THE WRONG PATH TO ECONOMIC PROSPERITY
His second-term agenda, if ever he had one, was dead, forcing him to turn to a series of unconstitutional executive orders that will be bottled up in the courts for the rest of his tenure, or overturned by judicial decree.
Even his signature program, Obamacare, is threatened to be emasculated by the Supreme Court challenge that questions whether its government subsidies are lawful.
He had hoped to end his trouble-filled presidency with the passage of a 12-nation, Trans-Pacific trade agreement — until it was ignominiously shot down by his own party in the House, perhaps fatally.
But that’s only a part of the policymaking wreckage he has strewn across the nation’s political landscape.
He came into office in the midst of a severe recession, confidently declaring that he’d return a dying economy to full health and vigor. Yet in the seventh painful year of his presidency, it remains chronically sluggish, unable to stand on its own two feet without the support of the Federal Reserve’s costly assistance.
It wasn’t reported on any of the major nightly network news shows, but the nation’s central bank said as much Wednesday in its dismal economic growth projections for the rest of this year.
The Fed downgraded its growth forecasts to between 1.8 percent and 2 percent, far below its 2.3 to 2.7 percent estimates in March.
Fed economists were also a little less optimistic about a lower unemployment rate for the year. In March they said it would fall to as low as 5 percent by the end of the year. Now they are forecasting that it would decline to just 5.2 percent, at best.
“If they’re correct, annual [economic] growth would be the worst since 2011 and would be far from the breakout performance some economists had hoped for this year,” writes economic analyst Jim Puzzanghera on the CTnow website.
Fed Chairman Janet Yellen went to great lengths at her news conference to avoid any hint of when the board would begin raising interest rates, and continued to insist that the slowing economy was only transitory.
Yet in a somewhat more pessimistic speech last month, she said, “The various headwinds that are still restraining the economy will likely take some time to fully abate, and the pace of that improvement is highly uncertain.”
In recent decades, recessions have on average lasted about two years, as was the case in the Reagan recovery of 1983 when it came soaring out of a deep recession in 1981-82.
“The end of 1983 marked a year of recovery from one of the longest and deepest post-World War II recessions . Overall, real GNP grew by about 6 percent over the year,” wrote economists Eugene H. Becker and Norman Bowers in an analysis for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Compare robust 6 percent growth in only two years as a result of the Reagan tax cuts to this week’s Fed forecast of 1.8 percent economic growth in the seventh year of Mr. Obama’s presidency.
The reason for the wide disparity between the two is all about competing policies. Mr. Obama copied FDR’s New Deal stimulus to end the depression with massive government spending on public works projects. He spent nearly $1 billion on similar government, “shovel-ready” programs. Neither worked.
Ronald Reagan’s across-the-board tax cuts put money back into the blood stream of the economy and into the hands of consumers, workers and business investment.
In just two years, it was morning in America again. And in 1984, the country voted on how Reagan’s policies were doing at the grass roots. He carried 49 states.
Now Hillary Clinton is running, along with a clutch of other Democrats, to succeed Mr. Obama in the White House. She has yet to fully spell out what her economic and other domestic policies will be, but she has supported the president’s failed policies and, as a candidate, adopted many of them in her campaign speeches.
Here’s a sampling of proposals from Vermont’s ultra-leftist Sen. Bernie Sanders — one of Mrs. Clinton’s rivals for the Democratic nomination — many of which she supports:
Raising the federal minimum wage, splitting up the big banks, public campaign financing, enacting a single payer health insurance for everyone, universal pre-kindergarten, free college education, a federally mandated 10 days off for workers, and a much broader federal jobs program.
What about cutting tax rates to spur capital investment, business expansion and new entrepreneurial start-ups, as President Kennedy proposed and that her husband Bill Clinton fully embraced in his second term?
Forget about it. In today’s extreme hard-left Democratic Party, pro-growth tax cuts of any kind are the political kiss of death in nominating primaries.
According to a voter survey this week by the Gallup Poll, “Democratic candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination face a significantly more left-leaning party base than their predecessors did over the last 15 years.”
The Gallup survey found that “47 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents now identify as both socially liberal and economically moderate to liberal.”
This compares with “39 percent in these categories in 2008, when there was last an open seat for their party’s nomination, and 30 percent in 2001,” Gallup said.
While this is the hard-left political environment Mrs. Clinton must appeal to if she is to secure the nomination, it also pushes her even further to the left (than she already is) of the broader electorate in the general election.
If that happens, she risks becoming the Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis of the 2016 presidential election. (Contributor: By Donald Lambro for The Washington Times - Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.)
For prayer: It appears President Obama had the political leverage to get most of what he wanted on the trade bills. Conservatives are still wondering who blinked first on the negotiations. Be that as it may, the author’s point is well made that continued government growth and socialist-like trade expansion is inimical to a strong economy at home. Is America descending to second-rate status among the world’s leading countries? Pray for spiritual renewal first, then national healing.
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord….” (Ps. 33:12)
“Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.” (Hos. 6:1)
OBAMA FORCING MILITARY TO MEASURE ARCTIC ICE LEVELS
Even as the U.S. military struggles to contain the Islamic State and deals with other terrorist threats across the globe, President Obama increasingly is recruiting the Pentagon to advance his sweeping climate change agenda.
Mr. Obama’s Defense Department calls global warming a true national security threat and has begun instituting a host of environmental measures, ranging from building clean energy projects at military installations to the use of expensive green fuels in planes.
A recent report from the Government Accountability Office highlighted yet another example — the commitment of U.S. military forces to monitor sea ice levels in the Arctic, with the administration arguing that decreasing ice could force the Pentagon to institute a “military and homeland security presence in the region.”
Critics charge the president is distracting the military from its true mission of protecting America by turning the Department of Defense into yet another weapon in his fight against climate change. But Mr. Obama has made no apologies for his environmental philosophy and has cast global warming as one of the top problems facing the Pentagon in the 21st century, a position many top Defense Department officials seem to agree with.
“I am here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act — and we need to act now,” the president told U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduates last month, laying out his vision for a military that focuses as much on climate change as it does on virtually any other threat.
Making the military greener is just one piece of Mr. Obama’s broader environmental agenda. In perhaps the most vital piece of the plan, the Environmental Protection Agency will, by the end of summer, release final carbon regulations for existing power plants — a proposal that will drive up electricity prices, government data show.
The White House on Monday tried once again to justify its climate change goals by unveiling a new report claiming tens of thousands of lives will be saved through carbon restrictions and other policies. The report comes as Republicans on Capitol Hill take aim at the EPA budget and look to restrict the president’s global warming agenda through funding cuts.
So far the administration has been undaunted by complaints from Congress, legal challenges, reports of economic harm from climate policies and other obstacles.
Even before the president warned graduating Coast Guard officers about climate change, the Pentagon last fall released the “Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap,” a sweeping document that said global warming will affect military weapons systems, maintenance plans, transportation routes, stormwater management facilities, drinking water resources and a host of other military components.
Meanwhile, American forces also are being used to conduct research into the effects of climate change.
A recent Government Accountability Office report examined the Defense Department’s role in the Arctic, which increasingly will include “monitoring the changing Arctic conditions,” such as ice levels.
The administration contends that changing ice levels in the Arctic could require additional U.S. military presence in the region, justifying the need for the Pentagon to commit significant time and resources to monitoring the effects of climate change.
“Difficulty in developing accurate sea ice models, variability in the Arctic’s climate, and the uncertain rate of activity in the region create challenges for DOD to balance the risk of having inadequate capabilities or insufficient capacity when required to operate in the region with the cost of making premature or unnecessary investments,” reads a portion of the study, which was released Friday. “DOD plans to mitigate this risk by monitoring the changing Arctic conditions to determine the appropriate timing for capability investments.”
Other examples of the military embracing Mr. Obama’s climate goals include the construction of a massive solar power project at Fort Benning, Georgia, and the Navy’s move toward a “green fleet” that is far less reliant on fossil fuels.
Opponents say the administration, under the guise of protecting the environment for future generations, is saddling the military with unnecessary work and potentially putting at risk U.S. national security.
“It’s kind of a sad commentary that the military is going along with it without any pushback. And it’s ridiculous that the secretary of the Navy is running around talking about the great ‘green fleet’ while the Chinese are basically building artificial islands in the Pacific so they can launch invasions against the Philippines, Japan and Korea,” said Michael McKenna, president of the lobbying firm MWR Strategies and a former Energy Department official. “Considering global warming as an important national security threat is just laughable.”
Many lawmakers on Capitol Hill have voiced similar criticism and say Mr. Obama is foolish to equate climate change with the Islamic State and other true threats to American interests.
“The president’s speech … is a severe disconnect from reality,” Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said last month after the president’s Coast Guard address.
But barring a major course correction by the next administration, the Pentagon will make climate change a central part of all future planning.
“Politics or ideology must not get in the way of sound planning,” then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wrote in the Pentagon’s climate road map. “By taking a proactive, flexible approach to assessment, analysis and adaptation, the Defense Department will keep pace with a changing climate.” (Contributor: By Ben Wolfgang for The Washington Times)
For prayer: What began as “global warming” became scandal-ridden with falsified data and unproven conclusions, so the issue evolved into “climate change.” As commander-in-chief of the military, President Obama’s focus on Arctic ice levels cannot be legitimately questioned, whether a wise use of resources or not. However, a future day of “heat” is coming to the Earth, promised in Scripture through Peter. Pray that mercy and repentance might precede that day, so many might be saved.
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:10-13)
ZOMBIE CHARITIES PUSH POPULATION CONTROL
As a conservative, I don’t have much use for foreign aid, preferring to support private charitable efforts overseas. But when Washington politicians began to dole out huge sums of money several decades ago, existing nonprofits lined up for their share of the take.
Groups like CARE, Population Services International (PSI), and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) are still thought of as charities, but have less and less in common with America’s vibrant voluntary tradition. They are too busy administering population control programs for USAID.
Take CARE, for instance. Today’s CARE bears little resemblance to the food relief organization that was set up by Christians in the wake of World War II. CARE packages full of canned goods have been succeeded by “Sexual and Reproductive Health” (SRH) manuals and programs, which in practice means abortion, sterilization and contraception.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to CARE itself: “Effective programming in sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is a vital component of CARE’s work to reduce poverty and social injustice. and must be addressed to achieve sustainable reductions in poverty.”
Well, no. It is not at all clear that forcing birth rates down is the road to riches. The opposite is certainly true — Europe and Japan are dying precisely because higher living standards invariably result in lower birthrates — but CARE’s views reverse cause and effect.
Now you may agree or disagree with its new population control agenda, but it is undeniable that CARE doesn’t care in the same way it used to. Its foreign aid programs have become indistinguishable from those of its largest donor, the U.S. government. In fact, CARE receives about half of its annual budget, or $266 million, from the U.S. and other governments.
However low it has since sunk, CARE at least had an honorable beginning. The same cannot be said of so-called non-governmental organizations like Population Services International (PSI) that were, from the beginning, little more than government subcontractors.
Founded by a purveyor of sex toys, PSI initially received almost all of its funding from the U.S. government. There was, it seems, a natural fit between Phil Harvey’s porn business and USAID’s anti-population bomb agenda: Lots of sex and no babies. And of course there is the necessary back-up when contraception fails: PSI’s patented “Safe Abortion Kits.”
Even today, with revenues of 349 million in 2011, PSI continues to receive the lion’s share of its funding from USAID and European government agencies focused on population control. PSI would scarcely exist but for the vast infusions of government money that it receives on an annual basis.
PSI is, in effect, a mask worn by Western governments to avoid the unpleasantness that would ensue if U.S. officials themselves were to tell Africans or Latinos that they were having too many children. Better to let employees of a government-funded “charity” — possessing an incomprehensible acronym instead of a proper name — give them the bad news.
Finally, there are charities like Catholic Relief Services (CRS) who are still ostensibly trying to maintain their own identity in the face of what is essentially a hostile takeover by the government. At least that’s what organizations like Catholic Relief Services (CRS) would have us believe that it is doing.
But how Catholic can “Catholic” Relief Services be when over half of its funding comes from the federal government? This comes to several hundred million dollars a year.
And not as if this money comes with no strings attached. Say you apply for a grant from the U.S. government as a Catholic organization and thus want to preferentially hire Catholics, serve Catholics, and work through Catholic Church abroad.
“Sorry,” says the Obama administration. “That would be discrimination on the basis of religion. If you want a grant you have to hire all comers — including former Planned Parenthood employees and others who flout the teachings of the Church. Not only that, you can’t work through the Church overseas, you have to work around it.”
CRS‘ senior executives understand who’s paying their salaries, and it isn’t the ordinary pewsitter.
This dual loyalty means that the population control priorities of USAID sometimes win out, as when CRS was caught supervising the distribution of abortifacient contraceptives in Madagascar’s Santenet2 program. Or scandalizing Kenyan Catholics by promoting population control programs. All paid for by the U.S. taxpayer, of course.
I don’t know which is worse: Front organizations that were created by former USAID employees who engaged in the equivalent of insider trading by taking advantage of their knowledge and contacts to get huge new government grants. Or “real” charities, the majority founded by Christians, which have been baited by the lure of all that easy government money into vehicles for delivering population control programs into the bedrooms of the world’s poor.
Truth be told, I am less bothered by the first than the second. The first is a merely a manifestation of greed and opportunism, while the second marks a real perversion of purpose away from the noble intentions of their founders. (Contributor: By Steven W. Mosher for The Washington Times - Steven W. Mosher is president of the Virginia-based Population Research Institute, a charity that receives no government funding.)
For prayer: Such reports of charitable abuse can tempt even strong Christians to become cynical and demoralized; or, by God’s grace and a renewed infusion of spiritual vision, can help those who pray and give to press on with faith and confidence that God will ultimately judge with righteous judgment. Pray that Christian givers, seeking God’s wisdom, will discern where their financial gifts should go.
“We want to avoid any criticism of the way we administer this liberal gift. For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.” (2 Cor. 8:20-21)
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” (Rom. 12:17 NIV)
NEW CHOLESTEROL DRUGS PROMISE TO REVOLUTIONIZE HEART CARE
A new class of heart medications could be a game-changer for many people with high cholesterol, providing an alternative to statin drugs and more effectively preventing heart attacks, a top cardiologist tells Newsmax Health.
“The approval of a new treatment for cholesterol is always exciting because it means that we have another tool in the cardiology tool chest,” said Chauncey Crandall, M.D., director of preventive medicine at the Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic. “These new drugs could help people who are at high risk for heart attack that we can’t help in any other way.”
A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel this week recommended approval for two new drugs – alirocumab (Parluent) and evolocumab (Repatha). The FDA must still give final approval, but it rarely rules against its advisory committee.
The advisors made their recommendation based on short-term studies that showed the new drugs reduce LDL cholesterol, the so-called “bad” cholesterol, by up to 60 percent. It won’t be known if the drugs actually reduce heart attacks or death until the results of long-term studies are announced in 2017, although it is widely assumed they will.
The committee limited use of the drugs to people with inherited high cholesterol – an estimated 650,000 Americans. But these numbers could balloon by a million more if, as expected, people for whom statins don't work effectively are added along with those who cannot tolerate the older drugs' side effects.
Many people cannot take statins because the medications give them severe muscle pain.
Statin drugs lower cholesterol by suppressing its manufacture in the liver. The new drugs work differently. They mimick mutations in a gene, PCSK9, that blocks cholesterol production. Thus far, the studies have found no adverse side effects.
But the new drugs do have drawbacks, said Dr. Crandall. They must be injected every two weeks or monthly.
“Some people won’t like the idea of giving themselves shots, so that could be a turnoff,” he said. “But on the other hand, others may prefer a once-a-month shot to taking a pill every day.”
The new drugs are also likely to cost about $10,000 a year, which is far more expensive than statin therapy. “Unless these drugs prove to have a clear benefit in reducing heart attack and death, the government is unlikely to approve them as a first line treatment,” Dr. Crandall said. What's more, insurance companies may balk at paying for the drugs.
Even though the medications dramatically lower cholesterol, they should not be viewed as a “cure-all,” said Dr. Crandall. Most people can bring their cholesterol levels down to acceptable levels through lifestyle changes, without the need for statins or any other drug, he said.
“All of these drugs should be seen as a bridge to better health, not the answer to living a bad lifestyle,” said Dr. Crandall, author of the monthly newsletter, the Heart Health Report.
“The medications should be used to get you to target quickly so you can make changes – like losing weight, and getting more exercise and sleep – and then you lower your heart risk without the need for any drug.” (Contributor: By Charlotte Libov for News Max)
Prayer and Praise: If this medication is successful, it will be a welcome supplement. Christians know that in Jesus Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). And without disparaging the years of patient and painstaking research, we give primary thanks to God, knowing that all such advances come from divine grace, mercy, and wisdom to the research community. Pray that among the key scientists, many will acknowledge God.
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:22-23)
‘FAIR AND FLAT’ CUTS TAXES FOR ALL
Rand Paul overnight changed the dynamics of the Republican presidential race on Thursday when he released his Fair and Flat Tax plan. As he said when he unveiled the plan on video: “this is the boldest rewrite of the income tax system in 100 years — and even Ronald Reagan — who dramatically improved the federal tax system — wasn’t proposing this sweeping a cleanup of the tax code.”
For full disclosure, I spent the last several months helping design this plan with Sen. Paul — so I’m biased. But there can be no doubt that a plan that reduces income tax rates from as high as 40 percent and business taxes from 35 percent down to a flat 14.5 percent rate can only be described as explosively pro-growth and pro-jobs. See chart.
The 14.5 percent tax would apply to wages, salaries, capital gains, rents, and dividend income. The plan eliminates the estate tax, telephone taxes, Internet taxes, gift taxes and all customs and duties.
This plan would take America from being one of the highest income tax rate nations in the world to the lowest. This would remove capital and jobs from the rest of the world almost immediately to these shores. America would move from a nation off-shoring jobs, to one that would start in-sourcing millions of them. It gives U.S. workers a fair advantage.
Under the current tax system, the IRS taxes what is produced in America and sold overseas. Under Rand’s plan, when goods are produced on these shores and sold abroad, no tax is applied. But when China brings goods into the United States for sale, a 14.5 percent tax at the border is applied. This will reward production and jobs here — big time. Industrial unions should love this plan because the business tax is a GATT-legal tariff on all imported goods.
For low income and middle class families of four, the first $50,000 of income would be tax free. Moreover, because this plan eliminates the payroll tax withheld from worker paychecks, the average worker would with a $40,000 income would get a $3,000 take home pay raise. At a time of falling wages, that would be a big boost to middle class financial security.
Perhaps the strongest case for the Fair and Flat Tax is that it eliminates all of the special interest loopholes and carve-outs in the tax code. Tax lobbyists in Washington would become an endangered species — and it couldn’t happen to a nicer group of people. The richest one percent get the preponderance of the tax write-offs, so getting rid of the big deductions, would increase their taxable income while lowering the rate.
This plan is the essence of a fundamental principle of good and fair tax policy: broad base and low rates. This means investment decisions will be based on rates of return, not on political calculations.
Opponents are saying this is a European-style value added tax. Wrong. In Europe, Vats were imposed in top of corrupt and high rate income tax structures. This plan is not an add-on tax, but a replacement consumption tax that will reduce, not add to the size of the welfare state.
Would this hike the deficit? The Tax Foundation says 2 million jobs would be added and the GDP would be 10 percent larger after a decade under this plan. This means in a decade the United States would have about $2.5 trillion a year more output, and the added jobs and income will add to tax collections. This is right out of the JFK and Ronald Reagan play book: grow the economy to increase revenues.
Some skeptics at The New York Times and elsewhere are complaining that the Flat and Fair Tax can’t work in practice. Consider the Hong Kong experiment. More than half a century ago Hong Kong adopted a 15 percent flat tax and has been a glittering model of prosperity and tax efficiency ever since. Hong Kong is now one of the wealthiest places on the globe thanks in part to low tax rates and tax simplicity.
So this is a tax plan that will add to American dynamism by lowering tax distortions and by reducing the role and size of government in our lives. The tax code is the power center in Washington and this plan shuts that down for good. That’s bad for K Street but very good for main street USA.
So Rand Paul has suddenly injected a tax policy game changer into the presidential debate. All the other candidates on the Republican side will have to alter their tax reform ambitions accordingly. Rand just hit the equivalent of a Stephen Curry three pointer from half court. No doubt the rest of the candidates are studying the Fair and Flat Tax and wondering: wow, why didn’t I think of that? (Contributor: By Stephen Moore for The Washington Times - Stephen Moore is a Fox News contributor and author of “Who’s the Fairest of Them All” (Encounter Books, 2014).)
For prayer: This article speaks for itself. It may not be enough to deliver a presidential nomination to Sen. Rand Paul, but a simplified tax plan for American wage earners is long overdue. The average citizen is overcome with taxes and an incomprehensible tax code. Congress has the authority to simplify things, but burgeoning federal government has a stranglehold. Pray for God’s mercy on our nation as some presidential candidates will try to outdo others with more “promises.”
“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and And the law of the Lord is with us’? Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood. The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; so what wisdom do they have?” (Jer. 8:8-9)
MSNBC REPORTER OVERCOME BY CHARLESTON CROWD GOSPEL
While covering the arraignment for Charleston shooting suspect, Dylann Roof, MSNBC reporter Thomas Roberts suddenly choked up as he described the inspirational scene before him at a vigil which took place at the same time.
Roberts seemed astounded as he reported how the shooting victims' family members had spoken one-by-one to the 21-year-old suspect, telling him they'd forgiven him for killing their loved ones.
"Can we look over here right now? I mean, it's kind of heartbreaking," said Roberts while choking up. "They're singing, and a whole flood of people showed up at the same time... that this arraignment was taking place."
Obviously very moved, Roberts began haltingly describing the crowd that had formed outside and had begun singing Gospel songs.
"...They're singing a Gospel song? ... and you heard from the family members ... of those who were lost.... You can see the outpouring of support for this community; it goes all the way down the street... I'm sorry...."
Unable to go on at one point, another MSNBC announcer took over, as Roberts just stared at the crowd, seemingly stunned.
For prayer and praise: This is a “give-thanks-to-God” article. Any who watched reporter Thomas Roberts’ genuine, unscripted emotional response to hearing a group of Charleston Christians singing hymns while admitted killer Dylann Roof was being arraigned, do not need further encouragement to give thanks. We do not know Mr. Roberts’ personal beliefs, but one could almost hear an echo of Jesus’ words to a wise seeker centuries ago, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
“Then one of the scribes came, and … asked Him, ‘Which is the first commandment of all?’ Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment. And the second … is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” … So the scribe said …, ‘Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’” (Mark 12:28-34)
PUTIN TELLS RUSSIANS THAT IT’S THEIR ‘HOLY DUTY’ TO BE PATRIOTIC
Russians bear a “holy duty” to be patriotic as the country commemorates the 74th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, President Vladimir Putin said.
“It’s our holy duty to be faithful to the great values of patriotism, to keep the memory of our fathers’ and grandfathers’ achievements, and to honor our veterans,” Putin said during a televised ceremony honoring cities for their sacrifices during the war.
The Chechen capital Grozny, Staraya Russa in the Novgorod region, the Leningrad region town of Gatchina, Karelia’s Petrozavodsk, and the Crimean port Feodosia were also named “Cities of Military Glory” in the Kremlin ceremony.
Putin, who also laid a wreath at Russia’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, has appealed to patriotism to rally support as the economy heads for its first recession since 2009. Sergei Ivanov, the Kremlin chief of staff, told reporters that he wasn’t surprised the European Union decided to extend sanctions on the war anniversary. (Contributor: By Stepan Kravchenko for Bloomberg News)
For prayer: We cannot fathom Mr. Putin’s concept of “holy” in his “holy duty” speech. And we would ask whether the “fathers’ and grandfathers’ achievements” include, in his mind, the mass starvation of Soviet citizens under Josef Stalin’s murderous regime. Nonetheless, we recognize that Mr. Putin, though lacking Gospel truth, is a human made in the image of God, and we can gladly and sincerely pray that God will call him to repentance and salvation in Jesus Christ.
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out…. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:37, 39-40)
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” (John 14:6)
A DISASTER FORETOLD — AND IGNORED
The seven young men sitting before some of Capitol Hill’s most powerful lawmakers weren’t graduate students or junior analysts from some think tank. No, Space Rogue, Kingpin, Mudge and the others were hackers who had come from the mysterious environs of cyberspace to deliver a terrifying warning to the world.
Your computers, they told the panel of senators in May 1998, are not safe — not the software, not the hardware, not the networks that link them together. The companies that build these things don’t care, the hackers continued, and they have no reason to care because failure costs them nothing. And the federal government has neither the skill nor the will to do anything about it.
“If you’re looking for computer security, then the Internet is not the place to be,” said Mudge, then 27 and looking like a biblical prophet with long brown hair flowing past his shoulders. The Internet itself, he added, could be taken down “by any of the seven individuals seated before you” with 30 minutes of well-choreographed keystrokes.
The senators — a bipartisan group including John Glenn, Joseph I. Lieberman and Fred D. Thompson — nodded gravely, making clear that they understood the gravity of the situation. “We’re going to have to do something about it,” Thompson said.
What happened instead was a tragedy of missed opportunity, and 17 years later the world is still paying the price in rampant insecurity.
The testimony from L0pht, as the hacker group called itself, was among the most audacious of a rising chorus of warnings delivered in the 1990s as the Internet was exploding in popularity, well on its way to becoming a potent global force for communication, commerce and criminality.
Hackers and other computer experts sounded alarms as the World Wide Web brought the transformative power of computer networking to the masses. This created a universe of risks for users and the critical real-world systems, such as power plants, rapidly going online as well.
Officials in Washington and throughout the world failed to forcefully address these problems as trouble spread across cyberspace, a vast new frontier of opportunity and lawlessness. Even today, many serious online intrusions exploit flaws in software first built in that era, such as Adobe Flash, Oracle’s Java and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
“We have the same security problems,” said Space Rogue, whose real name is Cris Thomas. “There’s a lot more money involved. There’s a lot more awareness. But the same problems are still there.”
L0pht, born of the bustling hacker scene in the Boston area, rose to prominence as a flood of new software was introducing such wonders as sound, animation and interactive games to the Web. This software, which required access to the core functions of each user’s computer, also gave hackers new opportunities to manipulate machines from afar.
Breaking into networked computers became so easy that the Internet, long the realm of idealistic scientists and hobbyists, gradually grew infested with the most pragmatic of professionals: crooks, scam artists, spies and cyberwarriors. They exploited computer bugs for profit or other gain while continually looking for new vulnerabilities.
Tech companies sometimes scrambled to fix problems — often after hackers or academic researchers revealed them publicly — but few companies were willing to undertake the costly overhauls necessary to make their systems significantly more secure against future attacks. Their profits depended on other factors, such as providing consumers new features, not warding off hackers.
“In the real world, people only invest money to solve real problems, as opposed to hypothetical ones,” said Dan S. Wallach, a Rice University computer science professor who has been studying online threats since the 1990s. “The thing that you’re selling is not security. The thing that you’re selling is something else.”
The result was a culture within the tech industry often derided as “patch and pray.” In other words, keep building, keep selling and send out fixes as necessary. If a system failed — causing lost data, stolen credit card numbers or time-consuming computer crashes — the burden fell not on giant, rich tech companies but on their customers.
The members of L0pht say they often experienced this cavalier attitude in their day jobs, where some toiled as humble programmers or salesmen at computer stores. When they reported bugs to software makers, company officials often asked: Does anybody else know about this? (Contributor: By Craig Timberg for The Washington Post)
For prayer: Pray God’s protection on our exposed citizens. An old axiom says those who fail to learn from the past will repeat its mistakes. No one knows the full damage to our country’s security through the cyberattacks that have stolen personal data from millions of Americans. We do know that our nation is weaker and more vulnerable. No government official has accepted responsibility. We can give thanks for God’s mercy, but we must pray for national spiritual restoration.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, the labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Ps. 127:1)
FASTING COULD HELP YOU LIVE LONGER
Fasting diets could help people to live longer as well as make them slimmer, according to new research.
A pilot study by American and Italian researchers shows that people put on a calorie-restricted diet for five days a month have more anti-ageing “regeneration” markers in their blood and fewer red flags of disease.
In a study of 37 healthy people, half ate a regular diet while the rest were put on a fasting-type diet for five days a month over three months -- consuming between 34 and 54 per cent of the calories in a normal diet.
Compared to regular eaters, those who fasted had fewer risk factors linked to ageing, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, without any negative effects on their health.
Researchers were prompted to do the human trial after an earlier study in mice found that a fasting-type diet improved metabolism and cognitive function, decreased bone loss and cancer incidence, and extended longevity.
Their findings, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, showed that mice put on a fasting diet for four days twice a month, produced more stem cells, while cells in their bone, muscles, liver and brain, as well as their immune cells, were regenerated.
It was the first time many of the regenerative effects had been shown in a short-term diet.
The mice lived longer, with less inflammatory diseases and cancer, improved learning and memory, and reduced bone loss.
Lead researcher Valter Longo from the University of Southern California, whose previous studies showed that fasting improved how cells resisted stress, said the mice were fed a diet low in protein and carbohydrates but high in healthy fats.
“This is arguably the first non-chronic anti-ageing and healthspan-promoting intervention shown to work and to be very feasible as a doctor or dietitian supervised intervention,” Dr Longo said.
But he said the pilot study was based on small numbers and the results needed to be replicated in a larger study.
The diet program would be tested in another 60-70 people ahead of a bigger trial of up to 1000. (Contributor: By Cathy O'Leary for The West Australian)
For prayer: Most Christians know they must not confuse health-related, dietary fasting with the spiritual discipline of fasting in accordance with God’s principles. While fasting for physical health has benefits for the body, fasting dedicated to the Lord to enhance the believer’s focus on prayer can bring about results far beyond what is immediately seen or felt. Study Isaiah 58 and pray accordingly.
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? … The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” (Isa. 58:6, 11)
[Jesus said:] “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matt. 6:16-18)