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Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
The Informer May 4, 2016

On Watch in Washington May 4, 2016 Plain Text PDF Version

NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER

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

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

 

‘AS THE FAMILY GOES, SO GOES THE NATION’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, ‘Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.’” (Neh. 4:14)

 

U.S. DEBT UP MORE THAN $1 TRILLION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

TENNESSEE GOVERNOR SIGNS 'THERAPIST BILL' INTO LAW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

HOMEOWNERSHIP RATE FALLS TO THIRD LOWEST ON RECORD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

THE ROBOT REVOLUTION IN CAREGIVING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A university spokesperson did not return my calls seeking comment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHY THE GLASS IS HALF FULL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

USING THE GARLAND NOMINATION TO ‘TRANSFORM’ AMERICA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RNC: NO RULE CHANGES BEFORE CONVENTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Let’s not punt this down the road.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Donald Trump thinks so,” the ad reads.

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

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

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

“Evil!” a woman in the crowd yelled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

JAPAN SUCCEEDS IN TEST FLIGHT OF FIRST STEALTH FIGHTER JET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

HUNDREDS OF FORMERLY ANTAGONISTIC HINDUS TURNING TO CHRIST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Informer - April 20, 2016

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THE CHAOS OF THE GOP CONVENTION HAS ALREADY BEGUN

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

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

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

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

So, there are two rules committees?

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

That sounds … confusing.

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

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

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

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

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

OK, explain in order please.

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

Who wants to change the rule?

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

So how could that rule change?

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

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

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

Then why is the rule so important?

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

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

OK, and the other fight?

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

Why would someone want to do that?

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

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

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

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

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

Yep. (Contributor: By Josh Voorhees for Slate)

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

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

 

DANGER AHEAD FOR WORLD ECONOMY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

NORTH KOREA COULD BE PREPARING FOR FIFTH NUCLEAR TEST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.’…Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” (Ps. 2:2-3, 10-11)

 

THE SAUDIS CHANNEL THE MAFIA

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

Today, things are more sophisticated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

MARRIAGE YES, JUST NOT YET?

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

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

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

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

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

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

That measure is divorce.

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

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

The answer lies in our evolving views of marriage itself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Informer April 13, 2016

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VIDEOS SEIZED

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

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

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

 

NEW RELIGIOUS FREEDOM BILL

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

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

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20)

 

PORNOGRAPHY: A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” (Gal. 5:1)

 

PAYPAL STANCE: DO BUSINESS IN COUNTRIES HOSTILE TO GAYS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

TENNESSEE BILL WOULD ALLOW COUNSELORS TO DENY SERVICES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rules Of The Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

DIABETES CASES HAVE QUADRUPLED IN JUST OVER 3 DECADES

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

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

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

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

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

What is diabetes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is diabetes on the rise?

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

Among the WHO's key findings about exercise and :

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

Which countries are most affected?

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

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

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

What can be done?

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

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

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

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

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

What about medicine to treat diabetes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any silver lining?

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

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

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

A co-ordinated approach is needed.

New York banning smokeless tobacco at ballparks, other venues

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

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

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

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

 

A NEW MAN-MADE SHRIMP -  SIMULACRUM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Informer April 6, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that's worrisome, because Fauci doesn't think Zika is going away anytime soon. "I don't think it's going to be a come-and-go phenomenon," he said, comparing it with its cousin dengue — which has been a persistent public health problem for years. The NIAID hopes to have a vaccine in efficacy trials by early 2017, and he expects "a lot of active infections" will be around at that time.

Understanding the structure of Zika will certainly help make more effective vaccines, but there are months — and maybe years — of hard work ahead.

"I think, with this, we’ll be able to make a Zika vaccine," Fauci said. "But you never say never, and you never say always." (Contributor: By Rachel Feltman for The Washington Post)

The Purdue team’s discoveries, even to non-scientific eyes, sounds like Nobel Prize material, and without slighting the researchers’ brilliance in any way, we urge prayer for more of God’s wisdom and mercy in revealing the answers needed for an eventual treatment and, ultimately, a vaccine. Pray for ongoing success and that God will receive glory.

 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29)

 

FDA UPDATES RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ABORTION PILL

New recommendations for the abortion pill announced [last] Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration could increase use of the medication to terminate / [kill an unborn baby] a pregnancy in the United States.

The new label changes the recommended dosage of the two drugs used in the abortion process. It allows the treatment to be used up to 70 days into pregnancy - three weeks longer than the old guidelines. And it relaxes prescriber guidelines to allow, for example, a nurse practitioner to administer the drugs rather than a physician.

The reality on the ground will not change for most abortion patients, as doctors for years have been legally diverging from the old FDA protocol based on new research. But a handful of states, including Texas and Ohio, have laws requiring abortion providers to adhere at least in part to the FDA-approved label, leading some providers there to all but abandon the use of the abortion pill.

"The label change for medication abortion will mean that it will once again be a real option for Preterm's patients and women across the state," Chrisse France, executive director of Preterm, an abortion provider in Ohio, said in a statement. "We will no longer be forced to practice medicine mandated by politicians whose ultimate goal is to shut us down."

Anti-abortion groups noted that the new label carries over the old label's warnings of some of the dangers associated with the drug - including the very rare possibility of infection or death.

"The new label affirms the deadly realities of chemical abortion and underscores the need for in-person patient examination and follow-up care as well as the fact that the abortion drug regimen presents serious risks to women's health," Anna Paprocki, staff attorney for Americans United for Life, said in a statement.

The label change is effective immediately. It applies to Mifeprex, which is the brand name for mifepristone, one of the two drugs used in medication abortions. It blocks the production of progesterone, a hormone that prepares the lining of the uterus for a fertilized egg. A day or two after taking that drug, the woman takes the second drug, misoprostol, which causes the uterus to contract and expel the pregnancy.

The FDA said that the manufacturer of Mifeprex, Danco Laboratories, applied for the updated label as part of a "supplemental new drug application" submitted to the agency in late May. The company proposed that the treatment be used to end a pregnancy through the first 70 days of gestation - that's 70 days from the first day of the woman's last menstrual period. Under the original labeling, the treatment was to be used through the first 49 days of gestation.

The agency also approved changes in the doses of the drugs and the dosing regimen. Under the old regimen, a woman would take three Mifeprex tablets on the first day and two misoprostol tablets on the second day. Under the new label, a patient would take one Mifeprex tablet on day one and 4 misoprostol tablets 24 to 48 hours later. Women are advised to return to their health-care providers a week or two after taking Mifeprex, under the revised label. That was two weeks under the old label.

The agency initially approved Mifeprex in September 2000, and women can get it from their health-care providers such as clinics, medical offices and hospitals, and under the supervision of a certified prescriber. It is not available in retail pharmacies, or legally sold over the Internet.

The agency said that cramping and vaginal bleeding are possible side effects of the treatment, and that in some cases surgery will be needed to stop very heavy vaginal bleeding. Other potential side effects, the FDA said, include headache, diarrhea, dizziness and vomiting. (Contributor: By Sandhya Somashekhar and Laurie McGinley for The Washington Post and Sun Sentinel)

This is still abortion, and the medications are still not reliably proven as safe from unpredictable side-effects. Intercede for these babies’ mothers, as well as each respective father, will understand, by divine revelation, the extreme value of their pre-born children and will choose life, even for adoption, for these innocent lives.

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.” (Prov. 24:11 NIV)

 

U.S. COMMANDOS TRAINED TO STOP TERRORISTS WITH `DIRTY BOMBS'

U.S. commando units have been trained to seize and disable nuclear or radioactive bombs, providing a crucial last line of defense if terrorists get their hands on such weapons, according to the general in charge of the forces.

The U.S. Special Operations Command “has sufficient ‘render-safe’ capacity to respond to the most likely” scenarios involving weapons of mass destruction under the current analysis of threats, Army General Raymond Thomas has told lawmakers.

The Pentagon rarely discusses publicly its plans to use commandos if terrorists obtain a nuclear weapon or build a “dirty bomb” from radioactive material. While U.S. officials say there’s no sign yet that Islamic State has such a capability, the prospect was on Friday’s agenda for the Nuclear Security Summit of world leaders being hosted by President Barack Obama in Washington.

Thomas described the role U.S. commandos might play in written responses to the Senate Armed Services Committee before his confirmation as head of the Special Operations Command, a post he took this week. He moved up a rung from his previous role heading the Joint Special Operations Command, directly overseeing fabled -- and secretive -- units such as the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s SEAL Team 6.

‘Proper Threshold’

Even with U.S. special forces spending significant time conducting counterterrorism operations, Thomas said those deployments haven’t interfered with preparations to handle a weapon of mass destruction.

Thomas said his commandos have “found the proper threshold of maintaining the world’s foremost counterterrorism force” for missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere “while ensuring our counterproliferation forces, including the no-fail mission of render-safe, are manned, trained and equipped and prepared to address WMD threats as they arise.”

More about the Defense Department’s preparations for using commandos to disarm weapons of mass destruction can be found in the fine print of budget documents.

Funding Plans

From fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2021, the Pentagon plans to have spent more than $1 billion equipping the Special Operations Command with “a full spectrum” of counterterrorism technologies developed by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, according to budget documents supporting a $103 million request for fiscal 2017.

From fiscal 2010 to 2016, the threat-reduction agency received $655 million to spend on these technologies, and it’s proposing about $537 million in additional funding through 2021.

The program is intended to give special forces units the “tools to locate, identify, characterize, assess and attack WMD production and storage facilities with minimal-to-no collateral damage or loss of life,” according to the documents. One of last year’s accomplishments was described as development of a “precision shaped charge using a proven manufacturing process.”

The Special Operations Command’s embrace of the mission against weapons of mass destruction is something of a turnaround.

Maintain Ability

In 2010, Admiral Eric Olson, who then headed the command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in written answers that the commitment of elite commandos to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had compromised their skills to hunt worldwide for such weapons, diluting the capability.

The number of commandos “available for counterproliferation” was limited and their expertise was degraded by “the decreased level of training,” Olson said.

In March, Thomas told the panel, “I will continue to use current training and exercise programs” to “maintain our ability to meet our mission to counter” weapons of mass destruction.

He said he’ll also push for state-of-the-art technology and transfer “as much capability as is reasonable to forward-deployed” special operations units. (Contributor: By Anthony Capaccio for Bloomberg News)

An old and reliable principle of security is called “the need to know,” and we wonder why articles like this are published for any reader — friend or foe — to become knowledgeable as to what our military is doing to thwart terrorist bomb attacks. Since it is public knowledge, we reprint for intercessors to pray. As long as the horrors of war and terrorism exist, we appeal to heaven for God’s mercy.

For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” (Ps. 96:4)

 

SAUDI ARABIA BUYING UP FARMLAND IN U.S. SOUTHWEST

Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries are scooping up farmland in drought-afflicted regions of the U.S. Southwest, and that has some people in California and Arizona seeing red.

Saudi Arabia grows alfalfa hay in both states for shipment back to its domestic dairy herds. In another real-life example of the world's interconnected economy, the Saudis increasingly look to produce animal feed overseas in order to save water in their own territory, most of which is desert.

Privately held Fondomonte California on Sunday announced that it bought 1,790 acres of farmland in Blythe, California — an agricultural town along the Colorado River — for nearly $32 million. Two years ago, Fondomont's parent company, Saudi food giant Almarai, purchased another 10,000 acres of farmland about 50 miles away in Vicksburg, Arizona, for around $48 million.

But not everyone likes the trend. The alfalfa exports are tantamount to "exporting water," because in Saudi Arabia, "they have decided that it's better to bring feed in rather than to empty their water reserves," said Keith Murfield, CEO of United Dairymen of Arizona, a Tempe-based dairy cooperative whose members also buy alfalfa. "This will continue unless there's regulations put on it."

In a statement announcing the California farmland purchase, the Saudi company said the deal "forms part of Almarai's continuous efforts to improve and secure its supply of the highest quality alfalfa hay from outside the (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) to support its dairy business. It is also in line with the Saudi government direction toward conserving local resources."

Alamarai did not respond to CNBC requests for an interview. (Contributor: By Jeff Daniels for CNBC)

Many Americans cannot understand why foreign powers are allowed to purchase U.S. land and reap profits at our nation’s expense. As we see it, the anger being aroused in California and Arizona is justified. Perhaps the regulations will be changed by the next administration. The money is no doubt very attractive, but the expense to our country is beyond calculation. Pray into this as you are led.

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Tim. 6:9-10)

 

RUSSIA DOUBLING NUCLEAR WARHEADS

Russia is doubling the number of its strategic nuclear warheads on new missiles by deploying multiple reentry vehicles that have put Moscow over the limit set by the New START arms treaty, according to Pentagon officials.

A recent intelligence assessment of the Russian strategic warhead buildup shows that the increase is the result of the addition of multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, on recently deployed road-mobile SS-27 and submarine-launched SS-N-32 missiles, said officials familiar with reports of the buildup.

“The Russians are doubling their warhead output,” said one official. “They will be exceeding the New START [arms treaty] levels because of MIRVing these new systems.”

The 2010 treaty requires the United States and Russia to reduce deployed warheads to 1,550 warheads by February 2018.

The United States has cut its warhead stockpiles significantly in recent years. Moscow, however, has increased its numbers of deployed warheads and new weapons.

The State Department revealed in January that Russia currently has exceeded the New START warhead limit by 98 warheads, deploying a total number of 1,648 warheads. The U.S. level currently is below the treaty level at 1,538 warheads.

Officials said that in addition to adding warheads to the new missiles, Russian officials have sought to prevent U.S. weapons inspectors from checking warheads as part of the 2010 treaty.

The State Department, however, said it can inspect the new MIRVed missiles.

Disclosure of the doubling of Moscow’s warhead force comes as world leaders gather in Washington this week to discus nuclear security—but without Russian President Vladimir Putin, who skipped the conclave in an apparent snub of the United States.

The Nuclear Security Summit is the latest meeting of world leaders seeking to pursue President Obama’s 2009 declaration of a world without nuclear arms.

Russia, however, is embarked on a major strategic nuclear forces build-up under Putin. Moscow is building new road-mobile, rail-mobile, and silo-based intercontinental-range missiles, along with new submarines equipped with modernized missiles. A new long-range bomber is also being built.

“Russia’s modernization program and their nuclear deterrent force is of concern,” Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, which is in charge of nuclear forces, told Congress March 10.

“When you look at what they’ve been modernizing, it didn’t just start,” Haney said. “They’ve been doing this quite frankly for some time with a lot of crescendo of activity over the last decade and a half.”

By contrast, the Pentagon is scrambling to find funds to pay for modernizing aging U.S. nuclear forces after seven years of sharp defense spending cuts under Obama.

Earlier this month, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that Russia continues to pose the greatest threat to the United States.

“The one that has the greatest capability and poses the greatest threat to the United States is Russia because of its capabilities—its nuclear capability, its cyber capability, and clearly because of some of the things we have seen in its leadership behavior over the last couple of years,” Dunford said.

In addition to a large-scale nuclear buildup, Russia has upgraded its nuclear doctrine and its leaders and officials have issued numerous threats to use nuclear arms against the United States in recent months, compounding fears of a renewed Russian threat.

Blake Narendra, spokesman for the State Department’s arms control, verification, and compliance bureau, said the Russian warhead build-up is the result of normal fluctuations due to modernization prior to the compliance deadline.

“The Treaty has no interim limits,” Narendra told the Free Beacon. “We fully expect Russia to meet the New START treaty central limits in accordance with the stipulated timeline of February 2018. The treaty provides that by that date both sides must have no more than 700 deployed treaty-limited delivery vehicles and 1,550 deployed warheads.”

Both the United States and Russia continue to implement the treaty in “a business-like manner,” he added.

Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon official involved in strategic nuclear forces, however, said he has warned for years that Russia is not reducing its nuclear forces under the treaty.

Since the New START arms accord, Moscow has eliminated small numbers of older SS-25 road-mobile missiles. But the missiles were replaced with new multiple-warhead SS-27s.

“The Russians have not claimed to have made any reductions for five years,” Schneider said

Additionally, Russian officials deceptively sought to make it appear their nuclear forces have been reduced during a recent nuclear review conference.

“If they could have claimed to have made any reductions under New START counting rules they would have done it there,” Schneider said.

The Obama administration also has been deceptive about the benefits of New START.

“The administration public affairs talking points on New START reductions border on outright lies,” Schneider said.

“The only reductions that have been made since New START entry into force have been by the United States,” he said. “Instead, Russia has moved from below the New START limits to above the New START limits in deployed warheads and deployed delivery vehicles.”

Deployment of new multiple-warhead SS-27s and SS-N-32s are pushing up the Russian warhead numbers. Published Russian reports have stated the missiles will be armed with 10 warheads each.

Former Defense Secretary William Perry said Thursday that New START was “very helpful” in promoting strategic stability but that recent trends in nuclear weapons are “very, very bad.”

“When President Obama made his speech in Prague, I thought we were really set for major progress in this field [disarmament],” Perry said in remarks at the Atlantic Council.

However, Russian “hostility” to the United States ended the progress. “Everything came to a grinding halt and we’re moving in reverse,” Perry said.

Other nuclear powers that are expanding their arsenals include China and Pakistan, Perry said.

Perry urged further engagement with Russia on nuclear weapons. “We do have a common interest in preventing a nuclear catastrophe,” he said.

Perry is advocating that the United States unilaterally eliminate all its land-based missiles and rely instead on nuclear missile submarines and bombers for deterrence.

However, he said his advocacy of the policy “may be pursuing a mission impossible.”

“I highly doubt the Russians would follow suit” by eliminating their land-based missiles, the former secretary said.

Additionally, Moscow is building a new heavy ICBM called Sarmat, code-named SS-X-30 by the Pentagon, that will be equipped with between 10 and 15 warheads per missile. And a new rail-based ICBM is being developed that will also carry multiple warheads.

Another long-range missile, called the SS-X-31, is under development and will carry up to 12 warheads.

Schneider, the former Pentagon official, said senior Russian arms officials have been quoted in press reports discussing Moscow’s withdrawal from the New START arms accord. If that takes place, Russia will have had six and a half years to prepare to violate the treaty limits, at the same time the United States will have reduced its forces to treaty limits.

“Can they comply with New START? Yes. They can download their missile warheads and do a small number to delivery systems reductions,” Schneider said. “Will they? I doubt it. If they don’t start to do something very soon they are likely to pull the plug on the treaty. I don’t see them uploading the way they have, only to download in the next two years.”

The White House said Moscow’s failure to take part in the nuclear summit was a sign of self-isolation based on the West’s sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for the military takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea.

A Russian official said the snub by Putin was directed at Obama.

“This summit is particularly important for the USA and for Obama—this is probably why Moscow has decided to go for this gesture and show its outrage with the West’s policy in this manner,” Alexei Arbatov, director of the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the business newspaper Vedomosti.

A Russian Foreign Ministry official, Mikhail Ulyanov, told RIA Novosti that the summit was not needed.

“There is no need for it, to be honest,” he said, adding that nuclear security talks should be the work of nuclear physicists, intelligence services, and engineers.

“The political agenda of the summits has long been exhausted,” Ulyanov said. (Contributor:  By Bill Gertz for The Washington Free Beacon)

President Obama continues to reduce U.S. military strength, while Russian President Putin is moving his country in the opposite direction. Regardless of Mr. Obama’s goals, many analysts, including those of his own party, have expressed concern about our vulnerability should military force be required internationally. Pray for God’s mercy, and that America will repent and turn to the Lord.

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

 

FRANKLIN GRAHAM WARNS AMERICA: 'I FEAR THAT OUR END WILL BE NEAR'

Evangelical preacher the Rev. Franklin Graham has warned that much like the decline of the Babylonian empire close to 2,500 years ago, America may also be staring down at its end, unless it turns back to God.

"What's the writing on the wall for America? As a nation we are found lacking because of sin and disobedience to God's Holy Word. We have not honored Him. If we don't turn back to God, I fear that our end will be near," Graham wrote on Facebook Sunday.

He noted that 2,500 year ago, present day Iraq was known as the Babylonian empire, and boasted one of the largest armies in the world at the time.

"Its king, Belshazzar, was having a big party drinking and boasting with his wives, his mistresses, and his nobles," Graham described, referring to the account in the book of Daniel in the Bible.

He added: "While they were partying, the hand of God appeared and wrote a message on the wall, terrifying everyone including King Belshazzar. His face grew pale and his knees went weak. Daniel is called in to interpret the handwriting which says three things: 'Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.'"

After Daniel warns Belshazzar that he is guilty of worshiping false gods, the king is slain that very night, and the kingdom is lost.

Graham has made several such warnings in the past, declaring at his Decision America Tour that the U.S. is "being stripped of biblical heritage."

"Our country is going in the wrong direction. And I think some of the politicians that are running have tapped into the anger and the frustration in this country. And I want Christians to know that their vote does count and we've taken God out of government, schools and everything else and we need to get God back into it," Graham said back in February, urging people to vote in the presidential elections.

The evangelical, who leads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has further warned that news headlines suggest the world is unraveling, and Jesus Christ is coming to "wipe the slate clean."

"While the United States is focused on its own politics, the world is unraveling. The danger signals are everywhere. Beheadings, rapes, murders, bombings are taking place every day across North Africa through the Middle East, all the way to the borders of India," Graham said.

Speaking about Jesus, he added: "One day He is going to wipe the slate clean and 'create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind,' (Isaiah 65:17). For those who have trusted His Son Jesus Christ by faith, there is an eternal future with Him to look forward to." (Contributor: By Stoyan Zaimov for Christian Post)

First, we ask intercessors to give thanks for Rev. Franklin Graham and his God-ordained ascendancy as a spiritual spokesman and statesman. We believe God has raised him up to sound an urgent prophetic call to the Church in America. Second, please pray for him, as this calling makes him the focus of spiritual attacks and warfare. May many hear and respond to his warnings to repent.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord….” (Ps. 33:12)

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The Informer - March 30, 2016

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PAKISTAN EASTER BOMBING DEATH TOLL CLIMBS PAST 70

As Pakistan began burying its dead Monday, authorities counted 29 children among those killed by an Easter suicide bombing in an amusement park, victims of a terrorist attack that has re­inforced growing feelings of dread here.

Although 2015 was relatively quiet, horrified Pakistanis are again asking what their government can do to protect them from extremist violence.

More than 70 people in all were killed in the devastating attack Sunday in Lahore. Officials vowed to hunt down the Islamist militant bombers who claimed they targeted Christians — yet killed many of their Muslim brethren in the bargain.

Even after a week of terrorist violence in Iraq, Turkey and Belgium, the attack here nonetheless became a focus of global dismay.

It was the country’s worst terrorist attack this year and the deadliest attack in Pakistan since nearly 150 were killed at a school in Peshawar in late 2014 — a shock to the nation that led to an unexpectedly peaceful 2015. That calm period now seems to be over.

Security forces arrested a “number of terrorist suspects and facilitators” in at least five separate raids in cities across Punjab province, where Lahore is located, according to Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa, an army spokesman. ­Bajwa also said that “a huge cache of arms and ammunition” was recovered in the operations, but he did not say where the weapons stockpile was found.

Police in Lahore said Monday that they were investigating whether the suicide bomber — who detonated an explosives-packed vest in the crowded park Sunday evening — had accomplices. The blast ripped through crowds of families celebrating Easter and a school break, transforming a joyful scene into a spectacle of chaos and horror. The city was in a period of official mourning Monday, with schools and markets closed and little traffic.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis on Monday decried the Easter bombing as “vile and abominable” and called for Pakistan’s religious minorities to be protected. He urged authorities in Pakistan to “make every effort to restore security and serenity” to Pakistanis, according to the Vatican’s website.

Pakistani authorities noted that more Muslims than Christians were killed and injured. Of those who died at the scene, 14 were Christian, 44 were Muslim, and nine could not immediately be identified, according to Muhammad Iqbal, the superintendent of police for operations in Lahore.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Lahore, which is one of his political strongholds, to visit the wounded in one of the city’s many hospitals, his office said. He also announced that he was canceling a trip to Washington, where he had planned to attend this week’s nuclear summit.

A splinter faction of the Pakistani Taliban, Jamaat ul-Ahrar, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying, “It was our people who attacked the Christians in Lahore, celebrating Easter.”

Pakistan, a country of 190 million, has suffered for years from sectarian violence and Islamist militancy, including a Taliban-led insurgency in the tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan. Recent terrorist attacks targeting minorities and schools have left many ordinary Pakistanis scared and on edge.

“This shouldn’t be happening,” said Rani Farzand, a teacher and neighbor of an 8-year-old girl who died in the blast. “The kids are not safe in the parks, in the schools, in the mosques. Where should we send our children? What should we do?”

On Monday, little remained of the carnage at Gulshan-e-Iqbal park, a leafy oasis in Pakistan’s second-largest city.

Police had cordoned off the bloodstained area between a fountain and a bumper-car ride in the children’s amusement section where the bomb exploded. Objects were left like small grace notes — a jeweled sandal, mangled reading glasses, a child’s shoe.

At Jinnah Hospital in Lahore, where about half of the more than 300 injured were taken Sunday night, 67 remained hospitalized with a variety of injuries, including burns and shrapnel wounds, doctors said. Politicians and TV anchors weaved among the beds, where occupants were labeled “blast victim.”

Among them were two small children, their beds marked with signs saying “unknown.” Their family died in the blast, and they had yet to be linked with other relatives.

Some were clearly still in shock. Zeeshan Taaj, 23, had been walking through the park on his way back from a pickup cricket match when the bomb detonated. He injured his leg in the aftermath and is trying to come to terms with what he saw: “Fire and smoke,” he said. “I have seen chopped legs blown off, heads and dead bodies scattered all around me.”

A friend tried to comfort him by tucking a sheet around his still-bloodied leg wound.

In another bed, Tasleem Sultan, 40, described how she and four other adult family members took eight children to the kiddie amusement park Sunday night and found it bustling on the warm evening. Her niece, Zainab, 8, had donned her best red dress and put flower-shaped barrettes in her hair for the occasion. She rode an elephant on the merry-go-round. She was holding her aunt’s hand when the force of the explosion separated them.

Later, her father found Zainab, bleeding and lifeless.

“I was weeping. I am still in shock,” Jamshaid Iqbal, 35, said in an interview at his family home after her funeral. “Why isn’t the government protecting us?”

In Islamabad on Monday, thousands of Muslim demonstrators protesting the execution of Islamist assassin Mumtaz Qadri staged a sit-in inside the capital city’s “Red Zone,” which is home to a number of vital government institutions, including Parliament and the prime minister’s house. Qadri assassinated Punjab’s governor, Salman Taseer, in 2011 over the latter’s opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

Most blasphemy cases are lodged against non-Muslims for violations such as desecrating the Koran, Islam’s holy book, according to rights monitors. The army was deployed Sunday night to protect government buildings after the protesters rampaged across the city, damaging property and setting buildings on fire. (Contributors: By Annie Gowen and Shaiq Hussain for The Washington Post - Erin Cunningham in Kabul, Babar Dogar in Lahore, and Haq Nawaz Khan and Aamir Iqbal in Peshawar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.)

Pray for survivors and the victims’ families. There is worldwide confusion over international leadership’s failure to call these attacks “Islamist terrorism.” Pope Francis called the bombing “vile and abominable,” but last November he said Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters. And Pres. Obama to call ISIS “Islamic terrorists.” Pray for clarity and global cooperation to stop these terrorist attacks.    

“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Mt. 24:7-8)

 

STRONG RELIGIOUS BELIEFS LINKED TO LOWER RATES OF DRUG ABUSE

For a religion in which wine plays such a central role, Christianity may prove surprisingly effective at curbing drug use, according to a study.

Study: http://drugabuse.com/featured/drugs-and-devotion/

Data analyzed by DrugAbuse.com in “Drugs and Devotion: Comparing Substance Abuse by Believers and Nonbelievers” show a correlation between religious belief and a reluctance to experiment with narcotics.

Americans who said they are not religious are more likely to have used a host of illicit drugs, ranging from marijuana and alcohol to Ecstasy and heroin. Nonbelievers in the study, for instance, were 12 times more likely to use LSD and more than four times likely than their religious counterparts to try cocaine in the past year.

Additionally, states with the lowest rates of religious belief had some of the highest rates of drug use. The least-religious state, Vermont, where only 32 percent of residents said religion is “very important” in their lives, had the third-highest rate of illicit drug use. The most religious state, Alabama, where 77 percent said faith plays a significant role in their lives, had the sixth-lowest rate of illicit drug use.

Greg Jao, director of campus engagement and vice president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, said several components of Christianity, such as its emphasis on truth and comprehensive view of eternity, discourage nihilistic tendencies that may open the door to drug use.

“For me as a Christian, part of what my faith in Jesus does is it calls me to face reality ruthlessly in my own life and in the world around me,” Mr. Jao said. “I think it changes my perspective and timeline. I’m challenged as a Christian to think in terms of eternity — so, yes, this year or decade may be bad, but it’s not the whole of my existence.

“And I think Christianity challenges you to actually experience God in the quotidian, day-to-day experience of life,” he said. “So my need for an altered, super high is quite low because, in fact, while I may not always be happy, there’s a deep experience of regular joy.”

The study supports the notion that Christian theology discourages drug use. When asked for “very important” reasons not to use marijuana, 67 percent of religious eighth- and 10th-graders said it is against their faith. Nonbelievers in the study had little reason not to use marijuana. Only 27 percent of nonreligious high school students said it would violate their beliefs.

But Gen. Arthur Dean, chairman and CEO of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, emphasized the role that community plays in snuffing out drug use.

“Being involved in a religious service is what we would call a protective factor, which means that you are less apt to get involved in drugs or other negative activities that young people are involved in, if you are involved in some kind of a faith community,” Mr. Dean said.

“What we find is that involvement in structured activities, whether they be religious or whether they be sports or other kinds of activities, all serve as protective factors,” he said. “I believe if you did research on them, you would find similar results that you found on religion.”

The study also supports the hypothesis that communal norms best explain lower rates of drug use among the religious. Fifty-nine percent of religious high school students said their friends don’t use marijuana, compared with 39 percent of nonreligious students; 62 percent of religious students said their boyfriend or girlfriend would disapprove of drug use, compared with 42 percent of nonreligious students; and 81 percent of religious high school students said their parents would disapprove of marijuana, compared with 62 percent of nonreligious students.

The religious eighth- and 10th-graders were also more likely to say marijuana is not widely available and that they would not like being around others who do use the drug.

Although he acknowledged the crucial role that community plays in reinforcing norms, Mr. Jao said Christianity specifically provides a remedy against addiction that other groups may not.

He said Christians believe they are “addicted to sin,” comparing the faith’s fundamental tenants of resisting temptation, confessing wrongdoing and transformation to addiction-fighting programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

“I don’t think it’s that religious groups map AA, I think AA has found what religious groups have always known to be true — if you acknowledge your life is out of control, if you turn to God or a higher power and do these things, you’re transformed,” Mr. Jao said. “The 12-step recovery method adopts the core practices of religious groups, and so it doesn’t surprise me that religious practice actually restrains drug and alcohol use.”

Mr. Dean said illicit drug use has declined since the 1970s and ‘80s but is beginning to climb again — especially among young people.

Sue Thau, a public policy consultant at the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, said the emerging emphasis on treatment and recovery for addicts has neglected crucial efforts to prevent drug use in the first place.

“Most of the strategies that are being proposed are treatment, recovery and even the criminal justice system — all of which we support,” Ms. Thau said. “But we’ve been somewhat disappointed that the prevention aspect of how to get on top of this has not gotten as much attention.”

Mr. Jao said religion can play more of a role in fighting drug use and fostering public virtue, but only if we let it.

“Religion in small ways challenges me daily to live out the fruits of the Spirit, and to demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control — all of which would be immense virtues,” he said. “Imagine if those played out in a presidential election.” (Contributor: By Bradford Richardson for The Washington Times)

Christians know from Scripture that they belong to God body, soul, and spirit. This belief that life is “under new management” is a powerful deterrent to addiction on medications or illegal drugs. Still, Christians are also subject to temptation and to controlling pain and other needs through drug use. Pray that these statistics become a means of drawing people to God’s power to save and deliver.

“Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Gal. 1:3-5) 

 

UTAH GOVERNOR SIGNS BILL REQUIRING ABORTION ANESTHESIA

The governor has signed a bill that makes Utah the first state to require doctors to give anesthesia to women having [their babies killed] at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later.

The bill signed by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert Monday is based on the [no longer] disputed premise that a [baby] can feel pain at that point.

“The governor is adamantly pro-life. He believes in not only erring on the side of life, but also minimizing any pain that may be caused to an unborn child,” Herbert spokesman Jon Cox said.

Many doctors in Utah and across the country are concerned that the requirement could increase the health risks to women by giving them unnecessary heavy sedation in order to protect a [baby] from pain that it may or may not feel.

Dr. Sean Esplin of Intermountain Healthcare in Utah said anesthesia or an analgesic would need to go through the woman in order to reach the [baby]. Doctors could give a woman general anesthesia, which would make her unconscious and likely require a breathing tube, or a heavy dose of narcotics.

No other U.S. state has passed this same law, said Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst at the abortion-rights nonprofit Guttmacher Institute. Montana lawmakers passed a similar law in 2015 requiring fetal anesthesia before surgeries, including abortions, performed after 20 or more weeks of gestation, but its Democratic governor vetoed the measure.

Twelve states ban abortions after around 20 weeks of gestation, while a handful of other states give women the option of having anesthesia.

Previous Utah law gave women the choice to have anesthesia during [the killing of the infant in the womb].

The new law by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, targets a small subset of women who have elective abortions beginning at 20 weeks. State law normally allows abortions until viability, which is at about 22 weeks.

But it could affect women in many other medical situations.

Utah law defines abortions in part as “the intentional termination or attempted termination of human pregnancy after implantation of a fertilized ovum through a medical procedure carried out by a physician or through a substance used under the direction of a physician.”

David Turok of the University of Utah’s obstetrics and gynecology department said that could apply to instances in which a woman is past her due date so the doctor induces labor or there’s a problem with the pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia, so it’s safer to deliver the baby early. These common procedures could now require general anesthesia, he said.

“You never give those medicines if you don’t have to,” Turok said.

Laura Bunker of the conservative group United Families International said if there is any chance a [baby] feels pain at 20 weeks, doctors should do everything possible to make sure they are comfortable.

The new law would not apply to women who must have an abortion because their life is at risk or the [baby] will not survive outside the womb.

Utah Medical Association CEO Michelle McOmber said her organization feels neutral toward the legislation. The association convinced Bramble to change its language from saying a [baby] “is capable of experiencing pain,” to it “may be capable of experiencing pain.” She said the association would have preferred that the proposal stated it is inconclusive whether or not the [baby] feels pain.

Bramble initially sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks entirely, but he changed course after the Legislature’s attorneys warned him that any such measure would likely be unconstitutional. (Contributor: By Hallie Golden for The Associated Press)

IFA’s editorial staff substituted the word “[baby]” for fetus, as the English word is stronger and more personal than the Latin. We also believe the 20-week baby’s experience of pain has been conclusively proven when the scientific evidence is examined by unbiased people. Give thanks for Gov. Herbert’s pro-life position and the Utah legislature’s focus on the baby’s pain.   

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.” (Prov. 24:11 NIV)

 

JUSTICE KENNEDY ASSERTS: OBAMA IS 'HIJACKING' NUNS' HEALTHCARE PLANS

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments last Wednesday in a case that will determine whether or not an order of Catholic nuns and over 30 other religious nonprofits will have to comply with an Obamacare contraception mandate that the organizations claim will make them complicit in violating their religious beliefs.

At the forefront of Zubik v. Burwell is the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns who care for the elderly, which holds that it is in violation of the Catholic faith to abide by the Obamacare contraceptive mandate to supply abortion inducing drugs and birth control coverage in the insurance plans of their employees.

As fines upwards of $70 million could be levied on the Little Sisters for not complying with the mandate, the nation's highest court must address whether or not the contraceptive mandate violates the religious liberty of the organizations and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

With the recent passing of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, the court is now down to four liberals, three conservatives and the perennial swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Should the court reach a 4-4 split in its decision, lower court rulings will be upheld. A split would mean that the Little Sisters will have won their case. But since eight of the nine appeals courts in the U.S. have ruled against petitioners on this issue, many of the organizations involved in the case would be forced to comply with the mandate.

Should Kennedy side with the liberals, the petitioners will most likely lose their case, as indications are that all four liberals on the court will side with Obama administration's argument.

The administration's main argument is that the Department of Health and Human Services has already supplied the religious organizations with an accommodation that will allow the nonprofits to opt out of paying for the abortifacients and birth control in health plans.

But under the accomodation, those organizations must allow the government to ensure that their health insurers are paying for the contested coverage. The organizations maintain that the accommodation still makes them complicit in their employees receiving those drugs.

Politico reports that Kennedy seemed split during the arguments.

At one point, Kennedy told U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli that the HHS accommodation seems like the government is "hijacking" the organization's health plans to provide the coverage rather than finding other ways that don't involve the organizations at all.

"If it's so free, why can't they just get it through another plan?" Kennedy was quoted as asking.

Kennedy, however, also suggested that larger institutions, such as universities, should not be exempt from the mandate in the same manner that smaller institutions like Little Sisters should.

"It's a very difficult thing for this court to write an opinion where if you have a religious exception, you have to treat a university the same," Kennedy said. "I just find that very difficult to write."

Meanwhile, Chief Justice John Roberts argued that the government's accommodation was more of a "hijacking" than an accommodation.

"Hijacking — it seems to me that's an accurate description of what the government wants to do," Roberts said.

"It's a question of who does the paperwork," Roberts added. "In one case, it's an administrative burden. In the other case, it's a violation of a basic principle of faith."

Paul Clement, an attorney who argued on behalf of the Little Sisters, told the court that the administration's accommodation turns the institution into "conscientious collaborator," instead of a "conscientious objector."

"My clients do not object to objecting," Clement said. "My clients would like to be a conscientious objector. The government is insisting that they be a conscientious collaborator."

Mark Rienzi, a lawyer with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty who also represents the Little Sisters, said in a statement shared with The Christian Post that there are other ways for the government to deliver the coverage without making the organization complicit.

"The government has many ways to deliver its services without using the Little Sisters of the Poor — alternatives that it says are as easy to use as shopping on Amazon or Kayak, and which it has already extended to millions of Americans," Rienzi said. "Yet the government admitted today that it is forcing the Sisters to violate their sincerely held beliefs. That's wrong and unnecessary."

Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, mother provincial for the Little Sisters of the Poor, spoke outside of the Supreme Court building after the court hearing ended and wondered why the government it is forcing this mandate on the order when over one-third of Americans are not covered by the mandate.

"We don't understand why the government is doing this when there is an easy solution that doesn't involve us — it can provide these services on the exchanges," she said. "It's also hard to understand why the government is doing this when one-third of all Americans aren't even covered by this mandate, and large corporations like Exxon, Visa, and Pepsi are fully exempt, yet the government threatens us with fines of $70 million per year if we don't comply." (Contributor: By Samuel Smith for Christian Post)

Most Americans IFA talks to are deeply troubled that a Christian ministry such as the Little Sisters of the Poor would have to argue against the U.S. government for religious freedom over the Obamacare contraception mandate. Pray that this issue be settled for freedom of conscience in such matters. Our government, led by Pres. Obama, is wrong on this. Pray that his eyes be opened to the truth.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free,[a] and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. (Gal. 5:1)

 

OFFICIALS SAY GUANTANAMO TRANSFERS HAVE KILLED AMERICANS

Americans have been killed by prisoners released from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a senior Defense Department official told lawmakers last Wednesday, triggering sharp criticism from Republicans opposed to shuttering the facility in the wake of deadly attacks by the Islamic State group in Brussels and Paris.

Paul Lewis, the Pentagon's special envoy for Guantanamo detention closure, declined to provide the GOP-led House Foreign Affairs Committee with details. He would not say whether the incidents occurred before or after President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.

"What I can tell you is unfortunately there have been Americans that have died because of (Guantanamo) detainees," Lewis said during an exchange with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.

"When anybody dies, it is tragedy and we don't want anybody to die because we transfer detainees," Lewis said.

An Obama administration official said Lewis was referring to an incident that involved an Afghan prisoner released from Guantanamo while George W. Bush was president. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

During the Bush administration, 532 prisoners were released from Guantanamo, often in large groups to Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia - the two nationalities that made up the greatest number of prisoners.

The Obama administration has released 144 detainees after a screening process that involves representatives from six government agencies and departments who must make a unanimous decision to release.

Lewis testified before the committee along with Lee Wolosky, the State Department's special envoy for Guantanamo closure. They argued the prison is a powerful propaganda tool for the Islamic State group and keeping it open damages U.S. national security.

Republicans and a few Democrats in Congress have repeatedly thwarted Obama's effort to close the prison and blocked any attempt to move detainees to U.S. prisons in legislation the president has signed into law.

Wolosky said the Guantanamo prison did not prevent Tuesday's attacks in Brussels that killed at least 34 people and wounded more than 200 or the November 13 attacks in Paris.

"There are unfortunately going to be acts of terrorism, probably whether the facility is opened or closed," Wolosky said. "The proper analysis is, 'What are the risks of keeping it open in light of the very obvious use of that facility as a propaganda tool,' which, frankly, you should not have to question."

The committee's hearing marked the first open exchange between the Obama administration and Congress over the utility and future of the prison since Obama sent his plan for shutting it down to Capitol Hill last month. The proposal was greeted with firm opposition from Republicans, who declared his proposal to deliver an unfulfilled campaign promise a non-starter.

Republicans see the prison at Guantanamo as more essential than ever. With the Islamic State group carrying out deadly assaults in Europe and expanding its base in Libya, they said, there needs to be a place to hold terrorist suspects. Republicans have refused Obama's request that Congress change the law that prohibits moving detainees accused of violent extremist acts to U.S. soil.

The committee's chairman, Rep. Ed Royce of California, and other GOP lawmakers have also criticized the Obama administration for moving detainees to countries that are probably unable to ensure they don't resume the behaviors that got them locked up in the first place.

"Countries like Ghana and Uruguay aren't typical security and intelligence partners, but they are being asked to shoulder a heavy burden and responsibility," Royce said.

There are 91 men held at Guantanamo, down from nearly 250 when Obama assumed the presidency. Those left include 36 who are cleared for release if security conditions can be met in the countries where they will settle. Seven face trial by military commission, including five charged with planning and supporting the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001. Three others have been convicted.

The Director of National Intelligence reported this month that 5 percent of Guantanamo prisoners released since January 2009, when the U.S. began using the multi-agency screening process, have re-engaged in terrorism and 8 percent are suspected of it. That compares to 21 percent confirmed and 14 percent suspected under the earlier system.  (Contributor: By Richard Lardner for The Associated Press)

This is a complex, non-partisan issue that spans both President Obama’s leadership and that of the George W. Bush administration. The cost alone, plus principles of justice, should encourage prompt settlements of each case. It’s the American way that all prisoners should receive due process of law. Pray for Christian chaplains to be allowed in to share the Gospel.   

“But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24)

 

U.S. MILITARY’S ABILITY TO FIGHT MAJOR OVERSEAS WAR IN DOUBT

Beneath the positive press the military receives for preparing to mold women into the nation’s first female ground warriors this year, there is another story far more basic to war fighting.

Some lawmakers are warning that budget cuts, a troop drawdown and a decade and a half of wars have created spotty combat readiness, overburdened forces, more fatal accidents and beat-up weapons.

Weeks of congressional testimony from the top brass on next year’s $524 billion defense budget shows that many Army brigades and Air Force squadrons are less ready. The Marine Corps lacks sufficient aircraft to fully train pilots. The Army and Marine Corps can wage small wars but doubt they can meet the demands of a major conflict against, say, China or Russia, in a time frame called for in official military strategy.

After this sober news, the House Armed Services Committee sounded the alarm: “Concerns are growing louder and more frequent about the real-life consequences of cuts to personnel, training, equipment and other military resources as the security situation around the world becomes more precarious by the day.”

Rep. Mac Thornberry, Texas Republican and committee chairman, issued scary statistics. The Marine Corps’ major, or “Class A,” accident rate has shot up from an average of 2.15 per 100,000 flying hours to 3.96.

Each of our military services remains undersized, unready and underfunded to meet current and future threats,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. (Associated Press)

“Each of our military services remains undersized, unready and underfunded to meet ... more >

“We track this very closely, and the simple fact is that we don’t have enough airplanes to meet the training requirements for the entire force,” said Gen. Robert Neller, Marine commandant. “The force that’s deployed is trained and ready.”

“Our ability to meet other regional requirements for major contingency plans, we would build to do that, but we would probably not be able to do it within the time frame that the current plans call for us to arrive to participate in that conflict,” Gen. Neller said.

Gen. Mark Milley, Army chief of staff, said rotary pilots need a minimum of 14 flying hours a month to stay sharp but are getting only 10 hours. Meanwhile, the Army’s major accident rates are increasing.

“It does have our concern,” he testified. “Our aircraft accidents have increased, and we’re very concerned about it.”

Gen. Milley said the force, cut from more than 490,000 to a planned 450,000, is sufficient for counterterrorism missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the overriding strategy of being able to fight a major overseas war is in doubt.

“If that were to happen, then I have great concerns in terms of readiness of our force, the Army forces to be able to deal with that in a timely manner,” he said. “I think the cost, both in terms of time, casualties and troops, and the ability to accomplish military objectives would be very significant.”

The reason: The overall status of Army Combat Brigade teams to mobilize and deploy has dropped.

The Army supplies about 70 percent of troops and equipment requested by combatant commanders and has suffered nearly 70 percent of all war casualties since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“So you’ve got the largest force, the largest demand, the largest stress and the least budget,” he said.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, Arizona Republican, has taken to issuing a readiness report at each service’s budget hearing.

He said the Navy’s fleet of 272 ships “is too small to address critical security challenges” and that Navy aircraft carriers, the United States’ show of force around the world, are no longer constantly in the Persian Gulf region because of needed maintenance.

“The Marines have a requirement for 38 amphibious ships, but they only have 30 in the fleet,” he said. “And Marine Corps aviation is in crisis. Pilots are not flying.

“Each of our military services remains undersized, unready and underfunded to meet current and future threats,” he said.

Why the crunch? The overriding factor is the 2011 Budget Control Act that mandated across-the-board cuts and then limited agency spending. Last year’s bipartisan budget agreement provided some relief to the Pentagon — $25 billion. But a congressional aide says it is still $17 billion short for fiscal 2017, which begins Oct. 1.

Mr. McCain criticizes President Obama, saying that as commander in chief he should recognize the readiness crisis and ask Congress for more spending.

“Instead, the president chose to request the lowest level of defense spending authorized by last year’s budget agreement and submitted a defense budget that is actually less in real dollars than last year, despite the fact that operational requirements had grown,” the senator said.

Dakota Wood, a military analyst at The Heritage Foundation, said that while “the president can ask for whatever he wants,” it’s up to Congress to change the budget act.

“The president can only spend what Congress provides,” he said. “Thus, the funding problem plaguing the military can only be solved by Congress, which simply must find a way to deal with the country’s larger spending problem.”

One cure, he said, would be to repeal the Budget Control Act in favor of reforming the big “drivers of debt” — entitlements and yearly deficits.

Meanwhile, some relief comes from a separate defense budget account, Overseas Contingency Operations, at $59 billion next year, from which the services can replace some equipment.

“Though derided as a gimmick, by everyone involved, OCO funding is now consistently seen as the only way to get around baseline caps and provide the additional funding needed to stem the decline in readiness,” Mr. Wood said.

Meanwhile, Congress will continue to hear testimony like this:

“So half of our combat Air Forces are not sufficiently ready for that kind of a high-end fight against one of those great powers,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James.

“We have never been busier on such a sustained and global basis,” she added, “and we are doing all of this with roughly 200,000 fewer people and 79 fewer fighter squadrons than we had at the time of Operation Desert Storm. So we are a much, much smaller Air Force. We have been downsizing for years, and our people are very stressed and this simply needs to stop.”

Gen. Milley said the Army is ready to fight the Islamic State, al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups, but he worries about the ability to fully fight China or Russia, or Iran or North Korea, as the National Military Strategy says the Army must be ready to do.

“Right now, the readiness of the United States Army, all components of the United States Army, is not at a level that is appropriate for what the American people would expect to defend them,” the four-star general testified.

As for the great social challenge facing the armed forces — the introduction of women into direct ground combat — the topic hardly came up during hours of what are called “posture” hearings.

Joe Kasper, chief of staff for Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, said a number of lawmakers are pressing the military for answers behind the scenes.

“The administration already knows where they want to be on this issue and where they are going,” Mr. Kasper said, adding that women in combat likely will come up when the committee writes the 2017 defense budget. (Contributor: By Rowan Scarborough for The Washington Times)

Readers will draw their own conclusions from these hearings. No doubt President Obama’s weak stance toward military strength is a factor. However, the Constitution charges Congress with meeting budgeted defense needs, and much spending goes elsewhere. Pray for God’s mercy and that our U.S. defense be strong. Current deficits are a warning that the U.S. is not ready for war. Pray for a national spiritual awakening.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” (Ps. 127:1)

 

NORTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR SIGNS CONTROVERSIAL TRANSGENDER BILL

North Carolina's governor on Wednesday signed a bill blocking cities from allowing transgender individuals to use public bathrooms for the sex they identify as -- as well as restricting cities from passing nondiscrimination laws more broadly.

House Bill 2, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, puts in place a statewide policy that bans individuals from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex. The bill also reserves the right to pass nondiscrimination legislation to the state government, saying state laws preempt any local ordinances.

Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed the bill Wednesday night and tweeted, "Ordinance defied common sense, allowing men to use women's bathroom/locker room for instance. That's why I signed bipartisan bill to stop it."

The General Assembly went into special session earlier in the day to push through the legislation, a response to a nondiscrimination ordinance that the city of Charlotte enacted that, among other things, made it possible for transgender individuals to use the public bathroom of the sex they identify as.

The move enraged civil liberties groups and Democrats in the state. The bill passed the state House 82-26 and the state Senate 32-0, with Senate Democrats walking out and not voting in protest.

"Rather than expand nondiscrimination laws to protect all North Carolinians, the General Assembly instead spent $42,000 to rush through an extreme bill that undoes all local nondiscrimination laws and specifically excludes gay and transgender people from legal protections," said Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.

ACLU and other groups criticized the General Assembly for spending the money on a special session to pass the legislation, which they called rushed through and undemocratic.

"Legislators have gone out of their way to stigmatize and marginalize transgender North Carolinians by pushing ugly and fundamentally untrue stereotypes that are based on fear and ignorance and not supported by the experiences of more than 200 cities with these protections," Preston said.

Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, also decried the bill in a statement.

"Today's vote at the NCGA represents politics at its worst. Senator Berger and Speaker Moore should be ashamed of misleading their members to vote for the worst anti-LGBT legislation in the nation, which is sweeping beyond comprehension," Sgro said. "Protections for LGBT people against discrimination are common sense. This special session, where Berger and Moore rammed through hastily-crafted legislation was a farce of public policy."

The bill also got criticized by Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympian and celebrity who was born a man and recently transitioned publicly.

But North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore defended the bill.

"One of the biggest issues was about privacy," Moore said. "The way the ordinance was written by City Council in Charlotte, it would have allowed a man to go into a bathroom, locker or any changing facility, where women are -- even if he was a man. We were concerned. Obviously there is the security risk of a sexual predator, but there is the issue of privacy."

State Rep. Graig Meyer, a Democrat, said the "discriminatory law puts his health and safety at risk."

"When I arrived home tonight, my wife told me that one of her former students visited her at school today. The student told her that he now identifies as a transgender male," he posted on his Facebook page. "She loves this student. Today's discriminatory law puts his health and safety at risk. It's been a long time since I cried myself to sleep."

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, a Democrat, released a statement saying she was appalled by the bill's passage.

"This legislation is literally the most anti-LGBT legislation in the country," she said Wednesday [yes!].

U.S. Rep. David Price, D-North Carolina, also chastised the Legislature for prioritizing passing the bill over other issues. (Contributor: By Tal Kopan and Eugene Scott for CNN)

There is little to be said here. The gender issue has been clear since creation and doesn’t require special revelation. Despite loud protests, common sense and natural wisdom have triumphed. Give thanks for this North Carolina victory, not for a political party but for truth, decency, and the safety of children. The confusion fits the pattern of Romans 1 and will bring similar judgment. Pray accordingly.

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

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The Informer March 23, 2016

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LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR CASE HEADS TO SUPREME COURT

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week in a group of cases challenging the Obamacare requirement that nonprofit employers offer their employees health care coverage that includes Plan B, ella, and other potentially life-ending drugs and devices, contraception, and sterilization.

The challengers in the consolidated cases, captioned Zubik v. Burwell, include the Little Sisters of the Poor; Priests for Life; East Texas Baptist University; Southern Nazarene University; Geneva College; the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.; and other religious charities.

The Government’s Mandate

Notably, the government is imposing its mandate on groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, who care for the elderly poor, but is exempting large corporations like Exxon and Pepsi Co.

The latter aren’t required to include these drugs and devices in their health plans because they’re grandfathered under Obamacare. Small businesses are also exempt from this mandate. The government has even acknowledged that the mandate could conflict with religious beliefs and has formally exempted houses of worship.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty estimates that the government has effectively exempted the health plans of 1 in 3 Americans from the coercive rule.

Yet the Obama administration insists that organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns who beg for funds for the elderly they serve and their own food, comply with the mandate or face $70 million per year in government penalties.

A Suitable Accommodation?

After religious organizations objected to the mandate, the Obama administration created an alternative enforcement mechanism that it claims is an “accommodation.”

The regulations require employers to notify the Department of Health and Human Services of their religious objection to providing such coverage in writing and provide contact information for their health plan insurer or third-party administrator.

The government then uses that notification as authorization to force coverage of drugs and devices that violate the employers’ beliefs using their existing health plan infrastructure. The government says that without the employers’ active participation in this scheme through the notice provisions, it cannot legally take over their plans as just described.

The government thinks this scheme satisfies the employers’ religious beliefs because the notification initiates the process of insurers and third-party administrators providing the mandated coverage at no cost to the insured. But the Little Sisters of the Poor and many other religious employers disagree.

They refuse as a matter of conscience to accept this mechanism because coerced subsidies were only part of the original mandate’s problem. If the federal government required employers to dispense these drugs and devices from a vending machine in their employee lounge, it would be no answer for the government to say, “Don’t worry; we’ll pay for the added cost.”

Similarly here, the Little Sisters and other religious employers would still play an indispensable part in the machinery that provides potentially life-ending drugs and devices through health plans and infrastructure that they are paying for and providing to their employees.

Several federal appeals courts have reviewed cases challenging these regulations brought by Christian colleges and ministries such as Catholic Charities, Priests for Life, and the Little Sisters of the Poor. These religious employers maintain that the Obama administration’s regulations violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law that bars the government from substantially burdening the free exercise of religion.

The government may overcome this prohibition only if it can show that the burden is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling interest.

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

If this sounds familiar, that’s because the Supreme Court decided a similar case in the summer of 2014. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Court held that certain for-profit employers—such as the closely held family-run craft store chain—could not be forced to violate their religious beliefs by paying for potentially life-ending drugs and devices as part of their employee health insurance plan.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, pointed to the “accommodation” offered to non-profit religious employers as proof that the government could advance its asserted interest in providing women with free contraception while not trampling the religious beliefs of employers. The Court did not, however, address whether the alternative could still pose a substantial burden.

Zubik v. Burwell

Now the Court is presented with that very issue in Zubik v. Burwell. From the challengers’ perspective, the regulations impose a substantial burden by forcing them to engage in conduct that will trigger morally objectionable health care coverage, thereby making them complicit. If they refuse to comply, they face ruinous fines.

They see the “accommodation” regulations as “merely … another way to violate their religion.” But the government says the Little Sisters and other religious employers are mistaken about their role in the process.

The Obama administration maintains that it is federal law—not the employers’ act of signing a form—that leads to the provision of drugs and devices.

If that were the case, why, then, does the government continue to insist that these employers provide written notice on pain of millions of dollars in fines when the government already knows beyond any doubt that they object? Because the government says that it requires the Little Sisters and others to act in cooperation with the government’s scheme, and that’s precisely the problem.

While nearly all the appeals courts that have looked at the issue have ruled in favor of the administration, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit noted that the government must “come forward with evidence that the contraceptive mandate and the accommodation process are the only feasible means to distribute cost-free contraceptives to women employed by religious organizations and that no alternative means would suffice to achieve its compelling interest.”

Indeed, there are plenty of other ways for the government to provide no-cost contraception directly to women who want it—without hijacking employers’ health plans and trampling on religious freedom.

In the Hobby Lobby decision, the Court discussed the possibility of the government directly providing or paying for these drugs and devices while allowing employers to obey their consciences.

The government already does this under Title X for many low-income women. Thus, if the Court holds the administration to the high standard laid out by the Eighth Circuit, it may be a herculean task for the administration to prove that the “accommodation” regulations are the only way to ensure that women have access to free contraception.

Impact of Scalia’s Passing

It’s worth pointing out that the Little Sisters and other challengers lost a likely ally with the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia. He voted in the majority in Hobby Lobby. With only eight justices currently on the Court, the decision could end up as a tie vote of 4-4. Generally speaking, when there is a tie at the Supreme Court, the lower court ruling stands. In most cases, that’s not ideal for parties appealing a lower court ruling. But in this situation, a tie vote would mean that the circuit split remains, since the Eighth Circuit broke ranks with the other circuit courts, which issued erroneous pro-administration decisions.

President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland, voted against rehearing one of these cases when it was pending before his court.

In Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a three-judge panel ruled for the government, calling the accommodation process “a bit of paperwork.” When Priests for Life asked the full D.C. Circuit to rehear the case, Garland voted against rehearing it. This was over the protest of Judge Janice Rogers Brown, who explained why the three-judge panel got it wrong:

What amounts to “facilitating immoral conduct” … or “impermissible cooperation with evil” … are inherently theological questions which objective legal analysis cannot resolve and which “federal courts have no business addressing.”

You don’t have to agree with any of the organizations before the Court or share their beliefs to recognize that the government should not be able to force Americans to set aside their deeply held beliefs simply because they step outside the four walls of a church to serve the poor, heal the sick, or educate the next generation. (Contributor: Elizabeth Slattery for The Daily Signal)

Intercessors will find clearly defined prayer points in this article. It summarizes several current U.S. Supreme Court issues under one title. All are important; each demonstrates calculated prejudice and discrimination against closely held convictions of conscience in religious matters. Sadly, major pressure is coming from the U.S. government, though our Constitution upholds freedom. Pray!

“Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thess 5:21-22)    

 

CHINA, RUSSIA PLANNING SPACE ATTACKS ON U.S. SATELLITES

China and Russia are preparing to attack and disrupt critical U.S. military and intelligence satellites in a future conflict with crippling space missile, maneuvering satellite, and laser attacks, senior Pentagon and intelligence officials told Congress on Tuesday.

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of the Air Force Space Command, said the threat to U.S. space systems has reached a new tipping point, and after years of post-Cold War stagnation foreign states are focused on curbing U.S. space systems.

“Adversaries are developing kinetic, directed-energy, and cyber tools to deny, degrade, and destroy our space capabilities,” Hyten said in a prepared statement for a hearing of the House Armed Service strategic forces subcommittee.

“They understand our reliance on space, and they understand the competitive advantage we derive from space. The need for vigilance has never been greater,” the four-star general said.

Hyten said U.S. Global Positioning System satellites remain vulnerable to attack or jamming. The satellites’ extremely accurate time-keeping feature is even more critical to U.S. guided weapons than their ability to provide navigation guidance, he said.

Disrupting the satellites time capabilities would degrade the military’s ability to conduct precision strike operations used in most weapons systems today.

Hyten said a new joint military-intelligence command center is helping to monitor space threats, such as anti-satellite missile launches, covert killer robot satellites, and ground-fired lasers that can blind or disrupt satellites. The unit is called the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, located at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.

The Space Command also is creating 39 cyber mission teams that will be used for defensive and offensive cyber operations involving space systems.

Lt. Gen. David Buck, commander of Joint Functional Component for Space, a U.S. Strategic Command unit, testified along with Hyten that China and Russia pose the most serious threats to space systems.

“Simply stated, there isn’t a single aspect of our space architecture, to include the ground architecture, that isn’t at risk,” Buck said.

“Russia views U.S. dependency on space as an exploitable vulnerability and they are taking deliberate actions to strengthen their counter-space capabilities,” he said.

China in December created its first dedicated space warfare and cyber warfare unit, called the Strategic Support Forces, for concentrating their “space, electronic, and network warfare capabilities,” Buck said.

“China is developing, and has demonstrated, a wide range of counter-space technologies to include direct-ascent, kinetic-kill vehicles, co-orbital technologies that can disable or destroy a satellite, terrestrially-based communications jammers, and lasers that can blind or disable satellites,” Buck said.

“Moreover, they continue to modernize their space programs to support near-real-time tracking of objects, command and control of deployed forces, and long-range precision strikes capabilities,” the three-star general said.

Douglas Loverro, deputy assistant defense secretary for space policy, also warned about growing threats to satellites and outlined U.S. plans to deter future attacks.

Loverro said the United States does not want a war in space. “But let me be clear about our intent—we will be ready,” he said.

None of the five Pentagon and intelligence officials who took part in the budget hearing for military space efforts mentioned any U.S. plans or programs to develop anti-satellite missiles and other space weapons for use against Chinese or Russian space systems. The subcommittee, however, held a closed-door session after the public hearing.

A modified U.S. missile defense interceptor, the SM-3, was used in 2008 to shoot down a falling U.S. satellites in a demonstration of the country’s undeclared anti-satellite warfare capability.

Loverro suggested U.S. defense and deterrence of space attacks could involve counter attacks, possibly on the ground or in cyber space. But he provided no specifics.

“Today our adversaries perceive that space is a weak-link in our deterrence calculus,” Loverro said. “Our strategy is to strengthen that link, to assure it never breaks, and to disabuse our adversaries of the idea that our space capabilities make tempting targets.”

Many of the most important navigation, communications, and intelligence satellites were designed during the Cold War for use in nuclear war and thus incorporate hardening against electronic attacks, Loverro said.

For conventional military conflict, however, adversaries today view attacks on U.S. satellites as a way to blunt a conventional military response what Loverro called the “chink in the conventional armor of the United States.”

“In this topsy-turvy state, attacks on space forces may even become the opening gambit of an anti-access/area-denial strategy in a regional conflict wherein an adversary seeks to forestall or preclude a U.S. military response,” he said. “Chinese military strategists began writing about the targeting of space assets as a ‘tempting and most irresistible choice’ in the late 1990s, and the People’s Liberation Army has been pursuing the necessary capabilities ever since,” he said.

Rather than threatening foreign states’ satellites, Loverro said deterrence against foreign nations’ space attacks is based on defending against missile strikes or other attacks and making sure satellite operations will not be disrupted in war.

That would be carried out through partnering with the growing commercial space sector that is expected to deploy hundreds of new satellites in the coming years that could be used as back up systems for the Pentagon in a conflict.

Deterrence also will be based on increasing foreign partnerships with allied nations in gathering intelligence on space threats and other cooperation.

A space defense “offset” strategy will seek to reduce the advantage of using relatively low cost of missiles, small satellites, or cyber forces to attack U.S. satellites, Loverro said.

“An advanced U.S. satellite might cost upwards of $1 billion; missiles that could destroy such a satellite cost a few percent of that sum; co-orbital microsatellites cost even less; and lasers that might blind or damage satellites have an unlimited magazine with almost zero cost per shot,” Loverro said.

Deploying large numbers of low-cost satellites will not offset those advantages, he said.

Instead, Loverro offered vague plans for countering the threat. “A space offset strategy must employ a diverse set of resilience measures that complicate the technical, political, and force structure calculus of our adversaries, by arraying a complex set of responses, with few overlapping vulnerabilities and a combination of known and ambiguous elements,” he said.

Frank Calvelli, deputy director of the National Reconnaissance Office, the spy agency that builds and operates strategic intelligence and reconnaissance satellites, said a resurgent Russia and aggressive China are among several current national security threats.

Calvelli revealed that the agency in October launched a new satellite that carried 13 smaller “CubeSats.”

“The NRO sponsored nine of the CubeSats while the National Aeronautics and Space Administration sponsored the remaining four,” Calvelli said.

Among the missions of the CubeSats are software-defined radios “to provide beyond-line-of-sight communication for disadvantaged users in remote locations, and technology pathfinders to demonstrate tracking technologies, optical communications, and laser communication,” he said.

Four advanced intelligence-gathering satellites will be launched this year to support military operations and intelligence analysis and decision-making.

Calvelli also said space threats are prompting the Reconnaissance Office to develop “better and faster” systems in space and on the ground, along with better overall “resiliency”—a term used by the military to signify an ability to operate during high-intensity warfare.

The agency is investing substantial sums in bolstering defenses for space and ground systems to make them more survivable during space war.

“We are more focused on survivability and resiliency from an enterprise perspective than we have ever been and we have made significant investments to that end,” he said.

The agency also is “improving the persistence of our space-based systems, providing greater ‘time on target’ to observe and characterize activities, and the potential relationship between activities, and to hold even small, mobile targets at risk,” Calvelli said.

It also is upgrading its ground stations, which are used to control and communicate with orbiting satellites, including an artificial intelligence system called “Sentient.”

“Sentient—a ‘thinking’ system that allows automated, multi-intelligence tipping and cueing at machine speeds—is just one of those capabilities,” Calvelli said.

New ground stations also are being deployed that will empower “users of all types with the capabilities to receive, process, and generate tailored, timely, highly-assured, and actionable intelligence,” he said.

The comments were a rare public discussion of the activities of one of the most secret U.S. intelligence agencies.

Dyke D. Weatherington, director of unmanned warfare and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance at the Pentagon, said eight national security satellites were launched in 2015, including tactical and strategic communications, and navigation, position, and timing satellites.

Weatherington said the United States maintains a strategy advantage in space system but warned that is changing. “The rapid evolution and expansion of threats to our space capabilities in every orbit regime has highlighted the converse: an asymmetric disadvantage due to the inherent susceptibilities and increasing vulnerabilities of these systems,” he said.

While space threats are increasing, “our abilities have lagged to protect our own use of space and operate through the effects of adversary threats,” Weatherington said.

The Pentagon currently has 19 military-capable GPS satellites on orbit and a new generation of GPS satellites is being developed that will be produce signals three times stronger than current system to be able to overcome electronic jamming, he said.

The officials at the hearing also discussed plans to transition from the sole reliance on the use of Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines to launch national security satellites.

A new U.S. made engine, however, will not be fully developed until 2022 or 2023. (Contributor: Bill Gertz for The Washington Free Beacon)

This is a sobering article, a clear call to intercession. Military and intelligence leaders projected in a recent congressional hearing a scenario that would lead to global warfare. If U.S. satellite function is compromised, our nation will be vulnerable. Only national repentance and revival will invoke God’s favor. Pray as the Holy Spirit leads. Pray that the Church will lead the way back to God.

“What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord now in the presence of all His people.” (Ps 116:12-14)

 

BRITISH RESEARCHERS GET GREEN LIGHT TO GENETICALLY MODIFY HUMAN EMBRYOS

Britain’s first genetically modified human embryos could be created within months, after scientists were granted permission by the fertility regulator to carry out the procedure.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) regulator approved a licence application by Kathy Niakan, a stem cell scientist at the Francis Crick Institute in London, to perform so-called genome editing – also called gene editing – on human embryos.

The decision permits Niakan to study the embryos for 14 days for research purposes only. It does not permit them to be implanted into women. Niakan’s research is aimed at finding the genes at play in the early days of human fertilisation.

The decision was greeted positively by the Francis Crick Institute and British scientists but was met with anger and disqmay by those concerned that rapid advances in the field of genome editing is precluding proper consideration of the ethical implications.

Paul Nurse, director of the institute, said: “I am delighted that the HFEA has approved Dr Niakan’s application. Dr Niakan’s proposed research is important for understanding how a healthy human embryo develops and will enhance our understanding of IVF success rates, by looking at the very earliest stage of human development – one to seven days.”

The work, using embryos donated by couples with a surplus after IVF treatment, will look at the fertilised egg’s development from a single cell to about 250 cells. The basic research could help scientists understand why some women lose their babies before term and provide better clinical treatments for infertility, using conventional medical methods.

Niakan will use a powerful genome editing procedure called Crispr-Cas9 to switch genes on and off in early stage human embryos. She will then look for the effects the modifications have on the development of the cells that go on to form the placenta.

Crispr-Cas9 has revolutionised biomedical research since its invention three years ago. It allows scientists to make precise changes to DNA, and has the potential to transform the treatment of genetic disorders by correcting faulty genes.

Prof Robin Lovell-Badge, group leader at the Francis Crick Institute, said: “

The approval of her [Niakan’s] licence gives the exciting prospect that we will at last begin to understand how the different cell types are specified at these pre-implantation stages in the human embryo.”

Lovell-Badge said it would also provide invaluable information about the accuracy and efficiency of the technique, helping to inform the debate about whether genome editing could be used in future to correct faulty genes that cause devastating diseases.

That prospect remains a long way off but is already a subject of concern.

Dr David King, director of Human Genetics Alert, said: “This is the first step in a well mapped-out process leading to GM babies, and a future of consumer eugenics.” He claimed the government’s scientific advisers had already decided they were comfortable with the prospect of so-called “designer babies”.

Anne Scanlan, from the anti-abortion organisation Life, said: “The HFEA now has the reputation of being the first regulator in the world to approve this uncertain and dangerous technology. It has ignored the warnings of over 100 scientists worldwide and given permission for a procedure that could have damaging far-reaching implications for human beings.”

There are fears that changes to an embryo’s DNA could have unknown harmful consequences throughout a person’s body and be passed on down the generations.

Last year, leading UK funders called for a national debate on whether editing human embryos could ever be justified in the clinic. Some fear that a public backlash could derail less controversial uses of genome editing, which could lead to radical new treatments for conditions such as muscular dystrophy and sickle cell disease.

The US National Institutes of Health will not fund any genome editing research on human embryos at present.

But supporters of the HFEA’s decision said it had arrived at the right conclusion, balancing the benefits to research and ethical considerations.

“The ruling by the HFEA is a triumph for common sense,” said Darren Griffin, a professor of genetics at the University of Kent. “While it is certain that the prospect of gene editing in human embryos raised a series of ethical issues and challenges, the problem has been dealt with in a balanced manner. It is clear that the potential benefits of the work proposed far outweigh the foreseen risks.”

Sarah Norcross, director of Progress Educational Trust, called it “a victory for level-headed regulation over moral panic”.

Dr Sarah Chan, chancellor’s fellow at Usher Institute for Population Health Sciences and Informatics, University of Edinburgh, said: “We should feel confident that our regulatory system in this area is functioning well to keep science aligned with social interests.” (Contributor: By Haroon Siddique for The Guardian)

Additional Reading: About Human Germline Gene Editing

Science that fails to acknowledge God as Creator ultimately becomes atheistic. This article reminds us of those at Babel who, apart from God, attempted to reach “the heavens” (Gen. 11). God scattered them by confusing their language. Genetic manipulation violates God’s design and will do damage. Pray for spiritual revelation of Jesus Christ, in whom are hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge.       

“… Laodicea…that their hearts may be encouraged…and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col 2:1-3)

 

TEXAS GAME WARDENS ARE NOW LOOKING FOR POACHERS AND TERRORISTS

Up and down the Texas Gulf Coast, the state’s game wardens are on the water, looking for people fishing or hunting illegally.  But as we’ve reported, they sometimes come across things like illegal chemical dumpsites and more says Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Tom Harvey.

“Game wardens encounter all kinds of things on their patrols, including a lot of illegal fishing, and this is a new threat we’re gearing up to be able to address,“ Harvey told News 88.7.

That new threat is terrorism. One fear is that terrorists could try to smuggle radioactive material into the country by boat. The Port of Houston has for years had radiation detectors to scan cargo.

So now, besides guns and handcuffs, game wardens will have one more tool.

“We’ve acquired about a hundred devices that allow game wardens to detect radiological or nuclear emissions. These are little devices that can be worn on someone’s belt,” Harvey said.

They’re about the size of a cellphone and can help a warden determine if something suspicious is radioactive.  It wouldn’t necessarily have to be connected to terrorism: radioactive materials used in the energy and medical industries can be illegally dumped.

Game wardens began training with the radiation detectors in January and completed a mock exercise to find radioactive packages along the coast. (Contributor: By Dave Fehling for Houston Public Media)

Criminals are using state-of-the-art electronic gadgets to ply their illegal activities. Pray for the safety and success of the Texas Gulf Coast game wardens as they use similar technology to detect entry of illegal persons, drugs, and other materials. Their job is more difficult when our government no longer believes in controlling borders. Pray for revival, a returning to God for His mercy and blessing.

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

 

ISRAEL LAUNCHES FIRST EVER VIDEO DISTRESS CALL SERVICE

Israelis can now use their smartphones to make live video distress calls to emergency responders, a first-of-its-kind service that, if successful, could set a new standard for countries around the world.

Video chats, texting and location detection may be humdrum features for today's smartphone user, but they remain a puzzle to most emergency calling systems, which are outdated and only take voice calls.

This gap in technology, which developed countries are racing to close, leads to slower response times, miscommunications and many wasted resources, often to the detriment of people calling for help.

Israel on Wednesday became the first country to launch a nationwide platform in which emergency operators can see live video, chat via text messages and determine pinpoint location outdoors and indoors.

The system, downloaded as a phone app, was developed by a high-profile start-up called Reporty, whose chairman is former prime minister Ehud Barak. If successful, it could attract police, fire and ambulance services from around the world.

"This solution did not exist beforehand," said Eli Bean, director of Israel's Magen David Adom ambulance service. "It will allow us to get the information we need real time, and certainly reduce response time and improve the care we provide."

This could be for a simple emergency, like a sick family member, or a mass casualty incident, he said, referring to a Palestinian attack last week in Tel Aviv in which about a dozen people were stabbed at multiple spots along a boardwalk.

Had they been able to receive videos and, perhaps more importantly, the ability determine location of callers, he said, "no doubt we would have handled it differently".

In the United States, where about 240 million 911 emergency calls are made each year, the location of the closest cell tower may provide a general indication of the caller's location, but that is not always specific enough to guide rescuers.

Reporty's system quickly shows emergency operators an outside caller's exact location, said chief executive Amir Elichai.

For calls made inside a building, he said an algorithm uses nearby radio frequencies, like Wifi signals, to determine the caller's position, and its crowdsourcing technology makes it more exact as more people sign on. (Contributor: By Ari Rabinovitch for Reuter News Service - Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Many IFA-related intercessors pray regularly for Israel and things connected with that nation’s security, so this report is good news. Give thanks for Israeli advancements in this field of added protection, perhaps with a product that can be marketed to friendly nations for an economic boost. Israel needs Christians’ prayers and encouragement of U.S. commitment. Keep praying!

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved… I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not!...God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.” (Rom. 10:1; 11:1-2)

 

U.S. URGES NORTH KOREA TO RELEASE AMERICAN STUDENT

The Obama administration demanded North Korea release an American college student sentenced Wednesday to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly pilfering a propaganda banner as a souvenir.

Officials arrested University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, from Wyoming, Ohio, for allegedly "perpetrating a hostile act" in Pyongyang while traveling with a tour group in January. The nation's supreme court in a one-hour trial convicted Warmbier of subversion and meted out the punishment.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest accused North Korea of using “U.S. citizens as pawns to pursue a political agenda.”

Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have reached a fever pitch after the communist nation tested international patience by launching missiles. The U.S. has sought tougher sanctions against the country.

The allegations against Warmbier "would not give rise to arrest or imprisonment in the United States or in just about any other country in the world," Earnest said.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner urged North Korea to grant Warmbier a special pardon and release him.

Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the Associated Press he met with North Korean diplomats in New York on Tuesday to request Warmbier’s release. Richardson said based on past experience, North Korea could release Warmbier after sentencing.

“My concern now is that the U.S.-North Korean relationship is in very low, negative ebb, and I hope that does not affect a humanitarian negotiation for the release of Otto,” Richardson told AP.

The tour company, Young Pioneer Tours, which specializes in tours to North Korea, said it was working with "relevant authorities" to obtain Wambier's freedom, but North Korea said Warmbier's traveled as a tourist to disguise his real aim of destroying the unity of the nation with "the tacit connivance of the U.S. government."

At the University of Virginia, classmates reacted with disbelief to his sentencing.

“It doesn’t feel real, this just doesn’t happen to people. I can’t comprehend it," said student Alaina Patrick, who lived in the same dorm as Warmbier, and recalled that some hallmates had “crushes” on him.

Teachers and coaches at Wyoming High School where Warmbier, 21, graduated as salutatorian in 2013, describe him as a "great kid," a "leader" and an outstanding student.  He studies economics and global sustainability at the University of Virginia, which said it was in touch with his family.

Two weeks ago, North Korean officials presented Warmbier to the media in Pyongyang, where he apologized for trying to steal the banner from a staff-only area of the hotel where he was staying. He said he wanted it as a trophy for a church member in Wyoming. He called it the worst mistake of his life.

"On the early morning of Jan. 1, 2016, I committed my crime, of taking out the important political slogan from the staff-only area of the Yanggakdo International Hotel, which aimed at harming the work ethic and the motivation of the Korean people,” a weeping, trembling Warmbier told reporters. "I beg you, the people and government of the DPRK, for your forgiveness," he said, referring to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name. (Contributor: By John Bacon and Jane Onyanga-Omara for USA TODAY - Other contributors to this article: Gregory Korte, Hannah Hall)

Please pray for American student, Otto Wambier, who admits to his crime and is seeking mercy and a quick release from a 15-year sentence. The North Korean government will use this for publicity and no doubt want some sort of “deal” (as with Iran) in return. Several levels of diplomacy are at work, but American popularity is very low internationally. Pray for divine intervention.  

“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive, when their wrath was kindled against us…Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Ps 124:2-3, 5)

 

DEADLY LAW ON CALIFORNIA'S HORIZON

A California law allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs will go into effect in just 90 days. Under the End of Life Option Act, physicians can prescribe "aid-in-dying" drugs (mega-doses of barbiturates) to patients diagnosed with a disease that, within reasonable medical judgment, will cause death within six months.

The Act has been on hold for the past five months, as it was passed during a special legislative session that was called by Governor Jerry Brown to cut healthcare spending and address Medi-Cal funding shortfalls. The special session closed a few days ago, which means that on June 9, assisted suicide will be legal in California.

"The End of Life Act fundamentally changes the practice of medicine in California," says Alexandra Snyder, Executive Director of Life Legal Defense Foundation. "The new law violates the trust between vulnerable patients and their doctors, who should have an unequivocal commitment to protecting—not shortening—human life."

The original Principles of Medical Ethics of the American Medical Association provided that physicians "ought not to abandon a patient because deemed incurable." Patients already have the right to opt out of unwanted life-prolonging treatment. But now, under the guise of patient "autonomy," California will no longer protect the weak from pressure to end their lives prematurely.

"Aid-in-dying" proponents are working to abandon ever more patients to lethal drugs. They want to legalize doctor-assisted death nationwide. They want assisted suicide available even for those who are not terminally ill. Tragically, their efforts are often successful.

In Oregon, the number of patients who die by assisted suicide has increased by over 800% since the so-called "Death with Dignity Act" was passed. Canada is getting ready to enact legislation that will allow assisted suicide even for those with non-terminal conditions. In the Netherlands, mentally ill patients can go to pop-up clinics to be put to death by doctors who have never treated them.

Life Legal is preparing to challenge the End of Life Option Act before the June 9 implementation date. (Contributor: By Alexandra Snyder for Life Legal Defense Foundation and Christian Newswire - About Life Legal Defense Foundation: Life Legal Defense Foundation was established in 1989, and is a nonprofit organization composed of attorneys and other concerned citizens committed to giving helpless and innocent human beings of any age, and their advocates, a trained and committed voice in the courtrooms of our nation. For more information about the Life Legal Defense Foundation, visit http://www.lldf.org.)

As noted elsewhere in this week’s Informer, the endpoint of secularism is atheism and nihilism. If no God exists as Creator of life, then life’s structures have no purpose; life and death are both accidental and incidental. Only Christianity has foundational answers. We cannot blame unbelievers for their unbelief. Instead, pray for repentance and revival in the Church. God is the giver and sustainer of life.

“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good.” (Ps 14:1)

 

PRAYER RALLY BEFORE SUPREME COURT HEARS ORAL ARGUMENTS IN HHS MANDATE CASES

Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life and a U.S. Supreme Court plaintiff in the case Priests for Life vs. HHS announced today that on Tuesday night, March 22, Priests for Life will lead a national prayer rally for religious freedom in front of the U.S. Supreme Court from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The oral arguments in this case, with which six other cases have been consolidated, will be heard the next morning, March 23, when there will also be a rally outside the court. The consolidated case is called Zubik vs. Burwell.

All the plaintiffs and Friends of the Court in the case will be invited to participate, as will presidential candidates, members of Congress, national and local pro-life groups and religious organizations. Everyone who values religious freedom is urged to come.

Those who cannot be present physically are invited to join in the prayer campaign at www.SupremeCourtVictory.org.

Fr. Frank said: "At issue in this case is a very basic principle of American law: The government cannot punish a believer for living out his or her faith. Nor can the government decide that a particular belief is not worth protecting. This case has implications well beyond the HHS mandate. It affects the freedom to practice any aspect of one's religion in America."

Plaintiffs in the Priests for Life case also include Janet Morana, Executive Director, and Alveda King, Director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life and niece of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Priests for Life was the fourth organization to file a federal challenge to the HHS mandate, over four years ago. Since then, this case has made its way up through the court system, receiving adverse judgments but also injunctions protecting the organization from punishment for not obeying the mandate, which would require participation in the government's efforts to expand coverage for abortion-inducing drugs and contraceptives. (Contributor: Priests for Life - Priests for Life is represented in this case by the American Freedom Law Center. For information about the Priests for Life case, and the arguments involved, and to express your support, visit www.IStandWithPFL.com.)

Give thanks and intercede for Father Frank Pavone and Priests for Life. This notice for the Tuesday evening, March 22, prayer meeting will reach readers of The Informer too late for their participation, but all readers can pray for Father Frank, Priests for Life, and their untiring efforts on behalf of the innocent not-yet-born babies who are lost by way of abortion. America needs cleansing from its sin.

“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?” (Prov. 24:11-12 NIV)

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The Informer March 13, 2016

On Watch in Washington March 16, 2016 Plain Text PDF Version

STRANGERS IN THEIR OWN LAND

As numbers go, “61” languishes in obscurity. But as applied to illegal immigration, 61 is “yuge,” as Donald Trump might say. It’s the number, in millions, of both legal and illegal immigrants who live in the United States. It’s the number, as a percentage of the U.S. population, of Americans concerned about the impact of mass migration on America as we have known it for going on three centuries. The number is further a measure of how Mr. Trump has crossed over from business to politics, to ride the issue to the front of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign.

A study published this week by the Center for Immigration Studies finds there now 61 million immigrants and their American-born minor children living in the United States, 45 million of whom are legal residents. Between 1970 and 2015, the proportion of immigrants to population increased by 353 percent — six times faster than the general U.S. population, which grew by 59 percent. Some states watch their numbers of immigrants rise much more steeply: in Georgia, 3,058 percent; in Virginia, 1,150 percent; and in Texas, 1,084 percent.

“These numbers raise a profound question that is seldom even asked, says Steven Camarota, the center’s director of research. “What number of immigrants can be assimilated?” This a question that the governing elites do not ask, but millions of Americans do. A survey conducted by the consulting firm A.T. Kearney and previewed by Bloomberg Businessweek, finds that 61 percent of Americans polled say “continued immigration into the country jeopardizes the United States.” The survey measures the opinion about not just the illegals, but about all immigration.

Mr. Trump’s critics say his brash star power is responsible for inflaming “xenophobic sentiments” among Americans, who are dismissed as “nativists” and ignorant “yahoos.” But if the governing elites had done something about these widespread fears and reservations, the Trump phenomenon would never have ruined their picnic. When, at a rally last week in Michigan, he scorched the Ford Motor Co. for its plans to move a Ford factory to Mexico, he was answered with chants of “Build the wall! Build the wall.” Like it or not, and the impotent elites don’t, it was economic reality talking, not ethnic hatred. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and even John Kasich acknowledge that.

The immigration issue isn’t simply about numbers and whether migrants will add or detract from the U.S. economy. It’s more fundamental than that. It’s whether the nation will remain moored to its founding values or be transformed into a place unrecognizable. Assimilation of newcomers eager to become Americans, once the goal and glory of America, has been fractured by the celebration of diversity, scorning English as the language that has tied the nation together. In New York City, for example, voters can fill out a ballot in any of six languages, and public schools, which should be teaching English as their first priority, must accommodate students in any of 180 tongues.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders refuse to acknowledge the threat of cultural suicide. Both say they’re committed to “comprehensive immigration reform,” but what they mean is accepting as many new arrivals as possible short of provoking civil unrest. The liberal aim is to eliminate all vestiges of America’s heritage to establish a new nation easily integrated into a global village without borders.

A majority of Americans understand that an American identity cannot survive open borders. When interviews on the street find that most passers-by do not even know who the nation’s capital was named for, it’s clear evidence that Americans will soon be strangers in their own land. (Contributor: The Washington Times)

Special PDF Download: http://www.cis.org/sites/cis.org/files/immigrants-and-their-children-16_1.pdf

Intercessors, note an important statement in this editorial: “Like it or not… it was economic reality talking, not ethnic hatred.” Any individual or group stating concerns about unlimited immigration risks being accused of hating what made our nation great: the flow of legal immigrants to the U.S. in the 1800s and early to mid-1900s. Pray for truth and justice to prevail.

“But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24)

 

MISSOURI SENATE PASSES BILL CRITICIZED AS ANTI-GAY

For 39 hours, seven Democrats in the Missouri Senate kept up a filibuster aimed at drawing attention to, and ultimately killing, a religious freedom bill that critics called anti-gay.

On Wednesday morning, they were finally cut short. The chamber’s Republican majority voted to end the filibuster and voted in favor of the bill, which if enacted would permit religious organizations and certain others to refrain from activities viewed as condoning or participating in same-sex marriage.

It is the latest and perhaps most dramatic example of the extraordinary opposition being stoked by religious liberties bills, which have proliferated in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year legalizing same-sex marriage nationally. Social conservatives say the bills are necessary to protect faith-based organizations and faith-driven businesses from being forced to condone a practice that clashes with their religion.

But such measures have been met with fierce opposition by gay rights supporters and others, including prominent businesses that warn it could harm commerce by painting the state as bigoted. They point to the example of Indiana, which took a hit to its reputation last year after the legislature passed its own religious protection law.

So far, that lesson appears to be reverberating nationally as several states have recently rejected bills painted as anti-gay or anti-transgender. Last week, South Dakota’s Republican governor vetoed a bill that would have required schoolchildren to use the bathroom that matched with their biological sex, which critics said was discriminatory against transgender students.

Also last week, the West Virginia legislature voted down a religious liberties bill after a backlash from employers including Marriott and AT&T. And in Georgia, a religious freedom bill faced dismal prospects after the state’s Republican governor suggested he would not support it in its original form.

The Missouri bill, which has yet to be voted on in the House, would put a measure on the November ballot that would amend the state Constitution to prohibit the state from penalizing religious organizations and others for their faith-based opposition to same-sex marriage. It appeared to be sailing through the Senate this week when the chamber’s small number of Democrats decided late Monday to mount a filibuster.

For nearly 40 hours, they spoke on a range of topics in hopes of delaying and derailing the bill, wandering from such subjects as George Washington to local authors to the Democratic presidential candidates. They spoke about how they believed future generations would frown on this bill if voters support amending the state constitution.

“By putting this in the constitution, we are tying their hands and we are saying to them we know better than they do about what kind of society they want to live in,” state Sen. Jason Holsman (D) said around hour 18 of the filibuster. “I don’t think that’s the case.”

The filibuster garnered attention, including from local employers such as Monsanto, which opposed the bill. “We call on other businesses and the [agriculture] community to join us in speaking out against discrimination in Missouri and around the world,” the company tweeted.

On the other side, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), a Republican contender for president who has made protecting religious liberties a centerpiece of his campaign, tweeted a warning. “Missouri: Remember in November the Democrats who filibustered over 30 hours to fight against religious liberty.”

Gay rights groups condemned the bill’s passage but praised the senators who held up the filibuster. “Discrimination against LGBT people should never be sanctioned by the state, and we call on the Missouri House of Representatives to resoundingly reject this outrageous resolution,” Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the gay-rights group Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. (Contributor: By Sandhya Somashekhar for The Washington Post)

This battle has become fierce and bitterly divisive. It will not be won politically but only through prayer and revival in the Church, as believers rise up and insist on the recognition of God as Creator. The alternative is “national atheism,” beginning in public education and leading to an adult majority having zero concern for religious freedoms, bathroom privacy, or personal dignity. Please pray.

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20)

 

POPE LEAVES CATHOLIC CONSERVATIVES FEELING MARGINALIZED

Three years after the election of Pope Francis, Roman Catholic conservatives are growing increasingly worried that he is quietly unraveling the legacy of his predecessors.

Francis' popularity with most Catholics, and legions of non-Catholics, has given him the image of a grandfatherly parish priest who understands how difficult it sometimes is to follow Church teachings, particularly those on sexual morality.

Conservatives worry that behind the gentle facade lies a dangerous reformer who is diluting Catholic teaching on moral issues like homosexuality and divorce while focusing on social problems such as climate change and economic inequality.

Interviews with four Vatican officials, including two cardinals and an archbishop, as well as theologians and commentators, highlighted conservative fears that Francis' words and deeds may eventually rupture the 1.2 billion member Church.

Chatter on conservative blogs regularly accuses the Argentine pontiff of spreading doctrinal confusion and isolating those who see themselves as guardians of the faith.

"Going to bed. Wake me up when this pontificate is over," Damien Thompson, associate editor of the British weekly "The Spectator" and a conservative Catholic commentator tweeted last month. Thompson was among conservatives stung by a freewheeling news conference Francis gave on a flight home from Mexico.

In it, he stirred up the U.S. presidential debate by criticizing Republican candidate Donald Trump's immigration stance and made comments that were interpreted as an opening to use contraceptives to stop the spread of the Zika virus.

They were the latest in a line of unscripted utterances that have left many conservatives feeling nostalgic for the days of Francis's two predecessors, Benedict and John Paul, who regularly thundered against contraception, homosexuality and abortion.

"Every time this happens I wonder if he realizes how much confusion he is causing," said a conservative Rome-based cardinal who took part in the conclave that elected Francis three years ago and spoke on the condition of anonymity. He would not say if he voted for Francis because participants in conclaves are sworn to secrecy.

The Pope and the Pews

Another senior official, an archbishop in an important Vatican ministry, said: "These comments alarm not only tradition-minded priests but even liberal priests who have complained to me that people are challenging them on issues that are very straight-forward, saying 'the pope would let me do this' why don't you?'"

Francis first shocked conservatives just months after his election on March 13, 2013, when he said "Who am I to judge?" about Catholic homosexuals who were at least trying to live by Church rules that they should be chaste.

He caused further upset when he changed Church rules to allow women to take part in a male-only Lenten service, ruled out any campaigns to convert Jews and approved a "common prayer" with Lutherans for joint commemorations for next year's 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation.

An important crossroads in the conservative-progressive showdown is looming and might come as early as mid-March. It could reveal how far this politically astute pontiff wants to transform his Church.

Francis is due to issue a document called an Apostolic Exhortation after two years of debate and two major meetings of bishops to discuss the family - the Vatican's way of referring to its policies concerning sex.

The exercise, which began with an unprecedented poll of Catholics around the world, boiled down in the end to one hot-button issue - whether divorced Catholics who remarry outside the Church can receive communion at the central rite of Mass.

Conservatives say any change would undermine the principle of the indissolubility of marriage that Jesus established.

At the end of the synod last year, Francis excoriated immovable Church leaders who he said "bury their heads in the sand" and hide behind rigid doctrine while families suffer.

The gathering's final document spoke of a so-called "internal forum" in which a priest or a bishop may work with a Catholic who has divorced and remarried to decide privately and on a case-by-case basis if he or she can be fully re-integrated.

That crack in the doctrinal door annoyed many conservatives, who fear Francis' upcoming document may open the flood gates.

Whose Church Is It Anyway?

It is difficult to quantify Catholic conservatives. Liberals say they are a minority and reject conservative assertions that they are the real "base" of the Church.

"The overwhelming majority of Catholics understand what the pope wants to do, and that is to reach out to everyone," said another cardinal close to Francis.

Regardless of what their actual numbers might be, conservatives have big megaphones in social media.

"It really has gotten more shrill and intense since Francis took over because he seems to get only positive feedback from the mainstream media. Therefore in the strange logic of (conservative) groups, he is someone who is immediately suspect if only for that," said the Catholic blogger Arthur Rosman.

One of the leading conservative standard bearers, Ross Douthat, the Catholic author and New York Times op-ed columnist, has expressed deep worry about the long-term repercussions of the issue of communion for the divorced and remarried.

"It may be that this conflict has only just begun," Douthat said in a lecture to American conservatives in January. "And it may be that as with previous conflicts in Church history, it will eventually be serious enough to end in real schism, a permanent parting of the ways."

Previous Rupture

The last internal rupture in the Church was in 1988 when French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre consecrated bishops without Vatican approval in order to guarantee succession in his ultra-traditionalist group, the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).

The SSPX rejects the modernizing reforms of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, including the historic opening to dialogue with other religions. While it remains a small group, its dissent continues to undermine papal authority.

The conservative standard bearer in Rome is Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, a 67-year-old American who in 2014 told an interviewer that the Church under Francis was like "a ship without a rudder".

Francis was not pleased. That same year, he removed Burke as head of the Vatican's highest court and demoted him to the largely ceremonial post of chaplain of a charity group.

Conservatives are also worried about Francis' drive to devolve decision-making power on several issues from the Vatican to regional, national or diocesan levels, what the pope has called "a healthy decentralization".

This is an anathema to conservatives, who say rules should be applied identically around the world. They warn that a devolution of power would leave the Vatican vulnerable to the splits seen in the Anglican and Orthodox Churches.

"If you look at these two big Churches, they are not in very good shape," said Massimo Faggioli, a Church historian and associate professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. "That's why conservatives are nervous. They think Francis does not understand the danger." (Contributor: BY Philip Pullella and Tom Heneghan for Reuter News - Religion editor Tom Heneghan reported from Paris; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Janet McBride)

While God’s Kingdom “cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28), all human organizations representing His Kingdom are subject to foundational cracks that can and will bring them down—whether now or later. Many splits in religious structures bring forth new “reformation,” whereby the truth of the Gospel becomes clearer. Pray for God’s will and purpose to prevail at any and all costs.

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

 

TRACING THE ROOTS OF ISLAMIC JIHAD

In an earlier column in these pages, “Reforming Islam,” I documented the need for Islam to experience an internal reformation. This is not just a question of abstract theology but directly relates to how we defeat Islamic terrorism, and how we are viewed in the Muslim world.

For example, ISIS, the foremost terror threat in the world today, in its claim of responsibility for last year’s Paris attack condemned America and its allies as “crusader nations.” Osama bin Laden did likewise. Bin Laden railed against “Crusaders and U.N.” when President Bush used the “C-word” after 9/11. He was widely criticized for it and dropped it.

Use of “Crusades” and “Crusaders” as terms of abuse is clearly meant to stir up Muslim masses that they are under assault, not that we are defending ourselves against jihad. Perhaps more importantly, it is designed to evoke feelings of culpability and defeatism among guilty Western liberals, who are ashamed of Western civilization and indifferent at best to its survival. Not surprisingly, when President Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast last year on the issue of terrorism, he attempted to minimize the Islamic element of the Islamic State’s barbarity: “Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

Let’s set the record straight. The Crusades were a series of wars launched by Western Europeans in the wake of devastating defeats inflicted on the Christian Byzantine Empire by the Seljuk Turks. The First Crusade was launched in 1096. It was the most successful one, capturing Jerusalem.

But the gains were only temporary, requiring the launch of repeated efforts to maintain the small feudal statelets carved out in the Holy Land. The last crusader stronghold, Acre in today’s Israel, fell in 1291.

All told, the Crusades occupied a brief period of just over two and one-half centuries. They were limited in scope and essentially were a counterattack, seeking to retake Christian lands earlier seized by the Muslims.

How do the Crusades compare to Islamic jihad? Following the death of Muhammad in 632, his successors, the caliphs — the same office ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi claims to have revived — began their unprovoked war of conquest against the Byzantines. Within a decade, the jihad had claimed then-Christian Egypt, Palestine, and Syria.

Muslim armies swept across North Africa and crossed over into Spain in 711, only to be finally stopped in France by Charles Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne, in 732. (At the same time, Muslim forces swept east, subduing Persia and reaching the frontiers of China.) Repeated assaults continued across the Mediterranean, including Arab sieges of Constantinople and conquest of Cyprus, Sicily, and Crete.

Motivated by Islamic jihad and lust for plunder and slaves — identical to today’s ISIS — not one of these assaults was defensive. These were not Muslim lands being liberated from occupation but Christian lands whose inhabitants experienced the horrors we see today in Syria, Iraq and now Libya with Israel waiting in the wings: amputations, beheadings, slavery and sex slavery (all of which are explicitly authorized by Allah in the Koran). When we see horrific videos of ISIS beheadings and the choosing of sex slaves, let’s remember it’s a scene repeated thousands of times before: in Jerusalem in 637, Egypt in 639, Spain in 711, and Constantinople in 1453. The only difference is that today there are cameras and instant worldwide communications.

The Islamic jihad against Christendom started more than four and a half centuries before anyone had even heard of a Crusade. The crusaders forced jihad into remission for a brief period from around 1100 to 1350, after which it resumed its full assault.

Most of Asia Minor — today’s Turkey — was quickly subdued as the Crusades ended. Islamic warriors of the new Ottoman Empire crossed into Europe at Gallipoli in 1356. In rapid succession the jihad overwhelmed Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, and southern Romania.

Constantinople fell in 1453. (This fulfilled the first part of a prophecy attributed to Muhammad and fondly cited by today’s jihadists that first they would take Constantinople and then Rome.) Bosnia, Croatia, Hungary, and Southern Austria and Poland all fell. Muslim slave-raiders ravaged the coasts of Italy, Spain, Sardinia, Corsica, and they ranged as far north as Ireland and Scandinavia. (The Barbary Wars fought by the infant United States were a response to that same activity, which lasted well into the 19th century. It was America’s first clash with jihad but certainly not our last.)

The Muslim advance only began to be seriously blunted in 1683, with the failure of the Turks’ second siege of Vienna. While the ideology of offensive jihad had not changed, its capabilities could not withstand the scientific and technological revolution that had begun to take hold in Christian Europe.

To sum up, aggressive Islamic jihad was launched against the Christians and lasted 450 years. For 250 years, Christian crusaders counterattacked. After that counterattack failed, renewed jihad lasted another 350 years.

It’s clear who the aggressors are, which only emphasizes that we cannot afford to engage in moral disarmament in the face of jihad and unreformed Islam. Unfortunately, under Mr. Obama, moral and actual disarmament is official U.S. policy. This must be reversed. (Contributor: By James A. Lyons for The Washington Times - James A. Lyons, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.)

It is generally acknowledged that President Obama has not helped Americans understand the Islamic threat to our nation’s future. He takes every opportunity to share fictitious U.S. history, touting Muslim involvement in the settling and growth of the United States. Pray for truth to prevail. Pray also now for the next U.S. president to strengthen the military against our enemies.

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

 

GOD'S NOT DEAD 2

Dear Prayer Warriors,

I keep reading and hearing about all you are doing for the Kingdom. Thank you for all your hard work done in the Name of Jesus.

Just as launching the Presidential Prayer Team was a new opportunity for the Kingdom of God, there is another new opportunity to make a difference. There is a plethora of outstanding Christian films coming to theaters these days. One I’m most excited about is GOD’S NOT DEAD 2, which opens in theaters April 1. You can learn more about this powerful film at GodsNotDead.com.

Millions of people are seeing these Christian films, making them the largest evangelism events since the Billy Graham Crusades. I was part of the second Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade. All the prayer leaders were invited to a special gathering with Billy Graham himself speaking. He said that there is a correlation between the number of people praying and the number of people responding to the Gospel at the crusade. Prayer works!

Films like GOD’S NOT DEAD 2 are really evangelism tools. We’re not asking you to promote these Christian films. Others are doing that. We are asking all 111 national prayer networks to invite their prayer teams to cover each theater in prayer. First, by cleansing those screens on which unholy things have been shown. Second, to pray for the people either as they enter the theater or pray as they are watching the film.

Here are the two simple steps for you with GOD’S NOT DEAD 2:

  1. You will receive 3-4 emails from us over then next few weeks with PDF files for you to easily forward to your team. Each of these emails will contain short videos of the film or interviews with the actors/actresses.
  2. On your cover email, we ask you to instruct them to go to our website (GodsNotDead.com/theaters) where they can search using their zip code to find one of the 1,500 screens nearest to their home. We are asking God to provide one or more prayer warrior for the first weekend, Friday through Sunday April 1-3, at each of the 1,500 theaters for each showing (usually 4-5 a day).

If 1,500 theaters show the film 4 times over a 3-day weekend that would be 18,000 Gospel messages. If at each showing God’s Spirit moves in the hearts of only 2 people, that would mean 36,000 new people of faith that we will see some day in Heaven. PTL! That, of course, would not include other commitments that would be made. Let the praying begin!

Last of all we will send you a report and THANKS together with some stories about lives that have been changed.

Keep Praying!

Dr. Cornell (Corkie) Haan
Mission America Coalition, National Facilitator
Co-founder of the Presidential Prayer Tea

This is Alert is a letter IFA recently received from a supportive prayer ministry. Please follow the links and pray accordingly, as you are led. We have not previewed the film, but it appears from the trailer that it is supportive of biblical values. Pray for a positive spiritual impact and for many to be saved.

“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” (Isa. 55:6-7)

 

DECISION AMERICA TOUR UPDATE

Dear Intercessors for America,

We are happy to share an update as the Decision America Tour begins to move across America.

God is stirring His people to pray and stand together!

What we are seeing is remarkable! In February, Columbia, SC and Atlanta, GA saw huge crowds of 7,100 and 6,800 respectively, even with below freezing temperatures and short ramp-up times. (By comparison, at the Pittsburgh Festival in August 2014 we had 8,000-10,000 people per night - a great turnout - with 18 months of planning, huge committees, etc.) Honolulu had 2200 including a lot of young people!

God is using this Tour to fan the flame of what He is already doing in the hearts of His people in every state. Prayer is relationship, and God is calling us deeper! We are seeing God’s people encouraged in every state where the Tour has been and hearing reports of continuing impact!

Below is a testimony about a South Carolina Pastor:

On Sunday, my Pastor told his Church that he was beginning something new because he was honoring a prayer he made at the Capitol.  He went on to say that he had not been the Evangelist and Soul Winner that he used to be but that was going to change.  He shared some plans based on Franklin Graham’s message last Tuesday at the Capitol.  Listening that night, I heard a different minister stand there in front of a Congregation that is ready to follow where he leads them; I heard a minister that had been convicted by God standing at the Capitol on that windy day.  This is just one church; my prayer is that many other church members across our state heard a similar message Sunday from their Pastors. 

Would you please continue to keep this Tour - and its continuing impact - in your prayers as you pray for our nation? Will you encourage those you know to attend the upcoming rallies? We want to leave God’s people better connected and stronger in each state!

The following rallies are coming up this month:

March 15, Denver, Colorado
March 16 - Santa Fe, New Mexico
March 18 - Phoenix, Arizona
March 29 - Salt Lake City, Utah
March 30 - Carson City, Nevada
March 31 - Sacramento, California

Please feel free to pass this update along!

There is no limit to what God can do in response to the prayers of His people! It is a pleasure and privilege to serve in the Kingdom with you!

Warmly,

Cynthia Scott
National Prayer Coordinator
2016 Decision America Tour

Please give thanks and, if possible, participate in one of these five Prayer Tour rallies remaining in March. IFA’s leadership and staff are thankful for letters like these and the organizations behind them, reminding us that God is raising up many individuals and ministries to intercede across the country. Please pray for each of the five citywide rallies.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! …For there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.” (Ps. 133:1, 3)

 

PORTLAND, OREGON-BOUND COMBAT MISSILES FOUND ON PLANE

Serbia’s authorities are investigating reports that a cargo package bound for the U.S. containing two missiles with explosive warheads was found on a passenger flight from Lebanon to Serbia.

N1 television said the package with two guided armor-piercing missiles was discovered Saturday by a sniffer dog after an Air Serbia flight from Beirut landed at Belgrade airport.

Serbian media say documents listed the final destination for the AGM-114 Hellfire missiles as Portland, Oregon. The American-made projectiles can be fired from air, sea or ground platforms.

N1 reported Sunday that Air Serbia is helping in the investigation. The Serbian flag carrier says “security and safety are the main priorities for Air Serbia.”

Jennifer Adams with the Portland office of the FBI said, “The FBI is aware of the report and is looking into it. No further information is available at this time.”

Scott Winegar, the director of Homeland Security Education at Concordia University, told KOIN 6 News these have been heavily used by drones to fire on targets over the past few years.

He said the investigation as to where these came from needs to start with the Defense Department.

“The other organizations that we have in the US are not responsible for distributing Hellfire missiles. That’s a Department of Defense asset so, wherever it came from, it would have to have come through the Department of Defense’s logistical chain,” Winegar said. “If it came from the U.S., if it came from our allies, that’s going to muddy the waters.” (Contributor: The Associated Press)

Unaccounted for missiles with explosive warheads is not a good sign. For IFA, this is a “watch and pray” article, which means that while we count it as potentially important to U.S. security, not enough is known about the story to give us specific prayer direction—thus we watch and pray and then wait to see what it means. Please pray that accountability will be revealed.

“For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains…. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” (1 Thess. 5:3-6)

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The Informer March 9, 2016

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DRILLS: U.S., SOUTH KOREA PRACTICE STRIKING NORTH’S NUCLEAR PLANTS

The United States and South Korea kicked off major military exercises on Monday, including rehearsals of surgical strikes on North Korea’s main nuclear and missile facilities and “decapitation raids” by special forces targeting the North’s leadership.

The drills always elicit an angry response from Pyongyang, but Monday’s statement was particularly ferocious, accusing the United States and South Korea of planning a “beheading operation” aimed at removing Kim Jong Un’s regime. The North Korean army and people “will take military counteraction for preemptive attack so that they may deal merciless deadly blows at the enemies,” the North’s powerful National Defense Commission said in a statement.

The exercises come at a particularly tense time, with the international community — especially the United States and South Korea — looking to punish Pyongyang for its recent nuclear test and missile launch. The United Nations last week imposed its toughest sanctions yet on the North, and South Korean President Park Geun-hye is expected to unveil further, unilateral sanctions on Tuesday.

About 17,000 American forces and 300,000 South Korean personnel — a one-third increase from last spring’s drills — will take part in 11 days of computer-simulated training and eight weeks of field exercises, which will involve ground, air, naval and special operations services.

The exercises will revolve around a wartime plan, OPLAN 5015, adopted by South Korea and the United States last year. The plan has not been made public but, according to reports in the South Korean media, includes a contingency for surgical strikes against the North’s nuclear weapons and missile facilities, as well as “decapitation” raids to take out North Korea’s leaders. The JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported that Kim Jong Un would be among them.

The joint forces will also run through their new “4D” operational plan, which details the allies’ preemptive military operations to detect, disrupt, destroy and defend against North Korea’s nuclear and missile arsenal, the Yonhap News Agency reported. “The focus of the exercises will be on hitting North Korea’s key facilities precisely,” a military official told the wire service.

Christopher Bush, a spokesman for U.S. Forces Korea, declined to comment on the reports. “Alliance operational plans are classified, and we aren’t authorized to discuss them for operations security reasons,” he said.

USFK said in a statement that it had informed the North’s Korean People’s Army — through the U.N. Command, which controls the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas — about the exercise dates and “the non-provocative nature of this training.”

But North Korea apparently did not see it this way.

“We have a military operation plan of our style to liberate South Korea and strike the U.S. mainland ratified by our dignified supreme headquarters,” the North’s National Defense Commission said in its statement, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

It said it had deployed “offensive means” to strike South Korea and “U.S. imperialist aggressor forces bases in the Asia-Pacific region and the U.S. mainland.”

“If we push the buttons to annihilate the enemies even right now, all bases of provocations will be reduced to seas in flames and ashes in a moment,” the commission said.

North Korea is particularly sensitive to suggestions of attacks on Kim — as the furor surrounding the 2014 Hollywood film “The Interview” showed — and it has a habit of making threats on which it cannot follow through.

Last week, Kim ordered his military to be ready to use its nuclear weapons at any time, saying they were needed, given the “ferocious hostility” of new “gangster-like” sanctions imposed on Pyongyang.

The threats issued Monday were “absolutely not credible,” said Daniel Pinkston, a former Korean linguist with the U.S. Air Force who teaches at Troy University’s campus in Seoul.

“They would trigger everything North Korea wants to avoid, which is their absolute destruction in retaliatory attacks,” Pinkston said. “Second, if you are going to launch an attack against a much stronger adversary, why would you telegraph that? You’d want the element of surprise.”

Much of North Korea’s rhetoric is for domestic consumption, as Kim tries to burnish his leadership credentials ahead of a much-anticipated Workers’ Party congress in May, the first in 36 years.

Kim, however, has shown himself willing to use the means available to him to express his anger. Last year, during a period of increased tensions with South Korea, he ordered his military onto a war footing, sending army units to the demilitarized zone and submarines out of port.

South Korea and the United States said they will increase monitoring of North Korea during the exercises.

“We will carry out these exercises while keeping tabs on signs of North Korean provocations,” a South Korean official told reporters. “If the North provokes us during this exercise, the U.S. and our troops will retaliate with an attack ten-fold stronger.”

About 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea, the result of an security alliance formed during the Korean War. (Contributor: By Anna Fifield for The Washington Post)

[Addendum] North Korea threatens nuclear strike over U.S.-South Korean exercises

North Korea warned it would make a "preemptive and offensive nuclear strike" in response to joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises that began Monday.

The news was announced in a statement by the National Defense Commission of North Korea and published in the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

"As the joint military exercises to be staged by the enemies are regarded as the most undisguised nuclear war drills aimed to infringe upon the sovereignty of the DPRK, its military counteraction will be more preemptive and offensive nuclear strike to cope with them," the statement read.

The United States responded with a call for caution.

"We urge North Korea to refrain from provocative actions and statements that aggravate tensions and instead focus on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments," a senior administration official said Monday. "We are closely monitoring the situation on the Korean Peninsula in coordination with our Republic of Korea allies."

North Korea's bellicose words are typical around the time of annual military exercises, according to CNN's Paula Hancocks.

"They (North Korea) have threatened this before, and these kinds of threats are to be expected this time of year," she said.

But Hancocks noted that tensions this year are even higher than normal after recent action at the United Nations.

The Security Council voted last week to impose an array of sanctions against North Korea because of that nation's recent nuclear test and missile launch, both of which defied international sanctions. The resolution that brought about the sanctions aims to cripple the economic factors that fuel the North's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The North Korean news agency has blasted the sanctions as "unprecedented and gangster-like."

Discussions about new sanctions started after North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb in January, its fourth nuclear test.

Then, in February, Pyongyang said it had successfully launched an Earth satellite into orbit via the long-range Kwangmyongsong carrier rocket.

About 17,000 U.S. forces will participate in the joint military exercises with South Korea, according to United States Forces Korea.

The two exercises, "Key Resolve" and "Foal Eagle," will run until April 30. "Foal Eagle" will involve ground, air, naval and special operations forces from both militaries, USFA said. (Contributor: By Dana Ford for CNN)

 

 

Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Committee
<Click Here to download PDF>

 

Pray for restraint that no “accidental provocation” will set off an international incident that gets out of control. Dictators often use bombastic threats primarily to impress their own people, and Kim Jong Un is no exception. Also, U.S. military personnel and forces are spread thin globally, and our country cannot afford losses through careless speech and action. Pray accordingly.

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16:18)

 

NETANYAHU SAYS DECLINED TO MEET OBAMA DUE TO U.S. ELECTION CAMPAIGN

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cancellation of a proposed meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama put more strain on their troubled ties on Tuesday just before a visit to Israel by Vice President Joe Biden.

The White House said on Monday it was "surprised" to learn first from Israeli media that Netanyahu had decided against coming to a conference of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC in Washington on March 20, and the suggestion in some reports that among his reasons was Obama's unavailability to see him.

Zeev Elkin, an Israeli cabinet minister close to Netanyahu, countered that Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer had given the White House advance warning the trip might not happen.

It was the latest episode in a fraught relationship between the right-wing Israeli leader and Democratic U.S. president that has yet to recover from deep differences over last year's U.S.-led international nuclear deal with Israel's foe Iran.

Biden, whose 2010 visit to Israel was marred by acrimony over a Jewish settlement plan announced during his trip, arrives later in the day for talks on Wednesday with Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank.

With violence surging for the past five months, U.S. officials have said no peace breakthrough is expected during Biden's visit.

In Jerusalem on Tuesday, a 50-year-old Palestinian woman who tried to stab Israeli police officers was shot dead, a police spokeswoman said.

Since October, Palestinian stabbings, shootings and car rammings have killed 28 Israelis and an American. Israeli forces have killed at least 174 Palestinians, 116 of whom Israel says were assailants. Most others were shot dead during violent protests.

Netanyahu has hailed Biden's visit as a sign of Israel's "strong relations" with the United States.

Within hours, however, a flap erupted with the White House, which said that contrary to media reports, Netanyahu had been offered a March 18 meeting with Obama, ahead of the president's landmark Cuba visit on March 21 and 22.

Netanyahu's office said on Tuesday he would not attend the AIPAC event and voiced appreciation for Obama's willingness to host him.

It said Netanyahu was reluctant to be drawn into the U.S. presidential campaign, where candidates have been vying to assert their bona fides as friends of Israel.

In 2012, Netanyahu hosted then-Republican contender Mitt Romney in Israel in what many Democrats saw as a bid to undercut Obama's second-term run. Israel denied meddling. (Contributor: By Jeffrey Heller for Yahoo News and Reuters News Service - Additional reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Despite rising global anti-Semitism, most American Christians support Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decisions on behalf of Israel’s well-being. As a political leader, he follows his intuition and agenda. He is determined not to be pulled into our nation’s present political frenzy. Pray for divine restraint on Iran and ISIS and the control of civilian turmoil and knife attacks in Israel’s cities and towns.

“Now the Lord had said to Abram:…’I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” (Gen. 12:1,3)

 

RECORD 61 MILLION IMMIGRANTS IN U.S., 15.7 MILLION ILLEGALLY

There are a record 61 million immigrants and their American-born children in the United States, including an estimated 15.7 million illegally here, according to a new analysis of 2015 U.S. Census data.

The estimated number of undocumented immigrants is one of the highest ever.

The analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies found that 45.3 million, or three-fourths of the 61 million, are legal immigrants and their children. The report out Monday notes that the so-called "Gang of Eight" immigration bill supported by GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio would have doubled that number of legal immigrants.

"These numbers raise profound questions that are seldom even asked: What number of immigrants can be assimilated? What is the absorption capacity of our schools, health care system, infrastructure, and labor market? What is the effect on the environment and quality of life from significantly increasing the nation's population density?" wrote Steven Camarota, the Center's director of Research.

"With 45 million legal immigrants and their young children already here, does it make sense to continue admitting more than one million new legal permanent immigrants every year?" he added.

His report found that the normal pattern of immigration to the United States changed after 1970. At that time, there were 13.5 million immigrants, or about one in 15 U.S. residents.

But since 2000, the number of immigrants has increased 18.4 million, and now nearly one of every five U.S. residents are immigrants.

"The number of immigrants and their young children grew six times faster than the nation's total population from 1970 to 2015 — 353 percent vs. 59 percent," he added.

Camarota dug deep into Census Current Population Survey and other data to determine his estimate of 15.7 million illegals in the United States.

"Our best estimate is that in 2015 there were 5.1 million children with at least one illegal immigrant parent. Taken together, the best available evidence indicates that there were a total of 15.7 million illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born children in the adjusted December 2015 CPS, accounting for 25.7 percent of the 61 million immigrants and their children in the country," he said.

He broke the figures down state by state and Camarota said that "the number of immigrants and their minor children from 1970 to 2015 has been nothing short of astonishing." Some examples:

-- In Georgia, this population grew 3,058 percent (from 55,000 to 1.75 million), 25 times faster than the overall state population.

-- In Nevada, this population grew 3,002 percent (from 26,000 to 821,000), six times faster than the overall state population.

-- In North Carolina, this population grew 2,937 percent (from 47,000 to 1.43 million), 30 times faster than the overall state population. (Contributor: Paul Bedard for The Washington Examiner)

The average person cannot easily interpret these figures. Most Americans believe the U.S. should welcome the world’s “tired [and] poor,” but a fair question is, How long can unregulated immigration continue? With open borders and numbers rising from thousands to millions, there must be limits. Pray for equitable solutions by way of November’s elections. Study the issues, and plan to vote!

“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord….” (Acts 17:26-27)

 

U.S. STRIKES IN SOMALIA KILL 150 SHABAB FIGHTERS

American aircraft on Saturday struck a training camp in Somalia belonging to the Islamist militant group the Shabab, the Pentagon said, killing about 150 fighters who were assembled for what American officials believe was a graduation ceremony and prelude to an imminent attack against American troops and their allies in East Africa.

Defense officials said the strike was carried out by drones and American aircraft, which dropped a number of precision-guided bombs and missiles on the field where the fighters were gathered. Pentagon officials said they did not believe there were any civilian casualties, but there was no independent way to verify the claim. They said they delayed announcing the strike until they could assess the outcome.

It was the deadliest attack on the Shabab in the more than decade-long American campaign against the group, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, and a sharp deviation from previous American strikes, which have concentrated on the group’s leaders, not on its foot soldiers.

It comes in response to new concerns that the group, which was responsible for one of the deadliest terrorist attacks on African soil when it struck a popular mall in Nairobi in 2013, is in the midst of a resurgence after losing much of the territory it once held and many of its fighters in the last several years. The planned attack on American and African Union troops in Somalia, American officials say, may have been an attempt by the Shabab to carry out the same kind of high-impact act of terrorism as the one in Nairobi.

The fighters had just completed “training for a large-scale attack” against American and African Union forces, said Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

Pentagon officials would not say how they knew that the Shabab fighters killed on Saturday were training for an attack on United States and African Union forces, but the militant group is believed to be under heavy American surveillance.

The Shabab fighters were standing in formation at a facility the Pentagon called Camp Raso, 120 miles north of Mogadishu, when the American warplanes struck on Saturday, officials said, acting on information gleaned from intelligence sources in the area and from American spy planes. One intelligence agency assessed that the toll might have been higher had the strike happened earlier in the ceremony. Apparently, some fighters were filtering away from the event when the bombing began.

The strike was another escalation in what has become the latest battleground in the Obama administration’s war against terror: Africa. The United States and its allies are focused on combating the spread of the Islamic State in Libya, and American officials estimate that with an influx of men from Iraq, Syria and Tunisia, the Islamic State’s forces in Libya have swelled to as many as 6,500 fighters, allowing the group to capture a 150-mile stretch of coastline over the past year.

The arrival of the Islamic State in Libya has sparked fears that the group’s reach could spread to other North African countries, and the United States is increasingly trying to prevent that. American forces are now helping to combat Al Qaeda in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso; Boko Haram in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad; and the Shabab in Somalia and Kenya, in what has become a multifront war against militant Islam in Africa.

The United States has a small number of trainers and advisers with African Union — primarily Kenyan — troops in Somalia. Defense officials said that the African Union’s military mission to Somalia was believed to have been the target of the planned attack.

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, called the attack a “good example” of how the United States military can work with local partners to advance security.

“The removal of those terrorist fighters degrades Al Shabab’s ability to meet the group’s objectives in Somalia, including recruiting new members, establishing bases and planning attacks on the U.S.,” Mr. Earnest told reporters on Monday. He insisted that avoiding civilian casualties is a “very very high priority, both for moral reasons but also because extremist organizations like Al Shabab would just use the death of innocent civilians to try to recruit additional members and whip up additional anti-U.S. sentiment.”

Saturday’s strike was the most significant American attack on the Shabab since September 2014, when an American drone strike killed the leader of the group, Ahmed Abdi Godane, at the time one of the most wanted men in Africa. That strike was followed by one last March, when Adan Garar, a senior member of the group, was killed in a drone strike on his vehicle.

If the killings of Mr. Godane and Mr. Garar initially crippled the group, that no longer appears to be the case. In the past two months, Shabab militants have claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed more than 150 people, including Kenyan soldiers stationed at a remote desert outpost and beachcombers in Mogadishu.

In addition, the group has said it was responsible for a bomb on a Somali jetliner that tore a hole through the fuselage and for an attack last month on a popular hotel and a public garden in Mogadishu that killed 10 people and injured more than 25. On Monday, the Shabab claimed responsibility for a bomb planted in a laptop computer that went off at an airport security checkpoint in the town of Beletwein in central Somalia, wounding at least six people, including two police officers. The police said that one other bomb was defused.

At the same time, Shabab assassination teams have fanned out across Mogadishu and other major towns, stealthily eliminating government officials and others they consider apostates.

The Shabab have also retaken several towns after African Union forces pulled out. The African Union peacekeeping force, paid for mostly by Western governments, features troops from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Djibouti and other African nations.

The Shabab were once strong, then greatly weakened and now seem to be somewhere in between, while analysts say the group competes with the Islamic State for recruits and tries to show — in the deadliest way — that it is still relevant. Its dream is to turn Somalia into a pure Islamic state.

The Pentagon’s announcement of the attack in Somalia came as the Obama administration said it planned in the future to be more transparent about the number of casualties caused by the use of counterterrorism strikes outside declared war zones. Lisa Monaco, President Obama’s counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, said a report would be released “in the coming weeks,” on the total number of casualties caused by strikes since Mr. Obama took office. (Contributor: By Helene Cooper for The New York Times)

War is a horror, and the statistics are chilling. A “just war” includes the rationale that the killing of a smaller number of enemy troops prevents the killing of a larger number of the defender’s troops. Thus, to eliminate the Shabab and the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) could prevent the genocide of Middle East Christians and other non-Muslim people groups. Pray for a quick resolution.  

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.... And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Mt. 24:6, 14)

 

PLANNED PARENTHOOD PRESIDENT, TO SPEAK AT GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY

Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the largest abortion provider in the U.S., will speak at the nation’s oldest Catholic institution in April.

Ms. Richards was extended an invitation to speak at Georgetown University by the Lecture Fund, a nonpartisan, student-run organization that seeks to promote dialogue on the Washington, D.C., campus.

The Catholic Church has long been opposed to abortion and considers it a grave evil equivalent to murder. Since taking over as president of Planned Parenthood in 2006, Ms. Richards has overseen more than 2.8 million abortions, according to LifeSite, a pro-life media outlet.

Critics of the event say Georgetown is extending a platform to a set of beliefs diametrically opposed to church teaching.

“This is the latest in a long history of scandal at Georgetown University,” Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, said in a statement. “Disguised as an academic event, this is nothing more than a platform for abortion advocacy at a Catholic university and under the nose of the Catholic bishops, featuring a wicked woman who defends the sale of baby body parts and is responsible for the deaths of millions of aborted children.”

Georgetown defended the invitation on the grounds of academic freedom [Jesuit influence?].

“We respect our students’ right to express their personal views and are committed to sustaining a forum for the free exchange of ideas, even when those ideas may be difficult, controversial or objectionable to some,” the university said in a statement.

“Georgetown remains firmly committed to the sanctity and human dignity of every life at every stage,” the school said.

Previous speakers hosted by the Lecture Fund include Ann Coulter, a conservative commentator; Jon Favreau, a former speechwriter to President Obama; and Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal. (Contributor: By Bradford Richardson for The Washington Times)

Pray for strong alumni reaction. IFA does not foment division between “branches” of Christianity, but Georgetown University (GU) betrays its Roman Catholic heritage by supporting this brazen denial of the parent Church’s strong pro-life standards. By welcoming Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, GU officials openly support an affront to every vestige of human life sanctity.

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20)

 

BILL DE BLASIO MANDATES TRANSGENDER ACCESS TO NYC BATHROOMS

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday issued an executive order granting people access to the public facilities that correspond with their gender identity.

“We want people to know they can go about their lives and not be excluded,” Mr. de Blasio said during a press conference at the Chelsea Recreation Center. “That’s why this is so important. This is about affirming the right of someone to follow through on their own identity.”

The law will allow transgender people to use public bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex.

Bianey Garcia, a transgender woman and advocate who sits on the board of Make the Road New York, said she felt “humiliated” when she was prevented using the women’s restroom by a restaurant owner.

“That day I felt humiliated, but like so many others, I didn’t think of making a complaint or telling anyone because of fear, frustration and disbelief,” Ms. Garcia said. “Access to the ladies bathroom is my right as a transgender woman, as a human being.”

Opponents of expanding access to facilities on the basis of gender identity contend such laws will create a whole host of issues, from exposing young girls to older men in changing rooms, to discouraging bystander intervention when potentially predatory men are seen accessing women’s restrooms.

Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, said laws like Mr. de Blasio’s fail to understand that transgender people are not the only ones whose rights need to be protected.

“Here’s what we need to realize: Everyone in this debate has rights,” Mr. Backholm said. “Transgender people have the right to go to the bathroom. But everybody else in the state of New York or the city of New York or whatever state we’re in, they all have legal rights to privacy that are real. And the problem is governments choosing one person’s rights over everybody else, rather than recognizing that everybody has an interest here, and we need to behave like adults and make sure that nobody gets to say my rights trump your rights because I say so.”

The order is the latest victory for an emboldened nationwide transgender movement that seeks public recognition and acceptance through access to sex-segregated amenities.

The Charlotte City Council in North Carolina last month passed a similar mandate, but the state legislature said it plans to block the measure before it is ever implemented.

In South Dakota last week, transgender advocates scored a major victory when Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed a law that would have prohibited students in public schools from using opposite-sex restrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities.

But voters in Houston overwhelmingly defeated an anti-discrimination ordinance in November that would have granted transgender people access to restrooms corresponding with their gender identity. (Contributor: By Bradford Richardson for The Washington Times)

Older Christians—born before or just after WW2—have long-since given up defining America as a Christian nation. But now, we see worse: a country losing its civility. With “official” transgender confusion, along with steep moral decline, how are we to define current U.S. society? Christians must pray and take a stand. Gender and sexuality are defined by God, not personal preference.

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply….’” (Gen. 1:27-28)

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The Informer March 2, 2016

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SUPER TUESDAY RESULTS BY THE NUMBERS

Tuesday was the biggest day of the presidential primary calendar to date as Republicans and Democrats each fought 11 state contests.

The two top questions as Super Tuesday dawned were whether any Republican could stop Donald Trump’s march toward the nomination and whether Bernie Sanders could slow Hillary Clinton’s progress toward the Democratic nod.

Where do things stand as the dust settles?

WINNERS:

Donald Trump (R)

Trump once again answered the doubters in clear-cut fashion, winning seven of the 10 contests that had been called by just after midnight Eastern time.

Trump said at his victory rally in Florida that he was expanding the appeal of the Republican Party. Whatever the truth of that statement — and many of his critics would vigorously dispute it — there is no question about the breadth of his appeal to GOP voters. He won a diverse collection of states Tuesday from Vermont to Alabama.

The businessman’s strong performance guarantees that he will extend a delegate lead over closest rival Ted Cruz. Trump had added at least 192 delegates to his total by 1 a.m., according to Associated Press estimates, while Cruz, at the same time, was certain of only 132. That would leave Trump more than 100 delegates ahead overall.

Trump has also rebuffed the sharp attacks that Marco Rubio mounted against him in recent days. Rubio notched a late win in the Minnesota caucuses, giving him a glimmer of hope, but that was his only win of the night. Cruz’s victories in his home state of Texas — the biggest delegate prize of the night — and Oklahoma make it certain he will stay in, too.

A field that continues to contain three major candidates will be just fine with Trump.

On Tuesday night, a reporter asked him whether he felt that he was now the presumptive GOP nominee.

“I feel awfully good,” Trump replied.

Hillary Clinton (D)

Clinton’s edge among black voters helped her crush Bernie Sanders in the South. In Alabama, for example, she was about 50 points ahead of Sanders with 84 percent of results in. Overall, Clinton won seven states to the Vermont senator’s four.

That is expected to leave Clinton ahead of Sanders in the delegate count by a more than 2-1 margin. Clinton already enjoys a prodigious lead among the party officials and others who serve as unpledged superdelegates — and they have no reason to leave her now.

Clinton’s night was not unblemished: Sanders picked up victories in Minnesota, Oklahoma and Colorado as well as his home state of Vermont. But Clinton won the general election battleground state of Virginia and beat back Sanders in Massachusetts, making clear that she can best her left-wing rival on his home turf in the Northeast.

It was telling that Clinton barely mentioned Sanders in her victory speech, delivered in Florida. Instead, she attacked Trump by allusion, asserting that “the rhetoric we’re hearing on the other side has never been lower.”

Clinton is beginning to run a general election campaign. That says everything about the state of the Democratic primary.

Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

Cruz emerged as a winner by default. Having long sought to position himself as the only alternative to Trump, he is now the only non-Trump candidate with multiple victories.

Cruz’s desire for a one-on-one battle with Trump was crystal clear as he delivered his Tuesday night speech at the Houston-area Redneck Country Club.

Insisting that “tonight was another decision point,” he asserted, “So long as the field remains divided, Donald Trump’s path to the nomination remains more likely — and that would be a disaster for Republicans, for conservatives and for the nation.”

Still, Cruz has his own challenges. Trump has won at least 10 contests to his three.

And Trump’s wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee have demonstrated his success in cutting into Cruz’s expected strength among Southern evangelicals.

Cruz’s path to the nomination is very steeply uphill — but he is now even more clearly the second-place GOP candidate. And he has the rationale to keep going for some time.

Chris Christie (R)

Christie’s decision to endorse Trump on Friday — blunting the new anti-Trump offensive from Rubio — outraged some party insiders. It was a significant gamble from the New Jersey governor. But the potential upside is simple: Christie could become the first truly significant establishment figure to back the eventual winner.

By inching close to his goal, Trump helped Christie, too.

LOSERS:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

Rubio’s late victory in the Minnesota caucuses wasn’t enough to rescue his night.

A candidate who purports to be the most electable choice has now won one GOP contest of the 15 held to date. He came up short in Virginia, his best hope of scoring a more substantive surprise.

As of midnight, it remained unclear whether Rubio was going to score the 20 percent of the vote required to win any delegates at all in a number of states.

The mere fact that Rubio’s win came so late in the night also meant Trump and Cruz had the opportunity to paint him as a loser in their speeches. “He hasn’t won anything, and he’s not going to win very much,” Trump jabbed.

Rubio can probably survive the night, but he emerges from Super Tuesday facing gale-force headwinds.

Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

In one sense, Sanders performed adequately on Super Tuesday, winning four contests.

But Sanders aspires to win the nomination, not merely run Clinton close, and by that measure the barriers keep getting higher.

His consistently weak support among African-American voters was evident in results from the Deep South. Sanders also lost Massachusetts, a state where his campaign had high hopes. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow described that result as a “disappointment” for the Vermont senator.

Sanders’s prodigious fundraising will let him stay in the race for some time. But the idea of him as the nominee looks less plausible with every big night in the race.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R)

The Ohio governor, who has been largely sidelined since his second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary early last month, got a sliver of light on Super Tuesday. He was only a few points behind Trump in Vermont and ran at a respectable level in Massachusetts, drawing about 18 percent of the vote there.

But none of it is enough to catapult Kasich into serious contention for the nomination.

And he will likely face even more pressure from establishment forces to withdraw, especially considering that Rubio plausibly could have beaten Trump in Virginia had it not been for the Ohio governor’s presence in the race. Trump’s margin of victory over Rubio in the commonwealth was just 3 points, and Kasich won 9 percent of the votes cast.

Kasich has fought an optimistic campaign, but he’s running out of road.

The Republican establishment

The anti-Trump forces in the GOP now confront the fact that they might be too late.

Even those who are less emphatic are in a difficult position.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for instance, has tried to stay out of the presidential race until his party settles on a nominee. But Ryan put that impartiality aside as voters in the Super Tuesday states were going to the polls, objecting to Trump’s initial failure to denounce former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke during a Sunday appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

It didn’t work.

Ryan, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other senior members of the party, must now decide how far they can go in trying to stop Trump — apparently in defiance of their voters’ wishes.

More broadly, the Super Tuesday results were the worst of all worlds from the establishment’s point of view: Trump dominated, but Cruz did well enough to stay in the race, and Rubio disappointed....

Ben Carson (R)

As of midnight, Carson’s share of the vote had reached double-digits in only one state, Alabama. There is simply no rationale for him to stay in the race. (Contributor: By Niall Stanage for The Hill)

As the dust settles over the Super Tuesday election results, ask the Lord to reveal to the U.S. citizenry all that they will need to know in order to vote for the best candidates in the 2016 elections in November. Pray for clear and truthful reporting of the news regarding all candidates. Pray for the protection of all candidates.

"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus." (Phil 2:3-5 ESV)

 

AG LORETTA LYNCH SAYS OBAMA CAN’T ENACT HIS GITMO PLAN ON HIS OWN

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Wednesday that federal law flatly prevents President Obama from sending the detainees from Guantanamo Bay to U.S. territory, hurting his ability to follow through on his new closure plan.

“That is the state of the law,” she said, pointing to the most recent defense policy law passed late last year, which cleared Congress on a bipartisan vote and which Mr. Obama himself signed into law.

Ms. Lynch said it’s her understanding the president’s plan, released Tuesday, is a “goal” and a challenge to Congress rather than an effort to circumvent lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

She said she supports the goal, saying the detention facility has become a security liability for the U.S.

The White House has tried to talk tough, saying that Mr. Obama won’t “take any options off the table” such as trying to close the prison by executive action. But Ms. Lynch’s comments seemed to undercut that.

“That would be prohibited from doing so. I’m not aware of any effort to do so at this time,” she said.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Wednesday that Congress is already readying a legal challenge should Mr. Obama try anyway.

“What boggles my mind is that the president is contemplating directing the military to knowingly break the law. Our law is really clear,” the Wisconsin Republican said.

The new plan, authored by the Defense Department, envisions 13 potential sites for housing up to 60 of the 91 detainees currently being held at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Mr. Obama is desperate to try to make good on his 2008 campaign pledge to close the detention facility. He’d initially vowed to shutter it within a year of taking office, and signed an executive order to federal agencies directing them to try to get it done.

Administration officials had eyed a maximum-security prison in Illinois as a likely transfer location.

But Congress — at the time controlled by Democrats — passed legislation stopping him from bringing any detainees to U.S. soil, and later ramped up those restrictions, saying the Defense Department secretary needed to personally certify the transfers of any detainees to be resettled in other countries.

Those restrictions have been maintained in the years since.

The White House dismissed Mr. Ryan’s threat to sue, with spokesman Josh Earnest saying Republicans “certainly seem to be in a pretty litigious mood these days.”

“If they spent just a portion of the time that they do in hiring lawyers at taxpayer expense to sue the president, to actually work with the president, to make progress on behalf of the American people, they would have a lot more to show for their work,” he said.

As long as the law bans transfer to the U.S., Mr. Obama may have to look to other countries to help make progress on his pledge of shuttering the prison.

Mr. Earnest said they are working to try to find countries willing and able to resettle the detainees, under the strict security arrangements required by the law.

Despite Ms. Lynch’s assurances Wednesday, Republicans remain wary. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said they remember several years ago, when the president swapped five Taliban warriors held at Guantanamo for the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

The Government Accountability Office later concluded Mr. Obama broke the law by rushing that transfer through without following the steps laid out in the law. (Contributor: By Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times)

Our prayer focus in these Alerts is to look for the primary issue rather than pray for symptoms. The larger question here is, what is best for U.S. national security? Pray that President Obama’s personal agenda and limited wisdom will be overruled by God’s mercy and guidance. Pray that Guantanamo Bay prisoners will be treated humanely and receive due process and trials for their crimes.

“Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; in You I take shelter. Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.” (Ps. 143:9-10)

 

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION PROMISES CRACKDOWN ON SANCTUARY CITIES

The Obama administration is preparing to crack down on sanctuary cities, Attorney General Loretta Lynch told Congress on Wednesday, saying she would try to stop federal grant money from going to jurisdictions that actively thwart agents seeking to deport illegal immigrants.

Her announcement marks a major policy reversal for the administration, which for years has opposed legislation that would have forced such a crackdown.

Ms. Lynch also said the federal Bureau of Prisons will no longer release illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities and instead will turn them over to immigration authorities to be deported. That is a response to last summer’s killing of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco.

“This is a very significant change, and we’re deeply grateful to you,” Rep. John Abney Culberson, Texas Republican, told Ms. Lynch at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee.

He promised to provide Ms. Lynch with a list of sanctuary jurisdictions and urged her to scour the list and see who is refusing to comply.

“If they insist on paying it out of their policy, and they won’t honor detainers, and they won’t share information, you know, don’t ask for federal money unless you follow federal law,” he said. “Delighted to hear you’re moving in that direction, and we’re going to work with you cooperatively and in a supportive way to ensure that that happens.”

The moves are bound to anger immigrant rights advocates, who for years have cheered as hundreds of county and city governments, jails, and sheriff’s and police departments have adopted sanctuary policies.

The administration has been caught in the middle of the fight.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency charged with conducting deportations, has pleaded for years for such a crackdown. But the Justice Department, formerly helmed by Eric H. Holder Jr., refused to cooperate.

That has changed under Ms. Lynch, who took office in April.

In a letter to Mr. Culberson this week, the Justice Department said if it determines a city or county receiving federal grants is refusing to cooperate with ICE agents, they cold lose money and face criminal prosecution.

The three programs at stake are the Byrne justice grants, the Community Oriented Policing Services program and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. That last one is particularly galling to enforcement advocates because it pays local jails for housing illegal immigrants — including jails that refuse to turn over those immigrants to be deported.

Mr. Culberson’s office said he will submit a list of sanctuary cities maintained by the Center for Immigration Studies, which built its list off data from ICE.

Hundreds of states, counties, cities and jail systems are on the list — though some of them dispute the characterization as sanctuaries.

The most prominent sanctuary cities are Cook County, which is home to Chicago, and San Francisco, where the killing of Steinle last year drew attention to the situation.

She was walking along the city waterfront with her father when she was slain, and prosecutors blamed an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times.

He was supposed to have been deported again last year after being released from federal prison, but San Francisco asked that he be transferred to stand trial on an old drug charge. After local prosecutors dismissed the charge, he should have been sent back to ICE, which asked that he be held, but the sheriff instead released him under the sanctuary policy.

Ms. Lynch said she is taking steps to make sure that can’t happen again. She said before the federal Bureau of Prisons will release an illegal immigrant prisoner to a local community, it will check to see if it’s a sanctuary.

If so, the bureau will refuse the local request and instead send the immigrant to ICE for deportation.

“Particularly where we are dealing with a jurisdiction that essentially is not prone to honoring the ICE detainers — and those vary across the country, they just vary over time and place — our policy is going to be that ICE will instead have the first detainer, and that individual go into ICE custody and deportation,” she testified.

Last summer, President Obama threatened to veto a bill in Congress to strip federal grants from sanctuary cities.

At that time, the White House Office of Management and Budget said forcing localities to cooperate with federal immigration policies “would threaten the civil rights of all Americans, lead to mistrust between communities and state and local law enforcement agencies, and impede efforts to safely, fairly, and effectively enforce the nation’s immigration laws.”

It’s unclear what changed minds within the administration.

But Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told Congress on Wednesday that jurisdictions refused some 15,000 requests to hold illegal immigrants in 2014, and instead released them into communities. That meant rather than taking custody from a prison, his agents had to go out and track them down, costing more money and putting lives in danger.

“That was creating a real public safety problem for us,” he said.

He said he made changes to his own programs to make them more palatable, and a number of big cities and counties have agreed to some levels of cooperation.

Still, his agents are having trouble rounding up illegal immigrants who were part of the surge from Central America.

He said agents will often knock on doors and know someone is home, but they are not allowed to enter unless they are invited inside. Many illegal immigrants have been told by Spanish-language press and advocacy groups to refuse to open the door, he said.

Mr. Johnson said there are also “sensitive” places he won’t let his agents go to capture illegal immigrants, such as hospitals, churches and schools. That also limits the chances agents have to nab someone.

Indeed, of some 1,600 illegal immigrants targeted in raids in January, just 121 were captured.

Mr. Johnson insisted that the raids would continue, drawing heat from congressional Democrats.

Rep. David E. Price, North Carolina Democrat, said one young illegal immigrant in his state was caught while on his way to school.

“There are just questions about seizing him up in that criminal element as he wasn’t anywhere near it,” Mr. Price said. (Contributor: By Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times)

The “sanctuary city” program is part of a larger issue of illegal immigration and confusion as to what constitutes homeland security. Changes must come in both Congress and the Administration. Our country cannot move forward while we have contradictory policies between deportation on one hand and almost no border security on the other. Pray for God’s mercy to restore America.

“Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell forevermore. For the Lord loves justice, and does not forsake His saints; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off.” (Ps. 37:27-28)

 

ARMY SOLDIERS CAN ‘SELF-IDENTIFY,’ NOT FACE DISCRIMINATION

In the Defense Department’s budget section on the Army, it states: “From the Secretary of the Army to the youngest private, the Army remains committed to ensuring the dignity and respect of Soldiers, civilians, and their families. A part of that respect is ensuring every Soldier and civilian has the opportunity to reach their highest potential. With the recent opening of all military occupations and positions to women, the Army will have access to a broader range of talent. The Army will provide every Soldier and civilian equal opportunities to rise to the level of their merit regardless of their gender, their race, or their self-identity.”

The term “self-identity” was not contained in the sections on the other three military branches and was not found in the budgets for past years.

Cynthia O. Smith, an Army spokeswoman at the Pentagon, told The Washington Times: “Treating all soldiers with dignity and respect is not a change in policy, it is a core value. Moreover, the language in the budget report is wholly consistent with past Army statements.”

Some observers say the term refers to transgender persons.

How the option to self-identify will change personnel policy is unclear. Some states now are debating laws on transgender people’s access to public bathrooms for women and men. The military is working to lift the ban on transgender troops, which presumedly would require regulations on proper access to bathrooms and showers.

Regardless, “self identity” in the military is not popular among social conservatives.

“That’s an opening for just about anything. Transgender, any faith or space alien,” said Robert Maginnis, a retired Army officer and critic of the Pentagon’s social agenda. “Before long, we’ll welcome anyone no matter their views or abilities. Be damned our readiness. That’s the progressives’ mantra.”

The Times asked the Office of the Secretary of Defense if “self-identity” is contained in any new personnel policies.

“The services may submit their budgetary proposals in language that they believe will allow us to understand their needs,” said spokesman Mark E. Wright. “OSD does not approve or disapprove this language. I refer you to the Army regarding their use of language.”

Under Mr. Obama, the U.S. armed forces are occupied with a social revolution.

The military has opened the ranks to open gays, launched a legal and bureaucratic war on sexual harassment, and this year will introduce women into ground combat units in infantry, armor and special operations.

Eric Fanning is awaiting a Senate vote on his nomination as the next Army secretary, and confirmation would make him the first openly gay service secretary. Mr. Fanning had served as acting Army undersecretary.

“It looks like Fanning is wasting no time in imposing LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] law on the Army, with transgender people being treated as a civil rights minority entitled to special rights,” said Elaine Donnelly, who runs the Center for Military Readiness. “Gender dysphoria requires treatment, in the same way that other conditions in which a person’s self-identify differs from reality deserve treatment. Full implementation could have serious consequences, especially among medical personnel who may be required to provide treatment that departs from prevailing medical ethics.”

Regarding transgender individuals, the Pentagon announced this month it plans to extend health coverage for hormone therapy and mental health treatments, but not for surgeries.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has the military on a path to lift the ban on transgender people later this year, but no final decision has been made. (Contributor: By Rowan Scarborough for The Washington Times)

It appears that military leaders at all levels, from President Obama as Commander-in-Chief to Defense Secretary Carter, continue to “experiment” with diversity, while America’s safety and security is threatened, including the role of women in direct combat. Sustained, unified intercession is needed here for changes in attitude at the highest levels. Pray now for November elections.

“For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: ‘Awake you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’” (Eph. 5:12-14)

 

TOP BORDER CHIEF TO AGENTS WHO OBJECT TO OBAMA AMNESTY: ‘LOOK FOR ANOTHER JOB’

Customs and Border Protection Commission R. Gil Kerlikowske told Border Patrol agents who object to President Obama’s amnesty policies that it’s time to “look for another job,” saying Tuesday that agents have to follow the orders of their superiors [rather than the law.]

Mr. Kerlikowske was objecting to testimony last month from the Border Patrol labor union chief, who said under Mr. Obama agents have been told to restore the discredited “catch-and-release” policy from a decade ago.

The commissioner disputed that, saying every illegal immigrant over the age of 14 who is encountered by agents is supposed to be fingerprinted, interviewed and put through the usual process, including being turned over to Immigration and Customs enforcement for decisions on deportation.

“We don’t need and don’t want — and I would not stand by if the Border Patrol was — releasing people without going through all of the formalities,” Mr. Kerlikowske testified to the House Appropriations Committee.

Mr. Kerlikowske also questioned the veracity of the labor union, the National Border Patrol Council, and its president Brandon Judd, saying the NBPC was “probably not the most knowledgeable organization about what’s actually going on.”

Last month Mr. Judd testified that his agents have been told not to bother arresting illegal immigrants, meaning the migrants never get into the criminal justice system, and the administration’s numbers don’t look so bad.

Mr. Judd said the releases are part of President Obama’s “priorities” program, which orders agents to worry chiefly about criminals, national security risks and illegal immigrants who came into the U.S. after Jan. 1, 2014. Mr. Judd said illegal immigrants without serious criminal convictions have learned that by claiming they came before 2014 — without even needing to show proof — they can be released immediately.

Mr. Kerlikowske, though, said Mr. Judd and fellow agents who object to Mr. Obama’s policies should be ushered out.

“Well if you really don’t want to follow the directions of your superiors, including the president of the United States and the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, then you really do need to look for another job,” he said.

Shawn Moran, vice president of the NBPC, took “great offense” to the commissioner’s remarks.

“When it comes to catch and release, Border Patrol agents are the only ones following the law. The commissioner can dress it up any way he likes, but even though we are documenting people, they are being released into American society, never to be seen again,” Mr. Moran said.

He said the NBPC is directly in touch with line agents in the field, and said Mr. Kerlikowske gets his information filtered by layers of “yes men” at headquarters. Mr. Moran said agents do follow orders, even when they disagree with them, but have the right to speak out against them as well, and said the series of policies is taking a toll on the agency.

“This is part of the administration’s strategy to demoralize and disrupt agents and completely dismantle immigration enforcement,” he said. “They’re going to make the job so unbearable because they know they have a very motivated workforce, a very patriotic workforce that wants to uphold the laws, yet we have the president of the United States and the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection directly going against the rule of law.”

Mr. Kerlikowske even appeared to acknowledge problems with the demoralized workforce.

Just minutes before he told agents to quit, he had told the committee that he’s having trouble filling the number of slots Congress has funded.

“We are not able to hire as fast as attrition,” he said, calling it “very concerning.” (Contributor: By Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times)

Any business having necessary personnel leaving faster than they are replaced is going to fail, and our nation’s border security is no exception. Management cannot walk in two opposite directions at the same time. Pray for clarity of purpose and a return to constitutional priorities of citizen protection by the federal government.

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

 

US ARMY WILL HAVE LASER WEAPONS BY 2023

The US Army is planning to deploy the first laser weapons in 2023, it has been revealed.

Mary J. Miller, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Research and Technology, told the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities 'I believe we're very close,' when asked how close the Army is to developing offensive and defensive directed-energy weapons.

She said the programmes would be extensively tested as the Army wants to understand the lasers' full capabilities 'before we offer it to a Soldier.'

'It's being done in a 'step-wise demonstration of capability,' she said.

'We have to make sure the lasers work and do the full set of scopes against the threats we project. And those threats include the counter-rockets, counter-artillery and counter-mortar as well as [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle] and cruise missile threats.'

Miller explained that the Army wants to understand the lasers' full capabilities 'before we offer it to a Soldier.'

Operators need to trust what lasers can do, she added.

'Lasers have been promised for a long time, but they've never held up and delivered what was asked for, so the operators are rightfully skeptical,' she pointed out.

'That's why the Army is taking lasers out into operational environments and testing them.

In the meantime, 'there will be steps along the way where we spin off lesser capable laser systems that can do good things on smaller platforms.

'Those will come out soon.'

The Air Force said it was already flying prototype weapons.

Dr. David Walker, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology and Engineering, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, said the Air Force is working with Special Operations Command to develop an offensive laser that will be fitted to AFSOC AC-130 gunships.

Part of that technology, he said, includes 'beam-steering and power and thermal management.'

'The Air Force is flying every day with lasers under its transport aircraft, using them as infrared countermeasure system,' so we too spun off lesser-capable laser systems and as we get larger power outputs and better thermal management out of smaller package lasers, we will build those powers into defensive to offensive capability as well,' Walker said.

The Navy's science representative described similar laser programs for ships, subs and Marines.

Air Force bosses have previously boasted combat lasers will be fitted to fighters planes by 2020.

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, is on track to demonstrate a working laser weapon on a fighter jet by 2020, it has revealed.

'It really is a national tipping point,' Kelly Hammett, chief engineer for the AFRL's directed energy directorate, told CNN.

'We see the technology evolving and maturing to the stage where it really can be used.'

The military hopes that the new generation of weapons could lead to radical changes in the way wars are fought, with planes having unlimited ammunition - as long as they have enough power.

'You could have an unlimited magazine ... loitering aircraft that could address and access a wide variety of targets, Hammett said.

'I believe we'll have a directed energy pod we can put on a fighter plane very soon,' Air Force General Hawk Carlisle has claimed at the Air Force Association Air & Space conference in a presentation on what he called Fifth-Generation Warfare, according to Ars Technica.

'That day is a lot closer than I think a lot of people think it is.'

The US Navy has already deployed a laser weapon at sea aboard the USS Ponce, capable of a range of attacks against small boats, drones, and light aircraft posing a threat, by blinding sensors or operators or heating elements to make them fail or explode.

Other laser weapons are also being tested by the Office of Naval Research for use on helicopters to protect against man-portable anti aircraft missiles.

Directed-energy weapons pods could be affixed to aircraft to destroy or disable incoming missiles, drones, and even enemy aircraft at a much lower 'cost per shot' than missiles or even guns, Carlisle suggested.

The front runner for the Air Force system is believed to be called the High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS), and will create a laser small enough to be mounted on a plane, and is expected to be ready for use by 2020.

General Atomics, the firm making, it, has revealed a full scale system is already under construction following tests.

The AFRL is also working on a defensive laser shield.

A 360-degree laser 'bubble' would surround a U.S. warplane.

They say the weapons shows 'unprecedented power' and are about to begin testing it against live targets on firing ranges.

'The goal of the HELLADS program is to develop a 150 kilowatt (kW) laser weapon system that is ten times smaller and lighter than current lasers of similar power, enabling integration onto tactical aircraft to defend against and defeat ground threats,' Darpa says.

It said the secretive trials 'demonstrated sufficient laser power and beam quality to advance to a series of field tests.

'The technical hurdles were daunting, but it is extremely gratifying to have produced a new type of solid-state laser with unprecedented power and beam quality for its size,' said Rich Bagnell, yhe projects program manager.

'The HELLADS laser is now ready to be put to the test on the range against some of the toughest tactical threats our warfighters face.'

Ground-based field testing of the HELLADS laser is now expected to begin this year as an effort jointly funded by DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Following the field-testing phase, the goal is to make the system available to the military Services for further refinement, testing or transition to operational use.

The HELLADS program has been developing an electrically driven solid state laser at greatly reduced size and weight over lasers of similar power for tactical use.

The laser was developed by DARPA performer General Atomics

The weapons are expected to be used to shoot down drones.

'Enemy surface-to-air threats to manned and unmanned aircraft have become increasingly sophisticated, creating a need for rapid and effective response to this growing category of threats.

'High power lasers can provide a solution to this challenge, as they harness the speed and power of light to counter multiple threats.'

However, they are also likely to be used on bombing raids to target precise locations.

'Laser weapon systems provide additional capability for offensive missions as well—adding precise targeting with low probability of collateral damage.'

Following the tests, GA said 'based on the results of the unit cell demonstration, additional laser modules will be fabricated to produce a 150 kW laser that will be demonstrated in a laboratory environment.' (Contributor: By Mark Prigg for Daily Mail)

We must see the major issue. Optimum weaponry will not be effective if the nation’s war strategy is not properly defined. No rational person wants war, but when necessary and with a just cause, the government should aim at victory with the least number of casualties. Pray for a righteous policy to emerge, where our government is poised to protect and defend its citizens.

“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when [wicked men rule], the people groan.” (Prov. 29:2)

 

FOOD STAMP USERS NEAR RECORD HIGH

Despite the unemployment rate being at an eight-year low (4.9 percent as of January 2016), the number of people on food stamps remains near an all-time high which was 47,636,000 in 2013.

Why the disparity in the numbers? Well, the unemployment rate does not take into account people who are not in, or have dropped out of, the workforce altogether.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in January of this year that approximately 94 million Americans are not participating in the workforce.

But the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has been hovering around 46 million participants since 2011. The current figure, as of February 2016, stands at 45.8 million Americans receiving food stamps.

Bloomberg Business reported that the last time the unemployment rate was at five percent in April 2008, only 28 million Americans were on food stamps.

Several reasons explain the high numbers. Governments have made it easier to sign up for the program. More than 85 percent of eligible food-stamp recipients took assistance in 2013, the most recent year of available data, compared to 70 percent in 2008. The higher sign-up rate among those qualified accounts for 8.6 million more people on food stamps -- about half of the program’s total increase.

Well, at least President Obama put forth one program that has been easy to sign up for.

We now have a country based on government dependence. Heritage Foundation research fellow Robert Rector said, “Clearly there’s a group of people who are not in the labor force, and 10 years ago they would have been. Now they’re relying on food stamps.”

When we have a government full of enablers telling people that they don’t have to work to provide for themselves and their families, they create an atmosphere of dependence and reliance. (Contributor: By Nick Kangadis for MRCTV)

The larger picture is this: the food stamp number is a measure of encroaching socialism. For unemployment to be down and food stamp usage this high shows a steep decline in our once-thriving free enterprise system. Intercede for those who are legitimately poor, but too many citizens have become permanently dependent on a “benevolent” government to sustain them. Pray as you are led.

“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10)

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The Informer February 24, 2016

On Watch in Washington February 24, 2016 Plain Text PDF Version

SUPER TUESDAY WITH G.O.P.’S DEEPEST POCKETS

A seven-month, $220 million surge of spending on behalf of mainstream Republican candidates has yielded a primary battle dominated by Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, two candidates reviled by most of the party’s leading donors.

Now, as they approach a pivotal and expensive stage of the campaign, the two insurgent candidates — who have won the first three contests — appear to be in the best position financially to compete in the 11 states that will vote on Super Tuesday, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Saturday.

Mr. Cruz is the best financed candidate in the Republican race, beginning February with $13.6 million in cash on hand. Mr. Trump, a billionaire, has raised millions of dollars from small donors and lent himself millions more, including nearly $5 million in January. He paid out more than $11.5 million that month, the most sustained spending of his presidential bid so far.

The outcome is a rebuke to the party’s traditional donor class, which poured record-breaking amounts of money into the race last spring and summer in the hope of grooming a nominee with broad national appeal and a chance at winning over more Hispanic and other nonwhite voters. Instead, the candidates backed most lavishly by wealthy establishment-leaning Republican donors burned through much of the cash they accumulated last year, beginning the month deeply depleted. Those remaining in the race on Sunday, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, had less than $7 million in cash between them.

Jeb Bush, who entered the race last summer with more money behind him than every other Republican candidate combined, ended his campaign on Saturday with just $2.9 million in the bank and a fourth-place finish in South Carolina, a state the Bush family once considered a political stronghold.

Much of the donor class’s money was spent on a shootout among its favored candidates. Groups backing Mr. Bush, Mr. Rubio, Mr. Kasich and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey devoted almost three-quarters of the money they spent on negative advertising to attacking those other candidates rather than Mr. Trump or Mr. Cruz, according to the commission’s data. The outside group aligned with Mr. Bush, Right to Rise, spent an astonishing $34 million in January alone, with little impact on Mr. Bush’s own fortunes.

“The establishment G.O.P. is lying to itself. This election at its core is a rejection of their globalist economic agenda and failed immigration policies — and of rule by the donor class,” said Laura Ingraham, the conservative talk-radio host and political activist. “Millions want the party to go in a more populist direction.”

That proposition will be tested in the coming weeks, as Republican donors begin to organize more strategically against Mr. Trump. Our Principles PAC, a group devoted to highlighting his past support for Democratic positions like universal health care, higher taxes and abortion rights, is now spending significantly to persuade Republicans that Mr. Trump is not a reliable conservative.

On Saturday, filings revealed that Marlene Ricketts, a prominent Republican donor who previously supported the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, provided the group with $3 million in January. Richard Uihlein, a wealthy Chicago-area businessman and conservative patron, also contributed to the group.

Katie Packer, a Republican strategist overseeing Our Principles, said the group’s ads had helped reduce Mr. Trump’s margin of victory in South Carolina. “Our hope is that the field will winnow and conservatives will coalesce behind a candidate that believes in conservative principles and can unite the party,” Ms. Packer said. “We intend to keep the heat on in Nevada and the March 1 states and as long as it takes for that to occur.”

Mr. Kasich had just $1.4 million on hand at the end of January — virtually dry against the scale of modern presidential campaigns — while Mr. Rubio had $5 million, though both campaigns were expected to capitalize on strong showings in the first two contests. After spending tens of millions of dollars between them, the “super PAC” backing Mr. Kasich reported only $2.4 million in cash on hand, while the group backing Mr. Rubio had $5.6 million.

The disparity between traditional and insurgent candidates was echoed to some extent on the Democratic side, where Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont raised almost $6.5 million more than Hillary Clinton in January — the first reporting period in which his campaign has taken in more money. Virtually all of that money came from donors giving small checks.

But Mr. Sanders also spent heavily to win in New Hampshire and fight Mrs. Clinton to a virtual tie in Iowa, dropping $35 million in January, reports filed late on Saturday showed. He ended the month with less than half as much cash on hand as Mrs. Clinton.

A super PAC backing Mrs. Clinton, Priorities USA Action, also continues to stockpile cash, reporting $45 million in cash on hand at the end of last month. The group took in almost $10 million in January, including $3.5 million from James H. Simons, a retired hedge fund founder from New York.

Mr. Kasich and Mr. Rubio are now hoping to take advantage of Mr. Bush’s decision to quit the race, leaving them to divvy up his remaining large donors. Both have been heavily dependent on donors making large contributions: Mr. Kasich raised just 17 percent of his contributions from donors giving $200 or less in January, and Mr. Rubio 19 percent.

“South Carolina is the political equivalent of the parting of the Red Sea,” said Theresa Kostrzewa, a Bush fund-raiser in North Carolina, who predicted most of Mr. Bush’s supporters would flow to Mr. Rubio. “Republicans: This is your sign from God.”

Jeff Sadowsky, a spokesman for the pro-Rubio group, Conservative Solutions PAC, said on Saturday that he expected the race to “go on for quite some time.” The group is planning to begin what Mr. Sadowsky described as a “multistate, multimillion-dollar advertising effort” on Tuesday.

Mr. Kasich’s chief strategist, John Weaver, told reporters on Saturday that Mr. Kasich’s fund-raising had increased “dramatically” since his second-place finish in the New Hampshire primary, but did not specify by how much. And Mr. Kasich faces perhaps the biggest challenge. He is bypassing this week’s Republican caucuses in Nevada, and he is counting on strong performances in Michigan, whose primary is March 8, and his home state of Ohio, which votes on March 15. He is not likely to have another attention-grabbing finish before those contests.

“We’re confident we’re going to get enough to run the kind of campaign we need,” Mr. Weaver said after results came in on Saturday. “The days of us being outspent 10 to 1 are over because of what happened tonight.” (Contributor: By Nicholas Confessore and Sarah Cohen for The New York Times - Maggie Haberman, Rachel Shorey and Thomas Kaplan contributed reporting)

This NY Times analysis suggests that money paves the way to the U.S. presidency — and lots of it. Intercessors understand that today’s political campaigns are very costly, with wide-range travel and constant media exposure. For people of faith, however, the most valuable currency is not gold and silver but character. Pray for God’s will to be fulfilled. Then, study the issues, and plan to vote.

“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. 6:10)

ANTONIN SCALIA’S FUNERAL REFLECTS THE JUSTICE’S LIFE OF FAITH

Justice Antonin Scalia was prayerfully offered up by his son Paul and the nation’s political and legal elite Saturday in an ageless funeral Mass that set aside Washington’s usual lessons of power and celebrated devout Christian faith.

Vice President Biden, all of the living Supreme Court justices with whom Scalia served save one, congressional leaders and members of the legal establishment were among the thousands who attended a ceremony that Scalia himself might have designed in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The occasion put aside — momentarily — the partisan battle over the court that Scalia’s death has occasioned and was remarkably free of the encomiums that usually mark the send-offs of Washington’s political class.

Instead, it followed the dictates of religion and placed the emphasis on the Christian promise of resurrection and the sinner’s need for God’s grace.

The Rev. Paul Scalia, a priest in the Diocese of Arlington, told the throng there was a purpose in gathering.

His father “was a practicing Catholic — practicing in the sense that he hadn’t perfected it yet. Or rather, Christ was not yet perfected in him.”

Because only those brought to perfection may enter heaven, Paul Scalia said. “We are here then to lead our prayers to that perfecting, to that final work of God’s grace.”

Scalia the Supreme Court justice was not prone to humility. He was revered and hated for his strident views, an unfailingly confident sense of right, his sharp-tongued critique of all things liberal, or modern, and a larger-than-life personification of conservatism.

The setting for his funeral was perfect in that sense — the largest Catholic church in North America.

It took all seven verses of “O God, Our Help In Ages Past”— and then some — for his wife, Maureen, his eight other children and his three dozen grandchildren to accompany his body to the altar. An angelic-sounding choir provided song, and it appeared that every priest in the region had donned a white robe to stand at attention.

The day before, 6,000 people, including President Obama, had filed past his flag-draped casket in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court. But before the casket crossed what Paul Scalia called “the holy doors,” the flag had been replaced with an ivory pall, and the powerful leader became supplicant.

Paul Scalia set the tone early in his 15-minute homily.

“We are gathered here because of one man,” the priest said. “A man known personally to many of us, known only by reputation to even more. A man loved by many, scorned by others. A man known for great controversy and for great compassion.”

He paused for the effect his father would have appreciated.

“That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth. It is He who we proclaim.”

It was a fitting service for Scalia, who died Feb. 13 at 79. He was a Catholic and was the member of the Supreme Court most vocal about his religion. He urged fellow intellectuals to be “fools for Christ” and once used an interview to underscore his belief in the existence of the Devil, whose latest maneuver, he said, “is getting people not to believe in him or in God.”

Scalia had made known his view that weddings and funerals, “but especially funerals, are the principal occasions left in modern America when you can preach the Good News not just to the faithful but to those who have never really heard it.”

The grand shrine became a (likely brief) demilitarized zone in the partisan wars that have raged since Scalia’s death about whether Senate Republicans will allow an Obama nominee to succeed Scalia. That replacement would tip the balance of the court to the left.

Biden sat in the front along with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. The rest of Scalia’s colleagues on the Supreme Court were there, too, along with two of the three retired justices: John Paul Stevens, 95, and David Souter, 76. Sandra Day O’Connor, 85 and in frail health, was not there.

Clarence Thomas, a fellow Catholic and the justice most ideologically aligned with Scalia, read Romans 5:5-11.

Of course, politics were not completely absent. Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) took time away from campaigning ahead of Saturday’s South Carolina Republican presidential primary to attend, and he and Thomas’s wife, Ginny, hugged in the center aisle. She has endorsed Cruz, who served as a clerk in the 1990s for then-Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

And Obama’s decision not to be among the mourners has sparked condemnation from conservatives. He and first lady Michelle Obama paid their respects Friday at the Supreme Court, where they viewed Scalia’s casket and met privately with members of the family. Obama and Scalia were not close, and the White House has noted that Biden and Scalia had a personal relationship.

Scalia liked to attend parishes that offered traditional Latin Mass, and on Sundays he could be found at St. John the Beloved, near his home in McLean, Va., or St. Mary Mother of God in Chinatown. But his funeral Mass was conducted in English.

That a Catholic of his stature did not have his funeral Mass celebrated by a high-ranking cardinal or bishop but by his son was seen as important and sentimental, said the Rev. James Bradley, a D.C. priest who blogs on liturgy, homilies and church music.

“It’s quite a beautiful thing to celebrate your father’s funeral. We all dread doing it, but it’s significant,” Bradley said. “If a cardinal or bishop presided, they may feel bound to celebrate the Mass of a public figure. But his son, he celebrates as a Catholic.”

The family plans a memorial service on March 1 that will probably be filled with testimonials, but Scalia’s homily was personal and at times drew laughter.

Paul Scalia thanked God for blessing his father with “55 years of marriage to the woman he loved, a woman who could match him at every stage and even hold him accountable.”

He recounted how his father could not always call the children by the right name — “there are nine of us” — and told of how his father one Saturday afternoon had found himself in his son’s confessional line.

The elder Scalia quickly departed. “As he put it later, ‘Like heck am I confessing to you,’ ” Paul Scalia recalled. “The feeling was mutual.”

Paul Scalia’s remarks became political just once, when he noted that his father agreed that God’s blessings “could be lost when faith is banned from the public square or when we refuse to bring it there.”

One aspect of Scalia’s judicial rulings greeted his mourners. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who picket the funerals of the famous and infamous, were outside. In 2011, Scalia joined in the majority opinion that said the group had a First Amendment right to protest at funeral services.

“That was his duty to us,” the group said on Twitter. “Now we are doing our duty to him, and all the living pouring in to lie over his dead body.”

Chad C. Pecknold, a theology professor at the Catholic University of America, adjacent to the basilica, said Scalia was something of an ambassador for the Catholic Church.

He promoted the Red Mass, the annual celebration for judges and lawyers that some justices attend on the Sunday before their terms begin in October. And Scalia created a social-media storm when he attended Obama’s second inauguration wearing a hat modeled after one worn by Saint Thomas More, the patron saint of politicians and statesmen.

“This is a very important moment for Catholics in Washington,” Pecknold said.

In his homily, Paul Scalia cited a letter his father wrote that received attention this week when the American Conservative published it. It was praise for James C. Goodloe, a Presbyterian minister who presided at the funeral of Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr.

Scalia said flowery eulogies missed the religious significance of funerals.

“Even when the deceased was an admirable person — indeed, especially when the deceased was an admirable person — praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for, and giving thanks for, God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner.” (Contributor: By Robert Barnes for The Washington Post - Michelle Boorstein and Kelsey Snell contributed to this report.)

God rewarded Justice Scalia’s faith with a powerful spiritual witness through his funeral Mass. While hundreds attended, thousands (if not millions) more watched the televised proceedings. The focus was on Jesus Christ and the Gospel. Pray for the non-Christians who heard God’s word and felt the impact of the Gospel. Like Abel, Antonin Scalia, though he died, still “spoke” of God’s grace.

“By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.” (Heb. 11:4)

 

IMPACT OF DEATH OF JUSTICE SCALIA: SCOTUS TO HEAR TEXAS HB 2 ABORTION

The death of Justice Antonin Scalia will have an immediate impact on a Texas case scheduled for oral argument March 2nd at the U.S. Supreme Court. The court is set to hear a lawsuit claiming that a Texas law unconstitutionally limits access to abortions in the state.

As reported by Breitbart Texas in November, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari review of a challenge to provisions of Texas House Bill 2 (HB 2) in Whole Woman’s Health et al. v. Cole (now Hellerstedt), Comm’r, Texas DHS, et al (No. 15-274). It is set for oral argument on Wednesday, March 2.

Former Governor Rick Perry signed HB 2 into law in July of 2013. The issues before the U.S. Supreme Court pertain to provisions that Texas lawmakers say are designed to improve the quality of care for women and to improve the sanitary conditions of surgical centers used to provide women’s health services.

One of the provisions being challenged requires that abortion facilities comply with the standards already in place for ambulatory surgical centers. A second provision requires practitioners who perform abortions at the clinics to have admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of the facility.

Medical experts have previously testified that the requirements are reasonable and effective measures intended to improve the standard of care for women undergoing abortion procedures and to ensure women’s health and safety.

Opponents challenging the Texas law argue that the measures are designed to limit abortions by limiting women’s access to abortion clinics.

The questions before the U.S. Supreme Court include:

  • Does a court err by refusing to consider whether and to what extent laws that restrict abortion for the stated purpose of promoting health actually serve the government’s interest in promoting health?; and
  • Did the Fifth Circuit err in concluding that this standard permits Texas to enforce, in nearly all circumstances, laws that would cause a significant reduction in the availability of abortion services while failing to advance the State’s interest in promoting health-or any other valid interest?

Breitbart Texas reported in late June 2015 that the Supreme Court ruled to stay the order of a lower federal court requiring abortion clinics in Texas to close or remain closed. The order from the court in Whole Woman’s Health maintained the status quo while the court decided whether to decide the case on the merits on any appeal. Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Samuel Alito voted to deny the application for stay.

The law requires that abortion clinics must now meet the same operating-room standards as hospitals.

Pro-abortion groups call the legislation in Texas “sham laws” and complain they “are shutting clinics down and placing countless women at risk of serious harm,” as reported by Breitbart News.

At the time the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear the case, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton responded saying, “The common-sense measures Texas has put in place elevate the standard of care and protect the health of Texas women. The state has wide discretion to pass laws ensuring Texas women are not subject to substandard conditions at abortion facilities. The advancement of the abortion industry’s bottom line shouldn’t take precedent over women’s health, and we look forward to demonstrating the validity of these important health and safety requirements in Court.”

Now that Justice Scalia has died, the U.S. Supreme Court is evenly divided and there is a serious question as to whether the Court will uphold the Texas law. If the high court splits 4-4 on this decision, the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upholding the Texas law will stand. The Fifth Circuit upheld on June 9, 2015, the strict restrictions on abortion clinic standards passed in HB 2 by the 2013 Texas legislature (14-50928) (although it modified on June 19 its opinion as it related to an McAllen abortion facility).

If the decision of the Fifth Circuit stands because there is an even split on the U.S. Supreme Court, states within the Fifth Circuit’s jurisdiction, Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, would then likely be able to continue to affect abortion issues until a new U.S. Supreme Court justice is confirmed. (Contributor: by Lana Shadwick for Breitbart News - Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as an associate judge and prosecutor in Texas.)

Regular readers know we have been focused on March 2 for months as a major prayer target for next week’s Supreme Court hearing. Now, Justice Scalia gone, and intercessors must pray with the same faith, zeal, and positive outlook they had when he was alive and a strong pro-life voice on the High Court. God has not changed, and we know His will is for the protection of life. Pray accordingly.  

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

 

THE OBAMA ADMIN WANTS TO MAKE SURE NON-CITIZENS VOTE IN THE UPCOMING ELECTION

Several well-funded organizations — including the League of Women Voters and the NAACP — are fighting efforts to prevent non-citizens from voting illegally in the upcoming presidential election. And the United States Department of Justice, under the direction of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, is helping them.

On February 12, these groups filed a lawsuit in D.C. federal court seeking to reverse a recent decision by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The Commission’s decision allows Kansas and other states, including Arizona and Georgia, to enforce state laws ensuring that only citizens register to vote when they use a federally designed registration form. An initial hearing in the case is set for Monday afternoon, February 22.

Under federal law, the EAC is responsible for designing the federal voter-registration form required by the National Voter Registration Act, or Motor Voter, as it is commonly called. While states must register voters who use the federal form, states can ask the EAC to include instructions with the federal form about additional state registration requirements. Some states are now requiring satisfactory proof of citizenship to ensure that only citizens register to vote.

Under Article I, Secion 2 and the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution, states have the power to set the “Qualification requisite for electors.” As with many issues, the Left disdains the balance the Framers adopted in the Constitution and objects to this delegation of power to the states. They prefer to see power over elector eligibility centralized in Washington, D.C.

So when Arizona sought to include citizenship-verification requirements with voter-registration forms, the institutional Left — including the League of Women Voters, People for the American Way, Common Cause, Project Vote, and Chicanos for La Causa — brought a lawsuit claiming that the EAC hadn’t approved such requirements. Incredibly, this fight over whether states can ensure that only citizens are voting went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2013 in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, a divided Court said that Arizona could not implement such a requirement unless and until the EAC agreed to change the instructions for use of the federal form to include the Arizona requirements.

However, the majority opinion in that case, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, stipulated that if the EAC refused Arizona’s request to accommodate the proof-of-citizenship requirement, the state could sue the EAC and establish in court that “a mere oath will not suffice to effectuate its citizenship requirement and that the EAC is therefore under a nondiscretionary duty to include Arizona’s concrete evidence requirement on the Federal Form.”

The Court went so far as to say that Arizona could also claim that a refusal by the EAC would be “arbitrary,” since the agency “has accepted a similar instruction requested by Louisiana.” Indeed, the Court noted, the EAC had ”recently approved a state-specific instruction for Louisiana requiring applicants who lack a Louisiana driver’s license, ID card, or Social Security number to attach additional documentation” to the federal voter-registration form.

Arizona asked, and a single bureaucrat at the EAC named Alice Miller, who was not an EAC commissioner, but only the acting executive director, denied the request. It’s not even clear that Miller had the right to make this — or any other — decision. At the time, a quorum did not exist on the bipartisan, four-member independent commission.

And that decision is starting to look even more suspect. It seems that Miller may not have been the one who actually made the decision after all. Sources inside the Justice Department tell me that, in fact, it was partisan, left-wing lawyers in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department who actually drafted the denial letter. This is significant for several reasons.

First, the EAC is supposed to be an independent federal agency. While the president is empowered to nominate commissioners for the two Democratic and two Republican commission slots, in practice the president consults with the majority leader of the Senate (Mitch McConnell) and the speaker of the House of Representatives (Paul Ryan), as well as the leaders of the minority party in both houses, to pick the nominees. Because the EAC deals with federal election administration, the legislation establishing the agency — the 2002 Help America Vote Act — was designed so as to provide the EAC with political balance and to be outside the president’s control.

Allowing lawyers for the highly partisan Voting Section to write agency policy obliterates all semblance of independence and bipartisan balance. The Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division has become one of the most controversial and ideological components in the entire U.S. government. It is the same cadre of lawyers that dismissed a voter-intimidation charge against members of the New Black Panther Party who physically threatened voters in Philadelphia to help President Barack Obama get elected in 2008; that has waged a war on voter ID and other election-integrity measures; and that has refused to enforce the Voting Rights Act in a race-neutral manner as called for by the plain text of the statute.

It was Voting Section lawyers who fought in federal court to keep Kansas from enforcing a similar state law to ensure that only citizens registered to vote. One of those lawyers, Bradley Heard, engaged in potentially unethical conduct when he tweeted on his private Twitter account his impressions of the federal judge after a hearing in Kansas. Justice Department lawyers are not allowed to use social media to share with the public confidential assessments about the cases on which they work. According to a source, Heard’s actions prompted a quick internal memo from DOJ ethics officials reminding Voting Section lawyers they may not take to social media to bash Kansas and talk about ongoing Justice Department litigation.

On the Twitter account that landed Heard in hot water, he calls himself a “Voting Rights Gladiator . . . Outside Agitator.” Before joining the Voting Section, Heard worked for a number of years at the Advancement Project, a radical left-wing voting organization. The Advancement Project has worked closely with the ACLU, NAACP LDF, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and other liberal advocates to oppose voter-ID statutes, felon-disenfranchisement laws, and citizenship-verification regulations, and has adopted extreme positions on many other state and federal voting-rights laws.

My sources tell me that Heard is the attorney who made and wrote the EAC’s decision to reject Kansas’s and Arizona’s request to modify the voter-registration form to include state requirements in the first place.

Once the EAC regained a quorum of commissioners and hired a new executive director, the agency reversed the previously announced policy and allowed Kansas and Arizona to include citizenship-verification requirements with the federal voter-registration form. In other words, the EAC wound up doing the right thing, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision.

Which brings us to the League of Women Voters lawsuit filed on February 12.

Kansas has asked to intervene in the case. Its pleadings make the same bombshell allegations outlined above: that partisan lawyers in the Voting Section wrote EAC policies that should have been written by the EAC, not an agency under the control of the President. It charges that:

. . . in the previous case concerning Kansas’s 2013 requested language, Kobach v. Election Assistance Commission, the United States Department of Justice drafted the response to Kansas’s 2013 request and presented that response to the States as if it were coming from the EAC itself. In effect, the Department of Justice commandeered the vacant ship that was the EAC and used that vessel to fight against the interests of the State of Kansas.

If these allegations are true (and based on the history of the Voting Rights Section during this administration, they may well be), then the Eric Holder–run Justice Department was actively engaged in blocking an independent bipartisan federal agency from allowing a state to verify that only citizens are registering to vote.

Like most federal agencies, it is the Justice Department that is supposed to defend the EAC when it is sued. Based on my experience working in the Voting Section, it would not surprise me if Bradley Heard and the other lawyers who may have tried to sabotage the Kansas and Arizona requests are now back on the case. Except this time, instead of writing policy for the EAC designed to thwart Kansas and Arizona, they may end up attacking the new EAC policy behind closed doors when they are supposed to be defending it in court. That’s a potential conflict of interest, especially because those lawyers — if they were acting in a policy-making capacity instead of a legal capacity when they implemented the EAC’s prior position — may be potential witnesses in the case.

It is a potential conflict of interest that District Court Judge Richard J. Leon should delve into deeply. He should ask Justice Department lawyers about it at the hearing on Monday, particularly if there are any signs that lawyers for the federal government appear to be taking a dive instead of defending the EAC’s sound decision.

And there is no question that Judge Leon should allow Kansas to intervene in this lawsuit to defend the EAC’s decision. All signs point to this Justice Department not conducting the type of high-quality, vigorous, professional defense it is obligated to provide. (Contributor: By Hans A. Von Spakovsky for National Review - Hans A. von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation and a former Justice Department lawyer.)

We have heard for years of voting irregularities and “stuffing the ballot box.” It now appears that the masks have come off, and open cheating is being condoned at the highest levels of our nation’s government. Pray for exposure of cheating and a crackdown on illegal voting activity. Our country was founded on the rule of law, and the laws are clear. Pray for honest leaders.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Ps. 46:1)

 

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT TURNS ITS BACK ON MIDDLE EASTERN CHRISTIANS

Islamist extremists are waging a religious persecution so severe that, as Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill stated in their historic joint statement last week, “whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated.” Nowhere does this obtain more than in Iraq and Syria, where Christian communities, a groundswell of prominent voices is now acknowledging, face genocide. On February 4, the European Parliament, with near-unanimity and solid socialist support, passed a resolution declaring that ISIS “is committing genocide against Christians and Yazidis” and “other religious and ethnic minorities.”

Despite a foreign-policy mandate to speak out against religious persecution, the United States government has so far been silent on whether this epic religious cleansing of Christians,Yazidis, and other minorities from the heart of the Middle East ranks among the gravest of crimes.

With pressure mounting, the State Department in October leaked word that an official genocide designation would be forthcoming but made clear that State would recognize only a Yazidi genocide and not one against Christians. This prompted Congress to mandate that Secretary John Kerry make a determination by March 16 on the precise question of whether “persecution . . . of Christians and people of other religions in the Middle East by violent Islamic extremists . . . constitutes genocide.”

While other administrations have committed the sin of silence where genocide was concerned, none has officially signaled that it believes a brutally persecuted and displaced minority is not suffering ongoing genocide. Yet that would be the effect of excluding the Christians from an official listing of genocide victims. Despite foreseeable harm this would cause these Christians, the administration appears on track to do just that.

Unnamed administration officials are proffering various arguments to justify omitting the Christians. All are flimsy, as seen below, and point to political motives.

THE HOLOCAUST MUSEUM REPORT

After entering a Nineveh town in August 2014, ISIS militants confronted a Christian woman and demanded that she convert to Islam. When she refused, as the woman, now a refugee in Kurdistan, reported to the Hammurabi Human-Rights Organization in Iraq, they grabbed her infant and dashed him to the ground, killing him, and took away her husband.

This case is not included in the Holocaust Museum report that purports to cover all minorities and that State Department officials say the administration is relying on to make its determination that only the Yazidis face genocide. Nor are any others from the volumes of Christian cases documented by Hammurabi, Aid to the Church in Need, the Assyrian International News Agency, the Vatican’s Agenzia Fides, and other Christian sources.

Entitled “Our Generation Is Gone: The Islamic State’s Targeting of Iraqi Minorities in Ninewa,” and made available in October by the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, this report is not a thorough study of ISIS attacks on any minority but rather a narrowly constructed and superficial, 28-page “trip report.” It is based “largely on interviews” in Iraqi Kurdistan the prior month. The Museum’s fact finders, the report relates, “spoke with Yezidis, Shia Turkmen, and Shia Shabak whose loved ones had been killed or kidnapped” but apparently not with any similarly aggrieved Christians. Neither Christian leaders nor Christian documentation sources are cited in the report.

Its focus on events in Nineveh in summer 2014 seems designed especially for making a determination on Yazidi genocide, since this is where and when Yazidis were hit the hardest. I wholeheartedly agree that the Yazidis were and are victims of genocide. But Christians have also been under genocidal assault, and for a longer period, and in both Iraq and Syria. While the body count is not known, regional Christian leaders believe that many thousands of Christians have been killed in this. The Museum report contains no mention of any attacks against Christians in the Syrian part of the “caliphate.” On Iraq in the decade before 2014, it makes only passing reference to a handful of the innumerable mass murders of Christians by ISIS predecessors.

That several staff members of the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center Center were previously with the Obama administration raises questions of whether this thin a report with such obvious limitations, released the same month as the department leak, was prepared in collaboration with the administration for a desired political outcome — namely, to include Yazidis while excluding Christians.

THE CHRISTIANS’ CHOICE

State officials say that the persecution of these Christians does not meet the “high bar” of the 1948 Genocide Convention because ISIS gave Christians a choice to avoid murder or deportation: They could convert to Islam or pay jizya, the Islamic tax. Forced conversion to Islam, of course, is itself evidence of religious genocide and is cited as such in the European Parliament resolution. (Contributor: By Nina Shea for National Review)

President Obama has made it clear that he and his administration are very concerned about Muslim refugee welfare and resettlement in the U.S., but he has said little or nothing about the plight of Christians and other minority groups that are being destroyed every day. Pray for God’s intervention in this worldwide genocide. Pray that Christian leaders will continue to speak out and be heard.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:35-37)

 

REPORT: U.S. AIRCRAFT CARRIERS ‘UNCHALLENGED PRIMACY MAY BE COMING TO A CLOSE’

The United States’ aircraft carriers have always been an almost untouchable deterrent, steel behemoths capable of projecting the full weight of the U.S. military wherever they deploy. Yet while many militaries could never hope to match the U.S. carrier fleet in size and strength, countries such as China, Iran and Russia have spent recent years adjusting their forces and fielding equipment designed to counter one of the United States’ greatest military strengths.

A report published Monday by the Center for a New American Security, a D.C.-based think tank that focuses on national security, claims that the Navy’s carrier operations are at an inflection point. Faced with growing threats abroad, the United States can either “operate its carriers at ever-increasing ranges … or assume high levels of risk in both blood and treasure.”

The report, titled “Red Alert: The Growing Threat to U.S. Aircraft Carriers,” centers around China’s burgeoning military posture in the Pacific and on a term that is starting to appear with an ever-increasing urgency in defense circles: anti-access/area denial, or A2/AD. The term A2/AD centers around a concept that has long existed in warfare: denying the enemy an ability to move around the battlefield. Currently A2/AD strategy is as similar as it was when moats were dug around castles, except today’s moats are an integrated system of surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, submarines, surface ships and aircraft all designed to push enemy forces as far away as possible from strategically important areas.

The report focuses on China’s capabilities because of its “emphasis on long-range anti-ship missile procurement.” This, coupled with its growing tech base, qualifies China as the “pacing threat” to the U.S. military. China, however, is not the sole architect of an A2/AD strategy designed to deter U.S. operations. In the Baltics, Russia’s naval base in Kaliningrad is known to house a sophisticated air defense network and anti-ship missiles. NATO commanders also have warned of Russian A2/AD buildup around Syria, as Russia has moved advanced surface-to-air missiles into its airbase there as well as a flotilla of ships with robust anti-air capabilities.

As other countries focus on creating sophisticated A2/AD bubbles by using new technology such as drones, advanced missiles and newer aircraft, the United States — by operating as it always has — is putting itself more at risk. According to the report, this is particularly relevant as carrier groups have reduced their long-range strike ability in lieu of being able to fly more air missions but at shorter ranges.

“Operating the carrier in the face of increasingly lethal and precise munitions will thus require the United States to expose a multi-billion dollar asset to high levels of risk in the event of a conflict,” the report says. “An adversary with A2/AD capabilities would likely launch a saturation attack against the carrier from a variety of platforms and directions. Such an attack would be difficult – if not impossible – to defend against.”

Last week, China’s A2/AD strategy made international news after satellite imagery showed the deployment of HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island, a disputed atoll in the South China Sea. Though small, the island is claimed by both Taiwan and Vietnam. The CNAS report classifies the HQ-9 as a short-range A2/AD threat but indicates that the movement of such systems into disputed territory in the South China Sea, if properly reinforced, is a potentially long-term problem for U.S. naval operations. Medium and long-range threats discussed in the report include land-based Chinese bombers and anti-ship ballistic missiles such as the DF-21D and DF-26. The two missiles “represent a significant threat to the carrier,” with an estimated range of 810 and 1,620 nautical miles, respectively. According to the report, if the DF-26 is as operational and as accurate as the Chinese say it is, the missile would be able to hit the U.S. territory of Guam.

While the report discusses possible countermeasures for a sophisticated A2/AD network, including the Navy’s future railgun project, the United States probably would employ a variety of systems and strategies, including hacking, to defeat the enemy threat. However, long-term strategies suggested in the report include putting U.S. combat power into systems such as submarines and long-range carrier-based drones. Submarines could evade A2/AD by remaining undetected, while carrier based drones — with their increased range — would give carriers much-needed standoff from potential A2/AD threats.

The United States “must re-examine the relevance of the carrier and its air wing and explore innovative options for future operations and force structure,” the report concludes. “If the United States is to maintain its military superiority well into the future, it cannot afford to do otherwise.” (Contributor: By Thomas Gibbons-Neff for The Washington Post)

Pray for our military leaders and planners. This is part of our nation’s military preparedness issue and our government’s priorities to maintain a strong and up-to-date defense system, as the Constitution explicitly defines. Pray for God’s mercy. Begin to intercede now for the fall elections and for God to give us leaders that reflect His values. Pray “Your kingdom come. Your will be done…”

“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)

 

JOINT US-ISRAEL DRILL WILL HELP BUILD ‘REGIONAL STABILITY,’ SAYS IDF

The drill, held since 2001 and now conducted every two years, is taking place for the eight time.

A joint IDF-US European Command missile drill, dubbed Juniper Cobra 16, began Sunday, the military said.

The drill is aimed at improving cooperation and coordination between the two militaries, and training defenses against ballistic missile attacks.

The drill, held since 2001 and now conducted every two years, is taking place for the eight time. In 2014, more than 1,700 US soldiers arrived in Israel to practice missile defenses in computerized simulations.

“This drill provides an opportunity for both militaries for joint learning and training,” the IDF Spokesman’s Office said. “The drill is another step in strategic relations between Israel and the US, and will contribute much to regional stability.”

Brig.-Gen. Tzvika Haimovitch, commander of the IAF’s Air Defense Division, described Juniper Cobra 16 as a “central milestone in strategic ties between the countries, a defense alliance like no other in the world. This cooperation expresses commitment to the lives of civilians,” he said.

Gen. Mark L. Loeben, director of exercises and assessments in the US Air Force, said supporting Israel’s right to defend itself has been an integral part of US policy in the region for decades.

He said the exercise is at the top of EUCOM’s priority list for 2016. (Contributor: By Yaakov Lappin for The Jerusalem Post)

Pray that such joint training exercises will present a picture of solidarity between the U.S. and Israel and that the demonstration will give Israel and our nation strength in the Middle East.

“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. 122:8-9)

 

PLANNED PARENTHOOD ABORTION CLINIC FUNDING CUT BY WISCONSIN LAWMAKERS

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed two bills into law this week that limit funding for the Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion business.

One of the bills requires federal family planning grant money to be distributed to "less controversial" health clinics and departments in the state, meaning that abortion clinics in the state will be barred from receiving federal Title X funding.

The second piece of legislation requires abortion providers to seek reimbursements through the state's Medicaid program.

Walker signed the two laws while visiting Life Connection, a Christian pro-life group located in Mukwonago earlier this week.

Nicole Safar, director of government relations for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, told The Associated Press that although the new bills do not target Planned Parenthood by name, they are evidently meant to decrease the viability of the organization in the state.

"The law is directed just at Planned Parenthood. It's to cut our funding so we can't provide services," Safar claimed. "Legal action is certainly on the table. The law singles out Planned Parenthood."

Pro-life groups have praised Walker's recent move, with Pro-Life Wisconsin State Director Dan Miller calling the federal funding cut "fiscally and morally responsible."

"Cutting Planned Parenthood's public funding is a fiscally and morally responsible step that furthers a culture of life in the great state of Wisconsin," Miller said. "Pro-Life Wisconsin is grateful to Gov. Walker for signing into law legislation that respects the consciences of Wisconsin taxpayers who oppose public funding of abortion."

Walker said that the two new laws will protect women's health and taxpayer dollars in the Midwestern state.

"Today, we signed two bills into law that prioritize women's health while improving government and its services to the citizens of Wisconsin," the governor said, as reported by LifeSite News.

"These bills require [Department of Health Services] to apply for additional federal funding for women's health services to be obtained from less controversial providers and ensure prescription reimbursement processes are handled in a cost-based and transparent manner," he added.

Wisconsin joins a bevy of other states in attempting to decrease Planned Parenthood funding after a string of undercover videos were released last year showing executives with the abortion provider discussing the sell of aborted babies' organs, limbs and tissue.

The Christian Post reported Friday on The state of Kentucky's lawsuit against Planned Parenthood of Kentucky and Indiana this week to reemburse the state for $900,000 with Gov. Matt Bevin arguing the provider performed illegal abortions because it did not follow state licensing policies.

The complaint argues that Planned Parenthood performed 23 abortions from December 2015 to December 2016 in an "unlicensed abortion facility without hospital and ambulance transfer agreements."

"This administration will have no tolerance for the type of brazen disregard that Planned Parenthood has shown for both the safety of women and the rule of law," Bevin said in a statement.

"We will hold Planned Parenthood accountable for knowingly endangering their patients by providing illegal abortions at a facility that was not properly licensed nor prepared to handle an emergency," the governor, elected last November, added. (Contributor: By Katherine Weber for Christian Post)

Give thanks for the leaders in Wisconsin and Gov. Scott Walker for signing two bills into law that will deprive Planned Parenthood of taxpayers’ funding. These state-level battles aren’t over due to the full support the federal government, including President Obama and his administration, gives to abortion providers. Pray for a God-sent solution to stop the baby killing. Our hope is in Him.

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Ps. 121:1-2)

 

'HIGH TIME' FOR ABORTION TO BE HELD TO MEDICAL STANDARDS

Pro-lifers in Kentucky stand behind Governor Matt Bevin (R), who wants heavy fines for an abortion clinic that is apparently operating outside the law.

According to the lawsuit, Planned Parenthood Louisville has performed at least 23 surgical abortions without a license. In addition, Michael Janocik of the Kentucky Right to Life Association tells OneNewsNow an abortion clinic must have a transfer agreement with a local hospital and with an ambulance service, but instead of the latter, Planned Parenthood has a letter from the Jefferson County Ambulance Service telling them to dial 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency.

"That's not what the law is trying to get at," Janocik asserts. "What the law is trying to do is to make sure that if you're performing a surgical procedure and you don't have the resource or the capacity to be able to deal with an emergency, in order to procure a license, you better have those transfer agreements in place so that you don't have a situation where a woman would be in a serious predicament with some sort of a problem with a surgery."

He says it raises another question: If a barber shop or restaurant can be heavily fined or shut down for not meeting health and safety standards, then why not an abortion clinic?

"Unfortunately, abortion has been … not held to the same standards as every other medical person in the profession, so I think it's high time," the pro-lifer tells OneNewsNow. "And I'm glad the governor's doing it, because it will certainly benefit the women of Kentucky."

The governor's lawsuit asks that heavy fines be levied against the Louisville Planned Parenthood. (Contributor: Charlie Butts for One News Now)

Pray that Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky will be successful closing these unclean, unlicensed abortion mills and that many pre-born babies will be saved from painful death. Pray that God, in His great mercy, will provide a national final solution to this unconscionable, violent, barbaric killing that has plagued our once-Christian nation for more than 40 years.

“For whoever finds [God] finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord; but he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; all those who hate me love death.” (Prov. 8:35-36)

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The Informer February 17, 2016

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SCALIA'S DEATH MEANS LOSS OF KEY VOTE IN DIVIDED CASES

Justice Antonin Scalia's death deprives conservatives of a key vote that could change the outcome in some major Supreme Court cases, including one in which labor unions appeared headed for a big defeat.

Next month's Supreme Court arguments in a clash over contraceptives, religious liberty and President Barack Obama's health care law also now seem more likely to favor the Obama administration.

Those are the most immediate effects on the court of the loss of its conservative icon and longest-serving justice.

It's a firm Supreme Court rule that decisions are not final until they are handed down. So nothing Scalia did or said in pending cases matters to the outcome.

"The vote of a deceased justice does not count," veteran Supreme Court lawyer Roy Englert said Sunday, a day after Scalia was found dead in his room at a west Texas ranch.

Subtracting Scalia's vote from cases in which he was in the majority in a 5-4 split leaves the result tied, four a side.

The remaining eight justices have two options in that situation: They can vote to hear the case a second time when a new colleague joins them or they can hand down a one-sentence opinion that upholds the result reached in the lower court without setting a nationwide rule.

A second round of arguments seems less likely at the moment because a new justice may not be confirmed until the next president is in office.

A tie vote, by contrast, resolves the case at hand and allows the legal issue to return to the court at a later date when there is a ninth justice.

Public sector labor unions had been bracing for a stinging defeat in a lawsuit over whether they can collect fees from government workers who choose not to join the union. The case affects more than 5 million workers in 23 states and Washington, D.C., and seeks to overturn a nearly 40-year-old Supreme Court decision.

Now, what seemed like a certain 5-4 split, with the conservatives in the majority and the liberals in dissent, instead looks like a tie that would be resolved in favor of the unions, because they won in the lower courts.

"That's a big loss. It was all teed up and it looks like it's not going to go anywhere now," said Brian Fitzpatrick, a Vanderbilt University law professor who once served as a law clerk to Scalia.

Another case in which there now seems little chance of finding a court majority to upset long-standing practice involves a conservative challenge to the way governments have drawn electoral districts for 50 years.

The court heard arguments in December in a case from Texas on the meaning of the principle of "one person, one vote," which the court has said requires that political districts be roughly equal in population.

But it has left open the question of whether states must count all residents, including noncitizens and children, or only eligible voters in drawing district lines.

The court's upcoming look at the health care overhaul will be its fourth case involving the 2010 law. This time, the focus is on the arrangement the Obama administration worked out to spare faith-based hospitals, colleges and charities from paying for contraceptives for women covered under their health plans, while still ensuring that those women can obtain birth control at no extra cost as the law requires.

The faith-based groups argue that the accommodation still makes them complicit in providing contraception to which they have religious objections.

A tie vote here would sow rather than alleviate confusion because the appellate courts that have looked at the issue have not all come out the same way.

That prospect suggests that Justice Anthony Kennedy will join the court's four liberal justices to uphold the arrangement, Supreme Court lawyer Thomas Goldstein said.

Other big cases before the justices this term include affirmative action, abortion and immigration.

With Justice Elena Kagan out of the affirmative action case, the court still is more likely to rule, 4-3, in favor of a challenge to the consideration of race in admissions to the University of Texas.

On abortion and immigration, a 4-4 tie would sustain lower court rulings in favor of Texas' regulation of abortion clinics and a Republican-led challenge to an Obama administration plan to allow millions of immigrants who are in the country illegally to avoid deportation and acquire work permits. (Contributor: By ABC News)

The death of Justice Antonin Scalia leaves a huge void on the U.S. Supreme Court, where his conservative views on constitutional authority will be greatly missed. For intercessors, the challenges to fervent, faithful prayer increase. Pray for a deeper intercessory commitment and intensity for yourself and all American Christians. Our help comes from the Lord, not from the court system.

“Then [God said]… ‘Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?’” (Jer. 32:27)

 

URGENT CALLS BEGIN FOR SCALIA AUTOPSY

The seemingly quick conclusion that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died of “natural causes” is prompting calls for an autopsy and toxicological reports.

William Gheen, president of the Americans for Legal Immigration political action committee, noted the media’s “rush” to proclaim Scalia’s death in a rented room in a resort in Texas as either “natural causes” or heart attack within hours of the discovery of his body Saturday morning.

“Anytime a head of state, member of Congress, or the most conservative member of the U.S. Supreme Court is found dead, an extensive autopsy and toxicology examination should be both immediate and mandatory,” said Gheen. “The horrid reaction and comments about his death expressed by many liberals online illustrate that Scalia was hated by many people.”

Gheen said Scalia’s death “hands the power of the Supreme Court to the modern left for the first time in American history.”

“The court can now vote, even without a replacement of Scalia, to radically change the United States of America,” he said. “Scalia’s death means the Supreme Court is now very likely to rubber stamp Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty orders, tear down Republican drawn districts in many states including North Carolina, and take deep left turns on abortion, gun rights, or anything the liberals have ever dreamed of. Scalia was a solid vote against Obama’s immigration orders to be decided by April of this year.

“We do not contend there is a conspiracy, we contend that there should be no doubts, and the way authorities and the media are rushing conclusions will leave major doubts and legitimate concerns about a death that could lead to a radical political transformation of America to the left,” said Gheen.

Chris Lujan of Sunset Funeral Homes in El Paso said the body of the late justice arrived early Sunday. Scalia had been staying at the Cibolo Creek Ranch in Presidio County, Texas, during a quail hunting trip, said federal officials. He was 79.

Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara, who pronounced Scalia dead, said the death certificate will say the cause of death was natural and that he died of a heart attack.

She said she decided not to order an autopsy after Sheriff Danny Dominguez concluded there were no signs of foul play, reported WFAA News in Dallas. The Scalia family concurred.

“As part of my investigation, one of the things I did ask the sheriff and the U.S. Marshal: ‘Were there any signs of foul play?’ And they said, ‘absolutely not.’ At that time, I still wanted to be careful, and asked them if [Scalia’s] physician would call me,” Guevara said.

Guevara said she talked to Scalia’s doctor in Washington, D.C., who told her he had been sick and had been at his office Wednesday and Thursday before going on the hunting trip Friday.

According to Guevara, Scalia told his group Friday at dinner he was not feeling well and went to his room early. He then missed breakfast and lunch Saturday and was found unresponsive in his bed.

The owner of the Texas ranch and resort said Scalia died peacefully.

“The judge, when I found him Saturday morning, was in complete repose,” John Poindexter, the owner of Cibolo Creek Ranch in Marfa, Texas, told NBC News. “He was very peaceful in his — in the bed. He had obviously passed away with no difficulty at all in the middle of the night.”

Scalia, who was appointed to the high court by former President Ronald Reagan, was the longest-serving justice on the court, having taken his seat on Sept. 26, 1986.

The Washington Post reported that after Scalia’s body was found:

It then took hours for authorities in remote West Texas to find a justice of the peace, officials said Sunday. When they did, she pronounced Scalia dead of natural causes without seeing the body and decided not to order an autopsy. A second justice of the peace, who was called but couldn’t get to Scalia’s body in time, said she would have ordered an autopsy.

As late as Sunday afternoon, there were conflicting reports about whether an autopsy would be performed, though officials later said Scalia’s body was being embalmed and there would be no autopsy. One report, by WFAA-TV in Dallas, said the death certificate would show the cause of the death was a heart attack.

As late as Sunday afternoon, for example, there were conflicting reports about whether an autopsy should have been performed. A manager at the El Paso funeral home where Scalia’s body was taken said his family made it clear that they did not want one.

Meanwhile, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara acknowledged that she pronounced Scalia dead by phone, without seeing his body. Instead, she spoke to law enforcement officials at the scene – who assured her “there were no signs of foul play” – and Scalia’s physician in Washington, who said that the 79-year-old justice suffered from a host of chronic conditions.

“He was having health issues,” Guevara said, adding that she is awaiting a statement from Scalia’s doctor that will be added to his death certificate when it is issued later this week.

Guevara also rebutted a report by a Dallas TV station that quoted her as saying that Scalia had died of “myocardial infarction.” In an interview with The Washington Post, she said she meant only that his heart had stopped.

“It wasn’t a heart attack,” Guevara said. “He died of natural causes.”

Despite calls from conservatives for his seat to not be filled until a new president was elected, President Obama said Saturday he intends to nominate a replacement before his term ends.

CBS and the Associated Press report that authorities, including Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara, are considering an autopsy, although toxicological testing could already be in doubt due to the delay. There is also a report that after arriving at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, the Sunset Funeral Home embalmed Scalia’s remains, according to Chris Lujuan, a funeral home manager. The embalming process could destroy vital toxicology evidence.

Gheen is calling on activists to call members of Congress and Presidio County Judge Guevara to demand an immediate and comprehensive investigation into what he calls “the suspiciously timed death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia that includes extensive multi-agency law enforcement forensic autopsies and toxicology reports to put these questions to rest or determine if foul play was involved.” (Contributor: World Net Daily)

Give thanks for Justice Scalia’s dedicated life and the biblical values for which he stood. The Bible tells us to “weep with those who weep.” In that spirit, pray for Mrs. Scalia and the family to find comfort in God and the Gospel. Conspiracy theories abound when high-profile, politically charged deaths occur suddenly. Pray for truth to be revealed and Mr. Scalia’s legacy to live on.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Rom. 12:15)  

 

CIA DIRECTOR JOHN BRENNAN: ISIS IN AMERICA

The following is a script from "John Brennan" which aired on Feb. 14, 2016. Scott Pelley is the correspondent. Robert G. Anderson, Pat Milton and Aaron Weisz, producers.

The ISIS assault on Paris and the ISIS-inspired massacre in San Bernardino, California, share a disturbing fact, no one saw them coming. Today, the biggest terrorist threat to the United States is not like al Qaeda. ISIS is wealthy, agile, sophisticated online, and operates freely in a vast territory of its own. It prefers to be called the Islamic State….

John Brennan: I think ISIS does want to eventually find it's, it's mark here.

Scott Pelley: You're expecting an attack in the United States?

John Brennan: I'm expecting them to try to put in place the operatives, the material or whatever else that they need to do or to incite people to carry out these attacks, clearly. So I believe that their attempts are inevitable. I don't think their successes necessarily are.

Scott Pelley: Can you explain to the folks watching this interview why these people wanna kill us? How does attacking the United States further their interests?

John Brennan: Yea, I think they're trying to provoke a clash between the West and the Muslim world, or the world that they are in as a way to gain more adherents. Because what they are claiming is that the United States is trying to take over their countries which is the furthest thing from the truth.

Paris was a failure of intelligence. All but one of the eight terrorists were French citizens, trained by ISIS in Syria. They returned, unnoticed, and attacked six locations killing 130 people.

Scott Pelley: What did you learn from Paris?

John Brennan: That there is a lot that ISIS probably has underway that we don't have obviously full insight into. We knew the system was blinking red. We knew just in the days before that ISIS was trying to carry out something. But the individuals involved have been able to take advantage of the newly available means of communication that are--that are walled off, from law enforcement officials.

Scott Pelley: You're talking about encrypted Internet communications.

John Brennan: Yeah, I'm talking about the very sophisticated use of these technologies and communication systems.

Scott Pelley: After Paris you told your people what?

John Brennan: We gotta work harder. We have to work harder. We need to have the capabilities, the technical capabilities, the human sources. We need to be able to have advanced notice about this so that we can take this-- the steps to stop them. Believe me, intelligence security services have stopped numerous attacks-- operatives-- that have been moved from maybe the Iraq to Syria theater into Europe. They have been stopped and interdicted and arrested and detained and debriefed because of very, very good intelligence.

But the failure in Paris allowed ISIS to attack with bombs and assault rifles. And Brennan told us there's more in their arsenal.

Scott Pelley: Does ISIS have chemical weapons?

John Brennan: We have a number of instances where ISIS has used chemical munitions on the battlefield.

Scott Pelley: Artillery shells.

John Brennan: Sure. Yeah.

Scott Pelley: ISIS has access to chemical artillery shells?

John Brennan: Uh-huh (affirm). There are reports that ISIS has access to chemical precursors and munitions that they can use.

The CIA believes that ISIS has the ability to manufacture small quantities of chlorine and mustard gas.

Scott Pelley: And the capability of exporting those chemicals to the West?

John Brennan: I think there's always the potential for that. This is why it's so important to cut off the various transportation routes and smuggling routes that they have used.

Scott Pelley: Are there American assets on the ground right now hunting this down?

John Brennan: The U.S. intelligence is actively involved in being a part of the effort to destroy ISIS and to get as much insight into what they have on the ground inside of Syria and Iraq.

John Brennan has worked at the CIA for most of 36 years, ever since he saw a want ad while he was in graduate school. And he was a high-ranking executive here during the recent controversies, Iraq's phantom weapons of mass destruction and 9/11.

Scott Pelley: Do you think of water boarding as a dark time in the history of your agency?

John Brennan: Sure. Waterboarding was something that was authorized. It was something that I do not believe was appropriate. It is something that is not used now and as far as I'm concerned will not be used again.

Scott Pelley: You were in management here at the time. You didn't stop it.

John Brennan: No. I had expressed to a few people my misgivings and concerns about it but no, I did not, you know, slam my fists on a desk. I did not go in and say we shouldn't be doing this. I think long and hard about what I maybe should have done more of at the time. But it was a different time. The ashes of World Trade Center were still smoldering. We knew that other waves of attacks were planned and some that were underway.

Scott Pelley: In the year or so before 9/11 the CIA had a covert action plan to attack al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The administration at that time said, "Don't do that. We have time. We'll deal with this later." And then 9/11 happened. Is this administration making the same mistake now?

John Brennan: Well you know there are a lot of options that are presented to this administration as well as to previous administrations and the president has pursued what he believes is appropriate for us to do in order to protect the citizens of this country.

Scott Pelley: What do you think our policy would be after an ISIS-directed attack in the United States?

John Brennan: If there's a major attack here and we had ISIS fingerprints on it certainly this would encourage us to be even more forceful in terms of what we need to do.

Scott Pelley: If our policy after an attack in the United States would be to be more forceful, why isn't that our policy now before an attack?

John Brennan: Well, I think we're being as forceful as we can be in making sure that we're being surgical though as well. What we don't want to do is to alienate others within that region and have any type of indiscriminate actions that are going to lead to deaths of additional civilians.

The CIA Brennan leads from Langley, Virginia, looks nothing like the agency he joined. It's grown significantly but the numbers are secret. CIA fights with its own ground troops and has an air force of drones. The complexity of threats today is unprecedented; hacking, the emergence of a more aggressive China, North Korea, Russia and Iran and countries failing all across the Middle East.

Scott Pelley: In addition to Syria you are now dealing with failed states in Libya, Somalia, Yemen. How do you develop intelligence in all of these countries where the U.S. has no presence?

John Brennan: We need to be able to operate in areas that are denied to us. We find a way to have our eyes and ears there so that we can inform our policy makers. I do think though that this is going to be more and more a feature of the future. And we here at CIA are looking at how we need to enhance our expeditionary capabilities and activities because we need to be on the front lines.

Scott Pelley: Well do you imagine setting up CIA bases, covert bases in many of these countries?

John Brennan: I see CIA needing to have the presence as well as an ability to collect intelligence and interact with the locals. And we are in fact doing that in a number of those areas.

Scott Pelley: Who around here has the authority to OK a drone strike?

John Brennan: I know there are a lot of reports about the CIA's role and involvement on that. And I think as you can understand I'm not going to address any of those reports about CIA's covert action activities.

Scott Pelley: Do you have to accept the deaths of civilians when making a decision about using these weapons? Do you have to say, "There are likely to be civilians killed here but it's worth it?"

John Brennan: Well ya know in war there is what's called the law of armed conflict that allows for proportional collateral, collateral being civilian deaths. I must tell you that the U.S. military and the U.S. government as a whole does an exceptionally, exceptionally strong job of minimizing to the greatest extent possible any type of collateral damage.

But it isn't necessarily a shooting war that worries Brennan most. His CIA is facing a new front in cyber. And to focus on it he set up the agency's first new directorate in more than 50 years.

John Brennan: That that cyber environment can pose a very, very serious and significant attack vector for our adversaries if they want to take down our infrastructure, if they want to create havoc in transportation systems, if they want to do great damage to our financial networks. There are safeguards being put in place. But that cyber environment is one that really is the thing that keeps me up at night.

Scott Pelley: Do other countries have the capability in turning the lights off in the United States?

John Brennan: Having the capability but then also having the intent are two different things. I think fortunately right now those who may have the capability do not have the intent. Those who may have the intent right now I believe do not have the capability. 'Cause if they had the capability they would deploy and employ those tools.

Scott Pelley: A few months ago your personal emails were hacked. What did you learn from that, director?

John Brennan: It shows that there are ways that individuals can get into the personal emails of anybody.

Scott Pelley: Is privacy dead?

John Brennan: No. No. Privacy should never be dead.

Scott Pelley: Yea, I know it shouldn't be. But is it, in fact, with these hacktivists, with these nation-state actors, with all the things that we've learned about government snooping all around the world, isn't it effectively dead?

John Brennan: You know, it's interesting that people always point to the government or others in terms of the invasion of privacy. But--

Scott Pelley: Any government

John Brennan: --yeah, but individuals are liberally giving up their privacy, you know, sometimes wittingly and sometimes unwittingly as they give information to companies or to sales reps. Or they go out on Facebook or the various social media. They don't realize though that they are then making themselves vulnerable to exploitation.

Scott Pelley: When your secure phone rings in the middle of the night what what's your first thought?

John Brennan: It's usually one of two things. One, its bad news that something tragic has happened to a CIA officer or to U.S. personnel. Or there's been a terrorist attack somewhere of significance. And so when I reach for the phone I, you know, say a short prayer that it's not that. The other option is that I'm being asked to make a decision in the middle of the night on something that may have life and death implications. Could be something related to a covert action program.

Scott Pelley: Have officers died on your watch?

John Brennan: Yes. Yes. Not long after I came to the agency we had an officer, a former Army Ranger, went back out to Afghanistan. In the middle of the night, he heard an explosion at the compound next to his where his Afghan compatriots were sleeping. He grabbed his gear, he went over there. Another explosion took place. Rather than taking cover he went right to the middle of the fight and started to drag his wounded Afghan partners out of harm's way. He was hit twice. Continued to fire. Then as he was continuing to protect his colleagues and comrades, a hand grenade landed not too far from him and he was mortally wounded.

Brennan told us that he has gone to Dover, Delaware, to receive the remains of his fallen. But he can only go when he won't be seen, so no one will connect the body under the flag with the CIA. At headquarters, anonymous stars are carved for the dead. 113 in all, 31 since 9/11. And Brennan presides over an annual memorial for families.

John Brennan: We have family members of agency officers who died in the 1950s whose grandchildren, grandnieces and nephews come back here in order to feel a part of this agency. So it's a great, great honor to be a part of this organization where, again, selfless men and women of the agency have done their absolute best. Have we made mistakes? Yeah, we have. Do we need to be held accountable for them? Yeah. But let's not forget the sacrifices that have been made in the name of CIA. (Contributor: By Scott Pelley for CBS 60 Minutes)

The Bible instructs us to offer “prayers…for all men…and all who are in authority.” We often pray for the president, congressional leaders, and Supreme Court justices, but may overlook military leaders, CIA forces, FBI agents, and even our local police personnel. Here is reminder to pray for ALL those who guard us from domestic terrorism, day and night.

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” (1 Tim. 2:1-2)

 

SPECIAL FORCES NOT READY FOR FEMALE INTEGRATION

At a time when U.S. special operations are devising plans for the mission of accepting women into the male domains of SEALs, Green Berets and Army Rangers, the terrorist-fighting community is facing a looming readiness problem.

The new challenge is tucked inside President Obama’s 2017 defense budget. It states that U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and its 69,000 personnel are up against “training challenges” and is seeing “minor impacts to the forces’ ability to accomplish missions” that could grow worse.

As this happens, SOCOM is looking at a spring deadline to begin tryouts for integrating women into teams where 85 percent of men oppose the move, according to a Pentagon-sponsored survey by the Rand Corp. Nearly 90 percent say that blending the sexes will lead to lowered physical standards for missions in which high endurance and brute strength are vital. Some male warriors are so opposed that Rand scholars labeled them “extreme.”

Special operations forces are deploying at one of the most frequent rotations in history during the war on terror, begun Sept. 11, 2001. After conducting hundreds of manhunts in Iraq against al Qaeda, they are back in that country preparing for raids on the Islamic State terrorist army.

Special Operations Forces (SOF), who kicked off the invasion of Afghanistan a month after the 9/11 attacks, remain in that theater. They also are deploying to North Africa and other regions to conduct counterterrorism training and occasional raids.

“We are a force who has been heavily deployed over the last 14 years, and our military members, civilians and their families have paid a significant price, physically and emotionally, serving our country,” Army Gen. Joseph Votel, SOCOM commander, told Congress last year.

Training for these precise covert missions is critical.

SOCOM’s budget is remaining steady at about $10 billion. But the money crunch comes from the four services that contribute funding for special operations personnel and training time.

The Pentagon’s budget next fiscal year is $523 billion, not counting overseas war costs. That is about the same spending level as fiscal 2016 and less than the $528 billion of five years ago.

“One of USSOCOM’s greatest concerns is the potential impact of fiscal reductions in military departments’ readiness, which directly affects SOF,” the Obama budget says. “The USSOCOM has already witnessed reductions to the military departments that negatively affect SOF in a variety of ways.”

In other words, if the Army and Navy cut training time or operations, it means less access for commandos.

Navy SEALs, the budget says, are already “seeing training challenges associated with lower fleet asset availability, which impacts readiness and interoperability.”

It further states: “The Marine Forces Special Operations Command is experiencing reductions in access to some important school seats. The U.S. Army Special Operations Command is seeing a reduction in the military training specific allotment as well as reduced staffing at heavily used ranges. If further Military Department program reductions become necessary, SOF is likely to see more negative impacts to its capabilities.”

SOCOM spokesmen did not immediately have cost figures for the looming women integration.

While he works out details with each service, Gen. Votel asked Defense Secretary Ashton Carter for a slight delay for submitting a plan to the Pentagon for how the command will let women try out for about 15,000 previously closed military jobs.

One challenge will be indoctrination programs to make sure skeptical male commandos accept them.

Elaine Donnelly, who heads the Center for Military Readiness, said the warrior culture change is worse than budget cuts.

“Men in special operations forces do indeed have another reason to feel stressed, for reasons worse than budget cuts and stepped-up deployments,” she said. “Vertical cohesion, meaning mutual trust up and down the chain of command, has been shattered by USSOCOM leaders who are failing to defend their interests at a time when Pentagon authorities are imposing social experiments that will cost lives and missions in special operations forces.”

Ms. Donnelly also criticized the command for allowing Rand researchers to label those adamantly opposed to women in SOF as “extreme responders.”

Leaders, she said, “turned deaf ears to politically incorrect opinions about gender integration that were expressed in official surveys and focus groups.”

The Rand report illustrates the opposition.

“Based on our survey of SOF personnel, opposition to opening SOF specialties to women is both deep and wide, with high levels of opposition across all SOF elements,” the scholars wrote. “This opposition is also deep-seated and intensely felt.

“The principal sources of this opposition [include] the belief among SOF that women do not have the physical and other capabilities to meet the demands of their SOF specialties,” they said.

A Green Beret told survey conductors: “This endeavor is a complete waste of time. Filling out this survey is yet another example of how administrative issues, such as sensitivity or gender training or other surveys, will take away from my training time. I could list hundreds of reasons why women cannot do the job that a Green Beret is required to do, but as I only have 1000 characters, I will choose the one that I think is the most important. A woman cannot physically do what I can do! I weigh 225 pounds, and 280 pounds in full kit, as did most of the members of my ODA. I expect every person on my team to be able to drag any member of my team out of a firefight. A 130 pound female could not do it, I don’t care how much time she spends in the gym.”

Said a Marine Corps special operator staff sergeant: “I’ve zipped up body bags on men and women. And with men, I could eat Cheerios after. But with women? The smell of burned hair. I can’t smell it anymore, I can’t stand it. I can’t even fire up Pop Tarts because it reminds me of the smell of burned hair.”

Meanwhile, Army recruiting offices will conduct a new set of gymnastic tests to help determine what military jobs a recruit is physically capable of performing, beginning this summer.

Prospective soldiers will be asked to run, jump, lift a weight and throw a heavy ball — all to help the Army figure out if the recruit can handle a job with high physical demands or should be directed to a more sedentary assignment, The Associated Press reported. (Contributor: By Rowan Scarborough for The Washington Times)

Pray as led and as you know the truth of the Creator’s plan for men and women. This unbalanced idea comes in the name of “equality,” but observation and testing clearly prove that it is unworkable and will result in military failure. It is social engineering, an outgrowth of the sexual and gender confusion that currently drives our nation’s highest leadership. Pray Scripture, including the verse below.

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

 

FEDS APPROVE FIRST U.S. FACTORY IN CUBA

The Obama administration approved the first U.S. factory to be built and operated in Cuba in more than 50 years, in the latest sign of the rapidly changing relationship between the United States and the communist nation.

Cleber LLC, an Alabama-based company that builds tractors for small farms, was notified by the Treasury Department that it could open a facility in Cuba. Co-founder Saul Berenthal said the company's attorney was in Havana on Monday to start the lengthy process of finalizing the agreement with the Cuban government and hopes to start production by early 2017.

Berenthal said he was proud to get the approval, but it means even more for the future relationship between the Cold War foes.

"Being first is great," he said. "But for certain, we should not be the only ones. We're hoping and expecting many more will follow."

A U.S. business operating in Cuba is possible because of sweeping changes made by President Obama since his Dec. 17, 2014, announcement that the long-time enemies would re-establish diplomatic relations. Since then, embassies have reopened in Washington and Havana, and diplomats and business people have flooded Cuba. (Contributor: By Alan Gomez for USA TODAY)

An American factory in Cuba will aid a Marxist dictatorship and fill jobs that Americans might have had at home. On balance, however, new doors are also opening in Cuba for the Gospel, although mission agencies must move wisely and with discretion. The restored Cuban situation requires much prayer. Intercede as you are led.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…” (Jas. 1:5-6)

 

OHIO MAKES THE NINTH STATE TO DEFUND PLANNED PARENTHOOD

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is expected to sign a bill defunding Planned Parenthood, making Ohio the ninth state to do so since undercover videos exposed the abortion provider’s apparent role in harvesting the body parts of aborted babies.

The bill, H.B. 294, ensures that state and certain federal funds are not used to perform or promote nontherapeutic abortions at Planned Parenthood or elsewhere. The Ohio House passed the final version 62-32 on Wednesday and sent the legislation to the Republican governor’s desk.

“Governor Kasich has worked with legislative leaders to ensure that public dollars are used to their best purpose,” Kasich spokesman Joe Andrews said, according to The Columbus Dispatch. “The Ohio Department of Health had already stopped awarding state dollars to Planned Parenthood.”

Eight states—Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Texas, and Utah—have defunded Planned Parenthood after the pro-life Center for Medical Progress released a series of hidden-camera videos that put the nation’s largest abortion provider under the microscope for questionable and perhaps illegal practices.

Other states, such as Indiana, have worked to defund Planned Parenthood.

After passing legislation Thursday, Wisconsin also may soon deprive the organization of taxpayer dollars.

The new Ohio law will direct funds from the state Health Department budget to community health centers. It will not allow the Department of Health to contract or affiliate with entities that perform or promote nontherapeutic abortions, which don’t involve the life of the mother or cases of rape or incest.

The legislation’s sponsors were state Reps. Margaret Conditt, R-Liberty Township, and Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland.

“Ohio legislators have wisely redirected existing funding from the scandal-plagued Planned Parenthood to thousands of better, low-cost community health care providers that serve women and families far more comprehensively,” Casey Mattox, senior counsel for the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, told The Daily Signal.

“Ohio taxpayers should not be forced into an immoral partnership with Planned Parenthood.”

After the surfacing of the Center for Medical Progress’ first undercover video in July 2015, Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols released this statement:

The governor is a strong, consistent and committed believer in the sanctity of human life and finds this news and practice abhorrent. This is illegal under both Ohio and federal laws and anyone who violates those laws should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible, and credible evidence of a possible violation should be fully investigated.

According to Ohio Right to Life, the new law will cut over $1 million in the state’s use of yearly federal grants that had gone to Planned Parenthood.

“Thanks to the thoughtful, careful work of the Ohio House and Senate, the taxpayer dollars of pro-life Ohioans like myself will now be shielded from the abortion industry,” Stephanie Ranade Krider, executive director of Ohio Right to Life, said in a formal statement. She added:

This is an incredible victory for the pro-life cause in Ohio and for the national pro-life movement’s collective efforts to defund the abortion industry chief, Planned Parenthood.

This legislation will mark the extraordinary moment when Ohio decided to get out of the abortion business.

The Ohio House first passed the bill in November and sent it to the Ohio Senate. When the Senate in turn voted in late January to defund Planned Parenthood, Stephanie Kight, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, released a statement saying the Ohio General Assembly “chose politics over people.”

“This is not what Ohioans want,” Kight said.

Sarah Torre, a policy analyst in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, wrote that Planned Parenthood affiliates receive over half a billion dollars each year from state and federal sources.

“Congress should end federal taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates and redirect those funds to health centers that provide health care for women without entanglement in abortion or questionable handling of baby body parts,” Torre wrote. (Contributor: By Leah Jessen for The Daily Signal)

Ohio joins a growing number of states withholding funds from Planned Parenthood. Yet, President Obama and certain candidates running for president ardently support this national monstrosity that revels in killing babies in the womb --- the most defenseless portion of our human population. Pray that more Christians will remember these issues when voting in November.

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20)

 

SCIENTISTS CAN MAKE MINI, THINKING VERSION OF YOUR BRAIN

The small cellular balls act like mini-brains, mimicking aspects of the real thing, including forming noggin-like structures and pulsing with electrical signals like a thinking mind, researchers reported Friday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington. The mini-brains, which can be personalized based on whose cells they’re made from, may soon help scientists study a wide variety of diseases and health problems—from autism and Parkinson’s to multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s, as well as stroke, brain trauma, and infections, such as Zika virus.

“There are a variety of places where a mini brain could be useful,” said Wayne Drevets of Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., who was not involved with the research. In some cases, they may offer a cheaper, more ethical, and more realistic model for human health than mice and other animals, he and other researchers said at the conference.

Researchers who developed the wee noodles, led by Thomas Hartung, of Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, hope to have the mini-brains commercially available this year.

But, Hartung admits, “we are not the first or the fanciest.” Other miniature brains have already been made that are more complex and brain-shaped rather than spherical. Yet those tiny brains can be difficult to create and work with, Hartung says. Some require embryonic stem cells to make, which are tricky to get and ethically murky to use. And some of the miniature brains take months to grow and are relatively large (~5 millimeters), which means that they quickly rot from the inside out because they lack blood vessels and circulation to feed the cells imbedded deep in the artificial organ.

Hartung and colleagues came up with a solution to all of those problems. The researchers started off with easy-to-collect adult skin cells and chemically coaxed them to revert to stem cells, nixing the need for embryonic versions. From there, the researchers cajoled the cells into differentiating into a variety of brain cells, including different nerve cells plus glial cells, which support and protect nerve cells.

To get the cells to form teeny brain balls, the researchers put the cells in a shaking incubator where the cells literally roll into small spheres around 350 micrometers in diameter—roughly about three times the thickness of a dollar bill. The tiny size allows the brains to slip past the problem of rotting innards, but they still maintain a brain-like set up with different types of neurons linking up and passing signals. The whole process takes just eight weeks and can produce thousands of mini-brains at once.

On closer examination, the researchers found that many of the nerve cells in the mini-brains developed electrical insulating layers—myelin sheaths—which are made by glial cells and critical for properly functioning nerve cells. Demyelination is a key feature of many neurodegenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS). “This promises to be a fantastic model to study MS,” Hartung said.

And the mini-brains spontaneously generated electrical activity, producing brain waves. “They are thinking,” Hartung said—although without any sensory information input, “they have nothing to think about,” he added.

There are countless possibilities of how these brains could help research, Hartung said. In particular, he told Ars that he’s most excited to use the mini-brains to study autism and has already made mini-brains from cells from a person with Down Syndrome. He’s also hopeful that the brains will be useful for pharmaceutical companies testing potential new drugs—offering a more realistic model for how drugs work in people without the need to use animals. After all, Hartung said, humans aren’t 150-pound rats.

But, right now, he cautions, “I’m selling hopes,” as the mini-brains are brand new and haven't proven useful yet. Still, many researchers at the conference were equally enthused about their potential. After presenting at the meeting, Hartung is now in talks to use the brains to study Zika. The virus, currently exploding throughout South and Central America, has been linked to neurological conditions (some involving demyelination) and a birth defect called microcephaly, in which babies are born with abnormally small and malformed brains.

Others saw potential for the brains to help with development and psychiatry research. Wilson Compton a drug addiction researcher at the National Institutes of Health hopes the brains could help understand how specific brain regions re-wire in addiction. Overall, he said, the brains are a “promising development.” (Contributor: By Beth Mole for arstechnica)

This is a “watch and pray” article. We present random science-discovery pieces in The Informer. There is no prayer focus, as we see where the science might be going, not where it has arrived. If there are no biblical violations, and the application helps autistic children or elderly patients with Alzheimer’s disease, we will give thanks. Watch cautiously and pray as you are led.

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

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The Informer February 3, 2016

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CRUZ WINS IOWA GOP CAUCUSES; CLINTON APPEARS TO HOLD OFF SANDERS

Iowa's Democratic Party said early Tuesday that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had gained an insurmountable lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the state's caucuses, but stopped short of officially declaring her the winner — while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz scored a decisive win over Donald Trump in the Republican caucuses, with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio a close third.

Early Tuesday, the Iowa Democratic Party said Clinton had been awarded 699.57 state delegate equivalents while Sanders had received 695.49 state delegate equivalents with one precinct outstanding. That precinct was worth 2.28 state delegate equivalents — not enough for Sanders to make up the deficit.

The Clinton campaign quickly issued a statement declaring victory, saying, "Statistically, there is no outstanding information that could change the results and no way that Senator Sanders can overcome Secretary Clinton's advantage." However, a number of news outlets, including Fox News, did not immediately call the contest for the former secretary of state.

In at least three precincts, the Democratic outcome was so close that party officials ordered a coin toss to determine which candidate should receive an extra county convention delegate, a longstanding tiebreaking method. The Des Moines Register reported that Clinton won all three coin flips at precincts in Des Moines, Davenport, and Ames.

Despite his apparent defeat, the result reflected a strong showing for Sanders, who had trailed Clinton by nearly 30 points over the summer. Sanders said the results sent a “profound message” to the media and political establishment.

Cruz, too, cast his victory as a message to the Republican establishment.

“Tonight is a victory for the grassroots. Tonight is a victory for courageous conservatives across Iowa and all across this great nation,” Cruz told cheering supporters.

Speaking to supporters at Drake University, Clinton said she was "breathing a big sigh of relief" about the outcome.

"Thank you Iowa. I want you to know that I’ll keep standing up for you, keep fighting for you. Join me. Let’s go win that nomination,” she said.

Sanders noted that Iowa's 44 Democratic national convention delegates would be distributed almost evenly between the two candidates. The Associated Press reported that Clinton had captured at least 22 delegates to Sanders' 21, with the remaining one going to the statewide winner.

Sanders touched on familiar themes during his speech, saying his campaign was about the people and “not billionaires buying elections.”

En route to New Hampshire, where he holds a substantial lead in the polls ahead of the Feb. 9 primary, Sanders vowed, "We're in this to the convention, and I think this [result] shows the American people we're a campaign that can win.‎"

In the Republican campaign, Cruz fought hard in recent weeks to make up lost ground in the polls and was helped in part by a sophisticated ground operation. He also hammered Trump for his decision to skip last week's Republican debate.

Meanwhile, Rubio's stronger-than-expected third place finish was helped in large part by late deciders. Entrance polling conducted by Fox News found that 35 percent of GOP caucus-goers made their choice within the last few days of the race. Of those, 30 percent broke for Rubio.

Rubio's campaign also suggested Trump’s debate boycott helped change the dynamic in the race.

With all but one precinct reporting, Cruz had 28 percent, Trump had 24 percent and Rubio had 23 percent. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson placed a distant fourth in the race with 9 percent, while Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul placed fifth with 5 percent.

An energized Rubio touted the results at a post-caucus rally.

“For months they told us we had no chance. … They told me I needed to wait my turn,” Rubio said. “But tonight … here in Iowa, the people in this great state sent a very clear message. After seven years of Barack Obama, we are not waiting any longer to take our country back.”

Trump, for his part, argued he beat initial expectations by placing second and predicted he'd still win in New Hampshire next week.

“We will go on to get the Republican nomination, and we will go on to easily beat Hillary or Bernie or whoever the hell they throw up there,” he said. He closed his speech by saying: "I think I might come here and buy a farm, I love it.”

Republicans voted by private ballot. The state's 30 Republican delegates are awarded proportionally based on the vote, with at least eight delegates going to Cruz, seven to Trump and six to Rubio.

Two candidates dropped their presidential bids after poor showings. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who was pulling in about 1 percent support, suspended his campaign  for the Democratic nomination Monday night. And on the GOP side, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee also suspended his campaign.

Interest and turnout were high on both sides. Republican officials said there were more than 180,000 people at Monday's GOP caucuses, up from the previous high of about 121,000 in 2012. The Iowa Democratic Party said their caucuses drew 171,109 supporters, well short of the record 240,000 caucus-goers in 2008.

Several caucus sites remained open longer to accommodate long lines; some even ran out of registration forms or ballots.

Cruz rose from the middle of the Republican pack last year to overtake Trump on Monday. His victory disrupts Trump's front-runner narrative and could jolt the GOP race, where candidates have struggled for months to arrest Trump’s rise.

According to entrance polling of Republican caucus-goers conducted by Fox News, Cruz won by garnering the support of evangelical Christians and those who wanted a candidate who shares their values. Evangelical Christians made up 62 percent of Republican caucus-goers — up from 56 percent in 2012 — and of those, 33 percent backed the Texas senator.

On the Democratic side, Sanders overwhelmed Clinton among caucus-goers under 30, a group that he won 84 percent to 14 percent. However, that constituency only made up 18 percent of all Democratic caucus-goers.

On the other hand, 55 percent of all Democratic caucus-goers said they wanted the next president to continue President Obama's policies. Clinton won the support of 68 percent of that constituency.

The Iowa caucuses have had a mixed record in recent cycles, particularly on the Republican side, in picking the eventual nominees.

The GOP caucus winners in 2008 and 2012 were Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, respectively, neither of whom won the nomination.

Eight years ago, though, Obama’s Iowa win helped set him on the trajectory to claim first the Democratic nomination, then the presidency. (Contributor: Fox News - Fox News’ Ed Henry and Jake Gibson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

This is only the beginning of a long political journey all over the country right up to the elections in November. Our basic message to all readers is to encourage you to pray for God’s will to be done in every primary, in the nominating process, and for the national and local elections. This will require faith, patience, and strength  for the long season ahead.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal 6:9-10)

5 CASES TO WATCH AT THE SUPREME COURT IN 2016

With the potential for a groundbreaking affirmation of conscience rights, the only abortion case in almost a decade, and a multi-pronged challenge to Obamacare's HHS Mandate on the docket, this is one Supreme Court term not to be missed. Here's a lineup of the most significant cases for life, marriage and the family, and religious liberty the nine Justices will be hearing this year:

Life: Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole

In 2013, legislators in Texas passed a law (Texas HB2) requiring abortionists to comply with the same health and safety standards as other outpatient medical providers. These health and safety standards would require abortion centers to meet the standards of a typical outpatient operating room, including having hallways wide enough for gurneys and proper sterilization procedures for instruments. The law also requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion center in case the woman has to seek hospital care because of post-abortion complications.

To Texas legislators, it was common sense, considering that abortions present many of the same risks as other minor to mid-level surgeries. To pro-life advocates, it was a clear-cut defense of life: the life of women, who should never have to endure the filth reported in some abortion facilities or face the horrors of substandard abortionists like Kermit Gosnell, and of unborn children, who should be defended by law against abortionists who can line their pockets more quickly by cutting corners on safety. But to abortion supporters, it was a blatant attack on women’s rights, so they sued. They argued that the bill puts an “undue burden” on the right to abortion, because the bill’s new requirements forced 22 of the state’s 40 abortion clinics to close down.

For pro-life advocates, the fact that over half of the abortion clinics in Texas did not meet basic health and safety requirements for the procedures they were performing only strengthens the case for the common sense law. While ADF is not directly involved in the case, we filed a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of Texas HB 2, and in June 2015, the Fifth Circuit upheld the regulations. The abortion industry asked the Supreme Court to hear the case, and it agreed to set oral arguments for March 2nd, 2016. The Court will again have our friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of thousands of conscientious pro-life healthcare professionals to consider.

Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole is the first abortion case to come to the Supreme Court in nearly a decade. It comes on the heels of the nation-wide revelation of Planned Parenthood’s interest in profit over women’s health, making it a pivotal moment in the tragic history of abortion legislation in America. The Supreme Court will have to decide whether women’s health is worth defending in the face of powerful forces like Planned Parenthood that want to make sure the abortion industry isn’t held to basic and ethical medical standards.

Religious Freedom: Zubik v. Burwell

The Obamacare HHS Mandate requires employers, regardless of their convictions, to provide abortion-inducing drugs to employees through their health plans. ADF has been on the forefront of defending the freedom of conscience of employers, and by God’s grace has a 19-4 winning record against the HHS Mandate. Of the four cases we've lost, two Geneva College v. Burwell and Southern Nazarene University v. Burwell will be reviewed by the Supreme Court in March in a consolidated case including five other Courts of Appeals losses, including the Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, a case involving a group of nuns dedicated to serving the aged, who risk being fined to the point of being unable to continue their work if the Mandate is enforced. Each plaintiff objects to being forced to provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception through their health plans under threat of heavy penalties. We pray that the Court will view these cases in a similar light as Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell, where the Justices decided in favor of freedom of conscience.

Religious Freedom: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley

The oft-touted “separation of church and state” is a sensitive subject, but it’s going to get serious consideration when the Supreme Court hears the case Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Pauley. In this case, the State of Missouri excluded a church-run pre-school and daycare center from a program that provides recycled tires for school playground surfaces—simply because the school is operated by a church. ADF will be representing the church. The question at stake is whether states can be openly hostile to religion, as the State of Missouri is doing by excluding churches and church-run organizations from publicly beneficial programs solely because the groups are religious. We pray that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of religious freedom, based on the fact that the Constitution does not allow states to suppress or exclude religious groups and organizations from government programs simply because they are religious.

Freedom of Conscience: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

This case is a little out of left field, but bear with us; it may prove to have significant ramifications for the right of people to be free to live and work according to their faith. In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a group of teachers in California is taking on one of the most powerful labor unions in the country: the teachers’ union. The teachers are being forced by the government to pay union dues that go, at least in part, to pay for the union’s political speech. The teachers disagree with the political positions that the union takes and do not want to support the union’s political speech. But they cannot opt out: the government requires them to pay these dues, and the union insists on using their dues to pay for speech that goes against the teachers’ political beliefs. That is why the teachers sued. The government is compelling these teachers to engage in—or at least support—speech that they do not want to make, violating the First Amendment’s protection against compelled speech.

This is very similar to what is happening to ADF’s freedom of conscience clients. Barronelle Stutzman, Blaine Adamson, and Jack Phillips, are all creative professionals who own expressive businesses. They each use their artistic talents to create artistic expressive messages for their clients.  And they have something else in common: they each share the religious belief that sexual relations are to be reserved for marriage, and also that marriage is only the union of a man and a woman.  Barronelle, Blaine, and Jack were asked to use their artistic talent to create messages that conflicted with this religious belief.  Each respectfully declined to do so.  And now, they are all being sued under laws that purport to outlaw “discrimination” based on sexual orientation, but really are being used as weapons to try to produce forced conformity with the government’s desire that everyone must support same-sex relationships.

Just like the teachers do not want to speak certain political messages, Barronelle, Blaine, and Jack do not want to create and speak messages supportive of same-sex marriage, or of sexual relations outside of marriage.  But for them, it goes even deeper than “they do not want to.”  Their consciences won’t let them create those messages, because they believe they are wrong.  Those messages go against their religious beliefs.  Speaking those messages would violate their faith.

These creative, loving people, many of whom have maintained decades-long friendships with people who identify as gay, are being compelled much more directly than the teachers in Friedrichs to engage in speech they fundamentally disagree with. A decision in favor of freedom of conscience in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association could establish precedent in favor of the First Amendment protection from being forced by the government to speak messages we disagree with and do not want to speak.

And one final case awaiting acceptance from the Supreme Court:

Religious Freedom: Stormans v. Wiesman

ADF clients, the Stormans, who own a grocery store in Washington State, and Margo Thelen and Rhonda Mesler, two pharmacists, have asked the Supreme Court to review a ruling from the Ninth Circuit, which upholds a Washington State law forcing pharmacies and pharmacists to dispense abortion-inducing medication, despite their deeply-held beliefs. Whereas pharmacists and stores are allowed to refer patients to other pharmacies for many other reasons, the law targets religious convictions in an attempt to force people to violate their consciences through coercion. The law was drafted in collaboration from Planned Parenthood. We pray that the Justices will choose to hear this case, and will affirm religious freedom in the face of these attempts to prohibit people from freely exercising their faith. (Contributor: By Jane Scharl for Alliance Defending Freedom)

IFA suggests: Print out this article and pin it up for ongoing prayer. There is so much to remember. Seasoned intercessors say that in Supreme Court matters, they focus on certain cases and pray for the justices by name*, for God’s will to be done. The main emphasis is that we pray! (*See “Prayer Guides” at IFApray.org for such a list.)

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

ZIKA OUTBREAK: WHERE IS THE VIRUS SPREADING?

The World Health Organization has declared a global emergency in response to the spread of Zika - but which countries are currently affected by the virus?

The spread has prompted the World Health Organisation to declare a global emergency, and Brazil has warned pregnant women to stay away from this summer's Olympic games.

Evidence has mounted to suggest that the Zika virus may cause birth defects in children, as well as neurological problems in adults.

The virus has been carried to the United States in January, with a patient in Texas arriving from Latin America. It has prompted the US - along with a series of other nations - to issue travel warnings to pregnant women.

After the virus' arrival in Brazil, it flared into an epidemic - with official estimations saying it has infected up to 1.5m people.

Although a link is yet to be made, a spike in microcephaly cases has matched Zika's spread.

Brazil has documented a 2,301 per cent increase in the number of microcephaly cases between 2014 and 2015.

Pernambuco - Brazil's most microcephaly-striken state - raised the alarm last year, as a large number of babies were born with abnormally small heads and possible brain damage.

While just 200 microcephaly cases were seen in each of the previous five years, Brazil faced 3,500 cases in the next four months.

Many of these cases have yet to be confirmed, as the country struggles to respond to the virus' rapid advance.

Other South American countries are also facing increasing and widespread levels of the virus.

Columbia has announced that more than 2,100 pregnant Colombian women are currently infected with Zika, prompting concerns for the unborn children.

The World Health Organisation says that it expects three to four million cases in the Zika pandemic.

While researchers in America and other countries have begun work on a vaccine, experts predict that this process could take years.

While people had been working on an Ebola vaccine for years before the recent outbreak, work on a Zika vaccine is at a much earlier stage.

The World Health Organisation uses the term Public Health Emergency of International Concern. They define a PHEIC as “an extraordinary event which is determined, as provided in these Regulations:

* to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease; and

* to potentially require a coordinated international response”. This definition implies a situation that: is serious, unusual or unexpected; carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border; and may require immediate international action.

How many times has a Public Health Emergency of International Concern been declared?

The World Health Organization has declared a PHEIC four times:

April 2009: when the H1N1 (or Swine Flu) pandemic was still in Phase Three

May 2014: with the resurgence of polio after its near-eradication

August 2014: in response to the outbreak of Ebola in Western Africa

February 2016: amid fears the mosquito-borne Zika virus is linked to birth defects and spreading rapidly (Contributor: By The Telegraph)

PRAYER BULLETIN: The Washington Post reported online Tuesday evening (2/2/16) new evidence that the Zika virus has been transmitted person-to-person through sexual intercourse. This will increase the ease of the spread, which before now was thought to be carried from person to person only by a less-common mosquito. Pray that this will not become a widespread epidemic. 

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:2-3)

CHRISTIAN HIGH SCHOOL BANNED FROM PRAYING BEFORE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP

According to the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA), prayer in public is completely off limits—even if you’re a Christian school, and even if you’re playing another Christian school.

Liberty Institute sent a demand letter to FHSAA on Tuesday after FHSAA denied Cambridge Christian School’s (CCS) request to prayer over the Florida Citrus Bowl loudspeaker before their football team’s championship game against University Christian School (UCS). FHSAA claimed that since the venue was a public facility and FHSAA is a state actor, prayer would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Liberty Institute’s demand letter claims that the FHSAA violated the Tampa-based school’s rights as a religious institution.

“By refusing CCS’s request to pray, FHSAA is telling individuals and institutions everywhere that religious expression doesn’t belong in the public arena,” said Hiram Sasser, Deputy Chief Counsel for Liberty Institute. “That is dangerous and unconstitutional.”

Prayer is an important aspect of life and education at CCS, including the CCS athletic department. Teachers are encouraged to open their class lectures with prayer. Coaches frequently lead their teams in prayer before practices or games. And prior to each football game kickoff, a prayer is offered over the school stadium’s loudspeaker.

In fact, CCS has been praying before the start of all their athletic competitions since 1964.

So when CCS learned they would be facing University Christian School (UCS) of Jacksonville, Florida in the 2015 FHSAA 2A division state championship, they joined forces with UCS, asking FHSAA officials to allow CCS’s Head of School, Tim Euler, to pray over the loudspeaker before the game.

On December 2, officials from both CCS and UCS emailed FHSAA to respectfully request approval for a pre-game prayer, explaining the importance of the tradition to their teams.

Within hours of that request, FHSAA denied the it via email. FHSAA reasoned that, “Although both schools are private and religious-affiliated [sic] institutions, the federal law addresses two pertinent issues that prevent us from granting your request.”

Those two “reasons,” given by the FHSAA, were that the game venue was a “public facility…off limits [to religious expression] under federal guidelines and precedent”; and that as a “state actor,” FHSAA was not “legally permitted to grant permission for such an activity.”

Representing CCS, Liberty Institute issued a demand letter to FHSAA on Tuesday, January 26 to correct the notion that allowing a Christian school to pray before its game—even in a public venue—violates the Constitution.

“By banning their customary pre-game prayer, FHSAA prohibited the school’s free exercise of religion,” Sasser said. “That is a violation of the First Amendment.”

“If uncontested, FHSAA’s demands would continue to severely limit the religious liberty of the thousands of students, teachers, and administrators of Florida’s religious schools,” Sasser added.

Liberty Institute is awaiting a response from FHSAA, and is ready to take the next step to defend Cambridge Christian School's right to pray. (Contributor: By Liberty Institute News)

The football game and the deadline for response from the athletic association have come and gone, and no decision about a lawsuit has been announced. Please pray as you are led, primarily for the Christian high school headmaster and coach to keep their students encouraged and to keep on praying, whether in the public venue or privately. IFA will follow up.

[P]raying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— …” (Eph. 6:18)

TEXAS SUPREME COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF KOUNTZE CHEERLEADERS

In an 8-0 decision on Friday, the Texas Supreme Court issued a crucial decision in favor of the Kountze Cheerleaders, whose legal struggle began in 2012 when school officials opposed their right to paint Bible verses on sports banners.

The Supreme Court overturned a 2014 Texas court of appeals decision that had ruled the case “moot,” a decision which denied the cheerleaders the opportunity to defend their right to free speech and religious expression. The Justices ordered the Beaumont Court of Appeals to reconsider the case.

“This is an 8-0 victory for the free speech and religious liberty rights of all Texas students,” says Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of Liberty Institute. “We are delighted that the court considered this case so straightforward that it did not even require oral argument.”

“In light of today’s Supreme Court ruling,” he added, “we look forward to defending the Kountze cheerleaders at the Court of Appeals and resolving this case permanently in the cheerleaders’ favor”

The Court’s decision on Friday followed extensive briefing by Liberty Institute and its volunteer attorneys James Ho and Prerak Shah of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP (who are serving as lead appellate counsel) and amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in October 2015, and U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn in December 2015.

Justice Eva Guzman’s concurring opinion in favor of the Kountze cheerleaders accurately highlights the continuing struggle for religious liberty in America’s public schools. Justice Guzman agreed with Liberty Institute’s brief, and cited key free speech decisions—including landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions and past victories by Liberty Institute—that apply to the Kountze cheerleaders and make their situation a critical matter deserving special attention.

In 2012, middle school and high school cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas, decided to paint positive and inspirational messages on run-through banners at football games. The decision to use Bible verses was made by the entire cheer squad and the students themselves. The cheerleaders and their families purchased all materials.

But after receiving a complaint letter from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Kountze ISD superintendent banned the religious messages.

Supported by their parents and the community, the cheerleaders decided to fight for their free speech and religious liberty rights. That’s when the case exploded into the limelight, garnering nation-wide attention.

In September 2012, Liberty Institute and Beaumont attorney David Starnes filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Kountze cheerleaders and their parents, seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) and temporary injunction to prohibit government school officials from censoring the cheerleaders’ religious speech.

The judge granted the TRO (and later a temporary injunction), allowing the cheerleaders to continue using the signs for the remainder of the 2012 football season.

In May 2013, Hardin County District Court Judge Steven Thomas granted the cheerleaders final judgment finding that the banners are “constitutionally permissible.”

But Kountze ISD appealed the District Court’s decision to the Texas Court of Appeals in Beaumont, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) jumped in to file a brief against the cheerleaders. In May 2014, the Beaumont Court of Appeals said that because Kountze ISD now stated it would allow the banners, the case was moot. The court of appeals’ decision, however, left unresolved the claim by the Kountze ISD that the cheerleaders’ banners were government speech subject to school censorship or an outright ban. On behalf of the cheerleaders, appellate lead counsel Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, David Starnes, and Liberty Institute sought a review of that decision from the Texas Supreme Court. The Court reversed the lower court’s decision without oral argument on January 26, 2016, sending the case back to the Beaumont Court of Appeals.

As chronicled in Liberty Institute’s Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion in America, attacks against the religious free speech rights of students are escalating as more and more organizations send misinformation and legal threats to school officials.

But the law is on the side of religious freedom in schools. While the Texas Supreme Court ruling on Friday is a victory, the war for the permanent protection of the Kountze students’ rights is still ongoing. Liberty Institute vows to continue the fight on behalf of the Kountze cheerleaders at the Court of Appeals and beyond, if necessary, and to protect freedom for future students nationwide.

To learn more about the religious rights of students and teachers in school, read or download Liberty Institute’s free Religious Liberty Protection Kit forStudents and Teachers. (Contributor: By Liberty Institute News)

Give thanks for this positive decision for religious freedom. The case is not over, as it must be reviewed again by the Texas appeals court. Pray for a decision that will honor God, and for the testimony that will follow. Pray for the Bible verses on the banners to bear fruit in the lives of the cheerleaders and others who see them.

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

 ‘TECH TATTOOS’ TO TRACK MEDICAL, FINANCIAL INFO

Could we soon be carrying all of our medical and financial information on a tattoo?

Software company Chaotic Moon has developed a “tech tattoo” that gets embedded into a person’s arm and can track a person’s financial and medical information.

Eric Schneider, the company’s hardware creative technologist, explained the tattoo can monitor if a person is about to get sick.

“Rather than going to the doctor once a year for your physical, this tech tattoo can be something you put on your body once a year and it monitors everything that they would do in a physical and it sends that to your doctor, and if there’s an issue they can call you,” Schneider said. “So the tech tattoos can really tie in everything into one package. It can look at early signs of fever, your vital signs, heart rate, everything it needs to look at to notify you that you’re getting sick or your child is getting sick.”

The tattoo will transmit this information wirelessly to a mobile app or computer being monitored by their health professionals.

Schneider also said that people would be able to carry their financial information through this tattoo.

“We carry wallets around and they are so vulnerable. With the tech tattoo you can carry all your information on your skin and when you want your credit card information or your ID, you can pull that up automatically through the system,” he said.

The tattoos are made with “electro conductive ink” that contain various sensors, and in some cases tiny microchips. The makers say they will last for up to a year.

Tim Moynihan of Wired Magazine thinks there could be a future with these tech tattoos.

“Twenty percent of Americans, I think, have tattoos so there is a potential market there.” Moynihan told CBS2.

Lance Ulanoff of Mashable called it a “fascinating idea” that could potentially be used to help track missing children or checking up on soldiers in combat.

“Right now they wear suits to try and keep track of all their vitals, and if something goes wrong with the suit then maybe there’s a problem, but if it’s on your skin, they know all the time,” Ulanoff told CBS2.

Cosmetic company L’Oreal is also getting in on the action with a temporary tattoo that can track UV exposure and alert people if they’re in danger of burning. (Contributor: By CBS New York)

Many Christians will be leery of any invasive device that could in any way monitor personal freedom, and thereby resemble what is called “the mark of the beast” alluded to in Rev. 13. This is still quite speculative, and God’s people will need discernment to distinguish between helpful medical record-keeping and government control of their identity. Pray as you are led, and remain watchful.

“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)

IRANIAN LEADER GIVES OUT MEDALS FOR DETENTION OF US SAILORS

Iran’s supreme leader on Sunday awarded “medals of conquest” to five naval commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards for their arrest earlier this month of 10 US sailors whose two vessels strayed into Iranian waters.

Ayatollah Khamenei, whose duties also make him head of the army, presented the awards to Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi and other commanders, the Iranian Tasnim news agency reported.

He also gave the green light for others involved in the operation to be promoted.

The American sailors were detained on January 12 and released a day later. The US Navy said the crew members were returned safely and there were no indications they had been harmed while in custody, but the incident, and Iranian boasting about it, served to chill ties between Tehran and Washington that had recently thawed slightly.

Last week, Khamenei told the naval crew that had taken the American sailors captive that divine forces had delivered the seamen to Iran.

Iranian political and military leaders have repeatedly castigated the US over the incident, gloating about ostensible American panic, cowardice and lack of professionalism, and releasing a video showing soldiers being held at gunpoint and one sailor tearfully apologizing.

American officials have spoken out against Iran’s release of the video, including Secretary of State John Kerry, who brokered the deal to have the sailors released and called the footage “angering.”

The incident coincided with the lifting of international sanctions on Iran in the wake of last summer’s nuclear deal, but Khamenei and other senior Iranian figures have repeatedly emphasized that the deal does not mark a warming of Iran’s attitude to the United States.

Earlier this month, a top Iranian general boasted that the sailors briefly held by the Islamic Republic were “crying” as they were taken in by his nation’s naval forces.

Brigadier General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Council (IRGC), said “the marines were crying when they were being captured, but they later felt better after the IRGC forces treated them with kindness.”

“The Americans humbly admitted our might and power, and we freed the marines after being assured that they had entered the Iranian waters unintentionally, and we even returned their weapons,” Salami added.

General Fadavi said his forces had their missiles locked on a US aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf as the incident unfolded, and were awaiting orders to fire.

He scoffed at the “unprofessional behavior” of the US fleet during the crisis, warned that Iran could have inflicted an unprecedented “catastrophe” upon the US forces, and bragged that the US would never prevail in a confrontation with Iran in the Gulf.

One day later, the IRGC Public Relations in a statement said the sailors were freed following an apology from the US and after technical and operational investigations indicated that the intrusion into Iranian territorial waters was “unintentional.” (Contributor: By Times of Israel Staff for Times of Israel)

This is a huge PR coup for Iran. It embarrasses the U.S. and symbolizes a brashness fueled by the so-called “Iranian deal” of last year. The international community sees Iran emerging stronger and the U.S. appearing weaker. Pray for President Obama, Vice-president Biden, and Secretary of State Kerry for both restraint and wisdom in formulating U.S. foreign policy in these tumultuous times.       

“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)

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The Informer January 13, 2016

On Watch in Washington January 13, 2016 Plain Text PDF Version

U.S. SUPREME COURT-NEXT 12 DAYS CRITICAL

It's now official. The Supreme Court has scheduled a status conference on January 22, 2016 – the 43rd anniversary of Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton – to consider whether to accept the North Dakota case banning abortion after six weeks.

This is a year of miracles, signs and wonders and this is a sign from the Lord. It only fell on this date because the Arkansas abortionists tried to ignore the case and not file a response brief, and the Supreme Court demanded a response brief from the Arkansas abortionists.  Seeing this unusual interest from the court,  the North Dakota abortionists asked for extra time to file their response brief.  That request for extra time by the abortionist was granted which threw the status conference consideration date for North Dakota to Jan 22.  Their time is up.  The covenant with death will be annulled, the agreement with the Lord will not stand. The Lord will rise up as in the valley of Gibeon, but we must pray and contend. Is 28:14-22

Thank you for your prayers and your support and the courageous testimonies of the women of Operation Outcry.  This is a team effort.  You can click here to read the brief.  Appendix A includes the names of all of the women and the names of the children of the women who chose to name their child, as well.  Appendix B are the excerpts of the testimony of  90 women of Arkansas.  The Table of Contents gives you a good summary of the Brief if you just want to read a summary.  See first two pages after title page.

Arkansas 

The Arkansas Petition for Certiorari (Please Take Our Case), the abortionist reply brief and The Justice Foundation Brief on behalf of 3,355 Women Hurt By Abortion And An Abortion Survivor have been distributed to the Supreme Court judges and clerks.  The Supreme Court will meet in private on January 15, 2016, at 9am Eastern to decide what to do with the case.  Each justice and their staff are reading the briefs and evaluating them independently.  On January 15, they will meet to discuss whether to take the case, to put the case on hold for further consideration or to deny the cert. petition which would mean that the decision below stands.  If they deny cert. (don’t take the case) then the decision below that the law was unconstitutional stands.  This is the first look by the whole Court and the case could die if they deny cert. on Jan. 15.

North Dakota

North Dakota’s briefing is now complete.   It was distributed to the judges last week and is set for status conference at 9 am Eastern on Jan. 22,2016, which could last all day.  Same options as above exist for the court at that time. The judges and their three briefing attorneys are reading the states briefs, the abortionist briefs, and the briefs of thousands of post abortive women who are part of Operating Outcry:Silent No More.  It is time to cry out to God so that our outcry may be heard.  Our three main arguments are:

  1. The child in the womb is a human from the moment of conception.
  2. Abortion hurts women
  3. There is a better way to help women.  All 50 states are now willing to remove all burden of unwanted child care from any woman.  Safe Haven laws allow a woman to transfer here child to society without killing the child and injuring herself.   See brief below for more details.

Texas

Cert has already been granted in The Texas case involving ambulatory surgical centers and hospital admitting privileges and requirements and is set for Oral Argument on March 2, 2016.  This case has already been getting lots of media attention and the Reuters article (click here) shows that your prayers to bind the abortion powers have already been heard  because this is a tremendously fair article about the Texas case, including quotes by two women of Operation Outcry:Silent No More and myself.  Many prolife groups are  writing amicus briefs in this case which are due Feb 3.  Texas' brief is due Jan 23.   The abortionists briefs and their friends are on file now, with many prominent democrat women telling the court they had to have abortions to get where they are now professionally.

Please continue to pray as before Isaiah 28:14-22 (that the covenant of death would be annulled, that the agreement with the grave would not stand) over the Court, Jeremiah 9:17-24 (asking that the women’s testimonies would teach the judges’ eyes to mourn for the children we have lost; and ask the Lord to bind the abortion power, to bind the strong man over abortion, over the Supreme Court of the United States and over the media as well.

Advancing Life, Liberty and Justice in Him,
Allan E. Parker - President, The Justice Foundation

IFA’s prayer focus is two-fold: First, give thanks for Allan Parker and The Justice Foundation, for the legal skills and biblical insight Allan and staff bring to these life-and-death (literally) issues. Second, pray for the justices to be directed by God’s overruling, sovereign power, to guide their deliberations away from politics and toward the fear of the Lord.

“The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate. Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding, I have strength.” (Prov 8:13-14)  

OIL PRICES SLIDE AGAIN, AND THE BOTTOM IS NOT YET IN SIGHT

The continuing collapse in commodity prices pushed oil futures still lower Monday, and analysts predicted that the slide was far from over.

Oil prices fell to their lowest level in 12 years, with futures of West Texas intermediate crude for February delivery settling at $31.41 a barrel, down 5.3 percent. Oil futures, which lost 30 percent last year, have declined every day of 2016. Brent oil, the main international benchmark, lost 6.5 percent and closed at $31.55 a barrel.

Last year a broad reassessment occurred in commodities, as the global economy slowed and demand from emerging markets like China, India and Brazil waned. The slump in oil prices picked up momentum last week on renewed concerns about the health of China’s economy, which led to a rout in global markets.

The drop in commodities is being felt throughout the energy sector and beyond. Saudi Arabia, for instance, said last week that it was considering selling shares in Saudi Aramco, its state-run oil company. Arch Coal, one of the biggest coal producers in the United States, said Monday that it had filed for bankruptcy protection to cut its debt.

Russia’s main stock indexes also plummeted Monday on their first day of trading after a long holiday, as falling oil prices also cast a pall over the country’s energy-dependent economy. Oil and other commodities like natural gas and steel, which make up the bulk of Russian exports, have fallen sharply on fears of a slowing Chinese economy.

“Every signal that the market is getting now suggests that we are going to continue to have an oil glut for some time to come,” said Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. “Iran is about to re-enter the market, demand numbers and economic indicators look relatively weak, U.S. supply is holding up in a low-price environment much better than people thought and global inventories are growing.”

In that situation, he said, even geopolitical tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which generally would have frightened energy markets, have not had an impact on the markets’ perception of risk. In fact, the sharp increase in tensions between the regional powers makes it less likely they will agree to stabilize oil markets in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. “In that world, there is almost every indication that you want to be bearish,” Mr. Bordoff said.

Many analysts expect more declines before prices recover. Goldman Sachs, which had predicted that oil might reach $200 a barrel during a “super-spike” before the 2008 financial crisis, forecast last year that prices might drop as low as $20 a barrel in the current downward cycle.

Morgan Stanley also argued on Monday that $20 oil was possible if the United States dollar made rapid gains. Analysts at Barclays cut their outlook for oil and copper prices. They still predicted oil would rebound in the second half of 2016, but set an average price of $37 a barrel this year, down from previous forecasts of $56 to $60.

“Recent price declines for major commodities are now greater than in any crisis of the past 30 years and speculative positioning much more negative than it was even in the depths of the financial crisis,” according to a research note by Barclays. “That suggests that although the price outlook is weaker than it was previously, the road ahead could be a very bumpy one.”

At the same time, the drop in oil is pushing down prices at the gas pump. The average retail price fell to $1.96 a gallon, according to the AAA motor club, down from $2.14 a gallon a year ago.

Oil’s decline in the last year was caused in part by the decision by Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest producer, not to reduce production. This fundamental change in oil market discipline was meant to force out high-cost energy producers, particularly shale producers in the United States, by driving down prices.

But the decision backfired on Saudi Arabia and other producers, which are now confronting a much higher burden of financing their oil-dependent economies.

Among a raft of new economic measures, the Saudi government is considering selling its energy assets. Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company, confirmed last week that it was studying selling shares to the public in its upstream business or its refining and petrochemical companies.

The prospect of opening Aramco to investors was first made public by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, 30, in an interview with the magazine The Economist.

According to a statement by Aramco last week, the company’s review is part of the kingdom’s economic reform program.

Separately, coal mining companies have been struggling as demand declines. The drop in energy prices and stricter environmental regulations have made natural gas a much more attractive competitor to coal in the United States.

Arch Coal, which bought the International Coal Group for $3.4 billion at the peak of the market, said Monday that it would seek Chapter 11 protection to reduce $4.5 billion of debt. The decision is not a big surprise after Arch Coal delayed an interest payment due in December.

The company said it expected its mining operations and shipments to continue. It said it had an agreement with more than 40 percent of its first-lien lenders for its debt-cutting plan and enough cash to run operations through the process.

John W. Eaves, the company’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement that a court-supervised process was the best way to strengthen its balance sheet.

“With oil prices collapsing, renewables on the rise and coal companies going bankrupt, we are at a key inflection point in the energy transition,” said Michael Webber, deputy director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. “Inflection points produce a lot of uncertainty and volatility for investors.” (Contributor: By Jad Mouawad for The New York Times - Clifford Krauss and Andrew E. Kramer contributed reporting.)

Happy New Year? It’s not so certain financially. How to pray? While a lower gasoline price means good news for drivers, still the economic picture in the U.S. and globally since 2016 trading began on Jan. 4 represents volatility, uncertainty, and downward trends. Intercede for God’s purposes to prevail. As human resources fail, man’s deep need for God becomes more evident. Pray!

 “For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations,’ … says the Lord of hosts. The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Hag 2:6-8)    

10 REASONS PLANNED PARENTHOOD SHOULD BE PERMANENTLY DEFUNDED

Here are 10 reasons why a civilized nation that cares about the rights of women and children ought to support the permanent defunding of Planned Parenthood.

The organization's widespread corruption should be particularly concerning to human rights activists and taxpayers in general, who are forced to pay for the 'services' Planned Parenthood performs.

  1. Planned Parenthood takes the lives of over 300,000 innocent children every year.

A baby at only 7 weeks, 4 days — when many abortions take place. (See www.ehd.org for more scientifically accurate photos and videos.)

If we are indeed a humane nation, the last organization we taxpayers should be funding is one that so cavalierly takes the lives of innocent human beings day after day, with no remorse.

  1. Planned Parenthood has broken numerous federal and state laws.

The baby parts scandal at Planned Parenthood (first revealed by CMP's investigative footage over the summer) has drawn attention to the rampant lawbreaking at PP. In "A guide to how Planned Parenthood is breaking the law," Live Action News breaks down exactly how PP is killing babies who survive abortion attempts, selling baby body parts for apparent profit, illegally changing abortion procedures for the purpose of harvesting and selling these same baby body parts, committing partial-birth abortions, likely participating in criminal conspiracy, and much more.

  1. Planned Parenthood continues to fail minor girls, turning them back to their abusers after profiting off their suffering.

In September, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) released a detailed, researched report on Planned Parenthood's cover-up of child sexual abuse in at least seven states.

After this, it came out that Planned Parenthood has also been failing to report the potential abuse of minor girls in an eighth state — Pennsylvania. In Colorado, Planned Parenthood paid out a large, secret settlement to a 13-year-old girl's mother after a judge commented that PP's conduct with the girl was so outrageous that punitive damages would be appropriate.

  1. Planned Parenthood commits Medicaid and taxpayer fraud.

The report outlines how 45 public audits of Planned Parenthood affiliates, along with 57 audits of state family planning programs, found waste, fraud, and abuse to the tune of $129.7 million.

In addition to uncovering taxpayer fraud at Planned Parenthood, ADF also discovered that Planned Parenthood has engaged in improper billing with Medicaid, billing in excess of the actual cost, billing for services that were not necessary, and making duplicate bills. Planned Parenthood's Medicaid fraud contributed to the total amount of all improperly billed federal Medicaid payments in the nation, which equaled $14.4 billion in 2013 alone.

  1. Planned Parenthood acts as though it is above the law and pretends it shouldn't have to answer to the people.

When asked to testify before Congress, Planned Parenthood complains that the questions are uncivil, "sexist" and that the questioning continues for too long. When Ohio discovers that PP is violating health laws, PP sues the state — accusing it of trying to outlaw abortion. When subpoened by a state senate committee that is reviewing abortion practices in Missouri, PP decides it doesn't have to comply. No matter that the taxpayers gave over $1.5 billion to PP in a mere three years, the abortion giant insists by its actions that it doesn't have to answer to anyone and is free to do as it pleases.

  1. Planned Parenthood lies to the American public about fetal development, mammograms, and its own business practices.

This one is rather tiresome, because PP eagerly spouts lies almost every chance it gets, but check reports and videos herehere, and here.

  1. Planned Parenthood has widespread health and safety violations at its locations throughout the country.

In Pennsylvania, PP stores baby parts in a janitor's closet. Illegal. In Florida, PP commits second-trimester abortions without the license to do so. Illegal. In Colorado, PP was caught on tape failing to warn a minor of serious health risks.

  1. Planned Parenthood breaks political donation laws, using taxpayer money to do so.

Live Action News reported: OpenSecrets.org, a left-leaning site that tracks political spending, has found three Planned Parenthood affiliates among the organizations who exceeded the legal limit on political spending between 2008 and 2013.

The IRS requires nonprofits that register as "social welfare" organizations to operate primarily for the promotion of social welfare, which means less than half of their total spending can be for political activity. But according to the report, Planned Parenthood St. Louis spent between 65.8% and 95.7% on political donations in the time period examined, Planned Parenthood in Orange and San Bernardino, California spent 56.6% in 2009, and Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocacy spent 51.2% in 2010.

  1. Planned Parenthood sends aborted baby remains to landfills instead of complying with state laws.

In Ohio, Planned Parenthood illegally dumps (or hires a company that dumps) aborted babies into landfills. In South Carolina, PP dumps aborted babies in a landfill (see a pattern here?) and is being fined for the violation. This information just recently came out when states investigated, which means it's likely that PP is doing the same thing illegally in many more states.

Of course, disposing of babies' aborted bodies in strange ways is nothing new to the abortion industry. At a secretly taped National Abortion Federation conference, abortion providers were caught sharing their "enthusiasm for the burning of aborted babies into 'energy' to power homes."

  1. Planned Parenthood can be replaced by effective health care providers.

Despite its claims, PP is not even close to the women's health care provider. While the abortion giant owns under 700 clinics around the nation, there are over 13,000 comprehensive health care providers (including CHCs) that specifically serve low-income women and their families — all without providing abortions. More details can be found here and here, and the 13,000 providers can be located at GetYourCare.org.

Despite PP's claims of serving women, this article details the incredibly small percentage of women who actually go to a PP. (Contributor: Kristi Burton Brown for Christian Post)

Pray for widespread distribution of this solidly researched, honest article by Kristi Burton Brown. These facts about a scurrilous, deceitful, and unconscionable organization must be circulated far and wide by all lovers of truth and life. Please intercede fervently, asking God, “How long will such evil power and authority be tolerated?” The leaders are not our enemies; they are blinded to the truth.

[God speaking as Wisdom:] “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 8:35-36)

OPEC CONSIDERING EMERGENCY ACTION ON OIL PRICES

Is the pain of low oil prices becoming unbearable for OPEC?

After watching the price of crude oil collapse by more than 65% to a 12-year low, there are signs that OPEC may have had enough.

Nigeria's top oil official and OPEC President Emmanuel Kachikwu said the cartel is considering an emergency meeting, perhaps as soon as next month. At issue is whether OPEC would agree to cut production, a move that could help stop the crude price freefall.

"I expect to see one. ... There's a lot of energy currently around that," he told CNN.

"I think a ... majority in terms of [OPEC] membership are beginning to feel that the time has come to ... have a meeting and dialogue again once more without the sort of tension that we had in Vienna on this."

When OPEC last met in the Austrian capital in December, it was bitterly divided and refused to cut output. The next ordinary meeting is scheduled for June 2.

Led by Saudi Arabia, OPEC decided in 2014 to wage a price war with low cost producers in the U.S. and elsewhere in a bid to defend market share.

Since then, oil companies have sacked hundreds of thousands of workers, and slashed investment budgets.

But the global supply glut continues, thanks in part to China's slowing economy, and prices have continued to tumble. A strong dollar, which makes oil more expensive around the world, has fueled the slump.

Oil prices fell toward $30 a barrel early on Tuesday, having plunged by 16% in 2016 alone, but steadied later to trade little changed on the day.

Many OPEC countries are still making money at these prices but others are losing -- Nigeria's production costs are estimated at about $31 a barrel, for example.

And all, including Saudi Arabia, are suffering a huge squeeze on government revenues.

Kachikwu said most OPEC members were watching their economies "being shattered," and something had to give.

"We need to... see how we can balance the need to protect our market share with the need for the survival of the business itself, and survival of the countries."

An emergency meeting is no guarantee that OPEC will act to restrain supply, however.

Iran is eager to boost production this year as soon as Western sanctions are lifted -- expected imminently -- and it's hard to see Saudi Arabia working with its big Mideast rival to support oil prices.

Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic relations with Iran last week after its embassy in Tehran was attacked. That attack followed Saudi Arabia's execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.

Still, the OPEC president believes an agreement of some form is possible.

"I think ultimately for the interest of everybody some policy change will happen," Kachikwu said. "Now will the amount of barrels that you can take out because of that policy change necessarily make that much of a dramatic difference? Probably not, but the symbolism of the action is even more important than the volumes that are taken out of the market." (Contributor: By John Defterios and Mark Thompson for CNN Money)

Intercessors no doubt find it interesting that oil — a “God-made” and not manmade product — is dominating news headlines and economic balance sheets almost daily. Pray for God’s merciful intervention and restraint on international greed. Of interest to Americans is whether the Iranian-Saudi Arabia conflict will escalate over oil production and exports. Intercede accordingly.

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

WHY ISRAEL HAS A RIGHT TO OPPOSE IRAN’S WEAPONIZATION

There is a long list of threatening statements made by Iranian leaders toward Israel indicating their commitment to destroy it at any price, and expel the Jews from their land.

Israel, more than the United States or any other country in the region, has been worried about Iran’s weaponization, applying tremendous pressure to block the Iranian path to nuclear weapons.

Though not directly involved in the negotiations with Iran, Israel has been a major player in framing the discussions as well in its effect on the development of the regime’s nuclear program.

It is worth noting that a significant proportion of the international determination to impose real sanctions on Iran stemmed from the need to dissuade Israel from using military force against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Israel’s threats were taken with the utmost seriousness, and without Israel’s actions Iran would today be much closer to possessing nuclear weapons.

Despite all Israel’s efforts, however, the recent nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and six world powers not only will not roll back Iran’s weaponization, but permits the regime to “break out” to nuclear-weapon capability when the deal expires (or earlier if Iran decides to violate it) and impairs Israel’s national security.

Israel opposes the deal as a “historic mistake.” Several factors justify its concern.

First, Israel is the only country that has been openly threatened with destruction by the Iranian leaders. From its earliest days, the Islamic Republic incorporated the struggle against Israel into its core mission. With the 1979 Revolution, an anti-Israeli stance became official policy and a central approach of the revolutionaries, who repudiated Israel’s right to exist. Ayatollah Khomeini promised that once Iran’s political situation stabilized, Iran would seriously plan a “historic victory over the Zionists.” Soon after, the slogans transformed into state policies.

There is a long list of threatening statements made by Iranian leaders toward Israel indicating their commitment to destroy it at any price, and expel the Jews from their land.

For example, in an address to the “World without Zionism” conference held in Tehran in 2005, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said: “Our dear Imam [Khomeini] ordered that this Jerusalem- occupying regime to be erased from the page of time.”

While Iranian leaders prior to Ahmadinejad also articulated their resentment of Israel, his statements highlighted the regime’s negation of Israel’s right to exist.

Even before Ahmadinejad, messianic pronunciations against Israel were made by other Iranian officials. In a Friday prayer sermon in 2001, former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani – now labeled a “moderate” – explicitly said he wasn’t concerned about fallout from an attack on Israel “if one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now.” Contrary to the conventional wisdom that no one can win a nuclear war, Rafsanjani argued that Iran could achieve victory, a clearest indication that the regime does not act upon cost-benefit analyses.

Second, there is a high possibility of such an ideological, messianic regime using nuclear weapons against Israel for messianic-ideological purposes. Moreover, as a force multiplier, nuclear weapons would allow Tehran to achieve its objectives even without using them. Tehran’s success in obtaining such weapons would alter the dynamics of the region, for the worse.

The regime operates in a manner that deviates from the principles of rationality that underlie nuclear deterrence, rending the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine invalid. The deterrence of a nuclear Iran would consequently require complicated measures, and expose Israel to an immense risk of nuclear war. Because of the integration of religious elements into politics and the leadership of “fanatics,” irrational Iran cannot be relied upon to abide by any agreement. Thus, it must be stopped from developing nuclear weapons – even if it takes military force to do so.

Third, from the perspective of deterrence, with a very high probability it will be impossible to deter a nuclear-armed Iran if centrally-seated decision-makers have internalized a deeply Shi’ite understanding of the world. While the West will be deterred by a nuclear-armed Iran, Tehran may perceive its own bomb not as a deterrent but as a facilitator of a unique eschatological opportunity for the God-promised worldwide rule of Shi’ite Islam. Even if one presumes that it is unlikely nuclear weapons will ever be used by Iran, the mere possession of such weapons would enable it to take more aggressive actions against Israel without fear of consequence.

Fourth, Iran’s leadership operates in an environment that is unsupportive of deterrence regimes, making it difficult for its decision-makers to maintain stability, even if they themselves are rational individuals. Iran’s national security decision-making system comprises multiple organizations with overlapping areas of responsibility. Known as negotiated political order, it features an array of state and parastatal power centers engaged in endless struggles for turf and influence that are chaotic and fluid, with opaque lines of authority, which increases the risks of misperceptions or miscalculations.

After all, errors in information or miscalculation could still lead a perfectly rational adversary to strike first.

Fifth, Iran’s provocative rhetoric is strengthened by its open-handed support for Palestinian resistance forces through the supply of financial and military aid. A nuclear capacity will reinforce Iran’s status as the backbone of radical elements in the region, making it far more dangerous than it is today. Bear in mind that the current regime is already the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism; a “nuclear umbrella” would make its victims reluctant to retaliate.

Sixth, a more plausible concern is that a nuclear-armed Iran could deter Israel from defending itself against terrorist groups who seek Israel’s destruction, and radical Islamic regimes who do not recognize Israel’s right to exist. Iran’s weapons would make them feel emboldened to take more aggressive actions against the Jewish state, assuming that they are protected by a nuclear- armed Iran.

Seventh, a nuclear Iran would further radicalize the Middle East, leading to Israel facing more enemies that are not interested in political compromise, but are instead motivated by religious extremism with which there can be no conciliation.

Eighth, proliferation in Iran will lead to proliferation throughout the region, impairing Israel’s national security.

The recent announcement that the Saudis will acquire nuclear technology from South Korea was, in effect, a declaration that Riyadh will pursue its own nuclear weapons.

For the time being, the Saudis and Israel are on the same page against the idea of a nuclear Iran, yet a nuclear- armed Saudi Arabia would be another danger to the interests of Israel.

For all of these reasons, Israel should preserve its right to take any necessary action to stop Iran’s weaponization. (Contributor: By Farhad Rezaei for The Jerusalem Post - The writer is a Middle East and Iran analyst.)

This compilation of information helps focus our prayers for Israel. None of the author’s eight points is breaking news, but all praying friends of Israel will appreciate the summary. Along with many prayer needs in our own nation, those following our midweek alerts know IFA prays seriously and devotedly for Israel as a friend and ally. Pray for Israel’s protection and ultimate reconciliation to God.

“He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Ps 46:9-10)

VOTERS URGED TO VOCALIZE AFTER THE VETO

In the wake of a presidential veto last week, pro-life Americans are being encouraged to focus on the upcoming federal election and vote into office those who will defend the lives of the unborn.

Last week President Obama vetoed the reconciliation bill passed by both houses of Congress. That legislation would have dropped key components of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ObamaCare), including the fee in policies to pay for others' abortions, and temporarily stopped most of the federal dollars going to Planned Parenthood.

Arina Grossu of the Family Research Council tells OneNewsNow that now is the time for the public to let President Obama know how they feel about his veto action.

"He did it very quietly, but it's not going to get past the public who care about unborn babies and everyone who's been so disappointed and astonished at all of the findings of Planned Parenthood," she predicts. "And so I think that they need to make their voice heard and their displeasure known."

Jim Sedlak of American Life League says the president's veto wasn't unexpected. "But what it demonstrates against is that in the United States you can buy the White House," he emphasizes.

"Planned Parenthood spent millions of dollars to get Obama elected the first time [and] spent millions more to be him elected the second time – and Obama feels that he owes Planned Parenthood."

Sedlak, Jim (American Life League)That needs to stop, says Sedlak. "It's time that the American people to elect people of ethical value who will do what's right," he says, "[people] who will follow the lead of the American people and who will stop the slaughter of our children."

Grossu agrees, saying the only sure way to get the reconciliation bill passed and signed into law is to make ensure pro-life candidates have the majority in Congress and occupy the White House.

"So I hope that this is a good push for the general public to continue to fight for a pro-life president and make sure that we rally around whoever the candidate is and vote," she offers….

A veto override vote is set for January 22, but the two-thirds' vote necessary is not expected. (Contributor: By Charlie DeButts for One News Now)

Analysts agree that the reconciliation bill sent to President Obama was a test launch doomed to fail, yet providing a precedent for what can and will succeed in a conservative administration. It’s not too early to pray for the elections in 10 months. Join IFA’s campaign, “Get Out the Prayer-2016.” Go to IFApray.org for resources, and pray for God’s will to prevail and for pro-life candidates to emerge.

“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)

FOUNDATION: IRS WITHDRAWS PROPOSED REGULATION

The Foundation for Moral Law, a Montgomery-based legal foundation dedicated to the defense of the United States Constitution and the right to religious liberty, hailed the Internal Revenue Service decision to withdraw a proposed regulation as a victory for nonprofits and religious freedom.

Late in 2015, the IRS proposed a regulation by which churches and other nonprofit organizations would collect and report the Social Security numbers of donors who give more than $250. But when the IRS proposal was placed on the regulation.gov website, over 34,000 persons and organizations posted comments, the overwhelming majority of them strongly against the proposal. Accordingly, last week the IRS announced that it was scrapping the proposal.

John Eidsmoe, Senior Counsel for the Foundation for Moral Law, posted comments opposing the proposed regulation. He noted that the regulation would impose an extra record-keeping burden on nonprofits, and that collecting, recording, and transferring this information could result in errors that would create confusion rather than clarity. He added that the proposal comes at a time when identity theft is a major concern and people are being cautioned not to give out their Social Security numbers except when absolutely necessary. He warned that the proposal could have a chilling effect on giving, and that donors might refuse to donate or keep their donations below $250 to avoid identity theft.

Foundation President Kayla Moore expressed her appreciation to all who spoke out against the proposed regulation, saying, "The IRS decision to withdraw this proposed regulation demonstrates that 'we the people' can get results when we speak out with a strong and united voice. The Foundation for Moral Law pledges to continue its mission as the guardian of religious liberty and constitutional freedom." (Contributor: By John Eidmoe for Christian News Wire)

Give thanks for “the voice of the people” prevailing in this instance. The IRS proposal was nothing more than harassment and a frontal attack on religious liberty. Pray that the next U.S. administration will refrain from using the IRS as a weapon against the people’s freedom and that a fair tax code will replace today’s labyrinth of details that many dutiful agents confess they do not understand.

“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.’ And they marveled at Him.” (Mark 12:17)

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The Informer January 6, 2016

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MISSISSIPPI RIVER FLOODING PUSHES DOWNSTREAM

Residents in Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana are on alert as historic winter flooding pushes downstream on the Mississippi River, while those in the Midwest are starting to dry out their flooded homes and belongings.

At least 29 people were killed on the rainy side of Winter Storm Goliath, as floodwaters rose in Missouri, southern Illinois, eastern Oklahoma and Arkansas. Though the exact number isn't known, the floods pushed thousands from their homes.

Floodwaters have started to recede in some of those areas, but all that water is moving down the Mississippi, putting others at risk.

Here's what we know about the flooding impacts across several states.

Illinois

The Illinois River continued to rise Saturday and could near historic crests Tuesday or Wednesday, Thomas Spriggs, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in St. Louis, told the Decatur Herald-Review.

"It's still a very significant flood," he said Saturday. "It's going to be at major flood stage for the next three days."

Floodwaters are receding in other parts of the state, leaving residents such as Sharon Stivers of Kincaid to clean up. Stivers musters a smile as she surveys a tall stack of water-soaked furniture, appliances and belongings pulled from her home and piled high by the road in the flat central Illinois town of Kincaid.

"Welcome to my flood sale," she joked. "You can have the whole thing for 50 cents."

The Mississippi River and most other waterways in Missouri and Illinois flooded last week after 10 to 14 inches of rain fell over a wide swath of the two states.

Stivers and many of her neighbors spent Sunday removing ruined items from their homes and placing them along the street for trash crews to pick up. Stivers shares a home with a 45-year-old daughter battling breast cancer, along with a granddaughter and four dogs. Floodwaters encroached 4 feet into their home, located in an area where flood insurance wasn't available.

"I lost my home," Stivers said. "My daughter has cancer and lost her home. Am I mad? When I'm not crying I am."

In Illinois' St. Clair County near St. Louis, emergency management director Herb Simmons said damage assessment began Sunday after the Mississippi started to fall. Though water reached higher than 1993, this flood wasn't as bad, Simmons said.

"In '93 that water came up and stayed on the levees for several months," Simmons said. "This flood came up quick and went down quick."

Louisiana

While the Red River crested over the weekend, officials are keeping residents informed about the Mississippi, which continues to rise in some areas, according to the Associated Press.

The state Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness activated its crisis action team to monitor requests for state assistance from parishes and was closely monitoring river levels and levees.

“River flooding is an emergency that requires constant monitoring and adjustment as the situation evolves,” emergency director Kevin Davis said in a statement.

The Mississippi River level surpassed 35 feet at Baton Rouge Tuesday morning, entering minor flood stage. It was expected to rise into moderate flood stage in the coming days.

In New Orleans, the river was at about 14 feet, several feet below its 17-foot flood stage. The river may rise above flood stage in New Orleans by next weekend or early next week, which may require opening of the Bonnet Carré Spillway to divert excess Mississippi River flood water into Lake Pontchartrain and protect the city of New Orleans, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

This could also require activation of the Morganza Spillway in Pointe Coupee Parish to divert excess floodwater away from Baton Rouge. Unfortunately, opening this spillway would threaten flooding of 800 homes in Butte La Rose, KATC.com reported.

Gov. Bobby Jindal issued a state of emergency due to the imminent flooding of the Mississippi and Red rivers.

Mississippi

The Mississippi River reached flood stage at Natchez over the weekend and is expected to continue to rise. The river is probably rising a foot or two a day, said National Weather Service meteorologist Latrice Maxie in Jackson.

Some smaller towns along the river near Vicksburg are getting backwater flooding from streams that cannot drain into the high river, Maxie said. In the Kings community, resident Ivera Kelly, who was forced from her home for eight weeks by the 2011 flood, told the Clarion-Ledger that this will be the last time she battles the rising river.

“I really don’t think I’m coming back," she said. "I love this house. It’s my home. But I’m tired of moving.”

Herman Smith, Vicksburg Bridge Commission Superintendent, already has his crew pulling electrical fixtures out of their workshop, according to WJTV.com. Right now, water levels are just over 42 feet. Anything over 44 feet will cover the floor in Smith’s shop.

“We are expecting to get it within a foot of the ceiling, if not over the ceiling in our break room," he told the station. "So we don’t want to ruin those fixtures by leaving them in there,” Smith said.

Cattle farmer Sherwood Lyons and his wife, Melissa, worried that high water might force them to move their herd of 250 off the levee near Vicksburg.

“If we do have to move them, it’ll put us out of business,” he told the Vicksburg Post. “We’ll have to sell out because we don’t have anywhere to put them.”

Bally's Casino in Tunica has temporarily closed due to the threat of flooding, WREG.com reported.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant issued a state of emergency last week in preparation for potential flooding that covers all counties along the Mississippi, its tributaries and any other affected parts of the state.

“We are told this flood will be just below the historic record flood of 2011,” Bryant said in a statement. “Our citizens have time to prepare and should begin taking actions now.”

Missouri

Another flood-related death has been reported in Missouri, even as residents begin to clean up from last week's historic high water.

The body of 40-year-old Rickey G. Lerma, of Risco, was found Thursday morning in the St. Francis River after he fled from officers, KFVS-TV reported. Police say Lerma bailed out of his vehicle when it stalled while he attempted to cross a flood zone. A police dog later found him swimming along the flooded river, but Lerma refused orders to return to land.

The Central Baptist Church in Eureka, Missouri is serving as a central donation pick up and drop off for those impacted by flooding.

Elsewhere in the state, residents continue to clean up after President Barack Obama signed a declaration Saturday officially proclaiming an emergency in Missouri. The declaration will provide federal aid for state and local response efforts and authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate relief and cleanup efforts.

"I'm from this part of the state and, quite frankly, it's almost hard to believe," Missouri governor Jay Nixon told CNN. "It's almost as if you're living on some other planet."

In Eureka, where more than four dozen water rescues took place, donations of food, clothing, and bottled water are being collected at the Central Baptist Church, to help anyone impacted by the flooding.

Jason Peck of Eureka was one of those, CNN reported. Though his family had placed sandbags around their home, Peck returned home after evacuating to find nearly 4 feet of murky water had destroyed several rooms, including his son's bedroom.

Peck's son has not seen what's left of his bedroom, but recalling the damage brought Peck close to tears.

"We heard it was coming," he told CNN. "I didn't believe it was going to get like this."

Tennessee

Floodwaters have closed Second Street in Memphis, WREG.com reported, from Whitney and Mud Island Drive and also the access road to the Stiles Water Treatment Plant, in response to reports that the Mississippi is expected to crest at 40.5 feet on Friday.

Water is also lapping at some homes on Mud Island, the station says, but those homes are raised, so there is not a concern of water getting inside at this time.

A press release from the Shelby County Office of Preparedness announced that the water from the Mississippi River have been rising and affecting Memphis and Shelby County neighborhoods, and has released maps of areas which may flood.

Emergency responders have been sent to inspect areas such as Mud Island, where high water has been spotted near homes on Running River Place, River Landing Drive, Harbor Isle Circle North and Marina Cottage Drive.

“We’re closely monitoring these areas along with law enforcement officers and fire department companies. Right now, all main roads are open. Still, people need to be on the lookout. We don’t want anyone trapped by high water,” said Office of Preparedness director Dale Lane. (Contributor: By Sean Breslin for Weather Channel)

Last summer we prayed about severe western drought, and now the focus is on unexpected tornadoes, blizzards, and multi-state flooding. Are these just random acts of global adjustment or is there deeper spiritual meaning? In this election year, pray now for God to give our country a president who will not hesitate to call the nation to repentance and prayer as earlier chief executives have done.

“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)

ISLAMIC STATE LOOKS TO STEP UP CYBERTERROR ATTACKS

The Islamic State currently lacks the capability of launching a sophisticated cyberattack against the United States, but experts and officials say the terror group is striving towards being able to cripple America’s critical infrastructure as it recruit computer-savvy extremists.

Hack attacks attributed thus far to the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, have been more akin to online vandalism than a full-fledged cyber assault, but insiders agree that the group is intent on increasing its cyber capabilities as it struggles to gain new ground in its fight against the United States and its allies.

“The capability’s not there and that’s why we’re seeing these low-level attacks of opportunity,” Alex Kassirer, a terrorism analyst with the U.S.-based Flashpoint cybersecurity firm, told Politico this week. “But that’s not to say it’s going to be that way going forward. They’re undoubtedly working on cultivating those skills.”

The U.S. assistant secretary of homeland security for infrastructure protection has said that Islamic State hackers have already attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to wage real damage against America’s electrical grid, and online forums frequented by terror suspects and sympathizers are ripe with discussions where aviation and nuclear sector targets are routinely discussed, Flashpoint said.

“I see them already starting to explore things that are concerning, critical infrastructure, things like that,” FBI Director James Comey said previously of the group. “The logic of it tells me it’s coming, and so of course I’m worried about it.

Up until now, however, the group’s attacks have largely fallen flat; Islamic State and its supporters have so far been attributed with accomplishing not much more than having briefly taken over the social media accounts and websites of a handful of agencies and news outlets.

Experts warn that those attacks pose a problem nonetheless and are likely to only increase in severity.

“You’re dealing with a group that’s more unconstrained than [nation] states, China, Iran and so forth … that’s launched extraordinary terror attacks, beheadings, that sort of thing,” Dick Newton, a retired Air Force general who directed cyber policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Politico “They are willing to create havoc.”

A key figure within the Cyber Caliphate, a British hacker named Junaid Hussain, was killed in August in a U.S.-led airstrike, and American officials told reporters earlier this month that the Pentagon has already compiled a suite of cybertools to use against Islamic State targets of its own.

Last month, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced an additional investment of £1.9 billion, or roughly $2.8 billion, over the next five years towards cybersecurity measures that will be used to either defend or attack targets like the terror group.

“ISIL are already using the internet for hideous propaganda purposes; for radicalization, for operational planning too. They have not been able to use it to kill people yet by attacking our infrastructure through cyber attack. They do not yet have that capability. But we know they want it, and are doing their best to build it,” Mr. Osborne said. (Contributor: By Andrew Blake for The Washington Times)

Here is fertile ground to drench with intercessory tears. No nation is more capable than ours to bring ISIS to its knees or to disable its terrible violence and lawlessness (including persecution and genocide against Christian communities). However, few Americans seem to understand why President Obama, as Commander-in-Chief, is withholding a major military offensive. Pray as you are led and have insight.

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

TALKING TRUTH TO A SANCTUARY CITY

“Crime in Los Angeles rose in all categories in 2015, LAPD says” ominously declares the Los Angeles Times headline. But this isn’t a surprise to those of us who aren’t blinded by the false narratives and fantasy world of the American left.

Los Angeles is a sanctuary city, which describes policies including the shielding of criminal illegal immigrants who are wanted by the federal government. This is the circumstance which led to Kate Steinle’s murder in San Francisco by a criminal illegal immigrant who had been released by the country.

As President Obama’s illegal immigrant border surge began in 2014, the Department of Homeland Security (ironically) was charged with busing them inland from the border.

Anyone not deluded or a Democrat (but I repeat myself) knew this would facilitate not just an economic disaster, but an increase in gang and drug crimes. When combined with the criminal aliens’ attraction to cities that won’t cooperate with federal law enforcement, you create a slum of violence, a city that tells criminals the rule of law is fluid and vague.

“For the first time in more than a decade, all categories of crime rose across Los Angeles in 2015 as police struggled to get control of the problem,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “Police reported 280 homicides, up 10.2 percent from last year, and 1,097 shooting victims, a 12.6 percent increase. Rapes were up 8.6 percent and robberies rose 12.3 percent, while the biggest change came in the category of aggravated assault, which climbed 27.5 percent.”

All divisions of the LAPD reported an increase in all crime, violence and property offenses. Yet never is the elephant in the city mentioned: the impact of an open border and the horrific impact a sanctuary city has on the quality of life for all residents.

I was amused with how the Los Angeles Times managed to report on this horrifying increase in every single category of crime, yet still pondered quizzically about the cause. You could almost see how twisted their tidy-whities had become. Dutifully we’re told to keep the increase “in perspective”; that a new, more efficient way of counting crime may be to blame; that, hey, crime is still lower than it was in 1990.

The local NPR affiliate went so far as to report, “Criminologists say it’s not necessarily time to worry.” Not exactly a confidence-building comment. The truth is, when you see a pattern and people are being murdered, raped and assaulted, that is the time to worry, admit the problem and act to reverse it.

The reaction to the surge of crime in Los Angeles is like seeing the emergence of, oh the Islamic State terror group, but then pretending it’s really no big deal in an effort to preserve your political narrative. The longer you let the lie prevail, the more devastating, and uncontrollable, the problem becomes. Sound familiar?

In the politically correct world of Los Angeles, the Times does manage to let slip a few clues as to the issue at hand, noting the jump in “gang-related homicides” in certain “southside neighborhoods.” The LAPD, we’re assured, is partnering with “gang intervention workers.” Touted is the city spending an extra $5.5 million for their Gang Reduction & Youth Development program.

How and why there are so many more violent gang members is never broached. Perhaps Los Angelenos were bitten by mosquitoes transforming them suddenly into gangbangers. And if you listen carefully enough, city leadership sounds strangely like Sgt. Schultz from “Hogan’s Heroes,” muttering under their breath, “Nothing! We know nothing!”

Beyond the liberal world of unicorns, rainbows, gangs and murder, we do know a few things.

According to the National Review, “It is estimated that fully half of America’s 41 million immigrants have settled in just five metropolitan areas: New York City–Newark, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and San Francisco–Oakland. According to data from the Center for Immigration Studies, every one of these cities and their surrounding counties has sanctuary policies of some kind. Considering the illegal-alien pull factor of these policies, which Kate Steinle’s murderer admitted to, it’s unsurprising that the immigrant populations of these sanctuary cities includes many who are here illegally.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was asked after the Steinle murder if it prompted him to review his city’s sanctuary policy. He said no, the Washington Examiner reported, ” ‘It is about establishing trust,’ Garcetti said. He instituted the policy in July 2014, following the enactment of California’s Trust Act, which narrowed the list of crimes under which local law enforcement authorities could detain immigrants for federal authorities.”

The National Review reminds us that, due to apportionment, the illegal immigrant population in New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, and Illinois provides Democrats with eight additional representatives in Congress. “More fundamentally,” says the National Review, “eight Electoral College votes could make a difference in a close election.”

The LAPD’s reported 19.9 percent increase in violent crime includes 280 homicides in 2015. How many of those were Kate Steinles? How many of the murders, rapes and assaults in Los Angeles were committed by illegal immigrant criminals who shouldn’t even have been in the country, let alone on the street?

2016 will be a year of change in many ways for the United States. Part of that change is to stop our families from becoming collateral damage as politicians jockey for more power and money. (Contributor: By Tammy Bruce for The Washington Times - Tammy Bruce is a radio talk show host and a Fox News contributor.)

What is left to say? If you are perplexed by these statistics, you are not alone. We must continue to intercede for better U.S. government for these cities that foment crime, and we must not lose heart. Some reports are hard to believe, and the reporter here exposes the “Sanctuary City” laws as being totally bogus, ineffective, and conducive to more violent crime, not less. Pray and plan to vote!  

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men… 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)

PEACEFUL PROTEST: NORWEGIAN EMBASSY JAN. 8

This Friday, January 8, hundreds of Romanian-Americans, along with other sympathetic Christians, will visit Washington, D.C. to protest peacefully in front of the Royal Norwegian Embassy. The specific focus is to protest the actions of the Barnevernet, the Norwegian Child Protection Services Agency, which on November 15, 2015, confiscated all five (5) children of a Romanian Pentecostal family residing in Norway on charges of abuse, though without any evidence.

IFA is publicizing this nearly unbelievable (but true) news story to ask for concerted intercessory prayer for the children, their parents, and for these peaceful protestors on Friday. We trust thousands will intercede, asking God to bring unbearable publicity to the situation so these child-snatchings will not stand but will be brought to an end.

The protest gathering is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. at the Norwegian Embassy on 34th Street, NW, Washington, D.C.

The case has sparked furor in the evangelical community in Romania, and in other Romanian communities throughout Europe and North American, due to the fact that children were initially taken into custody based on charges of “religious indoctrination,” while no evidence of any abuse, physical or emotional, has been presented. Nevertheless, a further utterly outrageous decision was made by the authorities to commence adoption proceedings, so all the children will be permanently removed from the parents.

Further investigation via Associated Press reports and other sources from inside Norway has revealed to IFA that such “confiscation” (literally, illegal kidnapping) by this so-called “protective” agency has resulted in not just a few isolated instances but thousands of children of immigrant families being taken away from their parents by government edict and, in many cases, never returned.

The details surrounding the case have gained widespread media attention in Romania, including on talk shows featuring popular Senator Ben-Oni Ardelean. The actions of the Norwegian authorities have been vociferously denounced by Romanian political leaders and others. The Barnevernet has garnered international outrage as well, but the decision to permanently separate the children from the parents — without any evidence of physical abuse — is shocking and a potentially dangerous precedent for religious freedom in Norway, and beyond.

A petition movement, launched on November 19, 2015 by a Romanian-American pastor in Chicago, drew immediate interest and participation. At present, more than 46,000 signatures have been noted, and that number may be higher by Friday’s Washington D.C. demonstration.

The children’s paternal grandparents and most of the relatives of the father reside in the U.S. and are all American citizens. For specific prayer, the family’s surname is Bodnariu. The children’s father is from Romania; his wife, the children’s mother, is Norwegian. The protest organizers expect hundreds of Romanian Americans to participate in the protest this Friday at the Norwegian embassy. (Contributors to this article include Dr. Peter Lucaciu, Founder of the Romanian Evangelistic Medical Mission (REMM); Mr. Victor Arnold-Bik, REMM board member; and IFA staff.)

IFA presents this urgent prayer need, asking intercessors to pray earnestly for the peaceful protest in front of the Royal Norwegian Embassy on Friday morning in Washington, D.C. and for favorable publicity to shine the light of truth on this horrendous practice of abducting children from innocent families on trumped-up charges. Pray for the Bodnariu family and for the return of all five children to their grieving parents.

“Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” (Matt 18:10-11)

SAUDI ARABIA CUT TIES WITH IRAN

Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran on Sunday and gave Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the kingdom, marking a swift escalation in a strategic and sectarian rivalry that underpins conflicts across the Middle East.

The surprise move, announced in a news conference by Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, followed harsh criticism by Iranian leaders of the Saudis’ execution of an outspoken Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, and the storming of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran by protesters in response.

The cutting of diplomatic ties came at a time when the United States and others had hoped that even limited cooperation between the two powers could help end the crushing civil wars in Syria and Yemen while easing tensions in Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon and elsewhere.

Instead, analysts feared it would increase sectarian divisions and investment in proxy wars. “This is a very disturbing escalation,” said Michael Stephens, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, a research center based in London. “It has enormous consequences for the people of the region, and the tensions between the two sides are going to mean that instability across the region will continue.

American officials have said the Saudi-Iranian split does not bode well for international peacemaking efforts that require the two powers to make compromises.

The United States called for dialogue, with the State Department spokesman, John Kirby, saying, “We believe that diplomatic engagement and direct conversations remain essential in working through differences and we will continue to urge leaders across the region to take affirmative steps to calm tensions.”

Secretary of State John Kerry, from his home in Idaho, spoke Sunday with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif. The two have a close relationship, developed while negotiating the Iranian nuclear accord. Officials would not describe the contents of the call, but it was clearly an effort to urge the Iranians not to escalate the situation further by retaliating.

Still, the prospects for accommodation appeared to have reached their lowest point in years. Saudi Arabia and Iran follow separate strands of Islam and have long been rivals for influence across the Middle East and beyond. That has accelerated in recent years as the Iraq war and the Arab Spring uprisings upturned the regional order and gave both nations new ways to extend their reach.

That put them on opposite sides of various conflicts, often divided by sect. In Bahrain, Saudi Arabia sent tanks to support the Sunni monarchy against protesters led by the island nation’s Shiite majority. In Syria, Iran has bankrolled the government of President Bashar al-Assad while Saudi Arabia has supported Sunni rebels seeking his ouster. And in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has led an air campaign against Shiite Houthi rebels.

Further straining tensions are Saudi concerns that the Iranian nuclear agreement could increase Tehran’s ability to spread its influence. And Iran remains angry over Saudi Arabia’s handling of a stampede during the hajj in September that left more than 2,400 pilgrims dead, including more than 450 Iranians, according to a count by The Associated Press.

But setting off the war of words that finally broke relations was Saudi Arabia’s execution on Saturday of Sheikh Nimr, who had called for the overthrow of the Saudi royal family and served as a spiritual leader for protesters from the kingdom’s Shiite minority. The Saudi government accused him of inciting violence and executed him with 46 others, most of them said to be members of Al Qaeda.

The reaction in the region generally broke cleanly along sectarian lines, with Shiite leaders criticizing the Saudis for killing a man they called a peaceful dissident, while Saudi Arabia’s Sunni allies applauded what they called the country’s efforts to fight terrorism.

Then late Saturday, protesters in Tehran ransacked the Saudi Embassy, and Iranian leaders turned up the rhetoric. “God’s hand of retaliation will grip the neck of Saudi politicians,” Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in comments reported on his official website.

The Iranians did, however, appear to take steps to prevent the dispute from escalating further, arresting 40 Iranians in the anti-Saudi mayhem.

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, condemned the execution, but said that the attacks on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and on the Saudi Consulate in Mashhad had damaged Iran’s reputation. “We do not allow rogue groups to commit illegal actions and damage the holy reputation of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said in a statement. Outside the Middle East, some criticized the Saudi justice system and the mass execution, the largest in the kingdom in decades.

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, said Saturday that he was “deeply dismayed” by the execution of Sheikh Nimr and the other men after “trials that raised serious concerns over the nature of the charges and the fairness of the process.” The European Union cited similar questions about “freedom of expression and the respect of basic civil and political rights.”

The Obama administration had appeared caught by surprise by the mass execution and scrambled at first to understand exactly who had been put to death. Privately several senior administration officials expressed anger at the Saudis, both for what one called “an apparent absence of due process” in the executions, and another for “negligent disregard” for how it could inflame the region. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the diplomatic engagement with both countries.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry responded to Iran’s criticism on Sunday by accusing it of “blind sectarianism” and of spreading terrorism. Hours later, Mr. Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, announced the ending of diplomatic ties at a news conference in Riyadh, saying the kingdom would not allow Iran to undermine its security. “The history of Iran is full of negative and hostile interference in Arab countries, always accompanied by ruin, destruction and the killing of innocent souls,” he said. Analysts said the split could further destabilize the region.

“These countries don’t trust one another, and they see every event as an opportunity to raise tensions,” said Abbas Kadhim, a senior foreign policy fellow at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Since Saudi Arabia and Iran both appear reluctant to attack each other directly, he worried that they would increase their investment in indirect confrontations elsewhere. “Both countries will try their best to try to fortify their proxies and their activities, which is going to create more trouble,” Mr. Kadhim said.

That risks derailing a new round of international peace talks aimed at ending the civil war in Syria, a process that Mr. Kerry has worked hard to get going.

The talks, meant to begin this month, were to be the first to bring together the Syrian government, the opposition and a range of countries that include Iran and Saudi Arabia.

“We’re obviously concerned this could blow up the process,” one senior Obama administration official said. “But it’s too early to say what the impact could be.”

Saudi officials have long said they think that Mr. Kerry’s effort is doomed to failure, and that was before Sunday’s diplomatic breach with Iran.

Still, Obama administration officials noted Iran’s efforts over the weekend to keep the situation on the streets from spinning out of control. “The Iranians, in this case, acted responsibly,” Michael Morell, the former deputy director of the C.I.A., said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “The police showed up very quickly. They made a number of arrests.”

Despite that, officials believe that the Sunni-Shiite proxy war that was already underway in Syria and Yemen may only grow more intense, at least for a while. And in coming weeks the United States and its negotiating partners in the Iran deal are preparing to carry out that accord, including an end to sanctions that have tied up more than $100 billion in Iranian assets frozen in overseas bank accounts. Critics are already arguing that will give Iran more money to fund the conflict in Syria and beyond.

Shortly after announcing the execution of Sheikh Nimr on Saturday, Saudi Arabia said it was ending a two-and-a-half-week-old cease-fire in Yemen that had never really taken hold.

Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign in Yemen almost 10 months ago, largely driven by fears that Iran was supporting the Houthi rebels who had driven the Yemeni government from power and sought to turn them into a proxy military force on the kingdom’s southern border.

But Western diplomats say the Saudis vastly overstated the Iranian role, at least at the war’s start. Nonetheless, a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition, backed by the United States, has killed thousands of civilians in airstrikes. The Houthis remain in control of large parts of the country, and the Saudi-led coalition has struggled to secure the areas it has managed to capture.

Peace talks held in Switzerland last month ended in failure, and there is little hope that a second scheduled to begin next week will deliver a better result. (Contributor: By Ben Hubbard for The New York Times)

Pray for wisdom and restraint. Stakes are high. The Middle East is a cauldron of boiling ill-will even among the various sects of Islamic religion and politics. Our government values its relationship with the Saudi “kingdom,” while Iran continues to seek domination. We are reminded of the words of our Lord concerning “wars and rumors of wars,” which seems applicable in the global situation.

“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.” (Matt 24:6)

GUN REGULATIONS TO REQUIRE MORE BACKGROUND CHECKS ON PURCHASES

Setting up a clash with Congress and gun rights groups in his final year in office, President Obama announced Monday that he was issuing regulations to require more background checks on gun purchases while proposing to hire hundreds more federal agents to enforce existing guns laws.

The administrative steps will include a crackdown on gun dealers who bill themselves as “collectors” or “personal sellers” but are actually engaged in the business of firearms sales, including transactions online, said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will require more of these dealers to obtain federal licenses, at the agency’s discretion, necessitating background checks on their sales.

The administration also will propose $500 million for expanded access to mental health services and, in a move that could raise privacy concerns, will seek to include’ mental health information on background checks for gun purchases.

Mr. Obama, who will formally announce the steps Tuesday at the White House, said his executive actions “will potentially save lives” without infringing on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.

The president said the gun measures won’t prevent every mass shooting but will “spare families the pain and the extraordinary loss that they’ve suffered as a consequence of a firearm getting in the hands of the wrong people.”

“The good news is that these are not only recommendations that are well within my legal authority in the executive branch, but they’re also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners, support and believe in,” Mr. Obama told reporters after receiving recommendations from Ms. Lynch, FBI Director James B. Comey and ATF Deputy Director Thomas Brandon.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Congress has already spoken on the issue of gun control by rejecting a proposal in 2013 to expand background checks for gun purchases.

“The president is at minimum subverting the legislative branch, and potentially overturning its will,” Mr. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said in a statement. “No president should be able to reverse legislative failure by executive fiat, not even incrementally. The American people deserve a president who will respect their constitutional rights — all of them. This is a dangerous level of executive overreach, and the country will not stand for it.”

The FBI will hire 230 examiners — an increase of 50 percent — to conduct the background checks on gun purchases. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System last year received 22.2 million requests for background checks, including about 3 million in December alone.

“We intend to make this system more efficient. The goal is keeping bad actors away from firearms,” Ms. Lynch said.

Mr. Obama’s budget for fiscal 2017 also will call for 200 more ATF agents to enforce existing laws. Beefing up the department’s budget has often met with a lack of enthusiasm in Congress.

The president also will require background checks for gun purchases conducted through a trust or corporation. Officials said the number of applications for such gun purchases has risen from about 900 in 2000 to more than 90,000 in 2014.

He also directed the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to conduct research into “smart gun” technology, “to explore potential ways to further its use and development to more broadly improve gun safety.”

Mr. Obama met with Democratic lawmakers at the White House to outline his plans.

As part of his lame-duck push on gun control, the president will hold a town-hall-style meeting on gun violence Thursday night at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, to explain his regulations. The prime-time event will be broadcast live on CNN.

Democrats and gun control groups have been pressing the White House to take action unilaterally since the Senate blocked the legislation on background checks in April 2013. Mr. Obama held a meeting last month with former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, head of Everytown for Gun Safety, which called on the president Monday to “hold high-volume sellers accountable for fueling the black market for guns that endangers our communities.”

The president said Monday that he is trying “to prevent the scourge of gun violence in this country.”

“Everybody here is all too familiar with the statistics,” Mr. Obama said. “We have tens of thousands of people every single year who are killed by guns. We have suicides that are committed by firearms at a rate that far exceeds other countries. We have a frequency of mass shootings that far exceeds other countries in frequency.”

But the number of gun deaths in the U.S. has been holding fairly steady at around 30,000 per year, and roughly two-thirds of those deaths are reported as suicides. FBI statistics show that the rate of gun deaths per capita in the U.S. is at its lowest level since 1960, when the agency began keeping track.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, met Monday with senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett and said later that the group had provided the White House with “very specific recommendations” to expand background checks on sales at gun shows or online and to crack down on “bad apple” dealers whose guns are used in a majority of crimes.

“These are real solutions that will have a dramatic impact on the devastating toll of gun violence in our nation, just by keeping guns out of the hands of the people we all agree should not have them and without infringing whatsoever on the right of a law-abiding citizen to safely buy or own guns,” Mr. Gross said.

Mr. Ryan said Washington should look at ways to address the mental illnesses that contribute to gun violence and enforce existing laws to prevent violent criminals from obtaining guns.

“Instead, the president is again targeting law-abiding citizens, intruding further into innocent Americans’ lives,” Mr. Ryan said. “At a time when the country wants the president to lead the fight against radical Islamic terror, this is yet another attempt to divide and distract from his failed policies.”

John R. Bolton, who served as ambassador to the United Nations in the George W. Bush administration, blasted Mr. Obama in an interview with NRA News for using the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, last month to justify more gun control.

“I think the biggest threat to national security is sitting in the Oval Office,” Mr. Bolton said. “He’s using any excuse, any pretext, any bright idea his staff can come up with to try and advance the gun control agenda.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Mr. Obama is taking executive action because “Congress has utterly failed in their responsibility.

“There are steps Congress can take that would not undermine the basic constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans,” Mr. Earnest said. “But Congress has refused.”

On the mental health aspects of the president’s actions, the White House said the Social Security Administration will begin the rule-making process to include information in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing firearms for mental health reasons.

The Department of Health and Human Services is finalizing a rule to remove legal barriers preventing states from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing guns for specific mental health reasons. (Contributor: By Dave Boyer for The Washington Times)

Ask God for wisdom as you pray about this matter. It is complex. American Christians are used to exercising their freedoms at will. It is not so in other countries. Yes, there are important constitutional questions (e.g., the Second Amendment). However, if an ungodly, onerous government disarms its citizens, even illegally, what will be the proper biblical response? Please pray as conscience dictates.

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” (Matt 10:16-20)

NC PASTOR DISARMS GUNMAN WITH PRAYER IN CHURCH

Sunday was absolutely a day of celebration at Heal The Land Outreach Ministries – just days after the pastor of the church managed to defuse a situation involving a gunman at the church.

It was a very frightening experience as a 57-year-old man walked in carrying the rifle in one hand, pointed up, and an ammo clip in the other hand.

The pastor and church members say what could have been a horrific tragedy on New Year’s Eve turned into another reason to give thanks.

Around 11:30 p.m. Thursday, Pastor Larry Wright, who is also a Fayetteville city councilman, was in the middle of sharing his New Year’s Eve sermon with about 60 people in the church.

He soon noticed a man enter the sanctuary, holding a rifle in the air. Wright says he immediately left the podium and confronted the stranger.

“He said, ‘I came here with some terrible things on my mind, I was going to do some bad things’,” Pastor Wright told WNCN.

Wright says you could feel the panic in the air.

Church members started screaming, others were running straight for the door.

“I was very scared I had my granddaughter with me and I just automatically grabbed her and braced her head so if any bullets would fly, I’d get the bullets and not my granddaughter,” said Janice Johnson, a church member.

Wright says the man calmly shared he’d been previously hurt by the church, recently released from prison and was also a veteran.

He then asked for prayers.

Wright took the gun away and called for other men to come and embrace the suspect.

“When I told the congregation, its OK, he wants prayer and I began to pray for him, and the power of God hit and he fell to his knees and began to cry and weep and he had his face on the ground,” Pastor Wright said.

After praying, the man sat down and listened to the rest of Wright’s sermon.

Wright says the man then apologized to the congregation and professed his faith in Christ.

“God stepped in and he moved on that young man’s heart and instead of him shooting and killing a whole lot of people, God touched his heart,” Pastor Wright said.

After the service, the man was led away by police.

Police say the man involved in this incident has not been charged. He’s now receiving treatment at a local facility. (Contributor: By Nate Rodgers for WNCN News)

This report leads us to give thanks! What a story of God’s grace and protection! We give thanks for Pastor Larry Wright and how he responded in faith and love to address the gunman. He could well have been the first victim of many. Instead, God led the angry gunman to “stand down,” to repent, and confess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Father God, may this become a pattern in the nation.

“The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.” (Nahum 1:7)

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The Informer December 16, 2015

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FOX SPOTLIGHTS MINNESOTA TOWN'S REBELLION AGAINST ANTI-CHRISTMAS ATHEISTS

Fox News Channel's Kelly Wright detailed on Wednesday's Fox & Friends First how Christians in Wadena, Minnesota launched a silent rebellion, after the nativity scene in their town's square was taken down due to the threat of a lawsuit from the atheist Freedom From Religion Foundation. Hundreds of Wadena residents set up nativity scenes outside their own homes once the Christmas creche was removed. Anchor Heather Nauert teased Wright's report by noting that "the latest battle in the war on Christmas ends in a way that no one expected. Let's just say the atheist who waged it in one Minnesota town certainly won't try this one again." Co-anchor Heather Childers led into the segment by touting the "the town's reaction to the out-of-control political correctness."

The correspondent quoted from the Christmas carol, "Away in a Manger," as he pointed out that "the manger, or nativity scene, symbolizes his birth — even in Wadena, Minnesota. But some complained the nativity in the center of town violated separation of church and state. The Freedom From Religion Foundation Wisconsin threatened to sue, so the town reluctantly took it down." He also included three soundbites from one of the organizers of the pro-nativity protest, Dani Sworski. The full transcript of Kelly Wright's report from the December 9, 2015 edition of Fox News Channel's Fox & Friends First:

HEATHER NAUERT: An unbelievable response to tell you about when a Minnesota town removes its nativity scene, after an atheist organization complained about it.

HEATHER CHILDERS: Hundreds of residents are now putting up their own nativities.

And Kelly Wright is here with the town's reaction to the out-of-control political correctness. Good morning, Kelly.

KELLY WRIGHT: 'Out of control' — it might be, actually, in control. There are more than two billion Christians in the world who celebrate Christmas as one of the most sacred seasons of the year, because it celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. And while some around the world are persecuted by ISIS these days — well, Christians in Minnesota are saying they're not going to let some Scrooge ruin their Christmas by taking it away a public symbol of Jesus' birth.

'Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little lord Jesus lay down his sweet head.' It's a Christmas carol that describes the biblical story of the birth of Christ; and the manger, or nativity scene, symbolizes his birth — even in Wadena, Minnesota. But some complained the nativity in the center of town violated separation of church and state. The Freedom From Religion Foundation Wisconsin threatened to sue, so the town reluctantly took it down.

DANI SWORSKI, NATIVITY SCENE OWNER: I feel like they're just trying to — to bully our faith away.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: There was a threat that the nativity not even being able to get up this year.

WRIGHT: But some of the town folk said Jesus is the reason for the season, so they put up their own displays — hundreds of nativity scenes now everywhere throughout Wadena.

Dani Sworski's family made their own nativity years ago — not because of religion, but because of their faith.

SWORSKI: I love that it was made as a family, because it's everything — it's everything that we base our every day around.

WRIGHT: Sworski and others are even using social media now — posting pictures on Facebook page 'Wadena Nativity Display.'

SWORSKI: I've pictures up and down our Facebook wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2: The nativity — you know, it's emblematic of a — of a moment in history that — that we think changed the world.

WRIGHT: So, in the end, the people of Wadena can sing 'Joy to the World.' Back to you.

NAUERT: Kelly Wright — Kelly, thank you. (Contributor: By Matthew Balan for MRC NewsBusters)

Give thanks for this story! Although Wadena, Minnesota officials were intimidated by the atheists’ threat, many Christians of the town turned it for good and drew national attention to the meaning of Christmas. Thank God for the attention given to “Away in a Manger” and for the Fox News coverage of the event. Pray that God will reveal Himself and that many, including atheists, will be saved.

“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born off a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Gal 4:4)

KANSAS JUDGES DEBATE IF ABORTION ALLOWED BY STATE CONSTITUTION

A Kansas judge’s ruling on a new abortion law led to an unusual full-court hearing [last] Wednesday on the overarching question of whether the Kansas Constitution contains a right to abortion.

The 90-minute court hearing before the Kansas Court of Appeals did not reveal the 14 judges’ thinking, said one pro-life leader, but the judges’ upcoming ruling could have a major impact on state abortion laws: If it finds a constitutional right to abortion in the state constitution, it could lead to invalidation of other state abortion laws.

The appellate court was asked to consider two questions: Does the Kansas Constitution contain a “fundamental right to abortion” — as asserted by Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks in his June 30 ruling that temporarily blocks enforcement of the new Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act — and, secondly, did Judge Hendricks properly interpret federal law concerning states’ rights to regulate abortion.

Kansas Solicitor General Stephen McAllister argued that the Kansas Constitution does not have a right to abortion, and that the Kansas Supreme Court has not found such a right.

“Not one [opinion] in 150 years has found a right to due process,” Mr. McAllister said, referring to the legal basis typically used in arguing abortion rights, according to The Topeka Capital-Journal.

Mr. McAllister further argued that Judge Hendricks misapplied federal law to the new law. It is legal because it bans a specific method — but not all methods — of a second-trimester abortion and properly reflects the state’s right to promote respect for life, including the lives of the unborn.

The dismemberment law generally forbids abortion doctors from slicing, cutting and tearing apart a living fetus. Such dilation and extraction (D&E) abortions — typically used on fetuses that are 12 to 22 weeks gestation — are “gruesome” and “barbaric,” say pro-life advocates.

Other types of D&E abortions would remain legal, including those that use suction only and those performed on a dead fetus.

Two Kansas abortion providers, Dr. Herbert Hodes and Dr. Traci Nauser, successfully sued to block the law in Judge Hendricks’ court.

Their attorney, Janet Crepps of the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), argued Wednesday that Judge Hendricks correctly saw a right to abortion in the Kansas Constitution’s protection of individual liberty.

“It’s important to have the Kansas courts recognize these rights under the Kansas Constitution,” Ms. Crepps said.

Genevieve Scott, a staff attorney at CRR, said she thought the hearing went “extremely well,” and she felt confident at least eight judges would find a right to abortion in the state constitution. This would overturn the new law as unconstitutional, she added.

Kathy Ostrowski, legislative director for Kansans for Life, said the abortion doctors are “trying to break new ground. They want the court to be an activist court, and they found at least one [district] court that was willing.” But Kansas case law “does not uphold” Judge Hendrick’s ruling, she said.

Still, a lot is at stake with the case given the overarching constitutional question, said Ms. Ostrowski. The judges did not reveal their thinking, which leaves “both sides wondering” what they will decide, she said.

Chief Justice Thomas Malone said he and his colleagues would rule “as soon as we can.” (Contributor: By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times - This article is based in part on wire service reports.)

Please continue to pray for this vitally important “life and death” issue. A number of pro-life leaders believe abortion will be outlawed ultimately in the U.S. through state-by-state legislation, and this case may create momentum in that direction. Repentance and revival in the Church will open the door for God’s mercy on our land and to stem the tide of killing the innocent unborn through abortion.

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood….” (Isa 54:1-3a)

CONGRESS APPROVES REWRITE OF NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, RETURNS CONTROL TO STATES

Congress approved a rewrite of the No Child Left Behind education law Wednesday as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle linked arms to retreat from expansive national tests and return to states the decisions on how students, teachers and schools will be judged.

The bill keeps federal math and reading standards in place but prohibits Washington from pushing specific standards on states as preconditions for federal funding — a provision directly aimed at Common Core, a set of standards that conservatives hold up as an example of federal overreach.

It did not go as far as many conservatives hoped in boosting school choice, but Republican leaders, who controlled the writing of the bill, said they had to make compromises to win support of Democrats and President Obama, who indicated he would sign the legislation.

The 85-12 vote in the Senate, which follows passage in the House, also marks another major policy bill to emerge from Congress this year.

“Some questioned whether Washington could ever agree on a replacement for No Child Left Behind. They needn’t question any longer,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

Passed in 2001, the last major education policy rewrite was a centerpiece of President George W. Bush’s agenda. It pushed schools to be more accountable to parents by requiring them to adopt standards and use tests to assess how well they were meeting those standards. Parents armed with these reports could then evaluate their children’s schools.

Billions of dollars in federal aid were promised to schools that performed poorly, but continued failures resulted in overhauls.

Teachers, parents, students, school board members and politicians of all kinds said the law ended up forcing schools to test too often and to teach to tests rather than helping students master subjects.

After years of falling short, lawmakers credited this year’s success to bipartisan buy-in from key players who were willing to give a little to get a little, resulting in an overarching package that had something for everyone.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican, contrasted the effort with Democrats’ push in 2009 and 2010 to muscle Obamacare through Congress without a single vote from Republicans, leading to a nonstop repeal campaign.

“This is a different kind of debate. … People aren’t going to be trying to repeal it,” said Mr. Alexander, who drafted the bill with Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat. “Governors, school board members, teachers are going to be able to implement it, and they’ll go to work doing it. They’ll be deciding what tests to give, what schools to fix and how to fix them, what the higher academic standards ought to be, what kinds of tests should be there.”

Among labor unions, the American Federation of Teachers said the final product maintained the 2002 law’s focus on children from low-income families in underperforming districts while “slamming the door” on federally mandated testing that demoralized students, parents and teachers alike.

Neal McCluskey, an education analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, said the bill rolls back “overt” aspects of federal control, such as yearly progress testing and efforts to force states into embracing Common Core, although “it seems to allow the secretary of education to reject state accountability plans he does not like, possibly creating coercion by veto.”

“I think the passage is very significant in that it is clearly about reining in out-of-control federal force,” he said. “I’m not sure the bill would do that in practice to the extent some supporters are saying, but it is big to see politicians of both parties feeling compelled to pull the feds back.”

The legislation provides $250 million per year in grants to states that want to expand access to preschool, encourages states to replicate effective charter school models and requires states to bolster the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools and “high school dropout factories.”

Patrick McGuinn, a politics professor at Drew University in New Jersey, said some states will use their newfound flexibility to innovate and find creative ways to improve education, while others might “go back in time” and devote little energy to lifting up students who fall behind.

“That’s federalism in action,” he said.

All opposition votes came from Senate Republicans, who said the final product allowed the federal government to retain too large of a footprint in K-12 education.

Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican running for president, said negotiators should have kept a part of the House bill that would have allowed public funds to follow a child to any public or charter school of the parents’ choosing. Democrats, however, said such a voucher-type system drains money that public schools need.

“The American people expect the Republican majority to do better,” Mr. Cruz said. “And our children deserve better, which is why I cannot support this bill.”

Mr. Cruz then missed the vote, as did his Republican presidential rival Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, also was absent.

The campaign of Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton said the bill “is not perfect” but provides states and teachers with flexibility to help needy students.

Senators facing tough re-election races next year voted for the bill and used the occasion to tout provisions they were able to tuck into the legislation.

Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican who must defend his seat, highlighted a provision that bars schools from helping former employees find jobs if they have reason to believe the former employee has a history of sexually abusing students.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, touted his work to promote school choice.

“This legislation is a major step forward in getting Washington out of Arizona’s classrooms and putting states, teachers and parents back in charge of educating our students,” he said. (Contributor: By Tom Howell Jr. for The Washington Times)

We urge parents of public school children to “watch and pray.” As with most legislation in today’s highly partisan political atmosphere, IFA believes there are parts of this bill that are beneficial to students and certain provisions where parents will need to remain wary and vigilant as to “how much, how soon” their children are introduced to inappropriate age-related curriculum. Pray and be alert.   

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith….” (1 Peter 5:6-9)

MORE WISCONSIN RESIDENTS ARE HEADED BACK TO WORK THANKS TO WELFARE REFORM

After enforcing federal work requirements for its food stamp program, Wisconsin has found work for thousands of recipients, and cleaned the rolls of many ineligible enrollees.

In April 2015, the Badger State began requiring able-bodied adults without children to work or participate in an employment training program for at least 20 hours a week in order to receive food stamps. If they refuse to work or prepare for work, they are limited to three months of benefits. Although this has been mandated under federal law since the 1990s, Wisconsin – like most states – had waived the work requirement in recent years.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker explained that the policy shift was designed to help people “be prepared to help themselves.”

“If someone is an adult, who is able to work and they don’t have children, we ask that they be enrolled in one of our job training programs and they go out with our assistance and look for work.”

Republican state Rep. Mark Born, chairman of the State Assembly’s Committee on Public Benefit Reform, said that the work requirement was designed to “help guide able-bodied adults back into the workforce, or put them on the path to gainful employment while remaining on FoodShare.” Born explained that the new policy was “working as intended” and helping thousands of individuals “secure employment as a result.”

“It is important we continue to enact reforms and transition people from reliance on government to independence.”

Critics of the changes claim that the new policy “could cause massive food shortages in food pantries.” But those dire warnings aren’t supported by evidence in other states that have restored work requirements.

Maine instituted similar reforms in 2014 and has seen dependence on food stamps drop to historic lows. But even people like Arthur Carter, who runs a food pantry in the poorest county in Maine, support the new policy. Other non-profits also support the changes, having witnessed a surge in volunteers from able-bodied adults seeking to meet the new requirements.

Mary Mayhew, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, explained that the reforms will help move more people back into the labor force and out of government dependency.

“I am extremely pleased to hear that organizations are seeing an increase in volunteerism, and individuals willing to come in and help.

This effort to benefit from employment training, or to volunteer, is what will help individuals out of poverty to ultimately help themselves.”

Kansas is a perfect example of what can happen in a state that enforces federal work requirements.

After Kansas restored work requirements in 2013, the work participation rate among enrollees nearly tripled and average income more than doubled. Those cycling off the program also increased their employment and income, which more than offset the benefits they lost as a result of reform efforts.

That’s a significant improvement for a group of people who were previously depending upon the government to put food on the table. Working can lead these enrollees out of the cycle of government dependence, out of poverty and onto a path toward prosperity. All of that motivated by a requirement to work.

Despite what the main-stream media may have you believe, welfare reform is incredibly popular. A remarkable 82% of Americans support work requirements for welfare programs, and asset tests are supported by 79%.

More than 20 states have committed to enforcing work requirements for their food stamp programs in 2016. Whether in Wisconsin, Kansas, or other states, work requirements for able-bodied, childless adults enable enrollees to move off of government assistance and onto the path of self-reliance. This is something to be championed, regardless of how the media attempts to spin it. (Contributor: By Kristina Ribali for Hot Air)

Related 1997 article:

Wisconsin's example provides nine clear rules on how to sharply reduce dependency:

  1. Set the right goal. If the ultimate aim of reform is to reduce dependence, the official goal must be to reduce the welfare caseload. A large drop in caseload entails dramatic administrative change and threatens the financial self-interest of the welfare industry. Ingenious welfare bureaucrats will thus propose other performance criteria that allow them to claim success in reducing dependence while caseloads continue to rise. Such ersatz benchmarks generally include: the length of time spent on welfare; the number of recipients in training, part-time employment, or make work-jobs; or the number who leave welfare. Decisionmakers should not be fooled: It is the size of the caseload that matters.
  2. Focus on the size of the caseload, not welfare exits. Measuring the number of recipients who leave welfare -- or "exits" -- is misleading. Large numbers of "exits" from welfare will occur even when welfare caseloads are rising. States with liberal welfare systems may have larger numbers of exits because they encourage highly employable persons to enroll in welfare. By contrast, a serious work requirement may actually reduce welfare exits since it will discourage the most employable persons from enrolling in welfare in the first place.
  3. Avoid education and training. Government training and remedial education programs in general do not increase recipients' wage rates and do little to reduce dependence. A recent Labor Department study of the government's largest training program, the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), found that the program had little or no effect on the wages of trainees: The average hourly wage rate of female trainees rose 3.4 percent, while the hourly wages of males did not increase at all.
  4. Use work requirements to reduce welfare applications. The most important effect of a work requirement is to reduce dramatically the number of persons who apply for welfare. This is called the "dissuasion" effect of work requirements. By operating programs such as Self-Sufficiency First and by requiring most new applicants to find private-sector employment or perform community-service work shortly after enrolling in welfare, Wisconsin has cut the number of new AFDC entrants almost in half over the last two years.
  5. Require continuous activity. In the private sector, employees are expected to work continuously, not intermittently. This principle must be duplicated in welfare. Once a recipient begins supervised job search, training, or work, some activity should be required without interruption or lessened intensity until the recipient leaves AFDC. In order to reduce welfare recidivism, the work obligation should resume as soon as a former welfare recipient returns to the AFDC rolls.
  6. Establish a pay-after-performance benefits system. Welfare should be based on "pay-after-performance": Recipients will not receive the welfare check until after they have performed work or other required activity. If they fail to perform the required number of hours of activity, the welfare check must be reduced on a pro-rata basis.
  7. Use community-service "workfare" as an enforcement mechanism. Upon applying for welfare, employable recipients should be required to begin a supervised search for employment. If they have not found a private-sector job within six weeks, they should be required to perform community-service work. Of course, the real goal of reform is to see that recipients obtain private-sector employment, not to push them into make-work jobs. But in a conventional welfare system, large numbers of recipients will claim they cannot find private-sector jobs. If such "unsuccessful job seekers" are permitted to remain idly on the rolls, reform will fail. Instead, all individuals who fail to obtain private-sector jobs should be placed immediately in community service slots on a pay-for-performance basis.

This effectively eliminates any recipient's chance of receiving a welfare income without working, and pushes recipients into private-sector jobs while dissuading other individuals from entering welfare. Mandatory community service is thus the crucial backstop to a serious work requirement. Of course, this does not mean that large numbers of recipients will end up in make-work community service. In Wisconsin few do, but the threat of community work is the key to propelling recipients into the private sector.

  1. Impose work requirements on the most employable recipients first. The initial goal of welfare reform should be to restrict welfare to those who truly need it and to eliminate from the rolls those who do not. In order to accomplish this goal and to shrink welfare caseloads, work requirements should be focused on the most employable welfare recipients first. These would include two-parent families (10 percent of the caseload in a typical state) and mothers who do not have preschool children (typically 50 percent).

This strategy may seem counterintuitive, but it is essential to reducing dependence. The number of crucial community-service work slots (where the recipient is required to work for benefits) in the first phases of reform will be quite small in relation to the overall caseload. If the least employable recipients occupy these slots, they will remain there for long periods, clogging up the system. When highly employable recipients, by contrast, are faced with the prospect of performing community-service work, most will respond by quickly leaving AFDC, freeing the work slots for others, who will in turn leave the rolls. Through this revolving process, the caseload will begin to shrink quickly. (A variant of this principle is to focus work requirements on recent applicants who are, in general, more employable than the rest of the caseload.)

  1. Establish bureaucratic incentives and competition. Throughout the United States, most of the welfare industry is liberal, regards welfare recipients as victims of social injustice, and is threatened by reforms which will sharply reduce its welfare clientele. In order to ensure the faithful and efficient implementation of conservative reforms, decisionmakers must establish precise performance criteria linked to rewards and sanctions for the welfare bureaucracies. In Wisconsin, welfare offices were forced to compete with one another to earn funding, and ultimately each county office faced the threat of elimination if it failed to meet high performance standards set by the governor. (Contributor: Excerpt By Robert Rector who is a research fellow at The Heritage Foundation.)

Pray for Wisconsin’s program to succeed. It is a biblical approach to give to the poor. Pray that this plan to train people who are able to work and help them find jobs will spread nationwide and will produce a dramatic increase in America’s active workforce. If this sounds radical, it is only because our country has made welfare a hand-out for so long. Pray for compassion coupled with wisdom.

“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all…. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.” (2 Thess 3:10-11, 13)

NETANYAHU WANTS PALESTINIAN VIOLENCE LINKED TO RADICAL ISLAM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stepped up his rhetorical campaign to convince the world that the surge in Palestinian violence here is not born of frustration against Israel’s decades-long military occupation but instead is the work of radical Islam.

In a series of speeches and public pronouncements since the Paris attacks last month, Netanyahu has been urging the United States and the international community to view the latest wave of daily Palestinian knife, gun and vehicular attacks against Jewish Israelis as a part of a globalized assault by extremist Muslims against Western democracies.

“The terrorists are attacking in California or in Israel, or for that matter in Paris. They are attacking the very values that we hold dear — freedom, tolerance, diversity,” Netanyahu said Sunday.

Netanyahu is pressing his case that Israel, Europe and the United States face a common enemy — and in doing so he is trying to blur the lines between Palestinians wielding knives and Islamic State militants carrying assault rifles.

“We are standing on the front lines against terrorism that is increasingly being transformed from Palestinian nationalistic terrorism to Islamic terrorism,” Netanyahu said immediately after the Paris attacks that killed at least 130. “An attack on any one of us should be seen as an attack on all of us. You can’t say these are the good terrorists and these are the bad terrorists. All terrorists are bad.”

The Israeli leader also compared the Palestinian attackers to the couple who killed 14 people last week at an office holiday party in San Bernardino, Calif.

Palestinians dismiss the assertion that attacks occurring in Israel and the West Bank have something to do with Islamist extremism or the Islamic State.

The Palestinian leadership says that Netanyahu is trying to confuse Israelis and the international community about the roots of Palestinian anger. The cause is the frustration with life under occupation, Palestinian leaders say.

“The stabbings are unorganized. They come from hopelessness, from rage,” said Mustafa Barghouti, leader of the Palestinian National Initiative, a political movement.

Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian leader, said Netanyahu “is cynically exploiting the pain of the innocent victims” of terrorism in Paris “in order to create a misleading linkage and to justify Israeli state terror against the Palestinian people, while presenting Israel as the victim.”

In more than two months of attacks, Palestinians have killed 19 Israelis. At least 109 Palestinians have been fatally shot, including 73 who Israel says were assailants; the remainder were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces.

Human rights groups charge that the Israeli authorities are using excessive force, that more assailants could be arrested instead of being shot dead at the scene of their attacks, and that some Palestinians have been killed in error or in cold blood.

The Israeli government has charged that Palestinian Authority officials are encouraging attacks or are doing little to prevent them.

Netanyahu’s military and domestic intelligence officials say radical Islam does not appear to be driving the attacks — although rancor over a site holy to Jews and Muslims alike in Jerusalem is stoking violence.

The domestic intelligence agency, Shin Bet, concluded last month that the attacks are being committed by “lone wolf” assailants driven by incitement on social media and that the violence is not directed by any militant faction or political organization but instead appears to be “spontaneous, popular” acts.

“For some terrorists, attacks allow an escape from a bleak reality that they perceive as unchangeable,” Shin Bet said.

There is, however, support for the Islamic State among Palestinians, according to opinion surveys.

Shin Bet also reports that a few hundred Arab Israelis actively support the Islamic State, that 32 have gone to wage jihad in Syria and Iraq and that seven were killed in the conflict in Syria, according to the Israeli news website Ynet.

In a videotaped address to a U.S. audience at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Sunday, Netanyahu argued that the source of popular Palestinian violence has little or nothing to do with the growth of Jewish settlements in the West Bank or the 48-year Israeli occupation.

Netanyahu asserted that the ­Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not at the center of Middle East strife.

“That was never true, but it’s now demonstrably false,” Netanyahu said.

“People have long said that the core of this conflict is the acquisition of territories by Israel in the 1967 war. That’s an issue that needs to be addressed in any peace process, as is the question of settlements, but it’s not the core of the conflict,” Netanyahu told the Brookings conference.

A day earlier, Secretary of State John F. Kerry told the same audience that Israel was drifting dangerously away from a two-state solution that seeks the creation of an independent, demilitarized Palestinian nation. Members of Netanyahu’s coalition government are opposed to trading land for peace and giving the Palestinians a state; instead they want Israel to annex the 60 percent of the West Bank where Israel has full control.

Kerry blamed both sides for the stalemate and warned that the continued occupation endangers Israel’s status as both Jewish and democratic.

“The status quo is simply not sustainable, and the fact of the matter is that current trends, including violence, settlement activity, demolitions [of the homes of Palestinians implicated in attacks], are imperiling the viability of a two-state solution,” Kerry said. “And that trend has to be reversed to prevent this untenable one-state reality from taking hold.”

Netanyahu dismissed the focus on the Palestinian conflict as “childish and irrelevant.”

Last month, President Obama conceded that there would not be a peace deal — or even U.S-brokered negotiations — between Palestinians and Israelis during the remainder of his term.

Yossi Beilin, former deputy foreign minister and minister of justice in Israel, said Netanyahu’s attempt to link the Palestinians to Islamic terrorism is wrongheaded and creates barriers to a solution.

“He makes it into a war of cultures — that it is not settlements or borders, none of that is important, it is a cultural war, it is bigger than Israel, so why does everyone keep demanding that Israel do something to solve the problem? That is what he believes,” Beilin said.

Kobi Michael, former head of the Palestinian desk at Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, said: “Netanyahu knows it is not the same. He knows there are many differences between ISIS and the terrorism Israel faces, but there are some links. There is the inspiration and the culture, which is a culture of death, a culture of rejecting the West and what the West represents.”

He said the Israeli prime minister was not trying to deceive.

“When Netanyahu has to speak to the international community and explain what is happening in Israel, he cannot go into details, into the complexities; he has to explain the threat Israel faces by comparing it to ISIS, which has become a significant and essential threat to the international community,” Michael said. (Contributor: By William Booth for The Washington Post - Ruth Eglash contributed to this report.)

Israel continues to fight for its existence against international anti-Semitism and thinly disguised terrorist attacks on its own streets from Hamas and other threats, while Israeli leaders watch Iran arm itself and become more belligerent in its denunciation of Israel’s right to survive and live in peace. Pray for Mr. Netanyahu and for Israel’s government and people to persevere and have peace.

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

CHINESE SUBMARINE PRACTICED MISSILE ATTACK ON USS REAGAN

A Chinese attack submarine conducted a simulated cruise missile attack on the aircraft carrier USS Reagan during a close encounter several weeks ago, according to American defense officials.

The targeting incident near the Sea of Japan in October violated China’s 2014 commitment to the multinational Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, known as CUES, designed to reduce the risk of a shooting incident between naval vessels, said officials familiar with details of the encounter they described as “serious.”

A section of the non-binding 2014 agreement states that commanders at sea should avoid actions that could lead to accidents or mishaps. Among the actions to be avoided are “simulation of attacks by aiming guns, missiles, fire control radar, torpedo tubes or other weapons in the direction of vessels or aircraft encountered.”

Navy officials recently briefed congressional staff on the incident that took place during the weekend of Oct. 24—days before the Navy warship USS Lassens sailed within 12 miles of disputed Chinese islands in the South China Sea, triggering vocal criticism from Beijing.

The Obama administration has kept details of the submarine targeting incident secret to avoid upsetting military relations between the Pentagon and the People’s Liberation Army.

Asked directly about the incident, Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, did not deny that the encounter occurred. “I have nothing for you,” Harris stated in an email.

Pacific Command spokesman Capt. Darryn James earlier directed questions about the targeting to the Chinese navy. James also stated that Navy ships in the region are capable of defending themselves.

“I cannot discuss submarine operations, reports of submarine operations, or rumors of submarine operations,” James said. “I can tell you that we are completely confident in the effectiveness and capabilities of the ships and aircraft of the forward-deployed naval force.”

Additional details about the submarine-carrier encounter emerged after the Free Beacon first reported the incident Nov. 3.

The nuclear-powered Reagan is currently the Navy’s sole forward-deployed aircraft carrier strike group. It arrived at its base in Yokosuka, Japan on Oct. 1 and replaced the USS Washington strike group there.

Aircraft carrier strike groups are equipped with anti-submarine warfare capabilities, including ships armed with sensors and submarine-killing torpedoes.

Disclosure of the aircraft carrier targeting comes as two Chinese navy warships arrived in Pearl Harbor on Sunday.

China’s official news agency said the ships’ visit to Hawaii will last five days. “During the fleet’s stay here, the U.S. navy and the Chinese fleet will hold receptions for each other,” Xinhua said. “Friendly sports activities, such as basketball and soccer games, will be held between the two sides.”

The Pentagon has made developing closer ties with the Chinese military a top priority, despite concerns that the exchanges are boosting Chinese war-fighting capabilities.

Members of Congress have called for curbing the exchanges in the face of Chinese cyber attacks and destabilizing activities in the South China Sea.

On Capitol Hill, Rep. Randy Forbes (R., Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on sea power, said he is concerned by reports of China’s simulated ship attack.

“If true, this would be yet another case of China trying to show us that they can hold our forces in the region at risk,” said Forbes.

“Coming on the heels of anti-satellite tests and other demonstrations, this latest incident should be a reminder of the destabilizing course that China is on and the challenges we face in maintaining a stable military balance in the Asia-Pacific region,” Forbes added.

Naval warfare analysts said the incident highlights Chinese efforts to counter U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups, the United States’ major power projection capability in the Pacific.

Retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell, a former Pacific Fleet intelligence chief, said the submarine incident, if confirmed, would be another clear case of the Chinese navy targeting the carrier strike groups, known as CVNs.

“The PLAN submarine force is on the leading edge of the PLAN for targeting U.S. CVNs in the East Asia arena, all for the expressed purpose of being able to attack and disable them in a contingency operation” he said. PLAN stands for People’s Liberation Army Navy.

Rick Fisher, a China military specialist at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the Chinese navy operates several types of submarines capable of firing anti-ship cruise missiles.

The Song-class and Yuan-class attack submarines can fire two types of torpedo tube-launched anti-ship cruise missiles, including the YJ-82 with a range of up to 22 miles.

Eight of China’s 12 Russian-made Kilo-class submarines are armed with Club anti-ship missiles with a range of up to 137 miles. Newer Shang-class submarine can also fire cruise missiles.

“That the U.S. side would be able to determine that the submarine was conducting a cruise missile strike would indicate that the Chinese submarine was under close surveillance,” Fisher said.

“That also raises the potential that the U.S. side could determine the Chinese submarine had hostile intent, potentially leading to the launching of defensive weapons.”

Fisher said the incident was serious because a U.S.-China shootout would likely result in the destruction of the Chinese submarine and the loss of its crew. “Even though China would have been at fault for the incident, the Chinese government would likely then use it as an excuse for initiating a series of attacks or incidents against U.S. naval forces,” he said.

Additionally, the targeting “certainly runs counter to a 2014 U.S.-China agreement to avoid such incidents at sea, which could indicate that China may have little intention to honor such this or other military confidence building agreements,” Fisher said.

The Navy’s main close-in anti-submarine warfare weapon is the RUM-139C rocket-launched anti-submarine torpedo, with a range of about 17 miles.

Ben Ho Wan Beng, a military analyst at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said the Chinese military is focused on using of cruise missiles against carriers. “China seems to stress the centrality of this weapon in attacking ships,” he wrote last week in the Diplomat.

Recent improvements in Navy defenses against submarines include a new electronic combat system, a towed sensor array, and the P-8 maritime submarine patrol aircraft.

“Whether or not these and similar measures would enable the U.S. to retain a distinctive edge in the undersea combat realm vis-à-vis China remains to be seen,” Ho said.

Lyle J. Goldstein, a U.S. Naval War College expert on the Chinese military, wrote on Sunday that a Chinese defense journal recently discussed ways to sink U.S. aircraft carriers.

A Chinese military analyst recently revealed that China is closely studying a report from earlier this year revealing that a small nuclear-powered French submarine successfully conducted a simulated attack on the aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt, sinking the ship and several support ships in the simulation.

“The article illustrates how Chinese military analysts are diligently probing for cracks in the U.S. Navy’s armor,” Goldstein wrote in the National Interest.

The October showdown between the Chinese submarine and the Reagan took place as the carrier sailed around the southern end of Japan on the way exercises in the Sea of Japan along with four other strike group warships.

Days after the incident, two Russian strategic bombers flew within a mile of the carrier at a height of 500 feet, prompting F-18s from the ship to scramble and intercept them.

The October incident was not the first time a Chinese submarine threatened a U.S. carrier strike group.

In 2006, a Song-class attack submarine surfaced undetected within torpedo range of the USS Kitty Hawk.

The state-controlled China Daily praised the implementation of the CUES maritime code agreement last year as a major step in U.S.-China military relations.

Wen Bing, a researcher at the Chinese army’s Academy of Military Sciences, told the newspaper that the code of conduct and U.S.-China warship exercise at the time “demonstrate the resolve of both countries to deepen military ties and avoid a maritime conflict escalating due to a lack of communication.”

In December 2013, a Chinese amphibious warship sailed in front of the guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens and stopped, causing a near collision in the South China Sea. (Contributor: By Bill Gertz for The Washington Beacon - A Chinese Embassy spokesman did not respond to an email request for comment.)

Pray for divine mercy in the form of restraint on China, as it continues to flex its muscles with simulated war games. Is this to intimidate the U.S.? One theory is that the purpose is to warn Russia and North Korea to “stand down” and not challenge China’s South China Sea territory claim. Pray for U.S. military leaders to be watchful but not overreact to what may be only pretense and bullying.

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

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The Informer December 9, 2015

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SENATOR LANKFORD’S ‘FEDERAL FUMBLES’ TARGETS FEDERAL WASTE

<Click here> for a free download of the ‘FEDERAL FUMBLES’ report!

From federal regulations governing the taking of pictures with llamas, to taxpayer-funded studies of small woodland birds, there’s plenty of waste still left to be trimmed out of the government, Sen. James Lankford said Monday as he released his inaugural “Federal Fumbles” report calling out the government’s bizarre and bogus decisions.

The freshman Oklahoma Republican, who replaced former Sen. Tom Coburn, who for years was Congress’s top waste-watcher, singled out 100 items spanning $105 billion in spending and $800 billion in regulatory constraints on the economy that he said the government should rethink.

Among those was what he dubbed “Llamagate” — a set of federal rules that a Phoenix couple ran afoul of earlier this year when they were told they needed a federal permit from the Agriculture Department if they wanted to raise and “showcase” llamas.

His solution to the llama problem was to get the federal government out of the business and leave regulations to states and local governments.

“The fumble book that we have isn’t just waste. It’s also areas where the federal government has violated its trust responsibilities. Wasting taxpayer dollars. Programs that are rife with fraud. Duplications and inefficiency. Overregulating that raises the cost of goods and services for the consumer,” Mr. Lankford said.

His report is one of a series planned by lawmakers hoping to carry on Mr. Coburn’s cost-cutting legacy.

Mr. Lankford targeted the small and the big: a $5,000 National Park Service documentary on “master fiddler” Roger Howell, and Social Security’s practice of paying both disability benefits and unemployment benefits to the same person.

Since disability payments are given to people who cannot work, and unemployment is given to people who are capable of working but do not currently have a job, he said it does not make sense to give both payments to the same person.

Messages left with the Agriculture Department, Social Security and the Park Service seeking comment on their projects weren’t returned Monday.

Mr. Lankford also called out the Earned Income Tax Credit — a program he dubbed a “fraud” that cost the government $18 billion a year — and blasted the Dodd-Frank Act, passed in the wake of the 2008 Wall Street collapse, which he said was making it impossible for people in rural America to get home loans.

When such overspending and overbearing federal regulations happens, it is not government employees who pay for it, but the taxpayer, Mr. Lankford said.

He touted his own bill, the “Taxpayers Right-to-Know Act,” that would put all federal spending into a searchable database available to the public and press who could act as watchdogs for federal spending.

He said the pressure from the public is critical because lawmakers in Washington have lost sight of what is important in spending. He said even under the most ambitious of plans, Congress would take 10 years to balance the budget and reach a surplus — and then it would take decades to pay off the debt that’s built up.

“If we had a $50 billion surplus in the eleventh year, if we did that, we would have to continue to do it every year for the next 460 years to pay off our debt,” he said. (Contributor: By Anjali Shastry for The Washington Times)

Traditionally, newcomers to the U.S. Senate are expected to keep a low profile and defer to their “elders,” but some “freshmen” have taken action early to produce important results. Give thanks for Sen. Lankford and those likeminded, who are speaking up for good causes. Pray for success in all efforts to uncover out-of-control waste and fraud in government spending.

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Phil 2:3-4)

ABORTION DISMEMBERMENT BAN CONSIDERED IN KANSAS TODAY

first-in-the-nation Kansas abortion law is scheduled to go before all 14 state appellate judges Wednesday (today)— an unusual step that reflects the gravity of the lawsuit, the state says.

The Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act was enacted in Kansas in April. It prohibits, in most cases, use of a certain abortion method — dilation and evacuation, or D&E — that is commonly used between 12 and 22 weeks gestation.

Lawmakers took action against the “brutal” D&E procedure, saying the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2007 Gonzales v. Carhart ruling says states have a legitimate interest in regulating the medical profession to promote respect for life, including the life of the unborn.

The Kansas dismemberment law has several exemptions: It does not affect abortions that are performed only with suction, cases in which cutting tools are needed to remove a dead fetus from the womb or cases in which continuing the pregnancy could severely injure or kill the pregnant woman.

Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser, who both perform abortions at their health center in Overland Park, Kansas, sued to block the law. They are represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

In July, Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks agreed with the abortion doctors, and blocked the new law from going into effect.

Judge Hendricks also ruled that the dismemberment law improperly restricted women’s access to abortion, and the Kansas Constitution protects abortion rights at least as much as the U.S. Constitution. The latter conclusion was a first-ever finding that, if upheld, could jeopardize other state abortion restrictions, The Associated Press reported.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is defending the law, has told reporters that the case has “significant constitutional gravity.”

Having the full Court of Appeals hear the case speeds the case to the seven-member Kansas Supreme Court. Court spokeswoman Lisa Taylor told the AP that judicial branch officials believe Wednesday’s hearing will be the first time since August 1989 that all the appellate judges will hear a case.

Janet Crepps, a senior attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that the appellate court’s decision for a full hearing shows that it “recognizes that this is an important question of first impression.”

Kathy Ostrowski, legislative director for Kansans for Life, said she believes Judge Hendricks made a “fundamental error” by presuming the law was invalid.

The court has also “invented a state right to abortion” that needs to be rectified, she said in an article in National Right to Life News Today.

Kansas lawmakers used model legislation offered by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) to write their dismemberment abortion ban.

Outlawing most “dismemberment” abortions should “transform the landscape of abortion policy,” NRLC said. As many as 100,000 unborn children may have been subjected to a “dismemberment” abortion in 2011, Kansans for Life said.

Soon after Kansas leaders enacted their dismemberment ban, Oklahoma officials enacted similar legislation. It too was challenged in court, and has been blocked by a state judge.

(Contributor: By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)

This is a matter for immediate prayer, as action is slated for today, Dec. 9. Intercede before the Lord for His favor on this court action. Ask God to move on the hearts and minds of the 14 Appellate judges and to confuse the arguments of the pro-death, pro-dismemberment attorneys. Pray for a complete and unanimous victory for Life!  

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

OBAMA: U.S. WILL DEFEAT TERROR THREAT'S NEW PHASE

In a rare Oval Office address, President Barack Obama vowed Sunday night the U.S. will overcome a new phase of the terror threat that seeks to "poison the minds" of people here and around the world, as he sought to reassure Americans shaken by recent attacks in Paris and California.

"I know that after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure," he said, speaking from a lectern in his West Wing office. "The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it," he declared.

The president's speech followed Wednesday's shooting in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people and wounded 21. Authorities say a couple carried out the attack and the wife pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and its leader in a Facebook post.

Obama said that while there was no evidence the shooters were directed by a terror network overseas or part of a broader plot, "the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization."

"This was an act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people," he said in the 13-minute address.

In speaking from the Oval Office, Obama turned to a tool of the presidency that he has used infrequently. His decision to speak in prime time reflected the White House's concern that his message on the recent attacks hasn't broken through, particularly in the midst of a heated presidential campaign.

Yet Obama's speech was likely to leave his critics unsatisfied. He announced no significant shift in U.S. strategy and offered no new policy prescriptions for defeating IS, underscoring both his confidence in his current approach and the lack of easy options for countering the extremist group.

"Nothing that happened in the speech tonight is going to assuage people's fears," Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican presidential candidate, said on Fox News.

Obama did call for cooperation between private companies and law enforcement to ensure potential attackers can't use technology to evade detection. He also urged Congress to pass new force authorization for military actions underway against IS in Iraq and Syria, and also to approve legislation to bar guns from being sold to people on a no-fly list.

And he implored Americans to not turn against Muslims at home, saying the Islamic State is driven by a desire to spark a war between the West and Islam. Still, he called on Muslims in the U.S. and around the world to take up the cause of fighting extremism.

The spread of radical Islam into American communities, he said, is "a real problem that Muslims must confront without excuse."

The president's most specific policy announcement was to order the departments of State and Homeland Security to review the fiance visa program that the female shooter in California used to enter the U.S. In his remarks, Obama referred to a visa waiver program that Congress is also reviewing, but the White House later clarified he meant the fiance program

He also reiterated his call for broader gun control legislation, saying no matter how effective law enforcement and intelligence agencies are, they can't identify every would-be shooter. He called it a matter of national security to prevent potential killers from getting guns.

"What we can do, and must do, is make it harder for them to kill," he said.

Obama stands little chance of getting the Republican-led Congress to agree to any gun control measures. On Thursday, the Senate rejected legislation barring people the government suspects of acts of terror from purchasing firearms. Gun rights advocates say such a ban would violate the rights of people who haven't been convicted of crimes.

Congress also has been unable to coalesce behind any plan to authorize more force against IS, and the administration's proposal has languished since February.

Obama repeated his long-standing opposition to an American-led ground war in the Middle East and made no mention of the more aggressive action others have suggested, including a enforcing a no-fly zone and safe corridors in Syria.

"Our success won't depend on tough talk, or abandoning our values or giving in to fear," he said. "Instead, we will prevail by being strong and smart, resilient and relentless."

After the speech, the president appeared as previously scheduled at the Kennedy Center Honors tribute in Washington.

The president's critics — and increasingly, some members of his own party — have questioned his strategy. Hours before he spoke, Hillary Clinton — his former secretary of state and the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination — said the U.S. is "not winning" the fight against IS.

Obama has insisted that the Islamic State is contained in Iraq and Syria. However, the group has set its sights elsewhere in the world, launching attacks in Lebanon and Turkey and downing a Russia airliner over Egypt.

The Nov. 13 attacks in Paris marked the group's most aggressive actions in Europe, a coordinated effort that left 130 people dead and wounded hundreds more.

Last week, the terror threat drew even closer for Americans when a couple — a 29-year-old woman originally from Pakistan and her 28-year-old American-born husband — launched an attack on a holiday luncheon in San Bernardino.

The FBI is investigating the massacre as an act of terror that, if proved, would be the deadliest by Islamic extremists on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

The woman pledged allegiance to IS and its leader in a Facebook post, according to U.S. official who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. A Facebook official said the post came about the time the couple stormed the San Bernardino social service center. (Contributor: By Julia Pace for Associated Press and U.S. News & World Report - AP writers Donna Cassata and Josh Lederman contributed to this report.)

Analysts from all political viewpoints agreed that President Obama’s speech last Sunday lacked any specifics to expose and fight domestic terrorism. Pray fervently for the president to be awakened to the threats developing in jihadist planning across our country. Pray for Congress to lead with wisdom regarding refugee placement and for the FBI to be just and vigilant in examining applicants. Pray for God’s mercy.

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer…. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies.” (2 Sam 22:2, 4)

 

FEMALE MUSLIM SHOOTER GOT ‘SO RELIGIOUS’

Syed Rizwan Farook, Chicago-born, a college graduate working steadily in Southern California, was a quiet and devout man who went in search of a wife. He eventually found one, a woman named Tashfeen Malik who lived in a distant land and had never been to America.

What happened next — and the question of how and why a suburban couple with a new baby decided to become mass murderers — is the subject of a frantic global terrorism investigation that includes Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and San Bernardino, Calif.

The FBI is looking at the dynamic between Farook and Malik, who a couple of years ago did not even know each other but wound up dead on a San Bernardino street, riddled with bullets after they had killed 14 people at a holiday party and wounded 21 others.

Did he lead her down the path of radicalization? Or did she lead him? Did they have direct ties with the Islamic State or other international terrorists, acting as part of an elaborate conspiracy, or were they a freelance operation drawing only inspiration from abroad?

A senior U.S. law enforcement official said one possibility is that Malik was already radicalized before she came to the United States last year as Fa rook’ s new bride.

“Was she the hit, or was he already headed down that road?” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

Farook’s profile is relatively robust. He was 28, born to parents who had immigrated to the United States from Pakistan. He attended high school in San Bernardino and graduated from the state university there. He had a good job as a county health inspector, making sure restaurant counters were clean, food service workers had properly washed their hands, and public pools were safe for swimming. Although he was something of a loner, plenty of people knew him at the office and at the two mosques where he often prayed.

Much about the 29-year-old Malik, however, remains a mystery. More than three days after Wednesday’s massacre, no one had surfaced as a friend — or even an acquaintance — of Malik’s in San Bernardino.

She was always veiled, wearing a niqab, a covering that left only her eyes exposed. She did not drive. She was known to stay in the car when her husband prayed at the mosque.

But new details about Malik surfaced Saturday during interviews in Pakistan. She came from a prosperous Pakistani family and grew up in Saudi Arabia. She returned to Multan, Pakistan, about 100 miles from her ancestral village, in 2007, pursuing a pharmacy degree at Bahauddin Zakariya University.

One of her closest friends, Abida Rani, said Malik changed around 2009, suddenly paying more attention to Islamic studies than to pharmacology. Malik would travel across town, nearly every day, to a madrassa, where she would spend her evenings, Rani said. Rani added that she thinks the madrassa belongs to the Wahhabi branch of Sunni Islam, a particularly conservative interpretation of the faith that is widely practiced in Saudi Arabia.

“We were like, ‘What happened to Malik?’ ” said Rani, who attended school with Malik all six years. “She became so religious, so serious and so focused on Islamic teachings, and she lost her interest in her studies.”

While students at the university were busy socializing, Rani said would watch one of Pakistan’ s 24- hour Islamic television channels.

She always wore a burqa rag. She never sat in the front row in class. She would not interact with young men.

“She was conservative but calm,” said Atif Nisar Ahmad, a professor at the school.

During her final year at the university, Malik became so rigid in her conservative Islamic religious beliefs that she refused a staple of college life: getting photographed. When Malik graduated from pharmacy school, she tried to remove all of her pictures from university databases. She collected all of her university identification and library cards and destroyed them.

“I don’t want any pictures without the veil ,” Malik said, according to Rani.

Malik’s religious conservatism did not carry any hints of radicalization, though, according to people who knew her. Her conservative attire was not unusual; about half of the female students at the school were fully veiled, according to local residents.

Khalid Janbaz, one of Malik’s pharmacology professors, said Malik never discussed her personal beliefs, even though professors often tried to engage students in freewheeling discussions about science, philosophy and medical ethics.

“She never said to others: ‘You should do this or you should that,’ ” Janbaz said. “I don’t see any evidence how she could move from that into a shooter.”

According to relatives, Malik’s parents moved from the Layyah district of Pakistan’s southern Punjab province to Saudi Arabia 25 to 30 years ago after a family dispute over property. Malik Anwar, who is Malik’s uncle, said the family was estranged from the rest of the family that still lives in the Layyah area.

Some of Anwar’s distant relatives did travel to Saudi Arabia over the years to visit Gulzar Malik, Tashfeen’s father, Anwar said. They reported back over the years that Gulzar Malik had become increasingly religious while in Saudi Arabia.

After Malik graduated in 2013, she moved back to Saudi Arabia. It was apparently there that she connected with Farook, who had been searching for a wife on Internet marriage sites.

They were legally married in the United States in August 2014 in Riverside, Calif., although a lawyer for Farook’s sister said they were married at an earlier ceremony in Saudi Arabia.

Amir Abdul-Jalil, 50, who knew Farook and prayed with him regularly at a San Bernardino mosque, said Farook told him that his family and Malik’s family had arranged the marriage.

“After he got married, I didn’t have the same connection with him,” said Abdul-Jalil, who was visibly upset after learning that Farook had been the shooter in San Bernardino.

Another friend, Rash id Thompson,said Fa rook had become more distant recently.

“Once he got married, it was just him and his family,” said Thompson, who last saw him at the mosque two months ago.

Farook, Malik, the baby and Farook’s mother lived together in a two-story townhouse on a residential street in Redlands. The interior of the rented apartment, which the landlord opened to reporters on Friday, revealed what appeared to be the elements of an ordinary life: baby formula, books, personal documents. A tub of laundry detergent and a partially eaten plate of food sat on top of an appliance in the kitchen.

What reporters did not see were the items the FBI said it had already taken away, including 4,500 rounds of ammunition, a dozen pipe bombs and materials to make other bombs.

A U.S. official confirmed Saturday that Farook had attempted to reach out to the terrorist groups al-Shabab, which is based in Somalia, and Jabhat al-Nusra, alQaeda’s affiliate in Syria. It wasn’t clear when or how Farook made those attempts.

The couple had four guns in their arsenal: two assault rifles and two handguns. The two assault rifles were different brands, but they had been accessorized in a similar way, with identical slings, grips and optics. Husband and wife could use either one interchangeably. That is how the U.S. military trains small units, so that one person can use another’s weapon if necessary.

There are still many uncertainties, but also some hard facts. The couple left the baby with the grandmother at home. They attacked the Inland Regional Center just before 11 a.m. Wednesday, and soon after the shooting, apparently from a mobile phone, Malik went on Facebook and pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State.

About four hours later, Farook and Malik were spotted by police and made their last stand on San Bernardino Avenue, firing from their SUV. They were surrounded by nearly two dozen officers.

At some point, Farook made a dash for it but reached only the far curb of the street before he fell to the pavement. Malik stayed in the SUV. Between them, they fired off 76 rounds. Police fired 380.

Their baby is in the custody of child protective services. A hearing is scheduled for Monday. (Contributors: By Tim Craig, Abby Phillip and Joel Achenbach for The Washington Post)

Pray for the 21 wounded and the families of the 14 victims. Meanwhile, more details emerge about the couple who carried out this heartless massacre. Investigators know it was not “workplace violence” but a carefully planned terrorist attack. The two had a large cache of ammunition and, in a grisly twist, had taken “target practice” at a nearby shooting range. Give thanks that, in God’s mercy, more people were not killed.

“Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways!’ ….” (Ezek 33:11)

 

WAGING SECULAR JIHAD AGAINST PRAYER AND GUNS

It was stunning — and revealing.

Immediately following the massacre of 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif. on Wednesday by a Muslim terrorist couple, progressives unleashed a torrent of contempt for prayer in response to God-centered tweets from Republican presidential candidates.

The once-conservative tabloid New York Daily News ran a cover piece titled “God Isn’t Fixing This,” festooned with photos of the candidates and their tweets asking for prayer for the victims and their families.

The subhead: “As the latest batch of Americans are left lying in pools of blood, cowards who could truly end gun scourge continue to hide behind meaningless platitudes.” Catch that? Prayer is a meaningless platitude.

And, by the way, pay no attention to the jihadists themselves, especially while President Obama is bent on expanding immigration from the Middle East.

The News editorialized that the latest slaughter, as with all mass shootings, was caused by politicians who oppose more gun control and who salute the flag of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

“As long as they remain in thrall to this flag, ever more Americans will arm themselves, and ever more Americans will die,” the editorialists thundered. Somehow, they neglected to call for a ban on pipe bombs, a dozen of which were found in the shooters’ home and another at the site of the killings.

People can disagree about the effectiveness of gun laws or the efficacy of prayer, but the vitriol is unprecedented. I don’t recall any time in American history in which public voices felt so free to ridicule asking for divine intervention.

Sen. Christopher Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, openly mocked the Republican candidates’ appeals to heaven when he tweeted, “Your ‘thoughts’ should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing — again.”

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley didn’t make fun of prayer but he did blame the NRA, which, for the record, has long supported tougher penalties for gun-wielding criminals.

“Enough is enough: it’s time to stand up to the @NRA and enact meaningful gun safety laws,” Mr. O’Malley tweeted. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton also tweeted support for more gun control, as if seizing weapons from law-abiding Americans would solve the nightmare of mass shootings and terror threats.

Meanwhile, The New York Times managed to find a priceless Christian angle in last month’s Planned Parenthood clinic shooting in Colorado Springs, piling on the blame assigned to videos that exposed Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of aborted babies’ organs.

The shooter, Robert L. Dear Jr., a serial adulterer, possible rapist and all-around weirdo, was, according to a relative, “very religious.” The relative said that Dear and his live-in companion, Stephanie Bragg, “read the Bible often and are always talking about Scripture.”

The Times added that, “The relative, who spoke with Ms. Bragg in recent days, also said that before the shooting, Mr. Dear reportedly ‘wasn’t sleeping at all,’ and had ‘been talking about the Devil getting in his head and such.’”

Somehow, I don’t think the Times will hold the devil accountable for any of this.

As the Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway has observed, the rush to disparage prayer and embrace new government solutions is evidence of religious fervor of a different sort — faith in government:

“Progressives tend to believe that man can be perfected … through government action,” she wrote. “These almost cartoonish denunciations of prayer we saw yesterday, combined with the implicit praises of government action, are best understood as a sort of primitive religious reaction to the problem that growth of the state still hasn’t fixed the problem of evil in the world.”

America’s enemies in Iran and other hotbeds of jihadi sentiment are no doubt thrilled that leaders and scribes of one of the country’s major parties are so openly contemptuous of the power of prayer.

The more that America drifts toward unbelief, the less formidable we will be against an energized opponent. What are we fighting for, anyway? Transgender bathrooms in every school?

History has shown that you cannot beat something with nothing. If the West continues to descend into moral chaos, we will not have the faith-based resolve that spared Europe from Muslim conquest in the Middle Ages, or from the godless Communists and pagan-inspired Nazis in the 20th century.

Progressives are working like termites in Europe and America to turn us away from God and toward a secular, sensate culture with rising anti-Semitism and open hostility toward Christianity. Meanwhile, Islamic militants, delighted by the West’s suicidal impulse, are waging worldwide jihad to impose Shariah law.

Instead of worrying that murderous incidents like the shootings at Fort Hood or San Bernardino will appall moderate Muslims, Islamic terrorists believe that more Muslims will become radicalized and join what they perceive as the winning side. After all, in the wake of massive beheadings and rapes of Christians and moderate Muslims in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State keeps gaining converts.

For years, progressives have gotten away with pretending to respect America’s founding faith lest they alert voters to their radical, anti-God agenda. In speech after speech, they distort biblical morality and revile anyone opposing their “solutions.” Then, they finish with “God bless America.”

Well, at least we now know where they find divine inspiration: in government power.

That god should not be confused with the One who handed Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai or Who turned water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. (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.)

Pray for revival to come through an awakened Church, which we believe to be America’s hope. When the Church becomes alive and vibrant, speaking faith and showing the moral fiber of biblical proportions, critics and skeptics are silenced, and hearts are open to God for salvation. The Gospel has power, but its power must be spoken forth as salt and displayed as light in Christians’ lives.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden…. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:13-14, 16)

 

INVADING GERMANY

In an ironic twist, Germany, which in the last century twice invaded other countries, contributing to two world wars, is now being invaded by hordes of Muslims. According to Pew Research Center, there are 4,760,000 Muslims in Germany, about 5.8 percent of its population, and that number is steadily growing. The Wall Street Journal writes, "The government estimates that about 800,000 foreigners will seek asylum in Germany this year, almost four times as many as last year."

Gatestone Institute, a think tank specializing in strategy and defense issues, cites a report from N24 television news in Germany, that up to 50 percent of the asylum seekers arriving in Germany have gone into hiding and their whereabouts are unknown by German authorities. This is especially significant given President Obama's assurance that migrants coming to the U.S. will be thoroughly vetted. According to a poll from the Washington Post and ABC News, "52 percent of total respondents said they're not confident in the American screening process to weed out possible terrorists." Some 54 percent said they oppose taking in refugees at all.

A YouTube video shows a Muslim man telling a German man, "We are reproducing faster and faster. You Germans are not getting any children. In the best case you get two children. We make seven or eight children ... and then we take four wives each, then we have 22 children. Maybe you Germans have one child and a dog, huh?"

What is especially disturbing is the response by politicians. In Berlin, according to Soeren Kern, a senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, "lawmakers are considering emergency legislation that would allow local authorities to seize private residences to accommodate asylum seekers." The proposal would effectively suspend the country's constitutional protection of private property. Chancellor Angela Merkel sees no problem with the arriving migrants. In an interview with ZDF television, she responded to critics: "The chancellor has the situation under control. I have my vision and I will fight for it."

Like Chancellor Merkel, President Obama is either in complete denial, or deliberately ignoring the potential threat posed by admitting so many people who come from nations and a religion that hold anti-democratic views.

President Obama has repeatedly said "99.9 percent of Muslims worldwide reject terrorism," but that is factually untrue. According to a Sun-UK poll, one in five British Muslims have sympathies for jihadis and a 2015 Mirror poll found that "1.5 million Brits see themselves as supporters of ISIS."

In 2007, Pew found that 22 percent of German Muslims say suicide bombings are sometimes justified. The figure is higher in France (46 percent). In America, 26 percent of Muslims agree with that statement.

There are plenty more figures, information and quotations for those serious enough to do even minimal research. Denial by Western leaders that the Islamists don't say what they mean and mean what they say will not make us safer. Bromides about how our "values" would be harmed if we don't allow thousands of Muslim migrants into Western countries are meaningless if the chief value -- freedom -- is undermined.

Some have brought up President Franklin Roosevelt's deplorable rejection of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany as a compelling reason to admit Muslim migrants now. The major difference is that Jews -- then and today -- are not the ones threatening the peace, pluralism and diversity Westerners celebrate. Jews uphold those values, as do Christians, who seem to be down on the priority list for admittance and protection.

The one promise President Obama will have kept when he leaves office is the one to "fundamentally transform" the country. In Germany, that transformation is proceeding rapidly. Growing numbers of citizens feel threatened, but the politicians are not listening. That attitude by political elites in the UK and America 75 years ago paved the way for World War II. (Contributor: By Cal Thomas for Town Hall)

Pray for the Church and our U.S. Congress to awaken. While we have sympathy for the world’s refugees seeking freedom, we believe President Obama has a blind spot that, unless corrected, will be very costly to America. Already, pockets of heavily populated Muslim communities are demanding their own government under Sharia law. If such is granted, the American republic will not stand.

“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)

 REMEMBERING PEARL HARBOR

It began as an ordinary December day. People were gathered around the radio listening to a football game or planning holiday parties, not girding for battle. But on Dec. 7, 1941, when the first Associated Press report came over the radio at 2:22 p.m. Eastern Standard Time of a “bombing in Hawaii,” the news was electrifying. Seventy years later, every American living now who heard it then can still tell you exactly what he was doing when he learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Even my mother and father, who are Americans of Chinese descent and were then only in their teens growing up in a war-torn and chaotic China, heard of this unimaginable attack. As they tried to survive amidst the domestic upheaval and foreign invasion in the land of their birth, the attack on Pearl Harbor was shocking news in a country itself devastated by tragedy and horrors.

Pearl Harbor marked a watershed in the nation’s history and we knew it. What came after would be very different from what came before. It was the war that changed the world. “The Day of Infamy” thrust us into a conflict more than four years long that altered nearly every aspect of American life, large and small - from rationing gas and sugar to the harnessing of atomic power to the new role of women in the workplace. We united to defend our democracy. For more than 400,000, it would be the ultimate sacrifice.

That is why it is so important to remember the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and all the 70th anniversaries of World War II events that follow. It is the reason I proudly serve on the board of trustees of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

In 2003, Congress designated the National World War II Museum to preserve the memory of that global conflict, by telling the story of America in World War II - why it was fought, how it was won and what it means today. It is our mission to collect and hold not just the artifacts of war - the tanks, jeeps, bombers and firearms - but also the memories of the ordinary men and women who flew the planes, fought the battles and manned the factories that won for us a resounding victory.

But the National World War II Museum is more than just a memorial or a repository for this history. We are committed to studying, interpreting and conveying the priceless lessons and values of World War II to all future generations.

We work knowing that these are endangered memories. The World War II veterans are leaving us. Sixteen million Americans served in uniform in World War II. More than 90 percent are gone, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The war is moving from living memory to history. We must preserve and pass on the legacy of the “Greatest Generation,” the details of their experiences in battle and on the home front, their service and sacrifice, so that today’s children will know and understand the price of our freedom.

I invite you to New Orleans to see this work in action. On Dec. 7-9, for example, the museum will hold a three-day public conference featuring leading historians and renowned authors discussing Pearl Harbor and the first year of combat in the Pacific. The museum is expanding to accommodate our iconic artifacts. Next Veterans Day, we will proudly open the U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center, an extraordinary addition featuring tributes to all branches of military service, six aircraft including the Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress,” and a “virtual” submarine experience recreating the last war patrol of the USS Tang. Our distance education initiatives, social media and online exhibits bring the experience and memories of World War II to people far and wide.

More than 130,000 Americans from coast to coast are already members of the museum. I thank them for their support, and I urge every American to remember Pearl Harbor. To do so honors those who fought and celebrates the liberty they so resolutely defended. (Contributor: By Elaine L. Chao for The Washington Times - Elaine L. Chao was secretary of labor in the George W. Bush administration and is a board member of the National World War II Museum.)

If you were alive on December 7, 1941, you are at least 74 years old. Writer Elaine Chao correctly says, “World War II veterans are leaving us,” and “[That] war is moving from living memory to history.” As an American Christian, give thanks for God’s mercy and grace that undergirds all victories, national and personal. Pray that our history be properly preserved and that our nation will remember God. 

 “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes … lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them … and your silver and your gold are multiplied … when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord….” (Deut. 8:11-12, 14)

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The Informer December 2, 2015

On Watch in Washington December 2, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

151 MILLION PEOPLE SHOPPED OVER BLACK FRIDAY WEEKEND

There’s no doubt Black Friday is not the one-day, mall-centric mob scene that it used to be. But legions of shoppers still opened their wallets between Thanksgiving and Sunday, according to surveys and other data collected this weekend about the retail industry’s annual frenzy of deals and discounts.

The National Retail Federation found that 61.7 percent of consumers, or 151 million people, shopped online or in-person this holiday weekend and spent an average of $299.60 each. The trade group said it changed the methodology this year of its annual Thanksgiving weekend survey and thus said that the figures could not be compared fairly to last year’s results. Therefore, it is difficult to say based on the NRF survey whether or not Black Friday sales were more or less enticing to shoppers than they were last year.

Nevertheless, the survey seemed to suggest an extension of a pattern we’ve seen for several years now: As retailer’s deals have spread out over many days — or even weeks — shoppers are staggering their visits to the mall and are turning to their favorite e-commerce sites for discounts long before the Nov. 30 Cyber Monday.

Of those who shopped in a store over the long weekend, 73 percent said they went on Black Friday. But 34 percent said they shopped on Thanksgiving Day and 46 percent said they shopped on Saturday. And based on previous surveys they conducted this fall, NRF believes many people had begun their holiday shopping long before Thanksgiving Day.

Matthew Shay, chief executive of the NRF, used a football analogy to describe how much the rhythm of the shopping season has changed in recent years.

“It’s almost the second quarter going on halftime, whereas once upon a time, this was really where the game started,” Shay said on a Sunday conference call with reporters.

Other data from this weekend suggest that shoppers are increasingly looking online to score deals. RetailNext, a company that provides in-store analytics software to retailers, said in-store traffic was flat over the weekend and that sales were down 1.5 percent at brick-and-mortar outposts. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving Day online sales were a record $1.73 billion, according to Adobe, whose software is used by many large e-commerce sites. Black Friday sales were $2.74 billion, some 14 percent greater than last year.

Consumer confidence was improving coming into the holiday season, and yet major chains such as Macy’s Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters and Dillard’s reported poor earnings results in mid-November, suggesting that retailers were still having some trouble persuading shoppers to make purchases.

“We know that they still have a savings account that’s greater than last year, so if they choose to spend, they can,” said Terry Lundgren, the chief executive of Macy’s, in an interview Friday.

Lundgren said the roughly 15,000 shoppers who visited his Herald Square flagship gave him confidence about how the rest of the holiday season would shape up for the department store. He said they saw particularly strong sales in items such as active apparel, women’s dresses, handbags and cosmetics gift sets.

One data point from the NRF survey that might be a reason for optimism in the retail industry: The 151 million people who reported shopping this weekend was a significantly greater number than the 136 million who said just weeks ago that they planned to shop during this time period. The trade group said this was perhaps a sign that it’s getting easier to browse the deals online and to transact on a mobile device — a process which was rather clunky on most e-commerce sites only a few years ago. (Contributor: By Sarah Halzach for The Washington Post - Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.)

Our prayer focus is not on “Black Friday” spending but on the mood of the American people as we approach the Christmas season. This should bring hope, but the mood is uncertain, if not fearful. President Obama’s leadership both internationally and at home is hesitant. Where is our national confidence? Do we believe in America’s future? Why so much violence? Pray for spiritual revival.

“Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law.” (Prov 29:18)

CIVILIAN VICTIMS IDENTIFIED IN PLANNED PARENTHOOD SHOOTING

veteran of the Iraq war and a married mother of two were identified Sunday as the two civilians killed Friday when a gunman opened fire inside a Planned Parenthood clinic here.

The 29-year-old veteran, Ke’Arre Marcell Stewart, was a DJ, an entrepreneur and, by all accounts, a devoted father to his two young daughters. “He was always trying to make things better for him and his family,” said his aunt Tronda Stewart.

Jennifer Markovsky also had two children, a son and a daughter. The 35-year-old Hawaii native had gone to the nearby Planned Parenthood clinic Friday to support a friend. “She was the most wonderful, kindest person you’d ever know,” her father in Hawaii, John Ah-King, told a reporter from the Colorado Springs Gazette. “She was willing to help everybody or anybody who needed help. She was always there for everyone.”

The victims were identified by local authorities late Sunday. The attack also killed Officer Garrett Swasey of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs police and left nine other people wounded.

The suspect, 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear Jr., remained in custody Sunday. Dear, who moved to Colorado last year, is being held without bond and is scheduled to appear in court Monday. He has been described by people who know him as a malcontent and a drifter who has had numerous run-ins with the law over the years.

Reached by phone Sunday, Stewart’s mother, Sharon Lloyd, was too distraught to speak. His brother, Leyonte Chandler, described Stewart on Facebook as “an Army veteran who served a tour in Iraq has left behind 2 beautiful young girls.”

Kimbri Johnson, a cousin in Jacksonville, Fla., described Stewart as “really loving” and dedicated to family and friends. The last time the two spoke, she said, they talked about how they didn’t always want their family gatherings to be at funerals.

By late Sunday afternoon, a GoFundMe site had been set up in Stewart’s name, aimed at helping his family with funeral costs. The person who created the fund, Amburh Butler, wrote that Stewart was originally from Texas. “He was caring, giving, funny and just a good person,” she wrote.

Sharon Wolfe worked with Stewart at Connect for Health Colorado for a year and a half. She said they helped people get health insurance after the Affordable Care Act became law, and he talked constantly about his children.

“He was so loving and so gentle,” Wolfe said. “He was a giant teddy bear. It was nothing for him to wrap his arms around you and say, ‘It’s going to be okay.’ ”

In a peaceful Colorado Springs subdivision full of two-story pastel homes, not far from where Swasey lived, no one answered the door at Markovsky’s address. Her neighbor Darren Guiao recalled her as quiet but friendly. He said his daughter, Alyssa, 9, had played at Markovsky’s house with her son and daughter. They would play tag in the backyard, where Mar­kovsky gardened in the summer.

Relatives and neighbors remembered her as a stay-at-home mother, a kind woman who posted on Facebook about parenting and her husband, Paul, who serves in the military.

“She’s just a really sweet woman that would do anything for everyone,” her sister-in-law, Julia Miller, told the Denver Post. Paul is “struggling, dealing with the children and everything; it’s hard to let them know that their mother is gone.”

More details about Dear’s past and personality also began to emerge Sunday, even as little ­explanation remained for what brought him to the crowded clinic Friday. Each new story about Dear, each remembrance from relatives and neighbors only deepened the portrait of a surly and often strange man who had drifted from one ramshackle home to another in recent years.

Relatives said Dear was born in Charleston, S.C., and grew up in Kentucky but spent much of his recent life between North and South Carolina. He moved from the mountains of western North Carolina last year to Colorado, where he purchased a five-acre plot of land in Hartsel, about 40 miles west of Colorado Springs.

In 1997, his then-wife reported to police that Dear had assaulted her. She ultimately declined to file charges. Police in Colleton County, S.C., released reports over the weekend detailing at least seven episodes in which Dear, a self-employed art dealer, had disputes or physical altercations with neighbors or other residents. His past arrests include alleged cruelty to animals and allegedly being a “peeping Tom.” He was not convicted in either case.

Although some people he encountered took little note of Dear, others described him as aggressive and delusional, a lone wolf who mainly sought solitude and had little tolerance for small talk.

On a quiet cul-de-sac Sunday in Goose Creek, S.C., one of his three ex-wives, Pam Ross, said she was shaken by news of the rampage in Colorado.

“I only met him a handful of times picking up [Dear’s] son at his grandma’s house,” said a man who identified himself as Ross’s husband. “We had like one or two five-minute conversations. But he wasn’t like this back then. He must have gone freaking crazy to do something like this.”

Even among family, Dear often remained quiet, they said.

Since the shooting, many of his closest relatives have secluded themselves in their homes in the Charleston suburb of Mount Pleasant, declining to talk about him.

At the nearby home of Taylor Dear, one of Dear’s four sons, wads of reporters’ business cards were left ignored, jammed into the front door. Among them was the business card from an FBI agent trying to reach Taylor, as well.

An e-mail address confirmed by two people close to Dear as his was linked to a flurry of message-board postings on Cannabis.com, which markets itself as “the world’s cannabis site.” The posts believed to be from Dear are varied, including political and religious rants and messages in which he appears to try to attract women.

Speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), called the shooting in his state “a form of terrorism.” He also called the frequency of mass shootings in the United States “unacceptable,” saying the country has to do more to “keep guns out of the hands of people that are unstable.”

At Hope Chapel in Colorado Springs on Sunday, mourners remembered Swasey for his sense of duty and selflessness. They recalled him as an accomplished figure skater, a man of deep faith, a practical joker, and a model husband and father.

Swasey’s family issued a statement calling the father of two “a hero who gave his life for others.” It said his greatest joys were his family, his church and his profession.

“We will cherish his memory,” his family wrote, “especially those times he spent tossing the football to his son and snuggling with his daughter on the couch.” (Contributor: By Danielle Paquette, Ana Swanson and Brady Dennis for The Washington Post - Swanson and Dennis reported from Washington.William Wan in South Carolina and Alice Crites, Wesley Lowery, Julie Tate and Jose A. DelReal in Washington contributed to this report.)

Christians mourn deeply for the victims of such violence, whether in a church, on the street, or in an abortion clinic, where — ironically — violent killing of innocent, not-yet-born babies took place every day. However, the shooting was cold-blooded and must be condemned. Pray for the families of those who died, that God will comfort them in their grief. Pray that the shooter will repent and be saved.

“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.” (2 Cor 1:3-4)

EU'S LABELING OF PRODUCTS FROM ISRAELI TERRITORIES MAY BACKFIRE

Yaakov Berg, Jewish settler and West Bank vintner, thinks the decision by the European Union to insist that he label his cabernet sauvignon as a product of an Israeli settlement will do little to hurt overall sales of his kosher wine.

It might even help, he said.

A few days after the EU announced its new labeling guidelines, Berg continued to expand his business: installing a new whiskey distillery in his boutique winery, a few miles from the outskirts of the Palestinian city of Ramallah.

He is also preparing to launch an online shop to sell his wares, as well as goods from other nearby Jewish settlements, to Israel's evangelical Christian supporters in the United States. And he may also get a little help from one of Israel's biggest fans: Republican presidential candidate and evangelical pastor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, who has led dozens of tours to Israel and never misses a chance to visit Berg's winery.

"I believe the best way to fight the decision is to show that we have people who love Israel, they read the Bible and they know this is our homeland," Berg said, as he described the e-commerce initiative, called "Blessings of Israel."

"We are proud of where we are located and if you want us to label our products, we will and we will tell you the story of every product, every factory, where it is located and how it came about and what our connection is to the land of Israel," he said.

If Berg is sanguine about the prospect of labeling goods from the settlements, the Israeli government is definitely not. The leadership sees the new development as a dangerous path toward a full boycott of Israeli products in Europe.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Foreign Ministry to re-evaluate the European Union's involvement in peace efforts with the Palestinians because of its decision to label settlement goods.

Even though goods from the settlements make up only 0.1 percent of Israel's overall export capacity, the announcement drew angry responses from politicians ranging from cries of hypocrisy to comparing the move to the ostracizing of Jewish businesses in Europe during the Holocaust.

One lawmaker even posted a Nazi-era photo of a storefront painted with "Jude," the German word for Jew, and a Star of David on his Facebook page.

The recent decision by a German supermarket to pull settlement-made wines from its shelves drew damning headlines in Israel. It was also the focus of a weekly cabinet meeting in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it "a boycott in every respect." Within hours, the store apologized and agreed to restore the goods.

The European Union says it is obliged to fully inform consumers about the geographic origin of products so that the buyers can make informed decisions. If goods originate in a Jewish settlement located in territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, then the public should know, it says. Europe considers Jewish settlements illegal under international law.

Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the EU ambassador to Israel, said at a conference in Jerusalem that he was surprised by the accusations of anti-Semitism and hypocrisy.

"Under EU consumer law, it is not permissible to write 'Made in Israel' on a product from an Israeli settlement. That would be incorrect and misleading information," he said.

More than 500,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem on land that the Palestinians seek for a future state. There are 16 to 20 industrial parks as well as hundreds of farms, vineyards and date groves. Many employ Palestinian laborers.

"The EU decision will not hurt Israel's economy, but it might affect the Palestinian economy, because if businesses in the settlements do not get orders, they will have to fire their Palestinian workers," said David Simha, president of the Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce, a nongovernmental organization aimed at bringing the two sides together via business.

Some of the Jewish-owned businesses there receive support from abroad specifically because they are in located the West Bank. Berg's Psagot Winery, for example, has an angel investor in the form of the wealthy Jewish American Falic family, owners of Duty Free Americas and big supporters of Israel.

In Ramallah, the EU decision was seen as a decisive step toward fighting the growing Israeli settlement industry and part of the Palestinian Authority's diplomatic war against Israel in general.

"We appreciate this positive move, and it is our hope that the European Union will develop this labeling into a total boycott of all settlements and settlers, including Israeli officials who live in settlements," said Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi.

Bassam Zakarneh, head of the Palestinian Workers' Union, said the EU decision reflected a willingness "to fight illegal building in the West Bank" and was a sure sign of support for Palestinian rights.

At the Psagot winery, Berg's Palestinian workers say they are more worried about the deteriorating security situation in the West Bank than decisions in far-away Europe to reword labels. But they do understand that if Berg loses revenues, their jobs, which offer higher wages and better conditions than Palestinian employers, could be jeopardized.

"It is good working with Jews, and we have much better employment conditions here than in Ramallah," said Hamudi Hadalin, a 23-year-old Palestinian who works in the winery's visitors center and lives in a nearby village. "I really hope there will be peace one day. Then I can continue to work in this place without any problems." (Contributor: By Ruth Eglash for Jewish World Review)

Pray that both Israel and its products will be accepted worldwide and without discrimination. Give thanks for the young Palestinian worker’s testimony: “It is good working with Jews, and we have much better employment conditions here than in a Ramallah.” Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May God hasten the day when all Israel will recognize Jesus Christ as Messiah and be saved.

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” (Rom 10:1-3)

THE ILL-TIMED CLIMATE CHANGE TALK

President Obama has been mocked and appropriately so for his ludicrous comment that the upcoming climate change summit in Paris will be a “powerful rebuke” to the terrorists. No. This summit is a powerful rebuke to common sense.

It says a lot about the lack of clarity and commitment to the growing threat of the Islamic State that the world leaders are gathering in the city where the murderous attacks just happened with the blood barely dry and the prime topic off discussion will be stopping the rise of the oceans.

Amazingly, the White House then wonders why so few voters have any trust in his handling of the terrorism crisis.

The concern isn’t just that climate change derangement syndrome has such an obsessive grip over this president and other world leaders that they choose to take their eye off the ball. It’s worse than that: the entire global warming agenda is an impediment to the war against terror.

One of our most effective economic swords to use against ISIS — and Iran, Putin’s Russia, and OPEC — is America’s vast shale oil and gas reserves as well as our 500 years worth of domestic coal resources. This point should be self-evident: Every barrel of oil we produce here at home is one less barrel we have to purchase from abroad.

We know from intelligence reports that the Islamic State receives as much as one-half billion dollars a year in petro-dollars. ISIS’s access to Middle Eastern oil finances a growing army of terrorists that are well armed, trained and coordinated to wreak havoc on the western world.

Why then do we continue to buy oil from those who are trying to kill us? That’s especially crazy given that we now have the capacity to achieve real energy independence within five years by pursuing a pro-America energy development strategy.

Our own Energy Information Administration reports that we have access to more recoverable fossil fuel resources than any nation in the world thanks to the new and ever-improving smart drilling technologies. We have hundreds of billions of barrels of oil underneath us, and by 2020 we can and should become the energy dominant nation in the world. This could be an economic and geopolitical game-changer, yet President Obama recently nonsensically declared in a speech on climate change that we should keep these resources in the ground.

No matter how severe one believes the threat of global warming, the inescapable reality is that for at least the next decade and even with a rapid conversion to renewable energy, the United States and the rest of the world will continue to heavily rely on oil, natural gas and coal for about two-thirds of our transportation fuel and electricity. If we don’t produce our vast domestic fossil fuel energy, the world will buy oil and natural gas from somewhere else — and the terrorist networks will grow richer and more militant.

This may be inconvenient truth, but it’s an economic reality. Another inconvenient reality is that regardless of what the United States does to force-feed expensive and unreliable green energy on our economy, the rest of the world is building hundreds of new coal plants every year and drilling for oil wherever they can find it.

Mr. Obama could and should announce several emergency steps either with the stroke of a pen or with congressional approval to make America less reliant on terrorist oil and the blood money that too often goes with it.

First, immediately repeal the 1970s law that prohibits the exporting of American gas and oil. Doing so could increase U.S. production by as much as $50 to $100 billion annually.

Next, build the Keystone XL Pipeline and many other pipelines awaiting government approval so we can safely and swiftly transport North American oil to the markets where it is needed. This could create thousands of high-paying union jobs as well.

We should also allow drilling on federal non-environmentally sensitive lands. More than 90 percent of the drilling boom has been on private lands. Use the royalties to retire some of our debt and for an anti-terrorism fund.

Finally, suspend some of the more strident EPA rules that are shutting down our coal producers across the nation even as Asia is building 500 new coal plants this year alone.

Until a week ago, Barack Obama and many European leaders were insisting that their highest priority was combating climate change. Now they’ve been reminded — and hopefully, we all have — that free nations face a much more dangerous and imminent threat to our way of life.

Of course, domestic drilling won’t by itself thwart the ISIS operations. But it is a small, vital step in diminishing this snake’s global reach and influence. Mr. Obama keeps saying that he is taking every possible step to prevent more terrorist attacks. Alas, this isn’t true. Instead of going to Paris to talk about the weather, Mr. Obama should be devising an urgent strategy to defund the terrorists and help rebuild the U.S. economy by making America the energy-dominant nation on the planet. (Contributor: By Stephen Moore for The Washington Post - Stephen Moore is an economics consultant with Freedom Works and co-author of the forthcoming book “Fueling Freedom” (Regnery, 2016).)

Addendum:

Video Commentary: Attached is a brilliant video interview with Lord Christopher Monckton that is 50 minutes long, but well worth listening to in order to understand what the climate change movement is really all about.

We urge all Christians to pray for President Obama. IFA has no joy in citing articles critical of Mr. Obama, but even his political allies are raising questions about his Muslim views as shared in recent speeches. His Thanksgiving Day message to the nation had no mention of the day’s Christian roots. In addition, he criticizes Americans regularly. Pray for the president to have a spiritual awakening.

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for … 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)

 

NO CHRISTIANS: ALL 132 ARE MUSLIMS ADMITTED TO U.S. SINCE PARIS ATTACKS

Since the Paris terror attacks on November 13, the State Department has admitted 132 Syrian refugees into the United States, and all 132 are Sunni Muslims.

No Christian, Druze, Shi’ite, Alawite, or member of any other religious minority in Syria has been admitted over that period, according to data from the State Department Refugee Processing Center.

The majority of the 132 Syrian refugees permitted to resettle in the U.S. since November 13 (72) are male, the minority female (60). Of the 132 total, 39 (29.5 percent) have been men between the ages of 14 and 50.

Another 53 (40 percent) are children aged under 14, of whom 30 are males and 23 females.

The Paris terror attacks, which killed 130 people and were claimed by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL), brought fresh scrutiny onto the issue of refugees from the Syrian conflict, amid concerns the terrorist group was seeking to infiltrate Western countries through refugee settlement programs.

The Refugee Processing Center admission figures since the attacks in Paris continue a trend evident since the start of the current fiscal year, on October 1. President Obama plans to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S. during fiscal year 2016.

Since FY2016 began two months ago, 423 Syrian refugees have been admitted into the U.S., of whom 418 (98.8 percent) were Sunni Muslims. The remaining five (1.2 percent) were Christians – three Catholic, one Orthodox and one simply described as “Christian.”

One hundred and eleven of them (26 percent) are men aged between 14 and 50.

The age and gender breakdown of the 423 refugees admitted in FY2016 is:

Under 14:        108 male         88 female

14-50:             111 male         95 female

Over 50:        11 male           10 female

Total:            230 male         193 female

A similar trend can be seen over the entire period of the Syrian civil war, which began in mid-March 2011.

Over that time, a total of 2,296 Syrian refugees have been admitted into the U.S. as of Monday. Of those, 2,137 (93 percent) were Sunni Muslims, an additional 60 were described simply as “Moslem,” and 13 were Shia.

Only 53 (2.3 percent) were Christian (including five Orthodox and four Catholics). The remaining religious breakdown was eight Jehovah’s Witness, six Zoroastrians, three atheists, two Baha’i, one Yazidi, seven “no religion” and six “other religion.”

Of the total 2,296 Syrian refugees admitted since March 2011, 633 (27.5 percent) are men aged between 14 and 50.

Therefore, more than one-quarter of the Syrian refugees allowed entry into the U.S. since the conflict began are men aged 14-50, and the vast majority of them are Sunni Muslim.

Christians Underrepresented Among Admitted Refugees

Syrian Christians – like other non-Sunni minorities – have been singled out for persecution by ISIS and other jihadist groups fighting there.

Yet the Christian cohort among the Syrian refugees accepted into the U.S. since the war began (2.3 percent) is considerably smaller than the proportion of Christians in the Syrian population – 10 percent, according to the CIA World Factbook.

At the same time, the proportion of Sunni Muslims among the accepted refugees (93 percent since the war began) is significantly higher than the proportion of Sunni Muslims in the Syrian population – 74 percent.

One possible reason for this is that most refugees considered for resettlement in the U.S. are first referred by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – but according to Christian relief groups Christians flying the conflict are often afraid to register with the U.N. and generally avoid U.N. refugee camps because they are targeted there too.

(Incidentally, although civil war deaths and displacement have had an enormous impact on the population, according to the CIA World Factbook the proportion of Sunni Muslims remains steady: The total estimated population figure has dropped from 22.5 million in mid-2010 to 17.06 million in mid-2014, but the Sunni proportion of 74 percent has not changed over that period.)

CNSNews.com has submitted questions to the State Department and its Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration about the relatively small proportion of Christians among the Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S.

‘Infiltration of terrorists’

After the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, French prosecutors said that at least two of the attackers traveled through Greece posing as refugees fleeing from the Syrian conflict. A Syrian passport found near the body of one of the suicide bombers involved in the attack had been used by a person who arrived in Greece from Turkey in October, claiming to be a refugee.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Czech Television in an interview due to air on Tuesday that most of the refugees from his country trying to get into Europe were “good Syrians” and “patriot[s].”

“But of course you have infiltration of the terrorists among them, that’s true,” he added, according to excerpts released by the network.

A State Department factsheet issued last Wednesday stated that Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S. since the beginning of FY2011 were allowed to do so “only after the most extensive level of security screening of any category of traveler to the United States. None have been arrested or removed on terrorism charges.”

It said that refugees of all nationalities considered for admission to the U.S. “undergo a rigorous security screening involving multiple federal intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies.”

“Mindful of the particular conditions of the Syria crisis, Syrian refugees go through an enhanced level of review,” the State Department said. (Contributor: By Patrick Goodenough for CNS News)

These statistics tell us that with President Obama’s obvious bias in favor of Muslim refugees being resettled in the U.S., the hope for Christian recognition and balance lies with Congress. Will there be backbone enough to respectfully confront and unmask Mr. Obama’s open prejudice? Pray for honesty and courage in both House and Senate to demand equivalent Christian representation.

“Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.” (Heb 13:1-3)

 

CHINA 'CLONE FACTORY' SCIENTIST EYES HUMAN REPLICATION

The Chinese scientist behind the world's biggest cloning factory has technology advanced enough to replicate humans, he told AFP, and is only holding off for fear of the public reaction.

Boyalife Group and its partners are building the giant plant in the northern Chinese port of Tianjin, where it is due to go into production within the next seven months and aims for an output of one million cloned cows a year by 2020.

But cattle are only the beginning of chief executive Xu Xiaochun's ambitions.

In the factory pipeline are also thoroughbred racehorses, as well as pet and police dogs, specialised in searching and sniffing.

Boyalife is already working with its South Korean partner Sooam and the Chinese Academy of Sciences to improve primate cloning capacity to create better test animals for disease research.

And it is a short biological step from monkeys to humans -- potentially raising a host of moral and ethical controversies.

"The technology is already there," Xu said. "If this is allowed, I don't think there are other companies better than Boyalife that make better technology."

In the factory pipeline are thoroughbred racehorses, as well as pet and police dogs, specialised in …

The firm does not currently engage in human cloning activities, Xu said, adding that it has to be "self-restrained" because of possible adverse reaction.

But social values can change, he pointed out, citing changing views of homosexuality and suggesting that in time humans could have more choices about their own reproduction.

"Unfortunately, currently, the only way to have a child is to have it be half its mum, half its dad," he said.

"Maybe in the future you have three choices instead of one," he went on. "You either have fifty-fifty, or you have a choice of having the genetics 100 percent from Daddy or 100 percent from Mummy. This is only a choice."

Xu, 44, went to university in Canada and the US, and has previously worked for US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, and in drug development.

Presenting cloning as a safeguard of biodiversity, the Tianjin facility will house a gene bank capable of holding up to approximately five million cell samples frozen in liquid nitrogen -– a catalogue of the world's endangered species for future regeneration.

Boyalife's South Korean partner Sooam is already working on a project to bring the woolly mammoth back from extinction by cloning cells preserved for thousands of years in the Siberian permafrost.

Sooam also serves a niche market recreating customers' dead pet dogs, reportedly for $100,000 a time.

Sooam founder Hwang Woo-Suk was a national hero with his own postage stamp before being embroiled in controversy a decade ago after his claims to be the first in the world to clone a human embryo were discredited.

Hwang, who created Snuppy, the world's first cloned dog, in 2005, lost his university position, had two major papers retracted, and was accused of crimes ranging from violation of bioethics laws to embezzling research funds.

"We have decided to locate the facilities in China in case we enter the phase of applying the technology to human bodies," he was quoted as saying.

'Weird experiments'

For now, Xu seeks to become the world's first purveyor of "cloned" beef, breeding genetically identical super-cattle that he promises will taste like Kobe and allow butchers to "slaughter less and produce more" to meet the demands of China's booming middle class.

Cloning differs from genetic modification, but its application to animals would enable the firm to homogenise its output.

"Everything in the supermarket looks good –- it’s almost all shiny, good-looking, and uniformly shaped. For animals, we weren't able to do that in the past. But with our cloning factory, we choose to do so now," Xu said.

"Remember, this is a food. We want it to be uniform, very consistent, very premium quality," he added.

There is controversy over whether cloned beef is safe for human consumption -- research by the US Food and Drug Adminstration says that it is, but the European parliament has backed a ban on cloned animals and products in the food chain.

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization has yet to review the issue.

Han Lanzhi, a GMO safety specialist at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said Boyalife’s claims about the safety, scope and timeline of their operations were alarming -- and implausible.

"To get approval for the safety of cloned animals would be a very drawn-out process, so when I heard this news, I felt very surprised," she said.

"There must be strong regulation because as a company pursuing its own interests, they could very easily do other things in the future," she added.

Xu sought to be reassuring, telling AFP: "We want the public to see that cloning is really not that crazy, that scientists aren’t weird, dressed in lab coats, hiding behind a sealed door doing weird experiments." (Contributor: By Rebecca Davis for AFP News)

This article is a portent of the future. IFA is not anti-Science, but when God is ignored, so-called “Science” no longer seeks truth but becomes a series of atheistic conclusions that exalt the creature and “delete” the Creator. Pray for a generation of well-trained scientists in American Academia with renewed minds, a biblical worldview, and dedication to discovering truth for the glory of God.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools….” (Rom 1:18-22)

On Watch in Washington December 2, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

 

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The Informer November 25, 2015

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

THE TRUE STORY OF THANKSGIVING

Come Thanksgiving Day each year, many of us give the nod to Pilgrims and Indians and talk of making ready for a harsh first Winter in the New World.

But for the Christian, the deepest roots of our thanksgiving go back to the Old World, way back before the Pilgrims, to a story as old as creation, with a two-millennia-old climax. It’s a story that keeps going right on into the present and gives meaning to our little lives, even when we’re a half a globe removed from history’s ground zero at a place called Golgotha.

You could call it the true story of thanksgiving — or you could call it the Christian gospel viewed through the lens of that often undervalued virtue known as “gratitude.” It opens up a few biblical texts we otherwise may be prone to downplay.

Here’s the true story of thanksgiving in four stages.

Created for Thanksgiving

First, God created humanity for gratitude. You exist to appreciate God. He created you to honor him by giving him thanks. Appreciating both who God is and his actions for us — in creating us and sustaining our lives — is fundamental to proper human life in God’s created world.

As he describes in Romans 1 what’s gone wrong with the world, the apostle Paul gives us this glimpse of the place of appreciation in the created order:

Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Part of what the first man and woman were created to do is honor God by being thankful. And part of what we exist to do is honor God by being thankful — and thus the numerous biblical commands enjoining gratitude.

Humanity was created to appreciate God. But as we’ve already seen from Romans 1, ingratitude wasn’t far away.

Fallen from Thanksgiving

Second, we all have failed miserably in appreciating God as we should. In her book on gratitude, Ann Voskamp gives memorable expression to the failure of the first man and woman — and the devil before them — to rightly experience and express gratitude.

From all of our beginnings, we keep reliving the Garden story.

Satan, he wanted more. More power, more glory. Ultimately, in his essence, Satan is an ingrate. And he sinks his venom into the heart of Eden. Satan’s sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude. Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave.

Isn’t that the catalyst of all my sin?

Our fall was, has always been, and always will be, that we aren’t satisfied in God and what He gives. We hunger for something more, something other.

Satan the ingrate spawns unthankfulness in Adam and Eve, who pass it along to all of us. Both before our conversion and after, we are unthankful people. This is so painfully true.

And we not only fail to be thankful like we ought, but we also fail to get the balance right between physical and spiritual. Two obstacles often stand in our way to God-exalting gratitude. You could call them “hyperspirituality” and “hyperphysicality.”

Perhaps hyperphysicality is all too well known in 21st-century Western society at large. A milieu of materialists is so unaware of spiritual reality that even when there is gratitude for the physical, the spiritual is neglected, if not outright rejected. We can be thankful for the temporal, even while we couldn’t care less about the eternal.

But hyperspirituality is often particularly dangerous among the so-called “spiritual” types, even in the church. We can be prone to mute God’s physical goodness to us out of fear that appreciation for such would somehow detract from our thanksgiving for spiritual blessings.

In our sin, we fail again and again to get the proportions right. Only with divine redemption are we able to grow toward a balance that goes something like this: Christians are thankful for all God's gifts, especially his eternal gifts, and especially the surpassing value of knowing his Son (Philippians 3:8), the Spirit-become-physical.

Redeemed by Thanksgiving

Third, God himself, in the person of his Son, Jesus, entered into our thankless world, lived in flawless appreciation of his Father, and died on our behalf for our chronic ingratitude. It is Jesus, the God-man, who has manifested the perfect life of thankfulness. If you’ve ever tracked the texts where Jesus gives his Father thanks, you’ll know it’s quite an impressive list.

Matthew 11:25 [also Luke 10:21]: “At that time [note the context of unrepentant and unthankful “cities where most of his mighty works had been done,” verse 20] Jesus declared, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will . . .’”

John 11:41: “…they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me…’” [Jesus then raises Lazarus from the dead.]

Matthew 15:36 [also Mark 8:6]: Jesus “took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples…” [See also John 6:11 and John 6:23 which refers to the location as “the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks”]

Luke 22:17–20 [also Matthew 26:27 and Mark 14:23]: “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’