Donate

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Recent blog posts
Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
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)

Last modified on
Hits: 284
0
Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
The Informer February 17, 2016

On Watch in Washington February 17, 2016 Plain Text PDF Version

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)

Last modified on
Hits: 332
0
Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
The Informer February 3, 2016

On Watch in Washington February 3, 2016 Plain Text PDF Version

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)

Last modified on
Hits: 378
0
Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
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)

Last modified on
Hits: 542
0
Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
The Informer January 6, 2016

On Watch in Washington January 6, 2016 Plain Text PDF Version

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)

Last modified on
Hits: 564
0
Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
The Informer December 16, 2015

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

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)

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

Last modified on
Hits: 549
0
Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
The Informer December 9, 2015

On Watch in Washington December 9, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

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)

On Watch in Washington December 9, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

Last modified on
Hits: 669
0
Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
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

 

Last modified on
Hits: 574
0
Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
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.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’” [And so following Jesus’s pattern, Paul in Acts 27:35 “took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it…”]

1 Corinthians 11:23–24: Our “Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it . . .”

Jesus is not only God himself but also the quintessentially thankful human. The God-man not only died to forgive our failures in giving God the thanks he’s due, but also lived the perfect life of appreciation on our behalf toward his Father.

Freed for Thanksgiving

Finally, by faith in Jesus, we are redeemed from ingratitude, and its just eternal penalty in hell, and freed to enjoy the pleasure of being doubly thankful for God’s favor toward us — not only as his creatures, but also as his redeemed.

It is fitting for a creature to be in a continuous posture of gratitude toward his creator. And it is even more fitting for a redeemed rebel to be in an ongoing posture of gratitude toward his redeemer. The kind of life that flows from such amazing grace is the life of continual thankfulness. This is the kind of life in which the born-again Christian is being continually renewed, progressively being made more like Jesus.

And so the apostle Paul encourages Christians to have lives characterized by thanksgiving.

Colossians 1:11–12: “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”

Colossians 2:6–7: “as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

Colossians 3:15–17 [note the hat trick (3x) in this one text]: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Ephesians 5:20: “…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Only in Jesus, the paragon of creaturely appreciation, are we able to become the kind of persistently thankful people God created us to be and fulfill the human destiny of thanksgiving. For the Christian, with both feet standing firmly in the good news of Jesus, there are possibilities for a true thanksgiving which we otherwise would never know. (Contributor: David Mathis for Desiring God)

Give thanks! The appropriate response to this encouraging message is to give thanksgiving and praise to God for His kindness, faithfulness, and provision. This is not to ignore family members and friends who suffer in challenging difficulties. But God’s outstanding and overcoming blessing is the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ. His grace is sufficient to save and to keep His own.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess 5:16-18)

THE GRIEVANCE GENERATION

Remember the campus unrest in the 1960s? Whether you agreed with the students or not, they were protesting about things of great consequence — like civil rights, or the military draft, or the Vietnam War. They had chants like “hell no, we won’t go.” Those were the good old days.

Now we are witnessing whiney college kids marching in the streets screaming obscenities or taking over the university president’s office for what? Feeling slighted? Having their feelings hurt? Talk about rebels without a cause.

One of the trendy demand by the aggrieved students is free college tuition. And why not? Nearly everything else these millennials have ever had was handed to them for free.

I’ve traveled to many campuses in recent weeks and experienced the melodrama of student grievances first-hand. To be fair, I should note that many of the students are impressive with open and inquiring minds. It’s only a loud-mouthed minority whose mission is to shut out and shut down views they find a way to be offended by.

These leftist kids are agitated. Angry. This the hangover effect, I suspect, from the shattered utopian dreams of Hope and Change. I have noticed in recent months that these students attend my lectures not to learn anything — they know everything already — but hoping that I will slip up or say something they can label as offensive or that violates their eight-volume campus speech code.

When I ask them what they want, a typical response is a “radical transformation of the economy” to reduce income inequality, racism, sexism, and, of course, to end climate change. Government will command these changes to achieve this transformation. These are young Stalinists who are willing to suspend almost every basic freedom and civil liberty for “the greater good.”

They’re on a roll having already successfully removed university presidents and faculty for the sin of being insufficiently responsive to their latest grievance.

At one recent visit to University of Massachusetts I asked a few kids what their plans were for Thanksgiving. They practically spat at me for even mentioning this white supremacy holiday, that only trivializes and glorifies the genocide of the Native Americans by the pilgrims. Wow. Sorry, I brought it up, especially in your “safe space.” if they had their way, I would be sentenced to six months of sensitivity training.

I can’t help contrasting these campus attitudes with a recent meeting I had with a group of soldiers who had returned from Afghanistan. These brave men and women risked their lives everyday. They had real bullets shot at them, not the verbal ones that the campus leftists find so offensive. They have genuine and in some cases life-changing injuries — ringing in the ear, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and broken limbs.

They served so that the leftists on college campuses who day after day remain sheltered in their cocoons and protest the wounds to their fragile psyche of having to listen to a point of view they disagree with. The horror. How do they little darlings go on? Maybe they will do all us a favor and stay there and never graduate.

Can you imagine the tyranny you would bring upon yourself by actually hiring one of these self-righteous complainers. Within a month they’d be slapping you with a lawsuit for not having a transgender bathroom. And you’ll be thinking: Right, but did you actually finish that assignment I gave you? Employers tell me despondently that the millennials are by far the highest maintenance generation they’ve ever seen. One recruiter recently told me: “They need their hands held, they demand affirmation, they are forever whining about their feelings. We really don’t have time to deal with their petty grievances.” Ironically, when I graduated from college in the early 1980s they called us the “me generation.”

Who’s to blame for all of this? Alas, we are. The parents who caved in to every instant gratification demand they ever had, arranged “play dates,” for them, showered them with daily positive affirmation, and gave them time-outs rather than spankings. Our schools are to blame for labeling them “gifted and talented,” and awarding them towering trophies for finishing in 6th place so as not to damage their self-esteem. The college professors who corrupt their minds with hate-America ideology and now are the administrators who cave into their every petty demand.

Worst of all are the successful Americans who well-meaningly think they are being charitable by giving their money to the very universities that are indoctrinating these kids with nonsensical ideas. Why? Just stop. Society would be better off if you just burned your money.

Yes, I admit that these complaints are made of every generation. But this one seems seriously off and we made them this way. A generation that has grown up in more affluence and personal freedom than any other in history has been taught to hate the free enterprise wealth-creation process that gave them what they want in the first place. A generation that has been drilled since pre-kindergarten that the highest virtue in life is tolerance, has suddenly become the most intolerant in history.

What they lack most is gratitude. Something to think about this Thanksgiving. (Contributor: By Stephen Moore for The Washington Post)

Pray for universities experiencing these violent protests. May many seeking “freedom” find it in Jesus Christ. The article blames rebel students and indulgent parents. A third source of poison to young minds is the anti-American, pro-Marxist, pro-rioting, tenured “fraternity” of rabble-rousing faculty who foment anarchy and encourage revolution. Academia must cleanse itself of these enemies of truth.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding.” (Ps 111:10)   

BELGIUM ON HI ALERT

Belgian prosecutors say they have arrested 16 people in raids Sunday night, after the city of Brussels spent the second day in a row on high alert.

Twenty-two raids were mounted, the prosecutors said — most in Brussels, and several south of the city. No explosives or firearms were recovered in the arrests, prosecutors say, and fugitive Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the Paris attacks, was not among those arrested.

As we've reported, the Belgian capital has been essentially shut down since Saturday, after authorities said they received "concrete information" of a terrorist plot.

In a statement, the country's Crisis Center said the latest intelligence still points to a "serious and immediate threat." And after officials met on Sunday, they decided to close schools and universities on Monday. The metro will remain closed for a third day in a row.

Authorities fear that terrorists may be planning a Paris-style attack in Brussels.

NPR's Dina Temple-Raston reports that the rest of Belgium will remain on a lower state of alert.

"There will be a reassessment tomorrow afternoon, Prime Minister Charles Michel said," Dina reports.

Reporting from Paris, NPR's Peter Kenyon reports that the network of attackers may extend to Turkey. He filed this report for our Newscast unit:

"Prime Minister Charles Michel told Belgians that the threat level was raised because of what he called precise information about 'several individuals' planning an attack, possibly including suicide vests. Police discovered weapons at the apartment of a man arrested earlier in the poor suburb of Molenbeek.

"At least one of the Paris attackers, Salah Abdeslam, remains at large.

"In Turkey, police arrested a Belgian man suspected of scouting out sites for the Paris attacks. Turkish media identified the suspect as Ahmet Dahmani. He was arrested in southeast Turkey along with two other men who were suspected of trying to smuggle him across the border to Syria." (Contributor: By Eyder Peralta for The Two-Way / NPR News)

Some ask why we, as Intercessors for America, focus on these attacks in European nations? The immediate answer is in one acronym, NATO. France and Brussels are NATO members, as is the U.S. As such, America is committed to their defense. And today we learned that Turkey — also a NATO member — shot down a Russian warplane near Syria. The world is a simmering cauldron. Pray!

[Jesus said,] “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)

TERROR ATTACK IN MALI

terror attack at a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital has left at least 21 people dead, including two militants, and highlighted the world’s growing vulnerability to extremist violence.

Less than a week after the Paris gun and suicide bomb attacks in which 130 people were killed, a group of heavily armed and seemingly well-trained gunmen stormed the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako.

They drove unchallenged into an inner compound, detonated grenades, opened fire at security guards and then took hostage about 170 people –among them diplomats, a celebrated Guinean singer and air crew from France and Turkey, as well as Indian and Chinese nationals. Three Chinese, one American and one Belgian were among the dead.

The president of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Këita, speaking on national television late on Friday evening, declared a national state of emergency effective from midnight. As well as the 19 people and two Islamist militants killed, he said seven people had been wounded in the attack.

The siege was the latest in a string of recent high-profile terror attacks, from bombings in Beirut and the downing of a Russian airline over the Sinai desert to the events in Paris.

By late Friday night Malian special forces assisted by counterparts from the US and France had fought their way through the hotel floor by floor, reportedly killing at least two of the gunmen. A security source in Mali said the incident was over by the early evening. At least 30 people escaped during the siege. “The attackers no longer have hostages,” said a security ministry spokesman, Amadou Sanghou.

A military official said the gunmen shouted “Allahu Akbar” as they began the attack. Al-Mourabitoun, an African jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, claimed responsibility in a message posted on Twitter.

A Chinese state-owned company said three of its senior executives were among the dead. China Railway Construction Corp identified the victims as Zhou Tianxiang, general manager for the corporation’s international group; Wang Xuanshang, a deputy general manager of the international group; and Chang Xuehui, general manager of the group’s west Africa division. China’s foreign affairs ministry confirmed the four deaths and said four other Chinese citizens were rescued.

The American victim was named as Anita Ashok Datar, an international aid agency worker from Maryland and former member of the Peace Corp. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, offered “deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and injured”.

Barack Obama, speaking in Malaysia during a regional summit, called it another example of “appalling” and “barbaric” jihadist violence against “innocent people who had everything to live for”.

“The terrorists began ruthlessly killing people and taking hostages [at the Bamako hotel]. On behalf of the American people I want to extend our deepest condolences to the people of Mali and the victims’ families, including at least one American,” said the US president.

John Kirby, a US state department spokesman, said about a dozen Americans including embassy staff had been among those rescued at the hotel. Across the city, the Pentagon said, a total of 22 military and civilian employees were accounted for after the attack.

Canada, meanwhile, said a clerk for the federal House of Commons and an employee of Quebec’s provincial legislature were both in the hotel at the time of the attacks. Both were safe afterwards.

The attack is a blow to President Keïta, who rushed back from a meeting of regional leaders in Chad. It also marks another reverse for François Hollande, whose country ruled Mali for 68 years until 1960. The French president gained significant political capital from his decision in 2013 to commit French troops to driving Islamist forces out of the north of Mali.

Hollande personally flew out to Timbuktu in February 2013, five days after French forces had routed the occupying jihadists, to hail the operation, saying it had “brought hope to the populations of northern Mali”.

His deployment of 3,700 French ground troops to assist the faltering efforts of Mali’s military had been seen as deeply risky, but in the end it took just 23 days for the French to retake most of a swath of territory held for nine months by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim).

Al-Mourabitoun – which claimed it carried out the hotel attack – is a more recent incarnation of militant Islamism. Based in northern Mali it is made up mostly of Tuaregs and Arabs and was formed about two years ago.

The attack on the Radisson, one of Bamako’s plushest hotels in a neighbourhood also home to government ministries and diplomats, appeared notably brutal, though it remained unclear how many people were killed by the attackers and who might have died when the hotel was stormed by troops.

State television showed footage of soldiers in camouflage fatigues wielding AK-47s in the lobby of the hotel. In the background a body lay under a brown blanket at the bottom of a flight of stairs.

The Radisson’s owner, the Rezidor Hotel Group, said 170 guests and staff were initially trapped. Some fled or escaped. Reports said the hostage-takers freed those who were able to quote passages from the Qur’an.

Among the released hostages was the Guinean singer Sékouba “Bambino” Diabaté, who told reporters he heard some of the attackers in the room next to him speaking to each other in English. “I heard them say in English: ‘Did you load it? Let’s go,’” he said. “I wasn’t able to see them because in these kinds of situations it’s hard.”

Air France said 12 of its crew who were staying in the hotel were safe. It cancelled its scheduled flights to and from Bamako on Friday. Turkish Airlines had about seven or eight staff staying at the hotel, most of whom were released before the building was retaken.

India’s foreign ministry said 20 Indian nationals were among the hostages, and they were all known to be alive. Algeria said seven of its nationals including diplomats had been trapped in the hotel during the siege.

Mali hotel

The US Africa Command said forces stationed in Mali helped to secure the scene, and France’s national gendarme service said about 40 French special police forces based in Bamako took part in the assault on the hotel.

Ban Ki-moon condemned the “horrific” attack. His spokesman said the UN secretary general expressed “full support to the Malian authorities in their fight against terrorist and extremist groups”.

Northern Mali was occupied by rebel fighters, some with links to al-Qaida, for most of 2012. Although they were driven out by the French-led military operation, sporadic violence continues.

In the two and a half years since the French intervention, Mali and its international partners have been working to rebuild, with elections later in 2013 returning Keïta to power. The 70-year-old had previously been president from 1994 to 2000.

This summer, long-running peace talks in Algiers saw agreement between Mali’s government and Tuareg-led separatist rebels, which granted greater autonomy to northern regions and aimed to prevent a repeat of the 2012 uprising. But, as with Afghanistan or Iraq, the conflict has never fully gone away, with a variety of armed groups still operating in the north, including jihadi offshoots such as al-Mourabitoun, as well as various separatist organizations.

Recently, the jihadi problem has shown signs of creeping into central and southern Mali. The Radisson attack follows a nearly 24-hour siege and hostage-taking at another hotel in August in the central Malian town of Sevare, in which five UN workers were killed along with four soldiers and four attackers.

Five people, including a French citizen and a Belgian, were killed in an attack at a restaurant in Bamako in March, the first such incident in the capital. Both attacks were also claimed by al-Mourabitoun. (Contributor: By Peter Walker and Charlie English for The Guardian)

While many Americans might not be able to locate Mali quickly on a map of Africa, we encourage prayer even for far away terrorism victims. Only God knows which country will be the next target. The international terrorist movement — identified by several names — is worldwide, relentless, and rabid. Are we just a step away from the next world war? Please pray! Fervent intercession is the key!

“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 17:6-7)

WASHINGTON POST REPORTER SENTENCED TO PRISON IN IRAN

Iranian court sentences Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian to a prison term. No further details provided.

An Iranian court has sentenced Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian to a prison term, Reuters reported Sunday, citing the state news agency.

The length of the prison term was not specified. "Serving a jail term is in Jason Rezaian's sentence but I cannot give details," judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei told a weekly news conference in Tehran, according to the IRNA news agency.

Rezaian, a joint American-Iranian citizen and a correspondent for The Washington Post, was arrested in July 2014 and accused of spying.

Following a closed-door trial, it was reported last month that a verdict had been reached in the case, but no further details were offered at the time.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Sunday he was aware of the IRNA report but could not independently confirm it. It was not clear why Iran has not given details of the ruling against the 39-year-old Rezaian.

The foreign editor of the Washington Post, Douglas Jehl, said the newspaper was aware of the reports but had no additional information.

He told Reuters the reported sentencing might move the case closer to a final resolution in the judiciary, so it can then go to Iranian leaders. "It's these senior leaders who have the power to pardon, the power to overturn a verdict, the power to make things right," he said.

In addition to Rezaian, two other Americans are currently held by Iran. The United States has regularly demanded the unconditional release of the three prisoners.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently said he would work for the release of the three Iranian Americans, including Rezaian, if the United States would free Iranians held in U.S. prisons for violating sanctions against their country. (Contributor: By Ben Ariel for Arutz Sheva)

Intercessors know that Mr. Rezaian’s plight is linked to another Iranian-American, Saeed Abedini, for whom we have been praying since his arrest in 2012. Two other Americans are also imprisoned in Iran, and from all appearances, neither President Obama nor Secretary of State Kerry made a protest or exerted diplomatic pressure for their release when they had leverage. Pray as you are led.  

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

 

'SHAMEFUL' POLICY TOWARD MIDDLE EASTERN CHRISTIANS

In his press conference in Turkey on Monday, November 16, President Obama called “shameful” the proposals to give special treatment to Christian refugees from the Middle East. Here’s some of what he said:

The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism, they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife. They are parents, they are children, they are orphans. And it is very important -- and I was glad to see that this was affirmed again and again by the G20 -- that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism….And the United States has to step up and do its part. And when I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution -- that’s shameful. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.

This is a standard Obama reaction to criticism: attack the motives of critics and use the most extreme version of their views to undermine their argument. It’s true that some critics have said that the United States should admit only Christians and never Muslims—at least until we have reliable vetting procedures for Muslims.

But in fact, the Obama administration has abandoned Middle Eastern Christians and other minorities during years of violent assaults. The Obama refugee program has simply ignored the plight of such religious minorities, treating them no better than Muslims despite the obvious fact that their own situation is far worse.

Why is it worse? Because Muslims can find easier and safer refuge in neighboring Muslim-majority countries such as Jordan and Turkey. Because the UN’s refugee camps, run by the high commissioner for refugees, are almost entirely Muslim and Christians do not feel safe in them. Because the U.S. refugee program accepts refugees mostly from those camps, where Christian refugees fear to live. Because there are no efforts to eliminate Muslims in the Middle East, while there are efforts to demonize, penalize, and convert Christians—and (according to the U.S. Holocaust Museum) there are genocidal attacks on the Yezidi minority.

The president’s argument is that distinguishing the cases of Muslim and Christian refugees would be “shameful.” As a question of national security, that is a difficult argument to sustain: in the United States and Western Europe, Christian refugees have not become terrorists and it’s a simple fact that their admission does not present the same security risk. That does not mean no Muslim refugees should be admitted, but it does suggest that an adamant refusal to distinguish among refugees on religious lines is illogical. The 1930s provide a useful comparison: would it have been “shameful” for the United States to provide special help to Jewish refugees, who were the targets of special persecution and genocide? Or was it instead “shameful” to refuse such help?

The Obama argument vilified his critics: “We don’t have religious tests to our compassion,” he said. Really? Has he never heard of the hate crime legislation his administration has comprehensively supported? We distinguish in the United States between acts of violence committed for financial or personal reasons, for example, and those motivated by hate—including “attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin.” So we distinguish in American law between some victims and others, even if the damage done to them by the violence is exactly the same. Why? According to the “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act,” because “Such violence disrupts the tranquility and safety of communities and is deeply divisive” and “A prominent characteristic of a violent crime motivated by bias is that it devastates not just the actual victim and the family and friends of the victim, but frequently savages the community sharing the traits that caused the victim to be selected.”

Quite right—and quite right not only in the United States but in Syria and Iraq. Christian and other minority communities are being “savaged” in just that manner by the “violent crime” called mass terrorism by the Islamic State.

So we do have religious tests when we judge the nature and effects of violence in the United States, and it is not “shameful” but decent and sensible to apply similar tests to violence in the Middle East. The fact is that Christian and several other minority communities are faced with special hatred and violence and are trying to flee it—and the Obama administration seems blind to their plight. Indeed the President in his remarks in Turkey is proud of that blindness, and calls any special efforts to rescue Christians “shameful.”

Middle Eastern Christians face special dangers and have a special need for rescue, and they pose no risk to the United States. Surely it would be simple enough to devise tests that verify that people who claim to be Christians are indeed Christians—from asking them questions about their religious upbringing, to the fact that Muslims but not most Middle Eastern Christians are circumcised, to seeking church records and testimony from pastors and priests. What’s shameful is an American refugee policy that ignores the agony of Middle Eastern Christian communities. (Contributor: By Elliott Abrams for The Weekly Standard)

President Obama needs our prayers! A majority of Americans from both major political parties believe the “shameful” aspect is Mr. Obama’s open negativity toward Christian refugees. He overwhelmingly favors Muslims. In truth, it is the president who is angry and is vilifying citizens who disagree with him. Pray for him to be awakened spiritually and for God to change his heart toward Christians.

“Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. So truth fails ….” (Isa 59:14-15)

 

HOUSE SELECT INVESTIGATIVE PANEL TO SCRUTINIZE BIG ABORTION’S MACHINE

In the face of a relentless onslaught of information revealing just how sick Big Abortion has become, some good news is most welcome. Well, relatively good news.

Congress has established a Select Investigative Panel, chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, to review medical procedures and abortion business practices. And make no mistake, abortion is a business.

The establishment of this Investigative Panel follows investigations underway in three House Committees. While the House Judiciary Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee investigations are ongoing, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has published a Memo of its findings.

The House has named the eight pro-life Republican members to sit on the new Investigative Panel, consisting of four women and four men. The House Minority Leader has yet to name the four members she will appoint. According to Rep. Blackburn, the Investigative Panel has jurisdiction to review:

  • “Medical procedures and business practices used by entities involved in fetal tissue procurement;
  • “Any other matters with respect to fetal tissue procurement;
  • “Federal funding and support for abortion providers;
  • “The practices of providers of second and third trimester abortions, including partial birth abortion procedures that may lead to a child born alive as a result of an attempted abortion;
  • “Medical procedures for the care of a child born alive as a result of an attempted abortion; and,
  • “Any changes in law or regulation necessary as a result of any other findings made.”

In announcing the creation of the Investigative Panel, House Speaker John Boehner said:

Recent videos exposing the abortion-for-baby parts business have shocked the nation, and demanded action. At my request, three House committees have been investigating the abortion business, but we still don’t have the full truth. Chairman Blackburn and our members will have the resources and the subpoena power to get to the bottom of these horrific practices, and build on our work to protect the sanctity of all human life.

The sad reality is you fund the barbarity of abortion, and Planned Parenthood would have you believe they have a constitutional right to your tax dollars. They don’t.

Planned Parenthood currently receives more than $500 million in taxpayer funds each year – while its most recent annual report showed revenue of $1.3 billion, $127 million in profit, and $1.4 billion in assets, as found by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Hopefully the Investigative Panel will take a giant step to expose Big Abortion’s farce to the light of day.

In hopes of evading the spotlight, Planned Parenthood recently announced it would stop taking “reimbursements” in exchange for baby body parts. But don’t be misled, Planned Parenthood will continue to tear babies’ bodies apart and ship limbs, organs and other baby body parts out for experimentation. Now they just won’t take reimbursements for those baby body parts. They promise. Now go about your business.

Thankfully, House Leadership didn’t take the bait, and the Investigative Panel will proceed.

The ACLJ is aggressively fighting against Big Abortion in the courts, Congress, and the public square. Over 300,000 have joined our petition calling for an end to Planned Parenthood’s sickening business model. If you are disturbed at what’s happening to these innocent babies, please make your voice heard.

As Representative Steve Russell of Oklahoma solemnly warned in a recent House Committee hearing:

We can carve up a child and call it a choice. We can destroy human life and call it healthcare. We can make the killing of children legal and pretend that it’s beneficial. We can cover acts of barbarity with the veneer of civility. But we cannot escape our accountability before the Creator of life.

Indeed.

We commend Rep. Russell for speaking truth in the face of darkness. We commend the various Members of House Committees working to shed light on Big Abortion. We commend Republican leadership in the House for establishing the Select Investigative Panel. We hope you will speak up in support of their efforts, and use your voice for the children who never get to speak. (Contributor: By Benjamin P. Sisney for ACLJ)

This is a time for united, unified intercession. There are no gray areas. Rep. Blackburn’s panel means business. It is well staffed to conduct a thorough investigation. To date, in spite of clear, condemning evidence, Planned Parenthood has wriggled and squirmed with lies and obfuscation. Pray for the panel to expose the truth, for every lie to be overturned, and these horrific practices to be defunded.

“Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way… The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” (Ps 119:128, 130)

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

Last modified on
Hits: 414
0
Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
The Informer November 18, 2015

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

WORLD LEADERS CONVERGE TO CONDEMN PARIS TERROR

World leaders joined a heavily-guarded summit in Turkey on Sunday to forge a united front against jihadist violence after the Paris gun and bomb assaults but facing stark divisions over conflict-riven Syria.

U.S. President Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin of Russia, China’s President Xi Jinping and other leaders gathered at the Mediterranean resort of Antalya two days after the Paris attacks claimed by Islamic State jihadists that killed at least 129 people.

The Paris killings darkened the mood of the summit of the Group of 20 top world economies, with security and the Syrian conflict now eclipsing an economic agenda that will also deal with the spreading refugee crisis, climate change and tax avoidance.

Several sources told AFP that the leaders were working on a rare separate statement to denounce the Paris attacks and terrorism, urged on by host President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who said the summit agenda was now “very different” given the massacre in Paris.

“We need to lead an international fight within a coalition against collective acts of terrorism,” Erdogan said on the eve of the summit after meeting with China’s Xi, who described terrorism as “a common enemy of humanity.”

The gathering, which will take place without French leader Francois Hollande who remains home to lead his shaken country, offers the first possibility of a meeting between Obama and Putin since Russia launched a its own air campaign in Syria.

The West suspects the Russian bombardment is aimed at propping up the regime of President Bashar Assad, a difference that risks driving a wedge through the summit, which officially starts on Sunday afternoon.

The White House has said no formal summit is so far scheduled between the pair, whose icy body language at previous encounters has grabbed as many headlines as their comments.

Erdogan wants to use the summit to cement his status as a global leader after winning a resounding victory in an election last month, held three weeks after a twin suicide bombing in Ankara that killed 102 people and was blamed on Islamic State militants.

But while even Putin and Obama are likely to have no trouble standing together in shared abhorrence of terrorism, overcoming differences on Syria will prove far trickier.

Heightened security

All musical events, including at the official dinner on Sunday night, have been cancelled as a mark of respect for the Paris victims and Turkish state media said the already tight security at the summit was stepped up.

The leaders will probably struggle to find common ground over the Syria crisis, with host Turkey deeply opposed to Russia’s air strikes and finding only a lukewarm reaction so far to its proposal for a safe zone free of Islamic State jihadists to be created inside Syria as a haven for refugees.

“I pray and hope that G20 will provide a platform whereby all of these issues can be discussed openly and then we can understand each other,” Erdogan said.

Top diplomats gathered in Vienna on Saturday agreed a fixed calendar for Syria that would see a transition government in six months and elections in 18 months but failed to agree on the future of Assad.

Yet officials in Antalya have insisted that they will not allow terrorism to derail the summit.

The refugee crisis is a key topic, with host Turkey housing some 2.2 million Syrian refugees from the conflict but the European Union wanting Ankara to do more to prevent migrants undertaking risky boat crossings to the EU.

Discussions on climate change will assume greater importance than usual coming just ahead of a UN conference in Paris that aims to agree a legally binding global climate treaty.

Other key guests at the summit include Saudi King Salman , whose delegation according to the Hurriyet daily has booked 546 hotel rooms at a cost of up to 15,000 euros ($16,115) each and hired 400 luxury cars. (Contributors: By Stuart Williams and Alex Pigman for The Times of Israel)

As the full impact of the Paris terrorist attack unfolds, it is too early for analysis. But we can pray for the following: 1) the families of the victims in their intense grief; 2) the French government’s response to what Pres. Hollande called “an act of war” (France is retaliating); 3) for President Obama’s tepid response, which even the liberal Washington Post called inadequate; and 4) for our nation’s ongoing debate over accepting thousands of Syrian and other Muslim refugees.    

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

 

U.S. WARPLANES STRIKE ISIS OIL TRUCKS IN SYRIA

Intensifying pressure on the Islamic State, United States warplanes for the first time attacked hundreds of trucks on Monday that the extremist group has been using to smuggle the crude oil it has been producing in Syria, American officials said.

According to an initial assessment, 116 trucks were destroyed in the attack, which took place near Deir al-Zour, an area in eastern Syria that is controlled by the Islamic State.

The airstrikes were carried out by four A-10 attack planes and two AC-130 gunships based in Turkey.

Plans for the strike were developed well before the terrorist attacks in and around Paris on Friday, officials familiar with the operation said, part of a broader operation to disrupt the ability of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, to generate revenue to support its military operations and govern its territory.

American officials have long been frustrated by ability of ISIS to generate tens of million of dollars a month by producing and exporting oil.

To disrupt that source of revenue, American officials said last week that the United States had sharply stepped up its airstrikes against infrastructure that allows ISIS to pump oil in Syria.

Until Monday, the United States had refrained from striking the fleet used to transport oil, believed to include more than 1,000 tanker trucks, because of concerns about causing civilian casualties. As a result, the Islamic State’s distribution system for exporting oil had remained largely intact.

The new campaign is called Tidal Wave II. It is named after the World War II effort to counter Nazi Germany by striking Romania’s oil industry. Lt. Gen. Sean B. MacFarland, who in September assumed command of the international coalition’s campaign in Iraq and Syria, suggested the name.

To reduce the risk of harming civilians, two F-15 warplanes dropped leaflets about an hour before the attack warning drivers to abandon their vehicles, and strafing runs were conducted to reinforce the message.

The area where the trucks assemble in Syria has been closely monitored by reconnaissance drones. As many as 1,000 trucks have been observed there, waiting to receive their cargo of illicit oil.

On Monday, 295 trucks were in the area, and more than a third of them were destroyed, United States officials said. The A-10s dropped two dozen 500-pound bombs and conducted strafing runs with 30-millimeter Gatling guns. The AC-130s attacked with 30-millimeter Gatling guns and 105-millimeter cannons.

The pilots saw several drivers running to a nearby tent and did not attack them, an American official said, and there were no immediate reports of civilian casualties.

Col. Steven H. Warren, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the American-led coalition, confirmed that A-10s and AC-130s had been used in the attack and that 116 tanker trucks had been destroyed.

“This part of Tidal Wave II is designed to attack the distribution component of ISIL’s oil smuggling operation and degrade their capacity to fund their military operations,” Colonel Warren said.

The strike comes just days after Kurdish and Yazidi fighters, backed by American airstrikes, cut an important road, Highway 47, that ISIS has used to move supplies and fighters between Syria and Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which was captured by the militant group last year.

That road was cut on Thursday, and Kurdish and Yazidi fighters retook the Iraqi city of Sinjar the next day.

The American operation against the oil trucks followed a French on raid Sunday on two Islamic State targets in Raqqa, Syria, which allied officials identified as a headquarters building and a training camp.

More than 20 bombs were dropped by French planes in the attack, an allied official said. It is not clear how much damage was caused, and no secondary explosions were observed. (Contributor: By Michael R. Gordon for The New York Times)

As Christians, our warfare is spiritual rather than carnal. However, we must pray for our government in an era of open terrorist warfare against our country and against Christians worldwide. There are just wars, and Islamic terrorism, by whatever name, is a threat to Christians and Jews in every place it is free to kill. Pray for Pres. Obama and U.S. military leaders. Pray for God’s purposes to prevail.

“Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides. They continue this day according to Your ordinances, for all are Your servants.” (Ps 119:89-91)

 

IT'S NOT JUST TEXAS: ABORTION CLINICS ARE RAPIDLY CLOSING IN LIBERAL STATES

The only women who have abortions at the Philadelphia Women’s Center are those with the stamina for an obstacle course.

The state bans Medicaid and insurance from the Affordable Care Act markets from covering abortions. So patients who are too poor to pay out-of-pocket have to scrounge together the money from friends or family.

Twenty-four hours before their appointment, Pennsylvania requires women to listen to information aimed at changing their minds. And every week, the Women’s Center turns away patients who didn’t get the information in time.

All this takes place a fleet 20-minute drive from the Cherry Hill Women’s Center, another abortion clinic owned by the same network. Cherry Hill is in New Jersey, yet it feels as though it’s another country. There is no waiting period here, and nothing stops women from paying with their insurance or with Medicaid. It’s what reproductive rights advocates envision when they talk about stripping abortion of its stigma and restrictions.

But beneath the surface, Cherry Hill exemplifies another, quieter upheaval in US abortion access: clinics in many blue states are struggling to keep their doors open just as much as in red states.

And by some counts, they are are shutting down just as fast.

“The trend is disturbing,” said Nikki Madsen, executive director of the Abortion Care Network, a group representing independent abortion providers around the country. “It’s taking root in states we traditionally think of as ‘friendly’ to abortion rights, without many people noticing.”

Exact numbers for clinic closures are hard to come by. A rough count by the Abortion Care Network, though, found that for every three clinics that closed in a red state in the past few years, two clinics closed in a more liberal state – one of the 17 states where Medicaid covers abortion, or one of 23 states that the Guttmacher Institute, a thinktank that supports reproductive rights, does not consider hostile to abortion access. A list compiled by the Guardian of more than 50 clinics that closed for good in 2014 shows that a little more than half were located in blue states.

With many blue-state clinics on the brink, so is access. Cherry Hill loses hundreds of thousands of dollars each year because the state permits women to use Medicaid for abortions without adequately reimbursing the providers. It is also is the closest abortion clinic to Camden, a city of overwhelming poverty, that takes Medicaid. The next closest option for poor women is Trenton, where clinics can have long wait times. Patients frequently come to Cherry Hill who tried to have their abortions in Maryland and Delaware, only to find that those clinics were overbooked. And lately, more are coming from red states where access is dwindling, like Virginia and Kentucky.

The reasons for each closure are disparate. But five years of knock-down, drag-out fights over abortion rights in conservative areas of the country are largely to blame. Each new bout in a place such as Texas diminishes the ability of advocates to focus on subtler challenges in liberal states.

“The south is where we have to put most of our energy,” said Amanda Kifferly, the head of patient advocacy for the Women’s Center. “Any time there’s a crisis, that’s where it’s coming from, and it goes right to the top of our to-do list.”

The closures are also a broad consequence of 40 years of anti-abortion policies that have stigmatized the procedure and isolated it from the rest of medicine. Because it is so controversial, abortion is the rare procedure that takes place almost exclusively in dedicated facilities. But a confluence of factors make it difficult, financially, to sustain standalone clinics that only perform abortions.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, the founder of a network of abortion clinics called Whole Woman’s Health, knows these pressures better than almost anyone.

In Texas, where the group operates four clinics, Miller has led a two-year legal battle to overturn one of the nation’s harshest abortion measures. The law could close at least half of the state’s 20 abortion clinics, including three belonging to Whole Woman’s Health. As soon as Friday, the supreme court may add Miller’s lawsuit to its docket.

The road to the high court, though, has been all-consuming. Goals that are important to the long-term survival of Miller’s clinics in Maryland, Minnesota and New Mexico have taken a backseat.

In Maryland and Minnesota, Whole Woman’s Health has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars performing abortions for poor women on Medicaid. Both states reimburse abortion providers for treating Medicaid patients, but the cost to perform the abortion far outstrips the states’ repayments. For surgical abortions, the reimbursement rate is the same regardless of how far along the patient is in her pregnancy – even though the amount of time, medication, and sedation multiplies the later the abortion.

The reimbursement rates in Minnesota are such that Whole Woman’s Health sustains a $280 loss for every Medicaid patient who takes the abortion pill. Medicaid patients who have a first-trimester surgical abortion cost the clinic $155. For abortions from 12 to 24 weeks, a Medicaid patient can cost Whole Woman’s Health anywhere from $190 to $1,640. “It’s hurt us tremendously, financially,” Miller said.

One solution would be to negotiate with each state’s Medicaid office for higher repayment rates – the same thing healthcare associations do across the country. But abortion rights activists are preoccupied by other needs. A representative for Naral Pro-Choice New York, an advocacy group, said that providers are more immediately concerned about abortion protesters, and whether laws that prevent them from blocking clinic entrances are fully enforced.

And individual abortion clinics tend to lack the man-hours needed to negotiate with Medicaid offices. Staff are distracted by copious regulations or the need to be political advocates.

“If we were doing healthcare that wasn’t politicized, maybe this could be a top priority,” Miller said.

The alternative is to do what small doctors’ offices have usually done when facing meager repayments: stop taking Medicaid altogether. Whole Woman’s Health has been cautious about providing later abortions to Medicaid patients. But Miller and other providers are reluctant to cut off poor women entirely.

“It doesn’t make business sense to offer what we offer,” Miller said. “But we have a mission and a vision.”

“We’re not going to not see patients on Medicaid,” Groves agreed. “They need us. But in doing their abortions, it’s a constant game to figure out how we’re going to survive.”

The Access for Women clinic in upstate New York performs something in the neighborhood of 1,600 abortions every year. If that number dips much lower, the clinic could fold. And thousands of women would be left without a nearby provider.

Peg Johnston, the owner, finds herself facing this precipice every year. Access for Women is the only abortion clinic that takes Medicaid for hours in several directions. Johnston accepts Medicaid – she calls it “a no-brainer” – because more than half her patients couldn’t afford an abortion any other way. But for every Medicaid patient who has a first-trimester surgical abortion, Access for Women loses $100. The only way for the clinic to stay open is volume.

And demand has shrunk.

Reproductive rights groups have fought for many of the changes that seem to be reducing the number of abortions in blue states. Contraception coverage is more readily available, and the use of long-acting, reversible contraception – one of the most successful ways to prevent pregnancy – has surged.

What frightens abortions rights groups, though, is that the economics of abortion dictate that a clinic will close before local demand is all gone.

“Abortion has been isolated to the point that it’s not part of standard medical care,” said Elizabeth Nash, a senior researcher for the Guttmacher Institute. In an ideal world, Nash said, the average OB-GYN might perform abortions, and the procedure would be just one of many ways doctors cover their business expenses. Healthcare generally is becoming more integrated, and moving away from the fee-for-service model.

The consequences for being affiliated with abortion, though – such as harassment – have prevented abortions from becoming ingrained in general healthcare. As a result, most abortion providers must support themselves on the basis of this one procedure, and abortion is not as widely available as it could be. “And no matter when a clinic closes, women who were dependent on that clinic have lost access.”

Paradoxically, abortion clinics in red states don’t have cash flow problems on this scale, said Groves, the Cherry Hill director. That’s because fewer women are insured in red states, and Medicaid doesn’t cover abortion except in rare circumstances.

“In the red states, patients are scrambling to come up with money for the procedure while our staff is struggling to connect them to the abortion funds,” nonprofits that will help patients pay, said Groves. Still, at least by the time a woman arrives for her abortion, she is able to pay full freight.

In blue states, cash-strapped abortion clinics must look for ways to cut costs internally. And every cut comes under a microscope.

For instance, New Jersey requires the Cherry Hill Women’s Center and other abortion providers to meet the licensing standards of an ambulatory surgical center – a costly facility for outpatient surgery. To save money, many ambulatory surgical centers that don’t perform abortions have replaced their anesthesiologists with nurses who are certified to perform the same jobs with the same safety record.

The switch would save Cherry Hill up to $200,000 a year, money that is sorely needed: 65% of Cherry Hill’s patients are on Medicaid. But Groves is balking. “We’re a really stigmatized health service,” Groves said. “And I don’t want to ever give the impression that I’m providing care at a lower level … That change would say something to our patients, and it would say something to our political opponents.”

There are other roadblocks. The bruising fights in red states have made many abortion rights advocates reticent to lobby for better profits. Among colleagues, Miller has had many conversations about raising Medicaid repayment rates that turned negative. “I’ve heard the same thing word for word from several advocates: ‘We should be glad we work in a state that even allows Medicaid to cover abortions, and we shouldn’t draw attention to it,’” she recalled. “They’re afraid that if people start to notice, we’ll lose what we have.”

And what abortion clinics have in the way of Medicaid repayment is already artificially low. One factor states use to determine reimbursement rates is the going price of the procedure. Yet clinics have kept the price of abortion the same for decades, even as costs throughout the rest of the healthcare industry have exponentially grown. Recently Johnston realized that adjusting for inflation, the cost of a first-trimester abortion at her clinic cost less than the illegal abortion her mother paid for in 1949.

Not just Planned Parenthood

There are some blue state abortion clinics that are thriving.

Many of those belong to Planned Parenthood. Although the group is constantly the target of an all-out political assault, it has a robust national fundraising operation that allows it to subsidize abortions for poor women and expand to new locations. Planned Parenthood is also able to leverage its sprawling network of reproductive health clinics for its formidable political operation: in recent years, the group aggressively expanded “express centers” in a bid to appeal to wealthier women who pay full price for every service. The profits from those centers help buttress abortion rights advocacy in places where Planned Parenthood clinics are under fire.

Still, Planned Parenthood facilities provide only about one-third of abortions performed in the US every year. The majority take place in independent abortion clinics that do not have a fearsome political presence or tax-deductible donations as a safety net.

The Cedar River Clinics in Washington state is one of the few abortion providers that has managed to forge a different path. After meeting a physician who had frequent communications with the state’s Medicaid office, the founder of Cedar Rivers Clinics, Beverly Whipple, spent several years amassing evidence that repayment rates weren’t covering the cost of providing abortions to her neediest patients.

“We found that we were losing $500 on every second-trimester abortion procedure,” said Connie Cantrell, who is now the Cedar River Clinics’ executive director and Whipple’s successor. “It really did get to the point where we were telling the state, we can no longer see women past a certain point” who were on Medicaid.

State officials were alarmed. Over a process of several months, they raised the reimbursement rates.

Abortion rights advocates who were present when Massachusetts raised its Medicaid rates, about a decade ago, told a similar story. In that state, Medicaid officials were concerned enough that it was the state who reached out to abortion providers. At the time, reimbursement rates were also a priority for Planned Parenthood, which used it considerable staff to pull data that was more than anecdotal.

In Washington state, Cedar River Clinics executives have repeated the negotiations every few years. “We’ve only been successful throughout the years because Washington state cares about women, and they’ve provided more than just lip service to that idea,” Cantrell said. “We would not have been successful if the state weren’t open to those negotiations, if they did not want to make sure those services were available to low-income women.”

“Maybe that’s what makes us different from other states,” she continued. “I suppose it’s partly our luck.” (Contributed: By The Guardian)

There is no “news” here other than the icy, ghoulish, and emotionally flat conversations about the financial aspects of systematically killing unwanted babies without remorse, and whether a particular procedure (or area of the country) is more-or-less profitable than another. As intercessors know, pro-lifers are making progress, and a pending Supreme Court case could provide another “nail in the coffin” toward reversing Roe v. Wade. Please keep praying.

“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)

 

ISIS THREATENS IN NEW VIDEO: AFTER PARIS, WASHINGTON IS NEXT

Islamic State warned in a new video on Monday that countries taking part in air strikes against Syria would suffer the same fate as France, and threatened to attack in Washington.

The video [ http://bcove.me/czy4nk1h ] which appeared on a site used by Islamic State to post its messages, begins with news footage of the aftermath of Friday's Paris shootings in which at least 129 people were killed.

The message to countries involved in what it called the "crusader campaign" was delivered by a man dressed in fatigues and a turban, and identified in subtitles as Al Ghareeb the Algerian.

"We say to the states that take part in the crusader campaign that, by God, you will have a day, God willing, like France's and by God, as we struck France in the center of its abode in Paris, then we swear that we will strike America at its center in Washington," the man said.

It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the video, which purports to be the work of Islamic State fighters in the Iraqi province of Salahuddine, north of Baghdad.

The French government has called the Paris attacks an act of war and said it would not end its air strikes against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

French fighter jets launched their biggest raids in Syria to date on Sunday targeting the Islamic State's stronghold in the city of Raqqa. The operation was carried out in coordination with US forces.

Police raided homes of suspected Islamist militants across France overnight following the Paris attacks.

"Al Ghareeb the Algerian" also warned Europe in the video that more attacks were coming.

"I say to the European countries that we are coming, coming with booby traps and explosives, coming with explosive belts and (gun) silencers and you will be unable to stop us because today we are much stronger than before," he said.

Apparently referring to international talks to end the Syrian war, another man identified in the video as Al Karrar the Iraqi tells French President Francois Hollande "we have decided to negotiate with you in the trenches and not in the hotels." (Contributor: By The Jerusalem Post)

Pray for God’s mercy on our country. The Church of Jesus Christ will ultimately triumph, for He said “… the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” The U.S. has been highly favored but no longer is Christian. An earlier hymn writer noted, “Nations rise and nation’s fall; [God’s] changeless purpose rules them all.” Let us not be arrogant. Terrorism has declared war against the entire free world, but God’s purposes will prevail.

“… on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt 16:18-19)

 

NETANYAHU TO OBAMA: ISRAEL HAS NOT GIVEN UP HOPE FOR A SOLUTION

Netanyahu assures Obama that Israel has not given up on peace, saying that he still wishes to see "two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state."

Israel's security remainsa top priority of the United States amid a deteriorating security landscape across the Middle East, US President Barack Obama said on Monday, sitting alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office.

Meeting with the Israeli premier for the 16th time since taking office in 2009, and for the first time since the successful brokerage of a landmark nuclear deal with Iran over the summer, Obama said the focus of their discussion would be a future US defense package that will last a decade.

“This is going to be an opportunity for the prime minister and myself to engage in a wide-ranging discussion on some of the most pressing security issues that both our countries face,” Obama said before the meeting began.

“It’s no secret that the security environment in the Middle East has deteriorated in many areas, and as I’ve said repeatedly, the security of Israel is one of my top foreign policy priorities. And that’s expressed itself not only in words, but in deeds.”

The leaders also discussed the recent wave of terrorism across Israel and the West Bank, which has claimed dozens of Israeli and Palestinian casualties in the past two months.

“We condemn in the strongest terms Palestinian violence against innocent Israeli citizens,” Obama added, noting the recent flareup of violence.

“It is my strong belief that Israel has not just the right, but the obligation to protect itself.”

While the president referenced his well-known disagreement with Netanyahu over the nuclear deal, he said that both nations still stand together in their commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu took the opportunity to thank Obama for his commitment to Israel’s security.

“We’re with each other in more ways than one,” Netanyahu said, praising the US-Israel alliance. “I think its rooted in shared values, and its buttressed by shared interests. And its driven forward by a sense of a shared destiny.

“We are obviously tested today by the instability and the insecurity of the Middle East,” he said. “I think this is a tremendously important opportunity for us to work together, to see how we can defend ourselves against this aggression and this terror – how we can role it back. It’s a daunting task.”

The prime minister assured Obama that Israel has not given up its hope for peace, saying that he still wishes to see “two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes a Jewish state.”

But hope is not enough for the Obama administration, now having acknowledged the unlikelihood of achieving a two-state solution before 2017 – or even direct negotiations toward that end.

While continuing to condemn the violence on the ground, Josh Earnest, the US president’s spokesman, said after the meeting that a failure to achieve two states has perpetuated “the kind of instability that has allowed violence to take root.”

Israeli officials said their meeting – which lasted over two hours and ran 45 minutes over schedule – focused on how to build on common ground. But while the US hails the expansion of defense and intelligence cooperation as an example of a strengthening alliance, Israel says the need for greater defense aid is driven primarily by fallout from the American president’s deal with Iran.

Thus, Netanyahu’s government hopes to secure an increase in US aid from the current $3 billion a year to $5b.

There is “no daylight,” Earnest said, on the joint US-Israel commitment to “prevent, or at least mitigate” Iran’s disruptive activities across the region.

Earnest said that in order to assess what Israel’s new military package requires, a careful analysis must be done that looks at how what Israel’s military capacity is and what it needs to combat the new threats in the region.

Officials familiar with the meeting say Obama and Netanyahu agreed to reassess the nature of Washington’s aid package to Israel in light of the region’s increasing threat landscape.

Both sides agreed an American team would come to Israel in December to better understand the country’s new military needs.

It could take weeks after that and possibly months before any conclusion is reached. But their existing security agreement is not due to expire until 2017, providing the administration with ample time to study Israel’s new posture.

The leaders discussed Israel’s redlines with regard to the implementation of the Iran deal. Syria was also on the agenda, including ways to prevent attacks against Israel, Iran’s growing presence there, the transfer of arms from Syria to Lebanon and Islamic State activities on the Golan Heights.

“Iran can’t open a second front on the Golan Heights,” Netanyahu said. He added, “We can’t accept an agreement with Syria in which Iran will be allowed to use it was a base to attack Israel,” he said.

“When we talk about a solution for Syria, it has to include a cessation of attacks against Israel,” Netanyahu said.

They also talked about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but no mention was made of a settlement freeze. Netanyahu thanked Obama for US support with regard to the issue of the Temple Mount.

“It was a very good and constructive meeting,” Netanyahu told reporters. Unlike some past conversations, “there were no arguments or confrontation,” he added.

Vice President Joe Biden, the president’s national security adviser Susan Rice and ambassadors from both nations, Ron Dermer and Dan Shapiro, all participated in the Oval Office meeting.

Netanyahu was later scheduled to meet independently with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Netanyahu is scheduled to address the conservative American Enterprise Institute on Monday night, receiving the think tank’s highest award at a black-tie gala. Offsetting that speech, the prime minister is to address a liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress, on Tuesday afternoon.

Several American Jewish organizations took the opportunity of Netanyahu’s visit to push for a new round of direct negotiations with Palestinian leadership. The president of J Street, a group that primarily lobbies for a two-state solution, questioned Netanyahu’s commitment to that goal in a statement released on Monday afternoon.

“As a master communicator, Netanyahu knows how to tell an audience what it wants to hear – and on this visit to Washington he will be speaking to diverse audiences,” said J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami. “But actions always speak louder than words. For example, it is deeply dispiriting to learn that Israel moved to green light some 2,200 new housing units within existing settlements in the West Bank and retroactively legalize two previously unauthorized outposts that had been established without government approval.”

And with an ad in The New York Times, the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace renewed its call for a demilitarized Palestinian state to preempt a demographic crisis for the Jewish state.

“It is past time to acknowledge this truth: The creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state is not a gift to the Palestinians,” said the center’s president, Robert Wexler. “Rather, a two-state solution is the only way to ensure a secure, Jewish and democratic state of Israel.” (Contributor: By Michael Wilner for The Jerusalem Post - Tovah Lazaroff and Danielle Ziri contributed to this report.)

Pray for Prime Minister Netanyahu. He walks a carefully balanced political pathway against Israel’s many enemies, who hate Jews and Zionism. Yet, even with Christians’ admiration and respect for Mr. Netanyahu’s courage and statesmanship, we must remember that a political “solution” is not in his hands. God has decreed the land’s dimensions and His own purposes, which includes salvation for the Jews when they recognize their Messiah.

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’ ” (Rom 11:25-27)

 

MISSOURI UNREST ECHOES AT UNC

The racial incidents that led to upheaval at the University of Missouri should strike a familiar note at the University of North Carolina. And how Missouri responded with the resignation of the system president and the chancellor of its flagship campus in Columbia should serve as a cautionary tale for Chapel Hill.

The Missouri resignations came as racial tensions on campus intensified and President Tim Wolfe seemed indifferent. When black student protesters blocked the university homecoming parade in Columbia, Wolfe simply sat in his parade convertible and waited for it to be over.

  1. Bowen Loftin, who resigned as chancellor to take another university post, reportedly had lost faculty support after caving in to a conservative legislator who demanded that the school end agreements that allowed non-medical students to do rotations at a Planned Parenthood clinic.

The resignations came after black football players, supported by their coach, said they would not play Saturday unless Wolfe resigned.

In the aftermath, opinion divided. Some saw the resignations as appropriate. Wolfe was a former software company executive who had no experience as a university administrator, and it showed during the protest and in his misguided attempt to save money by shutting down the University of Missouri Press. Loftin appeared too accommodating to the legislature and out of touch with his faculty and students.

Others saw the resignations as a capitulation to students and a failure of university leaders to assert their authority. Critics further objected that the incidents were more about intolerance on the students’ part than racism in the campus culture.

There is truth on both sides in this matter. But what is significant for North Carolina is how many of the same elements are now in play in Chapel Hill, East Carolina University and other UNC campuses. There have been protests over campus buildings named for people connected to white supremacy, and vandalism against Silent Sam, the iconic Chapel Hill statue of a Confederate soldier.

Meanwhile, the UNC Board of Governors has hired a new system president, Margaret Spellings, with no experience as a university administrator or professor. Spellings has already raised skepticism among gay students by referring to their sexuality as a “lifestyle.” The board handed out big raises to chancellors while faculty have gone wanting. And the GOP-controlled legislature is meddling in the university.

It wouldn’t take much – a racial incident, more intrusion by conservative legislators, a stand by black athletes – to bring Missouri’s turmoil here.

It’s time for leaders to address the tensions with black students and faculty who feel mistreated and unheard. Ignoring them, as the University of Missouri’s president and chancellor discovered, will not make them go away. (Contributor: By The Editorial Board of The News and Observer)

U.S. campus unrest is a focus needing much prayer. Thankfully, many intercessors and Christian campus ministry leaders pray faithfully for this nationwide “mission field.” The article is an editorial and so is a strong opinion piece. Please see it as such. The writers are very critical of U. of Missouri and UNC officials and less critical of students, some of whom are seasoned agitators. We encourage prayer from a balanced viewpoint.

“Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law.” (Prov 29:18)

 

5 YEMENI GUANTÁNAMO INMATES ARE SENT TO UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

The Department of Defense announced on Sunday that it had transferred five lower-level Yemeni detainees from the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba to the United Arab Emirates. The United States had held each for nearly 14 years as wartime prisoners, and none had been charged with a crime.

The transfers reduced the detainee population at the prison to 107. As many as 17 other proposed transfers of lower-level detainees are in the bureaucratic pipeline, an official familiar with internal deliberations said.

The resettlement of the Yemeni detainees was the first of its kind to the United Arab Emirates, which had previously taken in just one former Guantánamo detainee, in 2008 — its own citizen.

For years, the Obama and George W. Bush administrations had held out hope that the political and security climate of Yemen would stabilize enough that the dozens of lower-level Yemenis detained at Guantánamo could be repatriated there. Over the last few years, however, the United States has begun persuading other countries to take in small batches of that group instead.

In May, President Obama met at Camp David with leaders or representatives of the six Middle Eastern countries that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council, including a representative from the United Arab Emirates. The main topic of discussion was the nuclear agreement with Iran, but officials familiar with the deliberations said Mr. Obama had also pressed them to consider resettling groups of detainees. The deal announced on Sunday appears to be the first fruits of those talks.

Each of the five detainees was captured near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in late 2001, after the battle of Tora Bora, when many low-level fighters fled to the mountains, according to leaked military dossiers.

The transferred detainees included four men who had been recommended for transfer by a 2009 task force made up of six security-related agencies. Those detainees are Khalid Abd Jal Jabbar Muhammad Juthman al Qadasi, Sulaiman Awath Sulaiman Bin Ageel al Nahdi, Fahmi Salem Said al Sani and Adil Said al Haj Obeid al Busayss.

The Obama administration is expected to send Congress a plan soon to close the Guantánamo prison. The centerpiece of that plan is expected to be a provision to move to a prison in the United States the 59 remaining detainees who are not recommended for transfer. A statute passed by Congress currently bars the military from bringing any detainees onto domestic soil.

The other 48 remaining detainees are recommended for transfer if security conditions can be met in the receiving country. Most, like those transferred over the weekend, would need to be resettled rather than repatriated because they are from Yemen, which is torn by a civil war.

Under the statute governing transfers, the secretary of defense must tell Congress 30 days before moving a detainee that he has determined that various security conditions have been met. Congress voted to tighten those standards as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which Mr. Obama is expected to sign this month. (Contributor: By Charlie Savage for The New York Times)

Pray that in all these complicated procedures, and amidst international law, this prisoner transfer will not be done so haphazardly as to endanger our own country. There is precedent for concern, as deported felons have come back to wreak havoc on innocent civilians. Pray for attention to our U.S. borders. Pray that more elected leaders will awaken to the very real dangers and turn to the Lord.

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

Last modified on
Hits: 459
0
Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
The Informer November 11, 2015

On Watch in Washington November 11, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

U.S. SUPREME COURT TAKES CASE - LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to take up the case that the Little Sisters of the Poor--an order of Catholic nuns--has brought against the Obama administration for violating the sisters' right to the free exercise of religion.

"All we ask is that our rights not be taken away," said Sister Loraine Mari Maguire, the Mother Provincial of the order, in a statement released by the Becket Fund, the nonprofit law firm that represents the sisters.

At issue is whether the federal government can force these Catholic nuns to cooperate with the government in making sure that the health care plan they provide to their employees covers sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices.

The Catholic Church teaches that all of these things are intrinsically immoral.

"The Little Sisters of the Poor are Catholic nuns who devote their lives to caring for the elderly poor," the Becket Fund said in its appeal to the Supreme Court to take up the case. "The governent has put them to the impossible choice of either violating the law or violating the faith upon which their lives and their ministry are based.

"HHS insists that the Little Sisters must comply with a mandate that their employee healthcare plans 'provide coverage' for free contraceptives," said the appeal. "Although there is no dispute that the Little Sisters sincerely believe that all the available compliance methods would make them morally complicit in grave sin, HHS refuses to give them the exemption it has given to other religious employers, and instead requires them to comply, either directly or by executing documents that authorize and obligate others to use the Little Sisters' healthcare plans to accomplish the 'seamless' provision of contraceptive coverage."

When Pope Francis was in the United States in September, he visited the Little Sisters' nursing home in Washington, D.C., to show support for their cause.

The Obama Justice Department has argued--including in a brief presented to the Supreme Court--that in forcing the Little Sisters to allow their health care plan to be used as a conduit to provide sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices the federal government is not placing a "substantial burden" on the sisters' free exercise of religion.

The administration wants the court to force the sisters to cooperate with the government in ensuring that their employees are covered for abortion-inducing drugs and devices through the health-care plan the sisters' provide.

Abortion-inducing drugs and devices terminate innocent human lives.

"The Becket Fund is grateful that the Supreme Court has decided to weigh in on this important case," said Mark Rienzi, the lawyer for the fund who is handling the case. "The Little Sisters spend their lives taking care of the elderly poor--that is work our government should applaud, not punish.

"The Little Sisters should not have to fight their own governemnt to get an exemption it has already given to thousands of other employers, including Exxon, Pepsi Cola Bottling Company, and Boeing," said Rienzi. "Nor should the government be allowed to say that the sisters aren't 'religious enough; to merit the exemption that churches and other religious ministries have received."

Sister Loraine said: "As Little Sisters of the Poor, we offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they are welomces as Christ. We perform this loving ministry because of our faith and cannot possibly choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith, and we shouldn't have to." (Contributor: By Terrance Jeffrey for CNS News; Family Security Matters)

Give thanks for the work of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear their suit against the Obama administration. However, a hearing by the Supreme Court does not ensure a favorable ruling, as the Court is notoriously unpredictable in such matters. Pray that these humble and faithful nuns will win, as a loss will mean shutting down for the sake of conscience.

“Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” (Ps 37:5-6)

NAVY CHAPLAIN RESUMES MINISTRY AFTER FIGHT OVER BELIEFS

Lt. Commander Wesley J. “Wes” Modder, a decorated Navy chaplain with nearly 20 years of unblemished service, remembers vividly the moment he told his wife he could go back to the calling he loved, having been reinstated after a bitter battle that pitted religious freedom and individual conscience against the mandate to respect gay and women’s rights.

Chaplain Modder said he drove home Sept. 3, took his wife into the bedroom and told her about the reinstatement letter he received that day.

“We prayed. We cried. We thanked the Lord,” he said in a telephone interview. “We think the Navy did the right thing.”

Until that letter arrived, the chaplain was staring at the end of a long and distinguished career, having received a “detachment for cause” notification for “substandard performance of duty” and “intolerant” treatment of gay and unwed pregnant personnel who came to him for comfort and counseling. Critics accused the chaplain of using his Christian faith to “belittle” gay and female sailors, a symbol of what they said was a larger push within the military to promote fundamentalist Christian ideas in the ranks.

But the chaplain also attracted a fierce band of defenders, including members of Congress and religious freedom advocates, who saw in his ordeal just one more skirmish in the battle to protect religious beliefs in the social and legal climate that champions sexual and minority rights.

Federal courts have made it clear that “religious freedom doesn’t stop just because you join the military,” said Michael Berry, a lawyer with Liberty Institute, which assisted in Chaplain Modder’s case.

Rep. Doug Collins, Georgia Republican and a Southern Baptist minister who is the only active military chaplain in Congress, also hailed the chaplain’s vindication.

The outcome showed that “when you highlight what I believe is right, there is still a system in place in which things can get resolved,” said Mr. Collins, who personally investigated the matter. “Unfortunately, [the case] had to go through a very public airing to get there. But it got there, and I think that’s a positive step,” he said.

Col. Ron Crews, a retired chaplain and executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, said he hopes the Navy’s decision “will provide encouragement to other chaplains who may fear reprisal simply for living out their beliefs.”

Other observers took a different view of the chaplain’s reinstatement.

“Platitudes about respect are no substitute for a clear policy,” said Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers, who supported the dismissal.

The Navy’s decision, he said, “leaves unclear whether it is acceptable for senior officers to use the Bible to justify belittling gay and women sailors.”

Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, declined to comment on Chaplain Modder’s case because of the potential for federal litigation on the matter.

But, in general, Mr. Weinstein said, the foundation believes “fundamentalist Christian oppression” is rampant in the U.S. military, leading to abuse of helpless subordinates and a lack of support for military commanders and officers who try to stand up to it.

For Chaplain Modder, however, the first priority is settling into his assignment at Naval Base San Diego, where he reported for duty Monday, and trying to put behind the emotional roller coaster he has been riding since last year. His wife and their four children, he said, endured many anguished moments as the legal battle played out.

“I was prepared to lose my career,” he said. It is “very demanding emotionally” to stand up to a military employer after years of service and unquestioningly obeying countless orders.

But it would have been equally daunting if he chose not to stand up “for my religious liberty and everybody else’s,” he said.

The Navy’s longtime slogan for its professional chaplaincy is “Cooperation Without Compromise,” Chaplain Modder recalled. “You just don’t want to invert that.”

Officer and a clergyman

As of December, the U.S. military had 2,837 active-duty chaplains, according to the Defense Department. The Southern Baptist Convention had the most, with 437 members, and the Roman Catholic Church had 200 chaplains. Another 26 chaplains were Jewish, and one chaplain was Hindu.

Like all other military chaplains, Chaplain Modder is required by his endorsing religion — in his case, the Assemblies of God, the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination — to counsel military personnel according to those beliefs.

He is also required under military code to offer professional pastoral care, a job described as “bring[ing] God to sailors and sailors to God.”

Until a year ago, Chaplain Modder, who also has served in the U.S. Marine Corps and has a doctorate in military ministry, navigated these two mandates with skill and distinction, according to the many official accolades he received.

Late last year, however, an official complaint was lodged saying he discriminated against several people in confidential counseling sessions.

Chaplain Modder later learned that his former assistant — who asked him many questions about homosexuality during his brief time in his office — was in a same-sex marriage, and had somehow discovered the names of people Chaplain Modder had counseled.

Now-retired Navy Capt. Jon R. Fahs acted on the equal-opportunity complaint and, after a weekslong investigation, notified Chaplain Modder on Feb. 17 that he had “failed to show tolerance and respect for the rights of individuals to determine their own religious convictions,” and was “unable to function in the diverse and pluralistic environment” of the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command in Goose Creek, South Carolina.

Specifically, Chaplain Modder reportedly told a female student that she was “shaming herself in the eyes of god” for having premarital sex, and told other students that “homosexuality was wrong” and that anal sex was essentially unnatural, Capt. Fahs wrote in his Feb. 17 “detachment for cause” notification.

Chaplain Modder also reportedly told a staff member that “she should be in love with God and not her partner” and “berated a pregnant student for becoming pregnant while not married,” the notification said.

“LCDR Modder is intolerant and will not follow Navy policy,” Capt. Fahs’ notice said.

The fallout was severe. Chaplain Modder was relieved of his duties, removed from the promotion list and reassigned to a chapel in Charleston, South Carolina, where he was instructed not to counsel anyone.

“I had no idea I was going to have a ministry audit check,” Chaplain Modder told The Washington Times. But “everything was in question: my job, my performance, my work ethic, my counseling.”

One of the Bible verses he relied on was Daniel 3:18: “But even if he does not [save us], let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

The other was 1 Peter 4: 12-19, which says in part, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

Chaplain Modder also engaged Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas, to fight the charges.

“That the Navy would use Chaplain Modder’s private, religious expression against him is a betrayal of the trust and confidence that is supposed to exist between the chaplain and the service member during pastoral counseling sessions,” Mr. Berry of Liberty Institute wrote to Capt. Fahs in March.

Through the Liberty Institute, Chaplain Modder denied the accusations. He said he explained that he is an ordained minister to those he counsels and thus answers questions “from a biblical worldview, consistent with the tenets of his endorsing denomination.”

He also said his practice is “always to listen” and let people to bring up the topics they wish to discuss.

“Chaplain Modder categorically denies that he initiated conversations about marriage or human sexuality,” wrote Mr. Berry, who is a former Marine judge advocate general officer and director of military affairs at the Liberty Institute.

But Capt. Fahs denied the chaplain’s request for an accommodation for his religious beliefs. He said Chaplain Modder was unable to “comfort and counsel” personnel in a way that “was respectful” of them. “I find the multiple allegations [of misbehavior] to be credible,” wrote Capt. Fahs, the commanding officer at the time.

Chaplain Modder’s plight, publicized through the Liberty Institute and other groups, soon reached the public eye.

In March, some 35 members of Congress wrote to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Rear Adm. Margaret Kibben, who is chief of chaplains, asking about the investigation.

“We would like confirmation as to what steps the Navy is taking to reinforce the policies and protections in place for service members and chaplains to freely exercise their religiously informed beliefs, including the freedom of chaplains to adhere to the tenets of their faith” as they perform their duties, including counseling, wrote Rep. J. Randy Forbes, Virginia Republican, and his colleagues.

Mr. Collins, the congressman and chaplain, wrote separately to Mr. Mabus asking how confidential comments from Chaplain Modder’s private, one-on-one sessions ended up in a complaint brought by his assistant.

Pro-family groups started a petition drive. The case is “a stunning abuse of the military’s own rules,” said the Family Research Council, which, with the American Family Association and other groups, asked supporters to flood Congress with emails, faxes and phone calls on behalf of Chaplain Modder.

The matter was concluded on Sept. 3, when Rear Adm. David F. Steindl, commander of Navy Personnel Command, disapproved the detachment for cause and restored Chaplain Modder to full service.

None of the paperwork about the detachment for cause would be included in his official personnel record, the orders said.

At his post in San Diego, Chaplain Modder said he only wants to offer the wisest counsel he can at its Murphy Canyon Chapel.

“My passion is not only taking care of my family, but taking care of military families, military men and women take a little bit off their plate, let them know God has not abandoned them,” he said. (Contributor: By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)

Give thanks for Chaplain Wesley Modder, and rejoice for this victory of truth over falsehood. The ruling will restore a strong and qualified Christian witness to active duty and keep his unblemished record intact. But be aware that active persecution against evangelicals is rampant in the U.S. military services. Pray for a public outcry against this discrimination in our armed forces.

“For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.” (Ps 135:14 NIV)

CHICK-FIL-A, HOBBY LOBBY LEAD IN NEW ‘FAITH EQUALITY INDEX’

Taking a page out of numerous groups’ playbooks, a marketing company has issued its first annual index on how welcoming more than 100 companies are to the 41 million-strong consumer base of devout Christians.

Seven companies received the highest scores in the new Faith Equality Index, issued Monday by Faith Driven Consumer, although none came close to a perfect score on the survey’s 100-point scale.

The new rating tool uses that scale to measure businesses’ outreach and welcoming treatment of the massive consumer base of people who use their biblical worldview when they shop.

Chick-fil-A, Hobby Lobby, Tyson Foods, Wal-Mart, Cracker Barrel, Interstate Batteries and Thrivent Financial are the 2016 leading companies in the first Faith Equality Index, said Chris Stone, founder of Faith Driven Consumer and a certified brand strategist.

“The [Faith-Driven Consumer] community has been asking, really clamoring, for this [index]. … They are actively seeking a brand that will welcome, embrace and celebrate them,” Mr. Stone said in an interview.

The Faith Equality Index ratings are based on publicly available information and corporate answers to the survey in four areas: public commitment to faith-driven consumers (35 points), faith-compatible corporate actions (30 points), equal application of equal protections (15 points) and corporate competency in the faith-driven consumer market segment (20 points).

Some 140 companies, representing 334 brands, were covered in the debut survey.

Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby — both of which close on Sundays to honor the Sabbath and give their employees a day of rest — received the highest points of 63 and 62 points, respectively.

They and other high-ranking companies typically received high marks for such things as using the word “Christmas” in seasonal advertising, using “faith-compatible, wholesome” advertising and offering philanthropic support for religious groups or events.

Companies’ support for pro-life positions and traditional marriage were also measured, as well as their workplace hiring practices and nondiscrimination policies that expressly covered religious people.

Neither Chick-fil-A or Hobby Lobby had an immediate comment about their rankings in the new index on Monday. But both are well known for standing up for religious freedom and Christian values.

Chick-fil-A has long supported traditional marriage, and is expanding despite boycotts by supporters of gay marriage. Its corporate purpose is, in part, “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.”

Hobby Lobby in 2014 successfully won at the Supreme Court to block the federal government from forcing it and other closely held companies run by religious families to offer health insurance that includes birth control that can end a pregnancy.

The popular arts and crafts retail chain’s mission statement says that it will honor the Lord “in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles,” and trust in God “for our future.”

At the other end, a number of brand names ranked in the low double digits, according to the Faith Equality Index.

These included Bank of America, Microsoft, DirecTV and Unilever, which makes such products as Lipton Tea and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

Low scores were sometimes due to a lack of response to the survey even though outreach was made to company executives, especially those in marketing and corporate-diversity offices, Mr. Stone said.

He added that the index is not intended to be subjective but be based on quantifiable actions and statements.

Several companies, once notified about their preliminarily low scores, were able to provide documentation that substantially boosted their ratings, he said.

Elsewhere, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has been issuing a Corporate Equality Index since 2002 to rate companies on their policies and outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

In this year’s HRC index, a record 366 businesses scored “100 percent” and recognition as one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.”

The new Faith Equality Index includes ratings by the HRC index, as well as ratings from the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, DiversityInc and Black Enterprise’s “40 Best Companies for Diversity” for a fuller picture of a company’s efforts on diversity, noted Mr. Stone.

A requested comment from HRC about the new religion-based index was not immediately provided.

The Faith Driven Consumer community is a subset of the larger Christian market and represents 41 million Christians of all ages who spend $2 trillion a year based on their biblical worldviews, according to his organization.

It is also an underserved community in the diversity arena — a status that the new index hopes to help remedy, Mr. Stone said.

The Faith Equality Index is expected to be issued annually every November. (Contributor: By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)

Give thanks for the favorable ratings and good publicity for Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby. We do not know the history or the goals of the Faith Quality Index company, but we are encouraged for these two companies to be cited for the right reasons. The leadership of both companies represents Christian practices. Pray that they will continue to uphold godly values.  

“But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You. For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor; You will surround him as with a shield.” (Ps 5:11-12)

REPUBLICANS’ MEDIA BIAS CLAIMS BOOSTED BY SCARCITY OF JOURNALISTS

mere 7 percent of journalists identify as Republicans, and when they do give money to political campaigns they usually donate to Democrats, lending evidence to Republican presidential candidates’ claims that they are facing a hostile audience when they deal with the press.

As Republican candidates prepare for their fourth debate of the primary season Tuesday in Milwaukee, the people doing the questioning are increasingly in the spotlight, with their motives being questioned by the campaigns, voters and even by their fellow journalists.

And self-proclaimed Democratic journalists outnumber Republicans by 4-to-1, according to research by Lars Willnat and David Weaver, professors of journalism at Indiana University. They found 28 percent of journalists call themselves Democrats, while just 7 percent call themselves Republicans — though both numbers are down from the 1970s. Those identifying as independent have grown.

Among Washington correspondents, the ones who dominate national political coverage, it’s even more skewed, said Tim Groseclose, author of “Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind.” More than 90 percent of D.C. journalists vote Democratic, with an even higher number giving to Democrats or liberal-leaning political action committees, the author said.

“There’s something in the DNA of liberals that makes them want to go into jobs like the arts, journalism and academia more so than conservatives,” Mr. Groseclose said. “Even if you’re just trying to maximize profits by offering an alternative point of view, it’s hard to find conservative reporters. So it’s natural the media is more liberal.”

The bias factor has become front-page news after last month’s GOP presidential debate, which aired on CNBC, and which has drawn consistently bad reviews for how the moderators handled the questioning.

John Harwood, a CNBC and New York Times reporter who has written pieces on why Republicans are bad for the economy, asked front-runner Donald Trump if his run “was a comic book version of a presidential campaign.” Mr. Harwood later demanded that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, say whether he believed Mr. Trump had “the moral authority” to be president. Mr. Huckabee didn’t take the bait.

“The Democrats have the ultimate super PAC — it is called the mainstream media,” Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the candidates on the stage, said to strong applause from the partisan Republican audience.

The debate was so widely panned that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus suspended future debates with NBC, and officials from different GOP campaigns are negotiating new restrictions on future affairs — to kick in after Tuesday’s debate.

That debate, airing on Fox Business Network, will have a slimmed-down field compared to the previous three debates. Just eight candidates polled well enough to make the main stage, with Mr. Huckabee and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie relegated to the undercard. Meanwhile, two candidates who were in the previous undercard debates have been ousted — South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former New York Gov. George Pataki.

Fox Business Network anchors Maria Bartiromo and Neil Cavuto will moderate the main debate, along with Wall Street Journal editor in chief Gerard Baker.

Evening out?

David D’Alessio, a communications sciences professor at the University of Connecticut at Stamford, said there is bias in the press, but his research shows it evens out.

“If you stop to think about media as larger than just reporters and owners they’re business entities and their job is to make money. If you look at where people’s opinions are, they are in the middle, so that’s where a lot of reporting goes because that’s where the eyeballs go,” he said.

Mr. D’Alessio argues that for every liberal news network like MSNBC, there’s a Fox News counterpoint because the market creates that opening. For The Huffington Post online, there’s the Drudge Report online, and for The New York Times there’s the New York Post.

But overall, he says, the mainstream media tend to be more neutral in their tone despite an individual reporter’s ideological preferences, because they want to appeal to both conservative and liberal viewers alike — because that’s where the greatest market is for making money. People only perceive the mainstream media as being biased because of their own biases.

“If a person is ideological, the more closely they’re going to zero in on things they disagree with,” Mr. D’Alessio said.

He conducted an experiment where he gave the same newspaper article to both Republicans and Democrats and told them to circle the bias. Republicans circled the liberal viewpoint in the story whereas the Democrats circled the conservative representation.

“But both sides were represented,” he said. “People need to take a step back and evaluate [that] just because I don’t agree with what someone says in the newspaper doesn’t mean the newspaper is lying about it.”

Mr. Groseclose, an economics professor at George Mason University, said his research does find a tilt even in what he classifies as mainstream press, including publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post and the major broadcast networks — but excluding Fox News and others that have an obvious ideological bent.

But it’s not as much as some conservatives decry.

In his study Mr. Groseclose measured the mainstream press on a 0-to-100 point scale, with 100 being the most liberal, like a speech from Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and 50 being centrist. The media tended to come in at 60 — still not neutral, but not so slanted as some conservatives claim.

There’s evidence that bias matters.

People’s voting patterns are influenced by which kind of media they follow, according to a study done by Alan Gerber, a political science professor at Yale University. Mr. Gerber offered people in the Washington metropolitan area a free subscription to either The Washington Post or The Washington Times for several weeks ahead of a gubernatorial election. The Post, by his estimation and work done before, slanted as much to the left as The Times did to the right.

In a survey he conducted after the election, Mr. Gerber found those who were given a free subscription of The Post were 8 percentage points more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate for governor than those assigned to the control group. (Contributor: By Kelly Riddell for The Washington Times)

Media bias is rampant and conservative values and candidates are being trashed, ridiculed, lied about, and defamed shamelessly. Christians, aware of this evil trend, will not be deceived. Pray for Dr. Ben Carson. He may not be your candidate of choice, and this is not an endorsement, but he is being attacked relentlessly simply because he is a Christian and a conservative African American.

“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 55:7)

CHINA TESTS ANTI-SATELLITE MISSILE

China recently conducted a flight test of a new missile capable of knocking out U.S. satellites as part of Beijing’s growing space warfare arsenal.

The test of a Dong Neng-3 exoatmospheric vehicle was carried out Oct. 30 from China’s Korla Missile Test Complex in western China, said two defense officials familiar with reports of the test.

A Chinese press report also provided details of what was said to be a missile defense interceptor flight test carried out Nov. 1. Photos of the missile’s contrails were posted online.

However, the defense officials said the DN-3 is primarily a direct-ascent missile designed to ram into satellites and destroy them, even if intelligence assessments hold that the weapon has some missile defense capabilities.

The DN-3 flight test was the eighth time China carried out an anti-satellite missile test. An earlier test occurred in July 2014, which China also asserted was a missile defense test.

State Department and Pentagon officials declined to comment on the anti-satellite test.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman said: “I don’t have detailed information about the missile test you mentioned.”

“China advocates for the peaceful use of outer space, and opposes space weaponization or arms race in space,” the spokesman said in an email.

A State official referred to a speech from February by Frank Rose, assistant secretary of State for arms control, verification and compliance, who commented on the 2014 test.

“Despite China’s claims that this was not an ASAT [anti-satellite] test; let me assure you the United States has high confidence in its assessment, that the event was indeed an ASAT test,” Rose said.

“The continued development and testing of destructive ASAT systems is both destabilizing and threatens the long-term security and sustainability of the outer space environment,” he added.

China’s most disruptive ASAT test occurred in January 2007 when a direct ascent missile destroyed a Chinese weather satellite, creating tens of thousands of debris pieces that pose a continuing danger to both satellites and manned spacecraft, like the International Space Station.

Rose said the secrecy surrounding China’s ASAT program is preventing any U.S. cooperation with Beijing on space. Cooperation will only possible after “China changes its behavior with regard to ASATs,” he said.

Documents disclosed by Wikileaks revealed that the United States and Asian allies issued protests to China over a January 2010 flight test of an anti-satellite missile from an SC-19 rocket booster.

China’s Guancha.com reported Nov. 1 that the unusual contrails near the city of Korla, in Xinjiang province, that appeared to be signs of a spacecraft launch or possibly “a midcourse anti-missile test.”

“In recent years, similar clouds have appeared over the skies of Xinjiang many times,” the report said. “A few of them have been linked to land-based midcourse anti-missile interception tests.”

Hong Kong’s Ming Pao then reported Nov. 4 that the test appear to be a “final-phase missile interception test had been conducted in the upper atmosphere.”

“The capability to intercept was one of the capabilities of the PRC Hongqi-19 missile, and may be employed to intercept high supersonic gliding targets on the offensive,” Ming Pao stated.

A forthcoming report by the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission contains an entire chapter on China’s military and civilian space capabilities.

The report discusses two anti-satellite missiles, the SC-19 and the larger DN-2, which are meant to be fired in pre-determined flight paths as a satellite passes over Chinese territory.

The report suggests that China disguised its anti-satellite tests in 2010, 2013, and 2014 as missile defense interceptor tests. It stated that each test involved a high-speed intercept of a mock warhead launched by a ballistic missile and not a satellite as a way to avoid debris.

“Although China has called these tests ‘land-based missile interception tests,’ available evidence suggests they were indeed antisatellite tests,” the report said.

The May 2013 DN-2 anti-satellite test involved “nearly geosynchronous orbit” where most intelligence and navigation satellites are located. The commission described that test as demonstrating “a new high-altitude anti-satellite capability” that could be deployed as early as 2020.

The 2013 test, which reached 18,600 miles into space, was first reported by the Washington Free Beacon.

Since 2005, China has conducted seven anti-satellite direct-ascent missile tests, according to the commission report. The report did not include the latest DN-3 test.

“China is pursuing a broad and robust array of counterspace capabilities, which includes direct-ascent anti-satellite missiles, co-orbital anti-satellite systems, computer network operations, ground-based satellite jammers, and directed energy weapons,” the report said.

Air Force Lt. Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space, said at a House hearing in March that “we are quickly approaching the point where every satellite in every orbit can be threatened.”

Rick Fisher, a military analyst with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said if the DN-3 interceptor test is confirmed, “this is the first mention of the DN-3, apparently either a modified version of the DN-2 or a new anti-satellite weapon.”

Fisher said the missile designated as the DN-1 was based on the SC-19 anti-satellite missile first tested in 2007, and that the DN-1’s booster appeared to be based on the KT-1 solid-fueled space launch vehicle, produced by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation. “It would follow that the DN-2 and DN-3 may also be [the corporation’s] products,” he said.

China recently developed two new and more powerful space launchers called the KZ-1 and KZ-11.

A DN-3 weapon based on the KZ-11 launcher would be capable of hitting targets at higher orbits.

If the recent test involved missile defenses, “China may be developing [anti-ballistic missile] ABM systems capable of intercepts at much longer ranges than U.S. Ground-Based Interceptors based at Fort Greely in Alaska,” Fisher said.

China has been harshly critical of U.S. missile defenses and has said it opposes all space weapons.

However, the development of both missile defenses and anti-satellite missiles by China has been underway since the early 1990s, Fisher said.

“The United States so far has not developed very high-altitude ASAT systems like the DN-2 and DN-3, also proving that China has little intention to follow the example of American restraint,” he said.

A report by the Rand Corporation published in September concluded that the Chinese threat to U.S. satellites is increasing.

“The risk to most U.S. space functions appears to be growing faster than the U.S. ability or effort to mitigate them,” the report said, noting that Chinese space warfare capabilities “are increasing across the board.”

“In a number of areas, the U.S. military is taking steps to mitigate the threat,” the report said. “Whether these efforts succeed in making U.S. systems safe or, at least, unattractive targets should a U.S.-China conflict occur will depend on what investments the United States makes in space defense in the coming years and whether it can find ways to reduce its systems’ vulnerabilities.”

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, head of the Air Force Space Command told CBS’s 60 Minutes in April that U.S. weapons are being developed to counter China’s space arms.

Hyten said if U.S. satellites are threatened, “we have the right of self defense and we’ll make sure we can execute that right.”

On the possible future use of military force in space, Hyten bluntly said: “That’s why we have a military … I’m not NASA.”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter told sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt last week that the Pentagon is closely watching Chinese weapons developments. “And so, we see them building a system that’s new, we make sure we have countermeasures to that and actually, we’re making new substantial investments, new investments,” he said, noting electronic warfare, cyber defenses, air defenses, cruise missile defenses.

“All that’s really important because we’ve got to make sure the balance doesn’t change here, qualitatively or quantitatively, and we’re not going to let that happen,” Carter said. (Contributor: By Bill Gertz for The Washington Beacon)

China is showing the world it has a growing military force to be reckoned with, while our own nation appears to be in decline on several fronts. Christians do not want our country to be militaristic for the sake of “rattling sabers,” but, with most Americans, we want a strong defense and protection of our borders. Pray for a resurgence of “in God We Trust” and a return to our biblical roots.

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

SQUANDERING ECONOMIC FREEDOM

There was good news for Argentina last week. It was expected that Daniel Scioli, the Peronist candidate and political heir of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, would win the presidential election. Much to most people’s surprise, Maurico Macri, the more free-market-oriented mayor of Buenos Aires, won almost as many votes as Mr. Scioli, forcing a runoff, which Mr. Macri has a good chance to win.

The Peronists (named after former dictator Juan Peron) have had political control much of the last 70 years, and it has been a disaster for the country. In 1900, Argentina was one of the 10 highest-income countries in the world, having an estimated gross domestic product per capita of roughly 80 percent of that in the United States. Successive Argentine governments have squandered much of the wealth and potential of the economy, so now Argentina ranks approximately 57th in per capita income.

The relative economic rankings of countries’ rise and fall largely depends on whether they are moving toward more economic freedom or less. The accompanying chart tells the story of what has happened in South America over the last 30 years. Argentina had moved away from economic freedom decades ago, but in 1985 its per capita income was still almost twice that of Chile. Argentina had already fallen behind Venezuela because, up to that time, Venezuela had been much more economically free. But over the last couple of decades, Venezuela has become one of the least-free economies in the world and, as a result, despite having the world’s largest oil reserves (latest estimates put them even greater than Saudi Arabia’s), real incomes have actually been falling — showing man’s infinite ability to destroy good fortune.

In contrast, Chile moved toward enhancing economic freedom, including increasing free trade, the rule of law and protection of private property, and curtailing corruption. The result is that Chile now has the highest per capita income in South America, having surpassed both Venezuela and Argentina. Peru has been learning from the good example of next-door Chile by increasing economic freedom, which has led to much higher growth in the last few years. Given the present course, it is likely that Peru will overtake Venezuela in per capita income in the next few years.

In the Americas, Cuba is the poster child for the destruction of both economic freedom and civil liberties. Back in 1957, before the communist revolution, Cuba had the fourth-highest literacy rates, the lowest infant mortality rate and was one of the richest countries in Latin America. The Cuban government refuses to adopt international economic statistical methodology, so there are no reliable figures about wealth and poverty in Cuba. But what is known is that the average Cuban wage is about $20 per month, which means that average income is about $240 per year. Even if all of the food, health and education subsidies are added in, the total comes to less than $6,000 per year per capita. And according to a United Nations report, Cuba now ranks No. 21 in Latin America, making it almost the poorest country in the region. The Cuban government blames its economic plight on the U.S. embargo, while conveniently ignoring the fact that Cuba has been able to purchase any foreign-made goods it wanted from Europe, Mexico, Canada and China, which neither imposed nor recognized the U.S. embargo. A half-century ago, Cuba was more prosperous than Chile, now at best it has a quarter of the per capita income.

Despite all of the evidence of loss of basic liberties, thousands of political opponents killed and imprisoned, and economic deprivation, there are still many defenders of the Castro regime in the United States and Europe, including members of the media who choose to ignore the facts. Sen. Bernie Sanders and, to a lesser extent, Hillary Clinton are running on platforms to reduce economic freedom, while the overwhelming empirical evidence is that such policies will make everyone — particularly women and minorities — worse off rather than better off. Fifteen years ago, the United States was ranked No. 3 in the world in economic freedom. The U.S. now ranks No. 12, and economic growth is roughly half of what it was when it ranked in the top three.

Economic freedom is highly correlated with human freedom — including civil and personal liberties — and other measures of well-being that include life expectancy and literacy. According to the Cato Institute’s Human Freedom Index, the United States now ranks No. 20. Several of the Republican candidates for president have set a target of 4 percent or more growth, which implicitly means more economic freedom. If they all made the case for economic freedom the core of their campaigns, they would have both the empirical evidence and, if well argued, the political appeal. (Contributor: By Richard W. Rahn for The Washington Times- Richard W. Rahn is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth.)

Pray for American voters to wake up and prepare for 2016 elections! Some Christians want to avoid politics and voting. Please pray they will reconsider. IFA, while non-partisan, realizes our country is continuing to slide toward outright socialism, which will mean further reduction in personal, economic, and religious freedom.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov 14:34)

On Watch in Washington November 11, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

Last modified on
Hits: 722
0
Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
The Informer November 4, 2015

On Watch in Washington November 4, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

TAX REFORM ON THE COMEBACK

Overshadowed by this week’s CNBC versus the Republican presidential nominees brawl, was the release of Sen. Ted Cruz’s flat tax plan. The Texas senator would impose a 10 percent tax rate on wage earners and a 16 percent business tax and no deductions. “Flatter rates, says Mr. Cruz, “will make for a more rapid-growth economy.” He’s right: in virtually all the cases of the last 100 years, lower tax penalties on working and investing have led to more jobs and higher incomes.

It comes on the heels of a plan from Sen. Rand Paul to adopt a 14.5 percent flat tax. For full disclosure, I’m biased because Messrs. Paul and Cruz borrowed their flat tax plans with a few of their own unique twists, largely from my book with Arthur Laffer titled “Return to Prosperity.”

The bigger story here is that it’s now official: every major Republican candidate has endorsed lower tax rates and fewer loopholes as a way to make our federal tax code fairer and more competitive for American businesses.

The spirit of tax reform is alive and well on one side of the aisle.

Too bad tax reform fever isn’t bipartisan as it was in 1986 when by 97-3 the Senate passed the Reagan Tax Reform Act which closed myriad loopholes and lowered tax rates to 15 percent for the middle class and 10 percent for the rich.

In the modern-day “progressive” Democratic Party, there is no room for a Bill Bradley or Dick Gephardt — two leading sponsors of tax reform in the 1980s. Even talking of lowering tax rates gets you excommunicated from the party of envy and redistribution. Very sad.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the socialist Vermont senator who is drawing throngs of fans everywhere he goes as if he were Justin Bieber, wants tax rates back up to 70 percent or more. This sock-it-to-the-rich line is a crowd pleaser, especially with young voters, and draws thunderous applause.

Hillary is right behind him with her proposed 44 percent tax on capital gains investment income. The chart above shows the divide in the left candidates and the right candidates on tax rates.

So to shrink the gap between rich and poor, why not follow the Clinton-Sanders tax model? Because soak-the-rich tax schemes rarely work.

Here’s an amazing statistic: the last time tax rates were 70 percent, back in the 1970s, the government got 19 percent of its revenues from the rich. Now with a lower top rate of about 40 percent the government gets about twice as much, about 36 percent of all income taxes, from the rich.

Meanwhile, the U.S. corporate tax of 35 percent is now so much higher than the rate in the rest of the world that a Tax Foundation study has recently concluded that we could raise as much money with a rate of 20 to 25 percent. That’s because more businesses would come here and start paying U.S. taxes instead of Irish, Chinese or Canadian taxes. If you can get the same revenue at a lower tax rate and create more jobs at the same time, why wouldn’t we take that deal? The only answer is that the left gets some kind of weird psychic income from knocking down the rich even if it benefits no one.

Liberals who have a faith-based conviction that tax rates don’t matter much in terms of decisions about where businesses or jobs locate should listen to Republican Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, where there is no state income tax at all. “My favorite governors, are Cuomo (of New York), Brown (of California) and Malloy of Connecticut,” he says grinning. “The more they raise taxes, the more jobs we get in Florida. Every week new businesses are coming here to escape New York and Connecticut.”

My conversation with Mr. Scott got me to thinking. Imagine an experiment where we divided America in to two tax zones. Those states east of the Mississippi River got to keep the current “progressive” tax system — or could even go for the Clinton-Sanders utopia of higher rates. The states west of the Mississippi could adopt a flat tax modeled after what Messrs. Cruz and Paul have endorsed.

Where would you choose to live?

Where would the growth of enterprise, wages and jobs happen?

The answer is, of course, self-evident. So let’s hope voters in 2016 choose tax reform for all 50 states. (Contributor: By Stephen Moore for The Washington Times - Stephen Moore is an economic consultant to Freedom Works and a Fox News contributor.)

How to pray? Tax reform is complicated, and little will change as long as Congress allows itself to live by different “rules” than the rest of the citizenry. We can begin praying now for Christians to prepare to vote intelligently in 2016, to study the issues diligently, and to elect morally upright candidates who believe they are called to serve their constituents. Watch for IFA’s “Get Out the Prayer – 2016.”  

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov 14:34)

HOUSTON VOTERS REJECT LGBT BALLOT MEASURE

Houston voters struck down a non-discrimination ballot measure Tuesday, delivering a blow to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights movement that had campaigned heavily for passage.

Prop. 1, known as Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance, would have barred discrimination on the basis of race, age, military status, disability and 11 other categories in a variety of areas. (Religious organizations and institutions would be exempt from the requirements.)

It was HERO's protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, however, that attracted the most attention and made the ballot measure the center of the LGBT community's efforts this election.

The Houston City Council narrowly approved the equal rights ordinance last year, but after a petition drive by anti-gay activists, the Texas Supreme Court ordered the city in July to either repeal it or put it on the November ballot -- giving each side just a few months to make their case.

A long list of local and national figures publicly came out in support of Prop. 1, including President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The measure also had the backing of companies like Apple and GE, as well as local businesses that wanted to avoid a backlash similar to what Indiana experienced when Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed an anti-gay "religious freedom" law earlier this year.

But these heavy hitters weren't able to get past the catchy, fear-mongering slogans and images used by their opponents.

Conservative activists -- who were heavily outspent by LGBT advocates -- dubbed Prop. 1 the "bathroom ordinance" and adopted the slogan "No men in women's bathrooms," playing up fears that passage could lead to male sexual predators dressing up as women and entering women's restrooms.

This factually dishonest message proved to be incredibly effective: Many Houston voters seemed to think the measure was solely about access to restrooms and were unaware of the broader nondiscrimination protections in the measure.

The most recent TV spot released by the anti-Prop. 1 coalition Campaign for Houston, for example, showed a man entering a bathroom stall with a young girl.

"Any man at any time could enter a woman's bathroom simply by claiming to be a woman that day," the narrator warned.

Lance Berkman, who used to play for the Houston Astros, cut an ad with the same message, saying he was concerned about the safety of his female family members if HERO passed.

"My wife and I have four daughters," he said in the spot. "Proposition 1 would allow troubled men who claim to be women to enter women's bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms. It's better to prevent this danger by closing women's restrooms to men, rather than waiting for a crime to happen."

Prop. 1 never specifically mentioned bathrooms. It did, however, encompass barring discrimination in public accommodations, which includes public restrooms.

Houston Unites, the pro-Prop. 1 coalition, responded to these sorts of claims by pointing out that "it is -- and always will be -- illegal to enter a restroom to harm or harass other people." Other Texas cities that have adopted LGBT protections have also said they haven't seen an increase in sexual assaults in women's restrooms.

Those facts, however, never caught on.

The writing was on the wall even before the full tally came in Tuesday night. Early voting results showed that 62.5 percent of voters backed repealing the ordinance, compared with 37.5 percent supporting it.

"Our message worked," cheered Jared Woodfill, a spokesman for Campaign Houston, at a party Tuesday evening.

Advocacy groups like the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas contributed the most on HERO's behalf, according to the Houston Chronicle, spending more than $619,000 and $562,000, respectively.

Major funders of the efforts to sink HERO were Houston real estate executive Allen Hartman, who donated more than $206,000, and GOP donor Steve Hotze, who contributed more than $146,000.

Matt McTighe, executive director of the pro-LGBT Freedom for All Americans, said there just wasn't enough time to educate the public on the issue.

"There is a way to talk about this, and there is a way to educate people. The unfortunate thing is that it's very time-consuming, and it's also very expensive," McTighe told The Huffington Post Tuesday night after the loss, calling from Houston.

McTighe, who was also active in the marriage equality movement, noted that wins in that area started happening only after years and years of losses.

"I feel very much that we're at the same place as a movement where we were around 2009, when we had lost 32 times in a row every time the word 'marriage' appeared on a ballot for gay and lesbian people having the freedom to marry," McTighe said. "We finally, as a movement, through those losses, learned how to do things differently. We learned how to change our tactics and shift our messaging."

And finding a silver lining in Tuesday's loss, McTighe said what they learned through the HERO work was invaluable for moving forward.

"This is still an issue that hasn't really come up at the ballot box as much. So the work is really just beginning in terms of how to talk about this, how to message around it in the face of the attacks we are now seeing from our opponents," McTighe added. "This has been a huge learning experience that we're going to get a lot out of."

There is no federal law protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination, although a group of lawmakers introduced a bill in July that would provide comprehensive protections. (Contributor: By Amanda Terkel for Huffington Post)

Offer thanksgiving to the Lord for His Word being upheld in this very important show of resolve for His moral standard.

Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 1:22-25)

THE ARCHITECTURE OF ABUNDANCE

Disco. The Partridge Family. The Pet Rock. Gas lines. All fleeting hallmarks of the 1970s, most of which are long past in the rearview mirror. But 40 years later, our nation’s energy policies are still rooted in the era of the Arab oil embargo and energy scarcity — ideas that keep prices artificially high for consumers.

The script has been flipped on our energy landscape, and it’s time for our energy laws to reflect our nation’s 21st century abundance. We are now the world’s leading energy producer, and our oil and natural gas output is expected to continue rising in the years ahead. We used to worry about OPEC, but now in an unthinkable turn of events, OPEC is starting to worry about us.

And while the administration continues to wage a relentless assault on American energy, the House Energy and Commerce Committee remains at the forefront to modernize our obsolete energy policies and fulfill our remarkable potential of lower energy prices for all Americans.

For over a year we have been busy working on thoughtful solutions that say yes to energy, bringing our energy policies into the 21st century — an initiative I like to call “the architecture of abundance.” We had numerous legislative hearings, sought feedback from government stakeholders — including Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz — as well as dozens of private-sector organizations. Our newfound status as an energy superpower could mean millions of new jobs, lower energy prices and stronger national security — but only if the right policies are in place.

Our ideas coalesced into H.R. 8, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015, which recently passed out of the committee and awaits consideration by the full House.

In an important first step, the bill updates America’s aging energy infrastructure, which has failed to keep pace with the rapid growth in the sector. This is especially true of natural gas. H.R. 8 promotes natural gas pipeline development in an effort to get this clean-burning fuel to consumers and businesses and to our allies around the globe. Our electricity landscape is also changing because of new technologies, market forces and onerous regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency. The bill takes an important step toward modernizing and protecting our electricity grid to protect against existing and emerging threats. Aging infrastructure and cyber-attacks are problems that can no longer be ignored.

Our energy revolution also presents us with a unique opportunity to influence geopolitical outcomes and help achieve our foreign policy goals. H.R. 8 enhances America’s energy diplomacy by strengthening communication and partnerships with our North American neighbors while improving our energy security here at home. The bill also expedites the approval process of liquefied natural gas exports, providing our allies around the globe with safe and reliable energy.

But one of the biggest threats to America’s energy boom is homegrown — also a relic of the 1970s — the ban on crude oil exports. Simply lifting the 40-year-old ban would create much-needed jobs, lower prices at the pump, boost our economy, and strengthen our geopolitical influence abroad. A win all around.

Just look at the numbers. A study done by IHS Energy found that lifting the ban could support an average of 394,000 American jobs over the 2016-30 period. These new jobs are a game-changer — the benefits would extend up and down the supply chain, across my home state of Michigan and all 50 states.

Another recent study by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office suggests that lifting the ban would lower gasoline prices by as much as 13 cents per gallon. It’s basic economics — lifting the ban will encourage more energy production, more supply leads to lower prices, which leaves more money in your pocket.

Earlier this month the House also passed bipartisan legislation by more than 100 votes to lift the ban on crude oil exports in another effort to say yes to American energy.

Lifting the ban on crude oil exports also strengthens our hand in foreign diplomacy. By exporting some of our surplus crude oil, we can help our allies who are desperately seeking a safe and secure supply of energy. Much of the world, especially Israel and our allies in Europe, are beholden to the whims of OPEC and Russia for their energy. As a nation, we’ve expended significant resources to protect the free flow of energy around the world. We should practice what we preach and give our allies the option of buying American exports.

The Energy and Commerce Committee has led the way in defending the American people and working to enact solutions that capitalize on our energy abundance. We have a unique opportunity to update our policies to match our 21st century energy reality. Let’s put the outdated policies of gas lines in the rearview mirror for good and say yes to affordable energy and lower prices. (Contributor: By Fred Upton for The Washington Times - Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, is chairman of House Energy and Commerce Committee.)

Here is a bipartisan, “pro-American” energy concept that both the House and Senate should agree on, whether Democrat or Republican. Rep. Upton has explained it well. Would it not be an answer to many prayers to have our nation independent of OPEC and any Middle Eastern or South American oil cartel? Apart from politics, Christians should pray and vote to restore America’s leadership.

 “[Do not] say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth…” (Deut 8:17-18a)

CALIFORNIA: A STATE OF DEATH

Shortly after signing a bill allowing assisted suicide in California, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed another measure that forces crisis pregnancy centers to “offer information about affordable contraception, abortion and prenatal care.

The information is to be displayed in the form of a sign tacked to the crisis center’s door and must include a phone number to the nearest county services office where free or low-cost family planning services can be obtained.

Deceptively labeled the Reproductive FACT Act, the measure requires women seeking help with an unplanned pregnancy to be informed of alternatives, including abortion, which of course pro-life crisis pregnancy centers do not offer.

Republican state Assemblyman Brian Jones tells me the law is a “one-way street.” He says the law does not require signs in abortion facilities advising women about the availability of pro-life alternatives. Jones, who voted against the bill, says he showed some of his Democratic colleagues the undercover Planned Parenthood videos that revealed employees discussing the sale of fetal body parts from aborted babies. Jones says his colleagues claimed not to have seen the videos and were “shocked.” Not shocked enough, though, to vote against the bill. Jones blames the Democratic leadership for pressuring its members to vote for the measure.

A Los Angeles Times editorial said the law will “counteract the troubling and deceptive practices employed by some ‘crisis pregnancy’ centers to deter women from considering abortion.”

The real deceivers are the ones who promote abortion as a woman’s “right.”

Carol Everett, a former abortion provider, had an abortion herself, then wrote a book (Blood Money: Getting Rich Off a Woman's Right to Choose) revealing how women are pressured into having abortions and denied information that might lead them to reconsider. She says abortion providers deceive women by telling them their “fetus” is not human, or is merely “tissue,” and suggesting that their lives will be better after they get rid of the “burden.” Anything, she says, to get their money.

At the Priests for Life website, Everett writes about abortion centers: “They don’t sell keeping the baby. They don’t sell giving the baby up for adoption. They don’t sell delivering that baby in any form. They only sell abortions.”

For more than three decades I have spoken at fund-raising events for crisis pregnancy centers. I have met the dedicated and compassionate women who run them and many of the clients who have received free counseling and services that include baby clothes, help in finding a job, and spiritual counseling about different lifestyle choices. Not once has any of these women told me they regret their decision to give birth.

I have also met many women who have had abortions and who have gone through a program called Post-Abortion Counseling and Education (PACE). The program helps women come to terms with their decision to end a pregnancy and is where they can experience healing and forgiveness without judgment. And when these women suffer depression or turn to drinking and other self-destructive behavior, the abortionist doesn’t help them. Crisis pregnancy centers do.

Often these women have told me that if the abortion provider had given them information about alternatives to abortion they would have made a different choice. Many were not allowed to see a sonogram of their baby. According to PolitiFact, “Research indicates that some women seeking an abortion change their mind after having an ultrasound.”

With the number of unborn baby deaths in the United States approaching 60 million since the Supreme Court made abortions legal in 1973, and with assisted suicide now legal here in California and in several other states, life in "brave new world" America seems to be growing increasingly cheap.

But it's not cheap. And we who are pro-life must continue to stand—winsomely yet firmly—against the carnage. (Contributor: By Cal Thomas for World Magazine)

California has long led the nation in elevating wrong values. The spirit of Hollywood rules much of southern California, where people are exploited for youth, beauty, and hedonism, fueled by easy money and drugs, and finally discarded. Pray that the witness of Jesus Christ through the Gospel will triumph. Many believers intercede, and there are good churches. Pray in faith and hope for revival.

“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” (Isa 55:6-7)

BOEHNER USED ‘CATHOLIC GUILT’

Rep. Paul Ryan is a self-proclaimed budget wonk, with his dream job being chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

But the Wisconsin Republican has ascended to be the speaker of the House, and former Speaker John A. Boehner says it’s all thanks to that old-time religion.

First, I laid every ounce of Catholic guilt I could on him,” Mr. Boehner said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“You have no choice. This isn’t about what you want to do. It’s about what God wants you to do. And God has told me, he wants you to do this,” he told Mr. Ryan. “Oh, I pulled it all out.”

It paid off. Mr. Ryan was sworn in as the 54th speaker of the House on Thursday, the youngest in 150 years. At 45, he is a good two decades younger than his predecessor and is seen as a fresh face to liven up and help repair the fractured Republican Party.

With five interviews Sunday morning, Mr. Ryan has started to put together a plan for his speakership.

“I think the key here is we need to get Congress working like it was intended to by the founders, a bottom-up, consensus-driven process,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

This “bottom-up, consensus-driven process” has been pushed by the Freedom Caucus, a 40-member conservative group that instigated Mr. Boehner’s ouster and sabotaged Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s speakership bid, resulting in his withdrawal.

Mr. Ryan had to win over the key group to assume the speakership, and some Republicans are concerned that their new leader will be beholden to the Freedom Caucus lest they cause chaos like they did with Mr. Boehner.

Mr. Ryan does not believe that will be the case. He intends to open the floor to discussion from all groups and points of view, he said.

“I think members were frustrated that they did not really have the opportunity to express their own views on the floor,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union. “I think the legislative process has been too tightly controlled and has to be reopened up. I want members of Congress representing their constituents having the ability and the process to actually advance ideas.”

He cited the big issues on which he hopes to focus such as the economy, poverty, defunding Planned Parenthood and repealing Obamacare. He also wants to introduce a simpler tax code.

One of his first big moves will be setting up a special committee to investigate Planned Parenthood, similar to the one Mr. Boehner formed to investigate the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

“I don’t think Planned Parenthood should get a red cent from the taxpayer,” Mr. Ryan said on CNN. “I believe we need to do our oversight. We’re just beginning to start a committee to investigate Planned Parenthood.”

Mr. Ryan also has worked hard on immigration reform, but a bill on that touchy subject does not look likely anytime soon in the deeply divided House. Although the Freedom Caucus insisted that Mr. Ryan not move any immigration reform legislation, he said Sunday that he is not avoiding it just for political reasons.

“This president tried to go around Congress to unilaterally write immigration law,” he said of President Obama’s executive orders. “So specifically, on this issue, you cannot trust this president on this issue. So, why would we want to pass legislation on a very divisive issue with a president we can’t trust on this issue?”

Mr. Ryan also wants to push welfare reform that will “move people from welfare to work, so that people can make the most of their lives.”

While he plans to shake up the House and its processes, some things will stay exactly the same. Mr. Ryan, a resident of Janesville, Wisconsin, who is known for his tendency to sleep in his office rather than rent an apartment in Washington, said he would continue to do so as speaker.

“I just work here. I don’t live here. So, I get up very early in the morning. I work out. I work until about 11:30 at night. I go to bed. And I do the same thing the next day,” he said on CNN.

“It actually makes me more efficient. I can actually get more work done by sleeping on a cot in my office. I have been doing it for at least a decade, and I’m going to keep doing it,” he said. (Contributor: By Anjali Shastry for The Washington Times)

No one knows if Paul Ryan will succeed as speaker of the House, in part because no one can predict the future, and also because no one knows exactly what “success” as speaker looks like. Christians who are convinced that we are to pray for our leaders — “all who are in authority” — will pray accordingly. But will Mr. Ryan bring unity to divided Republicans? It’s too early to tell. Please pray.

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” (1 Cor 2:1-2)

AMERICANS LESS RELIGIOUS, ESPECIALLY YOUNG ADULTS: POLL

Americans are becoming less religious, judging by such markers as church attendance, prayer and belief in God, and the trend is more pronounced among young adults, according to a poll released on Tuesday.

The share of U.S. adults who say they believe in God, while still high compared with other advanced industrial countries, slipped to 89 percent in 2014 from 92 percent in 2007, according to the Pew Research Center's Religious Landscape Study.

The proportion of Americans who say they are "absolutely certain" God exists fell even more, to 63 percent in 2014 from 71 percent in 2007.

The percentage of Americans who pray every day, attend religious services regularly and consider religion important in their lives are down by small, but statistically significant measures, the survey found.

The trend is most pronounced among young adults, with only half of those born from 1990 to 1996 absolutely certain of their belief in God, compared to 71 percent of the "silent generation," or those born from 1928 to 1945.

Younger people also are less likely to pray daily, at 39 percent, compared to "silent generation" adults at 67 percent. Young adults are also much less likely to attend religious services, the survey found.

On the other hand, 77 percent of Americans continue to identify with some religious faith, and those who do are just as committed now as they were in 2007, according to the survey. Two-thirds of religiously affiliated adults say they pray every day and that religion is very important to them, the survey found.

The survey also found religious divides among the political parties, with those who are not religiously affiliated more likely to be Democrats, at 28 percent, compared to 14 percent of Republicans.

About 38 percent of Republicans identify as evangelical Protestants - the largest religious group in the party, the survey found. Catholics make up 21 percent of each major political party.

Orianna O'Neill, 21, a student at Beloit College in Wisconsin who comes from a non-religious household but sometimes prays, said she thinks the anti-science, anti-gay rhetoric of some politicians may be turning some young people away from religion.

"The idea of Republicans not believing in global warming is contributing to the notion that religious people are not intelligent," O'Neill said.

Both the 2007 and 2014 studies surveyed more than 35,000 adults and had margins of error of less than 1 percentage point. (Contributor: By Mary Wisniewski - Reuters - Editing by Eric Walsh)

Pray for widespread revival among evangelicals so that the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ is preached, not simply a warm, fuzzy church experience. Pray for a new “awakening” that confronts society with a challenge not merely warm, fuzzy church boredom. Remember, any poll in Jesus’ day would have marked Him as becoming less popular as His ministry progressed toward the cross.  

“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life…. that you may know that you have eternal life….” (1 John 5:12-13)

On Watch in Washington November 4, 2015 Plain Text PDF Version

Last modified on
Hits: 582
0
Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
The Informer Ocotober 14, 2015

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

AFTER THE NEWS CREWS LEAVE, GOD REMAINS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

PRAYER ALERT FOR ISRAEL - AT WAR FROM WITHIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the Intercessors For Israel Team -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the IFI Team - October 13, 2015

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

IMF: $3 TRILLION - DEBTORS FACE DAY OF RECKONING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CALIFORNIA FORCES CHRISTIANS TO DISOBEY OWN BELIEFS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ruling was left untouched by the Supreme Court.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IRANIAN-AMERICAN JOURNALIST CONVICTED, IRAN NEWS AGENCY SAYS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No.” “No.” “No.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last modified on
Hits: 625
0
Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
The Informer October 7, 2015

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

AFTER THE NEWS CREWS LEAVE, GOD REMAINS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SUPREME COURT FACES POLITICALLY CHARGED ELECTION-YEAR DOCKET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IRANIAN CRIMINALS FOR PASTOR SAEED ABEDINI’S RELEASE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IRAN: MISSILES POINTED AT U.S. TARGETS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore, I hope in Him!’ ” (Lam 3:22-24)

WHITE HOUSE SAYS OBAMA IS CONSIDERING EXECUTIVE ACTION ON GUNS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for…all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:1-4)

 

THE DAY CHRISTIANS WERE MARTYRED ON AMERICAN SOIL

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

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

Eyewitnesses say the shooter targeted Christians.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last modified on
Hits: 606
0
Posted by on in On Watch In Washington
The Informer September 30, 2015

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

JOHN BOEHNER, THEN AND NOW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

U.S. FIGHTING SEXUAL ABUSE IN AFGHANISTAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VISIT REVEALS US, CHINA RELATIONS MORE DYSFUNCTIONAL THAN EVER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POPE FRANCIS ENDS VISIT WITH INMATES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“God weeps,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEDS RETURNING TO LOCAL CRIME FIGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DARPA IS IMPLANTING CHIPS IN SOLDIERS’ BRAINS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Prov 3:5-6)

COALITION-BACKED ​SYRIA COMMANDER GAVE EQUIPMENT TO AL QAEDA 

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

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