Joseph Miller is the pen name for a ranking Department of Defense official with a background in U.S. special operations and combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has worked in strategic planning.
On Wednesday, the White House leaked a classified special forces operation to rescue American hostages in Syria. The reason: political cover. The cost: so far, unknown.
But this much, we know: The politicized leak of this operation cut through the fog of war to let our enemies know exactly what happened that day in the desert, and because of that, future attempts to free American hostages will be more difficult to plan, farther between, and more dangerous to carry out.
On Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby confirmed reports of the U.S. military’s failed clandestine hostage rescue operation in Syria. The operation was designed to rescue a number of Western hostages, including American journalist James Foley, that were being held by Islamic State terrorists in Syria. Details of the failed raid were leaked by senior White House officials earlier that day after the Obama administration came under intense scrutiny about what actions it had taken to free Foley following, who was beheaded . The leak was designed to provide political cover for President Barack Obama, who has been taking fire from the press for failing to take more decisive action against the Islamic State in either Iraq or Syria.
The operation involved an extremely large number of U.S. special operations forces moving over long distances. It has been described as the largest U.S. hostage rescue operation undertaken since the famed raid on the Son Tay prison camp in Vietnam – meaning it was larger in scope than the mission to free the U.S. hostages being held at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1980.
Unfortunately, the parallels between this operation and the Son Tay raid did not stop at the size and scope of the mission: Just as in Son Tay, the hostage rescue force arrived only to find that the hostages were not there.
When the hostage rescue force arrived at the target location in Syria, they encountered a handful of fighters on the ground, which they quickly neutralized. As has been previously reported, one U.S. helicopter pilot transporting the rescue force suffered a gunshot wound during the operation. He completed the entire mission before informing anyone that he had been shot. It was an act of heroism that would have gone unknown before yesterday’s leak.
Following the mission, it was determined that the Islamic State did not know that it was the United States that had conducted the raid. This was confirmed Wednesday by media outlets, who quoted the leaker saying the “[Islamic State] did not know who they were fighting that night, and we assess Syria did not know.”
As such, the decision was made to maintain absolute secrecy in the event that hostages could be located again, and another rescue operation could be undertaken. After Wednesday’s leak by the White House, this seems highly unlikely. The Islamic State is now aware that the United States is tracking the whereabouts of the Western hostages, and that the U.S. has shown a willingness to take military action to free them. They will likely increase their operational and communication security postures in order to prevent a repeat operation. (MILLER: The Facts Are In, And Obama’s Policy Is A Direct Danger To The United States)
Wednesday’s selfish, politically motivated leak has reduced the chances for a successful second rescue attempt, and has likely increased the risk to the lives of the hostages still in the Islamic State’s possession. For that, someone should be fired. (Contributor: By Joseph Miller for Family Security Matters)
Prayer focus: We welcome intercessors to this week’s vitally important Alert. Intercessors use their God-given discernment to pray at the “root level,” not merely the “fruit level” of issues. There is no disloyalty for intercessors to recognize before God that our much-loved nation is terribly divided. Many if not most of our government’s highest-level decisions have become politicized, and citizens do not see a God-fearing mindset among our elected leaders. Pray for God’s mercy in the form of wisdom to be displayed in administration decisions. Pray for a heart-change to come to President Obama and his advisors. Pray for spiritual healing in America, which will only come through the Gospel’s power as shared by a revived Church. Pray for mercy.
“So [Jesus] called them to Himself and said to them in parables: ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.’” (Mark 3:23-25)
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lam 3:22-23)
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay Wednesday halting gay marriage from taking effect in Virginia this week, signaling the justices are inching closer to taking up a case that could definitively decide between the rights of states to recognize marriages and the federal government’s guarantee of equal protection.
Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr., who handles such requests from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, referred the matter to the full court, which ordered the Virginia stay until federal appeals in the case are resolved. The order did not elaborate on the reasoning behind the decision.
Had the high court not intervened, same-sex couples could have begun getting married in Virginia on Thursday, and the state would have had to recognize marriages performed in other states.
The development came as little surprise. Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a similar order in January after a federal judge ruled Utah’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.
The fast pace at which the Virginia case has hurtled through the judicial system puts it in the running to advance to the Supreme Court if justices choose to hear a gay marriage case this coming term, said Carl Tobias, professor at the University of Richmond Law School. Utah and Oklahoma have also requested that cases from their states be heard by the court.
“There is a little bit of a race to the Supreme Court going on, at least between Virginia and Utah,” Mr. Tobias said.
But he noted that with other gay marriage cases still working their way through the pipeline in a number of circuits, the court could wait to see additional outcomes before selecting a case to consider. Additional cases are expected to be heard in the 7th Circuit and the 9th Circuit.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has heard arguments in six cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, and it could be the first to uphold gay marriage bans in the wake of more than 20 consecutive rulings in the past eight months. Conflicting rulings from different federal appeals courts would likely increase the chance the Supreme Court would decide to address the issue.
Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring, a Democrat who supports gay marriage, asked the Supreme Court to grant the stay in his state to avoid the kind of uncertainty that came with divergent rulings in Utah.
The Supreme Court’s stay in Utah, which halted gay marriages in the state until federal appeals were exhausted, was issued just over two weeks after a District Court decision legalized the unions. It left uncertain the state’s obligation to recognize the more than 1,000 same-sex marriages performed during the 17 days in which the ban was lifted.
“To avoid [the] kind of legal confusion that might occur in the event there were an adverse ruling later by the Supreme Court, I reluctantly agreed that a stay was appropriate,” Mr. Herring told reporters on Wednesday after the stay was announced.
Mr. Herring said he thought a Supreme Court ruling on the Virginia case “would resolve a number of outstanding legal issues,” and he hoped the case could be the precedent by which gay marriage was legalized nationally.
The attorney general, who announced in January that he would not defend the state’s gay marriage ban, noted that his office has worked to expedite the case and hoped the Supreme Court would consider his request to hear the case.
“To those who are tired of their state not treating them fairly and equally, I am working as hard as I can to fight for equality,” Mr. Herring said.
Some Virginia county court clerks had already begun preparations to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Thursday morning and were ready for a flood of applicants.
Others said they were closely watching for any announcements on the case.
“The office of the clerk, today, tomorrow and always, operates under the law,” said Gerarda Culipher, chief deputy clerk of the Fairfax County Circuit Court.
The case in Virginia involves four plaintiffs. Timothy Bostic and Tony London applied for a marriage license from the Norfolk Circuit Court clerk on July 1 but were denied. Carol Schall and Mary Townley, who have lived in Virginia since 1982, were married in California in 2008 and want their marriage to be recognized by the commonwealth.
The Supreme Court’s order comes a week after a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit, on a 2-1 vote, refused a request for a stay last week and ordered the ban overturned unless the Supreme Court intervened. The appeals court last month upheld a lower court ruling saying Virginia’s constitutional ban on gay marriage violated constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection.
Byron Babione, an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is defending the state’s gay marriage ban, applauded the decision to postpone gay marriages from being conducted.
“Virginians deserve an orderly and fair resolution to the question of whether they will remain free to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman in their laws,” Mr. Babione said in a statement. “By granting our request to place a hold on the 4th Circuit’s decision, the Supreme Court is making clear, as it already did in the Utah marriage case, that it believes a dignified process is better than disorder.”
Virginia’s American Civil Liberties Union spoke out Wednesday against the stay, noting that couples are left without legal protections when they are prevented from marrying.
“We are disappointed that the 14,000 couples we represent in Virginia will have to continue to wait to exercise their fundamental right to marry, or to have their marriages recognized in Virginia,” said Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, executive director of Virginia’s ACLU.
In 2005 Virginia’s General Assembly approved an amendment to the state’s constitutional saying marriage was the union of one man and one woman. The amendment was ratified in 2006 by 57 percent of voters, or around 1.3 million people.
But public opinion on the issue has shifted in Virginia in recent years, with recent polls showing a clear majority now say they support gay marriage. (Contributors: By Matthew Cella and Andrea Noble for The Washington Times)
Prayer focus: For whatever reason(s), the Supreme Court is biding its time before deciding to scrutinize the marriage issue definitively. Sadly, the delay seems to be on political grounds rather than framed by moral considerations. Although several states have voted by large percentages to retain the traditional (and biblical) view of marriage as God designed it, lower court decisions have overturned states’ rights with little thought. Prayer power is greater than court power. God is calling the U.S. and all nations to acknowledge Him. Pray with wisdom and insight.
“So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him—“ (Joel 2:13-14a)
“Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Return to Me,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.’” (Zech 1:3)
When asked who most should be tried at the International Criminal Court for war crimes, Schabas said that Benjamin Netanyahu would be his “favorite” to indict. Not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, or Khaled Mashal of Hamas.
He even compared Nobel Peace Laureate Shimon Peres, the former President of Israel, to the President of Sudan who is responsible for the genocide in Darfur.
Schabas pulls no punches on Israel, but remains a steadfast friend of Iran and its genocidal former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He sponsors conferences in Tehran with organizations tied to the fundamentalist, anti-Semitic regime in Iran that demands the annihilation of Israel. He has not said whether he has taken money from the Mullahs. But Schabas frequently defends Ahmadinejad, calling him nothing more than “a provocative politician” and telling the world to stop “exaggerating” his statements.
William Schabas does have some experience sitting on “impartial” tribunals. In 2011, he served on a one-sided, anti-Israel panel whose stated objective was to find Israel guilty of the “crime of apartheid.”
How can this apologist for radical anti-Semites and America-haters, who call for the extermination of the Jewish state, be trusted to lead an investigation into the war in Gaza?
The UN’s appointment of Schabas is just a symptom of the organization’s well-documented anti-Israel bias. UN Watch rightly declared: “It’s absurd…You can’t spend several years calling for the prosecution of someone, and then suddenly act as his judge.”
Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird came out against the appointment of Schabas, calling the new inquiry a “sham.”
The UN Gaza Commission is a kangaroo court with the sole purpose of demonizing Israel. Schabas frequently says “Israel gets off light” at the UN and claims that Hamas – the genocidal, anti-Semitic tyrant of Gaza, which uses Palestinian children as human shields – is not a terrorist organization at all. In fact, Schabas refuses to say whether he will investigate Hamas’ actions at all.
If the UN is serious about investigating war crimes, it will dump William Schabas, drop an investigation into the Middle East’s only democracy, and finally investigate Syria, ISIS, and Hamas for their slaughter of untold numbers of innocent Arabs. If it does not, American taxpayers must ask themselves why they are funding “human rights” commissions led by friends of Ahmadinejad. (Contributor: By Rabbi Shmuley Boteach ad for The Washington Post and http://shmuley.com/petition-to-fight-the-united-nations-appointment-of-william-schabas/)
Rabbi Boteach’s analysis is on target. He says of Professor Schabas’ appointment to this position of investigating Israel, “It’s an outrage.” Fair-minded people will agree. It is an egregious example of blatant anti-Semitism, analogous to the fairy tale where the fox “guards” the hen house. This attitude has been typical of the UN from Israel’s earliest days as a restored nation. Pray for Mr. Netanyahu’s continued resilience and statesmanship. Pray for Israel’s protection. Pray that Hamas will be exposed and censured for its violations of 11 prior cease-fire agreements and now be forced to submit to the newest, just brokered by Egypt.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces.’ For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, ‘Peace be within you.’” (Psalm 122:6-8)
“Restore us, O God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!” (Ps 80:7)
An Israeli missile strike that killed a [Hamas official] riding in a car in Gaza City on Sunday afternoon ripped open the vehicle, revealing bags of American dollars inside and scattering currency on the street, some burned by the blast, according to a witness.
The Gaza authorities did not immediately identify the victim, but the Israeli military identified him as Muhammad al-Ghoul and said he had been responsible for Hamas’s financial transactions and handled its “terror funds.”
The witness, who arrived at the scene minutes after the airstrike, said security men in plain clothes prevented photographers from taking photographs there, kept onlookers away, collected the money and searched what remained of the car for more cash. The witness spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.
The missile attack was the latest in a string of recent Israeli airstrikes based on what appears to be precise intelligence about the movements of some Hamas operatives who have emerged from their bunkers as the more intensive fighting has subsided. Last week airstrikes killed three senior Hamas commanders in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, and Israel tried to assassinate the chief of Hamas’s military wing, Mohammed Deif, whose fate remains unknown.
Israeli forces continued on Sunday to strike Palestinians suspected of being militants and buildings in which they are said to operate in Gaza. Militants fired scores of rockets and mortar rounds into Israel.
The Israeli military did not say why those buildings were targeted. In remarks broadcast Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the residents of Gaza “to immediately evacuate any building from which Hamas is carrying out terrorist activity.”
Mr. Netanyahu added: “Any such place is a target for us. In recent days we have proven there is no immunity for those who fire at Israel’s citizens.”
The military wing of Hamas, the Islamic group that dominates Gaza, claimed responsibility for firing mortar rounds at the Erez crossing point on Gaza’s northern border with Israel. The attack wounded four Israeli civilians who were providing humanitarian assistance at the crossing, according to the Israeli authorities.
Israel said it was temporarily closing the crossing, which has been used for several purposes, including for the transfer of hundreds of wounded and sick Gazans for medical treatment in hospitals in Israel, the West Bank and abroad.
The Health Ministry in Gaza said that 16 Palestinians were killed and 52 were wounded in Israeli strikes on Sunday. In the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, artillery shells or missiles hit a home, killing five people, including a mother and her three children. Hours after the strike on Mr. Ghoul’s car at least two missiles hit his home, destroying it.
On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers and four civilians have been killed, including a 4-year-old boy from a small community near the border who was killed by mortar fire. He was first Israeli child to be killed in the current conflict, and he was buried Sunday. (Contributor: By F. Akram and I. Kershner for The New York Times)
Prayer focus: Instead of our commenting directly on the article, readers should know that Egypt, with the UAE, has just (within the last 24 hours) brokered another cease-fire agreement aimed at stopping hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Those suspicious of Hamas’ motives wonder if they are simply buying time to replenish weapons and re-dig tunnels. Hamas has broken 11 such agreements. Will the leopard change its spots? Pray fervently as you are led. Israel is hated and being denounced for its refusal to allow its own destruction. These are challenging times. The verses cited below will apply more powerfully when Israel returns to the Lord, though they are still God’s covenant people.
“How long, Lord? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire? Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You, and on the kingdoms that do not call on Your name. For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling place. Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us, for we have been brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; and deliver us, and provide atonement for our sins, for Your name’s sake! Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’” (Ps 79:5-10)
Early Sunday morning, Franz Oehler’s house blew apart.
“My girlfriend and I were thrown straight in the air, and the windows exploded,” said Mr. Oehler, a 44-year-old creative director, whose home is nestled among some of the country’s most celebrated vineyards.
A magnitude-6.0 earthquake hit the Napa Valley at 3:20 a.m. Sunday — the strongest temblor in the San Francisco Bay Area in a quarter-century — destroying both opulent and modest homes, rupturing dozens of water and gas mains and causing injuries, mostly minor, to more than 100 people.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, and directed state resources toward a recovery effort in Napa.
At least 120 people had been treated at the emergency room at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, said Vanessa deGier, a hospital spokeswoman. Most of the injuries were minor lacerations or abrasions caused by falling debris. But three patients were in critical condition, including a child who had been crushed by a falling fireplace. No deaths had been confirmed as of Sunday evening.
The shaking was felt as far off as Salinas, almost 120 miles away, and the United States Geological Survey estimated that economic losses could be up to $1 billion.
Despite the widespread damage, scientists said California was fortunate to escape greater devastation from the earthquake, which exposed gaps in the state’s preparedness. The historic 1906 San Francisco earthquake was about 500 times larger than Sunday’s temblor.
“It is truly small — small compared to what California has experienced in its recorded history,” said Ross S. Stein, a geophysicist at the United States Geological Survey.
“We owe wine country in part to earthquakes,” which created the Napa Valley terrain that is so suitable to vineyards, he said. “We all want to enjoy the fruits of the quakes, so we all have to prepare for the downside, too.”
However geologically small, the earthquake unleashed chaos in many parts of the Napa Valley, a serene escape known for its fine dining.
At Mr. Oehler’s home, a skylight shattered and stone sculptures flew into the air. The swimming pool cracked open, flooding his steep hillside. “There was noise everywhere from the earthquake and the walls cracking,” he said.
From the terrace he said he saw flames rising in the valley below.
Several fires broke out following the earthquake, including one at a mobile home park that destroyed six homes, the authorities said.
Two residents of the park, Lynda and Bob Castell-Blanch, both 60, were jarred awake by a loud thump, followed by rolling. The park soon shot up in flames.
“It was violent,” said Mr. Castell-Blanch, whose home was not among those that burned. “Things were flying all over the place. There was a woman screaming from one of the houses, so loud it was total mayhem.”
Because a nearby water main had ruptured, however, firefighters were unable to tap into the hydrant to fight the fire, and had to truck in water from elsewhere.
The Castell-Blanchs said they had enough time to gather their cats and Mr. Castell-Blanch’s vintage guitars before fleeing. “That was all we had time for,” he said.
They went to a nearby store, the Ranch Market, to try to buy water, but the shelves had been emptied. The smell of wine from broken bottles wafted through the store.
Arik Housley, the store’s owner, estimated at least $100,000 in damage at the two markets he owned in the area. Like many people, he said he did not carry earthquake insurance because the premium was high.
Much of the heaviest damage was in downtown Napa, where large sections of brick had fallen from the county courthouse and other historic buildings. Three of the buildings that sustained severe damage had not been retrofitted to withstand earthquakes, city officials said, while the retrofits on some other older buildings did not hold, and large sections of brick and concrete collapsed onto the sidewalks.
More than 30 buildings across the city were deemed uninhabitable.
“Certainly, a few of the retrofits didn’t fare that well,” said a Napa County supervisor, Mark Luce. He added that many more buildings, including the county administrative building, had interior damage including broken sprinkler lines and fallen ceilings that would be costly to repair. “The newer buildings that met current standards fared better, but there’s still a lot of mess to clean up inside,” he said.
“We’ll look at what happened with these couple buildings where we saw these failures, and see if there’s anything we missed,” Mr. Luce added. “We’ve had a live test of what a 6.0 earthquake will do.”
Kelly Houston, a spokesman for the California Emergency Management Agency, said the quake was also a reminder that virtually the entire state — not just Los Angeles and San Francisco — was at risk.
“This is definitely a wake-up call, especially for the people in Napa Valley,” Mr. Houston said. “Maybe folks there think they don’t have to worry as much because they don’t live in San Francisco.”
In the hills outside this city, winemakers like David Duncan, whose family owns the Silver Oak Winery, rued the loss of “irreplaceable” wine that fell from the shelves in one of its cellars.
“It was everything — hundreds of bottles of broke,” Mr. Duncan said.
Mr. Oehler, as he picked his way through shards of marble and glass, also counted an irreplaceable loss, his home.
“We spent a lot of money and love on this place” he said. “It’s all gone now. It’s cracking and sliding down the hill.” (Contributor: By Quintin Hardy and Ian Lovett for The New York Times)
Prayer focus: Californians know they live on “slippery” ground and face unexpected and frequent danger from earthquakes. However, that doesn’t make it easier when a quake actually occurs, as it did last Sunday morning in the Napa Valley area. Give thanks that even with injuries, no loss of life was reported. Pray for those who must build homes and businesses all over again or relocate if losses are too great. Californians are greatly suffering, first from the severe drought farther south in the state, and second, from the economic losses. Pray for those hardest hit, and that in their loss and suffering, many will find God’s grace, solace, and salvation. Christians have eternal hope, and so suffer loss differently than the unsaved, so we may pray for many witnessing opportunities.
“The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” (Ps 9:9-10)
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.” (Ps 46:1-3)
An emphatic petition calls for the U.S. and the international community to stop the Islamic State now. The 11,000-plus signers hail from multiple disciplines and political persuasions; they include Dr. Ben Carson, Martin Peretz, editor in chief of the New Republic; Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family; Kenneth R. Weinstein, CEO of the Hudson Institute; and many others. The American Enterprise Institute is represented, as is the Southern Baptist Convention, the Manhattan Institute, plus Harvard, Stanford and Catholic University, among many institutions.
“It is imperative that the United States and the international community act immediately and decisively to stop the genocide and prevent the further victimization of religious minorities there is no time to waste,” the petition reads, underscoring support for a comprehensive plan that includes more airstrikes, significant humanitarian assistance and military aid to local forces opposing the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS.
“We, the undersigned, are Democrats, Republicans and independents. We are conservatives, liberals and moderates. We represent various religious traditions and shades of belief,” the plea states.
“It is gratifying to see so many people uniting across historic lines of religious and ideological division to call upon our leaders to provide the support necessary for local forces in Iraq to defeat ISIS and end the genocidal atrocities it is committing against Christians, Yazidis, Shia Muslims and those Sunni Muslims who reject their violent extremism,” Robert P. George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University and former chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, tells Inside the Beltway. He launched the public petition 10 days ago.
Obama: No Iraq Rescue; Further Airdrops Unlikely
President Barack Obama on Thursday promised to expand U.S. humanitarian relief to Iraqis threatened by the advancing army of the Islamic State militants. He took credit for alleviating the genocide threat to thousands…
“We believe that nothing short of the destruction of ISIS as a military force will suffice to protect these victims and prevent ISIS from conquering Iraq and Syria in its fanatical effort to establish a caliphate. That means increasing our airstrikes against ISIS forces and aiding the Kurds and other allies on the ground in Iraq with the strategic and intelligence support they need to get the job done. ISIS can be stopped, but the longer it survives as a military force, and the more victories it gains, the more dangerous it becomes — and not only in the Middle East,” Mr. George continues.
“One thing we’ve learned about ISIS is that these are people who do not threaten idly. They tell you want they are going to do, then they do it — unless you stop them. They have made clear their intentions not only in Iraq and Syria, but in Europe and the United States. They are coldblooded murderers. They are serious, and we would be fools not to take their threats seriously,” he concludes. See the petition here: IraqRescue.org. (Contributor: By Jennifer Harper – The Washington Times)
Prayer focus: This non-partisan petition is evidence that national opinion is joining that of Western Europe (Netherlands, U.K., and elsewhere) to call for the destruction of the Islamic State (IS), the ruthless, murdering sect that appears to have no limit to its evil intentions. Pray for resolute courage for President Obama and military leaders to know how to act and the wisdom to know when. As a sidebar, Hamas has taken a huge “PR” hit, as it now has been grouped with Nigeria’s Boko Haram and the fierce Islamic State in Iraq. World opinion is growing that these groups are one in spirit, bent on relentless killing without decency or mercy, and should be eliminated as the barbarians they are, a blot on the face of the earth, and a threat to every other nation. Please pray as you are led.
“The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” (Ps 9:17)
“Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord; nor are there any works like Your works. All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name. For You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God.” (Ps 86:8-10)
A new study by the Barna Group shows that 54 percent of Christian men and 15 percent of Christian women admitted to viewing pornography at least once a month, compared to 65 percent of men and 30 percent of women who identified as non-Christian and said they watched porn at the same rate.
Of the Christian men who did look at pornography, the majority did so several times per week.
Some psychologists and sociologists said it’s not surprising that men of any faith act out on basic human urges.
But Joel Hesch, president and founder of Prove Men Ministries, which commissioned the study, said the results point to a frightening pattern of addiction.
“It needs to be openly addressed in the church, a safe place within the church,” Mr. Hesch said. “[Pornography] is addicting. It is a problem not just affecting individuals, but families. The church needs to be the front-runner in this. Heaping guilt and shame on a person only leads them to escape into the things we’re trying to rescue them from.”
The survey was taken earlier this year, and the results were compiled from the responses of 1,000 U.S. adults. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, at a 95 percent confidence level.
The survey did not break down Christian men who viewed pornography by their ages. But the poll did have age groupings for all male respondents, and 79 percent between the ages of 18 and 30 said they watch pornography at least monthly, while 29 percent of them said they view it daily.
The definition of pornography was left up to the respondents, Mr. Hesch said.
Jeremy Thomas, assistant professor of sociology at Idaho State University, said any survey involving sex is going to be limited in its data.
“It’s hard to get good information on sex, generally because people tend to be hesitant to respond,” he said. “One of the other things to realize is you could be getting a response bias. It could very well be religious and non-religious people view porn more or less [the same], but religious persons are a little more hesitant to say so.”
However, Christians might be more likely to self diagnose themselves as addicts. According to the survey, 15 percent of men who identified as Christian said they thought they might be addicted to porn, compared to 6 percent of non-Christian men who considered themselves addicted.
The trouble is that “pornography addiction” doesn’t exist in the professional mental health community, said Joshua Grubbs, who focuses on clinical psychology of religion and addictive behavior patterns at Case Western University.
“It’s not a diagnosis that’s recognized,” he said. “I know there are some people who believe it is a diagnosis, but it’s not recognized by the community at large.”
Though research is just beginning on why people might be anxious to admit their addiction, Mr. Grubbs said religion does play a big part of it.
“Religious people are more likely to say they feel addicted,” he said. “That seems to be stemming from religious people disapproving of pornography.”
The thinking, he continued, is “I’m religious. I think pornography is bad, but I’m a sexual person who thinks pornography is enjoyable. What would cause me to do something that is bad? Maybe I’m addicted.”
That doesn’t mean pornography can’t have a negative impact on someone’s life, said William Struthers, a psychology professor at Wheaton College.
“What happens is [pornography viewing] can become an addictive pattern if they’re not careful,” Mr. Struthers said. “You may find those individuals who are feeling low or down, now they can view pornography, they can sexually act out, and the high of the orgasm gives them that moment of ‘OK, that’s gone, everything’s better.’”
For Christians, faith can put them in a bind.
“Religion can serve to provide a richer understanding of sexuality. It can add spiritual and moral dimensions,” Mr. Struthers said. “The problem is this cuts the other way. You can have higher highs but lower lows when committing sexual transgressions.
“They can have a better understanding of sexuality, but that religion causes them to become much more compulsive in the ways in which they think about sexuality. That’s why I think they’ve gotten the message wrong,” he said. “The church’s message is ‘Sex is bad. Don’t do it until you’re married.’”
Some churches are having to re-brand their teaching on sexuality, whether by choice or because the culture is changing.
“Churches will lose this sexual red herring,” said Eric Anderson, a sociologist at the University of Winchester who focuses on masculinity and sexuality. “They lost on premarital sex, on masturbation, on gay sex, on anal sex among heterosexuals and they will lose this war against pornography.
“If you want evidence, all you have to do is look at the research, at what percent use pornography, and how young they start using it.”
Perhaps the way for everyone to win is to embrace both the human and spiritual urges of Christians, said Mr. Grubbs.
“That’s what we do, what humans do. If you feel bad about sex in general, it’s going to create problems for you elsewhere,” he said. “Let’s talk about what’s going on in your head, so we can avoid those problems elsewhere.” (Contributor: By Meredith Somers for The Washington Times)
Prayer focus: This extensive survey indicates that that many Christians have a self-confessed attraction, perhaps addiction, to pornography. Statistics show that men are far more involved than women. The question is, why isn’t the Church ministering effectively to its men? Can the Church do so? Other areas of sin are addressed and overcome, why not this? Pray that Christian men and churches will awaken to the depth of the problem and find ways to minister freedom and overcoming. Intercede strongly for church leaders to be willing to find and offer effective ministry.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Phil 4:8)
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt 5:27-28)
Native missionaries in Iraq say God is using them to spread hope and faith in Jesus Christ among thousands fleeing Islamic State militants, and many become Christians.
“In a crisis like this, we are experiencing a time of revival and awakening everywhere,” a mission leader said, speaking on condition of anonymity amid security concerns.
“God is not just moving people geographically, He is moving in their hearts, as well.”
Among them Norya, a Syrian refugee “who got saved in a [refugee] camp in Iraq,” another mission leader said.
“She lost five children and her husband when a rocket fired by Syrian government forces toward the terrorists landed on her house causing their death,” the missionary added in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife.
“She sings hymns with us at our church group meetings.”
Norya’s story is one of several sent to Christian Aid Mission (CAM), a group supporting native missionaries, including in the Kurdish region of Iraq, home to many refugees.
Prayers were said in the Kurdish town of Akra, where some of the displaced are living in buildings originally built to hold Iranian prisoners during Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s reign, missionaries added. “Each bathroom is being shared by some 10 families. Most of the others live in a refugee camp and the only school is without a roof. It collapsed during the winter,” CAM told BosNewsLife.
Help Christian children who are refugees from Islamist terror
Yet, CAM said teachers not only asked “ministry workers for help to replace the windows and roof, even with just a plastic tarp.” The workers also “prayed with the teachers and shared the Gospel with many of the students”.
While many refugees demanded food, missionaries suggested that several asked for the ‘Bread of Life’, a reference to Jesus. “As they were going from tent to tent in the Akra camp, Gospel workers came upon Abu Mustafa, a 50-year-old man who has three girls with cerebral atrophy and whose wife was killed. Mustafa was blaming God for his tragic situation, but allowed the workers to read the Bible to him and pray for him,” CAM recalled.
“This is the first time I feel relief,” Mustafa reportedly said. “For three years, I couldn’t smile or feel safe, but now I feel differently. I have peace in my heart. Please pray for my girls. I believe Jesus can heal them, and heal me, from the inside.”
CAM said the missionaries told “destitute masses crowding refugee camps” about hope in Jesus Christ. They claim He revealed Himself as God’s only begotten Son, giving eternal life to anyone who believes in Him.
“The workers go from tent to tent, sitting down with frightened families who have fled [Islamic State] militants” formerly known as ISIS, CAM added.
“The merciless Islamic terrorist group…succeeded last week in purging all non-Muslims from every town and village in the Nineveh region.”
Kurdish forces had been protecting the last remaining cities in the region, including Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town in Iraq, but they were outgunned by militants, according to witnesses. “Arguably one of the most extreme and brutal terrorist groups in history” control a huge portion of Iraq, forcing hundreds of thousands of Christians and others refusing to embrace Islam or to leave their homes, CAM explained.
“They have kidnapped, raped, and sold women. They’ve beheaded children” and reportedly sliced a five-year-old boy in half last week, according to CAM missionaries.
Many Christians and others refusing to embrace Islam flee the Islamic State militants.
More than 200,000 people, many of them Christians, fled to the Kurdish city of Irbil, 55 miles (88 kilometers) east of Qaraqosh, “with literally nothing but the clothes on their backs,” missionaries told BosNewsLife. “Their homes and churches were burned to the ground,” as part of the militants campaign to establish a strict Islamic state.
What would usually be a 45-minute drive between Qaraqosh and Irbil, took fleeing masses reportedly 12 hours. Over two million internally displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees, also fleeing the militants, are packed in the Irbil region, aid workers say.
“These have filled every building in the city beyond capacity, leaving thousands to live and sleep on the streets. For those people without shelter, ministry workers organize “sleeping groups,” where a large number of families gather together to sleep in one area for safety,” CAM said.
Amid the misery however, “the Lord’s hand is clearly upon us and protecting us from evil,” reported a mission leader. “Even though some of us are going through trials, we believe strongly that the Lord is taking us to another level of faith and a higher place of blessing.”
Native missionaries include volunteers from local churches and house churches, all evangelical believers with at least basic Bible training, CAM said.
The CAM backed workers buy supplies from local markets to distribute to those who have been forced from their homes by militants.
UN refugee agency has been overwhelmed by Christian and other refugees.
CAM said the greatest needs are food, clothing, mattresses, medicine, fuel for transportation, as well as Bibles and worker support.
“In addition to their need for prayer and spiritual strength from the Lord, the workers have personal needs. At the end of the day when they return to their homes, they have to take care of their own families,” a missionary stressed. (Contributor: By Stefan J. Bos for Bos News Life and Religious Freedom Coalition)
Prayer and Praise focus: Give thanks for this news of those under such duress turning to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Pray for these new believers who have become followers of our Lord under the most trying circumstances imaginable. Pray that they will escape to find ways to serve God. Once again we see this truth: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Tertullian, second-century Church Father). Give thanks for the faithful missionaries who shared the Gospel and invest their lives in furthering God’s kingdom. In this severe persecution, God is still powerful to save.
“So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Rom 1:15-16)
For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!’” (Rom 10:13-15)
Pound for pound, the Environmental Protection Agency says the [methane gas] effect is 20 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. And though its lifetime in the atmosphere is substantially shorter than carbon dioxide, it’s “more efficient at trapping radiation.”
Now scientists have determined that 570 vents, called seeps, are leaking methane gas in the most unlikely of all places: the ocean floor just off the East Coast. The findings, published on Sunday in Nature Geoscience, suggest they’re emitting as much as 90 tons of greenhouse gasses every year and appear to debunk earlier belief that there were only three East Coast seeps beyond the continental shelf.
And if there are more of these seeps — a lot more — it could represent a previously unknown source of damaging carbon emissions.
“The discovery of widespread methane seepage on the northern U.S. Atlantic margin was indeed surprising,” lead author Adam Skarke of Mississippi State University wrote The Washington Post in an e-mail. “This is because [it] lacks the geological properties commonly known to be associated with widespread seafloor methane emissions.” It’s the first time, he said, that widespread leakage has been discovered in a non-Arctic location that’s both free of large gas reserve and substantial tectonic activity.
“Effects of these [methane] plumes on climate and ocean chemistry are not yet clear, but could extend well beyond the plumes themselves,” the journal Nature said in a press release.
The paper found that the vents, which are at depths from 800 to 2,000 feet, have a sprawling swath. They reach hundreds of miles from Cape Hatteras, N.C., to the Georges Bank southeast of Nantucket, Mass. “Widespread seepage hadn’t been expected,” the paper said.
The finding raises a number of questions. First on the list: Are there a lot more? The paper says the discovery suggests “tens of thousands” of similar vents could pockmark the ocean floor, emitting vast quantities of methane gas. He told the BBC that their number could be as high as 30,000.
If true, that would mean there is a significant — and heretofore unknown — addition to global carbon admissions, throwing previous estimates into question. “Such seeps would represent a source of global seabed methane emissions that have not been fully accounted for in previous carbon budgets,” the paper stated.
Close-up of methane hydrate observed at a depth of 3,500 feet, near where bubble plumes were detected in previous sonar data. Pressure and cold temperatures create methane hydrate where molecules of natural gas are trapped in an ice-like cage of water molecules. Methane hydrates, a hydrate patch and chemosynthetic communities were seen during this dive, but no active seepage was observed. Seeps were investigated at other locations. (NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program)
Worse, the seeps aren’t fresh ones. “The fact that it’s there in the quantities that it is — and [that] it is exposed — suggests that indeed the processes at these locations have been going on … at least 1,000 years,” Skarke told NBC News. He said he didn’t visit all the seeps, with the most concentrated clusters apparently located off the Chesapeake Bay, but “the ones we visited suggest a very prolonged seepage.”
There is one bit of good news: The depth of the East Coast seeps are so deep that the methane gas isn’t likely reaching the atmosphere. “The methane is dissolving into the ocean at depths of hundreds of meters and being oxidized into” carbon dioxide, Skarke told the BBC. “But it is important to say we simply don’t have any evidence in this paper to suggest that any carbon coming from these seeps is entering the atmosphere.”
It’s unclear from Skarke’s research the precise source of the methane gas. In most circumstances, seeps occur in areas of tectonic activity — like the West Coast — or in oil- or gas-rich basins, like the Gulf of Mexico. The East Coast isn’t known for its tectonic activity, but it’s possible deep reservoirs of gas are fueling some of the seeps, one researcher explained to the New York Times.
Meaning: The discovery could interest a few oil companies. But Skarke’s not buying the economic potential of the methane gas. “There is no evidence to say that [this is] related to conventional gas reservoirs,” he told the BBC. “So there is no evidence to say they are a recoverable resource.” (Contributor: By Terrence McCoy for The Washington Post. Mr. McCoy is a foreign affairs writer at the Washington Post.)
Prayer focus: We have two aspects in handling such articles and the intercessory implications. First, we note the physical findings themselves, whether in outer space through the Hubble telescope, or in the depths of the sea, such as these methane gas “seeps” from the ocean floor, apparently part of the Creator’s complex design. Christians will, of course, worship, realizing how small man is and how mighty and majestic is the Lord of the universe. Second, what are the implications for prayer? Here, we run into politics and the fear factors that arise from those who see the global warming or “climate change” dangers. Pray against the fear factors, and give thanks for God’s control over all things pertaining to life and godliness.
The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters. Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Ps 24:1-5)
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen — even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!” (Ps 8:3-9)