FROM MIDDLE EAST

The abduction of hundreds of Christians by the Islamic State in Syria underscores the need for the U.S. to put an end to the war against Christians by radical Islamic jihadists.

"[These are] the atrocities we will continue to see if we don't figure out a strategy that the U.S. and the Western world can agree on implementing to stop this group," says Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice.

Sekulow, Jordan (ACLJ)The New York Times, among other media outlets, is reporting that Assyrian Christians were captured after Islamic State fighters took control of several villages in northeastern Syria during intense fighting near the Euphrates River.

Both civlilians and fighters were captured and are being held captive.

Sekulow notes that the Assyrian kidnappings come shortly after the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya, a clear sign that Islamic State – which is not truly Islamic, according to President Obama - intends to keep targeting Christians for execution.

Coptic Christians killed (not graphic)OneNewsNow reported in recent days that a Catholic leader is asking for unity among Christian believers after the Coptic Christians (pictured at right) were maryred for their faith, declaring their devotion to Jesus Christ as the Islamists cut off their heads.

The ACLJ spokesman sees Islamic State's brutality as an attempt to eliminate Christianity and its history, and most importantly its followers, in the Middle East.

Last summer, Islamic State reported that it had blown up the purported burial site of the Old Testatment prophet Jonah, located in Mosul.

"This is really focusing in on putting together a strategy to defeat the Islamic State and unite as a country," the attorney tells OneNewsNow. "It should not be a partisan issue. It should be an issue that the U.S. leads the world on."

President Obama and the White House, meanwhile, recently held a three-day conference on "Countering Violent Extremism," where Islamic leaders were invited to the White House to discuss "extremism" without mentioning Islam.

Stated plans to counter "extremism" include new funding to reach "disadvantaged" youth; holding workshops with the "creative arts" community and community leaders in Los Angeles; and a newly created CVE position at the Department of Homeland Security.

After the conference concluded, The New York Times reported that FBI director James Comey was not invited to the "Countering Violent Extremism" conference because its planners did not want law enforcement to be a focus of the event. (Contributor: By Bill Bumpas for One News Now)

Prayer focus: This is not a new issue. Intercede for the Church in America to raise prayers and a public voice of protest. Pray for President Obama to act decisively. America has been the world’s leading symbol of freedom and religious liberty. Intercede for our national leadership to speak and act. Our Scripture speaks of a kingdom age built on Messiah’s triumph. This cannot happen unless God protects His Church. A remnant will gather from every tribe and nation. (See all of Isaiah 11.)

“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord As the waters cover the sea. ‘And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.’ It shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left, from Assyria and Egypt, …” (Isa. 11:9-11a)

 

PASTORS NATIONWIDE SUPPORT JUDGE ROY MOORE

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore told WND he’s not backing away from the state court versus federal court fight over marriage, because he believes, constitutionally, the states are allowed to define the institution.

And it will remain that way unless the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling on the merits, he contends.

Confusion abounds after the high court refused to extend a stay to a federal judge’s order that the state of Alabama recognize same-sex marriage.

The decision, which only affected the extension of a stay order and did not address the merits of the argument, drew opposition even from inside the Supreme Court.

Justice Clarence Thomas issued a rare dissent, stating: “In this case, the court refuses even to grant a temporary stay when it will resolve the issue at hand in several months. I would have shown the people of Alabama the respect they deserve and preserved the status quo while the court resolves this important constitutional question.”

Thomas, who was joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, pointed out that the justices essentially were admitting what they would decide, even before arguments, expected in April, are heard in a pending dispute over same-sex marriage.

In that case, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed measures in four states defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Other appeals courts had struck down traditional-marriage measures, setting up a conflict.

Thomas said the Monday decision “may well be seen as a signal of the court’s intended resolution.”

Moore sent a memoradum to the state’s 68 probate judges and others in the state judiciary that said they are not bound, according to federal court precedent, to follow the federal judge’s order. Moore argued the state constitution excludes same-sex duos from marriage, and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley would be the executive who would decide if penalties should be applied to anyone who violates the state constitution.

Several lower-court judges were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Monday.

In just a handful of states, voters or lawmakers have approved homosexual marriage. In dozens more, however, federal judges have imposed it and overridden the 10th Amendment principle that powers not delegated to the federal government – marriage isn’t mentioned in the Constitution – are reserved to the states. (Contributor: By Bob Unruh for WND News)

The following is submitted from Victory Baptist Church in Okeechobee, Florida.

On behalf of Judge Roy Moore

Whereas in 1787 the States united in America formed a Constitution that limited the newly formed Federal Government and:

Whereas Chief Justice Roy Moore in the State of Alabama honored that Constitution in rejecting U.S. District Judge Ginny Granades decision on the Sodomy (same-sex) Issue and:

Whereas the federal district and appellate courts have no binding authority on state courts and:

Whereas state probate judges are not bound by any federal same-sex ruling that rejects the vote and will of the people of Alabama and;

Whereas God's law, which is the foundation that the state of Alabama's definition of marriage rests upon, is the time honored definition of marriage that cannot change. (Gen. 2:18-25) and;

Whereas the legislatures of men, cannot make law, but can no more than ratify the laws of nature and nature's God has already made; for "There is one lawgiver" (Jam 4:12a) and;

Whereas if America does not heed this Great Lawgiver's decrees that we will be thrown on the scrap heap of history along with those other nations that did not heed the instructions of the Almighty such as Sodom and Gomorrah. For this Lawgiver is the one who is able to save and to destroy: (Jam 4:12b) and;

Whereas we would have already been destroyed if this Great Lawgiver, the Great God and a great King above all gods. (Ps. 95:3), had not left unto us a Remnant we would have already been like Sodom and Gomorrah (Isa 1:9) and;

Be it resolved that this supports and stands with Judge Roy Moore's honorable commitment to follow Article 1, Section 36.03, of the Alabama Constitution or § 30-1-19, Ala. Code 1975." which reports the state's 2006 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and the 1998 law doing so.

This was unanimously passed. (Contributor: By Dr. Greg Dixon for Christian Newswire)

Prayer focus: This article is clear and points the way to intercession. Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore deserves the accolades he has received. Some years ago (2001-2003), Judge Moore took a stand that a representation of the Ten Commandments could be publicly displayed. He lost that battle and his job, but was so appreciated by the people of Alabama that he was restored and elected chief justice. Now he defends traditional marriage, arguing it is a state’s right to define marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court will weigh in soon, but Moore believes truth will prevail. Please pray for him and his advisors.

“Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding.” (Prov. 23:23)

“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; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Gen. 1:27-28)

On Watch in Washington March 4, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

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On Watch in Washington February 25, 2015

On Watch in Washington February 25, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

COLLEGIATE DAY OF PRAYER 2.26.2015

As the students go, so goes our nation! If we win the spiritual battles across our nation but neglect our college campuses, all our progress will be undone in a generation. Therefore, students today need our support and earnest prayers. However, college students don't just need more prayer, they need our UNITED prayer. Without a greater degree of genuine, unified prayer, our hopes and dreams for this generation may never be realized. According to Matthew 18:18-20, the greater the number united in faith and prayer, the easier the battle for this generation can be won. Just as a team of horses can move a heavy load faster and easier together, so our greatest barriers can be better overcome through united prayer.

This kind of unified prayer is usually born out of a sense of urgency and need. In times of great need, men are willing to lay aside their differences so they can find a sure path to safety and blessing. For the Church, that path is united prayer. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of NEED." (Hebrews 4:16). A humble recognition of great need combined with great faith in Christ always awakens united prayer. When Jesus was moved with compassion upon seeing the needs of the multitudes, He urged His friends and disciples: "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray..." (Matthew 9:36-38). Biblically and historically, united prayer has always been the means of grace to bridge the gap between a great need and a great awakening! This generation needs our unified prayers — please join us in praying for America's college campuses!

"If added power attends the united prayer of two or three, what mighty triumphs there will be when hundreds of thousands of consistent members of the Church are with one accord day by day making intercession for the extension of Christ's Kingdom."  —John R. Mott

Prayer Focus: First & Foremost on Jesus Christ

Most importantly, start your prayer meeting by reflecting on the person of Christ with a significant time of worship and adoration. This will build corporate unity and put you in the right frame of mind to effectively pray together. An undivided focus on Jesus Christ is the best way to start and sustain a meaningful and rewarding prayer meeting. May God richly bless you in all your prayer efforts for this generation!

A Three Phase Approach to Praying for a Student Awakening:

1) Pray for an Open Heaven — A Posture of Worship & Adoration

  • Pray for the fullness of the power and presence of Jesus Christ.
  • Pray for an accurate view of the glory and majesty of Jesus Christ.
  • Pray for a renewed passion and an intimate affection for Jesus Christ.

2) Pray for an Open Heart — A Posture of Humility & Submission

  • Pray for a response of faith, humility and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
  • Pray for a turning away from anything that would hinder a strong relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • Pray for a revelation of the unfailing love, comfort and adoption of the Father through faith in Jesus Christ.

3) Pray for an Open Hand — A Posture of Joyful & Sacrificial Giving

  • Pray for students to joyfully share the hope of Christ's love through generous acts of compassion and evangelism.
  • Pray for students to defend the defenseless and care for the orphans and the widows.
  • Pray for students to finish the remaining task of evangelizing every tongue, tribe and nation in this generation for the glory and pleasure of Jesus Christ.

Watch Video!   Learn more!   (Contributor: Collegiate Day of Prayer)

Prayer focus: This is a promising and challenging intercessory opportunity! Praying for an Open Heaven, an Open Heart, and an Open Hand will provide an open window for God’s grace to “invade” many college and university campuses for evangelism and revival. Experienced intercessors will remember campus revivals of the past that led to widespread mission conferences. Thousands of students responded to God’s call to foreign and home missions that changed the world for Jesus Christ, nation by nation. May God move in such power once again!

“For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:13-17)

 

AMAZING ECHOES OF QUEEN ESTHER

Controversy surrounds the Prime Minister of Israel’s forthcoming appearance on Capitol Hill.

Invited by Republican House Speaker John Boehner to address Congress about the threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed this opportunity to share his country’s existential concern as the Iranian regime comes ever closer to achieving the capability of fulfilling its avowed goal of the total annihilation of Israel. But the White House has made known its displeasure. A growing number of Democratic lawmakers said they would boycott his talk. Vice President Joe Biden, who as president of the Senate would normally oversee Netanyahu’s address, said he would be out of town. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she hoped the speech “doesn’t take place.”

Why all this animosity toward the leader of a long-standing ally, the only democracy in the middle east, to whom President Obama has long pledged his unswerving loyalty? Because the administration has made clear its fury at a supposed breach of protocol. The White House insists it was not consulted before the invitation was given. That breach of etiquette, it stoutly maintains, trumps any benefit Congress might gain from the insights of the Prime Minister of the country to be most immediately and severely affected by the present negotiations being concluded with Iran.

This isn’t the first time the issue of protocol lies at the heart of an Iranian threat to destroy the Jewish people.

Remarkably, this is not the first time the issue of protocol lies at the heart of an Iranian threat to destroy the Jewish people. There is biblical precedent. Eerily echoing today’s story, the Book of Esther recounts the first recorded instance of attempted genocide against Jews in the ancient empire of Persia, today known as Iran. When, more than two millennia ago, Mordecai learns of Haman’s plot “to destroy, to slay and to exterminate all Jews, young and old, children and women, in a single day” (Esther 3:13), he prevails upon his adopted daughter Esther, now Queen, to intercede.

But Esther is afraid. If she were to approach her husband to appeal Haman’s decree, she would be breaking royal protocol. “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces are well aware,” Esther responds to Mordecai, “that if anyone, man or woman, approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned, there is but one law for him: that he be put to death, except for the person to whom the king shall extend the gold scepter so that he may live. Now I have not been summoned to come to the king for the past thirty days” (Esther 4:11).

Nonetheless, the Book of Esther tells us that after begging the Jews to pray and fast on her behalf, Esther chose to disregard protocol in the face of possible extermination of her people. Esther succeeded in averting the evil decree. As a result, Jews to this day around the world celebrate the Festival of Purim.

In Jewish tradition, the Purim story marks the commemoration of a different kind of miracle. In its unfolding, it is a miracle of coincidences so statistically improbable that they together speak to us of the hidden hand of the divine in human events. For that reason the book of Esther is the only one in the entire Bible in which God’s name is not to be found even once. Here God hides His face - but is as much involved as when He split the sea before the Jews fleeing the Egyptians. For Jewish commentators it is the message of the famous – and ironically anonymous – adage that “Coincidence is merely God’s way of choosing to remain anonymous.”

And so perhaps the most remarkable serendipitous aspect of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech is that it is scheduled for the very day before Jews will be observing the Fast of Esther and Purim this year, to recall a time when a heroic Queen decided that the survival of her people took precedence over protocol. (Contributor: By Rabbi Benjamin Blech for AISH)

Prayer focus: We commend Rabbi Blech for citing the analogy between Queen Esther’s courage and faith in her day and what Israel faces today. In both cases, demonic forces were and are involved in a determination to destroy the Jews. The historical settings differ, and the comparison won’t work if we seek a parallel between Esther and Prime Minister Netanyahu. But without divine intervention, the wicked Haman would have succeeded, and in today’s conflict, Israel is vulnerable unless God steps in. Pray much for Mr. Netanyahu’s U.S. visit and speech. Consider prayer with fasting as you are led.

[Jesus laments:] “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34)

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” (Rom. 10:1-3)

 

SUPREME COURT CASE AGAINST OBAMACARE FACES OBSTACLES

A legal challenge that threatens to unravel President Obama's health care law has been stricken by a series of ill-timed setbacks before next month's Supreme Court showdown.

The four plaintiffs' qualifications to bring the lawsuit have been cast in doubt because of their low incomes and potential eligibility for other government benefits. At least one of the four Virginians must show that the law constitutes a burden.

The legal theory behind the complaint — that Congress intended to deny financial aid to consumers in states that use a federal health insurance exchange — has been refuted by the law's authors. Officials from 22 states told the court they were never warned of that possibility.

The assumption that the administration, Congress or the states would rescue millions of purchasers if the court strips away their federal tax credits has been discredited (in the case of Congress acting anytime soon) or disputed (by officials in several states).

"Piece after piece after piece of evidence that they have put forward to try to support their far-fetched interpretation of the statute has fallen apart as we approach oral argument," says Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel at the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center. "That's legally relevant, because it demolishes their claim that anyone thought the law works this way at the time."

Unlike 2012, when opponents came within one Supreme Court vote of killing the law before it ever was implemented, supporters have mounted a strong counterattack this time, from legal briefs to the blogosphere.

The question looming ahead of the oral arguments March 4 is whether any of the atmospherics will influence the nine justices who have Obama's signature domestic policy achievement in their hands. If so, they could once again uphold the law, or at least demand more proof of injury from the challengers.

"The Supreme Court decides things on the law, but they're not isolated from what's happening in the population," said Robert Weiner, a former Justice Department official who oversaw the earlier legal defense of the law.

That was evident during oral arguments three years ago, when Justice Antonin Scalia raised the "Cornhusker Kickback" — a Medicaid reimbursement offer briefly floated in an effort to win the vote of then-Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb. The battle for Nelson's vote was raised in the media, not in court briefs.

The forces behind the new challenge to Obamacare refuse to characterize recent developments as setbacks. In their final brief to the court, submitted Wednesday, they did not address the issue of their plaintiffs' legal standing to sue the government.

Rather, they have doubled down on their central thesis — that the 906-page law passed in 2010 specifies that federal tax credits will be offered in exchanges "established by the State." That language, they say, precludes such assistance in exchanges operated by the federal government in up to 37 states.

"The government cites nothing, in legislative history or elsewhere, supporting the notion that Congress did not 'intend' what its enacted language unambiguously said — nor rebuts the considerable contrary evidence," the challengers' attorney, Michael Carvin, argued.

Trying To Prove Injury

The plaintiffs' legal standing could be the biggest obstacle for the challengers to surmount.

In declarations filed with the federal district court in 2013, David King, Douglas Hurst, Brenda Levy and Rose Luck said that without subsidies, the most inexpensive coverage allowed under Obamacare would cost more than 8% of their estimated 2014 household income. That would allow them to go uninsured without paying a penalty.

During those court proceedings, the government contended that even with subsidies, King and Luck might have to pay more than 8% of their income, so they would not be subjected to the penalty.

"The entire premise of this lawsuit — which is that plaintiffs are injured by premium tax credits because, without those credits, they allegedly could obtain 'cheaper, high-deductible catastrophic coverage' — is incorrect," the government's appellate court brief said.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that Hurst and Levy would have to choose between buying insurance under the law or paying a penalty, which it called an "actual or imminent" harm. Still, it ruled against the challengers, who then convinced the Supreme Court to hear the case.

Since then, The Wall Street Journal and Mother Jones magazine have raised more questions about all four of the plaintiffs — such as whether King and Hurst qualify for veterans' benefits and whether Levy and Luck would fare better under the health care law than without it.

"The flimsiness of the injury ... does highlight that this is not a remedial case," Weiner said. "It's a political case that is part of an overall political battle raised by opponents of the Affordable Care Act."

'Trifle' Of Harm Sufficient

The lawsuit's originators say there are millions of people who can claim harm under the 8%-of-income test — and it doesn't matter if the plaintiffs also are Obamacare opponents.

"There's tons of cases where you have ideological plaintiffs," Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, said. "If this is what (proponents) are spending their time on, they must not have anything else."

Plaintiffs' legal standing has been an issue in three other cases pending against the federal exchange subsidies. In two, the states of Oklahoma and Indiana were approved only as employers who faced increased costs or penalties. In the other case, the only plaintiff found by the court to have standing would have paid less than $21 annually with the subsidy he refused to take.

"Those consequences may be small, but even an 'identifiable trifle' of harm may establish standing," the appeals court said.

Michael Cannon, a Cato Institute health economist who helped to conceive the court challenges, said the difficulty in finding plaintiffs stems from taking on the Internal Revenue Service.

"They don't want to get audited," Cannon said, "and this administration has a history of using the IRS for ideological purposes." (Contributor: By Richard Wolf for USA TODAY)

 

Prayer focus: IFA is not a partisan political organization but a ministry to encourage intercessory prayer for America and its leaders. We pray “for” or “against” issues when moral questions call for decisions that represent truth vs. evil or injustice. Many citizens believe they have been deceived in the confusion of the federal government’s health care law. Pray that the Supreme Court be led (or restrained) by God’s Spirit in their decisions for what is right and best for the U.S., based on God’s moral law. Pray for God’s will to prevail.

 

“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. No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity.” (Isa 59:1-2, 4)

 

WALKER’S ANTI-UNION LAW HAS LABOR REELING IN WISCONSIN

At the old union hall here on a recent afternoon, Terry Magnant sat at the head of a table surrounded by 18 empty chairs. A members meeting had been scheduled to start a half-hour earlier, but the small house, with its cracked walls and loose roof shingles, was lonely and desolate.

“There used to be a lot more people coming,” said Magnant, a 51-year-old nursing assistant, sighing.

The anti-union law passed here four years ago, which made Gov. Scott Walker a national Republican star and a possible presidential candidate, has turned out to be even more transformative than many had predicted.

Walker had vowed that union power would shrink, workers would be judged on their merits, and local governments would save money. Unions had warned that workers would lose benefits and be forced to take on second jobs or find new careers.

Many of those changes came to pass, but the once-thriving ­public-sector unions were not just shrunken — they were crippled.

Unions representing teachers, professors, trash collectors and other government employees are struggling to stem plummeting membership rolls and retain relevance in the state where they got their start.

Here in King, Magnant and her fellow AFSCME members, workers at a local veterans home, have been knocking on doors on weekends to persuade former members to rejoin. Community college professors in Moraine Park, home to a technical college, are reducing dues from $59 to $36 each month. And those in Milwaukee are planing a campaign using videos and posters to highlight union principles. The theme: ­“Remember.”

But recalling the benefits that union membership might have brought before the 2011 law stripped most public-sector unions of their collective-bargaining rights is difficult when workers consider the challenges of the present.

“I don’t see the point of being in a union anymore,” said Dan Anliker, a 34-year-old technology teacher and father of two in Reedsburg, a tiny city about 60 miles northwest of Madison.

The law required most public employees to pay more for health insurance and to pay more into retirement savings, resulting in an 8 to 10 percent drop in take-home pay. To help compensate for the loss, Anliker said he took an additional 10-hour-a-week job.

“Everyone’s on their own island now,” he said. “If you do a good job, everything will take care of itself. The money I’d spend on dues is way more valuable to buy groceries for my family.”

Sean Karsten, a 32-year-old middle and high school reading instructor in his first year of teaching in Reedsburg, said the unions are “just not something I concern myself with.”

“I just look to keep improving my teaching in the best way I can and try to keep my nose out of the other stuff,” he said.

Walker has pointed to the unions’ membership troubles as a victory — presenting himself as a conservative warrior unafraid of taking on big battles against liberal interests.

Walker’s administration has said forcing public employees to contribute more to retirement plans and health insurance helped local governments save $3 billion. The governor also has credited the 2011 law with saving homeowners money on property taxes while giving school districts the ability to make reforms that increased third-grade reading levels and high school graduation rates. And the law has emboldened Republican state lawmakers to further challenge Wisconsin’s labor movement this year by pushing right-to-work legislation that would allow private-sector workers to opt out of paying union dues — a measure Walker has said he would sign.

“We took the power away from the big-government special interests and put it firmly in the hands of the hard-working taxpayers,” Walker told Iowa Republicans recently. “That is what we need more of in this great country. The liberals don’t like that.”

Union officials declined to release precise membership data but confirmed in interviews that enrollment is dramatically lower since the new law was signed in 2011.

The state branch of the National Education Association, once 100,000 strong, has seen its membership drop by a third. The American Federation of Teachers, which organized in the college system, saw a 50 percent decline. The 70,000-person membership in the state employees union has fallen by 70 percent.

The decline is politically significant in Wisconsin, a presidential battleground where the unions have played a central role in Democrats’ get-out-the-vote drives.

John Ahlquist, a University of Wisconsin political scientist who specializes in labor movements, said Walker had “effectively dismantled the financial and organizing structure of unions in Wisconsin.”

“Although it is too early to tell if unions are near the end of their political power here, they are in a very vulnerable position,” Ahlquist said.

The mass protests that gripped the state Capitol have subsided, but anxiety remains high in union halls across Wisconsin.

At Magnant’s meeting in King on a frigid February afternoon, union members finally began trickling in, one by one, filling a few of the empty seats.

A groundskeeper at the veterans home complained that supervisors were no longer assigning overtime based on seniority because “there was no union.” Others complained that there were no longer enough nursing assistants on shifts, while management positions seemed to grow.

“This is what we are trying to live with,” Magnant said. “But we can’t continue like this.”

Dean Johnson burst through door with a big grin on his face. Johnson, 55, told the story of how he felt so bold at work that he yelled “Join the union!” in the middle of the veterans home. A stalwart union supporter, he vowed he’d do anything to keep the movement going.

But Johnson said he could no longer do it as an employee. He told the group he was retiring — prompting a discussion about the new mantra for those choosing to leave union work: “Goodbye tension, hello pension.”

While some union members have been energized by the fight, they say they notice a new, more vocal animosity toward them. It has been particularly pronounced in rural areas, where public-sector jobs were some of the most prized gigs in town.

In King, population 1,700, Magnant said she couldn’t change a sign at the union hall without someone giving her the finger. Farther west, in Stanley, prison workers said they ditched their favorite pizza pub because the owner stood by while other customers called them “leeches.”

In Reedsburg, that tension surprised Ginny Bourgeois, 52, who clerks at a local Kwik Trip. The community had always been divided, defined as much by the factories manufacturing car parts as it was by cornfields now blanketed in snow. Still, it was a place where the community got together for spaghetti and corn feeds and filled bleachers to watch the Reedsburg Beavers play. Now, she said, people were fighting over politics at gas stations.

Still, she felt unions needed to sacrifice.

“Everyone knows teachers’ insurance was some of the best you could get,” Bourgeois added.“They do fairly well around here, and they do a good job teaching. But everyone in this town has had to tighten their belts. They should too.”

Judy Brey, a 58-year-old speech therapist who taught in the community for 22 years, said such sentiment hurt teachers’ morale. She said she grew up admiring her dad, who put six children through college on his union-supported job as a forester. “ ‘I don’t make a lot, but we’ll be okay with retirement,’ ” she said he told her. That, she was taught, was the reward for public service in Wisconsin.

“Now I’m always nervous that everyone will think they’re moochers,” Brey said. “That I’m a moocher....” (Contributor: By Robert Samuels for The Washington Post)

Prayer focus: Intercessors, be alert! As you know, IFA is not a political voice. However, we remind readers that now, early in 2015, the 2016 presidential campaign is already “unofficially” underway. We offer readers this example: former Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, has not said he is a presidential candidate, though he is “out there” making speeches and has become a “target” for liberal news outlets, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. In the past week alone, the Post has run six anti-Walker stories. One calls him “spineless” (Feb. 22). It will get worse. An ideological war is waging. IFA is neither for nor against Governor Walker. Other conservatives will be pilloried. We will report. Please pray as you are led.     

“For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (Jas. 3:16-18)

 

WILL JORDAN FALL TO ISIS?

With the barbaric murder of Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh -- the Jordanian pilot locked in a cage and burned alive by operatives of the Islamic State, for all the world to see -- Jordan’s King Abdullah faces the most dangerous moment since ascending to the throne in 1999.

ISIS jihadists in Syria and Iraq have publicly threatened to invade Jordan and “slaughter” the Abdullah, whom they denounce as a “tyrant.” Extremists inside Jordan took to the streets last summer shouting, “Down, down with Abdullah!” The latest ISIS propaganda video attacks the king as an “ally of the crusaders.” One figure in the video proclaims, "all Arab tyrants should…be burned."

While Jordan has remained a source of calm in the region, the roots of radical Islamic extremism run deep there. A Jordanian, Abu Musab Zarqawi, was the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq -- the precursor to ISIS -- before he was killed by a U.S. airstrike on June 7, 2006. Today, an estimated 2,000 Jordanian nationals are fighting with ISIS. What happens when they come back to Jordan?

Meanwhile, 1.3 million people, mostly Muslims, have fled Syria and are currently residing in Jordan. Some 600,000 are contained inside refugee camps. The rest are freely moving about the country. How many are plotting against the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and how advanced and sophisticated are their plans?

The urgent question right now is whether American leaders fully understand just how catastrophic it would be for Jordan to fall to ISIS.

The good news is that King Abdullah understands full well that he is in a winner-take-all showdown with ISIS, which he describes as “a Third World war.”<http://www.cbsnews.com/news/jordan-king-abdullah-on-isis-middle-east-conflict/> As a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad, the king sees himself as a moderate Arab reformer. He believes Islam is the answer to the challenges facing his region, but he does not believe violent jihad is the way forward. He has built good relations with the West, maintains a solid peace treaty with Israel, and has worked hard to protect Christians in Jordan. But he is acutely aware that the jihadists are gunning for him. Indeed, upon hearing the news of the pilot’s murder, he immediately cut short his visit to Washington and returned to Amman to launch an “earth-shaking” military response to ISIS.

The urgent question right now is whether American leaders fully understand just how catastrophic it would be for Jordan to fall to ISIS, and whether they are truly committed to taking all measures necessary to crush ISIS and stand firm with Jordan, one of our most important Arab allies.

Friends and enemies alike have pointed out that President Obama has been indecisive and inconsistent in responding to the turmoil caused by the extremists. U.S.-led airstrikes have slowed the jihadist advance in Iraq, but ISIS is steadily expanding its control of Syria. Yet inexplicably, the White House has failed to set forth a clear strategy to defeat the Islamic State in either Iraq or Syria, even as the rest of the neighborhood -- from the shores of Tripoli to the Hindu Kush -- is falling apart before our eyes.

Obama is now asking for congressional authorization for his half-hearted war on ISIS. Yet his very request shows how unsure and unserious he is. Congress should pass a resolution authorizing the use of "all means necessary" to defeat the enemy. But the president's draft explicitly rules out any serious use of ground forces, even if America's military leaders deem them essential.

Obama specifically refuses to put an adequate number of U.S. special forces and technical advisers on the ground to help Iraqi forces retake their country. Last month, retired four-star U.S. Army General Jack Keane testified before Congress that at least 10,000 U.S. special operators are needed in the theater to prosecute an effective war against ISIS. Thus far, the administration adamantly disagrees.

At the same time, President Obama refuses to directly and adequately arm the Kurds in their fight against ISIS, despite their heroic efforts on the battlefield. Obama should be providing Jordan and the Iraqis far more arms and other resources to fight ISIS, but he hesitates.

Meanwhile, he exhibits a dangerously dysfunctional attitude toward two key American allies in the region, namely Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Like Jordan’s King Abdullah, both Netanyahu and al-Sisi clearly see the grave threat posed by the Shia brand of radicalism advanced by Iran and Hezbollah, and the similarly ominous threat posed by the Sunni brand of violent extremism advanced by ISIS, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Netanyahu and Sisi are quietly but actively working together – and with Jordan – against these threats. Yet Obama’s public disdain for the Israeli and Egyptian leaders in the midst of a hot war is both counterproductive (the Egyptians are now turning to Moscow for help) and risks undermining the trust and confidence of Jordan’s leaders, as well as that of other Mideast allies.

With so many other major challenges in the Middle East at present, it would be easy for American policy-makers to overlook Jordan’s importance -- easy, but a mistake. Jordan is the cornerstone of any future Arab-Israeli peace plan. If it fell to ISIS, Jordan would quickly become a launching pad for terrorist attacks against America and its allies.

Fortunately, the American people instinctively understand the magnitude of the threat posed by ISIS. In a recent survey 74 percent of Americans said they worry ISIS will launch a “catastrophic terrorist” attack inside the U.S. if they are not defeated soon. Nearly as many Americans (72 percent) worry ISIS will soon try to launch a massive attack against the State of Israel. At the same time, 65 percent are afraid ISIS “will also try to overthrow the King of Jordan – an important, moderate Arab ally of the United States – and use Jordan as a base camp to launch terrorist attacks against America and Israel.”

Not surprisingly, therefore, Americans want President Obama and congressional leaders to work closely with America’s most trusted allies in the Middle East – including Jordan -- to crush ISIS quickly and decisively. God help us if the president does not start making the right moves before it is too late.

Joel C. Rosenberg is a New York Times best-selling author of novels and non-fiction books about the Middle East. His latest political thriller, The Third Target, centers on an ISIS plot to attack the U.S., Israel and Jordan. (Contributor: Joel Rosenberg for Fox News)

 

Prayer focus: Thankfully, Joel Rosenberg is a friend of truth and an insightful and fair reporter. The situation in Jordan is, as he explains, complicated, intense, and dangerous. We urge intercessors not only to pray but to share your intercessory vision with Christian friends and church leaders. God will respond to the effectual, fervent, and unified prayers of His people. Pray for the Church to have a great awakening and renewed vision to help change the world through united prayer and fasting. Pray that international leaders receive an infusion of divine wisdom to handle the threat to Jordan.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (Jas. 1:5-8)

 

ITALY AND VATICAN ON GUARD AFTER ISIS THREAT

The Italian government is on high alert after threats from the Islamic State called Italy "the nation signed with the blood of the cross." And the country would probably need help to confront the militant group.

Italy is one of a handful of major Western counties that has not been victim of a large-scale terror assault since the Sept. 11 attacks in the USA. The Vatican — the de facto seat of worldwide Christianity — is in Rome, so the city could be a target.

Italian officials fear extremists could enter the country amid the growing tide of refugees arriving by boat from North Africa. About 500 extra troops have been stationed to guard symbolic targets in Rome and monitor the streets of the capital for suspicious activity.

The video threat, released with images of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt who were beheaded this month, warned that Islamic State forces were "south of Rome," in Libya. At its closest point, Libya is little more than 100 miles from the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia.

This comes four months after the Islamic State's propaganda magazine Dabiq ran a cover photo of the militant group's flag flying above the obelisk in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican with the headline: "The failed crusade."

"The risks are real," said Sabrina Magris, president of the International University School of Rome and Florence, the only European institution that prepares negotiators for hostage and terror threats. "The goal may be an actual attack of some kind or simply using threats to create an atmosphere of fear. But the risks shouldn't be underestimated."

Pope Francis waves to people from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square during the Angelus noon prayer at the Vatican on Feb. 22. (Photo: Riccardo De Luca, AP)

The Vatican has made no official comment about being a potential target for the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, or other extremist groups, and Pope Francis resists many security measures, delving into crowds whenever possible.

At Sunday's Mass at St. Peter's Basilica, extra security was evident. Police patrolled the area and were stationed around the Vatican's perimeter.

The people on hand said they didn't mind.

"It's a dangerous world, and the pope and the Vatican have a very high profile," said Karen Phifer, 44, a teacher from Philadelphia spending a year in Italy while on sabbatical. "Every step that can be taken to protect them should be taken."

Italy responded to the latest threats by boarding up its embassy in Tripoli, the Libyan capital. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi warned extremists not to provoke Italy and threatened military action.

According to the Ministry of Defense, although Italian intelligence services are among the best, major military cutbacks in 2013 mean only about 5,000 troops are ready for deployment, making a preventive military strike against the Islamic State unlikely.

Within days of his initial remarks, Renzi backed away from warning of any unilateral action and called for the international community to intervene against the Islamic State in Libya.

"The last thing Italy and Renzi need right now is a foreign policy crisis," said Sebastiano Sali, an Italian doctoral candidate with the War Studies Department at King's College in London.

Massimo Blanco from the National Association of Public and Private Security Experts called the Islamic State's threats against Italy and the Vatican a kind of "psychological war" that may be having its intended effect.

"It's something people in Italy are talking about," Blanco said. "But if the government is forced to take major steps in response to the threats, whether big controls or disruptions to regular life, then it's already a kind of victory for these groups."

Blanco said that despite the threats, Italy and Europe remain more focused on Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Greek debt crisis and anemic economic growth across the continent.

"I still don't think the Islamic world is a high enough priority for Europe and Italy," Blanco said.

Italians say they are aware of the threats, but fear is not having an impact on their daily lives.

Italo Fienelli, 77, owner of a tobacco shop near the Pantheon in Rome, said he keeps an eye out for suspicious activity but has not changed his day-to-day routine.

"I was a child during World War II and have seen good and bad times since then," he said. "I have learned it is important not to overreact to either extreme."

Alessandro Tivoli, 29, a tour guide, said, "You can't live your whole life in fear."

Some Italians have used social media to fight the threats with humor by using the Twitter hashtag "#We_are_coming_o_Rome" to suggest specific restaurants or sites for the would-be invaders and to predict the militants would be brought to their knees by Italian bureaucracy or oppressive traffic.

"You have to laugh," said Raffaelle Caruso, 78, a retired technician. "It helps prevent you from being frightened." (Contributor: By Eric J. Lyman for USA TODAY)

Prayer focus: We include this article is to emphasize that international terrorism knows no limits and honors no national or spiritual boundaries. Whether threatening Pope Francis and Italy or ruthlessly murdering humble Christians in the most barbaric way — and all without a vestige of conscience — the radical Islamist terrorists show themselves to be demon-driven and without restraint. Pray for continued conversions to Christ among Middle East Muslims who are also victims. Pray that Protestant and Catholic Christians come together to intercede for God’s mercy. Political leaders of all persuasions in the U.S. are urging President Obama to give full recognition to this terrorist threat.  

“Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Col. 4:2-6)

 

MAJOR STRAINS IN U.S. FARM ECONOMY

Across the U.S. Midwest, the plunge in grain prices to near four-year lows is pitting landowners determined to sustain rental incomes against farmer tenants worried about making rent payments because their revenues are squeezed.

Some grain farmers already see the burden as too big. They are taking an extreme step, one not widely seen since the 1980s: breaching lease contracts, reducing how much land they will sow this spring and risking years-long legal battles with landlords.

The tensions add to other signs the agricultural boom that the U.S. grain farming sector has enjoyed for a decade is over. On Friday, tractor maker John Deere cut its profit forecast citing falling sales caused by lower farm income and grain prices.

Many rent payments – which vary from a few thousand dollars for a tiny farm to millions for a major operation – are due on March 1, just weeks after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated net farm income, which peaked at $129 billion in 2013, could slide by almost a third this year to $74 billion.

The costs of inputs, such as fertilizer and seeds, are remaining stubbornly high, the strong dollar is souring exports and grain prices are expected to stay low.

How many people are walking away from leases they had committed to is not known. In Iowa, the nation's top corn and soybean producer, one real estate expert says that out of the estimated 100,000 farmland leases in the state, 1,000 or more could be breached by this spring.

The stakes are high because huge swaths of agricultural land are leased: As of 2012, in the majority of counties in the Midwest Corn Belt and the grain-growing Plains, at least 40 percent of farmland was leased or rented out, USDA data shows.

"It's hard to know where the bottom is on this," said David Miller, Iowa Farm Bureau's director of research and commodity services.

Signs Of Trouble

Grain production is, however, unlikely to be affected in any major way yet as landowners will rather have someone working their land, even at reduced rates, than let it lie fallow.

But prolonged weakness in the farm economy could send ripples far and wide: as farms consolidate, "there would be fewer machinery dealers, fewer elevators, and so-on through the rural economy," said Craig Dobbins, professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University.

Possibly Also Fewer New Farmers.

Jon Sparks farms about 1,400 acres of family land and rented ground in Indiana. His nephew wants to return to work on the farm but margins are tight and land rents high. Sparks cannot make it work financially.

"We can't grow without overextending ourselves," Sparks said. "I don't know what to do."

Landowners are reluctant to cut rents. Some are retirees who partly rely on the rental income from the land they once farmed, and the rising number of realty investors want to maintain returns. Landlords have also seen tenants spend on new machinery and buildings during the boom and feel renters should still be able to afford lease payments.

"As cash rent collections start this spring, I expect to see more farm operators who have had difficulty acquiring adequate financing either let leases go or try and renegotiate terms," said Jim Farrell, president of Farmers National Co, which manages about 4,900 farms across 24 states for land-owners.

Take an 80-acre (32 hectare) farm in Madison County, Iowa, owned by a client of Peoples Company, a farmland manager. The farmer who rented the land at $375 an acre last year offered $315 for this year, said Steve Bruere, president of the company. The owner turned him down, and rented it to a neighbor for $325 -- plus a hefty bonus if gross income tops $750.

There are growing numbers of other examples. Miller, of the Iowa Farm Bureau, said he learned about a farmer near Marshalltown, in central Iowa, who had walked away from 650 acres (263 hectares) of crop ground because he could not pay the rent. Just days later, he was told a north-central Iowa farmer breached his lease on 6,500 acres.

Courts or Loans

Concern about broken leases has some landlords reviewing legal options, according to Roger A. McEowen, director of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation. His staff began fielding phone calls from nervous landowners last autumn.

One catch is that many landlords never thought to file the paperwork to put a lien on their tenants' assets. That means landowners "can't go grab anything off the farm if the tenant doesn't pay," McEowen said. "It also means that they're going to be behind the bank."

Still, farmers could have a tough time walking away from their leases, said Kelvin Leibold, a farm management specialist at Iowa State University extension.

"People want their money. They want to get paid. I expect we will see some cases going to court over this," he added.

To avoid such a scenario, farmers have begun turning to banks for loans that will help fund operations and conserve their cash. Operating loans for farmers jumped 37 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 over a year ago to $54 billion, according to survey-based estimates in the Kansas City Federal Reserve bank's latest Agricultural Finance Databook.

Loans with an undefined purpose -- which might be used for rents, according to the bank's assistant vice-president Nathan Kauffman -- nearly doubled in the fourth quarter of 2014 from a year earlier to $25 billion.

Total non-real estate farm loan volumes jumped more than 50 percent for the quarter, to $112 billion.

"It's all about working capital and bankers are stressing working capital," said Sam Miller, managing director of agricultural banking at BMO Harris Bank. "Liquidity has tightened up considerably in the last year." (Contributor: By Jo Winterbottom and P.J. Huffstutter for Reuters News Service - editing by Tomasz Janowsk)

Prayer focus: Nothing is more basic to a country’s stability than its food production, starting with farming. Perhaps you have seen a bumper sticker proclaiming, “If you ate today, thank a farmer.” This is a serious matter for intercession. If you pray for “the land,” pray also for our nation’s farmers. How desperately America needs to return to God, both to honor Him and to receive His blessings. Modern Israel has yet to experience the full restoration promised through Joel. Pray that an awakened Church will intercede in unity, display a broken and repentant heart, and reap a portion of that blessing today.  

“‘Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him—a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?’” […] “‘So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be put to shame.’” (Joel 2:12-14, 25-26)

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On Watch in Washington February 18, 2015

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FEDERAL JUDGE HALTS OBAMA ADMINISTRATION'S  AMNESTY

A federal judge late Monday halted President Obama’s deportation amnesty, ruling he overstepped his powers in trying to grant legal status and “benefits and privileges” to millions of illegal immigrants, in a stunning decision that chides the president and throws the White House’s plans into disarray just a day before applications were to be accepted.

The White House said it will appeal Judge Andrew S. Hanen’s decision, but it’s unclear whether the case could reach the circuit court in New Orleans or even the Supreme Court before Wednesday, which is when the Homeland Security Department had planned to begin accepting the first applications under the new amnesty.

“The DHS was not given any ‘discretion by law’ to give 4.3 million removable aliens what the DHS itself labels as ‘legal presence,’” Judge Hanen wrote in issuing an injunction. “In fact, the law mandates that these illegally-present individuals be removed. The DHS has adopted a new rule that substantially changes both the status and employability of millions. These changes go beyond mere enforcement or even non-enforcement of this nation’s immigration scheme.”

In the immediate sense, the ruling will become a major part of the debate over homeland security funding that has roiled Capitol Hill, with Republicans insisting Mr. Obama’s actions were unconstitutional and should be halted through Congress’s spending power, and Democrats backing their president by filibustering to block funding for the Homeland Security Department altogether.

The ruling doesn’t mean those illegal immigrants are going to be deported immediately — indeed, Judge Hanen said they are likely not to be deported at all under Mr. Obama, who had set “priorities” putting them in little danger of ever being kicked out of the country, even without the formal amnesty.

The judge said Mr. Obama does have the right to set those priorities, but said it is likely a step too far for him to have set up a proactive program to grant them other benefits.

“The DHS may continue to prosecute or not prosecute these illegally-present individuals, as current laws dictate. This has been the status quo for at least the last five years and there is little-to-no basis to conclude that harm will fall upon the defendants if it is temporarily prohibited from carrying out the … program.”

One immigrant-rights group called his decision “judicial vigilantism,” while another called it a “minor legal bump” and said it’s “merely a matter of time” before they win legal status.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest was dismissive of the judge’s ruling, saying it contradicted Mr. Obama’s own lawyers, who told him he was “well within his legal authority.”

“Top law enforcement officials, along with state and local leaders across the country, have emphasized that these policies will also benefit the economy and help keep communities safe. The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, commonsense policies from taking effect and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision,” Mr. Earnest said early Tuesday.

Judge Hanen’s exhaustive opinion, which ran to 123 pages, eviscerated the administration’s legal arguments. Where Mr. Obama claimed he was only issuing “guidance” and using his powers of prosecutorial discretion to make decisions on a case-by-case basis, the judge ruled that wording was “disingenuous” and ignored the substance of what the president was trying to do.

He also said Mr. Obama hurt his own case by saying he’d acted to “change the law,” implying a much more substantive legal program than his administration was arguing in court.

The president’s new plan, known as Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, announced in November, was designed to cover more than 4 million illegal immigrant parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, granting them a three-year stay of deportation, Social Security numbers and work permits to compete legally for jobs. The November order also expanded a 2012 program for so-called Dreamers, or illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

The initial Dreamer program is still in place, and covers more than 600,000 illegal immigrants, but Judge Hanen halted its expansion, as well as the new program for parents.

About 95 percent of those who applied for the 2012 Dreamer program were approved, while nobody who didn’t meet the strict criteria was — both factors that Judge Hanen said suggested this wasn’t “discretion,” but rather a new substantive legal policy that should have gone through the usual rule-making process.

“While [the program] does not provide legal permanent residency, it certainly provides a legal benefit in the form of legal presence (plus all that it entails) — a benefit not otherwise available in immigration laws,” the judge wrote. “In this case, actions speak louder than words.”

Still, almost none of those who would have been approved for the amnesty are in danger of deportation, thanks to Mr. Obama’s other, less-noticed policies that order immigration agents only to go after illegal immigrants with serious criminal records. That likely means only a couple million of the nearly 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. are likely to be in any danger of deportation.

Immigrant-rights advocates had expected the ruling and had been working ahead of time to discredit Judge Hanen, saying he had a “bias” against them, based on a December 2013 ruling.

In that ruling, Judge Hanen had spotted the surge of illegal immigrant children crossing the border earlier on, and had been critical of how Homeland Security officials had handled it, accusing them of being complicit in human trafficking because they would deliver the children to their illegal immigrant parents in the U.S. without trying to deport either party.

Last summer’s spike in illegal immigrant children from Central America bore out Judge Hanen’s concerns, with the administration belatedly admitting that the ease of getting across the border and being connected with family here in the U.S. was helping spur the surge. (Contributor: By Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times)

Prayer focus: As readers of these alerts know, we suggest a prayer focus to enable widespread intercessors to pray in unity and for root causes rather than symptoms. It is not unpatriotic to observe that the difference between Judge Hanen’s ruling and President Obama’s position is that the judge is guided by constitutional law, while the president has set the Constitution aside in favor of his political ideology. IFA takes no position on immigration issues, although — like most Americans — we want the law upheld with compassion. Our country is broken over this. Pray for God’s mercy. Intercession is a marathon, not a sprint. The amnesty debate is far from over. Pray for revival.

“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. ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isa. 55:6-9)

 

SENATOR JEFF SESSIONS: TIMELINE OF THE DISMANTLING OF U.S. IMMIGRATION LAW

As Republicans work to overcome a Democratic filibuster of a House-passed Department of Homeland Security bill that blocks President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is highlighting the Obama administration’s long history of dismantling immigration laws.

In a lengthy timeline released Monday, Sessions — the chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest — lists every instance of the Obama administration ignoring, rewriting, delaying and breaking the nation’s immigration laws.

The timeline begins in January 2009 with the administration ending worksite enforcement actions and, 50 pages later, ends on February 13, 2015 with the House Judiciary Committee’s revelation that the administration included a “sneaky” avenue for illegal immigrants granted deferred status to be placed on a pathway to citizenship.

Sessions’ list comes at a pivotal point in Republicans’ fight to preserve the nation’s immigration laws. In November, after the midterm elections, Obama announced he would provide unilateral amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.

In January, House Republicans passed a Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill that also blocked Obama’s executive amnesty. In the Senate, however, Democrats — including those who said they were opposed to the president’s unilateral actions — have blocked debate on the legislation.

Funding for the department expires on February 27 and the path forward remains hazy with Republicans considering ways to break the filibuster.

The release of Session’s timeline comes less than two weeks before DHS funding expires and a less than a year after he released an earlier edition in May 2014. Since May the timetable has seen nearly 100 more additions.

Timeline: How the Obama Administration Bypassed Congress to Dismantle Immigration Enforcement

In September 2011, President Obama said, “We live in a democracy. You have to pass bills through the legislature, and then I can sign it.” Yet, since that time, and indeed before then, he has systematically voided existing laws and unilaterally created new measures that Congress has refused to adopt under either Democratic or Republican control.

Most recently, the President announced he would do what he once said only an “emperor” could do – grant unilateral amnesty, work permits, and access to government benefits to more than five million illegal immigrants. This unprecedented action, combined with new “enforcement priorities” for Department of Homeland Security personnel that exempt the vast majority of illegal immigrants from the threat of removal, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals directive, the “Morton” memos, and numerous other lesser-reported but far-reaching Executive actions, has threatened not only our constitutional system, but our national sovereignty. Indeed, the idea of national, sovereign borders is being daily eviscerated by the President’s determination to write his own immigration rules in defiance of Congress and the American people.

Below is a detailed timeline of how the Obama Administration systematically dismantled immigration enforcement, undermining the very rule of law upon which our nation was founded and upon which its greatness depends.

Read the full report online <Click Here.> (Contributor: By Caroline May for Breitbart News)

Prayer focus: This needs little comment and is closely aligned with the article above. Sen. Sessions’ report is accurate. It may be ignored, but it cannot be denied. The question is — and will continue to be under President Obama’s method of governance — will the U.S. Congress (both House and Senate) insist on a return to guidance by our Constitution? This defining document has worked even across strong political party differences for more than 225 years. Or will our nation descend into a form of anarchy in which any president may lead by his own political ideology?

“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves…. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (Rom. 13:1-2, 7)

 

FRANKLIN GRAHAM: ‘IMAGINE THE OUTCRY’ IF CHRISTIANS BEHEADED 21 MUSLIMS

The Rev. Franklin Graham laments what he believes is a religious double standard following the public’s response to a brutal five-minute video purporting to show Islamic State militants beheading more than 20 Egyptian Christians.

“Can you imagine the outcry if 21 Muslims had been beheaded by Christians?” he asked in a Facebook post Monday. “Where is the universal condemnation by Muslim leaders around the world?

“As we mourn with the families of those 21 martyrs, we’d better take this warning seriously as these acts of terror will only spread throughout Europe and the United States,” wrote Mr. Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham. “If this concerns you like it does me, share this. The storm is coming.”

Within five hours of being published, the post had been shared nearly 70,000 times.

Mr. Graham’s comments come after 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, who had been abducted in Libya by members of the Islamic State, or ISIL or ISIS, were reportedly executed in a video, titled “A Message Signed With Blood, To The Nation of the Cross,” which was posted online Sunday.

The White House on Sunday condemned the killings, saying the action “only further galvanizes the international community to unite against ISIL.”

“We call on all Libyans to strongly reject this and all acts of terrorism and to unite in the face of this shared and growing threat,” the Obama administration said in a statement released by press secretary Josh Earnest. “We continue to strongly support the efforts of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General Bernardino Leon to facilitate formation of a national unity government and help foster a political solution in Libya.” (Contributor: By Jessica Chasmar for The Washington Times)

Prayer focus: Give thanks for the Rev. Franklin Graham’s willingness to raise his voice to protest these barbaric atrocities against Christians. This is an answer to many intercessory prayers for God to raise up more respected prophetic voices in the U.S. to call attention to the systematic murder of Christians by radical Islamic terrorists. Pray that President Obama will be convicted by the Holy Spirit to identify this killing rampage for what it is, especially now that those responsible for these mass executions are boasting that their evil deeds are being done “in the name of the Prophet.”   

“Lord, how long will You look on? Rescue me from their destructions, my life from the lions. I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people. Let them not rejoice over me who are wrongfully my enemies; nor let them wink with the eye who hate me without a cause. For they do not speak peace, but they devise deceitful matters against the quiet ones in the land.” (Ps. 35:17-20)

 

FRANK WOLF CALLS FOR SAFE HAVEN FOR MIDEAST CHRISTIANS

Over the weekend, a terrorist group with links to the Islamic State (ISIL) released a video, showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya. On Monday, Egypt and Libya launched warplanes in an air assault on Darna in eastern Libya, where the group is based.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “This wanton killing of innocents is just the most recent of the many vicious acts perpetrated by ISIL-affiliated terrorists against the people of the region, including the murders of dozens of Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai, which only further galvanizes the international community to unite against ISIL.”

All those beheaded worked inside Libya, and terrorists kidnapped them in December. In the video, an English-speaking terrorist said, “Safety for you crusaders is something you can only wish for.”

Last week, President Obama asked Congress to endorse his plan to use the military to defeat and destroy the Islamic State. So far this year, the terror group has killed hostages in Syria, including Japanese Christian journalist Kenji Goto and American aid worker Kayla Mueller.

Frank Wolf, the recently retired congressman, urged six additional steps to protect Christians and other religious minorities from genocide, including creation of a safe haven in Nineveh, northwest Iraq.

In a letter to Congress on Feb. 11, Obama said, “If left unchecked, ISIL will pose a threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States homeland. I have directed a comprehensive and sustained strategy to degrade and defeat ISIL. As part of this strategy, US military forces are conducting a systematic campaign of airstrikes.”

Yet, on the same day, Wolf in a statement said Christians and other groups are on the “edge of extinction” due to terrorism and policy-makers must do more.

“If the Islamic State is not defeated and ultimately destroyed, there will be no future for these ancient faith communities who now face an existential crisis and genocidal onslaught in lands they have inhabited since antiquity,” Wolf said. The retired Virginia congressman recently co-founded the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative and accepted an appointment to a newly endowed chair for religious freedom at Baylor University.

In January, Wolf and several others from the Wilberforce Initiative traveled to northwest Iraq to meet with refugees from the region. The Wilberforce delegation said they were within 1.5 miles of the Islamic State frontline. They spoke with dozens of Christians and Yazidis (another at-risk minority group) and met with top officials in the Kurdistan Regional Government, religious leaders, and humanitarian groups.

On return, the Wilberforce group developed six proposals to secure the future of Christians, Yazidis, and others:

  • Create the Nineveh Plains province in Iraq to shelter Christians and other minorities.
  • Establish the Nineveh Protection Unit, a defensive National Guard. (This is already in formation.)
  • Allow faith-based relief and development groups to operate openly in the region.
  • Require the return of property, especially churches and monasteries, confiscated by the Islamic State.
  • Require the Kurdistan regional government to insure religious freedom for all groups.
  • Prosecute terrorists for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and if needed, for genocide.

“A decade ago, Iraq's Christian population numbered 1.5 million,” said Randel Everett, Wilberforce Initiative president and former Texas pastor. “Today, roughly 300,000 remain, and most have no jobs, no schools, and no places of worship. The Nineveh Plains had been one of the last relatively safe havens for Christians, Yazidis, Shabak, Turkmen and other minority groups. With the fall of Mosul and surrounding areas last summer, Iraq’s minorities want to remain in their homeland, but have no place to go.”

Wolf’s New Role

In the new position at Baylor, Wolf will be responsible for outreach on Christianity’s role in addressing social issues and will collaborate on international projects and how to integrate religious freedom in foreign policy. Funding for the new job came from Jerry and Susie Wilson, a Dallas couple who donated $2 million to the school in December.

“Congressman Frank Wolf has been widely recognized as the ‘conscience’ of the Congress and a champion of religious freedom in both US domestic and foreign policy,” said Baylor president and chancellor Ken Starr. “This appointment represents a remarkable opportunity to advance the study and protection of the essential right of religious freedom and to vigorously address the profound issues of religious liberty and Christianity’s contributions to human flourishing throughout the world.”

CT previously noted how Wolf, then 74, announced in 2013 that he would not seek reelection after serving in Congress for 34 years. He was lead sponsor for the Religious Freedom Act (which led to the creation of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom) and ambassador-at-large and special adviser for international religious freedom in the State Department. During his time on Capitol Hill, Wolf traveled to Africa, Asia, and the Middle East to raise awareness of religious persecution and human rights abuses, Roll Call reports.

Wolf called on the US church to advocate for Iraqi Christians in a 2008 CT interview. He later articulated his thoughts about the role American government should play in human rights and religious freedom in a 2011 interview with CT:

“I think America has lost much of its influence partially because our leaders aren't articulating human rights as a driving issue… Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution should stand as a covenant not only between American citizens, but also between America and a Chinese dissident in Beijing, a Coptic Christian in the upper Nile, or a Chaldean who is being gunned down in Iraq. By maintaining economic ability to deal with issues of persecution, America can still be the dominant power to defend human rights and religious freedom.”

That same year, he challenged Gary Locke, the President's nominee for ambassador to China, to “publicly identify with the persecuted” by visiting an unregistered house church in China.

“I am looking forward to working with colleagues at Baylor University to advance the case for religious freedom,” Wolf said in a press release from Baylor. “I have been involved in promoting religious liberty for many years in Congress, and now I look forward to collaborating with scholars, religious leaders, and the laity in what I believe is one of the most important struggles of our time.”

CT has covered Wolf extensively, including his 2013 call for the federal government to support technology breaching Internet firewalls established by authoritarian regimes. (Contributor: Timothy C. Morgan and Ruth Moon for Christianity Today)

Prayer focus: Give thanks for former congressman Frank Wolfe. For more than 30 years, Mr. Wolfe has been a faithful Christian and conservative voice inside and outside congressional halls. His distinguished record as a champion of human rights around the world is virtually unparalleled. He has earned the right to be heard. Pray for him as he takes up this new position and platform at Baylor U. Pray that President Obama, the U.S. Congress, and the Christian Church in America will be open and responsive to his piercing convictions about the rights of Christians and others to survive. Pray in faith, remembering that in the end, righteousness will prevail and God’s glory will be manifest.

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction, but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. Now unto Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 20-25)

 

JEWS FACE RENEWED DOUBT OVER THEIR FUTURE IN EUROPE

Denmark's synagogue attack is the latest in a series across Europe.

Denmark will do everything it can to protect Jews, said its Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt to reporters Monday. But across town, the thousands of bouquets that had been laid at the gates of a synagogue where a gunman killed a Jewish man over the weekend were a painful reminder that they hadn’t been protected enough. Here and across Europe, the attack added to a growing fear among Jews that the continent was once again not safe for them.

Coming so soon after a similar attack in Paris, in which two gunmen killed cartoonists and editors at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, while another killed five in two other incidents, the Copenhagen events have sharply undermined the small Danish Jewish community’s already deteriorating sense of security.

“It’s terrifying,” says Marianne Isaksen, a member of the congregation where Dan Uzan was killed. She and her husband Alf, both in their 70s, knew Uzan, and had come out to Krystalgade to commiserate with other synagogue members and pay their respects. “We knew things were getting worse, but we never thought it could happen here.”

A police officer guards the street around the Noerrebro train station in Copenhagen on Feb. 15, 2015 where a man has been shot in a police action following two fatal attacks in the Danish capital.

And yet increasingly, it does happen throughout Europe. Across the continent, anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise. On Sunday, hundreds of Jewish tombs were desecrated in the town of Sarre-Union in eastern France. Last July during the Gaza war, eight French synagogues were vandalized or petrol-bombed among many other similar incidents across Europe.

Many Jews do not consider themselves safe in Europe. A 2013 survey of Jewish communities in eight European Union states (Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the U.K.) carried out by the E.U.’s Fundamental Rights Agency found that over three-quarters of respondents believed anti-Semitism had increased in their country over the past five years. Nearly a third had considered emigrating from Europe because they did not feel safe as a Jew, with the figure reaching between 40% and 48% in Hungary, France and Belgium.

Those concerns can be felt throughout the E.U.’s population of 1.1 million Jews. In the small French town of Eze, freelance writer Clara Kagan keeps her Judaism to herself. “I would never feel safe in Paris or in my village wearing my Jewish star,” she says. “When I go to America, I wear it but I have only worn it once or twice in France and felt I was being looked at so I stopped.”

The same fears are echoed, if more fiercely, by Linda Ban, the wife of a rabbi in Budapest, where the Jobbik party went as far as to call for the drawing up of a list of Jews in 2012 (the Jobbik member of parliament later amended his call to focus only on those Jews who hold double Israeli-Hungarian citizenship). “In Hungary, people find open anti-Semitism in the media, so they think they can say the same things. People think if they can say it on the radio or on the floor of parliament, so can I. I’m not sure if there’s more anti-Semitism now than there was ten years ago, but it’s definitely louder. The taboo has been broken.”

The unease is felt across Europe. “I would say that it is very hard for Jews to live in Europe today,” says Arie Zuckerman, special adviser to the president of the European Jewish Congress. “I would not be so extreme as to say it’s starting to be impossible, but it is very hard. Jews are thinking twice before going to the synagogue on Saturday, and though it’s better in London, we hear it a lot from Jews in France, which has the biggest Jewish community in Europe. And definitely in Belgium, and definitely in the Scandinavian countries. Jews don’t feel comfortable to be identified as Jews in the streets.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took advantage of those fears to address Europe’s Jews in a statement on the Copenhagen attacks. “This wave of terror attacks can be expected to continue, including anti-Semitic and murderous attacks. We say to the Jews, to our brothers and sisters, Israel is your home and that of every Jew. Israel is waiting for you with open arms.”

Denmark’s chief rabbi, Jair Melchior, objected to Netanyahu’s remarks, telling the press on Feb. 15 that “terror is not a reason to move to Israel. People from Denmark move to Israel because they love Israel, because of Zionism, but not because of terrorism. If the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a deserted island.”

But more and more, Jews in other countries are weighing their options. In 2014, 7,000 of France’s roughly 500,000 Jews moved to Israel, double the number of the previous year. According to the Jewish Agency, immigration to Israel from Western Europe as a whole is up 88%; 620 of those immigrants came from the U.K., a 20% increase.

If the Isaksens aren’t considering following suit, it’s at least partly because, historically, Denmark has been the exception in Europe, protecting its Jews where other countries failed. During World War II, it transported nearly the entire community to safety in neutral Sweden when the Germans invaded.

But in recent years, even Denmark has seen a rise in anti-Semitic attacks. Cans painted with the label of Zyklon B, a chemical used to produce gas in Nazi extermination camps during World War II, were left on the fence of the Copenhagen synagogue in 2013. That was just one of 43 anti-Semitic incidents that occurred that year according to the Jewish community in Denmark’s security unit. “It seems to be getting worse and worse,” says Isaksen, noting that he himself had been assaulted on the street. “Certainly we’re afraid.”

Still, he and his wife were grateful for the outpouring of support from other Danes. Peter Krogell was one of them. A minister at the German Lutheran church on the same street as the synagogue, Krogell brought his two boys to lay tulips outside the temple. “We came because we wanted to show our unity,” he said. “And because as Danes we believe that the only way to fight terror is with freedom and democracy. And love.” Throughout Europe, 1.1 million Jews are hoping that’s enough. (Contributor: By Lisa Abend for Time)

Prayer focus: As we have documented in these alerts, cruel and severe anti-Semitism is increasing rapidly all over the world. This article gives an accurate profile of the pressure on European Jews. Note that Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu has invited them to move to Israel, though many resist or reject that solution either through fear or a lack of interest in Israel. We should remember as we intercede for Jewish people and the nation of Israel that God’s love extends to both Jews and Gentiles as individuals who need personal salvation in Jesus Christ, Savior and Messiah.

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time…” (1 Tim. 2:3-6)

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Rom. 10:1-4)

 

DELAWARE GOVERNOR ANNOUNCES 'CHARLES DARWIN DAY'

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) has declared Feb. 12 as "Charles Darwin Day" in the state.

Praising Darwin's theory of evolution as "the foundation of modern biology, an essential tool in understanding the development of life on earth," Markell's proclamation says Feb. 12 -- Darwin's birthday -- "is a time to reflect and celebrate the importance of his scientific achievements."

As Patheos notes, the proclamation was issued at the request of Chuck Dyke, a member of the Delaware Atheist Meetup group. (According to the governor's website, any organization based in or connected to Delaware may request special recognition for a day, week or month.)

Darwin Day has been celebrated by groups in the U.S., Europe and Canada on the British naturalist's birthday since 1980. In 2013 and 2014, then-Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) introduced legislation to designate a national Darwin Day. Despite support from some House Democrats, the proposal never got off the ground. Former Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) made a similar attempt in 2011.

A 2013 Pew Research Center poll found that 60 percent of American adults believe that humans and other creatures have evolved over time, while 33 percent reject the theory. A 2014 Gallup poll found that 42 percent of Americans believe humans were created by God in their present form, while about 50 percent said they believe humans evolved.

The Pew study also found belief in evolution differs strongly by party affiliation, with 67 percent of Democrats expressing belief in the theory, compared with 43 percent of Republicans. Markell was first elected governor in 2008.

Darwin died in 1882. (Contributor: By Jesse Rifkin for The Huffington Post)

Prayer focus: Darwin was not an atheist, but his theories offer a more “convenient” explanation for life’s origins than belief in God as Creator. His legacy is now an anti-God cult that insists on a choice between God and “natural selection” or chance. What the atheistic Humanist Society has achieved in Delaware, it wants to press across the U.S. to create a national “Darwin Day” that will enshrine the naturalist forever as an icon of evolutionary development. Pray for the Church to awaken to take a strong, vocal stand for the biblical position. Pray for Christian parents to make sure their teens understand the truth before they step into a college classroom, where young faith will be attacked by “systematic unbelief.”       

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1)

“Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves, we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (Ps. 100:3)

 

MUNICIPAL ID LAW HAS ‘DELETE IN CASE OF TEA PARTY’ CLAUSE

Get the shredders ready — the Tea Party could be coming.

The city’s new municipal ID program allows for personal info provided by applicants to be destroyed at the end of 2016, in case a conservative Republican wins the White House and demands the data, the law’s co-sponsor told The Post on Monday.

City Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn) said the measure was crafted so data submitted by those seeking the cards can be destroyed on Dec. 31, 2016.

The cards are aimed at undocumented immigrants.

“In case a Tea Party Republican comes into office and says, ‘We want all of the data from all of the municipal ID programs in the country,’ we’re going to take the data,” he explained.

The next president assumes office Jan. 20, 2017.

“That date is an important signal to the future of immigration reform. That allows us to prepare for any new leadership,” Menchaca said.

In order to get an ID, residents must provide their names, addresses, aliases, dates of birth and other information, making it easy for the feds to identify undocumented immigrants.

Menchaca said the Obama administration has shown no interest in going after the data, but he didn’t want to take any chances on the next administration.

“Though we have not seen documents like this get requested at the level of the federal government, that could be a possibility, so that really allows us to protect the data,” he said.

Immigrant advocates praised the provision.

“It’s no secret that one of the biggest sticking points in the ID programs is ensuring that there’s confidentiality, that immigrants are comfortably giving their information to the city,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

“The sunset is part and parcel of the effort to ensure confidentiality.”

The bill lets the city destroy the info if it determines it’s no longer needed.

The cards were first available early last month. Demand has been overwhelming, with more than 200,000 appointments made for the cards in less than a month. (Contributor: By Tara Palmeri for The New York Post - Additional reporting by Bob Fredericks)

Prayer focus: Once again, the real prayer need is below the surface, not about the petty politics of planning to “hide” the personal data of illegals from the next administration. Our country is sick and deeply divided by partisan politics. Pray that intercessors will rise across the country as a unified voice of effective prayer. Intercede that the Church will awaken to take its rightful place as a prophetic trumpet of truth to call Christians to spiritual warfare and that a heaven-sent revival will bring another Great Awakening to once again invoke God’s blessings. Our country, this deeply divided, is at risk.  

“Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.’” (Matt. 12:25)

 

JINDAL BLOCKING PLANNED PARENTHOOD ABORTION CLINIC IN NEW ORLEANS

Gov. Bobby Jindal's office has been a part of the effort to block construction of a new Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in New Orleans, The Washington Post reports.

A sign declaring that "High-Quality, Affordable Health Care for New Orleans" would begin "Seeing Patients Early 2015," is now lying on the ground behind a chain link fence, but Raegan Carter of Planned Parenthood Center for Choice told The Times-Picayune that the banner was damaged by weather, and that the group still intends to build the clinic.

Planned Parenthood is appealing a ruling from Jindal's administration that the need for the new clinic was not proven and that "it did not meet the clear requirements."

Louisiana's new rules regarding abortion clinics are similar to those in Texas, in which any doctor working at an abortion clinic must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility.

Jindal's office isn't the only adversary Planned Parenthood is facing. Archbishop Gregory Aymond has threatened to boycott any contractor who works on the project.

Several subcontractors backed out of the project after Aymond wrote in an open letter, "the archdiocese, including its churches, schools, apartments for the elderly, and nursing homes, will strive in its privately-funded work not to enter into business relationships with any person or organization that participates in actions that are essential to making this abortion facility a reality."

Jindal didn't comment on the issue, but the Post quoted him from a statement made last week in which he said, "It matters how we treat the unborn and the elderly. Every life is sacred and we should have the courage to defend it."

Jindal is expected to run for president as a Republican in 2016, and the pro-life issue is important to much of the party's base, including evangelical voters, the Post notes.

Americans United for Life told the Post that during Jindal's time in office, Louisiana has been the most pro-life it has ever been.

"He’s not just been pro-life behind closed doors," Louisiana Right to Life's Benjamin Clapper, told the newspaper. "He’s also been proudly pro-life across our state." (Contributor: By Greg Richter for Newsmax)

Prayer focus: Whatever Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s political ambitions might be, he isn’t ashamed of his strong prolife and sanctity of life convictions. Please intercede for Governor Jindal, and for prolife state governors like him, to find success in their determination to reduce or bring to zero the number of abortion centers and abortions in their respective states. As IFA has reported elsewhere, this year (2015) holds the clear possibility to see the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the infamous 1973 Roe v. Wade decision allowing abortion on demand.

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

 

SCIENTISTS STORE DATA INSIDE DNA THAT COULD LAST MILLIONS OF YEARS

Just one gram of DNA can store the equivalent of 14,000 Blu-ray discs.

But although the potential for DNA as an alternative to hard drives has been known about for years, it is not the most reliable and secure way to keep data safe.

The latest breakthrough could be about to change that, however.

Chemists subjected spheres of DNA to extreme temperatures designed to mimic chemical degradation and found the material - and the data stored on it - could be successfully decoded.

The research was led by Robert Grass from ETH Zurich's Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences.

'DNA lends itself to this task as it can store large amounts of information in a compact manner,' said the researchers.

'Unfortunately, the data is not always retrievable error-free: gaps and false information in the encoded data arise through chemical degradation and mistakes in DNA sequencing.

'[We] have revealed how the long-term, error-free storage of information can be achieved, potentially for more than a million years.'

In 2013, researchers demonstrated that data could be saved and read from DNA, but during tests the time between 'writing' the information and reading, or sequencing it, was relatively short.

Even during this short time, mistakes were spotted in the writing and reading of the data stored on the DNA.

Over a longer term, DNA can change significantly as it reacts chemically with the environment, and this is the biggest obstacle to using DNA as a long-term storage option.

With this in mind, Professor Grass took inspiration from fossilised bones.

Despite being thousands of years old, it is possible to obtain genetic material found within the bones.

He concluded that this DNA is protected because it is 'encapsulated and protected'.

With this in mind he devised a way to protect the information-bearing DNA with a synthetic 'fossil shell', in the same way.

His team began by encoding Switzerland's Federal Charter of 1291 and The Methods of Mechanical Theorems by Archimedes in the DNA.

The researchers then placed the DNA segments into spheres of silica with a diameter of roughly 150 nanometres.

For the recent breakthrough, the researchers took inspiration from fossilised bones. Despite being thousands of years old, it is possible to obtain genetic material because the DNA is protected inside the bones. The experts designed a similar 'fossil shell' to protect the information-bearing DNA in the same way.

In order to simulate the degradation of DNA over a long period of time, researchers stored it at a temperature of between 60°C (140°F) and 70°C (158°F) for up to a month.

These high temperatures replicate the chemical degradation that takes place over hundreds of years within just a few weeks.

By doing this, the researchers could compare the storage of DNA in silica glass with other common storage methods such as on impregnated filter paper and in a biopolymer.

The DNA encapsulated in the glass shell turned out to be particularly robust and the researchers were able separate it from the shell, using a fluoride solution, and read information from it.

Storing Data Inside DNA

In 2013, researchers from the European Bioinformatics Institute at the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus in Hinxton, Cambridgeshire 'downloaded' all 154 of Shakespeare's sonnets on to strands of synthetic DNA.

Scientists were then able to decode the information and reproduce the words of the Bard with complete accuracy.

The same technique made it possible to store a 26-second excerpt from Martin Luther King's 'I Have A Dream' speech and a photo of the Cambridgeshire laboratory where the work took place.

For their experiment, the scientists used a tiny amount of synthetic, dry DNA.

Five genetic 'letters' from the genetic code - A,C,G and T - were used to represent the zeros and ones that make up 'bytes' of digital information.

For instance, the upper case T in the word 'Thou' from the second line of Shakespeare's Sonnet XVIII - 'Thou art more lovely and more temperate' - was encoded by the sequence TATAT.

The scientists then incorporated an 'error correction', similar to that found laptops and mobile phones.

This involved overlapping short strands of DNA and independently writing every million-molecule fragment of code four times.

Effectively, three backups were created for each fragment, greatly reducing the chances of mistakes.

This was a similar method used by Reinhard Heckel from ETH Zurich's Communication Technology Laboratory for the recent study.

The researchers from EBI stressed that the DNA used was wholly artificial and different to the genetic molecules of life, and if it was added to a human body, it would degrade and be disposed of.

Theoretically, 100 million hours of high definition video could be stored in a cupful of DNA - equivalent to every film and TV show ever created. A DNA archive also requires no constant supply of electric power like hard drives and data centers do.

Currently the technology is restricted by the length of time it takes to sequence DNA and its high cost - around $12,300 per megabyte of stored material.

Even so, DNA-based storage could today be cost effective for archives of several megabytes over long time periods of 600 to 5,000 years, computer models predict.

Theoretically, 100 million hours of high definition video could be stored in a cupful of DNA - equivalent to every film and TV show ever created.

A DNA archive also requires no constant supply of electric power like hard discs do.   (Contributor: By Victoria Woollaston for Mail Online)

Prayer focus: This may be good science in the future, but at present it is very uncertain. News outlets tend to report laboratory research prematurely. We present such reports for “watchmen on the walls” — those who follow trends to discern where “science” may be going. Like earlier stem cell research, tinkering with DNA, the building blocks of life and the Creator’s gift, may lead to ethical violations with the bodies of aborted babies. We urge intercessors to “watch and pray” and remain alert to where this trend is going. Man’s natural tendency is away from God’s design. Pray as you are led.    

“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.” (Matt. 6:33-34)

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2015 GRAMMY AWARDS: MADONNA’S BIZARRE, SATANIC PERFORMANCE OFFENDS CHRISTIANS

While world-famous pop singer Madonna is known for her shocking, often promiscuous music, her performance at the 2015 Grammy Awards reached disturbing new heights due to its overtly Satanic themes.

After being introduced by Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj as a "bada**, trouble-making international star," Madonna gave the first live performance of her new single, Living For Love, off her new album, "Rebel Heart" at the 57th Annual Awards on Sunday. Wearing a risque matador outfit, complete with red devil's horns, the 56-year-old mother-of-four danced across the stage with men dressed as demons.

The demons, who also wore revealing outfits,  leaped around the "Crazy For You" singer and even simulated sexual acts with her while she sang the Gospel-influenced dance track.

Madonna then demanded the audience stand up and join in as she belted out lyrics, 'Love, love lift me,' before being pulled up into the air as the demons bowed down underneath her.

While the elaborate performance was praised by many critics, the satanic imagery and sexual overtones disturbed Christians, who took to social media to voice their opinions.

"It looks like Hollywood's fascination with demons and darkness is not going to end anytime soon...'And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.' John 3:19" wrote radio host and pastor Geoffrey Grider.

"I'm disappointed by Madonna. It seems to me, that these global stars think they are just having a bit of fun...when what they are doing is literally playing with the devil... in their heart of hearts, do they really want to participate in the corruption of the masses? Is there anyone left I can admire?" wrote a YouTube user under a video of the performance.

This is not the first time performances at the Grammy Awards have offended those in the Christian community. Last year, Maddona, along with other artists, participated in a mass wedding involving 33 homosexual and heterosexual couples following a demonic perfromance by pop singer Katy Perry, prompting Christian singer Natalie Grant to leave the show.

At the time, Grant wrote on her Facebook page, "We left the Grammy's early. I've many thoughts about the show tonight, most of which are probably better left inside my head. But I'll say this: I've never been more honored to sing about Jesus and for Jesus. And I've never been more sure of the path I've chosen."

She later added, "I've judged no one. I hate no one. And I believe that every person has been created in the image of God. I will never stand on a street corner and wave a sign, I won't use my platform to engage in political arguments that will only divide and not unite. I will continue to pray that my life will be my message. I do have my own personal convictions that I live by, and I will continue to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord (Philippians 2:12).” (Contributor by Leah Marieann Klett for The Gospel Herald)

The ultimate idolatry is to replace God with Satan, whose ultimate idolatry was the desire to be “as the Most High.” It is in human hearts to worship. Even atheists hold to the idol of unbelief. Madonna was born into a Roman Catholic home, and some predict she will say her performance was simply artistic expression. The danger to performers is that they often worship themselves and see the adulation of their fans as no more than the homage they deserve. Satanic worship is growing. Pray that the Church awakens and speaks its message of life in a simple and compelling manner.

“And God spoke all these words, saying: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Ex. 20:1-3)

“Professing to be wise, they (natural man) became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (Rom. 1:22-25)

 

NETANYAHU: US, IRAN GALLOPING TOWARDS DEAL WHICH THREATENS ISRAEL

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated once again his promise to stop at nothing to prevent Iran from reaching nuclear capabilities, or maintain the ability to do so quickly through a deal with the west.

His comments came US Secretary of State Kerry met with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif Friday and again Sunday in Munich, where the top US diplomat stressed Washington's commitment to seeing the deadline met.

"The major powers and Iran are galloping toward an agreement that will enable Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons, which will endanger the existence of the State of Israel," Netanyahu said at Israeli government's weekly cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu took aim at Kerry and Zarif, saying that their intention to complete a framework agreement by the end of March, forces Israel to take action. "From this (commitment stems the urgency of our efforts to try and block this bad and dangerous agreement.

"We will continue to take action and to lead the international effort against Iran's arming itself with nuclear weapons. We will do everything and will take any action to foil this bad and dangerous agreement that will place a heavy cloud over the future of the State of Israel and its security," Netanyahu said.

Kerry ruled out extending a March 31 deadline for Iran nuclear talks unless the basic framework of an agreement is hammered out, speaking in an interview aired Sunday.

"The only chance I can see of an extension at this point in time would be that you really have the outlines of the agreement," Kerry said in the interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" taped Saturday in Munich.

Global powers have been struggling for more than a year to pin down a comprehensive deal to rein in Iran's suspected nuclear program, after an interim accord was struck in November 2013.

After their meeting Sunday, Zarif appeared to rule out any new extension to tough negotiations with world powers.

Kerry said outlining the basics of the agreement was crucial before a possible extension could be considered, but reiterated his preference for sticking to the target date.

"But if we're not able to make the fundamental decisions that have to be made over the course of the next weeks, literally, I think it would be impossible to extend," he told NBC.

"I don't think we would want to extend at that point. Either you make the decisions to prove your program is a peaceful one, or if you're unable to do that, it may tell a story that none of us want to hear."

After missing two previous deadlines, the group known as the P5+1 - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States - set a March 31 deadline for a political agreement.

That would be followed by a final deal setting out all the technical points of what would be a complex accord by June 30.

But the atmosphere has been complicated by hardliners both in Iran and the United States, with US lawmakers threatening to impose new sanctions on Iran if the March deadline is missed. (Contributor: YNet News - AFP contributed to this report)

Most Christian intercessors already carry two major concerns. One is for Israel’s preservation and “new birth” in Jesus, their Messiah. The other is for the Church of Jesus Christ to awaken with a renewed vision to its primary purpose, which is to preach the Gospel of the kingdom in all the world before the end of this age. The present political situation is highly complex, with implications for the U.S. and Israel, as well as the growing influence and demands of Iran. Pray for divine wisdom so that you might intercede in accordance with God’s heart and purpose.

“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. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 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.” (Matt. 24:6-7, 12-14)

“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” (Lk. 18:1)

 

FRANKLIN GRAHAM RESPONDS TO OBAMA'S ISIS-CHRISTIAN PRAYER BREAKFAST ADDRESS

Leading Evangelist Franklin Graham took to Facebook on Thursday to respond to President Barack Obama's implication at the National Prayer Breakfast that ISIS' brutality abuse of religious minorities in Iraq and Syria is similar to that of Christian brutality over 1,000 years ago.

In a post on his public Facebook page, Graham, the son of world-renowned Evangelist Billy Graham and the current president of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and humanitarian organization Samaritan's Purse, argued that just because people have used Jesus' name for "evil" purposes in the past does not mean that Jesus actually called on his followers to do such horrible acts, like the Crusades.

"Today at the National Prayer Breakfast, the President implied that what ISIS is doing is equivalent to what happened over 1000 years ago during the Crusades and the Inquisition," Graham wrote. "Mr. President — Many people in history have used the name of Jesus Christ to accomplish evil things for their own desires. But Jesus taught peace, love and forgiveness."

Graham further wrote that unlike Jesus, who lived His life without sin, Mohammed took many innocent lives.

"[Jesus] came to give His life for the sins of mankind, not to take life. Mohammad on the contrary was a warrior and killed many innocent people," Graham asserted. "True followers of Christ emulate Christ — true followers of Mohammed emulate Mohammed."

Graham and some other Christian advocates expressed disappointment that President Barack Obama used the brutality of Christians during the Crusades and Christians' use of slavery in America as a plea for religious tolerance.

Many critics claim that he should have focused on today's plethora of Muslim oppressors, who use the name of Mohammed to justify their attacks.

"Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history," Obama said. "And 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. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.

"So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith," the president continued. "No God condones terror. No grievance justifies the taking of innocent lives, or the oppression of those who are weaker or fewer in number."

Outspoken Christian and a leading social conservative activist Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, also criticized Obama for his easy willingness to condemn Christian brutality but inability to acknowledge terrorist ties to Islam.

Perkins told Fox News' Megyn Kelly that he thinks the president squandered a chance to bring more awareness to the lives of people currently being oppressed by Muslim oppressors, which currently includes an American citizen.

"What we have here is the president refusing to acknowledge that Islam and that ideology that is behind it that has been radicalized is being used to kill Christians," Perkins said. "This was a great opportunity for the president to draw attention to the genocide that is happening in the Middle East at the hands of Islam. This was a great opportunity for pastor Saeed Abedini, he could have used this opportunity to demand that Iran release him and send him home."

In his speech, Obama mentioned a recent trip he took to India where people of all faiths are targeted by people of other faiths. Perkins further criticized the president for not even bothering to mention his recent trip to Saudi Arabia, a Muslim kingdom in which some commenters claim has a religiously intolerant penal code that is as brutal as the Islamic State.

"He didn't mention his stop in Saudi Arabia on his way back to this country and the fact that they rank by his own State Department as one of the worst abusers of religious freedom in the world," Perkins explained.

Republican Louisianna Governor Bobby Jindal issued a statement on Friday responding to Obama's speech, stating that the president needs to wake up to the "reality" of today's religious extremism.

"It was nice of the President to give us a history lesson at the Prayer breakfast," Jindal said. "Today, however, the issue right in front of his nose, in the here and now, is the terrorism of Radical Islam, the assassination of journalists, the beheading and burning alive of captives. We will be happy to keep an eye out for runaway Christians, but it would be nice if he would face the reality of the situation today. The Medieval Christian threat is under control, Mr. President. Please deal with the Radical Islamic threat today."

Although the National Prayer Breakfast also featured a heartfelt keynote speech by hall-of-fame NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip about how Christ transformed his life, the event was "overshadowed" by Obama's "high horse" comment, Perkins said.

"That was overshadowed by the president talking about how faith is a weapon," Perkins said. "Faith is not a weapon. What we see is ISIS is using weapons to kill Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East and the president cannot bring himself to say that." (Contributor: By Samuel Smith for Christian Post)

Give thanks for Rev. Franklin Graham, who spoke out forcefully about President Obama’s outrageous “history lesson” at the National Prayer Breakfast when he compared Church history with the killing record of Islam. Mr. Graham’s response was an appropriate rebuke. Old Testament prophets risked their lives to speak truth to kings. Surely, today’s Christian prophetic voices should be raised to correct elected fellow citizens when necessary, including our U.S. president. Pray for a consistent “conversation” to take place when elected officials profane Jesus Christ and the Christian religion.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Tim. 2:1-6) 

 

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY AND JORDAN SAYS ISIS IS '20% DEFEATED'

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry says fifth of ISIS-held land taken back. In revenge for burning of pilot, Jordan strikes 56 air raids since last Thursday.

Jordan announced it has carried out dozens of air strikes on the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group, as a top US envoy said Iraqi troops would begin a major ground offensive against the jihadists in the weeks ahead.

Jordanian air force chief Major General Mansour al-Jobour said Sunday the kingdom had launched 56 air raids since Thursday as part of an international assault against ISIS that Washington says is beginning to bite, reports AFP.

Jordan has vowed an "earth-shattering" response after the Sunni extremists captured one of its air force pilots, Maaz al-Kassasbeh, burned him alive and released a gruesome video of the execution.

"On the first day of the campaign to avenge our airman Maaz al-Kassasbeh, 19 targets were destroyed, including training camps and equipment," Jobour told reporters.

John Allen, the US coordinator for the anti-ISIS coalition of Western and Arab countries, said Sunday that Iraqi troops would begin a major ground offensive against the jihadists "in the weeks ahead."

"When the Iraqi forces begin the ground campaign to take back Iraq, the coalition will provide major firepower associated with that," he told Jordan's official Petra news agency, stressing that the Iraqis would lead the offensive.

ISIS have seized swathes of Iraq and Syria, brutally ruling the territory by Sharia Islamic law.

20% defeated

Jordan has vowed to crush the group after they released a highly choreographed video showing the murder of its pilot, who was captured in December when his F-16 warplane went down in Syria.

The air force chief said air strikes since last Thursday had destroyed dozens of targets, including barracks, training camps, ammunition and fuel depots, and residential centers.

"So far, the campaign has destroyed 20% of the fighting capabilities of Daesh," Jobour said, using another name for ISIS.

Jobour said more than 7,000 ISIS terrorists had been killed since Jordan began participating in coalition air strikes.

John Kerry said the aerial campaign, launched in September, was beginning to win back territory and deprive the jihadists of key funds.

There have been 2,000 air strikes on ISIS since the coalition's formation in August, Kerry told a security conference in the German city of Munich.

The air war has helped to retake some 700 square kilometers (270 square miles) of territory, or "one-fifth of the area they had in their control", he said.

The top U.S. diplomat did not specify whether the regained territory was in Iraq or Syria.

But he added the coalition had "deprived the militants of the use of 200 oil and gas facilities...disrupted their command structure...squeezed its finance and dispersed its personnel."

State media reported that a squadron of United Arab Emirates F-16 fighter jets arrived in Jordan on Sunday, escorted by pilots and technicians.

The UAE had withdrawn from the coalition's strike missions after the Jordanian pilot's capture over fears for the safety of its own airmen. But the US had said on Friday that UAE flights were likely to resume "in a couple of days."

C-17 transporters and refuelling planes were part of the UAE squadron sent on the orders of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, the Petra news agency said.

Turning point for Jordan

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said Sunday that Kurdish forces had retaken from ISIS more than a third of the villages around Kobane, a strategic town on the Syrian-Turkish border.

The Kurds recaptured Kobane on January 26 after four months of fierce fighting backed by Syrian rebels and coalition air strikes.

But Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh told ABC television that while the bombing campaign had "degraded" ISIS capability, the group was still in control of "vast territory."

Interior Minister Hussein Majali said in remarks published on Saturday that Kassasbeh's gruesome murder by ISIS was a "turning point" in the kingdom's fight against extremism.

As Jordan escalated its assault, ISIS claimed on Friday that an American aid worker it had taken hostage - 26-year-old Kayla Jean Mueller - had been buried alive under rubble by a coalition strike on its self-proclaimed capital of Raqa in Syria.

Mueller's parents said they were hopeful their daughter was still alive and appealed to ISIS to contact them in order to ensure her safe return.

On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said Washington was seeking clarification on Mueller's fate.

"We're learning as much as we can as quickly as we can about Ms. Mueller's situation," he told CNN. "Our thoughts, our prayers are with her family right now." (Contributor: By Arutz Sheva Staff for Israel National News – Arutz Sheva and AFP News)

Even the most experienced intercessors agree with God’s Word when it tells us, “… we do not know what we should pray for as we ought…” In this case, we do not have facts, but we must ask, “Even if we did, would that be helpful?” Answer: No! It is not in “knowing” that we are strong but in the obedience of faith to pray for outcomes that will save the most lives and bring glory to God. Pray with awareness that our nation is in serious decline spiritually and morally. Pray for an awakening in the Church so Christians will put on God’s armor and fight for truth with spiritual weapons.

“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom. 8:26-27)

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Cor. 10:4-5)

 

GALLUP: THE BIG LIE: 5.6% UNEMPLOYMENT

Here's something that many Americans -- including some of the smartest and most educated among us -- don't know: The official unemployment rate, as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor, is extremely misleading.

Right now, we're hearing much celebrating from the media, the White House and Wall Street about how unemployment is "down" to 5.6%. The cheerleading for this number is deafening. The media loves a comeback story, the White House wants to score political points and Wall Street would like you to stay in the market.

None of them will tell you this: If you, a family member or anyone is unemployed and has subsequently given up on finding a job -- if you are so hopelessly out of work that you've stopped looking over the past four weeks -- the Department of Labor doesn't count you as unemployed. That's right. While you are as unemployed as one can possibly be, and tragically may never find work again, you are not counted in the figure we see relentlessly in the news -- currently 5.6%. Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Trust me, the vast majority of them aren't throwing parties to toast "falling" unemployment.

There's another reason why the official rate is misleading. Say you're an out-of-work engineer or healthcare worker or construction worker or retail manager: If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least $20 -- maybe someone pays you to mow their lawn -- you're not officially counted as unemployed in the much-reported 5.6%. Few Americans know this.

Yet another figure of importance that doesn't get much press: those working part time but wanting full-time work. If you have a degree in chemistry or math and are working 10 hours part time because it is all you can find -- in other words, you are severely underemployed -- the government doesn't count you in the 5.6%. Few Americans know this.

There's no other way to say this. The official unemployment rate, which cruelly overlooks the suffering of the long-term and often permanently unemployed as well as the depressingly underemployed, amounts to a Big Lie.

And it's a lie that has consequences, because the great American dream is to have a good job, and in recent years, America has failed to deliver that dream more than it has at any time in recent memory. A good job is an individual's primary identity, their very self-worth, their dignity -- it establishes the relationship they have with their friends, community and country. When we fail to deliver a good job that fits a citizen's talents, training and experience, we are failing the great American dream.

Gallup defines a good job as 30+ hours per week for an organization that provides a regular paycheck. Right now, the U.S. is delivering at a staggeringly low rate of 44%, which is the number of full-time jobs as a percent of the adult population, 18 years and older. We need that to be 50% and a bare minimum of 10 million new, good jobs to replenish America's middle class.

I hear all the time that "unemployment is greatly reduced, but the people aren't feeling it." When the media, talking heads, the White House and Wall Street start reporting the truth -- the percent of Americans in good jobs; jobs that are full time and real -- then we will quit wondering why Americans aren't "feeling" something that doesn't remotely reflect the reality in their lives. And we will also quit wondering what hollowed out the middle class. (Contributor: By Jim Clifton for Gallup.com - Jim Clifton is Chairman and CEO at Gallup.)

 

Among polling organizations, none has any higher “trust rating” than Gallup, so when the Chairman speaks, everyone should listen. Intercessors should not only listen but pray. Sadly, many examples exist that demonstrate how much the public is being deceived by our government day after day. Pray especially for those whom you may know that are struggling just to meet survival expenses. Some are only a month or two away from homelessness. Please pray for national awakening and revival, so that U. S. leaders will be led to faith in Jesus Christ and become lovers of truth.

 

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse…” (Rom. 1:18-20)

 

BRITAIN MOVES STEP CLOSER TO ALLOWING BABIES WITH 3 PEOPLE’S GENES

Britain moved a step closer Tuesday to becoming the first country to legalize so-called three-parent babies, as lawmakers moved closer to allowing fertility labs to use genetic material from a mother, father and a female donor.

The debate in the House of Commons reflected the deep passions on both sides of the issue of allowing in vitro procedures that could prevent the passing on of inherited and incurable diseases through mitochondrial DNA, which is carried from mother to child.

Supporters say changing the law would offer hope to couples who otherwise would risk transferring diseases such as muscular dystrophy to their offspring. But a wide range of critics question the ethics of the proposal, saying it would be another step toward creating “designer babies.”

The proposal passed, 382 to 128, and moved to Parliament’s upper chamber, the House of Lords, where a vote is expected soon, although no date has been set. Commentators say the first three-parent baby could be born next year if the legislative effort succeeds.

“This is a bold step for Parliament to take, but it is a considered and informed step,” the parliamentary undersecretary for public health, Jane Ellison, said before the vote. “For many families affected, this is, indeed, that light at the end of the dark tunnel,” she added

The technique, called mitochondrial donation, involves replacing a woman’s faulty mitochondrial DNA with healthy DNA from a female donor. Even if the bill passes, couples seeking treatment would need the permission of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, Britain’s fertility regulator.

Religious leaders have voiced concerns, warning the government against rushing into a decision and arguing that more research is needed.

Fears over genetic manipulation are not unique to Britain. In the 1990s, the United States pioneered a technique called cytoplasmic transfer, aimed at helping infertile women to have their own babies. As part of the procedure, donor material containing mitochondrial DNA was added to the mother’s egg. Fewer than 100 babies were born before the Food and Drug Administration effectively banned the practice over medical and ethical concerns.

If the British procedure gets the green light, a baby conceived through the technique would receive its key genetic material from its mother and father, and just a small amount of DNA from a donor female, who would remain anonymous.

The aim is to help the estimated 2,473 women in Britain who are at risk of passing on possibly disease-triggering mitochondrial DNA to their children.

Mitochondria are tiny structures inside cells that act like batteries, providing energy to the cells. They also have their own DNA. When they do not function properly, the results can be devastating. Faulty mitochondria have been linked to blindness, deafness, dementia and muscular dystrophy.

A mitochondrion’s 37 genes are a small fraction of those in the human genome, and unlike nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA does not affect appearance characteristics such as hair color. The ban on tinkering with nuclear DNA would remain in place.

Still, should the law change, babies could be born with a very small fraction of their DNA, about 0.2 percent, from a female donor. Some opponents of the proposed legislative change speak of Britain’s stepping on to a slippery slope.

Fiona Bruce, a member of Parliament from the Conservative Party, said the move would be tantamount to letting “the genie out of the bottle.”

The bulk of the British scientific community, however, appeared to welcome the result of the vote and widely interpreted it as providing clear guidelines on what is acceptable.

“I don’t agree with the slippery slope argument at all,” said professor Alison Murdoch of Newcastle University, which has been at the forefront of mitochondrial research in Britain. “By having a legal framework that says you can do this but you can’t do the other without criminal sanctions, there is an absolute barrier.” (Contributor: By Karla Adam for The Washington Post - Karla Adam is a reporter in the Washington Post’s London bureau. Before joining the Post in 2006, she worked as a freelancer in London for the New York Times and People magazine.)

Intercessors, please handle this report as led and according to the knowledge and insights your experience has provided. Is it a ploy for genetic tampering? Is it a legitimate scientific breakthrough to facilitate healthier prenatal development? Most laypersons don’t know. The Christian viewpoint we hear is that to experiment with the Creator’s DNA and genetic code design carries great risk. Pray for discernment, and be watchful for signs of political manipulation. Most modern day scientists reason from a Darwinian evolutionary base, and their non-biblical conclusions are suspect.

“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)

“Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (Ps. 100:3)

 

 

MILITARY UPSET THAT SUSAN RICE TELLING GENERALS HOW TO FIGHT

Sunday on Fox News Channel’s “Fox News Sunday,” veteran journalist Bob Woodward said people in the military are complaining to him that the Obama administration has no strategy to defeat ISIS other then having people like Susan Rice “micromanage” military responses.

Woodward said, “If you talk to people in the White House and the military, I think there’s agreement and John McCain is right and General Flynn is right, there is no strategy. They have not sat down and said this is where we want to go and this is how we want to do it. And the measure of that, when you head into the weeds here, people from the White House are micromanaging the tactical situation on a daily and weekly basis. That’s not their job. They have to kind of do strategic planning and say what do we want to accomplish in the next year.”

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When host Chris Wallace asked, “Wait a minute, are you saying that — forgive me, Susan Rice, is telling the generals what to do?” Woodard confirmed it by saying, “And they have got all these people in the White House. You talk to people in the military who are there and they say ‘we are being micromanaged and we’re not given a real plan to say what are we going to do here.’ And it’s not the way to run a war or try to win a war.” (Contributor: By Pam Key for Breitbart News)

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that [1] Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that [2] He was buried, and that [3] He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.”  (1 Cor. 15:1-5)

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Rom. 1:16)

 

'PINEAPPLE EXPRESS' DOUSES U.S. WEST COAST; BOSTON BRACES FOR MORE SNOW

A new band of Pacific storms was headed toward the U.S. West Coast on Saturday, bringing more rain to drought-stricken California, while a different storm system threatened the Northeast with more snow and cold, forecasters said.

The West Coast storm system, known as the "Pineapple Express" because it develops in moist air moving across the Pacific Ocean, has dropped up to 12 inches (30 cm) of rain across Northern California, Oregon and Washington state since Thursday, forecasters said.

"The storm is coming in several waves, and one of the largest was yesterday," said Patrick Burke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The so-called "atmospheric river of rain" had tapered off on Saturday, with another well-defined wave of precipitation and strong winds beginning on Sunday, Burke said.

The rainfall was a boon to California, suffering its worst drought on record, but would not increase snow pack in the mountains, Burke said.

Honeydew, a town on California's northern coast, has already received 11.4 (29 cm) inches of rain, while Hoodsport, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula, has seen 8.06 inches (20 cm), the National Weather Service said.

Thousands of people temporarily lost power on Friday and nearly 200 flights were canceled out of the San Francisco area, local officials said.

Along the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state, several homes were evacuated when the Duckabush River flooded in Jefferson County, the sheriff's office said.

Across the country, the third winter storm in two weeks was heading toward the Northeast, promising light snow in New Jersey and New York City on Sunday into Monday and nearly a foot (30 cm) in parts of New England, including snow-socked Boston, Burke said.

Philadelphia, on the southernmost edge of the storm, will likely see rain, forecasts show.

To the north, parts of New York state, including Albany, Connecticut and Massachusetts will get 8-12 inches (20-30 cm) of new snow, Burke said.

The snowfall in Boston will come on top of 48 inches (122 cm) that has fallen since Jan. 23, according to forecasts.

Later in the week, much of the East Coast, from Virginia to Maine, will see the most frigid conditions yet this season, with temperatures in the single digits Fahrenheit in many areas, Burke said. (Contributor: By Victoria Cavaliere for Reuters and Yahoo News - Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Frank McGurty and Dan Grebler)

Give thanks to God for the abundance of rain now reaching California and the northwest coast. Yes, the coastal deluge of rain (more than 10 inches in some areas) has brought commensurate issues of flooding and inconvenience in travel, but ongoing drought can turn the most comfortable oasis into a desert if it continues too long. We have prayed several times in these Alerts for relief from the drought in the Southwest and other California areas. This rain may save farms and much livelihood. Pray that the people will see God as the Provider and give thanks to Him.

“Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing.” (Ps. 107:21-22)

 

HOMOSEXUAL MARRIAGE CLEARED BY U.S. HIGH COURT TO START IN ALABAMA

The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex weddings to start in Alabama, letting the number of homosexual-marriage states climb in advance of a constitutional showdown that may mean legalization nationwide.

In a 7-2 order, the justices rejected Alabama’s bid to stop a federal trial judge’s legalization order from taking effect Monday. The state now will become the 37th where homosexuals can marry. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

The rebuff brings homosexual marriage to a state whose chief justice, Roy Moore, has told officials not to comply.

The Alabama request was the first to reach the high court since its Jan. 16 decision to take up the issue. Previously, the justices had let homosexual marriage start in Idaho, Alaska and Florida.

Each new state magnifies the potential complications should the high court rule against marriage rights. A ruling potentially would nullify lower court decisions that have required states to issue licenses, creating uncertainty about the rights of people who wed in the interim.

A federal judge in Mobile struck down Alabama’s ban last month, and her ruling is set to take effect Monday. A federal appeals court in Atlanta refused to step in, prompting Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to turn to the Supreme Court. Governor Robert J. Bentley supported Strange’s request.

‘Proper Way’

Thomas, in a dissent joined by Scalia, wrote that “the court looks the other way as yet another federal district judge casts aside state laws without making any effort to preserve the status quo pending the court’s resolution of a constitutional question it left open” in 2013.

“This acquiescence may well be seen as a signal of the court’s intended resolution of that question. This is not the proper way to discharge” the court’s responsibilities.

The high court will hear arguments on homosexual marriage in late April and in all likelihood rule in late June. The number of homosexual marriage states has tripled since 2013, when a Supreme Court ruling on a federal benefits law cast doubt on state bans.

Since then, four federal appeals courts have backed marriage rights. The justices will review the sole appellate decision that said states could restrict marriage to heterosexual unions, hearing appeals from couples in four states -- Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio.

In addition to the 37 states, the District of Columbia allows homosexual marriage, as do parts of Missouri.

The Alabama case is Strange v. Searcy, 14A840. (Contributor: By Greg Stohr for Bloomberg News)

American culture continues to descend into moral confusion as “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” (Declaration of Independence) are further distorted. Alabama becomes the 37th state to issue same-sex “marriage” licenses. If there is divine power to bring national change, it resides in God’s people praying with “all prayer” and in unity. Will the Church in America awaken to the challenge? Consider joining IFA’s first Friday prayer conference call, 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. ET. Call 712-432-0075, code 1412452#. On Feb. 6, more than 400 people from across the country took part by phone.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”(Gal. 6:9-10)

“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….” (Eph. 6:17-18) 

 

‘INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE CAMPAIGN’ DEBUTS AT UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN

Dozens of posters plastered across the University of Michigan caution students not to say things that might hurt others’ feelings, part of a new “Inclusive Language Campaign” at the state’s flagship public university that cost $16,000 to implement.

Words declared unacceptable through the campaign include “crazy,” “insane,” “retarded,” “gay,” “tranny,” “gypped,” “illegal alien,” “fag,” “ghetto” and “raghead.” Phrases such as “I want to die” and “that test raped me” are also verboten.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald told The College Fix in an email the campaign aims to “address campus climate by helping individuals understand that their words can impact someone and to encourage individuals to commit to creating a positive campus community.”ILCinside

Students have been asked to sign a pledge to “use inclusive language” and to help their peers “understand the importance of using inclusive language,” according to campaign materials.

Though only in existence for one semester, the Inclusive Language Campaign has maintained a strong presence throughout the university. Students roaming the campus frequently encounter posters of all sizes reminding them: “YOUR WORDS MATTER,” and asking questions such as: “If you knew that I grew up in poverty, would you still call things ‘ghetto’ and ‘ratchet’?”

Representatives of the Inclusive Language Campaign did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The College Fix.

Junior Kidada Malloy, who helps promote the program on campus, told the Michigan Daily the campaign “is a great program because it will improve the day-to-day language of students on campus by providing education around words that are offensive.”

Fitzgerald told The College Fix the university budgeted $16,000 for the campaign. The program comes at a time when the university has raised tuition and fees for the last two consecutive years.

“This program is intended to be educational, not regulatory,” Fitzgerald said of the campaign. “We hope there is only the understanding that we all participate in, and have the power to influence campus culture.”

ILC’s Facebook page includes a variety of inclusion-based material, inspirational quotes, personal stories, and even a video that details how to address a person by the correct pronouns. It operates in conjunction with two other campuswide initiatives, Expect Respect and Change It Up!, both of which emphasize inclusive words in and out of the classroom.

Students living in university housing are urged to take part in a Change It Up! workshop, which “brings bystander intervention skills to first-year housing residents for the purpose of building safe, inclusive, and respectful communities.”

Before and after completing these workshops, students fill out surveys in which they reflect on internal biases that may pose a threat to an “inclusive campus.”

As the Inclusive Language Campaign has enlarged its influence on campus through various kick-off events, interactive programming and provoking visuals, some students have called into question how it reconciles with the university’s policy on free speech, which “encourages open and vigorous discussion and strives to maintain an environment where the free exchange of ideas and opinions can flourish.”

Asked if the campaign stifles free speech, Fitzgerald said “we believe this program has just the opposite effect.”

“We believe it will make discourse more constructive by respecting the views and perspectives of others,” he said. “A campus conversation about the impact of words is good for everyone.”

The University of Maryland launched a similar campaign three years ago that cost $15,000. (Contributor: By Samantha Audia for University of Michigan - College Fix reporter Samantha Audia is a student at the University of Michigan.)

This is “common courtesy” to Christians, as basic Bible instruction is to be kind to others in daily discourse. However, Jesus displayed anger when appropriate, and he spoke harsh truth to religious leaders who used their exalted positions to deceive unwary followers. But the essence of His expression was kindness, calling people to repentance with words of forgiveness. The aim of these inclusive initiatives may well be laws later that will bring punishment to church leaders if they call homosexuality what it is or continue to define marriage as God does. Be in prayer and on watch.

“… but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— “ (Eph. 4:18)                             

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph. 4:32)

“Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16)

 

CHRISTIANS WHO FIGHT FOR TRUTH, STAND FOR CHRIST, WILL BE HATED

Former Senator Rick Santorum, gave a rousing interview on Wednesday, warning Christians that they will face persecution for standing up for Christ.

Santorum gave the interview after the screening of "One Generation Away," a new docudrama that suggests Americans may be only one generation away from facing religious persecution. In it, he addressed the situation future American Christians may be dealing with for living their lives for Christ.

"I know how these stories end," Santorum told CNS News, "and if you're a believer you all know how it ends. And we know the good guys win, truth wins. And so your job is to just focus on being faithful, standing by the truth, fighting for the truth, understanding the world is broken, and that they will hate you and persecute you because you stand for Him and what He taught. And that's a great blessing, not something to be avoided but something to be embraced."

In a separate interview with The Christian Post, Santorum spoke more in-depth, and clarified his definition of persecution in the United States.

"If we don't nip it here, things get a lot worse. I used the term earlier in our conversation to describe what's going on in America is persecution but when I say that, I usually step back and say, you know, persecution here in America is fairly mild compared to what's going on in the Middle East … You've gotta use that term very advisably. Nothing like that is happening here in America, thanks be to God, but things weren't always that way in other parts of the world, either. It starts with a gradual erosion," Santorum explained.

Santorum is CEO of EchoLight Studios, which worked with the Family Research Council to produce the film, which is titled after a quote from former president Ronald Reagan, who said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction." It is available on DVD now. (Contributor: By Sami K. Martin for Christian Post)

Christians in the West should take former Senator Rick Santorum’s words very seriously; indeed, please give thanks for his timely wake-up call to the Church in the U.S. We have been so fully protected from real persecution that we can easily forget it was both promised and prophesied by Jesus and New Testament writers. Let us meditate on the supporting Scriptures below and prepare our hearts for what it has meant in every age and almost every culture to be a follower of Jesus Christ as Messiah and Lord. We add extra Scriptures for emphasis.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:10-11)

“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.” (John 16:1-4)

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will[a] have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:12-13)

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On Watch in Washington December 3, 2014

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ABORTIONS FALL TO RECORD LOW IN U.S.

The number of reported abortions fell to a historic low in 2011, the federal government said this week in its annual tally of most of the nation’s states.

There were 730,322 abortions in those 49 jurisdictions in 2011, with 91 percent occurring by the 13th week of gestation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its Abortion Surveillance report.

The abortion rate fell 5 percent and the abortion ratio fell 4 percent from the previous year, reaching “historic lows for all three measures of abortion,” it said, referring to the absolute number of abortions, abortions as a share of pregnancies, and the abortion rate for the female population of childbearing age.

As always, the CDC’s abortion report does not include data from all 50 states, the three exceptions this year being California, Maryland and New Hampshire.

As a result, the government’s numbers differ from that of the Guttmacher Institute, which surveys abortion providers every few years, but both sets of numbers agree on the broader trends.

In Guttmacher’s report for 2011, which was based on around 1,700 abortion providers, the research organization also found falling rates of abortion — with 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44, compared with 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women in 2008.

Guttmacher also reported 13 percent fewer abortions in 2011 than in 2008, with 1.05 million procedures compared with 1.21 million, and a lower abortion ratio.

Guttmacher analysts did not focus on reasons for the decline, but reproductive health experts believe women’s use of long-lasting contraceptives and the poor economy played significant roles.

Pro-life supporters say that their efforts to educate the public about the humanity of the unborn child and alternatives to abortion, plus enactment of new laws to regulate the abortion industry, were having an effect.

The CDC said in its new report that the 2011 abortion rate fell to 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44, and the abortion ratio fell to 228 abortions per 1,000 live births.

It also appears that “women are obtaining abortions earlier in gestation, when the risks for complications are the lowest,” the agency said. Notably, nearly 65 percent of abortions were performed by the eighth week of gestation in 2011, higher than in previous years, and 19 percent using nonsurgical, medication abortion, it said.

However, another 7.3 percent of abortions (37,456) were done between 14 and 20 weeks gestation, and 1.4 percent (7,325) at 21 weeks or more, the agency said.

Other highlights of the CDC report for 2011:

• Women in their 20s accounted for most abortions — 58 percent or 372,687.

• Teens, aged 15-19, accounted for 13.5 percent of abortions (86,885), far lower than in previous years, while teens 14 and younger accounted for 0.4 percent (2,728) of abortions.

• Among areas with data, white women and black women had the highest percentages of abortions (37 percent and 36 percent, respectively). However, white women had the lowest abortion rate (8 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44) and ratio (132 abortions per 1,000 live births), while black women had the highest abortion rate (29.7 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44) and ratio (459 abortions per 1,000 live births).

• In 2010, the most recent year for which data were available, 10 women died as a result of complications from known legal abortions. No deaths from illegal abortions were reported.

• The District of Columbia had the highest percentage of out-of-state abortion clients (53.6 percent), followed by Kansas (50.6 percent), North Dakota (32.4 percent) and Tennessee (24.2 percent). (Contributor: By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)

 

Prayer focus: Reading this article may cause a mixture of emotions. First, the good news is summarized in this statement: “The number of reported abortions fell to a historic low in 2011…” (as reported by the federal government). For this, we truly give God thanks. Second, after plowing through the statistics and percentages, we still see that more than 730,000 innocent lives were thrown away primarily for someone’s convenience. Please keep praying. Intercede for God’s mercy until these “personal choice” laws are overturned.

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.” (Prov. 24:11 NIV)

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” (Ps. 127:3)

 

PORT AUTHORITY, FBI INVESTIGATING BOMB THREAT AGAINST FLIGHT FROM SPAIN AT JFK

European security experts are reportedly trying to thwart an alleged terror plot in the skies as authorities here at home try to determine who was behind a bomb threat against a flight from Spain to New York on Sunday.

According to reports, officials in Europe have intelligence suggesting that terrorists have the goal of blowing up five European passenger planes before Christmas in a possible 9/11-style attack.

Meanwhile, the Port Authority and the FBI are investigating after a bomb threat was phoned in against an American Airlines flight from Spain on Sunday.

Flight 67 from Barcelona landed safely at John F. Kennedy Airport about noon Sunday, according to Laura Masvideo, a spokeswoman for the airline.

“You’re on a flight, you’re landing and the pilot comes on and says there was a bomb threat,” said passenger Chandra Hayslett.

The aircraft was taken to a location near the tarmac where the 200 passengers plus crew members were taken off the plane, according to Port Authority spokesman Joe Pentangelo.

Police searched the plane and its contents for two hours before determining there was no danger.

“They had to examine all the luggage first just to make sure it wasn’t a legitimate threat,” said passenger Donna Graham.

“It was two hours of my time, but it was two hours of my time that I’m still standing here talking to you guys,” said another passenger.

American Airlines issued a statement saying, “We apologize for ay inconvenience this may have caused. The safety of our passengers and crew is our top priority.”

Pentangelo said authorities were investigating the source of the call.

So far, security experts have not said if there is any link between the reports of terror threats in Europe and Sunday’s incident at JFK. (Contributor: By Janelle Burrell and Joe Pentangelo for CBS News)

Prayer focus: Because every bomb threat and even rumors must be taken seriously, pray for God’s mercy, so that our security forces will be overshadowed with divine wisdom in detecting suspicious clues as to aircraft safety. Intercede that the growing unity and collaboration of the larger Church in finding allies for united prayer will continue, and that God will be pleased to protect us. Such protection would be a great mercy-gift, as our nation is not recognizing or calling upon the Lord.

“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)

 

ISRAEL CALLS FOR REPARATIONS FOR MIDDLE EASTERN JEWS

Israel on Sunday marked the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries in the years after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin calling for financial reparations.

In a bid to draw attention to the plight of the forced migrants, Israel formally marked their displacement with a ceremony at the president’s house under a new law naming November 30 as the anniversary.

“It is not for nothing that this day is marked on the day after the 29th of November,” Netanyahu said, in reference to the anniversary of the UN adoption of the Palestine partition plan in 1947. “The Arab countries, which never accepted the UN declaration on the establishment of a Jewish state, compelled the Jews living in their territories to leave their homes while leaving their assets behind… We have acted – and will continue to act – so that they and their claims are not forgotten.”

In his address, Rivlin appealed for greater Sephardic representation in Israeli society, as well as for compensation for their suffering. He acknowledged that the troubles of Middle Eastern Jews were not mitigated upon arriving in Israel, where European Jews were firmly entrenched in power.

“Their voices were muted, but the words were in their mouths all along, even if they were said in Hebrew with a Persian or Arabic accent, which in Israel were thought of as enemy languages and viewed as a source of shame,” he said.

“The voice of Jews from Arab countries and Iran must be heard within the education system, in the media, in the arts, and in the country’s official institutions, as it needs to be heard in the international arena as well, in order to mend the historical injustice, and to ensure financial reparations,” Rivlin said.

The president also defended his decision to exclude singer Amir Benayoun from the event. Benayoun was disinvited last Tuesday from performing after he released a song that many criticized as expressing racist sentiment against Arabs.

In his address, Rivlin said he “objected to boycotts and I do not boycott anyone,” but maintained that his position required him to “be sensitive to public trends and opinions, and the atmosphere on the street, especially during such tense and sensitive times as these.

“Of course, an artist needs nobody’s permission to express themselves, within the limits of freedom of expression. However, the President’s Residence, as the home of all the citizens of Israel, must and should be careful to show care and respect to all citizens of Israel,” he said.

Meir Kahlon, chairman of the Central Organization for Jews from Arab Countries and Iran, said that “Nearly 800,000 came here [in the years after the establishment of the state] and the rest (around 56,000) went to the United States, France, Italy and elsewhere.”

Kahlon himself came to Israel as a child from Libya and spent his first years in the Jewish state in one of the tent camps set up to shelter the flood of newcomers.

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), an international umbrella group of Jewish community organizations, says 856,000 Jews from 10 Arab countries, among them Morocco, Iraq, Tunisia and Algeria, fled or were expelled in 1948 and after, while violent Arab riots left many Jews dead or injured.

Although many migrants arrived with meager belongings packed in a single suitcase, they did not seek formal refugee status from the international community.

At the time, the newly established Jewish state was struggling to attract migration from the world’s Jews and to project its legitimacy as a sovereign state, able to care for its own people.

Its prime minister, David Ben Gurion, would not have wanted Jews returning to their “historic homeland” classed as refugees, Kahlon said.

In March this year, Canada — whose Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a staunch backer of Israel — formally recognized the refugee status of the Jewish emigres who fled or were expelled from Arab countries after Israel’s founding.

Some of the migrants to Israel say privately that the issue is being promoted to give Israel a bargaining card if stalled negotiations with the Palestinians should resume and the Palestinians submit compensation claims for the property and assets they left behind in what is now Israel.

“The point is to establish symmetry so that the dispute can be closed,” one migrant told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior official with the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the issue was entirely separate from Palestinian claims for reparations from Israel — and must remain so. “They can discuss this with Arab countries, it’s not our business,” she told AFP. “They are trying to find every possible means of circumventing and sabotaging the Palestinian refugees’ rights.”

JJAC executive director Stanley A. Urman said the campaign to seek restitution for Jews from Arab countries was not meant to negate Palestinian rights.

“History, geography, demography don’t allow any comparison between the plight of Palestinian refugees and Jewish refugees,” he told journalists on Sunday, advocating a multilateral approach.

During the latest round of peace talks, which were shepherded by US Secretary of State John Kerry until their collapse in late April, there was talk about the establishment of an international peace fund, he said.

Such a fund would provide physical infrastructure for a Palestinian state, such as roads and sewers, as well as security for Israel in the form of final borders and the funding to allow for the establishment of security perimeters along those borders, he explained.

Thirdly, it would provide compensation “to all victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Palestinian and Jewish refugees alike.” (Contributor: By Marissa Newman and for AFP)

Prayer focus: Many of the readers of these Alerts are friends of Israel and pray faithfully for its protection and for “the peace of Jerusalem.” Some observers in the West do not know exactly where Prime Minister Netanyahu is going with this claim for reparations. Perhaps it is a bargaining chip for later talks in the region. God is patiently waiting and wooing His old covenant people to recognize their Messiah. How long will it take before Israel recognizes its Redeemer and Deliverer? Pray for God to remove the veil from Israel’s eyes.

“He (Jesus the Christ) came to His own [people] and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11-13)

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Rom. 10:1-4)

 

DRUG-RESISTANT MALARIA IS 'DISASTER IN THE MAKING,' EXPERT WARNS

Professor Francois Nosten ran his finger over a map showing clusters of tiny dots — each marking a border village that make up ground zero for what experts fear will become the next global health emergency.

"It's already a disaster in the making, and as physicians we have to raise the alarm," he said. "We have to do something."

Nosten is the director of the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit, a sprawling hive of scientific activity on the Thai-Myanmar border that has become the front line in the fight against drug-resistant malaria.

"We should have declared a global emergency once we understood that the parasite had changed its genome and become resistant to the latest drugs we have," he said.

Those drugs are artemisinins, derived from a Chinese plant and once hailed as wonder cures. They have become the world's principal weapon against the most deadly form of malaria, and are responsible for slashing global mortality rates in recent decades.

But even with those huge advances, the disease still kills more than 600,000 people annually — mostly in Africa and mostly children. That's more than 100 times as many people as have died during the recent Ebola outbreak.

The fear is that types of malaria that are growing immune to artemisinins will spread to Africa, like other drug-resistant strains have done in the past, and with devastating results.

The disease is caused by parasites and transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes, thousands of which are collected and analyzed at Nosten's clinic. The experts here are searching for clues about a resistance first detected on the Thai-Cambodia border in 2007.

According to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, resistance is now widespread along Thai-Myanmar border. It has been detected in pockets of neighboring Vietnam and Laos and is edging ever closer to India.

"Once you go to India and to Africa, here you are talking about potentially hundreds of millions of people affected," said Professor Nicholas White, a senior author of the study who is based at the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Bangkok.

Resistance to just about every major anti-malarial has started in the border areas. Nobody can agree quite why. Poor treatment practices, substandard and fake drugs are chief suspects. They're exacerbated by poverty, migration and conflict.

"We have to be bold, radical and decisive"

On a misty morning along the Moei River near Mae Sot, packed rickety boats move back and forth, linking dozens of unofficial border crossings between Thailand and a region of Myanmar that has been at on-off war with the central government for decades.

Resistance to chloroquine, an earlier anti-malarial that also began in these borderlands, took about a decade to reach Africa, White said.

"The price of our inability to contain it in South East Asia was millions of deaths — millions of children died. We mustn't let that happen again," he said. "This time it will probably move faster, because people move faster these days."

At the Wang Pha clinic near Mae Sot, doctors said that while the number of malaria patients they treat is falling, the cases are more resistant to treatment. Whereas in the past it would take perhaps 24 hours to clear the parasite using artemisinins, it can now take several days.

"The response to them is starting to get less and less and less," said White. Right now there is nothing available to replace the artemisinins.

"The drug development pipeline is better than it has ever been, but we still don't have anything as good as the artemisinins which will be readily available in the next three to five years," he said. "There's no quick fix."

Researchers have also discovered that many people are carrying the parasite without falling sick.

"It's better to try and eliminate malaria now while it is at its lowest level, rather than waiting to see it exploding," Nosten said.

He and White have come up with a radical and controversial plan: Flood the borderlands with anti-malarial drugs to be taken by everybody, sick or not, to eliminate the parasite once and for all.

It is not the first time this approach has been tried. Earlier programs in China and Nicaragua — which tried to medicate its entire 2.5 million population — raise practical as well as ethical issues.

"You have to persuade people to take the drugs even though they are not showing symptoms," said Ric Price, head of the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network. "And if you don't do it properly you can make the resistance worse."

He says earlier mass medication efforts have had "varied success," but that the dangers from resistance are now so great that "we have to be bold, radical and decisive."

Backed by the Gates Foundation and Global Fund, Nosten has already overseen the mass medication of four trial villages on the Myanmar side of the border. Malaria has largely vanished in the three that cooperated fully. He's extending the program to 800 villages, and his map with those tiny clusters of dots are the master-plan.

"It's clumsy, it's difficult," White concedes. "But I think we have to do everything we possibly can to stop it."

Nosten says the opening of Myanmar and the easing of conflicts are making working there and monitoring the treatment easier.

Another challenge is that mass medication doesn't kill the mosquitoes that transmit malaria. In earlier programs elsewhere, malaria has later returned.

But along the critical Thai-Myanmar border, the program might at the least provide a firewall and buy time.

"If we don't do anything, if we sit on our hands and have meetings, it's not going to go away. It's going to get worse," Nosten said. His statement is also a dig at the world's slow reaction to the Ebola emergency —from which he believes there are lessons to be learned.

White agrees: "The larger lessons are that you really have to respond quickly and you have to take tough decisions. Time is everything, and I think Ebola illustrates that more than anything." (Contributor: By Ian Williams for NBC News - Ian Williams is a correspondent based in Beijing.)

Prayer focus:  It is built into God’s creative process for living organisms to adapt for survival. In this case, the development of a drug-resistant strain of the virus spreading malaria is threatening literally millions of lives in Africa and Southeast Asia, mostly children. Intercede for wisdom and success for the research scientists working to develop better protection from this “super bug.” Pray for the self-sacrificing missionaries who place themselves at risk as they seek to evangelize the most vulnerable people groups. “Time is of the essence,” so intercessors appeal to God’s providence and mercy.

 “But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies…” (Ps. 31:14-15)

“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” (Ps. 145:8-9)

 

8 CLEAR SIGNS OF A COMPROMISING CHURCH

During the days of Nazi Germany there arose a Confessing Church movement that rose against the German Church movement, which became the religious arm of the Fascist Nazi Socialist movement. Of the 18,000 pastors in Germany during that time (from 1933 to 1945), less than 5,000 were aligned with the Confessing Church. Hence, only a remnant held fast to the biblical position with about half of the churches conforming due to political and societal pressure. Unfortunately, this demonstrates that, when push comes to shove, a large percentage of pastors, churches and so-called Christians will probably bow to pressure and allow the norms of culture to become their credo for Christianity.

We see the same thing today in churches in the USA and beyond. With the accelerated pace of the attack on religious liberty today, there could develop a great divide in the church between confessing churches and compromising churches similar to what happened in Nazi Germany. This will not be a divide based on denominational affiliation but based on the degree of loyalty to biblical fidelity. It is sad but true that more and more believers will be compromising core biblical values and standards rather than be stigmatized or persecuted, and lose influence in society.

In John 12:42-43 we see that many contemporaries of Jesus believed in Him but would not confess Him because they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

The following are contrasts between the confessing church and the compromising church.

1. In the confessing church, Christ is over culture. The compromising church accommodates Christ to culture. The confessing church believes Jesus is Lord over all creation. Hence, they attempt to reflect Christ in every area of culture. The compromising church has a posture of accommodation. Hence, the Christ they believe in and preach is shaped by the culture they live in.

2. The confessing church holds fast to the Word of God in spite of opposition. The compromising church alters the Word of God because of opposition. Soon in America it is quite possible that it will be illegal to preach from certain passages of the Bible dealing with human sexuality. Because of this, many will alter their theology to fit the culture while the confessing church will preach the Word of God in spite of governmental fines, penalties, lawsuits and even serving time in jail.

3. The confessing church puts the kingdom of God above their culture and ethnicity. The compromising church puts their ethnicity before the kingdom of God. The German Church during the Nazi era put nationalism and their Aryan heritage above the Word of God. Many pastors and believers today view the Scriptures more through the lens of their ethnicity and national heritage than through a proper exegesis of Scripture.

When, and if, our nation officially makes biblical Christianity illegal, we will soon see who will be the confessors and who will be the compromisers. In many ways, practicing biblical Christianity is already illegal when it comes to believers attempting to walk out their faith in the marketplace because private Christian-owned businesses do not have the same level of protection today as do local churches.

4. The confessing church alters their methods of preaching. The compromising church alters the message they preach. While it is wise and biblical for the body of Christ to be relevant to culture regarding the preaching of the gospel, it should never put being relevant above being faithful. The compromising church puts being relevant before biblical faithfulness. Hence, they not only change the method of preaching but also the message they preach.

5. The confessing church is a remnant in the minority of church and state. The compromising church wants to be in the mainstream of both church and state.  The confessing church endures long seasons of feeling like aliens and strangers in their own communities. The compromising church wants to be in the mainstream of culture more than living in the divine flow of God's favor and presence.

6. The confessing church is penalized by the state government. The compromising church is applauded by the state government. While the confessing church is hunted down and ostracized by the humanistic state, the compromising church is celebrated by the far-left radicals and used as a model of how church and state should function together.

7. The confessing church prophetically speaks truth to power. The compromising church conforms to those in power. The confessing church knows that at various seasons in their existence they will not gain a lot of converts and/or experience societal transformation. The best they can do is to maintain a prophetic witness to the cultural elites and surrounding communities. Since the compromising church enjoys the power and prestige the elites grant them, they always conform rather than confront.

8. The confessing church desires the praise of God. The compromising church desires the praise of men. Ultimately at the end of the day it boils down to this: Are we living for the praise of men or the praise of God? If things don't change in the coming days, we will be shocked at how many megachurches, mid-size churches and smaller churches compromise the word of God so they could continue to keep their doors open.

At some point we will all have to stand the ultimate test, which is whether we desire God more than we love our lives, or whether we love our pleasures, conveniences and material goods more than God. Truly, if we confess Christ before men He will confess us before His Father in heaven, but if we deny Him before men He will deny us before His Father in heaven (Matt. 10:32-33). (Contributor: By Bishop Joseph G. Mattera for Charisma News - Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church and Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, New York.)

Prayer focus: We have published the writings of Bishop Mattera before and found his work to be insightful for the larger Church. We urge a thorough reading of this article. We pray that some readers will share these thoughts with pastors and church leaders. Religious freedom in the U.S. is being threatened in our military complex and in churches and other Christian ministries. Pray that the Church, when pressured to compromise, will stand strong for biblical principles. Pray for repentance to lead to widespread renewal and revival.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure … that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life….”  (Phil. 2:12-16)

 

SOCIAL WORKERS NOW ASSESSING HOME EDUCATION?

The latest case of alleged government intrusion into the home comes out of Savannah, Georgia, where homeschooling parents were reported to a state agency by a social worker for the “educational neglect” of their 12-year-old daughter — who they have successfully and legally taught at their home for some time.

Without cause or warning, one social worker in northeastern Georgia contacted the Chatham County Department of Family and Children Services, alerting the agency that she suspected a family of neglecting the educational needs of their preteen daughter.

Not understanding the basis of the allegations or extent of her rights as a registered homeschool parent, the mother finally agreed to meet with the intrusive social worker outside of her home in order to get a better idea of exactly what she was being accused of regarding her daughter’s education.

After a brief discussion, the homeschool mom communicated to the social worker that she would give in and allow her inside of her home so that she could observe her daughter, but the mother would not agree to let the worker conduct a private interview with her 12-year-old.

Once the Homeschool Legal Defense Association was informed about the nature and conditions of the social worker’s visit, attorneys found the situation to be highly disturbing and unusual. As a member of HSLDA, the mother was quickly told that the intrusive investigation was extremely odd and problematic for two reasons: 1) the social worker, whose duties do not transcend into the realm of education, demanded to enter the homeschool family’s home and 2) the social worker aggressively pressed the family to allow her to observe the mother homeschool her daughter.

The rationale the social worker gave the homeschool mother for such an intrusive investigation was that she merely desired to ensure that her daughter was “getting the best education.” No concerns or allegations of misconduct or lack of learning were given to warrant any government invasion into her home.

As a matter of fact …

Once HSLDA Senior Counsel Dewitt Black gave the Savannah mom legal consultation as to how she should deal with the social worker moving forward, he proceeded to issue the government agent a letter clearly stating the homeschool parents’ constitutional rights to educate their own. He began by notifying the overreaching state employee that both parents were implementing a home study program for their daughter that was in direct compliance with Georgia state law.

Backing up his assertion, Black continued to lay out the facts pointing to legal documentation proving that the mother had already filed a mandatory declaration of intent for homeschooling, which she had submitted to the Georgia Department of Education at the commencement of this year’s fall semester. Also included in Black’s letter was a statement verifying that both parents were in full compliance with various other sections of the law by instructing their child above and beyond the minimum 4.5 hours per day, 180 days per year for the fall and spring semesters.

Black further notified the social worker that choosing to continue her invasive investigation would be a violation of the homeschool parents’ constitutional rights.

“The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protect[s] the family from any unreasonable searches or seizures, such as entry into their home would involve,” Black stated to the social worker in his letter.

On second thought …

In just a matter of days after Black had send his letter to the social worker on behalf of the homeschool parents, the mother received a phone call from the state employee, who took an extreme change of course.

The social worker made it clear to the Savannah homeschool mom that a visitation to her home to investigate whether her daughter was receiving satisfactory home education was no longer necessary. Furthermore, the social worker also changed her tone — and apparently her perspective on homeschooling, as well.

“I think you’re doing a good job,” the social worker expressed to the homeschool mom in her phone conversation.

Before the conclusion of the phone call, the social worker let the home educator know that she was officially drawing the investigation to a close. (Contributor: By Michael F. Haverluck for One News Now)

Prayer focus: Those aware of the ministry of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) know that the action of attorney Dewitt Black on behalf of their member in Georgia is all in a day’s work for him and his colleagues. Sadly, such attempts at home intrusion are not uncommon, and usually all an overreaching social worker needs is to be reminded of the law. Give thanks for this victory and the myriad of similar challenges homeschooling families overcome through HSLDA efforts. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states. Officials interfere at times, often through ignorance of the law. Not all families are called to homeschooling, but those who are remain grateful for HSLDA.   

“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)

“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4)

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6)

 

ABSTINENCE HIGH SCHOOL SPEAKER OUSTED: MESSAGE CALLED ‘HATE SPEECH’

Many public schools across the nation have regularly invited speakers from Planned Parenthood to inform high school and middle school students about under-age and premarital “safe sex” and how to use various forms of contraception, but when one abstinence speaker was scheduled to inform students in southeastern Pennsylvania about the rewards of saving sex until marriage and the dangers of casual sex, her speech was quickly cancelled, with critics calling it “hate speech.”

Devoting her life to informing America’s youth about the dangers of casual sexual activity, Pam Stenzel was looking forward to sharing her message with Warwick High School and Warwick Middle School students on November 19, but she was quickly informed that her two presentations were cancelled because a handful of people considered her abstinence standpoint as offensive.

There was far from an outpouring of protests — as only a few outspoken parents and students raised any objections to Stenzel’s message — but because of reported bullying from parents over the issue to school officials and biased media coverage, hundreds of students were unable to glean from Stenzel’s views on chastity and wholesome living.

The school district issued a statement explaining why Stenzel’s two daytime presentations were cancelled.

“[The cancellations were made] in order to protect the students and staff of Warwick School District from the credible threats to obstruct, intimidate and disrupt the educational process and rights of the students and families who elected to attend the school day presentations,” district officials announced.

Stenzel was invited to speak at both the high school and middle school, as well as at a nighttime presentation in the neighboring town of Lititz, located north of Lancaster in the Keystone State, but she ended up just sharing with about 500 students at the evening presentation, to which leftist activists also objected.

After many applauded Stenzel’s speech back in 2006, a local business decided to pay for Stenzel to speak on abstinence once again to give a broader perspective than what the schools offered through their sex education curricula. If so choosing, parents were granted the opportunity to opt their children out of the talks.

Reason for contention

The loud outcry of a few who took offense to Stenzel’s advice to abstain from all sexual activity before marriage reached various media channels.

One local resident was livid that Stenzel was originally scheduled to speak to students on a public school campus and she thought that the opt-out alternative was justnot enough. She went as far to call abstinence training “hate speech.”

“[The ability to opt out] completely misses the point,” local resident Allison Lakehart-Childs expressed to Superintendent April Hershey in a letter. “I do not want any students exposed to Ms. Stenzel’s hate speech.”

Leftist parents also had a problem with Stenzel communicating the message of purity until marriage.

“[Scheduling Stenzel was a] completely and totally irresponsible choice for a public school,” voiced parent Marie Firestone through Lancaster Online.

Local media also reportedly played up Stenzel’s menace to society, as Lancaster Online Reporter Kara Newhouse announced numerous times that she told West Virginia attendees, "If you take birth control, your mother probably hates you." Newhouse also reported that the abstinence speaker told them, "I could look at any one of you in the eyes right now and tell if you're going to be promiscuous."

After being asked about her critics’ reaction, Stenzel said that they speak their vulgar remarks out of ignorance, since most have never even seen per present, and if they have, it was most likely via a brief YouTube excerpt.

“They talk about tolerance,” Stenzel asserts. “They're the most intolerant people.”

I really said that?

Addressing the allegations to LifeSiteNews.com, Stenzel attempted to set the record straight.

“I never in my life said that,” Stenzel insisted. “I say the same thing over and over again.”

Stenzel attested that anyone familiar with her presentations would know the truth about the allegations.

“You can go listen to it yourself; my talks are all over YouTube,” Stenzel continued. “What I said was that if you are on birth control, you are at a greater risk of becoming infected with an STD.”

Her claim of innocence was corroborated by George Washington High School Principal George Aulenbacher, who attended Stenzel’s assembly on his school’s West Virginia campus.

“I didn’t hear anything like that,” Aulenbacher responded to the Charleston Gazette after being questioned about Stenzel’s alleged quotes during her speech in the Mountain State.

It was later found that Newhouse’s left-leaning bent ties her to numerous feminist political movements, which some say explain her failure to report on Stenzel’s rejection of her allegations.

Stenzel also contended that just a limited few rose objections to her abstinence viewpoint, but made such a stir that the protest seemed much larger than it actually was.

“[It] really was a small group — less than a handful of people — but they were being really loud, and they wouldn't let it go,” noted Stenzel, who was conceived in rape, which is instrumental in her passion to share abstinence and self-control with youth.

Stenzel’s agent, who arranges her speaking engagements, was also cognizant of the small disturbance that led to the unwarranted cancellation.

“Some of the parents were opposing her,” said Enlighten Communications Program Director Colin Hearn. “A lot more were for her.”

“The administration supported Pam 100 percent,” Hearn added in a statement to LifeSiteNews.com. “The school administration just saw some activity on social media and were a bit concerned [and called things off] when it started to get into a problem of a safety concern.”

Hearn indicated that the last thing Stenzel wanted was a controversy — she just wanted an avenue to help steer kids away from a destructive path.

“We don't want to disrupt the school — that's not our intention at all,” Hearn disclosed. “Education is tough enough as it is.”

In fact, even though it caved in to the pressure, the Pennsylvania school district was quick to blame a few dissentients for ruining a good presentation for the rest of the school.

“[A negligible minority of parents] with differences of opinion used what can only be described as bullying tactics through social media to personally attack individuals, to attempt to discover the name of the business contributor in order to boycott and/or picket the business, to threaten the continued use of the local media and the additional use of national media to ‘make an example’ of the district, to continue to spread inaccurate and inflammatory information, and as a platform for planning to create an unsafe environment for our students,” school officials pointed out.

More false claims?

Besides having problems with the promotion of abstinence, a number parents were bothered about Stenzel’s faith — given that she delivers one presentation to school audiences and another one to church audiences. They brought up contentions that her religious affiliation could present a problem with the so-called “separation of church in state,” which, in fact, does not preclude the freedom to express religious beliefs on campus.

“I'm not bringing faith into it at all — never have, never will in a public school setting,” argued Stenzel, who is more about presenting students with as much information as possible about the dangers of casual sex.

Those protesting Stenzel’s presentation also contend that she skews her statistics, but her booking agent says that she actually underrepresents the figures that she receives from government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reports that of the 1.4 million chlamydia infections in the U.S., more than two out of three of them occur with people between the ages of 15 and 24.

Stenzel is not apologetic  about the fact that the only way to confidently avoid getting sexually transmitted infections is by not having extramarital sex.

“I could have sex a million times if my husband has only been with me and never use a condom and I will never get an STI,” Stenzel shared at the assembly. “All we can do is love you, tell you the truth, and hope you make good choices.”

When asked about not being able to speak as scheduled on the two public school campuses, Stenzel had this to say:

“Pam Stenzel didn't lose today — your kids did,” the devout speaker told the community’s parents, according to Lancaster Online. “And that's too bad.”

Once Stenzel concluded her speech, the students in attendance gave her a standing ovation for giving them the bare facts out of a genuine love and concern. (Contributor: By Michael F. Haverluck for One News Now)

Prayer focus: This is about those who call evil good and good evil. How any adult could characterize a call for abstinence before marriage as “hate speech” boggles the mind. Report after report indicate that those who “wait” for the appropriate expression of sexual intimacy within marriage seldom express regrets, whereas those who do not wait are often sorry later for the premature loss of purity. Only a biblical worldview through the gospel of Christ can open such blind eyes. Pray accordingly.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6)

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

On Watch in Washington December 3, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

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The Mobilizer: Transformation Updates, July/August 2015

 

 
 
 
This month's issue:
Praise and Worship Attracts Heaven 
 
"You can't release something you haven't learned to host."
 
Jeremy Riddle - Worship U
  
 
 
PRAISE AND WORSHIP OPENS THE CITY GATE 
 
 
"We don't praise because of what we're going through.
We praise because of where we are GOING TO!" 
- Joshua Mills
 
 

In these days, when the kingdoms of this world are clashing with the kingdom of God, the Church must rise up and declare the goodness and majesty of God. In cities across America, believers are feeling the desperation of the hour and coming together to pray and seek God's face. In addition to our unified prayers, the Holy Spirit is stirring the Church to release a sound of overcoming hope and victory that will change atmospheres and shift the spiritual battle in God's favor over our communities. This happens when we join our voices in praise and worship to the One True God.

 

"Let the high praises of God be in their mouth and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples, to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute on them the written judgment---This honor have all His saints. Praise the Lord!" (Psalm 149:6-9)

 

Many believe that another Great Awakening is coming to this nation. However, this depends in a large part on us believers. And that is not only in our faithful intercession, but in our praise and worship, which is essential in opening up the spiritual gates to a city. In Psalm 24, the psalmist cries out for the gates to be open for "the King of glory" to come in.

 

"Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle"

(Psalm 24:7-8).

 

The word "gate" in Hebrew is referring specifically to a gate in the marketplace; a city gate! When the body of Christ releases the unified sound of praise to their God, spiritual gates open up in their community for the King to come in. That sound of corporate faith and expectancy attracts heaven. This sound of praise is not released by simply singing fast songs with a drumbeat. The power does not come in just singing or shouting louder. This type of corporate praise is the sound of eternity coming from within our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). It's the sound of faith from a people who know their God. It's the voice of victory from those who are in relationship with the Perfect Lamb who triumphed over death. It is a spiritual force and a sound that gets attention from heaven and displaces the darkness. (Remember Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail; see Acts 16:25-26.)

 

As you persevere in prayer for your community, engage in worship and praise together. Make your houses of worship a resting place for Him to come. Remember that God's saints are a habitation of His Presence. Be gracious hosts that welcome Him in and make room for Him to move. Your worship and adoration, along with your unified praises, will pave the way for God to come to rule and reign in your city.

 

"Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him." (Daniel 7:27 NIV)

  

 
 
"If our worship to God isn't changing us, our worship to something else is."
 
"In a time where worship can be more about performance than presence,
more about consuming instead of community,
and more about being a fan than being a follower,
I think it's easy to get lost in it all and somehow lose our purity of heart toward God."
 
 
 
EVALUATING OUR WORSHIP
 
Some questions to ask on a regular basis (and in no particular order of priority):
 
  • Are we as leaders practicing the presence of God and worshiping him in private?
  • How long has it been since we've renewed our order of worship in a significant way?
  • Are people fully engaged in what is happening in our corporate settings?
  • Does our environment look and feel the same way it did three months ago?
  • Are there historical practices of worship that could be revisited?
  • Is there a story that needs to be told?
  • Is there some form of art that has not been utilized in worship to help point people to Christ?
  • When is the last time we visited a church that is very different than ours?
  • How long has it been since we've had an all-out fun brainstorming session?
  • Are the songs we are singing actually being sung in the congregation?
  • Are we seeing lives changed as they come to faith in Christ?

(Taken from "Worship Re-Start" by Michael Neale in Worship Leader Online)

Strengthening Corporate Worship
What key elements do we need to nurture in corporate worship to make more room for God's Presence to be experienced?
 
1. Desire to meet with God - Ask the Lord to stir our hearts towards greater intimacy with Him. 
 
"Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You" (Psalm 73:25).
 
2. Dependency on God alone - Acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the only Way and the only One worth pursuing.
 
"No one is holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God"  (1 Samuel 2:2).
 
3. Diminished Distractions - Put aside nagging thoughts, lingering fears, and immediate preoccupations in order to focus solely on His Presence.
 
"I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways" (Psalm 119:15).
 
4. Discerning Heart - Develop greater sensitivity to the movements and intentions of the Holy Spirit.
 
"... for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21).
 
5. Deliberate Waiting - Determine to pause and linger, allowing for God to direct people's thoughts and move people's hearts. 
 
"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watchmen for the morning -- yes, more than those who watch for the morning" (Psalm 130:5-6).
 
6. Declaring His Goodness - As we speak or sing His Word back to Him, it reinforces our faith and defeats thoughts and mindsets that are contrary to His heart and character.
 
"One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts" (Psalm 145:4).
 
 

David's Tent to Host 24/7 Worship and Prayer All Year!

 

Jason Hershey, Founder of David's Tent D.C.
Jason Hershey, Founder of David's Tent D.C.

Jason announces permission granted to hold ongoing worship and prayer on Capital grounds starting 9/11 and continuing all the way through to next year's elections...

 

 

Shared Resources in Nurturing a Lifestyle of Worship

Helpful LINKS to promote praise and worship in your congregation:

 

"Creating a Vocabulary of Praise" (PDF) A 31-Day devotional to nurture praise

By Bob Hostetler, co-author with Josh McDowell from Hamilton, OH

 

"Pressing into God" - (PDF) Principles in moving from praise to worship

From The Church Transformation Project

 

"7 Ways to Praise" - Leading a Congregation through the Biblical Words for "praise"

From The Worship Community

 

"150 Scriptures to Praise God" - (PDF) A Pocket Reference for Praise Scriptures

 
Clips of the Month
 WORSHIP IN THE WAR ZONE!
The general told Sean and his team that whenever they bring worshipers
to the front lines, their troops win over ISIS. When looking at the enemy's flag through binoculars in the tank, Sean was told to "...sing, Sean...Sing!"
Sean Feucht from Burn 24/7 Ministry
 

Exhorting believers to engage in the power of personal worship...

 

"Why don't most men worship?"

By Shane Idleman 

 
FIRST FRIDAY PRAYER CONFERENCE CALL.

 

August Special Guest, Michael Farris, Co-Founder of HSLDA and Chairman and Chancellor of Patrick Henry College speaking on Common Core curriculum.

 

 Friday, August 7, 2015 from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. (ET)     

  Call: 712-432-0075         Access Code: 1412452#

 
A Call for Worship and Prayer Across the Nation
WORSHIP NIGHT IN AMERICA
 
GRAMMY® Award-winner Chris Tomlin will launch Worship Night In America to bring people across the country together for a time of worship and prayer for the nation. Tomlin will be joined by several prominent worship leaders and pastors, including Louie Giglio, Max Lucado, Matt Redman, Kari Jobe, Rend Collective, Israel Houghton, Matt Maher, Phil Wickham and Hillsong's Reuben Morgan.

 

Events will take place Aug. 8 in New York City's Madison Square Garden, Aug. 13 in Denver's Red Rocks Amphitheater, and Aug. 15 in Sacramento's Sleep Train Arena.  

 

"This is a vision God's put on my heart," Tomlin said. "I feel like this is going to be very special, and I'm praying this is something that breaks open some revival in our country."

 

Click here for more information.

 
 
NEW National Community Mobilizers Site
Connect with community catalysts around the nation, find out what's happening on a local level, and share your own testimony or story!
 
          

Read posts from intercessors in other communities who are pursuing spiritual awakening and revival, and be encouraged by testimonies and updates of God's activity. By logging in with a Username and Password, you can also access downloadable PDF documents and locate intercessors by their city and state. Come and get connected to this growing network:

 

NATIONAL COMMUNITY MOBILIZERS' SITE

 
 
Intercessors for America is here to help you.

We want to help equip leaders and intercessors in strategic and effective prayer through books, DVDs, instructional materials, and on-site training. We would love to hear from you about your congregational or community prayer ministries. Are you seeing answers? Sometimes, the next breakthrough lies not in praying more but in praying more effectively.

Send us an email so we can connect.

 

 

   

 

 

Wanda Alger

IFA Mobilization Director

wandaalger@ifapray.org  

 


 

 

 

Beth LaRock

IFA Mobilization Communications Coordinator

bethlarock@ifapray.org   

 
Intercessors for America | IFA@IFApray.org | http://www.IFApray.org PO Box 915, Purcellville,  VA  20134
1-800-USA-PRAY (872-7729)
 
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On Watch in Washington April 8, 2015

On Watch in Washington April 8, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

STOPPING THE ‘LONE-WOLF’ TERRORISTS

As the Boston Marathon bombing trial wound to a close Monday, a parallel debate continues to rage inside federal law enforcement circles about whether the United States has the capability and resources to track down “lone wolves” like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who admitted helping his elder brother detonate two pressure cooker bombs amid a crowd of thousands.

The challenge of stopping a growing number of homegrown wannabe terrorists being courted by a romantic illusion of an Islamic State has been highlighted in recent weeks by FBI Director James B. Comey and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who was quoted in a broadcast Sunday night as saying it is “one of the things that, frankly, keeps me up at night.”

Federal authorities have disrupted several recent suspected plots involving Americans, but the group that represents federal law enforcement agencies says its members don’t have enough staffing and adequate equipment to keep up with the quickening pace of the threat.

Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, told The Washington Times he is concerned that lawmakers are spending too much money on “footprints thousands of miles away” instead of defense in the homeland.

“There’s a fatal inverse relationship between the spending on foreign aid versus the spending on our homeland defenses and, in fact, the priority should be funding our homeland defenses and the law enforcement components here on our soil first,” Mr. Adler said.

The federal law enforcement community is getting hit in the personnel budget, Mr. Adler said.

Staffing levels for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division are on the level they were in the 1970s, he said. In addition, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has had to shutter the doors of dozens of its satellite offices in recent years and is experiencing other money problems.

In order to better cover the U.S., each federal law enforcement agency would need a 15 percent to 25 percent boost in its operating budget, Mr. Adler said.

Other law enforcement sources have raised similar concerns. An FBI whistleblower recently came forward to say staffing decisions for the secret surveillance teams that the bureau uses to track potential terrorists were being made for political reasons unrelated to merit, creating worries of shortages to deal with emerging threats.

While the debate rages among policymakers, the Boston trial provided a public case study of how a quiet student converted to pursue a deadly plot.

Mr. Tsarnaev “wanted to punish America,” a prosecutor told the jury in closing arguments Monday. His attorneys said Mr. Tsarnaev did indeed carry out the attacks but was under the influence of his brother, Tamerlan, who the attorneys said orchestrated the plot and built the bombs. Tamerlan was killed while trying to flee from police.

If found guilty of federal terrorism charges, the 21-year-old Dzhokhar will be imprisoned for life or executed.

The Tsarnaev brothers targeted the marathon because it was a day when the international spotlight would be shining on Boston, Assistant U.S. Attorney Aloke Chakravarty said in closing arguments.

“The defendant thought that his values were more important than the people around him,” said Mr. Chakravarty. “He wanted to awake the mujahedeen, the holy warriors. He wanted to terrorize this country. He wanted to punish America for what it was doing to his people.”

Prosecutors described Mr. Tsarnaev’s acts as deliberate retaliation for Muslim deaths in the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as an act of jihad. Although authorities say there is no evidence the brothers, of Chechen origin, were affiliated with an organized terrorist group overseas, they both became radicalized by online propaganda.

Mr. Tsarnaev had radical jihadi materials on every device he owned and had been listening to jihadi messages for over a year before the attacks, U.S. prosecutor William Weinreb said Monday.

The use of the Internet to spread such jihadi messages has local and federal law enforcement worried because it is hard to predict which potential lone-wolf actors may become radicalized and when.

“The one common characteristic they have — which is unfortunately not a great marker for finding them — is they are people who are troubled souls seeking meaning in life,” FBI Director James B. Comey said in a March 25 hearing.

“But there’s not a poverty marker. Some of them have jobs. They just have a misguided sense that they need to participate in the apocalyptic battle. Some of them are kind of losers who had a couple of jobs or petty crimes,” he said.

Mr. Johnson, the Homeland Security chief, echoed those concerns when questioned on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday night about the ability of federal law enforcement to track young adults being radicalized in the comfort of their homes via terrorist group websites.

Relying on members of the public to come forward about warning signs complicates the picture, he said.

“That’s the challenge, isn’t it?” Mr. Johnson said. “And that’s one of the things that, frankly, keeps me up at night. Because we would have little or no notice if somebody decides to commit an act of violence. So if the family member, the religious leader, the teacher trusts us enough to inform us, we’re in a position to make a difference.”

Within the past few weeks, federal authorities have made several arrests.

Federal law enforcement on March 26 thwarted a plot to kill soldiers at an Illinois military facility by an Army National Guard specialist and his cousin. On Thursday, authorities charged two Queens, New York, women — ages 28 and 21 — with planning to attack military, government or police targets on behalf of the Islamic State. On Friday, authorities charged a 30-year-old Philadelphia woman with similar crimes.

The FBI has expanded its counterterrorism efforts to track down these types of people to all 50 states, Mr. Comey said. To date, agents have not identified a pattern that links the lone wolves as potential terrorist threats, he said.

Trying to stop the lone wolf — even with additional law enforcement spending — may be fruitless, said Dan Byman, director of research and a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

“The lone wolf — the true lone wolf — is by definition inherently difficult because you are trying to identify someone who does not have a track record and does not have associations,” he said. “And those associations are usually how someone finds out about a threat.”

Agents became wary of a potential uptick in lone-wolf attacks in January after the Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIL and ISIS, released a video on social network sites encouraging lone-wolf attacks in Western countries, said Michael Steinbach, assistant director of the FBI Counterterrorism Division.

The video suggested that lone wolves should launch attacks on soldiers, law enforcement officers and members of the intelligence community.

In the weeks after the “call to arms” video, several incidents have occurred in the U.S. and Europe, indicating that the social media message has resonated among Islamic State supporters and sympathizers, Mr. Steinbach told Congress in February.

“The FBI remains concerned the recent calls by ISIL and its supporters on violent extremist Web forums and the recent events in Europe could continue to motivate homegrown extremists to conduct attacks in the homeland,” he said. “Online supporters of ISIL have used various social media platforms to call for retaliation against the U.S. in the homeland.

“In one case, an Ohio-based man was arrested in January after he obtained a weapon and stated his intent to conduct an attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Using a Twitter account, the individual posted statements, videos and other content indicating support for ISIL, and he planned his attack based on this voiced support,” Mr. Steinbach said. (Contributor: By Maggie Ybarra for The Washington Times)

For prayer: We urge intercessors to pursue this multi-faceted situation as they are led by the Holy Spirit. At the most basic level, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a traitor to the United States and a killer without apparent remorse, a terrorist whose acts of premeditated murder are indisputable. As such, he deserves execution. He is also a lost soul with no knowledge of the One true God and no sense that the Savior, Jesus Christ, died in his place and for his sins to be forgiven. If imprisoned, he might be reached with the Gospel and be saved. Pray for God’s will to be accomplished and for God to be glorified even through this horrific and tragic bombing. The young man’s crimes are inexcusable but, in God’s mercy, not unforgivable.

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (1 Pet 3:9)

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions … be made for all men… For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth…. ” (1 Tim 2:1, 3-4) 

 

GETTING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RIGHT

“They won’t go to Indiana, but they will go to Saudi Arabia.” That’s Carly Fiorina speaking about Apple CEO Tim Cook and his well-publicized opposition to Indiana’s religious freedom law.

Mrs. Fiorina, a former CEO herself, was underscoring what she quite rightly views as hypocrisy. Here Mr. Cook is, excoriating Indiana lawmakers for protecting the freedom of business owners to act according to their consciences. Yet he has no qualms when it comes to doing business in countries where homosexuality is a crime punishable by death.

The double standard is truly remarkable. Maybe the oxygen content in room air gets thin at the top levels of some corporations. Something has to account for this myopia. Whatever the cause, it’s contributing to a level of near-hysteria about Indiana’s law (30 other states provide the same legal standard) — and making it nearly impossible for its true goals to be understood.

Supporters of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act — or RFRA, which is modeled after the federal version President Bill Clinton signed two decades ago — aren’t trying to protect discrimination. That makes for a catchy sound bite for the other side, and they’re only too happy to throw it around in an effort to shut down debate before it can even occur. But they’re wrong.

What if, they’ll ask, a bed-and-breakfast owner believes homosexuality is sinful and doesn’t want to rent a room to a gay couple? Wouldn’t this law protect that?

No. Under RFRA, the couple could take the owner to court, and it would be up to the court to decide if the owners had a legitimate case. They may. They may not. But no one could simply refuse to rent a room to this couple and then that be the end of it.

The point is that those with legitimate religious objections — as determined in a court of law, where a burden of proof is required — would have the opportunity to make their case. They won’t be left with no choice but to violate their religious beliefs.

That’s what is at issue here: a balancing test. We don’t have a situation where the couple gets steamrolled with no recourse. But we also don’t have one where the owner gets steamrolled. In the spirit of fair-minded American jurisprudence, we do our level best to make sure everyone gets heard, and no one’s rights are arbitrarily infringed.

Unfortunately, our hashtag-addicted, ADD culture doesn’t grasp nuances well. We’d rather, say, bully a pizzeria into closing for honestly answering a question about whether they’d be willing to cater a same-sex wedding. We won’t listen. We’d rather shout.

Had we listened, we’d know the owners of Memories Pizza hadn’t refused service to a soul. They were responding to a hypothetical situation. And they never said they’d turn away a customer who ordered a pizza. They said they wouldn’t cater a same-sex wedding, which they feel would imply that they condoned the union.

You can agree or disagree with that belief. But what could be more American than respecting their right to believe it and act upon it, free of persecution?

Now, if a case goes to court, and the government proves that it has a compelling reason to insist that the owners act in defiance of their beliefs, so be it. Due process has been followed. But to simply say their beliefs are garbage? That they aren’t to be respected because they don’t align with our own ideas of political correctness? That’s wrong.

As Founding Father James Madison, our fourth president, put it: “The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right.”

RFRA is designed to protect this right and ensure that it remains “unalienable.” The question now is will we give in to the shouting heads? Or stand up for what’s right? (Contributor: By Ed Fuelner for The Washington Times - Ed Feulner is founder of the Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).

For prayer: We took a risk last week, suggesting that the “Indiana story” will be one of the key news events of 2015. This week proves it was a safe prediction. Whether it remains in the headlines or not, the main focus is the immediacy with which the relentless homosexual lobby descended on Gov. Mike Pence, the Indiana legislature, and the good people of Indiana with a fury of media attention and threats of the most severe retaliation. And, as you’ll recall, the response was not, “You leave us alone, and we will leave you alone.” No, not at all. These folks preaching tolerance will not hesitate to put out of business and to prosecute business leaders having religious principles against supporting the homosexual lifestyle. Intercessors, please pray accordingly. This article’s perspective is helpful.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” (Ps 1:1-3)

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them…. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.” (Eph 5:6-7, 12)

 

OBAMA'S IRAN DEAL FALLS ON OMINOUS BIBLE DATE

When President Obama announced a “framework” nuclear agreement with Iran – which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns threatens the very existence of his nation – few noticed the significance of the date.

On the Jewish calendar this year, April 1 coincided with Nisan 13, the date in history when a Persian king signed an agreement calling for the destruction of the Jews.

“King Obama has issued his decree putting the Jewish nation at risk of annihilation on the very same day that King Ahasuerus’ scribes came together and issued their statement to the rulers of every people of every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language and sent letters by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day.”

The ominous historical reference comes from Mark Biltz, pastor of El-Shaddai Ministries in Bonney Lake, Washington, and author of “The Feasts of the Lord,” “Blood Moons” and “Studies in our Hebrew Roots.”

The Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran have been shrouded in secrecy for months, and even now, only the broad outline of a proposed agreement has been disclosed. At one point the administration suggested there was not even a written agreement in place but rather a “gentlemen’s agreement.”

Already, another development in the attempt to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons has fallen on a significant date in Jewish history.

On the eve of the Purim holiday, March 3, Netanyahu addressed a rare joint session of Congress to discuss the Iran deal, warning it could lead to the destruction of Israel.

He told Congress that in just a short time the Jewish people would begin the celebration of a holiday established while they were in captivity to a Persian king.

“We’re an ancient people. In our nearly 4,000 years of history, many have tried repeatedly to destroy the Jewish people. Tomorrow night, on the Jewish holiday of Purim, we’ll read the Book of Esther,” Netanyahu told Congress. “We’ll read of a powerful Persian viceroy named Haman, who plotted to destroy the Jewish people some 2,500 years ago. But a courageous Jewish woman, Queen Esther, exposed the plot and gave for the Jewish people the right to defend themselves against their enemies.”

After Netanyahu’s speech, the Obama administration strongly rebuked the prime minister and concerned Congress members, insisting that a deal would take place by March 31.

At the last minute, the administration announced the deadline would be postponed for a day. On April 2, President Obama announced in a ceremony from the Rose Garden that a tentative deal had been reached the day before, Nisan 13.

The book of Esther declares, in Esther 3:12, 13, that on Nisan 13 the Persian king Ahasuerus was tricked by a viceroy by the name of Haman into signing an agreement to destroy all the Jews in the land at a future date.

Coincidental?

Joel Richardson, author of “End Times Eyewitness,” “When a Jew Rules the World,” “The Islamic AntiChrist,” “Mideast Beast” and more, said it might be a message from God.

“The God of Heaven and Earth frequently orchestrates world events in such a way as to demonstrate His perspective,” Richardson explained. “Those who are quick to brush aside the correspondence of profound global events, particularly as they affect the state of Israel, with important biblical dates often miss what may very well be purposeful thunderclaps from heaven.

“It is the cynic that dismisses the possibility of a divine hint as mere coincidence. I think we need to be looking at this very seriously and asking ourselves what it is indicating.”

Jonathan Cahn, author of “The Harbinger,” the inspiration behind “The Isaiah 9:30 Judgment,” and the creator of “The Mystery of the Leper King,” “The Hanukkah Endtime Mystery” and more, told WND that while the conflict between Iran and Israel is not new, it is noteworthy that America has chosen to intervene at this time and appears to be on the side of the Iranians.

“It’s an ancient war that begins when the Hebrews emerge out of Egypt and are attacked by the armies of Amalek,” Cahn said. “The war has continued down through the centuries through the Book of Esther and Haman and, amazingly, into modern times, even right now.

“Again we find the existence of the Jewish people is in jeopardy, and there are forces plotting their destruction. Again, the powers that be seem oblivious to the existential danger. And, amazingly, again, it all focuses on the land of Haman, Persia, and Iran. Only this time, America is involved and, unfortunately, it appears as if our government is placing Israel in danger.”

Franklin Graham, president of both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Samaritan’s Purse relief organization, confirmed as much.

In a Facebook posting, he said: “In an interview with the New York Times, President Barack Obama said he is committed to seeing that Israel maintains a military edge over Iran. With the possibility of nuclear weapons at stake, there’s a lot more to this than a military edge. Iran does not recognize the right of Israel to exist. In previous speeches their mullahs have said they would burn Tel Aviv. One nuclear weapon can wipe out this city of 400,000+ people. It’s not about maintaining a military edge, Mr. President; it’s about keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of people who have said they would use them.”

Graham noted Iran already has its soldiers in southern Lebanon serving with Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border and in Syria on Israel’s northeastern border.

“Iran already has its soldiers serving with the Iraqi army and now has controlling influence in much of the Iraqi government. Mr. President, the Iranian government is in many ways as brutal as ISIS and to give them an opportunity to possibly produce nuclear weapons would be devastating, not only to Israel, but to the Iranian people who would suffer their own nuclear holocaust when Israel would be forced to retaliate in their own defense. I pray that you will listen to Israel on this issue.”

Critics contend Obama’s deal only delays Iran from getting the bomb.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu told Congress that despite the agreement to destroy Israel in Esther’s time, the “plot was foiled.”

“Our people were saved,” he said.

Cahn had similar sentiments.

“We must remember, that the war is an ancient one, and God has sworn to be involved. As in the Book of Esther, when it looks as if there’s no deliverance for the Jewish people, the hand of God begins to move.”

Blitz told WND that the outcome may already be written down.

“History repeats itself, so may we keep the nation of Israel in our prayers!”

The Bible records Haman was hanged on the very scaffold he had prepared for Mordecai, a Jew, and the king dispatched a letter exposing Haman’s plot, instructing Jews to defend themselves.

The result, the site explains, is that 75,000 enemies of the Jews were slain. (Contributor: By Jack Minor for World Net Daily)

For prayer: This is a vitally important article, primarily for the number of significant commentators who offer insights, plus the historical continuity of references to the ancient Persian Empire, Queen Esther, and the radical course of intervention taken by Mordecai and Esther, including a three-day fast from both food and water. The events of more than 2,500 years ago are in focus again through today’s headlines, up to and including the significance of the calendar dates. Pray that God will help His people see the pattern of what is happening and what it reveals through the lens of divine perspective. Intercessors, imagine what could happen in the current Iran-Israel standoff if great numbers of Christians will awaken to the potential power of united and unified fasting and prayer for a godly resolution. Pray for a divine visitation to the Church that will result in action.

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.’ But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’” (Jer 6:16-17)

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces.’ For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, ‘Peace be within you.’” (Psalm 122:6-8)

 

A DEAL WITHOUT STABILITY

The response in the Middle East to the preliminary accord on Iran’s nuclear program began even before the agreement was reached. The Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen and the announcement last weekend of a new multinational Arab military force reflected a determination by Sunni-led regimes to counter what they see as mounting Iranian aggression. The Obama administration, for its part, happened to choose Tuesday to disclose that it was resuming full military aid to Egypt, even though its autocratic regime has met none of the human rights requirements established by Congress.

These moves reflect the reality that, in the short term at least, the largest effect of the nuclear agreement will be to juice the ongoing proxy wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia and their allies. If the deal is fully implemented, Iran will receive hundreds of billions in additional revenue, and Tehran is likely to devote much of it to funding its murderous militias in Iraq, the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, and the Houthi movement in Yemen — not to mention Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Obama administration has enabled Iran’s aggression by refusing to respond to it while negotiating the nuclear accord. Now the president appears to be rushing to offer “reassurance” to traditional U.S. allies in ways that are not particularly wise. Shipping F-16s and tanks to the Egyptian military will do nothing to counter Iran or stabilize the region. Providing intelligence and logistical support to the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen, as the administration has begun to do, encourages an ill-advised offensive that is unlikely to achieve the goal of restoring the previous regime.

What’s missing is a coherent U.S. strategy for stabilizing the region that integrates the nuclear accord with measures to check Iran’s hegemonic ambitions and rebuild crumbling Arab states. Such a policy would focus on the areas where Iranian forces are most active, and most destabilizing — Iraq and Syria.

The administration finally used its leverage with the Iraqi government last month to downgrade the role of Iranian-backed militias in the battle to recapture Tikrit from the Islamic State. Now it must seek to further marginalize those forces and the threat they pose by stepping up support for Kurdish and Sunni tribal forces and insisting that the Iraqi government take command of Shiite units and demobilize those guilty of sectarian abuses.

The key to a serious Mideast strategy, however, is in Syria. There the United States must finally deliver on promises to train and equip a moderate Syrian opposition force and back it against the Assad regime. As senior U.S. officials outside the White House have argued for three years, only by supporting such a force will the United States have the leverage to foster a political settlement that allows a new Syrian order to emerge.

While there is a need to rebuild relations with Arab allies, the approach cannot be one of handing over high-tech weapons while ignoring issues of human rights and democracy. The future of the region depends on the emergence of secular liberal forces in Egypt and other Sunni states; defending and encouraging those progressives should be a higher U.S. priority than appeasing royal families or reactionary generals. (Contributor: By Editorial Board of The Washington Post)

For prayer: While IFA does not rely on The Washington Post’s editorial agreement to guide our intercessory prayers, it is significant when one of the nation’s leading liberal newspapers expresses serious concern over President Obama’s policy decisions and their implications. This lead editorial appeared in the Post’s Sunday edition (April 5) as a strong caution regarding the president’s direction, which it says lacks “a coherent U.S. strategy for stabilizing the region that integrates the nuclear accord with measures to check Iran’s hegemonic ambitions and rebuild crumbling Arab states.” That is tantamount to a strong rebuke to the administration’s careless concessions to Iran’s demands. The president’s goals are not at all clear in this “framework deal.” Please pray accordingly.

“For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?” (1 Cor 14:8)

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

 

AS WATER RUNS DRY, CALIFORNIANS BRACE FOR A NEW WAY OF LIFE

His lawn was thick, healthy and gorgeous, and Mike Duran was in love. “It was so green. It was so lush,” he said. But the relationship had financial issues. Watering the grass cost about $1,200 every other month in this drought-stricken state.

“The money I was spending for water, I had to make a change,” Duran said. The yard has been an arrangement of sand and cactus for three months now. “Emotionally, it took me a little time to adjust, to say the least,” he said.

When Gov. Jerry Brown (D) told Californians last week that watering grass every day is “going to be a thing of the past” and announced the first mandatory water restrictions in the state’s history, people in a region full of swimming pools, pretty lawns and flowers bursting in technicolor began to worry that the place would start to look a lot more like Arizona.

“Without water, you can’t live in California,” said Bill Whalen, who works on politics, and the politics of water, at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. “It ties into the California psyche.

“They have plush lawns and nice gardens that require lots of water. They have the ocean and Lake Tahoe skiing. You have a nice car. You want it clean. You need water,” said Whalen, who was a speechwriter for former governor Pete Wilson (R). “You can’t have California agriculture without water. You lose the nation’s salad bowl.”

California is faced with a double whammy of high temperatures — the state just had its warmest winter on record — and low rainfall that is exacerbated by an atmospheric pattern that for three years straight has diverted winter storms away from the state, depriving it of crucial precipitation. The outlook, if global greenhouse gas emissions are not decreased, is a megadrought lasting 30 years for California and several Southwestern states, a NASA study said.

The state is in the fourth year of a severe drought. With its snowpack level near zero, the lowest ever recorded, Brown ordered California’s 400 water agencies to cut their output by 25 percent or face fines of up to $10,000 per month, a state official said, a penalty that can be passed to homeowners who fail to comply.

A survey last month by the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonprofit think tank in San Francisco, shows that Californians realize they are running out of water. Nearly 70 percent said supplies will be inadequate in 10 years.

A divide over agriculture

Brown’s announcement, however, created a divide by targeting urban residents but not farmers, who use 80 percent of the state’s water and grow crops such as rice and almonds that require prodigious amounts of water.

“We don’t like when we see a double standard,” said Adam Scow, the California director of Food and Water Watch, a nonprofit environmental group. “Everybody’s going to have to do their part. The guys using all the water — you’re not asking them to do their part? It’s dishonest.”

He called Brown’s exclusion of farmers a “failure to lead” and “be a governor for all” state residents.

In a state where governors often give deference to the $40 billion agriculture industry, Scow said Brown’s exclusion was “not a surprise.” Farmers have sucked out so much groundwater for crops over the past decade that it cannot be replaced naturally. Yet there was no plan to regulate its removal until Brown signed legislation to manage groundwater last year.

“There’s booming almond production in the Central Valley,” Scow said. “It takes four times as much water to grow almonds in the heat of the valley. The solution is to buy out the farmers and put the land to other uses.”

But that threatens people’s livelihoods, said state agriculture officials and others who defend the farmers. As water drained, 400,000 farm acres were taken out of use and nearly 20,000 jobs were lost last year.

Farmers are getting only 20 percent of the water they request from the State Water Project, which captures water in the northern parts of California and pumps it to various water agencies.

“Agriculture is already taking a hard hit,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the State Water Resources Control Board. She called the 80 percent to 20 percent difference in urban and agricultural use “an artificial breakdown” and said that “urban users depend on agricultural production. It’s not about finger-pointing. It’s about everybody having to step up.”

Whalen called Brown’s restrictions a defining moment for both him and the state: “It’s rare that something comes out of Sacramento that hits on all levels. This is one of those things.”

Everybody takes a hit, Whalen said. Other governors were thrown out of office when that happened — Gray Davis (D) was recalled in the early 2000s, when, among other problems confronting his administration, rolling blackouts robbed Californians of power for days.

But in his second term and final four years as governor under term limits, Brown knows his time is short and “wants to do big things,” Whalen said. It is his chance to bring a diverse group of stakeholders to his office to talk about water.

“First thing to talk about is agriculture’s use of water, forcing them to look at whether we need thirsty crops like alfalfa,” Whalen said. Developers who build edi­fices with huge fountains, environmentalists who call for too many restrictions and other fixes, and urban planners should all be at the table, he said.

“It’s a conversation that can lead to action.”

In the Pasadena area, a few miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, homeowners do not appear ready to take action. Along the winding roads leading to the storied Huntington Library, Art Collection and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, dozens of workers trimmed lawns and watered flowers Friday.

“It worries me,” said Duran, who lives in the city known for the Rose Bowl, the Rose Parade and homes with huge emerald yards adorned with thirsty azaleas.

“I know a lot of people don’t care. But what’s going to happen in years to come? These houses, these mansions. They have the money. They don’t care,” Duran said. He thought a mean thing: “I hope they fine them. I hope they charge them a lot.”

Duran said that by making a switch from grass to sand and succulents, he saved $900 on a water bill that arrives every two months.

“But my neighbors are not ready to do it,” he said.

Down the street, Lenon Mitchell said he will not rip out his turf for a desert motif.

“I’m not interested in that,” he said. “I’ll just keep it like it is and water it less till the rain comes back.”

Mitchell moved to the neighborhood more than 40 years ago and has steadily watered his modest lawn and plants less and less because of increasing water rates and decreasing rain. He pointed at the house next door, with a yard that looked like his, and his neighbors across the street with lawns that were green with lots of brown patches.

The street stretched for a mile, showcasing traditional lawns with a mixture of palms, bird of paradise plants and azaleas on an 80-degree day.

Getting by with less water

Los Angeles has more carwashes than any other city in the United States, and California has more than any other state, said Brad Hooper, board president for the Western Carwash Association. Hooper said carwash owners saw the writing on the wall when they were hit with high water bills years ago and started using reclaimed water.

For beautiful lawns, Californians turn to landscapers such as Larry Rohlfes of the California Association of Landscapers. At first, he said, his members were worried about water loss, but now they think Brown’s announcement could be a godsend.

People will still want their homes to look nice, and they will need experts to make over their lawns with a stunning desert flair. Change “is going to come as a shock to many of our members,” Rohlfes said, “but they will have the tools to help clients make the shift to a different landscape. There are many ways to make them beautiful and use less water.”

On the other hand, said Barbara Alvarez, the owner of a landscape maintenance company, the governor’s pledge to rip up 50 million square feet of thirsty turf will devastate people who sell sod.

“They are really going to suffer,” she said.

But California has to do something, said Kerry Townsend, who lives in Redondo Beach with her husband and two children. California is hotter than ever, she said. She feels it every day.

“When I moved here nearly 10 years ago, we actually had a change of seasons through the winter,” she said. “It was lovely. Now it feels like summer all the time, and it never rains. It has just gotten hotter over time.”

(Contributor: By Darryl Fears for The Washington Post - Darryl Fears has worked at The Washington Post for more than a decade, mostly as a reporter on the National staff. He currently covers the environment, focusing on the Chesapeake Bay and issues affecting wildlife.)

For prayer: We have been following the California drought issue for several months. Gov. Jerry Brown has now imposed water-use restrictions, sending shock waves across the state. Without significant rain soon, Californians cannot maintain a normal lifestyle. The plentiful water that so many Americans take for granted is absolutely essential. Without judging California as “more sinful” than any other segment of the population, we wonder how many are ready to recognize God’s hand in this shortage? We assume California churches and Christians are praying and asking others to pray. Is the concept of God and His provision through rain even in the picture, or is the painful situation being assigned to “climate change” or chance? The Bible clearly depicts weather and climate as under God’s control. Pray for clarity and revelation.

“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 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.” (James 5:16-18)

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” (Hosea 10:12)

 

QUIETLY OPENING DOOR FOR HOMOSEXUAL BOY SCOUT LEADERS

A pro-family leader is asking whether the Boy Scouts will enforce a policy against homosexual leaders.

A new policy went into effect January 1, allowing open homosexuals as members of the Boy Scouts, but not adults.

Last week, the New York Chapter of the Boy Scouts hired an openly homosexual 18-year-old Eagle Scout to work as a camp counselor this summer.

Matt Barber, an attorney and founder of Barbwire.com, predicts the BSA policy on homosexual adults will change too.

"They are employing an incrementalist strategy here - death by a thousand cuts," Barber says of the Scouts.

The national office of the Boy Scouts is aware of the New York decision but there's been no word on whether the policy will be enforced.

Rather that revoking the national policy, he predicts, the BSA leaders will slowly allow open homosexuals to take leadership roles within the Boy Scouts, "and take boys on camping trips."

Barber calls that troubling, citing the Archives of Sexual Behavior that shows homosexual men are 10 times more likely to sexually assault boys than heterosexual men.

"So this will place boys at a risk rate of 10 times the previous rate for being sexually assaulted on these camping trips," Barber warns.

Barber says there is an alternative, Trail Life USA, which is a faith-based organization that began after the Boy Scouts accepted gay scouts. (Contributor: By Charlie Butts for One News Now)

For prayer: This is a clear example of what Matt Barber (see article) calls “incrementalist strategy.” It reminds us of the fable about the camel that only wanted his nose in the tent on a cold night, yet ended up, little by little, fully inside the tent! And because the homosexual lobby appears too strong to lose any social debate, an immediate solution is for an awakened Church to embrace united and unified intercession. A second consideration would be for parents to be fully alert to keep their boys out of even the potential of “harm’s way.” Reasonable people understand, of course, that not all homosexual or heterosexual adult men are predatory, but the 10 to 1 ratio cited above would put these boys at a large statistical risk. Please pray for parental wisdom and for the Boy Scouts’ national leadership to uphold its own rulings, which will take unusual courage.

“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! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isa 5:20-21)

“Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who begets a wise child will delight in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her who bore you rejoice.” (Prov 23:23-25)

On Watch in Washington April 8, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

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March 19, 2015 

 

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Empowering for Transformation

Conference Highlights 

 

 

Hosted by Intercessors For America

Held at Evergreen United Methodist Church

 Leesburg, Virginia 

 March 6-7, 2015 

  

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