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Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
The Informer Ocotober 14, 2015

On Watch in Washington October 14, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

AFTER THE NEWS CREWS LEAVE, GOD REMAINS

TV news vans with telescoping satellite antennas have converged on the town of Roseburg, Ore. They huddle in parking lots surrounding Umpqua Community College, where a shooter stole the lives of nine students and teachers. For the next few days, reporters will document local folks recounting the horror, crying, remembering, and even staring like deer into the headlight of national news coverage.

Then, one day, the antennas will zip back down into the roofs of the vans. And as fast as they came, the reporters will be gone. The pain, however, will not go with them. And the little town will be left with a gaping void — not only from the absence of the national news but also from the deafening absence of irretrievable life.

I know this because two years ago I was the townspeople. The town had a different name — Prescott, Ariz. But we had a similar rural demographic and a similar story of tragic death — the loss of 19 firefighters overtaken by a wildfire. How odd it felt when the last news truck left.

What becomes of these communities, after they have left the national spotlight? Their grieving process stunted by bright lights and once-in-a-lifetime attention, how do these towns resume life or discover their new normal, once the TV vans leave?

The answer to how people get along for the months and years following a national tragedy lies deeper than the generic community. The answer lies in the individual people — the woven threads and strands who make up the weave that we call community.

Seven years ago, I left a journalism career to become a Christian minister. I moved from documenting the funeral procession to leading it, from observer of grief to participant among the grievers. In this role, I have learned that there is no easy answer to give to a heartbroken mother or a mourning husband. There is no single sentence that can soothe the sting of death, injustice, lost life and suffering.

And yet, I have seen — time and again — that there are paragraphs and ideas that do soothe the sting of death for many. Some thoughts — gripped by the soul and held as belief — do give stability, peace and hope in the midst of unthinkable, horrific pain.

Nationally, we are lamenting that this same senseless shooting keeps recurring across this country. It seems that only the names of the locations, victims and killers change from month to month, week to week.

And yet, I have seen — behind the scenes and long after the TV news vans leave — another recurring narrative. A more positive recurring story of hope, humanity, unity and rebuilding.

This positive narrative remains consistent in the empty wake, the churning months and years that follow a national tragedy. I have witnessed it, as a reporter, in the parents of drowned children, in the husband whose wife died, in the activist who fought for immigrants dehydrating in the Arizona desert.

I've seen this positive recurring story. In the moments of crisis when humans should most likely curse God and turn from any belief in a creator, many humans embrace their God and renew their spiritual beliefs.

More than ritual or obligation, I have seen souls anchor themselves.

Survivors from Umpqua Community College report that the shooter systematically targeted Christians for immediate murder. We don’t yet know why people of Christian faith were singled out for murder.

But the families of these murdered Christians, if they are anything like the believers I have met in the wake of other tragedies, will support each other, make meals for the hurting and knit tighter into their faith. They will mourn, but “not as those who have no hope.”

The surviving families of Christian victims will find solace in their belief that God transports all who cry out to Him into a place where there is no pain or injustice.

People far from a tragedy ask questions like: Where is God in the pain and suffering?
But I rarely hear that question in the huddle of crying of widows, sobbing dads and embracing friends. The people most broken down discover these Scriptures to be true.

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted" and "The Lord upholds all who are broken down" (Psalm 34:18, Psalm 145:14).

Survivors of the tragedies I have reported on and ministered through have this in common. Many whose lives are most held together and stable credit a divine helper who hears their cries for help. Who answers. And who never leaves town. (Contributor: By John Dickerson for USA Today)

Americans are still in shock by this report of wanton murders by a hate-crazed stalker out to kill Christians. Little of his possible motivation — religious or otherwise — has been discussed in the news media. Please continue to pray for wounded survivors to recover and for victims’ families to find comfort and solace in God’s love.

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

 

PRAYER ALERT FOR ISRAEL - AT WAR FROM WITHIN

Israel is at war from within. I trust you are all following the news and if you are not there are plenty of sources you can go to: www.jpost.comwww.timesofIsrael.comwww.ynetnews.com. I am not going to repeat what you can find through those 3 sources.

What is happening is not a result of no diplomatic solution to the Israel/Palestinian problem, it is not a result of poverty amongst the Arabs living in Judea and Samaria. This is a religious war fomented by Mahmoud Abbas (the head of the Palestinian Authority) and Hamas in Gaza. Its focal point is the Temple Mount and the lies that are being spoken to the Muslim Arabs of Israel.

The basis of these lies is their unwillingness to even acknowledge that the House of God once stood on the same mount where the abomination of Al Aqsa mosque now sits.

And the Lord said to him: "I have heard your prayer and your supplication that you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. 1 Kings 9:3

Israel has been falsely accused of changing the “status quo” on the Temple Mount and preparing to allow Jews to pray there. Without getting into the right or wrong of this, there is no truth to this accusation.

However Abbas in an address on Palestinian TV said last month: “Al Aqsa Mosque is ours. They [Jews] have no right to defile it with their filthy feet.” And: “We bless every drop of blood spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah.”

This was a clear call to the Muslims of both Judea and Samaria and in the rest of Israel, to attack Jews and to become “martyrs.”

This past Friday a televised Muslim preacher in Gaza held up a large knife and encouraged the Arabs of Israel to not only kill with their knives but to also rub poison on the blades to make them even more lethal.

There is a spirit of fear amongst the Jewish People in Israel, especially in Jerusalem and great pressure on the government to “do something” though it is not at all clear what can be done that is not already being done.

As this is a spiritual rebellion we are well placed to use our spiritual weapon of prayer to deal with the situation. This is a time for intercession, not spiritual warfare in binding the Principality of Islam - though we can appeal to the Lord to do that as He surely will when the time is right.

Pray for the people of Israel to be protected from the infectious “spirit of fear” and that in their distress that they will “look up” and cry out to the God of Israel who will reveal to them their King and Messiah.

Ask the Lord to reveal His tactics for dealing with this wave of terrorism. If the Lord can speak through a donkey He can certainly get the attention of the Prime Minister or anyone else in the Israeli security cabinet or the security services.

Pray for the government that when they understand what they need to do they will not compromise because of what the nations might say.

The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. Proverbs 29:25

In the midst of this murderous wave of terror much of the western news media is grossly misrepresenting what is going on here. This was a recent headline in a newspaper: “Two Palestinian Teenagers Shot by Israeli Police.” The reality was that they had just stabbed 4 Jewish men but you didn’t find that out until later in the article. The clear lie is that Jews are killing Arabs for no good reason instead of the truth that they are stopping terrorists.

Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Isaiah 59:14

Pray that many in the Church who do not have a revelation of Israel would realize that the world not only lies about Israel but also hates her. That this would cause them to seek the Lord for His truth about Israel.

For the Intercessors For Israel Team -

Israel is at war from within. I trust you are all following the news and if you are not there are plenty of sources you can go to: www.jpost.comwww.timesofIsrael.comwww.ynetnews.com. I am not going to repeat what you can find through those 3 sources.

What is happening is not a result of no diplomatic solution to the Israel/Palestinian problem, it is not a result of poverty amongst the Arabs living in Judea and Samaria. This is a religious war fomented by Mahmoud Abbas (the head of the Palestinian Authority) and Hamas in Gaza. Its focal point is the Temple Mount and the lies that are being spoken to the Muslim Arabs of Israel.

The basis of these lies is their unwillingness to even acknowledge that the House of God once stood on the same mount where the abomination of Al Aqsa mosque now sits.

And the Lord said to him: "I have heard your prayer and your supplication that you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. 1 Kings 9:3

Israel has been falsely accused of changing the “status quo” on the Temple Mount and preparing to allow Jews to pray there. Without getting into the right or wrong of this, there is no truth to this accusation.

However Abbas in an address on Palestinian TV said last month: “Al Aqsa Mosque is ours. They [Jews] have no right to defile it with their filthy feet.” And: “We bless every drop of blood spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah.”

This was a clear call to the Muslims of both Judea and Samaria and in the rest of Israel, to attack Jews and to become “martyrs.”

This past Friday a televised Muslim preacher in Gaza held up a large knife and encouraged the Arabs of Israel to not only kill with their knives but to also rub poison on the blades to make them even more lethal.

There is a spirit of fear amongst the Jewish People in Israel, especially in Jerusalem and great pressure on the government to “do something” though it is not at all clear what can be done that is not already being done.

As this is a spiritual rebellion we are well placed to use our spiritual weapon of prayer to deal with the situation. This is a time for intercession, not spiritual warfare in binding the Principality of Islam - though we can appeal to the Lord to do that as He surely will when the time is right.

Pray for the people of Israel to be protected from the infectious “spirit of fear” and that in their distress that they will “look up” and cry out to the God of Israel who will reveal to them their King and Messiah.

Ask the Lord to reveal His tactics for dealing with this wave of terrorism. If the Lord can speak through a donkey He can certainly get the attention of the Prime Minister or anyone else in the Israeli security cabinet or the security services.

Pray for the government that when they understand what they need to do they will not compromise because of what the nations might say.

The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. Proverbs 29:25

In the midst of this murderous wave of terror much of the western news media is grossly misrepresenting what is going on here. This was a recent headline in a newspaper: “Two Palestinian Teenagers Shot by Israeli Police.” The reality was that they had just stabbed 4 Jewish men but you didn’t find that out until later in the article. The clear lie is that Jews are killing Arabs for no good reason instead of the truth that they are stopping terrorists.

Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Isaiah 59:14

Pray that many in the Church who do not have a revelation of Israel would realize that the world not only lies about Israel but also hates her. That this would cause them to seek the Lord for His truth about Israel.

For the IFI Team - October 13, 2015

Despite some modern Bible interpreters’ assertions that God has discarded Israel and forsaken His covenant promises to His ancient people, the Apostle Paul, writing in the New Testament era, assures his readers in the epistle to the Romans that God has a long-range redemptive plan and that Israel will not be forsaken. Pray for peace in Jerusalem and that Israel will recognize their Messiah in Jesus Christ.
 
Pray for the Israeli government that when they understand what they need to do they will not compromise because of what the nations might say, but do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.
 
“I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.” (Rom 11:1-2)
 

IMF: $3 TRILLION - DEBTORS FACE DAY OF RECKONING

Governments and central banks risk tipping the world into a fresh financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund has warned, as it called time on a corporate debt binge in the developing world.

This cocktail of financial risks is compounded by an environment of anaemic growth. The IMF forecasts global output will fall to its lowest level in five years at just 3.1pc this year.

"Low nominal growth would put pressure on debt-laden sovereign and private balance sheets, raising credit risks," said the report.

"Corporate default rates would rise, particularly in China, raising financial system strains, with implications for growth.

In a bid to manage the transition, the IMF urged authorities to play closer attention to the asset management industry and beef up capital requirements for emerging market banks.

In Europe, EMU authorities should press ahead with their plans for a banking union to plug the architectural gaps that have undermined the future of the single currency.

"What we want to achieve is a successful normalization of financial conditions and monetary policies together with a sustained economic recovery", said Mr Viñals.

"Three percent of global output is at stake". (Contributor: By Mehreen Khan for The Telegraph)

Most of us cannot fathom what “trillions” actually represent, but apparently the world’s private sector debt, as the International Monetary Fund reports, is staggering and on the verge of precipitating a new money crisis. Words such as “collapse” and “destabilization” are being used as a stark warning. Prayer is important, as is government leadership with fiscal responsibility.

“And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth…” (Deut 8:18)   

 

CALIFORNIA FORCES CHRISTIANS TO DISOBEY OWN BELIEFS

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that orders faith-based organizations to refer women to abortionists, even though the same idea was tried in New York and failed.

Brown’s signature on AB 775 already has triggered a series of lawsuits, because it forces religious pregnancy clinics to tell women and girls that California has public programs to provide immediate, free or low-cost abortions.

The Pacific Justice Institute announced Monday the filing of lawsuits in both Southern and Northern California on behalf of clinics.

The organizations provide free medical services and counseling “as an alternative option to abortion to women facing unwanted pregnancies,” the organization said.

“Forcing a religious pro-life charity to proclaim a pro-abortion declaration is on its face an egregious violation of both the free speech and free exercises clauses of the First Amendment,” said Brad Dacus, president of the institute.

“We will not rest until this government mandate is completely halted,” he said.

The complaint argues the law forces Christian medical clinics to issue messages that violate their beliefs.

“The content of the government message memorialized in AB 775 directly contradicts the foundational religious principles upon which A Woman’s Friend operates, as well as the message it conveys to its clients regarding abortion,” the complaint explains. “As a result, A Woman’s Friend is subject to imminent adverse enforcement action against it by defendant.”

The law’s message is: “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including allocating FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at (insert the telephone number).”

It also requires that the message not only be handed out but also posted on the walls of waiting rooms on signs with specified dimensions.

The clinic, A Woman’s Friend, “offers, and will continue to offer, to women and girls a variety of services at its clinic.”

“Said services include medical consultations, pregnancy testing, ultrasound examinations and medical referrals. The plaintiff also provides education related to sexually transmitted diseases and infections, information and abortion procedures, prenatal education, nutrition information and fetal development education.

“They also provide Bible-based post abortion emotional and spiritual healing and recovery courses, and other practical support related to pregnancy,” he said.

It does not, the complaint explains, “counsel girls and women to obtain abortions.”

“A Woman’s Friend holds the biblically based conviction that human life is a precious gift of immeasurable value given by God and that the taking of innocent human life by abortion is evil and a sin.”

The second organization cited in the complaint is the Crisis Pregnancy Center of Northern California, which offers services similar to A Woman’s Friend.

For both, the complaint states: “The requirement that plaintiffs disseminate the state of California’s message for which the clinic disagrees violates its rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, as made applicable to the state through the Fourteenth Amendment. The law mandates speech that plaintiffs would not otherwise make.”

It continues, “At a minimum, the act unconstitutionally compels plaintiffs to speak [a] message that they have not chosen, with which they do not agree, and that distract, and detract from, the messages they have chosen to speak.”

The lawsuit seeks a judgment that the law is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.

“The context of delivering this government message is the center of a public debate over the morality and efficacy of abortion, for which these clinics provide alternatives,” the lawsuit reads.

WND reported the resolution to a similar case in New York.

At the time, constitutional attorney Herbert W. Titus of William J. Olson, P.C. told WND that according to the First Amendment, you “can’t be forced to carry someone else’s message.”

In New York, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said the state could require crisis pregnancy centers to disclose whether they have a licensed medical provider on staff but not whether the center provides abortions or referrals, because that runs afoul of the First Amendment.

The ruling was left untouched by the Supreme Court.

Titus, who has taught constitutional law, common law and other subjects for decades at several universities, said it’s “not the government’s business to force anybody to carry the message of anyone else.”

“That is certainly what’s being done here.”

Thomas Jefferson, he noted, described that very action as “sinful and tyrannical.”

“It’s fairly typical of California, [which is] always on the cutting edge of making us more and more like a fascist country, in which the state determines what we can say and what we can’t say,” Titus told WND.

Titus also has served as a trial attorney and special assistant U.S. attorney with the Department of Justice. He holds degrees from Harvard and the University of Oregon and for several years had his own daily radio program. He has testified on constitutional issues before Congress and state legislatures.

The California bill makes no attempt at accommodation. (Contributor: By Bob Unruh for World Net Daily)

Give thanks for Herbert (“Herb”) Titus, who — among other plaudits — helped develop the now-thriving School of Law at Regent University in Virginia. This California law is typical of that state as Gov. Jerry Brown seeks to overthrow moral law in favor of forcing Christians to deny basic beliefs. Pray for a swift and morally favorable legal response.

“The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Ex 14:14)

IRANIAN-AMERICAN JOURNALIST CONVICTED, IRAN NEWS AGENCY SAYS

A court in Iran has convicted Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, Iran's ISNA news agency said on Sunday, but the U.S. newspaper said Tehran was working a political angle by not disclosing details.

ISNA quoted judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei as saying the California-born Rezaian, the paper's Tehran bureau chief, had 20 days to appeal the verdict. Rezaian was arrested in July 2014. He was accused of espionage.

"He has been convicted. ... But I don't have the details of his verdict," the news agency quoted Ejei as saying.

The case has been a sensitive issue for Washington and Iran, and Sunday's announcement did little to resolve it.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United States was monitoring the case closely. "We continue to call for all charges against Jason to be dropped and for him to be immediately released," Kirby said earlier.

Iran has accused Rezaian, 39, of collecting confidential information and giving it to hostile governments, writing a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama and acting against national security. The Post has dismissed the charges as absurd. The final hearing in his trial was on Aug. 10.

Earlier, Ejei told a televised news conference that a ruling had been issued but did not say that Rezaian was convicted.

Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said that that statement from Tehran was "vague and puzzling," and Post foreign editor Douglas Jehl said the vague nature of that announcement showed Rezaian's case was not just about espionage but that the reporter was a bargaining chip in a "larger game."

"It's increasingly clear that the final decision about how Jason's case will be handled will be made by political authorities, not by judicial ones," Jehl told Reuters.

Rezaian's brother Ali had noted on Friday that his brother had been imprisoned for 444 days - the same length of time that American embassy staff were held after the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

In a statement, he said Sunday's initial announcement "follows an unconscionable pattern by Iranian authorities of silence, obfuscation, delay and a total lack of adherence to international law, as well as Iranian law."

Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani hinted last month at the possibility that Rezaian could be freed in exchange for Iranian prisoners in the United States, but officials have played down the possibility of such a swap.

Two other U.S. citizens - Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant - also are being held in Iran. Robert Levinson, a private investigator, disappeared there in 2007.

Their cases have been raised in subsequent talks, including between Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry when they met during the U.N. General Assembly in New York last month. No progress was announced. (Contributor: By Reuters News Agency - Reporting by Sam Wilkin in Dubai and Bill Trott in Washington; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Howard Goller and Grant McCool)

It is generally conceded, including by many of President Obama’s supporters, that he and Secretary of State Kerry were badly outplayed by Iran in the recent “nuclear deal.” The results have shown the world a strong Iran and a weak U.S. As a result, Iran wants to use Mr. Rezaian and Pastor Saeed Abedini as hostages for “trading.” Intercede for God’s mercy for our own broken nation and for these brave prisoners of an evil empire.

“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them — those who are mistreated — since you yourselves are in the body also.” (Heb 13:3)

ARE WE READY FOR 6,000 PRISONERS TO RETURN HOME BY NOV. 2?

“No.” “No.” “No.”

That is how former inmates and advocates responded to my simple question at a Thursday morning new conference: Are we prepared to receive 6,000 inmates in a historic, four-day federal prisoner release program scheduled to begin Oct. 30?

“No” slid off their tongues frequently and quite easily.

Most of those 6,000 men and women who are in federal prisons will be sent to halfway houses and other such institutions. But not all of them are “returning citizens.” A heads-up to folks who live in a sanctuary city: About one-third of them are noncitizens facing deportation, something else that has made some people nervous Nellies.

But the mere number means we need to rethink how we police ourselves. Instead of thinking community policing, we perhaps should be thinking community crime control.

“The communities, the cities need to able to meet and to sustain the needs of those returning,” explained longtime community activist and no-sayer Tyrone Parker. “They haven’t met or sustained the needs of those already back here. There are no jobs, no housing. We talk to the baggy pants, and we talk to dreadlocks. We even talk to the short skirts. We need to speak to the person inside the person.”

Rhozier Brown, a convicted killer pardoned by President Gerald Ford in 1976, painted a picture of a returning citizen that is rarely understood or represented in the media: A man imprisoned for 42 years comes home and finds his grandma’s home is torn down, a club he frequented is torn down. He looks for a public phone booth and finds they are gone too, and then, penniless, tries to bum a bus transfer only to discover they no longer are in use.

Prisons do not prepare inmates for their transitions home, wherever home may be, and our communities and budgets aren’t preparing them either.

Here are a few facts about what we’ve been dealing with in recent years:

  • With more than 2.3 million inmates being given three hots and a cot, each week more than 10,000 of them are released from prison. The annual total is an estimated 650,000.
  • The cry to the U.S. Sentencing Commission led to an April 2014 vote to reduce sentencing guidelines for many lower-level drug offenders. Then, in July 2014, the commission added to that list prisoners who were serving “unjustly long” sentences for drug offenses.
  • Over the course of the next five years, an estimated 40,000 inmates will be eligible for early release.

Now you get the picture, and Mr. Brown, Mr. Parker and a few dozen other men and women say the time to begin the transition is now.

They say change is hard for a lot of people, and transition is more difficult if you broke the law, paid a price (sometimes twice if it concludes financial restitution) and can’t seem to find your way. But for “returning citizens,” those already “out” and those who will begin making their way to a neighborhood near you, the laws of this great country work against them.

At the press conference called by the National Alliance of Returning Citizens, ex-offenders and advocates laid out an agenda that includes pressing local, state and federal governments to reform public school discipline policies, reinstate voting rights, continue the push to ban the criminal arrest box on job applications and “provide immediate employment and training for returning citizens.”

They also want our governments to do something else: “Utilize current prisoners, and the influence they have in communities, to reduce gang violence and assist in gang intervention.”

That issue might be realized if only for the fact that, as we were learning about the early prison releases, the U.S. Justice Department announced October 1 that $53 million in grants was being ginned up to reduce recidivism among youths and adults.

In short, many of those in attendance at the press conference came from a hard place, but they did not make excuses. What they did, which is old-school and very impressive, is discuss community crime control — and it doesn’t mean they are patrolling the streets as gun-toting Bible-thumpers.

It means they arm families, returning citizens and communities with the tools to live with such mediating forces as churches and other faith-based entities, as well as community-based organizations, not merely “community organization.” The focal point: family.

Here again, I turn to Mr. Parker. I first met him in 1991, when he, James Alsobrooks and several other men were forming the Alliance of Concerned Men. At the time, D.C. was in the throes of several crises — chiefly violence, teen pregnancy, terrible public schools and substance abuse epidemics that left young children and teenagers to fend on their own. Things were so murderous, one neighborhood was nicknamed “Simple City.”

The newly formed alliance asked for books, computers, donations, volunteers and mentors to help turn the tide, and my family gave generously. The constants, including prayer and incremental payoffs, included working with other nonfinancial profiteers, such as Robert Woodson of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise to reach out to struggling families to bring about gang truces and peaceful solutions.

The truce and community spirit sustained those efforts until bloodletting and other suffering returned, as residents informed the mayor and other officials at a recent come-to-Jesus meeting in not-so-Simple City.

“The devil is on the loose, and we need to lock it back up,” was the warning of one worried mom at that meeting.

When I asked Mr. Parker where the leaders of our faith community stood, he simply said, “They’re straddling the fence.”

So allow my interpretation: They talk the talk in the buildings, but aren’t necessarily opening the doors to the community where they should be walking the walk.

Myrna Lee, founder of the A Family That Prays organization and one of a dozen women in attendance, spoke of the need for spiritual healing as one of the most important ways to meet and sustain the needs of the large influx of prisoners who soon will return home.

“We have to offer the hands-up,” she said. “We just can’t wait for the government.”

For those of you who think I’ve gone soft, that is not the case. I’m still a law-and-order kinda gal.

I’m not really into the slogans “Black Lives Matter,” “Blue Lives Matter,” etc. I’m into action.

And I’m saying this, too: If we don’t prepare ourselves for the tens of thousands of prisoners who are coming home, community crime control will get kicked to the curb.

I’m just saying. (Contributor: By Deborah Simmons for The Washington Times)

Pray for authorities to use wisdom and for local churches to find their God-appointed role in reaching out to these newly released inmates. For most of us, the scenes described here are foreign to our “normal” world. But these are real people, and some of us live in or near the cities that will be affected by the release of so many inmates in about two weeks.

“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)    

On Watch in Washington October 14, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

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The Informer October 7, 2015

On Watch in Washington October 7, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

AFTER THE NEWS CREWS LEAVE, GOD REMAINS

TV news vans with telescoping satellite antennas have converged on the town of Roseburg, Ore. They huddle in parking lots surrounding Umpqua Community College, where a shooter stole the lives of nine students and teachers. For the next few days, reporters will document local folks recounting the horror, crying, remembering, and even staring like deer into the headlight of national news coverage.

Then, one day, the antennas will zip back down into the roofs of the vans. And as fast as they came, the reporters will be gone. The pain, however, will not go with them. And the little town will be left with a gaping void — not only from the absence of the national news but also from the deafening absence of irretrievable life.

I know this because two years ago I was the townspeople. The town had a different name — Prescott, Ariz. But we had a similar rural demographic and a similar story of tragic death — the loss of 19 firefighters overtaken by a wildfire. How odd it felt when the last news truck left.

What becomes of these communities, after they have left the national spotlight? Their grieving process stunted by bright lights and once-in-a-lifetime attention, how do these towns resume life or discover their new normal, once the TV vans leave?

The answer to how people get along for the months and years following a national tragedy lies deeper than the generic community. The answer lies in the individual people — the woven threads and strands who make up the weave that we call community.

Seven years ago, I left a journalism career to become a Christian minister. I moved from documenting the funeral procession to leading it, from observer of grief to participant among the grievers. In this role, I have learned that there is no easy answer to give to a heartbroken mother or a mourning husband. There is no single sentence that can soothe the sting of death, injustice, lost life and suffering.

And yet, I have seen — time and again — that there are paragraphs and ideas that do soothe the sting of death for many. Some thoughts — gripped by the soul and held as belief — do give stability, peace and hope in the midst of unthinkable, horrific pain.

Nationally, we are lamenting that this same senseless shooting keeps recurring across this country. It seems that only the names of the locations, victims and killers change from month to month, week to week.

And yet, I have seen — behind the scenes and long after the TV news vans leave — another recurring narrative. A more positive recurring story of hope, humanity, unity and rebuilding.

This positive narrative remains consistent in the empty wake, the churning months and years that follow a national tragedy. I have witnessed it, as a reporter, in the parents of drowned children, in the husband whose wife died, in the activist who fought for immigrants dehydrating in the Arizona desert.

I've seen this positive recurring story. In the moments of crisis when humans should most likely curse God and turn from any belief in a creator, many humans embrace their God and renew their spiritual beliefs.

More than ritual or obligation, I have seen souls anchor themselves.

Survivors from Umpqua Community College report that the shooter systematically targeted Christians for immediate murder. We don’t yet know why people of Christian faith were singled out for murder.

But the families of these murdered Christians, if they are anything like the believers I have met in the wake of other tragedies, will support each other, make meals for the hurting and knit tighter into their faith. They will mourn, but “not as those who have no hope.”

The surviving families of Christian victims will find solace in their belief that God transports all who cry out to Him into a place where there is no pain or injustice.

People far from a tragedy ask questions like: Where is God in the pain and suffering?
But I rarely hear that question in the huddle of crying of widows, sobbing dads and embracing friends. The people most broken down discover these Scriptures to be true.

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted" and "The Lord upholds all who are broken down" (Psalm 34:18, Psalm 145:14).

Survivors of the tragedies I have reported on and ministered through have this in common. Many whose lives are most held together and stable credit a divine helper who hears their cries for help. Who answers. And who never leaves town. (Contributor: By John Dickerson for USA Today)

SUPREME COURT FACES POLITICALLY CHARGED ELECTION-YEAR DOCKET

The Supreme Court began its new term [this past] Monday under an election-year spotlight, with a chief justice who has become a campaign issue and a docket that seems designed to remind Americans about the importance of the high court in the presidential contest.

The nine justices enter the next decade of the Roberts court poised to confront issues that animate the political agenda: the legality of racial preferences to encourage diversity; how far government must go to accommodate religious liberty; how far government may go to restrict a woman’s right to abortion.

The last term ended on a high note for liberals, with a landmark decision finding a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry. The term was the first since John G. Roberts Jr. debuted as chief justice 10 years ago that, in some of the court’s most closely contested and important decisions, the court’s liberal minority attracted one conservative or another to consistently prevail.

Few look for a repeat based on the issues the court will hear this term.

“I would expect a return to the norm, in which the right side of the court wins a majority, but by no means all, of the big cases,” said Irv Gornstein, head of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown Law Center.

“The big question for this term is, how big will the big wins be?”

The court already has a track record on the likely marquee cases of the term, and that record is giving the right a reason to be optimistic.

Back for further review are the affirmative-action remedies employed by the University of Texas to increase diversity at the flagship campus in Austin. The court has previously expressed its skepticism about these measures.

The contraceptives-coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act is also making a return. The court already told the government last year, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, that the mandate impinged on the religious freedoms of some employers directed to carry it out.

And, because the court long ago decided that states may impose some restrictions on abortion, the question in a coming case will be, how far may they go before it becomes an “undue burden” on a woman’s right? The court has provided little guidance on what that term means.

The pivotal justice on each issue will probably be Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. The issues all appeal to Kennedy’s conservative side, but he does not always share the zeal for dramatic change that his colleagues on the right might pursue.

“I have the greatest respect for him, but I long ago gave up trying to predict him,” conservative U.S. Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III said recently at a panel discussion at William and Mary Law School.

“The best thing you can do is issue one of those weather forecasts that says sunny with considerable clouds and a chance of rain.”

Conservatives long ago gave up on Kennedy as a reliable vote, but the surprise of the summer and fall is the suspicion with which many now view Roberts.

At the most recent debate of Republican presidential candidates, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) bluntly called Roberts a ­“mistake.” Former Florida governor Jeb Bush said Roberts “did not have a proven, extensive record” when his brother, President George W. Bush, chose him, and he pledged that he would not make “politically expedient” choices for the court.

Dozens of conservative activists last weekend signed on to a letter from former attorney general Edwin Meese calling for the next president to appoint justices like Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — no mention of Roberts.

The case against Roberts consists almost entirely of his votes upholding the Affordable Care Act. In 2012, he wrote the opinion turning down a constitutional challenge to President Obama’s signature domestic achievement. In June, Roberts and Kennedy were part of a 6-to-3 decision that rejected a reading of the law that would have drastically cut back the number of Americans it covered.

On the other side of the ideological ledger, Roberts has voted to restrict abortion rights, overturn campaign finance restrictions, recognize a Second Amendment right for individual gun ownership, and severely cut back the reach of the Voting Rights Act.

Studies have shown him to be one of the modern justices most protective of business interests. He is a consistent supporter of the death penalty, an issue that bitterly divides the court and which will be again be a common thread on the term’s docket.

Any change in even a single justice could tilt the balance of the court, and many predict that the next president may have the chance to nominate as many as three members of the court.

Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Scalia and Kennedy will all be in their 80s on Inauguration Day 2017, and liberal Justice Stephen G. Breyer will be 78. The court currently has five Republican nominees and four chosen by Democratic presidents.

Ginsburg was the lone member of the court to find no fault with the University of Texas’s unique admissions policy when the court first considered it in 2013.

Most of the university’s freshmen are admitted under a plan in which the top students at every Texas high school are accepted. Because many of the schools are dominated by one ethnicity, this makes for a diverse population. To fill out the rest of the class, admissions officials say they use a holistic approach in which race is one of the factors considered.

An appeals court upheld the plan as being consistent with the Supreme Court’s previous rulings on when race could be considered. But the justices sent it back and told the lower court to demand more proof from University of Texas officials that they could not ensure diversity without resorting to racial classifications. The appellate judges again sided with the university, and challengers of the plan are returning to Supreme Court.

Kennedy has never ruled in favor of an affirmative-action plan, but he also has refused to join conservative colleagues in saying race can never be considered. Kennedy “really believes in the value of integration,” said Georgetown’s Gornstein, but at the same time “he desperately wants it to be achieved by race-neutral means.”

The court has yet to accept the abortion or contraception cases for this term, but they are considered highly probable.

The former case concerns new restrictions on abortion providers that have been enacted by states around the country, such as requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and that clinics must meet surgical standards that abortion providers say are unnecessary and prohibitively expensive.

At issue is whether the standards put an undue burden on women seeking abortions, a standard the Supreme Court set in a 1992 case, Planned Parenthood of Southeast Pennsylvania v. Casey. Kennedy was one of the justices who set the standard.

The court is likely to look at Texas’s new law, and “I think it will be the most important case since Casey,” said Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project.

“It will give us some guidance on the meaning of the undue burden standard and how courts should evaluate the multitude of abortion restrictions that are coming out of the states.”

The contraception case would be a sequel to the court’s decision last year that some private employers do not have to comply with the ACA mandate to provide employees with health plans that include contraceptives when this violates the owners’ religious beliefs.

This time, it is religious organizations such as hospitals, charities and universities that want to be freed from the requirement.

The Obama administration has provided an accommodation for objectors, which would allow them to object in writing and then have third-party insurers or the government step in to provide the cost-free care. But the organizations say any involvement violates their religious liberties.

Seven appeals courts have agreed with the government, but an eighth recently sided with challengers. That almost requires the court to settle the conflict, and the Obama administration recently also asked the court to step in.

Two other cases on the court docket also have partisan overtones.

One concerns whether public employee unions may collect a fee from nonmembers to cover the cost of collective bargaining. Challengers say that violates the First Amendment rights of those who don’t want to pay for union speech with which they disagree. The unions say the fees are warranted because unions are obligated to represent all public employees, whether or not they are union members.

The political context is that public employee unions, which overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates, are powerful players in elections. A loss would weaken them at the same time the court has made it easier for wealthy individuals and corporations to spend unlimited amounts on elections.

And a challenge to the way almost every state draws electoral districts presents a partisan dilemma. States use total population numbers from the census to meet a constitutional requirement that they are roughly balanced for “one person, one vote.”

But conservative groups are challenging that, saying the districts should be drawn based on the number of eligible voters in the districts. Most analysts say that would hurt urban areas with larger numbers of children and noncitizens — areas that are most likely to trend Democratic — and shift the power to more rural, less diverse areas that tend to vote Republican.

“Anytime the court is asked to engage in policing the electoral process, there is a risk of the results appearing to be partisan,” said David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown. (Contributor: By Robert Barnes for The Washington Post - Robert Barnes has been a Washington Post reporter and editor since 1987. He has covered the Supreme Court since November 2006.)

Prayer is the believer’s most powerful spiritual weapon, and a vital area of intercession is for the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. We list them here for your prayerful attention, beginning with Chief Justice John Roberts, followed by Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Elena Kagan, Clarence Thomas, and Sonia Sotomayor. Please pray for them by name as you are led.

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

IRANIAN CRIMINALS FOR PASTOR SAEED ABEDINI’S RELEASE

Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of imprisoned American Pastor Saeed Abedini, has slammed the apparent offer by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to free her husband in exchange for releasing Iranian prisoners being held in the United States. Naghmeh argued that her husband is not "collateral" to be treated as such.

"My husband is not collateral. He is a father and a man who broke no law. Yet Iran is treating him like a pawn in a game of chess. President Rouhani's demand that America release 19 criminals in exchange for his consideration of releasing individuals like my husband, imprisoned solely for his faith, demonstrates that the Iran of today is no different than the Iran who took Americans hostage during the Iranian revolution," Naghmeh Abedini said.

"The environment is ripe for Iran to demonstrate it is ready to re-enter the global market and international scene of diplomats; it is time to show its good will, to change its image from one of a pariah to a member of the global society who will protect fundamental rights," she added.

Rouhani, who has been pressured by leaders around the world to free the American pastor, was asked about the issue in an interview with CNN on Sunday.

He suggested that the only way Abedini and other imprisoned Americans are going to be set free is if the U.S. government agrees to reach out with the same gesture to imprisoned Iranians.

"If the Americans take the appropriate steps and set [a number of Iranians in the United States who are imprisoned] free, certainly the right environment will be open and the right circumstances will be created for us to do everything within our power and our purview to bring about the swiftest freedom for the Americans held in Iran as well," Rouhani said.

"If the Americans take the appropriate actions vis-a-vis Iranian citizens who are being imprisoned here, then the right atmosphere and environment will be created for reciprocal action perhaps," he added.

The American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Naghmeh and the couple's two children in the U.S., called the demand "absurd and insulting," and said that Iran is treating Abedini as a "hostage for ransom."

Abedini has been in prison now for three years, serving an eight year sentence. He has faced beatings and threats behind bars, and has often been denied the medical attention that he needs.

Abedini has even been threatened that his sentence will be extended.

"The interrogators threatened that Saeed will face new criminal charges. They claimed Saeed has connections with anti-government groups and has made statements and taken actions against the government of Iran. Saeed denied all of these allegations, and once again asserted that he is apolitical and that he has never threatened the security of, made any statements against, or taken any action against the government of Iran," the ACLJ said in a report last week. (Contributor: Stoyan Zaimov for The Christian Post)

Pray that God will overrule President Obama’s apparent callousness toward the plight of persecuted Christians, not only in Iran but right here in the U.S. He has yet to speak out about the massacre of nine Christians last week in Oregon except to urge gun control. Trusted inside-government sources have disclosed that Mr. Obama could have made Pastor Saeed’s release part of the “Iran deal” agreement, but he made no effort to secure the pastor’s freedom. Pray for Saeed and his family.

“Let brotherly love continue….Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.” (Heb 13:1, 3)

IRAN: MISSILES POINTED AT U.S. TARGETS

A senior Iranian military leader warned this weekend that “all U.S. military bases in the Middle East are within the range of” Iran’s missiles and emphasized that the Islamic Republic will continue to break international bans on the construction of ballistic missiles.

Much of this missile work, like the details of Iran’s advanced arsenal, remains secret, according to Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force.

Hajizadeh dismissed the threat of military action by the United States, warning that all U.S. assets and allies are in range of Iran’s current missile arsenal, according to comments made Sunday in Tehran and recorded by Iran’s state-controlled Fars News Agency.

The threats of attack on the United States were issued as Iran unveiled new high-tech torpedoes and the formation of a joint war room along with Russia, Syria, and Iraq.

“Some of the threats by the U.S. are aimed at appeasing the Zionists, while others are for the purpose of domestic consumption (in the U.S.), but what is important is that they are aware of and acknowledge our capabilities and deterrence power,” Hajizadeh was quoted as saying.

“We do not feel any need to increase the range of our missiles and (our perceived enemy) targets are fully within the range of our missiles,” he added.

Iran will not slow down the research and construction of advanced missiles, the IRGC leader said, despite international bans on such action.

“We do not see any restriction for our missiles and the IRGC’s preparedness and missile drills are conducted without a halt and according to our annual time-table, but only some of them are publicized through the media,” Hajizadeh said.

The comments echo those of IRGC Navy Commander Ali Fadavi, who warned last month that “the U.S. knows the damages of any war and firing bullets in the Persian Gulf.”

“The U.S. is obedient and passive in the Persian Gulf and we impose our sovereignty right in the Persian Gulf very powerfully,” Fadavi said.

The Pentagon confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon last month that Iranian warships confront the U.S. Navy on a “daily basis.”

Iran’s renewed war rhetoric and anti-U.S. posturing comes amid reports that Iran and Russia have taken the lead in Syria, where both countries are working to bolster the embattled President Bashar al-Assad.

A senior Iranian official disclosed over the weekend that Iran, Russia, Syrian, and Iraq are working on forming a joint war room to coordinate operations in the region.

The so-called “information exchange center” would be the first step in formalizing a joint operations center to coordinate military efforts in Syria and elsewhere, according to political adviser to Iraq Mohsen Hakim, head of the country’s Islamic Supreme Council.

“The information center has been formed some days ago after six months of discussions,” Hakim was quoted as telling Fars.

Information obtained by this operations center would be disseminated to officials from each participating country, according to Hakim, including the Russian and Syrian armies.

“Hakim underlined that the information center can be a preliminary step to set up a joint operations room or Centcom,” Fars reported.

Meanwhile, Iran unveiled a new high-tech torpedo that it claims can hit targets both in and out of the water. The technology for the missile has been borrowed from the Russians, according to Iranian officials who spoke to Fars. (Contributor: By Adam Kredo for Free Beacon)

The United States is not at the mercy of Iran but protected (so far) by the mercy and grace of the Sovereign Lord God, Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth. If, as Scripture says, it is because of the Lord’s mercies that His people are preserved (“not consumed”), let us who worship the true God pray for the churches to overcome their divisions and unite in crying out to God for revival.   

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!’ ” (Lam 3:22-24)

WHITE HOUSE SAYS OBAMA IS CONSIDERING EXECUTIVE ACTION ON GUNS

The White House is considering whether President Obama can take executive action to enforce stronger gun control measures, White House spokesman Joshua Earnest said on Monday.

“The president has frequently pushed his team to consider a range of executive actions that could more effectively keep guns out of the hands of criminals and others who shouldn’t have access to them,” Earnest said Monday. “That’s something that is ongoing here.”

Earnest was responding to questions from reporters following Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s announcement that she would consider executive action to expand background checks on gun buyers by closing the so-called gun show loophole.

Clinton’s move marks the second time she has said she will consider going farther than the Obama administration by taking unilateral action on hot-button issues. She has already said that she would expand on Obama’s unilteral actions granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens if Congress fails to pass immigration reform.

Clinton’s announcement on the gun issue puts Obama in a bind. Last week, following a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, Obama said that he will continue to politicize the issue of gun violence in order to force Congress to enact gun control measures.

But Obama’s critics have wondered why he does not exert executive authority if he believes so strongly in the cause.

Earnest declined to expand on White House deliberations on possible executive action.

“I don’t have anything to announce at this point, but we certanly welcome the kind of debate that Secretary Clinton is continuing,” he said.

Another reporter followed up, asserting that if executive action on guns was a possibility, “it would be done by now.”

“I don’t have a lot of details to provide you in terms of the work that’s being done by the President’s team to do this scrub of the available authorities that the president may have to address gun violence,” Earnest said. “But that is ongoing work and if there are any conclusions that are arrived at that the President agrees with then we will announce it publicly.”

Asked if there were any technical impediments to implementing executive action, Earnest said that “it’s hard to answer this question while also protecting their ability to do their work.”

Asked if the White House was having trouble figuring out how to tackle the issue, Earnest said “I can tell you, they’re not stumped.”

“They are continuing to review the law that’s on the books and continuing to consult with legal authorities but also with others who may have ideas about what steps could be taken to keep guns out of the hands of criminals,” Earnest said. (Contributor: By Chuck Ross for The Daily Caller)

President Obama needs our prayers. This is not a statement of disrespect but of concern. IFA’s commitment is to “pray for America and its leaders.” In this article, the issue is guns, but the need goes deeper. Mr. Obama identifies himself as a Christian, but he does not reflect a Christian worldview. He speaks against gun violence, but does not speak out when Christians are killed. Pray for the Obama family to meet and know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for…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.” (1 Tim 2:1-4)

 

THE DAY CHRISTIANS WERE MARTYRED ON AMERICAN SOIL

Life or death was determined by the answer to a single question: Are you a Christian?

That was the question asked by an anti-Christian gunman who stormed into a classroom at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College.

Eyewitnesses say the shooter targeted Christians.

Kortney Moore was inside the classroom. She told the Roseburg News-Review that the shooter ordered students to get on the ground -- and then told them to stand up and state their religion.

“And they would stand up and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second,” Stacy Boylan said in a televised report. “And then he shot and killed them.”

His 18-year-old daughter was struck in the back by a bullet – that traveled down her spine. She survived. Miss Moore, too, survived.

Davis Jaques, publisher of the Roseburg Beacon News, said he received a text message from a student who said she was inside the classroom.

“The shooter was lining people up and asking if they were Christians,” the message read. “If they said yes, then they were shot in the head. If they said no or didn’t answer, they were shot in the leg.”

Christians were martyred for their faith -- on American soil -- a fact mostly ignored by most of the Mainstream Media and the White House.

The New York Times only mentioned that the gunman inquired about people’s “religions” and one cable television news channel opined that the shooter’s motive was unclear.

President Obama’s behavior in the aftermath of the massacre was quite frankly unpresidential. Instead of calling for religious tolerance -- he delivered an unhinged tirade on gun control.

“Somebody somewhere will comment and say Obama politicized this issue,” the president said. “Well, this is something we should politicize.”

But I reckon it’s politically incorrect to address the persecution of Christians.

That could explain why the White House has expressed less than passionate outrage over the near-genocide of Christians in the Middle East. And that could also explain why his administration has failed to secure the release of an American pastor being tortured in an Iranian jail.

These days “lambs being led to the slaughter” is not exactly a politically correct narrative.

Franklin Graham eloquently memorialized the fallen on his Facebook page and reminded us that Christians are being persecuted around the world.

“The bold souls at Umpqua Community College who stood up to say they were followers of Jesus Christ were heinously gunned down with no mercy,” Graham wrote. “Jesus said, ‘If they hate you, remember they hated me before they hated you.’”

I cannot even begin to imagine the courage it took for our fellow believers to take a stand -- knowing that to do so -- would require the ultimate sacrifice.

But their families can take comfort in knowing that after they took their last breath on Earth, they took their first breath in Heaven. (Contributor: By Todd Starnes for Fox News - Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations.)

This is not the first killing spree aimed at Christians. We recall the massacre in June by Dylann Roof in an historic Black church in Charleston, SC. But we are shocked at the hatred spewed at Christians in America. More surprisingly, the recent Oregon shootings lacked a statement of compassion from President Obama or the mainstream media for the victims and their families. The victims were martyrs as the killer was specifically targeting Christians. Pray for God’s comfort for these families.

 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” (2 Cor 1:3-5)

On Watch in Washington October 7, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

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The Informer September 30, 2015

On Watch in Washington September 30, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

JOHN BOEHNER, THEN AND NOW

The announcement by House Speaker John Boehner that he is retiring at the end of October stunned Washington where life is all about grabbing power and holding on to it, often until death they do part.

At a meeting with reporters, Mr. Boehner said, “My first job as speaker is to protect the institution.”

Really? Is that why Ohio voters sent him to Washington in 16 elections and his Republican colleagues elected and re-elected him speaker? Did he take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the institution of the House or the Constitution, which, if followed, offers protection enough?

In 2010, I interviewed Mr. Boehner when he was minority leader and I asked him to cite the most important lesson he learned when Republicans lost their hard-won House majority in 2006. He replied, “Our team failed to live up to our own principles.”

Failing to live up to GOP principles, indeed, failing to articulate what those principles are, was largely the reason for the increase in conservative members who then demanded either action or the speaker’s head. They got his head. Whether that means his successor will do a better job is open to question.

On July 28, Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina expressed the frustration of many conservatives by filing a “motion to vacate the chair,” for the purpose of ousting Mr. Boehner from the speakership. Mr. Meadows’ resolution charged Mr. Boehner with using “the power of the office to punish Members who vote according to their conscience instead of the will of the speaker,” providing for “voice votes on consequential and controversial legislation to be taken without notice and with few Members present,” using “the legislative calendar to create crises for the American People, in order to compel Members to vote for legislation” and failing to comply with “the spirit of the rules of the House of Representatives, which provide that Members shall have three days to review legislation before voting.” That last one had been a promise made by Republicans, should voters return them to a congressional majority.

Most conservatives understand that with a Democrat in the White House and an insufficient GOP congressional majority to override presidential vetoes they can’t always, or maybe even mostly, have their way. But they would like to see Republicans at least employ some of the tactics Democrats shamelessly use when they hold the majority, such as the “nuclear option” employed in the Senate in 2013, which allowed a majority vote instead of a “supermajority” to advance confirmation votes on judicial nominees and executive branch appointments.

At a minimum, conservative members want to see their convictions articulated by the leadership and to fight the left with conviction in hopes that getting their positions heard will influence voters. Instead, in too many instances, conservatives have seen their views ignored and the Republican leadership in both houses knuckle under to Democrats out of fear of being called names or getting blamed for a government shutdown.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich notes that previous government shutdowns over matters of principle worked in Republicans’ favor, notwithstanding how they were portrayed by the media. In an email to me, he writes: “We closed the government twice in 1995 and ‘96 and became the first re-elected House Republican majority since 1928. Our supporters realized we were serious and rewarded us for the effort. The Republicans closed the government in 2013 and won a big election in 2014.”

In my 2010 interview, Mr. Boehner bemoaned the size and cost of big government, saying, “I came here for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government and that has not been what’s happening. We don’t need any more programs; we need to undo a lot of programs.”

On Mr. Boehner’s watch, the debt has increased nearly $4 trillion, according to figures published by the U.S. Treasury.

It is one of many reasons conservative voters are increasingly fed up with Congress and for the rise of “outside” presidential candidates. The frustration cuts both ways, and it is also a major reason Mr. Boehner has decided now is the time to hang it up before Mr. Meadows’ resolution can be put to a vote. (Contributor: By Cal Thomas for The Washington Times - Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist. His latest book is “What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America” (Zondervan, 2014).)

This is a time for unified intercession. Conservative columnist Cal Thomas shows why the Republican Party needs to change congressional leadership. Pray for the transition. Intercede that in God’s mercy the next Speaker of the House will help lead the U.S. back to constitutional authority. America is not a monarchy, and we must not allow any leader to become dictatorial. Please pray!

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Prov 21:1)

OBAMA SLAMMED ADVERSARIES IN RUSSIA AND SYRIA AT U.N.

In a speech at times defensive and accusatory, Obama sought to use his favored weapon -- oratory -- to beat back his international challengers as well as conservatives in the U.S. who've branded him a weak leader presiding over a legacy of declining power abroad. He also took the unusual step of harnessing the global stage to rebuke the views of Republican presidential candidates on immigration and religious pluralism, perhaps mindful that this was his penultimate speech to the world body and the last before the race to replace him overwhelms the national dialogue.

Obama slammed "the building of walls to keep out immigrants" and "demonizing" of those of different religions, an oblique reference to some of the incidents that have cropped up on the 2016 presidential campaign trail. He didn't mention Republican candidates Donald Trump or Ben Carson by name, but he seemed to be referencing their campaigns in his remarks.

He also took direct aim at Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying their actions had flouted international rules and brought their countries back in time.

Obama himself, however, faces criticism over slow progress in the fight against ISIS and Russian fighters entrenched in Eastern Ukraine. His address was in part an effort to shore up international support for U.S. plans on these and other global crises.

He advocated his own plans to utilize diplomacy to end the crises that have cost lives and displaced millions.

"Dangerous currents risk pulling us back into a darker, more disordered world," he said, arguing against viewing global affairs as a "zero-sum game."

"We, the nations of the world, cannot return to the old ways of conflict and coercion. We cannot look backwards," he said. "We live in an integrated world, one in which we all have a stake in each other's success. We cannot turn back those forces of integration."

Diplomatic wins -- including the Iran nuclear deal and a thaw in U.S.-Cuba ties -- have given Obama a boost. But a year after he announced his plan for airstrikes to combat ISIS terrorists, the President has faced pressure to explain the next steps in the unraveling situation in Syria.

Calling Assad a tyrant, Obama criticized calls from other world leaders, namely Putin, to keep him in power.

"We're told that such retrenchment is required to beat back disorder -- that it's the only way to stamp out terrorism and prevent foreign meddling," Obama said. "In accordance with this logic, we should support tyrants like Bashar al-Assad who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent children because the alternative is surely worse."

Obama made another call for a "managed transition" away from Assad's government as a way to end the country's bloody civil war.

"When a dictator slaughters tens of thousands of his own people, that is not just a matter of one nation's internal affairs," he said. "It breeds human suffering on an order of magnitude that affects us all."

Obama made another call for adherence to international rules while addressing Ukraine, insisting the world has a responsibility to counter Putin's aggression in the eastern part of the country.

"We cannot stand by when the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a nation is flagrantly violated," Obama stated in his speech. "If that happens without consequence in Ukraine, it could happen to any nation gathered here today."

Syria, along with the crisis in Ukraine, will provide the agenda for Obama's most anticipated meeting of his three-day U.N. visit: Monday evening talks with Putin, the first time the pair have engaged in substantive face-to-face discussion since Russia annexed part of Ukraine in 2014.

Obama's aides say the situation in Ukraine is at the top of the agenda, though the Kremlin indicated last week the situation there would only arise if there's time.

"There will be time," asserted White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest last week.

Obama: We want a strong Russia that will work with us

Obama: We want a strong Russia that will work with us 02:12

Aside from Ukraine, the White House says Obama will seek to gain clarity on the motivations behind Russia's recent military build-up in Syria, which U.S. officials have said is unclear.

Obama weighed for weeks whether to meet with Putin, who is attending the U.N. General Assembly for the first time in years. Ultimately, he determined "it would be irresponsible to not have a face-to-face encounter and to not directly address with President Putin our positions and concerns on these two issues," according to Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.

Obama [met] with Cuban President Raul Castro to discuss their two countries' renewed diplomatic ties. With relations formally reinstated, the pair want to begin developing economic plans, including an agreement to allow commercial flights to travel between the U.S. and Cuba.

The President will end his U.N. stay convening a summit meant to solidify support for the campaign against ISIS, which continues to control large swaths of Iraq and Syria. Last year, Obama came to the U.N. having just announced a strategy to "degrade and destroy" the terrorists.

This time around, officials say Obama is looking to focus on the various elements that led young people to the group, which has attracted foreign fighters from the region and Europe.

"The counter-ISIL campaign is going to be measured in years. But what we do have is a significant coalition of countries that are seized with this threat and that are enhancing their capabilities, and that are joining with us in this effort," Rhodes said, noting that Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi would join the session. (Contributor: By Kevin Liptak for CNN News)

Intercessors see past the rhetoric. Our main prayer focus here goes beyond the U.N. speeches and centers on the growing tension and potential confrontation between President Obama and Russian President Putin, both of whom hold very different strategies in Syria over the future of the Assad regime. Could Syria, and not Iran, be the next Middle East explosion? Pray accordingly.

“Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.” (Rev 15:4)

U.S. FIGHTING SEXUAL ABUSE IN AFGHANISTAN

There is a deep and growing malignancy under the supervision of the U.S. military, one that threatens our nation’s moral authority and perhaps our very souls. Our commander in chief must take steps to address it or it will destroy our ability to win the war on terror. Every woman in this country should be calling on President Obama to immediately deal with the evil being allowed to flourish under our supervision in Afghanistan.

In a disturbing report from Afghanistan, Joseph Goldstein of The New York Times reports that, “[S]oldiers and Marines have been increasingly troubled that instead of weeding out pedophiles, the American military was arming them in some cases and placing them as the commanders of villages — and doing little when they began abusing children.”

Not only that, but the U.S. military leadership is apparently punishing U.S. soldiers when they stand up against the rape and sexual abuse of children. The official policy is to “ignore child sexual abuse by their Afghan allies” and some “have faced discipline, even career ruin for disobeying it.”

The report tells the story of Capt. Dan Quinn and Sgt. Martland, both Green Berets who apparently “beat up an American-backed militia commander for keeping a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave.” Capt. Quinn was relieved of his command and was pulled out of Afghanistan. Sgt. Martland is still facing retribution for his involvement in the incident.

I know it is almost impossible to believe that this would actually be U.S. military policy, but the report cites Col. Brian Tribus, the spokesman for the American command in Afghanistan, who told them, “Generally, allegations of child sexual abuse by Afghan military or police personnel would be a matter of domestic Afghan criminal law. [T]here would be no express requirement that U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan report it.”

Is he serious? They are not only allowing it to happen and empowering these fiends to continue their torture of children, but they don’t even want soldiers to report on it? This is simply unacceptable.

And this idea that we are just dealing with “domestic Afghan criminal law” matter is preposterous. One soldier cited in the story “recalled feeling sickened the day he entered a room on a base and saw three or four men lying on the floor with children between them.” Did you catch the kicker? On base. Again, this is just beyond the pale. The American military shares barracks with pedophiles molesting children in their midst, and they are not allowed to say anything about it?

Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr. told his father on his last phone call home, “At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it.” Let that sink in. This corporal slept so close to the abusers, he could hear these children scream. Then he was expected to wake up the next morning and train these abusers in U.S. military and policing techniques. And he better not say anything about it, if he wants to advance his military career.

Spare us the “domestic Afghan criminal law” drivel. This is a matter of U.S. military law. And it is a shame to our country. This policy must end now.

Is it too much to ask that anyone who is to benefit from U.S. military training comply with some disciplinary standards that include no sexual abuse of children? Is it?

But there is more, if you can stomach it. One soldier, Maj. Jason Brezler, was actually punished for sending an email warning about a predator that was back on a police post after being arrested for several infractions, including child abduction. You won’t believe what the Marine Corps lawyers said about it in a hearing. They “warned that information about the police commander’s penchant for abusing boys might be classified.”

Seriously, we have a former secretary of state running for president of the United States that sent multiple classified emails from her private servers, and they want to punish this soldier for sending an email exposing a criminal child molester? What is happening at the Department of Defense? Where is the commander in chief?

President Obama must intervene in this matter immediately and restore some sense of moral sanity to this situation. We cannot turn a blind eye to the sexual abuse of children right in front of us in order to “win” this war.

We won’t win like this, no matter what any military commander says. We simply cannot expect the blessings of Heaven will fall upon a people that turn a blind eye to this kind of evil in our midst. It may be harder, but fighting against this evil, at least within the reach of U.S. military training, is in fact the only path to victory. Providence would have it no other way. (Contributor: By Penny Nance and Mario Diaz for The Washington Times - Penny Nance is the president and CEO of the Concerned Women for America. Mario Diaz is Concerned Women for America’s legal counsel and leads its legal studies department.)

Pray for truth and justice. The authors of this report on the corruption being observed in Afghanistan (and condoned by U.S. military leaders) are correct when they call it “a deep and growing malignancy.” The conduct of the Afghan “commanders” is depraved and unconscionable. But what about our military leaders when they punish troops for stepping up to defend these helpless boys?

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.” (Eph 5:11-13)

VISIT REVEALS US, CHINA RELATIONS MORE DYSFUNCTIONAL THAN EVER

All the right things were said by President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping in their joint Rose Garden press conference on Friday.

After a private dinner on Thursday evening and morning meetings, the leaders of the world’s two most powerful nations delivered a laundry list of the ways in which they would “cooperate more closely” and “produce results” on issues far and wide. Left unsaid, but leaving the biggest impression was the unavoidable fact that U.S.-China relations are locked into their current pattern of competition and distrust.

Largely symbolic were the agreements trumpeted by Messrs. Obama and Xi, on climate, Ebola, piracy, development, and people-to-people exchanges. These are all fine goals, little of which matter in the larger picture of ties between the two countries. After all, the United States works with dozens of global partners on all these issues, many of them countries with far more technical expertise and track record of providing public goods than China.

More importantly, these are areas where the two sides more or less already agree. The mark of a true working relationship is to make progress in the areas of disagreement. And here, sadly, there was no good news at all.

While both presidents touted their new cyber pact, to refrain from attacking each other’s private corporations and to cooperate on cyber crime, the proof is in the eating, to put it charitably. Given the almost unimaginable scale of Chinese cyber aggression against U.S. interests (not to mention other countries), it takes a profound leap of faith to believe that Xi found religion in a few hours of talks with a lame-duck U.S. president bedeviled by Iran, ISIS, and Russia.

Just as blatantly, Xi stood next to the American president and boldly proclaimed that the islands of the South China Sea have belonged to China since ancient times. Such justification for China’s continued and growing coercion in those disputed waters reveals a distinct lack of concern with U.S. protestations about maintaining freedom of navigation and stability in the region. Not mentioned, one might note, was China’s militarization of its man-made islands in the South China Sea, which are serving to change the balance of power in Southeast Asia.

But then again, many things were not mentioned, such as the prolonged detainment of an American citizen, which was announced just days ago, on suspicions of spying, or yet another dangerous Chinese fighter jet interception of an American reconnaissance plane in international skies.

Nor was there any talk about China’s growing intercontinental ballistic missile force, which Xi proudly paraded in Beijing just this month, or the three combat ships he sent to the waters off Alaska while Obama was visiting there.

Given how much cooperation the two presidents cited, one might reasonably ask why China continues to build the world’s most advanced weapons, many of which are designed to attack U.S. forces in Asia.

The point is not that the U.S. and China are about to wage war on each other. It is that American leaders consistently try to convince themselves and the world that China is “peaceful, stable, prosperous, and cooperative,” in the formulation used by the president and his top advisers.

Instead, an economically challenged China continues to push the limits of acceptable behavior both regionally and internationally, signaling its intention not to work with the United States, but to force Washington to modify its behavior in the interests of chimerical cooperation.

This state visit has shown that U.S.-China relations are locked into their current pattern. That’s bad news. (Contributor: By Michael Auslin for Fox News - Michael Auslin, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C.)

We ask intercessors to use their discernment in knowing how to pray for U.S.-China relations. We do not direct but encourage much prayer. World leaders are assessing President Obama’s strengths and weaknesses on the global stage. It seems that both President Xi and Russian President Putin are hoping Mr. Obama has more “bark” than “bite.” The stakes are high. Pray for God’s mercy.

“Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns; the world also is firmly established, it shall not be moved; He shall judge the peoples righteously.’ ” (Ps 96:10) 

POPE FRANCIS ENDS VISIT WITH INMATES

Pope Francis turned penitent and pastor Sunday on the final day of his visit to the United States, declaring himself “overwhelmed by shame” at the sexual violation of children by his clergy, embracing inmates at a local jail, urging young people to leave the loneliness of social media and bidding farewell with a huge downtown Mass.

Since arriving in the United States from Cuba on Tuesday during his 10-day tour, Francis, 78, had been met by large crowds — tens of thousands during a drive through Central Park in New York, in Madison Square Garden, at a canonization in Washington; perhaps several hundred thousand on Saturday night for a potpourri of prayer, musical performances and testimonials at a festival for the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families.

Sunday’s Mass, marking the end of the meeting, on Eakins Oval in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, presented the pope on the grandest of scales, with nearly a million passing through the city’s lockdown-emptied streets into Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which was studded with Jumbotron screens.

The pope departed the United States at just after 7:30 p.m. local time, aboard an American Airlines charter jet.

After a week of big public statements — about fighting climate change, abolishing the death penalty, preserving religious liberty, welcoming immigrants — Francis turned his gaze on the Catholic Church with a forceful appeal for tolerance of different views. Some conservative prelates and commentators have not warmed to Francis, considering him inattentive to the church’s traditions and rules.

“The temptation to be scandalized by the freedom of God threatens the authenticity of faith,” the pope said, adding that it should be “vigorously rejected.”

Excluding people not considered “like us” is wrong, he said. “Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of the faith!”

Francis seemed to be suggesting that intolerance is a greater threat to the church than doctrinal impurity. “Our common house can no longer tolerate sterile divisions,” he said.

The security stranglehold on central Philadelphia cast doubt on whether the crowd would pass the million mark. Yet before the Mass, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims packed the long boulevard leading to the makeshift sanctuary. Waving Mexican, Argentine, Vatican and other flags from around the world, people cheered as the pope, standing in his open-sided popemobile, took a spin around the boulevard, blessed babies and, as the choir struck up with a “Hallelujah” chorus, climbed out to meet the throng pressed against the gates.

Before the Mass, Francis, a member of the Jesuit religious order, made an unscheduled stop at St. Joseph’s Univerity, a Jesuit school. Francis has made it a practice to visit with his Jesuit brothers on trips abroad. He blessed a newly-installed statue dedicated to ties between Catholics and Jews.

Sunday began somberly, with Francis meeting privately with a small group of victims of clergy sexual abuse.

“I am profoundly sorry that your innocence was violated by those who you trusted,” he told them, according to a transcript of his remarks released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He blamed some bishops for failing to protect the abuse victims, or even worse, violating them. He echoed such comments publicly before a group of bishops at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, pledging that all responsible would be “held accountable.”

“God weeps,” he said.

Advocates for the victims had deplored his previous comments on the trip, which seemed mainly to provide moral support for the clergy who suffered through the scandal. The advocates said on Sunday that the pope’s comments were merely a public relations move.

In his prepared remarks, Francis went on to note the modern world’s challenges to the church’s traditional idea of family — without mentioning gay unions, contraception or other difficult issues for the church.

The bishops there were taking part in the World Meeting of Families. As he has for much of the weekend here in Philadelphia, the pope delved into related matters — marriage, young people, friendship, relationships. Here, he wrestled with how “unprecedented changes” in society have affected family ties, telling the bishops that the church must live in “this concrete world.”

Francis adapted his critique of a consumer society, one of the themes he most forcefully pushes and that draws some of the sharpest criticism from free-marketers, to modern concepts of family. “We have turned our society into a huge multicultural showcase tied only to the taste of certain ‘consumers,’” he said.

Francis also lamented how young people are delaying marriage. Departing from the text, the Argentine pope drew chuckles when he recounted exchanges he has had back home.

In Buenos Aires, he said, many women tell him, “ ‘My son is 30 or 34 years old and my son isn’t getting married, What do I do?’ And I say, ‘Don’t iron his shirts anymore.’ ”

And then he seemed to take on Facebook,or at least social media.

He said society also resembled a “huge multicultural showcase” based on consumer tastes. “Running after the latest fad, accumulating ‘friends’ on one of the social networks, we get caught up in what contemporary society has to offer,” said Francis, who posts on Twitter as @pontifex.

Francis urged the bishops not to lament the good old days and dismiss young people as “hopelessly timid, weak, inconsistent.”

In a brief interview, Anthony Fisher, the archbishop of Sydney, Australia, responded to the pope’s speech to bishops on Sunday morning.

“I think it’s interesting that he was insisting that we had to rebuild or renew our covenant with families, suggesting that we maybe weren’t as close to families as we should be as bishops.”

Francis later went to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, mainly an intake jail, which has roughly 2,800 inmates and is one of six jails in Philadelphia’s system. Some of the inmates had made Francis a hand-carved chair, which he thanked them for. Prison ministry has long been a special mission of Francis’. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he frequently visited jails. As pope, he also made visits to prisons in Italy and abroad, washing the feet of inmates at the Rebibbia prison in Rome in a Holy Thursday ritual in April.

“I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own,” he told the roughly 100 men and women detainees, drawn at random, at Curran-Fromhold. “Jesus doesn’t ask us where we’ve been and he doesn’t ask us what we’ve done,” Francis said.

He said the Gospel story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples reflected the need in ancient times to soothe dusty, cut up feet, and used it to signal the possibility of redemption. “All of us need to be cleansed,” he said, adding, “It is painful when we see prison systems, which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities,” he said.

As he spoke, burly inmates, some with shaved heads and dreadlocks and one with a tattoo crawling up his neck, watched intently. After the speech, Francis walked along the rows of inmates sitting in chairs, shaking hands, chatting, laying his hand on their foreheads and hugging a few. Ron Cianci, 55, who said he would be inside for about six months, said afterward that he had asked and had received a blessing. “Right now I feel elated, kind of a little bit high on life,” he said. (Contributor: By Laurie Goodstein and Daniel J. Wakin for The New York Times - Laurie Goodstein and Todd Heisler reported from Philadelphia, and Daniel J. Wakin from New York.)

Many prayed that Pope Francis, Christianity’s primary global leader, would bring a direct word about abortion and the plight of the worldwide persecuted Church directly to the U.S. and to President Obama, challenging him to speak out on these issues. But he did not. The pope’s three high points were visits to “The Little Sisters of the Poor,” to those formerly abused by his Church’s priests, and to prison inmates, all of which Jesus might have done. Please continue to pray for our country.

“[And pray] for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Eph 6:19-20)

FEDS RETURNING TO LOCAL CRIME FIGHT

Mounting concern over recent violent crime surges in some U.S. cities has prompted the Justice Department to call a meeting next month of more than a dozen local law enforcement officials to deal with persistent public safety threats, ranging from criminal gangs to domestic violence, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates told USA TODAY in an interview.

The Justice summit builds on an increasing federal re-engagement with local police whose forces in the past two years have been buffeted by questions over lethal force policies and flagging public trust.

Earlier this year, in the face of rising tensions between the police and the public in communities across the nation, a special White House policing task force issued a slate of recommendations aimed at restoring public confidence. The Justice Department also has opened inquiries into the operations of more than 20 police departments across the country since 2009, including earlier this year in Baltimore where days of civil unrest was sparked by the death of a local man in police custody.

Although violent crime has been in decline in much of the country for years, federal authorities are re-committing resources, some of which were directed to address anti-terror concerns in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, to battle troubling spikes in local crime.

Yates on Monday is set to identify five cities—Compton, Calif., Little Rock, Ark., West Memphis, Ark., Newark, N.J., and Flint, Mich.— which are poised to get an infusion of federal help to battle violence even as most of the country has enjoyed relative calm.

"Every community is different and every community has their own unique challenges,'' Yates said. "For us to be most effective, we really need to be digging in at the local level… to fashion our response. This is not a one-size-fits-all kind of solution.''

The five cities represent the first expansion of the so-called Violence Reduction Network, launched last year by the Justice Department to address similar violent crime problems in Chicago, Detroit, Wilmington, Del., Camden, N.J., and in the Oakland-Richmond, Calif., area.

While no federal money is attached to inclusion in the network, Yates said the designation provides cities unique access to existing federal expertise in gang investigations, drug trafficking inquiries, the pursuit of violent fugitives, intelligence gathering and other strategies that may be lacking at local public safety agencies.

In some small departments, the deputy attorney general said, problems may be as fundamental as having no experience requesting federal grant money for use in hiring additional police officers or to purchase needed equipment.

Earlier this summer, while cities such as Chicago and Baltimore continued to battle worrisome rashes of violence, Attorney General Loretta Lynch directed the nation's 93 U.S. attorneys to begin gathering information about local crime trends in their jurisdictions to better measure the needs of state, county and municipal agencies.

In Chicago, homicides have been running at levels nearly 20% more than last year. And similar spikes have been recorded in Milwaukee and St. Louis.

Yates said there is "no indication'' that the surges signal a possible return to the waves of violence that plagued the 1980s and early 1990s.

"It's too early to know if this is a long-term shift or a short-term cyclical change,'' Yates said. "But it doesn't really matter from our perspective because our response is always going to be the same: that is to dig in to try to find out what the causes are.''

In Camden, Chief Scott Thomson credits federal help with contributing to a 50% reduction in shootings and homicides during the past two years.

Thomson said the federal violence reduction program has "reinvented the way cities, challenged with violent crime, work with federal law enforcement agencies.''

Camden authorities, Thomson said, specifically benefited from digital imaging training provided by the FBI, which allowed investigators to extract video from private security systems to quickly identify suspects in various local crimes.

Thomson said videos are being converted to "commercials'' for broadcast on traditional and social media to solicit public assistance.

"We are now alerting the public within hours, rather than days, which has facilitated the identification and apprehension of dozens of individuals suspected of crimes ranging from child luring to murder,'' he said.

Camden also was among a number of cities that benefited earlier this year from a broad U.S. Marshals Service operation, resulting in the arrest of 7,100 fugitives during a six-week sweep.

Among those arrested: 519 wanted on homicide charges and 583 for alleged sexual assault.

Yates cited the U.S. Marshals operation as the type of targeted assistance that the federal government can offer local agencies who lack resources.

The October meeting of law enforcement officials called by the Justice Department, Yates said, is another attempt to "try to find out what's working and what is not working.'' (Contributor: By Kevin Johnson for USA TODAY)

As crime statistics and racial tensions increase exponentially, no amount of money or increased federal troops on the streets can correct America’s steep spiritual decline. May the Church awaken to the need for unified prayer and fasting as we come to God with repentant hearts and ask Him for a new national awakening. Nothing short of revival will turn the nation’s soul back to God.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Ps 127:1)

DARPA IS IMPLANTING CHIPS IN SOLDIERS’ BRAINS

For decades, DARPA, the secretive research arm of the Department of Defense, has dreamed of turning soldiers into cyborgs. And now it’s finally happening. The agency has funded projects that involve implanting chips into soldiers’ brains that they hope will enhance performance on the battlefield and repair traumatized brains once the fog of war has lifted.

“Of the 2.5 million Americans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, 300,000 of them came home with traumatic brain injury,” journalist Annie Jacobsen told NPR. “DARPA initiated a series of programs to help cognitive functioning, to repair some of this damage. And those programs center around putting brain chips inside the tissue of the brain.”

In her new book about the history of DARPA, “The Pentagon’s Brain,” Jacobsen writes that scientists are already testing “neuroprosthetics” brain implants, but that despite her multiple appeals to the Defense Department, she was not allowed to interview any of the “brain-wounded warriors.”

However, Defense One, an online magazine that covers the military, reported last year on DARPA’s work on brain chips to treat PTSD, and said that DARPA was not yet in the testing phase. “The military hopes to have a prototype within 5 years and then plans to seek FDA approval,” according to Defense One. When DARPA launched its RAM (Restoring Active Memory) program last year, it projected it would be about four years until researchers were implanting chips in human.

Creating super soldiers isn’t the only thing that DARPA is trying to do. According to Jacobsen’s new book, published by Little, Brown, government scientists hope that implanting chips in soldiers will unlock the secrets of artificial intelligence, and allow us to give machines the kind of higher-level reasoning that humans can do.

“When you see all of these brain mapping programs going on, many scientists wonder whether this will [be what it takes] to break that long-sought barrier of AI,” said Jacobsen in a phone interview.

For Jacobsen, who has spent her career chronicling war, weapons and U.S. government secrets, digging through DARPA documents provided a glimpse at the future of war, but also raised questions about whether that future is one we really want.

“Are hunter-killer robots right around the bend?” she writes in the book..

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has poured resources into far-out research, from solving infectious disease to transforming humans for the theater of war. The agency is pioneering Iron Man-like exoskeletons to help protect soldiers from fire and the elements so they can keep fighting for longer. And under a program called the Brain-Machine Interface, defense scientists have studied how brain implants could eventually enhance a soldier’s cognition.

The brain emits electrical signals and an implanted chip can tap into those signals to read them. Outside of the government, scientists at places like Berkeley’s Brain-Machine Interface Systems Laboratory are experimenting with how to use such implants to translate thoughts into action for people with neurological impairments, eventually hoping to, for example, help a paralyzed person move.

At DARPA, programs like RAM and REMIND (Restorative Encoding Memory Integration Neural Device) have explored how brain implants might help soldiers returning from war with traumatic brain injuries impacting memory. Other DARPA programs have aimed to help soldiers at battle to communicate by thought alone.

“Imagine a time when the human brain has its own wireless modem so that instead of acting on thoughts, warfighters have thoughts that act,” Jacobsen chronicles DARPA’s Eric Eisenstadt telling a crowd at a technology conference in 2002.

But Jacobsen’s warning is that while helping soldiers suffering in the aftermath of war may seem inherently benign, we must not forget that DARPA is in the business of weapons development. The question that should punctuate everything DARPA does is “How can this be weaponized?”

Understanding the human brain is as important to achieving artificial intelligence as understanding computers. “The Pentagon is clearly very confident that they’re moving toward autonomous weapons,” Jacobsen told me. “The question is where is that confidence coming from?” (Contributor: By Kristen V. Brown for Fusion)

This is an “FYI” article, interesting but not immediately relevant to many readers. It warns us to be aware (and to beware) of too much government control. As the electronic age becomes increasingly complex, “artificial intelligence” must be understood and controlled. Pray for godly influence. We believe that only minds yielded to God will be equipped to handle such knowledge redemptively.

“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)

COALITION-BACKED ​SYRIA COMMANDER GAVE EQUIPMENT TO AL QAEDA 

Syrian rebel commander who recently completed a U.S. training program, has told the U.S. military that he surrendered six coalition-provided trucks and ammunition to an intermediary linked to the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, known as the Nusra Front.

U.S. Central Command said late Friday that roughly 25 percent of the equipment assigned to that unit was apparently turned over earlier this week in exchange for safe passage within the region. U.S. officials said the Syrians continue to insist that they have not relinquished any actual weapons to the Nusra Front and that all of their personnel are still accounted for.

Air Force Col. Pat Ryder, a U.S. Central Command spokesman, said the command is looking into the incident. But the report contradicts information the Defense Department provided earlier in the day, which said reports of U.S.-trained Syrian rebels defecting and missing equipment going to the Nusra Front were incorrect.

The report underscores persistent problems with the U.S.-led coalition's effort to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State.

Ryder said the Syrians had told the U.S. earlier Friday that no equipment or people were missing, but the U.S. found out later on that some of those assertions were wrong. He said providing equipment to the Nusra Front is a violation of the training and equipping program.

"In light of this new information, we wanted to ensure the public was informed as quickly as possible about the facts as we know them at this time," Ryder said. "We are using all means at our disposal to look into what exactly happened and determine the appropriate response."

The commander who turned the equipment over to the Nusra Front was one of about 70 rebel fighters who were in the second U.S. training course. He had only recently returned to Syria to fight the Islamic State militants.

The training program has been criticized as offering too little too late and failing to provide enough protection for those trained rebels once back inside Syria. The selected rebels are said to undergo a thorough vetting process to ensure they focus on the fight against the IS.

U.S. officials have begun an overhaul of the effort, including suggesting that the newly trained fighters operate as the New Syrian Forces, or NSF, alongside Syrian Kurds, Sunni Arab and other anti-Islamic State forces.

The first batch of about 54 trainees has largely disbanded. Only 11 remain available to fight, but are not in Syria. (Contributor: CBS News and The Associated Press)

Pray for our U.S. military, which is experiencing unprecedented problems. Americans virtually never get positive reports of successful military operations. We hear of troop training failure, loss of morale, sexual abuse of subordinates, equipment loss, surrender, confusion, and personnel being disciplined unfairly. The suicide rate among retired veterans is staggering. It appears that as a nation we have incurred divine judgment. Pray for revival and our country’s return to God.

“For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?” (1 Cor 14:8)

ISIS MILITANTS DESTROY 2,000 YEARS OF CHRISTIAN CIVILIZATION

The terror group ISIS has destroyed 2,000 years of Christian civilization since it became powerful in 2013. PJ Media reports tens of thousands of Assyrian Christians have been forced out of their homes as militants attack their villages; many have died.

A Catholic priest who visited a Christian refugee settlement in Iraq said that the refugees are defeated.

Fr. Andrzej Halemba said, “Without question, we are talking about genocide here. Genocide is not only when the people are killed, but also when the soul of a people is destroyed. And that is what is happening in Iraq now. It is the most tragic thing that I have ever experienced.”

He continued, “I have seen people who have been deeply wounded in their soul. In the various crises in this world I have often seen people who have lost everything. But in Iraq there are Christians who have had to leave everything and take flight three or four times. They can see no light at the end of the tunnel.”

Other refugees fled to Lebanon, after ISIS seized at least 11 of the 33 Assyrian communities in Syria’s Hasakeh province.

Chorbishop Yatron Koliana said that the Assyrian villages are now empty, except a few remaining fighters. Assyrians once numbered about 30,000 in Hasakeh.

“Our people have experienced a great tragedy in Syria,” Koliana said. “They are depressed. Some of them have chronic illnesses. Their lives are difficult.”

50-year-old refugee Simaan said, “The whole world, from the UN to the United States and Russia, is responsible. They (ISIS) have destroyed our whole civilization…and the world is watching.” (Contributor: By Carrie Dedrick for Christian Headlines)

Such vicious destruction and persecution is almost incomprehensible to Western minds. Why is this genocidal annihilation being permitted? Terrorism serves a false god, is ruled by hatred, and generates fear in its adversaries. President Obama has been indecisive as commander-in-chief of U.S. forces, with a weak response to the “ISIS crisis.” Ultimately, God will act sovereignly. Please pray!

“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)

POLL: GROWING CONCERN FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN AMERICA

recent Barna Group poll shows interesting results on the subject of persecution and discrimination against Christians and religious freedom in general.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal group, commissioned Barna to assess the public attitude toward religious freedom.

"My generation is the one that's seen bakers, photographers, CEOs, sportscasters, and our own professors get attacked and pushed out of their respective careers because of their peacefully-expressed moral convictions," laments Alison Howard, an ADF spokeswoman. "We've seen the consequences of heavy-handed government and reckless rulings on individuals and how it effects families, businesses."

As for the Barna poll findings, "41 percent of Americans say that religious freedom is worse off today than it was ten years ago, and, in fact, concern among Christians is really troubling," Howard relays. "But surprisingly and very interestingly, concern is almost double for Americans of other faiths, including those who are atheist, agnostic, and the religiously unaffiliated."

Because millennials and generation-xers are the next generation of leaders in America, it appears they will be more aware of the need to take corrective action to make sure religious freedom is restored. (Contributor: By Charlie Butts for One News Now)

Religious freedom will not be a tenet of American life again until the U.S. Constitution returns to its proper place of guidance and governance in the U.S. Until then, everything is relative, and the political party in power will define what is and is not permissible. Pray for spiritual revival that will point our nation back to its roots. Otherwise, religious liberty will be a concept but not a reality.

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

GIANT MOBILE TV GOES TO DC FOR PP SHOWDOWN

As the Congressional debate over defunding Planned Parenthood and Congressional hearings hit a high point, Created Equal's Truth Truck and GIANT Mobile TV are hitting the streets of Washington, DC to draw attention to Planned Parenthood's (PP) grisly practice of trafficking in aborted baby parts.

Coincidentally, Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood, will be testifying before a congressional committee on Tuesday.  Our Truth Truck and GIANT TV will be there to testify against her and PP's baby killing and organ trafficking business!

"Planned Parenthood needs exposed!  Far from being necessary to maintain women's health care, Planned Parenthood butchers babies and sells their parts. Not one penny of tax dollars should go to this corrupt organization. While Cecile Richards lies to Congress, we will be showing them the truth!" -- Mark Harrington, National Director, Created Equal

Interestingly, most Americans have not viewed any of the recent undercover sting videos showing Planned Parenthood executives trafficking in aborted baby parts.  In response, Created Equal has launched a national campaign to take these videos on the road to cities, universities, and Planned Parenthood facilities across America. We will be in Washington, DC as long as it takes to defund PP!

Watch the new GIANT TV Video. (Warning - Very graphic)

In the coming weeks we will be hitting the road visiting dozens of Planned Parenthood facilities and other strategic locations across America.

The heightened interest in the undercover "sting" videos provides our large screen TVs a huge opportunity to reach the American public with the truth of abortion and PP's trafficking of aborted baby parts. (Contributor: By Mark Harrington for Christian Newswire)

Concerned Christians have the spiritual weapons of truth and prayer on their side, but there is no nationwide focus of outrage (yet). It appears that Planned Parenthood and its deep-pocket lobby of lies and deception might prevail. But God still reigns! Pray for the success of the GIANT TV mobile campaign to build public awareness. Intercede for the small cadre in the Senate and the House of Representatives who are determined to expose the truth.   

“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)

On Watch in Washington September 30, 2015 Plain Text PDF Versio

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The Informer September 23, 2015

On Watch in Washington September 23, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

21 Days of Prayer and Repentance 2015 -  <Click here for free download>

POPE’S VISIT - LARGEST SECURITY OPERATION IN U.S. HISTORY

Federal authorities are mobilizing one of the largest security operations in U.S. history ahead of Pope Francis’s arrival Tuesday, an effort that is straining law enforcement resources in Washington, New York and Philadelphia.

Hundreds of thousands of onlookers are expected to gather in all three cities for a glimpse of the [Jesuit] Catholic Church leader, whose unrivaled global popularity and proclivity to wade into public crowds has added to security concerns. Thousands of federal and local personnel will be deployed to keep the pontiff and the public safe.

The challenges are immense.

The pope’s five-day tour, his first in the United States, will include appearances at the White House and Congress, a parade on Constitution Avenue in Washington, a Mass at Madison Square Garden, a procession through Central Park in New York, and an open air Mass with up to 1.5 million people in Philadelphia.

His Big Apple visit coincides with the 70th U.N. General Assembly, where more than 150 foreign delegations are also expected, creating a virtual lockdown in portions of midtown.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has designated Francis’s stops in each city a National Special Security Event, a rare designation to streamline the federal response that had previously been used for presidential inaugurations, State of the Union addresses, political conventions, NATO summits, the 2002 Winter Olympics and Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002.

The U.S. Secret Service is in charge of coordinating the massive intergovernmental operation on counterterrorism operations, crowd management, crisis response and air and vehicle traffic control. The FBI, Capitol Police, Coast Guard, Pentagon and Federal Emergency Management Agency are closely involved in the planning, along with local police departments.

Federal agencies in Washington are encouraging employees to work from home Tuesday through Thursday to cut down on congestion in the city. But further adding to the security planning challenges, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives at the White House next Friday for a state visit.

“They’re standing up one of the largest security programs for an individual in U.S. history over three cities,” said Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service agent who assisted in security preparations for Obama’s 2013 inauguration. “The level of protection afforded to Pope Francis is equal to or exceeding that provided to the president of the United States.”

At a news conference in Philadelphia on Friday, Johnson said that federal and local authorities have been planning for months. Officials offered reporters a glimpse of the Multi-Agency Communications Center where up to 90 staff members from 50 agencies will gather around the clock to monitor video, radio and other communications.

“I want to stress the level of preparation and planning and coordination,” said Johnson, flanked by Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D). “We have worked hard to achieve what we believe will be a safe and successful event and visit by the Holy Father and a safe and successful time for all those who wish to be here and see him. We believe we have struck that right balance for the public.”

Threats to a pope’s safety are not theoretical. Pope John Paul II was shot and wounded while entering the Vatican square in May 1981.

Behind the scenes, the Secret Service has been mapping out a security strategy for a visit that is virtually unprecedented in nature. Pope Benedict visited the United States in 2008, and John Paul came several times, but Francis has cultivated a peculiar brand of personal popularity with his common touch.

Clancy and the agents who will serve as Francis’s protective detail leaders traveled to the Vatican this summer to meet with the Catholic Church’s own security division. They followed the open-air popemobile around the Vatican Square to observe his movements and met with the pope directly.

“We got a first-hand view of how things worked there,” Clancy said in a brief interview. “It was very beneficial for the detail leaders and for me.”

Secret Service protective teams — including counter-snipers and counter-assault agents — have drilled at training facilities, employing a replica popemobile.

Intelligence agencies have been monitoring foreign and domestic terrorist threat levels. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, said publicly last weekend that the Secret Service had disrupted a plot related to the pope’s visit. But other federal authorities said they were not aware of the alleged incident.

Security experts emphasized that protecting the pope is uniquely challenging because of his penchant for mingling directly with spectators in large crowds. In 2013, a passenger vehicle carrying the pope was blockaded by frenzied crowds in Rio de Janeiro. Francis rolled down his window, touching those who reached into the car, and he even kissed a baby passed to him through the window, according to news accounts.

Secret Service agents said that in the past they have been instructed by Vatican officials not to manhandle the pope in rope lines; with U.S. presidents, agents are accustomed to holding onto a belt or suit coat to be able to evacuate him quickly.

Congressional leaders sent a memo to lawmakers this week instructing them not to reach out to shake hands or touch Francis as he walks through the House chamber to deliver remarks next Thursday.

“I was never more moved than by what I saw of the effects the pope has on people,” said Ralph Basham, a former Secret Service director who was assigned as the lead protective agent for John Paul’s visit to Denver in 1993. “It makes it very, very stressful and challenging for us. I’ve never been anywhere where there was more emotion than when I saw that in Denver. The only other time I did see such frightening emotion was in Egypt when [President] Nixon visited Cairo” in 1974.

The extraordinary precautions have prompted security experts to question whether the inconveniences could become extreme and counterproductive in some cases.

Scott White, an associate professor of national security at Drexel University in Philadelphia, called that city’s plan to close highways and bridges for the duration of the pope’s visit potentially unprecedented. Even visits by presidents require only temporary shutdowns, he noted.

“I don’t know what scenario they’ve strung together to come up with that plan of action,” White said.

Kurt L. Schmoke was mayor in Baltimore when John Paul visited in 1995 for a downtown parade and a Mass before 60,000 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Snipers were positioned on rooftops, mail and newspaper boxes were removed, and manhole covers were welded shut — and that was in an era before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Schmoke said in a recent interview that the elaborate security precautions were worthwhile.

“It was a major coordination between multiple levels of governments and security,” he said. “I don’t recall us shutting down the city.  . . . The biggest issue was who was going to get tickets to the stadium.”

The enormous costs of the security operations have raised additional concerns within federal agencies and local law enforcement departments, whose operating budgets do not necessarily have sufficient contingencies for significant overtime charges. The federal government budgets $4.5 million a year to handle National Special Security Events, Clancy said, but officials did not clarify whether that was enough to cover the pope’s entire visit. It is unlikely to cover some fees incurred by local law enforcement agencies, experts said.

“The papal visit will be significant in the planning and scope, almost similar literally to an inauguration, perhaps even surpassing that,” U.S. Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine testified at a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing in March. “That is a huge event and something frankly that goes above and beyond our budget.”

In the end, though, some believe the Holy Father’s safety might be in the hands of a higher power. Basham recalled flying on a Marine helicopter with John Paul in Denver when the pontiff began to make the sign of the cross and seemed to disappear into “a trancelike state.”

“All of a sudden, he went somewhere else for a minute,” Basham said. “Quite frankly, a couple times I was convinced he was having a private conversation with someone. I can only assume it was with God, I guess.” (Contributor: David Nakamura and Peter Hermann for The Washington Post)

Pray for the pope’s safety during his U.S. visit. Intercede also for his messages to line up with God’s Word. Francis is a much-loved and revered communicator, but conservative U.S. Catholic bishops and at least one American cardinal (Raymond Burke) have expressed concern about this pope’s liberal “green” views, his anti-capitalist statements, and his vague positioning on same-sex unions.

“To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa 8:20)

"CLAIM YOUR CAMPUS" AND "SEE YOU AT THE POLE" SEPTEMBER 23

This generation is our best hope for change.  We believe change comes through prayer; a reliance on God to bring change that we cannot manufacture ourselves.  Claim Your Campus (CYC) exists to empower students to pray for their schools and to teach them how to rely on God for the change they desire to see in those schools.  The mission of CYC is uniting 1 million middle school and high school students in prayer every day across the country.  To achieve that goal, it would take at least 15 students from each of the 67,000 schools in America, 3 students praying each day of the week.  Although CYC has grown significantly since its inception and has partnered with other prayer movements, like See You At The Pole, in order to experience a greater sense of unity within the movement, CYC needed to be more strategic.

In June, Claim Your Campus released a mobile app, as the next step in achieving the vision of unified student-led prayer on every campus.  The CYC app allows each school to be organized into groups throughout the week.  This allows the participants to know what days are covered, when and where different groups meet, and which days still need someone to claim.  The CYC app also allows the students to know the top 3 issues their school is dealing with, to better assist the students in praying more specifically for those issues.  Each time a group of students gather to pray, they are guided through a small prayer lesson, one of four CYC prayer strategies for schools, and five things to focus their prayers on for that day.  The CYC app allows both students and adults to be more efficiently organized.  The CYC app can be downloaded in the App Store for iOS and will be available for Android users in the coming months. (Contributors: CYC and See You At The Pole)

Pray for CYC leaders and their vision to enlist Christian students across America to keep the spirit of unified prayer and intercession alive throughout the school year.

“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.” (Matt 18:19)

PASTOR CALMS MAN DURING CHURCH THREAT

The moment Rasheed Abdul Aziz, of Jacksonville, walked into the Corinth Missionary Baptist Church, the pastor knew there was a problem.

“Every hair on my neck just stood up,” the Rev. John D. Johnson III, 45, said Monday. “It was almost like you could just like feel the presence of just negative energy.”

Aziz, 40, was sweating profusely. He had camouflage fatigue pants, camo boots, a black T-shirt and a tactical vest with a canteen hanging from it. Tattoos covered his neck and arms.

Aziz first approached a deacon outside the church and asked to see the pastor for prayer. It was early afternoon. The 11 a.m. worship service was long over.

Sunday was musician’s appreciation day at the church, a small congregation near Lake Palestine. Johnson said they’d had a great service, presented musicians with a gift and had a reception for them after the service.

Some church members met to plan for the upcoming fall fest.

“Everybody was in very good spirits,” Johnson said. “It was a fun day.”

It was into this environment that Aziz entered. The deacon brought him into the conference room where Johnson, who was with his 17-year-old son, was working.

Before the deacon even finished introducing the man to Johnson, and as Johnson extended his hand for a shake, Aziz launched into a rant.

He talked about being a “man of Islam” and having demons chasing him, Johnson said.

“You’re here at the church. What can we do for you?” Johnson told him.

Aziz gave his full name and started yelling about how his God had authorized him to take lives. He talked about how it was OK for him to kill any Christian or Jew who conflicted with what Islam said. And he used the term infidels.

It was at this point, as Aziz exhibited very volatile behavior, that Johnson did the exact opposite. Of all the churches Aziz could have walked into, he found one where the pastor is a former parole officer and has prior training in verbal de-escalation, crisis prevention and experience dealing with mentally ill offenders. Johnson’s present full-time job is as a student services intervention specialist in Tyler ISD. In that position, he can work with troubled youth.

“Immediately, just like clockwork, it kicked in,” he said of his past training.

Johnson asked the man to calm down. He stepped up to get between Aziz and the door to the rest of the church. He offered to get him a cool drink and pray for him. And he asked him to sit down.

“I never gave him the power of feeling that he was in control, that I was frightened,” Johnson said. “I just continued to engage, but I was very cautious not to raise my voice or make any quick moves.”

Johnson saw what appeared to be the outline of a gun in Aziz’s pocket. He asked him to have a seat and as Aziz sat down, Johnson patted his shoulder so he could lean over and get a good look at the possible weapon. He saw the bottom of a clip and at the same time said Aziz was becoming more and more irate.

Johnson told him he was going to take care of him but needed to get his kids situated first. That was his excuse to step out in the hall and whisper to his wife and another member there, “We got a problem. Get everybody out of the church.”

“It was as if we had trained, but we hadn’t,” Johnson said.

As people loaded up in their cars, Johnson made a decision to leave too.

“We can get another church,” he told his wife. “We can get more walls, but we cannot get new people.”

As the church members pulled out of the lot and turned north on Farm-to-Market Road 346, Aziz flashed what appeared to be a peace sign with his hand, Johnson said. Johnson said the church members saw him peel out of the parking lot headed south on the same road.

Law enforcement was already en route because a church member had called 911. Johnson praised their response time, collaboration and character.

“It was just downright amazing the compassion they showed, the attitude, the aggressiveness,” he said.

He also thanked God for giving him the clarity of mind to immediately have a plan and put that plan in place.

Law enforcement officials said they believed Aziz came back to the church later in the day, Johnson said. On Monday, a church deacon found a note Aziz apparently left to thank the church for its kindness.

“That note was in stark contradiction to what he did in deed and statement,” Johnson said.

Smith County Patrol deputies found Aziz inside the Pine Trail Shores subdivision about 9 p.m. Sunday, according to a Smith County Sheriff’s Office news release. He was still dressed in camo and was armed with a pistol he was carrying in a shoulder holster, according to the news release.

He was charged with felon in possession of firearm and was taken to the Smith County Jail. Additional charges were expected from Cherokee County, where the church is located.

Aziz’s online criminal history indicates he has convictions for marijuana possession and served prison time for aggravated robbery.

Johnson said his congregation, which numbers about 180 members, is concerned and thankful.

“It is a community of great pride and great strength, but unbelievable compassion,” said Johnson, who is entering his sixth year as pastor. “If any place can handle this and grow from it and be an example to others, it certainly is our church.”

The church already has changed how it will handle visitors because of this situation and Johnson said the church plans to get security cameras, and secure the entry points better than they have in the past. Church leaders will meet this week to plan.

Johnson said if he could share one thing with other pastors, it would be to, “Please put security measures” in place.

“Do not get caught thinking that this only happens in other places, in big places,” he said.

Ultimately, he’s thankful for how the situation ended.

“I just think it’s by the grace and mercy of God that we are not on the other side of history, the other side of tragedy.” (Contributor: By Emily Guevara for Tyler Paper)

Here is a cause for great thanksgiving and praise to God for His intervention in what could well have been another shooting tragedy on church property. Thank the Lord for Pastor Johnson’s Spirit-led conduct. Pray for Rasheed Abdul Aziz that even through his confusion and hatred-filled threats, he will encounter God’s gracious love through the Gospel and be saved.

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

U.S. BEGINS MILITARY TALKS WITH RUSSIA ON SYRIA

As the first Russian combat aircraft arrived in Syria, the Obama administration reached out to Moscow on Friday to try to coordinate actions in the war zone and avoid an accidental escalation of one of the world’s most volatile conflicts.

The diplomatic initiative amounted to a pivot for the Obama administration, which just two weeks ago delivered a stern warning to the Kremlin that its military buildup in Syria risked an escalation of the civil war there or even an inadvertent confrontation with the United States. Last week, President Obama condemned Russia’s move as a “strategy that’s doomed to failure.”

But the White House seemed to acknowledge that the Kremlin had effectively changed the calculus in Syria in a way that would not be soon reversed despite vigorous American objections. The decision to start talks also reflected a hope that Russia might yet be drawn into a more constructive role in resolving the four-year-old civil war.

President Obama spoke with President Vladimir V. Putin at a summit meeting in Beijing in November. The two leaders have had a few such glancing encounters, but no formal sit-down sessions over the past year or so.

Syrians in a destroyed section of Douma, east of Damascus. Russia has offered to hold talks with the United States on Syria.Putin Sees Path to Diplomacy Through SyriaSEPT. 16, 2015

Russia has military presences near Latakia and in Tartus.Russian Moves in Syria Widen Role in MideastSEPT. 14, 2015

At Mr. Obama’s instruction, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter on Friday opened a dialogue on Syria with his Russian counterpart, Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu, aimed at making sure that American and Russian forces avoid running into each other by mistake. The Russians have sent tanks, other equipment, marines and now combat aircraft to their new military hub near Latakia in western Syria. The Americans have flown hundreds of air missions in Syria striking the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

But while Mr. Carter’s initial military-to-military talks were limited in scope, officials indicated that the larger goal was to draw the Russians into a political process that would ultimately replace Syria’s government of President Bashar al-Assad, a longtime ally of the Kremlin.

“The president believes that a mil-to-mil conversation is an important next step,” Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday in London, where he was visiting to consult with allies. “It will help to define some of the different options that are available to us.”

Still, the stakes have become even higher, as a senior United States official on Friday confirmed that four Russian Su-27 fighter aircraft had been deployed to the air base in recent days, along with four large Hip troop-transport helicopters and four Hind helicopter gunships. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence reports, said that more than 20 Condor transport plane flights had delivered weapons and equipment to the air base in the past 10 days.

The Russian military buildup in Syria could serve the Kremlin’s interests in several ways. It could help strengthen Mr. Assad, whom Russia has long backed and who has suffered a number of military reversals in recent months. It could put Moscow in a stronger position to shape the formation of a new Syrian government if Mr. Assad is pushed out of power. It also helps Russia cement its strategic interests in what experts say is its most important new Middle East military outpost in decades.

Some former diplomats view the Russian move as a brazen effort to undercut American influence in the region.

“The whole region is watching this,” said James F. Jeffrey, a former American ambassador in Iraq and Turkey. “Russia is trying to change the security dynamic in the Middle East and demonstrating that it supports its allies to the hilt. The White House is sitting there and worrying about de-conflicting airplanes when we should be upping our efforts against Assad.”

But after failing to impede the buildup by convincing nations to close their airspace to Russian transport planes — Bulgaria banned the flights but Iraq did not — the White House is trying to make the best out of a situation it feels it is powerless to prevent.

Administration officials have long argued that Mr. Assad’s brutal and often indiscriminate crackdown against its foes has encouraged support for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. And they seem intent on exploring the closed-door comments by Russian diplomats that they are not wedded to the Syrian leader.

As Western officials look for a political solution, they appear to be demonstrating some flexibility. Though the Obama administration has long said that Mr. Assad must go in order for there to be a durable solution to the Syria crisis, Mr. Kerry allowed for the possibility that Mr. Assad might remain in power in the short term.

“Our focus remains on destroying ISIL and also on a political settlement with respect to Syria, which we believe cannot be achieved with the long-term presence of Assad,” Mr. Kerry said at the start of a meeting here with Abdullah bin Zayed, the United Arab Emirates foreign minister. “But we’re looking for ways in which to try to find a common ground.”

Philip Hammond, the British foreign secretary whom Mr. Kerry is scheduled to meet on Saturday, made a similar point earlier this month.

“We are not saying Assad and all his cronies have to go on day one,” Mr. Hammond told a parliamentary committee. “If there was a process that was agreed, including with the Russians and the Iranians, which took a period of months and there was a transition out during that period of months, we could certainly discuss that.”

The Russian aircraft that arrived in Syria this week followed the deployment of modern T-90 tanks, howitzers, and armored personnel carriers. More than 200 Russian marines have been sent to the air base, and temporary housing has been built for as many as 1,500 personnel.

Mr. Carter’s call to Mr. Shoigu was his first conversation with his Russian counterpart since he took office seven months ago, and it followed Moscow’s proposal that the two sides begin military-to-military talks on Syria. The two men agreed to continue discussions on “mechanisms for deconfliction” in Syria, Peter Cook, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement. Mr. Shoigu told Mr. Carter that the Russian military buildup in Syria was defensive in nature, Pentagon officials said.

The prospect that military talks could lead to a broader agreement, however, seemed distant to some former administration officials.

“With respect to getting the Russians to be a useful partner in a political settlement, we’ve tried that twice under better circumstances and failed,” said Michael A. McFaul, a former Obama adviser and ambassador to Russia.

Moreover, experts said both sides were approaching the issue from weakened positions that could complicate a common diplomatic strategy. “The positions of both Moscow and Washington’s proxies are worsening,” said Andrew J. Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“The Russians are going into Syria because the regime’s position in the north is deteriorating,” he noted. “The Pentagon has been unable to recruit and train a viable opposition to fight the Islamic State because the rebels’ main interest is in fighting Mr. Assad. Given divisions between Moscow and Washington, it’s hard to see how you turn convergence on tactical military issues into a collective and viable political strategy to stabilize Syria and end the war.”

But that appears to be precisely Mr. Kerry’s goal. “They allege that they also share the goal of a political transition that leads to a stable, whole, united, secular Syria,” Mr. Kerry said of the Russians on Britain’s Channel 4. “The question always remains, Where is Assad’s place and role within that? And that’s what we need to have more conversation on.” (Contributor: By Michael R. Gordon for The New York Times - Peter Baker, Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper contributed reporting from Washington, and Neil MacFarquhar from Moscow.)

Pray for the volatile situation in Syria. Picture a building full of explosives in an earthquake. A big boom may be imminent. Both Russian and U.S. military forces are there, though with very different goals. Pray for Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart. Both nations’ diplomatic forces are testing each other’s nerve. Israel’s security is also in the balance. Ultimately, God will rule!

“All nations … You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name. For You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God.” (Ps 86:9-10)

CHRISTIANS ARE BEING DENIED U.S. VISAS

faith-based global ministry has initiated a "Fostering Families" program in which it's calling on over 1,000 churches in America to take in persecuted refugees from the ongoing crisis. Rev. Kevin Jessip, president of Global Strategic Alliance, said Christians are being wiped out from the Middle East, while at the same time being denied visas in the United States, and it's an urgent time for the rest of the Christian body to wake up and help.

"It's inappropriate for the Untied States of America to discriminate against a minority religion who is in dire need of asylum. These are proven cases at the UNHCR that we've seen of people who have been denied, and are in jeopardy of losing their lives," Jessip told The Christian Post in a phone interview on Thursday.

"Not only have they ran and lost everything, but now, in many cases, we are seeing people facing another impending threat, and that is starvation," he said, noting that most of the Christian refugees don't even have basic resources to provide food for themselves.

Grace Knodt, vice president of GSA, who also spoke with CP over the phone, noted the urgency of the situation.

"As far as our Christian brothers and sisters are concerned, they are facing imminent death, many of them," Knodt said.

The program's goal is to enroll a minimum of 1,000 American churches and embrace the refugees who are fleeing war and terrorism in Syria and the surrounding region by the millions.

"I believe that the church needs to wake up, and we need to revive that which is about to die. The very church, the body of Christ, is being eliminated in the Middle East, and the very cradle of Christianity, is being wiped off the map," Jessip added, drawing from Revelation 3:2 in the Bible.

"And if the rest of the Christian body does not awaken at this time and begin to move by the power of God's Holy Spirit and take action to help these people, we will answer for that one day. We have to do everything that we possibly can."

Many of these refugees have been making their way to Western European countries, stretching resoureces and national borders.

The GSA was formed to help protect the persecuted church and provide safe havens throughout the Middle East, and focuses on building alliances and supporting workers on the ground who are engaged with displaced marginalized people, Jessip told CP.

The organization has also been working with immigration services both globally and domestically; it has held meetings with U.S. congressmen, and spoken at the U.N. to highlight persecution of Jews and Christians on a global basis.

The Fostering Families program will provide asylum for refugees who are in the pipeline for resettlement, and for Christian refugees who right now have been denied visas to come into the U.S.

Jessip said that it's especially important to reach out now with a humanitarian effort of "epic and historic proportions," and revealed that several churches have already joined the effort and stated they are willing to foster more than one family.

"These proclamations will be submitted to the U.S. State Department, letting them know that these churches are ready to subsidize the cost for any and all resettlement, rather than burdening the U.S. tax payers," the GSA president continued.

"When the U.S. government is aware that the body of Christ is standing up and beginning to take action, once they are made aware of this initiative, they are very empathetic to helping these people and giving them a second chance at life again."

Other church leaders, such as Pope Francis, have also called on the Christian body to reach out to the refugees. Earlier in September, Francis urged every Catholic parish and religious community in Europe to take in at least one refugee family, noting that the Vatican would take two families itself.

President Barack Obama's administration has said it will allow at least 10,000 extra refugees in 2016 to come to America, but Jessip said that number is not high enough, and warned that many persecuted Christians are being denied visas.

"It's not large enough by any means. America in its past has transplanted entire communities of Somalian refugees into Minneapolis-St. Paul, and yet we've denied Christians visas to come into the Untied States. With Germany taking 800,000 to a million people, and with these European nations being overrun, the U.S. can be doing much more," he added.

Jessip noted that there will be several challenges with resettling refugees and helping them get acclimated to a completely different culture and system, and there will need to be an intelligent approach worked out.

With stories of Muslim refugees being baptized and converting to Christianity throughout Europe, such as with Iranian refugees seeking asylum in Germany, Jessip said such people are coming to know Christ firsthand.

"It is an incredible opportunity for the body of Christ to awaken, arise, take action, and help these people," he added.

There has been some controversy over religious considerations, however, with instances like Slovakia announcing that they will only take in Christian refugees, instead of Muslims.

On the other hand, Anglican leader Justin Welby, as well as Christian persecution watchdog groups, have warned that some government policies, like that of the U.K., are discriminating against Christians who are avoiding entering formal refugee camps populated by Sunni Muslims amid fears of attacks by Islamic radicals.

Jessip argued that both Muslims and Christians should be helped equally, but said that the media often does not portray just how much discrimination Christians have faced.

As for the Christian responsibility to help refugees from a biblical perspective, Jessip focused on Jesus' words in Matthew 25, where Christ said:

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

The GSA president said that Christians "will have to answer for these things."

"And I believe that God has blessed America in such a way, that the body of Christ is the most empathetic body that there is," he continued. "We will give until it hurts."

Jessip reflected on the complacency in the U.S., with people often complaining about little things, while the reality is that on the other side of the Earth, "people are literally starving to death or running for their lives with only the clothes on their backs."

"I believe that we are in a kairos moment. And we have very little time to react to that. I think that we have to be obedient to the word of God, and begin to awaken this Church," he said.

More information on how people can get involved to help is available on the GSA website. (Contributor: By Stoyan Zaimov for the Christian Post)

Pray for the Global Strategic Alliance (GSA) and its president, Kevin Jessip, as he seeks to publicize the plight of these Christian minority groups being overlooked in their dire refugee status. Pray for the Church in America to awaken to its opportunity to “welcome Jesus” as we find ways to welcome His brothers and sisters about whom the world cares nothing. Pray many will be rescued.

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ ” (Matt 25:37-40)

U.S. SOLDIERS TOLD TO IGNORE SEXUAL ABUSE OF BOYS BY AFGHAN ALLIES

In his last phone call home, Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr. told his father what was troubling him: From his bunk in southern Afghanistan, he could hear Afghan police officers sexually abusing boys they had brought to the base.

“At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,” the Marine’s father, Gregory Buckley Sr., recalled his son telling him before he was shot to death at the base in 2012. He urged his son to tell his superiors. “My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture.”

Rampant sexual abuse of children has long been a problem in Afghanistan, particularly among armed commanders who dominate much of the rural landscape and can bully the population. The practice is called bacha bazi, literally “boy play,” and American soldiers and Marines have been instructed not to intervene — in some cases, not even when their Afghan allies have abused boys on military bases, according to interviews and court records.

The policy has endured as American forces have recruited and organized Afghan militias to help hold territory against the Taliban. But soldiers and Marines have been increasingly troubled that instead of weeding out pedophiles, the American military was arming them in some cases and placing them as the commanders of villages — and doing little when they began abusing children.

“The reason we were here is because we heard the terrible things the Taliban were doing to people, how they were taking away human rights,” said Dan Quinn, a former Special Forces captain who beat up an American-backed militia commander for keeping a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave. “But we were putting people into power who would do things that were worse than the Taliban did — that was something village elders voiced to me.”

The policy of instructing soldiers to ignore child sexual abuse by their Afghan allies is coming under new scrutiny, particularly as it emerges that service members like Captain Quinn have faced discipline, even career ruin, for disobeying it.

After the beating, the Army relieved Captain Quinn of his command and pulled him from Afghanistan. He has since left the military.

Four years later, the Army is also trying to forcibly retire Sgt. First Class Charles Martland, a Special Forces member who joined Captain Quinn in beating up the commander.

“The Army contends that Martland and others should have looked the other way (a contention that I believe is nonsense),” Representative Duncan Hunter, a California Republican who hopes to save Sergeant Martland’s career, wrote last week to the Pentagon’s inspector general.

In Sergeant Martland’s case, the Army said it could not comment because of the Privacy Act.

When asked about American military policy, the spokesman for the American command in Afghanistan, Col. Brian Tribus, wrote in an email: “Generally, allegations of child sexual abuse by Afghan military or police personnel would be a matter of domestic Afghan criminal law.” He added that “there would be no express requirement that U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan report it.” An exception, he said, is when rape is being used as a weapon of war.

The American policy of nonintervention is intended to maintain good relations with the Afghan police and militia units the United States has trained to fight the Taliban. It also reflects a reluctance to impose cultural values in a country where pederasty is rife, particularly among powerful men, for whom being surrounded by young teenagers can be a mark of social status.

Some soldiers believed that the policy made sense, even if they were personally distressed at the sexual predation they witnessed or heard about.

“The bigger picture was fighting the Taliban,” a former Marine lance corporal reflected. “It wasn’t to stop molestation.”

Still, the former lance corporal, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid offending fellow Marines, recalled feeling sickened the day he entered a room on a base and saw three or four men lying on the floor with children between them. “I’m not a hundred percent sure what was happening under the sheet, but I have a pretty good idea of what was going on,” he said.

But the American policy of treating child sexual abuse as a cultural issue has often alienated the villages whose children are being preyed upon. The pitfalls of the policy emerged clearly as American Special Forces soldiers began to form Afghan Local Police militias to hold villages that American forces had retaken from the Taliban in 2010 and 2011.

By the summer of 2011, Captain Quinn and Sergeant Martland, both Green Berets on their second tour in northern Kunduz Province, began to receive dire complaints about the Afghan Local Police units they were training and supporting.

First, they were told, one of the militia commanders raped a 14- or 15-year-old girl whom he had spotted working in the fields. Captain Quinn informed the provincial police chief, who soon levied punishment. “He got one day in jail, and then she was forced to marry him,” Mr. Quinn said.

When he asked a superior officer what more he could do, he was told that he had done well to bring it up with local officials but that there was nothing else to be done. “We’re being praised for doing the right thing, and a guy just got away with raping a 14-year-old girl,” Mr. Quinn said.

Village elders grew more upset at the predatory behavior of American-backed commanders. After each case, Captain Quinn would gather the Afghan commanders and lecture them on human rights.

Soon another commander absconded with his men’s wages. Mr. Quinn said he later heard that the commander had spent the money on dancing boys. Another commander murdered his 12-year-old daughter in a so-called honor killing for having kissed a boy. “There were no repercussions,” Mr. Quinn recalled.

In September 2011, an Afghan woman, visibly bruised, showed up at an American base with her son, who was limping. One of the Afghan police commanders in the area, Abdul Rahman, had abducted the boy and forced him to become a sex slave, chained to his bed, the woman explained. When she sought her son’s return, she herself was beaten. Her son had eventually been released, but she was afraid it would happen again, she told the Americans on the base.

She explained that because “her son was such a good-looking kid, he was a status symbol” coveted by local commanders, recalled Mr. Quinn, who did not speak to the woman directly but was told about her visit when he returned to the base from a mission later that day.

So Captain Quinn summoned Abdul Rahman and confronted him about what he had done. The police commander acknowledged that it was true, but brushed it off. When the American officer began to lecture about “how you are held to a higher standard if you are working with U.S. forces, and people expect more of you,” the commander began to laugh.

“I picked him up and threw him onto the ground,” Mr. Quinn said. Sergeant Martland joined in, he said. “I did this to make sure the message was understood that if he went back to the boy, that it was not going to be tolerated,” Mr. Quinn recalled.

There is disagreement over the extent of the commander’s injuries. Mr. Quinn said they were not serious, which was corroborated by an Afghan official who saw the commander afterward.

(The commander, Abdul Rahman, was killed two years ago in a Taliban ambush. His brother said in an interview that his brother had never raped the boy, but was the victim of a false accusation engineered by his enemies.)

Sergeant Martland, who received a Bronze Star for valor for his actions during a Taliban ambush, wrote in a letter to the Army this year that he and Mr. Quinn “felt that morally we could no longer stand by and allow our A.L.P. to commit atrocities,” referring to the Afghan Local Police.

The father of Lance Corporal Buckley believes the policy of looking away from sexual abuse was a factor in his son’s death, and he has filed a lawsuit to press the Marine Corps for more information about it.

Lance Corporal Buckley and two other Marines were killed in 2012 by one of a large entourage of boys living at their base with an Afghan police commander named Sarwar Jan.

Mr. Jan had long had a bad reputation; in 2010, two Marine officers managed to persuade the Afghan authorities to arrest him following a litany of abuses, including corruption, support for the Taliban and child abduction. But just two years later, the police commander was back with a different unit, working at Lance Corporal Buckley’s post, Forward Operating Base Delhi, in Helmand Province.

Lance Corporal Buckley had noticed that a large entourage of “tea boys” — domestic servants who are sometimes pressed into sexual slavery — had arrived with Mr. Jan and moved into the same barracks, one floor below the Marines. He told his father about it during his final call home.

Word of Mr. Jan’s new position also reached the Marine officers who had gotten him arrested in 2010. One of them, Maj. Jason Brezler, dashed out an email to Marine officers at F.O.B. Delhi, warning them about Mr. Jan and attaching a dossier about him.

The warning was never heeded. About two weeks later, one of the older boys with Mr. Jan — around 17 years old — grabbed a rifle and killed Lance Corporal Buckley and the other Marines.

Lance Corporal Buckley’s father still agonizes about whether the killing occurred because of the sexual abuse by an American ally. “As far as the young boys are concerned, the Marines are allowing it to happen and so they’re guilty by association,” Mr. Buckley said. “They don’t know our Marines are sick to their stomachs.”

The one American service member who was punished in the investigation that followed was Major Brezler, who had sent the email warning about Mr. Jan, his lawyers said. In one of Major Brezler’s hearings, Marine Corps lawyers warned that information about the police commander’s penchant for abusing boys might be classified. The Marine Corps has initiated proceedings to discharge Major Brezler.

Mr. Jan appears to have moved on, to a higher-ranking police command in the same province. In an interview, he denied keeping boys as sex slaves or having any relationship with the boy who killed the three Marines. “No, it’s all untrue,” Mr. Jan said. But people who know him say he still suffers from “a toothache problem,” a euphemism here for child sexual abuse. (Contributor: By Joseph Goldstein for The New York Times)

Be forewarned! The images this account conjures up in the minds of morally upright people range from disgust to heartache to pity to despair — and worse. Pray for Army Sgt. First Class Charles Martland and Marine Major Jason Brezler who, in different ways, tried to interfere with the terribly immoral practice alluded to in this article. As a result, they may lose their military careers.

“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. 1:24-25) (For God’s viewpoint, read all of Romans 1.)

On Watch in Washington September 23, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

 

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The Informer September 16, 2015

On Watch in Washington September 16, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

AS FED MEETS. DECISION ON RATE LOOMS

Will they or won't they?

Nine years after they last raised their benchmark interest rate and after months of feverish speculation, Federal Reserve policymakers this week may finally raise that rate from a record low near zero.

Unless they don't.

Financial markets have been zigzagging with anxiety as investors have tried to divine whether the Fed will start phasing out the period of extraordinarily low borrowing rates it launched at a time of crisis in 2008. With the job market now considered essentially recovered from the Great Recession, many economists say it's time to start edging toward normal rates.

Others argue that many other factors — from a sharply slowing China to the tumult in markets to persistently less-than-optimal inflation — raise serious concerns. They say the Fed should wait, until later this year or even until 2016.

When the Fed announces its decision Thursday, followed by Chair Janet Yellen's news conference, no one is sure what to expect. Economists appear almost evenly split on the likelihood of a rate hike.

"It's kind of wild that we still don't know what they are going to do so close to the meeting," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial.

Even if the Fed does raise its benchmark short-term rate, no one expects a sharp or rapid sequence of hikes. The Fed's vice chair, Stanley Fischer, has suggested that the first hike would be a modest quarter-point increase in its benchmark rate from a range of zero to 0.25 percent to a range of 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent.

The anxiety gripping investors stems in part from concern that once the Fed starts raising its key rate, other rates — for mortgages, car loans, business borrowing — will eventually rise. Some fear the economy might suffer.

Yet the Fed's influence on many consumer and business rates is only indirect. In the short run at least, those rates could continue to stay low, held down by low inflation globally and by a flow of money into U.S Treasurys.

Fed officials have stressed that once the central bank starts raising rates, the process will be extremely gradual. The Fed might pause for months after its first hike and assess the consequences before proceeding further.

Until turmoil struck markets this summer, a September rate hike seemed a lock. Then, China's surprise decision to devalue its currency ignited fears that the world's second-largest economy was weakening faster than assumed. Stocks tumbled.

At an economic conference last month in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Fed officials sent mixed signals about this week's meeting. Some indicated they were ready to raise rates if markets had settled and if the economy kept improving. The unemployment rate reached a seven-year low of 5.1 percent in August, while job growth, though solid, slowed a bit.

In July, when Yellen delivered a midyear economic report to Congress, she reiterated that the Fed would likely raise rates before year's end. But she wasn't specific.

Swonk foresees no rate hike this week. She noted that a hallmark of the Fed is to move cautiously when facing risks.

"There is more to be lost by being wrong and moving too soon than waiting a few months to see if China is just a ripple in the global economy or the precursor of a bigger storm," Swonk said.

Likewise, Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at California State University, Channel Islands, thinks the Fed will delay a hike.

"A quarter-point won't mean much to the U.S. economy, but it could mean significant additional turbulence in emerging markets such as Brazil, Indonesia and India, which are already seeing sizable outflows of capital," Sohn said.

On the other side of the debate is Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, who thinks the Fed will lift its rate by a quarter-point.

"Given that the economy is strong and rapidly approaching full employment, zero interest rates don't make a whole lot of sense," Zandi said. "The longer they wait, the more uncertainty and volatility they are creating in financial markets."

One reason for the likely gradual pace of rate hikes is that Fed officials want to make sure the new machinery they will deploy to control rates will work effectively.

Before the Great Recession, the Fed would control its federal funds rate — the rate banks charge each other for overnight loans — by adjusting how much money the banks held. To lower rates, the Fed would buy Treasurys held by the banks. And the banks would use the money they received to step up lending.

If the Fed wanted to raise short-term rates, it would sell Treasurys to the banks, thereby reducing the money the banks held and driving loan rates up.

But all the bond buying the Fed did to cut rates left banks swimming in reserves. So the Fed needs other tools to influence rates. A key plan is to raise the interest the Fed pays banks on their reserves. The idea would be to set a floor on interest the banks charge their customers: Banks wouldn't be willing to lend at lower rates than they're receiving from the Fed. This could have the effect of reducing lending.

Yet economists generally say the effects of a series of small rate hikes will be negligible.

David Jones, an economist and Fed historian, thinks a 1 percentage point increase in the Fed's rate would cause the yield on the 10-year Treasury note to rise only to about 3 percent by the end of 2016, from 2.2 percent now. That would mean only slightly higher mortgage rates — not enough to derail the housing recovery.

The dollar, which has risen sharply in the past year, could also increase further, which could slow exports. American producers have already suffered a slowdown in exports from the dollar's strength and weakness in overseas markets.

Still, many economists predict little initial reaction to the Fed's first rate hike in nine years. A modest rate has likely already been discounted by investors, they say.

"So long as the Fed doesn't send a signal that it is going to start moving rates up more aggressively, I don't expect any big changes in stocks, bonds or currency levels," Zandi said. (Contributor: By Martin Crutsinger for Associated Press and Yahoo News Service)

This is a crucial decision for our future financial stability in the world economy. Ask the Lord to grant wisdom to all who are involved in these deliberations. More importantly, ask that the Lord's will be done.
"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:9-10)

SC GOV. MAY CLOSE TWO OF THE STATE’S ABORTUARIES

All three of South Carolina's abortion facilities have violated state law, and Gov. Nikki Haley has issued an order that could close two of them in just over two weeks. And their managers and employees may face criminal charges.

Gov. Nikki Haley announced late Friday afternoon that she had issued Administrative Order of Suspensions against Planned Parenthood of South Atlantic in Columbia and Greenville Women's Clinic in Greenville and assessed more than $10,000 in fines so far.

The state's Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) found 27 violations in those two offices—21 at Planned Parenthood alone.

Planned Parenthood was found to have violated the Woman's Right to Know Act five times, failed to prove that its staff was properly trained, kept expired medication on the premises, wrongly disposed of infectious material, and failed to report abortions to the state in a timely manner.

Greenville violated many of the same statues by failing to comply with the Woman's Right to Know Act, keeping incomplete records, and improperly disposing of infectious waste.

All three abortion facilities in the state were found to have violated state law in the way it disposed of aborted fetuses. State law requires that aborted babies must be buried or cremated. But inspectors found that the babies were blasted with steam for sterilization purposes then thrown away in the local landfill.

Planned Parenthood's Columbia location must pay a $7,000 fine, and Greenville must pay $2,750.

The third facility, Women's Medical Center in Charleston, was found to have had record keeping issues. It must submit a plan to correct reporting errors within 15 days.

Gov. Nikki Haley said the Center for Medical Progress' undercover "videos showing Planned Parenthood employees' horrifying disregard for human life" had "prompted" her to demand the investigation on August 18.

Investigations that took place between August 31 and September 4 "concluded that all three abortion clinics in the state are in fact in violation of South Carolina laws or regulations."

"This is completely unacceptable," she said.

Even then, the abortion facilities may face criminal charges. Haley say the state attorney general's office, and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) are working in tandem "to review the findings and to determine if criminal action is warranted."

Despite the license suspensions, the facilities may continue operating until September 28, during which time they must show staff is properly trained and present a plan for addressing the rest of the issues.

DHEC Director Catherine Heigel said, "We will work together with each of these facilities to help get them into compliance as quickly as possible."

Planned Parenthood South Atlantic released a statement Friday saying that it was "shocked" to learn of DHEC's decision.

"We are deeply concerned that this investigation is politically motivated and that this political interference could prevent some women from getting high-quality care," said Jenny Black, the group's CEO.

"The health and safety of our patients and the compassionate care that we have provided to thousands of women, men and young people in South Carolina for over 50 years is our top priority," she added. "Our health center was inspected less than a year ago and was found to have 100 percent compliance with all state regulations."

Two companies that transport aborted babies' bodies - Stericycle and MedSharps - must also discuss allegations of impropriety with officials within the next 15 days. The companies could face fines as a result of their role in illegally putting babies into landfills. (Contributor: By Ben Johnson for Life Site News)

Pray as we continue to track this issue. It is not over. Give thanks for Gov. Haley’s courage and convictions. Videos emerged yesterday (9/15) of more scandalous details of aborted babies and baby organs being sold for considerable profit. Intercessors should pray, then discover how their state and federal representatives are voting. We will continue to ask, “Where is the Church?” Let us all pray!

“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 59:9)  

U.S. AND RUSSIAN FORCES IN SYRIA AREN’T TALKING TO EACH OTHER

In Syria, where the U.S. is leading an air campaign against Islamic State targets and Russian military advisors are arriving to help the Assad regime, the two militaries aren’t talking to each other.

“Coalition forces are focused on conducting counter-ISIL operations, and so to my knowledge there is no military-to-military contact at this point,” Air Force Col. Pat Ryder, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, told reporters Friday morning.

“We’re keeping an eye on the Russian situation there, but right now again there’s really no deconfliction to do,” Ryder said, answering a question about how U.S. and anti-ISIS coalition forces and the Russian military are keeping out of each other’s way in Syria. “I think what you’re getting at is: [deconfliction] in the event there’s some type of Russian military or air activity, but again, I’m not going to speculate or talk about hypotheticals. Certainly, we have very professional air forces, and the coalition is going to ensure the safety of those forces where we operate.”

But Russia’s military presence in Syria, at least, is no longer hypothetical. Just hours before Ryder’s press briefing, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed that Moscow had sent troops and equipment to help its longtime client, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, fight ISIS. Lavrov declined to confirm a Reuters report that the Russian troops had seen combat, but he did warn the U.S. about a growing risk of “unintended incidents” if the countries’ militaries did not cooperate in Syria.

When Ryder was asked specifically about deconfliction between coalition and Russian forces, the Pentagon spokesman referred the question to the State Department. But State Department spokesman John Kirby tossed it right back: “You have to talk to DOD about air coordination over the skies of Syria. That is not a State Department function.”

Kirby did note that the Pentagon has “routine military-to-military exchanges and dialogue with Russia, just as a matter of course.”

And he said that while the U.S. is hardly coordinating the air campaign with Assad or his government, it is using back channels, such as the Syrian representative to the U.N., to notify Damascus of imminent actions.

“There’s no coordination with the air campaign and the Syrian regime, but yes, they have been notified in the past about air activity and advised to stay clear of it,” Kirby said.

James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO and now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said the absence of military-to-military contact is troubling.

“It is very dangerous to have both Russian and U.S. troops in a confined battle space, essentially on opposite sides of a civil war, without contact for deconfliction of any combat or support activities,” Stavridis said. “Open communication at the strategic and tactical level are both important.”

Kirby noted that there are diplomatic channels for broader contact with Russia. “There are many vehicles through which we communicate with Russian leaders about their activities and their intentions,” he said, citing two phone calls between Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Kerry in the past week. The U.S. embassy in Moscow “routinely talks to Russian leaders and officials about all manner of issues, particularly those that are of concern to us,” he said.

“We’ll continue to keep the lines of communication open as we feel we need to to gain better clarity,” Kirby said. “While the intent isn’t perfectly clear, our concerns remain valid and we’re going to continue to have these discussions with Russian leaders going forward.”

Risk Is Growing

Lavrov blamed Washington for severing military ties after Russia annexed Crimea and invaded Ukraine, fracturing a “professional” relationship that had for years been “important for the avoidance of undesired, unintended incidents.”

“They understand each other very well,” he said of U.S. brass and their Russian counterparts. “If, as John Kerry has said many times, the United States wants those channels frozen, then be our guest.”

Meanwhile, the risk of “unintended incidents” between U.S. and coalition forces and Russian and Syrian government forces appears to be growing. The U.S. is deepening agreements with Turkey to use its bases and clear its border of ISIS fighters. It is also training and equipping Syrian fighters and reinserting them into the fight in Syria, where it has vowed to defend them against ISIS or Assad.

U.S. officials also say Moscow has stationed about 200 naval infantrymen near the Syrian city of Latakia, and has sent in SA-22 anti-aircraft missiles to be operated by Russians. Meanwhile, Lavrov confirmed that the Russian Navy is beginning exercises off the Syrian coast, home to its only Mediterranean naval base, at Tartous. At least five missile-armed ships will take part, Reuters reported.

Stavridis noted that the Soviet and U.S. navies shared detailed action plans during the Cold War to avoid accidental, escalatory interactions, and said this might serve as a model in the new conflict. “We will need similar dialogue, and possibly such protocols, to avoid incidents in Syria,” he said.

Russia’s latest moves caught the U.S. and NATO by surprise. “I know of no prior notice that was given to the United States with respect to these additional activities that Russia has taken,” the State Department’s Kirby said.

So what’s next? Kirby said later Friday that the U.S. opposes “any actions in Syria that empowers the regime to escalate the conflict.”

“We’d welcome constructive anti-ISIL efforts by Russia, but it can’t start with, and it can’t be a function of, continued support to the Assad regime,” Kirby said. He said Russia has not been asked to join the 60-plus nations now fighting ISIS, and added, “It wasn’t an implied invitation.”

But earlier in the day, White House spokesman Josh Earnest had seemed to suggest that the coalition’s door might be open to Moscow.

“Any efforts that anybody would take, including the Russians, to offer material support to the Assad regime would be counterproductive,” Earnest said in a briefing. “So at the same time, we would welcome constructive Russian contributions to our anti-ISIL campaign. There are more than 60 countries who are participating in that effort, and we would welcome constructive Russian support for those efforts.”

Stavridis agreed, saying, “Far better than sending troops to bolster the failing Assad regime would be Russian participation in the anti-Islamic State coalition alongside more than 40 nations who seek to destroy ISIL.”

Earnest said that the U.S. remains unsure about Russia’s intentions in Syria. (Critics say this inability to understand President Vladimir Putin prevented the Obama administration from anticipating the invasion of Ukraine, or responding effectively to the conflict that followed.)

“At this point, it’s hard to tell exactly what they’re planning to do,” he said. “We’ve, I think. tried to make clear what we would like to see them do, but ultimately they’ll have to decide.” (Contributor: By Molly O'Toole for Defense One)

News headlines try to be sensational. Why should American and Russian troops talk to each other in Syria when they are on opposite sides of the conflict? Pray for caution here, as Russia appears to be showing increased belligerence toward the U.S. Pray for God’s mercy and military restraint. Our Scripture applies to both nations. Without repentance, the U.S. can no longer claim God’s favor.

“We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes; we stumble at noonday as at twilight; we are as dead men in desolate places.” (Isaiah 59:10)

FEAR OF ISIS TAKEOVER OF JORDAN DRIVES ISRAEL TO BUILD FENCE

In a white tent set up not far from the border with Jordan - very similar to the tent that hosted the ceremony for the signing of the peace treaty with Jordan 21 years ago in Ein Evrona, the small Arava town just a few kilometers north of Eilat - a number of army officers, environmental experts, and intelligence officials gathered for a meeting that included a surprise stop by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz.

Twenty-one years after the signing of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty, the border between the two countries has proven to be the quietest, albeit the least maintained from a financial standpoint, of any of Israel’s frontiers.  Nonetheless, the prime minister was given the latest intelligence data that surveyed possible future threats.

In years past, Hamas operatives from Gaza sought to enter the Sinai Peninsula, from where they would seek to infiltrate Israel in order to carry out attacks. That route was closely watched by Israeli intelligence experts until the completion of the fence along the Egyptian border. The barrier has almost completely sealed Israel off from drug smugglers, African refugees and economic migrants, women traffickers, and, of course, terrorists.

Nowadays, the fence has proven to be a necessity given the fact that some violent Beduin tribes from Sinai have joined Islamic State. It allows Israel to better prepare in dealing with a hostile Islamist element currently fighting the Egyptian authorities in an area that is supposed to be demilitarized as per the terms of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. These elements can just as easily try to do harm to Israel as part of its campaign against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, either in an attempt to undermine the cold peace with Israel or simply out of an Islamist ideology that loathes Jews.

Now that the Gaza-Sinai-Israel path has been blocked off, the terrorists will seek an alternate route. It begins in Gaza, continues into Sinai, and, from there, heads further east into Jordan. Then the route takes a northward turn along the rusty, barbed-wire fence that runs along the frontier with Israel.

Initially, it will be criminals seeking to smuggle in drugs, contraband, and women. Intelligence officials are now warning that terrorists are soon to follow.

This is exactly what Netanyahu wanted to hear - a reason justifying his decision to build a fence. The first section of the fence will stretch from the Red Sea resort town of Eilat to Timna. Initially, the pretext for the fence was to build a barrier that would defend the airport that is expected to be built there. Overall, however, this is the Netanyahu Doctrine - build a high fence to keep the bad neighbors out, or neighbors that could turn bad later on.

Israel is entering a sensitive, problematic situation diplomacy-wise. Everyone knows the real reason behind the building of this fence - the very real fear that Jordan will collapse. This scenario is not far-fetched. In fact, it is Israel’s nightmare.

The Jordanians have protected the border effectively and admirably since 1994. It has proven its worth both from an intelligence standpoint as well as its security capabilities, with no infiltrations by armed terrorists. But given the wave of Islamism in the region, it’s doubtful Jordan can survive as presently constituted. It’s a subject that’s completely taboo, certainly among senior defense and government officials, but it’s the bitter truth (at least, potentially).

Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry’s diplomatic-security branch, spoke of the regional turbulence during a lecture on counterterrorism at a conference hosted by the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. He speculated that the brutality and unscrupulousness of ISIS would drag the United States and the West into a bitter war.

He argued that if ISIS - which is currently operating in Iraq and Syria - were to be forced out of its current positions by the rebels or troops loyal to Bashar Assad, its next move would most likely be to head south toward Jordan. Gilad noted that Jordan currently shares a border with ISIS from the east and al-Qaida from the north. Al-Qaida has taken control of swathes of the Golan Heights, so Israel is also mired in this mess.

Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ “Quds Force,” has spoken recently of opening up an eastern front against Israel from within Jordan. It was also learned recently that the Hashemite kingdom apprehended a number of individuals suspected to have ties with Hezbollah. Add it all up and what we have brewing is a Sunni-Shi’ite showdown right in our own backyard.

On the Israeli Right, there are those who murmur that Jordan is Palestine, but it would be more accurate to say that Jordan may soon become ISIS-stan. That’s why Israel not only needs a fence, but it also needs a quiet, discreet diplomatic initiative that will help King Abdullah gain some much-needed domestic stability.

As has usually been the case, when it comes to defense and security matters, Israel is efficient, active, and productive. But on the diplomatic level, it has failed whenever it has needed to step up to the plate and strengthen the moderate Arab camp.

The fence needs to be complemented by a diplomatic element. There needs to be something positive, something that signals good-neighborliness and partnership, not just fear and isolation. That’s because a fence pegs Jordan as a potential threat, and this message needs to be softened and camouflaged. A joint water pipeline, which was announced earlier this year, is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. Much more.

If Netanyahu’s plans are to be fully realized, then Israel will have to deal with another potential landmine - a fence that will run from the Dead Sea northward until the tripartite border with Jordan and Syria. Not only would this be a fence, but it would also be a clear political and diplomatic statement - Israel is demarcating its eastern border. Period.

Such a move would serve as a pretext for a diplomatic crisis that could perhaps trigger a military confrontation. Israel would then need the support of the United States, or, at least its tacit approval. For that, it needs direct channels of communication, mutual understanding, and a respect for one’s sensibilities. These are elements that are lacking in the relationship between Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama.

The occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue sees Netanyahu - to some extent, justifiably so - as a prophet of doom, an eternal pessimist cowed by fear who has no idea how to generate hope. Netanyahu, for his part, says that everything that has taken place in the region is proof that caution and circumspection come true in the Middle East. He sees Obama as a naive liberal who is afraid of conflict while giving the most dangerous Islamic power in the region an opening to threaten Israel. The statements made this week by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei of Iran served as further confirmation of Netanyahu’s fears.

One of the disadvantages of this “man the barricades” approach is that while Israel is so preoccupied with the Islamist tsunami from beyond its borders, it is not mindful enough of what is taking place right under its nose. Even though his threat to resign sounds ridiculous, Mahmoud Abbas has one foot out the door. If he does quit, he would set a remarkable precedent - never has an Arab leader quit. Never. They either die while in office, or are killed or toppled.

On the one hand, Israel is complacent. Operation Protective Edge, the quiet summer along the southern front, the sense that its deterrent policy is working for the time being, and the well-founded sense that there is a sense of fatigue among those thinking of armed conflict against Israel - all of these factors combine to create a feeling of immunity.

But there’s something bubbling underneath the surface. Now its manifestations are limited to instances of firebombings and stone-throwing. I predict that the tensions that are festering due to the real, justified fear that the situation is stuck and there is no light at the end of the tunnel, combined with the economic distress and the wind of Islamist revolution sweeping through the region - which most Israelis are unaware of - will lead to another complex, perhaps even violent, dilemma.

This is where we need not just a fence, but a clear delineation of what it is that Israel wants and where it wishes to go in this delicate period that is liable to become explosive and bloody. (Contributor: By Udi Segal for The Jerusalem Post)

Our interpretation of this is that PM Netanyahu is strengthening Israel’s defenses because he is uncertain about future U.S. support if the Iranian nuclear “deal” is upheld in our Senate. This seems virtually certain, except for thousands of American Christian intercessors who are praying for God to intervene. President Obama assures Israel of our support, but global anti-Semitism increases.

“He is the Lord … He remembers His covenant forever, the word which He commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant which He made with Abraham, … saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan as … your inheritance,’ when they were few in number, indeed very few, and strangers in it.” (Psalm 105:7-12)

U.S. ANNUALLY ADMITS QUARTER OF A MILLION MUSLIM MIGRANTS

A Breitbart News review of State Department and Homeland Security data reveals that the United States already admits more than a quarter of a million Muslim migrants each year. President Obama intends to add another 10,000 Syrian migrants on top of that.

In 2013 alone, 117,423 migrants from Muslim-majority countries were permanently resettled within the United States— having been given lawful permanent resident status. Additionally in 2013, the United States voluntarily admitted an extra 122,921 temporary migrants from Muslim countries as foreign students and foreign workers as well as 39,932 refugees and asylees from Muslim countries.

Thus, twelve years after the September 11th hijackers were invited into the country on temporary visas, the U.S. decided to admit 280,276 migrants from Muslim countries within a single fiscal year.

To put these numbers into perspective, this means that every year the U.S. admits a number of Muslim migrants larger in size than the entire population of Des Moines, Iowa; Lincoln, Nebraska; or Dayton, Ohio.

The rate of Muslim immigration has been increasing since September 11. Between 2001 and 2013, the United States permanently resettled 1.5 million Muslim immigrants throughout the United States. Unlike illegal immigrants, legal immigrants granted lifetime resettlement privileges will be given automatic work permits, welfare access, and the ability to become voting citizens.

Experts believe these numbers will only continue to increase.

The Middle East represents the fastest-growing bloc of immigrants admitted into the country on visas, according to a census data-based report authored by the Center for Immigration Studies. Student visas for Middle Eastern countries have similarly grown enormously, including 16-fold increase in Saudi students since 9/11. Arabic is now the most common language spoken by refugees, and 91.4 percent of recent refugees from the Middle East are on food stamps.

The large-scale importation of Muslim migrants from nations that do not share Western values has posed a series of assimilation difficulties for the United States. For instance, the importation of immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries has now put half a million girls in the United States at risk of enduring a traditional anti-Western, anti-woman practice known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). This means that there are more girls in the United States at risk of lifelong sexual disfigurement than there are in Uganda and Cameroon.

Moreover, the importation of Muslim immigrants through the nation’s refugee program has led to the development of pockets of radicalized communities throughout the United States— as evidenced in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Dearborn, Michigan.

A review of recent terror activity– provided by the Senate Immigration Subcommittee– confirms the terror threat posed by our federal immigration policy of issuing large numbers of visas to majority-Muslim countries:

A refugee voluntarily admitted from Uzbekistan and “living in Idaho was arrested and charged with providing support to a terrorist organization, in the form of teaching terror recruits how to build bombs.”

A college student voluntarily admitted from Somalia, “who later applied for and received U.S. citizenship, attempted to blow up a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Oregon.”

An immigrant voluntarily admitted from Kazakhstan “with lawful permanent resident status conspired to purchase a machine gun to shoot FBI and other law enforcement agents if they prevented him from traveling to Syria to join ISIS.”

An immigrant voluntarily admitted from Sudan, “who applied for and received U.S. citizenship, tried to join ISIS and wage jihad on its behalf after having been recruited online.”

An immigrant voluntarily admitted from Bangladesh, “who applied for and received U.S. citizenship,‎ tried to incite people to travel to Somalia and conduct violent jihad against the United States.”

An immigrant voluntarily admitted from Yemen, “who later applied for and received U.S. citizenship, was arrested for trying to join ISIS. He was also charged with attempting to illegally buy firearms to try to shoot American military personnel.”

Yet even as the United States struggles to properly screen and assimilate the large numbers brought in each year, many Republican presidential candidates say that number should be even greater. GOP presidential hopefuls John Kasich, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jeb Bush, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) have all expressed support for admitting more Syrian migrants.

“I would be open to that if it can be done in a way that allows us to ensure that among them are not people who are part of a terrorist organization who are using this crisis,” Rubio told Boston Herald Radio on September 8th. This proposal could result in the admittance of many refugees. “The vast and overwhelming majority of people who are seeking refuge are not terrorists, of course, but you always are concerned about that,” Rubio said.

By contrast, GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has suggested that Muslim countries should be willing to take in some of the Muslim migrants.

“Look, from a humanitarian standpoint, I’d love to help, but we have our own problems.” Trump declared on the September 9 broadcast of Hannity. “We have so many problems that we have to solve… The Gulf states [are] tremendously wealthy. You have five groups of people, six groups, they’re not taking anybody. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, these are tremendously wealthy and powerful from the standpoint of money. They — they’re not taking anybody. Russia’s not taking. Nobody’s taking. [But we’re] supposed to take — we have to straighten out our own problems,” Trump said.

Some presidential hopefuls have objected to the premise of Trump’s America-first immigration proposal— arguing that greater levels of immigration would only serve to benefit America.

For instance, the I-Squared bill currently before Congress introduced by Marco Rubio— whose campaign has declared he will be in first place by February— would import even more immigrants — some Muslim — by lifting green card caps for foreign students and tripling the number of foreign workers admitted on visas. This bill is central to Rubio’s campaign platform of creating “A New American Economy.”

Several of Rubio’s business backers have already begun to implement this policy throughout the nation. In Rubio’s home state of Florida, for instance, the New American Economy is at work at corporations including Disney, which is replacing many of its current American workers with foreign low-salaried workers from developing nations. This “New American Economy” would have multiple benefits for America such as fewer English speakers, more diversity and lower wages that will allow corporations to increase their bottom lines.

Rubio’s effort to create a New American Century is supported by many prominent Republicans and Democrats who say we need to expand our refugee resettlement of Muslim migrants.

For instance, Glenn Beck and Lindsey Graham have both explicitly said that the United States needs to take in more refugees because a poem written by Emma Lazarus now displayed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. The poem, entitled “The New Colossus,” reads in part:

Give me your tired, your poor/ your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/the wretched refuse of your teeming shore./Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,/I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

According to the Pew Research Center, there are nearly 5 billion people world-wide living on $10 or less a day. The globally poor and low-income population is fifteen times larger than the entire population of the United States.

The Statue of Liberty was not given to the United States with any association to immigration. Rather the statue was intended to be a symbol of “Liberty Enlightening the World,” which is why the only text originally included on the statue was the year 1776 written in Roman Numerals.

Yet even when Lazarus’ poem was later added to the statue in the early 1900s, it was understood that the poem was not meant to represent the nation’s federal immigration policy– a detail underscored by the fact that shortly after that poem was added, then-President Calvin Coolidge enacted a nearly five-decades-long immigration pause to allow the influx of European immigrants to better assimilate and allow middle class wages to rise.

Ironically, the Statue of Liberty– so often invoked by advocates for large-scale immigration– was a gift from the nation of France. Yet of the one million green cards handed out last year, very few were given to the Thomas Jefferson’s second favorite nation. About 9 out of 10 of green cards issued last year went to non-European foreign nationals from Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

In 2013, we added more than ten times more immigrants on green cards from the Muslim countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Egypt (48,507) than we did from the nation France (4,425). (Contributor: By Julia Hahn for Breitbart News)

The pattern of U.S. immigration laws seems to defy normal logic. Why the heavy overloading of Muslim immigrants? No one seems to know, except that President Obama favors this ethnic and religious group seemingly above all others. Is this a threat to the U.S.? Let us pray, instead, that awakening and revival in America will bring the Gospel to all immigrants, including many Muslims.

“And Jesus [said], ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

PASTOR:  'TAKE AN F' TO PROTEST ISLAMIC 'INDOCTRINATION'

A Tennessee pastor is encouraging Christian parents to tell their children to "take an F" in their world history classes as a way to stand up against what he claims is the school district's attempt at indoctrinating and brainwashing students with Islam.

The Tennessean reports that Pastor Greg Locke, of Global Vision Bible Church in Mt. Juliet, posted a video on Facebook last week that he recorded on the grounds of West Wilson Middle School where he explains that there's growing concern within his congregation that Wilson County Schools' middle school world studies curriculum unfairly favors Islam.

Locke asserted that the history book includes roughly 28 pages on Islam, while it includes only about "a half-page of watered down Christianity."

"We have a number of our families at our church that are really upset and up and arms over all of this new Islamic indoctrination in our public school system," Locke proclaimed. "That is nothing more than absolute brainwashing of religion and we're not going to stand for it."

In light of Locke's claims that the school system is indoctrinating middle school students with Islam, Wilson County Schools Director Donna Wright posted a statement on the Wilson County School District's Facebook page chastising Locke's comments for being uninformed and an attempt to incite the community.

She added that there's no state required length of time to be devoted to any history topic.

"No one in any Wilson County School is teaching any indoctrination of Islam or of any world religion for that matter," Wright stated. "To imply or state otherwise shows a lack of knowledge about the standards used in our schools."

"You cannot teach world history without talking about the influence of a religion on a country's or region's people, government, economy, etc.," Wright continued. "It would be like trying to teach the history of the United States without talking about Christianity and the early settlers' desire to escape religious persecution."

Locke also pointed out the fact that the school had scheduled a test on the Islamic unit for Friday, Sept. 11 — the 14th anniversary of the the infamous terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon — and labeled such scheduling a "slap in the face."

"You need to tell your kids take an F for the class because I'd rather fail in man's class and get an A-plus in God's class," Locke told parents. "We need some kids that have some character and stand up."

Wright admitted that it was "unfortunate timing" for the test that was scheduled for Sept. 11, but stated that it was not done "deliberately as part of some plan to indoctrinate students."

"It is not unusual for teachers to test on the last day of the week the material covered the week before," Wright explained.

Furthermore, Wilson County Schools Deputy Director of Academics, Monty Wilson, added in the Facebook post that a multitude of religions — Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism and Shinto — are covered in sixth and seventh grade history classes, and again in high school.

"Although these religions will be taught at some point in these three courses, the focus on each religion will depend on the context and influence of the time period," Wilson stated.

Despite the school district's defense, Locke stood by his comments in an interview with the Tennessean last Friday and again stated that the history curriculum is "straight up indoctrination." (Contributor: By Samuel Smith for Christian Post)

We will follow this story before passing judgment, but the weight of evidence seems to indicate that Pastor Locke has a sound basis for his concerns. Jay Sekulow and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) are investigating in depth. Pray that the truth will be revealed, and if this is a conspiracy to promote Islam, it will be curtailed. Anti-Christian sentiment pervades America. Pray!

“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.” (2 Peter 3:9)

WHEN SHOULD CHRISTIANS DISOBEY THE LAW? 

Recent events have called into question the issue of obeying the government in all ways — even in all circumstances.

In the 13th chapter of Romans, Paul says that God has given us the government as a minister of righteousness. It is our duty to obey it. But we also see in Scripture that on occasion, when the government calls for one to disobey God, then civil disobedience is in order.

There's a great lesson to learn from one aspect of World War II related to distortions of Romans 13. I'm not calling anybody a Nazi, but consider this lengthy lesson, wherein the Nazis quoted Scripture in order to demand unquestioning obedience.

On April 9, 1940, without any warning or provocation, the Germans invaded Norway. It was an unexpected battle and an unfair fight with 400,000 German Wehrmacht versus a nation not expecting it. This nightmare lasted until May 1945.

There were, of course, Norwegian collaborators — Norwegians who sold their soul to get ahead during the reign of the Nazis. Foremost amongst them was Vidkun Quisling. His name has been adopted into the dictionary: A quisling is a traitor.

When the Nazis took over Norway, a country full of "pure Aryans," they expected the Norwegians to fully participate in their attempts to glorify the "master race" and purge the "undesirables" from humanity, such as Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs.

The Norwegians would have nothing to do with this. So they resisted, usually in every peaceful way they could. Much of the battle was fought over distributing accurate information.

In Oslo, there is a museum (Norges Hjemmefront Museum) dedicated to the resistance movement in World War II. They have a plaque there in English: "In Norway, Nazi ideology was defeated by the democratic forces rooted in a national, Christian culture."

While the Nazis won militarily (until the end of the war), they never came close to winning the hearts and minds of the people.

Normally, in those days, the churches were full. But during the war, something happened to cause the churches to go empty. The Norwegian bishops and priests, desiring to be faithful to God and the Scriptures, resisted the Nazi efforts to control the churches and the content of sermons. The clergy reasoned that if they all resisted together as one, nothing could happen to them. They were all arrested and sent to concentration camps. Most of them never returned.

Many Norwegian Christians met in private homes secretly for worship and avoided the churches during the war.

The same thing happened with the school teachers. The Nazis took over the curriculum of the schools. The teachers resisted as one group. They too were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Most never returned.

The museum contains a 1941 book, written in Norwegian used in the schools by the Nazis. In it, they quote Scripture: "What are those called in Romans 13:1 who God has set over us? Have you considered that your parents, your school teachers (your principal), policemen, police chief, judges, the priest, the bishop, the county commission, the state government, are the authorities who are installed by God, and that you owe them obedience?"

Then it says: "Overall, we owe the Fuhrer and the government obedience. If you set yourself up against the authorities and against the state, you are standing against God's structure and are subject to punishment."

Talk about the devil quoting Scripture.

In reality, the Fuhrer was hostile toward Christianity. Hitler once declared, "The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity's illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew." But he was happy to have his minions twist the Christian Scriptures for his own ends.

God's Word is pure and right. But that doesn't mean it can't be distorted sometimes by evil people intent on achieving goals that are contrary to the message of Scripture. There's a time and a place for everything under the sun, including (on occasion) civil disobedience.

Recently I came across an unpublished letter by D. James Kennedy (11/29/1988), in which he addressed this issue: "The basic Bible principles, I believe, are these: 1) All authority is from God. 2) All human authority is delegated from God. 3) No human authority can countermand the authority of God. 4) If such anti-biblical laws are passed, Christians must in conscience disobey them. 5) They must be prepared to suffer the consequences of their actions."

Then he solidifies the whole point: "The very existence of Christianity depends upon Christians obeying these principles. Had they not done so, Christianity, which was outlawed first in Israel and then in the Roman Empire, would have ceased to exist many centuries ago." (Contributor: By Jerry Newcombe for Christian Post - Dr. Jerry Newcombe is a key archivist of the D. James Kennedy Legacy Library and a Christian TV producer. He has also written or co-written 23 books, including The Book That Made America: How the Bible Formed Our Nation and (with D. James Kennedy), What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? His views are his own.)

What happens when obeying the government clashes directly with obedience to God’s law? Some are paying a substantial price for putting religious convictions before government demands. Each person must decide the point at which he or she will take a stand. It will not be easy. Pray for Americans who are being persecuted for putting God’s law first.

“Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. Then the Lord saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice.” (Isaiah 59:14-15)

CA GOVERNOR GETS SUICIDE BILL, WARNING FROM PRO-LIFER

Pro-Life CA governor gets suicide bill, warning from pro-lifer Tuesday, September 15, 2015.

Opponents of doctor-prescribed suicide are hopeful that California Governor Jerry Brown will reject a recently passed bill in the Golden State.

Rita Marker, an attorney and founder of Patients Rights Council, predicts that California's most vulnerable citizens will be victimized by the new law.

That’s because many Californians don't have access to high-quality healthcare.

Marker, Rita (Patents Rights Council)"And those who will be the first to have doctor-prescribed suicide are the last to get the medical care that they want and need," Marker says. "And it's really, really dangerous."

So, she reasons, suicide drugs will be less expensive than the medical treatment and the fear is that many people will opt for the cheaper choice - suicide.

Doctors prescribing suicide drugs would be required to submit information to the state for the state's official reports. But the proposed law would not publicly disclose any facts or figures of suicides.

Marker is hopeful Gov. Brown will see the flaws and veto it. (Contributor: By Charlie Butts for One News Now)

This is a “prayer-plus-action” news item. Most observers know that California is not leading the way. Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington all have such laws in place. At least a dozen other states are considering similar legislation. Intercessors will pray, while other concerned citizens should pray and then quickly contact their state representatives with protests. Where is the Church?

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” (Romans 13:11)

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The Informer August 26, 2015

On Watch in Washington August 26, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

STOCK MARKET REBOUNDS FALLS APART

A sudden reversal in United States stock prices late in trading on Tuesday produced a sixth consecutive session of losses and heightened uncertainty about the challenges facing global markets.

The wild swings in prices over the last two days have been the most extreme since the financial crisis. The benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index surged as much as 2.9 percent on Tuesday, but ended down 1.4 percent.

The resurgence of volatility has overturned a sense of comfort among many investors who had grown accustomed to calm markets and steadily rising stock prices in recent years.

“The last two days have been a wake-up call for a lot of portfolio managers,” said Nicholas Colas, the chief market strategist at Convergex, an institutional brokerage firm. “It forces everyone to reconsider their base assumption for things like earnings growth and revenue growth.”

The opening of trading in Asia on Wednesday brought little clarity. Shanghai stocks, which have led the declines over the past few days, swung between gains and losses, and the volatile trading spread across the rest of Asia. Japanese stocks rebounded from Tuesday’s 4 percent drop, but shares in Australia were down.

Some investors have taken a dark outlook, questioning whether the markets — and the broader economy — will be able to abide a coming rise in interest rates that the Federal Reserve has been moving toward for months.

For the time being, there are few doubts that the American economy has been growing, and the economy is unlikely to be significantly hampered by recent turmoil in China. New data reported on Tuesday morning pointed to a healthy increase in consumer confidence in August and a rise in new home sales in July.

But voices like Lawrence H. Summers, the former chief economic adviser to President Obama, have recently joined a chorus of skeptics arguing that the growth may not be able to continue if the Fed steps back from the market, as it had looked set to do in September. Investors have ramped up bets this week that the Fed will have to delay any planned changes in interest rates.

Tuesday provided another reminder of the wide range of outcomes that investors are debating.

Early on Tuesday, investors in markets around the world appeared to take comfort as China, the epicenter of the recent sell-off in global stock markets, took steps to tackle slowing growth in the world’s second-largest economy. The Chinese central bank announced measures intended to lower borrowing costs and stimulate the economy.

As the market rout in China continued on Tuesday, stocks around the globe remained rattled.

European markets rose sharply, and when New York trading opened, stocks surged. The Dow Jones industrial average, which had plunged 1,000 points early on Monday, rose 441 points early on Tuesday in another day of heavy trading.

That optimism, however, slowly faded. And in the last half-hour of trading, the tentative rally fell apart completely. The Dow closed down 204.91 points, or 1.3 percent, at 15,666.44. The S.&P. 500 ended 25.60 points lower at 1867.61, while the Nasdaq composite index closed down 0.4 percent, or 19.76 points, to 4,506.49.

There were no obvious explanations for the sudden decline in prices in the waning minutes of trading, though many investors said it suggested the lack of conviction behind recent market moves.

“It is going to take a week, or a couple of weeks, to have this market stabilize,” said Timothy M. Ghriskey, the chief investment officer at the Solaris Group.

The major stock indexes have all entered into what is known as a correction — a 10 percent decline from the recent high, reached in May. The new declines brought the indexes closer to a so-called bear market, which is a 20 percent slump from recent highs. The Dow is now down 15.5 percent since May. The pullback has erased all of the gains that American stocks had made since early 2014.

Treasury prices, which have benefited from the instability in stock markets, were weaker on Tuesday. The price of the benchmark 10-year note fell, driving its yield — which moves in the opposite direction of its price — to 2.08 percent from 2.01 percent on Monday.

The big moves this week have struck many strategists as an overreaction, particularly given that there are no new major signs of any turn in the economy.

Now they're saying that there are signs of weakness in the US economy as well, that were apparent but were ignored. So, this is not judy...
NYHuguenot 1 hour ago

" the United States economy, which still appears to be strengthening"Who are they kidding? Most of the jobs being created are part time and...
Rick in Iowa 1 hour ago

What goes up, must come down. Economics is not a science. Then again, what is?

But many investors who focus on the value of stocks, as measured by the price paid for each dollar of profit from a company, say that stocks have further to fall still if valuations are to come in line with historical norms.

Investors were paying $16.80 for every dollar of earnings over the last year — the so-called price-to-earnings ratio — even after Monday’s losses, according to FactSet Research. Over the last 10 years, the ratio has been, on average, $15.70.

“When we are this high, even with this pullback, the track record of future returns isn’t all that good,” Mr. Colas of Convergex said.

Over the last two years investors have bid up the price of stocks in the hope that the companies would experience significant future growth. In recent quarters, though, American corporate profits have been falling on a year-to-year basis. Looking forward, many investors are anticipating slower growth from American companies unless the economy significantly picks up.

Still, all of the negative sentiment could dissolve on Wednesday morning, as it appeared to do for a time on Tuesday morning.

When American stocks opened on Tuesday, European markets were up sharply, recouping most of the losses they had experienced on Monday. The benchmark German index ended the day up almost 5 percent, while France’s benchmark index was up 4.1 percent — all before the markets in the United States began to experience trouble.

Earlier in the day, the markets in China posted deep losses, with Shanghai stocks down 7.6 percent following Monday’s 8.5 percent plunge. But after the markets closed in China, Beijing officials cut interest rates and reduced the amount of money banks are required to keep on hand to guard against risk.

The moves suggested that Chinese authorities are now looking to stabilize the economy, rather than focusing on the problems in the financial markets. But similar past efforts have failed to reverse the country’s problems, and many investors are skeptical that the latest measures will be more effective.

In the United States and Europe, too, there are growing fears that the central bankers have done everything in their power and now need to rely on some outside assistance.

Mohamed A. El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz, wrote on Facebook that Tuesday’s reversal will “erode the faith that market participants have in the power of central banks to repress volatility.” (Contributor: By Nathaniel Popper for The New York Times)

For prayer: God’s Word is clear that the kingdoms of the world will be shaken and ultimately yield to “the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.” Is this “the beginning of the end” or another mid-course warning? We do not know. God still rules, however, and He patiently seeks the attention of mankind from their idols and to Himself. Pray that this global financial shakeup will be a warning to many people that “it is time to seek the Lord.”

“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.” (Hos 10:12)

 

CONGRESS SHOULD STEP UP TO BLOCK THE TERRIBLE IRAN AGREEMENT

Joseph I. Lieberman, a member of the U.S. Senate from 1989 to 2013, is a Democrat who was elected to his last term as an independent. He is senior counsel at Kasowitz, Benson, Torres and Friedman in New York.

As debate intensifies over the nuclear agreement reached with Iran, the Obama administration has sought to deflect criticism by arguing that there is no alternative to the current framework, no matter what its flaws, and that its rejection by Congress is guaranteed to produce catastrophe — isolating the United States from its allies and destroying any prospect for a diplomatic settlement. A vote against its preferred policy, the administration has argued (not for the first time), is a vote for war.

The administration has used these same arguments before to try to stop Congress from imposing economic sanctions on Iran. Not only did the predictions of catastrophe fail to deter Congress from moving ahead but also, when the sanctions were adopted, the doomsday forecasts were proven wrong — just as the current predictions will be. And when the scare tactics failed and the vote count in Congress started to turn heavily against its position, the White House changed course — just as it can and should now.

I was a member of the Senate when, between 2009 and 2012, Congress developed a series of bills that dramatically increased pressure on Tehran for its illicit nuclear activities, including adopting a measure in late 2011 that effectively banned Iran from selling oil — its economic lifeblood — on international markets. In every case, senior Obama administration officials worked to block congressional efforts, warning that they were unnecessary, counterproductive and even dangerous.

Much like today, the White House repeatedly argued that sanctions would isolate the United States and alienate our allies whose help we needed. In the case of the oil ban, a Cabinet member bluntly told members that adopting the measure risked torpedoing the global economic recovery.

These predictions proved false. In fact, it was only because of the sanctions adopted by Congress, and ultimately signed by President Obama, that sufficient economic pressure was put on the Iranian government that its leaders came to the negotiating table — a truth the Obama administration now accepts and asserts. Our allies and partners did not always welcome new restrictions on doing business in Tehran, but in the end, they decided it was more important to do business in the United States.

It is important for members of Congress deciding how to vote on the current proposal to consider this history because it reminds us of the administration’s past misguided efforts to stop, slow or weaken sanctions bills. Equally important, recent legislative history tells us that as bipartisan congressional support for these bills began to snowball, the White House shifted its position.

At first, members of Congress — particularly Democrats — were warned not to do anything. But as the administration began to see the votes slipping from its grip, it changed tack and started negotiating the timing and scope of the prospective new law.

Indeed, the same drama played out just a few months ago, as Congress debated whether it should review the then-impending nuclear agreement. Here too, the White House insisted that requiring legislative review and approval of a nuclear agreement with Iran was obstructive and damaging. But when Democrats began to support the legislation, and it was clear that a strong bipartisan coalition was converging around the idea, the administration withdrew its opposition and the president signed the legislation. The current congressional review is the result.

Congress should keep this experience in mind as it reviews the nuclear agreement with Iran. While the White House predictably is trying to scaremonger Capitol Hill into taking no action, experience and common sense suggest that the reality after congressional rejection is likely to be quite different. In the aftermath of Sen. Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) principled and courageous stand against the proposed agreement, the prospects for such a bipartisan rejection seem increasingly likely.

If a bipartisan supermajority does in fact begin to cohere in criticism of the undeniable loopholes and inadequacies of the agreement, it is likely the administration will adjust its position. Provisions that today are impossible to change will become subject to renegotiation and clarification.

The best chance for a better deal, in other words, is overwhelming bipartisan pressure from Capitol Hill about the need for one, rather than acquiescencing to the Obama administration’s claim that this is the best agreement possible because Iran will go no further.

That conclusion overlooks two truths: First, the Iranians are historically capable of adjusting positions they have claimed were immovable to new political realities, and, second, Iran, because of its depleted economy, needs an agreement much more than we do. Congress has the power now to act on these two realities.

This is an initiative, moreover, that many of our friends and partners are likely to welcome. Certainly the countries most affected by the deal — Israel and the Gulf Arab states — have made no secret of their dismay at the concessions granted to the Iranians in the quest for a settlement. Reportedly, even some of our European allies may not be wholly displeased by some congressional push-back — even if not all of them admit so publicly.

Not so long ago, everyone agreed that no deal with Iran was better than a bad deal. Now, the administration has changed the standard to whether it is possible to get a better deal than the flawed one it got in Vienna. History suggests it is — but we will never know unless a bipartisan super-majority comes together to demand it. (Contributor: By Joseph I. Lieberman for The Washington Post)

For prayer: Former U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman urges the Senate to overcome White House pressure and refuse the Iran deal. But on Monday, Aug. 24, Sen. Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, declared in favor of the deal and is lobbying fellow senators to approve. Risk factors are high for all Middle East countries, primarily Israel. The Bible shows, and history confirms, that any nation turning on Israel has experienced God’s judgment. Where is the U.S.? Pray now for the mid-Sept. vote.

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

 

POLICE SNAP UP CHEAP CELLPHONE TRACKERS

Local law-enforcement agencies are buying cellphone-tracking equipment that is cheaper and smaller than earlier systems, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, but it isn’t always clear whether court orders are needed to use the devices.

The systems, which go by trade names such as “Jugular” and “Wolfhound,” are handheld and sometimes come with antennas so small they can be attached to clothing, according to public documents. The gadgets cost only a few thousand dollars each—far less than more sophisticated systems, and well within the reach of many local agencies.

“It’s extremely affordable and literally fits in your hand,” said Scott Schober, the president of Berkeley Varitronics Systems Inc., which makes the Wolfhound and several other cellphone and Wi-Fi detection systems.

The use of the devices to help locate specific cellphones, like many new types of surveillance, is cloaked in secrecy. The Journal contacted dozens of state and local agencies that had public records indicating they had likely purchased this type of phone-locating equipment. Some didn’t respond. All others said they couldn’t provide information on the devices, including the legal procedures the department follows before using them.

“We can’t disclose any legal requirements associated with the use of this equipment,” said Elise Armacost, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Police, which purchased Jugular and Trachea devices from KEYW Corp. , according to the records. “Doing so may disclose how we use it, which, in turn, interferes with its public-safety purpose.”

The tools are a reminder that surveillance technology is changing rapidly, becoming more accessible to smaller law-enforcement departments and presenting a challenge to lawmakers and civil-liberties advocates. More than a dozen states have recently passed laws limiting the use of location-tracking tools, for instance by requiring warrants for cellphone tracking except in emergency situations.

Unlike other cellphone-tracking methods, these covert devices might not require court orders under current federal laws, said Orin Kerr, a former federal prosecutor and law professor at George Washington University. That’s because the Jugular and similar devices passively gather radio waves emitted whenever the phones communicate with a cell tower, according to public documents and people familiar with such tools. The other tracking procedures involve more active and intrusive surveillance, such as recording routing data sent by a phone.

At least 25 state and local agencies appear to have bought such devices for investigative use since 2010, the first year the records showed such purchases, according to government purchase-order data reviewed by the Journal. The data, which are not comprehensive, were obtained from SmartProcure, a company that provides access to purchasing information submitted by state, local and federal agencies. In many cases, the devices are mentioned by name; some simply describe the equipment.

The largest purchaser of the passive cellphone-finding equipment in the SmartProcure records was the federal government, including the Defense and Justice department agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Justice Department declined to comment; Defense didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The local agencies buying the gear range from those in large cities to smaller enclaves such as Sunrise, Fla., as well as state agencies such as state police.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement in 2011 and 2013 filed notices of its intent to buy this type of equipment from KEYW, a Hanover, Md., cybersecurity and intelligence company, saying the department “needs something which is more portable, more reliable and ‘covert’ in functionality, and is able to utilize advances in technology.” The department declined to comment further. KEYW declined to comment on its technology, except to say that this part of its business represents about 1% to 2% of its revenue.

David Bursten, the public information officer for the Indiana State Police, which purchased KEYW equipment in 2013 for $6,500 under a label of “recreational equipment,” said the department wouldn’t discuss investigative techniques. “Unfortunately, the criminal element reads the paper as well, and we are not interested in making a tough job tougher by educating the very criminals” the department is fighting, he said.

Mr. Bursten didn’t specify the legal requirements for use of the devices, but he said his agency seeks judicial review and follows court recommendations even in investigations that don’t need court orders or search warrants. “This eliminates any question about the appropriateness of any particular investigative strategy,” he said.

He added that the labeling of the equipment as recreational was likely a mistake.

John Sawicki, an attorney and computer-forensic expert in Florida, said he hasn’t seen a case in which these technologies have been mentioned. “It’s absolutely something I will be on the lookout for,” he said.

Experts familiar with the technology say there are several ways in which these tools are typically used. Some of the documents said the devices would be used with tools known as “stingrays,” which act as fake cellphone towers and get phones in the area to link to them. Stingrays are larger and frequently mounted on surveillance vans or planes, and may cost more than $100,000 each.

Heath Hardman, a former signals analyst with the U.S. Marine Corps, said that based on the public documents, the covert equipment could be described as a “finishing tool,” likely used “to locate a target phone with precision, up close and covertly,” after another tracking method determines the phone’s general area.

Mr. Schober, of Berkeley Varitronics, said such devices can also track phones without a stingray, if law enforcement sends a message to a phone and gets it to communicate with a tower. Or officers could wait for the phone to communicate with the tower on its own.

The Wolfhound device sold by Mr. Schober’s company is most frequently used to locate cellphones in prisons and other places where they aren’t allowed at all, and where there are no questions about the devices’ legal use. But he said law enforcement had recently shown more interest in other uses.

“Passive detection” devices don’t allow officers to listen in on conversations, said Mr. Schober and others. The devices are especially attractive to local agencies because of their price, Mr. Schober said. His company’s Wolfhound Pro sells for $2,400. KEYW’s tools are more sophisticated and pricier. According to purchase orders, its Jugular device costs about $6,500 to $8,500, depending on accessories.

Mr. Schober said the legal status of the devices has been a selling point: “A lot of the guys using it are saying, ‘I don’t have to tell anyone I’m using it…because your device is completely passive, so I’m not getting into any privacy issues,’ ” he said.

But Linda Lye, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in California, said she worried that such tools would often be used to find cellphones inside people’s homes. She believes this could violate the Fourth Amendment, which says people have the right to be secure from unreasonable searches in their homes.

Several civil-liberties and technology advocates said that if state lawmakers want to limit cellphone tracking, they should make sure their laws cover this passive technology.

“Everyone is really behind the curve on this,” said Daniel Rigmaiden, a civil-liberties advocate who provided initial public documents to the Journal and has been following such legislation. (Contributor: By Jennifer Valentino-DeVries for The Wall Street Journal)

For awareness and prayer: Readers of these Alerts know we do not trivialize prayer by taking shallow approaches to real-life issues. This article describes a tool. Whether used for good or evil, legally or illegally, will depend on the character of the decision-makers. Praying for revival may seem unrelated, but we know that only morally upright people can make morally upright decisions. So we pray for widespread revival that will lead millions of Americans to Jesus Christ and His salvation.

“For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.” (Mark 4:22)

 

PP CLINIC CUT THROUGH DEAD BABY’S FACE TO GET HIS INTACT BRAIN

In the latest video produced by the Center for Medical Progress, Holly O’Donnell describes a medical technician using scissors to cut through the face of a newly aborted but nearly fully developed baby boy at a Planned Parenthood facility so that his intact brain could be extracted.

O’Donnell says that the technician could also make the boy’s heart beat.

Planned Parenthood is working hard to counter the steady drip of damning videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress, but not even the highest priced Washington, D.C. flacks are likely to be able to erase the thought picture of someone cutting through a child’s face with scissors.

Holly O’Donnell and her Planned Parenthood colleague were harvesting organs that day at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, a mega-clinic in San Jose, California that has an annual budget of $100 million or 10 percent of the national organization.

O’Donnell, who turned whistleblower after leaving StemExpress, said the child was the most fully developed she had seen up to that point. She describes in great detail how the newly aborted boy was rinsed off and prepared for dissection.

Her colleague called her over and, according to O’Donnell, said, “Hey Holly, come over here, I want you to see something kind of cool, kind of neat.” O’Donnell said she was flabbergasted to see “…the most gestated fetus and closest thing to a baby I’ve seen.”

Her colleague then took an instrument and “tapped the heart and it starts beating.”

O’Donnell says, “I am sitting here looking at this fetus and it’s heart is beating and I don’t know what to think.” She said she didn’t know if the child was alive or dead but “it had a face. It wasn’t completely torn up. Its nose was very pronounced. It had eyelids and its mouth was pronounced.”

The medical technician said the child was so intact that they could “procure a lot from it. We’re going to procure a brain.” The tech told O’Donnell they would need to “go through the face.” The medical tech took scissors and cut through the child’s lower jaw up through the mouth. O’Donnell was directed to cut the rest of the way through “the middle of the face.”

“I can’t even describe what that feels like,” said O’Donnell. O’Donnell had to take the boy’s remains and put him in a bio-hazard container and “then I realized I was the only person ever to hold that baby.”

“That was the moment I realized I couldn’t work for [StemExpress] any more,” she said.

The latest video is both the least graphic and the most graphic video produced by David Daleiden and his team. Sometimes words alone have a more powerful effect than even the pictures of medical technicians picking through baby body parts.

The video comes at a time when Planned Parenthood is trying to fight back with high-powered PR people and a new and very expensive advertising campaign that just launched in selected markets.

A number of states have defunded Planned Parenthood and formal investigations have begun in others. Even StemExpress has severed ties with the abortion giant. Attempts to use the courts to stifle the release of new videos have largely failed.

Up to now Planned Parenthood has been successful in convincing Americans that the federal funded group performs very few abortions. Planned Parenthood has claimed that abortions make up merely 3 percent of their overall annual “services.” Even liberal outlets have debunked that claim.

Even so, polls show that most Americans don’t believe Planned Parenthood performs abortions at all, when in fact it performs more than 300,000 every year, more than any other group, generating more than $100 million in revenue from abortions alone. (Contributor: By Austin Ruse for Breitbart News) (The Center for Medical Progress Video Link)

For prayer: The obscene disclosures keep coming, each representing a new low in moral degradation and unconscionable sacrilege of cruelty toward helpless and innocent victims. Our united prayer goal must be the complete eradication of these “high places” dedicated to the death, dismemberment, and marketing of not-yet-born babies. While Planned Parenthood battles back fiercely, pray that God will allow continued exposure to truth. Pray many will be convicted and saved before judgment falls.

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

 

HUGE TURNOUTS: 320 PP FACILITIES PROTESTED IN 50 STATES

In the midst of the unfolding baby body parts selling scandal, thousands of Americans gathered outside more than 320 Planned Parenthood facilities across the country in hopes of ultimately shutting down the world’s largest abortion provider.

A Closer Look American Family Association co-sponsored the National Day of Protest against Planned Parenthood protest movement with 50 other pro-family organizations Saturday morning, joining the pro-life groups — Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, Created Equal, 40 Days for Life, and the Pro-Life Action League — that organized the rallies using the trending topics #ProtestPP and #PPSellsBodyParts to get the word out.

On the wake of another uncovered atrocity

As LifeNews.com announces an eighth video released by the Center for Medical Progress, which recently hit the Internet with StemExpress’ CEO admitting that Planned Parenthood sells fully intact aborted babies, multitudes of Americans showed up between 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. Saturday to get the government to stop giving half a billion tax dollars to the abortion giant annually. The video, which is the eighth of a dozen being released by the pro-life group, also reportedly uncovers Planned Parenthood selling babies after being born alive at their abortion facilities.

The eighth video shows StemExpress CEO Cate Dyer laughing over buying and receiving shipments of fully intact aborted babies being from Planned Parenthood.

“Oh yeah, if you have intact cases — which we’ve done a lot — we sometimes ship those back to our lab in its entirety,” Dyer told an undercover operative in the eighth video. “Tell the lab it’s [a shipment of intact unborn babies] coming. They don’t want to open the box and go ‘Oh my God.'”

Higher turnouts than expected

Pro-life advocates from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., are sending a message loud and clear that they will no longer tolerate the government funding more than 700 Planned Parenthoods that routinely kill preborn babies for one profit and then sell their bodies for a bonus monetary gain. Most protests reported participation many times over what they expected.

An emcee at a protest outside a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Richmond, Virginia, said the turnouts have been much greater than expected, as people are outraged over the recently divulged atrocities of selling baby parts and performing late-term abortions, which hit the Internet over the past few weeks.

"We had over 500 people here and that's great,” said Leslie Blackwell, who serves as the regional co-coordinator with the pro-life Silent No More Awareness Campaign, according to the Christian Post. “Usually, you're lucky to get 10. At Forty Days for Life, sometimes you might get 20, but never the crowds like this. It’s been exciting — just nonstop response."

Even though hours of video and audio coverage have accompanied each of the eight videos released on the Internet so far, Planned Parenthood continues to deny the incriminating evidence brought against it, contending that the recordings were doctored and manipulatively edited to meet pro-life interests.

Just getting the word out

All of the few hundred protests that took place Saturday were peaceful and informative in nature, as one organizer of the National Day of Protest emphasized that its purpose is strictly to educate people about what is really taking place behind Planned Parenthood’s doors.

"Our primary message is the shocking revelation that Planned Parenthood sells baby parts,” Pro-Life Action League Executive Director Eric J. Scheidler told the Christian Post Saturday. “While this story has dominated the pro-life and Christian press over the past month, many regular Americans have still never heard about it."

Scheidler argues that pro-life advocates shouldn’t be the only ones concerned about what’s happening, as hundreds of millions of taxpayers are paying for the illicit procedures and profit-making transactions routinely taking place inside Planned Parenthood clinics.

"They deserve to know the truth about Planned Parenthood, an organization that receives over half a billion dollars every year from taxpayers,” the pro-life leader explained. “It is time for this corrupt organization to be deprived of all taxpayer funding and investigated by the U.S. Justice Department."

AFA President Tim Wildmon agreed that Americans who believe in the sanctity of human life need to support the efforts against Planned Parenthood and put an end to the atrocities that are being funded daily by their tax dollars.

“These extremely disturbing videos detailing the murderous practices of Planned Parenthood are being largely ignored by the mainstream media, so action must be taken by the American people — and they are stepping up,” Wildmon expressed.

Organizers speak out across America

A speaker at a Planned Parenthood protest in Louisville, Kentucky, told a crowd of over 500 pro-life advocates that abortion has no place in reproductive health care.

“I spoke about the importance of defunding Planned Parenthood,” Capote told Breitbart News. “It’s important that women have health care that does not fund abortion.”

Capote says Planned Parenthood treats human life as though it is a lifeless commodity.

“Planned Parenthood believes babies are worth more dead than alive,” he continued. “Women and children are not for sale. Planned Parenthood should not be allowed to continue to treat children like a commodity.”

The pro-life activist asserts that the recent set of videos going viral on the Internet serve as a glaring testimony and reminder about what Americans have been ignoring and apathetic toward for decades.

“We continue to see this through the videos by Center for Medical Progress, that children are being dismembered and cut up so their organs can be harvested for profit,” Capote noted. “I told those attending the protest in Louisville that any candidate running for office who does not publicly denounce Planned Parenthood and call for its defunding are complicit in the abortion organization’s policies.”

An organizer gathering pro-lifers together at the Falls Church, Virginia, Planned Parenthood abortion center also proclaimed that the recent set of shocking videos should incite Americans to say, “I’ve seen enough!”

“I saw the Planned Parenthood videos and felt the need to act,” pro-life activist Theresa King shared with Breitbart News at her #ProtestPP rally. “As a kid, I would pray outside of abortion clinics, and my mom always said that we were giving the babies the only funeral they would ever have, so I felt the need to stand for the babies in the video, but for all the babies that have died in abortion.”

King anticipated 100 pro-lifers showing up to her Virginia rally and was pleasantly surprised when more than 800 came ready to participate — many taking part in the pro-life movement for their first time.

“These videos have really brought a lot to light and have convinced people to become active,” the new pro-life organizer added. “I’ve never done anything like this, and I look forward to many more, as other people are in the same boat. We are here to be a voice for both the babies and the women.”

One organizer of a Planned Parenthood protest event in Providence, Rhode Island, shared that approximately 500 showed up at the Providence Planned Parenthood — a number that exceeded her expectations.

“Planned Parenthood’s gruesome sale of fetal body parts has also demonstrated that there is a vibrant pro-life presence even in hardcore liberal Democratic places like Rhode Island,” said Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam) Senior Vice President Susan Yoshihara, whose pro-life group organized the event with the Diocese of Providence.

Yoshihara noted that abortion providers at the abortion clinic did all they could to keep the pro-life message from getting out.

“[More than a dozen] Planned Parenthood staff in pink T-shirts appeared on the steps of their building with an iPhone and small speaker tinning out Blind Melon tracks to distract protesters.” The pro-life VP reported. “The facade of Planned Parenthood’s public perception as a beacon for women’s health has been peeled back in the last few weeks. The videos showed Planned Parenthood clinicians admitting they put women at greater risk, turning unborn children breech to be delivered feet first, in order to make sure the brain could be harvested for sale.” (Contributor: By Michael F. Haverluck for One News Now)

For prayer: Let us unite in giving thanks to God for this exposure of evil by allowing truth to penetrate the long-guarded walls of Planned Parenthood’s secrecy. Thank God for all who are mounting lawful protests across the country, despite the risks. Pray they will persevere and succeed in their quest to end these atrocities. Pray for state-level legislators to denounce and defund Planned Parenthood.

[Jesus said,] “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt 10:27-28)

 

SOLDIERS TO HELP BATTLE INFERNOS

You know the infernos are out of control when 25,000 firefighters aren't enough to stop them.

Now soldiers will join the ranks of firefighters as almost 100 raging wildfires continue burning in 10 Western states.

About 200 active duty military personnel will help battle blazes in Western states, the National Interagency Fire Center said. It's the first time soldiers have fought wildfires since 2006.

About 95 fires have destroyed hundreds of homes and scorched 1.1 million acres in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada and Colorado, the center said.

The soldiers will handle "quiet parts of the fire," center spokesman Ken Frederick said.

"That's important because it frees up our more experienced crews to handle more complex dangerous fire situations," he said. Soldiers "could be mopping up, watching for and waiting to put out spot fires and digging fire lines."

The soldiers will come from the 17th Field Artillery Brigade, 7th Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington -- one of the worst-hit states.

Active duty soldiers have been used to fight wildfires 35 times since 1987, the National Interagency Fire Center said.

"The U.S. military has been a key partner in wildland firefighting for decades, and we greatly appreciate their willingness to provide us with soldiers to serve as firefighters," said Aitor Bidaburu, chairman of the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group.

The military is also providing C-130s equipped to drop large quantities of fire retardant.

Here's a breakdown of what's happening in four of the most devastated states:

California

Four years of drought have helped make California a tinder box for at least 19 wildfires.

One of the largest blazes, the Route Complex, has torched 28,401 acres and was 28% contained Monday, authorities said.

The fire, which affected areas around Mad River, Dinsmore and Hyampom, started last month following a lightning storm.

In Montebello, a suspected arson caused a wildfire that leaped across roads.

Another blaze, the Mad River Complex, comprises seven fires that started last month after a lightning storm hit northern California.

By Monday, it had burned about 23,000 acres and was 65% contained. Two buildings were destroyed and five people injured.

From January 1 through August 8, at least 4,382 fires have burned more than 117,900 acres, according to CalFire. Over the same period last year, there were 3,047 fires that burned 87,988 acres.

Idaho

The Soda Fire has razed more than 283,000 acres in the southeast corner of the state. But a drop in winds Monday helped firefighters contain 90% of the blaze, according to the national fire-tracking website InciWeb.

No injuries have been reported, but 27 wild horses were killed, according to CNN affiliate KIVI-TV.

The cause of the fire is unknown.

In northwest Idaho, the Lawyer Complex Fire near Kamiah has destroyed 50 homes, according to the state's Department of Lands.

Oregon

Gov. Kate Brown has invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act in response to the Canyon Creek Complex Fire, which has charred more than 40,000 acres in eastern Oregon.

With this move, the state fire marshal can mobilize fire resources from around the state to protect homes. At least 14 major fires were burning Monday in Oregon, the governor said.

At least 26 homes have been destroyed in the Canyon Creek fire, Brown's office said, with 500 more homes threatened. About 300 people have evacuated.

The fire started July 17 and is expected to grow 1,000 to 3,000 acres daily, depending on weather conditions, the governor's office said.

One homeowner said he was helpless to stop the fire.

"There was nothing we could do -- it was gone," Canyon Creek resident Dean Fox told CNN affiliate KTVZ-TV. "Embers were straight at me. We would have to keep hosing ourselves down because it was so hot."

The fire was caused by lightning. About 475 firefighters have been trying to tame it.

Washington State

Almost two dozen fires are scorching Washington state.

Fires around Chelan and McNeil Canyon, a resort area in central Washington state, have burned 38,793 acres and were 30% contained, according to InciWeb. About 50 homes have been destroyed, and 1,500 people are under evacuation orders.

David D'Armond praised crews for saving his home as intense flames loomed.

"They came quick," he told CNN affiliate KCPQ-TV. "The winds kicked up, and it was unstoppable."

Rick Anderson, a fire chief in Stevens County, added, "This is the biggest fire we've ever had in this area."

"If it goes worse from here we are looking at another 100 to 150 homes," he told CNN affiliate KXLY-TV.

But the fires dealt a painful blow to the local economy when it destroyed the processing plant for Chelan Fruit Inc., Chelan's largest employer. The fire also burned a winery and lumber yard, KIRO said.

Lightning strikes started the fires Friday, said Jim Duck of the Central Washington Interagency Communication Center.

More than 1,000 people have fled Chelan County as the wildfires destroyed homes, KIRO said.

Paul Smythe lost almost everything when the fire destroyed his house in Chelan.

"I put everything I could in my car, got the animals and we bailed out," he told CNN affiliate KCPQ-TV.

When he later drove by his house, "everything was gone."

"I'm trying not to think of all the stuff I lost," Smythe said. "Not only does that house go out, cabins that have been in the family since 1935 are gone, too."

CNN's Paul Vercammen, Dave Alsup, Faith Karimi, Tony Marco, Joe Sutton and Sam Stringer contributed to this report. (Contributor: By Holly Yan and Ralph Ellis for CNN)

For prayer: The hot summer and extended drought have combined to create this series of raging infernos in several western states. Pray for the safety of the U.S. Army troops sent in to supplement and support the weary firefighters who are needed at the most dangerous sites. Pray for God’s mercy and help for containment. Pray, too, for the victims who, in some cases, have lost everything.

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23)

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The Informer August 19, 2015

On Watch in Washington August 19, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

ADMIN WARNS CHINA ABOUT COVERT AGENTS OPERATING IN U.S.

The Obama administration has delivered a warning to Beijing about the presence of Chinese government agents operating secretly in the United States to pressure prominent expatriates — some wanted in China on charges of corruption — to return home immediately, according to American officials.

The American officials said that Chinese law enforcement agents covertly in this country are part of Beijing’s global campaign to hunt down and repatriate Chinese fugitives and, in some cases, recover allegedly ill-gotten gains.

The Chinese government has officially named the effort Operation Fox Hunt.

The American warning, which was delivered to Chinese officials in recent weeks and demanded a halt to the activities, reflects escalating anger in Washington about intimidation tactics used by the agents. And it comes at a time of growing tension between Washington and Beijing on a number of issues: from the computer theft of millions of government personnel files that American officials suspect was directed by China, to China’s crackdown on civil liberties, to the devaluation of its currency.

Those tensions are expected to complicate the state visit to Washington next month by Xi Jinping, the Chinese president.

The work of the agents is a departure from the routine practice of secret government intelligence gathering that the United States and China have carried out on each other’s soil for decades. The Central Intelligence Agency has a cadre of spies in China, just as China has long deployed its own intelligence operatives into the United States to steal political, economic, military and industrial secrets.

In this case, said American officials, who discussed details of the operation only on the condition of anonymity because of the tense diplomacy surrounding the issue, the Chinese agents are undercover operatives with the Ministry of Public Security, China’s law enforcement branch charged with carrying out Operation Fox Hunt.

The campaign, a central element of Mr. Xi’s wider battle against corruption, has proved popular with the Chinese public. Since 2014, according to the Ministry of Public Security, more than 930 suspects have been repatriated, including more than 70 who have returned this year voluntarily, the ministry’s website reported in June. According to Chinese media accounts, teams of agents have been dispatched around the globe.

American officials said they had solid evidence that the Chinese agents — who are not in the United States on acknowledged government business, and most likely are entering on tourist or trade visas — use various strong-arm tactics to get fugitives to return. The harassment, which has included threats against family members in China, has intensified recently, officials said.

The officials declined to provide specific evidence of the activities of the agents.

The United States has its own history of sending operatives undercover to other nations — sometimes under orders to kidnap or kill. In the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the C.I.A. dispatched teams abroad to snatch Qaeda suspects and spirit them either to secret C.I.A prisons or hand them over to other governments for interrogation.

Neither China’s Ministry of Public Security nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to faxes requesting comment. But Chinese officials have often boasted about their global efforts to hunt economic fugitives, and the state news media has featured reports detailing the aims and successes of Operation Fox Hunt.

According to the Chinese news media, Beijing has sent scores of security agents abroad to “persuade” their targets to return home. Just how they accomplish their aims is unclear, and questions have been raised about why a number of suspects, presumably sitting on significant wealth abroad, have willingly returned to China.

Liu Dong, a director of Operation Fox Hunt, has said Chinese agents must comply with local laws abroad and that they depend on cooperation with the police in other countries, according to a news report last year. But in a telling admission, he added, “Our principle is thus: Whether or not there is an agreement in place, as long as there is information that there is a criminal suspect, we will chase them over there, we will take our work to them, anywhere.”

It is unclear whether the F.B.I. or the Department of Homeland Security has advocated within the Obama administration to have the Chinese agents expelled from the country, but the White House decision to have the State Department issue a warning to the Chinese government about the activities could be one initial step in the process.

The F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security are in charge of tracking the activities of foreign government agents inside the United States, and American officials said that both agencies had amassed evidence about the Chinese law enforcement agents by speaking to Chinese expatriates and by monitoring the agents themselves.

One American official acknowledged that Chinese agents had been trying to track down Ling Wancheng, a wealthy and politically connected businessman who fled to the United States last year and had been living in a lavish home he owns outside Sacramento. Should he seek political asylum, he could become one of the most damaging defectors in the history of the People’s Republic.

Chinese state news media published Interpol alerts in April for 100 people that Beijing described as its most-wanted fugitives worldwide. But experts who have studied the names raised doubts whether the listed men and women are truly the government’s top priority. Among the alleged fugitives, they said, are a former deputy mayor, employees of state-owned enterprises and a history professor, but few if any at the highest echelons of power.

American officials did not disclose the identities or numbers of those being sought by the Chinese in the United States. They are believed to be prominent expatriates, some sought for economic corruption and some for what the Chinese consider political crimes.

That reluctance reflects divisions with the Obama administration over how aggressive to publicly confront China on a number of security issues.

For instance, the White House has gone out of its way to avoid making any public accusations that the Chinese government ordered the computer attack on the Office of Personnel Management, which led to the theft of millions of classified personnel files of government workers and contractors. While James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, initially said that “you have to kind of salute the Chinese for what they did,” he avoided repeating that accusation when pressed again in public on the matter.

China and the United States do not have an extradition treaty, and State Department officials would not say whether the warning carried any threats of penalties. Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, declined to comment about the diplomatic warning but said that “generally speaking, foreign law enforcement agents are not permitted to operate within the United States without prior notification to the attorney general.”

It is a criminal offense, he said, “for an individual, other than a diplomatic or consular officer or attaché, to act in the United States as an agent of a foreign power without prior notification to the attorney general.”

Marc Raimondi, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said that “the United States is not a safe haven for fugitives from any nation.” But he added that if the United States was going to help China hunt down fugitives, Beijing must provide evidence to the Department of Justice.

Too often, he said, “China has not provided the evidence we have requested.”

Steve Tsang, a senior fellow at the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute, said the clandestine deployment of security agents in pursuit of Chinese abroad has a long pedigree under the Communist Party, which sees itself as wielding dominion over all Chinese people regardless of what passport they may hold. “The party believes if you’re of Chinese ancestry then you’re Chinese anyway, and if you don’t behave like one you’re a traitor,” he said.

Mr. Tsang said the agents’ methods of persuasion often relate to the person’s family back in China, ranging from subtle insinuations to explicit threats, including against children or grandchildren. “They can be very imaginative,” he said.

The agents are described as mostly young, highly skilled officers who have repeatedly undergone “rapid-fire deployment” since the campaign began last year.

“Within 49 hours, they can make their arrest anywhere in the world,” said a report published last year on Chinese Police Net, a website run by the Ministry of Public Security.

Such official statements, while directed toward a domestic audience, have stirred concern overseas. That is because Chinese agents are barred from making arrests on foreign soil, including the top destinations for alleged fugitives: the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. These and a number of other countries do not have extradition treaties with China.

China says it follows local laws overseas. But in December, two Chinese police officers were caught operating in Australia without the permission of local authorities, according to local news media reports that were confirmed by Australian officials. The officers had traveled to Melbourne from the northeast province of Shandong to pursue a Chinese citizen accused of bribery, the reports said.

Australian officials promptly summoned diplomats from the Chinese Embassy in Canberra, as well as in Beijing, to express their displeasure, according to a spokesman for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

“The government registered with China its deep concerns about this, making clear it was unacceptable,” said the spokesman, who added “the government has been assured by Chinese authorities that there would be no repeat of these actions.”

Li Gongjing, a captain in the economic crime division of the Shanghai Public Security Bureau, explained the agents’ approach in an interview with Xinmin Weekly magazine last November.

“A fugitive is like a flying kite,” he said. “Even though he is abroad, the string is held in China. He can always be found through his family.” Contributor: By Mark Mazetti and Dan Levin for The New York Times)

For prayer: For intercessors, this article is a pointer to pray for both America and China in this ongoing political drama and the actions of Chinese agents in America. Tension is growing between China and the U.S. on several fronts. Pray for divine restraint on both governments as the U.S. prepares to receive China’s president next month. Our Bible references reflect God’s ultimate victory over the nations of the earth. Give thanks for the assurance believers have of divine supremacy!   

“[God] shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth…. Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him.” (Ps 72:8, 11)

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

 

PLANNED PARENTHOOD SOLD BABY PARTS WITHOUT PATIENT CONSENT

The second episode in a new documentary web series highlights a young woman’s eyewitness narrative of the daily practice of fetal body parts harvesting in Planned Parenthood abortion clinics, describing tissue procurement workers’ coordination with abortion providers, the pressure placed on patients, and disregard for patient consent.

This weekend! Nationwide protest PP's harvesting and selling of aborted baby parts - or details, <click here>!

The “Human Capital” documentary web series, produced by The Center for Medical Progress, integrates expert interviews, eyewitness accounts, and real-life undercover interactions to explore various themes connected to Planned Parenthood’s sale of aborted fetal tissue. Episode 1, “Planned Parenthood’s Black Market in Baby Parts,” premiered last month. Episode 2, “Inside the Planned Parenthood Supply Site,” launches today at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABzFZM73o8M

The series follows the personal narrative of Holly O’Donnell, a former Blood and TIssue Procurement Technician for StemExpress, a start-up biotech company from northern California that partners with Planned Parenthood clinics to purchase their aborted fetus parts and resell them for scientific experimentation. As a procurement tech, O’Donnell’s job was to identify pregnant patients matching the specifications of StemExpress customers and to harvest the fetal body parts from their abortions.

“It’s not an option, it’s a demand,” StemExpress supervisors instructed O’Donnell about approaching pregnant women at Planned Parenthood for fetal tissue “donations.” O’Donnell says the StemExpress techs working in Planned Parenthood clinics sometimes harvested fetal parts without obtaining consent from the patients: “If there was a higher gestation, and the technicians needed it, there were times when they would just take what they wanted. And these mothers don’t know. And there’s no way they would know.”

Federal laws on the procurement and use of human fetal tissue require that patients consent to the tissue donation subsequent to consenting to the abortion procedure (42 U.S.C. 289g-1).

According to O’Donnell, Planned Parenthood gave StemExpress workers access to patient records and schedules so that the harvesting company could plan for the days when patient “supply” would be greatest. “They give you a sheet, and it’s everybody for that day, who’s coming in for an ultrasound, who’s coming in for an abortion, medical or a late-term abortion,” O’Donnell explains. Even patients just seeking a pregnancy test at Planned Parenthood were considered part of the supply: “Pregnancy tests are potential pregnancies, therefore potential specimens. So it’s just taking advantage of the opportunities.”

Project Lead David Daleiden notes, “Experiences like Holly O’Donnell’s show that Planned Parenthood’s abortion and baby parts business is not a safe place where vulnerable women can be cared for, but a harvesting ground for saleable human ‘product.’ Taxpayer subsidies to Planned Parenthood’s barbaric abortion business should be revoked immediately, and law enforcement and other elected officials must act decisively to determine the full extent of Planned Parenthood’s offensive practices and hold them accountable to the law.” (Contributor: Center for Medical Progress)

For Prayer: We agree with David Daleiden (see article) and many concerned national leaders, both religious and non-religious, that this repulsive practice must be stopped. As a non-political prayer ministry, we know that our chief “weapon” is strong intercessory petition before God, who loves both the babies and the misguided, exploited mothers. We urge continued prayers that, despite Planned Parenthood’s strong pushback, such despicable black-marketing will be closed down.

“My son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path; for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood…. but they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners.” (Prov 1:15-16, 18-19)

 

U.S. WARNS STATES AGAINST DEFUNDING PLANNED PARENTHOOD

The U.S. government has warned states moving to defund women's health group Planned Parenthood that they may be in conflict with federal law, officials said on Wednesday.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a federal agency, was in contact with officials in Louisiana and Alabama this month, said a spokesperson for the agency's parent, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The agency warned those two states that their plans to terminate Medicaid provider agreements with Planned Parenthood may illegally restrict beneficiary access to services, the spokesperson said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood has been at the center of a national debate since the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress last month began releasing undercover videos showing doctors discussing the sale of fetal body parts.

Federal law requires state Medicaid programs to cover family-planning services and supplies for anyone of child-bearing age. Ending the agreements with Planned Parenthood would limit beneficiaries' access to care and services from qualified providers of their choice, according to HHS.

Medicaid is a U.S. government healthcare program for the poor; Medicare is for the aged and disabled.

Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said in a statement on Wednesday that moves to eliminate its funding were "political grandstanding."

"It's good to hear that HHS has clarified what we already know: blocking women’s access to care at Planned Parenthood is against the law," she said.

Anti-abortion activists said that a sixth video, released on Wednesday, shows Planned Parenthood doctors sell aborted fetal tissue to researchers without the mother's permission.

As it has for weeks, Planned Parenthood said it has done nothing wrong.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, one of 17 contenders for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, earlier this month was the first to lead his state to cut funding of Planned Parenthood, following a failed effort to do that in the U.S. Congress.

On Wednesday, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said in a radio interview that if he became president, he would use the Justice Department to "criminally prosecute" the group.

Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the Republican race, said on CBS the group should be "defunded immediately."

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump, another Republican candidate, said on Tuesday abortions should not be federally funded, but he "would look at the good aspects of" Planned Parenthood.

"I'm sure they do some things properly," he told CNN. "We have to take care of women." (Contributor: By Megan Cassella for Reuters - Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh; Editing by David Gregorio)

For Prayer: The administration’s (read: White House) obvious “love affair” with Planned Parenthood is exerting political and economic pressure on these courageous governors who dare to say “No” to Planned Parenthood’s voracious appetite for taxpayer dollars. IFA is unapologetically urging all intercessors to pray fervently and diligently that God will close down PP’s “kingdom of death.” Will this solve our country’s spiritual problems? No, but the Church’s unity will be a step toward revival.

“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)

 

ISIS: CHILLING WARNING TO U.S. MILITARY

A representative for a pro-Islamic State hacking group issued a chilling warning to members of the U.S. military and government Wednesday, promising that “very soon” followers of the organization would retaliate for overseas bombing targeting the terror organization.

Speaking to TheBlaze using smartphone messenger application Kik, a representative for the Islamic State Hacking Division said the group is constantly spying on U.S. servicemen. The organization on Tuesday published personal information purporting to belong to U.S. military and government online.

“Just like they spy on muslims, we are spying on them, watching their employees, watching their soldiers, recording their movements and taking their location information and passing it on to the soldiers of the islamic state,” the anonymous male member told TheBlaze.

“they have no security just like their employees and military personnel have no OpSec,” he continued, “they are people who like to brag and boast and this is to our advantage.”

“The brothers don’t need to attack them in military bases or secured buildings,” the hacking group member added. “they can now turn up in their houses. in their homes. this is war, what did you expect? u think u can bomb the islamic state and we don’t do nothing back? soon, very soon you will see.”

When asked exactly what could be expected to be seen “soon,” the member replied, “you will see when US military and government personnel start getting beheaded in their homes.”

The individual said that his group targets government employees as well as military members because “their kufr (disbelief) makes their blood halal.”

The individual would not provide specifics on the Islamic State Hacking Division, declining to say where the group is based or how many members are in its ranks. He did, however, go after Anonymous, the hacking group which recently targeted the Islamic State.

“Anonymous, GhostSec, CtrlSec who are apparently ‘hackers’ against IS, till date they have hacked nothing, they are all talk,” the Islamic State Hacking Division member said. “the only thing they can do is report twitter accounts and ddos websites for 5mins.”

Boasting of the group’s own skill set, the individual claimed his group “probably” could have breached security guarding the private email server of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He, however, declined to get into the group’s specific methodology, saying, “Let the US gov figure that out.”

Two cyber-security experts who spoke to TheBlaze offered differing perspectives on the group’s capabilities.

Department of Defense cyber-mobile and cyber-warefare expert Robert Twitchell said he thought the group could indeed have the capabilities to launch various hacking attacks that could result in information being compromised.

Former intelligence analyst Jason Polancich, however, said his view was that the pro-Islamic State group was mostly bluffing and that often information hactivist groups use is already available online.

A spokesman for the Pentagon said Wednesday afternoon that officials are still investigating the purported hack, but noted that “it appears all of the email addresses for the Army soldiers are old and haven’t been operational for months, if not years.”

Before Tuesday’s alleged hack, the group in March claimed to have posted the information of 100 U.S. military personnel with a call to “kill them in their own lands.”

The representative for the Islamic State Hacking Division group was reached using contact information posted on the same website it used to publish the purported information of U.S. military and government personnel. (Contributor: By Oliver Darcy for The Blaze)

For prayer: The question is not whether these Islamic State threats are real. Instead, we must pray that our government recovers the early American “spirit and soul” to defend its citizens at home and abroad. Our anthem says, “Then conquer we must, if our cause it is just. And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’ ” Pray for a nationwide spiritual restoration that will turn America back to God, to a place where we can invoke divine protection.

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

 

ISRAEL SAYS IT IS AWARE OF NEW HAMAS TERROR TUNNELS

Military sources confirmed for the first time that the defense establishment has information that Hamas has been digging new terrorist tunnels to replace the ones destroyed by Israel during Operation Protective Edge last summer.

Israel’s Channel 10 News reported that Hamas terrorists have in recent months completed the digging of the tunnels that reach into Israeli territory, and may use them in a future military confrontation with Israel.

According to the report, the IDF holding off on destroying the new tunnels due to the feeling that Hamas is not interested in another round of fighting with Israel.

The report came hours after it was cleared for publication that a Hamas terrorist responsible for terror tunnel digging was arrested via a joint operation of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) and the Israel Police in early July.

During interrogation, 21 year-old Rafah native Ibrahim Adel Shehadeh Shaer revealed a considerable amount of information to the ISA about Hamas's activities in Rafah, particularly about its terror tunnel network. Among the exposés: that Hamas is digging a tunnel from Rafah toward the Kerem Shalom crossing into Israel.

He also revealed the location of the excavation centers, tunnels, and shafts, and gave information about the people digging them. He also said that the new road that was paved by Hamas near Gaza border is to be used in order to stage a surprise attack against Israel, in which vehicles will race toward the border with Israel.

As part of his activities in Hamas, Shaer personally underwent a variety of training programs for combat, command, using advanced weapons and explosives.

The IDF a few months ago promised to investigate Hamas reconstruction of attack tunnels, after months of reports showing how the terrorist organization has been siphoning from the massive influx of construction materials to rebuild the tunnels leading in to Israel.

Reportedly over 1,000 diggers as well as heavy machinery are being employed by Hamas to construct the tunnels; the Israeli security estimation is that the tunnels lead up to Israeli territory, and Hamas will extend them beyond when it feels the time is right to strike. (Contributor: Arutz Sheva International News)

For prayer: We hold tenaciously to the premise that Israel has the right to defend itself from Hamas or other would-be destroyers, from within and without. These tunnels serve no useful purpose and, if a threat to Israel’s security and even its survival, they should be destroyed. Please pray for Israel.

“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)

 

FACIAL RECOGNITION SOFTWARE MOVES TO LOCAL POLICE

Facial recognition software, which American military and intelligence agencies used for years in Iraq and Afghanistan to identify potential terrorists, is being eagerly adopted by dozens of police departments around the country to pursue drug dealers, prostitutes and other conventional criminal suspects. But because it is being used with few guidelines and with little oversight or public disclosure, it is raising questions of privacy and concerns about potential misuse.

Law enforcement officers say the technology is much faster than fingerprinting at identifying suspects, although it is unclear how much it is helping the police make arrests.

When Aaron Harvey was stopped by the police here in 2013 while driving near his grandmother’s house, an officer not only searched his car, he said, but also took his photograph and ran it through the software to try to confirm his identity and determine whether he had a criminal record.

Eric Hanson, a retired firefighter, had a similar experience last summer. Stopped by the police after a dispute with a man he said was a prowler, he was ordered to sit on a curb, he said, while officers took his photo with an iPad and ran it through the same facial recognition software. The officers also used a cotton swab to collect a DNA sample from the inside of his cheek.

Neither man was arrested. Neither had consented to being photographed. Both said officers had told them that they were using facial recognition technology.

“I was thinking, ‘Why are you taking pictures of me, doing this to me?’ ” said Mr. Hanson, 58, who has no criminal record. “I felt like my identity was being stolen. I’m a straight-up, no lie, cheat or steal guy, and I get treated like a criminal.”

Lt. Scott Wahl, a spokesman for the 1,900-member San Diego Police Department, said the department does not require police officers to file a report when they use the facial recognition technology but do not make an arrest. The department has no record of the stops involving Mr. Hanson and Mr. Harvey, and Lieutenant Wahl said that he did not know about the incidents but that they could have happened.

“It is a test product for the region that we’ve allowed officers to use,” he said of facial recognition software and the hand-held devices the police use to take pictures. “We don’t even know how many are out there” in the region.

He said that until June 19, his department did not have a written policy regulating facial recognition software and only recently began training officers on its lawful use. Before then, he said, there were interim regional guidelines and training available.

County documents show that over 33 days in January and February, 26 San Diego law enforcement agencies used the software to try to identify people on more than 20,600 occasions — although officers found a match to criminal records only about 25 percent of the time.

Lieutenant Wahl said the department was not aware of any complaints about the software or about the policy of collecting DNA samples that Mr. Hanson and others have described.

The department uses the technology judiciously, Lieutenant Wahl said. “We don’t just drive around taking people’s picture and start swabbing them,” he said.

Others say misuse is common.

“I get a call about facial recognition maybe twice a month,” said Victor Manuel Torres, a San Diego civil rights lawyer. “The complaint is always that they did it and didn’t get permission. ‘The police put me in cuffs and I’m on the curb, and they pull out an iPad and are taking pictures.’ ”

The Police Department, which the Justice Department recently determined to have a history of serious misconduct, has also been found to disproportionately stop and search African-Americans. But there is no similar racial breakdown for facial recognition checks, in part because the department does not keep the data.

“It is not as if there is the identification of a specific crime problem; they are simply collecting a lot of information that could impact a lot of completely innocent people,” said Michael German, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice and a former F.B.I. agent. “There is very little oversight on the local level, and little concern from the federal agencies providing the grants.”

Facial recognition technology was first developed in the 1960s, but only recently became accurate enough for widespread use. It is among an array of technologies, including StingRay tracking devices and surveillance aircraft with specialized cameras, that were used in overseas wars but have found their way into local law enforcement.

The software can identify 16,000 points on a person’s face — to determine the distance between the eyes or the shape of the lips, for instance — and compare them with thousands of similar points in police booking or other photos at a rate of more than one million faces a second.

The technology is so new that experts say they are unaware of major legal challenges. In some cities, though, a backlash is stirring.

In Northern California, the Oakland City Council, under pressure from residents and civil liberties advocates, scaled back plans this year for a federally financed center that would have linked surveillance equipment around the city, including closed-circuit cameras, gunshot microphones and license plate readers. It also formed a committee to limit the use of this equipment and to develop privacy standards, like how long data may be kept and who will have access to it.

The authorities in Boston tested facial recognition technology but decided in 2013 not to adopt it, saying it crossed an ethical line. The software had been linked to surveillance cameras to secretly scan the faces of thousands of people at outdoor concerts in the city center. The images had then been fed into software capable of analyzing them.

“I don’t want people to think we’re always spying on them,” said William B. Evans, Boston’s police commissioner.

Yet the F.B.I. is pushing ahead with its $1 billion Next Generation Identification program, in which the agency will gather data like fingerprints, iris scans and photographs, as well as information collected through facial recognition software. That software is capable of analyzing driver’s license photos and images from the tens of thousands of surveillance cameras around the country. The F.B.I. system will eventually be made accessible to more than 18,000 local, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies.

But people who are not criminal suspects are included in the database, and the error rate for the software is as high as 20 percent — meaning the authorities could misidentify millions of people.

Among the cities that use facial recognition technology are New York and Chicago, which has linked it to 25,000 surveillance cameras in an effort to fight street crime.

In many ways, though, San Diego County is at the forefront.

Here, beat cops, detectives and even school police officers have been using hand-held devices to create a vast database of tens of thousands of photos of people like Mr. Harvey and Mr. Hanson — some suspected of committing crimes, others not — usually without the person’s consent.

Not everyone is opposed to such programs. Last year, Tom Northcutt, a San Diego property manager, took an iPhone photo of a man moments before the man struck him in the arm with a two-by-four and fled. Mr. Northcutt, who did not know the aggressor, immediately sent the image to the police by email.

Less than 10 minutes later, a detective matched the man to a booking photograph of a suspect, who was arrested and later convicted of assault.

“It felt good knowing that they could do that,” Mr. Northcutt said.

Mr. Harvey, 27, remains upset about what happened to him. He said that when he refused to consent to having his picture taken, the officer boasted that he could do so anyway.

“He said, ‘We’re going to do this either legally or illegally,’ and pulled me out of the car,” Mr. Harvey said.

Mr. Harvey, who is African-American, said the San Diego Police had stopped him as a suspected gang member more than 50 times because his neighborhood, Lincoln Park, is among the city’s most violent.

He said he had been told he was in a gang database, even though he has never been a gang member. He recently spent nearly a year in jail on gang conspiracy charges that were dismissed in March. “I don’t know how good a gang member I could have been, not having a criminal record,” he said.

Mr. Hanson, who is white and lives in the city’s upscale Ocean Beach neighborhood, said his treatment by officers had been as intrusive as it was frightening.

“I’m not a lawyer,” he said, “but they didn’t appear to be following the law.” (Contributor: By Timothy Williams for The New York Times)

For prayer: Here is another case of an electronic tool that, like any other, can be used for people’s benefit or can be misused (or used prematurely) to bring confusion through false identification. Pray that human wisdom and knowledge will be applied with restraint, compassion, and proper motives. We come back again to our country’s need for sweeping revival and recognition of how deeply we, as a nation, need a return to God’s wisdom and His ways.

“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)

 

WHERE IS GOD IN EUROPEAN LIFE?

Viewers of the Republican presidential debate on Thursday August 6 might have been surprised by the question put to the candidates about whether God has spoken to them. This would be especially true of Europeans, who must have been asking themselves whether all Americans are nuts.

I lived in Europe for 11 years. I know how curious the American obsession with religion appears to a continent where God is largely dead.

Yet, American religion is central to American exceptionalism and presents an interesting contrast to Europe.

Days before the Millennium I became the first rabbi to win the London Times Preacher of the Year competition. (The Jerusalem Post reported at the time that I had received more points that anyone in the competition’s history.) While I was grateful to win in some sense it was a hollow victory. The competition, mostly from Church of England pastors, was not vigorous. Their academic, methodical and largely passionless delivery was not one to win over judges or the assembled audience.

Passion is the ultimate human magnet.

While people are reconciled to a life lived largely in the valleys, they thrill to those who can take them to the mountaintop, which explains why religion, with its lofty vision of a world of infinite possibility, has always excited the deepest artistic impulses of man.

This has been especially true in America, a country that believes in a “manifest destiny” and a nation which continues to invoke God’s blessing at every turn.

But this is not necessarily true of Britain and Europe, which have become increasingly godless. As rabbi in residence at Oxford for 11 years, I decided, in the early 1990s, to revive the celebrated Wilberforce-Huxley science- religion debate of 1860. Richard Dawkins was a star, as was Peter Atkins. Neither of these men had yet to become the militant atheists they would later be famous as. The engaging debates, which became an annual event drawing hundreds of Oxford students, even saw the religious side prevail at times, something largely unthinkable in today’s Britain where faith has become an empty ceremony of dead ritual.

Religion in Europe has only itself to blame for its decline, with a highly centralized religious structure crushing the creativity of individual pastors and the high formality of official European churches coming across as bland and humorless.

Europeans are in the habit of making fun of American evangelicals as backward religious knuckle-draggers who believe that Adam and Eve literally hung out with a talking snake.

But for all the condescension, evangelical Christianity in the US still represents the single largest voting bloc in the world’s sole superpower and one out of five Americans describes themselves as a born-again Christian, something inconceivable in Britain where weekly Church of England attendance hovers somewhere about two percent. Evangelicals build mega-churches that draw thousands of worshipers weekly and top evangelical pastors like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen enjoy vast cultural influence.

There is good reason. In the United States there is no official state church. There is no Archbishop of Canterbury. There is no Chief Rabbi. There is no queen as the official Defender of the Faith. Religion lives and dies like a commercial enterprise and is highly entrepreneurial. It pastors either excite their congregants with a message that is inspiring and relevant that will fill the pews or they will be passed over in favor of a different church. And if they send their congregants into a coma with stultifying boredom, their congregation will be lost because they will never awake.

Some might argue that the demise of religion in Europe is a good thing. It proves British sophistication, in sharp contrast to the religious hobos of American who talk in tongues. I beg to differ. In his magisterial work, A History of the American People, British historian Paul Johnson makes the case that the remarkable growth of the American people from pioneering backwoodsmen to the most powerful and innovative nation on earth was largely fueled by America’s religious fervor. From the piety of the pilgrims to the faith-based values of the Founding Fathers to the American belief in a divine destiny to even the marketing of Coca-Cola as “the real thing,” Americans tamed the wilderness in the belief that their nation comprised a new promised land, destined to illuminate the earth with the torch of freedom and the light of human dignity.

Europeans can claim that these are hollow statements of an arrogant superpower which thinks it can impose its will in Afghanistan and Iraq. But none can argue that this faith-fueled belief in itself has propelled America to its place as the most influential nation on earth.

European influence, in sharp contrast, has seriously declined. And while there are many factors involved, I would argue that the loss of national purpose bespeaks a dispiriting cynicism. It is a philosophy of nihilism in which nothing is sacred and all is an accident. While it has some brief, flashy moments, life does not necessarily have a grand design or purpose. There is no soul to illuminate, enrich and enliven. Existence slowly succumbs to the laws of entropy, decrepitude and death the only reality. This is especially true of the militant atheism stemming these days from Britain. Human love is a trick played on us by our genes ensuring the propagation of the species, and poetry and faith are shallow distractions masking the inevitability of our demise.

Men are insemination machines incapable of ever being truly faithful or loyal, and women are genetically programmed to seek out men with fancy cars and money, so much the better to support their offspring.

This inescapable pessimism of the decline of faith may account for why Britain, once the most intellectually advanced nation on earth, that gave the world parliamentary democracy and its most celebrated centers of learning, is today declining as a world leader of ideas.

Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807 and outlawed it completely three decades before the United States, doing so without half a million of its citizens dying in a civil war, and it was largely Christian abolitionists like William Wilberforce who were responsible for ending the abomination. But what is it that Britain exports today? America has many of social ills and serious partisan challenges. America also suffers from a religious obsession with issues like abortion and gay marriage even as the divorce rate hits 50% percent and out-of-control materialism suffocates the souls of its citizenry. But for all that, the spiritual underpinnings of the American republic ensure that values are constantly debated in the public arena and soul-searching is a never-ending element of the American public discourse.

It was in Britain that six of my nine children were born and, having arrived at the tender age of 22 it was in Britain where I learned to be a man. I owe the country much and serving as rabbi to the inquisitive minds of Oxford students was one of the greatest honors of my life, capped off just as I returned to the United States with the Preacher of the Year title. And it is for this reason that I hunger for a return to the robust British spiritual life that once served as the very foundation of British idealism and influence. (Contributor: By Rabbi Shmuley Boteach for The Jerusalem Post - The author, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is founder of The World Values Network.

Prayer focus: Occasionally in this midweek prayer Alert, we run an “FYI” article that readers across the U.S. may not see via their local news outlets but which might show trends to assist with overall intercession for our own country. Here is an analysis by a Jewish rabbi who has spent many years in England and is now watching the Republican presidential nomination debates in the U.S. His conclusions are his own, though they may reflect to intercessors some of our country’s needs.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” (Ps 33:12)

 

AIRBORNE DROPS TO NORTH KOREA WORTH THE RISK

The sky continues to be the limit for a Christian missionary organization that is committed to delivering gospel tracts and scriptures to restricted countries such as North Korea.

For years now, The Voice of the Martyrs has been using balloon drops to get the good news to people in North Korea. Political groups also use aerial drops to distribute anti-North Korea literature. Spokesman Todd Nettleton tells OneNewsNow that communist leaders object to the drops, but Voice of the Martrys is committed to the airborne delivery system.

"All of the balloon drops that are used make the North Korean government very upset,” he explains. “So anytime they have contact with the South Korean government, that's one of the issues they immediately want to put on the table, [arguing] Hey, you've got to put a stop to all these people launching balloons.

"But thankfully our Christian brothers and sisters in South Korea are very bold and they continue to do that even though there are some risks.”

More recently, they have been able to use a computer app to track where the balloons land.

North-South Korea border area"It's pretty exciting work, its kind of high tech, and sort of a secret agency - I guess that would be a word you could use,” he says. “But we know these balloons are reaching North Koreans, we know they are reaching them with the gospel message, and so that's a very exciting thing."

Nettleton acknowledges that North Korea presents challenges in spreading the gospel, but he adds that the Voice of the Martyrs continues to find creative ways to deliver the message. (Contributor: By Bill Bumpass for One News Now)

For Prayer: This is an important article for intercessors, illuminating what few in the West know about evangelizing North Korea, which has been dubbed the most closed and secretive nation on the Earth. Please pray for the careful and mostly hidden work of Voice of the Martyrs and the brave South Koreans who work diligently and in many ways to send the Gospel to this tightly closed country. Pray for the power of God’s Word to open many hearts to God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ.

“[And] to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.” (1 Cor 9:22-23)

 

ADULT STEM CELLS VS. ABORTED BABY PARTS

A pro-life activist says there are better ways to conduct scientific research than using aborted baby organs in rats.

petri dish stem cell research"Organs like the liver and the heart are being grown using adult stem cells, which are ethical," Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, tells OneNewsNow.

But other experiments are being done with rats by transplanting aborted baby organs in them to grow new organs, with the intention of one day growing organs for human transplant.

The adult stem cells, meanwhile, can easily be obtained from living people from skin, fat or other tissue.

"They can be donated by the living person for research," Tobias points out. "So the same results can be obtained and you do not have to kill an unborn child or use the remains of that unborn child in their research."

She points out that the money for the research comes from tax dollars earmarked by the federal government. (Contributor: Charlie Butts for One News Now)

For Prayer: Give thanks for Carol Tobias and the National Right to Life Committee, who do careful research and follow-up in honorable efforts to stem the abortion “industry” in which Planned Parenthood specializes. She points out in the article that the clandestine and often illegal black-market selling of aborted baby organs and tissue is unnecessary, contrary to Planned Parenthood’s assertions that such fetal tissue is “essential” to research. PP’s claims are spurious.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov 14:34)

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The Informer August 12, 2015

On Watch in Washington August 12, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

SENATE GOP BILL PROTECTS OPPONENTS OF OBAMA BIRTH-CONTROL RULES

Senate Republicans announced new legislation Tuesday to bar the government from forcing business to provide insurance for drugs and services that violate their moral beliefs, tapping into renewed debates over religious liberty, abortion and the persistent legal fight over Obamacare’s birth control mandate.

The bill, authored by Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma Republican, would allow private businesses and religious nonprofits to negotiate health plans that do not cover abortion or forms of birth control they object to, without risking heavy fines under the “contraception mandate” that stemmed from the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

The bill would also let nurses or health providers seek legal recourse if they’re fired or otherwise discriminated against for declining to participate in abortions.

“It’s a basic principle that Americans should be able to live their faith,” Mr. Lankford said in a brief interview.

Sponsors said they detect increasing discrimination against organizations that try to live their faith in their public lives, and said that could particularly damage religious nonprofits, cutting their ability to provide needed care to “vulnerable populations.”

The effort adds new fuel to the fight over women’s health and faith-based objections to abortion or “morning-after” pills that some equate with the practice.

Already, Democrats charge that Republicans are leading a “war on women,” most recently an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of videos that seemingly show its employees negotiating over the sale of fetal body parts.

Under Mr. Lankford’s bill, an employer could buy a health plan that does not include abortion or contraceptives that violate their beliefs, so long as they found a willing insurer. Those negotiations could take place without the government mandating to the parties that they include the objectionable benefits.

The Department of Health and Human Services says it’s already struck the right balance with its policies, which accommodate family-owned corporations and faith-based colleges, charities and universities who object to the mandate.

Under HHS policy, those closely held corporations and religious nonprofits can notify either their insurers or the federal government of their objection to insuring certain contraceptives, and the insurers or plan administrators would then step in and make sure employees can get contraception without the religious charity having to pay for it.

Many nonprofits, though, still object, saying that the notification itself makes them complicit in sin. They’re still trying to fight their case in the courts, but have been rejected by a series of appeals courts.

The Senate GOP legislation would shift the battle back to Capitol Hill.

“This bill is an attempt to achieve legislatively what the nonprofit organizations have not been able to achieve in the courts, namely a wholesale exemption from the contraception requirement in the [health care law],” said Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union who fears the bill is overly broad and could result in a patchwork of what is covered from employer to employer.

Holly Lynch, a bioethics expert at Harvard Law School who closely tracks the debate, said the new bill didn’t balance its focus on rights of conscience with a women’s access to services.

“All these senators are doing is focusing on one side of the equation, and that is a serious problem,” she said.

Republican lawmakers have challenged the administration to find a way to pay for the contraceptives if it’s intent on providing them, and some in the GOP have offered legislation to let women buy contraceptives over-the-counter.

Mr. Lankford said community centers in just about every county in America have “some kind of access point” for women who cannot afford contraceptives.

His bill is similar to one his predecessor, Sen. Tom Coburn, filed in the last Congress. So far it has 13 Republican cosponsors — all of them male — although a House companion bill was filed by a female Republican, Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee. (Contributor: By Tom Howell Jr. for The Washington Times)

For prayer: This is the religious freedom issue in new clothing. Give thanks for Sen. Lankford and those supporting this legislation. Pray that his Senate colleagues have courage to carry through in spite of the president’s veto power. The issue is getting more exposure. We encourage intercessors to review the life of William Wilberforce and his more-than-18-year struggle against slavery in the British Parliament from 1787 until victory! Intercessors will pray until the issue is resolved.

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Tim.6:12)

“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)

 

NEW HAMPSHIRE DEFUNDS PLANNED PARENTHOOD FACILITIES

Chris Sununu is a pro-choice Republican, but when he voted Wednesday to defund Planned Parenthood clinics in New Hampshire, he viewed it as a vote in favor of women’s health, not against.

Before the New Hampshire Executive Council’s 3-2 vote denying the contract, he said he received separate calls from five young women — both pro-choice and pro-life — who told him they refused to set foot in Planned Parenthood clinics, even though they needed services and those were their closest options.

“All of them were unemployed and had actually gotten rides to other parts of the state so they could go to another provider that wasn’t Planned Parenthood and that didn’t have this umbrella of scrutiny hanging over them,” said Mr. Sununu. “And that sort of hit home.”

The New Hampshire vote, coming over the objections of Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, comes as the latest example of the backlash against Planned Parenthood following the release of five undercover videos raising alarm over the organization’s involvement in the trade of fetal organs from abortions.

“I’ve supported Planned Parenthood in the past to provide these services, but there are some women who just don’t want to support them because they’re too controversial,” Mr. Sununu said.

In New Hampshire, there’s also a political angle. Mr. Sununu, the son of former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu, is said to be considering a run against Ms. Hassan in 2016, a race in which Planned Parenthood is already emerging as a campaign issue.

The Republican-controlled New Hampshire Executive Council denied state funding by turning down a $639,000 contract with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

The affiliate still receives funding from the federal government and other states in its purview.

The vote follows Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision last week to cut off state funds for Planned Parenthood in his state. Both decisions came after the release of the first video July 13 by the pro-life Center for Medical Progress.

At least 10 other states have reacted by launching investigations, but New Hampshire is not one of them. The executive council’s decision to deny state funding to Planned Parenthood came after Ms. Hassan refused calls to look into the group’s practices regarding fetal tissue.

The governor has said there is no evidence of illegality at the state clinics, which reportedly do not handle fetal tissue donations, adding, “We do not launch investigations in the state of New Hampshire on rumor.”

The Democratic governor also rejected a request from Republicans, including Mr. Sununu, to look into using other health care providers for nonabortion services offered by the Planned Parenthood clinics.

“The second request we made was, ‘Look, will you help us find alternatives to Planned Parenthood?’ In other sections of the state, other folks provide these services. In my district — I represent about a quarter-million people — Planned Parenthood is the only option,” Mr. Sununu said. “And I don’t think that’s right. I believe in having choice, in giving women choices for where they want to go.

“So that’s what I asked the governor to do: Let’s look for alternatives together as a team here,” he said. “She outright rejected that today.”

Ms. Hassan blasted the executive council’s vote in a Wednesday statement, saying, “I am incredibly disappointed in the outcome of today’s vote.”

“The council’s vote to defund Planned Parenthood will hurt the health and economic well-being of thousands of Granite Staters,” Ms. Hassan said. “Moving forward, I will continue to fight to ensure that women and families have access to the important health services that are essential to the economic security and vitality of our families.”

Councilor Chris Pappas, a Democrat, also criticized the Republican majority’s rejection of the Planned Parenthood contract.

“Voting against this contract is not going to stop one single abortion in New Hampshire, but it is going to stop thousands of people from accessing quality, affordable health care,” Mr. Pappas said, according to The Associated Press.

The council did vote to fund contracts for three other health care providers that do not perform abortions: Concord Feminist Health Center, the Joan G. Lovering Health Center on the Seacoast and Weeks Medical Center in the North Country.

Mr. Sununu argued that part of the executive council’s charge is to act as a check on government contracts.

“When you have a group like this here at the national level under all this investigation and scrutiny — look, if it were any other contractor, there wouldn’t even be a debate. Of course we wouldn’t be doing business with them,” Mr. Sununu said.

“But for some reason the Democrats seem to be going out of their way to find an excuse to keep Planned Parenthood around, and on the line and on contract,” he said. “There are lots of other providers of these services out there. All I’m saying is, let’s go contract with them and use these other health care providers to make sure we are giving adequate choice to these women.”

New Hampshire Democratic Party spokeswoman Lizzy Price charged that Mr. Sununu’s vote “proved that he is more concerned with his own political interests and trying to win a primary for higher office than he is with the health and economic well-being of New Hampshire women and families.”

Not so, said Mr. Sununu. “There’s too much ethical and legal scrutiny surrounding this organization right now for the state to just keep doing business with them,” he said. (Contributor: By Valerie Richardson for The Washington Times)

For Prayer: Several conservative states are not waiting for the U.S. Senate and House to act on the exposure of Planned Parenthood’s gross and macabre practice of selling tissue and organs of aborted babies to the highest bidder, thus profiting twice from the same murderous “procedure.” Give thanks for these brave people in New Hampshire, and please pray that other states will get on board in dumping this evil monster with its voracious appetite for blood and American taxpayers’ money.

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa 5:20)

 

SEVERE CRACKDOWN IN CHINA ON CHURCH CROSSES DRAWS BACKLASH

About a dozen Catholics wept and sang hymns outside their church as a man climbed to the top of the building and sliced off its steel cross with a cutting torch. It toppled with a thud.

"Aren't you ashamed of what you have done?" a teary woman yelled at the more than 100 security guards, who along with police and government workers kept the parishioners of Lower Dafei Catholic Church from protecting the symbol of their faith. The guards, who stood with shields and batons in the sun for nearly two hours, looked indifferent.

"Doesn't the government give us the right to religious freedom? Why are they taking down our symbol without any explanation?" another parishioner said hours earlier, as government workers arrived to build the scaffolding to reach the cross.

"We have violated no law. We do not oppose the government," said the parishioner, who gave his name only as Chen for fear of retaliation from authorities. "We have been good, law-abiding citizens."

Authorities in southeastern Zhejiang province are believed to be under a two-month deadline to remove crosses from the spires, vaults, roofs and wall arches of the 4,000 or so churches that dot the landscape of this economically thriving region.

In a rare move, even China's semiofficial Christian associations — which are supposed to ensure the ruling Communist Party's control over Protestant and Catholic groups — have denounced the campaign as unconstitutional and humiliating. They have warned that it could risk turning the faithful into enemies of the party.

The campaign is believed to be the will of President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, whose administration has launched the most severe crackdown in decades on social forces that might challenge the monopoly of the party's rule.

But Yang Fenggang, an expert on China's religions at Purdue University, said the party may have miscalculated and could be creating the very instability it is trying to avoid.

"The crackdown has alienated the Christians in China, who are otherwise law-abiding citizens," Yang said.

He said the campaign to assert state power over officially sanctioned churches has been ordered by the central government and is likely being carried out as a kind of experiment in Zhejiang, where the provincial party chief, Xia Baolong, is a trusted ally of Xi.

The massive campaign comes one year after the provincial leadership ordered the razing of several churches and hundreds of rooftop crosses deemed to be illegal structures. This summer, Zhejiang banned rooftop crosses altogether. Despite criticism that the new rule violates China's constitutional right of religious freedom, local enforcers are sending demolition crews to virtually all the province's churches.

They have met with resistance. Parishioners have kept vigils and tried to block entrances to church grounds with cargo trucks, and many churches have re-erected crosses in defiance.

Since Xi came into power in late 2012, Beijing has hushed voices critical of its policies and practices in China's social media, locked up members of the New Citizens Movement who had called for greater government accountability, and, most recently, rounded up rights lawyers who insist China's law must be followed to the letter and applied equally to the people and the state.

"The authorities are especially worried that those with religious beliefs have a strong sense of identity and belonging, which can translate into huge social forces," said Zhao Chu, an independent commentator.

In targeting Christians, the party is going after a group possibly bigger than itself. Yang said Christians probably number close to 100 million after more than three decades of rapid growth, though official figures are much lower. The Communist Party has nearly 88 million members.

In a troubling sign for the party, a sizable portion of its nominally atheist membership holds Christian, Buddhist, Muslim or other beliefs. The party is worried that religion — especially versions of Christianity rooted in the West — could subvert its rule.

The party tried to wipe out religion altogether during the ideological fervor of the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, but later restored the right to worship. In ensuing decades, religious participation has grown as people seek to fill a spiritual void.

Still, Beijing retains tight controls over all religious groups, requiring them to register with the state or be labeled illegal. It claims the exclusive right to appoint Catholic bishops within China, instead of the Vatican.

In the western regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, where Buddhist and Islamic beliefs mingle with ethnic identities, the government also has sought to curb some of the visible symbols of faith, including beards and veils, and installed surveillance cameras in and around monasteries and mosques.

The rules Zhejiang adopted in early July say crosses should be wholly affixed to a building facade and be no more than one-tenth of the facade's height. No rationale has been provided, and the provincial government did not respond to an Associated Press request for an interview.

The Catholic Patriotic Association of Zhejiang has said it is illegal to remove crosses from properly registered churches. The Christian Association of Zhejiang warned the act has caused animosity toward the ruling party. Both groups called for an immediate halt.

Yang said the rare open opposition from the government-sanctioned Christian associations, which serve as liaisons between the authorities and rank-and-file Christians, means the authorities could lose this important conduit. "Now this bridge has been burned," he said.

Fear, frustration and fury are probably most palpable in the municipality of Wenzhou, tucked between China's eastern coastline and rugged mountain ranges. With its 2,000 or so churches, Wenzhou, home to 9 million people, is as well-known as a bastion of Christianity as it is for its gritty entrepreneurship.

Almost every township has its own claim to a line of products — whether it be buttons, shoe soles, pet products or children's toys. Almost every village has a church or two, joining the landscape of rice paddies, farmhouses and factories.

Zhu Libin, president of the Wenzhou Christian Association, is torn between fellow Christians, who want him to speak on their behalf, and local authorities, who want him to persuade churches to comply.

"As a Christian, I want to see the cross lifted as high as possible, but as a citizen of China, I have to follow the rule when asked," he said in an interview at his downtown Wenzhou office.

When asked to comment on the continuing cross removals, he stood up and walked out. Moments later, he returned but refused to answer.

Zhu Weifang, an officially appointed bishop, declined to be interviewed, but he and two dozen other Catholic officials and priests signed a strongly worded letter calling the new rules unlawful.

"The more (authorities) suppress the call for justice, the more it shows they are faced with severe social crisis, that they have little confidence in their ability to rule, and that they are incompetent in dealing with issues," said the letter, which urges parishioners to "fight by law of reason to defend our very basic right to our religion."

In village churches, Protestants and Catholics are defying orders to remove crosses on their own and keeping around-the-clock vigils in slim hopes of holding off demolition crews. Many have defiantly re-erected the crosses.

Tears welled in the eyes of Tu Shouzhe when he recalled how authorities forcibly removed the cross from his Protestant church in the village of Muyang on a hot, humid summer afternoon.

"It was a surprise attack. We did not let them in, but they broke in by cutting off the lock. We demanded paperwork, but they showed us none. They cordoned us away from the church," Tu said. "They had 60-70 people. We had just about a dozen or so. Everyone was crying. Our hearts ached. We felt powerless to resist, and only prayed and sang hymns."

In the Zhejiang city of Jinhua, two pastors from the official Jinhua City Christian Church have been detained on suspicion of corruption after the two refused to remove the rooftop cross from a newly-built sanctuary, lawyer Liu Weiguo said Wednesday.

In Lower Dafei Village, the demolition crew descended one morning last week, but soon realized it could not scale the spire to get to the cross. They returned in the afternoon with poles for scaffolding and a cutting torch. Officials barred a photographer and videojournalist from the AP from documenting the demolition, but another reporter was present, apparently the first news media to capture images of such a cross removal.

One parishioner sat in the narrow entrance to the church grounds, trying to block the intruders, but was ordered to leave. He never spoke a word but kept his eyes on the cross and prayed silently.

As several men built the scaffolding, parishioners' tearful singing echoed over the church grounds: "He uses the love of the cross, the cross, to conquer the man." (Contributor: By Didi Tang for The Associated Press)

For prayer: For these Chinese believers, the government’s attack on the cross as the symbol of their Christian identity represents an attack on their faith and on them personally. And these are legally registered churches, which raises the point of how deeply afraid the godless regime is the symbol of Christian redemption and victory, representing the blood atonement of Christ. Pray for these faithful Christians to prosper and for the hidden (unregistered) churches to remain faithful when persecuted.  

“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal 6:14)

 

'GENE DRIVE': SCIENTISTS SOUND ALARM

A powerful new technique for generating “supercharged” genetically modified organisms that can spread rapidly in the wild has caused alarm among scientists who fear that it may be misused, accidentally or deliberately, and cause a health emergency or environmental disaster.

The development of so-called “gene drive” technology promises to revolutionize medicine and agriculture because it can in theory stop the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses, such as malaria and yellow fever, as well as eliminate crop pests and invasive species such as rats and cane toads.

However, scientists at the forefront of the development believe that in the wrong hands gene-drive technology poses a serious threat to the environment and human health if accidentally or deliberately released from a laboratory without adequate safeguards. Some believe it could even be used as a terrorist bio-weapon directed against people or livestock because gene drives – which enable GM genes to spread rapidly like a viral infection within a population – will eventually be easy and cheap to generate.

“Just as gene drives can make mosquitoes unfit for hosting and spreading the malaria parasite, they could conceivably be designed with gene drives carrying cargo for delivering lethal bacterial toxins to humans,” said David Gurwitz, a geneticist at Tel Aviv University in Israel.

A group of senior geneticists have called for international safeguards to apply to researchers who want to develop gene drives, with strict security measures placed on laboratories to prevent the accidental escape of “supercharged” GM organisms that are able to spread rapidly in the wild.

Last week the U.S. National Academy of Sciences initiated a wide-ranging review of gene-drive technology in “non-human organisms” and in this week’s journal Science a group of 27 leading geneticists call on the scientific community to be open and transparent about both the risks and benefits of gene drives.

“They have tremendous potential to address global problems in health, agriculture and conservation but their capacity to alter wild populations outside the laboratory demands caution,” the scientists say.

The researchers have drawn up a minimum set of safety rules to protect against laboratory escapes and have called for a public debate on the potential benefits as well as risks of a technology that allows geneticists to rapidly accelerate the inheritance of GM traits throughout an animal population within just a few generations.

Researchers have likened gene-drive technology to a nuclear chain reaction because it allows GM genes to be amplified within a breeding population of insects or other animals without any further intervention once the trait has been initially introduced. This is the case even if the trait is non-beneficial to the organism.

Laboratory experiments on fruit flies have shown that a modified gene introduced into one individual fly can take just a few generations to “infect” practically every other fly in the breeding population, in defiance of the normal rules of genetics which dictate a far slower spread.

Kevin Esfeldt, a gene-drive expert at the Wyss Institute at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said the technology was developed theoretically about 10 years ago but it has only been made possible in the lab in the past two years with the discovery of the sophisticated gene-editing tool Crispr/Cas9.

Dr Esfeldt explained that gene drives relied on a “cassette” of genetic elements that allowed a genetically modified gene to jump from one chromosome to another within the same individual so that eventually all of the sperm or eggs of the animal carried the GM trait, rather than half. This means that virtually none of the offspring is eventually free of an introduced GM trait.

Gene drives could benefit human health by altering insect populations that spread human diseases, such as mosquitoes that transmit malaria, dengue, chikungunya and Lyme disease, so that they were no longer a threat, he said.

They could also be used to reverse the mutations that make crop pests resistant to agricultural pesticides, or they might be used to spread genetic traits within a populations of an invasive species to help kill it off, such as making the skin of cane toads introduced into Australia non-toxic to indigenous predators.

“If we’re right about this, it’s a powerful advance that could make the world a much better place, but only if we use it wisely,” Dr Esfeldt said.

However, some scientists fear that the ease with which gene drives can be generated will make them a target for any malign individual or organisation with access to modern laboratory equipment.

Dr Gurwitz said the precise instructions for making gene drives should be classified, just like the technology for making nuclear weapons. However, Dr Esfeldt and the other 26 scientists who have written to Science disagreed, arguing that complete openness and transparency was the best defence against the use of gene drives as a bio-weapon because classifying the information would be technically ineffective and politically counterproductive. (Contributor: By Steve Connor, Science editor for Independent)

Further Reading: CRISPR/Cas9 and Targeted Genome Editing: A New Era in Molecular Biology

For prayer: This is a “Watchman, be aware!” article, which we contrast with reports calling for immediate intercessory prayer. We see here the development of a tool, similar to a gun, which morally upright people will use for good means, such as hunting game legally, while debased people will use for evil means, such as murder. So the gene drive development may be used for good or for evil purposes. Pray that much good will come from the gene drive for healing disease.

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

 

THE AYATOLLAH'S NEW BOOK: WIPE OUT ISRAEL

The supreme leader of Iran is apparently now an aspiring author but one thing is for sure: this is no love story.

According to a report on Saturday in the New York Post, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's new book Palestine outlines his case for why Israel must be wiped out and how. "The solution is a one-state formula," he writes, which is called "Palestine."

He said this "practical and logical mechanism" would have Israel under Muslim rule with some Jews being allowed to stay as a "protected minority" but only after proving "genuine roots." He advocates strict apartheid against Jews saying that they would not be allowed to vote in a future Muslim state while Arabs would have full rights.

He claims that his plan would promote "the hegemony of Iran" while removing "the West's hegemony" from the Middle East.

Khamenei, who is described in the book as "the flagbearer of Jihad to liberate Jerusalem," wrote that his views are not anti-Semitic but Islamic and based on "well-established Islamic principles." This goes on the opinion in Islam that land which was once owned by Muslims can never be ruled by non-Muslims again. Along with Israel, this also includes Russia, many parts of Europe, Thailand, India and parts of China and the Philippines.

However, Khamenei singles Israel out as an adou [enemy], doshman [foe] and a "cancerous tumor" for several reasons, the first of which is for being an "ally of the American Great Satan" which is waged in a war to overtake "the heartland of the Ummah [nation]."

Second, he says Israel is singled out because of his claim that it has waged a war on Muslims and therefore has become a kaffir al-harbi [hostile infidel].

Third, he claims that Israel "occupies" Jerusalem and calls it "Islam's third Holy City."

Khamenei says his plan entails low-intensity warfare based on wearing down the patience of Israelis and the international community. He writes that this plan does not entail "classical warfare" and he supposedly does not want to kill Jews.

His plan goes on the assumption that all Israelis have dual citizenship and would rather live in the US or Europe. He recommends therefore to make life in Israel so uncomfortable that they leave voluntarily to avoid threats on them.

He then describes using the tactic of "Israel fatigue" wherein the international community would decide to stop supporting Israel's military programs.

Another section of the book boasted past Iran-supported warfare against Israel using examples from Gaza and Lebanon. He writes that he aims to recruit West Bank "fighters" in units modeled after Hezbollah.

“We have intervened in anti-Israel matters, and it brought victory in the 33-day war by Hezbollah against Israel in 2006 and in the 22-day war between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip."

Though he doesn't reference an Iranian nuclear program directly, he mentions that a nuclear Iran would be able to deter Israel from taking any military action against the Islamic republic.

Referring to the Holocaust, Khamenei called it a "propaganda ploy" and writes that "we don't know why it happened and how."

The 416-page book is currently only available in Iran in Persian, but apparently an Arabic version is on the way. (Contributor: By Jerusalem Post Staff for The Jerusalem Post)

 

For prayer: The book is no surprise. Iran’s hatred for both Israel and the U.S. has long since been established. There is tragedy here, however. Before the Iranian nuclear talks, and despite President Obama’s many equivocations, Israel and the U.S. were strong allies. Now, the “Iranian deal” seems to have made Iran a virtual U.S. “ally,” leaving Israel quite alone and vulnerable. Is this what Americans want? We think not. A showdown is coming. Pray for divine mercy on our nation. God will triumph.

“Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing…. All nations before Him are as nothing …” (Isa 40:15, 17)

“There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.” (Prov 19:21)

 

CHINA READ EMAILS OF TOP U.S. OFFICIALS

China's cyber spies have accessed the private emails of "many" top Obama administration officials, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official and a top secret document obtained by NBC News, and have been doing so since at least April 2010.

The email grab -- first codenamed "Dancing Panda" by U.S. officials, and then "Legion Amethyst" -- was detected in April 2010, according to a top secret NSA briefing from 2014. The intrusion into personal emails was still active at the time of the briefing and, according to the senior official, is still going on.

In 2011, Google disclosed that the private gmail accounts of some U.S. officials had been compromised, but the briefing shows that private email accounts from other providers were compromised as well.

The government email accounts assigned to the officials, however, were not hacked because they are more secure, says the senior U.S. intelligence official.

The senior official says the private emails of "all top national security and trade officials" were targeted.

The Chinese also harvested the email address books of targeted officials, according to the document, reconstructing and then "exploiting the(ir) social networks" by sending malware to their friends and colleagues.

The time period overlaps with Hillary Clinton's use of a private email account while Secretary of State from Jan. 21, 2009 to Feb. 1, 2013. The names and ranks of the officials whose emails were actually grabbed, however, were not disclosed in the NSA briefing nor by the intelligence official.

A different NSA document leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that in late 2010 China had attempted to spy on the emails of four U.S. officials, including then Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead. The document, posted on-line by Der Spiegel earlier this year, said the Chinese spies had tried to insert malicious software into their computers.

NBC News reported in 2013 that prior to the 2008 presidential election, Chinese cyber spies had targeted the presidential campaigns of then Sen. Obama and Sen. John McCain in order to read emails and policy papers, and had successfully compromised some emails, including private correspondence from McCain.

The "Dancing Panda" campaign revealed in the 2014 NSA briefing paper was among more than 30 "intrusion sets" launched by China that the NSA and other intelligence units identified last year in classified documents. NBC News reported last week that those campaigns resulted in more than 600 successful attacks on targets.

The NSA declined to comment. (Contributor: By Robert Windrem for NBC News)

For prayer: The intrigue deepens, and “spy vs. spy” stealing of emails is in the news daily. The privacy issue threatens the presidential campaign of Mrs. Clinton, who is being investigated for using a private email server for her State Dept. communications from 2009 through 2013. However that turns out, our nation is hurting, bleeding, and divided. Please pray fervently and faithfully, flooding heaven with continued, heartfelt prayers for widespread revival that will turn our nation back to God.

“For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.” (Luke 8:17)

 “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)

 

ARE THREATS TO MILITARY FAMILIES BEING DOWNPLAYED?

A national defense analyst is angered by reports of Middle Eastern men harassing U.S. military families in two western states.

In early July the FBI issued an alert to law enforcement agencies after getting reports that on numerous occasions, family members of military personnel in Colorado and Wyoming have been confronted by Middle Eastern men in front of their homes.

According to those reports, which have only attracted attention in recent days, the men have attempted to obtain personal information about the military member and their families through intimidation. Some of the family members have reported feeling scared.

Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis (USA-Ret.) is a senior fellow for national security at Family Research Council and a Pentagon advisor.

Maginnis, Bob"I'm angered, first of all," he begins. "If they're in this country and they're harassing someone because they're in uniform, I question why are they in this country. As far as I'm concerned if they're not citizens, I'd send them packing."

Maginnis says everyone must remember that America is a nation at war. "[But] the Obama administration refuses to understand that and to act accordingly," he laments. "As I stand here at the Pentagon, we've actually been shot at from the highway, which is only a few hundred meters away, because people don't like the military."

He says it would be prudent for authorities to recognize this threat and take immediate action. (Contributor: By Chad Groening for One News Now)

For prayer: The key comment may be that of Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis (USA-Ret.), who said, “… everyone must remember that America is a nation at war.” The harassment reported here is a disgrace and must stop, but it is encouraged by further division over President Obama’s “Iran Deal,” which members of his own party and U.S. military veterans are denouncing as a failure. We detest the thought of military families being harassed, but the issue is much larger. Pray as you are led.

“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)

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The Informer August 5, 2015

On Watch in Washington August 5, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

THE TIPPING POINT ON PLANNED PARENTHOOD

It took three videos showing Planned Parenthood doctors and executives discussing the culling and retailing of aborted baby parts, but Hillary Clinton finally managed to say that she found the videos “disturbing.”

For a professional politician like Clinton, whose every word is vetted by the vast right lobe of her brain, “disturbing” in the vernacular of less-scripted folk would be something like “horrifying” or “vile.”

But Clinton, whose base includes supporters of Planned Parenthood , as well as the mega-fundraising, pro-choice Emily’s List, tiptoed out on a limb. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it brave, but I also wouldn’t underestimate its significance. Even a passionately pro-choice presidential candidate has to pause at this juncture.

A tipping point may have already been reached, however, as people recoil from that which cannot be denied. Where once many could avert our eyes from the details of abortion, the details are now all we see and, thanks to the videos, hear.

In this excerpt from a fourth video, released Thursday, Dr. Savita Ginde, medical director and vice president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains; Jess, a Planned Parenthood medical assistant; and two actors posing as fetal tissue buyers discuss a product of termination:

Jess: Head, arms, I don’t see any legs. Did you see the legs?

Ginde: I didn’t really look, but —

A buyer: Yeah, there it goes. Yup, you got all of them right there.

Jess: Another boy. Should I just put it . . .

Ginde: Yeah, just put it over here, I’ll wash it out. Yeah, so you guys staying the night or are you leaving?

Buyer: Leaving . . .

Ginde: Do you have a car?

Just another day in the baby parts biz. Just another boy.

The videos, made clandestinely over a three-year period by an antiabortion group, are being released incrementally for sustained effect. It’s working.

Planned Parenthood, faced with a renewed push for federal defunding (to the tune of a half-billion dollars), has begun a public relations campaign of its own. As of Friday, two ads had been released, each featuring a breast-cancer survivor who says she wouldn’t have survived without the health care she received from the organization.

But is this true? Negligibly.

Planned Parenthood offers only a manual breast exam that any woman can do herself — and performs no mammograms. Rather, it refers women to other clinics. Thus, the ads are at least exaggerated if not purposely deceptive.

Also deceptive is the claim that defunding Planned Parenthood would strip women of health care. In fact, a Senate bill to defund Planned Parenthood, co-authored by Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), stipulates that all of its public funding be reallocated to federally qualified community health centers, which provide all women’s health-care services except abortion, without regard to a person’s ability to pay.

In other words, Planned Parenthood would still be able to provide abortions, since no federal funding can legally be used for abortion, anyway. And abortion opponents would no longer have to worry that their tax money was going to an abortion provider, even though the funds can’t legally be used for abortion.

The Senate bill [was] expected to come up for a vote this past Monday evening — the final moment of the session before August recess and the only time Senate Democrats would allow the vote. Meanwhile, as of [last] Friday afternoon, pro-life Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) were trying to cobble together an alternative to the defunding bill. Collins has expressed concern that defunding would deprive women in her state of health care. But would it, really?

Maine has four Planned Parenthood installations and 135 community health centers that could accommodate women’s basic health needs. Throughout the country, community centers vastly outnumber Planned Parenthood, totaling 9,059 to 669. It would appear that women could still get the health care they need.

In final ironies in this theater of the grotesque, Planned Parenthood doctors performing abortions often use sonograms so they can ensure that the imminently deceased baby’s organs aren’t damaged. Yet, Planned Parenthood has persistently fought “informed consent” laws requiring that women be shown their sonograms pre-abortion, arguing that abortion is hard enough without showing women what they’re about to destroy. (Contributor: By Kathleen Parker for The Washington Post)

Prayer focus: This is just one incensed commentary on what is arguably the most despicable and outrageous exposure of the money-driven and conscience-void abortion “industry” since Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s grisly enterprise was uncovered in 2011. Conservative columnist George F. Will called it “barbarity” (i.e., the work of barbarians). Nonetheless, Planned Parenthood is fighting back, including legally, and still has the “blessing” of President Obama and presidential hopeful, Hillary Rodham Clinton, among others. Pray that an awakened Church will rise up with her weapon of intercession!

“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, …” (2 Cor. 10:4-5)

“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)  

 

WHITE HOUSE WILL RETALIATE AGAINST CHINA FOR OPM HACKS

The Obama administration has decided it will retaliate against China for orchestrating the devastating digital theft of over 22 million Americans' personal information, The New York Times reported.

The response is still unformed and may not come for weeks.

The decision to retaliate is a sudden reversal for the White House, which had previously indicated it might not even publicly blame China for the cyberattacks. Administration officials have only privately accused Beijing of ordering the digital strike.

“One of the conclusions we’ve reached is that we need to be a bit more public about our responses, and one reason is deterrence,” one senior administration official involved in the debate told The Times. “We need to disrupt and deter what our adversaries are doing in cyberspace, and that means you need a full range of tools to tailor a response.”

President Obama has been under mounting pressure to respond to the attacks, considered the largest ever digital theft of government data.

“What we’re seeing with these repeated hacks and repeated intrusions is that building your defense is not enough in and of itself,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters shortly after the hacks were first revealed. “There also has to be a deterrent.”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper even seemed to break slightly with the administration line in a recent interview, saying that not responding to the OPM hack would invite future, bolder attacks.

“I think we'll see a progression and expansion of that envelope until such times as we create both the substance and the psychology of deterrents,” he said.

But the substance of the White House’s ultimate response is still in question. The administration apparently initially explored economic sanctions, similar to those levied on North Korea after the East Asian regime was blamed for a destructive cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“The analogy simply didn’t work,” a senior economic official told The Times, because Beijing has leverage to impose counter-sanctions against major American businesses operating in China.

The Justice Department is also reportedly exploring criminal charges against individuals or organizations behind the OPM hacks.

In May 2014, the DOJ indicted five members of the Chinese military for hacking the U.S. But those charges were for commercial economic espionage, not government intelligence espionage.

As a policy matter, the U.S. has tried to respond to intelligence with counterintelligence, not criminal charges, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report on the OPM hacks.

These factors will all complicate the ultimate response. But the administration has determined that the unprecedented scale of the OPM assault merits some type of public action.

“This is one of those cases where you have to ask, ‘Does the size of the operation change the nature of it?’” a senior intelligence official told The Times. “Clearly, it does.” (Contributor: By Cory Bennett for The Hill)

For prayer: The question for intercessors is, “What are the spiritual principles here?” We know this is not simply about China vs. America and cyber-warfare. The nations of the earth are locked in life and death struggles, and America is in steep decline. Pray for an awakened Church to minister as Christ’s presence in the world, guided and empowered by His Spirit. Pray for revival. Pray for the Church to focus on its true ministry: to spread the Gospel message.

“I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 6:4-5)

 

WHY OBAMA ADMIN WON'T USE 'ISLAMIC' TERM TO DESCRIBE TERROR ATTACKS

U.S. Homeland Security chief recently revealed that the government tactically made the decision to call Islamist terror attacks "violent extremism," avoiding the term "Islamic" or similar wording that would point to religious motivations in an effort to build bridges with the Muslim community.

Speaking at the Aspen Institute's annual security forum in late July, US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, says that it's "critical" to call such Islamic terror attacks "violent extremism" to "build trust" and "cooperation" with Muslims, according to Investor's Business Daily.

Johnson was pressed by the moderator, who asked, "Isn't government denying the fundamental religious component of this kind of extremism by not using the word Islamic?"

"I could not disagree more," Johnson replied, stating that Islam "is about peace."

Professor Ryan Mauro, national security analyst and adjunct professor of homeland security at The Clarion Project, a group that seeks to expose the danger of Islamic extremism, explained to The Christian Post the thinking of those who don't want to connect religion to terrorist activity: "The argument is that if you call them Islamic terrorists, you are conceding that they are acting in accordance with Islam and furthering a dangerous perception in the Muslim world that the U.S. is at war with Islam. In the Middle East, Muslims and non-Muslims use terms like 'Islamist' and 'Political Islam' and the difference is understood."

However some American Muslim activists have argued that to address the issue of Islamic extremism, the United States must take appropriate action and be honest about the situation.

Several U.S.-based Islamic organizations such as the Quilliam Foundation and the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, act as counter-extremism think tanks that challenge anti-Western ideologies that contribute to radical Islam.

Members of the group often speak out against radical Islam and are dedicated to defending the U.S. constitution and religious freedom.

And in the United Kingdom, The Conscious Muslims Club is one of several grassroots organizations that seeks to open the doors to inter-faith dialogue and further communication about hot topics within Muslim communities.

"The vast majority of Muslims view Islamic State with as much concern and even fear as non-Muslims do. We are not immune to the terrors of what is happening and in fact are as much victim to it as anyone else. We are also nervous about how a group like this and its warped view of Islam will impact our lives," said the group's founder, Khatiija Sacranie, to CP.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron recently gave a speech on July 20 about the UK government's response to Islamic State and said: "simply denying any connection between the religion of Islam and the extremists doesn't work, because these extremists are self-identifying as Muslims. The fact is from Woolwich to Tunisia, from Ottawa to Bali, these murderers all spout the same twisted narrative, one that claims to be based on a particular faith.

"Now it is an exercise in futility to deny that. And more than that, it can be dangerous. To deny it has anything to do with Islam means you disempower the critical reforming voices; the voices that are challenging the fusing of religion and politics ...These reforming voices, they have a tough enough time as it is: the extremists are the ones who have the money, the leaders, the iconography and the propaganda machines. We need to turn the tables.

We can't stand neutral in this battle of ideas. We have to back those who share our values." (Contributor: By Hermoine Macura for The Christian Post)

Prayer focus: This dichotomy in the administration’s view of Islamic terrorism is confusing many U.S. citizens. We see President Obama’s concept of a “peaceful Islam” as misguided but understandable. While it is difficult for Americans of a certain age to deal with a president who was not taught from youth the values most of us cherish, still he was elected to the highest office not once but twice. We must pray for him, as only God can change his perceptions and clarify his thinking.

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for 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.” (1 Tim. 2:1-4)

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.” (Prov. 21:1-2)

 

PM TO MAKE DIRECT APPEAL TO U.S. JEWS IN BID TO THWART IRAN DEAL

In the latest of a series of attempts to persuade U.S. voters to push their legislators to reject the Iran nuclear deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will deliver an address to the North American Jewish community next week to discuss the agreement, which he staunchly opposes.

The announcement, issued by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, comes a day after President Barack Obama held a mass conference call with supporters of the deal, to rally them behind the controversial agreement.

According to Conference of Presidents, Netanyahu will address U.S.' and Canadian Jewish communities through a live webcast on Tuesday afternoon. In addition to delivering remarks, the prime minister will also take questions from participants.

In a virtual twist on a town hall meeting, the Conference of Presidents and Jewish Federations in the U.S. and Canada are encouraging participants to join the call through computers and cell phones as well as through group viewings at Jewish institutions.

“The prime minister will deliver remarks directly from his office in Jerusalem, which will be transmitted to computers, cell phones and flat screens set up in synagogues, organizations and Jewish community centers large and small throughout the continent,” the Conference of Presidents said in an announcement Friday afternoon.

“The issues involved with the Iran nuclear agreement are complex and of great consequence to the North American Jewish population,” said Stephen M. Greenberg, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “We welcome this unique opportunity to present the prime minister, who has helped bring these vital issues to public attention.”

Conference of Presidents has hosted a number of information sessions on the deal, while its leaders have continued to express skepticism on some of the terms of the agreement reached in mid-July between Iran and the P5+1 member states. The Conference of Presidents is an umbrella organization that represents dozens of Jewish groups across the political spectrum, counting among its members both supporters and opponents of the agreement.

The Jewish Federations of North America, the event’s co-sponsor, has also had a delicate balancing act regarding positioning on the issue.

Some local federations have issued statements opposing the deal, while others have chosen to remain neutral as the agreement is debated in the halls of Congress.

“There is no doubt that at this time, the worldwide community is in the midst of a historic moment,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the Board of The Jewish Federations of North America. “Federation communities throughout the continent have been actively engaged on this issue for years, and they understand the complexities of these important discussions. We appreciate the opportunity to allow our constituents to engage with the prime minister directly in what will no doubt be an informative and enlightening session.”

The American Jewish community is seen as a key barometer for the fate of the deal, as Congress enjoys a 60-day review period of the agreement, before a crucial vote on a resolution of disapproval or approval in September. A number of Jewish organizations, including the Orthodox Union, have called on members to lobby their representatives to oppose the agreement, which critics say does not prevent Tehran from becoming a nuclear power in the long-term.

Other organizations, like the American Jewish Committee, say that they are still reviewing the details of the agreement, and have yet to determine an official stance on it.

J Street has been at the vanguard of the deal’s advocates, quickly announcing its support for the agreement and arguing that it presents the best opportunity to rein in Iran’s spinning centrifuges. The leftist lobbying organization was one of the participants in the Thursday afternoon conference call with Obama, during which the president warned against the power of mega-donors who opposed the deal and called on supporters to speak up in support of the agreement. (Contributor: By Rebecca Shimoni Stoil for Times of Israel)

Prayer focus: We believe Mr. Netanyahu makes a good case. It seems that serious spiritual and moral myopia has gripped President Obama and Secretary Kerry in what they have allowed to happen. Pray for the U.S. Congress—both House and Senate—to take a stand, regardless of personal politics, and to block approval of this “deal” with Iran. Pray for decision-makers to see the enormous implications. Pray for God’s mercy as He governs the world scene to fulfill His will and purpose.

“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 Their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: ‘Yet I have I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.’ ” (Ps. 2:1-6)

 

CLIMATE CHANGE: OBAMA ORDERS STEEPER CUTS FROM POWER PLANTS

Aiming to jolt the rest of the world to action, President Barack Obama moved ahead Sunday with even tougher greenhouse gas cuts on American power plants, setting up a certain confrontation in the courts with energy producers and Republican-led states.

In finalizing the unprecedented pollution controls, Obama was installing the core of his ambitious and controversial plan to drastically reduce overall U.S. emissions, as he works to secure a legacy on fighting global warming. Yet it will be up to Obama's successor to implement his plan, which reverberated across the 2016 presidential campaign trail.

Opponents planned to sue immediately, and to ask the courts to block the rule temporarily. Many states have threatened not to comply.

The Obama administration estimated the emissions limits will cost $8.4 billion annually by 2030. The actual price won't be clear until states decide how they'll reach their targets. But energy industry advocates said the revision makes Obama's mandate even more burdensome, costly and difficult to achieve.

"They are wrong," Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said flatly, accusing opponents of promulgating a "doomsday" scenario.

Last year, the Obama administration proposed the first greenhouse gas limits on existing power plants in U.S. history, triggering a yearlong review and more than 4 million public comments. On Monday, Obama was to unveil the final rule publicly at an event at the White House.

"Climate change is not a problem for another generation," Obama said in a video posted to Facebook. "Not anymore."

The final version imposes stricter carbon dioxide limits on states than was previously expected: a 32 percent cut by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, the White House said. Obama's proposed version last year called only for a 30 percent cut.

Immediately, Obama's plan became a point of controversy in the 2016 presidential race, with Hillary Rodham Clinton voicing her strong support and using it to criticize her GOP opponents for failing to offer a credible alternative.

"It's a good plan, and as president, I'd defend it," Clinton said.

On the Republican side, Marco Rubio, a Florida senator, predicted increases in electricity bills would be "catastrophic," while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called the rule "irresponsible and overreaching."

"Climate change will not be solved by grabbing power from states or slowly hollowing out our economy," Bush said.

Obama's rule assigns customized targets to each state, then leaves it up to the state to determine how to meet them. Prodded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a number of Republican governors have said they simply won't comply. If states refuse to submit plans, the EPA has the authority to impose its own plan, and McCarthy said the administration would release a model federal plan that states could adopt right away.

Another key change to the initial proposal marks a major shift for Obama on natural gas, which the president has championed as a "bridge fuel" whose growing use can help the U.S. wean itself off dirtier coal power while ramping up renewable energy capacity. The final version aims to keep the share of natural gas in the nation's power mix at current levels.

Under the final rule, states will also have an additional two years — until 2022 — to comply, yielding to complaints that the original deadline was too soon. They'll also have an additional year to submit their implementation plans to Washington.

In an attempt to encourage earlier action, the federal government plans to offer credits to states that boost renewable sources like wind and solar in 2020 and 2021. States could store those credits away to offset pollution emitted after the compliance period starts in 2022.

Twenty to 30 states were poised to join the energy industry in suing over the rule as soon as it's formally published, said Scott Segal, a lobbyist with the firm Bracewell and Giuliani who represents utilities. The Obama administration has a mixed track record in fending off legal challenges to its climate rules. GOP leaders in Congress were also weighing various legislative maneuvers to try to block the rule.

The National Mining Association lambasted the plan and said it would ask the courts to put the rule on hold while legal challenges play out. On the other end of the spectrum, Michael Brune, the Sierra Club's executive director, said in an interview that his organization planned to hold public rallies, put pressure on individual coal plants and "intervene as necessary in the courts" to defend the rule.

By clamping down on emissions, Obama is also working to increase his leverage and credibility with other nations whose commitments he's seeking for a global climate treaty to be finalized later this year in Paris. As its contribution to that treaty, the U.S. has pledged to cut overall emissions 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025, compared to 2005.

"We're positioning the United States as an international leader on climate change," said Brian Deese, Obama's senior adviser.

Power plants account for roughly one-third of all U.S. emissions of the heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming, making them the largest single source. (Contributor: By Josh Lederman for The Associated Press)

Prayer focus: As readers know, IFA will not be drawn into political debate over this still-disputed “science,” where strong disagreement is found among so-called experts. Instead, we urge prayer for the spiritual stewardship of the planet and its major resource, human life. This political “football” is being tossed about while millions of innocent and helpless babies’ lives are snuffed out and their corpses sold to the highest bidder as “salvage.” Intercede in the midst of a distorted value system.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12)

“They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ when there is no peace.” (Jer. 6:14)

 

BIBLICAL COUNSELING AXED FROM KY. JUVENILE DEPT.

An ordained ministers’ volunteer credentials have been revoked by the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) because he couldn’t sign a statement vowing to refrain from informing juvenile inmates that homosexual behavior is sinful [and according to Romans 1, an abomination to God].

Arguing that the state was administering unconstitutional religious discrimination against the Kentucky minister by violating his right to express his sincerely held religious beliefs, the nonprofit legal group Liberty Counsel issued a letter to the Commissioner, demanding the Christian counselor’s reinstatement. Attorneys with the international litigation, education and policy organization gave the DJJ until the end of July to reinstate evangelist David Well’s volunteer visitor credentials — if it wanted to avoid legal action.

Serving for more than a decade as a volunteer at the Warren County Regional Juvenile Detention Center, Wells devoted his prison ministry to visiting and mentoring juvenile inmates.

“Many juveniles are in DJJ custody because of sexual crimes,” Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver maintained. “David Wells must be able to discuss what the Bible says about matters of sexuality with the juveniles he is trying to help.”

Removing a scalpel from a surgeon’s hands

Staver insisted that the DJJ cannot lawfully keep the pastor — serving out of Pleasant View Baptist Church in McQuady, Kentucky — from staying true to the calling of his ministry’s job.

“To remove the Bible from a pastor’s hands is like removing a scalpel from a surgeon’s hands,” Staver argued. “Without it, they cannot provide healing.”

Citing DJJ Policy 912 IV(H), which is dubbed “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” the department prohibited Wells from visiting, counseling or leading worship services for juveniles within the facility.

“[Volunteers] shall not refer to juveniles by using derogatory language in a manner that conveys bias towards or hatred of the LGBTQI community,” the policy reads. “DJJ staff, volunteers, interns, and contractors shall not imply or tell LGBTQI juveniles that they are abnormal, deviant, sinful, or that they can or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Can’t preach another gospel

In the demand letter, Liberty Counsel attorneys explained that the very nature of Wells’ ministry to inmates requires him to deal with the issue of sexuality in a biblical way.

“[T]he Bible explicitly prohibits any expression of sexuality outside of the confines of man-woman marriage,” Liberty Counsel’s letter to the DJJ states. “It recognizes that every person, regardless of personal proclivities or attractions, is separated from God because of sin, whatever form that sin may take. Many juveniles are in DJJ custody because of sexual crimes, and Mr. Wells must be able to discuss the Bible and matters of sexuality with inmates, and he therefore was unable to sign the form.”

Staver pointed out the hypocrisy of the DJJ demanding tolerance for the LGBT community’s practices while blatantly discriminating against the Bible’s teachings.

“DJJ 912 equates the teaching of biblical morality with ‘derogatory,’ ‘biased,’ and ‘hateful’ speech,” Staver noted. “In so doing, the DJJ policy creates an unconstitutional, religious litmus test for DJJ access.”

The Christian legal expert emphasized that Wells’ rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution were violated, and that no policies the DJJ creates to accommodate the homosexual agenda can justifiable take away his free speech rights.

“The First Amendment prohibits the government from viewpoint discrimination,” Staver concluded. “This detention center may not prohibit the expression of biblical morality simply because a few DJJ policymakers object to the Bible and its teaching.” (Contributor: By Michael F. Haverluck for One News Now)

The prayer focus here is obvious. This is not the first such case of discrimination due to biblical convictions, and it will soon be common place. Christians do not want to “get used to it,” but must be prepared to suffer in various ways for their godly beliefs. Pray for Rev. Wells and his family.

“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” (Prov. 29:2)

 

BOY SCOUTS SIGN THEIR OWN DEATH WARRANT

The Boy Scouts have made a fateful and fatal decision to allow homosexuals to serve as mentors to young boys. This will be and should be the end of this once noble organization.

Why? Because of the well-established link between homosexuality and pedophilia.

As Peter Sprigg writes for the Family Research Council: "The percentage of child sexual abuse cases in which men molest boys is many times higher than the percentage of adult males who are homosexual, and most men who molest boys self-identify as homosexual or bisexual."

Research published in the Journal of Sex Research indicates that homosexuals are responsible for a staggering "one-third of the total number of child sex offenses." This is despite the fact that, according to the CDC, male homosexuals comprise only about one percent of the population.

Ponder that: one percent of the population is responsible for 33 percent of all sex crimes against children. This is just another clear indication that there are unmistakable pathologies associated with the homosexual lifestyle. This is not a lifestyle any rational society should celebrate, endorse or promote, let alone sanction with the term "marriage."

According to the Archives of Sexual Behavior, most pedophiles consider themselves homosexual. According to this peer-reviewed journal, "eighty-six percent of offenders against males described themselves as homosexual or bisexual."

Much of the problem with child sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church is linked, in my view, with the growing numbers of homosexual priests who filtered into the priesthood in the 1960s as the Church scrambled to fill its ranks as increasing numbers of heterosexual males chose marriage and family over the priestly vocation.

Now we may freely stipulate that heterosexuals offend against children as well. But when we see such an alarming imbalance in the ratio at which homosexuals offend against children, it is the height of irresponsibility to deliberately place homosexuals in positions where they have frequent access to young boys. It is inexcusable and virtually criminal.

Terry Bean, the co-founder of the Human Rights Campaign, the leading pro-homosexual organization in the country, is currently in legal trouble for having sex with more than one teenage boy.

The LDS church, which sponsors more Boy Scout troops than any other organization in the country, has over the years found itself in court repeatedly fending off charges that scout leaders took sexual advantage of the vulnerable young males in their care. I predict the LDS church will bolt the Boy Scouts out of a desire to protect the young boys in Mormon families and to keep themselves from being bankrupted. If the LDS church allows homosexual scoutmasters, they will be in court until the end of time.

No father who is thinking clearly would put his young son in proximity to an adult homosexual. Is this to say that all adult homosexuals offend against children? Of course not. But a father and his vulnerable son may not find which homosexuals they should have been concerned about until it's too late.

Fortunately, there is a solid, biblically based alternative to the BSA: Trail Life USA. Every dad who is aware and informed will flee the Boy Scouts and head for the refuge Trail Life USA affords. And they will do it today. Dads, you don't have a moment to lose. Protecting the sexual integrity of your young sons is just too important. (Contributor: By Bryan Fischer for One News Now)

For prayer: Much to pray about here. This article predicts an exodus of Mormons from the Boy Scouts, and such discussions are underway. Mormon leaders cite “troubling implications” of staying with the Boy Scouts in the light of this decision to allow homosexual leaders. Families must be vigilant. No doubt many will leave, and this may be the death knell for the Boy Scouts. Pray for homosexual Scout leaders to find freedom in Christ. Pray for Trail Life USA to prosper.

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’ ” (Eph. 5:11-14)

On Watch in Washington August 5, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

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The Informer July 29, 2015

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

MOSCOW COULD BE PREPPING FOR SPACE WAR

The Kremlin says its nimble new satellites are just for communications. But they look—and act—an awful lot like prototype weapons.

On Christmas Day in 2013, a rocket blasted off from the Russian Federal Space Agency’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome, about 500 miles north of Moscow. The 95-foot-tall, 118-ton Rokot booster—an unarmed version of a Cold War nuclear-tipped missile—lanced into low orbit, shedding spent stages as it climbed.

Seventy-five miles above the surface the earth, the Rokot’s nose cracked open and its payload spilled out. The rocket carried Rodnik communications satellites, according to Russian officials.

It’s customary for Rodnik sats to deploy in threes, but in a notification to the United Nations, Moscow listed four spacecraft inside the Christmas Rokot.

The discrepancy was strange...and got stranger.

Rodnik sats, like most orbital spacecraft, don’t have engines and can’t move under their own power. So it came as a shock to some observers on the ground—a group including amateur satellite-spotters with radios and telescopes; radar-equipped civilian researchers; and military officials monitoring banks of high-tech sensors—when the Rokot’s fourth satellite, designated Kosmos-2491, moved, propelling itself into a slightly different orbit.

Whatever Kosmos-2491 was, it wasn’t some innocuous communications satellite. And over the next year and a half, Russia launched two more of the mysterious, maneuvering spacecraft, each time sneaking it into orbit as part of a routine commsat launch.

No one outside the Russian government, and perhaps the Pentagon, knows for sure what Kosmos-2491, -2499, and -2504 are for. But it’s clear enough what the three mystery sats could do, in theory. Zipping across orbital planes hundreds of thousands of feet above Earth, the nimble little spacecraft—which are apparently the size of a mini-refrigerator—are able to get really close to other satellites. Close as in a few dozen feet away.

And if they can get that close, the little robots could spy on, hijack, and even destroy other sats.

In other words, Kosmos-2491 and its triplets might be space weapons, the likes of which few other nations possess. And if so, they could upset the orbital balance of power, at a time when government agencies, armies, scientists, and everyday people—in the United States, especially—depend on satellites for communications, surveillance, science, and navigation.

“Our nation’s advantage in space is no longer a given,” U.S. Air Force Gen. William Shelton, then head of Air Force Space Command, told Congress in March 2014. “The ever-evolving space environment is increasingly contested as potential adversary capabilities grow in both number and sophistication.”

Space Sleuths

Kosmos-2499 joined Kosmos-2491 in low orbit on May 23, 2014, piggybacking on another cluster of three commsats. Kosmos-2504 made its debut on March 31 this year—again, boosting into space alongside a trio of communications satellites.

The three mystery sats have stayed busy, firing their tiny engines to climb and dive hundreds of miles at a time, altering their velocity by hundreds of feet per second while playing chase with abandoned rocket stages and other hunks of space junk, apparently practicing for close passes on active satellites.

The U.S. military has watched all these maneuvers carefully. “As we do with all space objects—for space situational awareness purposes and to promote safe and responsible space operations—we are using our global network of sensors to watch Kosmos-2491, -2499, and -2504,” said Capt. Nicholas Mercurio, an Air Force spokesman.

But the Pentagon won’t say exactly what it thinks the satellites are for. Nor, of course, will the Kremlin specify the crafts’ purpose. In a brief statement in December, Russian Federal Space Agency chief Oleg Ostapenko insisted the mystery sats were peaceful in nature and not, as outside observers feared, “killer satellites.”

“You can probably equip them with lasers, maybe put some explosives on them. If [one] comes very close to some military satellite, it probably can do some harm.”

But Ostapenko did not specify what supposedly peaceful purpose the craft do serve. And since then, Moscow has kept silent about the satellites. The Russian space agency didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

Undeterred by the lack of official comment, an international band of space nerds has taken it upon itself to solve the mystery of the three nimble spacecraft. In the summer of 2014, Russian radio enthusiast Dmitry Pashkov detected signals that he eventually traced back to Kosmos-2499.

Fellow radio aficionado Cees Bassa, who is Dutch, picked up similar chirps from the direction of the other mystery sats and connected the dots. "I was one of the first to confirm that the recent Kosmos-2504 satellite was transmitting on the same frequency as Kosmos 2491/2499, confirming the similarity between them," Bassa said.

Uniting the space sleuths is Anatoly Zak, a Russian-born journalist and self-described “space historian.” Now living in the United States, Zak aggregates observations of Kosmos-2491 and its siblings at his website, Russianspaceweb.com.

Combining all the evidence, Zak concluded that the mystery craft are all similar in size and shape to Russia’s 200-pound Yubileiny experimental satellite—and are most likely weapons.  “You can probably equip them with lasers, maybe put some explosives on them,” Zak said of the Kosmos triplets. “If [one] comes very close to some military satellite, it probably can do some harm.”

And even if the mystery sats aren’t armed themselves, they could be prototypes for bigger and better follow-on spacecraft that are armed, Zak added. “Looking at the history of space technology, it often starts with a small and cheap satellite that’s easy to launch, then the same technology gets incorporated into something larger.”

Late to Orbit

To be clear, if indeed the Kosmos triplets are weapons, they’re certainly not the only ones in Earth orbit. The United States, Sweden, Japan, and China have all tested maneuvering satellites that could perform the close-flying, sat-frying tricks that the new Russian craft are apparently capable of doing. It’s all being done in the name of satellite maintenance and repair. But the same tech can be deployed for more aggressive purposes.

The U.S. Air Force launched two Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program satellites in July 2014. These sats “will have the capability to perform Rendezvous and Proximity Operations (RPO),” according to an Air Force website. “RPO allows for the space vehicle to maneuver near a resident space object of interest.”

Just like the Kosmos triplets can do. The big difference is where the U.S. spacecraft are—30 times higher than the Russian crafts’ low orbit. Boosting a satellite to such a lofty orbit is “much trickier, technically” but conveys big advantages, according to Dr. Laura Grego from the Union of Concerned Scientists, based in Massachusetts.

For one, geosynchronous orbit is where the most valuable communications satellites are. If you want to threaten another country’s orbital infrastructure, that’s the best starting point. Moreover, the lofty orbit gives the situational-awareness sats “a clear, unobstructed and distinct vantage point for viewing resident space objects,” the Air Force website explains. In other words, these spacecraft can keep an eye on other spacecraft—potentially including weaponized craft such as the Russian mystery sats.

In launching the secretive Kosmos-2491, -2499, and -2504, Russia is playing catch-up, in a sense. The United States tested its first satellite-killer way back in 1962—albeit inadvertently. The Starfish Prime nuclear test, which exploded an atomic bomb 250 miles over the Pacific, had the unfortunate side effect of knocking out a full third of the satellites then in orbit. Today U.S. Navy destroyers carry SM-3 missiles that can hit spacecraft in low orbit.

But from the American point of view, it’s still highly provocative for Moscow to deploy potential space weaponry. That’s because more than any other country, the United States counts on its spacecraft to maintain a military and economic edge.

America’s satellites spy on the ground and sea, support vital scientific research, and relay radio messages including the signals that control drones and help soldiers—not to mention millions of commuters—find their way via GPS. Of the world’s roughly 1,200 active satellites, nearly half are American, while Russia and China each possess a 10 percent share of orbital hardware.

Ironically, that means America is also “more vulnerable” in space, Grego said. The United States offers up more satellites as targets and arguably needs those sats more than other countries need their own spacecraft. Grego said the only way to preserve orbital peace is for no country to deploy space weaponry: “It does not benefit anyone to pursue completely unfettered development of anti-satellite technology.”

But it’s probably too late for total orbital disarmament. The trend is toward more military assets in space—and more anti-satellite systems.

When Russia quietly boosts three highly maneuverable and potentially armed spacecraft into orbit and then declines to explain their purpose, it’s sure to keep U.S. military officials awake at night, staring into the night sky, wondering just what the fleet-footed little Russian robots are up to...and how they might counter them. (Contributor: By David Axe for The Daily Beast)

For prayer: This is an “FYI article”—for information but with no urgent call to prayer. We include it because U.S.-Russian relations are important and because Russia has emerged as a major player on the international scene. Some intercessors pray faithfully about America’s ties with Russia for various reasons. Pray that our country be spared from further military engagements, except for national defense. Sadly, a longed for “Peace in our time” seems unlikely, but we take heart that God reigns.

“Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.” (Isa. 40:15)

 

ISIS PLOTTING TO USE DRONES TO BOMB CROWDS AT MAJOR EVENTS

Islamic State (Isis) are plotting to use toy drones to bomb major events like football matches and music festivals in Britain, it emerged today.

Terrorists want to use the unmanned machines - available for as little as £100 on the high street - to drop explosives on large crowds at popular sporting and cultural gatherings.

Defense chiefs fear they could launch a multi-drone attack carrying several bombs, even using airborne cameras to film the bloody carnage below for twisted propaganda videos.

Senior MI5 figures believed that Isis has already tested how much plastic explosive the flying machines can carry, getting as far as experimenting with detonation devices.

A counter-terrorism source said: "Islamist plotters have been trying to launch a drone-borne bomb attack for some time, as these machines are getting more hi-tech every year.

"They want the spectacular devastation of such a raid, which would cause murder and maiming in a crowd, while filming it for a sick video.

"Isis is obsessed with re-creating the horror of 9/11 and believes this may be possible by launching a multi-drone attack on large numbers of people in a synchronized attack."

Toy drones, which are popular with amateur photographers, are available from mainstream retailers like Amazon and Maplin and cost as little as £100.

Each agile machine could carry enough explosive to kill or maim a person if detonated nearby, and the effects of a fleet of drones dropping bombs on a crowded area would be bloody and devastating.

It is thought that evil Islamist fanatics could be looking to target crowds at open-air music festivals and Premier League football grounds for maximum effect.

Colonel Richard Kemp, who has advised the Government on terrorism, told the Mirror: "There is a genuine threat from Islamists wishing to deliver high explosives by drone to crowded areas. The effects could be devastating."

It would be easy for Isis to get its hands on cheap drones, with more than 127,000 being bought and sold on online auction site eBay in the last year alone.

Alternatively, it is thought the terrorists may attempt to build a copycat drone of their own to avoid having to buy one and potentially raise the suspicions of police and security services.

More worryingly still they could attempt to buy commercial drones like ones used by the military. These machines would be able to carry enough explosive and shrapnel to kill scores of people in a single attack. (Contributor: By Nick Gutteridge for Express News)

For prayer: While this report is from a British news source and focuses on threats within the U.K., it is equally true that apart from divine protection, no country is safe from modern terrorism, no matter the immediate source. Pray for God’s mercy and protection in our own nation. Pray for revival and renewal in the Church. Intercede for and support renewal in the wider Church that leads to renewed evangelistic outreach. The first calling of the Church is evangelism.

“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)

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ ” (Matt. 28:18-20)

 

KENYAN PASTORS: DON'T BRING 'THE GAY TALK' HERE

President Barack Obama headed to Kenya last Thursday for a global economic summit. It is Obama's first visit as president to his father's homeland.

While some hope the trip will bring closer ties between our two countries, there's one subject many Kenyans don't want the president to talk about: gay rights and same-sex marriage.

The streets are already buzzing in anticipation of his arrival, with polls showing Obama enjoys widespread popularity among Kenyans.

"I think this is a guy who really appreciates his roots," said one resident of the capital city.

"Because he is our brother, we welcome him," Peter, from Nairobi, said.

The president's visit, however, is not without controversy.

Seven hundred Kenyan evangelical pastors have written an open letter asking the president not to come to their country and talk about the gay agenda.

Mark Kariuki is the key architect of that letter. He leads an alliance representing 38,000 churches and 10 million Kenyan Christians.

"We do not want him to come and talk on homosexuality in Kenya or push us to accepting that which is against our faith and culture," Kariuki said.

Kariuki welcomes the president's visit but says leave "the gay talk" in America.

"Let him talk about development; let him talk about cooperation; let him talk about the long-time relationship Kenya has had with America," he said. "But about our beliefs and culture-- keep off!"

Obama has used previous trips to Africa to urge governments to respect gay rights. Kariuki said the open letter is a warning to the president.

"The family is the strength of a nation. If the family is destroyed, then the nation is destroyed," he said. "So we don't want to open doors for our nation to be destroyed!"

Pro-family activists took to the streets of Nairobi this month, urging President Obama to avoid the subject when he visits.

"Since Obama has a Kenyan descent, I think he should be more familiar with our culture. Africa has a conservative culture," said one of the participants in the pro-family rally.

Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and 37 other African countries. In fact, Kenya's penal code says any individual "who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature" can face 14 years jail time.

Bishop Kariuki said he'll fight to keep homosexuality a crime in Kenya.

"It is an abomination to God. Kenya is 82 percent Christian. So, as far as our conviction and our faith are concerned it is not a natural thing," he said.

Top Kenyan politicians are also weighing in.

"God did not create man and woman so that men would marry men and women marry women," the country's deputy president is quoted saying.

Another lawmaker warned, "We shall tell him to shut up and go home" if he talks about gay rights.

After June's U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in America, one Kenyan politician said allowing such a thing in her country would open "floodgates of evil synonymous with the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah."

Many citizens have also taken to Twitter using the hashtag #KenyansMessageToObama to warn the president about spreading his gay agenda beyond America's shores.

Meanwhile, Bishop Kariuki said the president is destroying America with his support for gay marriage.

"I believe that with all my heart with that agenda he is ruining America because America has been known as a Christian nation," he said. "It has been known as a nation that has sent missionaries out. Now it is a different nation all together because it is an agenda against God!" (Contributor: By George Thomas for CBN News)

Update: The tense exchange between Obama and Kenya’s president on gay rights - Los Angeles Times

For prayer: We have never written here disrespectfully of President Obama, but we have prayed he would display less arrogance and more humility. Ironically, an American president visits Kenya and calls for a change in its laws against homosexuality, while Kenya’s president tells him to mind his own business. Mr. Obama’s views on this, and those of the U.S. Supreme Court majority, are wrong, while Kenya’s position is in line with Scripture. We need not tell intercessors how to pray.

“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.” (1 Tim. 2:1-4)

 

ISRAEL WARNS: IRAN INCITES ‘DEATH TO AMERICA’

In the wake of the United States reaching a nuclear “deal” with Iran, Israel warns that the Islamic Republic has defiantly called for “death to America,” despite the numerous concessions the White House has recently made to the terrorist regime.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter that America’s nuke agreement with Iran — which many critics refer to as the Islamic Republic straight-arming the Obama administration — was nothing more than a fool’s bargain.

"We are told the whole world supports this bad deal; well, that's just not true,” Netanyahu asserted in his meeting with Carter on Tuesday.“ Israel and many Arab states oppose this deal, and, in any case, sometimes the entire world can be wrong."

Dealing with the enemy?

Netanyahu wasn’t the only top Israeli official warning the U.S. that it struck a deal with a dangerous enemy — one that poses as much of a threat to America as it does to Israel. In fact, Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold explained to the media that besides calling for the annihilation of America, the jihadist regime is operating inside U.S. borders.

"When we're speaking about Iran, we're dealing with a country whose leadership calls for death to America," Gold told reporters, according to CBN News. "It's not as though Israel is taking action because it alone is in the crosshairs of the Iranian military. The United States is in the crosshairs of the Iranian military."

Gold reminded those on Capitol Hill — as Netanyahu did this spring before Congress — that Iran is nothing less than an Islamic terrorist state seeking to wipe America off the face of the earth.

"America is targeted by Iran," Israel’s foreign diplomat added. "Hezbollah today — which is, let's be clear about it — Hezbollah is an extension of the Iranian security apparatus.”

He went on to try and convince the U.S. that Hezbollah has already infiltrated its borders and is alive and well throughout Europe — spanning its operations across dozens of countries around the globe.

“It has networks in Europe and in the United States,” Gold insisted. "And we say that both the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah are operating in 30 countries, according to our best information."

Don’t say we didn’t warn you

Paying little to no heed to Netanyahu’s warning given during his controversial address in Washington, D.C., in March — when President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden and many other White House officials snubbed the prime minister during his visit — the Obama administration’s dealings with Iran over the past week has been viewed by many conservatives as handing its enemy a loaded weapon.

After Kerry reportedly left the door open for Iran’s continued nuclear inspection violations, did nothing to free U.S. captives from illegal imprisonment in brutal Iranian prisons, and lifted sanctions on the nation to allow a windfall of money to funnel into the Islamic regime, it was conceded that the funds could be used on weapons against America and its allies.

In fact, U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice recently admitted that there is no way to make sure that Iran wouldn’t use the additional money it brought in from lifted sanctions to fund its aggressive military’s operations. Rice went as far as to concede that Iran would most likely use its added funds to augment its controversial weapons arsenal — which many nations, including Israel, believe consists of nearly completed nuclear warheads with the capability of striking Israel and the U.S.

Corroborating this account, CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell reports that the U.S.-brokered deal with Iran gives the jihadist nation license to make an exorbitant amount of money through scores of newly revived global economic trade opportunities.

“Despite the worldwide influence of Hezbollah and Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the agreement gives a long list — 70 pages worth of Iranian companies, entities and individuals — freedom from sanctions,” Mitchell informed. “That will represent a windfall for Iran's economy — and critics warn some of that money will be used to fund terrorist activities around the world.” (Contributor: By Michael F. Haverluck for One News Now)

For prayer: It has been conceded by analysts of both major U.S. political parties (and many in between), that Secretary of State Kerry’s team, guided by President Obama, lost far more than was gained in the Iranian nuclear “deal.” We will not discuss details here, as Intercessors do their “homework” well. Please pray that our senators and representatives will show fortitude, wisdom, and courage to speak for their constituents. Pray for Israel, whose safety was ignored in the negotiations.

“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)

“For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.” (Luke 8:17-18)

 

A CRUSHING DEFEAT FOR THE ABORTIONISTS' LOBBY

When Harriet Beecher Stowe met Abraham Lincoln in the White House on Nov. 12, 1862, he is supposed to have greeted her with the approximate statement that she was "the little woman who began the big war." She was. Ten years earlier, she had published Uncle Tom's Cabin, which quickly became a sensation. The goal of the book, according to Wikipedia, was "to educate northerners on the realistic horrors of the things that were happening." It did. The key word of these is "realistic." People avoid pain, and contrive to side-step ugly things that are not directly in front of them, as we do every day with many atrocities, as we did with slavery until 1865, and with segregation for one hundred years after.

In each case it was the "realistic presentation of horrors" that made the big difference, whether Mrs. Stowe's book, the church bombing in Birmingham or the numerous cases of televised violence. In the taped expose of Planned Parenthood's methods, the pro-life movement has uncovered its Uncle Tom's Cabin. It won't start a war, but it will start a battle. And this may be one it can win.

The arguments made in defense of these methods are almost as bad as the methods themselves. "The details are gruesome, as are many medical procedures, and how doctors and nurses tell stories," says the Washington Post Metro columnist Petula Dvorak, who sees nothing sinister. Michelle Goldberg in the Nation made the same argument: The group's employees made the "mistake of talking the way doctors talk in front of the wrong people … any conversation about the logistics of adult organ donation would likely sound similar." No, it would not. "Medical procedures" are designed to cure, not kill people. Organs taken from adults are taken with their consent after they die on their own of natural causes, while in these cases small human beings who never consented have been torn apart. These people were taped without their consent, but so was Mitt Romney in his "47 percent" campaign blunder. They weren't coaxed, but were lulled into thinking they were among friends, so they felt free to reveal their true feelings: Swirling wine to release the bouquet while talking of "crunchy" abortions, and moving the forceps to mangle only the child's less salable parts. "I'm not gonna crush that part, I'm gonna basically crush below, I'm gonna crush above, and I'm gonna see if I can get it all intact."

The thing being crushed had no import whatever: "They take the products of conception and sell it to whoever," a spokesman for Planned Parenthood said. But even Goldberg herself was forced to admit that "Politically, this is terrible for the organization and for the reproductive-health movement… [her] breezy tone and big glass of red wine and her discussion of doctors' prowess in getting 'heart, lung, liver' out intact is hard to watch."

"One of the turning points for the civil rights movement … was when the network news broadcast film of scenes like Bull Connor…turning fire hoses on black civil rights marchers," writes Steve Hayward on Powerline. "The videos of the grotesque callousness of Planned Parenthood that are coming out may prove to be a turning for late-term abortion," which two-thirds of Americans already want halted. When making a point, it always helps to get personal, to show the effect of one set of policies in its physical impact on one human being. Call this a "crushing defeat" for the abortionist lobby. Describing the process of "crushing the baby” is one way to get the job done. (Contributor: By Noemie Emery for Washington Examiner)

For prayer: The momentum is strong against Planned Parenthood (PP) in this exposure of making the barbaric act of abortion even worse by the marketing dead babies’ body parts. Despite its desperate fighting back with lies and distortion of the facts, a majority of Americans, including many feminists, know the truth. PP’s exposure should be conclusive. Let us pray in unity that God will lead the House of Representatives to cut off federal funding to this hate-filled, evil organization. Pray as led.

“For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.” (Luke 8:17-18)

 

THE MORAL TERRORISM OF PLANNED PARENTHOOD

Like many of you, when I first heard the undercover video of a Planned Parenthood official discussing in a detached and macabre manner the selling of aborted baby parts, I was physically sickened.

Regardless of whether you identify as pro-life or pro-choice, the impact of the ghoulish and craven nature of the negotiation for body parts is profoundly disturbing. Yet there are liberal individuals and institutions, like Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, the White House and The New York Times, methodically defending Planned Parenthood, making very sure whatever is left of their critical minds doesn’t disturb them with a reminder of the rank obscenity of the situation.

One thing I can tell you — the feminist movement was supposed to be about ensuring equal rights for women, which included being trusted to make our own reproductive choices.

Horrifyingly, in the 21st century it has devolved into abortionists exploiting women’s bodies and selling baby parts over a glass of chardonnay while giggling about wanting a Lamborghini.

My reaction carries a more personal component as my political activism began in the 1980s with abortion rights. I’ve written extensively about my journey from the left to the right in my three books. Ten years ago in “The Death of Right and Wrong,” I chronicle and warn about the bullet train of moral relativism controlling the liberal activist and political machine and their attempts to drag our entire society into their gruesome descent into moral chaos.

With the exposure of Planned Parenthood, we see the ultimate liberal destination: a world with a disconnect from humanity so profound, so disturbed, that a woman discussing where she chooses to “crush” an in-utero baby in order to not damage the human organs discussed for sale is approached as blase and routine.

As the second video was released last week, again of a female official at Planned Parenthood negotiating the sale of baby parts, I thought to myself, “Why isn’t anyone from the pro-choice movement condemning Planned Parenthood for this?” Then I realized I was one of those people, and instead of waiting for someone else to step up, I would.

The pro-choice argument, for me, has been about wanting government out of our lives; even when on the left my work was based in the desire to be left alone by intrusive government, issues of violence against women, and economic equality informed my activism. I knew then, and still believe, that moral legislation, like prohibition or anti-abortion laws, impact only the disenfranchised. People with money will always get what they want; the poor or powerless not so much.

At the same time, if you’re having an abortion in the 21st century you have failed. With so many birth control options, the first “choice” women have begins with saying the word “no” before you have sex with someone that could result in a pregnancy.

The modern feminist movement abandoned women long ago when they monetized women’s bodies with the issue of abortion, literally needing to romanticize abortions into something that, as one national feminist leader put it at a speech I attended in the early 1990s, an act a woman should be proud of.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Besides the ghastly nature of the Planned Parenthood tapes per se, any normal human being has to question, how did this happen? Who have we become? While I agree to some degree that the current Planned Parenthood issue has nothing to do with abortion rights and everything to do with corruption and moral obscenity, it doesn’t end there. As a feminist I must consider how the argument for abortion-rights, and the left’s narrative rejecting the humanity of a baby in-utero, has contributed to this atrocity.

Our liberal culture in general worships self-obsession, consumption and the throw-away society, where the lives of the voiceless are more invisible than ever before. As the concept of family disintegrates, children (and pregnancies) more often become loose threads that threaten to undo the fabric of our well-crafted lives.

Our liberal media gatekeepers are making animals and even children more like accessories for our reality-television focused culture, to be made in an effort to reassure ourselves, or others, of our increasingly doubtful humanity.

And then there’s the Planned Parenthood videos. It was inevitable with moral relativism and the death of right and wrong. In this world, no one, and no thing, is to be judged, certainly no one from one of the protected classes of the left, and absolutely not one of their citadels, like Planned Parenthood.

We watch as the movement to empower women is brutalized by the left into a scheme which enslaves women to a liberal politics that uses them and their bodies like dirty dishrags. And then we’re told to shut up about it. Because of political correctness.

There is a scramble on the left by politicians like Mrs. Pelosi and Mrs. Clinton, and their legacy media water-carriers like The New York Times, to “save” Planned Parenthood. These moral terrorists must obfuscate and crawl even further into the gutter to do so, because the cost of admitting the truth of what they’ve become is too monstrous to admit.

We, however, have another choice. We can choose to not let that monster prevail. There are actions that can be taken immediately to reclaim the decency we are all worthy of, and that includes making sure we end our complicity in this atrocity by cutting off the $500 million dollar a year taxpayer subsidy of Planned Parenthood. They report a $1 billion profit every year. Let them suffer with a paltry $500M profit by making them pay for the non-abortion services they contend they provide.

The left is always complaining about massive corporate profits, and ending “corporate welfare.” Let’s start with Planned Parenthood. Ending taxpayer support can be our first step in taking our nation back by refusing to enable and finance the cruel inhumanity of the left. (Contributor: By Tammy Bruce for The Washington Times)

For prayer: A recent informal and unofficial poll among Christian workers showed that the two most serious sins the group could imagine are 1) sexual molestation of a child, and 2) the wanton killing of babies in the womb, especially for financial profit, along with this revelation of Planned Parenthood’s further profiteering through the sale of fetal tissue. Please pray urgently for the closing of all Planned Parenthood “clinics,” which prey on many women under pressure in unplanned pregnancies.

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20)

 

CDC: MARIJUANA HOLDS ‘POTENTIAL DANGER’

Government health experts warn in a new report that the risks of consuming marijuana-infused edibles like weed brownies and other snacks mustn’t be understated following the suicide last year of a man whose death has been blamed on pot.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said on Friday that there’s “a potential danger” that comes with consuming marijuana-infused edibles, evidenced by an incident last March in which a 19-year-old man jumped to his death from the fourth-floor balcony of a Denver, Colorado, hotel while high.

Levy Thamba ate an entire marijuana cookie that had been purchased from a licensed and legal pot shop in Colorado, despite the clerk having advised that it be split up and consumed in small portions. Soon after he began to exhibit what witnesses described as erratic behavior, then, according to the Denver coroner’s report, “The decedent eventually reportedly jumped out of bed, went outside the hotel room and jumped over the balcony railing.”

Thamba’s death was officially attributed to “multiple injuries due to a fall from height,” but the coroner acknowledged at the time that marijuana intoxication was indeed a contributing factor.

Now upon release of the CDC’s latest report more than a year later, the agency confirms that the tragedy is the first reported death in Colorado that can be linked to marijuana consumption since it was approved for recreation use there in 2012.

“This case illustrates a potential danger associated with recreational edible marijuana use,” the CDC said, adding that roughly 45 percent of licensed pot sales that have occurred in Colorado since adults have been able to legally purchase the plant and byproducts at the start of 2014 are from THC-infused food, drink and pills.

“It’s not new news to Coloradans,” Jessica Hancock-Allen, an epidemic intelligence officer with the CDC who worked on the report, told CBS News. “If you ingest a large quantity of edible marijuana in a short amount of time, you risk over-consumption, and in increased risk of mental health effects.”

An autopsy of Thamba taken more than 24 hours after his death had determined that his body contained 7.2 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood. In Colorado, individuals are considered too impaired to drive if their blood contains 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC, the high-inducing compound in cannabinoids.

“This is not a lethal amount he ingested,” Dr. Robert Glatter, a New York City emergency physician, told HealthDay. “You could eat several of these cookies and be put into a euphoric state, and possibly have anxiety, but that, in and of itself, would not be lethal.”

“He likely may have had a predisposition or some underlying mental illness we didn’t know about, that became unmasked when he ate the cookie,” he said. “That’s probably the issue here.”

The CDC’s warning is included in the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published Friday. Earlier this year, meanwhile, an Oklahoma man fatally shot himself this past March while vacationing in Colorado after having consumed several pieces of legally purchased pot candy. In that case, the mother of the man, Luke Goodman, said she thought her son’s death was “completely a reaction to the drugs.” (Contributor: By Andrew Blake for The Washington Times)

For prayer: We cannot make sense of this story, except to grieve and to pray for the young victim’s family. Most people understand that an otherwise dangerous substance may have a specific medical benefit and is so used while being very tightly controlled via a doctor’s prescription. But no sane person puts such a substance, which can have the same lethal effect as poison, in cookies sold at retail, just because it is “legalized.” Please pray for a return to sanity in such matters, where money doesn’t rule the bottom-line decisions.

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Tim. 6:9-10)

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The Informer - July 22, 2015

On Watch in Washington July 22, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

PRO-LIFE GROUPS DECRY SALE OF ABORTED BABY BODY PARTS

A secretly videotaped business lunch released Tuesday shows a top Planned Parenthood official discussing the buying and selling of body parts of aborted fetuses, prompting national outrage among conservatives and pro-life activists.

Two adults, posing as buyers of fetal tissue, met with Dr. Deborah Nucatola, a senior official with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 2014.

Over wine and salads, they discussed Dr. Nucatola’s expertise in abortions, which included performing them in such a way as to obtain “intact” organs, such as livers, hearts, lungs and muscles, for research, according to the Center for Medical Progress, which released the video and a 60-page transcript Tuesday.

One topic — the in-utero turning of fetuses to deliver them feet first so the heads and brains can be delivered without excessive damage — strongly implied the use of the outlawed partial-birth abortion procedure.

The buying or selling of human tissue also is a federal offense, and members of Congress who learned of the video promised to act quickly. A Capitol Hill press conference could be held as early as Wednesday.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal called the video “shocking and gruesome” for its discussions about “the systemic harvesting and trafficking of human body parts.”

Mr. Jindal, who is also a Republican presidential candidate, said he was directing the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to immediately investigate Planned Parenthood — which is seeking to open a clinic in New Orleans — in this “alleged evil and illegal activity.” He added that he also was seeking FBI assistance because of the broad nature of the potentially criminal activity.

“This latest news is tragic and outrageous,” Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina said on her Facebook page. “This isn’t about ‘choice.’ It’s about profiting on the death of the unborn while telling women it’s about empowerment.”

“This video is beyond disturbing,” Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and a former prisoner of war, said on his Twitter feed.

According to the Center for Medical Progress, the two adults on the video were “actors posing as buyers from a human biologics company.”

They met with Dr. Nucatola because she trains their doctors, performs abortions up to 24 weeks, and is knowledgeable about biomedical research and its use of human tissues.

When the “buyers” asked Dr. Nucatola about obtaining specific organs, she replied, “We’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver. Because we know that, so I’m not going to crush that part, I’m going to crush below, I’m going to crush above, and I’m going to see if I can get it all intact.”

Costs to the buyers could be $30 to $100 per specimen, Dr. Nucatola said.

She said women are typically asked for their consent to have the aborted child used for research, and some agree because they think it will do “this extra bit of good,” Dr. Nucatola said.

‘No financial benefit’

The video also implies that Planned Parenthood’s national office wants to keep its distance from the trade in fetal parts — “it’s too touchy an issue for us to be the official middleman” — but affiliated groups are willing.

“At the national office, we have a Litigation and Law Department which just really doesn’t want us to be the middle people for this issue right now,” she said. “But I will tell you that behind closed doors these conversations are happening with the affiliates.”

A Planned Parenthood official responded to the “heavily edited” video, saying it helps its patients who want to donate tissue to scientific research, but with “no financial benefit for tissue donation for either the patient or for Planned Parenthood.”

The Center for Medical Progress posted the entire two-hour, 40-minute video Tuesday afternoon.

Actual costs, such as to transport tissue to leading research centers, are reimbursed, as is standard in the medical field, said Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood.

Moreover, he said, tissue donations are performed like “every other high-quality health care provider does — with full, appropriate consent from patients and under the highest ethical and legal standards.”

“Similar false accusations” about abortion services have been made for decades, Mr. Ferrero said.

The groups making the claims “have been widely discredited, and their claims fall apart on closer examination, just as they do in this case,” he said.

Dr. Nucatola, whose office is in Los Angeles, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. She reportedly had a Twitter account earlier in the day, but it was taken down, said LifeNews, citing pro-life activist Jill Stanek.

Pro-life activists galvanized

“There has long been suspicion that Planned Parenthood is involved in the selling of body parts after an abortion. Now the proof has been caught on video in Planned Parenthood’s own words,” said Benjamin Clapper, executive director of Louisiana Right to Life.

Mr. Clapper applauded Mr. Jindal, saying, “If this is what Planned Parenthood intends to do at their abortion facility in New Orleans, Louisiana does not want any part of it.”

Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life, said it was “stomach-churning” to hear that “intact heads” of aborted fetuses could be put on order with Planned Parenthood facilities.

“Today is like the day we learned about Gosnell,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, referring to Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who now is serving time in prison for murder.

Planned Parenthood not only receives $528 million in government funds each year, but it also “takes the lives” of over 320,000 unborn children, Ms. Mancini said. Now comes the news that Planned Parenthood also “exploits them even further,” by potentially harvesting their organs and putting a price tag on livers and hearts, she said.

“Congress must take immediate action to stop all taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood and end the bankrolling of this horrific human rights abuser,” said Lila Rose, leader of Live Action, which is known for its many undercover investigations of abortion clinics.

Congressional action

The video “demands a response from Congress, and we will provide one,” said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican and co-chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus.

“Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion provider, wounding women and profiting off of the death of children, first by dismembering unborn children and then by selling their organs piece by piece. This horrific abuse must stop,” Mr. Smith said.

Rep. Joseph R. Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, and Rep. Tim Murphy, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce oversight and investigations subcommittee, said Congress should act to protect women and unborn children.

David Daleiden, project leader of the Center for Medical Progress‘ three-year investigation of Planned Parenthood and aborted fetal parts, welcomed the public outcry over the video.

“Planned Parenthood’s criminal conspiracy to make money off of aborted baby parts reaches to the very highest levels of their organization,” he said.

The abortion giant should “be held accountable to the law,” and its taxpayer funded should be stopped, he said.

Several pro-life groups said the video reopens an issue that they have long fought to have investigated.

Mark Crutcher of Life Dynamics exposed the sale of baby body parts 15 years ago, said Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life.

“We have on our website, BabyBodyParts.com, the images of some of the order forms that were discovered back then — forms that ask that eyes, livers, brains, legs and other body parts be shipped on wet ice to the researchers who want them,” Father Pavone said.

“This activity violates state and federal laws that prohibit the sale of human body parts,” he said. In addition to investigating and defunding Planned Parenthood, he said, Congress should pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would “protect many of the babies whose bodies are being cut up and sold in this manner.” (Contributor: By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)

For prayer: This news broke on July 14. Public reaction was swift, ranging from dismay to shock, then to disgust and revulsion. As we prepared The Informer for e-mailing on 7/22, a second undercover video was released depicting “a Planned Parenthood (PP) senior official haggling over payments for baby body parts…” (FRC). The question is, will there will be a showdown? Will the Congress act? PP is a favorite “charity” of President Obama’s, over which he pronounced, “God bless you.” PP specializes not only in barbaric killing of the unborn but also harvesting fetal organs for profit. Pray against this despicable sacrilege. Along with intercession, ask God how else you might respond.

[God speaking as Wisdom:] “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord; but he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; all those who hate me love death.” (Prov. 8:34-36)

 

LAWMAKERS TAKE AIM AT HYDE AMENDMENT

Pro-choice lawmakers in the U.S. House are taking aim at the federal provision that for decades has blocked taxpayer-funded federal health programs from paying for abortions.

“It’s past time to repeal [the] Hyde” amendment, said Rep. Barbara Lee, California Democrat, who was joined by numerous other members of Congress at a press conference Wednesday.

Their new bill, called Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Heath Insurance or EACH Woman Act, would ensure health coverage for abortion in federally funded health care programs, including Medicaid, which serves low-income populations.

“Each and every day, the rights of women are under attack in America. Today, we push back because every person has a right to health care,” said Ms. Lee. According to supporters, the bill has more than 70 co-sponsors, but all are Democrats — not a good sign for a bill in a Republican-majority chamber.

Yamani Hernandez, executive director of National Network of Abortion Funds, said the Hyde amendment has brought “terrible wrongs” to poor women since 1976.

The Hyde amendment, named for late Illinois Republican Rep. Henry Hyde, is actually a rider attached to health care appropriations bills since 1976. It says federal funds cannot be used to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or where the woman’s physical life is in danger.

Abortion-rights supporters said Wednesday that because of the Hyde provision, one in four women who wanted an abortion but lived in states where Medicaid funding was restricted had her baby because she couldn’t afford an abortion.

The new bill would also prohibit political interference in decisions by private health insurance companies regarding abortion care.

“As a Catholic, my social justice tradition calls me to speak up for the conscience rights of all people — particularly the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “In fact, the majority of American Catholic voters believe insurance — whether public or private — should cover abortion services in certain cases.”

A Hart Research poll of 950 voters released at Wednesday’s press conference said 86 percent of voters agreed with the statement that, “however we feel about abortion, politicians should not be allowed to deny a woman’s health coverage because she is poor.”

The All Above All campaign, joined by feminist and youth organizations, applauded the bill.

Pro-life groups, in contrast, have coalesced behind a bill called the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which is sponsored by Reps. Christopher Smith, New Jersey Republican, and Daniel Lipinski, Illinois Democrat.

That bill, H.R. 7 — which passed the House in January — would “make permanent the life-affirming principles of the Hyde Amendment” to the Affordable Care Act and other federally funded health care programs operating in states and the District, said Americans United For Life.

A companion bill, S. 582, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Roger F. Wicker, Mississippi Republican. (Contributor: Cheryl Weinstein for The Washington Times)

For prayer: Many readers remember the tall, stately figure of Rep. Henry Hyde and his persuasive and relentless battle to prevent taxpayers’ money from paying for abortions. Today, even some of his fellow Roman Catholics have switched sides, as well as members of both parties once thought to be strongly pro-life. It appears that despite last November’s elections, with apparent conservative results, the national tide is turning, and the Hyde amendment may fall. The war zones are heating up. Intercessors know how to pray. We must prepare ourselves for continuous battles. Revival in the Church always bring life into a humanistic culture of death.

“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)

 

NETANYAHU: WHY WOULD US COMPENSATE ISRAEL FOR A GOOD IRAN DEAL?

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter arrived in Israel on Sunday night as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated an unwillingness to speak about any “compensation” the US could provide to make Israel feel more secure after last week’s signing of the Iranian nuclear deal.

Netanyahu, in an interview Sunday on ABC, said there was much talk about compensating Israel.

The question that needed to be asked, the premier said, was, “If this deal is supposed to make Israel and our Arab neighbors safer, why should we be compensated with anything?” Furthermore, he said, “how can you compensate a country, my country, against a terrorist regime that is sworn to our destruction and is going to get a path to nuclear bombs and billions of dollars to boot for its terror activities against us.”

Carter is scheduled to meet Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Monday, and hold a press conference with him. On Tuesday, he is scheduled to meet Netanyahu.

Carter is expected to visit IDF troops in the North, as well as travel to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, where there is also a great deal of unease over the nuclear deal.

The dispatch of Carter to Israel so soon after the signing of the deal was widely interpreted as an effort to ease Israel’s considerable concern about the security implications of the agreement.

US President Barack Obama, in a New York Times interview last week, said, he is prepared to go “further than any other administration’s gone before” in terms of providing Israel with additional US security ssurances.

US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, in a briefing with Israeli diplomatic reporters last week, said that Obama, during his phone conversation with Netanyahu soon after the announcement of the deal, tried to “talk about ways that they might enhance future security cooperation with Israel,” but that Netanyahu was “not ready to have that discussion yet.”

Asked on ABC whether he would personally lobby Congress, which has 60 days to review and vote on the agreement, Netanyahu said it was “very important” for him as the “prime minister of the one and only Jewish state to make our case against a deal that we believe endangers our security, our survival even, and the security of the Middle East and the world.”

Netanyahu said that rather agree to this accord, another deal should have been negotiated along the lines of “dismantle for dismantle” – Iran dismantle its nuclear infrastructure, in exchange for the dismantling of the sanctions.

“That was the original administration position,” he said.

Another alternative, he said, was to partly dismantle Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, and keep the international pressure on the Islamic Republic until it stopped its terrorism and subversion around the region and the world.

Now, he said, Iran gets to keep its nuclear infrastructure, while the sanctions will be dismantled in a short time.

Netanyahu pushed back against the idea that the whole world was celebrating this deal, except for Israel.

“The Arab leaders who are talking to me are not celebrating it,” he said, though he did not elaborate with whom he was speaking. He pointed out that there is bipartisan agreement in Israel that “this is a very bad deal.”

At the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu addressed one of the US administration’s main arguments: Neither Israel – nor anyone else – provided any viable alternative to this deal.

“The alternative to this failed agreement, which we proposed repeatedly, is the continuation and strengthening of the sanctions on Iran and conditioning the lifting of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, and the lifting of the pressure on Iran, only if it changes its policy,” he said. “As long as the Iranian leadership is encouraging calls of ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel,’ there is no reason to make any concessions to them.”

Netanyahu said that if anyone thought the “extraordinary con - cessions” made to Iran would lead to a change in its positions, they received a “crushing answer over the weekend,” when Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made clear that the deal would not alter Iran’s policies in the region. (Contributor: Herb Keinon for The Jerusalem Post - Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.)

For prayer: Regular readers know IFA is not a political organization. But as Christian and evangelical, we fully support Israel’s right to exist peacefully and to flourish by its own democratic efforts in the international trade market. In addition, we strongly believe President Obama’s nuclear “deal” with Iran is a failed agreement that will inevitably—barring direct divine intervention—result in global war, as Iran seeks to become the dominant nation in its region. Our unified prayer focus is clear: we must call on the true and living God in Jesus’ name, for mercy. We urge unified prayers for God to overrule all agreements and “deals” and to bring about His will.

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Prov. 21:1)

“Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides. They continue this day according to Your ordinances, for all are Your servants.” (Ps. 119:89-91)

 

OBAMA LOOKS TO BAN SOME SOCIAL SECURITY RECIPIENTS FROM GUNS

Seeking tighter controls over firearm purchases, the Obama administration is pushing to ban Social Security beneficiaries from owning guns if they lack the mental capacity to manage their own affairs, a move that could affect millions whose monthly disability payments are handled by others.

The push is intended to bring the Social Security Administration in line with laws regulating who gets reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, which is used to prevent gun sales to felons, drug addicts, immigrants in the country illegally and others.

A potentially large group within Social Security are people who, in the language of federal gun laws, are unable to manage their own affairs due to "marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease."

There is no simple way to identify that group, but a strategy used by the Department of Veterans Affairs since the creation of the background check system is reporting anyone who has been declared incompetent to manage pension or disability payments and assigned a fiduciary.

If Social Security, which has never participated in the background check system, uses the same standard as the VA, millions of its beneficiaries would be affected. About 4.2 million adults receive monthly benefits that are managed by "representative payees."

The move is part of a concerted effort by the Obama administration after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., to strengthen gun control, including by plugging holes in the background check system.

But critics — including gun rights activists, mental health experts and advocates for the disabled — say that expanding the list of prohibited gun owners based on financial competence is wrongheaded.

Though such a ban would keep at least some people who pose a danger to themselves or others from owning guns, the strategy undoubtedly would also include numerous people who may just have a bad memory or difficulty balancing a checkbook, the critics argue.

"Someone can be incapable of managing their funds but not be dangerous, violent or unsafe," said Dr. Marc Rosen, a Yale psychiatrist who has studied how veterans with mental health problems manage their money. "They are very different determinations."

Steven Overman, a 30-year-old former Marine who lives in Virginia, said his case demonstrates the flaws of judging gun safety through financial competence.

After his Humvee hit a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury that weakened his memory and cognitive ability.

The VA eventually deemed him 100% disabled and after reviewing his case in 2012 declared him incompetent, making his wife his fiduciary.

State police lead students from Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., after a shooting. The Dec. 14, 2012, shooting at the school left 26 people, including 20 children, dead. (Shannon Hicks / Newtown Bee)

Upon being notified that he was being reported to the background check system, he gave his guns to his mother and began working with a lawyer to get them back.

Overman grew up hunting in Wisconsin. After his return from Iraq, he found solace in target shooting. "It's relaxing to me," he said. "It's a break from day-to-day life. It calms me down."

Though his wife had managed their financial affairs since his deployment, Overman said he has never felt like he was a danger to himself or others.

"I didn't know the VA could take away your guns," he said.

The background check system was created in 1993 by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, named after White House Press Secretary James Brady, who was partially paralyzed after being shot in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan.

The law requires gun stores to run the names of prospective buyers through the computerized system before every sale.

The system's databases contain more than 13 million records, which include the names of felons, immigrants in the U.S. illegally, fugitives, dishonorably discharged service members, drug addicts and domestic abusers.

State agencies, local police and federal agencies are required to enter names into the databases, but the system has been hampered by loopholes and inconsistent reporting since its launch.

The shortcomings became clear in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, in which Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people. Cho had been declared mentally ill by a court and ordered to undergo outpatient treatment, but at the time the law did not require that he be added to the databases.

Congress expanded the reporting requirements, but Social Security determined it was not required to submit records, according to LaVenia LaVelle, an agency spokeswoman.

Someone can be incapable of managing their funds but not be dangerous, violent or unsafe. They are very different determinations. - Dr. Marc Rosen, Yale psychiatrist

After 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, 20 children and six school staffers in Newtown in 2012, President Obama vowed to make gun control a central issue of his second term.

The effort fell flat. Congress ultimately rejected his proposals for new gun control legislation.

But among 23 executive orders on the issue was one to the Department of Justice to ensure that federal agencies were complying with the existing law on reporting to the background check system.

One baseline for other agencies is the VA, which has been entering names into the system since the beginning. About 177,000 veterans and survivors of veterans are in the system, according to VA figures.

The VA reports names under a category in gun control regulations known as "adjudicated as a mental defective," terminology that derives from decades-old laws. Its only criterion is whether somebody has been appointed a fiduciary.

More than half of the names on the VA list are of people 80 or older, often suffering from dementia, a reasonable criterion for prohibiting gun ownership.

But the category also includes anybody found by a "court, board, commission or other lawful authority" to be lacking "the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs" for a wide variety of reasons.

The agency's efforts have been criticized by a variety of groups.

Rosen, the Yale psychiatrist, said some veterans may avoid seeking help for mental health problems out of fear that they would be required to give up their guns.

Conservative groups have denounced the policy as an excuse to strip veterans of their gun rights.

Republicans have introduced legislation in the last several sessions of Congress to change the policy. The Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act, now under consideration in the House, would require a court to determine that somebody poses a danger before being reported to the background check system.

Social Security would generally report names under the same "mental defective" category. The agency is still figuring out how that definition should be applied, LaVelle said.

About 2.7 million people are now receiving disability payments from Social Security for mental health problems, a potentially higher risk category for gun ownership. An addition 1.5 million have their finances handled by others for a variety of reasons.

The agency has been drafting its policy outside of public view. Even the National Rifle Assn. was unaware of it.

Told about the initiative, the NRA issued a statement from its chief lobbyist, Chris W. Cox, saying: "If the Obama administration attempts to deny millions of law-abiding citizens their constitutional rights by executive fiat, the NRA stands ready to pursue all available avenues to stop them in their tracks."

Gun rights advocates are unlikely to be the only opponents.

Ari Ne'eman, a member of the National Council on Disability, said the independent federal agency would oppose any policy that used assignment of a representative payee as a basis to take any fundamental right from people with disabilities.

"The rep payee is an extraordinarily broad brush," he said.

Since 2008, VA beneficiaries have been able to get off the list by filing an appeal and demonstrating that they pose no danger to themselves or others.

But as of April, just nine of 298 appeals have been granted, according to data provided by the VA. Thirteen others were pending, and 44 were withdrawn after the VA overturned its determination of financial incompetence.

Overman is one of the few who decided to appeal.

He is irritable and antisocial, he said, but not dangerous. "I've never been suicidal," he said. "To me that solves nothing."

More than a year and a half after Overman filed his challenge, the VA lifted its incompetence ruling, allowing his removal from the background check system before the VA ever had to determine whether he should be trusted with a gun.

Overman, who hasn't worked since leaving the military, said he and a friend are now thinking of opening a gunsmith business. (Contributor: By Alan Zarembo for The LA TimesFox News)

Prayer focus: This article is for awareness, not for debate on gun control. The issue is constitutional and revolves around the Second Amendment (the right of the citizenry to be armed). The terrible crimes being committed in America by those using guns recklessly do not implicate our U.S. military veterans who are themselves often the victims of drug-crazed or hate-filled shooters. Pray for our nation, first for transforming, widespread revival; and then for a return to constitutional government.  

“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, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish. 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. 146:3-7)

 

CHILLING DEVELOPMENTS SINCE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE RULING

A few days ago I shared a YouTube video with a young father detailing the effects of the gay agenda on children in other countries that are further "down the road" than we are in America. He was utterly shocked as well as sobered, realizing where we are headed.

At the end of this commentary I will give you the YouTube site. I'd like to challenge you to watch the video and realize what is coming, barring a spiritual awakening in our country. After the Supreme Court ruling on homosexual "marriage," we've entered hostile territory and we need to be prepared. And I'm not being a "Debbie Downer" by citing this!

Larry Tomczak is not a pessimist. I am an optimist, but also a realist. I am also not a doomsayer focusing exclusively on negative reports, but neither am I a "Pollyanna" avoiding negative developments so I'll be popular and perceived solely as upbeat and positive while emphasizing the American revival some are seeing that I personally don't (although I fervently pray for it regularly). We have to see church-wide repentance first for our apathy that got us where we are.

The end-time scenario prior to the Return of our Lord can be described as both gory and glory. According to Scripture, it will be a season that is not merely bad but mad. This is the meaning of the term "perilous" in 2 Timothy 3:1 describing this tumultuous period. This is also why the Old Testament closes with the prophecy signaling these twin aspects of the close of the age: "the great and terrible day of the Lord" (Mal. 4:5).

I am persuaded we have entered this scary season. We're seeing the beginning of the great "falling away" (2 Thess.2:3) scripture warns about. Jesus prophesied about how difficult these days will be when He said, "If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive" (Mt.24:22).

So join me on this journey as we see what's already happening since the SCOTUS infamous ruling. Are these coincidences or consequences? God is angry. May we hopefully become more motivated to pray and proclaim truth to rescue our nation before it's too late. The gospel is the only hope for mankind and when hearts are transformed then the truth of the Bible is taught resulting in changed lifestyles.

In the meantime let's "put on our big boy pants" and face up to the reality of the avalanche falling upon us.As Ravi Zacharias says, "Our culture is at the crossroads.A century ago these times were imagined and they are now here.How do we live as Christians in such times?"

"Jesus replied, 'When evening comes you say, it will be fair weather for the sky is red, and in the morning, 'Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times" (Mt.16:2-3).

Consider these five major "signs of the times" unfolding these past few weeks. They're not insignificant—they're apocalyptic. These are seismic shifts. Are you heeding what's happening?

Remember, the United States Supreme Court institutionalized homosexual "marriage" as the law of the land, wiping out millennia of history, opening the floodgates for radical reconfigurations of "marriage," removal of benefits for Christian institutions plus accelerating the erosion of religious freedoms. This represents a day of infamy for America. Since then...

Planned Parenthood Harvests Organs and Little Sisters of the Poor Defeated

Planned Parenthood, the nation's number one abortion provider, was caught in an undercover sting exposing one of their top leaders casually elaborating on harvesting human organs from aborted babies while sipping wine and eating her lunch. This barbarism comes at the same time the Obama Administration wins in court crushing faith and forcing the 175-year old Little Sisters of the Poor to participate in providing contraceptives against their religious convictions. The leader of the nuns, Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, said, "We simply cannot choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith." Unbelievable, this hijacking of these dedicated servants of humanity.

Israel Abandoned and Middle East Nuclear Race Launched

President Obama announced his gamble, a diplomatic debacle with Iran which many astute observers see as a Neville Chamberlain "peace in our time" deception. It is literally a death sentence for Israel whom we have abandoned. We ended the sanctions; handed them $140 billion; required no "anytime" inspections or restrictions on their sponsorship of terrorism; no dismantling of their nuclear program; no provision to release American Pastor Saeed Abedini from a torturous prison; and, all this while Iranian people danced in the streets as they and their leaders continue chanting "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!"

Israel declared, "Today a terrorist, nuclear superpower is born and it will go down as one of the darkest days in world history." Senator and presidential candidate, Lindsey Graham, R-SC., stated: "This agreement is far worse than I ever imagined it could be. Over time, it will prove to be a nightmare for our own national security, the region as a whole, and eventually the world at large." The Middle East nuclear arms race has officially begun as Obama's "deal" delays, does not banish, Iran's nuclear weaponry.

Boy Scouts Accepts Homosexual Scout Leaders

The Boy Scouts of America just unanimously approved homosexuals as Scout leaders. This overturns 105 years of the venerable institution's policy and opens floodgates similar to the SCOTUS ruling. On July 27, this unprecedented decision will undoubtedly be ratified by the National Board. Implications of this historic decision are staggering (see larrytomczak.com for related article).

Christian Institutions Capitulating

Already Christian colleges and universities are capitulating to LGBTQ pressures and changing policies to "conform" to the homosexual lifestyle. Baylor University, Belmont University, Notre Dame University, Hope College are just some that are caving.

Society and Schools Begin Shaping Children to LGBTQ Agenda

School boards and publishing houses are already changing curriculums to align with LGBTQ developments. I have in my possession some books that really are shocking. Recently CBN news reported what is transpiring in Virginia and for the sake of discretion I'll not be graphic, but it is grievous.

 What Will America Look Like in a Few Years with Gay Propaganda?

The fallout from a culture's acceptance and endorsement of homosexual practices translates into sexual experimentation among the young and impressionable. Studies by even pro-homosexual researchers reveal that children in gay-affirming environments are more likely to experiment sexually, break gender norms and identify as homosexual or bisexual.

  • The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry stated that 24% of children raised by lesbian mothers had "been involved in a same – gender sexual relationship."
  • A Tasker-Golombok study, "Adults Raised as Children in Lesbian Families," revealed that the percentage of the young women raised by lesbians who later went on to self – identify as lesbians was nearly 8 times the rate of the general population (11% vs. 1.4%).

Here's the deal: Children are the victims when adults steamroll over them for homosexual pleasure-giving relationships. When they sit in schools and see in the media homosexuality portrayed as normal, natural and simply an alternative lifestyle choice, they're easily enticed and persuaded.

This is why Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia said the following: "Many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, and scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children's schools or as borders in their home... They view this as protecting themselves and their families from a lifestyle that they believe to be immoral and destructive."

"Love Wins?" Not our children and grandchildren, as so-called "progressive" LGBTQ advocates are passionate about inculcating diabolical ideas into the hearts and minds of our children and grandchildren. They have an agenda and are well organized, well funded and hell-bent on seeing it come to pass in the next generation.

At this defining moment in our nation's history, we must not tolerate any group of arrogant judges, political leaders, educators, and, yes, even ministers promoting their radical social experiment by legitimizing homosexual behavior in the eyes of vulnerable children and grandchildren. We must not let this dye be cast.

In closing, let me jolt you with the developments in Europe as the LGBTQ advocates push their propaganda. I will warn you in advance, this is explicit, yet truthful about what happens when God's people, especially His leaders, lack the courage to speak up and stand up as "salt" and "light" in the day of testing. May it never be said of us. We need a spiritual awakening!

"Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power..." (Ps. 110:3).

"Surely I am coming quickly." "Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus!" (Rev.22:20).

For an eye-opening experience, go to YouTube and scroll to the "Trans Norway" (12:35) video of April 8, 2015 [VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED]

(Contributor: By Larry Tomczak for Charisma News -  Larry Tomczak is a best-selling author of eight books with 43 years of trusted ministry experience. He is a cultural commentator whose weekly articles appear on sites reaching 26 million monthly. Connect and view short video commentaries at larrytomczak.com.)

Prayer focus: We have watched the YouTube video, “Trans Norway,” and while not overtly sexually graphic, it is more apt to make viewers weep than become nauseated (for some it may do both). This “brave new world” is as shocking as it is evil. Children are being victimized as social experiments. Christian parents who see these trends will guard and cherish their children as they celebrate girls being girls and boys being boys. Transgender “training” is not in God’s design. Pray for wisdom for parents, church leaders, teachers, and school officials as social scientists insist on “playing God.”

“The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!” (Ps. 110:1-2)

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6)

 

TENNESSEE SUSPECT TEXTED FRIEND LINK TO ISLAMIC VERSE BEFORE ATTACK

Hours before the Tennessee shooting that killed five U.S. servicemen, the suspected gunman texted his close friend a link to a long Islamic verse that included the line: "Whosoever shows enmity to a friend of Mine, then I have declared war against him."

His friend thought nothing of it at the time, but now wonders if it was a clue to Thursday's rampage in Chattanooga, which has re-ignited concerns about the radicalization of young Muslim men.

"I didn't see it as a hint at the time, but it may have been his way of telling me something," the friend told Reuters on Saturday. He requested anonymity for fear of a backlash.

The suspect, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, a 24-year-old Kuwaiti-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was killed in a gunfight with police. The FBI is investigating the attack as an act of terrorism, but said it was premature to speculate on the gunman's motive.

While a firm connection between the suspect and radical Islam has not been established, the shooting follows a series of attacks or thwarted attacks in the United States and other countries by Muslims claiming to be inspired by Islamic State or other militant groups.

Abdulazeez's friends said he had returned from a trip to Jordan in 2014 concerned about conflicts in the Middle East and the reluctance of the United States and other countries to intervene.

He later purchased three assault rifles on an online marketplace and used them for target practice, the friends said.

"That trip was eye-opening for him. He learned a lot about the traditions and culture of the Middle East," said the close friend who received the text message.

Abdulazeez was upset about the 2014 Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza and the civil war in Syria, he said. "He felt Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia were not doing enough to help, and that they were heavily influenced by the United States."

Another friend said, "He had always talked about it, but I'd say his level of understanding and awareness really rose after he came back."

U.S. authorities said Abdulazeez sprayed gunfire at a joint military recruiting center in a strip mall in Chattanooga, then drove to a Naval Reserve Center about 6 miles (10 km) away, where he killed four Marines before he himself was shot dead.

Three other people were injured, including a U.S. Navy petty officer who died from his wounds on Saturday.

The Navy did not give the name of the sailor, but his step-grandmother identified him as Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith of Paulding, Ohio, who left behind a wife and three young daughters.

"He was an awesome young man," Darlene Proxmire told Reuters. "He loved his wife and children. He loved the Navy."

JORDAN TRIP WAS "EYE-OPENING"

Abdulazeez, an engineer, went to the Middle East in 2010 and visited several countries, according to his close friend. He then went to Jordan in 2014 to work for his uncle, and lived with his uncle and his grandparents there, he said.

After Abdulazeez returned, he seemed more mellow, less interested in partying. "That is part of what drew us closer. He was a guy who wanted to settle down and get his life going. That connected us," he said.

The night before the attack, just after 10 p.m., the close friend received a text from Abdulazeez with a link to a Hadith, or Islamic teaching: sunnah.com/nawawi40/38.

The friend said he had been asking Abdulazeez for job advice, and continued to text him that evening and into Thursday but did not get a reply.

The friend said he was interviewed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI declined to comment on Saturday.

For jihadists and ultraconservative Salafist Sunni Muslims, the Hadith "is usually understood within the context of al-wala wa-l-bara (or) love for Islam and hatred for its enemies," said David Cook, an associate professor who specializes in Islam in the department of religion at Rice University in Texas.

According to Abdulazeez's friends, he had purchased three guns on armslist.com after returning from Jordan, including an AK-74, an AR-15, and a Saiga 12. They said he also owned a 9mm and a .22 caliber hand guns.

Armslist.com is an online listing site on which individuals can buy and sell firearms through private transactions. Critics say it enables people to obtain weapons without background checks, though the site has a disclaimer that it requires users to agree to follow all state and federal firearms laws.

Emails seeking comment from Armlist.com and Armslist Legal Defense Fund, created to defend Armslist against lawsuits, were not immediately answered.

GUNS, FAST CARS

Abdulazeez had occasionally smoked marijuana and drank alcohol, and struggled to reconcile that with his faith in Islam, his friends said. At one point, in 2012 or 2013, Abdulazeez received therapy for his drugs and alcohol use, they said.

"He used it to de-stress, when things were difficult at home, or whatever," the close friend said, adding that tensions between Abdulazeez and his Palestinian parents had upset him. His parents nearly got divorced in 2009, according to court records.

In April, Abdulazeez was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. He was facing a July 30 court date for his DUI charge.

Abdulazeez also had problems with local youths that sometimes took on a religious and racial tone, his friend said.

"There were rednecks, ignorant people, who sometimes would cause problems. Mo never fought, but he used to get worked up and yell and stuff," he said. "Afterwards he would calm down, and just say it doesn't matter."

Over the past few months, Abdulazeez and his friends practiced shooting in the Prentice Cooper state forest near Chattanooga, sometimes two or three times a week.

"He was always interested in guns, since he was young. He started with a BB gun and paintball, and went on from there. We would go out shooting quite often," said the close friend.

Abdulazeez also liked driving fast in the hills surrounding Chattanooga.

Two nights before the attack, he and some friends went joyriding in Abdulazeez's rented gray convertible Ford Mustang, passing through the towns of Whitwell, Dayton and Jasper.

"Fast car on a rainy night. We were flying, doing tight turns and drifting," said the friend, adding that they returned home at about 3 o'clock in the morning.

"He seemed totally normal. We made plans to hang out on the weekend," he said.

He said Abdulazeez had a good paying job and many plans for his life, including possibly starting a computer sales business in Chattanooga. "He wanted to buy a car. He wanted a video console, to make a man cave - every guy's dream."

He said it was difficult to understand how his friend became the suspect in the rampage.

"The signs just weren't there," he said. "The only thing I can think of is that it was a combination of things - what is happening overseas, his family problems, maybe some of the issues with the less educated people here. I don't know." (Contributor: By Richard Valdmanis for Reuters - Additional reporting by Frank McGurty in New York, Mark Hosenball in Washington, Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Tiffany Wu)

Prayer focus: Pray that the news media (mainly TV networks) will shake loose from President Obama’s unwillingness to name such attacks as terrorism; and to name the perpetrators as terrorists. These attacks on military personnel have been called “workplace violence,” though they were carried out by radicalized Muslims. There is a movement in several states to be sure such personnel are armed, which will cause a political battle. Pray for the families of the victims, five in all. Give thanks for officials who lowered the flag to half-staff, which finally brought the administration to follow.

“. . . weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” (Rom. 12:15-16)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matt. 5:4)

 

CUBAN FLAG TO BE RAISED IN WASHINGTON

The Cuban flag will rise in Washington, D.C., for the first time in five decades on Monday in the latest step toward normalized relations between the two countries.

The flag-raising will be part of a daylong series of events commemorating the opening of a full Cuban embassy in Washington. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, who led negotiations with the Cubans to reach the historic agreement, will be at the building, about two miles from the White House. Since 1977, the building has served as a Cuban "interests section," where officials process visas and conduct basic consular services.

Later in the day, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to host a joint news conference with Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez at the U.S. State Department, where the Cuban flag will be added to the collection of flags from countries that have formal relations with the United States. The two first met in April during the Summit of the Americas in Panama, where they worked on normalizing relations and reopening the embassies.

Kerry is expected to travel to Cuba later this summer to conduct a similar ceremony, during which U.S. officials will raise the American flag outside what is now the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. But starting Monday, the building, which has been the target of Cuban demonstrations for decades, officially will begin operating as a U.S. embassy.

Monday's event in Washington, while largely symbolic, marks the latest step in the changing relationship that started when President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced in December that the Cold War foes would move to restore diplomatic relations. Ever since, American politicians, business owners and tourists have flooded the island in anticipation of an  increase in trade and travel with the island.

Yet many oppose Obama's opening to the communist government, which continues to maintain a tight grip over all aspects of Cuban life and suppresses free expression.

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, who oversees the State Department's budget in the House Appropriations Committee, said on Wednesday that she would try to block any funding designed to convert the U.S. Interests Section in Havana to an embassy. State Department officials have said they'll need more personnel to conduct the added diplomatic work that comes with a full embassy

On Monday, a group of Cuban-American members of the House of Representatives are scheduled to hold a news conference in Miami objecting to the changed relationship.

While Congress may be able to limit some funds for the embassy, the decision to change the status of an American diplomatic mission abroad rests solely with the president. The State Department had to provide 15 days of notice to Congress before making the move, and Monday marks the conclusion of that notification period.

Obama has argued that establishing better ties with Cuba will spur the Castro government to allow more economic and political freedom in the country, a view opponents of the policy change doubt. (Contributor: By Alan Gomez for USA Today)

Prayer focus: We do not purport to tell intercessors how to pray, though we urge much prayer as each is led, and we join our readers in praying for God’s will and purpose to be accomplished. One grave concern is that this unilateral decision by President Obama, as with many of his decisions, has caused division in the country and in the Congress, especially by those of Cuban heritage who feel that recognition of the Castro dictatorship is a betrayal of Cuban ideals and the early refugees who fled to the U.S. at great risk and loss. Scripture reminds us that God is over all the nations.           

“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.’ [But] He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: ‘Yet have I set My King on My holy hill of Zion.’”
(Ps. 2:1-6)

On Watch in Washington July 22, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

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The Informer July 15 2015

On Watch in Washington July 15, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

THE WRONG PATH TO ECONOMIC PROSPERITY

When Republicans took full control of Congress in their triumphant 2014 election, it was clearly the beginning of the end of Barack Obama’s presidency.

His second-term agenda, if ever he had one, was dead, forcing him to turn to a series of unconstitutional executive orders that will be bottled up in the courts for the rest of his tenure, or overturned by judicial decree.

Even his signature program, Obamacare, is threatened to be emasculated by the Supreme Court challenge that questions whether its government subsidies are lawful.

He had hoped to end his trouble-filled presidency with the passage of a 12-nation, Trans-Pacific trade agreement — until it was ignominiously shot down by his own party in the House, perhaps fatally.

But that’s only a part of the policymaking wreckage he has strewn across the nation’s political landscape.

He came into office in the midst of a severe recession, confidently declaring that he’d return a dying economy to full health and vigor. Yet in the seventh painful year of his presidency, it remains chronically sluggish, unable to stand on its own two feet without the support of the Federal Reserve’s costly assistance.

It wasn’t reported on any of the major nightly network news shows, but the nation’s central bank said as much Wednesday in its dismal economic growth projections for the rest of this year.

The Fed downgraded its growth forecasts to between 1.8 percent and 2 percent, far below its 2.3 to 2.7 percent estimates in March.

Fed economists were also a little less optimistic about a lower unemployment rate for the year. In March they said it would fall to as low as 5 percent by the end of the year. Now they are forecasting that it would decline to just 5.2 percent, at best.

“If they’re correct, annual [economic] growth would be the worst since 2011 and would be far from the breakout performance some economists had hoped for this year,” writes economic analyst Jim Puzzanghera on the CTnow website.

Fed Chairman Janet Yellen went to great lengths at her news conference to avoid any hint of when the board would begin raising interest rates, and continued to insist that the slowing economy was only transitory.

Yet in a somewhat more pessimistic speech last month, she said, “The various headwinds that are still restraining the economy will likely take some time to fully abate, and the pace of that improvement is highly uncertain.”

In recent decades, recessions have on average lasted about two years, as was the case in the Reagan recovery of 1983 when it came soaring out of a deep recession in 1981-82.

“The end of 1983 marked a year of recovery from one of the longest and deepest post-World War II recessions . Overall, real GNP grew by about 6 percent over the year,” wrote economists Eugene H. Becker and Norman Bowers in an analysis for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Compare robust 6 percent growth in only two years as a result of the Reagan tax cuts to this week’s Fed forecast of 1.8 percent economic growth in the seventh year of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

The reason for the wide disparity between the two is all about competing policies. Mr. Obama copied FDR’s New Deal stimulus to end the depression with massive government spending on public works projects. He spent nearly $1 billion on similar government, “shovel-ready” programs. Neither worked.

Ronald Reagan’s across-the-board tax cuts put money back into the blood stream of the economy and into the hands of consumers, workers and business investment.

In just two years, it was morning in America again. And in 1984, the country voted on how Reagan’s policies were doing at the grass roots. He carried 49 states.

Now Hillary Clinton is running, along with a clutch of other Democrats, to succeed Mr. Obama in the White House. She has yet to fully spell out what her economic and other domestic policies will be, but she has supported the president’s failed policies and, as a candidate, adopted many of them in her campaign speeches.

Here’s a sampling of proposals from Vermont’s ultra-leftist Sen. Bernie Sanders — one of Mrs. Clinton’s rivals for the Democratic nomination — many of which she supports:

Raising the federal minimum wage, splitting up the big banks, public campaign financing, enacting a single payer health insurance for everyone, universal pre-kindergarten, free college education, a federally mandated 10 days off for workers, and a much broader federal jobs program.

What about cutting tax rates to spur capital investment, business expansion and new entrepreneurial start-ups, as President Kennedy proposed and that her husband Bill Clinton fully embraced in his second term?

Forget about it. In today’s extreme hard-left Democratic Party, pro-growth tax cuts of any kind are the political kiss of death in nominating primaries.

According to a voter survey this week by the Gallup Poll, “Democratic candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination face a significantly more left-leaning party base than their predecessors did over the last 15 years.”

The Gallup survey found that “47 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents now identify as both socially liberal and economically moderate to liberal.”

This compares with “39 percent in these categories in 2008, when there was last an open seat for their party’s nomination, and 30 percent in 2001,” Gallup said.

While this is the hard-left political environment Mrs. Clinton must appeal to if she is to secure the nomination, it also pushes her even further to the left (than she already is) of the broader electorate in the general election.

If that happens, she risks becoming the Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis of the 2016 presidential election. (Contributor: By Donald Lambro for The Washington Times - Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.)

For prayer: It appears President Obama had the political leverage to get most of what he wanted on the trade bills. Conservatives are still wondering who blinked first on the negotiations. Be that as it may, the author’s point is well made that continued government growth and socialist-like trade expansion is inimical to a strong economy at home. Is America descending to second-rate status among the world’s leading countries? Pray for spiritual renewal first, then national healing.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord….” (Ps. 33:12)

“Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.” (Hos. 6:1)

 

OBAMA FORCING MILITARY TO MEASURE ARCTIC ICE LEVELS

Even as the U.S. military struggles to contain the Islamic State and deals with other terrorist threats across the globe, President Obama increasingly is recruiting the Pentagon to advance his sweeping climate change agenda.

Mr. Obama’s Defense Department calls global warming a true national security threat and has begun instituting a host of environmental measures, ranging from building clean energy projects at military installations to the use of expensive green fuels in planes.

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office highlighted yet another example — the commitment of U.S. military forces to monitor sea ice levels in the Arctic, with the administration arguing that decreasing ice could force the Pentagon to institute a “military and homeland security presence in the region.”

Critics charge the president is distracting the military from its true mission of protecting America by turning the Department of Defense into yet another weapon in his fight against climate change. But Mr. Obama has made no apologies for his environmental philosophy and has cast global warming as one of the top problems facing the Pentagon in the 21st century, a position many top Defense Department officials seem to agree with.

“I am here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act — and we need to act now,” the president told U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduates last month, laying out his vision for a military that focuses as much on climate change as it does on virtually any other threat.

Making the military greener is just one piece of Mr. Obama’s broader environmental agenda. In perhaps the most vital piece of the plan, the Environmental Protection Agency will, by the end of summer, release final carbon regulations for existing power plants — a proposal that will drive up electricity prices, government data show.

The White House on Monday tried once again to justify its climate change goals by unveiling a new report claiming tens of thousands of lives will be saved through carbon restrictions and other policies. The report comes as Republicans on Capitol Hill take aim at the EPA budget and look to restrict the president’s global warming agenda through funding cuts.

So far the administration has been undaunted by complaints from Congress, legal challenges, reports of economic harm from climate policies and other obstacles.

Even before the president warned graduating Coast Guard officers about climate change, the Pentagon last fall released the “Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap,” a sweeping document that said global warming will affect military weapons systems, maintenance plans, transportation routes, stormwater management facilities, drinking water resources and a host of other military components.

Meanwhile, American forces also are being used to conduct research into the effects of climate change.

A recent Government Accountability Office report examined the Defense Department’s role in the Arctic, which increasingly will include “monitoring the changing Arctic conditions,” such as ice levels.

The administration contends that changing ice levels in the Arctic could require additional U.S. military presence in the region, justifying the need for the Pentagon to commit significant time and resources to monitoring the effects of climate change.

“Difficulty in developing accurate sea ice models, variability in the Arctic’s climate, and the uncertain rate of activity in the region create challenges for DOD to balance the risk of having inadequate capabilities or insufficient capacity when required to operate in the region with the cost of making premature or unnecessary investments,” reads a portion of the study, which was released Friday. “DOD plans to mitigate this risk by monitoring the changing Arctic conditions to determine the appropriate timing for capability investments.”

Other examples of the military embracing Mr. Obama’s climate goals include the construction of a massive solar power project at Fort Benning, Georgia, and the Navy’s move toward a “green fleet” that is far less reliant on fossil fuels.

Opponents say the administration, under the guise of protecting the environment for future generations, is saddling the military with unnecessary work and potentially putting at risk U.S. national security.

“It’s kind of a sad commentary that the military is going along with it without any pushback. And it’s ridiculous that the secretary of the Navy is running around talking about the great ‘green fleet’ while the Chinese are basically building artificial islands in the Pacific so they can launch invasions against the Philippines, Japan and Korea,” said Michael McKenna, president of the lobbying firm MWR Strategies and a former Energy Department official. “Considering global warming as an important national security threat is just laughable.”

Many lawmakers on Capitol Hill have voiced similar criticism and say Mr. Obama is foolish to equate climate change with the Islamic State and other true threats to American interests.

“The president’s speech … is a severe disconnect from reality,” Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said last month after the president’s Coast Guard address.

But barring a major course correction by the next administration, the Pentagon will make climate change a central part of all future planning.

“Politics or ideology must not get in the way of sound planning,” then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wrote in the Pentagon’s climate road map. “By taking a proactive, flexible approach to assessment, analysis and adaptation, the Defense Department will keep pace with a changing climate.” (Contributor: By Ben Wolfgang for The Washington Times)

For prayer: What began as “global warming” became scandal-ridden with falsified data and unproven conclusions, so the issue evolved into “climate change.” As commander-in-chief of the military, President Obama’s focus on Arctic ice levels cannot be legitimately questioned, whether a wise use of resources or not. However, a future day of “heat” is coming to the Earth, promised in Scripture through Peter. Pray that mercy and repentance might precede that day, so many might be saved.

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:10-13)  

 

ZOMBIE CHARITIES PUSH POPULATION CONTROL

As a conservative, I don’t have much use for foreign aid, preferring to support private charitable efforts overseas. But when Washington politicians began to dole out huge sums of money several decades ago, existing nonprofits lined up for their share of the take.

Groups like CARE, Population Services International (PSI), and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) are still thought of as charities, but have less and less in common with America’s vibrant voluntary tradition. They are too busy administering population control programs for USAID.

Take CARE, for instance. Today’s CARE bears little resemblance to the food relief organization that was set up by Christians in the wake of World War II. CARE packages full of canned goods have been succeeded by “Sexual and Reproductive Health” (SRH) manuals and programs, which in practice means abortion, sterilization and contraception.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen to CARE itself: “Effective programming in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is a vital component of CARE’s work to reduce poverty and social injustice. and must be addressed to achieve sustainable reductions in poverty.”

Well, no. It is not at all clear that forcing birth rates down is the road to riches. The opposite is certainly true — Europe and Japan are dying precisely because higher living standards invariably result in lower birthrates — but CARE’s views reverse cause and effect.

Now you may agree or disagree with its new population control agenda, but it is undeniable that CARE doesn’t care in the same way it used to. Its foreign aid programs have become indistinguishable from those of its largest donor, the U.S. government. In fact, CARE receives about half of its annual budget, or $266 million, from the U.S. and other governments.

However low it has since sunk, CARE at least had an honorable beginning. The same cannot be said of so-called non-governmental organizations like Population Services International (PSI) that were, from the beginning, little more than government subcontractors.

Founded by a purveyor of sex toys, PSI initially received almost all of its funding from the U.S. government. There was, it seems, a natural fit between Phil Harvey’s porn business and USAID’s anti-population bomb agenda: Lots of sex and no babies. And of course there is the necessary back-up when contraception fails: PSI’s patented “Safe Abortion Kits.”

Even today, with revenues of 349 million in 2011, PSI continues to receive the lion’s share of its funding from USAID and European government agencies focused on population control. PSI would scarcely exist but for the vast infusions of government money that it receives on an annual basis.

PSI is, in effect, a mask worn by Western governments to avoid the unpleasantness that would ensue if U.S. officials themselves were to tell Africans or Latinos that they were having too many children. Better to let employees of a government-funded “charity” — possessing an incomprehensible acronym instead of a proper name — give them the bad news.

Finally, there are charities like Catholic Relief Services (CRS) who are still ostensibly trying to maintain their own identity in the face of what is essentially a hostile takeover by the government. At least that’s what organizations like Catholic Relief Services (CRS) would have us believe that it is doing.

But how Catholic can “Catholic” Relief Services be when over half of its funding comes from the federal government? This comes to several hundred million dollars a year.

And not as if this money comes with no strings attached. Say you apply for a grant from the U.S. government as a Catholic organization and thus want to preferentially hire Catholics, serve Catholics, and work through Catholic Church abroad.

“Sorry,” says the Obama administration. “That would be discrimination on the basis of religion. If you want a grant you have to hire all comers — including former Planned Parenthood employees and others who flout the teachings of the Church. Not only that, you can’t work through the Church overseas, you have to work around it.”

CRS‘ senior executives understand who’s paying their salaries, and it isn’t the ordinary pewsitter.

This dual loyalty means that the population control priorities of USAID sometimes win out, as when CRS was caught supervising the distribution of abortifacient contraceptives in Madagascar’s Santenet2 program. Or scandalizing Kenyan Catholics by promoting population control programs. All paid for by the U.S. taxpayer, of course.

I don’t know which is worse: Front organizations that were created by former USAID employees who engaged in the equivalent of insider trading by taking advantage of their knowledge and contacts to get huge new government grants. Or “real” charities, the majority founded by Christians, which have been baited by the lure of all that easy government money into vehicles for delivering population control programs into the bedrooms of the world’s poor.

Truth be told, I am less bothered by the first than the second. The first is a merely a manifestation of greed and opportunism, while the second marks a real perversion of purpose away from the noble intentions of their founders. (Contributor: By Steven W. Mosher for The Washington Times - Steven W. Mosher is president of the Virginia-based Population Research Institute, a charity that receives no government funding.)

For prayer: Such reports of charitable abuse can tempt even strong Christians to become cynical and demoralized; or, by God’s grace and a renewed infusion of spiritual vision, can help those who pray and give to press on with faith and confidence that God will ultimately judge with righteous judgment. Pray that Christian givers, seeking God’s wisdom, will discern where their financial gifts should go.

“We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.” (2 Cor. 8:20-21)

 “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” (Rom. 12:17 NIV)

 

NEW CHOLESTEROL DRUGS PROMISE TO REVOLUTIONIZE HEART CARE

A new class of heart medications could be a game-changer for many people with high cholesterol, providing an alternative to statin drugs and more effectively preventing heart attacks, a top cardiologist tells Newsmax Health.

“The approval of a new treatment for cholesterol is always exciting because it means that we have another tool in the cardiology tool chest,” said Chauncey Crandall, M.D., director of preventive medicine at the Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic. “These new drugs could help people who are at high risk for heart attack that we can’t help in any other way.”

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel this week recommended approval for two new drugs – alirocumab (Parluent) and evolocumab (Repatha). The FDA must still give final approval, but it rarely rules against its advisory committee.

The advisors made their recommendation based on short-term studies that showed the new drugs reduce LDL cholesterol, the so-called “bad” cholesterol, by up to 60 percent. It won’t be known if the drugs actually reduce heart attacks or death until the results of long-term studies are announced in 2017, although it is widely assumed they will.

The committee limited use of the drugs to people with inherited high cholesterol – an estimated 650,000 Americans. But these numbers could balloon by a million more if, as expected, people for whom statins don't work effectively are added along with those who cannot tolerate the older drugs' side effects.

Many people cannot take statins because the medications give them severe muscle pain.

Statin drugs lower cholesterol by suppressing its manufacture in the liver. The new drugs work differently. They mimick mutations in a gene, PCSK9, that blocks cholesterol production. Thus far, the studies have found no adverse side effects.

But the new drugs do have drawbacks, said Dr. Crandall. They must be injected every two weeks or monthly.

“Some people won’t like the idea of giving themselves shots, so that could be a turnoff,” he said. “But on the other hand, others may prefer a once-a-month shot to taking a pill every day.”

The new drugs are also likely to cost about $10,000 a year, which is far more expensive than statin therapy. “Unless these drugs prove to have a clear benefit in reducing heart attack and death, the government is unlikely to approve them as a first line treatment,” Dr. Crandall said. What's more, insurance companies may balk at paying for the drugs.

Even though the medications dramatically lower cholesterol, they should not be viewed as a “cure-all,” said Dr. Crandall. Most people can bring their cholesterol levels down to acceptable levels through lifestyle changes, without the need for statins or any other drug, he said.

“All of these drugs should be seen as a bridge to better health, not the answer to living a bad lifestyle,” said Dr. Crandall, author of the monthly newsletter, the Heart Health Report.

“The medications should be used to get you to target quickly so you can make changes – like losing weight, and getting more exercise and sleep – and then you lower your heart risk without the need for any drug.” (Contributor: By Charlotte Libov for News Max)

Prayer and Praise: If this medication is successful, it will be a welcome supplement. Christians know that in Jesus Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). And without disparaging the years of patient and painstaking research, we give primary thanks to God, knowing that all such advances come from divine grace, mercy, and wisdom to the research community. Pray that among the key scientists, many will acknowledge God.

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23)

 

‘FAIR AND FLAT’ CUTS TAXES FOR ALL

Rand Paul overnight changed the dynamics of the Republican presidential race on Thursday when he released his Fair and Flat Tax plan. As he said when he unveiled the plan on video: “this is the boldest rewrite of the income tax system in 100 years — and even Ronald Reagan — who dramatically improved the federal tax system — wasn’t proposing this sweeping a cleanup of the tax code.”

For full disclosure, I spent the last several months helping design this plan with Sen. Paul — so I’m biased. But there can be no doubt that a plan that reduces income tax rates from as high as 40 percent and business taxes from 35 percent down to a flat 14.5 percent rate can only be described as explosively pro-growth and pro-jobs. See chart.

The 14.5 percent tax would apply to wages, salaries, capital gains, rents, and dividend income. The plan eliminates the estate tax, telephone taxes, Internet taxes, gift taxes and all customs and duties.

This plan would take America from being one of the highest income tax rate nations in the world to the lowest. This would remove capital and jobs from the rest of the world almost immediately to these shores. America would move from a nation off-shoring jobs, to one that would start in-sourcing millions of them. It gives U.S. workers a fair advantage.

Under the current tax system, the IRS taxes what is produced in America and sold overseas. Under Rand’s plan, when goods are produced on these shores and sold abroad, no tax is applied. But when China brings goods into the United States for sale, a 14.5 percent tax at the border is applied. This will reward production and jobs here — big time. Industrial unions should love this plan because the business tax is a GATT-legal tariff on all imported goods.

For low income and middle class families of four, the first $50,000 of income would be tax free. Moreover, because this plan eliminates the payroll tax withheld from worker paychecks, the average worker would with a $40,000 income would get a $3,000 take home pay raise. At a time of falling wages, that would be a big boost to middle class financial security.

Perhaps the strongest case for the Fair and Flat Tax is that it eliminates all of the special interest loopholes and carve-outs in the tax code. Tax lobbyists in Washington would become an endangered species — and it couldn’t happen to a nicer group of people. The richest one percent get the preponderance of the tax write-offs, so getting rid of the big deductions, would increase their taxable income while lowering the rate.

This plan is the essence of a fundamental principle of good and fair tax policy: broad base and low rates. This means investment decisions will be based on rates of return, not on political calculations.

Opponents are saying this is a European-style value added tax. Wrong. In Europe, Vats were imposed in top of corrupt and high rate income tax structures. This plan is not an add-on tax, but a replacement consumption tax that will reduce, not add to the size of the welfare state.

Would this hike the deficit? The Tax Foundation says 2 million jobs would be added and the GDP would be 10 percent larger after a decade under this plan. This means in a decade the United States would have about $2.5 trillion a year more output, and the added jobs and income will add to tax collections. This is right out of the JFK and Ronald Reagan play book: grow the economy to increase revenues.

Some skeptics at The New York Times and elsewhere are complaining that the Flat and Fair Tax can’t work in practice. Consider the Hong Kong experiment. More than half a century ago Hong Kong adopted a 15 percent flat tax and has been a glittering model of prosperity and tax efficiency ever since. Hong Kong is now one of the wealthiest places on the globe thanks in part to low tax rates and tax simplicity.

So this is a tax plan that will add to American dynamism by lowering tax distortions and by reducing the role and size of government in our lives. The tax code is the power center in Washington and this plan shuts that down for good. That’s bad for K Street but very good for main street USA.

So Rand Paul has suddenly injected a tax policy game changer into the presidential debate. All the other candidates on the Republican side will have to alter their tax reform ambitions accordingly. Rand just hit the equivalent of a Stephen Curry three pointer from half court. No doubt the rest of the candidates are studying the Fair and Flat Tax and wondering: wow, why didn’t I think of that? (Contributor: By Stephen Moore for The Washington Times - Stephen Moore is a Fox News contributor and author of “Who’s the Fairest of Them All” (Encounter Books, 2014).)

For prayer: This article speaks for itself. It may not be enough to deliver a presidential nomination to Sen. Rand Paul, but a simplified tax plan for American wage earners is long overdue. The average citizen is overcome with taxes and an incomprehensible tax code. Congress has the authority to simplify things, but burgeoning federal government has a stranglehold. Pray for God’s mercy on our nation as some presidential candidates will try to outdo others with more “promises.”

“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and And the law of the Lord is with us’? Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood. The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; so what wisdom do they have?” (Jer. 8:8-9)

 

MSNBC REPORTER OVERCOME BY CHARLESTON CROWD GOSPEL

While covering the arraignment for Charleston shooting suspect, Dylann Roof, MSNBC reporter Thomas Roberts suddenly choked up as he described the inspirational scene before him at a vigil which took place at the same time.

Roberts seemed astounded as he reported how the shooting victims' family members had spoken one-by-one to the 21-year-old suspect, telling him they'd forgiven him for killing their loved ones.

"Can we look over here right now? I mean, it's kind of heartbreaking," said Roberts while choking up. "They're singing, and a whole flood of people showed up at the same time... that this arraignment was taking place."

Obviously very moved, Roberts began haltingly describing the crowd that had formed outside and had begun singing Gospel songs.

"...They're singing a Gospel song? ... and you heard from the family members ... of those who were lost.... You can see the outpouring of support for this community; it goes all the way down the street... I'm sorry...."

Unable to go on at one point, another MSNBC announcer took over, as Roberts just stared at the crowd, seemingly stunned.

Watch the YouTube video of his report, here. (Contributor: By Aimee Herd for Breaking Christian News)

For prayer and praise: This is a “give-thanks-to-God” article. Any who watched reporter Thomas Roberts’ genuine, unscripted emotional response to hearing a group of Charleston Christians singing hymns while admitted killer Dylann Roof was being arraigned, do not need further encouragement to give thanks. We do not know Mr. Roberts’ personal beliefs, but one could almost hear an echo of Jesus’ words to a wise seeker centuries ago, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

“Then one of the scribes came, and … asked Him, ‘Which is the first commandment of all?’ Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment. And the second … is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” … So the scribe said …, ‘Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’” (Mark 12:28-34)

 

PUTIN TELLS RUSSIANS THAT IT’S THEIR ‘HOLY DUTY’ TO BE PATRIOTIC

Russians bear a “holy duty” to be patriotic as the country commemorates the 74th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, President Vladimir Putin said.

“It’s our holy duty to be faithful to the great values of patriotism, to keep the memory of our fathers’ and grandfathers’ achievements, and to honor our veterans,” Putin said during a televised ceremony honoring cities for their sacrifices during the war.

The Chechen capital Grozny, Staraya Russa in the Novgorod region, the Leningrad region town of Gatchina, Karelia’s Petrozavodsk, and the Crimean port Feodosia were also named “Cities of Military Glory” in the Kremlin ceremony.

Putin, who also laid a wreath at Russia’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, has appealed to patriotism to rally support as the economy heads for its first recession since 2009. Sergei Ivanov, the Kremlin chief of staff, told reporters that he wasn’t surprised the European Union decided to extend sanctions on the war anniversary. (Contributor: By Stepan Kravchenko for Bloomberg News)

For prayer: We cannot fathom Mr. Putin’s concept of “holy” in his “holy duty” speech. And we would ask whether the “fathers’ and grandfathers’ achievements” include, in his mind, the mass starvation of Soviet citizens under Josef Stalin’s murderous regime. Nonetheless, we recognize that Mr. Putin, though lacking Gospel truth, is a human made in the image of God, and we can gladly and sincerely pray that God will call him to repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out…. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:37, 39-40)

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

 

A DISASTER FORETOLD — AND IGNORED

The seven young men sitting before some of Capitol Hill’s most powerful lawmakers weren’t graduate students or junior analysts from some think tank. No, Space Rogue, Kingpin, Mudge and the others were hackers who had come from the mysterious environs of cyberspace to deliver a terrifying warning to the world.

Your computers, they told the panel of senators in May 1998, are not safe — not the software, not the hardware, not the networks that link them together. The companies that build these things don’t care, the hackers continued, and they have no reason to care because failure costs them nothing. And the federal government has neither the skill nor the will to do anything about it.

“If you’re looking for computer security, then the Internet is not the place to be,” said Mudge, then 27 and looking like a biblical prophet with long brown hair flowing past his shoulders. The Internet itself, he added, could be taken down “by any of the seven individuals seated before you” with 30 minutes of well-choreographed keystrokes.

The senators — a bipartisan group including John Glenn, Joseph I. Lieberman and Fred D. Thompson — nodded gravely, making clear that they understood the gravity of the situation. “We’re going to have to do something about it,” Thompson said.

What happened instead was a tragedy of missed opportunity, and 17 years later the world is still paying the price in rampant insecurity.

The testimony from L0pht, as the hacker group called itself, was among the most audacious of a rising chorus of warnings delivered in the 1990s as the Internet was exploding in popularity, well on its way to becoming a potent global force for communication, commerce and criminality.

Hackers and other computer experts sounded alarms as the World Wide Web brought the transformative power of computer networking to the masses. This created a universe of risks for users and the critical real-world systems, such as power plants, rapidly going online as well.

Officials in Washington and throughout the world failed to forcefully address these problems as trouble spread across cyberspace, a vast new frontier of opportunity and lawlessness. Even today, many serious online intrusions exploit flaws in software first built in that era, such as Adobe Flash, Oracle’s Java and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

“We have the same security problems,” said Space Rogue, whose real name is Cris Thomas. “There’s a lot more money involved. There’s a lot more awareness. But the same problems are still there.”

L0pht, born of the bustling hacker scene in the Boston area, rose to prominence as a flood of new software was introducing such wonders as sound, animation and interactive games to the Web. This software, which required access to the core functions of each user’s computer, also gave hackers new opportunities to manipulate machines from afar.

Breaking into networked computers became so easy that the Internet, long the realm of idealistic scientists and hobbyists, gradually grew infested with the most pragmatic of professionals: crooks, scam artists, spies and cyberwarriors. They exploited computer bugs for profit or other gain while continually looking for new vulnerabilities.

Tech companies sometimes scrambled to fix problems — often after hackers or academic researchers revealed them publicly — but few companies were willing to undertake the costly overhauls necessary to make their systems significantly more secure against future attacks. Their profits depended on other factors, such as providing consumers new features, not warding off hackers.

“In the real world, people only invest money to solve real problems, as opposed to hypothetical ones,” said Dan S. Wallach, a Rice University computer science professor who has been studying online threats since the 1990s. “The thing that you’re selling is not security. The thing that you’re selling is something else.”

The result was a culture within the tech industry often derided as “patch and pray.” In other words, keep building, keep selling and send out fixes as necessary. If a system failed — causing lost data, stolen credit card numbers or time-consuming computer crashes — the burden fell not on giant, rich tech companies but on their customers.

The members of L0pht say they often experienced this cavalier attitude in their day jobs, where some toiled as humble programmers or salesmen at computer stores. When they reported bugs to software makers, company officials often asked: Does anybody else know about this? (Contributor: By Craig Timberg for The Washington Post)

For prayer: Pray God’s protection on our exposed citizens. An old axiom says those who fail to learn from the past will repeat its mistakes. No one knows the full damage to our country’s security through the cyberattacks that have stolen personal data from millions of Americans. We do know that our nation is weaker and more vulnerable. No government official has accepted responsibility. We can give thanks for God’s mercy, but we must pray for national spiritual restoration.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Ps. 127:1)

 

FASTING COULD HELP YOU LIVE LONGER

Fasting diets could help people to live longer as well as make them slimmer, according to new research.

A pilot study by American and Italian researchers shows that people put on a calorie-restricted diet for five days a month have more anti-ageing “regeneration” markers in their blood and fewer red flags of disease.

In a study of 37 healthy people, half ate a regular diet while the rest were put on a fasting-type diet for five days a month over three months -- consuming between 34 and 54 per cent of the calories in a normal diet.

Compared to regular eaters, those who fasted had fewer risk factors linked to ageing, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, without any negative effects on their health.

Researchers were prompted to do the human trial after an earlier study in mice found that a fasting-type diet improved metabolism and cognitive function, decreased bone loss and cancer incidence, and extended longevity.

Their findings, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, showed that mice put on a fasting diet for four days twice a month, produced more stem cells, while cells in their bone, muscles, liver and brain, as well as their immune cells, were regenerated.

It was the first time many of the regenerative effects had been shown in a short-term diet.

The mice lived longer, with less inflammatory diseases and cancer, improved learning and memory, and reduced bone loss.

Lead researcher Valter Longo from the University of Southern California, whose previous studies showed that fasting improved how cells resisted stress, said the mice were fed a diet low in protein and carbohydrates but high in healthy fats.

“This is arguably the first non-chronic anti-ageing and healthspan-promoting intervention shown to work and to be very feasible as a doctor or dietitian supervised intervention,” Dr Longo said.

But he said the pilot study was based on small numbers and the results needed to be replicated in a larger study.

The diet program would be tested in another 60-70 people ahead of a bigger trial of up to 1000. (Contributor: By Cathy O'Leary for The West Australian)

For prayer: Most Christians know they must not confuse health-related, dietary fasting with the spiritual discipline of fasting in accordance with God’s principles. While fasting for physical health has benefits for the body, fasting dedicated to the Lord to enhance the believer’s focus on prayer can bring about results far beyond what is immediately seen or felt. Study Isaiah 58 and pray accordingly.

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? … The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” (Isa. 58:6, 11)

[Jesus said:] “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matt. 6:16-18)

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The Informer July 8, 2015

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THE NEW WORLD MAP

Adolf Hitler started World War II by attacking Poland on September 1, 1939. Nazi Germany moved only after it had already remilitarized the Rhineland, absorbed Austria and dismantled Czechoslovakia. Before the outbreak of the war, Hitler's new Third Reich had created the largest German-speaking nation in European history.

Well before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Imperial Japanese government had redrawn the map of Asia and the Pacific. Japan had occupied or annexed Indochina, Korea, Manchuria and Taiwan, in addition to swaths of coastal China. Attacking Hawaii, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia was merely the logical 1941 follow-up to more than a decade of Japanese aggression.

Fascist Italy, by the outbreak of World War II in Europe, had already been remaking the map of the Mediterranean region in imitation of ancient Rome. Strongman Benito Mussolini had annexed what is now Ethiopia, Albania and most of Libya. He promised Italians that the Mediterranean would soon be mare nostrum, "our sea."

All of these hegemonies had arisen without triggering a global war. Had Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese just been satisfied and consolidated their winnings, there was no evidence that the tired Western democracies would ever have stopped them.

The contemporary world is starting to resemble the 1930s, and maps again must be redrawn.

The Islamic State plans to take Baghdad to make it the capital of a radical Sunni caliphate from what is left of Syria and Iraq.

Its enemy, theocratic Iran, is forging its own Shiite empire. Through its proxies, Iran now effectively runs much of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. When Tehran gets a nuclear bomb, it will urge on Shiite minorities to overthrow the Sunni monarchies in the rich, oil-exporting Persian Gulf nations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks he can reconstitute the empire of the czars and the later Soviet Union. American "reset" diplomacy green-lighted his annexation of the Crimea and his occupation of areas of Ukraine. Should Putin wish to absorb Estonia or other Baltic States, NATO probably would not stop him.

A terrified Eastern Europe, which not that long ago was part of the old Soviet Warsaw Pact, is already making the necessary political concessions in hopes that the unpredictable Putin leaves them alone.

China is vastly increasing its strategic air force and navy — and reminding its neighbors from South Korea to Australia of its new military clout. It has recently instigated various territorial disputes with Japan, Malaysia the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. As a clever way to control key sea lanes and oil-rich areas in the South China Sea, the Chinese are building new military bases by turning small coral reefs into islands of sand.

Is this 1939 or 2015?

Well before World War II, Great Britain and France allowed Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese to acquire what they pleased. The Western European democracies were terrified of confrontation and mired in economic crises. They had their own long-standing empires to worry about.

The United States — struggling with the Great Depression, squabbling over the New Deal, and bitter over its prior intervention in World War I and the failure to achieve European stability — also kept quiet.

Nothing much has changed 75 years later. Western Europe is terrified of Putin and mostly disarmed. The European Union is awash with debt.

Meanwhile, Japan rearms and is trying in vain to forge a common anti-Chinese front with the Philippines, Taiwan and South Korea.

As in the 1930s, an isolationist United States is again watching the new map unfold from the sidelines. President Obama assumes Americans are tired of the Middle East and want to be left alone. Afghanistan is a quagmire. Iraq collapsed once the administration pulled out all U.S. troops. The bombing of Libya proved a disaster.

In 1945, after some 60 million had perished in World War II, the Western democracies blamed themselves for having appeased and empowered fascist empires. That sadder but wiser generation taught us two lessons: Small sacrifices now can avoid catastrophic ones later on, and dictatorial regimes on a roll never voluntarily quit playing geostrategic poker.

If the present trajectories continue, a reconfigured Middle East will be bookended by radical Islamic empires — the Islamic State caliphate and a new Persian empire. China will control most of the Pacific and adjudicate trade, commerce and politics west of Hawaii and to the south and east of India. The client states of a new Russian empire will border central Europe and be under constant pressure to leave the EU, NATO or both.

How does all this end? One of two ways.

America and its allies can reawaken, gradually restore deterrence and re-establish the old postwar order without a global war.

Or the United States will not be bothered — at least until this new generation of dictators bothers us at home. (Contributor: By Victor Davis Hanson for The Washington Times and Town Hall)

For prayer: Christians often suffer the most when national boundary lines change due to religious oppression or forceful land acquisition. Such actions echo Jesus’ words about “wars and rumors of wars.” Yet, even amidst terrible suffering and unspeakable atrocities, substantiated reports tell us of thousands of Muslims turning to God, calling on the name of the Lord, and becoming followers of Christ. We see “signs of the times” everywhere. Pray for the suffering Church and new converts.

“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 there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Matt. 24:6-8)

Nevertheless [God] did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17)

 

HUD WAR AGAINST THE SUBURBS

An African-American millionaire can buy a home in any expensive suburb. Color is no longer a barrier. Despite this progress, President Obama’s Department of Housing and Urban Development is accusing expensive towns of racism, simply because most minorities can’t afford to live there.

Westchester County, N.Y., has struggled under a federal monitor since 2009 to compel the county to comply with HUD’s demands for multi-unit affordable housing in expensive areas [shades of Marxism]. Hillary Clinton claims to be a warrior against inequality. But her adopted hometown of Chappaqua, an upscale Westchester village that one resident describes as “a little piece of heaven,” is battling HUD’s demands.

The legal war in Hillary’s backyard is a preview. The Obama administration is pulling out all the stops to launch a legal and regulatory assault on suburbs nationwide. HUD’s soon-to-be-released regulation, in the works since 2013, will compel affluent suburbs to build more high-density, low-income housing, plus of course sewers, water lines, bus routes and other changes needed to support it. All in the name of housing “fairness.”

Mr. Obama’s social engineers will eliminate local zoning, such as one-acre minimum lots, to achieve what the HUD rule calls “inclusive communities.” Property values be damned.

If you’ve worked hard to afford a home in an affluent neighborhood of single-family houses, you have a lot to lose under this HUD plan.

The HUD rule twists the original and laudable intent of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which is to bar discrimination in renting, selling or financing housing. The new rule states that towns must “affirmatively further” diversity. If low-income minorities want to move to a town but can’t afford it, the town must “provide adequate support to make their choices viable.”

Whether the HUD plan goes forward will depend largely on how the Supreme Court rules in Texas Department of Housing v. The Inclusive Communities Project, a lawsuit brought to demand that public housing be located in wealthy Dallas suburbs. Before the end of June, the justices will decide whether Texas is guilty of racism simply for locating public housing in lower-income areas of Dallas, close to existing public transportation, rather than in costly areas. Activists claim that even without intent to discriminate the state is depriving poor minorities of the advantages of living in affluent neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are trying to halt HUD’s new plan by depriving it of funding. To do that, the House passed the Gosar Amendment, sponsored by Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, last Thursday but its success in the Senate is uncertain. Democratic members of Congress whose constituents live in some of the most expensive suburbs in the nation are nevertheless toeing the party line and supporting HUD.

HUD’s plan is frightening. Phase one will collect data on poverty, school testing scores, and public transit sites from every census division to spot towns that have too few poor residents. If your town is guilty, HUD regulators will charge racism and demand more public housing. Race is being cynically exploited here as a pretext to accomplish something different — economic integration.

The HUD plan is a power grab. Nothing in the U.S. Constitution empowers the federal government to do this. Zoning is a local government power.

HUD makes the silly argument that transplanting low-income minorities into suburbs will solve the causes of their poverty and “improve an individual or family’s life trajectory.” That ignores the factors stacked against poor kids. A family headed by a single mother is nearly five times as likely to live in poverty as a family headed by two parents, no matter where they live. Building wedding parlors on inner-city street corners and promoting two-parent families would do more to break the cycle of poverty than redesigning suburban America.

If the justices and Congress fail to stop HUD’s scheme, expect Hillary “Rodham Hood” Clinton to champion it (with a carve-out for Chappaqua, of course). HUD Secretary Julian Castro is even being mentioned as Clinton’s running mate. Short of taxing the rich to death, these inequality warriors would like nothing better than to prevent the rich from enjoying the suburbs, far from urban woes. (Contributor: By Betsy McCaughey for The Washington Times - Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.)

For prayer: Many loyal, patriotic citizens believe President Obama’s goals for America do not coincide with the ideals of the Constitution or free enterprise. While the Bible warns against pursuing riches, it does not condemn having wealth. This article is less about housing and more about redistribution of money. Government is to serve its citizens, not rule over them. When Americans are free to direct their spending, more money goes to charity, including to the Church and Christian missions.

“And [Jesus] said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this [coin]?’ They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’ And He said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’” (Matt. 22:20-21)

 

DROWNING THE FISH

American generosity is the marvel of the world. The open heart, accompanied by the open pocketbook, is the American way to relieve the pain and loss of disaster. It’s how a wealthy society can spread largesse to those struggling with survival.

Six of 10 American households give to charity. Americans gave $335.17 billion to charities in 2013. The largest source of charitable giving came from individuals at $241.32 billion, or 72 percent of the total, followed by foundations ($50.28 billion, 15 percent), bequests ($26.81 billion, 8 percent), and corporations ($16.76 billion, 5 percent). Americans obey the Biblical injunction to be their brothers’ keepers in hard times.

This vast amount of money has inevitably attracted parasites and spawned a welter of bureaucracy and professional aid administrators. Some are more conscientious than others. A danger is that the bureaucracy is self-perpetuating and looks first to feather its nest.

The American Red Cross has raised $500 million to relieve the misery of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. Haiti is one of the poorest countries anywhere, and an exhaustive investigation by National Public Radio and the activist group Pro Publica could not find where the Red Cross expenditures went.

Suspicion of Red Cross aid is not new. The Red Cross, as any reporter with experience covering fires, floods and storms would typically tell you, arrives to set up an impressive public-relations operation, issuing streams of press releases. The Salvation Army and the churches arrive with blankets, clothes, sandwiches, coffee and doughnuts.

David Meltzer, the chief Red Cross lawyer and head of its international division, cites his charity’s aid during a cholera outbreak when the Haitian government was in “disarray,” which it usually is. The Red Cross nevertheless declines to provide a list of specific programs it ran, how much they cost and how much the charity spent on “administration.”

The Red Cross gave much of the money it collected to other groups to do the hands-on work, after first taking its customary administrative cut. The charities that received the money took their own fees as well. According to NPR-Pro Publica, the Red Cross collected an additional cut for what it calls the “program costs incurred in managing” these third-party projects. In one program reviewed by NPR-ProPublica, these costs ate up a third of the money that was intended to help impoverished Haitians. There is no dearth of highly polished pamphlets describing programs that function only to feed the bureaucracy.

A press conference in the capital of Port-au-Prince early this month, called by the Red Cross to answer charges in the NPR-Pro Publica investigation, descended into mostly noise. The Red Cross spokesman, Walker Dauphin, says the NPR-Pro Publica account had “misleading allegations” and that “in total, more than a hundred projects were implemented.” But Haiti’s most prominent newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, published an account of the press conference under the headline, “When the Red Cross drowns the fish.”

Rep. Rick Nolan of Minnesota, a Democrat, has called for the House oversight committee to look further into the Red Cross program in Haiti. That certainly seems appropriate. But given the growing list of national and international disasters to which American charity is devoted, something more is in order. More government regulation — especially given the scandalous way the Internal Revenue Service has ruled on the tax deductibility of charitable contributions — is clearly not the answer.

The major national and international charities themselves must set up the means to regulate themselves, to avoid further exploitation of American cash and good will, and to save the fish. (Contributor: By The Washington Times editorial team)

Prayer and Praise: Give thanks for America’s largesse of heart in leading worldwide giving to national and international emergencies and disasters. Much of this comes from hearts of faith informed by biblical instruction. As with all good causes, those with selfish motives can infiltrate, and some organizations are simply not run efficiently. Pray for those like The Salvation Army, Samaritan’s Purse, and others, where practical help is accompanied by a clear Christian witness.

[Paul to the Ephesian elders:] “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)

“He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.” (Prov. 19:17)

 

WHEN GOVERNMENT BURSTS ITS RESTRAINTS

America has reversed direction from its origin of limited government and unlimited economy. Today, America is increasingly defined by an expanding government and a retreating economy. The question now is: When we will recognize this reversal?

America’s original perspective on government and the economy came from our Colonial past. Confronted with what they perceived as unlimited government — in the form of Colonial executive power and their exclusion from legislative power in the British Parliament — the Founders created a very limited government in the Constitution.

James Madison in Federalist No. 45 summed up the approach to government: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined.” The federal government was to be held in check internally by its three branches and externally by the Constitution on one side, and the state governments on the other.

Contrasting with this very narrow view of federal power was an expansive vision of economic power. Again, it originated in America’s Colonial past. As a colony, America’s economy could be thoroughly controlled by the British government. It was intended to be a producer of raw materials and a market for British manufacturing. Ultimately, the increasing regulation of the Colonial economy — as much as the British government’s increasing encroachment — separated Colonial America from its British parent.

The Constitution is as notable for its lack of economic control over the young country as its intended restraint of the new federal government.

Taxes were minimal, with the government financed almost completely by tariffs and land sales. When the government tried to intervene economically, it failed spectacularly. The C&O Canal, championed by the early government, was replaced by the railroad even before its completion. And the federal capital, Washington, D.C., was a sleepy backwater town compared to the many new cities that arose from the nation’s burgeoning economic growth.

America’s model of limited government and unlimited economy prevailed until the 20th century. It was occasionally interrupted — even seriously by World War I — but would resume. However, with the Depression and World War II in quick succession, the altered relationship between government and economy did not fully revert. Both America’s government and its economy had begun the migration from their opposite poles.

The federal budget demonstrates how far government has traveled from its original limited form. In 1930, with the country just entering what would become the Great Depression, the federal government spent just 3.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). In 2014, the last full fiscal year, the federal government spent 20.3 percent of GDP. Federal outlays are simply the most quantifiable area of the government’s reach, but that reach has also greatly expanded in the areas of taxation and regulation.

Arthur Laffer provided a glimpse of increasing government’s effect four decades ago. Looking just at taxation, he described the diminishing returns from increasing rates of taxation in the now famous Laffer Curve.

Simply looking at the old Soviet system, we intuitively understand Laffer’s Curve. In that case, under a system of state ownership of the means of production, the effective tax rate was 100 percent. The resulting economic sclerosis would lead to the USSR’s collapse within just three generations.

Why would not the Laffer Curve also pertain on a government-wide scale that includes regulation, spending and borrowing, as well as taxes? Why, as government becomes less limited and these areas of its economic impact increase, would there not come a point of negative effect?

As unquestionably limited as the federal government was at its origin, it is equally undeniable that its limits have been eroding. At the same time, it is equally clear that what was once a robust economy has been anything but — not just since the Great Recession, but before it as well.

If we cannot agree as a nation that an growing government has had a role in our shrinking economy, then current circumstances should at least prompt this discussion. How far and for how long must government expand before it has a negative economic impact?

For those who deny the principle behind the question, it is wise to remember that in no other area of the economy does the law of diminishing returns not prevail. Are we to believe that government’s impact on the economy is the sole exception? If it is not an exception, at what point does this diminution occur? And finally, has America already begun to feel its effect in practice?

Where once there was a limited government and unlimited economy, today there is a comparatively unlimited government and a limited economy. Following this progression, at what point do we begin to seriously measure, regulate and mitigate the impact of government’s increasingly destructive impact upon the economy? (Contributor: By J.T. Young for The Washington Times - J.T. Young served in the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004 and as a congressional staff member from 1987 to 2000.)

For prayer: In summary, this article asks, “Can an out-of-control government be restored to the original intentions of the Founders?” No one knows the answer. At present, the government consumes, and the economy is being consumed. Obviously, there is an endpoint at which both government and economy implode (note the situation in Greece). Many feel the only solution is a country reawakened by transforming revival. We ask intercessors to pray in unity to that end.

“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.” (1 Tim. 2:1-4)

“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 10:45)

 

MD DJ REFUSES TO WORK A BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR A GAY MAN

First there was the New Mexico wedding photographer. Then there was the Indiana pizza maker. Now there is the Maryland disc jockey.

The national debate about how to balance religious conscience protections and gay equality flared in the large, mostly liberal Washington, D.C., suburb of Montgomery County Friday, when Dani Tsakounis tried to help her brother hire Ultrasound Deejays for a party. An owner of the business told Tsakounis he would not provide the DJ because Tsakounis’s brother, a Silver Spring therapist, is married to another man and the birthday party they are hosting is for their 60-year-old roommate, who is also gay.

“I just said, ‘We won’t be able to do it, we’re a Christian organization and it would go against our faith, I’m sorry,’” Michael Lampiris, co-owner of Ultrasound Deejays, said Friday.

Tom Tsakounis, 46, was so upset when his sister told him that he posted the news on his neighborhood listserv, prompting calls of sympathy from neighbors. He also registered a complaint with the Montgomery County Human Rights Commission, which hears cases of alleged discrimination.

Maryland state law has banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodation — which includes businesses “offering goods, services, entertainment” the law says — since 2001. But the question of whether such laws infringe on the rights of religious conservatives, however, has received increased attention as more gay equality advocates have stepped up to file complaints and religious conservatives have argued that their conscience rights are being violated.

In this case, both Lampiris and Tsakounis were surprised the issue erupted – but for different reasons.

Tom Tsakounis said he had never been denied services in his life because he is gay and was floored to see it happen in Montgomery County – a liberal suburb where he has lived for 15 years. Lampiris, 54, has been living in the county for 30 years and said he had never heard of the law forbidding such discrimination.

Ultrasound Deejays, which he founded in the 1980s with his brother, has a written company policy stating “we will not be involved in any event involving homosexual celebration or activity. We follow biblical morality.”

The company policy states that they are a “family friendly” firm and won’t play vulgar music, tolerate provocative dancing or be involved with strippers, “fortune tellers, psychics, or magicians.”

“We will always try to provide a bright, entertaining, wholesome and fun deejay style where no one is left out,” the site says. “Let us work together to keep America clean and good!”

Hearing his sister tell what happened, Tsakounis said, and reading the Ultrasound policy “made me feel like I got hit in the stomach. You feel like: ‘C’mon, in my neighborhood?’ But: Wow, yes — in my neighborhood.”

Lampiris sounded unconcerned about a possible legal challenge. Their firm, which has at times had a roster of 40 DJ-contractors, has turned down other events, he said, such as when a teacher wouldn’t promise to work to stop raunchy dancing among students, or when he found out a bridal party included several lesbians.

Dani Tsakounis and Lampiris characterized their conversation the same way: Friendly at the start, with Lampiris telling her he could send a DJ and then asking for a few more details in order to find a good match of a DJ. Once she told him it was a 60th, Lampiris joked that she sounded too young to have a peer who was 60 — was this her father? That led to her describing that the man having the birthday was a long-ago partner of her brother, who was now married to another man. The three now live in the same house.

“I said: ‘Are they together in a union?’ And she said ‘Yes.’ It took me back and I said: ‘I don’t know if anyone would want to do it, I just don’t know,'” Lampiris recalled saying. Then he told Tsakounis his objection was religious. “She said ‘Forget it,’ and hung up.”

In this case, Lampiris said he had never heard of a related law, “but it’s important for us to make a stand. We don’t want to go against the law, but we also sometimes are called to do that if it goes against your faith. To me it would be like a synagogue having to cater to a neo-Nazi party or black DJ having to do a KKK dance,” he said. Gay clients don’t pose a “physical threat – it’s a conscience thing, and conscience is very important for everybody. In fact, I think it’s the most important thing.”

Jer Welter, managing attorney of FreeState Legal, which provides legal advocacy for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Maryland, said several dozen cases like this come into county and state civil rights offices each year and are mostly resolved through mediation. Some have been litigated, he said. Most cases of discrimination never get filed as complaints, he said.

However U.S. courts are still hashing out a balance between religious conscience protections and protection from discrimination. One legal expert who specializes in religious liberty, but didn’t want to speak by name about the DJ case without knowing more details, said courts have looked at questions such as: What are a business’ general policies and culture? What kind of specific activity were they asked to engage in? For example, the attorney said, there might be a difference between simply refusing to serve a gay couple and refusing to work at an event that is centered on “celebrating homosexuality.”

He noted that in April a Kentucky Circuit Court ruled that a Christian T-shirt maker had the right to refuse to make gay pride festival shirts.

What will happen next wasn’t clear. Efforts to reach the state and county civil rights offices late Friday were not successful.

Tsakounis said his sister and other friends were trying to help him and his husband find another DJ for the party for their friend– who is Tom’s long-ago boyfriend and now their roommate. They had never considered any potential discrimination issue and the space booked for the party, which is in August, is the Knights of Columbus Hall, which is a Catholic Church-affiliated building, he said.

After the Friday incident with Lampiris, Tsakounis said he left a voicemail with the Knights.

“Now I’m really nervous. What if they say no? My sister said, ‘I’d never walk into a Knights of Columbus hall and say: I’m straight, I’m having a straight party.’ We just haven’t had to think about these things.”

Lampiris said he hopes the issue won’t become a standoff in any way. But if it did, “we would make a stand if the good Lord is willing,” he said, citing the New Testament book of Acts: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Contributor: By Michelle Boorstein for The Washington Post - Washington Post researcher Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.)

Intercessors know how to pray in this situation. We have been here several times before, though names and faces change. Our prayer is that a homosexual person or couple can hear and accept the straight person’s concerns and convictions and simply seek another vendor. The demand to seek agreement and compliance is neither honest nor fair. Please pray as you are led, not forgetting the obvious larger issues.

“But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’” (Acts 5:29) 

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.’” (Dan. 3:16-18)

 

ARMY REFUSES TO PROVIDE HONOR GUARD FOR CHURCH'S JULY 4TH

For nearly two decades, the U.S. Army has provided an honor guard for an Independence Day celebration at a Baptist church that predates the founding of the nation. But this year – that tradition has come to an end.

Officials at Fort Gordon say they will not be able to send an honor guard to a July 5th service at Abilene Baptist Church because it violates a military policy banning any involvement in a religious service.

“While there are conditions under which the Army can participate in events conducted at a house of worship, we cannot participate in the context of a religious service,” Public Affairs Officer J.C. Mathews told me.

He said officials at Fort Gordon as well as the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate reviewed the church’s request and determined they were in fact holding a “religious service.”

So it’s OK to invite the troops so long as you don’t pray, talk about Jesus or read the Bible?

“As a result, the Army is not permitted to take part,” Mathews said.

That policy would be an offense to most churches in America – but it is especially offensive when you consider the Army just refused to provide an honor guard for a church whose first pastor was a chaplain in the Revolutionary Army.

Abilene Baptist Church was founded in 1774 – one of Georgia’s most historic churches and the second oldest in the state. The founding pastor was arrested by a colonial magistrate for “preaching in Georgia” and the first pastor, Reverend Loveless Savage, was a chaplain in the Revolutionary Army.

“It was an absolute shock,” said Brad Whitt, the current pastor of Abilene Baptist Church. “What a sad commentary on the state of affairs in America – when we cannot even allow the flags to fly if they are in a church building.”

“We’ve had a tremendous working relationship with the fort,” he told me. “We’ve hosted all sorts of events for military families. We really try to show our love and respect and we try to honor our military folks.”

The July 5th church service is scheduled to be a “God and Country”-themed celebration with patriotic music and lots of red, white and blue. Afterwards, the church is hosting a Sunday picnic – complete with hot dogs and hamburgers. And for the sake of full disclosure, I’ve been invited to speak at the church service – as well as eat a hamburger afterwards.

Pastor Whitt said they were genuinely confused by the Army’s slight – seeing how Fort Gordon has been providing an honor guard for the past 20 years.

“They have participated for the past two decades and now they are saying – no,” he said. “This is just another example of the secularization of America.”

The church sent me photographs of the honor guard on the main platform of the church in 2007 and 2010. Last year, the church held their service in a local park – and once again – the military sent an honor guard.

So what changed?

Fort Gordon’s Public Affairs Office pointed me to Army Regulation 360-1 – dated May 2011.

The lengthy regulation states Army participation must not selectively benefit (or appear to benefit) any religious group. It also mandates that Army Public Affairs not support any event involving the promotion, endorsement or sponsorship of a religious movement.

According to public affairs, the 2007 church service was designated by the military as a “non-sectarian musical and patriotic program.”

According to the military’s calculations, 80 percent of the program was musical and the other 20 percent included narration and other patriotic elements.

“Because this was not a religious service, our participation was permitted,” he said.

He said the key is not whether the event is sponsored by a religious organization or held in a house of worship.

“Instead, the key factor is, whether or not the event is an actual religious service,” Mathews said.

So it’s okay to invite the troops so long as you don’t pray, talk about Jesus or read the Bible?

“That’s what makes this so sad,” Pastor Whitt told me. “This is what we’ve come to in our nation – where even just representing the colors is some sort of political thing.”

While the Pentagon won’t allow an honor guard to set foot in a church, they have no problem allowing them to march in a gay pride parade.

Last year the Department of Defense gave permission for an honor guard to participate in Washington, D.C.’s gay pride parade – a historic first. An honor guard is also expected to march in the 2015 Capital Pride parade.

So if a military honor guard can celebrate gay pride in a public parade, why can’t they celebrate American pride inside a Baptist church? (Contributor: By Todd Starnes for Fox News - Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is "God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values." )

For prayer: Christians must pray and prepare for far worse than this social insult. Our nation is officially post-Christian. The next step is “anti-Christian.” Leaders willing to tell the truth are alerting Christ’s followers to prepare for more. Our Lord said that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against [His church].” He also said that the path of those who chose to follow Him would not be exempt from suffering and that believers should be prepared to die if identified with Him.

“Jesus answered [Pilate, saying], ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’” (John 18:36)

“‘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)

 

UK'S PAT CONDELL WARNS AMERICA IS LOSING FREE SPEECH

British atheist writer and comedian Pat Condell's latest YouTube video targets American progressives who seek to sabotage the First Amendment in a desire to criminalize speech they deem offensive.

Watch Video: <Click Here!>

With his tongue planted firmly in cheek, Condell delivers a scathing, though humorous, rebuke of Americans who are sitting on the sidelines watching their fundamental birthright being purged before their very eyes in the name of progress. His British perspective is unique as he admits his home country has long since bullied the right to free speech out of its citizens.

"The progressive tide is coming in, America, and it's looking irreversible," he warns. "Not least because the next generation is being carefully programmed right now by a progressive educational establishment to hold the First Amendment and all it represents in morally superior contempt."

Though many of his videos are blows against liberal government, a great bulk of Condell's offerings have targeted Islam and religion in general, including Christianity. Many have been offended by Condell's words and many have leveled threats. Yet, Condell continues to exercise what little freedom he has left via these mini-episodes of free speech with a perspective perhaps only one from across the pond could truly understand. That is perhaps why his warning to America is so imperative:

You see, what you need to understand, America, is that feelings are the new truth, and truth is the new blasphemy in this brave new progressive world of ours. (I'm sorry, did I say brave? I meant cowardly, of course.)

To this mentality, the First Amendment isn't simply an inconvenience, or an obstacle to be overcome. It's a crime against humanity.

So the days of that pesky, troublesome First Amendment are clearly numbered, folks. And when you think of all the trouble it has caused, you can't say that's a bad thing. Well, you can now, obviously, but not for long. (Contributor: Trey Sanchez for Truth Revolt)

For prayer: In light of many assaults our own government and other anti-Christian forces wage against free speech and other aspects of religious liberty, the weapons to counter such attacks are not physical but spiritual. Christians may intercede with fasting, offer a strong biblical witness, seek redress in court, and peacefully resist. After that, if we do not prevail, we must accept the penalty and suffering meted out—and we must forgive our persecutors. Nothing more. Let’s pray accordingly.

“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Phil. 1:29)

 “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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The Informer June 10, 2015

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IRS TO PAY BACK-REFUNDS TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS

Commissioner John Koskinen told Congress on Wednesday that even illegal immigrants who didn’t pay taxes will be able to claim back-refunds once they get Social Security numbers under President Obama’s temporary deportation amnesty.

The revelation — which contradicts what he told Congress last week — comes as lawmakers also raised concerns Mr. Obama’s amnesty could open a window to illegal immigrants finding ways to vote, despite it being against the law.

“While we may disagree about whether your deferred action programs were lawfully created and implemented, we are confident that we can all agree that these programs cannot be permitted to impair the integrity of our elections,” Republican members of Congress from Ohio wrote in a letter to Mr. Obama Wednesday, ahead of a hearing on the issue in the House on Thursday.

Mr. Obama’s new deportation policies, which carve most illegal immigrants out of danger of being removed, and could proactively grant as many as 4 million illegal immigrants work permits and Social Security numbers, are increasingly under fire for ancillary consequences such as tax credits and competition for jobs.

Mr. Koskinen, testifying to the House oversight committee, said the White House never asked him or anyone else at the IRS about the potential tax effects of his amnesty policy.

“I haven’t talked to the White House about this at all,” he said.

He also clarified his testimony to the Senate last week, where he acknowledged illegal immigrants who had paid taxes using substitute Social Security numbers but who gain real Social Security numbers when they are approved for the amnesty can apply for back-refunds of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

On Wednesday, he said even illegal immigrants who didn’t pay taxes will be able to apply for back-credits once they get Social Security numbers.

The EITC is a refundable tax credit, which means those who don’t have any tax liability can still get money back from the government.

“Under the new program, if you get a Social Security number and you work, you’ll be eligible to apply for the Earned Income Tax Credit,” Mr. Koskinen said.

He said that would apply even “if you did not file” taxes, as long as the illegal immigrant could demonstrate having worked off-the-books during those years.

That expands the universe of people eligible for the tax credit by millions. He said only about 700,000 illegal immigrants currently work and pay taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, but as many as 4 million illegal immigrants could get a stay of deportation and work permits under the temporary amnesty, which would mean they would be eligible to claim back-refunds if they worked those years.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, the South Carolina Republican who grilled Mr. Koskinen on the tax credits, said he was stunned the White House never checked with the IRS on the tax implications of its move.

“That’s just outrageous,” he said. “If Congress had passed a law doing exactly what the president did, we would have had not only an estimate of the costs, but we would have also been required to propose ways to pay for the programs. This is just another example of the administration operating outside the rule of law.”

Mr. Koskinen said he didn’t know how much money the tax refunds would cost, and said the White House never checked with him before announcing the amnesty. He said the maximum annual credit is between $500 and $600 for an individual.

Meanwhile, the concerns over voting are beginning to bubble up.

Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, will hold a hearing on the issue Thursday.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who has told Mr. Obama that illegal immigrants could find ways to vote thanks to his policy, is slated to testify. (Contributor: By Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times)

Prayer focus: Serious friction exists among the branches of U.S. government. Partisan public debate is not uncommon and may be healthy and in order. Note the direct comment in this article over the inexplicable IRS fiasco, as Representative Mick Mulvaney (R–SC) said, “That’s just outrageous … another example of the administration [i.e., Pres. Obama] operating outside the rule of law.” The charge is very serious. Intercede for a renewal of national unity that can only come through revival in the Church and a national return to God. Let us all seek the Lord for a spiritual awakening.

“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)

“But [Jesus], knowing their thoughts, said to them: ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls.’” (Luke 11:17)

 

OBAMA SECRETLY BACKING MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD

President Obama and his administration continue to support the global Islamist militant group known the Muslim Brotherhood. A White House strategy document regards the group as a moderate alternative to more violent Islamist groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

The policy of backing the Muslim Brotherhood is outlined in a secret directive called Presidential Study Directive-11, or PSD-11. The directive was produced in 2011 and outlines administration support for political reform in the Middle East and North Africa, according to officials familiar with the classified study.

Efforts to force the administration to release the directive or portions of it under the Freedom of Information Act have been unsuccessful.

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan declined to comment on PSD-11. “We have nothing for you on this,” she said.

The directive outlines why the administration has chosen the Muslim Brotherhood, which last year was labeled a terrorist organization by the governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates as a key vehicle of U.S. backing for so-called political reform in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia in recent months appears to be moderating its opposition to the Brotherhood in a bid to gain more regional support against pro-Iran rebels in Yemen.

The UAE government also has labeled two U.S. affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim American Society, as terrorist support groups. Both groups denied the UAE claims. Egypt is considering imposing a death sentence on Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed former president who was ousted in military coup in July 2013.

Critics of the administration’s strategy say the Brotherhood masks its goals and objectives despite advocating an extremist ideology similar to those espoused by al Qaeda and the Islamic State, but with less violence. The group’s motto includes the phrase “jihad is our way.” Jihad means holy war and is the Islamist battle cry.

Counterterrorism analyst Patrick Poole said the Brotherhood in recent weeks has stepped up its use of violent attacks in Egypt.

“The failed Obama Doctrine that so-called ‘moderate Islamists’ were going to usher in a glorious era of peace and democracy in the Middle East was adopted by the administration because that’s what the foreign policy establishment going back to the George W. Bush administration proclaimed as gospel,” Mr. Poole said.

“And now we see as a result Egypt fighting a terror campaign by the ‘moderate’ Muslim Brotherhood; we have a failed state in Libya; and we see NATO ally Turkey turning from secular democracy to religious totalitarianism under Obama’s pal [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan.

“This dangerous foreign policy was launched by PSD-11 and the administration’s open embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood, and now we can see its catastrophic effect,” Mr. Poole added.

Frank Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy, extensively documented Muslim Brotherhood subversion efforts, both in the United States and abroad.

Mr. Gaffney has said the Muslim Brotherhood is the most dangerous group promoting the totalitarian and Islamist supremacist doctrine of Shariah. Several Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been identified as key advisers to Mr. Obama, according to Mr. Gaffney.

Egyptian press reports after the ouster of Mr. Morsi have revealed extensive cooperation between the CIA and the Muslim Brotherhood during Mr. Morsi’s presidency. (Contributor: By Bill Gertz for The Washington Times - Staff writer Rowan Scarborough contributed to this column.)

Prayer focus: No added commentary is needed here. The integrity of Bill Gertz’s work as a veteran news researcher and reporter in Washington, D.C. is beyond reproach, and Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy has a similar reputation. Pray for truth to be revealed and all secret deals that might harm our country to be exposed. Ask God for His mercy to turn America back to Himself.

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

“Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If you, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.” (Ps. 130:1-4)

 

THE WELFARE STATE KEEPS GROWING

America’s welfare state keeps growing because Congress allows bureaucrats to expand programs, immune from accountability to voters.

A fresh example is the proposal to give free Internet service to tens of millions of people, to be granted by the five nonelected commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission. All were appointed by President Obama. Chairman Tom Wheeler announced his intent for the expansion; he likely expects to steamroller the FCC’s two Republican members again, just as he did in the fight over so-called net neutrality.

Millions of people already get free phones through a fraud-ridden FCC program infamously nicknamed “Obamaphones.” The correct title is “Lifeline.” Expanding this to the Internet (or should it be “Obamanet?”) could add tens of millions of people, according to FCC’s loose eligibility criteria.

The cost would be borne by the rest of us through surcharges on our cellphones, landlines and business lines. Amounts vary; $12 a year per phone line is typical. The U.S. has 700 million to 800 million phone numbers in use, so even small charges add up to big bucks.

But this “universal service” charge is collected in a sneaky Obamacare-style manner that hides the cost to consumers. The FCC labels it a “contribution” and not a tax, assessing it in a way to protect elected officials from accountability.

By letting the FCC do the dirty work, Congress avoids the accountability that other elected officials must face when they cast votes on taxes and fees for services such as water, sewer and trash collection. The FCC simply calculates how much it wants to spend on the service and notifies telephone service providers about how much of a “contribution” is required.

Phone companies typically pass along the charges to consumers and businesses. Telecom companies often line-item a universal service fee on customers’ bills, but the additional cost sometimes is rolled into the overall bill for services or for long-distance charges.

How big is the program now, and how big might it soon become?

According to an audit by the Government Accountability Office, “In 2014, over 12 million households participated in Lifeline, up from about 7 million in 2008. At its peak enrollment in 2012, Lifeline served about 18 million households.”

The growth coincided with Obama administration policies and the 2012 elections. The subsequent decline coincided with audits showing massive fraud, duplicate accounts and ineligibility in giving away the Obamaphones.

The Lifeline program began during the Reagan presidency, expanded some in the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton years, but exploded under Mr. Obama.

Phone carriers are supposed to verify eligibility of applicants, then apply to the FCC for reimbursement. The GAO notes, “Lifeline is unlike any other federal low-income support program in outsourcing eligibility verification.” That is significant because over 80 federal programs give away public assistance benefits. Collectively, these 80-plus programs constitute our welfare state.

Those who qualify for one benefit often get other benefits automatically. The FCC criteria say that households automatically get free phones if they are receiving certain other benefits. Those same guidelines would determine who would be eligible for free or partially free Internet service.

Eligible individuals would include the 70 million people covered by Medicaid, 21 million people on SSI disability, the 48 million Americans on food stamps, plus several million more who get housing subsidies or free school lunches. Plus anyone at 135 percent of the official poverty level. (In calculating income, government benefits that lift people above that threshold are disregarded.) That massive eligibility covers tens of millions of people.

The silver lining is that not everyone applies. The dark cloud is that multiple liberal advocacy groups actively promote the giveaways and push to expand participation. Their websites include FreeGovernmentCellPhones.net, CheapInternet.com, and, of course, Obamaphone.com.

Those advocacy groups recognize that the more people become dependent on government, the more they vote for Democrats. But the buzzwords they use are that we must close the “digital divide” between those who have Internet service and those who do not. Their remedy is to perpetuate a national divide between those who give and those who receive.

How long will the givers have these surcharges on their phone bills? If not forever, it will be close to it.

We once had another tax that added 3 percent to all telephone bills. It was created to pay for the Spanish-American War, which lasted only 3 months in 1898. Congress took 108 years — until 2006 — to end that tax. The universal service tax is 30 years old, but Mr. Obama’s FCC intends to keep that tax alive and well forever. (Contributor: By Ernest Istook for The Washington Times - Former Rep. Ernest Istook is founder and president of Americans for Less Regulation (www.AmericansForLessRegulation.com). Subscribe to his free email newsletter at: eepurl.com/JPojD.)

Prayer focus: For many years, phone bills have been a convenient vehicle for government, at various levels, to add small increments of tax for various “causes.” Often, this has been unnoticed, and usually unchallenged. Although these unaccountable tax increases are irritating, they are merely “skirmishes,” not the real battle. We encourage intercessors to pace themselves, to see the bigger picture, and to follow King David’s example when he “strengthened himself in the Lord.” As we intercede faithfully, God will bring justice in His timing.

Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened [encouraged] himself in the Lord his God.” (1 Sam. 30:6)

“Then [Jesus] spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart…” (Luke 18:1)

 

ALCOHOLISM SPIKES

Alcohol problems affect almost 33 million adults and most have never sought treatment. That's according to a government survey indicating that rates have increased in recent years.

It's the first national estimate based on a new definition of "alcohol use disorders" in a widely used psychiatric handbook that was updated two years ago. Fourteen percent of adults are affected.

The new definition combines alcohol abuse and dependence, which had been two separate disorders. It adds craving as one symptom and eliminates alcohol-related legal problems as another. Problem drinkers have at least two of 11 symptoms, including drinking that harms performance at work, school or home and frequent hangovers. (Contributor: By Lindsey Tanner for Associated Press and US News - The study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.)

Prayer focus: Some of the statistical increase in alcohol abuse is among veterans who, many times, come home from fields of battle without receiving the medical and emotional support they need and deserve. Here is a potential door of ministry for the Church to reach out in love and non-judgmental ministry. Pray that people addicted to alcohol and drugs will find help, support, and freedom in Christ.

“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them.” (Ps. 145:18-19)

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

 

EVEN NON-CHRISTIANS BENEFIT FROM ITS VIRTUES

While America was undoubtedly founded upon a bedrock of religious freedom, it is equally true that the Christian faith has been probably the greatest contributor to the social fabric of this country.

Even as the country seems to drift away from Christian values, there are still far more people in church on Sunday than at the football stadium. Despite the fact that gay marriage and out-of-wedlock births have become more prevalent, the overwhelming majority of Americans continue to celebrate the Christian holidays. In fact, the reason why many homosexuals seem to have fought for the right to marry is not because they merely want the same social benefits and legal rights as heterosexual married couples, but they also crave the spiritual and communal benefits bestowed upon marriage by the Christian faith.

The debate over whether one can be both a practicing homosexual and a devout Christian has been waged from the pulpits and in the media very intensely over the years. Many Christians see such practices as homosexuality, abortion and sex outside of marriage as sinful and something that Christian values militate against. Many homosexuals in the church feel that God loves sinners, for who is without sin at all?

At the end of the day, Christian values still matter because even those among us who are not Christian rely upon the Christian values among the rest of us, on Christian kindness, patience, charity and chastity. For it is those values that create spaces, whether in soup kitchens, homes for the sick and elderly or safe places of refuge for everyone.

In fact, Christian values act as a sort of spiritual inoculation for the country. Like vaccines, values prevent the spread of harm, both physically and spiritually. The value that upholds the sanctity of life protects against murder, mayhem and physical abuse of people at the hands of their neighbors. The value that upholds the sanctity of marriage preserves families and affords children the opportunity to grow up in a loving, stable environment, surrounded by parents who are committed by faith to work toward a higher spiritual union. The sanctity of marriage helps preserve bloodlines and reduces the confusion and hurt that arises when parentage becomes uncertain. The value that says one must not covet one’s neighbor’s belongings inoculates society against the ravages of jealousy, theft and enmity.

Once a sizable number of people in a society receive inoculation against a disease — say, measles or polio — it reduces the overall number of people in the society who are susceptible to the germs, and so even those who don’t get the direct vaccine benefit. It is the same with Christian values. Because so many Americans have grown up with Christian values — even those who no longer actively practice the religion — it benefits those who do not practice those values.

And so people who do covet, who do steal, who do kill nonetheless live in a society in which their actions are not immediately met with unbridled recrimination and endless blood lust. For the most part, they too are treated justly and humanely, even when they are caught and punished.

We have grown so comfortable as a society with the benefits of Christian values that we don’t really know any alternative. We have never lived in a society in which the strongest rule by might. We have not experienced a society in which someone in power can take another person’s wife or daughter and have his way with her. We are in a sense inoculated against social harms — not just by the letter and power of the law — but because, for the most part, our neighbors are good and decent Christians.

But these days there are a growing number of people who are opting out of getting basic vaccines for their children — the anti-vaxxers, as they are known. They look around and say, ‘Hey, no one I know has ever caught tetanus or polio. Why should I even bother with getting my child vaccinated?’ And then from there, egged on by their friends, they make all kinds of specious arguments about whether vaccines needlessly overload the immune system of children and make them susceptible to other conditions like autism.

However, the fact is that the science is clear: Vaccines have clearly eradicated many diseases that once killed millions of Americans each year, and there is absolutely no known scientific correlation between increase in vaccine usage and the increase in autism.

It is the same with Christian values. There are people who wake up in the morning and say, ‘Well, I’m a nice person who obeys the law and pays my taxes. Why should I care about those Christian values?’ The fact of the matter is that those values were implemented long ago in a society in ancient Egypt where it was commonplace for people to steal from, deceive and do violence against one another. The problem was especially prevalent among the more politically powerful — those who thought they were immune to legal justice. But then the society just got so corrupt that God ultimately destroyed it — or rather, it destroyed itself because of inbreeding and corruption.

Even as Christianity comes under attack in the secular media, and as Christians, in many cases, are ridiculed as backwards or ignorant, it is Christian values that form the thread that holds the social fabric together. And even those who would deny its truth cannot help but benefit from its protections. (Contributor: By Armstrong Williams for The Washington Times)

Pray that America's Christians will demonstrate the love that our Lord has for His creation in ways that will move upon the hearts of the lost souls throughout the land. Pray for the salvation of those who are lost in this world of sin while there is yet time.

"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, [and] giving of thanks, be made for all men;" 1 Timothy 2:1-6 (KJV)

 

OBAMACARE ON THE CRITICAL LIST

The future of Obamacare teeters, waiting for a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, and many Americans are concerned over budget-breaking rate increases in their health insurance coming in 2016. Proposed rates from major insurance companies look to be arriving on a runaway train and those Americans appear to be tied up and lying across the tracks. This was not the way President Obama promised it would be.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have posted online a list of insurers by state that propose rate increases of 10 percent or higher for next year. In New York, for example, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Empire Health Choice and Excellus are among companies requesting an average increase of almost 16 percent. Insurers in South Carolina, which include Aetna, Consumers’ Choice and Coventry, want to increase premiums by nearly 28 percent. Insurers cite unexpectedly heavy use of medical services by policyholders.

Consumers can only cross their fingers that insurance regulators slash those eye-popping figures. Salaries increased merely 2.6 percent on average for the 12-month period ending in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and only 1.6 percent for the year before that. Double-digit premium increases for families besieged by bills and declining ability to pay them, are as frightening as a shark in the swimming pool.

Moving the goalposts is standard operating procedure for the Obama administration. Though the White House had originally anticipated 13 million enrollees by its target date of March 31, it cut that goal to 9 million to enable it to “celebrate” when the total reached 10.2 million. But no one can move the goalposts far enough to accommodate Mr. Obama’s pledge, made in 2007 when he was a mere senator, that the insurance scheme he would deliver would “cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.” The average annual family premium in 2014 was $16,834, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and that was 26 percent higher than in 2009, when Mr. Obama took office.

A much larger threat than exploding premiums could bring Obamacare tumbling to an early grave this month. The U.S. Supreme Court is to decide in King v. Burwell whether the law as written extends federal subsidies to residents of the 34 states that declined to establish Obamacare exchanges. If the high court decides that subsidies were meant only for enrollees in state exchanges, as the law plainly states, 6.4 million Americans would be required to pay the full cost of their coverage — an amount adding up to $1.7 billion a month nationwide. Many hanging onto a budget by a shoestring would likely drop their coverage, though Republicans in Congress are considering a temporary extension of subsidies.

Sometimes, the masterminds in Washington are too clever by half. Their robbing of $700 million from Medicare to pay for Obamacare, their wasting of another $700 million on unworkable Obamacare exchange websites for Massachusetts, Oregon, Maryland, Hawaii and Nevada, and their shifting of health care expenses from older, ailing Americans to the young, are of a piece with the wealth redistribution ploys that invariably doom pie-in-the-sky socialist schemes.

Americans have repeatedly given Mr. Obama the benefit of the doubt in the face of his incompetent judgment, but he has proved that he is in over his head as president. Obamacare is in critical condition, and the conundrum over how to pay the nation’s health care bill could wind up right where it was stuck six years ago — in the lap of Congress. As an interim measure, Congress could create a special inspector general for Obamacare to control the exploding costs of health care. Such a watchdog, independent of meddling and supervision, is clearly in order. (Contributor: By The Washington Times)

Pray that the Supreme Court's decisions regarding Obamacare litigation will reflect the heart of God's will for this nation.

"A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:"   Proverbs 1:5

 

THE CRUCIAL MOMENT IN HISTORY

Some anniversaries are important, some are remembered and some are forgotten. One of the most important anniversaries in the history of Western civilization that must not be forgotten will be marked this week for the 800th time. The rights derived from the Magna Carta, by which the Constitution lives, guard the lives of every American.

In an ahistorical contemporary society, where our schools and universities relegate the story of the past to the dustbin of history, it is good and proper to pause for a moment to remind ourselves how important was this moment in our history. The Magna Carta, whose spirit survived though often abused, is the cornerstone of the framework of modern society.

Ironically, the participants in the events which led to the 4,000-word document, inscribed in Latin on sheepskin parchment and sealed at Runnymede on the Thames near London, were likely unaware of their momentous undertaking. It was, after all, first an account of weights and measures, the placement of fish-traps, the treatment of French mercenaries and Welsh hostages. It was the product of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s attempt to prevent a war between King John and the English aristocrats, and failed to do that. King John immediately called on Pope Innocent III to annul it, which he did. War broke out, anyway.

Yet the very fact that a document had been signed which established the rights of the aristocrats, if not the people, curbed the authority of an absolute monarch and set a precedent that would eventually include the people, too. With considerable “editing,” the Magna Carta Liberatum — “the Great Charter of the Liberties” — was reissued in 1216, and again in 1217, this time with a memorable pledge that “neither we nor our heirs will determine anything by which the liberties contained in this charter be violated or weakened.” Over the centuries, British king after king called up ‘the Great Charter” as the basis of reaffirmation that they shared their power, first with the aristocracy, and then, if grudgingly, with the Parliament.

The fact that the original document concerned itself with mundane economic problems might have saved it. Section 39: “No free man shall be taken or imprisoned, or dispossessed or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will we go or send against him except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” Section 40: “To no one will we deny or delay right or justice.”

These additions were meant to arm the barons against the king, and it was these additions that established rights of free men, and armed them against the arbitrary whims and ambitions of rulers, and put them on the long and steady march of the Anglo-Saxon societies toward the representative governments we know today.

These concepts are still under attack in many parts of the world, and not only in the parts of the world beyond the seas separating the Old World from the New. Governments everywhere give up rights slowly and reluctantly, as the history of the Great Charter of the Liberties amply demonstrates. Celebrating the Magna Carta thus becomes an obligation, not mere ceremony. (Contributor: By The Washington Times)

Offer thanks unto the Lord for the recognition of the liberties from God that have been recognized by men in authority through the centuries and honored by freedom minded nations which are expressed by documents like the Magna Carta and the U.S. Bill of Rights to name a few.

"If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." John 8:36

 

U.S. PLAN TO CEDE INTERNET DOMAIN CONTROL ON TRACK

A controversial Obama administration plan to cede oversight of the non-profit that manages the Internet's infrastructure is on track to gain government approval by next year's presidential elections, the organization's chief said in an interview.

Some Republican lawmakers have raised concerns about the plan to hand over the stewardship of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to a global multi-stakeholder body, worried that it may allow other countries to capture control.

But ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé said such opposition was fading and that some opponents would come around once they see the accountability mechanisms and other assurances put in place.

"I think they see now that this is actually a good thing for the Internet. The fragmentation of the Internet is bad for everyone," he said.

"I'm never comfortable, but I am optimistic and I believe that all interests are now aligned... Everybody sees that this makes sense."

Since 1998, the United States, which gave birth to the Internet, has contracted out, through the Commerce Department, the management of the master database for top-level domain names like .com and .net and their corresponding numeric addresses to ICANN.

The Commerce Department has long expected to phase out its oversight and planned to do it at the end of the current ICANN contract in September, though the timing may slip slightly and may require an extension.

ICANN members are working to draft a proposal for how the group would operate as an independent body run by stakeholders from across the world, including academics and business and government representatives.

Chehadé, who plans to leave ICANN in March, said the community should produce the proposal by the end of the year for the U.S. government, including the administration and Congress, to review. He said the review process, according to government estimates, would take 60 to 90 days.

Chehadé said he remained optimistic that those steps could be concluded before the U.S presidential election in November 2016, which may result in a Republican hostile to an ICANN power shift controlling the White House.

Once the review process was completed, ICANN members would work to implement the plan. It remains unclear how long that process would take.

The White House on Tuesday issued a veto threat to a bill proposed in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives that would restrict the Commerce Department's ability to use its funding to relinquish ICANN oversight. (Contributor: By Alina Selyukh for Reuters News Service - Editing by Christian Plumb)

Prayer focus: In the midst of many irritating and aggravating news articles, experienced intercessors find peace of mind by remembering two basic facts about their calling to pray. First, they meditate on God and His mighty power, reminding themselves that He is in control of all things. Second, they know God collects and keeps the prayers of His people and will act quickly to bring justice when He is ready. In this assurance, news stories are simply news stories.

“Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation. He only  He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved…. My soul wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved.” (Ps. 62:1-2, 5-6).

 

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT AND A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE

Last year’s high profile Supreme Court case involving Hobby Lobby has made the Christian world aware of some of the challenges produced by the Affordable Care Act. Whatever one’s political preferences and background, the fact that abortions and abortifacient drugs are mandated for all within the Act, does cause serious concern for Christian business leaders who take their faith seriously. What are the real issues here, and what can be done about it for the Christian community?

First, let’s address what is the key issue involved in these court cases brought by Christian businesses against the government. So far the media have mainly described these cases in terms of the anti-abortion/pro life issues. But really this is not at the crux of the matter, but rather just an expression of some of the issues. The government’s argument is that while the Constitution guarantees “Freedom of Worship” to people, it is government that actually controls what happens in the marketplace. Now of course, the Constitution says nothing about “freedom of worship,” but rather recognizes our God-given, inherent right to “Freedom of Religion.” This is a vital distinction, because in trying to reframe the argument in the language of “freedom of worship”, the government is effectively arguing that what happens in the context of worship (I.e. the practice of our faith within the faith environment of our churches) is up to us. But what happens in the marketplace is up to the government. On the contrary, our actual guarantee of freedom of religion is the freedom to practice our faith anywhere and everywhere, including in the marketplace.

If the Supreme Court were to effectively redefine “freedom of religion” to just mean “freedom of worship,” we would be on the road to the government also saying that we can’t have Bible studies at work and that a Christian baker has no right to decide whether or not they participate in a gay wedding by baking the wedding cake. Whatever you attitude on how the Christian couple should have handled being asked to bake a cake for a gay wedding, the legal issues are compellingly close to the issues surrounding the definition of marriage. It is these type of decisions that could lead to churches and other groups loosing their non-profit status if they refuse to comply with whatever decision will be made by the Supreme Court as to the nature of marriage. All of these issues are intertwined and impacted by every other decision of the courts.

Healthcare is one of the areas that is the focus of this line of reasoning. Hobby Lobby provides a really good quality health insurance for all of its full time employees. They are generous to a fault. But they don’t provide abortions or abortifacient drugs. The government is trying to force the issue by saying even if Hobby Lobby does not have to directly provide these services, they must be provided by the insurance company or the Third Party Administrator (TPA) who handles Hobby Lobby’s insurance plan. This means that Hobby Lobby still is effectively forced to pay for the costs of these services, but just under the insurance companies administrative budget rather than through the insurance premium. If we can’t force you to pay with your right hand, then we will force you to pay with your left!

How do we fight such tactics? Well, to start with, let’s follow the Biblical maxim to “be as wise as serpents and yet as innocent as doves!” If these battles are being won or lost in the courtroom, then we need to understand that issues and engage within the battlefield of the courts. Groups such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, among others, are at the forefront of such battles. We should pray for and actively support such groups.

Sedera Health is the company that I founded in 2014 to make sure Christian led companies are well represented in these battles. We actively work within the law to make sure that companies we work with to handle their healthcare costs are in compliance with the law’s mandates. But we also set up strategies, working alongside groups such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, to make sure that these companies are well prepared and effectively defended from the pressure of government trying to tell us how to live out our faith. No Christian business owner or CEO should be in the position of having to pay for the cost of abortions, including abortions for any of their own employees. Deuteronomy 8 tells us “that it is God who gives the power to create wealth in order that you may fulfill the covenant He confirmed to your ancestors.” Wealth generated is not for ungodly uses, but rather to honor the Lord.

Our faith should impact everything that we do. The Psalms teach us “that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” Within Sedera we have created a structure that applies the principles of the Biblical health care sharing model alongside a simple, ACA compliant minimum essential coverage pattern that allows companies to comply with the laws mandates even while providing the framework to fight the unjust imposition of ungodly requirements that go alongside the ACA’s regulatory environment.

We would love those of you seeing this article to pray for us as we seek to stand up for Jesus in the corporate world. Please also point Christian led companies to us so that we can show them how to comply effectively with the law even while helping to fight the very parts of the law that offend us as Christians. (Contributor: By Dr. Tony Dale Founder and CEO for Sedera Health)

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The Informer June 3, 2015

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‘CONVERSION THERAPY’ FACES A LEGAL FIGHT

A first-of-its-kind lawsuit over whether Homosexual “conversion therapy” violates state consumer-fraud law is set to begin Tuesday in New Jersey.

Lawyers for four homosexual men and two of their mothers will tell a jury that their clients were tricked into believing counselors with Jews Offering Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) could relieve the men of their same-sex attraction.

Instead, the men and their mothers suffered emotional distress as a result of the therapy — which also failed to alter their homosexual [perversion] orientation — in violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.

“Conversion therapy is fraud, plain and simple,” said David Dinielli, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is part of the legal team representing the plaintiffs in Ferguson v. JONAH.

The lawsuit has national implications: The District of Columbia and three states — including New Jersey — have banned reparative or conversion therapy for teens and children, due to concerns that it is harmful and ineffective. The Illinois legislature passed a ban Friday, and more than a dozen states are considering similar bills.

“Love doesn’t need a cure,” said Rep. Ted W. Lieu, the California Democrat who introduced the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act in May.

Opponents of the bans say the therapy has been misrepresented for political purposes and the New Jersey case was launched to shut down debate on the issue of fluidity and change in sexuality. They also argue the bans represent an unwarranted intrusion into the relationship between a patient and his therapist.

The Southern Poverty Law Center wants to make this a test case, but it is “misusing the civil litigation system for essentially a political purpose,” said Maggie Gallagher, chairman of the board of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF). “There are lots and lots of people who have found this counseling helpful, and so the claim that it’s fraudulent is going to be fairly easy to overturn.”

The FCDF’s founder, Charles S. LiMandri, is a lead attorney for the defendants, which include the religious nonprofit group JONAH, its cofounder Arthur Goldberg, and affiliated counselor Alan Downing.

JONAH, named for the biblical prophet who fled God but repented and returned to fulfill his mission in Nineveh, was founded in 1998 to help Jews and others to address sexual issues, including “the false identity of homosexuality,” JONAH co-founder Elaine Silodor Berk said in an open letter issued a few years ago.

“Anything that the Torah forbids, the human being is able to control,” she wrote, citing the words of Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky.

The JONAH defendants are “not your typical target” in consumer fraud, Mr. LiMandri told the Associated Press in February. “They’re just trying to help people who are in distress get help if they want it.”

Defense briefs note that JONAH clients sign consent forms with a no-guarantee clause.

Mr. Dinielli, who spoke at Mr. Lieu’s May 19 press conference on his bill, said the four male plaintiffs — Michael Ferguson, Benjamin Unger, Sheldon Bruck and Chaim Levin — were raised in religious families “and were desperate to change from gay to straight.” But they were misled by JONAH and its affiliated therapists, who said “conversion therapy could heal them.”

Nothing in the therapy worked, including group sessions in which one client was told to hit an effigy of his mother with a tennis racket and a “sleep-away camp” where clients were encouraged to reenact traumatic events from their past “to reclaim their supposedly lost masculinity,” Mr. Dinielli said.

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. already has ruled that homosexuality cannot be described as a mental illness, disease or disorder, and lawyers for JONAH may not present certain people as experts or cite “success” statistics because JONAH has not tracked or maintained records on outcomes.

The jury will hear testimony on whether the defendants acted unlawfully, whether plaintiffs had ascertainable losses, and whether there was a causal relationship between the unlawful conduct and ascertainable loss. The case could involve constitutionally protected religious liberties if the jury decides that JONAH viewed homosexuality as “disordered” due to its religious views, Judge Bariso wrote.

The trial is expected to last for several weeks. (Contributor: By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)

For prayer: From our perspective, JONAH no doubt represents good intentions but doesn’t appear to have a successful track record. The deeper issues of sexual identity are spiritual and require God’s intervention to heal through the Gospel and application of His Word to all of life. God’s purpose for men and women is reflected in the original couple, Adam and Eve. Pray for transforming revival, as the answers for a confused society must come through an awakened Church.

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ 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. 1:26-28)

 

CAN WE HAVE RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN MODERN AMERICA?

The Supreme Court is soon to decide a case that could potentially impose same-sex marriage as a nationwide civil “right.” During one exchange in oral arguments in the case, Obama administration Solicitor General Donald Verrilli was asked by Justice Alito whether a religious school could lose its nonprofit status if it held that marriage is between one man and one woman. Here is the solicitor general’s response: “It’s certainly going to be an issue. I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is it is going to be an issue.”

That certainly sounds like a “yes.” Will it end with religious schools? What about churches? Will Christian churches lose their nonprofit tax status if they hold firm to one of their foundational beliefs—a sacrament of their faith?

It is no exaggeration to say we are at a tipping point of one of the pillars of the American founding: Religious liberty. Can religious liberty be sustained in the America of today which understands itself, and the idea of liberty, in a different way than our forefathers did? John Adams, that venerable founder of our republic, once wrote that we are “a government of laws, not of men.”

To understand this statement, we need to understand what Adams meant when he used it. This idea of the rule of law, or of a government of laws rather than man, goes back to Aristotle. In his Politics, Aristotle makes it clear that law should govern a society, and men, even the good and qualified, should be only “guardians and ministers” of it. We see this idea again in Livy, when he writes, “Imperia legum potentiora fuerunt quam hominum” (roughly translated: government/command of laws is stronger than that of men). Why was this concept—already ancient by the eighteenth century—so important to the founding of our country, and how did they understand this concept?

We Need the Rule of Law Because We Are All Different

The Founders understood certain things when they established our republic. In “A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America,” Adams explains the need to have three branches of government, two in the legislature and one in the executive, with a judiciary to check all three. (I am using Adams’ use of the word “branches” here to indicate separate legislative houses as well as the executive, counter to our common contemporary understanding of the three “branches” as including the judiciary.)

He defends the need to set up the republic in this way based on this idea of a “government of laws,” and on Machiavelli’s warning in “Discourses on Livy” that “men never do good except out of necessity,” and that “in every republic there are two different tendencies, that of the people and that of the upper class, and that all of the laws which are passed in favour of liberty are born from the rift between the two.”

Laws that preserve and protect liberty, therefore, will arise out of a tension between people. (In our contemporary society, we tend to be more egalitarian and less class driven, but we retain group distinctions in the shape of special-interest groups vying for laws suitable to their specific agenda.) The branches into which our government’s power was separated are supposed to be suited to represent all sorts of majorities and minorities, and to keep and hold this tension as laws are made.

Moreover, these laws are not an end in themselves, nor is liberty found in the laws per se. Adams makes it clear that Livy nowhere “defined liberty to be subjection to the laws only.” In other words, our liberty as Americans (as the Founders saw it) does not come because we have a government of laws instead of a government of men.

Our liberty is a natural right protected via constant tension between all of our branches of government, representing the tensions between all of us as a people. It is through this tension that we ought to end up with equal and just laws that are good for society as a whole. This tension keeps our liberty from collapsing. This tension, bounded by our Constitution, keeps the individual desires of man in check.

Can the Constitution Still Protect Religious Liberty?

But, before we acquiesce to every possible minority with every possible claim, Adams says something else, something which should give us pause:

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other. (emphasis added)

As early as 1776, he wrote the following in a letter to his first cousin, Zabdiel Adams:

Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure than they have it now, They may change their Rulers and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. They will only exchange Tyrants and Tyrannies. (emphasis added)

This makes one wonder: If the majority of the people of this republic are no longer constrained by religion or morality, do we have any hope of saving our republic and securing lasting civil and religious liberties? If any minority seeks not to protect its liberty, but to subvert the moral conscience of the majority, does our majority have the conscience and morality to stand?

When the majority has already been steeped in the anti-moral doctrine that, effectively, “all ideas are equal,” the answer to these questions is clearly, “no.” Even if the most competent constitutional lawyers were to run around the country stamping out legal fires like the one in Houston several months back or Indiana recently, or the Supreme Court case just argued; if most people living in these United States no longer hold nor can agree on matters of religion or morality, how long before our Constitution, or “government of law,” collapses?

Asking this question sheds even more light on this idea of being a people governed by law rather than men: The logical conclusion of a collapsing moral and religious majority automatically collapses the laws of our nation. This is so because those guarding those laws requires men and women willing to uphold them. When the religion and morality intrinsically required to be “guardians and ministers” of our government of laws does not exist within the individual (or is enfeebled), we collapse into a nation governed by the whims of man.

I submit we have for some time been governed by the whims of men. Richard Samuelson wrote eloquently of this in his essay, “How John Adams Helps Explain the American Mind,” particularly in the final section, “Using the Administrative State to Remake America.”

What Is a Christian Response?

I know some Christians think “if we only had Christian laws in this country everything would be okay.” But this has historically been proven untrue, and the Founders knew it. Machiavelli in “Discourses on Livy” says we “must presume that all men are bad by nature; and that they will not fail to shew that natural depravity of heart.” He goes on to say that sooner or later this depravity comes out. Adams adds, “Machiavel’s translator remarks, that although this seems a harsh supposition, does not every Christian daily justify the truth of it, by confessing it before God and the world? And are we not expressly told the same in several passages of the holy scriptures, and in all systems of human philosophy?”

This may be hard to hear, but if we do not want to be hypocrites we must show our collapsing culture we can be honest even about ourselves, our own tendencies and temptations. We also are men of flesh and blood, and the only thing which tempers us is exactly what Adams said would be our only restraint—our religion and morality. As Thomas West and Douglas Jeffrey say in “The Rise and Fall of Constitutional Government,” “However superior the best among us may be in regard to wisdom and virtue, no creature of flesh and bones is exempt from self-interest. No one can be presumed free from the temptation to abuse power over others.”

Christians must hold in tension our personal desire for liberty, and religious liberty in particular, with the God-given desire to see the culture around us receive spiritual liberty from all the destructive desires which hold it in bondage. The best way we can do this, the best way I believe we can save this fragile and declined republic, is by going back to our founding principles—principles founded on the laws of nature and of nature’s God—even when rogue governors, tyrant judges, and media-enabled shout-downs are encroaching upon us.

Practically, this means in the public square we do our best to hold on to liberties we inherited from our Founding Fathers and keep those in tension with groups opposing us, while in the private sphere doing all we can to spiritually love our culture. The goal must be to bring, if we can, religion and morality back to our culture so that it is capable of desiring and keeping the patrimony of the Founders.

We must prepare for this to take a very long time, and along the way we will encounter setbacks: religious institutions losing tax-exempt status may or may not yet be one of the many we face. Our culture will give us repeated occasions to prove our integrity and sincerity. The fight is on two fronts: civil and spiritual. Both require our energy and commitment. Both require humility and peace-ability. (Contributor: By Luma Simms for The Federalist)

For prayer: This is a thought-provoking history lesson on the value of the U.S. Constitution. The nation’s founders placed “checks and balances” in federal government because they knew the sinful tendency of mankind to want to rule over others rather than be ruled by the law. Now the Constitution is often overturned or ignored, so the question is valid: Can we have religious liberty once again if we do not have a morally upright people who deserve it? The author says “yes” but envisions a long, arduous, and rocky road to restoration. Pray for national renewal, beginning in the Church..

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

“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17)    

 

WHEN COPS ARE DISMISSED AS BAD GUYS

Since the riots over robbery suspect Michael Brown’s death last summer in Ferguson, Mo., and several other deaths of black suspects, America has been awash in a “dialogue” about police and race.

Here’s the condensed narrative: Cops are bad, perps are oppressed, and crime is the product of racism and underfunded welfare programs. Disagree and you’re a racist.

Stung by an avalanche of bad publicity following the tragic death in police custody of Freddie Gray on April 19, the Baltimore police have retreated, booking half as many suspects as they did last year.

The result: In the first month after Mr. Gray’s death, 30 Baltimore homicides were recorded. Over Memorial Day weekend, despite the indictment of six police officers in Mr. Gray’s death, 28 shootings left nine more dead.

The pullback began during the Gray riots, about which Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake acknowledged giving “those who wished to destroy space to do that.”

Here’s a retired officer’s take: “You get sworn in to uphold the law. We would never give anyone ‘space’ to ‘destroy.’ ” Regarding the indictments, he said, “I’m not going to say they all acted perfectly, but this is nothing but riot control, and everyone knows it. Well, the riots are going to be after the acquittals.”

In Cleveland, the Justice Department announced a settlement on May 26. Cops must submit paperwork every time they unholster a gun, whether or not it’s fired. They can’t use neck holds and can use force against someone who is handcuffed only if it is “objectively reasonable and necessary to stop an assault or an escape.” They can’t fire warning shots, and cannot use force against people “who only verbally confront them.”

“Some of that’s reasonable,” my police friend said. “We couldn’t fire warning shots, because you might hit innocent people, or use neck holds. And you should use force only if the guy is a threat. But this stuff about not taking your gun out? Say it’s 2 or 3 in the morning and you’re approaching a vehicle in the dark. Sure you have your gun out, because [suspects] sure don’t keep theirs holstered. I know an officer who got shot right in the face.”

Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson said the rules are “built on the strong foundation of progressive change, sustained trust and accountability.” But Great Society “progress” over the last 50 years has destroyed the black family, turning many urban areas into hellholes.

The settlement came after a white Cleveland officer was acquitted in the fatal shooting of two unarmed blacks in 2012, and follows a Justice Department report in December accusing Cleveland cops of using “excessive force.”

Police are under fire all over the country. The Justice Department is investigating more than 20 departments and has 16 agreements with law enforcement agencies, including consent decrees with Baltimore and eight other cities.

The deaths that sparked outrage are tragic for the families and communities, and there is little doubt that some police can be guilty of abuse and excessive force. But the attacks on police will not make blighted areas any safer. In Baltimore, reducing police presence has emboldened armed criminals and turned residents into inmates in their own homes.

As New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani showed during the 1990s, policing even minor crimes greatly reduces major crime. Under current Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has eased enforcement, New York City is becoming less safe, with Manhattan’s murder rate up 45 percent this year over last year.

None of this seems to impress liberal pundits. In a blog post on the American Civil Liberties Union’s website, Salon writer Jason Williamson lamented the Michigan city of Grand Rapids’ police tactics, saying they’re racist.

“Between 2011 and 2013, the Grand Rapids Police Department either cited or arrested approximately 560 people for trespassing on business property ” Mr. Williamson writes. “In a city in which black people make up roughly 20 percent of the population, 59 percent of those detained for trespassing under this policy were black.”

The bias claim is worth examining, but crime has gone down in Grand Rapids in all categories. Rapes went from 90 in 2010 to 46 in 2012; thefts from 7,050 in 2005 to 4,433 in 2012; murders from 22 in 2006 to 10 in 2011.

Apart from cultural change and policies restoring marriage and families, aggressive policing is the best way to lessen crime, but it’s become problematic in the cop-bashing climate.

Could anyone now blame officers for avoiding scenes that could easily explode, leaving them as poster children for racism and police violence?

“You’re not really risking your career anymore; you’re risking your freedom,” my friend the cop said. “They’re looking to put officers away for life. Citizens need to think about what this means, when police say, ‘I’m in no hurry to get there.’ “

As we’re seeing in Baltimore, the thin blue line against chaos can be very thin, indeed. (Contributor: By Robert Knight for The Washington Times - Robert Knight is a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a Washington Times contributor.)

For prayer: The author notes the increasingly difficult job the police have in today’s crime-ridden society. He says, “Apart from cultural change and policies restoring marriage and families, aggressive policing is the best way to lessen crime, but it’s become problematic…” Give thanks for the majority of police officers who approach their jobs with integrity. Pray for their safety and for wisdom as they seek to uphold the law, protect the public, and apprehend criminals. Many risk their lives daily. Pray for families who have lost loved ones and who need God’s comfort.

Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. … Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear…  Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you’ll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms.” (Rom. 13:1, 3-5, The Message)

 

IRS BELIEVES MASSIVE DATA THEFT ORIGINATED IN RUSSIA

The IRS believes that a major cyber breach that allowed criminals to steal the tax returns of more than 100,000 people originated in Russia, two sources briefed on the data theft tell CNN.

On Tuesday, the Internal Revenue Service announced that organized crime syndicates used personal data obtained elsewhere to access tax information, which they then used to file $50 million in fraudulent tax refunds.

The IRS said the agency's Criminal Investigation Unit and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration are investigating the origins of the breach. The agency also alerted the Homeland Security Department of the breach, a DHS official confirmed. On Thursday, the FBI announced it had also opened an investigation into the incident.

An IRS spokeswoman said the agency does not discuss ongoing investigations.

The news that the IRS data breach is believed to have originated in Russia comes on the heels of the disclosure that Russian hackers had infiltrated both the White House and State Department computer systems.

The security of taxpayer data has been an IRS problem for years. In an October report, the IRS' independent watchdog called it the agency's number one problem.

"Computer security has been problematic for the IRS since 1997," according to the report.

And the new breach has lawmakers on Capitol Hill demanding answers.

Calling it the first step of many, Republican Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch announced Wednesday that he plans to haul IRS Commissioner John Koskinen before his committee next week to explain what happened and who is to blame.

"When the federal government fails to protect private and confidential taxpayer information, Congress must act," Hatch said.

Between February and May, criminals tried to access the tax accounts of 200,000 people, succeeding in about half the attempts, the IRS said. The agency said it plans to notify all 200,000 people to tell them that third parties appear to have access to their Social Security numbers and other personal information.

The roughly 100,000 taxpayers whose tax information was accessed will be offered free credit monitoring, the agency said. (Contributor: By Chris Frates for CNN)

For prayer: Is this a portent of the future? Has international spying and law-breaking at the technical level become so rampant that our government cannot guarantee U.S. citizen safety and privacy? This is a terrible blow to those affected, as well as to U.S. government cyber security. The reputation of the IRS is already deeply tarnished. Our nation is in serious decline spiritually. Are we desperate enough to turn back to God? Pray accordingly. America desperately needs God’s mercy and spiritual renewal.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Ps. 127:1)

 

U.S. MILITARY PILOTS: HANDS TIED AGAINST ISIS

U.S. military pilots carrying out the air war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria are voicing growing discontent over what they say are heavy-handed rules of engagement hindering them from striking targets.

They blame a bureaucracy that does not allow for quick decision-making. One Navy F-18 pilot who has flown missions against ISIS voiced his frustration to Fox News, saying: "There were times I had groups of ISIS fighters in my sights, but couldn't get clearance to engage.”

He added, “They probably killed innocent people and spread evil because of my inability to kill them. It was frustrating."

Sources close to the air war against ISIS told Fox News that strike missions take, on average, just under an hour, from a pilot requesting permission to strike an ISIS target to a weapon leaving the wing.

A spokesman for the U.S. Air Force’s Central Command pushed back: “We refute the idea that close air support strikes take 'an hour on average'. Depending on the how complex the target environment is, a strike could take place in less than 10 minutes or it could take much longer.

"As our leaders have said, this is a long-term fight, and we will not alienate civilians, the Iraqi government or our coalition partners by striking targets indiscriminately."

A former U.S. Air Force general who led air campaigns over Iraq and Afghanistan also said today's pilots are being "micromanaged," and the process for ordering strikes is slow -- squandering valuable minutes and making it possible for the enemy to escape.

“You're talking about hours in some cases, which by that time the particular tactical target left the area and or the aircraft has run out of fuel. These are excessive procedures that are handing our adversary an advantage,” said retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, a former director of the Combined Air Operations Center in Afghanistan in 2001.

Deptula also contrasted the current air campaign against ISIS with past air campaigns.

The U.S.-led airstrikes over Iraq during the first Gulf War averaged 1,125 strike sorties per day, according to Deptula. He said the Kosovo campaign averaged 135 strikes per day. In 2003, the famous “shock and awe” campaign over Iraq saw 800 strikes per day.

According to the U.S.-led coalition to defeat ISIS, U.S. military aircraft carry out 80 percent of the strikes against ISIS and average 14 per day.

Deptula blames the White House for the bottleneck.

“The ultimate guidance rests in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” he said. “We have been applying air power like a rain shower or a drizzle -- for it to be effective, it needs to be applied like a thunderstorm.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., recently complained that 75 percent of pilots are returning without dropping any ordnance, due to delays in decision-making up the chain of command.

A senior defense official at the Pentagon pushed back on the comparisons between the air war against ISIS and past air campaigns.

“The Gulf War and Kosovo are not reasonable comparisons. In those instances, we were fighting conventional forces. Today, we are supporting a fight against terrorists who blend into the civilian population,” he said. “Our threshold for civilian casualties and collateral damage is low. We don’t want to own this fight. We have reliable partners on the ground.”

McCain, speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, also called for “forward air controllers,” as well as special forces and “more of those kind of raids that were so successful into Syria.”

Another former U.S. Air Force general agreed. “We need to get somebody to find the targets and [U.S.] airpower will blow them up ... period,” said retired Gen. Charles F. Wald, former deputy commander of United States European Command

In a letter to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter Wednesday, Rep. Duncan Hunter asked the secretary to consider arming the Sunnis tribes in Anbar directly in order to defeat ISIS. Like McCain, Hunter also wants to “immediately embed special operators and ground-air controllers to support ground operations against IS[IS].”

But a defense official pushed back on Hunter’s plan to bypass Baghdad and arm the Sunni tribes directly, telling Fox News, “[the plan] doesn’t take into account the presence of Iran inside Iraq right now… there could be unintended consequences and restore a sectarian war.” (Contributor: By Lucas Tomlinson for Fox News)

For prayer: We have numerous incentives to pray for our military forces. This is just one aspect. Critics of President Obama as commander-in-chief (including those of his own political party) have said that he needs to trust his experienced officers and implement a better-defined, active plan to overcome and push back the gains of the Islamic State. Pray for unity and wisdom as military leaders try to work amidst the dangers. Pray for the innocent, both Christians and Muslims, who are suffering in this seemingly endless conflict. Pray that our own country, which we love, will return to the Lord.

“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.” (1 Tim. 2:1-4)

 

U.S. ARMY CHIEF: NO HUMAN ERROR IN ANTHRAX MISHAP

U.S. personnel working at an Army facility in Utah appeared to follow correctly all the outlined procedures to inactivate anthrax before they mistakenly shipped off live samples of the deadly bacteria, the Army's top general said on Thursday.

Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno said investigators were now reviewing the procedures themselves to determine why the bacteria was not rendered inactive.

"The best I can tell there was not human error," Odierno told reporters, cautioning that his information was based solely on preliminary reports.

U.S. officials disclosed on Wednesday that U.S. Army facilities mistakenly shipped live anthrax bacteria to laboratories in nine states and an air base in South Korea.

The Pentagon has said there was no known suspected infection or risk to the public.

But four U.S. civilians have started taking preventive measures called post-exposure prophylaxis, which usually includes the anthrax vaccine, antibiotics or both.

Twenty-two personnel at the base in South Korea were also given precautionary medical measures although none have shown sign of exposure.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has begun an investigation of the incident. Odierno said the CDC was reviewing whether "we have to change the procedures that are in place."

Odierno did not offer specifics and said he did not know how long the procedures had been in place.

"But we definitely believe no one is in danger. We believe we followed all the proper procedures," Odierno said.

The mishap comes 11 months after the CDC, one of the government's top civilian labs, similarly mishandled anthrax.

Researchers at a lab designed to handle extremely dangerous pathogens sent what they believed were killed samples of anthrax to another CDC lab, one with fewer safeguards and therefore not authorized to work with live anthrax.

Scores of CDC employees could have been exposed to the live anthrax, but none became ill.

That incident and a similar one last spring, in which CDC scientists shipped what they thought was a benign form of bird flu but which was actually a highly virulent strain, led U.S. lawmakers to fault a "dangerous pattern" of safety lapses at government labs.

In the latest case, the Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah reported in March 2014 that gamma irradiation had inactivated the anthrax stock in question, and along with another Army facility, began shipments that continued through April 2015, a U.S. official said. (Contributor: By Phil Stewart for Reuters News - Additional reporting by Sharon Begley in New York and James Pearson in Seoul; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Further reading on this topic: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/06/01/anthrax-pentagon-scandal/28329125/

For prayer: This is one of those “what if?” articles that we need to be aware of as “watchmen on the walls,” but it need not engender fear or panic. Instead, give thanks for the many faithful and careful CDC workers who handle dangerous materials daily so that we, the public, may be kept safe. Give thanks that no one was harmed in the present situation. We live in a potentially dangerous world, never knowing how much God’s mercy keeps us safe and protected every day. A thankful heart is pleasing to the Lord.

“This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” (Lam. 3:21-24)

 

MAN BUILDS GIANT CROSS IN THE HEART OF ISLAMIC PAKISTAN

A Christian businessman living in the heart of one of the most densely populated Muslim cities in the world has erected a 14-story cross of steel and concrete "as a symbol of God," the Washington Post has reported.

The cross, expected to be completed this summer, is a long-term project of 58-year-old real estate mogul Parvez Henry Gill. While not the tallest cross in the world, it will be the tallest in Asia and will loom over Karachi's largest Christian cemetery, a frequent target of vandals who desecrate Christian graves and statuary.

According to the Washington Post, Gill said he was told by God in a dream four years ago to "do something different." He wrestled with various ideas for months, but finally settled on the cross to call attention to the abuse the Christian minority in Pakistan faces.

"I said, 'I am going to build a big cross, higher than any in the world, in a Muslim country,' Gill told the newspaper. "It will be a symbol of God, and everybody who sees this will be worry-free."

How do you build a 140-foot-tall cross in the middle of an Islamic country? For Gill, the answer was to avoid telling everyone what he was doing.

Gill, who is from a well-known Christian family that has employed both Christian and Muslim workers, left the construction crew in the dark as they were building the structure. According to the Washington Post, once it became apparent the structure was a cross, 20 of the Muslim workers resigned.

Some, however, stayed on citing their long-term relationships with the Gill family. One, Mohammad Ali, works on the cross 14 hours a day, seven days a week. He referred to the cross as a "work of God," the newspaper said.

"Henry has supported me well over the years, helping with the birth of my [seven] children, with medicine, their education, so I don't need a daily wage," said Ali, 40.

When completed, the cross overlooking the Gora Qabristan Cemetery will likely attract the attention of militant Islamists in the city. While Gill avoids daring extremists to knock it down, he says its sturdy construction (a concrete base 20 feet deep, steel reinforced construction) makes it "bulletproof."

"If anyone tries to hit this cross, they will not succeed," Gill told the Washington Post.

After the cross is completed, Gill said it will be polished and lit so it can be seen from a great distance, whether night or day. He also told the newspaper he would like to hold a dedication ceremony with Pope Francis, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Queen Elizabeth II and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as guests.

Christians in Pakistan, who make up only 1.5 percent of the country's population of 180 million, have suffered brutal persecution at the hands of Islamists in recent years. Strict blasphemy laws make even perceived offenses the cause of beatings and murder. Suicide bombings are common. Persecution often comes in the form of desecration of Christian graves like those in the Gora Qabristan Cemetery.

Most of Pakistan's Christians, about 1 million of them, live in Karachi near where the cross is being built. Persistent poverty, persecution and a lack of employment opportunities have caused those who are able to flee to leave the country. Gill said he hopes the cross will serve as motivation for Christians to stay in the country as a witness to other.

"I want Christian people to see it and decide to stay here," Gill told the Washington Post.

Asked how much the cross has cost, Gill told the newspaper he hasn't kept a record of costs. He and his sons simply pay the bills as they come in. And he said he is not worried about safety and security for himself or the cross. He regularly prays Psalm 91, in which God promises protection for believers, he told the newspaper.

America's tallest cross is in St. Augustine, Florida where at 208 feet high it marks the spot where it says "in 1565 the cross of Christianity was first planted in what is now the United States." (Contributor: By Gregory Tomlin for Christian Examiner)

For prayer: Pray for Mr. Gill’s safety and for the effectiveness of the witness he is trying to share by building and setting up of the largest cross in the Middle East. We have other reports that Muslims are turning to Jesus Christ in many Muslim strongholds. May this representation of the cross bear fruit.

“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal. 6:14)

 

JUDGE QUESTIONS OBAMA ON OBAMACARE CHANGES

Obama administration attorneys urged a skeptical federal judge on Thursday to throw out a lawsuit by House Republicans over the president's health care law.

"The House cannot sue the executive branch over the implementation of existing federal law," Justice Department attorney Joel McElvain told U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer in the first hearing on the politically charged case.

Collyer peppered him with questions, at one point asking, "You don't really believe that, do you?" and telling him, "I have a very hard time taking that statement seriously."

She seemed more receptive to the House's position that the administration has acted unconstitutionally in how it has implemented the law. At issue are payments to insurance companies not expressly appropriated by Congress but being made by the administration, anyway.

The House argues this constitutes an unconstitutional appropriation of Congress' power of the purse.

"We believe we have established what can only be viewed as a concrete injury," George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley argued for the House.

About an hour into the proceedings, Collyer, a 2003 appointee of Republican President George W. Bush, called a brief recess, after which the hearing was to resume.

The hearing comes as the Obama administration and lawmakers of both parties anxiously await a Supreme Court ruling on a different lawsuit that challenges other portions of the health law and threatens insurance subsidies for millions of Americans.

The House suit, authorized by frustrated House Republicans last summer over strenuous objections from Democrats, may not make it that far. Previous attempts by members of Congress to sue past administrations have been tossed out, although the House health lawsuit is the first by the full House against a sitting president.

In the lawsuit, the House contends that the Obama administration usurped the legislative role reserved for Congress by acting administratively to approve certain payments to insurers and delay deadlines in the law without Congress' say-so.

"This case addresses fundamental issues regarding the limits of executive power under our constitutional form of government," attorneys for the House said in court filings ahead of Thursday's hearing. "One fundamental tenet of our divided-power system of government is that all legislative power is vested in Congress, and Congress alone."

Government attorneys argued that the House could show no direct injury and instead based its lawsuit on general objections to how the Obama administration is implementing the law, which they said doesn't justify its suit.

"This novel tactic is unprecedented, and for good reason: The House has no standing to bring this suit," Justice Department attorneys argued. "The House here asserts only that the executive branch is implementing statutory provisions, which were enacted by a previous Congress, in a manner different from what the current House would prefer."

The lead attorney for the House is prominent George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley, who took the case on after two previous attorneys bowed out.

In a statement ahead of the hearing, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said: "The very fact that the administration wants to avoid scrutiny — judicial or otherwise — shows you why this challenge is so important. No one — especially no president — is above accountability to the Constitution and the rule of law."

House Republicans have voted more than 50 times to uproot all or pieces of the law known as "Obamacare," but have no hope of prevailing legislatively as long as President Barack Obama is in the White House.

"Over 16 million people now have health care. Women are no longer discriminated against. There's no longer discrimination for preexisting conditions. Young adults can stay on their parents' plan. So we are very proud of the Affordable Care Act, notwithstanding Republican partisan attempts to dismantle it," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Wednesday. (Contributor: By The Associated Press)

For prayer: The controversy over what is known as “Obamacare” continues to swirl around the president and his administration. Many concerns hark back to the proven deceitfulness and numerous specific lies the American public endured while the complicated law was set up. Now in the courts, the root issues will not easily be resolved. Pray that people in this plan will have the care and coverage they are paying for when they need it. The moral high road and (at one time) the American way is to give people the facts and let them decide. Pray for truth to emerge. The truth sets us free!

“Then Jesus said … ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. … Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.’” (John 8:31-32, 36)

 

ALIEN CULTURE: ‘NORMAL’ IS DEFINED AS ‘DEVIANT’

Some of us now struggle to recognize the culture we live in. We are profoundly baffled and greatly disturbed by what seems like a complete inversion of values.

The zeitgeist looks at actions that to us seem utterly unremarkable and treats them as major social sins or even illegalities. Yet when other actions strike us as jaw-droppingly outrageous or corrupt, the larger culture shrugs without concern.

If nearly half the culture acts and believes in ways that are alien to us, but they are backed by the establishment media hordes, then we in the other half feel utterly adrift — or, as the Robert Heinlein title put it, strangers in a strange land.

Take, for example, the burgeoning controversies surrounding Hillary Clinton, which may finally be gaining a little traction in public consciousness — though the traction may be fleeting. What seems alien to us is that these scandals should be stampeding their way through every newscast and every front page of every newspaper, every day. Indeed, by rights, we should see one aspect of the many interlaced Hillary controversies as perhaps the biggest scandal in American governmental history.

Think about it. What’s the bigger story, the one that involves the more venal behavior while potentially harming the lives of more Americans: 1) a few goobers rifling through the office of the opposing political party and then having the president’s men try to cover up the petty hanky-panky; or 2) a former president and husband of the then-current secretary of state making hundreds of thousands of dollars while the couple’s foundation gets millions, in a deal approved by the former first lady’s own State Department, which results in about half of this nation’s uranium falling under the effective control of the proto-fascist, anti-American leader of the nation with the world’s second biggest store of nuclear weapons?

The Clintons aren’t mere grifters. They are in their own level of grifter superstardom while putting all the rest of us at substantially greater risk of annihilation.

Yet much of the media covers this story with the enthusiasm of a six-year-old swallowing castor oil, and much of the public still thinks Hillary is a minor deity. A goodly number of Americans apparently are aware of the scandal yet still fall at her feet.

They likewise excuse Barack Obama’s lies about “keeping your doctor” or “keeping your insurance plan” if you like them; they see him say harsh, even nasty things about his adversaries in a way prior presidents have rarely or never done, and generally coarsen public discourse, yet they still think he’s likeable. They say they believe quarterback Tom Brady cheated but say in the next breath that he’s a good role model for children.

These are somewhat random examples, but the theme is consistent: Behavior that once would have earned near-universal opprobrium or, in the case of the Clintons’ uranium deal, white-hot anger, now barely raises an eyebrow.

And this isn’t even to delve into the general coarseness of the culture that positively celebrates depravities — and splashes them across the glossy pages of, say, People magazine — among elites of Hollywood, the music industry, and other walks of life. (Literally as I was writing this, a commercial aired on my TV advertising the third season of the ABC show Mistresses. In prime time. Enough said.) It’s Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s “defining deviancy down” to a degree Moynihan himself may have found astonishing.

Yet at the same time that we old-school types are bombarded by cultural rot of every kind, we also are hounded by what Charles Krauthammer called “defining deviancy up.” He wrote: "There is a complimentary social phenomenon that goes with defining deviancy down. As part of the vast social project of moral leveling, it is not enough for the deviant to be normalized, the normal must be found to be deviant. Large areas of ordinary behavior hitherto considered benign have had their threshold radically redefined up, so that once-innocent behavior now stands condemned as deviant. Normal middle-class life then stands exposed as the true home of violence, abuse, misogyny, a whole category of deviant acting and thinking."

So we see, for example, college professors all over the country being disciplined or even fired for innocuous statements in class that random students find offensive. We see owners of various artistic businesses fined into oblivion for refusing to sell their artistic skills for ceremonies that violate their beliefs. We see ordinary words such as “arrogant,” “haughty,” and “thug” being denounced as racist (or sexist, or whatever). We see people taking offense at “micro-aggressions” that are neither aggressive nor even visible under ordinary social microscopes. We see parents sanctioned by the state for allowing their children to enjoy playgrounds unsupervised (oh, the horror, the horror). We see stories of verbal pleading leading to consensual sex that is later reclassified as rape. (Who knew that Bruce Springsteen in “Jungleland” was describing not romance but rape when he sang of “whispers of soft refusal, and then surrender”?)

We’re now told that we can’t spank a misbehaving child; that we can’t read Huckleberry Finn because it features the “n” word; that we can’t name sports teams in honor of Indians; that syllogistic or “linear” logic is culturally oppressive; that it’s offensive if we pray in public or say “Merry Christmas”; and that we can’t allow our own 20-year-olds to drink a glass of wine with us in our own homes as a civilizing part of a holiday meal, but that we’re disastrously prudish if we don’t give them condoms for the sex we should be glad they are engaging in as a necessary form of self-expression.

In short, we’re told that so much of what we know is good and normal is actually bad, while so much that’s objectively awful is actually no big deal or even something worth admiring. Nothing looks the same. The values, the culture, the standards, the frames of reference: All are skewed, tumped over, deconstructed, disorienting. We feel like we’re in a phantasmagoria, a Moody Blues lament in which “red is gray and yellow, white” — except that, unlike in the song, we are actually powerless “to decide which is right,” and the new cultural construct, unfortunately, is no illusion.

This isn’t only modernization we’re experiencing; it’s a veritable inversion of values and decency, and of the very nature of truth.

Among us relics of a bygone age, the debate is not whether the current state of affairs is atrocious; the debate is whether we’re only at a tipping point or instead already beyond it. The rough beast slouches ever closer, and we don’t know if we can stop him. We know, though, that we must try. (Contributor: By Quin Hillyer for National Review)

For prayer: A modern cliché says, “Abnormal is the new normal.” It’s all in perspective. When the Gospel came to Thessalonica (Acts 17), angry religious leaders said, “These who have turned the world upside down have come to our city.” That’s quite humorous. The truth was the opposite. Sin has turned us all “upside down” to God. The Gospel turns previously “upside down people” right-side up! As we live in and pray for our broken world, ask God to keep His people focused on His Word. In doing so, our perspective will be in line with God’s, who is “right-side” up! Note Paul’s testimony before King Agrippa about his own “turn-around” conversion and apostolic calling:

[“God said to me when I was converted,] ‘I will deliver you from [both Jews and Gentiles], to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’” (Acts 26:17-18)

 

OK: LATEST STATE TO PROTECT PASTORS, CHURCHES

Oklahoma legislators are protecting pastors in that state, even as homosexuals are asking them to perform "marriage" ceremonies.

Gov. Mary Fallin has signed into law a bill that protects pastors and churches if they refuse to perform or host same-sex "marriage" ceremonies.

Timothy Tardibono of the Family Policy Institute of Oklahoma says the legislation is responding to the current moral and legal fight across the country. He cites religious freedoms that were once taken for granted – but not anymore.

"Because of the various cultural forces," he says, "we're having to put those religious freedoms into explicit language in statute."

A landmark decision is coming from the U.S. Supreme Court in June that conservatives fear will erode natural marriage laws across the country.

Homosexual activists, meanwhile, are demanding "marriage equality" while they go after bakeries, florists, photographers, and other wedding vendors.

OneNewsNow reported in recent days that Texas, like Oklahoma, has passed a state law that protects pastors.

Without the state law, says the Family Policy spokesman, there's the potential that same-gender couples could take action to force pastors to violate their religious beliefs.

Citing a non-discrimination policy, a city council in Kansas proposed an ordinance in 2012 that would have forced churches to rent their facilities to same-sex couples.

A retreat property in New Jersey, owned by the United Methodist Church, was forced by a judge to rent its facility to same-sex couples.

There's already a movement among the far-left to remove the tax-exempt status from churches, which some homosexuals tie to churches' stance against homosexual "marriage."

"Churches that lobby to have freedoms and rights taken away from ANYONE should absoutely have their 501(c)3 status revoke!" a Wyoming homosexual activist declared earlier this year in a Facebook post, a conservative website reported.

In 2004, 76 percent of Oklahoma voters declared natural marriage should be preserved as state law. Mirroring the pattern in other states, the state's marriage amendment was challenged in court and a federal appeals court overturned it last year.

Pastors took notice, says Tardibono, especially after their phones began ringing.

"They had three calls from couples asking if they could have a same-sex ceremony at their church, and done by their pastor," Tardibono tells OneNewsNow. (Contributor: By Charlie Butts for One News Now)

For prayer: Give thanks for Oklahoma’s stand to protect its pastors from having to perform same-sex “marriages.” However, here is an intercessory alert! In two to three weeks from this June 3 midweek Informer, the U.S. Supreme Court will present its joint decision on homosexual “marriage” rights. Will this deviant view become the law of the land? Many faithful and “faith-filled” Christian prayer leaders believe the court’s majority will make the wrong decision. Pray fervently they will not. But if so, everything about American life and religious freedom will change. Pray God’s mercy and grace for our nation. Remember, God’s Word does not change, but believers may face severe conflict.

“So [the religious leaders] called [Peter and John] 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.’ So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done.” (Acts 4:18-21)

On Watch in Washington June 3, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

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The Informer May 27, 2015

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

FEDS SPENT $100 BILLION ON FOOD ASSISTANCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

MARINE VET’S BIBLICAL SIGNS LEAD TO COURT BATTLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CATASTROPHIC FLOODING HITS TEXAS AND OKLAHOMA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

11 CHRISTIANS ARE KILLED EVERY HOUR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

SURVEY FAIL - CHRISTIANITY ISN'T DYING

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

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

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

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

Evangelicalism is growing

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

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

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:16-18)

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

 

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

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

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

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

Seven signs of missing the mark …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

COURT STOPS ABORTIONS AT PLANNED PARENTHOOD CLINIC IN FLORIDA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

TX LAWMAKERS APPROVE PROTECTION FOR PASTORS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isa. 5:20-21)

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SENATE FIGHT: NSA PHONE DATA COLLECTION TO EXPIRE

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

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

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

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

The provisions are currently scheduled to sunset on June 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tough To Enforce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Risk of Escalation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At sea, tensions are already apparent.

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

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

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

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

 

WOMEN IN COMBAT: TEST FAILURES RAISE QUESTIONS

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

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

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

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

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