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On Watch in Washington January 15, 2014

On Watch in Washington January 15, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

FREE SPEECH, ABORTION RIGHTS TO CLASH AT SUPREME COURT THIS WEEK

Claims to free speech will clash with abortion rights Wednesday [today] when the Supreme Court takes up a closely watched case on the constitutionality of “buffer zones” around abortion clinics.

At issue: whether state laws forcing abortion protesters to stay at least 35 feet away from the doors of clinics are prudent safety measures given the passions surrounding the issue or whether they constitute an illegal infringement on the free speech rights of protesters.

The Massachusetts case involves seven pro-life demonstrators, including several grandparents and a Catholic priest, seeking to overturn a 2007 state law permitting the establishment of 35-foot “public safety” zones around the entrances, exits and driveways of abortion clinics.

The zones are identified with signs and painted lines on the pavement. No one except for clinic patients, employees, emergency or state workers, or those with business at the clinic, can “enter or remain” in the zones.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor this year, and her colleagues say the state law is needed to ensure the safety of people who use and work at abortion clinics.

It “strikes the right balance between ensuring safe access to medical facilities and preserving freedom of expression,” Ms. Coakley said in a brief in support of the law.

The state is supported by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, whose clinics in Boston, Worcester and Springfield are at the center of the case.

Before the 2007 law, criminal prosecutions, injunctions and other laws “all failed to keep the peace at PPLM facilities,” Planned Parenthood officials said in an amicus brief, citing instances in which pro-life activists threw literature into cars, videotaped and touched patients and blocked cars from accessing the clinics’ parking garages. The atmosphere at the Boston clinic now “has been much more orderly,” with “fewer confrontations” between protesters and people walking to the clinic, the group said.

But attorneys for Eleanor McCullen, 77, and her fellow protesters say the 2007 law is overbroad and serves to restrict only the speech of people who oppose abortion and want to present other options to pregnant women.

At the Springfield and Worcester clinics in particular, they said, they have little chance of reaching anyone who drives in because they must stay so far away from the entrances to those buildings’ parking lots.

Ms. McCullen, who recently spoke to an Associated Press reporter outside one of the clinics, said she sometimes can start conversations with people before they reach the yellow line restraining protesters.

But when a couple approached from the opposite way, Ms. McCullen could only call out to them. “There’s so much help available. Can we just talk for five minutes?” she said.

The man and woman showed no reaction and entered the clinic unimpeded.

“This is what we have to deal with,” Ms. McCullen told AP.

Other plaintiffs in the case include the Rev. Eric Cadin, counselors Mark Bashour and Nancy Clark, and retirees Jean Zarrella, Gregory A. Smith and Cyril Shea.

Lower courts weigh in

Those challenging the law were rebuffed by a federal district court and the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The lower courts found that the law addressed a legitimate public safety interest, did not discriminate against any one group, and left anti-abortion advocates with other ways to express their opinions, apparently clearing the legal bar for a restriction on unlimited free speech. The high court in June agreed to hear the case, one of the top cases related to abortion this term.

The first question for the justices is whether the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals erred “on its face and as applied to petitioners” when it upheld the 2007 law. A second question is whether the high court’s 2000 ruling in a buffer-zone case, Hill v. Colorado, permits enforcement of the Massachusetts law, as the 1st Circuit concluded.

Eugene Volokh, a legal blogger who teaches First Amendment law at UCLA, attacked the Massachusetts statute in his own brief to the high court, saying the same kind of buffer law could be used to restrict animal rights activists or labor members walking picket lines or trying to organize.

“There’s really a huge range of categories of speech, a huge range of political movements, that use this kind of attempt at face-to-face education, expression of opinion and the like,” Mr. Volokh told the website MassLive.com. “If this kind of restriction is upheld for anti-abortion speech, similar restrictions could be upheld for other kinds of speech.”

The high court’s treatment of the Hill ruling, which upheld a different kind of buffer-zone law, is of interest by itself.

In Hill, the law applied to all kinds of health care facilities, not just abortion clinics; applied to everyone, not just protesters; and was aimed at blocking unwanted conversations and physical contact. Consensual conversations were not blocked.

But the Hill decision has come under fire from free speech advocates. Constitutional lawyer Floyd Abrams recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the Hill decision could be “the most indefensible First Amendment ruling so far this century.”

Court watchers also note that the three dissenters in the Hill case — Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — remain on the court, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and Justice Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. could provide two more votes in support of the protesters and against the Massachusetts law. (Contributor:  By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times – Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer were part of the 6-3 majority in the Hill decision.)

Pray that the Supremes decide this case on legal precedent and justice rather than personal bias. Ask God to overrule every temptation to focus on abortion (as important as that is) rather than the right to free speech. Pray, too, that pro-lifers respect the freedoms of those entering abortion mills, making such “safety zones” unnecessary. We intercede, knowing God’s will is both absolute and permissive.

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33)

“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.” (Proverbs 21:1-3)

 

SUPREME COURT SAYS VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965 IS NO LONGER RELEVANT

The Supreme Court [recently – last Tuesday] ruled that states no longer can be judged by voting discrimination that went on decades ago, a decision that argues the country has fundamentally changed since the racially motivated laws of the civil rights era.

In a 5-4 ruling, the justices said the Voting Rights Act’s requirement that mainly Southern states must undergo special scrutiny before changing their voting laws is based on a 40-year-old formula that is no longer relevant to changing racial circumstances.

“Congress — if it is to divide the states — must identify those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions. It cannot rely simply on the past,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority, which was comprised of the court’s conservative-leaning justices.

The four liberal-leaning justices dissented, arguing that racial discrimination in voting remains a real threat. The majority didn’t disagree with that, but the core of Chief Justice Roberts‘ opinion was that discrimination today looks markedly different from what it did decades ago, so the law must be changed to reflect that.

The Shelby County v. Holder ruling sparked an immediate debate about the status of race and discrimination in modern America.

“There’s just no question that the court is slowly letting go of this legacy of race in America, and is pushing it aside,” said Ward Connerly, founder of the American Civil Rights Institute. “I think the resistance you’re seeing from the NAACP, ACLU and a lot of others to the Shelby case is a recognition that the ship is moving, and it’s moving from where it was with regard to race 50 years ago — it’s moving in the direction of a post-racial era.”

The ruling leaves in place many of the protections of the 1965 law, such as banning literacy tests. It even said Congress can require some states or localities to submit their voting changes for special scrutiny.

But the court’s majority said Congress cannot use the same formula from four decades ago, which judged states based on black voter registration and turnout.

“If Congress had started from scratch in 2006, it plainly could not have enacted the present coverage formula. It would have been irrational for Congress to distinguish between states in such a fundamental way based on 40-year-old data, when today’s statistics tell an entirely different story,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote.

He invited Congress to try to rewrite the formula — and President Obama and congressional Democrats said they would try to do just that. But Republicans didn’t signal an eagerness to accept the court’s challenge.

The justices’ decision marks a major break after decades in which the court upheld the Voting Rights Act, which was passed at the height of the civil rights movement and was designed to combat literacy tests, inaccessible polling places and other barriers to voting.

J. Gerald Hebert, a voting rights lawyer, said the ruling marks the first time since the 1880s that the Supreme Court found Congress had overstepped itself under the 15th Amendment, which guarantees that the right to vote cannot be denied because of race, and grants the legislature broad powers to ensure those rights are protected.

“I think today’s decision is an extreme act of judicial activism. Just four years ago, this precise issue was before the court and there were five justices at that time who did not declare the Voting Rights Act or the coverage provisions unconstitutional,” he said. “What has changed in four years?”

Gary May, a history professor at the University of Delaware and author of a new book, “Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy,” said the court’s decision amounted to a step backward at a time when barriers had shifted from literacy tests to more subtle roadblocks such as voter ID laws or eliminating Sunday early voting.

Mr. May said congressional Republicans must decide whether to update the formula or let it die, which would doom much of the Voting Rights Act. He said the court’s decision could spur a renewed civil rights movement.

“This thing is not going to go away. It may be only a temporary setback,” he said. “I think you’re going to see a reorganization of the civil rights movement, you’ll see demonstration again, and with the country evolving the way it is, are Republicans going to commit suicide?”

The professor said Republicans had a long history of backing the Voting Rights Act — indeed, it was written in the office of Sen. Everett Dirksen, the Republican leader, and was renewed repeatedly under Republican presidents.

The most recent renewal was in 2006, when both houses of Congress and the White House were controlled by Republicans.

In her dissent, joined by the court’s other liberal-leaning justices, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Congress spent years examining discrimination before that 2006 renewal and decided the formula was still relevant.

“Given a record replete with examples of denial or abridgment of a paramount federal right, the court should have left the matter where it belongs: in Congress‘ bailiwick,” Justice Ginsburg wrote.

But Horace Cooper, co-chairman of Project 21, a network of conservative black leaders, said the court’s hand was forced by Mr. Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who he said turned the anti-discrimination provisions into a cudgel to use against conservatives in Arizona, where the department went after a law designed to prevent illegal immigrants from voting, or in states that enacted voter ID laws after the Supreme Court said they were legal.

“I would say to the NAACP and the Urban League, if they are upset with today’s ruling they need to look to Eric Holder. He is the one who’s abusing the law,” Mr. Cooper said. “If they had singled out jurisdictions where there were actual crimes occurring, no one would have sued. These are cases where those things weren’t happening and the Justice Department said we’ve got the authority and you have to do what we say.” (Contributor:  By Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times)

Pray for honesty in applying the law. This requires officials committed to justice and equality. Sadly, whether for racial or political purposes, our nation’s record in guarding the ballot box, allowing only qualified citizens to vote, is far from untarnished. This includes national, state-level, and even local elections. Continue to intercede for truth to triumph as hearts and minds are changed by the Gospel.

“A wicked man accepts a bribe behind the back to pervert the ways of justice.” (Proverbs 17:23)

“For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” (James 3:16)

“Do not rob the poor because he is poor, nor oppress the afflicted at the gate; for the Lord will plead their cause, and plunder the soul of those who plunder them.” (Proverbs 22:22-23)

 

THE U.S. FOREST SERVICE LAND GRAB

On Tuesday [yesterday], Marvin Brandt of Fox Park, Wyo., will sit before the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a government lawyer who wants to take his land argue why the laws, documents and court rulings that apply to everyone else do not apply to the federal government. Mr. Brandt’s journey to the court — which reveals much about the men who built this country, a federal land-management policy that has gone wrong and the lawlessness of government officials — was nearly 80 years in the making.

In 1936, Mr. Brandt’s parents, Melvin and Lula, drove in a Chevy they owned outright from Mountain View, Mo., to the Medicine Bow National Forest of southeastern Wyoming. When they reached Fox Park, which grew out of the transcontinental railroad’s need for cross ties made from the lodgepole pines that carpet mid-elevations of the forest, they had two dollars. Like thousands of other young men in the midst of the Great Depression, Melvin Brandt was looking for work and found it among the hearty Scandinavians who logged the forest.

He was hired on to cut ties for Ole Alexander. With borrowed tools and boots, Melvin hiked into the woods, cut down a tree of at least 11 inches diameter with a one-man crosscut saw, scored the sides with a six pound double-bit ax to create a minimum seven inch by four inch face, removed the scored wood with a broadaxe, and cut the shaped wood into eight-foot lengths, each of which he lugged to the nearest road. Melvin got a nickel a tie. Soon he could produce 20 a day.

John Wicklund, who left Sweden at age 14, arrived in New York City speaking no English. He made his way to Minnesota to work in the logging camps, and was Ole Alexander’s woods boss. He and Melvin Brandt became friends and bought out Alexander in 1946. They formed Brandt & Wicklund Forest Products, and, by 1951 had built a permanent sawmill. The U.S. Forest Service, responsible for the 284 million board-feet of timber products generated annually by the forest’s million-plus acres, had planned for such a mill on the Fox Park Industrial Site tract.

John Wicklund ran the men and horses that harvested the timber and hauled it to the mill that Melvin Brandt operated. At its heyday, it was processing 6 million board-feet a year and employing 60 men. Since 1910, the Laramie, Hahn’s Peak & Pacific Railway Co. had run a railroad from Laramie, Wyo., through the Fox Park site, and then south to the Wyoming-Colorado border along a 200-foot-wide, 66-mile-long right-of-way. The railroad brought in supplies and transported milled timber to Laramie and beyond.

In 1976, the Forest Service gave Mr. Brandt 83 acres in Fox Park where his family’s mill had been built on federal land that the rail line crossed, along with houses and cabins, a church, pool hall, hotel, general store, school and saloon. In exchange, the Forest Service got 200 acres nearby on Sheep Mountain, plus 40 acres near Fox Park.

Mr. Brandt’s son Marvin, raised amid the woods, the mill and the hard work, went to college, but soon returned. Unfortunately, after the 1980 recession, times were hard and things were changing. The Forest Service was no longer interested in letting Marvin Brandt harvest the timber. Instead, it left the trees to the pine beetle. It didn’t matter that the vast forest, properly managed, could sustain scores of operations like the Brandt’s mill.

In 1991, a young woman spoke of her vision to locals at a restaurant called the Hungry Woodsmen that, after the Wyoming and Colorado Railroad, as it was then known, pulled up its tracks and ties, a high-altitude bicycle trail could be built in its place all paid for by local businesses. Marvin Brandt proclaimed his was that local business and was nearly broke. That year, he sold the mill and its equipment for pennies on the dollar.

In 2003, Marvin Brandt accidentally learned of Forest Service plans to build the trail. The agency “forgot” to tell him and his neighbors. Despite the 9,000-foot elevation, snow cover from November to mid-June, and the lodgepole pine’s attempt to reclaim the path, the Forest Service audaciously predicted 120,000 bikers annually.

First, however, the Forest Service sued Marvin Brandt and seized the abandoned railroad right-of-way across the land it had traded to his family in 1976. Later this year, the Supreme Court will rule whether the Forest Service can keep it.

Wiliam Perry Pendley is president of Mountain States Legal Foundation and author of “Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan’s Battle With Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today” (Regnery, 2013). (Contributor:  By William Perry Pendley for The Washington Times)

Pray for a righteous decision by the Supreme Court. At one time this could be expected, but no more. Government’s abuses of eminent domain laws are pervasive and well-documented. This is another “national sin,” which is not easily turned aside directly. Intercede for God, in mercy, to raise up righteous leaders who will govern with equity and concern for U.S. citizens, not greedy acquisition.

“You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:15-17, from the Decalogue)

“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.” (Romans 12:17)

“… Providing honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” (2 Cor 8:21)

 

WV: DAYS OF WATER WOES STILL AHEAD AFTER CHEMICAL SPILL

Around the swollen Elk River, now flowing with a chemical that’s hard to pronounce, myriad streams and rivulets tumbled from the hillsides over the weekend, the result of a drenching downpour. Logs and branches floated downstream, toward the junction with the Kanawha in the heart of the city. Potholes on the beat-up country roads had turned into deep puddles.

As they say: Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.

“DO NOT USE WATER,” say the signs taped over sinks at the airport, and in the State Capitol the sinks are entirely wrapped in plastic bags. People line up for free water at the fire stations or buy it at the Dollar General — $1.60 for a 20-ounce Dasani, $39 for a flat of 24 bottles.

A chemical used in coal processing has leaked from an old tank along the Elk and invaded the water supply, a crisis that has affected nearly 300,000 people in nine counties and effectively closed the largest city in the state. You can’t drink the water, bathe in it or do laundry with it. It’s good only for flushing.

Monday will mark the fifth day of the water emergency, which began early Thursday when people all over town registered a powerful odor like black licorice. Two state employees tracked the leak to Freedom Industries, which owns a row of vintage storage tanks along the south bank of the Elk. The chemical had leaked from an inch-wide hole in the bottom of one tank, pooled in a containment area and then seeped through a porous cinder-block retaining wall, down the bank and into the river.

Government officials said Sunday that chemical levels had dropped significantly over the weekend, enabling the West Virginia American Water Co. to begin flushing out the contaminated pipes. The entire process will take a number of days and will occur in stages, starting in Charleston and working outward to the remote areas of the distribution system.

The infrastructure here was primed for a water crisis. The intake for the system is downstream by a little more than a mile, and on the same side of the river, as the tanks containing the chemicals.

“The impacts caused by this were caused by the public water intakes being so close,” said Randy Huffman, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Mike Dorsey, a top official with the agency, said that the substance in the tank was not considered a “hazardous material” and that the site was not subject to regular inspections by the state.

After the leak, he said, he was informed by Freedom Industries that the company had set aside $1 million in escrow to upgrade the containment area around the tanks. But those upgrades had not begun.

An attorney for Freedom Industries who was at the aging facility Saturday would not comment on the record. He provided a reporter with a copy of a news article saying that the chemical is not very toxic.

The facility was crowded with contract workers in hard hats. The buzz of heavy machinery filled the air along with the lingering licorice odor.

Freedom Industries executives have kept a low profile since a news conference Friday in which the company’s president, Gary Southern, complained of having a long day, repeatedly swigged from a bottle of water and several times tried to cut short questions from reporters. Southern played down the scale of the leak, saying, “We don’t believe a great deal of material left the facility.” He said the offending material had all been removed from the site.

That assertion was contradicted by Dorsey, who said the chemical is in the soil along the bank and in various layers of clay and concrete in the containment area. “I’m guessing there will be some coming out of that bank for some time now,” Dorsey said.

Workers have dug trenches along the river to contain further leakage of the chemical, he said. Dorsey estimated the size of the leak at 7,500 gallons, up from an initial estimate of 5,000.

The West Virginia American Water Co. sent out the do-not-use order late Thursday afternoon, but by then people had been drinking the water, cooking with it and bathing children with it. Residents are anxious and outraged and want to know how this happened, why they weren’t warned earlier and when, exactly, the chemical got into the water.

Dorsey said, “We’re fairly confident that it started on Thursday, just because of the low odor threshold of this material.”

That means it stinks. It’s not the worst smell you ever encountered, but it makes its presence known even at modest levels, like the chemical that is put into natural gas to make leaks more easily detected.

The shorthand name for the chemical is “crude MCHM.” The technical name is 4-methylcyclohexane methanol. (“I can’t pronounce the chemical name. It’s MH, MCMH, it’s something like that,” said Huffman, the Cabinet secretary.)

More than 150 people have showed up at emergency rooms complaining of rashes, upset stomachs and other ailments. As of Sunday, 10 had been admitted for treatment, none in serious condition, according to the state’s tally. Government officials have mentioned that a number of people fall into the category of the “worried well.”

Now comes the Great Flushing. The chemical has invaded the entire system, from the treatment plant to the pipes in people’s homes. State officials spent the weekend testing the water at the treatment plant and in fire hydrants, waiting for the concentration to drop below one part per million. That, they said, is a level that poses no public health risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Col. Greg Grant of the West Virginia National Guard, which is heavily involved in the emergency response, said Sunday that an ­early-morning test showed no sign of the chemical in the treatment plant and dropping concentrations at fire hydrants. As the flushing process continues, further tests will be conducted on water around the region, and at some point officials will lift the do-not-use order.

“We see light at the end of the tunnel,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) said Sunday afternoon.

Even if this does not turn out to be a public health disaster, the water crisis has provided a reminder of why the Kanawha River Valley is sometimes called Chemical Valley. Freedom Industries’ Web site states, “Freedom Industries is a leading producer of freeze conditioning agents, dust control palliatives, flotation reagents, water treatment polymers and other specialty chemicals.”

Assurances that the leak poses no lethal risk has not brought everyone around here much comfort. “I drank a 32-ounce glass of it right before they put it on TV,” said Nate Halstead, 33, who works with troubled children and lives just a stone’s throw from the leak site. “I don’t know what to do, honestly.”

Most schools and day-care centers will be closed until the water crisis is over. Most restaurants and bars are closed. A few businesses have received permission from the health department to reopen; among the first in Charleston was the Monkey Barrel, which staged a drag show Saturday night.

Hotels are open, but guests can’t shower. Some residents are fleeing the affected area, flooding hotels in such places as Huntington, W.Va., about an hour’s drive from Charleston.

Others are coping by eating a lot of fried food, grilled food, or whatever they can pull out of the freezer and microwave. They are loading up on baby wipes, and when those are depleted at the store they buy the makeup-removing wipes, plus lots of hand sanitizer.

Life here is a lot like camping.

“You just make do,” said Teresa “Tiki” Easter, 49, who works in health care. “I wash my hair in the sink. You take a rag, have an old military-style bath.”

The Rev. Carolyn Hairston captured rainwater with plastic bags.

“Jesus is taking care of us. He sent us the rain,” she said. “I’ve been watching ‘The Waltons’ and ‘Little House on the Prairie’ for years, and I didn’t watch those shows for nothing.” (Contributor: Joel Achenbach for The Washington Post)

Give thanks that a quick official response averted disaster. Only 14 people were hospitalized, none in a life-threatening condition. One week later, fresh water is again flowing for more than 10,000 homes, with others scheduled for relief in days rather than weeks or months. Pray that those affected and all U.S. citizens will pause to give thanks for fresh, clean water, not taking God’s gifts for granted.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17)     

“And [God] has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on .. the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord … for in Him we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 17:26-28)

 

FLORIDA CITRUS GROWERS WORRY OVER CHINESE BACTERIA

The sprawling citrus orchard that Victor Story toured recently sure looked like a steal at $11,000 an acre. The investors who owned it were going to lose money, and potential buyers such as Story might have stood to reap a handsome reward.

But as he bumped along the 40 acres of groves in a large SUV, Story was taken aback by the sickly look of the trees. Their leaves were an inch shorter than normal and yellowing. Full-size oranges were still apple green. Other mature oranges that should have been the size of baseballs were no bigger than ping-pong balls.

“That fruit’s never going to be of any value,” said Story, 68, who has been growing fruit all his life. He said his pickers wouldn’t even bother to reach for it. “It’s going to fall off the tree. It’s never going to get squeezed,” he said. “These investors paid $15,000 an acre for that grove. I know because they bought it from a friend. I frankly don’t think it will sell for $11,000.”

What Story saw in the orchard in Polk County, Fla., wasn’t an anomaly. It’s the new norm in the Sunshine State, where about half the trees in every citrus orchard are stricken with an incurable bacterial infection from China that goes by many names: huanglongbing, “yellow dragon disease” and “citrus greening.” Growers, agriculturalists and academics liken it to cancer. Roots become deformed. Fruits drop from limbs prematurely and rot. The trees slowly die.

The bacteria is spread by a tiny, invasive bug, also from China, called Asian citrus psyllid. It acquires the bacteria while feeding on the leaves of infected trees, then transmits it when feeding on healthy trees — akin to the way mosquitoes transfer malaria.

Psyllids were first detected in a Broward County, Fla., garden in 1998 and spread to 31 other counties within two years. The Asian strain of the bacteria was discovered in 2005 just south of Miami. The disease ruins the look and taste of the fruit but isn’t known to harm humans.

Florida citrus, which provides up to 80 percent of U.S. orange juice, has been hardest hit, but the disease — which also has an African and Latin American strain — also has been detected in Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona and California. It has spread to other parts of the world, including Mexico, India, sub-Saharan Africa and Brazil, which provide nearly 20 percent of the orange juice Americans drink. In each case, the impact to citrus has been devastating.

Worldwide concern prompted 500 scientists from more than 20 nations to gather in Orlando last February for a conference on huanglongbing. Despite the fact that nearly $80 million has been poured into research on the disease, scientists still don’t know how to eliminate the bacteria or remove it from trees.

Even those who are optimistic about a scientific breakthrough say that if the infection continues unabated for another decade or so — admittedly a worse-case scenario — Florida’s $9 billion citrus industry could be destroyed.

“What’s at stake is orange juice on the breakfast table,” said Michael Sparks, chief executive of Florida Citrus Mutual, a trade association. “I don’t want to indicate that’s going to happen next year. With a 10-year decline, your supply will reduce.”

Researchers funded by the industry, the state and the U.S. Agriculture Department are exploring an option that could save the trees and their citrus, but also turn off consumers: engineering and planting genetically modified trees that are resistant to the bacteria carried by the psyllid.

“Would that be accepted by the public?” Sparks asked. “You don’t have to do a focus group or another survey to know it is a public concern.”

He said he and the growers hope they don’t get to the point where they have to use a genetically modified plant.

The threat to the world’s citrus production is another example of how, in an era of global trade and travel, viruses, insects and animals are inadvertently transported to places they don’t belong. Pythons from Latin America and Africa are threatening the natural balance of wildlife in the Everglades; a fungus from Europe is wiping out bats along the East Coast; stink bugs from China are attacking farm crops and invading homes in the Mid-

Atlantic region; and the voracious Asian snakehead is devouring native fish in the Chesapeake Bay.

Even before being hit by the disease, Florida’s orange, grapefruit and specialty fruit crops faced many threats, including hurricanes, frost and a fungus that causes canker disease. The crops have been declining since the mid-1990s.

But the decline has accelerated since the detection of huanglongbing, said Harold Browning, chief operating officer of the Citrus Research and Development Foundation, a nonprofit agency that studies the disease under the guidance of the University of Florida.

Since the disease’s detection in Florida City and Homestead, 90,000 acres of citrus have been wiped out. The high cost of spraying to kill off some of the psyllids is pushing some growers to the financial brink. The average cost of producing an acre of oranges is $1,800, nearly double what it cost in 1995.

“It’s a huge amount of money,” said Stephen H. Futch, a University of Florida extension agent. A 2012 analysis estimated the disease has cost growers $4.6 billion and resulted in the loss of about 8,000 jobs.

In the heyday of Florida citrus, around 1970, the number of acres with orange, grapefruit and specialty fruit orchards surpassed 900,000. Today, it’s only slightly more than 500,000 acres, according to an analysis by Futch.

But consumers have felt only a subtle pinch, he said. “The [orange juice] container got smaller, not significantly, from 64 ounces to 59 ounces. That’s a way to do a price increase without raising the price.”

Growers represented by the industry trade group “believe we are at a crossroads this year,” Sparks said. Banks are watching closely to see if they can produce enough citrus to repay their debts.

“The small growers are saying, ‘Should I continue to invest?’ ” Sparks said. “The citrus industry is built on the backs of smaller growers. In the state of Florida, we have 135,000 acres that have been abandoned.”

Story sprays the 2,000 acres of orchards he owns under his business, Story Cos., in an attempt to kill as many psyllids as possible. He sprays an additional 3,000 acres he manages for investors through a side business called Story Citrus Service.

A team of six sprayers start at 10 p.m., when the winds usually die down. They try to treat 200 acres per night, spraying until 6 a.m.

“I fall asleep looking at the radar on my phone to make sure there’s no rain,” Story said. “We don’t want it to wash off.”

Even then, the spraying keeps the psyllid at bay for only 30 days, “no longer than 45,” he said.

“Four years ago, I would see an occasional tree with this disease. I can remember seeing the first grove and seeing the first tree,” Story said. “This year I can ride around and see greening symptoms on 75 percent of my trees.”

None of that matters, Story said, because he and a determined corps of medium-size growers aren’t about to give up.

“When we lose a tree, we put a tree back,” he said. “We’re constantly resetting. There are people that are committed to this industry.” (Contributor: By Darryl Fears for The Washington Post)

Intercessors, take note! Reports of citrus industry decimation and the invasion of pythons in the Everglades remind us of Biblical plagues. Would widespread repentance for our national sins, chief among which is the abortion atrocity, give us new access to our gracious God, who wants to forgive, redeem, and heal? Pray accordingly, and watch for an upcoming prayer and fasting opportunity.

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God; and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they saw My work [of discipline].’” (Psalm 95:6-9)

“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.” (Galatians 6:7-9)

 

PLAYING THE SATANIC GAME OF ‘EQUALITY’

It was a devilishly clever scheme.

Last week, the New York-based Satanic Temple garnered a lot of free publicity by releasing a drawing of a proposed statue of Satan at the Oklahoma state Capitol to be placed near a Ten Commandments monument.

They probably won’t get to actually install it, since most Oklahomans can still distinguish between good and evil, and wouldn’t put up with such an abomination.

Besides, the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission has a moratorium on requests for additions to the Capitol grounds pending an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit over — what else? — the Ten Commandments. So the Satanic Temple probably has already gotten its maximum mileage out of this stunt.

It’s rare that the devil’s disciples come out of the closet so openly. Usually, they mask their real work of undermining the moral order by slyly distorting societal goods, such as freedom of speech or equal rights under the law. Or they twist Scripture, claiming that Jesus, who saved an adulterous woman from stoning and told her to sin no more, would be indifferent to the latest perversities or even endorse them.

The drawing, by the way, should send shivers down the backs of any unsuspecting parents who happen to view it. A horned, goat-headed figure that goes by the moniker “Baphomet” (is that his Facebook handle, too?) sits beneath a pentagram with two smiling children next to him. His lap functions as a chair “where people of all ages may sit … for inspiration and contemplation,” explains temple spokesman Lucien Greaves. Maybe on a hot day in August, when the weather conforms more closely to Baphomet’s usual haunts.

Somehow, “contemplation” doesn’t seem to fit the Satanists’ professed program of freeing humanity from all moral restraints so people can get on with trading their souls for momentary pleasures.

It’s a far cry from the scene in Mathew 19:14, in which Jesus rebukes his followers for trying to shoo away some youngsters whose parents had brought for Him to lay hands on and pray for them: “‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.”

So, who do you think that parents would rather have bless their children, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, by Whom “all things were made,” or the unspeakably evil goat-man?

The underlying premise behind the Satanic Temple’s request is a false claim of equality. In the name of this vastly abused concept that once fueled the righteous aims of the civil rights movement, America is awash in moral confusion.

The Justice Department embraces openly racist policies — in the name of equality. The Internal Revenue Service operates what amounts to an organized theft system in which it seizes earnings from some people and give it to others — in the name of equality. “Marriages” lacking one entire sex are said to be identical to the real thing — in the name of equality. The Pentagon is pushing female soldiers and Marines toward direct combat — in the name of equality.

For years, some liberals saw no real moral difference in the nuclear-arms race between the free West and the communist world, despite the latter’s network of slave-labor camps and extermination of more than 100 million people. The two sides were equally at fault; “two scorpions in a bottle.” Today, some equate Christian conservatives with the Taliban because, after all, both are motivated by “religion.”

Along these lines, a lot of people have the mistaken idea that God and Satan are the flip sides of each other, roughly equal. They might have gotten this from cartoons in which a character such as Donald Duck has a little devil on one shoulder and a little angel on the other, both trying to persuade him to either embrace or avoid a temptation. The little devil usually wins.

Another misnomer is that even though God created all things, including taste buds, it’s the devil who came up with devil’s food cake, or anything tasty or fun. The devil cannot create anything; he can only pervert what God has created. Confused people all too often are giving the devil credit for things not of his making.

Is something beautiful? Thank God. Does something taste good? Thank God. Does something feel good? Thank God. Does the thing in question lead to a bad outcome? Thank the devil, who did not invent sensual pleasure, just many ways to misuse it.

Why would anyone erect a monument to a false god whose purpose is to lay waste to human souls? Oh, right — in the name of equality. (Contributor: By Robert Knight for The Washington Times – Robert Knight is senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.)

God never designed intercession to make the devil and his malicious work disappear. Instead, we add fervent prayers to our witness so that Satan’s followers will repent and be saved through the Gospel. If devil worshipers erect idols, one day they will topple. Our pattern comes from the early Church, as they “plundered hell to populate heaven” (Bonnke). Let us pray for the advance of God’s kingdom.

“The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” (Psalm 9:17)

“Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23)

 

GLEANING FOR THE WORLD PROVIDES 60,000 BLANKETS FOR THE HOMELESS

Gleaning For The World, a non-profit humanitarian aid organization based in Virginia, is providing 60,000 blankets to U.S. families suffering during extreme winter weather this month. These blankets are being distributed in 10 states, including Colorado, Nevada, Kentucky, Virginia, Florida and Georgia.

“Nearly one-third of the homeless are military veterans,” stated Ron Davidson, President of Gleaning For The World. “We are committed to helping those who have faithfully served our country in time of war. It may also surprise you that there is a large group of homeless individuals under the age of 15. They need our help as well.”

The blankets are given to homeless shelters, food banks, soup kitchens and to homeless communities living on the streets. In 2013 alone, Gleaning For The World distributed more than 100,000 blankets.

Gleaning For The World was founded in 1998 by the Rev. Ronald Davidson and is a non-profit humanitarian aid organization that shares the love of God at home and around the world through the efficient delivery of high quality, life-saving supplies to victims of poverty and devastation by connecting corporate surplus to critical needs.

Forbes Magazine has ranked Gleaning For The World the “most efficient large charity in America” four out of the past five years. This non-profit organization is based in Concord, VA. Jonathan Falwell serves as Board Chairman.

If you would like to help in this effort, you can donate at www.GFTW.org. (Contributor: Christian Newswire)

Intercessors will give thanks for Gleaning For The World and perhaps contribute. The report’s most jarring statement is, “Nearly one-third of the homeless are military veterans.” This brings immense pain to all patriotic citizens. Let us pray that Congress, the Church, and charities like “Gleaning” will soon remedy such a shameful situation. As Christian believers, we may repent for our nation’s sins. 

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ Then they also will answer Him,saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:41-46)

On Watch in Washington January 15, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

 

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