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Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
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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On Watch in Washington April 8, 2015

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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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On Watch in Washington April 1, 2015

On Watch in Washington April 1, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

BREAKING THE BUDGET

The pace of unsustainable spending is quickening!

Let’s say you were a financial adviser, and a family came to you with the following situation.

They make the median family income in the United States — $52,000. But last year they spent $61,000. That’s right, $9,000 more than they’re making, and it all went on the family credit card. That’s bad enough, but then you find out they already have $311,000 in debt. Would you say they have a problem?

I wish I could say this family was made up. Actually, this particular household isn’t real. But the “family” in this scenario is the federal government, and the amounts at stake are in the billions, not the thousands. The ratio of overspending, however, is accurate. So is the fact that the money they’re being so careless with is our tax dollars.

Ever wonder how a dollar of federal spending breaks down? Do you know what amount goes where? With tax season in full swing and Congress trying to agree on a new budget, it’s a good question to ask. You can find the answer, at least in broad strokes, in a new chart from the Heritage Foundation’s “2015 Federal Budget in Pictures.”

Spending on K-12 education takes 1 cent of each dollar. Transportation: 3 cents. National defense: 17 cents. “Income security,” a term that encompasses such things as tax credits for the poor and welfare programs: 19 cents. Net interest on the national debt: 7 cents.

But the big players are Social Security (24.3 cents) and spending on Medicaid, Medicare and other health care programs (26.3 cents). Such entitlements, which are beyond the normal budget process, take up more than half of every dollar the federal government spends. And they’re growing at an unsustainable rate.

With so many billions flying around, it’s easy to lose track of just how much we’re talking about. Another chart shows us one way to get a handle on it: how much federal spending breaks down to per household. Basically, what’s your share of the budget? Today it’s $28,585. That’s two-and-a-half times what it was in 1962: $11,792. (Both figures are in 2014 dollars.)

Think about that: $28,585. That’s more than half the median family income I mentioned at the beginning of this column. That’s more than enough for a new car, or to make a year’s worth of mortgage payments. And at the current rate of spending, it’s set to hit $34,632 by 2023. That’s only eight years from now.

Yet what does Congress normally do come budget time? Raises the debt ceiling. That’s government-speak for “get a higher credit card limit.” Except you and I would have to go, hat in hand, to our credit card company and ask if they’ll raise it (even assuming it was a responsible thing to do). Not federal lawmakers. They just vote to raise the debt ceiling, and presto — problem solved.

Well, not solved. Kicked down the road. That is what passes for “solved” these days.

But it shouldn’t. Especially when you see the last chart I’d like to focus on: the one depicting how the debt limit has risen since 1965. From that year to 1998, the limit increased by $5.6 trillion. But over the last 12 years, the debt limit has jumped by $10.8 trillion.

Talk about unsustainable. It took Congress one third as long to rack up more than twice as much debt. And the end isn’t even in sight.

Think about that the next time there’s talk of a government shutdown over a cut in the rate of how much spending will grow. Hardly anyone, even many so-called budget hawks, is making any serious attempt to cut spending.

So what’s your financial advice? Perhaps it’s time to let Congress know. (Contributor: By Ed Feulner for The Washington Times - Ed Feulner is founder of the Heritage Foundation.)

For prayer: First, please give thanks for Ed Feulner and The Heritage Foundation for providing this startling analysis in simple word pictures that will help us assess the critical need for prayer. Second, please pray that this report will be widely circulated and will persuasively get the attention of government leaders who control current spending and debt projections. May God bring conviction and fiscal restraint to the U.S. Congress to curb wanton spending. Finally, pray for God’s mercy to awaken His Church and its leaders to teach and practice frugality vs. lavish excess in promoting itself, yet be unrestrained in preaching the Gospel and serving the poor and needy.

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?” (Luke 14:28-30)

 “Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Consider your ways! You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.’” (Haggai 1:5-6)

 

THE U.S. ECONOMY IS SHOWING CRACKS

America's economy is starting to see cracks after closing out 2014 with Superman strength.

The U.S. job market had its best year of gains last year since 1999, and economic activity hit a whopping 5% in the third quarter -- the best quarter since 2003.

Three months later, the U.S. economy is looking a little tired. It's losing momentum in puzzling ways. Hiring is still strong, but experts are starting to scale back their growth forecasts.

Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen summed it up well in a speech Friday: "If underlying conditions had truly returned to normal, the economy should be booming."

Economists say there are two main problems: Workers' wages aren't growing much, if at all. As a result, Americans aren't going out and spending much. On top of that, many foreign economies are slowing down, which puts pressure on the U.S.

The question going forward is whether we're just in a blip or a bigger shift is taking place.

"The consumer really hasn't kicked in at full speed ahead," says Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital. "We're going through a soft patch."

With March's jobs report out on Friday, this economic head-scratcher will be in full focus this week.

Still strong on jobs: The U.S. added over half a millions jobs in the first two months of this year alone. That's a 50% increase from the same two-month stretch a year ago when the Polar Vortex had much of America in a funk.

Job gains have come across the board: health care, construction, the service sector and retail businesses have all seen strong pick up. The unemployment rate is down to 5.5%, its lowest mark in seven years.

It would be a full-steam story on jobs except for one thing: wage growth.

Hourly wages only grew 2% in February. That's a marginal bump up, but it's too little for most Americans to notice the recovery's progress. It's also well below the Federal Reserve's roughly 3.5% goal.

Wages are typically the economy's last yardstick to move in the right direction. Some economists say there's a six month "drag" on wage growth compared to the unemployment rate. In other words, the wage growth we see now reflects the unemployment rate in in September (when it was 5.9%).

"If you grow at 2% -- that's growth -- but that's certainly not growth that's going to expedite a change in wages," says Cardillo.

Pay attention to wage growth Friday as an equally important measure. It's beginning to be as important a number as the unemployment rate because it's a good indicator of consumer confidence.

Signs of slippage: People don't go out and spend unless they feel confident about the future. There was hope that cheap gas would spur people to feel better about the economy and their pocketbooks. A gallon of gas was $3.53 a year ago. Now it's $2.42, according to AAA.

But a lot of people are still holding onto that savings. Retail sales and construction on new homes both fell in February, missing estimates. The latest numbers on manufacturing are also weaker than hoped for. All this could just be a winter slowdown, but it's raising red flags.

"Most of it was due to the inclement weather we had...I think that kept a lot of shoppers at home," says Bernard Baumohl, chief economist at the Economic Outlook Group, a research firm.

Baumohl sees the economy rebounding in the second quarter -- much as it did last year. But shoppers -- and investors -- are in a "wait and see" mode right now. Businesses are also sitting on record levels of cash, an indication they might not be feeling confident enough to spend big, either.

Analysts forecast that first quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies could be down 4.6% from the same quarter last year, according to FactSet Research. That would be the first earnings pullback in about two years. It has investors on edge, which is why the Dow is negative for the year and S&P 500 is flat.

Still slow around the globe: If the U.S. is the hare, everyone else around the world seems like the tortoise right now.

Europe is just starting to move its economy in the right direction after years of going at a glacial pace. Japan continues to be mired in deflation as concerns mount that its stimulus plan isn't working. Oh yeah, Greece is still a problem and Yemen faces a grave crisis.

But the worst developments for an economic perspective are China's slowdown and the strong dollar. China's economic growth was basically breaking the sound barrier the last few years. Now it's just cruising at a lower altitude, which means there's less demand for U.S. exports to China.

The U.S. dollar is on its fastest rise in 40 years, making U.S. goods more expensive than foreign ones. That's great for U.S. travelers, but it hurts major U.S. employers like Microsoft and Caterpillar.

All the foreign volatility is rocking the U.S. stock market. Add on the dollar dilemma, sluggish consumer outlook and, not to mention, Fed rate hike fears and this year is quickly shaping up to be a rocky rollercoaster ride.

"We still have a long way to go," says Laurence Ball, an economics professor at Johns Hopkins University. (Contributor: By Patrick Gillespie for CNN Money)

For prayer: One needn’t be an economist to know that Americans are in uncertainty and without inner peace on many levels. Successful investing and prosperity offer limited assurance when the threat of global warfare and terrorism hangs over every American’s future plans. Jobs that seemed secure last year may disappear next month with the latest merger or corporate bankruptcy. Has America fully squandered the promise of freedom and blessing that brought Pilgrims and Puritans to these shores? Or is there yet the promise of resurrection and hope through repentance and renewal? Will the Church overcome its tribalism, tear down its walls, and pray in renewed unity? Pray for an awakening.

“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live… “ (Isa 55:2-3)

“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) 

INDIANA RELIGIOUS LIBERTIES LAW SIGNED INTO LAW

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a religious liberties bill into law this past Thursday. It has been criticized by [homosexual] rights groups as a “license to discriminate.”

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act will prevent state and local governments from imposing a “substantial burden” on a person’s free exercise of religion, unless the government can prove that there is a compelling reason to do so. It mirrors a federal law enacted in 1993, and similar statutes on the books in 19 states.

But critics say it could pave the way for open discrimination against gay, bisexual and transgender people, giving business owners, landlords and others the right to refuse service to gays under the guise of religious protection.

The act is similar to a bill that came under fire last year in Arizona. The governor at the time, Jan Brewer, ultimately vetoed the legislation under intense pressure from businesses, fellow Republican lawmakers and the National Football League. But on Thursday, Pence praised the law as an important measure to protect people of faith in Indiana.

“This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it,” Pence said in a statement, adding that it will “ensure that Indiana will continue to be a place where we respect freedom of religion.”

The move prompted an immediate backlash from some members of the business community and the NCAA, which is based in Indianapolis. “We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees,” NCAA President Mark Emmert wrote in a statement.

The chief executive of Salesforce and a co-founder of PayPal also criticized the law via Twitter, with the former company suggesting that it will reduce its business in the state.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the measure retribution after a federal judge struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban last year.

“Religious freedom is a core American value, one that the ACLU has been defending since its founding,” Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel for the ACLU said in a statement. “However, we will continue to oppose any attempts to use religion to discriminate.”

Similar bills are being considered in Arkansas and Georgia. (Contributor: By Sandhya Somashekhar for The Washington Post)

For prayer: We claim no special prophetic insight, but common sense and a general knowledge of Scripture tell us the “Indiana story” will become one of the most significant news items of 2015. We will even say, “Mark our words.” We haven’t space to elaborate. We ask intercessors to pray and to remain fully aware of what is happening. Indiana’s law is simply to protect its citizens from legal harassment for refusing business that would violate the conscience. But true to devilish patterns of deceit, the law is being portrayed as the source of most hateful and malicious discrimination. Without such protection, how long before a pastor would be required to pay an exorbitant fine or spend time in jail for refusing to perform a same-sex wedding? Indiana is being bullied by deceived people who preach tolerance. Please pray for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as he responds honestly and kindly. It is truth that sets men and women free from evil lies.

“Professing to be wise, they became fools … 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, 24-25)

[Jesus spoke this of the devil:] “When he (Satan) speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44)

 

IRAN DEAL WORSE THAN ISRAEL FEARED, NETANYAHU SAYS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday against the emerging nuclear deal with Iran, as Iranian and Western officials in Lausanne, Switzerland were rushing to reach a framework agreement by an end-of-month deadline.

“After the Beirut-Damascus-Baghdad axis, Iran is maneuvering from the south to take over the entire Middle East,” Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting, one of the last for his outgoing government. “The Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis is dangerous for mankind and must be stopped.”

Netanyahu told ministers that he had spoken with Republican leaders in the US Senate and “conveyed our serious concern regarding the arrangement with Iran at the nuclear talks. This agreement confirms all our fears and exceeds them.

“While [world powers] convene to sign this deal, Iran’s proxies in Yemen are conquering large swaths of land in an effort to overtake the Bab al-Mandab straits, so that they can change the balance of power in shipping oil,” he said, referring to recent unrest in Yemen.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also called the emerging deal with Iran “a very bad deal.” Turning Iran into a nuclear threshold state, he said Sunday, “would be nothing less than a tragedy for the moderate regimes in the Middle East and the entire Western world.”

“You don’t need to be an intelligence officer to see Iran is lying barefacedly, and is today the greatest danger to the stability of the Middle East,” he said.

The United States and Iran have moved close to agreement on key aspects of a nuclear deal but some problems remain four days ahead of a target date for an initial agreement, officials said Sunday.

Two officials told The Associated Press that Iran has tentatively agreed to limit the number of machines it could use to enrich uranium to 6,000 — or even less — at its main site.

Diplomats are in Switzerland for talks ahead of a March 31 target for the outline of a final deal to be negotiated by the end of June.

The officials said Iran has agreed to ship out all enriched uranium it produces to Russia. Enriched uranium can be used to make the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.

They said problems remain on the length of any restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, monitoring Tehran’s compliance and other issues.

The officials demanded anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the confidential talks.

US Secretary of State John Kerry canceled plans to return to the United States for an event honoring his late Senate colleague Edward Kennedy in order to remain at the ongoing talks in Switzerland.

Israeli officials reiterated their concerns over the emerging deal on Sunday, warning that the reported terms would not do enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, one of the top members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, said that while Western powers and Iran may be about to shake hands on an agreement in the coming days, there could still be time to influence the terms of the final deal, due by the end of June.

“It’s true that a deal is close, and there is a chance that an agreement on basic principles will be reached in the coming days,” Erdan told Army Radio. “But until the final agreement, which is supposed to be signed with Iran by the end of June, there are still a wide range of diplomatic options. If, God forbid, it happens, Israel will also be required to reassess the whole resulting security situation.”

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, a confidant of Netanyahu, said that the deal was “full of holes,” and that he hoped US President Barack Obama would keep to his word that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

Steinitz, in an interview with Army Radio, noted that Iran hadn’t provided adequate explanations to the UN’s nuclear watchdog over the nature of its previous nuclear research. (Contributor: By Jonathan Beck for The Times of Israel - AP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report)

For prayer: As you read this on April 1, the deadline for “the deal” has passed, but delegates, including American Secretary of State John Kerry, are remaining in Switzerland in hopes of an agreement. Insiders are saying that Iran is unmovable in its determination to walk away with little or no restriction on its nuclear development, and rumors are rife that the U.S. has made the most concessions. Iran’s spiritual leaders have never reneged on their stated twin goals of destroying both Israel and, ultimately, the U.S. Of great concern to students of Scripture and of prophecy is the fact that President Obama is not demonstrating loyalty to Israel, which is our ally, not our enemy. Intercessors know how to pray into this potential crisis. Pray for a national return to God.

“The preparations of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirits. Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established. The Lord has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.” (Prov 16:1-4)

“The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” (Ps 103:19)

 

INFLUX OF ADVANCED WEAPONS FLOWING INTO SYRIA

Hezbollah has range of surface to sea missiles; Yakhont can be used as surface to surface missile to hit Tel Aviv, source warns.

Advanced weaponry, much of it supplied by Iran, is flowing into Syria and Lebanon, a senior Israel Navy source warned on Sunday.

The Navy is spending a large chunk of its operational time dealing with advanced weapon smuggling, according to the source, who added, “Such weapons pose a challenge to all Western navies in the area.”

He said the northern front has become unified, and that Lebanon and Syria can not be viewed as separate entities anymore.

“What happens in Syria, happens in Lebanon [in terms of weapons availability], and vice versa. I’ll go a step further and say that everything that happens in Iran can end up in Syria, which can then end up in Lebanon,” the source stated. “In the event of war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, I’m not sure Syria will remain on the sidelines. Hezbollah assists the Assad regime, and the help is mutual.”

Describing the quantity and quality of surface-to-sea missiles in Hezbollah’s possession as “unprecedented,” the source said there are dozens of such weapons in its keeping, covering around 10 different kinds of such missiles.

“The types of warheads and their ranges are many,” said the source. “We are in a completely different situation. The sector has changed.”

The source said he assumed Hezbollah is in possession of the Yakhont guided antiship missile, adding that the navy is capable of defending itself from it.

He warned that the missile can be used to attack targets on land deep inside the country.

“They can fire it at military headquarters in Tel Aviv,” he said.

The Yakhont has a 300 kilometer range, according to the source.

“It is very fast. It has unusual capabilities. It can fly at a very high altitude, or a low one, depending on the variation,” he said.

Iran continues to develop its own weapons, copying the arms of other states, and it smuggles them to its allies and proxies in Syria and Lebanon, said the source.

Meanwhile, semi-state organizations are growing in Syria, and jihadist groups are likelier than previously to try to mount a sea-based terrorist attack, such as a bomb-laden vessel.

In Hezbollah’s view, the naval arena is becoming central, the source continued, and the organization’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah is planning offensive moves against Israel in the next clash, rather than just waging a lengthy war of attrition.

Meanwhile, the Israel Navy is preparing to receive four new missile ships, to secure four gas drilling platforms in Israel’s Exclusive Economic Zone in the Mediterranean, an area twoand- a-half times larger than Israel.

The gas rigs, which will form most of Israel’s electricity supply, are attractive targets for Hezbollah, the source said.

The navy is setting up layers of defense around them, including antimissile defenses on ships and underwater defenses.

“Additional ships for this task are a must,” the source said.

A second source added that the navy’s submarines carried out dozens of covert operations off enemy shores in 2014.

“We conducted series of operations in various sectors. Some lasted weeks,” the source said.

He emphasized the ability of submarines to gather intelligence, including signals intelligence, and remain submerged for long periods far from Israeli shores.

He added that the INS Tanin, the fourth German-Dolphin submarine to join the navy’s fleet, and the first vessel to use Air Independent Propulsion, received weapons and communications systems from domestic defense companies in Israel after arriving from Germany in September.

Israel ordered three AIP-enabled new generation Dolphins from Germany, with the fifth, the INS Rahav, expected to arrive in the coming months.

The submarines work closely with other navy ships, naval commandos, the IAF and infantry units.

“The number of missions we receive is higher than the number we are able to carry out because of the number of submarines at our disposal,” the source added. (Contributor: The Jerusalem Post)

For prayer: Rather than to try to analyze Middle East complexities, we will simply confess that the details overwhelm us. Our calling here is to inform and to encourage unified prayer. Bear in mind that Iran’s aim is to control the entire Middle East totally and at any price. There are yet unfulfilled Bible prophecies regarding Assyria, Egypt, and Israel. When and how that will come about is known only to God. Let us agree with God’s Word and pray accordingly.

“Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision.” (Ps 2:1-4)

“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.” (Ps 99:1-2)

 

MILITARY PLANNING TO SPEND BILLIONS ON NEW AIR FORCE ONE

The Pentagon is considering spending billions of dollars on three new Boeing 747s to use as Air Force One, the aircraft that shuttles the United States president.

According to CBS News, the current Air Force One fleet is getting old, and the U.S. military says it’s time for a new generation to carry future commanders in chief.

"We've got a pretty good size team working on it," said Air Force Col. Amy McCain, who is in charge of ordering the new Air Force One, according to the station.

McCain's team has grown to 80 people from 20 in the past year. The team is expected to swell to 100 shortly.

Budget paperwork shows the military requested from Congress $102 million this year to buy the planes, with the numbers growing to more than $3 billion over the next five years. Those numbers do not include the final three years of the project, CBS reported.

Questions linger as to whether taxpayers can afford to buy a new presidential plane.

"The current airplane was fielded in 1991," McCain said. "It's the only 747-200 left in the United States that is flying. So it costs a lot more time and money to keep that airplane flying than it used to. It's actually cheaper in the long run to replace it."

"The top priority is an affordable aircraft that will meet the presidential requirements," McCain said. "We're buying up to three. It depends on all the availability of having two airplanes available for the president at any one time."

The Air Force expects to ink its first contract with Boeing sometime in 2015 for the next Air Force One, and wants to have the new 747s flying the president in 2023. (Contributor: Fox News)

For prayer: There is no direct intercessory focus here, but again, our attention is drawn to the country’s economy. Americans want their president — whoever holds the office — to be safe. And with national debt in the trillions of dollars, who can even comprehend the minor comparison to the price of new airplanes, as needed? However, polls show a large percentage of the electorate from all political viewpoints believe that President Obama travels too frequently and spends too much time away from his job as president. That belief adds skepticism to the attitude of new planes, though the need may be justified. Our country is deeply divided, and much prayer is needed for reconciliation.

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)

 

NO PERMISSION TO WRITE RELIGIOUS BOOK

Atlanta city officials say they were within their rights to fire former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran because he wrote — and offered for sale — a Christian book without permission and gave copies of it to nearly two dozen people at work.

The city’s brief, filed Wednesday, asked U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May to dismiss the wrongful-firing case against the city and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Attorneys for Mr. Cochran said Thursday the city’s response fell short.

“In America, a religious or ideological test cannot be used to fire a public servant, but that’s precisely what the city did,” said David Cortman, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

“That endangers everyone who works for the city who may hold to a belief that the city doesn’t like,” Mr. Cortman said. Moreover, the First Amendment “fully protects” the freedom of any public employee to distribute religious materials at work to those willing to receive them, “and no city rule — written or unwritten — can override that freedom.”

At issue are passages in Mr. Cochran’s 162-page, self-published book that reference biblical views of sex.

One passage says pursuing “sex outside the confines of marriage between a man and a woman — including fornication, homosexual acts, and all other types of non-marital sex — is contrary to God’s will.”

Another passage says “uncleanness,” or whatever is opposite of purity, includes sodomy, homosexuality, lesbianism, pederasty, bestiality and all other forms of sexual perversion.

Mr. Cochran said he gave his book to around 20 people he worked with. “Most” of the people asked for it, and none objected, he has said.

The city attorneys noted that most of these people were subordinates of Mr. Cochran who may not have felt comfortable rejecting it.

Moreover, at least one person who got a copy of the book complained to a gay rights group — passages from the book were posted by the GA Voice blog in November 2014.

A complaint also went to Atlanta Councilman Alex Wan, with one person saying the book’s passages on sex were “opposed to his beliefs on the subject,” the city brief said.

The complaint to Mr. Wan “allegedly precipitated discussion of the matter” with top city officials, the city brief said.

The councilman, who is openly gay, has told the Atlanta Constitution-Journal that “when you’re a city employee and [your] thoughts, beliefs and opinions are different from the city’s, you have to check them at the door,” according to ADF attorneys.

Mr. Cochran was suspended without pay for 30 days in November and ordered to undergo “sensitivity training.”

He was fired on Jan. 6 and filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination a few weeks later.

In their brief, the city’s lawyers argued that city law requires department heads, such as Mr. Cochran, to not engage in any private employment or render any services for private remuneration without obtaining “prior written approval from the board of ethics.”

Mr. Cochran’s book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked? Overcoming the Stronghold of Condemnation,” became available for sale on Amazon.com at some point after being self-published in late 2013, the city brief said.

He has said he wrote the book as part of a men’s Bible study at his church, where he is a deacon and teacher. He has said he was fired “simply because of what I believe.”

Mr. Cochran’s attorneys argue that the First Amendment protects his rights to write a book on his free time. They and Mr. Cochran maintain that he talked about the book with a city ethics official before he wrote it, and then sent a copy of the book to Mr. Reed — even asking the mayor in January 2014 if he had gotten the book and read it.

Mr. Reed “confirmed that he had received it and that he was going to read it,” Mr. Cochran told WSB-TV 2 in Atlanta in February.

Mr. Cochran’s attorneys further note that an internal investigation showed that Mr. Cochran did not discriminate against anyone in his department and that he led a long, distinguished career, resulting in him being named “Fire Chief of the Year” in 2012 by Fire Chief magazine.

Cochran v. City of Atlanta is filed in U.S. District for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division. (By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)

For prayer: Jesus warned that His followers would be persecuted. Those who practice such deviant sins do not want to be branded as sinners, especially in today’s climate where darkness is called light and the truth is judged as being dark and judgmental. John the Baptist told Herod the truth about his adultery with Herodias, and it cost him his life. How vocal are we willing to be with the truth? Let us pray for Kelvin Cochran, who had the courage to call things what they are in the sight of God. Pray that God’s Word will bring a harvest.

“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)

 

CHILD FORCED TO SHAVE MILITARY-STYLE HAIRCUT HONORING BROTHER

Officials at a Tennessee elementary school told a 7-year-old’s mother that his “high and tight” military-style haircut had to go before he could return to class.

A teacher at Bobby Ray Memorial Elementary School in McMinnville, Tennessee, told Amy Stinnett that her son’s haircut, which was done to honor his step-brother serving in Afghanistan, was a distraction. The young boy was sent to the principal’s office and given a note for his mother when the hairstyle was deemed inappropriate.

“We’re not a military school, and it has to be cut or he cannot return to school until it is,” Ms. Stinnett said she was informed while protesting the ultimatum, a Fox affiliate in Nashville reported Wednesday. The school, located roughly 75 miles outside the city, is named after a Vietnam veteran.

“It broke my heart. It pretty much crushed a 7-year-old’s dreams,” the mother added.

Schools Director Bobby Cox wouldn’t comment on Adam’s case when asked about incident, the local station reported. He said there is no district policy on military-style haircuts, but each school has the authority to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

“The school should be ashamed of themselves,” Ms. Stinnett said. She wants an apology from the school, the local station reported. (Contributor: By Douglas Ernst for The Washington Times)

For prayer: Sadly, school districts are continually overstepping their rightful boundaries, and we can pray for this family and the pursuit of their legal rights. However, there is a much larger issue. It seems unlikely that a child’s haircut is the real problem. Instead, one wonders whether this is a case of how much authority this or any school district should be wielding over the families it is created to serve, not to rule. Intercessors might wish to follow this to determine the full extent of the story. Too often, agencies created to serve become bureaucratic and seek control outside their sphere.

“But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’” (Mark 10:42-45)

 

TOUTING ABORTION FUND-RAISER HELPS PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT

A left-wing political commentator's support of an abortion fund-raiser may actually motivate pro-lifers into action.

Sally Kohn announced March 24 on Twitter that she has joined a "Bowl-a-Thon" sponsored annually by the National Network of Abortion Funds.

The funds raised are used to pay for abortions and Kohn, a lesbian attorney seen on CNN, set a goal of $2,000.

"Because of unfair and unnecessary laws, safe and legal abortions can be out of reach of those who don't have the money to pay for them," Kohn wrote. "I don't think that's right, so I'm doing something about it."

"And you know, at the end of the day, we're seeing a very strong struggle over this issue," he says.

Kohn's pro-abortion support got the attention of Townhall.com's Cortney O'Brien, who reported that the fund-raising page states people can "captain" their own bowling team to "raise money to help pay for abortions in your community."

O'Brien also wrote that conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch Tweeted that she donated $100 to the National Right to Life "in honor of" Kohn.

Scheidler, Eric (Pro-Life Action League) Loesch's Tweet was shared 114 times while Kohn's was shared 43 times.

Kohn responded to Loesch by suggesting if she wants to reduce abortions, she should support universal pre-kindergarten, free maternal healthcare, and "full employment" and a "living wage."

Scheidler says there are numerous ways to get involved in the pro-life movement, including discussing the life issue in church, volunteering at pregnancy centers, and praying at abortion clinics. (Contributor: By Charlie Butts for One News Now)

For prayer: Such stories as this keep the abortion issue in front of the public and thus can be advantageous to encourage ongoing intercession. Pray for pregnancy centers that stand for life to flourish. But lighthearted banter ceases when we read of a new law in New York that will allow a baby in the womb to be killed by injecting poison into the unborn infant’s heart. The atrocity of abortion is becoming more and more cold-hearted and mean. Let us pray that more women will receive care that demonstrates they are carrying a living human being. Pray for LIFE.

“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)

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

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WHITE HOUSE EXEMPTS EXECUTIVE OFFICE FROM RECORDS REQUESTS

The White House on Tuesday erased a government-transparency rule that required the president’s Office of Administration to make records available to the public, removing the regulation from the books nearly six years after it effectively died under a federal court ruling.

The timing of the move caused an uproar among transparency advocates, who are in the middle of Sunshine Week, a seven-day effort to promote open government and greater compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. The law allows the public to access federal documents with limited exceptions.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Tuesday characterized the rule change as a matter of cleaning up outdated regulations, noting that the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia decided in 2009 that that the Office of Administration is not an agency as defined under FOIA and therefore not subject to the statute.

“It has no impact at all on the policy that we have maintained from the beginning to comply with the Freedom of Information Act when it’s appropriate,” Earnest said.

The George W. Bush administration first mounted the legal challenge that resulted in the FOIA exemption.

The Office of Administration complied with FOIA requests for years before the Bush administration stopped the practice, prompting a lawsuit by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The Obama White House has not released any records from the office under FOIA, using the court decision to justify its policy.

CREW criticized the Obama administration for its decision, saying it reversed a decades-long practice of opening office’s files to the public.

“This step makes mockery of the administration’s commitment to transparency, especially given that it’s Sunshine Week,” CREW executive director Anne Weismann said in a statement Tuesday. “Apparently they have abandoned even the appearance of transparency.”

Earnest said the awkward timing of the rule change was unintentional. The action appeared in the Federal Register on Tuesday with a note indicating that the action was final, meaning it would take effect without a public-comment period.

The Office of Administration provides a broad range of administrative services for the Executive Office of the President. The support can involve anything from information technology and mail to research and graphics development.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. concluded in its 2009 ruling that the office is not an agency because it “performs only operational and administrative tasks in support of the President and his staff” and therefore “lacks substantial independent authority.”

President Obama promised to run the most transparent government in U.S. history, but the administration has faced doubts and criticism about its efforts.

An Associated Press analysis published last year found that government secrecy had increased during the Obama years, with the administration censoring or outright denying FOIA access more in 2013 than it had ever done before.

Earnest defended Obama’s commitment to openness, saying the rule change is “cleanly in line with the kind of priority that this administration has placed on transparency.” He also noted that the Obama White House was the first to release its visitor logs.

A recent analysis by the Center for Effective Government shows that the Obama administration improved access to information last year, with eight out of the 15 federal agencies that handle the most FOIA requests improving their scores in the group’s annual report card.

Nonetheless, 10 agencies finished last year with unsatisfactory grades, earning less than 70 points out of a possible 100. (Contributor: By Josh Hicks for The Washington Post - Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.)

For prayer: IFA’s ministry in The Informer is to encourage intercessors to pray for our country and its leaders, beginning with President Obama. Mr. Obama often chooses to be secretive with both Congress and the public. However, Americans elected conservative majorities last November in both House and Senate. Pray that God will move in and through the Congress to insist on a return to constitutionally mandated balance of powers. Even presidents are required to keep the law.

“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.” (Rom 13:1-2)

 

BIBI’S MIRACULOUS LANDSLIDE VICTORY WILL HELP IDENTIFY HIS ENEMIES!

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuIn listening to the media and a majority of political analysts, Benjamin Netanyahu had a tough road ahead in the 2015 Israeli elections. So when his Likud party won 30 seats (six seats ahead of Herzog’s Zionist Union party), it was a bit of a surprise for most and even a shock for some. Netanyahu’s victory could be considered a landslide victory, but certainly must be considered a miraculous victory. For the next few years, Israel will continue to thrive under the leadership of one of the strongest Prime Minister in her history.

Bibi’s victory doesn’t make everybody happy, especially after some of the announcements he made hours prior to the elections. His enemies will be quick to denounce and criticize him and his agenda.

At the top of the list we can obviously find the Palestinian Authority and Hamas doing everything in their power to delegitimize Israel. The PA continues to apply pressure at the International Criminal Court in The Hague to force them to investigate possible war crimes during the 2014 Gaza War. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat declared:“It is clear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will form the next government, and for that, we say clearly that we will go to The Hague tribunal, we will accelerate, continue and intensify.” This is a despicable move akin to accusing Jews of crimes against humanity during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against the Nazis. Hamas has also called for renewed confrontations with Israel…No surprise there!

Another disappointed enemy is the leader of Zionist Union Isaac Herzog who many had seen as a serious contender in the race for the Knesset. Herzog finally conceded and congratulated Bibi on his victory.

The Israeli government is a complicated political machine. The Knesset demands that the ruling party would form a coalition with other parties since 61 seats are required for a majority over its 120 seats. No party has ever won with a majority in Israel’s 67 years of history. Very often the votes are so close that coalition governments are formed with members of the two parties who were competing for the win only the night before. But this time, with 30 seats, Netanyahu finds himself in a majority position from the start, allowing him to form a government much more center-right than ever before. This is a bigger defeat for the Left in Israel. Netanyahu will certainly gain more power from the get go.

Herzog campaigned on issues that he thought were attractive to Israelis like renewed talks with the Palestinians towards a Palestinian state, a strengthening of US/Israel relations, and a change in Israel’s economy bridging the gap between classes. He wanted to bring “Change” to Israel. I think that someone, somewhere already tried that same socialistic ideology and it failed! As it turned out, Israeli voters were much more interested in the security of their country than the economy of their country. After all how good is a rebounding economy in a country that would be opening its doors to people determined to kill all the Jews. Security over economy doesn’t mean that Netanyahu will not work towards a better Israel economically, but as he has said numerous times and repeated at his address to the US congress, the security of Israel’s people is first and foremost.

It is also interesting to notice that the “Joint Arab List” became the third party in the Knesset. This will undoubtedly create a new dynamics within the Israeli government. What we need to remember is that the “Joint Arab List” comprises three different lists that strongly disagree within themselves. They had to form a mini Arab coalition to even become a reality within the Knesset. Will they find enough of a common ground in their loathing of Israel to work together? Time will tell, but I am certain that we will hear more from the “Joint Arab List.”

Many international leaders are worried about Bibi’s last minute shift to the right to garner the necessary votes from ultra-nationalist factions. They feel that it will only exacerbate the Palestinians and further bury the prospect of any peace in the Middle East. What they really fail to understand is that a more socialistic party like that of Isaac Herzog would facilitate the emergence of a group of people who have absolutely no interest in a two-state solution. They might hypocritically pretend to be open to the idea, but that is only until they have gained enough power to completely annihilate the Jews. Mr. Herzog idealistic vision is obviously blinded by his liberal leanings.

And then of course, there is the leader of the “United Welfare States of America”, Barack Obama! While many heads of states will personally call Netanyahu to congratulate him on the Likud’s victory, Mr. Obama gave the task to a White House aid who congratulated Israel without any mention of Netanyahu or the Likud. Some will accuse me of pettiness, but the least that our President could have done was to call Netanyahu in person. Then again, coming from the same man who chose to snub Bibi’s recent congress speech, it shouldn’t surprise us. What a shame!

It is unclear if Bibi’s speech on March 3rd, 2015 in front of the US congress was a political move or just a heartfelt desire to cry out to the international community. It was probably a bit of both. What is certain is that it facilitated Bibi’s victory. His stance on the “Iranian Deal” was powerful and obviously a slap in the face of our president and “King of Appeasement.”

Relations between America and Israel are tense and fragile at best. There are still many Americans who support the Jewish state. We might expect that the already strained relations between Netanyahu and the White House could lead to a political divorce. The one positive aspect of this win is that Netanyahu will outlive Obama in office and could very well regain a respected position with the next US administration.

So it would appear that Mr. Netanyahu has many enemies to contend with, within and without Israel. Physical rockets will continue to fall over Israel as will the verbal rockets from the liberals, the current US administration and the media. In the meantime, I believe that Bibi’s victory will ensure the best approach to Israel’s security. The road ahead is a rocky one and would greatly benefit from the prayer of the friends of Israel.

Congratulation Mr. Prime Minister, my prayers are with you and Israel! Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, May they prosper who love you. Psalm 122:6 (Contributor: By Oliver Melnick for New Anti-Semitism)

For prayer: Pray for Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu. This is a precarious and vulnerable time in the Middle East. No major American newspaper has given a positive report on the Prime Minister’s re-election. Give thanks that Christians around the world believe he is the right man for his job at this time. Pray for Israel and for Mr. Netanyahu’s safety. Pray that the U.S. will support Israel against acts of aggression and not forsake the friendly relationship we have had since 1948. Pray for Israel and Mr. Netanyahu to recognize their Messiah in Jesus Christ.

“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)

“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)

 

MCCAIN: CONGRESS COULD DEFUND UN IF U.S. BACKS PALESTINE BID

U.S. Senator John McCain on Sunday accused President Barack Obama of putting personal grievances with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in front of pressing geopolitical concerns in the Middle East.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” McCain said that the president should “get over” his “temper tantrum” following Netanyahu’s election victory on Tuesday.

In a restive interview Saturday, Obama had suggested that Israel’s democracy may “erode” following contentious statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of Tuesday’s election. His comments came amid a nadir in ties between the two leaders over the right approach to tackling Iran’s nuclear program and the Israeli leader’s controversial speech before Congress earlier this month.

Responding to signals from the White House that the U.S. could stop using its United Nations Security Council veto power to quash unilateral resolutions in support of Palestinian statehood, McCain, chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, warned Obama against such a move.

He said that if the U.S. acquiesced to a UN resolution calling for a Palestinian state, and if it were approved at the UN, “the United States Congress would have to examine our funding for the United Nations.” Washington is the single biggest funder of the international body, but current legislation permits defunding of any UN body that recognizes Palestinian statehood.

“It would be a violation because of the president’s anger over a statement by the prime minister of Israel,” McCain explained. “It would contradict American policy for the last at least 10 presidents of the United States.”

For years, the U.S. has rejected attempts to dictate the terms of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians through the UN, arguing that the only path to an effective settlement of the conflict is through a two-state solution reached by direct negotiations between the parties.

In the run-up to the Israeli elections, Netanyahu made statements saying that no Palestinian state would be established during his premiership. But in post-election interviews, the prime minister emphasized that the seeming improbability of reaching a two-state solution was not shaped by Netanyahu’s unwillingness, but due to the almost year-old alliance between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority as well as the increasing instability of the region.

McCain agreed with Netanyahu’s assessment that regional instability should be at the center of American geopolitical considerations.

“It’s time that we work together with our Israeli friends and try to stem this tide of [Islamic State] and Iranian movement throughout the region, which is threatening the very fabric of the region,” McCain said.

“The president has his priorities so screwed up that it’s unbelievable,” he claimed. “The least of your problems are what Bibi Netanyahu said in a political campaign. It pales in significance to the situation which continues to erode throughout the Middle East and it puts America at risk.”

Speaking after McCain, Jewish Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) rejected the senator’s statements about Obama, although he didn’t get behind the White House’s pugilistic stance toward Netanyahu.

Asked about McCain’s accusations that Obama was “throwing a temper tantrum,” Israel responded “I don’t think its helpful for that strategic asset for people to reduce the relationship between Israel and the United States to a political football.”

Downplaying the tensions with the administration as indicative of a turn in U.S.-Israel relations, Israel said that “Netanyahu has said – and I agree with him – that Israel’s most important strategic asset is bipartisan support in the Congress.”

Israel, who was one of the Democratic legislators who escorted Netanyahu to the House floor as he prepared to deliver a speech challenging the administration’s position in talks with Iran, noted that he had previously publicly disagreed with the Obama administration over a number of Israel-related concerns. Still, he argued, “everybody needs to take a deep breath and step back.”

“There’s the personality and then there’s the policy,” Israel explained, referring to the well-documented acrimony between Netanyahu and Obama. “But what counts is the substance, and on the substance the relationship between the U.S. and Israel has never been closer on military, strategic and intelligence issues.”

Israel was markedly less conciliatory, however, in discussing a very public war of words in recent days between himself and Rep. Steve King (R-IA).

Speaking Friday on Boston Herald Radio, King had said that he “didn’t understand how Jews in America can be Democrats first and Jewish second and support Israel along the line of just following their president.”

Israel told CNN Sunday that “I really do not need a lessons from people like Steve King on what it is to be Jewish or a Democrat.”

“I haven’t seen Steve King at the hearings to fund the Iron Dome or the Arrow system,” Israel continued, referring to two joint US-Israel defense projects that are largely funded through Congressional appropriations. “Steve King, who said America is a Christian nation, should not be lecturing Jews about how we should be Jewish.” (Contributor: Rebecca Shimoni for Times of Israel)

For prayer: It is no secret that President Obama dislikes Prime Minister Netanyahu intensely. Our president appears to be unaware of the importance of our country’s history with Israel and the vital necessity of keeping that intact. Pray that God will open his eyes to the importance of supporting Israel and the danger of siding with Iran, which hates both Israel and the United States. God’s purpose for Israel is not yet fulfilled. Please pray into this impasse with so much at stake.

“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’ For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he.” (Jer. 31:10-11)

“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)

 

OBAMA'S ROLE IN ISRAELI ELECTIONS WAS LARGER THAN REPORTED

President Obama's role during the Israeli elections was larger than reported, according to a pollster for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party.

"What was not well reported in the American media is that President Obama and his allies were playing in the election to defeat Prime Minister Netanyahu," John McLaughlin, a Republican strategist, said in an interview on John Catsimatidis's "The Cats Roundtable" radio show broadcast Sunday on AM 970 in New York.

"There was money moving that included taxpayer U.S. dollars, through non-profit organizations. And there were various liberal groups in the United States that were raising millions to fund a campaign called V15 against Prime Minister Netanyahu," McLaughlin said.

He noted an effort to oust Netanyahu was guided by former Obama political operative Jeremy Bird and that V15, or Victory 15, ads hurt Netanyahu in the polls. McLaughlin said the Israeli leader rebounded after delivering a speech to Congress early this month, prompting more critical ads.

V15 was viewed as part of a broader campaign to oust Netanyahu. The group was linked to Washington-based nonprofit OneVoice Movement, which reportedly received $350,000 in State Department grants. Money to OneVoice stopped flowing in November, officials said, before the Israeli elections.

After Netanyahu's win, V15 co-founder Nimrod Dweck said in an interview with Ronan Farrow aired on MSNBC's "Jose Diaz-Balart" that "not a single cent" of State Department or taxpayer money had gone to their campaign.

"These are false allegations and they have nothing to do with reality," Dweck said.

McLaughlin also cited an effort "to organize the [Israeli] Arabs into one party and teach them about voter turnout."

"The State Department people in the end of January, early February, expedited visas for [Israeli] Arab leaders to come to the United States to learn how to vote," McLaughlin said.

"There were people in the United States that were organizing them to vote in one party so they would help the left-of-center candidate, Herzog, that the Obama administration favored," he added.

Already tense relations between Obama and Netanyahu escalated this week after Netanyahu's pre-election promise to not allow a Palestinian state. He later backed down after White House criticism, though Obama suggested in an interview released Saturday he wouldn't brush off the comments.

"They were running an ACORN, Obama Organizing for America-type campaign over there with the digital ads, the billboards, the phones. They were targeting Israeli voters," Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) said Saturday on Fox News's "Justice with Judge Jeanine."

"I think the president, Tuesday night, felt like he lost," said Zeldin, who along with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has questioned the Obama administration over OneVoice's funding and nonprofit status. (Contributor: By Jesse Byrnes for The Hill)

 

For prayer: This is more Washington, D.C. scandal that may never get uncovered. Pray that God will reveal truth that our government may be covering up. Ask Him to bring all false dealings to light. If this report is true, President Obama may have violated the law and, more importantly, directly withstood the unfolding purpose of God.

“Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding.” (Prov. 23:23)

“Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone…. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:17-18, 21 NIV)

 

PRESBYTERIANS APPROVE GAY MARRIAGE IN CHURCH CONSTITUTION

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved redefining marriage in the church constitution Tuesday to include a “commitment between two people,” becoming the largest Protestant group to formally recognize gay marriage as Christian and allow same-sex weddings in every congregation.

The new definition was endorsed last year by the church General Assembly, or top legislative body, but required approval from a majority of the denomination’s 171 regional districts, or presbyteries. The critical 86th “yes” vote came Tuesday night from the Presbytery of the Palisades in New Jersey.

After all regional bodies vote and top Presbyterian leaders officially accept the results, the change will take effect June 21. The denomination has nearly 1.8 million members and about 10,000 congregations.

“So many families headed by LGBTQ couples have been waiting for decades to enter this space created for their families within their church communities,” said the Rev. Robin White, a leader of More Light Presbyterians, which advocates for gay acceptance within the church.

So far, 41 presbyteries have rejected the redefinition, which includes a provision that no clergy would be compelled to preside at a gay marriage or host such a ceremony on church property. The vote in one presbytery was tied, according to a tally by the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, a pro-gay group that works to keep Presbyterians united despite theological differences.

Last year, the church had allowed ministers to preside at gay weddings if local church leaders approved in states where the unions were legally recognized. The new wording for the church Book of Order, which authorizes same-sex marriages churchwide, will read, “Marriage involves a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives.”

Church leaders released statements Tuesday urging “mutual forbearance” amid disagreements over the amendment. “We hope that such ‘up/down’ voting does not mark the end, but the continuation of our desire to live in community,” the two top General Assembly officials said.

Between 2011, when the Presbyterian church authorized gay ordination, and 2013, the latest year for which figures are available, 428 of the denomination’s churches left for more conservative denominations or dissolved, though some theological conservatives have remained as they decide how to move forward.

Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee, said the new definition was “an express repudiation of the Bible” and approved “what God does not bless.” Her group has urged Presbyterians to protest by redirecting donations away from the national church until the original marriage definition is restored.

Paul Detterman, national director of The Fellowship Community, a network of theologically conservative Presbyterian churches that have stayed with the denomination, said his organization will “remain faithfully engaged in conversation” with those of different views in the church. He said the Fellowship’s opposition to the amendment is “in no way intended to be anti-gay,” but aims “with humility” to uphold the traditional Bible view of marriage.

Although several Protestant denominations have taken significant steps toward recognizing same-sex relationships, only one other major Christian group has endorsed gay marriage as Christian churchwide.

In 2005, the 1.1 million-member United Church of Christ became the first major Protestant denomination to back same-sex marriage, urging its individual congregations to develop wedding policies “that do not discriminate against couples based on gender.”

The Episcopal Church, which blazed a trail in 2003 by electing the first openly gay Anglican bishop, Gene Robinson, does not have a formal position on gay marriage, but allows bishops to decide whether their priests can officiate at the ceremonies. Episcopalians will take up gay marriage at a national meeting in June.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which eliminated barriers to gay ordination in 2009, takes a similar approach, allowing some discretion by clergy and congregations to officiate at same-sex ceremonies without formally recognizing same-sex marriage as a denomination.

The United Methodist Church, the second-largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., bars “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from ordination and prohibits gay weddings. Many Methodist clergy have been performing gay marriages as a protest of church policy.

The Rev. Brian Ellison, executive director of Covenant Network of Presbyterians, said he recognized “there will be significant disagreement among thoughtful faithful people” about the new marriage definition. “We’re very committed to helping the church continue working through this issue,” he said. (Contributor: By Rachel Zoll for The Washington Times)

For prayer: There is little to say here. After teetering for decades on the edge of increasingly liberal and anti-biblical doctrine and practice, the once-orthodox and spiritually mighty Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has left its deeply rooted biblical Christian faith and doctrine for the slippery slope of “anything goes” and “God wants me to be happy.” History shows that there is almost never a turning back. Pray for the faithful pastors and members who must now decide whether to stay or leave. Such decisions are never easy.

“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)

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

 

EPA ‘BURNING THE CONSTITUTION’ WITH CARBON, HARVARD SCHOLAR SAYS

As President Obama forges ahead in his fight against climate change, a leading Harvard Law School scholar says a central piece of the president’s strategy is akin to “burning the Constitution” merely to advance an environmental agenda.

In testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday, Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence H. Tribe said the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants is built on a shaky legal foundation. The proposal, Mr. Tribe argues, far exceeds EPA’s authority under federal law and strikes a blow to the 10th Amendment by essentially making states subservient to Washington on energy and environmental matters.

Mr. Tribe’s testimony — with which other legal scholars strongly disagreed during Tuesday’s hearing — comes about a month before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in a case that challenges EPA’s so-called “Clean Power Plan,” which would limit pollution from both new and existing power plants and is designed to reduce coal use across the country.

Critics long have argued the proposal, which will be finalized this summer, would cost thousands of jobs and drive up electricity prices for consumers. But Mr. Tribe and others believe there are deeper problems with the looming regulations.

“EPA’s proposal raises grave constitutional questions, exceeds EPA’s statutory authority and violates the Clean Air Act,” said Mr. Tribe, who has argued before the Supreme Court dozens of times and represented Al Gore in the case that ultimately decided the 2000 presidential election.

“EPA is attempting an unconstitutional trifecta — usurping the prerogatives of the states, the Congress and the federal courts all at once,” he continued. “Burning the Constitution of the United States … cannot be a part of our national energy policy.”

The White House, many Democrats in Congress and environmental activists believe the EPA plan is a necessary component in a larger effort to stop climate change. EPA officials also have said they intend to finalize the proposal before Mr. Obama leaves office in 2017, making it much more difficult for the next president to unwind the regulations.

But there are a host of legal questions underneath the EPA’s proposal, and many scholars expect it ultimately will end up before the Supreme Court.

One of the most important questions deals with the agency claiming new authority under the federal Clean Air Act to limit emissions from power plants even though it already restricts “hazardous air pollutants” under a separate portion of the law.

The D.C. court will hear arguments on that question next month in a case brought by Ohio-based Murray Energy. But given that the Murray lawsuit centers on a draft version of the rule and not the final regulations, it’s possible the court could toss the case.

Critics also say the EPA is weakening states’ rights by requiring them to pursue unrealistic and ultimately unattainable greenhouse gas emissions rates. The EPA claims it is giving states a great deal of flexibility in figuring out how to meet emissions standards, but opponents of the plan say the standards themselves cannot be met and the supposed flexibility is an illusion.

If states do not devise their own plans to lower emissions, the federal government would impose its own rules.

The requirements almost surely would require states to take steps beyond simply limiting emissions, such as using more renewable power. Opponents say the EPA does not have the authority to regulate “beyond the fence” of the power-generation facilities.

Some Democrats on Tuesday seemed unphased by the potential legal pitfalls.

“You can get constitutional lawyers and professors to say anything on both sides,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., New Jersey Democrat.

Indeed, other legal scholars who testified at Tuesday’s hearing shrugged off Mr. Tribe’s warnings and said the EPA merely is taking the next step in the effort to protect the air Americans breathe.

“The Clean Power Plan does not give rise to any constitutional problems,” Richard L. Revesz, a professor of law and director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law, told the House panel. (Contributor: By Ben Wolfgang for The Washington Times)

For prayer: Pray that ideology will not overcome common sense. Science and “Nature” do not contradict each other when studied and applied with the honest motives to serve people. When so-called science is for sale, then distortions of truth lead to self-serving conclusions. Pray for a national return to the Lord. A nation that honors God as Creator and Sustainer of life will know His protection.

“As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.” (Ps. 103:13-18)

 

 

WHITE CHRISTIANS ARE NOW A MINORITY IN 19 US STATES

White Christian men have long been the primary movers and shakers in American politics and culture. All 43 U.S. presidents, with the exception of Barack Obama–who was born to a white mother and a black father–were white Christians.

However, the American landscape is changing. White Christians, once the majority virtually everywhere in the United States, are now a minority in 19 states, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.

The PRRI’s survey defines “white Christian” as evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Christians who describe themselves as “white, non-Hispanic.”

The survey also found that the United States is no longer a majority Protestant nation. In 2014, only 47 percent of Americans identified as Protestant.

“There’s more people who were raised Protestant [who are] now unaffiliated, and you combine that with the ethnic shifts, and that gives you this decline in Protestants across the country,” said Robert P. Jones, CEO of the PRRI.

Those ethnic shifts include the rising number of non-white Catholics; American Catholicism is becoming increasingly Hispanic, and evangelicals are seeing more non-white churchgoers.

While 76 percent of Americans continue to identify with the Christian faith, there is a growing population of non-Christian and non-Jewish religions. Five percent of the country is either Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or some other religion.

“Going toward the future, the kind of 1950s way of thinking about America as Protestant, Catholic and Jewish is really no longer going to be sufficient,” said Jones. “It really is a much more complex landscape.”

Adding to that complexity is the rising number of Americans who describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated. There’s a so-called “unchurch belt” stretching from up in the Pacific Northwest and into Alaska, Oregon, and Washington State. There are so many people don’t identify with a particular religion that “religiously unaffiliated” is the largest religious group in 13 states, including Vermont and New Hampshire.

It is this rising number of religiously unaffiliated Americans that can be expected to flex its muscle in the coming years. While much of the the political debate in the 1980s and 1990s involved the religious versus the non-religious, that might be about to change.

“I think we’re going to see the fault lines shifting a little bit differently so that we have the religiously unaffiliated really weighing in,” said Jones. “This very large group of religiously unaffiliated Americans, I think, has the real potential to change the equation in terms of politics, in terms of culture, and I think we’re just beginning to see that impact.”

According to PRRI, it derived its information from 50,000 annual telephone interviews. The findings are available in an online tool The American Values Atlas.

States Where White Christians Are No Longer The Majority
(Percentages of white Christians in each state)

  1. Hawaii – 20%
    2. California – 25%
    3. New Mexico – 33%
    4. Nevada – 36%
    5. New York – 37%
    6. Alaska – 37%
    7. Texas – 37%
    8. Maryland – 38%
    9. Arizona – 38%
    10. Washington – 42%
    11. Florida – 42%
    12. Oregon – 43%
    13. New Jersey – 43%
    14. Colorado – 44%
    15. Illinois – 46%
    16. Georgia – 46%
    17. Vermont – 47%
    18. Delaware – 48%
    19. Louisiana – 49% (Contributor: By Dora Hasan Mekouar for Voice of America)

For prayer: The issue here is not how white or black or brown the population is but whether those who make up what we once called the American “melting pot” (or mixture of races and ethnic backgrounds) have come to America legally and with honest intentions. Pray for a return to the spiritual and moral issues that made our country great. Pray that our ideals to be a God-fearing and God-honoring nation will be restored through widespread revival.

 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us…” (Acts 17:24-27)

GOOGLE: RECOGNIZES A FACE OUT OF 260 MILLION

New advances in facial recognition are a step forward for an artificial intelligence technique called deep learning.

“I never forget a face,” some people like to boast. It’s a claim that looks quainter by the day as artificial intelligence research continues to advance. Some computers, it turns out, never forget 260 million faces.

Last week, a trio of Google researchers published a paper on a new artificial intelligence system dubbed FaceNet that it claims represents the most-accurate approach yet to recognizing human faces. FaceNet achieved nearly 100-percent accuracy on a popular facial-recognition dataset called Labeled Faces in the Wild, which includes more than 13,000 pictures of faces from across the web. Trained on a massive 260-million-image dataset, FaceNet performed with better than 86 percent accuracy.

Researchers benchmarking their facial-recognition systems against Labeled Faces in the Wild are testing for what they call “verification.” Essentially, they’re measuring how good the algorithms are at determining whether two images are of the same person.

In December, a team of Chinese researchers also claimed better than 99 percent accuracy on the dataset. Last year, Facebook researchers published a paper boasting better than 97 percent accuracy. The Facebook paper points to researchers claiming that humans analyzing images in the Labeled Faces dataset only achieve 97.5 percent accuracy.

However, the approach Google’s researchers took goes beyond simply verifying whether two faces are the same. Its system can also put a name to a face—classic facial recognition—and even present collections of faces that look the most similar or the most distinct.

This is all just research, but it points to a near future where the types of crime-fighting, or surveillance-enhancing, computers we often see on network television and blockbuster movies will be much more attainable. Or perhaps a world where online dating is even simpler (and shallower) than swiping left or right on Tinder.

Have a thing for Brad Pitt circa 1998? Here are the 500 profiles that look the most like him.

At first we’ll see systems like Google’s FaceNet and Facebook’s aforementioned system (dubbed “DeepFace”) make their way onto those company’s web platforms. They will make it easier, or more automatic, for users to tag photos and search for people, because the algorithms will know who’s in a picture even when they’re not labeled. These types of systems will also make it easier for web companies to analyze their users’ social networks and to assess global trends and celebrity popularity based on who’s appearing in pictures.

Though Google and Facebook’s advances in facial recognition are relatively new, computer systems like this can be found all around us today. They incorporate an artificial intelligence technique called deep learning, which has proven remarkably effective at so-called machine perception tasks such as recognizing objects (by some metrics, machines are now better at this than are people), recognizing voices, and understanding the content of written text.

Aside from Google and Facebook, companies including Microsoft, Baidu, and Yahoo are also investing heavily in deep learning research. The algorithms already power everyday features such as voice control on smartphones, Skype Translate, predictive text-messaging applications, and advanced image-searching. (If you have images uploaded to a Google+ account, go ahead and search them for specific objects.) Spotify and Netflix are investigating deep learning to power smarter media recommendations. PayPal is using it to fight fraud.

There are also several technology startups using deep learning to analyze medical images in real time, and to provide capabilities such as text analysis, computer vision, and voice recognition as cloud computing services. Twitter, Pinterest, Dropbox, Yahoo, and Google have all acquired deep learning startups in recent years. And IBM just bought a Denver-based startup called AlchemyAPI to help make its Watson system smarter and bolster its new Bluemix cloud platform. (The idea: Developers can easily connect mobile and web applications to cloud services and therefore build smart applications without ever studying the complex computer science that underpins artificial intelligence.)

That’s not all. As consumer robots, driverless cars and smart homes become real, deep learning will be there, too, providing the eyes, ears, and some of the brains for our new toys. DARPA, the U.S. Department of Defense’s research agency, is also investigating how deep learning techniques might be able to help it make sense of the streams of communications crossing intelligence networks everyday.

Something tells me it’s looking at Google’s FaceNet and getting pretty excited, too. (Contributor: By Derrick Harris for Fortune - Derrick Harris is a freelance writer.)

For prayer: As readers of these midweek alerts know, some articles are for immediate prayer, while others are to help us be aware of trends to watch. Artificial Intelligence technology marches on and will only become more intrusive. Will it be mankind’s servant or our master? Applications that override privacy might also detect planned criminal activity before it starts. Social media have opened windows to share our lives with others; in doing so, we will sacrifice more and more personal privacy. Pray that men and women will recognize God as the Ultimate Intelligence, the One who sees and knows all things, including the secrets of the heart.

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)

 

NASA: CALIFORNIA HAS ONE YEAR OF WATER LEFT

Plagued by prolonged drought, California now has only enough water to get it through the next year, according to NASA.

In an op-ed published Thursday by the Los Angeles Times, Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, painted a dire picture of the state's water crisis. California, he writes, has lost around 12 million acre-feet of stored water every year since 2011. In the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins, the combined water sources of snow, rivers, reservoirs, soil water and groundwater amounted to a volume that was 34 million acre-feet below normal levels in 2014. And there is no relief in sight.

"As our 'wet' season draws to a close, it is clear that the paltry rain and snowfall have done almost nothing to alleviate epic drought conditions. January was the driest in California since record-keeping began in 1895. Groundwater and snowpack levels are at all-time lows" Famiglietti writes. "We're not just up a creek without a paddle in California, we're losing the creek too."

Last Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that one-third of the monitoring stations in California’s Cascades and Sierra Nevada mountains have recorded the lowest snowpack ever measured.

"Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing,” Famiglietti writes.

He criticized Californian officials for their lack of long-term planning for how to cope with this drought, and future droughts, beyond "staying in emergency mode and praying for rain."

Last month, new research by scientists at NASA, Cornell University and Columbia University pointed to a "remarkably drier future" for California and other Western states amid a rapidly-changing climate. "Megadroughts," the study's authors wrote, are likely to begin between 2050 and 2099, and could each last between 10 years and several decades.

With that future in mind, Famiglietti says, "immediate mandatory water rationing" should be implemented in the state, accompanied by the swift formation of regulatory agencies to rigorously monitor groundwater and ensure that it is being used in a sustainable way—as opposed to the "excessive and unsustainable" groundwater extraction for agriculture that, he says, is partly responsible for massive groundwater losses that are causing land in the highly irrigated Central Valley to sink by one foot or more every year.

Various local ordinances have curtailed excessive water use for activities like filling fountains and irrigating lawns. But planning for California's "harrowing future" of more and longer droughts "will require major changes in policy and infrastructure that could take decades to identify and act upon," Famiglietti writes. "Today, not tomorrow, is the time to begin." (Contributor: By Zoë Schlanger for Newsweek)

For prayer: We have commented on the California drought in past alerts. Should intercessors look at biblical precedents? Is God seeking our attention to urge America toward nationwide repentance? Note below how 2 Chron. 7:14 reads when we add verses 12 and 13, where the Lord personally visits Solomon to answer his question from chapter 6. We do not claim a direct parallel between Israel and the U.S., but God’s nature and character are the same. Read the larger context (below) and pray as led. Remember, the California issue as actually a national issue. How would our nation’s founders have prayed? How would we pray in a time of revival? How shall we pray today?

[Solomon’s supplication:] “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because [Your people] have sinned against You, when they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin because You afflict them, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your servants, Your people Israel, that You may teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on Your land which You have given to Your people as an inheritance.” (2 Chron 6:26-27)

[God answers:] “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)

 

‘I AM A CHRISTIAN’ AD BLOCKED ON FACEBOOK FOR OFFENSIVE SPEECH

Facebook has blocked an advertisement for the upcoming independent film “I am a Christian,” citing marketing rules against ads that use offensive speech, producers said Wednesday.

Producers of film, set to star Fox News contributor Stacey Dash and “Hercules” star Kevin Sorbo, are attempting to raise $500,000 in production costs online. The film will tell the story of Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman who refused to recant her Christian faith in the face of a death sentence, The Daily Caller reported.

The production company Christian Lives Matter, which so far has only raised $2,400 for the film, says Facebook rejected a promotional ad that asked users to proudly declare their Christian faith.

“Are you a Christian?” the ad asks. “We challenge you to change your profile picture to this ‘I Am A Christian’ photo for one week! Change your picture now, and challenge your friends to do the same. Stand up and declare Yes, I Am A Christian!!!”

One of the film’s producers told The Daily Caller in an interview that he was “shocked” to learn Facebook rejected the seemingly harmless ad.

“Your ad wasn’t approved because it doesn’t follow Facebook’s Advertising Guidelines for language that is profane, vulgar, threatening or generates high negative feedback,” Facebook reportedly wrote to producers of the film. “Ads can’t use language that insults, harasses or demeans people, or addresses their age, gender, name, race, physical condition or sexual preference.”

“Your ad wasn’t approved because it doesn’t follow our language policies,” Frank of the Facebook Ads Team explained further, The Daily Caller reported. “We’ve found that people dislike ads that directly address them or their personal characteristics such as religion.”

“Ads should not single out individuals or degrade people. We don’t accept language like ‘Are you fat?’ ‘Wanna join me?’ and the like. Instead, text must present realistic and accurate information in a neutral or positive way and should not have any direct attribution to people,” Frank wrote.

Though it was rejected as an official ad on Facebook, the decision hasn’t appeared to stop the production group from posting it as a photo on their official movie page.

Ms. Ibrahim and her family have previously spoken out against ‘I Am a Christian’ — the title of which is taken from her words when she was asked to deny her faith — for being made without her consent, Christian Today reported. (Contributor: By Jessica Chasmar for The Washington Times)

For prayer: It appears there are two issues here. The first is Facebook’s position that to declare oneself a Christian constitutes offensive speech. That sounds discriminatory, though there is little the Christian community can do about it without endless lawsuits. The second is the resistance of Miriam Ibrahim and her family who are allegedly against the film, which is being made without her consent. We will not ignore the story, nor will we seek to make it bigger than it is. Pray as you are led.

“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. 5:11-12)

 

AMAZON GETS EXPERIMENTAL AIRWORTHINESS CERTIFICATE

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an experimental airworthiness certificate to an Amazon Logistics, Inc. unmanned aircraft (UAS) design that the company will use for research and development and crew training. The FAA typically issues experimental certificates to manufacturers and technology developers to operate a UAS that does not have a type certificate.

Under the provisions of the certificate, all flight operations must be conducted at 400 feet or below during daylight hours in visual meteorological conditions. The UAS must always remain within visual line-of-sight of the pilot and observer. The pilot actually flying the aircraft must have at least a private pilot’s certificate and current medical certification.

The certificate also requires Amazon to provide monthly data to the FAA. The company must report the number of flights conducted, pilot duty time per flight, unusual hardware or software malfunctions, any deviations from air traffic controllers’ instructions, and any unintended loss of communication links. The FAA includes these reporting requirements in all UAS experimental airworthiness certificates. (Contributor: FAA)

For prayer: This story is precursor to Amazon’s ultimate plan to use drone aircraft to deliver smaller, lighter packages. It is a wave of the future but is too new to be certified as completely safe. (Imagine dozens of radio-controlled model aircraft buzzing around your neighborhood at a height less than 400 feet above you.) The best prayer focus is for safety and careful regulation.

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

“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.” (Ps. 146:3)

 

EMPOWERING FOR TRANSFORMATION CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS

Hosted by Intercessors For America and held at Evergreen United Methodist Church in Leesburg, Virginia on March 6-7, 2015.

Snow-covered roads throughout the northeast the night before didn't stop participants from five different states from attending IFA's two-day conference with featured speakers, Alistair Petrie and Doug Abner.

Alistair Petrie of Partnership Ministries shared principles of revival, transformation, and spiritual awakening. His insightful teaching from Scripture illuminated truth in a new way as he shared out of biblical scholarship coupled with prophetic insight into the work and move of the Holy Spirit in our time. He spoke with conviction and clarity about the signs of the times and our need to rightly interpret the headlines from a spiritual perspective. The depth of scriptural teaching and personal application impacted and challenged many, reminding us of the "householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old," referenced in Matthew 13:52. He said his passion is revival. And as he has visited and researched many historical revival sites, he shared significant insights.

Doug Abner of the Appalachian Center for Transformation partnered with Alistair throughout the weekend, sharing the practical application of these truths and principles. His community experienced a supernatural move of God starting in 2004 in Manchester, Kentucky. His down-to-earth experiences, powerful testimonies, and humorous perspective on these processes were refreshing and applicable. Together, he and Alistair inspired and challenged the leaders to look deeper into the workings of the Holy Spirit in our communities and nation and to consider the long-term goals and implications of spiritual awakening and revival.

Several comments were shared by conference participants:

I thought the conference was great! The balance between building the spiritual framework and presenting the practical outworking was amazing. This was a great encouragement to continue pressing into the heart of God for visitation. (Lyman Eddy)

I think the most significant concept I heard about was not going into an area, praying, and leaving. You need to stay and follow through. (Tracey de Blank)

Personally I was enriched by the teachings that Alistair Petrie shared; he's a remarkable teacher. Through it, the Lord challenged me, confirmed things, and inspired me. What a treat Mr. Doug Abner was to the overall experience. The contrast between the two speakers was captivating, yet the joint labor was indeed a powerful demonstration of the Kingdom. His personal stories of his experience of transforming revival were deeply stirring and inspiring. Thank you for hosting them and making this possible in our region. I hope there will be future events hosted by IFA. (Brian F. Hume)

The primary voice I heard from this weekend was it's time to reengage. From both of our speakers this weekend, I felt called to engage with the Lord for personal and city transformation. (Bobby Alger)

I was impacted by the hope that God CAN and WANTS to transform our communities. Doug's time speaking was inspirational. Knowing that my community's transformation story will not look like someone else's brings freedom to pursue what we see God unfolding for us without having to fit into a prescribed set of actions. It is not a formula. We just need to seek God's presence and repent and seek to right the wrongs we have made against God in our lives and community. (Kris Kubal)

We really enjoyed the conference and I have had a great time going over my notes to pull out the "must do" first items...I feel there was ministry going on at many levels simultaneously. (Joan Randell)

Want to hear these messages? You can!

Audio CDs of the entire conference are now available from the IFA Bookstore <Click Here!>.

Hear a sample 5-minute audio clip of Alistair teaching at the conference <Click Here!>

For prayer: IFA staff members attended this conference and found it edifying and visionary. Join us in giving thanks for the vision-casting that took place in the hearts and minds of the participants. Pray that the seeds sown will produce a deep spirit of intercession and anticipation in preparation for widespread revival. This is what the Church and our nation desperately need.

“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)

On Watch in Washington March 25, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

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On Watch in Washington March 18, 2015

On Watch in Washington March 18, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

AUDIO CLIP OF THE WEEK! <Click Here!>

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)

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On Watch in Washington February 25, 2015

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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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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.”

View Fox News Video

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

On Watch in Washington December 3, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

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, June 2015

 
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This month's issue: How Do We Unite a City? 
 
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