WHY THE GLASS IS HALF FULL
It seems the news these days is nothing but bad. Through the media, we are told crime and violence rates are rising, rich cronies are getting richer and low-income earners are getting poorer, and war or rumors of war between countries across the globe run rampant.
But are things on Earth really getting worse than they were in the past, or do technologies such as the Internet just make it easier to learn about goings-on in far-flung parts of the world that would have occurred in the past without the common man knowing anything about them?
The answer, according to data collected by international organizations such as the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) may surprise some (if they get their news from politicians and the media.)
Objectively speaking, the human condition is getting better over time, not worse, thanks to the spread of free-market ideas across the world.
For example, data collected by HumanProgress.org, a project of the Cato Institute, suggests people on Earth have, on average, become more financially secure in just the past 10 years. According to figures from the OECD, the average amount of money any person could be expected to have saved after taxation rose by 40 percent from 2005 to 2015, jumping from $21,950 to $30,745.
Not only do people have more disposable income to save and spend as they please, they have more years in which they can use that money to enjoy life. Data from the World Bank show a baby boy born in 2014 has an average life expectancy of 69.1 years, while a boy born in 1960 had a life expectancy of only 51.9 years. Human medicine and technology have advanced so much in just the past 50 years that babies born today are expected to live almost 33 percent longer than their grandfathers.
Happiness and enjoyment of life’s blessings can’t be fully measured by economic or medical statistics. For example, what use would a long and prosperous life be if we didn’t have music in our lives? It’s a good thing, then, that there is more music to enjoy today than there was just 30 years ago.
According to MusicBrainz, an open-data online music encyclopedia, there have been more new albums and singles released in just 2015 than there were during the 14-year period spanning from 1980 to 1994.
If things are objectively getting better for people, then why do so many think things are getting worse?
Unfortunately, it’s not in the interests of our media to talk about all of the ways in which life is improving. To quote a fictional news reporter from popular video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, “Officials say there are still no reported casualties, which is truly unfortunate, as it makes for incredibly boring news.”
Lawmakers also have little use for reporting good news, because people may otherwise realize these improvements in human life occurred as a result of people freely conducting business with one another, without the help of government regulations and agencies. Instead, lawmakers and politicians focus on life’s negatives and propose more policies and politics as the solutions to the world’s problems, which are often caused by policies and politics.
Instead of believing the media and political spin that things are getting worse and government is the only answer, people need to research the facts and realize freedom has directly improved human happiness on Earth. It is quantifiable that wherever people are free, they have the means to be happy. (Contributor: By Jesse Hathaway for The Washington Times - Jesse Hathaway is a research fellow with the Heartland Institute.)
This positive analysis is based on two beliefs. First, things are good because life expectancy has increased. Second, the “bad news” seems worse because the Internet allows more rapid news release in our day. But intercessors focus on the spiritual pulse. Pray earnestly, as the U.S. is in deep debt, violence abounds, and we are losing our freedoms. But give thanks that God reigns and is in control.
“The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He dwells between the cherubim; let the earth be moved! The Lord is great in Zion, and He is high above all the peoples. Let them praise Your great and awesome name—He is holy.” (Ps. 99:1-3)
USING THE GARLAND NOMINATION TO ‘TRANSFORM’ AMERICA
While campaigning for president in 2008, Barack Obama promised to “fundamentally transform” America. And there can be little doubt that his vision is an America where the Second Amendment only applies to government officials, religious liberty exists only to protects private belief, unelected government agencies are given carte blanche to impose regulation on businesses and consumers, equal protection requires racial quotas, and the president can simply rewrite laws passed by Congress that displease him.
But this vision is squarely at odds with that of our nation’s Founding Fathers, who attempted to safeguard our liberties from such abuses through the U.S. Constitution. President Obama is well aware that the supreme law of the land constrains him from remaking the country in his own liberal image, and that to subvert it, stacking the court with liberal judges is an absolute prerequisite.
With the passing of strict constitutionalist Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia so near the end of Mr. Obama’s tenure, the fundamental balance of the court is in question. While the president has the constitutional power to nominate Scalia’s successor, many have argued that he should exercise his prerogative to leave such an important decision to the next president. After all, the Senate has a constitutional duty to give its consent, and the American people should likewise be given an opportunity to inform that consent through the upcoming election.
Mr. Obama’s ideological zeal precluded yielding to such a course, as nearly anyone could have predicted. Instead, the president nominated Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Cognizant that Judge Garland must be confirmed by a Republican-majority Senate, the White House went into immediate overdrive to characterize him as a “moderate” and “centrist” judge. Dutifully parroting the administration, liberal media pundits declared that Republicans would be hard-pressed to reject such a middle-of-the-road selection and called for confirmation hearings to begin without delay.
But with each passing day, we learn a bit more about Judge Garland. What has come to light so far tells us that rushing the nomination process is precisely the route the Senate should not take. Indeed, what we are learning is that the labels “moderate” and “middle of the road” were a deceptive attempt at masking the true nature of a full-on liberal judge upon whom Mr. Obama can count on to secure a liberal majority on the court for many years to come.
According to a recent analysis examining hundreds of Judge Garland’s cases, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) found that he ruled in favor of federal agencies 77 percent of the time and against businesses 90 percent of the time. In environmental cases, he sided with regulators nine out of 10 times while business were shut out 11 to zero. Environmental groups won 62 percent of their cases before him. Judge Garland ruled in favor of federal agencies in labor cases 79 percent of the time. While business lost 95 percent of labor cases, labor unions have never, ever lost a case heard by Judge Garland. The NFIB analysis asked “If that’s ‘moderate,’ what is a liberal?” For this reason, the NFIB came out against Judge Garland, taking a stand on a Supreme Court nomination for the first time in its 70-plus-year history.
Judge Garland’s liberal judicial record goes even further. He has clearly demonstrated that he doesn’t feel bound by the Second Amendment. He voted to reconsider an important gun rights decision that had struck down Washington D.C.’s gun ban. A U.S. law prohibiting federal gun registration didn’t stop him from siding in favor of the Clinton administration-backed National Instant Check System, which retained registration data for six months.
A deeper look at Judge Garland’s record reveals not a compromise selection designed to put Republican senators on the spot, but a liberal judge not bound by the text of the Constitution or its limits.
In truth, his lifetime appointment would represent a perpetual threat to the notion of limited government. As The New York Times has pointed out, a Supreme Court with Merrick Garland will be the most liberal court in 50 years.
The American people are one vote away from having their religious liberties endangered, from government agencies being given a blank check to regulate business and consumers without the consent of Congress, from having our Second Amendment rights threatened, and from having other rights we take for granted kicked to the curb.
In attempting to secure liberal domination of the Supreme Court with another judge to rubber-stamp his left-wing agenda, the president is not treating his constitutional duty with the respect it deserves. The U.S. Senate must stand firm and not allow the president, on his way out of office, to solidify his legacy by creating the most liberal court in decades. (Contributor: By j. Kenneth Blackwell for The Washington Times - J. Kenneth Blackwell, a former Ohio secretary of state, is a senior fellow for human rights and constitutional governance at the Family Research Council and a member of the policy board of the American Civil Rights Union.)
Many Americans, including President Obama’s supporters, know that his assessment of Judge Garland as a “balanced” interpreter of the law is neither accurate nor true. Based on his record, Judge Garland would ensure a liberal Supreme Court for years to come. Pray for the coming elections, that the Constitution will be recognized and upheld in the next president’s nomination.
“Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them…And let them judge the people at all times.” (Ex. 18:21-22)
RNC: NO RULE CHANGES BEFORE CONVENTION
In avoiding a high-profile battle to simplify the rules, the committee rallied behind chairman Reince Priebus's repeated insistence that no changes should be made before the July convention.
The committee adjourned just one hour after it began without making any changes, including one that could have made it more difficult for party leaders to nominate a "white knight" candidate — someone not currently in the race who could take on Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.
Committee members repeatedly warned against provoking the ire of the voters by suggesting rules changes just months before Republicans meet for the convention in Cleveland.
The meeting comes as GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump has repeatedly assailed the entire primary process as rigged, and as many rule committee members cited intense media scrutiny in the run-up to what's typically a wonky and dry event.
"We are basically in the seventh inning of the ball game and its not right to change the rules of the ball game in the middle," Georgia committeeman and rules committee member Randy Evans said.
"This is a very hotly contested election and any change that we make will be viewed with a large degree of cynicism.”
The RNC's standing committee doesn't have the final say on the convention rules -- that's left to the delegates elected to the convention rules committee. But the standing committee can make temporary changes to the rules that would need to be agreed on by the convention delegates.
The lion's share of the debate centered on a bid by a longtime Oregon committeeman Solomon Yue to change the rulebook to Roberts' Rules of Order, a common rulebook in government meetings.
Yue believes the change would create more transparency while also clamping down on the ability of party leaders to insert an establishment alternative into the race.
But after about 45 minutes of debate, the vast majority of the hall voted against the bid and quashed it. John Ryder, Tennessee's national committeeman who also serves as Priebus' general counsel, joined the group of lawmakers who spoke out against it.
Ironically, the standing committee operates using Roberts' Rules — so it used Roberts' Rules to block Roberts' Rules.
Yue framed the move as a way to protect grassroots delegates from potential overreach by the convention chairman, likely to be Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
He went on to bash 2012 chairman, then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), for a controversial incident where he read the results of a motion off of a TelePrompTer instead of further examining a contested vote.
"This is a politically supercharged year and we can't afford do have another incident like we had in 2012," he said.
"That would roil the convention and this party as well as cause us to lose in November the white house fight.”
While Yue had previously had harsh words for Chairman Priebus' push to block his proposal — private letters from Yue and committee chairman Bruce Ash castigating the chairman leaked in the days before the meeting — he told reporters he was satisfied that his voice was heard and looked forward to reintroducing the change again in the future.
After the meeting ended, RNC chief strategist Sean Spicer needled the press for that narrative by walking up and down the press row to joke about the "chaos," or lack thereof.
The 56-member committee met in a packed conference room at the Diplomat Hotel & Spa in Hollywood, Fla. filled with reporters and the rest of the RNC.
Despite the controversy, the meeting remained businesslike and cordial, with one delegate even going as far to praise the decorum of the room.
The only brief controversy came when Ash asked the RNC's special counsel to walk through the implications of the change. One committeeman, Massachusetts' Ron Kaufman, successfully blocked him from taking the stage by noting that the rules only allow committee members to speak.
Members had briefly considered postponing the motion to a later meeting, which would have kept Yue's hopes alive, but it resoundingly rejected that move.
Washington committeeman Jeff Kent argued that postponement would only bring the issue closer to the convention's doorstep and that the committee should settle the issue in front of the media and the world.
"Everybody is watching, everybody can see what we do. I would hate for us to take action right now that would send this to what would be described as a smaller committee without the cameras around," he said.
"Let’s not punt this down the road.”
Earlier in the meeting, the committee withdrew two other potential rule changes.
One of those measures would have eliminated the "carve-out" allowing four states — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada — to hold a primary or caucus before March 1 without penalty.
The other measure would have been a minor procedural change to how the RNC chairman and co-chairman are elected.
Enid Mickelsen, the Utah committeewoman who proposed the rules change at a previous meeting, told the committee she wanted to withdraw her resolution for another day.
"This is a discussion that we need to have again someday, but I would submit that this is not that day," she said in the opening minutes of the meeting.
"I will submit, Mr. Chairman, that in the supercharged political environment in which we find ourselves, this is not the time to be debating rules changes." (Contributor: By Ben Kamisar for The Hill)
In articles with such political nuances, we do not analyze but take the “King’s highway” of watchful prayer. Please intercede for the candidates and for the process. As believers, we must prepare our hearts and minds in prayer, then vote for the best candidates that God sovereignly provides, even if our own choices are not nominated. This is a year for the Church to pray and to trust God.
“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He He turns it wherever He wishes. Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.” (Prov. 21:1-2)
RESTROOMS AND TRANSGENDER RIGHTS: A FLASH POINT IN THE GOP RACE
Cletus Abate was aghast after learning last week that the Pennsylvania legislature is considering a bill that would extend protections to transgender people, including allowing them to use the bathrooms they choose.
So she took a petition and packets outlining what opponents see as threats from the legislation to a Ted Cruz rally, handing them out to anyone who would listen, including the candidate himself.
“I’m here because Donald Trump came out on the news and said he doesn’t have a problem with transgender bathrooms,” Abate said.
Transgender rights have become an unlikely and heated issue in the presidential campaign after North Carolina enacted a law that, among other things, mandated that people use the restroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate.
Cruz has seized on Trump’s assertion that the North Carolina law, which also rolled back other protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people, was unnecessary and bad for business — corporations including PayPal and Deutsche Bank scrapped plans to create jobs in the state after the legislation was enacted. Trump said there has been “little trouble” with allowing people to use the restroom they want, though he later said that states should have the power to enact their own laws. Trump also said he would let transgender reality-television star Caitlyn Jenner use the women’s restroom at his properties.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he probably wouldn’t have signed the North Carolina law, while both Democratic candidates have condemned it.
“There’s been a significant amount of conversation about it on the presidential level,” said Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, who said 50 anti-transgender bills have been filed nationwide this year. “In terms of it being new territory, the answer is yes.”
Cruz’s argument centers on the idea that allowing transgender women to use women’s restrooms would lead to deviants dressing up as women and preying on young girls. His campaign released an ad accusing Trump of capitulating to the “PC police” and asking viewers whether a grown man pretending to be a woman should use a restroom with your daughter or wife.
“Donald Trump thinks so,” the ad reads.
Cruz has woven his support of North Carolina’s law into his stump speech. There has been some backlash: A woman holding a “Trans lives matter” sign protested outside of a stop Cruz made in Allentown, Pa., on Friday.
“As the father of two young girls, I can tell you it doesn’t make any sense to allow adult grown men strangers to be alone in a bathroom with little girls,” Cruz said at a rally here, drawing loud applause from the crowd.
He called Trump’s views on transgender people “political correctness on steroids.”
“Evil!” a woman in the crowd yelled.
President Obama weighed in on the issue Friday from Britain, which issued a travel advisory warning residents about the North Carolina law and another enacted in Mississippi that allows businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples on religious grounds.
“I want everybody here in the United Kingdom to know that the people of North Carolina and Mississippi are wonderful people,” said Obama, who also took a question from a person who claims no gender. “I also think that the laws that have been passed there are wrong and should be overturned.”
Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have forcefully condemned the laws, and Sanders said he would overturn them if elected president.
Here in Pennsylvania, the battle over transgender rights has been brewing for years. It is the only Northeastern state that does not extend anti-discrimination protections to gay and transgender people, which some members of the Republican-controlled legislature have attempted to change in session after session. They have found an ally in Gov. Tom Wolf (D), who this month issued executive orders barring gender-based discrimination against employees and job applicants in state government and its contractors. Pennsylvania’s physician general is a transgender woman.
The governor has called for passage of the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, which would provide protections to gay and bisexual people in housing, employment and public accommodations — including public restrooms. An employer does not need to construct new facilities to comply. The bill is stalled in the legislature because of a contentious battle over the budget.
Opponents here have seized on the national controversy over transgender rights, labeling it the “bathroom bill,” as many did in North Carolina.
Sally Keaveney, chief of staff to state Sen. Larry Farnese (D), who sponsored the legislation, said this is the first time opponents have used the specter of transgender people in bathrooms to fight a statewide anti-discrimination bill. A number of conservative groups have launched a website dedicated to defeating the bill. It urges Pennsylvanians to call their elected officials, highlights that the bill will affect the commonwealth’s public schools and claims such legislation will lead to an increase in sexual assault, something organizations who work with assault victims call a myth.
More than 30 municipalities in Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Scranton, both of which Cruz visited Friday, have passed transgender protections, according to Adrian Shanker, executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown.
“We are facing one of the most significant threats to religious liberty and privacy rights in the history of the Commonwealth,” reads the handout that Abate brought here, which she got from one of the organizations opposing the measure.
At least 18 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws barring discrimination against transgender people, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, and at least 200 cities and counties prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.
Cruz has defended religious-liberty legislation in both North Carolina and Indiana, which has a primary May 3 and where controversy erupted last year after Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a law that many viewed as anti-gay.
Campaigning in Indiana over the weekend, Cruz said people have the right to do whatever they want, including if a man wishes to dress as a woman and use her home bathroom. Cruz said that he is fine with transgender people using a public unisex bathroom but that people do not have the right to impose their lifestyles on others.
Cruz said that if the law allows for a man to enter “a little girl’s restroom, and stay there and he cannot be removed because he simply says at that moment he feels like a woman, you’re opening the door for predators.”
Don Uber, a 69-year-old accountant from Apollo, Pa., agrees with Cruz. Uber, who has a 2-year-old granddaughter, said he is more concerned about male sexual predators dressing up as women and going into women’s restrooms with girls than he is about predators using men’s rooms near boys.
“They’re going to have other men in there that can protect the boys,” Uber said. “It’s our duty as men to be protectors, and opening up [women’s] bathrooms to men is failing our responsibilities.”
Uber said he believes the law will just allow men to walk into women’s rooms.
“You don’t even have to cross-dress. You can go in in a business suit and say, ‘I define myself as a female,’ and they’re okay with that,” he said.
Lizabeth Kleintop, a transgender woman and Moravian College professor from Bethlehem, Pa., said she uses women’s restrooms not because it is a choice, but rather because she identifies as a woman.
“Our interest in going to the restroom is to pee,” Kleintop said.
Cruz does have at least one transgender fan: Jenner, who has said she supports Cruz and would like to be his transgender ambassador. In the latest episode of her show, “I Am Cait,” Jenner was informed that Cruz supported a group of pastors that worked to defeat a Houston anti-discrimination ordinance. Jenner called Cruz “totally misinformed” about transgender people but said he can “take care of the big issues.”
A representative for Jenner declined to comment when asked about Cruz’s stance on the North Carolina law.
Abate said she’s willing to fight as long as it takes to defeat the bill. She insists that she is not bigoted and has gay and lesbian friends and family members but says she believes such legislation violates the rights of people, businesses and places of worship that don’t want transgender people in single-sex bathrooms.
Abate’s newly enacted crusade is now driving her political choices. For months she has supported Trump’s candidacy, but his transgender comments have made her reevaluate, just days before Pennsylvania’s Republican primary on Tuesday.
“I guess that I am going to be pulling the lever for Cruz,” she said. (Contributor: Katie Zezima for The Washington Post - Katie Zezima is a national political correspondent covering the 2016 presidential election. She previously served as a White House correspondent for The Washington Post.
According to the Bible, the LBGT position is topsy-turvy. God’s pattern is clear: male and female. When the Gospel reached the city of Thessalonica (Acts 17), those opposing the message said the apostles “have turned the world upside down.” In reality, the Gospel, when received, turns one’s world right-side up. Pray that a Gospel resurgence will save many and correct sexual confusion.
“But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, ‘These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.’” (Acts 17:6)
JAPAN SUCCEEDS IN TEST FLIGHT OF FIRST STEALTH FIGHTER JET
Technological super power Japan, despite strict constitutional constraints on the use of military force imposed after World War II, has one of the world's most advanced defense forces and the development of the stealth fighter comes as it faces new security challenges in the form of China's expanding force posture.
The domestically developed X-2 jet took off from Nagoya airport in central Japan on its maiden test flight as dozens of aviation enthusiasts watching the event erupted in applause as it lifted off into the clear morning sky.
Television footage showed the red-and-white aircraft roaring into the air, escorted by two Japanese military fighters that were collecting flight data.
The single-pilot prototype safely landed at Gifu air base, north of Nagoya airport, after a 25-minute flight with "no particular problems," said an official at the defense ministry's acquisition agency.
It was an "extremely stable" flight; the pilot was quoted as saying by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the main contractor.
"The control of the aircraft went exactly as in our simulated training sessions," the pilot added.
The inaugural flight, which followed extensive ground tests, had been postponed due to bad weather and malfunctions of parts used in its escape system.
"The first flight has a very significant meaning that can secure technologies needed for future fighter development," Defense Minister Gen Nakatani told reporters.
"We also expect it can be applied to other fields and technological innovation in the entire aviation industry," Nakatani added.
The X-2, developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and 200 other firms, measures 14.2 meters (47 feet) long and 9.1 meters wide and was built as a successor to F-2 fighter jets developed jointly with the United States.
Its delivery to the defence ministry is expected as early as next month and the acquisition agency "will continue analyzing data and check its stealth technology capability," the agency official told AFP.
Presently, only the United States, Russia and China have been internationally recognized as having successfully developed and flown manned stealth jets, the agency said.
Japan began the project in 2009 and has reportedly spent about 39.4 billion yen ($332 million) to develop the aircraft.
The country was barred from developing aircraft for a number of years after its defeat in World War II but eventually produced the YS-11, a propeller passenger plane that began flying in the early 1960s.
In another aviation milestone in November last year, Japan's first domestically produced passenger jet, also developed by Mitsubishi Heavy, made its maiden test flight. (Contributor: AFP)
The free world helped rebuild Japan after World War II, thanks to the Marshall Plan, and it has been an innovative leader in autos, computers, and high-tech equipment. Pray that no aggressive military resurgence will re-appear and that Japan will flourish as a western ally and remain open to the Gospel.
“For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations.” (Ps. 22:28)
HUNDREDS OF FORMERLY ANTAGONISTIC HINDUS TURNING TO CHRIST
According to Breaking Christian News, the 2008 murder of Hindu leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati sparked intense violence in the predominantly Hindu Kandhamal District in eastern India.
Radical Hindus spread the rumor that Christians were responsible for Saraswati’s murder, though non-Christian Maoists claimed to have killed him.
The Hindu radicals went on a rampage, destroying 300 churches and 6,000 homes, and displacing at least 50,000 people for months. Angry mobs also shot, burned, dismembered, beat, and raped Christians, in addition to making them undergo “reconversion” ceremonies, involving things like drinking water mixed with cow feces.
Many Christian were also persecuted for being part of lower castes in society.
Because of the severe persecution, many fled to the jungles, where more died from poisonous snakes or disease.
Recently, however, there are reports that those very jungles where many Christians died are becoming places where many Hindus are encountering the Lord.
"By God's grace we are holding evangelistic jungle camps everywhere the violence took place," said an indigenous religious leader. "It is God's doing. The violence took place almost everywhere in Kandhamal District. We held a jungle camp at one village church, and in 2008 that church building had been attacked, broken and set on fire, and the Believers had fled to the jungle for safety."
“They are happy to accept Jesus as their God and Savior and to live for Him in the midst of persecution. Thousands are gathering in the jungle camps in Kandhamal District to hear the living Word of God. People were happy and encouraged to live for Jesus and His kingdom,” he continued.
One woman, whose name is withheld for security reasons, was strongly opposed to Christianity and its people, but after she became disillusioned with Hinduism and other religions, she turned to Jesus because He miraculously healed her of an evil spirit.
"I was searching for this kind of life, and Jesus gave it to me. He is the only true and loving God,” she testified. (Contributor: By Veronica Neffinger for Christian Headlines)
This report of Hindus turning to Jesus Christ in areas once severely antagonistic to Christians and their faith is being repeated in other people groups as well, including among Muslims, many of whom are reportedly experiencing miracles of healing and visions of the Lord Himself. Give thanks for these manifestations of grace. Pray for new believers to become grounded and settled in their faith.
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” (John 14:6)
ISIS SUSPECT REVEALS PLANS TO OPEN UP ROUTE FROM SYRIA TO U.S.
Gules Ali Omar told the ISIS members about the route so that it could be used to send members to America to carry out terrorist attacks, prosecutors alleged in a document filed this week.
The document, filed Wednesday, is one of many filed in recent weeks as prosecutors and defense attorneys argue about which evidence should be allowed at the men's trial, which starts May 9.
The men — Omar, 21; Hamza Naj Ahmed, 21; Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 22; and Abdirahman Yasin Daud, 22 — have pleaded not guilty to multiple charges, including conspiracy to commit murder outside the U.S. Prosecutors have said they were part of a group of friends in Minnesota's Somali community who held secret meetings and plotted to join the Islamic State group.
Five other men have pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to support a foreign terrorist organization. A tenth man charged in the case is at-large, believed to be in Syria.
The government's document was filed in response to a defense request that prosecutors be barred from introducing evidence about possible attacks in the U.S.
Last week, Daud's attorney wrote that, absent any specific evidence that his client threatened the United States, any references to discussions about attacks would be prejudicial. To permit such references, as well as references to the Sept. 11 attacks or exhibits that show violent images of war crimes, "would cause the jurors to decide out of fear and contempt alone," defense attorney Bruce Nestor wrote.
But prosecutors said audio recordings obtained during the investigation show the defendants spoke multiple times about the possibility of attacks in the U.S. Among them, Omar spoke of establishing a route for fighters, Farah spoke of killing an FBI agent and another man who pleaded guilty talked about shooting a homemade rocket at an airplane.
Prosecutors wrote that they should be allowed to "play for the jury the defendants' own words, in which they discuss the possibility of returning to attack the United States." They also said the defendants watched videos and gruesome images, which they also want to play for the jury, and that a blanket ban on mentioning the 2001 attacks is inappropriate, noting that Omar had pictures of the burning World Trade Center towers and Osama bin Laden on his cellphone.
A phone message left with Omar's attorney wasn't immediately returned.
The FBI has said about a dozen people have left Minnesota to join militant groups fighting in Syria in recent years. In addition, since 2007 more than 22 men have joined al-Shabab in Somalia. (Contributor: Fox News Latino - Based on reporting by The Associated Press.)
Our southern porous U.S. borders continue to work against national security and make reports such as this espionage and infiltration program easily believable. Our open or loosely guarded borders, along with reduction in security personnel, make America an easy target for terrorists to enter the country. Pray for God’s mercy and for protection from a “fifth column” of internal terrorist cells.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Ps. 127:1)