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On Watch in Washington May 7, 2014

On Watch in Washington May 7, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

GLOBALLY, CITIES ARE BEING TRANSFORMED BY THE PRESENCE OF GOD!

Here’s a question asked often, yet is basically off the mark: “How can we get God to fix America?”

Instead we should be asking: ”What is holding back the Presence of God which truly can transform America?”

We need to recalibrate our thinking so that our focus is not so much on our comfort or us winning our cities for God as it is the honor of God and hosting His Presence which ultimately brings the change supernaturally. As Tony Evans once said: “Multitudes want God to bless America.  Few truly want one nation under God.”

Everything must start with God, not the blessing or our bailout. That’s where Nehemiah started in the magnificent rebuilding of the walls of the city in his day. We must follow suit if we are going to see the breakthrough for which we long.

This is not clever semantics or super-spirituality. Amidst the encroaching darkness, we need more of His light!

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you…” (Is 60:1-4).

George Otis Jr. has traveled the globe in documenting places where God’s Presence has invaded a city and brought about genuine revival/transformation. If you have ever watched any of his videos portraying what happens, you will be both impressed and motivated. It’s the real deal!

Days ago I participated in a nationwide prayer call where we heard from Dave Kubal, the president of Intercessors for America, a national ministry of which I’ve been a board member for 38 years. We serve with George for transformation of cities. Dave  spoke to us from Cape Town, South Africa where he was at a prayer summit with representatives from 15 nations. He and a minister from Egypt declared the breathtaking things God was doing to transform cities across the world.

Hearing testimonies of cities where Muslims are being miraculously converted, prisons are being upended by the gospel, youth are being radically saved, crime is dropping, evangelism is exploding, economic conditions are improving dramatically and leaders are uniting together to testify to the manifest Presence of God in their midst imparts hope and  encouragement.

An Egyptian brother told of how his country, in the throes of a revolution, has experienced incredible upheaval yet saw in Isaiah 19 how God prophetically foretold Egypt being shaken of its idols so that it would manifest God’s unshakable Kingdom. Is this what’s happening in our nation so we won’t trust in ingenuity and achievements but humbly turn to the living God?

Everything begins when we realize the gravity of the situation and not rationalize that our cultural decline is basically cyclical, manageable and will improve with time.  We must have a sense of urgency so that we truly seek Him in desperation, laying hold of the lifeline He’s extending to us before it’s too late. It’s healthy to be jolted!

Recent Developments Reveal Serious Decline

Here’s the deal: the ship is sinking; the house is burning. America is not experiencing a temporary malfunction. The foundations are collapsing and the entire structure is teetering on the precipice. This isn’t hype!

• After 12 decades of holding the number one position, the United States will soon be dethroned by China as the world’s leading economic power.

• Responsible journalism is disappearing as the mainstream media avoids reporting the news with integrity. The recent Benghazi scandal reveals compromise, corruption and cover-up at the highest levels of the political and journalistic realms. Is this Watergate II?

Three things are in play.

1. Dereliction of duty – the Administration left 4 Americans to die in a terrorist attack. 2. Dishonesty – like falsehoods repeatedly said to pass Obamacare, an absurd narrative of a video as the cause of the attack continues to be maintained even after a congressional investigation reveals it to be untrue. 3. Disgusting – military code demands rescuing our own yet why was the order never given? Political expediency? Image management?

Imagine if it was your son or daughter abandoned to this horrible death. Would you want answers?

• Three lesbians from Massachusetts “marry” (one is expecting) while multitudes argue legalizing gay “marriage” won’t redefine matrimony to allow all sorts of configurations.

• A med student is auctioning off her virginity online to pay her bills and a Duke University freshman unashamedly strolls the campus boasting of raising hers doing pornographic films.

• TIME Magazine publishes its “100 Most Influential People” featuring a dazed Beyoncé (in what looks like underwear) on the cover plus other “luminaries” like Jason Collins who averaged 1.1 points a year ago, is 35 and  stunned his “fiancé” saying he’s gay, gaining himself celebrity status, a Sports Illustrated cover plus  a call from Obama; naked wrecking ball swinger, pot smoker and twerker Miley Cyrus; liberal director Robert Redford; “Scandal” sex symbol starlet Kerry Washington; Dictator Kim Jong Un; California  “Governor Moonbeam” Jerry Brown; and  Uruguay’s President Jose’ Mujica ( his distinction is making his country first to legalize production and sale of pot). Others listed were President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, John Kerry and a host of others.

• Alveda King underscores the black genocide in America by citing 16 million black babies aborted since Roe V Wade, yet her race only represents 13% of the population. Mississippi has 72% of their black babies aborted before they’re born. In New York City today, more babies die overall in abortion than  are born!

• A 14-year-old girl is raped by a 49-year-old man in Montana and a judge sentences  the rapist to 30 days in jail. The girl killed herself.

• MTV premieres its new “Faking It” show for young people. It’s about two high school girls mistaken for a lesbian couple while one becomes attracted to the other.

•A new movie being released is “Neighbors”- a raunch, drunkfest  with gross out, shock, profanity, nudity, cross-dressing and homoeroticism. Critics say it’s “Hilarious!” and will be a blockbuster hit for youth.

• Fourth-graders in Colorado have been caught selling marijuana secured from a grandfather in the state that legalized pot.

• To be more inclusive, a high school has the students saying the Pledge of Allegiance by replacing God with “Allah.”

Should we rehearse the alarming stats on out-of-wedlock births, divorce, sexual assault, school shootings, fatherlessness, the radical gay agenda, human trafficking, our obscene national debt, sexually-transmitted diseases, apostasy in the church, crime, illiteracy, fraud and waste in government spending, cohabitation, suicide, plummeting school scores, radical Islam, diminishing respect for the U.S. as a world leader, and on and on and on….?

There comes a time when every one of us has a moral obligation to face the chilling realities of our generation, no longer live in denial, not yield to despair but commit to do our part in fostering a heaven-sent awakening as America experienced in 1720-1760 and again in 1800-1840.

God’s promise remains true. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2Chron. 7:14). (Contributor: By Larry Tomczak for Barbwire.com)

To summarize Larry Tomczak’s challenging call to prayer, God is seeking intercessors to pray for revival that will invite His transforming presence. Only then will God’s power be released to change individuals and communities, turning our nation from idolatry and back to God. Pray for unity in the Church, the breaking down of walls, that God’s people will be of one mind and one spirit. 

“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.” (Ezek 22:30)

“They … their kings and their princes, and their priests and their prophets [say] … to a tree, ‘You are my father,’ and to a stone, ‘You gave birth to me.’ For they have turned their back to Me, and not their face.
But in the time of their trouble they will say, ‘Arise and save us.’ But where are your gods that you have made for yourselves? Let them arise, If they can save you in the time of your trouble….”
(Jeremiah 2:26b-28a)

 

SUPREME COURT ALLOWS PRAYERS AT TOWN MEETINGS

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a town in upstate New York did not violate the Constitution by starting its public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month” who was almost always Christian.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in a 5-to-4 decision that divided the court’s more conservative members from its liberal ones, said the prayers were merely ceremonial. They were neither unduly sectarian nor likely to make members of other faiths feel unwelcome.

“Ceremonial prayer,” he wrote, “is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond that authority of government to alter or define.”

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the town’s practices could not be reconciled “with the First Amendment’s promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share of her government.”

Town officials in Greece, N.Y., near Rochester, said that members of all faiths, and atheists, were welcome to give the opening prayer. In practice, however, almost all of the chaplains were Christian. Some of their prayers were explicitly sectarian, with references, for instance, to “the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.”

Two town residents sued, saying the prayers ran afoul of the First Amendment’s prohibition of government establishment of religion. They said the prayers offended them and, in Justice Kennedy’s words, “made them feel excluded and disrespected.”

But Justice Kennedy said the relevant constitutional question was not whether they were offended. “Adults often encounter speech they find disagreeable,” he wrote.

Justice Kennedy said traditions starting with the first Congress supported the constitutionality of ceremonial prayers at the start of legislative sessions. He added that it would be perilous for courts to decide when those prayers crossed a constitutional line and became impermissibly sectarian.

“To hold that invocations must be nonsectarian,” he wrote, “would force the legislatures that sponsor prayers and the courts that are asked to decide these cases to act as supervisors and censors of religious speech, a rule that would involve government in religious matters to a far greater degree than is the case under the town’s current practice of neither editing or approving prayers in advance nor criticizing their content after the fact.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined all of Justice Kennedy’s opinion, and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas most of it.

Justice Kennedy did suggest that some prayers may be unacceptable if offered consistently over time, including ones that “denigrate nonbelievers or religious minorities, threaten damnation or preach conversion.”

Town officials had tried, he said, to recruit members of various faiths to offer prayers.

In dissent, Justice Kagan said they had not tried hard enough. “So month in and month out for over a decade,” she wrote, “prayers steeped in only one faith, addressed toward members of the public, commenced meetings to discuss local affairs and distribute government benefits.”

In 1983, in Marsh v. Chambers, the Supreme Court upheld the Nebraska Legislature’s practice of opening its legislative sessions with an invocation from a paid Presbyterian minister, saying that such ceremonies were “deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country.”

Justice Kagan, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, said the case from Greece was different. The prayers at the town board meetings were often explicitly sectarian, they said, and residents were forced to listen to them in order to participate in local government.

“No one can fairly read the prayers from Greece’s town meetings as anything other than explicitly Christian – constantly and exclusively so,” she wrote in her dissent in the case, Town of Greece v. Galloway, No. 12-696.

Moreover, she said, the clergy “put some residents to the unenviable choice of either pretending to pray like the majority or declining to join its communal activity, at the very moment of petitioning their elected leaders.” (Contributor: Adam Liptak for The New York Times)

Let us give God thanks for this victory, yet do so with caution. Does religious liberty in America hang by single judicial vote? Not at all. It is a gift of God’s grace. At a deeper level, our help in these matters does not come from the courts but from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Pray for greater spiritual awakening that will honor our country’s foundations of freedom.

“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.  He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” (Psalm 121:1-8)

 

CONGRESS’S CHANCE TO FIX AIRCRAFT CARRIER DRONES

Given the chaotic defense budgetary environment, one could be forgiven for overlooking the fact that some truly strategic issues are at play in the defense authorization bill markup taking place in Congress this week.

One key issue involves how Congress deals with the Navy’s poor choices in the development of a future carrier-based drone, or in Pentagon-speak, the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike, or UCLASS, program. The Navy made a mistake by issuing requirements that guarantee the fleet will receive a lesser drone than it could be getting. The Navy is asking for a carrier-version of non-stealthy surveillance drones that operate in uncontested (friendly) airspace. That costly decision will prevent the development of a true, surveillance-strike drone that can operate where they truly will be needed, in enemy airspace.

This is a clear example of poor judgment. A critical strategic issue that has developed over the last decade is the proliferation of increasingly precise long-range ballistic and cruise missiles. A good example is China’s DF-21 missile, one that some analysts term a game-changing “carrier-killer” due to its ability to fly beyond the unrefueled range of a U.S. carrier’s strike aircraft. If the Navy fails to develop an answer for this Chinese weapon, the U.S. aircraft carrier will fade into irrelevance, as no commander-in-chief would send in a carrier strike group so easily targeted by an adversary’s long-range missiles. If the Navy needs to invent new weapons to eliminate the threat of long-range ballistic and cruise missiles, or if these missiles must be taken out before the carrier can come into the fight, it becomes harder to justify spending tens of billions of dollars on aircraft carriers at all. Given the value and prestige of aircraft carriers ($11 billion apiece for the next-generation Ford-class) coupled with their planned 50-year lifespan, keeping them relevant for the conflicts of the future is critical.

So how should the Navy protect carriers operating so far offshore? By evolving the carrier’s air wing. This isn’t a new argument. The Defense Department’s 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review required the Navy to “develop an unmanned longer-range carrier-based aircraft capable of being air-refueled to provide greater standoff capability, to expand payload and launch options, and to increase naval reach and persistence.” The case was reinforced in a 2008 paper by (now) Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work and Thomas Ehrhard, who argued that an unmanned, carrier-based strike system was the only way to “provide the Navy’s future carrier air wings with the organic, extended-range, survivable, and persistent surveillance-strike capability needed to meet a number of emerging 21st century security challenges.”

The Navy’s effort to build carrier-based drones, called the unmanned combat air system carrier demonstration, or UCAS-D, program was created the next year, in 2007, and struggled to survive the institutional antibodies that an unmanned system spurs from the traditional naval aviation community. But 2013 was a triumphant year as the Navy’s experimental X-47B aircraft successfully launched and landed autonomously from the USS George H.W. Bush. That prototype, a tailless “flying wing,” was designed to have stealthy characteristics that, with ample payload and refueling capability integrated into a future version of the aircraft, could revolutionize naval aviation and “lock-in” U.S. power projection dominance for a generation.

But last month the Navy instead reportedly issued classified requirements for UCLASS to deliver intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Instead of creating a drone that can carry missiles or other strike power into enemy airspace, defense contractors have been told to submit proposals for an aircraft designed to fly around the aircraft carrier for 12 to 14 hours delivering persistent surveillance over uncontested airspace, with a light strike capability to eliminate targets of opportunity.

The news of the Navy’s decision was not entirely unexpected given the institution’s resistance to build a combat-capable drone. But it is directly at odds with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ public position. In a January commentary Mabus argued that an unmanned carrier-based aircraft must be “capable of precision strike in a contested environment… [a] warfighting machine that complements and enhances the capabilities already resident in our carrier strike groups.”

Unfortunately, the aircraft the Navy is planning to build is not that aircraft. The Navy argues that they plan to have “growth capability” in the design to allow greater stealth in future increments, but design choices dictated now by the Navy will permanently limit how stealthy the aircraft can be. A drone designed for power projection ought to have sufficient stealth capability to operate in denied environments, a weapons payload large enough to maximize striking power and in-flight refueling capabilities to take full advantage of an unmanned system’s endurance capability.

Mabus was right to argue that power projection, not surveillance, must be the raison d’etre of the Navy’s investment in unmanned carrier aviation. It is the major operational challenge facing the aircraft carrier and ought to be the driving investment vector for naval aviation—period. In January, he wrote: “We want to ensure we get the requirements and design set right before we start production in order to avoid the mistakes and cost overruns which have plagued some past programs.”

Congress ought to heed that call. Given tight budgets it makes sense to get this right rather than waste scare resources on a platform that does not address the major operational challenge facing America’s aircraft carriers. The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces got it right by recommending the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act direct the secretary of defense to conduct a review of UCLASS requirements, paying special attention to the issues of aerial refueling, weapons payload and stealth capability. The subcommittee concludes: “as planned, UCLASS appears unsupportive of the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance for the United States to maintain its ability to project power in areas in which our access and freedom to operate are challenged.”

It’s the right way forward. Send the Navy back to the drawing board, require the secretary of defense to study and then certify the requirements for this critical investment and only then invest what is necessary to ensure that tomorrow’s adversaries fear the U.S. aircraft carrier and the long-range combat strike power it can unleash. (Contributor: By Shawn Brimley for DefenseOne.com) – Shawn Brimley is executive vice president and director of studies at the Center for a New American Security. He served in the Pentagon and at the White House from 2009 to 2012.

Our Constitution charges the federal government with defending the nation, with no mandate for aggression. Pray for budgetary wisdom and restraint to prepare for America’s protection with the best technology. Ask the Lord to expose the misuse of finance and for a strong move toward national repentance. Pray through Lamentations 3, applying its principles to our country. Compare Solomon’s beginnings with his late-in-life remorse. Disobedience and idolatry had brought him low before God. When God’s ways are acknowledged, a nation prospers. Note that with the “bad news,” there is hope.

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

“Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord; let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven. We have transgressed and rebelled; You have not pardoned.” (Lamentations 3:39-42)

 

PANEL APPROVES TROOP REDUCTIONS, NOT BENEFIT CUTS

A House subcommittee on military personnel is backing the Pentagon’s request for troop cuts next year but is not on board with making retirees pay more for healthcare.

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel, said any changes to retirement or healthcare benefits needs to wait until the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission submits a report next February.

For that same reason the subcommittee’s budget also does not include a Pentagon requested cut in basic allowance for housing, or BAH, which Wilson said would translate into a 5 percent increase in housing costs for service members.

Even where the subcommittee conceded to the Defense Department’s request to reduce end strength of the forces, it was not without “serious reservations,” Wilson said.

“America remains at war today and will continue at some level of persistent conflict globally with a ruthless and committed enemy for the foreseeable future,” he said.

The subcommittee’s budget reflects the numbers requested by the service branches for 2015, including 490,000 soldiers, a reduction of 30,000, 184,100 Marines, making the Corps smaller by 6,100 leathernecks, and 310,900 airmen, which would be 16,700 fewer than in the active force now.

The Navy’s end strength, 323,600, would remain unchanged from 2014.

After the Wednesday session Wilson issued a statement saying the panel’s budget ensures that service members, veterans and their families will have the resources they need and deserve.

The full House Armed Services Committee will take up the budget next.

Wilson also said the budget will provide for additional reporting on suicide rates, in particular looking at the increase of suicide among special operations forces. Additionally, the bill provides for expanded reporting to cover suicides of immediate family members, and requires that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel order an assessment of the increasing rates.

On the issue of military sexual assault, the budget includes language that would make every commander’s performance appraisal include an assessment of how the officer handled sexual assault cases and how unit members treat those who make allegations.

Wilson said the budget also authorizes an extension of bonuses and special and incentive pays designed to retain critical skills.

Additionally, in a move intended to save the Defense Commissary system, which the Pentagon plans to cut from $1.4 million annually to $400,000 by 2017, the subcommittee’s bill calls for an independent review of the operation.

The review — to be filed with Congress by next February — would be a wide-ranging assessment of commissary operations. Among other things it would look at using variable pricing at stores to reduce the need for DoD funds, the possibility of getting more private label products into the stores and converting the system to one operating without DoD appropriations.

But Wilson noted in his statement after the session that the review also would look at reversing some of the cuts in the budget to the commissary system. (Contributor: By Bryant Jordan for Military.com)

Political bureaucracy complicates what average people find simple. It is basic wisdom for a nation to care for its military personnel and to honor its veterans after battle. Conversely, it is unfruitful and foolish to slight the brave men and women who risk their lives to defend their fellow citizens. Intercessors will know how to pray, and we will agree accordingly. Note King David’s principle from Scripture:

“But David said, ‘My brethren, you shall not do so with what the Lord has given us, who has preserved us and delivered into our hand the troop that came against us…. But as his part is who goes down to the battle, so shall his part be who stays by the supplies; they shall share alike.’ So it was, from that day forward; he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel to this day.” (1 Sam. 30:23-25)

“Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:7)

 

DON’T TUNE OUT THE NEWEST BENGHAZI DEVELOPMENTS

Former Deputy CIA Director Mike Morell is sworn recently by the House Select Intelligence Committee. “The analysts said from the get-go that al-Qaida was involved in (the Benghazi) attack,” Morell testified.

Why is Benghazi important to Americans?

You’ll hear a lot about Benghazi in coming days and you’ll hear the familiar screeching of partisan politics, now that House Speaker John Boehner has decided to convene a select committee to investigate the 2012 terrorist attack in that dusty fly-bitten town in Libya.

If the past is any guide, you’ll hear Republican righteous vindictiveness and Democratic mockery and defensiveness. There will be so many politicians jabbering into microphones, so many practiced mouths curled into what is supposed to look like spontaneous anger, that you’ll see right through much of it.

And then many of you will be tempted to turn away and tune out. That’s to be expected. Some of the politicos are counting on just that. They’re betting on it, and you should probably figure that some of the screaming isn’t designed to inform but to turn you off to the whole thing.

One of the problems is that many Republicans have used Benghazi as a club. And many Democrats have shrieked that it was all about nothing. There is so much noise.

So little light, until very recently, when a few previously hidden White House emails were made public and things changed.

But first, remember that four Americans died there in Benghazi: Ambassador Christopher Stevens, U.S. State Department computer specialist Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

They weren’t murdered because they were Democrats or Republicans. They were murdered because they were Americans.

And even that might not move some of you. Thousands of Americans have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the political arithmetic is hideously understandable. Democrats howled about those wars, and Republicans fended off the criticism by questioning critics’ patriotism. Now Republicans are howling about four dead in Libya, and Democrats are holding them off, accusing them of being opportunists.

So in the minds of some, four more dead are just four more dead. Of all the good people we’ve lost overseas in recent years, all of those who were the best of us, you could say, what’s four more?

All of that has been set out for you as a rationale not to care about the issue of Benghazi. But consider that in recent days, a rock was moved and something was found.

White House emails were uncovered — after much pushing by the conservative group Judicial Watch — about the White House posture shortly after the attack.

Remember that the attack in Benghazi took place on Sept. 11, 2012, just as President Barack Obama was beginning his final push toward re-election. The Democratic National Convention had just ended, and the message was: Obama had killed Osama bin Laden, and terrorism had been caged.

The terrorist attack in Benghazi was immediately characterized by the White House as spontaneous protests, prompted by a crude anti-Islamic video on the Internet.

That wasn’t the case. There was nothing impromptu or spontaneous about the attack that killed Ambassador Stevens and the three others. It was a planned terrorist strike.

And still, even though this was known, the White House sent then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice out on the Sunday talk shows to sell the video story and set that false version in the public’s mind.

Why? My take is because to talk about a planned terrorist strike — rather than a spontaneous uprising over a ridiculous video — would have directly undercut the president’s politics and his message that al-Qaida was dead.

And getting re-elected was more important to the Obama White House than telling the truth about four dead Americans.

Former CIA official Mike Morell, testifying recently before Congress, said the U.S. intelligence community knew it was a terror attack from the start.

“The analysts said from the get-go that al-Qaida was involved in this attack,” Morell said.

And last week, Judicial Watch obtained key White House documents through the Freedom of Information Act. Earlier documents, released by the Obama White House to Congress, were redacted.

The new emails were written by, White House deputy strategic communications adviser Ben Rhodes, whose brother is president of CBS News.

One Rhodes email to Rice, dated Sept. 14 at shortly after 8 p.m., was intended to prepare Rice for her appearances on those Sunday shows.

Rhodes emphasized that one goal of Rice’s appearances was to “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy.”

And even more cynically, Rhodes offered Rice the argument that she would use, that the video was “disgusting and reprehensible,” that “there is absolutely no justification at all for responding to this movie with violence. And we are working to make sure that people around the globe hear that message.”

For days afterward, the message from President Obama, Rice, then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and others was: the video, the video, the video.

By not releasing the Rhodes emails fully to Congress, the Obama White House clearly showed its contempt for the House. And depending on your politics, you might agree with the strategy. It got Obama through his roughest debates and helped confuse the issue enough that he was re-elected.

But if we allow our nation’s leaders to let politics obscure how our government works, we are making a fatal mistake. That’s how fools lose the Republic.

And those four in Benghazi weren’t fools. They died for our country, and years of political cover-up can’t obscure that.

Again, their names were Stevens, Smith, Doherty and Woods.

They didn’t die for politics. (Contributor: By John Kass for Chicago Tribune)

This is not news to informed intercessors. Regardless of personal political views, all aware citizens know that this tragic event has been covered with confusion, excuses, and cover-up from day one. Pray for clarity and for exposure of the truth, not for revenge, but for the glory of God and the honor of the four who lost their lives and for their families, whose many questions are still unanswered. Let us pray accordingly and in unity. When truth prevails, people are set free.

 “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6)

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

 

UN: SPREAD OF POLIO NOW A WORLD HEALTH EMERGENCY

The spread of polio is an international public health emergency that could grow in coming months and ultimately unravel the nearly three-decade effort to eradicate the crippling disease, the World Health Organization said Monday.

The agency described the ongoing polio outbreaks in Asia, Africa and the Middle East as an “extraordinary event” requiring a coordinated international response.

“Until it is eradicated, polio will continue to spread internationally, find and paralyze susceptible kids,” said Dr. Bruce Aylward, who leads WHO’s polio efforts, during a press briefing.

Polio usually strikes children under five and is most often spread via infected water. There is no specific treatment or cure, but several vaccines exist.

Experts are particularly concerned the virus continues to pop up in countries previously free of the disease, such as Syria, Somalia and Iraq – where civil war or unrest complicates efforts to contain the virus. That spread has happened during what has traditionally been the low season of polio spread, leaving experts worried that cases could spike even further in the coming months.

Last week, WHO convened an emergency committee to decide whether the ongoing polio outbreaks – in at least 10 countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa – merit the declaration of an international health emergency.

Declaring polio to be an international public health emergency means numerous measures will be adopted, including requiring people from countries currently exporting cases to have a certificate of polio vaccination before being able to travel internationally. Those measures will be reviewed in three months, WHO said.

As of the end of April, there were 68 confirmed polio cases, compared with just 24 at the same time last year. In 2013, polio reappeared in Syria, sparking fears the civil unrest there could ignite wider outbreaks across the region; the virus has also been identified in the sewage system in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza though no cases have been spotted.

In February, WHO found polio had also returned to Iraq. It is already circulating in eight other countries: Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Somalia and Kenya.

An independent monitoring board set up by WHO to assess progress in eradicating polio has described the problems as “unprecedented” and said the situation in Pakistan was “a powder keg.” Dozens of Pakistani polio workers have been killed in the last two years and the vast majority of new cases are in Pakistan.

Officials also worry countries torn by conflict, such as Ukraine, Sudan and the Central African Republic, are rife for polio reinfection.

Some critics say it may even be time to pull the plug on polio eradication, since the deadline to wipe out the disease has already been missed several times. The ongoing effort costs about $1 billion a year.

“For the past two years, problems have steadily, and now rapidly mounted,” said Dr. Donald A. Henderson, in an email. Henderson led WHO’s initiative to get rid of smallpox, the only disease ever to have been eradicated. “It is becoming apparent that there are too many problems (for the polio eradication effort) to overcome, however many resources are assigned.”

Aylward said WHO and its partners aren’t yet considering pushing back their latest deadline to eradicate polio – by 2018.

Still, the independent board monitoring the progress being made on polio is not so convinced and has called for the program to be completely overhauled.

“Few involved in (polio eradication) can give a clear account of how decisions are made,” concluded a recent report by the group. “If a billion-dollar global business missed its major goal several times, it would be inconceivable that it would not revisit and revise its organizational and decision-making structure.” (Contributor: Maria Cheng AP Medical Writer  for Associated Press)

Beyond inter-agency rivalry, the resurgence of the polio virus is a critical global issue. Once thought to be nearly extinct, now easy travel around our “shrinking planet” means all developed countries are neighbors, and the international community must mount a renewed battle for containment. Intercessors know how they should pray. Realizing how our Lord loves children, who are most vulnerable to polio, pray for God’s great mercy and grace to intervene and bless this battle.

“Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’  And He laid His hands on them and departed from there. (Matt. 19:13-15)

“He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11)

 

CDC CONFIRMS FIRST CASE OF MERS VIRUS IN AMERICAN

Health officials confirmed the first case of an American infected with a mysterious virus that has sickened hundreds in the Middle East.

The man fell ill after flying to the U.S. late last week from Saudi Arabia where he was a health care worker.

He is hospitalized in good condition in northwest Indiana with Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Indiana health officials said Friday.

The virus is not highly contagious and this case “represents a very low risk to the broader, general public,” Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters during a CDC briefing.

The federal agency plans to track down passengers he may have been in close contact with during his travels; it was not clear how many may have been exposed to the virus.

So far, it is not known how he was infected, Schuchat said.

Saudi Arabia has been at the center of a Middle East outbreak of MERS that began two years ago. The virus has spread among health care workers, most notably at four facilities in that country last spring.

Officials didn’t provide details about the American’s job in Saudi Arabia or whether he treated MERS patients.

Overall, at least 400 people have had the respiratory illness, and more than 100 people have died. All had ties to the Middle East region or to people who traveled there.

Experts said it was just a matter of time before MERS showed up in the U.S., as it has in Europe and Asia.

“Given the interconnectedness of our world, there’s no such thing as `it stays over there and it can’t come here,'” said Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, a Columbia University MERS expert.

MERS belongs to the coronavirus family that includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which caused some 800 deaths globally in 2003.

The MERS virus has been found in camels, but officials don’t know how it is spreading to humans. It can spread from person to person, but officials believe that happens only after close contact. Not all those exposed to the virus become ill.

But it appears to be unusually lethal – by some estimates, it has killed nearly a third of the people it sickened. That’s a far higher percentage than seasonal flu or other routine infections. But it is not as contagious as flu, measles or other diseases. There is no vaccine or cure and there’s no specific treatment except to relieve symptoms.

Federal and state health officials on Friday released only limited information about the U.S. case: On April 24, the man flew from Riyadh – Saudi Arabia’s capital and largest city – to the United States, with a stop in London. He landed in Chicago and took a bus to nearby Indiana. He didn’t become sick until Sunday, the CDC said.

He went to the emergency room at Community Hospital in Munster the next day with a fever, cough and shortness of breath. He was admitted and tested for the MERS virus because he had traveled from the Middle East. The hospital said he was in good condition.

As a precaution, the hospital said it would monitor the man’s family and health care workers who treated him for any signs of infection.

There’s been a recent surge in MERS illnesses in Saudi Arabia; cases have tended to increase in the spring. Experts think the uptick may partly be due to more and better surveillance. Columbia’s Lipkin has an additional theory – there may be more virus circulating in the spring, when camels are born.

The CDC has issued no warnings about travel to countries involved in the outbreak. However, anyone who develops fever, cough or shortness of breath within two weeks of traveling in or near the Arabian Peninsula should see their doctor and mention their travel history.  (Contributor: Mike Strobbe for Associated Press)

We speak of a trend “going viral” when, via the Internet, it spreads quickly and widely. While this individual’s illness is of concern, the implications of the MERS virus spreading as a U.S. national health threat are staggering. The virus is characterized as “not highly contagious” by CDC officials, but we may be sure that epidemiologists are investigating this patient’s full history of contacts in Saudi Arabia. In such cases, the doctors need divine wisdom, and intercessors ask for God’s mercy. Pray accordingly.

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

 

THE GROWING BOKO HARAM CARNAGE

Famous Christian author and pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazis in 1945, wrote these powerful words: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

“It seems this is exactly what is occurring in Nigeria today….not speaking out or acting,” says Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. David Curry. “A horrific, systematic targeting of not only Christians, but Muslims by the Boko Haram is taking place while the world sleeps or ignores the carnage. We in the West need to wake up and stand up for these victims now. We can’t allow Nigeria to become another Syria.”

In the past three weeks, approximately 230 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from a boarding school, with 200 still missing. Also, two car bombs have been triggered in Abuja, resulting in heavy casualties. The latest bomb went off on Thursday night, killing 19 and injuring 70. Last month a bombing resulted in 75 deaths.

“As the death toll mounts, we need to advocate and pray on behalf of the vulnerable faith communities in Nigeria,” adds Curry. “The families of those 200 missing girls are crying out in anguish for the return of their daughters, who reportedly are being sold for $12.50 each as brides for Muslim men in Cameroon and Chad.”

Nigeria is ranked No. 14 on the Open Doors World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians. Over 1,500 Nigerians haven been killed by the Boko Haram in the first quarter of this year, according to the Associated Press. (Bt Jerry Dykstra for Open Doors USA and Christian Newswire)

This account has several paths of intercession. For perspective, the worst atrocity one human can inflict on another is murder, and the crime is heightened when the victim is a helpless baby still in the womb. In America, this happens many times every day. The second, arguably, is sexual assault of a defenseless child, which is what the Boko Haram is doing to these girls. With that thought, pray that world opinion will cause proper authorities to put a stop to this slave trade — and for U.S. leaders to stop the “legal” killing of the unborn here at home. Even the most wicked may be saved if they repent.

“But Jesus, turning to them, said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.’” (Luke 23:28)

“ For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)  

 

WITH BUGS IN THE SYSTEM, HOW SAFE IS THE INTERNET?

It seems hardly a week goes by without a major cyber security flaw exposed that could be exploited across millions of internet and mobile connected devices.

This week it was the Internet Explorer browser’s turn with Microsoft warning of a vulnerability in the software that needs to be patched. Before that it was the Heartbleed vulnerability found in the Open SSL software used to encrypt communications between us and perhaps 60% of the world’s websites.

NSW police warned this week that Eastern European gangs in Sydney have been busy conducting scaled skimming attacks against ATMs, stealing card data and PINs.

Before Christmas US retail giant Target lost control of millions of customer credit card details when point of sale devices were compromised after an attacker initially entered their corporate systems via an air conditioning and heating maintenance interface.

And diplomatic relations have been harmed – and cyber citizens infuriated – by mass data surveillance by governments exposed in files leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

What does this tell us?

We increasingly rely upon complex software and hardware for our professional and personal lives. They run the critical systems upon which our society and economy depend and yet these connected devices are not as robust as we’d like to tell ourselves.

While some tech giants market themselves as the safer option, immune from cyber nasties, we should avoid falling for the hype: there but for the grace of God go they. In fact, it’s more likely that they have been and are compromised, we just don’t know of it yet.

For years Microsoft was lambasted as an unsafe operating system, when the reality was that criminals devoted considerable effort to breaking their product because it was on more computers and thus a bigger addressable market for those criminals.

Figures for March this year show Microsoft’s Windows operating system has 91% of the market share compared to 8% on Apple’s Mac with Linux users just 1.5%

As the mix of operating systems has become more complex, then exploits have become more common across the board. This is best illustrated by the growing list of malware specifically designed for Google’s Android mobile operating system.

No time to act

We are learning that some vulnerabilities are in the wild for years before being exposed, leaving attackers ample time to conduct their business. These “zero day” (as in defenders have zero days to prepare against an attack) exploits were once considered to be theoretical only, but are now commonplace.

Despite dire warnings of the end of the internet as we know it, both the internet and its users are more resilient than we give them credit for, and in many respects it is business as usual online.

But that doesn’t mean we should be complacent.

We know that computer crime is on the rise and criminals have access to hundreds of millions of stolen credit and debit card information. We know that they have control of millions of computers where they can extract our private data, use our computers as spam devices, or as part of large scale “botnet” armies that can launch denial of service attacks against critical systems. We know that huge amounts of corporate intellectual property has been plundered and transferred, lessening the economic viability of those companies.

We should be heartened by the fact that there are honest people working feverishly to protect us: security researchers and technicians who keep building better mouse traps.

Police and regulators are doing what they can to track down cyber criminals while educating end users and companies about how to be safer such as the federal government’s Stay Smart Online campaign. There are many responsible companies investing in updating hardware and software.

Like so many social issues though this problem won’t be fixed any time soon. Perhaps it never will. But it won’t all come crashing down around us either, in spite of some media reporting.

Beware of fear fatigue

There is always the danger that people become complacent as more and more security threats are reported so it’s important to be aware of the risks and take note of any advice.

Simply asking people to swap to alternate software or systems is not always the best as it assumes those other options are safe. As I said before, are they safer?

So what’s the best advice on how to get by in this threat environment?

As end users, we need to make sure we have unique and hard to guess passwords, and change them often. We should patch our software with updates as often as they are available. We need to use security software where possible.

When it comes to using the internet we must be careful where we visit on the web and whose email and other messages we open: just like in the offline world there are safer places to visit and people to interact with.

But we must also demand more products that are fit for purpose, just as we do with the safety standards of physical consumer products.

We should expect companies to understand the value of the business they do with us, and of our data that they hold in trust. Boards and CEOs need to care about this as much as they do about their brand.

Alastair MacGibbon does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. (Contributor: By Alastair MacGibbon for Real Clear Technology – This article was originally published on The Conversation.)

We have visited this theme before. The emphasis for Christians is to take inventory. Life and protection are in the hands of the Lord. Are we to be ruled by the technical advances that are allegedly to serve us? “What did we do before . . .?” Fill in the blank. Before telephones? Before electricity in our homes? Or indoor plumbing? People adapted and survived. God sent His Son “when the fullness of the time had come” (Gal. 4:4), not when Messiah’s birth could be announced on the evening news. Who or what rules our lives? The apostle Paul’s perspective in Romans is helpful.

“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.” (Romans 6:16-19)

On Watch in Washington May 7, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

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