On Watch in Washington September 17, 2014

September 17th, 2014

On Watch in Washington September 17, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

AMERICANS ASK: WHY DOES QATAR SUPPORT HAMAS?

WASHINGTON – It was the first Persian Gulf state to establish ties with Israel, the first to welcome Israeli students and the only one to allow direct dialing to Israel. Israeli athletes shine on its courts.

Now Qatar is on the outs with Israel because of its embrace of another regional pariah: Hamas.

Calls are circulating in the U.S. Congress to isolate Qatar — a state that has polished its pro-Western image in recent years, welcoming in foreign universities, backing the global news channel al-Jazeera and prepping to host the 2022 World Cup — for its championing of Hamas.

Since Hamas assumed control in Gaza in 2007, Qatar has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the territory and backed Hamas diplomatically, sheltering its exiled leader Khaled Mashaal.

A pro-Israel source, speaking anonymously in order not to preempt lawmakers, said Qatar is under increasing scrutiny from Congress in the wake of this summer’s Israel-Gaza conflict. And with reports proliferating that financing for Islamist insurgents including the Islamic State, or ISIS, throughout the region originates in the oil-rich emirate, it is facing increasing isolation from its neighbors as well.

Qatar’s reasoning in identifying so closely with Israel’s mortal enemies is, paradoxically, grounded in the same strategies that led it to establish open ties with Israel in the 1990s, said Lori Plotkin Boghardt, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank that specializes in Gulf states.

“Qatar’s basic approach to its own security is to maintain cordial relations with a very wide range of political actors and states,” Boghardt said in an interview. “And this accounts for its relationship with Israel on the one hand and its relationship with the most extreme terrorist groups [such as ISIS] on the other hand. This is simply the behavior of a very small state sandwiched between two large and sometimes unfriendly neighbors, Saudi Arabia to the west and Iran to the east.”

Punching above its weight is what led Qatar to establish trade ties with Israel in 1996, along with Oman, the first Gulf states to do so. Israeli businessmen travel to the emirate and Israeli students are welcome at the emirate’s Georgetown University campus. Shahar Peer, the Israeli tennis pro, excelled in the Qatar Open in 2008.

Israel returned the favor, with its government and the pro-Israel community here advocating on the emirate’s behalf in Washington. In 2005, Israel backed Qatar’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, helping to boost its diplomatic profile and influence.

Qatar’s attempts to manifest an outsize voice on regional issues is behind its backing for al-Jazeera. It seeks to maintain and polish its reputation as friendly to Western values.

The tiny emirate pitches itself as a vacation destination and funds a number of influential Washington think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, to where a senior official, Martin Indyk, just returned after a year trying to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Tensions between Israel and Qatar emerged in 2007 when Qatar was one of the only countries to back Hamas after the group booted the more moderate Palestinian Authority out of the Gaza Strip in a bloody coup. In 2012, its then-emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, became the first head of state to visit Gaza under Hamas rule, pledging to raise $400 million toward reconstruction.

Qatar’s rationale — shared by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish leader — was that Islamist groups were proliferating and inevitably would play a role in the region, and therefore it was important for allies of Western nations to maintain ties.

That thinking seemed to be vindicated by the Arab Spring in 2011 when Islamists were reaping most of the gains in the pro-democratization protests throughout the Arab world. Qatar backed the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian progenitor of Hamas, in Egypt and Sunni insurgents seeking to topple the Bashar Assad regime in Syria.

By this summer and the Gaza war, Israel was labeling Qatar a terrorist haven in part because it is harboring Mashaal, Hamas’s political leader abroad. Qatar’s fingerprints alone prompted Israel to reject a ceasefire proposal advanced by US secretary of state John Kerry, although trade ties are still in place and Israeli businessmen still travel to Qatar.

Backing Islamists in the long run was a losing bet, said Jonathan Schanzer, the vice president for research at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He noted the ouster last year of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the turning tide against insurgents in Syria, as well as with international disgust at the actions of Islamist extremists in Iraq.

“They’re like the drunk guy at the casino putting down bad bet after bad bet,” he said in an interview, referring to Qatar.

Schanzer, testifying before Congress last week, counseled pressuring Qatar through sanctions that target individuals and entities. The United States has three military bases in Qatar, one of which houses the forward base of the US Central Command — a status that is more important to the militarily weak emirate than it is to the US, according to Schanzer.

“It’s hard to justify a base several miles from where the Taliban had an embassy, from Khaled Mashaal’s headquarters and from where al-Jazeera is hammering the United States,” he told JTA. (Contributor: By Ron Kampeas for Times of Israel)

Prayer focus: God said to Abram (later, Abraham), “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you….” (Gen 12:3). Those promises have not been revoked, which is sufficient basis for the true Church, the Body of Christ, to bless, support, and pray for Israel’s welfare. Pray earnestly about the dangerous drift of President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry from America’s long-term support of Israel, our only Middle East ally. The betrayal of that bond may be happening, which will surely portend disastrous consequences for the U.S. Our nation is spiritually adrift at many levels. Intercede for an awakening Church to bring forth prophetic voices to sound an alarm to our leaders.

“I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:3)

“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock’— therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.’” (Ezek 34:7-10)

“Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. A young lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:7-8)

 

N.J. JUDGE UPHOLDS LAW BANNING ‘GAY-CONVERSION’ THERAPIES FOR YOUTH

A New Jersey law banning therapies to affect the sexual orientation or gender identity of a minor has been upheld as constitutional.

The decision in federal court in Camden Friday is likely to be appealed, as two of the plaintiffs are also challenging a similar law in a federal appellate court in California.

In her Friday ruling, U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson said the law did not violate constitutional rights of therapists because it only regulated conduct, not protected speech.

Arguments about the law being overly broad “are largely irrelevant,” she added.

The dismissal is a victory for the state, which enacted the law in August, and gay-rights groups, which pushed for the law.

“The court’s decision today is a huge victory for New Jersey youth. This law will save lives by protecting young people from these horrible and damaging practices,” said Troy Stevenson, executive director of Garden State Equality.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, which represented Garden State Equality in the case, praised the court’s “clear and thorough decision” that state-licensed therapists don’t have a constitutional right to engage in “discredited practices.”

When Gov. Chris Christie signed the law, he cited concerns about government intrusion on parental rights. But — due in part to his personal beliefs that people are born gay — he could not support change-therapies for youth when there was evidence that it could be harmful.

“I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate,” Mr. Christie concluded.

The plaintiffs in the case, however, argued that their counseling services are needed because they honor clients’ desires to “prioritize their religious and moral values above unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, identities.”

They also argued that their services can be and are successful: Plaintiff and licensed professional counselor Tara King “is a former lesbian” who received sexual-orientation change efforts “and her life is living proof that SOCE counseling can and does work for some individuals,” said legal briefs filed by several lawyers with Liberty Counsel.

In addition to Ms. King; psychologist Ronald Newman, founder of the Christian Counseling Consortium of South Jersey; the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH); and the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) are plaintiffs in the case.

Liberty Counsel lawyers could not be immediately reached for comment Friday night.

However, these lawyers, including Demetrios Stratis and Mat Staver, have filed a second lawsuit against the New Jersey counseling law, also in Camden federal court.

Their plaintiffs this time are two unidentified parents and their 15-year-old son. The family claims that the new law is blocking the therapy that has been helping their son. They also claim the law violates their rights to free speech, freedom of religion and “equal protection,” since the law permits them and their son to receive only “gay-affirming” therapy.

A federal judge is scheduled to decide by Dec. 2 whether to grant the family a temporary injunction to stop enforcement of the law.

The New Jersey law forbids state-licensed therapists, psychologists, social workers and counselors from providing sexual-orientation change efforts to a child under age 18. It does not apply to unlicensed counselors and clergy.

Dozens of professional organizations, including the American Psychological Association, have expressed doubt about sexual-orientation change therapies.

The first law to outlaw change therapies for minors was enacted in California. That law is currently in a court challenge before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, with NARTH and AACC as some of the plaintiffs. (Contributor: By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times – U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson  – Nominated by George W. Bush on August 1, 2002, to a seat vacated by Nicholas H. Politan. Confirmed by the Senate on November 14, 2002, and received commission on December 4, 2002.)

Prayer focus: Intercessors know issues of sexual identity and attractions cannot be sorted out in the courtroom. Modern culture has forsaken God’s Word as the standard of what is normal. But such views are atheistic (do not acknowledge the Creator) and suggest the DNA code is an “accident” of evolutionary theory. The answer to the confusion is not in psychology but in personal relationship with a loving God through Jesus Christ. God’s acme of creation is in the divine mystery of male and female. Pray that the Church will find the courage, clarity, and renewed authority to speak the truth in love, presenting the Creator’s pattern as the way to a flourishing and fruitful life through the Gospel.

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  (Gen 1:27)

“[God] created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created.” (Gen 5:2)

“Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:9-11)

 

ABU BAKR AL-BAGHDADI: THE MAN WHO WOULD BE CALIPH

Who is al-Baghdadi?

He’s an Islamic scholar, poet, and Sunni extremist who is as much as an enigma to his followers as he is to his enemies. Born Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai in the central Iraqi city of Samarra, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, 43, is believed to have started his career as a preacher of Salafism, a hard-line form of Sunni Islam, and to have a degree in history and a doctorate in sharia law. After the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, he led a Sunni militant group that fought against American troops. Captured by U.S. forces in 2005, he was held for four years at Camp Bucca, a U.S. military prison. There, he met several al Qaeda commanders. In 2009, the U.S. turned al-Baghdadi over to Iraqi authorities as part of a Bush administration agreement with the Iraqis. Col. Ken King, who oversaw Camp Bucca, recalls al-Baghdadi taunting his American captors at the time, “I’ll see you guys in New York.” He was quickly released by the Iraqis and used his prison contacts to take over an al Qaeda–aligned militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq. Shortly after, he began an offensive to seize territory.

Al-Baghdadi has the megalomaniacal aim of restoring the long-expired caliphate, the original Muslim kingdom that existed under the successors of the Prophet Mohammed and at one point extended from modern-day Spain to Central Asia. “Caliph,” or khalifa, means “successor” in Arabic, and by taking the title, al-Baghdadi has declared himself the chief imam and political and military leader of all Muslims. The last caliphate ended with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, and establishing a state to be the home of the faithful has been the dream of Islamic fundamentalists for more than half a century. Al-Baghdadi claims to trace his lineage to the Prophet Mohammed’s Quraysh tribe, and his nom de guerre recalls the first caliph: Abu Bakr, father-in-law and close adviser of Mohammed. In July, he addressed the world’s Muslims in a sermon. “I am the wali [leader] who presides over you,” al-Baghdadi said at the Grand Mosque in Mosul, Iraq. “Obey me as long as I obey God in you.”

What kind of state does he want?

At its height 1,000 years ago, the Islamic caliphate was the world’s center of science and art, a beacon of tolerance during Europe’s Dark Ages. Al-Baghdadi, by contrast, draws inspiration from the earliest form of the caliphate, when the first four successors of Mohammed spread Islam by sword in the 7th century. He also admires the Abbasids, the dynasty of caliphs who founded Baghdad in the 8th century. He models his justice system after theirs — using beheadings, stonings, and crucifixions. “Terrorism is to refuse humiliation, subjugation, and subordination [to infidels],” al-Baghdadi said in July. “Terrorism is for the Muslim to live as a Muslim.”

How did he become so powerful?

By exploiting the Syrian civil war. When al-Baghdadi took over the Islamic State of Iraq, he came into conflict with al Qaeda’s central leadership, which chastised it for fighting Shiites instead of Westerners. Al-Baghdadi defiantly sent his fighters into Syria to seize land and renamed his group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — a power grab that caused al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to disown him. By then, al-Baghdadi had tapped into al Qaeda’s primary funding sources in the Persian Gulf, and when his army seized oil fields in Syria, ISIS became a juggernaut.

What does al-Baghdadi control?

ISIS is now an extraordinarily well-armed and well-funded militant group. Once al-Baghdadi’s fighters entered Syria, he rallied other jihadists to his banner and captured large chunks of territory. At least 10,000 militants are now loyal to him, and more flock to his cause every week. The group is headquartered in the city of Raqqa, Syria, from which it governs a Massachusetts-size territory that straddles parts of Syria and Iraq. ISIS funds its expansion by selling oil, collecting taxes, looting banks, and selling antiquities; it is believed to control some $2 billion in cash and assets, and has amassed vast quantities of weaponry, including hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of U.S.-supplied artillery and armored vehicles captured from fleeing Iraqi forces.

What is life under ISIS like?

It is medieval. ISIS has imposed the most brutal form of sharia law throughout its territory, destroying Shiite mosques and tombs; slaughtering those it deems infidels; and banning music, drinking, and smoking. Women must wear a face veil, and all residents must attend prayers five times a day. Thieves have their hands amputated, while women suspected of adultery or immodesty are flogged. Thousands of minority Christians and Yazidis have been slaughtered. The U.S. has put a $10 million bounty on al-Baghdadi’s head, and he’s believed to be on the official “kill list” for drone attacks. “Now that he has claimed the caliphate,” said Charlie Cooper, a British counterterrorism analyst, “he has effectively positioned himself as the standard-bearer of jihadism the world over.”

Sowing terror via Twitter

ISIS is by far the most media-savvy militant group to emerge in the Middle East. Its social-media director is believed to be an American: Ahmad Abousamra, 33, a dual U.S.-Syrian citizen who was born in France and raised in the Boston area. Fluent in Arabic and English, he studied computer science at Northeastern University, where he made the dean’s list. Under his influence, ISIS fighters are encouraged to use Twitter and Facebook to promote jihad, and many of them have posted photos and videos of themselves holding up severed heads or executing prisoners. “ISIS understands very well that in order for an act of terrorism to be effective, it needs to actually terrorize people,” says Peter Neumann of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization. “The act of communication that follows the act of violence is almost as important as the act of violence itself.” (Contributor: The Week Staff for The Week)

Prayer focus: Let us agree in prayer for our U.S. leaders. The three major officers in deciding and carrying out our military policies are President Obama, Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces; Secretary of State John Kerry; and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. We repeat for emphasis the desperate need for clarity and wisdom beyond human understanding. Analysts from all parts of the political spectrum are reluctantly concluding that President Obama appears overwhelmed by the ISIS terrorist strategy and uncertain about what to do. Intercede for mercy and truth to prevail.

Update: As this Alert is being prepared, credible reports tell us that while Mr. Obama does not want to send a strong military presence to Iraq, he has just ordered 2,500 military personnel to West Africa to assist in battling the Ebola virus epidemic. Please intercede with earnestness. Note that the number of lives lost to ISIS executions is far more than Ebola victims’ totals, though every life is precious.

“For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle? So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.” (1 Cor 14:7-8)

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; mercy and truth go before Your face.” (Ps 89:14)

 

U.S. TO TRAIN 5,000 SYRIAN REBELS TO FIGHT MILITANTS

The Pentagon has announced that it expects to train 5,000 Syrian rebels per year as part of President Obama’s new campaign to battle Islamic State militants.

Details of the administration’s $500 million plan to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State began to surface Friday when Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby outlined the goals that U.S. military planners expected to achieve.

That goal includes training and equipping the Syrian rebels in a foreign country over the course of about a year, according to Rear Adm. Kirby.

Mr. Obama had long resisted called to arm and train the rebels, pro-U.S. moderates who had been battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, belittling their ability to take on the government and to control the most extremist elements of the rebel coalition.

The U.S. military has already located a partner nation willing to host the training force, Rear Adm. Kirby said. Saudi Arabia has already indicated that it would play a key component in the Obama administration’s training plan, he said.

“We think that, now that we’ve got a partner in the region to help us with the training, is that we could train more than 5,000 fighters over the course of one year,” he said. “Now, that would be in phases. It would not be all at once. The training itself would not take a full year, but we think that we could get more than 5,000 done in one year.”

The Pentagon is still trying to work out details of that plan, such as how to vet and recruit those Syrian fighters who are qualified to train with U.S. military personnel, according to Rear Adm. Kirby.

Congress has to approve the Obama administration’s request for the funding before military personnel could proceed with their training plan. (Contributor: By Maggie Ybarra for The Washington Times)

Prayer focus: U.S. military advisors concede that this plan has unanswered questions. The president, sadly, is no longer trusted in his declarations because he has often lied to the American people. Yet we must pray for him and for God’s mercy for our nation. Intercessors will apply experience to focus on root causes, not merely surface symptoms. A primary question is this: how can our government be sure that after the huge investment in this training, the Syrian rebels will not sell out to ISIS money or threats? Second, it is becoming very difficult on the various combat fronts to sort out who is on which team and where deeper loyalties are embedded. Some Americans have joined ISIS terrorists. The “wisdom that is from above” is desperately needed. Pray fervently as the Holy Spirit directs.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Prov 3:5-6)

“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” (Ps 18:30)

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” (James 3:17)

 

HOW LONG WILL CALIFORNIA SUSTAIN LIFE WITHOUT WATER?

The old man knew of the $500-a-day fine for people caught wasting water. He heard the plea for conservation from Governor Jerry Brown. But the water police can’t scare a person whose water isn’t running in the first place.

“Look,” said Carlos Chavez, a retired farm hand in the small town of Seville. He turned the wheel on a big outdoor faucet, the kind of high pressure spigot that’s illegal to operate in California without at least a hose attached to it. Nothing came out except air. It was the same story inside his home, where his plates piled up beneath a kitchen faucet as dry as the shop model.

As the California drought approaches its fourth year, Seville’s well is one of hundreds of private water holes coughing up sand and spitting air in the Central Valley, according to Tulare County officials. As many as 100,000 more wells are at risk around the state if the rains don’t come by October.

In what is still the most productive agricultural county in America, the pantry of brands like Hershey’s and Häagen-Dazs, Sun-Maid and Yoplait, the rising number of completely dry homes here has shocked officials and become a visceral symbol of California’s unending dry spell. Thousands of people—most of them farm workers and their families—find themselves with no running water to wash, drink, flush or cook.

“We’re the epicenter,” said Eric Coyne, a spokesperson for the Tulare County Resource Management Agency. “The need here is dire.”

With the help of volunteers, Tulare County has handed out thousands of gallons of emergency bottled water, a lifeline to the modern world. But now the state is also working on the well problem, according to Kelly Huston, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. Just don’t expect a solution to flash like lightning. “As the drought continues,” he warned in an email, “more wells are likely to go dry.”

Almost every dollar in Tulare County has deep ties to planting, picking, or packaging food. But this summer, for the first time that residents can remember, the plants and animals got cleaner, more abundant water than many of the people who tend to them. The farms have the resources to drill deeper, taping ancient aquifers the backyard well owner can’t reach.

“It’s never been this bad before,” said Chavez, looking back on nearly 80 years in Seville, which hasn’t had reliable running water in months.

Chavez and his wife spent their prime as fruit pickers and boxers, making a good enough living to buy a little house, raise children, retire comfortably. In his youth, Chavez recalls, “everybody worked in the fields and the water was cold and clean and it tasted good. But now…” He stopped and looked up, pointing to the brown spire on his once-green pine tree, the mark of another drought-induced death.

A few blocks away, Maria Dominguez, a 28-year-old mother of two, pulled over to question a stranger she saw standing near the town’s faltering well. “What can you tell me about my water?” she hollered. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”

Since the middle of summer, she’s been filling buckets with a friend a town over, then leaving them outside to warm in the sun. It’s the only way her mother, a picker, can sluice the field dust off before kissing her grandkids goodnight.

‘It’s sad for me to see my children going through this’

“It’s feels like we’re back in Tijuana,” said Dominguez, who came with her family when she was a little girl. “This is how they do it in Mexico.” She was on the way home with boxes of food and water, sixty pounds of drought disaster relief, paid for by the state and pulled off the back of flatbed truck.

One of her neighbors, Ray Quintana, was nearby helping the delivery. He served two combat tours in Vietnam, driving convoys through the jungle. Now, at 62, the water crisis has made his hometown feel like a conflict zone instead of some of the richest farmland on earth.

“To shower, I use a cup, just like when I was in ‘Nam,” he said, stepping away from a stream of glistening neighbors, most of them just back from the fields. Some had dust on their ear lobes and deep in their wrinkles. None had a simple way to shower in town that night.

“We’re living in a third world country now,” he continued.

For more than a decade, Ray and his wife Becky have occupied a cheerful two-bedroom house on Seville’s main road. The carpets are soft and the butter tray is real silver. But like the rest of town, the Quintanas are a hard-working family with no running water. They are a strange hybrid of upright citizens and bewildered refugees, like squatters who happen to own their homes.

“Sometimes I pull over at a gas station and go into the bathroom, just to wet my hair down,” admitted Becky, a school bus driver. “I feel like a homeless person.”

There are people like her all over this county, in places like East Porterville and Monson, people who walk through doors with brass knockers and then live like hobos in an abandoned building. They bathe out of a bucket, which they refill at convenience stores, fire stations, and churches. They flush with a bucket, too, and because the water may be tainted, they teach their kids to close their eyes and mouths when they rinse off. They never feel clean.

And in the morning they have to do it all again.

‘I feel like a homeless person’

“I think of water 24 hours a day,” Becky said. “When I go to sleep, I’m thinking about tomorrow morning. If I don’t have any water, what’s my plan? In the evening I’m thinking, what am I going to do? Am I gonna take a shower at my daughter’s house? Or am I going to take a shower at my sister’s house? I’m constantly thinking about Plan A, Plan B.”

“I think of water 24 hours a day.”

By the sad standards of parched towns, Seville is one of the fortunate places. Its water system has been troubled for years, threatened by fertilizer run-off and old, leaky pipes, lashed together in places by old bicycle tire inner tubes, according to Diane England, an analyst for the county water commission. “The system was already hanging by a shoestring,” she said, “and the drought stressed it to the breaking point.”

But at least Seville had an infrastructure. For that reason, when the well faltered sometime in June, the state stepped in to fund a new well, three times deeper than the old one. It may produce water as undrinkable as the old well, Becky said, showing off an August 2014 flyer that advised residents not to trust what may come from their tap. But, hey, at least the water will flow.

That won’t be the case elsewhere in the county. Aside from the odd chemical spill and poisonous algae bloom, Americans may imagine that access to clean drinking water is a far-off problem, a challenge for people who bath in rivers and sleep under corrugated iron roofs. But roughly 2 million people right here at home lack access to clean water, according to the Rural Community Assistance Program, a federally-funded network of small town water systems.

‘It’s frightening to take a shower’

Most of those people are black or Latino, and they tend to live in the West and South, where climate change could make water problems even more acute. That’s certainly the fear in East Porterville and Monson. In a normal year, the private wells pump water just fine, and the state’s industrial farms are served by a network of snow-and-rain-fed canals.

But this year, the farms of Tulare County got almost no water from the canals, forcing them to drill into the ground water. The result was like everyone at the prom putting a straw in the same punch bowl at the same time, and sucking hard. It lowered the water table until eventually the residential wells were dry.

“It’s literally a race to the bottom,” said Laurel Firestone, a prominent California water activist.

But while farms can invest heavily in deeper wells, most of the agricultural workers they employ can’t afford to do the same at home. When a residential well goes dry in East Porterville—as have more than 150 this year, according to the county—people turn first to their neighbors, who are often happy to help. Jesus Halfaro, a retired carpenter here, said he has almost 20 families on his still-thriving well.

“I’ll give you water until God say I going to be like you,” he said, leaning on a fencepost, his shirt unbuttoned mid-chest, philosophizing about the basic human right to clean water. “I mean, we can endure a little hardship. Everybody does. But try to go to the bathroom with no water? That will mess you up.”

When a neighbor’s well runs dry, and that neighbor’s neighbor runs dry, residents turn reluctantly to store bought water. On a recent morning, Lila Rosales, 17, was headed to the store on a water run, when she paused to calculate the costs of her weekly journey. As she spoke, her infant daughter snoozed nearby in a car seat.

Lila’s father was a picker but that week he was off with a chainsaw, chopping down a grove of parched orange trees. For the work, he expected to take home $300—$80 of which she would pour directly into blue gold. “Well, my baby,” she said, “she’s a hot-head, so I guess you can say I have to bathe her like every day, maybe twice a day, and it’s like, I have to run to the store to get a least a gallon of water.”

“Every night I pray … I pray for water!”

Unlike Seville, there is no long-term plan for helping the people of East Porterville. With enough money, patience, and political will, the homes on the east side of town could be fit to the water system that feeds Porterville proper. The medium term plan, funded in part by a $500,000 grant from the state, is for volunteers to go door-to-door, as Ray Quintana did one recent Friday, dropping off a ration of bottled water per person, per week.

It was grueling work, he found, and he didn’t mean physically.

“God bless, America,” he said, after a day spent peering into one waterless home after another. “It’s still the greatest country in the world, but we need to take care of our people, you know?”

In the absence of a bailout, some people are trying to take care of themselves. One man in Seville installed his own supplemental pump, sucking in enough water to create an oasis just off his back porch. Another man took to YouTube, where the click-count on “Dig Your Own Well” videos expands each day the water table does not.

But prayer is perhaps the most popular option, if not in a church than in the cathedral of one’s own hot shower. Manuel Valdez is a smiley-eyed 70-year-old who decided to show off his shower prayer, shimmy and all, near the chip rack at the Seville corner store: “Please God, you give me some water, you know what I mean—I am all soaped up. Every night I pray. I kneel down and I pray for everything, for everyone. I pray for water!”

Finally, there are the realists. Maria Patcheco is a 29-year-old mother of three, including a 6-week-old who came home from the hospital days before the Patcheco’s well went dry. The faucets gave a final groan, the shower gasped, and the toilet bowl gulped. Then the water was gone.

Soon, the Patchecos will be, too. They’re not planning to be like the Chavez family, struggling through an unnecessarily hardscrabble retirement. They don’t want to live “Mexico-style.”

“Everything was so nice,” admitted Maria. But not any more. “California is going dry.” (Contributor: By Tony Dokoupil for NBC News)

Prayer focus: Readers of these Alerts know we have been praying over the California drought for several months. Three points stand out. First, this isn’t just a “California issue.” Most Americans feed from the Central Valley’s formerly lush fruit and vegetable farms. Thus, intercessors in unaffected areas must avoid the temptation to say the problem is “someone else’s, not mine.” Second, the economic burden, along with human suffering, is already staggering and will affect all Americans. Third, since God controls the climate, and rain is His gift to “the just and the unjust” alike, what are the spiritual implications of a drought that threatens to turn a large part of California into a desert? Is this a biblical judgment as a wake-up call? A huge portion of “the land” needs healing that only sustained rainfall can bring. Pray for God to awaken the Church in America to pray “in one accord” for rain, so He will receive the credit and fame for a miracle.

“Are there any among the idols of the nations that can cause rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Are You not He, O Lord our God? Therefore we will wait for You, since You have made all these.” (Jer 14:22)

“When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 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 I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chron 7:13-14)

 

HOW TO TRANSITION FROM OBAMACARE TO REAL HEALTH CARE REFORM

Obamacare—or at least the version of it that the president and his advisers currently think they can get away with putting into place—has been upending arrangements and reshuffling the deck in the health system since the beginning of the year. That’s when the new insurance rules, subsidies, and optional state Medicaid expansions went into effect. The law’s defenders say the changes that have been set in motion are irreversible, in large part because several million people are now covered by insurance plans sold through the exchanges, and a few million more are enrolled in Medicaid as a result of Obamacare. President Obama has stated repeatedly that these developments should effectively shut the door on further debate over the matter.

Of course, the president does not get to decide when public debates begin or end, and the public seems to be in no mood to declare the Obamacare case closed. Polling has consistently shown that more Americans oppose the law than support it, and that the opposition is far more intense than the support. The law is built on a foundation of dramatically expanded government power over the nation’s health system, which strikes many voters as a dangerous step toward more bureaucracy, less choice, higher costs, and lower quality care. The beginning of the law’s implementation does not appear to have eased these fears, and in some cases has exacerbated them.

But opponents of Obamacare must also reckon with the reality that the goal of repealing the law and replacing it with real, market-based health reform to bring down costs and enable more people to get covered is no longer aimed at a system that exists only in theory. When President Obama won reelection in 2012, it became inevitable that some version of the law would get implemented starting this year. And it was also a pretty good bet that, despite the law’s internal contradictions and problems, it would not, as some had surmised, collapse on the launch pad. Massive federal spending authority can prop up many a teetering edifice. The surprise is not that some 6 million people or so eligible for nearly free insurance under Obamacare took advantage of the offer; the surprise is that many millions more who were eligible declined to take it.

Some of the law’s opponents are reacting to these developments with something close to resignation. One prominent proposal would leave much of Obamacare’s government-centric architecture in place on the theory that it can be reformed and made to serve genuine market-oriented purposes. The law’s state and federal “exchanges,” which are the focal points of Obamacare’s expanded federal control over the health system, would be enlarged under this plan with millions of new enrollees from Medicaid. Future Medicare beneficiaries would also be forced to get their coverage through this mechanism.

It is true that exchanges are not, by definition, anti-market. Indeed, in concept, they could facilitate transparency and thus modestly improve consumer choice. But the Obamacare exchanges were built to assert increasing federal regulatory control over the nation’s health system. It is very rare for deregulation efforts to remove all such authority from an agency of government. Even if a deregulation effort partially succeeds in the short run, over the long run, federal regulatory agencies gain power by cleverly creating vested interests in the protection and expansion of that power. It is a very risky bet to place the future of American health care at the mercy of a new and improved system of Obamacare exchanges.

And there is no need to do so. The reality of Obamacare implementation in 2014 does not mean the law is no longer replaceable with something better. It still can be displaced by an appealing conservative alternative if a newly elected president chooses to make repeal and replace a top priority in 2017. But plans to replace Obamacare must now take into account the changes that the law has brought about this year, and stands to deliver over the next few years.

The president and the law’s supporters may pay a heavy political price this November for breaking their repeated promises not to needlessly disrupt pre-Obama-care insurance arrangements or doctor-patient relationships. The law’s opponents must avoid making the same mistake in their plans to replace Obamacare: They should refrain both from promising that all disruption can be avoided and from causing avoidable disruption. A replacement will need to include a transition—a bridge from Obamacare’s broken architecture to a working health financing system.

The nature of such a bridge depends in part on the particulars of the alternative. The best of the replacement plans so far proposed by conservatives are those that address the problems that existed in the health system before Obamacare was enacted without the horrendously misguided government-centered architecture of Obamacare that has made those problems worse. For instance, the reform plan introduced by Republican senators Richard Burr, Tom Coburn, and Orrin Hatch would dramatically expand insurance coverage, control costs with a functioning marketplace, and allow people with expensive health conditions to get affordable and stable insurance—without the high costs and overbearing federal regulatory control of Obamacare. The reform plan developed by the 2017 Project—an organization dedicated to developing a conservative reform agenda—has many key features in common with the Burr-Coburn-Hatch plan, and would also broaden insurance coverage and provide stable insurance for the sick without Obamacare’s excesses. We assume that some synthesis of these plans will form the starting point for replacing Obamacare.

The transition from Obamacare to programs like these would be a move from a more prescribed and regulated to a less prescribed and regulated health system, and therefore would increase rather than reduce the range of options available to Americans. This would make such a transition dramatically different from, and far easier than, the transition to Obamacare that we are now witnessing. Adding options, rather than subtracting them, can make it possible to enable even those people who are most entangled in Obamacare’s new mechanisms to gradually make their way into the new and more functional market-based alternative.

Indeed, for most Americans the transition would not be much of an issue and the new system would offer major benefits. About 160 million Americans receive health coverage through their employers, and in these early stages of Obamacare implementation, that system has remained largely as it was.

The repeal and replacement of Obamacare would reduce some burdens now faced by the employer system—by lifting the threat of the employer mandate and reducing tax and regulatory pressures that have undermined employment. And it would relieve employers of the coming “Cadillac” tax, scheduled to take effect in 2018, and offer a more plausible and less painful way to inject some cost discipline into employer coverage.

The Cadillac tax is a 40 percent excise tax on employer-plan premiums in excess of an upper threshold, set at $27,500 for family coverage in 2018 (the tax also applies to expensive policies sold directly by insurers to consumers). It requires employers to pay the same tax for high-paid and low-paid workers, and since employers would pass on the cost in the form of compensation adjustments, it would particularly harm lower-paid employees of firms with generous plans. A better approach, included in both the Burr-Coburn-Hatch plan and in the 2017 Project proposal, is to place an upper limit on the amount of employer-paid premiums that is tax-free income to workers. Premium costs paid by firms above the threshold would then be taxable income for employees, but higher-salaried employees would pay more because their salaries put them in higher marginal income-tax brackets. Most Americans would never confront the tax, and those who did would be far better positioned to deal with it, or to change their coverage to avoid it.

The transition from Obamacare’s crude regulatory distortions of the insurance market to a system that creates protections for people with preexisting conditions without outlawing insurance could also be made quite smooth for the same reason: People would find themselves with more options and no less protection.

Obamacare outlaws using health status in setting premiums and bans exclusions of pre-existing conditions, which provides an incentive to consumers to delay insurance enrollment until they need it. The law tries to counteract this perverse incentive by imposing a new tax on the uninsured—the so-called individual mandate. The emerging alternative plans take a different approach: They require that anyone who has stayed continuously insured be shielded from higher premiums based on their health status. This would include anyone who needed to move from an employer plan to the individual insurance market. The replacements would thus eliminate the individual mandate immediately, but the protection for those who stay insured would provide at least as strong an incentive to stay covered as the mandate while enabling the creation of a competitive market in coverage.

Some other insurance rules in Obamacare would need to be addressed with explicit transition provisions. For instance, Obamacare limits the allowable premium difference between older and younger consumers in the individual market to a 3 to 1 ratio, which is much narrower than the practice in many states before Obamacare was enacted. If this provision were to be repealed, as it ought to be along with the rest of the law, premiums would likely rise for older insurance enrollees and fall for younger consumers. To address this, a replacement plan should explicitly require states to provide for a brief transition period (of, say, three or four years) from Obamacare rules to the new system. A transition of this length would minimize disruption for consumers.

The challenges of transition are of course greater in the case of the two populations that receive direct benefits under Obamacare—those covered under the Medicaid expansion in their states and those who receive premium subsidies for the purchase of coverage through the exchanges. These individuals are most directly and materially entangled in Obamacare’s architecture, and smoothing for them the transition to a better system would require some special care.

The emerging alternative to Obamacare would help those who do not have access to an employer plan by providing them with tax credits for purchasing health insurance. The value of these tax credits would be roughly equal to the value of the tax preference for employer-paid plans, and thus would undo the unfairness of providing a tax benefit just to those in employer plans (the Burr-Coburn-Hatch plan limits the credits to households with incomes below three times the federal poverty line). Medicaid would then be transformed into a flexible, state-administered program of additional premium and cost-sharing support for low-income families. States would use the funding to supplement the federal tax credits and allow program participants to use the combined support to pick a coverage option from among competing insurance plans.

In both the case of Medicaid-eligible individuals and people without access to employer coverage, therefore, the conservative alternative to Obamacare would provide subsidized access to coverage, though through a different mechanism intended to help people enter a robust and competitive market in coverage that enables them to choose from among affordable options and allows their choices to make the underlying health system more efficient and accessible. This means that people receiving coverage under Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and those receiving subsidies through the Obamacare exchanges would have to be given a bridge to the new system with as little disruption as possible.

The best way to transition those in the Medicaid program is through a grandfathering exemption. No one enrolled in Medicaid would be pushed out of the program. People could stay enrolled as long as they remained eligible under the old Obamacare rules, and as long as their states elected to keep the old program structure in place for them. But all new applicants would go into the reformed Medicaid program, and all participants in the old program could voluntarily elect to switch into the reformed Medicaid program.

A great many Medicaid beneficiaries would choose to make that transition as they would be given new choices and the ability to enroll in the same types of mainstream insurance plans available to the middle class—often with significantly greater access to care than they now have in Medicaid. The states would also have an incentive to make it more appealing, smoother, and easier for people to choose the new Medicaid alternative, since the new system would be significantly less costly for state governments. Given these incentives, and the fact that turnover in Medicaid has always been very high, the full transition to the new Medicaid alternative could occur fairly rapidly, yet could be experienced by the people affected as a choice, not a disruption.

The transition to the new health insurance tax credits for those currently receiving subsidized coverage in Obamacare’s exchanges would not be as straightforward, but could follow the same general principle. (Read more.) (Contributor: By James C. Capretta and Yuval Levin for The Weekly Standard – James C. Capretta is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Yuval Levin, also a fellow at EPPC, is the editor of National Affairs and a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.)

Prayer focus: Few of us are equipped to interpret an article of this length and technical discussion. All many citizens know for sure is that their health insurance costs have gone up, and many promises made about the president’s Affordable Healthcare Act were not true. Indeed, according to several polls, trust in the administration’s statements at many levels is at an all-time low. That this is true is seen in the lengths to which some Democrat candidates are going to distance themselves from President Obama before the November elections. The healthcare issue is only one complicated example. Pray for God’s mercy on a nation that is in both spiritual decline and emotional disarray. Pray for widespread revival and spiritual awakening for Christians and that the Church will awaken and lead America back to its godly roots. Revival is when God’s people hear His voice and obey.

“’Now, therefore,” says the Lord, ‘turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ 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.” (Joel 2:12-13)

“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years.’” (Heb 3:7-9)

 

GERMANS RALLY TO PROTEST ANTI-SEMITISM OVER GAZA WAR

Thousands of Germans, many wrapped in Israeli flags, gathered at Berlin’s historic Brandenburg Gate on Sunday for a rally against anti-Semitism, which has flared up in Europe following Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany organized the rally in response to the anti-Semitism seen in cities like Berlin, as well as Paris and London. Protesters chanting “death to Israel” and “gas the Jews” at pro-Palestinian demonstrations over the summer deeply unsettled many here.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with President Joachim Gauck and leaders of both of the country’s main Christian churches, attended the rally and pledged to fight a resurgence of the hatred that underpinned efforts to wipe out Jewish life in Germany under the Nazis.

“That far more than 100,000 Jews are now living in Germany is something of a miracle,” Ms. Merkel told the estimated 5,000 people who turned out under gray skies. “It’s a gift and it fills me with a deepest gratitude.”

“That people in Germany are threatened and abused because of their Jewish appearance or their support for Israel is an outrageous scandal that we won’t accept,” Ms. Merkel said. “It’s our national and civic duty to fight anti-Semitism.”

Jews from across the country traveled to the capital by the busload to take part in the demonstration that many viewed as an important chance to show their solidarity with Israel, as well as publicly acknowledge their religion. Some Jews say they have been discouraged from wearing outward symbols of their religion in public in recent months as a safety precaution.

Beyond the anti-Semitic demonstrations, Molotov cocktails were thrown at a synagogue in the western city of Wuppertal and Jewish cemeteries were desecrated.

Hedva Lüttge, a teacher from Israel who has lived in Germany for 20 years, said that on the way to Sunday’s demonstration, four pro-Palestinian supporters began shouting at her and her friends, until the police intervened. Hundreds of police officers were in place for the demonstration, which took place without any incident, apart from some heckling by bystanders over Israel’s policies in the Middle East.

Armin E. Husung said he had encountered anti-Jewish sentiments in the course of his career as a lawyer and notary in Berlin. He came to the demonstration, with his partner and his 11-year-old son, because “I wanted to show clearly which side I am on,” Mr. Husung said.

The Anti-Defamation League expressed “deep gratitude” to the chancellor for attending the demonstration, calling it a “vital component” of Germany’s response to the anti-Semitic incidents over the summer.

On Monday, the World Jewish Congress opens its annual conference in Berlin, the first time it has been held here. Leaders of the congress said they had selected the German capital before the outbreak of tensions in the Middle East to mark the rebirth of Jewish life here since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The chancellor sought to reassure Jewish leaders they were not mistaken.

“Jewish life is part of our identity and culture,” Ms. Merkel said. “Let us be unequivocally clear: Whoever discriminates and ostracizes has me, all of us, and the majority of the people in Germany against them.” (Contributor: By Mellissa Eddy for The New York Times)

For Thanksgiving: This is a gratifying praise report. Give thanks for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with President Joachim Gauck, for their open, defiant, and almost militant stance in opposition to any and all forms of anti-Semitism on German soil or under Germany’s present government. True, it is the right thing to do, but this represents a measure of redemption from Germany’s tragic past with Adolf Hitler’s determination to eradicate the Jewish people during WW 2. Pray that Germany will indeed continue to be a safe haven for Jews and others who should be protected. We expect to see God blessing Germany for its stance.

[God said,] “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you….” (Gen 12:3)

“’… for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in….’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? …. And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matt 25:35, 37-38, 40)

 

BIOCHEMIST ADVISES SUPPLEMENTS, CLEAN HANDS TO BATTLE MYSTERY VIRUS

Health officials say 15 children in the Seattle area may have the contagious enterovirus-D68 — a mysterious virus that has doctors concerned.

Human enterovirus-D68, which starts with flu-like symptoms then leads to serious breathing issues, has already struck a number of children across the U.S. However, nutritionist and biochemist Dr. Ted Broer says adults are at risk, too, so everyone should take precautions.

“It spreads through sneezing, through body fluids, through not washing your hands,” he tells OneNewsNow. “Folks need to realize how important it is to wash your hands every time you use the bathroom, every time you touch a public surface like a stairwell rail or a button for an elevator or a doorknob. It’s absolutely critical that your hands stay washed. In addition to that,” Dr. Broer adds, “you must take a variety of different types of supplements which will help strengthen the immune system.”

This virus was first identified in California in 1962, but it has not been commonly reported in the United States for years.

So far, the new cases have been reported throughout the Midwest, Georgia, Alabama and Utah, and health officials warn it is likely to appear in other areas as well.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 100 types of the enterovirus. (Contributor: By Russ Jones for One News Now)

UPDATE:  More than a dozen cases of Enterovirus D68 have been confirmed in New York state, according to officials.

“EV-D68 is causing cases of severe respiratory illness … sometimes resulting in hospitalization, especially among children with asthma,” the NYS Department of Health said in a statement Friday.

Enteroviruses are quite common in September; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 10 to 15 million people are infected by these viruses each year. But doctors believe this particular type of enterovirus, Enterovirus D68, is causing more serious problems than others have in years past.

As of September 11, more than 80 cases in six other states — Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky and Missouri — have been confirmed to be EV-D68, according to the CDC.

New York is the first state in the Northeast with confirmed cases. (Contributor: Jacque Wilson for CNN, CDC)

Prayer focus: This is not a new virus, nor is it consider deadly, though stronger strains of certain viruses create new problems and become more difficult to deal with. Intercessors praying for family members and friends may add “good works” to faith by giving special care to children and to the elderly. Emphasize basic hygiene techniques of careful and persistent hand washing and, when possible, avoidance of exposure to those already ill. Pray against fear, as media sources often relate the “exceptional” case where someone dies unexpectedly. Intercede for pastors and other Christian leaders who are often exposed to the sick when ministering. Urge them to pace themselves and to get sufficient rest.

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they
shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
(Isa 49:31)

On Watch in Washington September 17, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington September 10, 2014

September 10th, 2014

On Watch in Washington September 10, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

DRAWING THE U.S. INTO ARMAGEDDON?

With the savage videotaped beheading of a second U.S. journalist, Steven Sotloff, by the IS on 2 September 2014, it’s becoming impossible to ignore how desperately the group wants to draw American forces into its End Times scenario.

The repeated, explicit incitement embedded in statements accompanying first the beheading of American reporter James Foley and now of Sotloff, was aimed directly at President Barack Obama in order to goad the U.S. and its allies into a military reaction that would give IS the common infidel enemy it needs to consolidate its own Sunni ranks against any possible regional backlash. Without the return of U.S. and other Western forces into the region, IS may well fear the sort of Sunni Awakening (or “Sahwah”) that eventually defeated its al-Qa’eda (AQ) predecessor, Al-Qa’eda in Iraq (AQI), along with the 2007 U.S. surge.

Issue 3 of IS’s slick online magazine, ‘Dabiq,’ is titled “A Call To Hijrah” and gives us a revealing look at the new Caliphate’s strategy.

The number one priority for the moment is consolidating territorial gains made during the blitzkrieg advances of June and July 2014. IS needs a continued influx of Muslim fighters from around the region as well as abroad to accomplish this and make the Caliphate an established, governing reality—hence, the heavy emphasis on encouraging Muslim youth to join the latest jihad caravan.

According to the 7-Phase al-Qa’eda timeline outlined in a 2005 Der Spiegel interview with Seif al-Adl (the AQ military commander who’s been running joint terror operations out of Iran ever since 9/11), the period 2013-2016 is marked by the establishment of a Caliphate, so this puts them right on track.

The latest Dabiq issue also makes reference to a hadith that declares “The Hour of Resurrection” cannot come until the ‘Romans’ (Christian Westerners) land forces in Dabiq, an area near Aleppo in northwestern Syria. According to Muslim eschatology as recounted in Dabiq, this sets up the great battle, or “Final Confrontation” of the “Al-Hamah” (meaning Armageddon) in which Muslim forces will triumph, go on to conquer and slaughter all remaining on earth who will not convert to Islam, and usher in a millennium of ‘peace’ and ‘justice’ under the universal rule of shariah.

Thus far, though, even as Obama’s own military leaders are urging immediate action to destroy IS, the administration has hesitated to commit more than some targeted air strikes, humanitarian aid, and limited numbers of Special Operations Forces (SOFs) on the ground, who are working alongside the Kurds to blunt the IS advance.

But as IS sees things, the only way it can forestall the possibility that regional Sunni tribes might unite against its brutal shariah enforcement, involves pulling U.S., Australian, British, and other Western military forces once again into a high casualty confrontation in the land of al-Sham.

If videotaped beheadings don’t do it, a spectacular IS attack on the American homeland might—just as with the original 9/11 attacks, when Usama bin Laden (along with Hizballah, Iran, and Saudi Arabia) provoked the U.S. into the massive invasions of Muslim lands that launched the “Islamic Awakening,” according to the AQ conquest timeline.

A parade of Islamic Caliphates, from the Ummayad and Abbasid, to the Fatamid and Ottoman, has come and gone over the centuries of Islamic history. It is impossible to tell at this point how this latest would-be Muslim empire will fare in the long run but even as the U.S. reacts with both fear and fury, it will be to our advantage to understand how the IS enemy is manipulating our natural responses, deliberately seeking to instill terror that corrodes our confidence and trumps our better judgment.

For a national security leadership that variously armed, trained and then contemptuously dismissed these jihadis as the “JV team,” Obama and his advisors have backpedalled rather dramatically in recent days, issuing a stream of panicky assessments about the “barbaric” “cancer” of “ugly, savage, inexplicable, nihilistic, and valueless evil” “beyond the pale of humanity.”

Before we rush headlong into the fray of intra-Islamic sectarian fitna once again, however, let’s understand what we’re up against: it would help, of course, if the Obama administration hadn’t purged all mention of Islamic terror and its inspirational foundations in the Qur’an, hadiths, Sirat, and shariah from the USG training curriculum, but a quick dive into a few of the Qur’an’s key jihad and terror verses (Q 8:12, 8:39, 8:60, 9:5, 9:29) should prove instructive.

U.S. strategy towards IS must include an aggressive defense of our own people and interests at diplomatic facilities and military bases as well as those of partners and allies in the region (Israel, Jordan, the Kurds). The U.S. is uniquely capable of organizing humanitarian aid to assist the Christian, Yazidi, and other ancient peoples targeted by IS for annihilation or subjugation. There’s no substitute for a robust intelligence and Special Operations Forces (SOF) capability to provide warning and options for application of U.S. power and influence as required.

But with nearly a dozen missing Libyan civilian airliners, thousands of loose surface-to-air missiles, hundreds of Muslims carrying Western passports (including our own) all fired up to join the jihad, and a collapsed southern border through which no one knows how many Islamic terrorists already may have passed, IS efforts to drag the U.S. into its Armageddon scenario could reach an even more alarming level as the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 date approaches. (Contributor: Clare M. Lopez for The Washington Times – Clare M. Lopez is the vice president for research and analysis at the Center for Security Policy.)

Prayer focus: This article is a helpful reference. The author has deep knowledge of Islam’s factions and ISIS strategy. But with due respect, let’s remember that this is not prophecy. Her “Armageddon” reference is symbolic, not a biblical prediction. Intercede for God to overshadow President Obama and key government officials with mercy and wisdom. Pray for the Church to bring forth prophetic voices that will speak to government. An awakened Church is hard to imagine, but with God all things are possible. Pray in faith for repentance and revival in the Church, leading to cooperation with God’s purpose. The early Church moved forward in God’s power, while Rome’s power was secondary. The Church changed the world system. Ask God for morally upright leaders. The second Scripture reference presents the first post-Pentecost New Testament intercessory prayer.

“Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.’ [But] He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure.” (Ps 2:1-5)

“And being let go, [Peter and John] went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: ‘Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.’For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” (Acts 2:23-30)

 

OBAMA SAYS U.S.  WILL ‘GO ON OFFENSIVE’ AGAINST ISLAMIC STATE

President Obama said Sunday that the United States will “go on the offensive” against Islamic State militants in the Middle East and that he will further outline his plans Wednesday in a speech.

“The next phase is us going on the offensive,” Obama said in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The president said that on Wednesday he will not announce the use of U.S. ground troops or a campaign equal to the war in Iraq, and that his goal is to make clear the mission is to deal with terror threats like those over the past several years. A senior Obama administration official told Fox News imminent, new military action in either Iraq or Syria was not expected to be announced in the speech.

Obama said he has the “authority he needs” to increase attacks on Islamic State targets without congressional approval, but he did not answer repeated questions about whether he will order air strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria.

A senior White House official told Fox News that Obama’s primary aim in the Wednesday speech will be to update the American public on what the strategy is to deal with the militant group, saying the administration wants “people to understand how he’s approaching this.”

When Congress was on summer break, the president ordered strikes on the group’s military targets in Iraq, saying they were to protect U.S. personnel and requested by the Iraq government as part of a humanitarian effort to preserve infrastructure and save Iraqi minorities.

Obama said Sunday the upcoming effort is part of three-step plan that started with intelligence gathering and will include helping install a new Iraqi government.

“I’m confident we can get this done,” he said.

Obama acknowledged on “Meet the Press” that the Islamic State is unique because of its “territorial ambitions” in the Middle East.

“Over the course of months, we are going to be able to not just blunt the momentum of ISIL,” he said, using an alternate name for the group. “We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We’re going to shrink the territory that they control. And ultimately we’re going to defeat them.”

Reps. Peter King, D-N.Y., and Adam Smith, D-Wash., each told ABC’s “This Week” that the president should take swift action instead of trying to get congressional approval and getting bogged down in a prolonged debate.

“Getting the exact language through Congress would be extremely difficult,” Smith said, “though I think that’s what we ought to do.”

Obama will outline his plan after meeting Tuesday in the Oval Office with Capitol Hill leaders — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

“What I’m going to ask the American people to understand is that this is a serious threat,” Obama told NBC. “We have the capacity to deal with it, and here’s how we’ll deal with it. This will require some resources above what’s already in there.”

Obama also said that he has not seen any immediate intelligence of threats to the U.S. homeland.

The interview was conducted Saturday at the White House shortly after Obama returned from a NATO summit in Wales, where the Islamic State threat was a key topic of discussion. The speech will come one day before the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Obama restated his opposition to sending U.S. ground troops to engage in direct combat with the militants, who have laid claim to large swaths of territory in Iraq, targeted religious and ethnic minority groups, and threatened U.S. personnel and interests in the region.

At Obama’s direction, the U.S. military has conducted more than 130 air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq in the past month. In retaliation, the group recently beheaded two American journalists it had been holding hostage in Syria, where the organization also operates.

Lawmakers have pressed Obama to expand the air strikes into Syria. He has resisted so far, but said he has asked his military advisers for options for pursuing the group there.

In the interview, Obama said the U.S. would not go after the Islamic State group alone, but would operate as part of an international coalition and continue air strikes to support ground efforts that would be carried out by Iraqi and Kurdish troops.

At the NATO summit, the U.S. and nine allies agreed to take on the militants because of the threat they pose to member countries.

Obama’s emerging strategy depends on cooperation and contributions from regional partners, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, in addition to the formation of a new government in Iraq.

Obama said he expected the Iraqi government to be formed this week.

Last month, while vacationing on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard, Obama was criticized for heading to the golf course minutes after he appeared in public to angrily denounce the Islamic State militants for the videotaped killing of American journalist James Foley.

Asked whether he wanted a do-over by new “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd, Obama said that, while there will always be tough news somewhere, he “should’ve anticipated the optics” of immediately going to play golf after delivering that statement in which he said he had just gotten off the phone with Foley’s parents.

But Obama said the more important question is whether he is getting the policies right and whether he is protecting the American people and, on that score, he said, “I think I’ve done a very good job during the course of these last, close to six years.” (Contributor: Fox News – Fox News’ Ed Henry and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Prayer focus: President Obama said, “I think I’ve done a very good job during the course of these last, close to six years.” Polls indicate barely 38 percent of Americans agree. The president is scheduled to address the nation Wednesday evening (9/10) with his plan to go on the offensive against the Islamic State, but even the liberal press, including both The Washington Post and The New York Times, has asked whether he is resolute enough to impart assurance to the American people. Give thanks that God rules all nations (whether they choose Him or not). He sets up leaders and deposes them as He wills; and that He is over our president, who was elected twice by the people he governs. We know we are called to pray. Intercede for an awakening Church. With regard to upcoming elections, pray that pastors will preach “the whole counsel of God” and encourage believers to vote according to conscience and biblical values. This is literally a time to “watch and pray.”

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” (Prov 21:1-3)

“The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the Lord.” (Prov 21:31)

 

TWO-THIRDS OF AMERICANS WANT ‘GOD’ IN OUR PLEDGE?

God created the universe in six days, but it took an act of Congress to get Him into the Pledge of Allegiance.

The history of the Pledge is dotted with revisions, including the 1954 adoption of “under God.” And though Americans have said the Pledge the same way for the past 60 years, a survey from the American Humanist Association found that one-third would like “under God” removed, after being told those words were not part of the original text.

A May 29 online survey of 1,000 Americans conducted for the American Humanist Association found that 34 percent said “under God” should be removed, and 66 percent said they should remain, after being told those words were added to the original version.

“There’s a lot more we could have said,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “We could say more about the history, that it was clearly an effort by the government at the time to endorse a Judeo-Christian perspective in its proceedings. If that happened today, people would be up in arms. The government should not be endorsing religion in any way.”

School sued for words ‘under God’ In Pledge Of Allegiance

A humanist group is suing a New Jersey School District for having the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. The lawsuit alleges that the phrase “under God” is discriminatory towards…

Of the 1,000 respondents, 666 identified themselves as Christian, and 123 as followers of other faiths. Unaffiliated persons accounted for 211 respondents in the survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

The Humanist Association survey, conducted by the Seidewitz Group, was carried out as a secular version of a poll conducted by LifeWay Research last September that found that 8 percent of Americans would want “under God” removed from the Pledge.

The LifeWay phone survey asked 1,001 Americans whether they thought forcing school children to say “under God” violated their rights and whether they wanted “under God” removed from the pledge.

Respondents were not told those words were not part of the original Pledge written by Francis Bellamy in 1892.

“Most Americans have recited the pledge hundreds of times and are not inclined to memorize a different pledge,” said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. “Changing it may just feel wrong. Most Americans say they believe in God or a higher being and feel comfortable having ‘under God’ in the Pledge.”

The humanist association’s survey results, Mr. Speckhardt said, show that with “a little bit of education, we can bring people a little bit in our direction.”

But the problem with the humanist survey is that survey it failed to be factual, said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

“What they’re trying to say … is that the Pledge was somehow unchanged for 62 years, then changed in 1954,” Mr. Rassbach said. “And they’re sort of playing in to this idea that America in the 1950s was retrograde. That’s the history they’re trying to present.”

Written in 1892, the Pledge originally read: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The words “the Flag of the United States of America” were added in 1923, and Congress adopted “under God” in 1954.

“It’s this sort of fake history that the Pledge was this … thing that was out there that no one messed with,” Mr. Rassbach said. “It’s actually miseducating people about the history of the Pledge, and also includes what I would [consider] leading questions.”

That “leading” wording was part of the query on the Pledge’s history, which included: “Some people feel this phrase in our national pledge should focus on unity rather than religion.”

Mr. Speckhardt said that in light of the survey, the American Humanist Association would launch a campaign Monday that will be “education- and action-oriented.”

America was established as an “intentionally secular government to create an even playing field for all faiths and non-faiths. It set us up as a country with unique support of church-state separation,” he said. “That’s been a good thing for the faithful as well as for people who don’t believe. I think that’s the education we need a lot more of.”

Among some of the survey’s other results, Mr. Speckhardt highlighted one finding that 69 percent of Americans and American Christians felt “displays of crosses and the Ten Commandments would lead to Muslims, other non-Judeo-Christians and nonreligious people to feel the government favors Christians.”

“Even a big majority of Christians think putting a cross on public property is favoring Christians,” Mr. Speckhardt said.

Another highlight was the finding that 76 percent of Americans felt it would be inappropriate to start a U.S. government meeting with a prayer to Allah, while 48 percent felt it would be inappropriate to start a meeting with a prayer to Jesus.  (Contributor: By Meredith Somers for The Washington Times)

Prayer focus: We should recognize that we are in a “post-Christian” era. Values that middle-aged or older Christians may have taken for granted are now being hotly debated. Former standards are not merely ignored but actively battled. The voice of unbelief insists on being heard. It is no longer a “live-and-let-live” world; instead, it is warfare. What will the Church do? Will Christians mount a solid defense for retaining “under God” in the Pledge? Will the majority care enough to speak out? Has Christian leadership left the battle field? Pray for truth and justice to prevail and for a revival of thanksgiving for our nation, where Christianity was nurtured and has flourished. Our belief in pluralism and diversity should not cause the Church to retreat. Intercede!

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Tim 6:12)

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy…” (Ps 107:1-2)

 

RUSSIA, U.S. TO HOLD TALKS ON 1987 ARMS ACCORD

Russian and U.S. officials will meet in Moscow on Thursday to discuss a 1987 arms control treaty whose future could be in doubt.

Washington and Moscow have questioned each other’s commitment to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and their relationship has deteriorated over the Ukraine crisis, with tensions heightened following a NATO summit last week.

“We believe that this is an important agreement and that it should be properly executed,” Interfax new agency quoted Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s non-proliferation and arms control department, as saying of the treaty.

He said talks on compliance with the treaty would take place this week involving Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

The INF treaty eliminated nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of 500-5,500 km (300-3,400 miles) near the end of the Cold War.

The United States says Russia has violated the treaty by testing a ground-launched cruise missile that is banned under the accord. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said last month Moscow was committed to the treaty but President Vladimir Putin questions whether it meets Russia’s interests.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry called into question Washington’s observation of the treaty, saying U.S. use of armed drones amounted to a violation of the treaty.

NATO agreed a plan at last week’s summit in Wales to protect eastern members from Russia, and sharply criticized Moscow over its role in the Ukraine crisis. Moscow, which says it is not a party to the conflict, hit back by criticizing NATO and saying Western rhetoric was fanning tension in Ukraine.

The European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, some of which apply to the defense sector.

Putin approved changes to the structure of the government on Monday granting more power to the Defense Ministry over the national defense industry, dissolving two agencies that oversaw Russian armed forces’ defense contracts and arms deliveries.

France said last week it would not for now deliver the first of two Mistral helicopter carriers under a contract worth about 1.2 billion euros (1.58 Billion dollars) because of Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov was quoted by RIA news agency as saying Russia was capable of building its own warships similar to the Mistrals but gave no details. (Contributor: by Lidia Kelly, Editing by Timothy Heritage for Reuter News)

Prayer focus: To intercessors of a certain age, this scenario suggests military and arms debates from earlier “cold war” days. The stakes are higher now and “hotter,” due to advanced weaponry and President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive efforts to take control of Ukraine. Meanwhile, President Obama is focused on the Islamic State (IS) crisis in Iraq, where he has recently been seen as indecisive on Islamic matters by such normally friendly sources as The New York Times and The Washington Post. Pray for God’s merciful restraint on hostilities and prevention of war. Pray for Mr. Obama, who needs, as all people do, guidance and a personal connection to the living God through Jesus Christ.    

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

“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” (Ps 20:7)

 

U.S. JOB GROWTH SLIPS TO 142,000 IN AUGUST

Missing: nearly three million American workers.

This isn’t the latest dystopian science fiction story or the pitch for a Hollywood thriller. It is the economic trend that has alarmed experts and policy makers alike.

A growing number of people — many in their prime working years — have simply given up on landing a job. On Friday, the Labor Department reported that the overall unemployment rate dropped slightly to 6.1 percent in August. But that improvement was mostly a result of Americans dropping out of the labor force, not of their finding work.

The situation helps explain why so many ordinary Americans remain doubtful about the recovery, now in its fifth year.

Adding to the discontent, the pace of job creation in August also slowed. Employers added 142,000 workers to their payrolls, the smallest number so far this year; it was the first time since January that monthly job creation fell below the 200,000 level.

It is tempting to discount weaker hiring in any single month, and August tends to be especially unpredictable. As millions of people take their summer breaks, a smaller proportion of Americans respond to government data collectors during the month, said Tara M. Sinclair, an economist at Indeed.com, one of the nation’s largest sites for job postings.

Economists at Bank of America Merrill Lynch noted that August payroll growth had been revised upward in 12 of the last 15 years by an average of 31,000. “The report was clearly disappointing and contrasts with the otherwise strong economic data we have seen recently,” the bank said in a note to clients. “We advise not overreacting given the volatility of nonfarm payrolls and possibility of an upward revision.”

But the fall in the labor participation rate cannot be dismissed as an aberration. The rate dropped to 62.8 percent last month, the lowest level since the late 1970s.

Although the shrinking proportion of Americans in the work force is often attributed to the retirement of baby boomers, 25-to-54-year-old workers are quitting as well. Just over 81 percent of this group was in the work force last month, compared with 83.4 percent in early 2007, equivalent to the disappearance of nearly three million workers.

“The structure of the U.S. economy has shifted,” said Dean Maki, chief United States economist at Barclays. “Some of these people dropped out when the labor market was bad, and it’s not clear how many will come back.”

For most Americans who are employed, another challenge has been very slow wage growth since the recovery began five years ago. In August, average hourly earnings increased 0.2 percentage points, while the average workweek was unchanged at 34.5 hours.

At the Federal Reserve, policy makers have been watching for improvement in the level of unemployment, as well as the participation rate and wage growth, to gauge when to begin the process of gradually increasing short-term interest rates from near zero. While there have been several positive economic reports this week, the August jobs numbers are likely to take pressure off the Fed to move more quickly than expected on rates.

Within the economics field and at the Fed there has been an intense debate over the drop in participation. Some point to cyclical factors like the aging population. Others give more weight to structural forces such as the replacement of jobs by new technologies and the loss of skills that make jobs impossible to find for the long-term unemployed.

With the pickup elsewhere in the economy this year and booming sectors like technology and energy, the rising number of missing workers has also become a hot issue politically, with conservatives arguing that the expansion of disability benefits and Obamacare have meant that people who could be employed are opting not to work. Liberals blame fiscal austerity in Washington and a weak economy that has pushed college students into jobs formerly held by high school graduates, forcing the latter out of the labor market.

While there are merits to the various arguments, they do not account for everything. (Contributor: By Nelson D. Schwartz for The New York Times)

Prayer focus: This is not surprising news. Many reading this alert are already praying for unemployed family members or friends who may soon be out of savings or other means of support. Our focus here is not to analyze but to unite in fervent prayer for the nation and for the Church. Offer thanks for the many churches that are helping local families with meals and other necessities. Pray long-range for changes in our country’s economic policies that will uphold the free market and make it easier to create jobs. Most of all, pray for revival and reawakening of hope and vision. Some have given up. Pray that the Church will rise up in God’s strength with a clear message of God’s full provision.

“The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them.” (Ps 145:14-19)

“He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.” (Prov 19:17)

 

CONGRESS RETURNS WITH BUSY AGENDA

Members of Congress return this week to Capitol Hill after a five-week summer break for an abbreviated September session in which they are expected to pass a budget bill to avert a government shutdown, while avoiding taking any tough votes that could hurt their respective parties in the November elections.

Republicans last fall took much of the blame for a partial government shutdown created by Congress failing to pass a budget plan. And the GOP certainly wants to avoid such a situation this year, considering they have a solid opportunity to add to their House majority and perhaps take control of the Senate.

Passing a temporary spending measure would prevent a shutdown at month’s end and fund government agencies into mid-December.

One of the most anticipated early votes — whether to grant congressional approval for U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State military targets in Syria — was thrown into doubt this weekend.

President Obama said in an NBC interview televised Sunday that he thinks he has the authority to “go on the offensive” against the Middle East militant group formerly known as ISIS. And he did not address questions about strikes in Syria.

In addition, Reps. Peter King, D-N.Y., and Adam Smith, D-Wash., each told ABC’s “This Week” that the president should take swift action instead of trying to get congressional approval and getting bogged down in a prolonged debate.

“Getting the exact language through Congress would be extremely difficult,” Smith said, “though I think that’s what we ought to do.”

On Tuesday, Obama will outline his plan in an Oval Office meeting with Capitol Hill leaders — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

House Republicans also plan votes in the coming weeks aimed at drawing attention to legislation they say would boost jobs and energy production.

“We’re set up to paint a very stark contrast between ourselves and the Democrats who run Washington — if we take advantage of it by getting our work done and getting our message out,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told colleagues in a conference call last week.

Boehner said that message — “our closing argument,” he called it — would focus on ways to get people back to work and “restore opportunity” for Americans.

Reid seems most intent on getting endangered incumbent Senate Democrats in Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina back campaigning as soon as possible.

He is planning to adjourn the Senate by Sept. 23 after dispensing with the spending measure and holding votes — destined to lose — on Democratic planks such as raising the minimum wage and block the flow of unlimited, unregulated campaign cash from the wealthy, including the billionaire Koch brothers.

There are few must-pass items that require cooperation between the feuding House and Senate.

Atop the list is the spending measure to keep agencies funded at current levels through mid-December. That would give House and Senate negotiators ample time to work out a trillion-dollar-plus bill during a lame-duck session after Election Day.

Boehner is looking to settle a split among Republicans over re-authorizing the Export-Import Bank, which provides credit guarantees that help foreign buyers purchase U.S. exports such as Boeing airplanes and heavy equipment built by Caterpillar.

Many conservative Republicans, including House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, of Texas, oppose extending the bank. But Democrats and a host of business-friendly Republicans may have the upper hand.

GOP aides said it’s likely that an interim deal would extend the bank’s authority until perhaps early next year.

Also in play is a freeze that prevents state and local governments from taxing access to the Internet.

Under current law, the freeze expires Nov. 1, exposing Internet users to the same kind of connection fees that often show up on telephone bills. Legislation to extend the tax moratorium is expected to be attached to the must-do spending bill, according to senior House GOP aide.

The aide spoke on condition of anonymity to candidly discuss internal party deliberations.

Before Obama’s weekend statements, Republicans and Democrats were clamoring for legislation authorizing the president to use military force against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

Some lawmakers say the president already has the power to act under the 1973 War Powers Resolution and no new permission is necessary. Several Republicans say they are unwilling to grant Obama blanket authority without a detailed strategy from the administration.

Several lawmakers are pressing for new economic penalties against Russia in response to its aggressive moves in Ukraine, but it’s doubtful Congress can move quickly on such a measure.

One certainty is the first open hearing of the special House committee investigating the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. The committee will hold a session the week of Sept. 14 to examine whether the State Department has put in place recommendations to improve security at U.S. embassies and diplomatic posts.

The issue that dominated lawmakers’ attention in the final days before recess — the crisis of unaccompanied Central American minors illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border — has faded because the number of cases has dropped sharply in the hot summer months.

Congress never came to agreement on Obama’s emergency spending request to deal with the matters, and there’s unlikely to be an effort to revisit it.

With the list of must-do items so short, expect votes aimed at motivating each party’s core supporters.

In a memo to Republican lawmakers last week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., outlined some politically motivated pieces of the GOP’s September agenda, including votes on bills to promote energy production and ease taxes and regulations on businesses.

Reid planned a test vote Monday on a symbolic but futile attempt to amend the Constitution to give Congress the power to set stricter limits on campaign cash.

Reid said last month that he may force new votes on failed measures to raise the minimum wage, make college more affordable, and guarantee contraception coverage despite the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision that said employers with religious objections could opt out of the new health care law’s contraception mandate. (Contributor: Fox News)

Prayer focus: In summary, President Obama has made Congress ineffective by ignoring or bypassing both House and Senate, while the political parties render each other ineffective by partisan infighting. The various investigative committees, seeking to bring light and truth to still-outstanding scandals, appear to be getting nowhere close to closure. Into the gridlock come the unchanging message of God’s Word and intercessory prayer. For our much-loved nation, “salvation” and solutions will not come from “the hills,” including Capitol Hill, but from God alone, who is looking for righteousness and truth. While our government structure includes many faithful Christians, God wants to revive His Church. Let us intercede for renewal and transforming revival to bring forth spiritual leadership.

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” (Ps 121:1-2)

“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart…” (Luke 18:1)

 

HOMOSEXUALS: COURT TO CONSIDER 3 STATES’ BANS

The federal appeals court in San Francisco has issued two significant rulings on homosexual rights: In 2012 it struck down California’s ban on homosexual marriage, and this year it extended protections against discrimination to homosexual [perversion].

Now, three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit — all appointed by Democrats and two of whom joined in the civil rights ruling this year — are set to hear arguments Monday homosexual marriage bans in Hawaii, Idaho and Nevada.

The hearings come as supporters of such unions have amassed legal victories in federal courts nationwide this year, nullifying bans in more than a dozen states.

On Thursday, the federal appeals court in Chicago rejected bans in Indiana and Wisconsin. Opponents of homosexual marriage, however, scored a legal victory last week when a federal judge in Louisiana upheld that state’s ban [on this perversion]. (Contributor: The Associated Press)

Prayer focus: These state-vs-court battles over morality are becoming commonplace. As we pray, let us guard against two extremes: despair when amoral or pro-immoral judges overrule states’ rights or undue elation because a court decision is favorable to “our side.” Neither is the whole story. We are living in a post-Christian era and in a post-Christian nation. A court decision will not save the day. Pray that a repentant Church will arise with its integrity intact and its message undiluted. “Straight” and homosexual sinners desperately need Jesus Christ for their eternal welfare. Pray for an effusion of “first love” into the Church (Rev. 2:4). The Church must respond to God before the nation can.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.(1 Cor 6:9-11)

 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience…. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works…” (Rev 2:2-5)

 

ISRAEL PREPARING FOR ‘VERY VIOLENT’ WAR AGAINST HEZBOLLAH

Just 10 days after a ceasefire ended a 50-day Israel-Hamas conflict, the Israeli army is “making plans and training” for “a very violent war” against Hezbollah in south Lebanon, an Israeli TV report said Friday night, without specifying when this war might break out.

The report, for which the army gave Israel’s Channel 2 access to several of its positions along the border with Lebanon, featured an IDF brigade commander warning that such a conflict “will be a whole different story” from the Israel-Hamas conflict in which over 2,000 Gazans (half of them gunmen according to Israel) and 72 Israelis were killed. “We will have to use considerable force” to quickly prevail over the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, “to act more decisively, more drastically,” said Colonel Dan Goldfus, commander of the 769th Hiram Infantry Brigade.

The report said Hezbollah has an estimated 100,000 rockets — 10 times as many as were in the Hamas arsenal — and that its 5,000 long-range missiles, located in Beirut and other areas deep inside Lebanon, are capable of carrying large warheads (of up to 1 ton and more), with precision guidance systems, covering all of Israel.

Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system would not be able to cope with that kind of challenge, and thus the IDF would have to “maneuver fast” and act forcefully to prevail decisively in the conflict, Goldfus said.

Goldfus said it might be necessary to evacuate the civilian residents of the area. “Hezbollah will not conquer the Galilee (in northern Israel),” the officer said, “and I won’t let it hurt our civilians.”

He said that anyone who thought Hezbollah was in difficulties because it has sustained losses fighting with President Bashar Assad in Syria is mistaken. The report noted, indeed, that Hezbollah has now accumulated three years of battlefield experience, and has greater military capabilities and considerable confidence as a consequence.

The report said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2012 that, in a future war against Hezbollah, Israel would have to hit homes in villages across southern Lebanon from which Hezbollah would seek to launch rockets into Israel.

As with Hamas in Gaza, the report said there were concerns that Hezbollah has also been tunneling under the Israeli border ahead of planned attacks. A deputy local council chief, Yossi Adoni of the Ma’aleh Yosef Council, said dozens of border-area residents have reported the sounds of tunneling under their homes since 2006 — when Israel and Hezbollah fought a bitter conflict known as the Second Lebanon War. “We are absolutely certain there are cross-border tunnels,” Adoni said.

“There could be,” noted Goldfus, describing the tunnel threat as “one more concern… If in Gaza there were tunnels, it stands to reason that it’s possible here too.” Israel’s launched a ground offensive in Gaza in mid-July to destroy some 30 Hamas tunnels dug under the border; 11 IDF soldiers were killed during the Israel-Hamas war by gunmen emerging from the tunnels inside Israel. (Contributors: Times of Israel Staff)

Prayer focus: The names of Israel’s enemies change, whether Hamas, al-Qaida, Hezballah, or ISIS, but the underlying hatred and murderous intentions remain constant. Ironically, God’s covenant promises for Israel in the “promised land” included peace, rest, and protection from their enemies, as long as they followed His laws and statutes and rejected idolatry. We continue to pray for Israel in its warfare with international anti-Semitism, interceding also that the modern nation will turn to their Messiah. Pray for Israeli victory in its ongoing battles for survival. Intercede for the U.S., that pro-Islamic sympathies will be suppressed and that our nation will not forsake its proven friend and only ally in the Middle East. Pray, too, for Palestinian and Lebanese Christians caught in the cross-fire.

“They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, and fought against me without a cause.” (Ps 109:3)

 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matt 23:37-39)

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Rom 10:1-4)

 

 

NAPA EARTHQUAKE SHAKES LOOSE UNKNOWN GROUNDWATER

A major Northern California earthquake that caused an estimated $400 million in damage also unloosed torrents of groundwater that may help ease the region’s drought.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday that the magnitude 6.0 earthquake on Aug. 24 unexpectedly forced groundwater to the surface, filling dry creek beds and parched streams in the region.

Water officials in Vallejo and elsewhere are hopeful they can capture some of the extra water for use. California is experiencing a years-long drought.

Gov. Jerry Brown announced Tuesday that he will ask President Barack Obama to declare the Napa earthquake a federal disaster. Cheryl Hurd reports.

“This is an unusual thing to have happen,” said Franz Nestlerode, the assistant public works director for water in Vallejo. “Potentially it could turn out well for us.”

Nestlerode said officials are testing the new water to ensure it’s safe for public consumption.

Scientists met in the Bay Area Thursday morning to talk about what they have learned from last month’s 6.0 earthquake in Napa. NBC Bay Area’s Bob Redell is live at the USGS Center in Menlo Park with more.

“We’ll use it if the tests come back in a couple of weeks and everything checks out,” Nestlerode said.

He said at least 200,000 gallons of water a day are flowing down Wild Horse. The natural flows were about a tenth of that before the earthquake, Nestlerode added.

Scientists say they’ve known of this phenomenon since at least the 1860s and have since documented similar occurrences with underground water after several major earthquakes.

The U.S. Geological Survey has received reports of dramatic water increases as much as 20 times average in creeks near Napa, Sonoma and Vallejo. USGS geologist Tom Holzer said he expects other creeks throughout the region of having received similar water infusions.

Holzer said the earthquake opened new cracks and fissures and allowed groundwater to find its way to the surface.

The potential bonanza is expected to dry up in about six to eight weeks when underground water levels return to normal and may even diminish, effecting residents with wells.

“There is only so much water in there,” Holzer said. “It’s like a bank account. You’ve just reached into the bank account and borrowed some money, but the spending spree will eventually end.” (Contributor: By Associated Press and NBC)

Prayer focus: This is a remarkable and unexpected story. It is difficult to give thanks for an earthquake that caused $400 million in damage, but the fact that there were no fatalities makes it easier to thank God for the result. No one predicted this desperately needed windfall (waterfall?) of free-flowing ground water. Intercessors will not lose sight of the fact that IFA and other prayer ministries have for months been encouraging serious and prolonged intercession for God’s provision in this lengthy drought season. Central California farmers are near desperation. Let us give God our thanks while we continue to pray for rain. Pray that a quest for spiritual “water of Life” will follow.   

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

“The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?’ Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.’ The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.’” (John 4:11-15)

 

WHAT MAKES YOUNG EVANGELICALS LESS CONSERVATIVE?

A study looking at what drives some Millennial Evangelicals to hold less conservative views than their elders generated surprising results.

Young white Evangelicals whose social networks mostly included people like them were the most likely to depart from older Evangelicals on cultural issues while young Evangelicals with more diverse social networks were more likely to hold views similar to older Evangelicals. In other words, the more embedded Millennial Evangelicals are in the Evangelical subculture and the less interaction they have with non-Evangelicals, the more likely they are to demonstrate attitudes diverging from their elders.

This was the main finding of research conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, a liberal, nonpartisan research organization that focuses on the intersection of religion and public life, and presented Aug. 30 at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting. The paper, “Sowing the Seeds of Discord: Sources of Division Among White Evangelical Protestants,” was authored by Juhem Navarro-Rivera, research associate at PRRI, Daniel Cox, director of research at PRRI, Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI, and Paul Djupe, associate professor of political science at Denison University and a PRRI affiliated scholar.

To study the social networks of Evangelicals, a PRRI survey asked respondents questions about seven “people with whom you discuss important matters.”

White Millennial Evangelicals who did not know any non-Christians or non-whites among their closest associations were more likely than white Millennial Evangelicals with diverse social networks to agree that “religion causes more problems in society than it solves,” “under God” should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, and disagree that “it is important for children to be brought up in a religion so they can learn good values.” The only exception to this trend is that those with the more homogenous social networks were more likely to believe that one needs to believe in God to be moral.

The authors reasoned that Evangelicals with more exposure to the Evangelical subculture are reacting negatively to that subculture.

“Therefore, we have gathered some evidence that is suggestive about why young Evangelicals are different from their elders — they are reacting negatively to the embattled, political subculture of their parents,” they wrote.

The authors admit that the differences they found are small and unlikely to make a difference in any near future election, but suggest those differences could matter in the long term as the social networks of Evangelicals change.

The authors admit that the differences they found are small and unlikely to make a difference in any near future election, but suggest those differences could matter in the long term as the social networks of Evangelicals change. [Emphasis added by IFA.]

“But as young Evangelicals grow older, move, and begin to exercise more discretion in their social ties, then their political choices may grow to match their political orientations. Put differently, a political movement surely cannot be sustained primarily upon social pressure,” they wrote. (Contributor: By Napp Nazworth for Christian Post)

Prayer focus: Intercessors will take the article for what it is worth. Those experienced with such “research surveys” will see through the (allegedly) intellectual façade. God encourages skepticism when warranted. (“Test the spirits. . .”) The authors didn’t expect to prove much, and they succeeded. Questions were slanted to suggest that political positions will become more liberal for those raised in an Evangelical culture. In our judgment, both survey and conclusions are bogus. It is true that Millennials are not connecting with Evangelical churches, and that is a concern. As churches evaluate this dilemma, pray that they will adjust their approach but not dilute the message of the Gospel. The true Gospel has power to save and to keep for eternity.

“…. nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” (1 Tim 1:12)

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25)

On Watch in Washington September 10, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington September 3, 2014

September 3rd, 2014

On Watch in Washington September 3, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

EUROPE STANDS STRONG FOR TRADITIONAL DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE

A court decision issued last month about homosexual marriage received almost no news coverage in the United States, yet the decision could have significant implications when the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether the Constitution requires same-sex marriage.

The case, Hamalainen v. Finland, was decided by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled in an overwhelming majority opinion that no right to same-sex marriage exists under the European Convention of Human Rights.

The European Court of Human Rights is no ordinary court. It is the supreme human rights court in Europe and has jurisdiction over 47 European nations. It decides cases of the highest legal importance arising under the European Convention of Human Rights, the foundational human rights document of those 47 member states. In this sense, the European Court of Human Rights is similar to America’s Supreme Court, and the Convention of Human Rights is similar to the U.S. Constitution.

The European Court of Human Rights‘ importance means that the U.S. Supreme Court has looked to its rulings as part of its considerations when deciding issues of American constitutional law. In a resounding 14-3 vote, this important court ruled that the nations of Europe do not have to recognize same-sex marriage if they don’t want to because there is no right to same-sex marriage under Europe’s “constitution,” the European Convention of Human Rights.

In reaching this decision, the court had to determine exactly what right to marriage the convention protected. The question before it was whether the fundamental right to marry included a right to enter into a same-sex marriage, and the court answered the question with a resounding no, determining instead that the fundamental right to marriage guaranteed by the convention only encompassed one-man, one-woman unions. Individual states can choose to recognize same-sex unions if they want to do so, but the convention does not require them to.

The reason for that conclusion is noteworthy: The court explained that the nations of Europe were working out the answer to the question “What is marriage?” for themselves. Ten nations had redefined marriage in their laws while the other 37 retained the existing definition of marriage. Despite the highly publicized situations in France and the United Kingdom, the rest of Europe has seen an incredibly strong movement to constitutionally protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Only weeks ago, the Slovak Republic passed a constitutional amendment affirming the marriage as a man-woman union. This was done on the heels of a referendum in Croatia, which saw 66 percent of voters calling for a constitutional amendment to affirm marriage, a referendum to reject an attempt to redefine marriage in Slovenia, and the adoption of an article of the new Hungarian Constitution enshrining man-woman marriage and the natural family.

The court considered these facts and concluded that, because there was no European consensus on what constituted marriage, it would be inappropriate for it to impose a definition on all 47 member-nations of Europe. Better to allow the debate to continue and let the nations of Europe decide the marriage question for themselves.

In the same way, the people of the United States are engaged in a robust national debate regarding marriage. Some states have chosen to redefine marriage in their laws to include homosexual unions. Others have decided marriage should remain the union of a man and a woman. There is no “American consensus” on this issue, any more than a European one. In this context, the U.S. Supreme Court may choose to follow the European Court’s lead and decline to end the debate prematurely by imposing a “one size fits all” answer on the American people.

No one knows what the U.S. Supreme Court will decide when one of the marriage challenges reaches it. However, if the high court decides to let states decide for themselves whether to affirm marriage as the union of one man and one woman, no one can look to Europe and claim that the United States. is “on the wrong side of history.” Allowing greater freedom does not place the nation on the wrong side of history and is consistent with America’s great values and form of government. (Contributor: By Roger Kiska and Joseph La Rue for The Washington Times – Roger Kiska is senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom at its European office in Vienna, Austria. Joseph La Rue is legal counsel at the alliance’s headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz.)

Intercessors are alert to the immediate, yet maintain perspective. This article isn’t about the marriage debate per se (whether traditional or homosexual) but about court systems and when a higher court defers a decision to its subordinate states, respectively, for each to decide how it wants to govern its constituency. The authors are “previewing” a future U.S. Supreme Court case on the legality (not the morality) of so-called “same-sex marriage.” However, regardless of the Court’s decision, God has given His verdict in His Word, and no “appeal” will change that. Here is truth: any people or nation that defies God’s natural law will fade into oblivion unless it repents and returns to the Creator in humble allegiance. America’s hope is not in the Court but in the Lord! Pray with courage!

“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num 23:19)

I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.” (Ps 121:1-2)

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isa 40:8)

 

THE DEVIOUS DESIGNS OF OPERATION CHOKE POINT

President Obama wasn’t kidding about acting on his own if Congress won’t go along with his plans to “fundamentally transform” the country that elected him president. Sometimes he tries his phone, then if Congress blocks his agenda, his pen, but more and more often he’s simply acted without consulting or even informing Congress. In some cases, he’s even actively sought to keep Congress in the dark about new programs he’s started without even submitting them to Congress for approval.

This year, Congress has even learned about administration initiatives not from the White House, or the agencies implementing them, but from the press or their own constituents.

Thus it was with Operation Choke Point, an interdepartmental program designed to cripple or eliminate completely legal businesses just because the administration doesn’t like them. The idea for the program apparently came from a zealous and perhaps overly ambitious prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, who suggested to his superiors that the government could persuade banks to call loans, refuse to make loans or otherwise do business with certain industries, forcing many enterprises to close.

The resulting operation involves the Department of Justice, the FBI, the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and, most importantly, the bank regulators at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The folks at the FDIC audit banks large and small and can send bankers searching for their Maalox simply by raising an eyebrow.

Complicated in its details, the plan is conceptually fairly simple. Internet and credit card purchases require the assistance of banks and third-party processors to clear payments and to stay in business. Large and small businesses also need and operate on lines of credit from lenders with whom they may have been doing business for years or even decades.

The government decided to inform banks and processors that some business sectors were higher risk than others. Businesses operating within these sectors might be more prone to defrauding their customers or breaking other laws, and a bank providing such “high-risk” businesses services could be viewed by bank regulators and federal law enforcement officials as accomplices in whatever laws the high-risk enterprise might break. A financial institution providing services to such a business might have to be more carefully and extensively audited than other banks to make sure it is diligently checking on its high-risk customers to make sure nothing is amiss.

In meetings with bank officials, the feds made it clear that the bankers have every right to provide services to such businesses, but warned them that doing so might put them at risk, too, and could almost certainly trigger more extensive audits than would be required of banks that don’t service such customers. Bankers depend for their very survival on those who regulate them and know a threat when they hear one. Many decided it would be wiser to quietly get rid of customers in such high-risk businesses.

As a result, customers of long-standing around the country had their lines of credit called and their accounts closed. The affected businesses were never officially told why, because the government made it clear to the banks that they would face criminal charges if they talked. Even as the feds were briefing bankers on the program and their need to protect themselves by choking off high-risk businesses, the Justice Department was refusing to brief Congress on what was going on.

Although the administration claims it is mainly after the so-called “payday” lending industry, at one point officials provided a much more extensive list of objectionable “high-risk” business types to bankers. The list included gun dealers and manufacturers as well as firearms retailers, retailers advertising consumer products on television, gambling, products whose producers offer “lifetime” guarantees, home-based charities, those who distribute or sell tobacco products and third-party payment processors, among others.

Before the existence of the program became public, a number of firearms dealers and distributors complained that their banks had cut them off as part of some government effort to put them out of business. The first wave of complaints was dismissed as the sort of thing one might hear from a conspiracy buff or a paranoid. Congressional aides assumed the complaining firms had other, probably legitimate problems, which cost them their credit and banking relationships. Similar complaints from businesses in other industries were dismissed for the same reasons.

It is now clear, however, that these businesses have been targeted for extinction and that men and women who have broken no laws are suffering positive harm for the simple reason that the Obama administration wishes they’d take up a different line of work. Congress is investigating, the administration is stonewalling, and Americans are suffering at the hands of bureaucrats after them because they just don’t like them.

That, in today’s America, is what passes for the rule of law. (Contributor: By David Keene for The Washington Times – David A. Keene is opinion editor of The Washington Times.)

Pray today for President Obama and his advisors. It is no secret that Mr. Obama believes he is free to govern apart from the Constitution and that he has felt no need to confer with Congress in recent decisions. Some in his own party seeking re-election avoid close identification with his appearances in their respective states. Those once most loyal to him, as well as the country’s most liberal media sources, are questioning his isolation from accountability. He seems unable to take decisive action. Despite personal views, he is our nation’s president and we are called to pray for him. He is in God’s hands. Ask God to raise up a modern Daniel through whom the president might hear a word from the living God. “There is a God in heaven who reveals secrets…”

“Daniel answered and said: ‘Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His….He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and  knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things’…Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, ‘The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.’” (Dan 2:20-22, 27-28)

 

THE ‘BLESS YOU BAN’

A Tennessee high school senior was suspended for saying “bless you” after another student sneezed in class. Kendra Turner, 18, said her teacher told her that “bless you” was on her list of banned language, because “we’re not going to have godly speaking in her class.” When Turner protested that she has the right to freedom of speech, the teacher told her, “not in my class, you don’t.” The principal then suspended Turner. (Contributor: By The Week Staff for The Week)

This situation borders on the ridiculous, and social media sites have seen an avalanche of responses by sensible people of all political persuasions refusing at first to believe it was not a hoax. But it was not. Let us pray in unity for an overwhelming legal, non-violent uprising of fellow students, parents, other educators, and especially local and national religious leaders who will insist that these assaults on free speech be discontinued. Pray that this polite young woman be reinstated in school and rewarded for the emotional abuse she has suffered needlessly.

“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Col 4:6)

 

AMERICANS DETAINED IN NORTH KOREA SPEAK TO CNN, ASK FOR U.S. HELP

Three Americans detained in North Korea spoke out about their conditions and pleaded for U.S. help in interviews with CNN.

Kenneth Bae, Matthew Todd Miller and Jeffrey Edward Fowle were presented to CNN’s Will Ripley at a Pyongyang hotel Monday. Each was given five minutes for an interview.

All three men said they hope the U.S. government will send an envoy to North Korea to help get them out of their situations, similar to how former President Bill Clinton helped secure the release of two journalists in 2009.

Bae, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for “hostile acts to bring down its government,” said he is working eight hours a day, six days a week at a labor camp.

North Korea claimed Bae was part of a Christian plot to overthrow the regime.

“Right now what I can say to my friends and family is, continue to pray for me,” he said.

Despite what he called “hard labor,” Bae said he has been treated “as humanely as possible.”

Miller, who is accused of tearing up his tourist visa and seeking asylum upon entry, implored the U.S. government for help during his interview.

He said he wanted to tell the United States that “my situation is very urgent, that very soon I am going to trial, and I would directly be sent to prison.”

He said he will not learn of his charges until he goes to trial.

Fowle, an American tourist accused of leaving a Bible in a hotel where he was staying, said he has “no complaints” about his treatment.

“It’s been very good so far, and I hope and pray that it continues, while I’m here two more days or two more decades,” he said.

All three men said they have signed statements admitting their guilt. North Korean officials monitored and recorded all three interviews, and CNN was unable to assess independently the conditions under which the men were being held.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Monday that securing the Americans’ release “is a top priority and we have followed these cases closely in the White House. We continue to do all we can to secure their earliest possible release.”

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, “There is no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad.

“Out of humanitarian concern for Jeffrey Fowle, Matthew Miller, and their families, we request the DPRK release them so they may return home,” Psaki said, using the initials for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “We also request the DPRK pardon Kenneth Bae and grant him special amnesty and immediate release so he may reunite with his family and seek medical care. We continue to work actively to secure these three U.S. citizens’ release.”

The Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang acts as the “protecting power for issues involving U.S. citizens in North Korea,” and the United States is in “regular, close coordination” with the embassy, she said. Swedish representatives visited Fowle on June 20, Miller on May 9 and June 21, and Bae 12 times since his detention, most recently on August 11 in a labor camp, Psaki said.

Surprise meetings

The circumstances leading up to the CNN interviews were bizarre.

A CNN team was on a government tour about two hours outside Pyongyang when it learned it had to leave immediately to meet with a high-level government official in the capital.

The crew boarded a van to a secret location, where it found out the meeting was with the three Americans.

Bae’s family has been pushing for his release due to his worsening health. The 46-year-old suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure and has kidney stones.

“I’ve been going back and forth between hospital and to the labor camp for the last year and a half,” Bae told Ripley on Monday.

He said his health has “been failing” over the past 1½ months.

“My hands are numb and tingling, and it’s difficult sleeping at night, and I was working in the field every day,” Bae said.

U.S. officials have repeatedly called on North Korea to release Bae but to no avail.

Even former basketball star Dennis Rodman, who has visited North Korea and called its ruler Kim Jong Un a “friend for life,” asked Kim to “do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose.”

Terri Chung, Bae’s sister, told CNN on Monday the video was “really difficult to watch” because her brother is generally “full of life and very cheerful. … It is clear from the video that he is under a lot of stress. And he talks about his health failing and being in complete isolation for almost two years. And it is devastating for our family to see that on TV.”

But she told “New Day” that “I think he’s doing the best he can. … Two years of being isolated and working in a labor camp, I know it is not easy. So I think you can see it is taking a toll both physically and mentally.”

The U.S. government has been working “behind the scenes to try to procure his release, and we are once again reiterating our thanks, but also too pleading with our government to continue their efforts to secure his release immediately,” she added, describing her brother as a “hardworking father of three.”

Chung later released a statement asking the North Korean authorities to have mercy.

“It is in your power to release my brother. You could do it today. Please do so. He has confessed to the crimes for which he has been charged, and he has served a longer detainment than any other American since the war,” Chung said.

Miller: ‘I deliberately committed my crime’

Dressed in a black turtleneck and often staring at the ground in his interview, Miller said he has admitted his guilt — even though he won’t learn of his charges until he goes to trial.

“But I will say that I prepared to violate the law of the DPRK before coming here,” Miller said.

“And I deliberately committed my crime. I have already admitted my guilt and apologized to the government of the DPRK and I have been asking for forgiveness.”

When asked why he reportedly sought asylum in North Korea, Miller said he already discussed his motive during his investigation and that “for the interview, it is not necessary.”

He expressed frustration that “there’s been no movement from my government.”

“The American government is known for having a strong policy of protecting its citizens, yet for my case there is still no movement,” he said.

Fowle describes ‘desperate situation’

North Korea announced Fowle’s detention in June, saying he had violated the law by acting “contrary to the purpose of tourism.”

“The charges are violations of DPRK law, which stems from me trying to leave a Bible,” the 56-year-old told Ripley.

“It’s a covert act and a violation of tourists rules. I’ve admitted my guilt to the government and signed a statement to that effect and requested forgiveness from the people and the government of the DPRK.”

Fowle said he expects his trial to start within a month.

“You guys should convey my desperate situation,” he said.

“I’ve got a wife and three elementary school-aged kids that depend on me for support.” (Contributors: By Will Ripley and Holly Yan for CNN)

Give thanks to God for providentially arranging the interview between the CNN team and three American prisoners, giving their plight a greater window of publicity here in the U.S. Pray for grace upon the three, that God’s mercy and kindness will bring them through. We know that North Korea ranks very high on the list of the most repressive regimes in the world. In their desperation, may the prisoners themselves cry out to God, and may the Holy Spirit comfort them and reveal Jesus as Savior and Light of the world. God still does miracles. Pray for their release and restoration to home and their respective families.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us. even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:4-6)  

 

ISIS LAPTOP REVEALS PROJECT TO BUILD BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS

US intelligence officials discovered that one of the world’s nightmare scenarios may have some base in reality as, according to a report in Foreign Policy last Friday, a laptop was recently discovered in war-torn Syria, detailing the attempts and ambitions of the Islamic State (ISIS) to build and use weapons of mass destruction.

According to the report, the computer was discovered in the city of Idlib in north-western Syria, near the Turkish border after fierce battles in which other resistance groups captured the area, and with it an ISIS post.

Foreign policy said that the computer belonged to a Tunisian national who studied chemistry at two separate universities in his home country before leaving to join ISIS in Syria.

The Syrian rebels who captured Idlib didn’t know what was on the computer or what importance it may have and therefore passed it on to Foreign Policy reporters who initially thought that the laptop was empty.

Only after further investigation did they discover tens of thousands of folders and documents in French, English and Arabic. The computer’s contents were originally unsurprising for a terrorist organization like ISIS. Reporters found old videos of Osama Bin Laden, a guidebook for building a bomb and stealing a vehicle, and how jihadists should use disguises and fake identities to travel from country to country without being caught.

Finally, after hours of filing through the computer’s documents, Foreign Policy reporters found documents proving that the Tunisian had taught himself how to construct biological weapons for attacks that would astound the world.

Perhaps the most alarming of the documents however, detailed ISIS sanctioned work to weaponize the bubonic plague and other viruses that would have an even greater affect than that of a localized chemical attack.

“The benefits of a biological weapon are that it doesn’t come up often, and the losses are massive,” said the instructions on the laptop. “When a mouse is injected by the bacteria, the symptoms of the disease begin to show after 24 hours. It’s best to use in places like underground trains or soccer fields and it can be used in a suicide attack as well.”

Alongside the instructions was also a message of religious approval for the use of such weapons – part of a Fatwa which says that, “If the Muslims can’t overwhelm the infidels in any other way, they are allowed to use weapons of mass destruction to kill everyone and erase them and their descendants from the earth.”

While the idea of ISIS establishing such devastating weapons can easily conjure fear, this isn’t the first time that terrorist organizations have brought the issue of biological weapons to the forefront of the war on extremism.

Even before the September 11 attacks in the US, al-Qaeda was involved in attempts to use chemical weapons in Afghanistan. In a CNN report from 2002, members of the extremist group could be seen using toxic gas on dogs. The US invested substantial efforts to prevent al-Qaeda from getting biological weapons, but the information on the laptop from Syria proves that terrorist organizations are still working to develop such weapons, which can kill thousands of people in one breath.

The fear is that the longer ISIS continues to exist, the more specialists may join its ranks and use labs in the areas already capture by ISIS to work toward chemical weapons capabilities. Such labs exist in Mosul in Iraq and Ar Raqqah in Syria, both in the hands of ISIS militants. (Contributor: YNet News)

Intercessors know that prayer is not a “magic wand” we may wave to make all bad things go away. These news reports are real and have complex implications we cannot cover except to encourage all intercessors to seek the Lord for our nation’s welfare. Pray first for America’s return to the Lord. Pray for an awakening, a resurgence of faith in the larger Church whereby Christians can collectively cry out to God for mercy and deliverance. Pray for revival that will bring many to the Lord for salvation. Our Lord asked rhetorically, if, when He returns, will He find faith on the earth? Let us demonstrate that in our own generation, the Church may honestly answer, “Yes!” Read the entire parable cited below and make personal application. The Lord will avenge His faithful servants in their prayers.

“Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?’” (Luke 8:6-8)

 

TERRORISTS’ HANDBOOK

President Obama may not have a strategy for defeating the Islamic State, but the Islamic State has a strategy for the U.S. In fact, that strategy is set out, in part, in an al-Qaeda manual recently translated for the benefit of the U.S. military.

A guerrilla war proceeds in phases, according to Abd al-Aziz al-Muqrin’s A Practical Course for Guerrilla War, a strategic and tactical guide to mujahideen intent on establishing “a pure Islamic system free from defects and infidel elements.” It was written after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The first phase is “attrition (strategic defense),” the time for carrying out attacks, “spectacular operations, which will create a positive impact.” The terrorists use the attacks as a recruitment tool and a morale boost for potential jihadis.

Phase two is the time of “relative strategic balance,” when the jihadis build an army to hold territory that has been wrested from the incumbent regime. “There the mujahidin will set up base camps, hospitals, sharia courts, and broadcasting stations, as well as a jumping-off point for military and political actions,” al-Muqrin writes.

The third phase, a time of internal discord and political upheaval for the “collaborationist” regime, is “decisive.” The terrorists use their conventional army to launch dramatic assaults.

“By means of these mujahadin conventional forces, the mujahidin will begin to attack smaller cities and exploit in the media their successes and victories in order to raise the morale of the mujahidin and the people in general and to demoralize the enemy,” al-Muqrin writes in a passage that brings to mind the Islamic State’s rampage across northern Iraq. “The reason for the mujahidin’s treating of smaller cities is that when the enemy’s forces see the fall of cities into the mujahidin’s hands with such ease their morale will collapse and they will become convinced that they are incapable of dealing with the mujahidin.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters that the Islamic State “is beyond anything that we’ve seen.” That’s true insofar as al-Qaeda did not build a conventional army or declare itself a state. He shouldn’t be so surprised, though. The U.S. national-security apparatus has been following this jihadist ambition for years.

The manual, translated in 2008 by a research fellow at the Marine Corps University, shows how the Islamic State’s efforts to build an army and establish a caliphate reflect a longstanding goal. An Islamic caliphate has been al-Qaeda’s dream from the beginning. Using principles and tactics similar to al-Qaeda’s, the Islamic State has come closer to realizing that dream.

Al-Muqrin’s primary concern was to explain how al-Qaeda could wage war against the Saudi Arabian regime, but the text was intended as an education tool for jihadis in other areas as well. Discussing the book during an interview with National Review Online, Mary Habeck of the American Enterprise Institute noted a Reuters report (of July 8) on a notebook found at a former al-Qaeda “leadership camp” in Yemen. It’s almost certain that the al-Qaeda student who took those notes was being taught al-Muqrin’s ideas.

“This notebook has word for word” a paragraph from al-Muqrin’s book, “slightly differently translated by the two Arabic interpreters,” Habeck pointed out. Many of these terrorists, she explains, “have their intellectual and military roots in al-Qaeda, and this is what al-Qaeda is attempting to do.” The translator, Norman Cigar, wrote that al-​Muqrin’s ideas were disseminated to Iraqi insurgents as early as 2005.

The Islamic State “has a long history and an origin dating back to AQI, al-Qaeda in Iraq,” White House deputy national-security adviser Ben Rhodes reminded reporters. Obviously, Islamic State terrorists are not constantly referring to al-Muqrin’s book for their next move. Regardless, the manual itself warns, “One must be careful that these characteristics not become a rigid template or a ‘school solution,’ but rather, that they remain adaptable to circumstances in the region.”

The book does provide “a blueprint for other regional insurgencies, or at least a package of ideas to consider and to stimulate the thinking of would-be insurgents elsewhere,” Cigar explains. It provides a window into how such terrorists think about themselves, their enemies, their definition of victory, and how they hope to achieve it.

Al-Muqrin repeatedly advises terrorists to carry out attacks that “clarify the nature of the struggle being waged between the mujahidin and the main enemy — the Jews, the Christians, and their agents.” Attacks are designed to send messages to various audiences, one of the chief goals being to “make clear the religious nature of the struggle,” he writes. The terrorists also plan to wage war on “the apostates,” Muslims who do not subscribe to their understanding of Islam.

The terrorists’ most immediate goal is the overthrow of Middle Eastern regimes that do not reflect their religious beliefs. They view it as a religious duty to oppose elected governments such as the one in Iraq, because “parliaments and election committees are all rulers to whom God did not grant power and it is not permissible to join them,” as al-Muqrin remarks, commenting on another radical group’s tactics.

Al-Muqrin’s teaching ranges from the general to the very particular, such as advice on how to carry out assassinations and hostage-taking operations. In one chilling passage, he ranks human targets in order of importance (Jews first, Christians second, and, within each category, a ranking based on their respective countries of origin). Among his eight objectives for attacking human targets are, first, “making clear what the ideological struggle is about”; humiliating the targeted regime (on September 11, 2001, “America’s nose was ground in the dirt,” he writes); boosting the other jihadis’ morale; “obstruct[ing] the infidels’ and apostates’ political plans”; and “retaliation for their killing of Muslims.”

The beheading of James Foley – who, as an American Christian, was a top-tier human target by al-Muqrin’s standards – fulfills nearly all these objectives.

“As a government, you have been at the forefront of aggression towards the Islamic State,” Foley’s executioner said in the beheading video, per a transcript taken by the SITE Intelligence Group. “Today, your military air force is attacking us daily in Iraq. Your strikes have caused casualties amongst Muslims. You’re no longer fighting an insurgency, we are an Islamic army and a State that has been accepted by a large number of Muslims worldwide, so effectively, any aggression towards the Islamic State is an aggression towards Muslims from all walks of life who have accepted the Islamic Caliphate as their leadership.”

This is, in terms of the manual, an effort to “mak[e] clear the religious nature of the struggle” and “make clear who the main enemy is.” Note that the killer of Foley argued that the support of individual Muslims from other countries is evidence that the Islamic State is the true Islamic caliphate. He has been speculated to be a British national, who, as the Islamic State’s messenger, would be valuable as living proof that the group’s legitimacy was more than regional.

The Islamic State might also hope that the sight of him would motivate its sympathizers in other countries. That possibility points to an explanation for why President Obama declared that the group “speaks for no religion” and that “no just God stands for what they do.” He’s not merely deferring to multiculturalist conventions but trying to rebut Islamic State propaganda.

Al-Muqrin makes clear that establishing his preferred version of Islam in traditionally Muslim lands is not enough. “If the mujahidin’​s situation stabilizes, they will then pursue the jihad and the liberation [of] all the Islamic countries from oppression and occupation by the Jews and Christians, and will then undertake to revive the neglected religious duty, that of preemptive jihad,” al-Muqrin writes.

And the manual is a guide not just to the doctrine and tactics of the Islamic State — but to why its defeat is so important. (Contributor:  By Joel Gehrke for National Review — Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review Online.

The plans of Islamist terrorists are well developed (and apparently have been publicized for some time). We might ask, what is God’s direction for American Christian intercessors in this present age? Does the New Testament (NT) comment on the believer’s responsibilities in view of ominous threats of being killed? NT direction is sparse but clear. First, we are not to fear. Then, we are to submit to civil government unless directed to disobey God. Third, are to maintain unity. Fourth, the Church is to evangelize until all have heard the Good News. Finally, we are to pray for our government leaders, whether or not they lead us wisely or in the ways of God. Let us consider all this and pray as led.    

 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” (Matt 10:16-20)

 

UKRAINE CRISIS: ‘RUSSIA HAS LAUNCHED A GREAT WAR’

Ukraine’s defense minister has accused Russia of launching a “great war” that could claim tens of thousands of lives.

Russia dismissed the comments, saying they only pulled the Ukrainian people further into a bloody civil conflict.

The comments came after Ukrainian troops were forced to flee Luhansk airport in the east of the country amid an offensive by pro-Russian rebels.

Meanwhile, crisis talks between Ukraine officials, rebels and Russian envoys have broken up without agreement.

“A great war has arrived at our doorstep – the likes of which Europe has not seen since World War Two,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Valeriy Heletey wrote on Facebook on Monday.

“Unfortunately, the losses in such a war will be measured not in the hundreds but thousands and tens of thousands,” he added.

Russia has repeatedly denied Ukrainian and Western accusations that it is providing troops and equipment to the rebels.

Russia’s foreign ministry said it was “hard to believe that such statements can be made by the defence minister of a civilized state”.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday that there could be “no military solution” to the crisis in Ukraine.

The situation was “very chaotic and dangerous” and required “a political dialogue for a political solution” that was sustainable, he told journalists during a visit to New Zealand.

‘Overt aggression’

On Monday, Ukraine’s army said it had been forced to withdraw from Luhansk airport after it was attacked by Russian tanks.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the incident was “direct, overt aggression against Ukraine from the neighbouring state”.

The retreat came amid a series of gains by pro-Russian rebels in both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and further south around the port of Mariupol.

As many as 680 soldiers had been captured by rebels in recent clashes around Donetsk, according to state news agency UNIAN.

A senior Ukrainian official told the AFP news agency that Russia’s goal is to “destabilize [Ukraine] and create a land corridor to Crimea”, the southern peninsula annexed by Russia in March.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin said Europe was ignoring the Ukrainian military’s “direct targeting” of civilians in eastern Ukraine.

Rebels seeking special status

The latest round of crisis talks got underway in Belarus on Monday but after several hours of negotiations, they were adjourned until Friday.

“This is just the beginning of the process,” Andrei Purgin, a leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic rebel group, told Russian TV.

Rebel representatives are said to have softened their demand for full independence, telling Russian media they were seeking a “special status” for their regions within Ukraine.

This would leave them in charge of security and give them amnesty from prosecution, while also recognising “deepening economic integration with Russia”, the rebels said.

Correspondents say their demands would mean the de facto division of the country, with the government in Kiev looking to secure closer economic ties with the EU.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, meanwhile, said he was counting on the talks to focus on “agreeing an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.” (Contributor: CNN)

The purpose of these alerts is to encourage unified intercessory prayer, meaning that we stand in the gap and plead to Almighty God for our country’s welfare: for its homes, its churches, and its government; in two words, for its spiritual restoration. Our Lord taught His disciples to pray, “Let Your kingdom come, let Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We are very far from that ideal. America is not governing itself very well right now. How can we tell other world leaders how they should behave? Pray that the Church will awaken to its primary mission to preach the Gospel and even disciple entire nations. We are far from that. Let us, as Christian intercessors, lead the way in humbling ourselves and seeking a new great awakening, a large-scale turning to the Lord.

“For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations.” (Ps 22:28)

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Ps 46:10)

 

IS THERE A MICROCHIP IMPLANT IN YOUR FUTURE?

You can inject one under your skin and no one will ever notice. Using short-range radio frequency identification (RFID) signals, it can transmit your identity as you pass through a security checkpoint or walk into a football stadium. It can help you buy groceries at Wal-Mart. In a worst-case scenario – if you are kidnapped in a foreign country, for example – it could save your life.

Microchip implants like the ones pet owners use to track their dogs and cats could become commonplace in humans in the next decade. Experts are divided on whether they’re appropriate for people, but the implants could offer several advantages. For soldiers and journalists in war zones, an implant could be the difference between life and death. A tracker could also help law enforcement quickly locate a kidnapped child.

“In the long run, chip implants could make it less intrusive than some emerging ID systems which rely on physical biometrics (like your fingerprints or unique eye pattern),” says Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of the book “Distraction Addiction” and visiting scholar at Stanford’s University’s Peace Innovation Lab.

“This should be a matter of individual choice, but fighting crime should be much easier using chips,” adds sci-fi author Larry Niven, who predicted chip implants in the ’70s. Niven said he supports chip implantation for security reasons, provided it is an opt-in measure.

Ramez Naam, who led the early development of Microsoft software projects and is now a popular speaker and author, said he envisions using chip implantation to help monitor the location of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

They could be used to track the activities of felons who have been released from prison.

Chips are being used today to manage farm animals. Farmers can track sheep, pigs and horses as they move through a gate, weigh them instantly and make sure they are eating properly.

“Those same chips have found their way into RFID devices to activate the gas pump from a key ring and for anti-theft devices in cars,” said Stu Lipoff, an electrical engineer and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers spokesman.

“There have been people who volunteered to use them for opening the door of an apartment as a personalized ID using your arm. It could be used to track criminals targeted for patrol who might wander into a restricted area.”

Possible uses in the future

Implants are normally useful only at short ranges – as you walk through a portal or close to a transponder. So using chip implants to track people would require an infrastructure of transponders scattered around a city that read their identity in public buildings and street corners, Lipoff said.

But consider the possibilities:  People could unlock their homes or cars, gain access to a building, pass through an airport and even unlock their laptops without using a phone or watch. A pin code could be used to activate the chip – or to deactivate it to maintain privacy.

They are easy to install and remove, and, because they are implanted under the skin, they are unobtrusive. The chips, which could be the size of a thumbnail, could be injected into an arm or a hand.

If children were chipped, teachers could take attendance in the classroom. Lipoff said that GPS would not work because skin would block the signal, although new Near Field Communication chips like those in current smartphones could work because of their low-power requirement. However, no-one has yet tried to implant NFC chips.

Police could track cars and read data without needing to scan license plates. At a hospital, administrators could locate a doctor without having to rely on a pager. And if you walked into a donut shop, the owner could read your taste preferences (glazed or not glazed) without needing a loyalty card.

But is it ethical?

Like any tech advancement, there are downsides. Concerns about the wrong people accessing personal information and tracking you via the chips have swirled since the FDA approved the first implantable microchip in 2004.

Naam and Pang both cited potential abuses, from hacking into the infrastructure and stealing your identity to invading your privacy and knowing your driving habits. There are questions about how long a felon would have to use a tracking implant. And, an implant, which has to be small and not use battery power — might not be as secure as a heavily encrypted smartphone.

Troy Dunn, who attempts to locate missing persons on his TNT show “APB with Troy Dunn,” said a chip implant would make his job easier, but he is strongly against the practice for most people. “I only support GPS chip monitoring for convicted felons while in prison and on parole; for sex offenders forever; and for children if parents opt in,” he says. “I am adamantly against the chipping of anyone else.”

Using chip implants to locate abducted children could actually have the opposite effect. Pang says a microchip would make a missing person easier to rescue, but “Kidnappers want ransoms, not dead bodies. The most dangerous time for victims is during rescue attempts or when the kidnappers think the police are closing in.”

And beyond the obvious privacy issues, there’s something strange about injecting a chip in your body, Lipoff says. Yet pacemakers and other embedded devices are commonly used today. “People might find it a bit unsavory, but if it is not used to track you, and apart from the privacy issues, there are many interesting applications,” he says.

At least it’s better than having a barcode stitched onto our foreheads. (Contributor: By John Brandon for Fox News)

What was once only science fiction and the wild fantasy of some far-flung future “brave new world” is now right in front of us in the early 21st Century. Microchip implantation is here and it is real. The question remains, and will remain for many, how does this form of tracking and location ability stack up to a Christian worldview and theology? Give thanks that believers do not need such devices for their spiritual identification, for “the Lord knows them that are His. . .” Pray for wisdom and protection from those who would use such technology for bondage and control.

 “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.” (Ps 95:6-7)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting. . .” (James 1:5-6) 

 

CITIZENS HUDDLE UP FOR PRAYING FOOTBALL TEAM IN GA

According to atheists at the American Humanist Association, the only bowing down on a knee at Chestatee High School’s gridiron should be a quarterback downing the ball, as any semblance of prayer will result in a lawsuit.

The message AHA is sending the Hall Country School Board is loud and clear: cleanse the school of religion or prepare to be sued. This warning was submitted to school board members in the form of a seven-page letter on behalf of a single citizen who chose to remain anonymous, demanding that the football team’s coaches no longer join in team prayers and that they take out all references to the Bible and religious messages from team documents.

Attorneys with the Washington, DC-based atheist group – whose website displays the motto “Good without a God” – were quick to disclose “evidence” they had piled up on the high school. AHA acquired it from their undercover photographer who covertly snapped shots of the team at games and practices to catch them in the act (of praying).

“We have received reports that CHS coaches have joined players in prayer while standing in a circle, hands interlocked,” AHA informed the Hall County School District. AHA’s contention is that Chestatee coaches are taking advantage of their positions of authority with the school to promote Christianity. The atheists also argue that they believe such religious endorsement is a recurring issue.

AHA attorneys submitted a letter to the school district claiming that Chestatee High School, located not far from Gainesville in northeastern Georgia, was carrying out their tradition of team prayer in violation to the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Included in the complaint is the school’s alleged unconstitutional acts of allowing the Bible verse reference “Iron Sharpens Iron, Proverbs 27:17″ on the team’s workout schedule and “Fortitude 2014, Ga. 6:9″ on a cheerleader sign.

A politician and school board member to the rescue?

To AHA’s accusations, U.S. Congressman Doug Collins, who represents Georgia’s Ninth Congressional District, says guilty as charged.

“The liberal atheist interest groups trying to bully Chestatee High School kids say they have a reason to believe that expressions of religious freedom are ‘not an isolated event’ in Northeast Georgia,” Collins declared in a statement. “They’re right. In Hall County and throughout Georgia’s 9th district, we understand and respect the Constitution and cherish our right to worship in our own way.”

Collins is amazed that while American soldiers are fighting overseas to give Iraqi Christians the freedom to worship and exercise their religion as they choose, the United States has a group of attorneys fighting to take away those very rights from American youngsters here at home.

“It’s utterly disgusting that while innocent lives are being lost in Iraq and other places at the hands of radical religious terrorists, a bunch of Washington lawyers are finding the time to pick on kids in Northeast Georgia,” asserted Collins, who found it hard to grasp that Christian high school football coaches who pray are funneled into the category of religious extremists by the atheist organization.

Encouraged by the public official’s bold stance on the issue, Hall Country School District Superintendent Will Schofield doesn’t appear to be too intimidated by AHA’s threat of a lawsuit, but will look into the allegations.

“We need to be very careful, very deliberate and do this in a very defendable manner,” Collins told WDUN Radio. “There was an awful lot in that letter that I don’t think has any legal basis. There are some things we do need to look at so we are sure we are doing things the right way.”

He notes that the organization’s tactics of intimidation and misinformation communicated through its seven-page letter will not be treated in the same manner as similar complaints have been handled by other school districts.

“Unfortunately when school systems get letters like this and people start rattling sabers, usually the first reaction by a lot of school districts is, ‘Oh my goodness, we don’t want to be in the news … We don’t want to be sued, so we better stop doing whatever we are doing,'” Collins explained. “I don’t think that will be the first reaction of the Hall County School Board.”

More cheers for prayer

The coaches’ participation in prayer and allowing of Bible references was not only supported by players, public officials and the school board, but by parents and local spectators alike, as more than 200 protesters showed up for a spur-of-the-moment prayer rally one morning on the football field of Chestatee High School. According to local word, not a single person associated with the football team is opposed to the voluntary prayers at practices and games.

One football mom broadcasted her voice on the issue loud and clear over the airwaves.

“I am a mom of two of the football players on the CHS football team and I consider it an honor and a privilege to have my boys on a team that is led by men that believe and trust in God,” said one caller on a local radio program. “I think it’s a shame for one person to try and take that away from them.”

B.J. Williams of WDUN Radio in Gainesville had this to say about the overwhelming support of the football team’s prayer and Bible references: “As we say in the Deep South, local residents are preparing to back up and bring it.”

Another supporter chimed in his thoughts on the matter. “If the atheist group doesn’t like the prayer, tell them to stick their fingers in their ears,” the caller expressed.

Forward ho, Christian players

According to one legal expert, AHA will face an uphill battle in its attempt to eradicate Christianity from Chestatee football.

“Don’t these people have more important issues to pursue than going on a witch hunt for anything that is remotely religious?” questioned Hiram Sasser of Liberty Institute, a non-profit Plano, Texas-based law firm. “Teachers and coaches who are not on contract time and in their individual roles as citizens may in fact pray with students after school.”

Republican Congressman Collins left the Chestatee student body with some words of encouragement: “I want the football players and all the students at CHS to know that I support you, I’m here for you, and yes, I’m praying for you,” he assured. (Contributor: By Michael F. Haverluck for One News Now)

Give thanks for the courageous students, their parents, the coaches, and administrators of this Christian high school in Georgia. Also, as we hear of so much to criticize in politics, give thanks for Congressman Doug Collins who is openly supporting the school, its team, and their freedom to pray how and when and where they choose. Pray that more and more local, state, and national church leaders, regardless of denomination, will come out strongly for their fellow citizens’ religious freedom. Without apology, IFA feels to turn our prayer focus more and more to encourage pastors and local churches to speak out and identify themselves fully for Jesus Christ and His kingdom.

“Then He (Jesus) spoke a parable to them, that [God’s people] always ought to pray and not lose heart…” (Luke 8:1)

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

On Watch in Washington September 3, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington August 27, 2014

August 27th, 2014

On watch in Washington August 27, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

WHITE HOUSE FOLEY LEAK ENDANGERS FUTURE OPERATIONS, AMERICAN HOSTAGES

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)

 

SUPREME COURT HALTS LEGALIZATION OF GAY MARRIAGE IN VIRGINIA

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)

 

SCHABAS –  ANTI-ISRAEL AND NEW HEAD OF UN GAZA COMMISSION

It’s an outrage: The United Nations appointed Canadian Professor William Schabas as the head of its new commission to investigate Israel’s operations in Gaza.

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)

 

ISRAEL SAYS MISSILE STRIKE KILLED HAMAS OFFICIAL HANDLING ‘TERROR FUNDS’

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)

 

LOSSES FROM CALIFORNIA QUAKE COULD TOP $1 BILLION

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) 

 

PETITION CALLS FOR ISLAMIC STATE DESTRUCTION

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)

 

MORE THAN HALF OF CHRISTIAN MEN ADMIT TO WATCHING PORNOGRAPHY

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)

 

MISSIONARIES: ‘REFUGEES IN IRAQ TURNING TO CHRIST AMID ISLAMIC ATTACKS’

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 Said

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.”

“Destitute Masses”

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

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.

Searching Supplies

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)

 

WIDESPREAD METHANE LEAKAGE OFF EAST COAST OCEAN FLOOR

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)

On watch in Washington August 27, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington August 20, 2014

August 20th, 2014

On Watch in Washington August 20, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

U.S.  SCORES MILITARY VICTORY OVER ISLAMIC STATE AT MOSUL DAM

The United States conducted a major air assault against the Islamic State at Mosul Dam over the weekend, striking two dozen targets over twenty-four hours with fighter jets, bombers, attack planes and drones.

The attack reportedly succeeded in forcing a retreat by the Islamist forces, which have swept throughout cities and key infrastructure sites in recent weeks.

The US strikes were coordinated with an advance by Kurdish peshmerga forces, which encircled Islamic State fighters at the strategically vital energy facility.  The Islamic State retreated on Sunday morning from the dam and it is now under the control of the Kurds.

The fundamentalist Sunni army originally conquered the dam — which provides water and electricity to many cities in northern Iraq, including Mosul, the country’s second largest population center — on August 7. US military officials warned throughout the Iraq War that the dam’s infrastructure is in a troubling state of disrepair, and Washington feared this month that the Islamic State would not be able to operate the dam properly.

Failure to keep the dam operational risked a catastrophic water leak, risking the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis down river.

The Islamic State retreat marks the second American success this week, after the US military successfully broke a siege the group was conducting against Yazidi religious minorities on Mount Sinjar.

The US conducted seven airstrikes against targets at the base of the mountain, creating corridors for escape, officials describe.

But in a demonstration of their persistence, the Islamist group killed at least 80 Yazidi men and enslaved “hundreds” of women in a small, nearby Yazidi town, according to local officials.

The Islamic State seeks to establish a fundamentalist Sunni “caliphate,” in observance with strict Sharia law, from Tel Aviv to Baghdad. The group has successfully taken control of territories throughout eastern Syria and northern Iraq, including Mosul, and Raqqa in Syria, the group’s self-described “capital” city.

The Kurds, who live in a semi-autonomous region in the north of Iraq and have proven loyal, moderate allies of Washington, have long dreamed of independence from central governments in Baghdad which oppressed the non-Arab ethnic group for decades under former dictator Saddam Hussein.

Tensions were also high under outgoing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki who clashed with them over budgets and oil.

The Kurds since June have capitalized on the chaos in northern Iraq, taking over oilfields in the disputed city of Kirkuk.

But a routing by the Islamic State, which seized heavy weapons from thousands of Iraqi soldiers who fled its onslaught, shattered the myth that the Kurds were highly effective and fearless fighters. Most of them fled.

Iraq’s new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, faces the task of easing Sunni-Shi’ite tensions that have revived a sectarian civil war and Kurdish independence ambitions financed by oil exports. (Contributor: Michael Wilner for The Jerusalem Post – Reuters also contributed to this report)

These mid-week alerts are to inform, with the goal of encouraging focused, unified, prayer as a spiritual weapon, in cooperation with God’s purposes. Iraq is an important but difficult prayer focus, as the reported situation changes every day. Pray for Christians and other non-Muslims, including many children, who are being killed or isolated and deprived of food. President Obama has authorized some military air support but said he does not want to commit U.S. forces to more all-out war. A major prayer focus among “watchers on the wall” is for world opinion to rise up against these extreme terrorists and the barbaric atrocities of what is now called the Islamic State, or IS. Pray accordingly. 

“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of [your places of worship and fellowship]; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.” (John 16:1-3)

“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt 24:10-14)

 

JUDGE RULES TEN COMMANDMENTS MONUMENT MUST GO

A federal judge last Thursday ruled that a New Mexico city must remove a monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments from the lawn in front of Bloomfield City Hall.

Senior U.S. District Judge James A. Parker said in his ruling in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that the monument amounts to government speech and has the “principal effect of endorsing religion.”

Because of the context and history surrounding the granite monument, Parker said Bloomfield clearly violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. He gave a Sept. 10 deadline for its removal.

The suit was filed in 2012 on behalf of two Bloomfield residents who practice the Wiccan religion.

Peter Simonson, ACLU of New Mexico executive director, called the decision a victory for protection against government-supported religion.

“We firmly support the right of individuals, religious groups, and community associations to publicly display religious monuments, but the government should not be in the business of picking which sets of religious beliefs belong at City Hall,” Simonson said Friday.

According to previous court testimony, plaintiff Jane Felix said the display “says that anybody who doesn’t agree with this monument on city grounds is an outsider.”

“It has no place on City Hall property,” Felix said in March.

City attorneys say private individuals erected and paid for the monument under a 2007 city resolution. That resolution allows people to erect historical monuments of their choosing.

Bloomfield Mayor Scott Eckstein said he was surprised the judge would rule against “a historical document.”

“The intent from the beginning was that the lawn was going to be used for historical purposes, and that’s what the council voted on,” Eckstein told the Daily Times (http://bit.ly/XMgAqu).

The city has 30 days to file an appeal. City attorney Ryan Lane said he will review the opinion and tell the city council if there is basis for one.

The 6-foot-tall monument was erected in July 2011 by a former city councilor and weighs 3,000 pounds. (Contributor: Associated Press and Washington Times)

This is nothing more than an attempt to remove a treasured icon of religious identity from the American landscape. Here the judiciary, through Judge James A. Parker, has “created” law without regard to the city resolution that saw the monument as having historical significance with its Judeo-Christian roots. This goes beyond Bloomfield, NM. Pray and call out to God for national revival that will bring our nation, in repentance, back to its God-fearing roots. Intercessors should bear in mind the potential irony that the U.S. Constitution could be rendered null and void in court simply because it portrays strong belief in God as Creator and is, therefore, religious.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:7-9)

 

U.S. PRESSURE AT AFRICAN SUMMIT: ACCEPT HOMOSEXUALITY OR ELSE

According to the Obama Administration at the recent U.S.- Africa Leaders Summit held in the nation’s capital, support of the homosexual agenda is the key to successful economic development for African nations — and the ticket for receiving billions of dollars in foreign aid.

“Some of the incredible cultures of some of our U.S. businesses that do a really good job promoting people and maintaining a meritocracy, and treating women equally, and treating people of different races and faiths and sexual orientations fairly and equally, and making sure that there are typical norms of how you deal with people in contracts and respect legal constraints — all those things I think can then take root in a country like Zimbabwe or any other country,” President Barack Obama told leaders at the summit. “Hopefully, governments are encouraging that, not inhibiting that.”

As crises on the African continent continue to mount, including the Ebola outbreak sweeping across nations, Islamic militants attacking Christians in Nigeria and militias clashing in Libya, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden didn’t miss a step in promoting the normalization and endorsement of homosexual behavior. This uncanny approach to foreign policy was addressed by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ).

“I do think that, unfortunately, there’s been an obsession by some within the administration — and that goes for the president himself — to promote the abortion agenda and the LGBT agenda in our foreign policy,” Smith told Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on the “Washington Watch” radio broadcast. “These issues are what drives this administration in much of our foreign policy in Africa.”

Jumping aboard the h-agenda to economic prosperity

Vice President Joe Biden has also been reported to play an integral role in making sure that the U.S.’s foreign policy is used as a vehicle for promoting homosexuality. In a speech addressing the incessant concerns of African leaders about how they can boost their nations’ economy and development in the midst of war, disease and poverty, Biden stood beside the president’s overseas homosexual agenda.

Pres. Obama speaking made the steps quite clear that nations must take to pull in more aid, Biden emphasized that African leaders must work to ensure that their governments become increasingly gay-friendly and accommodating, stressing that this policy alignment will bring increased levels of investment, along with talented personnel from nations in the West.

“There are certain common ingredients to success in the 21st century that have become self-evident,” Biden declared. “The need for economic integration; a court system that adjudicates disputes fairly; a commitment to invest in all of a society’s people and respect their rights, because countries that respect citizens’ equal rights no matter what their gender or religion, no matter who they love, tend to be the … most attractive to attracting international talent and international investment.”

Obama wasted little time to use financial incentives to encourage leaders from 56 African nations to enforce policies that promote the nationwide cultural acceptance of homosexual behavior, which begin with increasing the legal protections and privileges for the LGBTQ community.

“They recognize that that’s how the world as a whole is increasingly moving in that direction,” Obama explained at the conference, noting that people from all “sexual orientations” need to be treated “equally and fairly” in every facet of public life. “And over time, you will see an Africa that is driven by individual entrepreneurs and private organizations, and governments will be responsive to their demands.”

This was said by the president in response to an inquiry at the summit’s Q&A session, where he capitalized on the opportunity to urge business leaders and government officials to exude an acceptance and tolerance of homosexual behavior, as witnessed in Western nations.

No support of homosexuality [no sin against God’s laws means]…no funds

Threats by Western nations to terminate humanitarian aid to countries refusing to endorse and protect homosexuality continue to grow.

“Many of these countries deeply resent it because they are profoundly pro-marriage and profoundly pro-life,” says Smith, who maintains that some countries not in compliance with the internationally pushed homosexual agenda have forfeited much aid. “But when your foreign aid is being limited or conditioned on those two issues [homosexuality and abortion], there are some, but thankfully not many, in these governments who begin to weaken.”

Homosexual pride flagThe ultimatums given by the president and vice president for African nations to fully support pro-homosexual policies or surrender aid are not new, and because homosexual behavior is illegal in most African countries that overwhelmingly support bans on such activity, some leaders have become upset by the aggressive push.

Just last year, Obama greatly offended the heads of state of several African nations when he publicly condemned their laws against homosexual behavior while making a $100-million African tour addressing the AIDS crisis. Another objection to the West’s forceful promotion of the homosexual agenda abroad was vehemently stated by the African, Pacific and Caribbean Group of States in a resolution that publicly denounced continued attempts by Western nations to blackmail African countries into enforcing laws that protect homosexual behavior in order to continue receiving charitable aid.

Obama repeatedly lashed out against recently passed legislation that targets homosexual men and women, including new laws adopted in Uganda. Even though Obama’s public condemnation of laws reflecting the widely accepted traditional values held in most African nations is not predicted to mainstream homosexuality across the continent anytime soon, it is feared that needy governments will start to cave in to the agenda — unable to pay the financial cost of resistance.

Giving homosexual activists the world stage

Described by many as being the most pro-homosexual president in our nation’s history, Obama did not let down the LBBT community — giving a key “gay” activist a platform to promote the normalization of homosexuality, but he was discontent that it was not enough.

Joe Biden“The Obama Administration has unequivocally demonstrated global leadership on the human rights of LGBT people, and the president will leave a legacy for his engagement with international civil society,” stated Human Rights First Advocacy counsel Shawn Gaylord. “That is why it is most disappointing that the White House chose to keep these issues literally on the margins in side events, and exclude civil society and human rights defenders from the same White House meetings corporate CEOs and investors were invited to.”

Gaylord was speaking out of frustration that his “robust side events were not widely attended by the leaders who most need to hear these messages.” He regretted that he and other homosexual activists did not receive individual invitations to partake in the presidential-level discussions taking place between top business investors and world leaders, declaring the summit a “missed opportunity.”

This interpretation of the event as not catering to the demands of the LGBT community didn’t jive with National Security Council Spokesperson Ned Price.

“The Obama Administration has long spoken out — including with our African partners — in support of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals,” Price announced, adding that the administration is as committed as ever to promoting ‘gay’ rights abroad. “The Summit has provided an opportunity to continue these conversations.”

A new legacy

Also attending the summit was former President George W. Bush, who launched a $15 billion HIV/AIDS initiative during his administration, minus any strings attached to garner support for the homosexual agenda.

“There’s not many things that convince me to come back to Washington,” Bush stated at the summit, possibly alluding his aversion to the politics currently taking place in the White House.

Partnering with First Lady Michelle Obama, Bush hosted an all-day event set up for the spouses of African leaders.

Even though Obama is continuing Bush’s signature AIDS program, his current focus is on creating his own legacy to build initiatives in Africa that promote his aggressive foreign policy that includes laws protecting abortion and homosexuality across the continent. (Contributor: By Michael F. Haverluck for One News Now)

Prayer focus: Seek God’s mercy to avert judgment. Does God’s Word give the U.S. a superior position to Sodom or Rome or Pompeii of old? Does the Bible convey entitlements that make America immune to divine judgment against these heinous sins in God’s sight? Christians know it does not. The most ardent supporter of President Obama, if a Christian, must acknowledge how far from God’s design this administration is leading the nation. Pressure being put on 56 African national leaders to accept degrading standards of morality in order to qualify for monetary assistance is unconscionable. How long will God be merciful? Where is this kind of “diplomacy” headed? Strong intercession is needed.

 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because… although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful… Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever… For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting, being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality [and] who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” (Rom 1:18; 21; 24-28; 32)

 

SOME EVANGELICALS IN REPUBLICAN PARTY ARE FEELING LEFT OUT

Perched on the edge of his chair in a study overflowing with books, Pastor Gino Geraci reels off the Republicans he no longer believes in. His friend Mike Huckabee is an “odd bird” who couldn’t win a general election. Sarah Palin doesn’t inspire him with her “cliched responses to difficult questions.” Rand Paul is “fascinating but frustrating.”

Of all the Republicans weighing a bid for president in 2016, the only one who puts a smile on Geraci’s face is doctor-turned-conservative-media-darling Ben Carson. And yet, Geraci concedes, Carson is “not in the mainstream” and has little chance of ever being elected.

The assessment from Geraci, the founding pastor of Calvary South Denver, a sprawling evangelical church with several thousand congregants, reflects a broader sense of despair among white evangelicals about the Republican Party many once considered their comfortable home.

Many social conservatives say they feel politically isolated as the country seems to be hurtling to the left, with marijuana now legal in Colorado and gay marriage gaining ground across the nation. They feel out of place in a GOP increasingly dominated by tea party activists and libertarians who prefer to focus on taxes and the role of government and often disagree with social conservatives on drugs or gay rights.

Meanwhile, the list of possible front-runners for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination includes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has a limited relationship with evangelical activists, and the libertarian-leaning Paul, the senator from Kentucky who only recently began reaching out to social conservatives. One prominent establishment favorite weighing a bid, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), is a supporter of legal same-sex marriage who claims his views on the issue could help him and his party appeal to younger voters.

Kim Vantrease, a congregant at Calvary South Denver, worries the Republican Party won’t address her main concerns. “I would like to see [Republican leaders] try a little bit better to work together,” she said. (Matthew Staver/For The Washington Post)

The disconnect between social conservatives and the GOP has become a “chasm,” said Gary Bauer, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 and is now head of the Campaign for Working Families. He pointed to the party’s two most recent presidential nominees, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, as examples of candidates who were touted initially as having broad appeal to centrists in the general election but ultimately never inspired evangelicals and lost.

“Values voters have been treated as the stepchildren of the family, while the party has wanted to get on with so-called more electorally popular ideas,” Bauer said. “The Republican base will not tolerate another candidate foisted upon us as a guy who can win.”

Discontent among evangelicals could have implications for the GOP next year as campaigning for the presidential nomination escalates in early-voting states such as Iowa, where social conservatives are a major bloc. Their presence could complicate matters for top-tier candidates such as Christie and Paul who want to remain viable in a general election but will feel pressure to appeal to religious voters. A surge of support for more fiery contenders such as Carson or former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) could turn candidate debates into a spectacle while pulling everyone to the right, affecting the party’s image more broadly.

Even if social conservatives turn out this year to support like-minded candidates for Congress and help propel the GOP into the Senate majority, they could just as easily decide to sit out a presidential race if they feel the party again has produced a nominee who does not represent their interests.

Their absence could mean fewer votes for the Republican nominee in closely contested swing states. And perhaps more important, it could also mean fewer campaign volunteers to staff phone banks and knock on doors. Active churchgoers can be among a campaign’s most effective ground army.

The feelings of disaffection are a decade in the making. Social conservatives, who make up about 40 percent of the Republican electorate, according to polls, fell in love with George W. Bush in 2000. They mobilized for Bush’s reelection four years later after he endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. But many activists felt Bush’s team did not push hard enough on moral issues in his second term. Since then, evangelical Republicans have not coalesced enthusiastically around a viable contender for the presidency.

A number of possible 2016 candidates have been jockeying to become the evangelicals’ favorite — including Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Baptist preacher who won the 2008 Iowa caucuses, as well as Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Paul and Santorum.

Huckabee used a gathering of pastors this month in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to express his amusement that some Republicans seem unwilling to discuss moral issues. He warned the private gathering, according to an account in the Des Moines Register, that “liberty cannot function unless there are people who are willing to live with integrity.”

Huckabee was not available for an interview. He cautioned in a statement, delivered through a spokesman, that the Republican Party “should not take these voters for granted, because as we’ve seen in the past two elections, if the candidates don’t connect with the values voters, [the voters] will simply stay home.”

Bob Vander Plaats, an Iowa activist who hosted several 2016 hopefuls at his Family Leadership Summit this month in Ames, described an exhilarating energy among the 1,500 attendees and a “desperation to ensure we succeed not just in 2016 but in 2014, too.”

In Colorado, Geraci said he and his congregation feel “an angst, in the purest psychological sense of the term.” The pastor sought to inject some degree of optimism, adding: “It’s troubling but not paralyzing. There is a great deal of hope, connected to the possibility that real change will come.”

Even so, as members of Calvary South Denver milled about before a recent talk at the church by author Joel C. Rosenberg on the turmoil in the Middle East, many Republicans expressed concerns about who will take up their causes in the next presidential election.

Kim Vantrease, a writer, said she does not believe the Republican Party will address her main worries — the “moral decline” at home and “the whole world being on fire.”

“I would like to see [Republican leaders] try a little bit better to work together,” she said. “They should be strong, come out fiercely and not use strategy to get elected.” She said they should “actually care for America.”

A Republican since the early 1970s, Randall J. Cohrs, a research professor at the University of Colorado, said he hopes that the next generation of Republican politicians will “live up to the goals that the founding fathers of the party had in mind.” Cohrs could not name a candidate he would back in 2016.

Lynda Watters, an accountant who said she was “ashamed” of her political affiliations but usually votes Republican, is concerned about the future of the country, for her children’s sake. “I think we’re following in the footsteps of Europe towards socialism,” she said.

Scott Terry said he feels the Republican Party is lost. A mortgage salesman, Terry was previously a Paul fan but became concerned over “how much he goes back and forth.”

But Terry has someone in mind for 2016: “I love Dr. Ben Carson. He has common sense and the Christian perspective.”

Many people attending the Rosenberg evening had no preferred candidate in mind for president or brought up Carson.

The African American former surgeon became a sensation in conservative circles in 2013 after proclaiming Obamacare was the “worst thing to happen to this nation since slavery.”

Despite a lack of political experience, Carson, 62, has built up a media profile, thanks to his regular appearances in conservative news outlets. He came in third in the straw poll at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference and is undertaking a national book tour this month titled “One Nation” — which has sold more copies than Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “Hard Choices.” Carson has formed a political action committee, and a super PAC to draft Carson to run for president — doling out “Run Ben Run!” bumper stickers — has brought in $7.3 million in this cycle.

The buzz around Carson underscores the unsettled nature of the GOP’s social-conservative wing. Even as Carson gains traction, some activists fear that evangelicals risk pouring time, money and hope into another doomed candidate, as some did in 2012 with Santorum.

David Lane, an evangelical activist and founder of the American Renewal Project, which organizes church pastors in key states, said he does not have much time for Carson. Lane arranged Huckabee’s appearance with clergy in Cedar Rapids last week and has introduced pastors to Paul, Jindal and Perry.

“Anyone who votes for Ben Carson has no idea what they are doing politically,” Lane said. “He’s got zero chance of becoming president or getting the Republican nomination.”

Carson, in an interview, accused the Republican Party of turning its back on some of its core supporters.

“In the rush to get on the political-

correctness bandwagon, people have abandoned the concept of faith,” he said. “That is where the disconnect is.”

Throughout his book tour, Carson said, he has been “overwhelmed” at the size of the crowds. Hundreds crammed a Charlotte-area bookstore this month to meet him; a video posted online by supporters features interviews with attendees begging Carson to run for president.

“People are very concerned about the future of the nation and the quality of life on the trajectory we are on,” Carson said. “They have lost faith in government.” (Contributor: By Sebastian Payne for The Washington Post – Scott Clement contributed to this report.)

IFA is not political or affiliated with any political party. We did not choose this article to discuss Republican presidential hopefuls for 2016. On the contrary, we urge widespread intercession for the upcoming elections in November, but not to promote or endorse a candidate or party. Instead, we encourage much prayer. Pray for divine wisdom, then look for candidates who best reflect your worldview, and vote according to conscience. Christians can have righteous influence if they vote wisely. Many voices will be saying, “Get out the vote!” Look for opportunity to “Get out the prayer.” Vote, yes, but first pray and intercede for morally upright men and women to be elected.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct you paths.” (Prov 3:5-6)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8)

 

VULNERABLE SENATE DEMS WARY OF OBAMA USING EXECUTIVE POWERS ON IMMIGRATION

Senate Democrats at risk of losing re-election in moderate or conservative-leaning states this fall are wary about President Obama using his executive powers to sidestep Congress and act alone on immigration reform.

Their biggest concerns appear to be that Obama will expand his 2012 executive action that deferred deportation for young illegal immigrants by extending it to as many as 5 million more people living illegally in the United States.

“This is an issue that I believe should be addressed legislatively and not through executive order,” said North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, one of the most vulnerable Democrats in Republicans’ bid to take control of the Senate.

The president is scheduled to return from a family vacation at some point this weekend to engage in high-level White House talks. Administration officials will not disclose what will be discussed but have said the president does not intend to take action at least on the current immigration crisis — the influx of unaccompanied Central American youths crossing the southern U.S. border — until after summer.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., another vulnerable incumbent, said in a statement that he also is “frustrated with the partisanship in Washington. But that doesn’t give the president carte blanche authority to sidestep Congress when he doesn’t get his way.”

Such statements have immigration advocates on edge.

A coalition of advocacy groups, in a letter to congressional Democrats on Friday, said immigrant families should not have to wait until after the November elections for relief. The organizations said any attempts by Democrats to delay or dilute administrative changes “will be viewed as a betrayal of Latino and immigrant communities with serious and lasting consequences.”

The letter was released because of advocates’ concerns that leading Senate Democrats may be shifting their positions because of political considerations after previously urging Obama to act.

A spokesman for Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., declined to say Friday whether Schumer still believes Obama should act by October, as Schumer had said before. A spokesman for Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat, said the timing of executive action on immigration was up to Obama. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s spokesman had no comment on timing.

Still, Obama looks determined to move forward on his own despite the political risks for Democrats.

He is irritated by House Republicans’ inaction on immigration legislation passed last year by the Senate. The crisis over unaccompanied minors arriving in South Texas does not appear to have deterred him, and the slowdown of arrivals at the border may be shifting the issue away from the spotlight anyway.

The exact contours of Obama’s plans remain unclear.

Advocates and lawmakers who have talked with administration officials anticipate that he could expand a program that granted work permits and deferred deportation to more than 700,000 immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as kids. It could be extended to include parents of those children, as well as parents of U.S. citizens, or potentially others — groups that could add up to perhaps 5 million people.

During a news conference this month, Obama was not specific on his immigration plans. He did say that in the absence of congressional action and in order to address the crisis involving unaccompanied youths, he had to shift resources on his own and exercise prosecutorial discretion.

“I promise you the American people don’t want me just standing around twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Congress to get something done,” Obama said.

Some GOP leaders worry that opposition to a comprehensive overhaul will harm their party in the 2016 presidential race, where Latino turnout is higher than in midterm elections. Hispanics are a fast-growing sector of the presidential electorate and backed Obama overwhelmingly in 2012.

But Republicans also see a nearer-term chance to translate Obama’s potential executive actions into electoral success in November. Republicans need to win a net of six seats in order to take control of the Senate for the remainder of Obama’s term. The GOP already is all but assured of maintaining control of the House.

As Republicans meet with voters in their districts during the summer break, lawmakers have raised alarms about the scope of Obama’s potential plans. In some cases, they are hearing clamors for impeachment in return.

“It is up to Congress to actually go back and restrain this guy,” one voter told GOP Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland at a town hall meeting on the Eastern Shore. Harris had warned that Obama could expand an existing deportation relief program to 4 million or 5 million more people, “competing with Americans for work.”

Republicans have tagged Obama as an “imperial president” who goes around Congress rather than working with lawmakers, and House Republicans have moved to sue him over it. The prospect of the president making a unilateral move on a contentious issue such as immigration has Republican consultants salivating.

“President Obama’s executive amnesty would inject adrenaline into an electorate already eager to send him a message of disapproval,” said Brad Dayspring, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Also problematic for Obama: His apparent plans to act on his own authority come after years of saying that he did not have the legal justification to proceed without Congress.

“If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing them through Congress, I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws,” he said in November. A heckler had interrupted a speech he was giving in San Francisco, prodding him to halt deportations, which have reached record highs on Obama’s watch.

Since then the White House has apparently concluded otherwise.

Democratic pollsters argue that any executive action by Obama could give a political boost to Democrats, not just from newly energized Latino voters but from an electorate at large that would welcome any action from gridlocked Washington.

“Voters are so sick of the do-nothing Congress they don’t mind if there’s an imperial president,” said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. “They would just like someone to get something done about something.” (Contributor: Fox News and The Associated Press)

It is August. President Obama and Congress are on vacation, and immigration and our porous Mexican border are, at least temporarily, out of the headlines. Most Americans seem occupied with other end-of-summer issues. However, President Obama’s governing style will no doubt have a strong effect on the November elections, which is what this article tells us. Our prayer focus is for God to elevate those to office who will uphold the Founders’ principles and call for the country’s return to a conservative view of the Constitution. However, on balance, we also know that “national salvation” does not come from government. “Salvation is of the Lord.” Pray for a voice for righteousness to come from the Church, and for repentance and revival to turn our hearts to God.   

“When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple. Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy. But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.” (Jonah 2:7-9)

 

MISSOURI NATIONAL GUARD HEADED TO FERGUSON

Things in Ferguson have gotten so unruly that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has called National Guard troops to the St. Louis suburb.

“Given these deliberate, coordinated and intensifying violent attacks on lives and property in Ferguson, I am directing the highly capable men and women of the Missouri National Guard … in restoring peace and order to this community,” he said in a statement.

Gunfire, tear gas and Molotov cocktails Sunday night marked some of the fiercest clashes yet between police and protesters furious about the death of an unarmed teenager.

And the tensions continued escalating after autopsy results revealed that 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot six times.

Devolution of protests

What began as peaceful protests spiraled into disarray after two civilians were shot and injured, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said. He said those civilians were not shot by police.

“Tonight, a Sunday that started with prayers and messages of unity, peace and justice took a very different turn after dark,” Johnson said early Monday morning.

Some protesters hurled Molotov cocktails at police, and several businesses were vandalized or looted, despite the Brown family’s call for calm.

“Based on these conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of our response,” Johnson said.

Officers fired tear gas into a crowd of hundreds of protesters, including children, who were marching toward a police command post despite an impending midnight curfew.

But protester Lisha Williams challenged the notion that protesters provoked officers.

“That is a lie. It was no fight, it was no shots fired,” she told CNN late Sunday night. “All we did was march to the command center to fall to our knees and say, ‘Don’t shoot.’ And they started shooting.”

The clashes kept escalating, with St. Charles County sheriff’s officials saying shots were fired in their direction.

At one point, employees at a McDonald’s restaurant locked themselves in a storage room after the store was overrun, Johnson said.

Video from CNN affiliate KSDK showed children among the protesters chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

St. Louis County police said most of the crowds had dispersed after the curfew went into effect at midnight. The curfew was scheduled to end at 5 a.m. (6 a.m. ET).

But the anxiety remains. Children can’t even go to school Monday.

“Information we received from officials on the scene late Sunday evening has contributed to concerns we have about children walking to school or waiting for buses on streets impacted by this activity,” the Ferguson-Florissant School District said on its Facebook page.

Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot dead by a white police officer on August 9. He was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, according to the preliminary results of an autopsy that his family requested.

Family attorney Anthony Gray said the independent autopsy conducted Sunday found that Brown was shot twice in the head and four times in the right arm — all to the front of his body.

Last week, the St. Louis County Police Department said an original autopsy found that the teen died of gunshot wounds. But the department wouldn’t say how many times he was shot or give any other details.

According to the preliminary results of the family autopsy, the bullets that struck Brown were not fired from close range, as indicated by the absence of gunpowder residue on his body.

One of the bullets shattered his right eye, traveled through his face, exited his jaw and re-entered his collarbone, according to the autopsy.

The last two shots were probably the ones to his head, attorney Gray said. One entered the top of his Brown’s skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when he was struck.

The independent autopsy was conducted by high-profile pathologist Michael Baden, who testified in the O.J. Simpson, Phil Spector and Drew Peterson murder trials.

Accounts of exactly what happened when Officer Darren Wilson stopped Brown while the teen was walking down a street vary widely.

Witnesses said they saw a scuffle between the officer and Brown at the police car before the young man was shot.

Several witnesses said Brown raised his hands and was not attacking the officer.

Piaget Crenshaw said she was sitting in her home when she witnessed the shooting. She captured video of the aftermath, including images of Brown’s body lying in the middle of the street.

“From it all initially happening, I knew this was not right,” she told CNN’s “New Day” on Monday.

“I knew the police shouldn’t even have been chasing this young boy and firing at the same time. The fact that he got shot in the face, it was something that clicked in me, like no, somebody else needs to see this. This isn’t right. I’ve got to record.”

Crenshaw said Brown was running away from police and then turned around. She said that was when Brown was shot.

But police gave a different narrative, saying Brown struggled with the officer and reached for his weapon.

Though the officer has stayed out of the public spotlight, more than 22,000 people have endorsed the “I Support Officer Wilson” Facebook page.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has approved another autopsy on Brown’s body, the Justice Department said. That autopsy will be conducted by a federal medical examiner (Contributor: By Steve Kastenbaum and Holly Yan for CNN and KSBW)

Pray that peace will break out in Missouri. Pray that the Lord will give His wisdom to the civic leaders and citizens of Missouri. Pray that the full truth will be publicly disclosed about who is at fault in this matter and that true Godly justice will be preserved.

“When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” (Proverbs 29:2)

 

GAZA ROCKET FIRE CONTINUES: IRON DOME INTERCEPTS OVER ASHDOD, ASHKELON

At least 100 rockets launched at southern Israel since midnight, as IDF recalls 2,000 reservists from leave; 30 targets attacked in Strip overnight.

Gaza militants resumed their rocket fire campaign against Israel today Wednesday August 20, with at least 100 rockets launched at southern Israel since midnight, 35 of which exploded in Eshkol Regional Council.

At 2:06 pm, two rockets fell outside communities in Eshkol Regional Council. Several minutes earlier, one rocket was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system over the Shfela area.

At 2 pm, three rockets exploded in open areas in Eshkol Regional Council, and two rockets were intercepted above Hof Ashkelon Regional Council area.

At around 1:45 pm, one rocket exploded in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, causing light damage to a road in the area.

Around 1:30 pm, Iron Dome intercepted one rocket over Kiryat Malakhi and one rocket over Hof Ashkelon. One rocket launched towards Hof Ashkelon Regional Council exploded near a synagogue in the area.

Around 1:00 pm, two rockets landed in open areas in the Eshkol Regional Council. A few minutes later, Iron Dome intercepted two rockets over Ashdod.

Shortly after 12:30 pm, a Gaza rocket hit a home in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council; no injuries were reported. A few minutes earlier, two Gaza rockets fell in open areas in Eshkol; no injuries and no damages were reported.

Around noon, one rocket exploded within the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council; Iron Dome intercepted one. Two more rockets exploded in open areas in the Eshkol Regional Council, near the Gaza security barrier.

Shortly after 11:30 am, air raid sirens sounded in Eshkol. Two rockets exploded in the regional council’s area – one inside a town. Light damage was caused to a reinforced wall.

At around 11:00 am, seven rockets exploded in Eshkol, two of them insides local communities; vehicles and structures were lightly damaged. Two rockets also exploded outside of Sdot Negev communities.

Shortly after 10:30 am, sirens blared in Kiryat Gat and the Shafir, Be’er Tuvia, Yoav, Lakish Regional Councils. Iron Dome intercepted one rocket over Kiryat Gat.

Hof Ashkelon Regional Council came under heavy rocket fire at around 10:00 am as four rockets exploded in open areas in the council.

Earlier in the morning, two rockets exploded in the area of Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. At around 8:00 am, Iron Dome intercepted two rockets over Ashkelon, and one over Ashdod. Half an hour earlier, a rocket exploded outside a community in Sdot Negev Regional Council, and two rockets fell outside a community in Eshkol Regional Council.

The fighting between Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza restarted on Tuesday after Hamas violated an extended ceasefire some 8 hours before its expiration. The Israeli military recalled 2,000 reservist soldiers back to duty, after they were expected to be released Tuesday.

The IDF attacked 30 terror targets overnight Tuesday in the Gaza Strip, most of which were Hamas operation rooms and weapon-manufacturing facilities.

Israel said that overnight Hamas fired seven rockets towards Israel, with Iron Dome intercepting three.

The IDF has attacked some 60 terror targets in the Gaza Strip since Hamas renewed rocket attacks on Israel on Tuesday.

On Tuesday night, the rocket salvo peaked at 10:30 pm, when more than 50 mortars and rockets were fired on southern and central Israel in a short period.

The reason for the intensive fire was revealed overnight, when reports emerged that an IDF targeted killing operation against the leader of Hamas’ military wing, Mohammed Deif, resulted in the death of his wife and daughter – as well as a third, unidentified body. (Contributor: By Yoav Zitun for Ynet News – Ilana Curiel, Matan Tzuri, Elior Levy, and Roi Kais contributed to this report.)

Pray that this continuous barrage of rockets would cease. Pray that there would be no lives lost. Pray that the demonically inspired HAMAS terror group would realize that they cannot fight God and His plans for Israel.

“The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.” (Genesis 12:7 NIV)

 

WEST’S HISTORIC DROUGHT STOKES FEARS OF WATER CRISIS

When the winter rains failed to arrive in this Sacramento Valley town for the third straight year, farmers tightened their belts and looked to the reservoirs in the nearby hills to keep them in water through the growing season.

When those faltered, some switched on their well pumps, drawing up thousands of gallons from underground aquifers to prevent their walnut trees and alfalfa crops from drying up. Until the wells, too, began to fail.

Now, across California’s vital agricultural belt, nervousness over the state’s epic drought has given way to alarm. Streams and lakes have long since shriveled up in many parts of the state, and now the aquifers — always a backup source during the region’s periodic droughts — are being pumped away at rates that scientists say are both historic and unsustainable.

One state-owned well near Sacramento registered an astonishing 100-foot drop in three months as the water table, strained by new demand from farmers, homeowners and municipalities, sank to a record low. Other wells have simply dried up, in such numbers that local drilling companies are reporting backlogs of six to eight months to dig a new one.

In still other areas, aquifers are emptying so quickly that the land itself is subsiding, like cereal in a bowl after the milk has drained out.

California’s record drought brought very little snowpack this past winter, placing extra demands on the state’s aquifers.

“How many straws can you stick into one glass?” asked John Viegas, a county supervisor who, after months of fielding complaints from constituents about water shortages, recently was forced to lower his own well by 40 feet. “People need to realize you can’t water everything.”

The shrinking of the aquifers has added a new dimension to the concerns over the historic drought that continues to shatter records across the Western United States. The parched zone now spans a dozen states and nearly 600 counties, from southern Texas to the northern Rockies, and includes fields and grazing land that produce a third of the country’s beef cattle and half of its fruit, vegetables and winter wheat. Prices for most of these products have soared this year.

Hardest hit is California. As of last month, nearly 60 percent of the state is officially in an “exceptional” drought — the highest level, above “severe” — and meteorologists are seeing no immediate change in a relentlessly dry forecast. Indeed, scientists are warning that the state’s cyclical droughts could become longer and more frequent as the climate warms.

If that happens, the elaborate infrastructure built to deliver water to the state’s 38 million residents and 27 million cultivated acres may not survive the challenge, new research suggests. Already the drought has led to the “greatest water loss ever seen in California agriculture,” said a study last month by researchers at the University of California at Davis.

A massive shift to groundwater helped farmers survive this year, but if pumping continues at current rates, some of the state’s aquifers could soon be depleted, the study warned. One of the authors, Richard Howitt, a professor emeritus of resource economics, likened the problem to a “slow-moving train wreck.”

“A well-managed basin is used like a reserve bank account,” Howitt said. “We’re acting like the super rich who have so much money they don’t need to balance their checkbook.”

The study estimated that 5.1 million acre-feet of water will be pulled from the state’s underground reserves this year, a volume roughly equivalent to the storage capacity of Lake Shasta, the state’s biggest reservoir and third-largest lake after Lake Tahoe and the Salton Sea.

Joe Carrancho has had to fallow 25% of his rice acreage due to a lack of water. (Max Whittaker/Prime/For The Washington Post)

Damage to aquifers is viewed as more serious because, once depleted, an aquifer takes far longer to replenish — often decades or more, compared with a few years for an empty reservoir, said Thomas Harter, a groundwater specialist from the university’s Land, Air and Water Resources department.

“It’s a downward path,” he said. “We cannot do what we did this year on a permanent basis.”

Worst drought on record

Droughts in California are hardly new. Big ones come around every decade or two, the Western equivalent of the super-hurricanes that occasionally strike the East. The archeological record points to far worse droughts in the distant past, including some that lasted more than 50 years.

But that was before millions of people lived along the coastal bays, and before the state’s great Central Valley sprouted one of the most productive agricultural districts in the history of the planet.

Still, the current drought is the worst in California’s recorded history, and some of the costs are as visible as the retreating shorelines and bone-dry marinas of the state’s fresh-water lakes. Dozens of California cities and towns have imposed tough restrictions on water use and many have posted fines of up to $500 a day on violators. In the state’s parched woodlands, fire crews chased 140 new wildfires in just the past week.

Large cities such as Los Angeles have coped with the water shortage so far by drawing from dedicated reservoirs constructed after previous dry spells, part of a celebrated “drought-proofing” effort promoted by politicians and urban planners. But those stores of water could also be threatened if the drought continues, scientists say. State officials have already had to scramble to find drinking water for smaller towns and villages where supplies have all but run out.

In the state’s farm belt, the drought’s effects are less obvious, obscured by miles of still-lush walnut orchards and vast rice plantations where the knee-high green stalks mature in shallow pools of brown water. But the damage has been severe, here, too. Some of it is visible in dry irrigation ditches and barren fields belonging to farmers who received no water allotment this year. Other wounds are hidden, such as aquifers that became contaminated with salt or farm chemicals after months of overpumping, or household wells that now pull up nothing but air.

It was never supposed to get this bad. For decades, the Central Valley’s farmers relied on their own form of drought-proofing: a vast network of reservoirs and irrigation canals built over years to capture annual snow melt from the Sierra Nevada mountains. And to recoup the costs of expensive irrigation systems, they switched to more profitable crops such as almonds, walnuts and rice, which require still more water.

But no one counted on having consecutive seasons in which the mountain snows never arrived. This year, the high peaks have been all but bare, causing the already depleted reservoirs to drop further. What was left in the canals had to be divvied up among thousands of farmers based on a complex seniority ranking, with large quantities set aside by law to ensure the survival of natural wetlands and salmon fisheries downstream.

Jeffrey Sutton, who supervises 140 miles of irrigation channels in the western Sacramento Valley for the Tehama Colusa Canal Authority, warned his customers to expect less water this year. It was even worse than he feared: While some farmers ended up with 75 percent of their usual allotment, many others received nothing at all.

“This was the first year it ever went to zero,” Sutton said from an office overlooking the network’s cement-lined main channel. “You can’t allocate water that’s not there.”

Some farmers could afford to cut back on spring planting, but those with permanent crops — peach orchards and almond trees that pay off slowly after years of investment — had to scramble to find alternate supplies. Some paid hefty fees to buy water rights from their neighbors, while others joined the race to drill, installing new wells at a cost of thousands of dollars each.

For Sutton, whose family has farmed the region for three generations, any outing to church or the local store was apt to include an awkward exchange with a neighbor worried about what could happen if the drought lingers for a fourth year.

“It is unparalleled crisis, unlike anything we’ve experienced,” he said. “People are emotional. There’s a fear of losing farms that have been passed through families for generations.”

For Willows, Calif., farmer Joe Carrancho, the immediate worry is how long he can continue paying his 14 employees, men who have tended his rice farm for years and are “damn-near family,” he says. Carrancho, 71, is regarded as one of the luckier ones, having lost only 25 percent of his usual water allotment this year. Still, with a quarter of his fields now idle, he says he will have to stretch to make payroll while keeping up payments on the $500,000 rice harvester sitting in his barn.

“I’d much rather be growing rice here,” said Carrancho, kicking up dust in an empty field of pecan-colored earth beside his modest ranch house. “I have 25 percent less production, but no one is giving me a 25 percent break in my bills.”

Conflicts in state capital

In the state capital, worries over the shrinking water supply have kindled fresh conflicts along the state’s traditional fault lines: rural and urban, environmentalist and property owner, Republican and Democrat. Opposing factions have clashed repeatedly in recent weeks over how the government should address current and future water shortages.

On Wednesday, state lawmakers passed a $7.5 billion bond measure that, if approved by voters this fall, would expand the state’s reservoirs and improve water recycling and other conservation measures. Two separate measures undergoing debate would impose the most significant restrictions on groundwater use in California history.

Farming groups say they are open to compromise, though many in their ranks are scornful of any talk of regulating water that lies under private lands. Many farmers also insist that government agencies helped instigate the current crisis, both by mandating the diversion of millions of gallons of water for environment uses, and by allowing runaway urban development in the some of the state’s driest regions.

Yet, agriculture’s huge appetite for water makes it an easy target for state officials looking for ways to conserve. Irrigation accounts for 41 percent of the state’s water use, compared with 9 percent for urban water systems. And the recent shift to crops such as alfalfa and rice has prompted questions about whether this drought-prone region is suited for water-intensive agriculture.

“We’ve reached a tipping point where the surface water is no longer enough, yet there are increasing demands from both agriculture and the environment,” said hydrologist Graham Fogg, a groundwater management expert.

A short-term solution, strongly favored by growers and some elected officials, is to increase the state’s water storage capacity, either with new or expanded reservoirs or dedicated aquifers underground. Farmers say extra storage will allow them to meet their needs even if droughts become more frequent.

“Our best storage is those mountains,” said organic rice grower Bryce Lundberg, gesturing to the normally snowcapped Sierra Nevada peaks, visible from his fields in Richvale, Calif. “When you see snow up there, the mountains are essentially holding water for California. But if climate change is happening, we need to invest in storage, because if we’re not seeing white mountains, we need to see blue water.”

But environmentalists and many scientists argue that any long-term solution would have to balance competing interests, including the need for clean water for growing cities as well as thriving habitats for fish and wildlife. A recent modeling study by researchers at UC-Davis’s Center for Watershed Sciences suggested that California’s economy could weather far more severe water shortages — and even a decades-long drought similar to the ones that occurred millennia ago. But doing so would require not only more storage for water, but also a general willingness by all sides to make do with less.

“Keeping the balance may mean reducing the number of irrigated acres, but if you manage the system well you can still do amazing things with it,” said Jay Lund, a professor of civil and environmental engineering who participated in the exercise. Lund said he believes Californians are more capable of adjusting, compared with people in other water-challenged parts of the world, because they already possess experience and expertise and “because we happen to be rich, which helps.”

Despite his engineer’s optimism, Lund keeps a prayer of sorts taped to his office door. It is a two-word play on the University of California’s motto, “Fiat Lux,” or, in Latin, “let there be light.”

“Fiat Pluvia,” Lund’s sign reads.

Let there be rain. (Contributor: By Joby Warrick for The Washington Post)

The severe west coast drought continues without respite and grows worse. As you pray, be aware that this is a nationwide issue, not limited to California. There are few places in the U.S. the Central or San Joaquin Valley does not feed to some extent. Give thanks if your water supply is adequate, perhaps plentiful. As you pray, think of how easily and readily, in just a few hours or days, God could restore these garden spots by sending rain. Perhaps He wants our entire nation to turn to Him with a renewed acknowledgement of our utter dependency on His grace, mercy, and provision. Without essential water, no one can survive. Are we sufficiently grateful for His supply?

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lam 3:22-26)

 

INSIDE ACCOUNT OF THE EBOLA HORROR IN WEST AFRICA

Seven days ago Oliver Wilson drove his sick, shivering wife Layson to an isolation clinic for suspected cases of Ebola. The 33-year-old nurse, knew from her symptoms that she had contracted the world’s most feared virus. She knew also that she was about to die from the incurable disease. But she had stopped short of telling Oliver. And she deliberately didn’t hug their one-year-old son Oliver Junior as she walked alone through the quarantine tape surrounding the tin-roofed hospital unit.

Her fear that she could infect the tot through a drop of sweat or a stray tear was based on sound knowledge.

Yesterday grief-stricken Oliver wept and banged his head against the steering wheel of the family car as he watched Layson’s body chucked unceremoniously on to the back of a truck in a white plastic bag.

He had been denied the chance to say goodbye to his childhood sweetheart. In a macabre scene, the corpses of seven other Ebola victims – including a six-year-old boy – were loaded on to the flatbed lorry. I looked on aghast as grimly determined mortuary workers, clad head to toe in protective clothing, tipped Layson’s corpse off a stretcher – like earth from a wheelbarrow.

Here in the Ebola zone of West Africa, the victims’ remains have to be cremated quickly as even the dead are contagious.

This is the heart-breaking drudgery of life in disease-racked Liberia, where the worst outbreak of this violent disease in history claims fresh lives daily.

The World Health Organisation admitted that the official death toll of 1,145 in the region “vastly underestimates the magnitude of the outbreak”.

For Oliver, a former UN aid worker, the swiftness of his beautiful wife’s decline remains impossible to understand.

Speaking through bursts of stifled sobs, he details with amazing clarity how Layson went down with the incredibly contagious Ebola virus. I talk to Oliver from outside the cab of his 4×4 vehicle where he sits – through fear of getting too near to him. My instinct would be to offer a sympathetic hand, but I have been told about the risks of getting too close to someone who might have embraced his Ebola-stricken wife 10 days before. “I’m trying to be strong, but it’s so hard,” Oliver, 36, stammered. “She died on Saturday; yesterday evening. “She caught Ebola at work, at the Catholic Hospital here in Monrovia. The hospital administrator had got ill.

“He tested positive for Ebola. “It was my wife’s job to give him an ECG examination, to put the pads on his body.

“She knew she had to put plastic gloves on, but for a few seconds she was touching him with her hands, to help him get off the bed and on to a chair. “That is how she got it. A few days later, that man died. “It was on August 3, when we came home from church, that she complained of ­shivering, of feeling chilly.”

Oliver explained how Layson was determined not to be a burden, and so tried to get better with medicine she bought from a local chemist.

The middle-class couple, who wed in 2007, had always been active, outgoing members of the community. Four years ago, they used their savings for a dream holiday in the United States, and Layson hankered after another trip abroad. He proudly showed me a photograph of Layson on his mobile phone.

He snapped her posing in a snowbound street, a treasured memento. Layson desperately didn’t want to be ill. She entered nursing in 2005, and had been promoted several times to obtain a senior position. After Oliver lost his job at the UN, she became the family’s breadwinner. Now he has no idea how he will support their son.

“On the Monday evening she said she was too hot,” Oliver continued. “She wanted cold water on a towel to put on her forehead. By Wednesday she had lost her appetite. “On Thursday the weakness had got worse and she told me she felt nauseous. “It was last Saturday that she became really ill. It was our son’s first birthday.

“She slept in the living room because I think she knew what was happening to her.

“She said, ‘Oliver, don’t touch me.’ She couldn’t touch Oliver Junior either, and she had to stop breastfeeding him instantly because it is contagious through all body fluids. “She was so weak she couldn’t even sing Happy Birthday to our son.”

The symptoms Oliver described chart the classic, rapid downfall in healthy people caused by debilitating Ebola.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said Ebola started with fever, muscle aches, weakness, headaches and sore throat. The next stage is often characterised by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash and malfunction of the liver and kidneys. Worst of all, some patients have severe internal and external bleeding and multiple organ failure.

Survival rates are less than 40%, and there is no vaccine or treatment, although a trial is underway in Liberia.

That is why the capital Monrovia is currently gripped by paranoia and ­suspicion over the spread of the disease.

“I brought her here later that day, eight days ago,” Oliver said, as we wait outside the clinic for his wife’s final journey.

“Within a week she was dead. I never got a chance to say goodbye. I could only speak on the phone.

“The last time we spoke, she told me her heart had stopped beating too fast.

“She said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.’ Now I am here to watch her be carried out in a bag.”

The unemotional professionalism of the Red Cross workers hired to dispose of Ebola bodies is a shocking sight.

For Oliver, it must be unimaginably painful.

Security guards in front of the desperately overcrowded unit continue to chat while the bodies are loaded.

Throughout Monrovia there are huge advertising hoardings warning people of the dangers.

Yet in the filthy slums, many seem to be going about their Sunday afternoon business as normal.

Torrential rain fell all day, turning the shanty town tracks into a putrid quagmire.

It must be the ideal breeding ground for a virus so contagious a quick touch on the arm from a sufferer is apparently enough to spread it.

By the time you know you should have been more careful, it might already be too late.

Wracked by the loss of his beloved wife, Oliver also feared that he too might have Ebola.

Incubation can take up to 21 days. “I might have it,” Oliver admitted. “I feel fine now, but it is very likely. Until she got Ebola, I didn’t understand how scary it is. “Now I’m terrified for our son too.”

As the back panel on the truck carrying Layson’s body was slammed shut, Oliver shuddered. A disease he had not heard of six months ago has ruined his life in less than a fortnight. (Contributor: By Tom Parry for Mirror)

This is just one poignant account of the more than 1,200 Ebola victims in several West African nations. The relentless scourge continues to take its toll, as medical personal and volunteers try to stem the flood of death, taking as much precaution as possible. Pray for victims and care-givers, including the brave missionaries at risk who will not leave. Pray for a miraculous breakthrough that will point to God, bringing Him glory. Pray that many, even in fear and desperation, will turn to the Lord. May God display His power to heal.

“’Sovereign Lord, You made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. …  Now, Lord … enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’” (Acts 4: 24; 29-30)

 

EDUCATIONAL TREND: IOWA STUDENTS TO WEAR HEART RATE MONITORS

Students going back to school in Dubuque, Iowa, are going to find it a little harder to slack off in gym.

Public middle and high school students will have to wear heart rate monitors in gym class to make sure they are actually being physically active.

“It will be a large portion of their grade, because we want to grade them on what they’re actually doing in our class,” Dubuque Schools Athletic and Wellness Director Amy Hawkins told ABC News.

Teachers will use the information collected from the heart rate monitors to write report cards.

“It really takes the opinion out of things,” Hawkins said. “You know it’s not really ‘I think your kid is doing this and this in class.'” (Contributor: Geetika Rudra for ABC News)

Not many years ago this report would be seen as fiction. Monitoring student activity during gym class seems absurd. And it isn’t to check over-exertion, but to certify that they are expending any energy besides one or two fingers for texting on smart phones. Recent studies show that from middle school onward students are opting for sedentary activities to the exclusion of physical fitness. Parents and church youth leaders should consider family and group activities that include movement, such as bowling, not just movie nights. Pray for your young people, whether at home or church, for a return to planned physical activity and the good health it promotes.

“But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:27)

On Watch in Washington August 20, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington August 13, 2014

August 13th, 2014

On Watch in Washington August 13, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

ISRAEL, HAMAS ACCEPT EGYPTIAN CEASE-FIRE PROPOSAL

Israel and the Hamas militant group accepted an Egyptian cease-fire proposal Sunday, clearing the way for the resumption of talks on a long-term truce to end a month of heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip that has taken nearly 2,000 lives.

The announcement marked the second time in less than a week that the bitter enemies had agreed to Egyptian mediation. A similar three-day truce last week collapsed in renewed violence over the weekend.

The truce took effect at midnight (2101 GMT), preceded by heavy rocket fire toward Israel. In Cairo, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the cease-fire would allow humanitarian aid into battered Gaza neighborhoods and the reopening of indirect talks on a more lasting and comprehensive deal.

Hamas is seeking an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade against Gaza, while Israel wants Hamas to dismantle its formidable arsenal of rockets and other weapons.

Palestinian negotiators accepted the proposal early Sunday after meeting with Egyptian officials throughout the weekend. Israeli officials concurred later. Both delegations are back in Cairo.

Qais Abdelkarim, a member of the Palestinian delegation, said indirect talks with the Israelis would begin Monday “with the hope of reaching a lasting cease-fire.” The goal, he added, was to end the blockade, which he called “the reason for the war.”

The recent fighting has been the heaviest between Israel and Hamas since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007. More than 1,900 Palestinians have been killed, including hundreds of civilians. On the Israeli side, 67 people have been killed, including three civilians. Nearly 10,000 people have been wounded and thousands of homes destroyed.

The fighting ended in a three-day cease-fire last Tuesday. Egypt had hoped to use that truce to mediate a long-term deal. But when it expired, militants resumed their rocket fire, sparking Israeli reprisals. The violence continued throughout the weekend, including a burst of fighting late Sunday ahead of the expected cease-fire.

The Israeli military reported some 30 rocket attacks from Gaza on Sunday. Palestinian medical officials said seven people were killed in Israeli airstrikes, including the bodyguard of a Hamas leader, the medical officials said.

Israel had walked away from cease-fire talks over the weekend. “Israel will not negotiate under fire,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Sunday, warning that his country’s military campaign “will take time.”

Last week’s talks failed in part because Israel rejected Hamas’ demand for a complete end to the blockade. Israel says the closure is necessary to prevent arms smuggling, and officials do not want to make any concessions that would allow Hamas to declare victory.

A senior Palestinian negotiator acknowledged that the Palestinians would make more modest demands this time around. He said they will seek an end to the bloodshed in Gaza and an easing – but not an end – to the blockade.

“We might not get everything we want, particularly on freedom of movement. But we believe the Israelis and the world have gotten the point that Gazans should live normally and things should be much better than today,” the negotiator said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing internal Palestinian deliberations.

Israel says Hamas must disarm. Hamas has said handing over its arsenal, which is believed to include several thousand remaining rockets, is out of the question.

The blockade has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the impoverished territory of 1.8 million people for jobs and schooling. It has also limited the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports.

An Egyptian crackdown on smuggling tunnels along Gaza’s southern border has made things even tougher by robbing Hamas of its key economic pipeline and weapons conduit. Gaza’s unemployment rate surpasses 50 percent, and Hamas is unable to pay the salaries of tens of thousands of workers.

An easing of the blockade could mean an increased role for Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose forces were ousted by Hamas seven years ago. Officials said the rival Palestinian factions were already exploring options that would give Abbas, who now governs in the West Bank, a foothold in Gaza, including the likely control of its border crossing with Egypt.

At a minimum, Israel will want guarantees that the rocket fire will stop. A 2012 cease-fire promised an easing of the blockade but was never implemented – in part because of sporadic rocket attacks by various armed factions in Gaza.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Hamas could get the blockade lifted by accepting longstanding international demands to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

“They want to get legitimacy as a terrorist organization without accepting the requirements of the international community,” she told a news conference.

In the West Bank, Palestinian health officials said an 11-year-old boy was shot and killed Sunday by Israeli forces in a refugee camp near the city of Hebron.

Witnesses and relatives of the boy said Israeli security forces opened fire at Palestinian stone-throwers. They said the boy was standing on the road in front of his home at the time.

The military said its forces encountered a “violent riot” and opened fire. It acknowledged that the boy was killed in the violence and said it was investigating.

The current Gaza war escalated from the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds of its members in the West Bank. Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from God. (Contributor: Mohammed Daraghmeh for NBC and Associated Press – Associated Press writers Josef Federman in Jerusalem, Sarah El Deeb in Cairo, Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, and Daniel Estrin and Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem contributed to this report.)

“Cease-fire” means that the firing of guns and rockets should cease for the agreed-on time period — usually aimed at negotiating terms for a permanent cessation of hostilities. If so, then the last two declarations have failed before they began. In short, Israel will not let itself be destroyed, and Hamas will not relent in its do-or-die determination to utterly wipe out the Jewish state. It appears that Hamas wants no restraint on its goal of eradicating Israel, while Israel wants to live and move and trade and do commerce and educate its children in peace, without a sword over its head. Pray for U.S. leaders to maintain our committed relationship to Israel’s well-being, which seems at times to be wavering.  

“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.” (Prov 12:22)

“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.” (Psalm 86:8-10)

 

A JUDGE’S PARTY DETERMINES HIS OBAMACARE VOTE

Predicting whether Obamacare survives its latest battery of court challenges could be as easy as looking at the judges making the decisions — and the presidents who appointed them.

A Washington Times analysis of the votes cast by dozens of federal judges in appellate courts since the 2010 law was enacted shows that while Democratic and Republican appointees were evenly represented in the cases, they differed dramatically in how they ruled.

Democratic appointees ruled in favor of Obamacare more than 90 percent of the time, while Republican appointees ruled against it nearly 80 percent of the time.

Legal scholars said that’s not so much a result of party labels as that those labels represent competing judicial philosophies, which is what’s playing out in the rulings.

Two separate legal challenges to President Obama’s health care law met with skepticism Thursday from a federal appeals court panel dominated by Obama’s latest appointees. All three…

“When the result is that judges appointed by each party issue opinions that promote that party’s political goals, it can appear that the judges are trying to promote ‘their’ party’s political ends, even though that is not what’s happening,” said Michael F. Cannon, director of health policy at the Cato Institute and chief architect of a lawsuit that challenges where Obamacare’s subsidies may flow.

A review of substantive federal appellate opinions through August 1 shows that since 2011, only two of the 30 Democratic-appointed judges or justices to rule on the merits of a case decided against Obamacare. Among Republican nominees, just six of the 28 to rule backed Mr. Obama’s health law.

Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a George W. Bush appointee on the 6th Circuit, and Laurence H. Silberman, a Reagan appointee on the D.C. Circuit, came down in favor of the administration during the battle over the law’s “individual mandate,” which requires almost all Americans to hold health insurance or pay a penalty.

“Those guys are old school,” with a firm commitment to judicial restraint, said Randy E. Barnett, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center viewed as the leading legal light behind the challenge to the individual mandate.

Mr. Barnett said conservatives are starting to realize that such restraint does not always serve their interests.

Among Democratic appointees, the main exception was Judge Frank M. Hull, a Clinton appointee who ruled against the administration in the 11th Circuit case that led to Obamacare’s 2012 showdown before the Supreme Court.

Ultimately, conservatives were devastated when Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., appointed in 2005 by Mr. Bush, broke ranks from the other Republican-appointed justices and upheld the law’s individual mandate under Congress’ taxing authority.

Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the chief justice may have weighed a persistent Republican-Democrat split over Obamacare.

“It’s hard to think that wasn’t at least on his mind,” he said.

Other legal scholars say Republican judges who rule against Obamacare reflect the anger that surrounds how the law was passed in 2010.

Democratic majorities had pushed bills through each chamber with no Republican support, meaning that when Republican Scott Brown won a special election to the Senate, Democrats no longer had the filibuster-proof majority in the upper chamber needed to pass a fully reconciled bill. Instead, they had to improvise and cut corners to get anything through.

“Now you’re crying to the courts, ‘Oh, we screwed up. Fix it for us,’” said David Bernstein, a law professor at George Mason University.

Americans got a perfect look at the political and ideological split just last month when the appeals court in the District of Columbia ruled that Obamacare can only pay subsidies in some states — on the same day that an appeals court in Richmond ruled the opposite way.

The D.C. case was 2-1, with two GOP-appointed judges ruling against Mr. Obama and a Democratic appointee ruling in its favor. The Richmond court panel, meanwhile, had three Democratic appointees, and all three ruled in favor of the Obama administration.

The rulings hinged on whether the law specifies whether subsidies could be paid to all residents or only to those in states that set up their own health exchanges rather than relying on the federal government.

Drafting error or otherwise, what should be a simple fix to a hastily passed law is not an option, as the Republican House majority still wants to repeal Obamacare outright.

“If the Affordable Care Act had been passed like the civil rights acts had been passed — with bipartisan support, and then with bipartisan support in the country — some judges [would] bend over backward to try to go along with that,” Mr. Barnett said.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill recognize how closely appeals court rulings are tied to the parties that nominated the judges hearing the cases.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat furious at the way Republican-appointed judges were ruling, used the so-called “nuclear option” last year to change Senate rules and make it easier to confirm Mr. Obama’s appeals court nominations.

A chief target was the powerful D.C. appeals court, where Mr. Reid’s adding of three more Democrats could turn out to have shaped in advance the outcome of an en banc rehearing of the subsidies case.

With competing rulings, the cases are likely headed to the Supreme Court, and would be the third major Obamacare challenge to reach the justices.

In the most recent case, decided in June, five Republican-appointed justices struck down part of the administration’s contraceptive mandate, ruling that closely held corporations cannot be forced to pay for employees’ contraceptive coverage if the company owners have religious objections. The four Democratic-appointed justices had backed the administration.

But in a sign that judges aren’t always so closely tied to party affiliation, just four days earlier the court ruled unanimously that Mr. Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional.

“When the case is easy,” Mr. Bernstein said, “you’ll get 9-0 opinions regardless of politics.” (Contributor: By Tom Howell Jr. for The Washington Times)

There is a potential trap here that intercessors must avoid. A shallow response is to think that if we elect the “right” candidates so that the “right” judges are appointed, then the country’s problems will be solved and our “land” will be healed. Some of us have heard sincere “conservative” friends say, “Just wait until November [elections]. Then everything will be okay.” But everything will not be okay. Intercessors will not stray from Scripture but be first to embrace a spirit of repentance, seeking the correct heart posture to “Go and make disciples of all nations…” Pray for a widespread awakening and extended mercy to the nation. If our country is to hear the truth, the Church must speak forth.

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

“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet 4:17)   

 

LOWER BENEFITS, HIGHER EMPLOYMENT

Neel Kashkari, the Republican candidate for governor of California, just recounted in The Wall Street Journal his week on the streets of Fresno posing as a homeless man looking for work. At the end of his op-ed, Mr. Kashkari lamented that he didn’t need a higher minimum wage, paid sick leave or a health care plan. What he needed was a job.

Mr. Kashkari made the important point that all of those government benefits, especially extended unemployment benefits, are work disincentives that may actually block job creation.

To be sure, there are signs that employment in the country is rising more rapidly these days. The February-to-July period was the first six-month stretch of consistent employment gains above 200,000 since 1997. That came without any new programs from the federal government to “create jobs.” Even more surprising, those gains overlapped a quarter in which gross domestic product (GDP) actually contracted.

So what drove the increase? University of Chicago professor Casey Mulligan put his finger on it: “Major subsidies and regulations intended to help the poor and unemployed … reduce incentives for people to work and for businesses to hire.” Guess what happened when federal emergency job assistance ended? Job increases were the best in 17 years.

Economists tend to focus primarily on the demand for labor in analyzing employment trends, giving short shrift to the supply of labor. Indeed, given the harsh winter weather and first-quarter drop in real GDP, it’s hard to believe that the demand for labor increased significantly in February and March, but is there anything about the supply of labor that could explain the improvement in employment?

Well, there is a very good reason to believe that extending unemployment benefits to a maximum of 99 weeks in recent years held back the labor supply. Rather than taking a job, extended unemployment benefits made it easier for potential workers to lengthen their job searches, hold out for higher-wage positions, or just choose not to work.

However, supply-side theory would also suggest that as extended unemployment benefits expired at the end of last year — despite major handwringing from the president and Democratic leaders — workers would go back to work. They did. Technically, this would be visible as an outward expansion of the supply-of-labor curve. Without the crutch of continued unemployment benefits, workers are willing to take jobs, even at a somewhat lower wage. They know that work is its own virtue.

Now, if the demand for labor is steady, what would be the implications of an increased labor supply? Here, as the supply curve shifts, economic analysis would suggest that wages might fall somewhat, but the level of employment would increase. Guess what? Since the month after extended unemployment benefits expired, the number of employed workers has increased, the employment-to-population ratio has increased (59 percent in July versus 58.8 percent in February), and the civilian labor force has increased (to 156 million in July from 155.7 million in February). Average hourly earnings growth remains sluggish at only 0.2 percent per month over the past six months, but at least wages have risen modestly while employment gains have increased markedly.

The lesson here is that if you pay people not to work, you get less work. In fact, this is a universal problem. Record-breaking increases in recent years in food stamps, disability benefits and various forms of welfare have reduced incentives to work and earn. However, it’s clear over the first half of the year that lower unemployment subsidies have generated higher employment, which helps explain why employment growth accelerated and the unemployment rate fell another half-percentage point when overall GDP growth slowed to a near 1 percent pace.

Rep. Paul Ryan has the right idea to solve the wrong-way incentives generated by big government. He would block-grant all the transfer-assistance programs and send them back to the states. Importantly, Mr. Ryan wants to restore lower eligibility requirements and reduce benefit-assistance time limits. Plus, he would expand the earned-income tax credit to ease the transition from welfare to work without prohibitive increases in marginal tax rates.

Policymakers should listen to Mr. Ryan, and they should carefully observe what’s been happening with lower government employment assistance and higher jobs growth.

As Mr. Kashkari pointed out, many in our country just want to work. They just need a job, which is the greatest form of welfare. For a change, though, let’s get policies that actually increase the incentives to work and earn. The whole country will benefit. (Contributor: By Lawrence Kudlow and Robert Sinche for The Washington Times – Larry Kudlow is CNBC’s senior contributor. Robert Sinche is a longtime Wall Street economist.)

People who treat the Bible casually often believe that work is the result of sin, not realizing that God created work in the Garden as a gift to mankind, an avenue of stewardship. Today’s work ethic has become distorted, often mired in class warfare between management and labor. While unemployment benefits create a bridge to survival, they are not intended to stifle the quest for work or make citizens dependent on government. Pray for renewal in the Church to lead the way in benevolence and care for those who are truly poor. Pray for restoration of a national view that sees work as a holy occupation.

“He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.” (Prov 19:17)

“… and when [the apostles, the pillars] … perceived the grace that had been given to [Paul], they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles…. They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I (Paul) also was eager to do.” (Gal. 2:9-10)

“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” (2 Thess 3:10)

 

CALIPH IBRAHIM’S BRUTAL MOMENT

After an absence of 90 years, the ancient institution of the caliphate roared back into existence on the first day of Ramadan in the year 1435 of the Hegira, equivalent to June 29, 2014. This astonishing revival symbolically culminates the Islamist surge that began 40 years ago. A Western analogy might be declaring the restoration of the Hapsburg Empire, which traced its legitimacy to ancient Rome.

Whence comes this audacious move? Can the caliphate last? What will its impact be?

For starters, a quick review of the caliphate (from the Arabic “khilafa,” meaning “succession”): According to canonical Muslim history, it originated in the year 632, on the death of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, then spontaneously developed, filling the nascent Muslim community’s need for a temporal leader. The caliph became Muhammad’s nonprophetic heir. After the first four caliphs, the office became dynastic.

From the start, followers disagreed whether the caliph should be the most able and pious Muslim or the closest relative of Muhammad. The resulting division came to define the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam, respectively, causing the profound schism that still endures.

Alarm, Ridicule for Declaration of Islamic State

An al-Qaida breakaway group’s formal declaration of an Islamic caliphate across the stretch of territory it controls in Syria and Iraq sparked celebrations among the group’s followers Monday…

A single caliphate ruled all the Muslim lands until 750, but then two processes combined to diminish its power. First, remote provinces began to break away, with some — such as Spain — even creating rival caliphates. Second, the institution itself decayed and was taken over by slave soldiers and tribal conquerors, so that the original line of caliphs effectively ruled only until about 940. Other dynasties then adopted the title as a perquisite of political power.

The institution continued in an enfeebled form for a millennium until, in a dramatic act of repudiation, modern Turkey’s founder, Kemal Ataturk, terminated its last vestiges in 1924. Despite several subsequent attempts to restore it, the institution became defunct, a symbol of the disarray in Muslim-majority countries and a yearned-for goal among Islamists.

Matters remained for 90 years, until the group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) issued a declaration in five languages (English version: “This Is the Promise of Allah”) proclaiming the founding of a new caliphate under “Caliph” Ibrahim. Caliph Ibrahim (aka Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim), about 40, hailing from Samarra, Iraq, fought in Afghanistan and then Iraq. He now claims to be leader of “Muslims everywhere” and demands their oath of allegiance. All other Muslim governments have lost legitimacy, he claims. Further, Muslims must throw out “democracy, secularism, nationalism, as well as all the other garbage and ideas from the West.”

Reviving the universal caliphate means, announces “The Promise of Allah,” that the “long slumber in the darkness of neglect” has ended. “The sun of jihad has risen. The glad tidings of good are shining. Triumph looms on the horizon.” Infidels are justifiably terrified for, as both “east and west” submit, Muslims will “own the earth.”

Grandiloquent words, to be sure, but also ones with zero chance of success. ISIS has enjoyed backing from states such as Turkey and Qatar — but to fight in Syria, not to establish a global hegemony. Nearby powers — the Kurds, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel (and eventually maybe Turkey, too) — regard the Islamic State as an unmitigated enemy, as do nearly all rival Islamic movements, including al Qaeda. (The only exceptions: Boko Haram, scattered Gazans, and a new Pakistani organization.) The caliphate already faces difficulty governing the Great Britain-sized territories it conquered, troubles that will increase as its subject populations experience the full misery of Islamist rule. (Its apparent capture of the Mosul Dam on Aug. 3 portends unspeakable crimes, including the denial of electricity and water, or even unleashing catastrophic floods.)

I predict that the Islamic State, confronted with hostility both from neighbors and its subject population, will not last long.

It will leave a legacy, though. No matter how calamitous the fate of Caliph Ibrahim and his grim crew, they have successfully resurrected a central institution of Islam, making the caliphate again a vibrant reality. Islamists around the world will treasure its moment of brutal glory and be inspired by it.

For non-Muslims, this development has complex and double-edged implications. On the negative side, violent Islamists will be more encouraged to achieve their hideous goals, leaving a wake of carnage. On the positive side, the caliphate’s barbaric zealotry will have the salutary effect of awakening many of those who still sleep to the horrors of the Islamist agenda.

Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. (Contributor: By Daniel Pipes for The Washington Times)

Prayer focus: IFA respects Daniel Pipes’ reporting. His Middle East views and clear stand for Israel’s survival are balanced. This article on Muslim history explains the new rise of exceptionally brutal and barbaric Islamist terrorist atrocities in Iraq and elsewhere. The demon-inspired war on Christians in Iraq is now “old news.” This article’s final sentence is the key to our intercession: “On the positive side, the caliphate’s barbaric zealotry will have the salutary effect of awakening many of those who still sleep to the horrors of the Islamist agenda.” Pray that God will prompt world opinion to rise up and condemn this militant and murderous evil sect. The devil overplays his hand. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Tertullian, Second-century Church Father). God is watching, and heaven keeps careful records. The final chapter is coming. Intercede with fervor.

“And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’ And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:

‘We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.’” (Rev 11:15-18)

 

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM : ISIS A ‘DIRECT THREAT’ AND COULD LAUNCH ATTACK ON US SOIL

The militant Islamic State group could launch a direct attack on U.S. soil, warned South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, who urged President Barack Obama to do more to counter the group that has taken large parts of Iraq and Syria.

“Mr. President, be honest with the threat we face,” Graham said in a Fox News interview on Sunday. “They are coming.”

The Republican senator, who is also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, identified the militants as a “direct threat to our homeland.”

The U.S. has launched limited airstrikes at terrorist installations in northern Iraq to defend American personnel. The militants, formerly known as ISIS, continue taking cities in Iraq, threatening the central government and forcing thousands of Christians to flee their homes.

A senior U.S. official said that the U.S. is also sending arms to Kurdistan forces in Iraq who are fighting back against the Sunni militants. American military has also been helping facilitate weapons deliveries to the Kurds, providing logistic assistance and transportation to the north.

Close to 20,000 minority Yazidis have been rescued in northern Iraq, though tens of thousands reportedly remain stranded on mountains hiding from the Islamic State.

Christians have also been driven out by the thousands, with Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai calling on the international community to intervene and stop the ongoing persecution.

“We renew the patriarchate’s call to the Arab League, the United Nations, the Security Council and the International Criminal Court to put a stop to ISIS’ attacks and those of other fundamentalist organizations against the Christians of Mosul and the villages of Ninevah in dear Iraq, and allow the return of those Christians to their homes and properties with dignity, securing for them a decent life in their home countries with all the rights of citizens,” AINA quoted Rai as saying during Sunday Mass in Diman, north Lebanon.

On Saturday, Obama confirmed that U.S. forces have conducted airstrikes against terrorist forces outside the city of Erbil, and explained that the White House is pursuing a broader strategy in Iraq.

“We will protect our American citizens in Iraq, whether they’re diplomats, civilians or military. If these terrorists threaten our facilities or our personnel, we will take action to protect our people,” Obama said.

“More broadly, the United Nations in Iraq is working urgently to help respond to the needs of those Iraqis fleeing from areas under threat. The U.N. Security Council has called on the international community to do everything it can to provide food, water and shelter. And in my calls with allies and partners around the world, I’ll continue to urge them to join us in this humanitarian effort.”

Responses to the president’s strategy have been mixed. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, has backed Obama and highlighted the importance of the humanitarian effort to help the refugees, and called on Iraq to develop a stronger, more-inclusive government.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein of the Democratic party, who serves as the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned that it will take strong action to defeat the Islamic State, however.

“It takes an army to defeat an army, and I believe that we either confront [Islamic State] now or we will be forced to deal with an even stronger enemy in the future,” Feinstein said on Friday after the airstrikes were announced. “Inaction is no longer an option.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, has also warned that the militants are “getting stronger all the time” and growing in numbers.

“They have attracted 1,000 young men from around the world who are now fighting on their side,” McCain explained. “This ISIS is metastasizing throughout region. And their goal, as they’ve stated openly time after time, is the destruction of United States of America.” (Contributor: By Stoyan Zaimov for Christian Post Reporter)

Is God forcing the U.S. government, led by President Obama, to take a strong, open stand against this emerging, dangerous brand of hyper-militant, Islamist terrorism? We are reportedly bombing northern Iraq jihadists selectively but not effectively. President Obama shows typical restraint. Media outlets remind us regularly that he was raised in Muslim culture, heard daily the call to prayers of the imams, and for many years sat under the ministry of a hate-filled minister who openly supported the rise of Hamas. Yet, he is America’s twice-elected president, and we are enjoined in Scripture to pray for him. Let us do so fervently, committing him to God’s grace and mercy. Pray that he will be enlightened by the Holy Spirit with the truth of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus…” (1 Tim 2:1-5)

[Jesus prayed,] “… You, [Father,] have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:2-3)

 

U.S. SIGNALS A WILLINGNESS TO HELP NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT

The United States would consider expanding military and political support for Iraq if Haider al-Abadi assumes the duties of prime minister and leads a multisectarian government, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Tuesday.

The gesture of support, which was made after a meeting with their Australian counterparts here, is intended to encourage Iraqi politicians to coalesce around Mr. Abadi and to form an inclusive government. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has resisted the choice of Mr. Abadi, producing a high-stakes political battle in Baghdad.

But neither Mr. Kerry nor Mr. Hagel provided details about what additional support might be provided, and it remains unclear whether the Obama administration would be willing to expand airstrikes or provide additional teams of American military advisers to help a new Iraqi government roll back the gains made by Sunni militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“We are prepared to consider additional political, military and security options as Iraq starts to build a new government,” Mr. Kerry said.

Even as the political struggle in Baghdad escalated, the United States’ allies announced modest military steps in support of the American effort in northern Iraq.

David Johnston, the Australian defense minister, said that his country would drop humanitarian aid by air to thousands of besieged Yazidi civilians on Mount Sinjar.

British officials said the Royal Air Force would deploy a “small number” of Tornado aircraft to carry out surveillance missions in support of the airdrop mission.

The decision to use the planes to improve reconnaissance of the situation follows an episode in which a British airdrop was aborted at the last minute because the pilots feared the loads could injure those waiting on the ground.

“We are providing humanitarian assistance,’’ the British foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said on Monday. “This is not simple — getting it in is very challenging, getting people off that mountain is even more challenging.”

While some lawmakers from the Conservative Party of Prime Minister David Cameron clamored for the recall of Parliament to debate a tougher response, Mr. Hammond rejected the idea. “We don’t envisage a combat role at the present time,” he said.

The George W. Bush administration helped bring Mr. Maliki to power and the Obama administration acquiesced as he maneuvered to secure a second term. But American officials have opposed a third term for the Iraqi prime minister, who has been criticized for his authoritarian tendencies and for aggravating sectarian tensions.

The United States is calculating that a new prime minister will be able to establish an inclusive government that would grant Sunnis more of a voice in the political system, and thus make them less tolerant of ISIS militants.

On Monday, Mr. Kerry warned that the United States and the international community would cut off its support for Iraq if Mr. Maliki employed security forces to extend his rule. Having brandished the stick, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Hagel on Tuesday offered a carrot: the possibility, albeit vague, of expanded support.

The United States “is prepared to intensify its security cooperation as Iraq undertakes and makes progress toward political reform,” Mr. Hagel said.

So far, the Obama administration has committed itself to a containment strategy to prevent ISIS fighters from advancing on Erbil and Baghdad, while also providing some protection to Yazidi civilians who have sought refuge on Mount Sinjar.

The question on the table, which Mr. Kerry and Mr. Hagel did not address on Tuesday, is whether the administration would be prepared to use air power and send military advisers to help a new Iraqi government and perhaps Sunni tribes try to break ISIS’ hold on northern and western Iraq.

The Kurds have asked the Obama administration to send or facilitate the delivery of arms — including antitank weapons, armored vehicles and ammunition — as they contend with the ISIS militants, who use seized American weapons.

And on Monday, Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville, the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Washington that the Kurds needed weapons to destroy some of the vehicles that ISIS has acquired, as well as “longer-range weapons” to counter the militants.

Mr. Hagel provided no hint as to whether the Pentagon would soon provide weapons to the Kurds. Rather, he said, the American military was helping to transport weapons from the Iraqi government’s stocks to Kurdistan.

The Central Intelligence Agency is already supplying some weapons to Kurdish pesh merga fighters, although it remains unclear what kind of arms, and how many, are being provided.

During their meetings here with Mr. Johnston and Julie Bishop, the Australian foreign minister, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Hagel signed a so-called force posture agreement that provides for the rotation of United States Marines in northeast Australia.

The number of Marines is set to rise to 2,500 from 1,150, and the accord also provides for closer cooperation in other areas, like missile defense.

They also discussed the problem of Western citizens who volunteer to fight on the side of ISIS or other extremist groups, and then return home.

The Australian public has been gripped by a photograph of an Australian boy in Syria holding the severed head of a Syrian soldier. The image was posted on the Twitter account of his father, who left Australia to join ISIS. Ms. Bishop said that the photograph pointed to the danger that Westerners may become radicalized while fighting with militant groups abroad.

“This image — perhaps even an iconic photograph — is really one of the most disturbing, stomach-turning, grotesque photographs ever displayed,” Mr. Kerry said.

Thirty-eight Australian citizens and residents died when a jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine last month. A Group of 20 meeting is scheduled for November in Australia, and Mr. Kerry said that the question of whether President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia would be invited will be determined by how Russia deals with the Ukraine crisis “in these next days and weeks.” (Contributor: By Michael R. Gordon and Alan Cowell for The New York Times)

Two prayer points: First, according to polls, Americans want a statement of support from the administration for the thousands of Christians persecuted, driven from their homes, and violently murdered by ISIS terrorists in northern Iraq. The list of countries inviting these helpless refugees to find safety continues to grow, but there has been no word of welcome from the U.S. government. Pray for Christian leaders to speak out, urging elected representatives to show compassion. Give thanks for Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Virginia), who literally pled for such in the House every day before its recess. Second, U.S. leaders need wisdom and restraint in further committing military resources to Iraq, as current forces are extended, and recent cuts have reduced our strength. Pray accordingly.

Scripture: Read and pray through Isaiah 59. Seek the Lord, and make application as led by the Holy Spirit. For space, we will not reproduce the text here, but the spirit and context are appropriate for intercession.

 

ISRAELI ARMY TO BEGIN TESTING GAZA-AREA TUNNEL DETECTING GEAR

The Israel army is about to begin field testing two tunnel-detection technologies, which may provide a solution to what has become a vexing problem and terrifying fear for Israel’s southern residents, Israel’s Channel 1 News reported Monday.

The proposed systems  – which were tried and rejected in 2005 – have worked in laboratory conditions, according to Channel 2 News, and are supposedly able to detect both already-dug tunnels, as well as those in progress.

One of the systems, priced at roughly NIS 1-1.5 billion (USD 380-428 million) includes a metal plate extending down some 30-40 meters into the groundwater layer beneath the sandy, clayey soil.

The system would take upwards of a year-and-a-half to implement, along the 65-kilometer border, the army said.

The steel plates would be rigged with electronic monitoring devices that would broadcast a signal if they were disturbed, according to the report.

Even veteran Israeli residents of towns and farming villages abutting the coastal enclave, used to the 15-seconds or less they have to seek shelter in the event of rocket or mortar attacks are concerned over the prospect of terror welling up from below.

“The threat of a tunnel being under our doorsteps has taken that fear to a new level,” a resident of Kibbutz Alumim told The Algemeiner last week.

A social worker by profession, 49-year-old British-born Esther Marcus — ironically enough — wrote a children’s book entitled, “Color Red,” meant “to help kiddies deal with the situation; help them cope with Red Alert sirens,” meant for rockets raining down.

But, now, with the diabolical possibility of terror tunnels from below opening up, literally, beneath kindergartens, “now I need to come up with a story to help them cope with tunnels!!! that’s a challenge!”

A number of soldiers have died and others have been wounded in firefights with dozens of Hamas terrorists attempting to infiltrate Israeli villages through the tunnels, and there have been at least two abduction attempts against soldiers, including that of  Givati Brigade officer Hadar Goldin.

A Hamas official last Thursday bragged that the terrorist group has more, hidden, tunnels dug from Gaza beneath Israel, beyond the 32 the IDF destroyed during Operation Protective Edge.

“Israelis must feel the pain of the Palestinians,” said Abu Laith, a nom de guerre for a Hamas Izzadin al-Qassam commander, who spoke with the London Times.“They must understand that, if there is no security in Gaza, they will not have any security, either,” he said and noted that the Islamist group has more tunnel ready to use for infiltrations.

“We have more tunnels, and will be able to get back into Israel again,” he threatened, although he admitted that “some of the tunnels were partially collapsed,” according to Israel’s NRG news.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Ministry of Defense is investing millions of shekels in research programs designed to locate tunnels from Lebanon into Israel.

“There is a lot of talk about it and concern,” according to one anonymous source who spoke with Israel’s Channel 2 News last week.

Since the IDF’s discovery and detonation of the terror tunnels from Gaza, jittery Israelis are wondering if their hostile neighbors to the north, across the border in southern Lebanon, might be planning the same tactic.

The issue first came to the public’s attention during the 2006 war against Hezbollah, when the Shi’ite terrorists popped out of well-concealed, planned and equipped tunnels to attack IDF soldiers – often with lethal results.

While that northern network of tunnels didn’t reach into Israel – as far as in publicly known, “I can tell you that the issue of tunnels from Lebanon to Israel is really disturbing the security echelon,” one geologist at Tel aviv University said, adding that “There’s been a lot of talk about it and concerns.”

Another source close to the project acknowledged that “the defense establishment does not want to repeat the mistakes about tunnels in the Gaza Strip,” he noted that officials “want to find a quick solution and not get caught with their pants down.” (Contributor: The Algemeiner.com)

As we see it, Israel has no choice but to continue its offensive until Hamas is fully defeated and the tunnel system shut down, or Hamas is deflected from its stated mission to kill all Jews and eradicate the Israeli nation. Christians know by biblical authority that God’s ancient covenant people will not be destroyed by present-day foes. Still, the battle rages. Free world leaders ought to condemn such rabid and vehement hatred. Yet it is a fact that Israel deals with daily. Pray that the U.S. will not “officially” turn its back on Israel. Pray for peace and for Israel’s reconciliation to Messiah Jesus.

“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)

“… Moses … put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is [only] taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Cor 3:13-17)  

On Watch in Washington August 13, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington August 6, 2014

August 6th, 2014

On Watch in Washington August 6, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

ARMY TO FORCE OUT 550 MAJORS; SOME IN AFGHANISTAN

About 550 Army majors, including some serving in Afghanistan, will soon be told they have to leave the service by next spring as part of a budget-driven downsizing of the service.

Gen. John Campbell, the vice chief of the Army, acknowledged Friday that telling troops in a war zone that they’re out of a job is a difficult task. But he said some of the soldiers could join the National Guard or the Army Reserve.

The decision to cut Army majors comes on the heels of a move to slash nearly 1,200 captains from the ranks. Army leaders were criticized at the time for giving 48 of them the bad news while they were deployed to Afghanistan.

The Army declined to say how many majors will be notified while they are at the battlefront.

“The ones that are deployed are certainly the hardest,” Campbell told reporters. “What we try to do there is, working through the chain of command, minimize the impact to that unit and then maximize the time to provide to that officer to come back and do the proper transition, to take care of himself or herself, and the family.”

Campbell said it’s difficult to avoid cutting deployed soldiers because of the timing schedules.

All the soldiers being forced to leave have probably already been given a heads-up that they were at risk of the job cut and will meet with a senior officer, according to the Army.

Those who are cut have nine months to leave the Army. And the soldiers who are deployed, including those in Afghanistan, will generally have about a month to move out of that job and go home to begin to transition out of the service.

The cuts have been difficult for many young officers, particularly captains, who tend not to have enough years in service to retire.

To make the cuts, the Army looked at about 8,500 majors who joined the service between 1999 and 2003. Some may have about 15 years of service, depending on all factors that go into credit for years of service, and might be able to retire, but many won’t have enough time in the job, Campbell said

Guard and reserve leaders are looking for officers, especially captains, so there could be opportunities for the soldiers to continue to serve, he said.

After 13 years of war that forced a significant and rapid build-up of the Army to about 570,000, the military now has to reduce its combat forces to meet budget cuts.

The Army has close to 514,000 soldiers now, but will have to be down to 510,000 by October, shrink to 490,000 by October 2015 and be down to 450,000 by 2019. In addition, if Congress doesn’t act to prevent automatic budget cuts from resuming, the Army may eventually have to get down to 420,000 — a size that that leaders say may not allow them to wage even one major, prolonged military campaign.

The Army tried to avoid some cuts by slowing enlistments and using attrition and some voluntary separations. It also has been combing through files looking for soldiers with disciplinary or other problems in their annual evaluations to weed out lower-performing officers first, officials said. (Contributor: By Lolita C. Baldor for The Associated Press, Stripes.com)

Among constitutionally defined duties, the President of the United States is the Commander-in-chief of our military forces and is mandated to use his position to guard the nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic. In the past, presidents and the Congress have agreed that this means keeping a strong military readiness as a deterrent to all enemies, so that, seeing our strength and readiness, they will fear our might and determination to defend our borders and our freedoms. Thus, we see this as a call to the Church for sustained intercession, that God in His mercy, will guard and guide our beloved nation back to its foundations and able to invoke His protection. Please pray.

“Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’” (Isaiah 58:9)

 “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jer. 33:3)

“. . . Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1b)

 

U.S. CHEMICAL SITES VULNERABLE DESPITE MILLIONS SPENT ON SECURITY: CONGRESS

Despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars to bolster security, there are still large gaps in the nation’s chemical infrastructure that could be exploited by terrorists, says a report by a top Senate Republican.

In 2006, the Homeland Security Department began a program to modernize security systems at dangerous and hazardous chemical sites across the U.S., worried the facilities could be easy targets for terrorism.

But a series of investigations by watchdogs and members of Congress have found flaws in the government’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards, despite a nearly $600 million price tag.

“Today — eight years later — there is little, if any, evidence to show that the more than half a billion dollars DHS has spent created an effective chemical-security regulatory program or measurably reduced the risk of an attack on our chemical-industrial infrastructure,” said Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Several Democrats on the committee have said that the DHS has been fixing mistakes in securing chemical sites, but that improvements were still needed.

Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware Democrat and the panel’s chairman, “agrees with ranking member Coburn’s assessment that there is still more work to do in this area, and the existing program needs to be reformed,” a committee spokesman said.

According to Mr. Coburn’s report, an internal DHS review last year found “fundamental problems, errors, inconsistencies and unsupported assumptions in the methodology underlying the whole CFATS program.”

Likewise, a 2013 report by the Government Accountability Office found the program had made several mistakes, including miscalculating the risks of a chemical attack for people living outside the continental U.S. in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Guam.

In fact, out of roughly 4,000 facilities and sites covered under the improved security program, Congress said that just 39 have been inspected to make sure they are complying with increased safety requirements.

“CFATS is not reducing our nation’s risk to a terrorist attack on U.S. chemical infrastructure,” Mr. Coburn’s report concluded. “As the incident in West, Texas, showed last year, there are facilities in the country with dangerous amounts of toxic or flammable chemicals that are not following the CFATS rules, whether because they are ignorant of the law or intentionally choosing not to comply. And DHS does not know about them.”

DHS spokesman S.Y. Lee said the effort is “an important part of our nation’s counterterrorism efforts, helping keep dangerous chemicals out of the hands of those who wish to do us harm.”

“Over the past two years, the CFATS program has made significant progress, advancing programmatically while simultaneously addressing internal management concerns,” he said. “While this progress has helped put the program on a path to success and make the nation more secure, there is still work to be done.”

Mr. Lee said that “much of the important work ahead requires continued engagement with Congress to enact legislation providing multiyear authorization so that the program can continue its current path to success with stability.”

Mr. Coburn’s report acknowledged that some of the problems facing the program have been “created by Congress,” and that the legislative body needs to lay out detailed expectations, help decide which sites may be the most critical to protect and provide appropriate funding.

To that end, the Senate committee worked on an amendment to a bill Wednesday hoping to reform some of the chemical-safety processes. The legislation would better define which chemical facilities are covered, helping DHS to identify “outliers” that have so far slipped under the radar of regulation, and would remove facilities that are handled by other federal safety programs — such as nuclear sites.

It would also require the agency to develop performance-based standards by which a chemical facility could easily be judged and to enforce requirements that site inspections and reviews be completed. (Contributor: By Phillip Swarts for The Washington Times)

At its root, this article looks at America’s safety. Specifically, discussion centers on how secure or how vulnerable are our country’s chemical resources. But if we limit our prayer focus to chemicals, we will miss the opportunity to intercede for a beloved nation that has drifted far from its core beliefs. Let us not trivialize prayer as a list of external needs. Instead, let God’s Church arise and lead, not falter. With repentant hearts, let us seek revival. Without God’s blessing, there is no safety.

“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7)

“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

 

CALIFORNIA’S EXCEPTIONAL DROUGHT JUST KEEPS GETTING WORSE

California’s three-year drought just went from bad to dreadful. In the course of the last week, the crimson expanse of “exceptional drought” grew to engulf the northern part of the state.

The chart above shows the drought’s progression as reported today by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Archived maps show the end of July for each year since 2011.

All of California is in “severe drought” (shown in orange), and 82 percent is rated “extreme drought” (in red). The agency’s highest drought rating — “exceptional drought” (crimson) — now covers 58 percent of the state, up from 36 percent a week ago. Exceptional drought is marked by crop and pasture loss and water shortages that fall within the top two percentiles of the drought indicators.

The water reserves in California’s topsoil and subsoil are nearly depleted, and 70 percent of the state’s pastures are now rated “very poor to poor,” according to the USDA.

Reservoir levels are dropping, and groundwater is being drained from the state as farms and cities pull from difficult-to-replenish underground caches. The state’s 154 reservoirs are at 60 percent of the historical average, or 17.3 million acre feet lower than they should be. That’s more than a year’s supply of water gone missing.

It’s not the worst drought California has ever seen — in 1977, the state’s water storage was at 41 percent of the historical average — but conditions are still getting worse.

The Colorado River Basin, which feeds California and six other states, is “the most over-allocated river system in the world,” according to a study of satellite records released last week that shocked scientists with the magnitude of water loss.

Since 2004, the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet of freshwater. That’s enough to submerge New York City beneath 344 feet of water. (Contributor: By Tom Randall for Bloomberg)

California’s water issue worsens. In the Old Testament, God used drought or water scarcity to get people’s attention. Let us consider: while the U.S. is not to be confused with Israel, is it possible God is using the California drought (which affects the entire country) and other climate changes to show us our need for His help and to bring our nation back to Himself? Is this a precursor for repentance and revival? Where is the God of Elijah? When did you last hear any official suggest prayer for divine intervention? Pray for God’s help. Note the first passage below. It appears we should quote v. 13 when we quote v. 14.

[The Lord God speaking directly to Solomon:] 13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 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 I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:13-14)

“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” (James 5:17-18)

 

WHO WILL PUT AN END TO THE CHRISTIAN KILLING FIELDS?

“Please, the world needs to know: We are captives, we don’t have water or electricity here in Aleppo but it is nothing compared to the fear we have toward the Islamists. Why is no one doing anything to save us?”

A young Assyrian Christian woman in Aleppo, Syria, spoke these words to me during a phone call a few days ago. She is stuck in the country with her three small children.

In wake of the ISIS invasion of Iraq, reports (long overdue) are emerging about the persecution of Christians and other minorities in the country. Yet ISIS is committing the same atrocities against non-Muslims in Syria, too.

Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, has been emptied of almost all Christians. Ten days ago, ISIS – who now call themselves the Islamic State (IS) – distributed fliers to Christians that read: “Convert, Pay Jizya, Leave or Die.”

The Christians fled in droves before the Saturday deadline for their decision.

The scant few who remained were weak, old or injured and could not flee. A man who lost his leg in a bombing a couple of days prior to the deadline was forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint, according to his relatives.

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, also has been nearly emptied of Assyrians, Armenians and other non-Muslims.

These are the words spoken to me by the father of the three children stuck with their mother in another phone call: “It’s happening right in front of their eyes and no one is lifting a finger to stop it. Please be our voice, we beg you — make them do something to save us from being slaughtered.”

The husband has fled to Sweden. He had a plan of bringing his family later. But for now, he has left them behind, and they are in severe danger.

After our conversation, I thought at first, what kind of man is he to leave his family behind? Then I realized I’ve interviewed thousands of refugees who have been similarly deserted in countries like China, Thailand, Chad, or have had friends and family who have drowned in their attempts to flee. Maybe this young man was threatened by the Jihadists and decided to flee rather than risk his entire family’s life.

And who I am to judge him, while I’m enjoying the freedom and safety of Sweden, where I myself arrived as an 8-year-old?

Then I reminded myself of this: I have been trusted to be the voice of some of these people; the unheard minorities of this world, who are being persecuted, slaughtered and forcibly removed from their birthplaces. That is the task I have somehow been given, and I take that responsibility very seriously.  Someone has to do it.

Right now in Syria and Iraq, girls are being kidnapped, raped and killed. Young men have been beheaded in front of cameras because of their faith. For a decade now I have been watching these gruesome video clips that find their way to me. This is the kind of footage that will never leave you. Nor will the desperate voices of the victims.

So I must continue speaking out for Mary, a young woman in her mid-20s, who was dragged out of her house in Southeast Syria for being an Assyrian activist.  She was pushed to the ground in the middle of the street and shot in the head.  Then the terrorists shouted that they would murder the entire family of anyone attempting to touch the corpse. The same night dogs started to eat her body.

And I will continue talking about the Assyrian and Armenian girls who are kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam and marry Jihadists, as one Iraqi and Syrian city after another is being emptied of Christians.

Before Syria’s civil war broke out, more than 200 Assyrian families and 1,000 individuals lived in Tabqa, a city in northern Syria. Nearly all of them have left the country; some of them are stranded all over the world, abandoned by cynical smugglers who failed to get them to Europe. Only three Assyrian families had remained in Tabqa. The rebels told them that they would not be harmed. The remaining Assyrians were poor and were trying to maintain what little they had.

One of them was 26-year-old Ninar Odisho. Ninar was brutally murdered by the terrorists. The reason he was killed could be found on his body. The Jihadists had burned a cross into his face. Every day I get reports of atrocities. Our nation, our Christian legacy and our way of life are being eradicated. Assassinated.

The prideful tone in which the perpetrators speak whenever I have interviewed them –both Al Qaeda and IS –– is equally shocking. These are mostly disgruntled young men who were teetering on the edges of society in their own homelands, often in European suburbs, and now believe they have the power to do whatever they want in the name of Islam. They can claim any house in IS-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria as their own, and tell the owners to either leave or risk being killed. They can take any woman as their wife.

Why? Because no one is stopping them.

At least 700, 000 non-Muslims — Christians, Mandeans, Yezidis and others — have left Iraq by now. No one knows how many have left Syria.

IS is also persecuting Muslims. They have killed Sunni Mullahs in Mosul to show that they do not tolerate any interpretation of the Koran other than their own hijacked and distorted version, and that they will accept no religious authority other than their own homemade version.

In other words, everyone other than them is a target: especially the more immediate rivals to their religious and communal authority, other Muslim sects such as the Shia and the Alawites.

They will cut off your tongue if they don’t like what you say, and sever your fingers if they catch you smoking. According to sources in Mosul yesterday, a man was brutally attacked and tortured because he was wearing jeans, which to the IS is tantamount to wearing an U.S. Army uniform.

So, what is the rest of the world doing about this?

Well, world leaders are funding the opposition in Syria, including many of the same extremist groups that they claim America will combat in Iraq by supporting the Iraqi government.

I am struggling to make any moral or human sense of it all.

And here’s a good question: Why is the most powerful country in the world silent as Christianity is wrenched of its roots?

As for me, I came to a point where I have concluded it’s not enough to bear witness anymore.

On June 19 of this year, a young Assyrian who was forcibly deported from Sweden back to Iraq called me from a basement in Mosul. He was whispering. He told me to listen to the surrounding noise: men screaming “Taqbir!” and “Allah u Akbar!” It was ISIS invading his city.

The next morning I went on Facebook and Twitter and asked my friends for help. I started a worldwide campaign. It is called A Demand For Action. We have sent e-mails to politicians, NGOs and media outlets all over the world. We will not stop making the voices of the victims in Iraq and Syria heard until they receive a permanent solution.

In the Nineveh Plains, just south of Iraqi Kurdistan, Assyrians and other minorities constitute the demographic majority and are currently very vulnerable. We need a safe haven, if Christianity and its followers are not to be eradicated from their place of origin for good.

Last week, yet another village in Iraq was attacked by IS. The Christians of the Middle East have faced many massacres over the past century. We are now facing the prospect of a new genocide against Christians in Iraq and Syria.

American and other nations’ leaders must show their support and act now. (Contributor: By Nuri Kino for FoxNews.com – Nuri Kino is a Swedish-Assyrian freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker. He is co-author of the political thriller, “The Line in the Sand.”)

Prayer focus: first, please read this article in its entirety. Yes, it will break your heart. For the more sensitive, it may make you physically sick. Many will weep. But our tears will dry and our nausea will subside, while Christians and non-Muslims suffering in Iraq and Syria have no respite from relentless persecution and death. Second, intercede as you are led. Third, if so led, consider asking elected representatives why the U.S., with its abundant resources, is not leading the way with humanitarian aid? Pray that all of us who make up the Church of Jesus Christ will know what we are to do. ISIS is on the move and marching westward. Please pray.

“But [the expert in the Law], wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’

“Then Jesus answered and said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.

But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’ And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” (Luke 10:20-37)

 

IDF WIPES OUT REMAINING KNOWN HAMAS TUNNELS IN GAZA

IDF ground forces completed work to destroy the last of Hamas’s known cross-border tunnels on Sunday, and struck some 70 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets across the Strip.

Many units withdrew to staging areas in Gaza, though some remained behind, taking up defensive lines inside the Strip to protect Israeli villages.

Since the start of the Gazan war, the IDF has hit 4,600 terror targets. These included rocket launchers, command and control centers, and weapons storage and production facilities.

A terrorist shot at a Givati Brigade infantry unit and an Armored Corps unit in Gaza on Sunday morning. The units returned fire, before observing a Palestinian gunman fleeing a home and entering a vehicle. The air force then struck the vehicle.

“There is no decision to stop the operation,” a senior army source said Sunday.

“We are preparing to attack, not only to defend,” the source said. “If a decision is made that this is necessary, we will attack,” he added.

The IDF struck 108 targets overnight between Saturday and Sunday in Gaza. One soldier was moderately wounded by Palestinian sniper fire in Beit Hanun.

Paratroopers in the Strip detected four terrorists preparing to fire an anti-tank missile. Acting on the information, the Armored Corps fired shells at a home in which the terrorists were stationed.

The building collapsed and the terrorists were killed.

Givati infantry soldiers recently uncovered 150 mortars, as well as a new tunnel shaft, in Gaza. Earlier, Givati soldiers detected terrorists who surfaced from a tunnel.

The IDF fired shells at the cell, which escaped to a nearby home. The IDF shelled the home, and three terrorists were killed. Troops then destroyed the tunnel.

The Israel Air Force killed eight gunmen in air strikes on Sunday and the IDF attacked more than 70 terrorist targets throughout Sunday.

Givati infantry soldiers seized quantities of firearms, rocket launchers, and antitank missiles on Saturday night.

The IDF said that more than 55 rockets had been fired from Gaza at Israel on Sunday. Shrapnel from a rocket shot down by the Iron Dome air-defense system fell inside a playground in the Tel Aviv area but caused no injury, media reports said.

Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, on Sunday threatened to target all Israeli cities with rockets, in response to “massacres against civilians” in the Gaza Strip.

“During this battle, we tried as much as possible to focus our attacks on military targets and avoided – as much as we could – targeting nonmilitary personnel,” the terrorist group claimed in a statement. “But the enemy has and continues to cover its frustration by targeting innocent Palestinian civilians.”

The statement claimed that Israel has chosen to “run away” from the battlefield with Hamas. “The resistance still possesses the tools and capabilities to force the enemy to capitulate to the just demands of our people,” the group warned.

The fighting on Sunday pushed the Gaza death toll given by Palestinian officials to 1,775, most of them civilians.

Israel has confirmed that 64 soldiers have died in combat, while Palestinian rockets have killed three civilians in Israel.

Meanwhile, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri demanded an apology from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for endorsing the Israeli version regarding the “kidnapping” of IDF officer Hadar Goldin.

“Ban Ki-moon is complicit in the massacres because of his silence and concern over dead Israeli soldiers while ignoring the blood of innocent civilians,” Abu Zuhri said. “The occupation took advantage of this stance to perpetrate an ugly massacre against Rafah.

Ban Ki-moon must apologize and hold Israel responsible for the Rafah massacre and all crimes.”

An IDF strike in Gaza on Saturday night targeted senior Hamas operative Ahmed Hassan Mabhouh, 29, who was an engineering and explosives officer in Hamas’s Jabalya battalion.

Mabhouh was killed in the strike. He was the nephew of senior Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who, according to foreign press reports, Israeli agents assassinated in Dubai in 2010 for his role in importing Iranian arms to the Gaza Strip.

Ahmed Mabhouh, a resident of Jabalya, planted underground rocket launchers and planted explosives to assist in ambushes of the IDF, the Shin Bet said.  (Contributor:  By Yaakov Lappin, Khaled Abu Toameh for The Jerusalem Post)

Give thanks for Israel’s success in destroying the Hamas tunnels. The issues should be clear here, but are not. Yesterday, former president Jimmy Carter published a statement condemning Israel and calling for recognition of Hamas as the official area government. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have rebuked Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and spoken on behalf of Hamas. Pray for them to be enlightened, for the preservation of Israel, and for all militant expressions of Islam to be defeated. Militant Islam is not a worthy religion but an ideological killing machine. Let us stand in the gap and intercede. Pray for peace for Israel and recognition of Yeshua as Messiah.

“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” (Ezekiel 22:30)

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces.” (Psalm 122:6-7)

 

MERIAM IBRAHIM’S STORY ONLY THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG

An organization that fights for persecuted Christians says the end of Meriam Ibrahim’s plight needs to be the beginning point in a struggle to help others still suffering for their faith.

Sudan (small)Ibrahim and her family arrived in the U.S. late last week after being imprisoned in Sudan for refusing to renounce her Christian faith. While in prison and facing a death sentence, she gave birth to her second child; her older child was in prison with her. Now she, her children, and her husband, Daniel Wani (a U.S. citizen) plan to settle in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Cameron Thomas with International Christian Concern says many Christians in Sudan are enduring hardship today.

“Since 2011, Sudan’s president – who has been in power since a military coup in 1989 – has brutally enforced his government’s policies of Islamization and Arabization,” he explains, “meaning that Sudanese Christians, among others, are forced to suffer second-class citizenship, the dictates of Sharia law and they have seen their Bible schools forcibly closed, their churches burned to the ground.”

Last month, Sudan even placed a moratorium on any and all new church construction throughout the country.

“In no free society is a religion – any religion, for that matter – told, Well, we think you have enough places of worship so we’re actually going to not only tear down a few of your already-standing houses of worship, but we’re also going to stop you from building any new ones,” says Thomas. “It has to be noted, and it’s been discussed even at a subcommittee hearing of the U.S. Congress, that the suffering of Christians in Sudan is increasing.” (Contributor: Chris Woodward for One News Now)

We have dual prayer points: first, we urge thanksgiving and praise to God for bringing about Meriam Ibrahim’s release from prison and a death sentence for so-called “apostasy.” She and her family are now in the U.S. and free to pursue their chosen life as a Christian family. God heard His people’s prayers and brought that about. Second, intercede for the millions who still suffer and are slated for death because of faith in Jesus Christ and their unwillingness to recant. Some, like Pastor Saeed, are American citizens. We who are free should give thanks and intercede for those who are not.

“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’  Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” (Rev. 6:9-11)

 

U.S. DOCTOR STRICKEN WITH EBOLA SAID TO BE IMPROVING

An American doctor stricken with the deadly Ebola virus while in Liberia and brought to the United States for treatment in a special isolation ward is improving, the top U.S. health official said on Sunday.

Dr Kent Brantly was able to walk, with help, from an ambulance after he was flown on Saturday to Atlanta, where he is being treated by infectious disease specialists at Emory University Hospital.

“It’s encouraging that he seems to be improving – that’s really important – and we’re hoping he’ll continue to improve,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

Frieden told CBS’s “Face the Nation” it was too soon to predict whether Brantly would survive, and a hospital spokesman said Emory did not expect to provide any updates on the doctor’s condition on Sunday.

Brantly is a 33-year-old father of two young children who works for the North Carolina-based Christian organization, Samaritan’s Purse. He was in Liberia responding to the worst Ebola outbreak on record when he contracted the disease.

Since February, more than 700 people in West Africa have died from Ebola, a hemorrhagic virus with a death rate of up to 90 percent of those infected. The fatality rate in the current epidemic is about 60 percent.

Frieden told ABC’s “This Week” that the CDC was “surging” its response, and that it will send 50 staff to West Africa “to help stop the outbreak in the next 30 days.”

Amber Brantly, Dr. Brantly’s wife, said she was able to see her husband on Sunday and he was in good spirits, and that the family is confident he is receiving the very best care. “He thanked everyone for their prayers,” she said in a statement.

A second U.S. aid worker who contracted Ebola alongside Brantly, missionary Nancy Writebol, will be brought to the United States on a later flight as the medical aircraft is equipped to carry only one patient at a time.

Standard treatment for the disease is to provide supportive care. In Atlanta, doctors will try to maintain blood pressure and support breathing, with a respirator if needed, or provide dialysis if patients experience kidney failure, as some Ebola sufferers do.

Second Missionary Expected Soon

Writebol, a 59-year-old mother of two who worked to decontaminate those entering and leaving an Ebola isolation unit in Liberia, was due to depart for the United States overnight on Monday, Liberia’s information minister said.

Writebol’s husband, David, who had been living and working in Liberia with his wife, was expected to travel home separately in the next few days, their missionary organization, SIM USA, said in a statement.

Despite public concern over bringing in Ebola patients, the CDC’s Frieden said the United States may see a few isolated cases in people who have been traveling, but did not expect widespread Ebola in the country.

The facility at Emory chosen to treat the two infected Americans was set up with CDC and is one of four in the country with the ability to handle such cases. The Americans will be treated primarily by four infectious disease physicians, and will be able to see relatives through a plate-glass window and speak to them by phone or intercom.

Frieden said it was unlikely Brantly’s wife and children, who left Liberia before he began showing symptoms, contracted the disease because people who are exposed to Ebola but not yet sick cannot infect others.

The CDC has said it is not aware of any Ebola patient having been treated in the United States previously. Five people entered the country in the past decade with either Lassa Fever or Marburg, both hemorrhagic fevers similar to Ebola.

President Barack Obama has said some participants at an Africa summit in Washington this week would be screened for Ebola exposure. Frieden said on Sunday there was no reason to cancel the event.

“There are 50 million travelers from around the world that come to the U.S. each year … We’re not going to hermetically seal this country,” he told Fox News Sunday. (Contributor: By Rich McKay for Reuters – Additional reporting by Emma Farge in Dakar; Writing by Doina Chiacu and Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Frances Kerry and Sandra Maler)

Update:

A second American stricken with the Ebola virus returned to the USA Tuesday, three days after a doctor being treated for the disease arrived at an Atlanta hospital for intensive care.

Nancy Writebol, a medical missionary aiding in the treatment of Ebola victims in Liberia, was scheduled to leave that African nation around 1 a.m. this past Tuesday on a specially equipped medical evacuation plane, Liberian Information Minister Lewis Brown said, according to the Associated Press.

Kent Brantly, the American doctor transported to Atlanta Saturday, “seems to be improving,” the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday.

Brantly is being treated in a special isolation unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after arriving Saturday at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia. It’s the first time anyone infected with the deadly virus has been brought into the country.

“We’re hoping he’ll continue to improve,” Dr. Tom Frieden told CBS’ Face the Nation. “But Ebola is such a scary disease because it’s so deadly. I can’t predict the future for individual patients.”

Brantly and Writebol were serving in Liberia as medical missionaries when they became infected with the virus, which has killed 729 people and sickened more than 1,300 the West African nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Frieden has said his agency received “nasty” e-mails and at least 100 calls from people questioning why the sick aid workers should be let into the USA. Physicians are confident, however, that the two Americans can be treated without putting the public in danger.

An ambulance arrives with Ebola victim Dr. Kent Brantly, right, at Emory University Hospital, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Atlanta.

The virus is spread through direct contact with blood, urine, saliva and other bodily fluids from an infected person. It is not spread through the air.

“I don’t think it’s in the cards that we would have widespread Ebola,” Frieden said. He said the virus spreads in African hospitals where there isn’t infection control and in burial rituals where people touch the bodies of Ebola victims. That won’t happen here, he said.

“So it’s not going to spread widely in the U.S. Could we have another person here, could we have a case or two? Not impossible,” Frieden said. “We say in medicine never say never. But we know how to stop it here. But to really protect ourselves, the single most important thing we can do is stop it at the source in Africa. That’s going to protect them and protect us.”

Emory’s infectious diseases unit was created 12 years ago to handle doctors who get sick at the CDC. It is one of about four in the country equipped with everything necessary to test, treat and contain people exposed to very dangerous viruses.

In 2005, it handled patients with severe acute respiratory syndromeSARS, which unlike Ebola can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

In fact, the nature of Ebola — which is spread by close contact with bodily fluids and blood — means that any modern hospital using standard, rigorous infection-control measures should be able to handle it. (Contributor: By Natalie DiBlasio and John Bacon for USA Today)

Prayer focus: This is an unfolding story. Please pray for calm consideration among media outlets, that they will report accurately, without fomenting hysteria. Treating Dr. Brantley and Nancy Writebol in the U.S. might as well be treating them on a different planet from West Africa. Merely washing one’s hands with soap and water is a huge deterrent to the spread of Ebola, though we do not downplay its seriousness. Give thanks for these stalwart Christian missionaries who went into harm’s way to bring relief in Liberia. God is still the Great Physician and Healer. Please continue to pray. Our Scripture is out of context but applicable for believers.

“There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them, and said, ‘If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.’ Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters.” (Exodus 15:25-27)

 

U.S. GOVERNMENT SEEKING TO TEST EBOLA VACCINE ON HUMANS

The U.S. government will begin testing on people an experimental Ebola vaccine as early as September, after seeing positive results from tests on primates, according to media reports on Thursday.

The National Institutes of Health’s infectious disease unit is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to put the vaccine into trial as quickly as possible, according to CNN and USA Today. The director of that unit could not be reached for comment. (Contributor: By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Sandra Maler for Reuters)

Update: Experimental drug likely saved Ebola patients

Three vials containing an experimental drug stored at subzero temperatures were flown into Liberia last week in a last-ditch effort to save two American missionary workers who had contracted Ebola, according to a source familiar with details of the treatment.

The drug appears to have worked, sources say. Dr. Kent Brantly’s and Nancy Writebol’s conditions significantly improved after receiving the medication, sources say. Brantly was able to walk into Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after being evacuated to the United States last week, and Writebol is expected to arrive in Atlanta on Tuesday.

On July 22, Brantly woke up feeling feverish. Fearing the worst, Brantly immediately isolated himself. Writebol’s symptoms started three days later. A rapid field blood test confirmed the infection in both of them after they had become ill with fever, vomiting and diarrhea.

It’s believed both Brantly and Writebol, who worked with the aid organization Samaritan’s Purse, contracted Ebola from another health care worker at their hospital in Liberia, although the official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention case investigation has yet to be released.

A representative from the National Institutes of Health contacted Samaritan’s Purse in Liberia and offered the experimental treatment, known as ZMapp, for the two patients, according to the source.

The drug was developed by the biotech firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., which is based in San Diego. The patients were told that this treatment had never been tried before in a human being but had shown promise in small experiments with monkeys.

According to company documents, four monkeys infected with Ebola survived after being given the therapy within 24 hours after infection. Two of four other monkeys that started therapy within 48 hours after infection also survived. One monkey that was not treated died within five days of exposure to the virus.

Brantly and Writebol were aware of the risk of taking a new, little understood treatment and gave informed consent, according to two sources familiar with the care of the missionary workers. In the monkeys, the experimental serum had been given within 48 hours of infection. Brantly didn’t receive it until he’d been sick for nine days.

The medicine is a three-mouse monoclonal antibody, meaning that mice were exposed to fragments of the Ebola virus and then the antibodies generated within the mice’s blood were harvested to create the medicine. It works by preventing the virus from entering and infecting new cells.

The Ebola virus causes viral hemorrhagic fever, which refers to a group of viruses that affect multiple organ systems in the body and are often accompanied by bleeding.

Early symptoms include sudden onset of fever, weakness, muscle pain, headaches and a sore throat. They later progress to vomiting, diarrhea, impaired kidney and liver function — and sometimes internal and external bleeding.

The ZMapp vials reached the hospital in Liberia where Brantly and Writebol were being treated Thursday morning. Doctors were instructed to allow the serum to thaw naturally without any additional heat. It was expected that it would be eight to 10 hours before the medicine could be given, according to a source familiar with the process.

Brantly asked that Writebol be given the first dose because he was younger and he thought he had a better chance of fighting it, and she agreed. However, as the first vial was still thawing, Brantly’s condition took a sudden turn for the worse.

Brantly began to deteriorate and developed labored breathing. He told his doctors he thought he was dying, according to a source with firsthand knowledge of the situation.

Knowing his dose was still frozen, Brantly asked if he could have Writebol’s now-thawed medication. It was brought to his room and administered through an IV. Within an hour of receiving the medication, Brantly’s condition dramatically improved. He began breathing easier; the rash over his trunk faded away. One of his doctors described the events as “miraculous.”

By the next morning, Brantly was able to take a shower on his own before getting on a specially designed Gulfstream air ambulance jet to be evacuated to the United States.

Writebol also received a vial of the medication. Her response was not as remarkable, according to sources familiar with the treatment. However, doctors on Sunday administered Writebol a second dose of the medication, which resulted in significant improvement.

She was stable enough to be evacuated back to the United States and is expected to arrive before noon Tuesday.

The process by which the medication was made available to Brantly and Writebol is highly unusual. ZMapp has not been approved for human use, and has not even gone through the clinical trial process, which is standard to prove the safety and efficacy of a medication. It may have been given under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “compassionate use” regulation, which allows access to investigational drugs outside clinical trials.

Getting approval for compassionate use is often long and laborious, but in the case of Brantly and Writebol, they received the medication within seven to 10 days of their exposure to the Ebola virus.

On July 30, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, an arm of the military responsible for any chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive threats, allotted additional funding to MAPP Biopharmaceutical due to “promising results.”

American Ebola patient ‘seems to be improving’ (Contributor: By Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Danielle Dellorto for CNN)

This account can only invoke heartfelt praise and thanksgiving, both a vital part of intercession. Give thanks for the ingenuity of the scientists and for the diligent and arduous research that brought forth the still-experimental vaccine, ZMapp. Its power to reverse certain death is surely a gift of God’s grace to mankind. Who else could provide the technology and wisdom to allow a “miracle drug” to be discovered, other than our almighty and sovereign God? He is the God of all comfort and Father of mercies. Stay tuned for testimonies from Mrs. Writebol and Dr. Brantly, when fully healed, that will point to and glorify God to the highest degree. Pray for many to come to salvation.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.” (2 Cor. 1:3-6)

On Watch in Washington August 6, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington July 30, 2014

July 30th, 2014

On Watch in Washington July 30, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

_

“I AM IRAQI. I AM CHRISTIAN”

My name is Rana Mansour.  I am Iraqi, a Christian, and an “infidel”.  I was born in Baghdad, Iraq during the Baath regime.  My family escaped the country when I was younger and emigrated to the United Kingdom, and later to the United States. I am a member of the Chaldean Catholic Church, an ancient people whose roots can be traced back to Abraham and the Apostle Thomas. Chaldeans have lived in ancient Mesopotamia, now modern day Iraq, for almost 2,000 years.  However, given the rise of ISIS, an Islamic terrorist organization, the Middle Eastern Christian has become an endangered species, on the verge of extinction. But unlike the freshwater tortoise, no one is running to save the Christian.

ISIS seeks to establish a caliphate and spread terror beyond Syria and Iraq. They took over Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, with little resistance and “ethnically cleansed” the city of all Christianity. They set fire to churches (some 1,800 years old), destroyed the tomb of the Prophet Jonah, and marked Christian homes with the Arabic letter “N” for Nazarene. They gave Christians 24 hours to leave their homes, mandating that their alternatives were: convert to Islam, pay a jizya (a protection tax for non-Muslims, or “kufar”), or die by the sword.  Needless to say, everyone left.

  What is a refugee?

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark when the Obama administration refuses to address the forced exodus of Christians, (called the “Sunday People” in Iraq), by militant jihadists, yet speaks tirelessly regarding the hundreds of thousands of “refugees” from Honduras and Guatemala.  According to the Oxford dictionary, “a refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.” Iraqi Christians fit this description … Central Americans do not. The latter should not be given preferential treatment, when the former is in such dire straits.

Iraqi Christians are forced refugees living in tents, in Kurdistan, while terrorists in Mosul are occupying their homes.  Islamic militants have now cut off water supplies to the remaining Christian villages.  The Peshmerga, Kurdish forces whose name literally means “those that face death,” are the only ones protecting the Christians now.

What is happening to America?

   America is not my birth country, yet she opened her arms to my family.  Since I was a little girl, my mother would tell me: “Every day, kiss the ground of America because our lives would be completely different had she not welcomed us.”  However, with increasing secularism and “Christianophobia” in this country, which was once a beacon for religious freedom, America remains a silent spectator during this modern day inquisition and Christian Holocaust.
You are the salt of the earth, but what good is salt if it loses its flavor? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. (Matthew 5:13)

   How ironic that Christianity, which predates Islam and was once the great majority of the Middle East, is now the persecuted minority. Chaldeans are the foundation and root of Iraq. When you kill the root, you no longer have a country, you no longer have Iraq- but just another terrorist state.

Even prior to the exodus of the Sunday People in Iraq, there was an exodus of Jews, called the “Saturday People” by jihadists. History repeats itself. I am reminded of Pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous quote as I look at what is happening in Iraq and adapt his words from the (temporary) safety of America’s soil:

First they came for the Saturday People, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Sunday People, and I did not speak out—
because it was a continent away.

Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me.

Be careful and stand watch.  A caliphate could be coming to a village, a city, or a country near you.

Silence speaks louder than words. In our Christian desire to turn the other cheek to those who hurl insults at us, we are forgetting that there is a time and a place for righteous indignation. There is a time for silence and a time to speak. Pray that Christianity in the West will understand that the time to speak on behalf of the suffering Church is now. We cannot afford to look the other way. Ask for the Holy Spirit’s power because it is time for American Christians to be empowered to be seekers, promoters and defenders of Truth.

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves … do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” (Matt. 10:16-20)

 

CHRISTIAN LEADERS MEET IN NY TO SUPPORT ISRAEL OVER HAMAS

Dozens of Christian faith leaders from the greater New York area united at the Faith Exchange in New York City on Friday to express their support for Israel in its current conflict with the Palestinian Hamas group. Israel and Hamas are currently involved in a violent and ongoing clash that one religious leader attending Friday’s event described as one of the “defining issues of our time.”

Thirty-two Christian leaders joined media and Ambassador Ido Aharoni, consul general of Israel in New York, to discuss the importance of supporting Israel during this time of conflict and violence. Dr. Paul de Vries, president of the New York Divinity School, organized Friday’s press conference.

De Vries told The Christian Post that several important topics were discussed among the ministers, including what they believe to be a clear distinction of good versus evil between Israel and Hamas in the way they treat their own citizens.

“The media tries to paint this as two forces that we have to bring together and try to resolve their differences. One is terroristic and the other supports the core biblical values of life, liberty and justice. There really is no problem choosing sides between Hamas and Israel,” de Vries told The Christian Post. “The Palestinian people are the ones we love, along with the people of Israel, but the abuse by the tyrannical leaders of the Palestinians is just incalculable.”

An example that Dr. de Vries mentioned was the heavy investment Hamas has made in dozens of very long cement-reinforced tunnels used to attack Israelis, but yet the group has failed to build bomb shelters for Palestinian civilians.

De Vries went on to argue that it is in the U.S.’s best security interest to support Israel, saying: “Hamas is terrorizing its own people and the people of Israel, and if they had a chance, they’d terrorize America, too.”

While “in Israel the basic human rights are respected, right to life, right to freedom of religion,” de Vries argues that “Hamas embodies a mentality of death and is against liberty, against the lives of their own people, and against freedom of religion.”

Two of the pastors at the press conference have ministered in Gaza, and they talked firsthand about the torture, abuse and murder of Palestinian Christian ministers and leaders whom they have known. “The only country in the Middle East where there is freedom of religion is Israel,” these ministers said clearly.

The Rev. Robert Stearns, executive director of Eagles’ Wings ministry, also attended Friday’s news conference and told CP that he believes the current Israeli/Hamas conflict is one of the “defining issues of our time.”

Stearns said it was important to call together different streams of Christian faith leaders in the tri-state area to show that this conflict is not just an issue important to Jews or evangelicals, but rather it is a human rights offense that must be addressed by all “decent human beings.”

“I think that sometimes it can be perceived that Israel is just a Jewish issue or that Israel is just an issue for evangelicals who have a certain theological construct, but the reality is any decent human being that cares about basic human rights should be speaking about the atrocities of Hamas. Hamas is a violent terrorist organization and they are an absolute detriment to security.”

Stearns went on to say that he believes the Israelis have previously offered a “just and equitable” solution to their conflict with Hamas, and unfortunately, Hamas has refused to accept such compromises.

“If Hamas was neutralized and the Palestinian people put down their arms tomorrow there could be a Palestinian state of peace and security in the area,” Stearns said, adding however that if “If Israel put down their arms, there would be no Israel. That’s the reality.”

Tensions have flared between Israel and Hamas in recent weeks, with both sides exchanging missile fire since last month. In the past 18 days of conflict, the Gaza Strip’s death toll has risen to 850, the majority of the victims being civilians, while Israel’s death toll is at 35 army casualties and two civilian casualties.

The United Nations Human Rights Council announced this week that it would be conducting an independent investigation into possible war crimes committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. The U.N. released a statement saying it would be investigating the “widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms” that have occurred in Palestine.

President Barack Obama also told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week that although the country has every right to defend itself against Hamas attacks, he was “deeply concerned” about the rising civilian death toll on the Gaza Strip.

Those supporting Israel in the conflict argue that Hamas members take advantage of Palestinian citizens by launching missiles near schools and hospitals without warning, or fail to offer shelter to their citizens from missile fire and other attacks. Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said this week that the “Israeli Defense Forces should be given the Nobel Peace Prize […] the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting with unimaginable restraint.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is reportedly pushing to announce a cease-fire agreement between the two areas by the end of Friday. A senior Israeli official told Haaretz that the country’s security cabinet had rejected a temporary cease-fire agreement proposed by Kerry earlier in the day, saying it leaned too far in favor of Hamas. The security council indicated that it was still open to diplomatic efforts to reach an agreeable cease-fire proposal. (Contributor: By Katherine Weber for Christian Post)

Pray fervently and with urgency. This is, without doubt, Israel’s most critical battle for survival since its national re-establishment in 1948. We stand with self-evident twin truths. First, if Hamas stops fighting, the region will have peace (however fragile and tenuous). Second, if Israel stops fighting, it will be destroyed. Even in a so-called cease-fire period, Hamas rockets continue to shell Israel. Pray accordingly. Christians desire Israel to be safe as a nation, but ultimately to know Jesus as Messiah.

[David said,] “Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:47)

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” (Romans 10:1-2)

 

IRAQ CRISIS: END ‘VERY NEAR’ FOR CHRISTIANITY AFTER ISIS TAKEOVER, SAYS BISHOP

The vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq has warned the end for Christians in the country appears “very near” as he appealed for help after a deadline set by Islamic militants to convert or be killed expired.

Canon Andrew White, dubbed “the bishop of Baghdad” for his work at St George’s church in the capital, spoke after the ultimatum handed to Christians in the northern city of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq Levant (Isis) to convert, pay a tax or be put to death passed last week.

For those Christians who did not comply with the decree by 19 July, Isis warned that “there is nothing to give them but the sword.” Many have since fled their homes and Rev. Andrew-White told BBC Radio 4 Today desperate Christians were trapped in the desert or on the streets with nowhere to go.

“Things are so desperate, our people are disappearing,” he said. “We have had people massacred, their heads chopped off.

“Are we seeing the end of Christianity? We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near.”

A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that from 14 July homes in Mosul were painted with the letter “N” for Nasrani (the Arabic word for Christian). Others were painted with the letter “R” for Rafidah, a word commonly used by Sunni to describe Shia.

The vicar is in London to speak about the crisis and raise awareness of the urgent need to provide more help to the persecuted minority.

“The Christians are in grave danger. There are literally Christians living in the desert and on the street. They have nowhere to go,” he told the program.

“We do not want Britain to forget us. We – and I’m saying ‘we’ talking like an Iraqi Christian – have always been with the British because they have already been with us.

“Individual churches, individual Christians in Britain, have been a bigger help than anybody around the world.”

Up to a million Christians lived in Iraq prior to the US-led invasion in 2003, with many residing in areas such as Mosul where the communities date back to the first centuries of Christianity.

There are now thought to be fewer than half that number. (Contributor: The Independent)

The cold-blooded murder of unarmed, defenseless Christians, coupled with the wanton desecration of Judeo-Christian sites in northern Iraq, may be enough self-disclosure by these terrorist Islamists to bring anxiety to other world governments. Is the world waking up to the dangers of militant Islamic rule by a radical, warring sect? In the light of the terror, some European leaders have expressed concern about terrorists taking over entire governments. Will such evil violence be “exported” from the Middle East? Pray that God will intervene and prevent ongoing attacks on Christians and Jews.

“How long, O Lord, will wicked people triumph? How long? They ramble. They speak arrogantly. All troublemakers brag about themselves. They crush your people, O Lord. They make those who belong to you suffer.” (Psalm 94:3-5)

“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” (Rev. 6:9-11)     

 

MISSIONARIES TEST POSITIVE FOR EBOLA VIRUS – FRANKLIN GRAHAM REQUESTS PRAYER

The National Prayer Committee is passing along this prayer request from Franklin Graham, via Tim Phillips. Please join in praying for these friends.

“Saturday afternoon, we learned that Dr. Kent Brantly, medical director for the Samaritan’s Purse Ebola Consolidated Case Management Center in Monrovia, Liberia, had tested positive for the Ebola virus. He is currently undergoing treatment at the Samaritan’s Purse isolation center at ELWA [Eternal Love Winning Africa] Hospital. We are continuing medical operations at our Ebola Case Management Centers in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, the Liberia Ministry of Health and other global health authorities.

“Dr. Brantly has been in Liberia since October 2013 with our World Medical Mission post residency program and is married with two children. His heroic and sacrificial service—along with the entire team there—is a shining example of Christ’s love in this crisis situation.

“Later Saturday evening, we learned of a second positive Ebola test result among those working with us in Liberia. Nancy Writebol is a SIM [Sudan Interior Mission] missionary and had been helping the Samaritan’s Purse team that is treating Ebola patients at the Case Management Center in Monrovia. SIM manages ELWA Hospital there, and we have worked very closely with them to combat Ebola since the current outbreak began in Liberia in March. Nancy is married with two adult sons.

“We are doing everything possible to help Dr. Brantly and Nancy. We ask everyone to please pray urgently for them and their families. Out of respect for the privacy of their families, I ask that you refrain from posting personal details or pictures of family members.
“Thank you.”

 

 

PRO-LIFE LEADERS SKEPTICAL OF PROPOSED OBAMACARE COMPROMISE

Skepticism has greeted the White House’s announcement that it is changing Obamacare rules requiring religious groups to give employees free birth control.

Under the compromise, the government would work directly with employees wanting contraception included in their health care.

“The change, announced by administration officials late Tuesday night, would allow nonprofit groups to opt out of the mandate simply by writing a letter to the federal government,” reports Ben Wolfgang at the Washington Times. “Until now, nonprofit religious groups such as charities and universities had to file paperwork with health insurance companies allowing those companies to offer birth control directly to employees.”

That paperwork was objectionable to Christian organizations who called it a form of “permission giving” that they viewed as complicity with evil.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that Wheaton College, a private Christian school in Illinois, cannot be forced to help employees seek free birth control. Earlier, the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision had freed companies from providing contraception if the owners have moral and religious objections.

With Tuesday night’s announcement, “the Obama administration claims it will create a new option for religious nonprofits,” writes Stephen Ertelt for LifeNews.  The announcement came in a court brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

However, the head of a pro-life group suing the White House said fears remain that Obama officials are merely circumventing the Supreme Court. Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, told LifeNews  he doesn’t trust the administration and will continue the court case.

“The Priests for Life lawsuit against the HHS mandate is the next to be decided,” he said. Oral arguments have already been heard in the District of Columbia’s Circuit Court of Appeals.

“At the crux of the issue is that our completion of the form required under the ‘accommodation’ given to religious non-profit groups constitutes cooperation in the very evil that the form says we are objecting to,” said Pavone.

He said Priests for Life would be satisfied “if the government just kept us out of the process altogether of either triggering, authorizing, or in any fashion being the gateway for employees to receive coverage for objectionable practices.”

Other critics said the administration isn’t fully embracing the religious liberty required in the Supreme Court rulings.

“This is just the latest step in the government’s long retreat on the mandate,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “We hope the government will listen to the thousands of voices that called on the government to protect religious liberty. It’s time for the government to stop fighting the 30 federal court orders — including two from the Supreme Court — protecting religious ministries from the mandate.” (Contributor: Rob Kerby for ChristianHeadlines.com)

Pray with discernment. We don’t praise government for doing the right thing; we praise God. Even with “favorable” court rulings, we give our thanks to God. It is government’s duty to do right. When human government turns from God, He promises judgment, whether the U.S. or others. Whatever government “gives,” it can take back. True freedom comes from God. The Framers recognized this. We are endowed with certain rights by the Creator, not to be tampered with by government.

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

“Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.” (Hosea 14:9)

 

WHEN MEDIA MERGERS LIMIT MORE THAN COMPETITION

A merger between 21st Century Fox and Time Warner Inc. would reduce control of the major Hollywood studios to five owners, from six, and major television producers to four, from five.

“The widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public,” he wrote in the majority opinion that decided a 1945 antitrust case involving major newspaper publishers and The Associated Press. “The First Amendment affords not the slightest support for the contention that a combination to restrain trade in news and views has any constitutional immunity.”

Fox and Time Warner may no longer publish old-media newspapers or magazines, but they certainly disseminate information and opinions that may be even more vital to the “welfare of the public” today than the newspapers of Justice Black’s era. HBO alone, one of Time Warner’s cable channels, produces “Real Time With Bill Maher,” “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” and acclaimed documentaries like “The Case Against 8,” about the struggle for marriage equality, and the “Paradise Lost” series, which examined the murder convictions of the group of white teenagers known as the West Memphis Three.

How many of those would be produced under the ownership of a Rupert Murdoch, or for that matter, any other media mogul who controlled close to 40 percent of all major film production and nearly 20 percent of all television?

“I don’t see a bright distinction between news and entertainment,” said Christopher L. Sagers, an antitrust professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. “One person shouldn’t own all the cultural creativity resources. If one person can limit content, that’s a huge loss to society.”

Advocates for consolidation in media, who include not just Mr. Murdoch, who controls 21st Century Fox, and their allies, but also other big media, cable and telecommunications companies, tend to brush off antitrust concerns when it comes to content creation. (Even Time Warner has been cautious about raising any antitrust defenses, presumably because, should it thwart Mr. Murdoch this time, it may want to acquire its rivals at some point in the future.)

After all, the rise of Netflix and the popularity of YouTube demonstrate that anyone can make successful original programming in the freewheeling digital era. And even as television producers have consolidated, critics have hailed a new “golden age” of television.

But this ignores the fact that in 1983, 50 companies owned 90 percent of the media consumed by Americans. By 2012, just six companies — including Fox (then part of News Corporation) and Time Warner — controlled that 90 percent, according to testimony before the House Judiciary Committee examining Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal.

“The situation is already terrible and this would make it worse,” said Susan Crawford, a visiting professor in intellectual property at Harvard Law School. Coupled with giant cable and Internet distributors, like Comcast and AT&T, “you’ve got two highly concentrated markets that need each other to survive and protect their profits,” Professor Crawford said. “The public interest side of this conversation is hopelessly outgunned.”

Antitrust experts said that a merger of 21st Century Fox and Time Warner posed far more serious regulatory issues than Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal. That’s because Fox and Time Warner are direct competitors in the businesses of film and television production. (Comcast didn’t produce much programming before it bought NBCUniversal.)

“This is quite different from Comcast and NBCUniversal,” said Scott Hemphill, an antitrust professor at Columbia Law School. “It’s a straightforward merger of two competitors.”

These so-called horizontal mergers always reduce competition, the only issue being whether it’s enough to warrant blocking the merger or imposing conditions on it. And both Fox and Time Warner would come under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission, which is free to take a broader view of the public interest when examining mergers.

“It’s within the F.C.C.’s power as merger overseers to conclude that this merger would impose undue limits on diversity,” Professor Sagers said. “It could block it or it could impose conditions that would ensure diversity.”

A spokesman at 21st Century Fox declined to comment. But a person with knowledge of the company’s strategy said it saw no substantive antitrust issues other than in cable news. On the contrary, this person contended that a merger would encourage competition, because Fox has traditionally been a disruptive rival and innovator. A spokesman for Time Warner declined to comment.

Given that Mr. Murdoch, fresh from the phone-hacking scandal in Britain, is a political lightning rod, a proposed Fox-Time Warner merger would prompt intense scrutiny in Washington. But it is not Mr. Murdoch’s past or political views that are likely to pose the biggest hurdles to the deal.

Applying the Justice Department’s existing horizontal merger guidelines suggests that a combination of 21st Century Fox and Time Warner would “raise significant competitive concerns and often warrant scrutiny,” according to the guidelines. That’s because both theatrical film production and television production appear to be moderately concentrated industries, as measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index relied on by the antitrust division.

Fox and Warner Bros. are the largest movie producers by revenue. So far this year, Fox has close to a 19 percent market share and Warner has close to 17 percent, according to the website Box Office Mojo. (The top six studios account for about 85 percent of theatrical film revenue.)

That Fox has promised to keep Warner Bros. as a separate studio is irrelevant, since the two would be expected to coordinate their budgets, programming and release schedules.

In television, five producers account for 85 percent of the market, according to the research firm IBISWorld, which also makes it moderately concentrated. The effect of a merger would be less drastic, however, since Warner and Fox are the smallest of the five, with 2014 market shares of just under 11 percent (Warner) and 9 percent (Fox).

Despite the tough language of the guidelines, the antitrust division has rarely challenged mergers in moderately concentrated industries. But it might use narrower market definitions. In broadcast television, Fox and Time Warner together produce nearly 40 percent of scripted programs. And in cable, regulators used a much narrower definition of “marquee” channels when they examined Time Warner’s 1996 acquisition of Turner Broadcasting. Marquee channels are those that command premium prices from distributors.

Cable channels can be further subdivided by subject, like news or sports. In offering to divest itself of CNN, Time Warner’s 24-hour news channel, Fox implicitly conceded that there was a separate market for news programming that would be dominated by CNN and Fox News under the same ownership. Once these narrower market definitions come into play, they may be “highly concentrated” markets under the Justice Department guidelines, in which case a merger would be “presumed” to enhance market power.

And this is simply to apply the same standards to a Fox-Time Warner combination that the Justice Department applies to all industries, whether they make cement, household appliances or movies. “When you’re dealing with media, you’ve got to look more carefully at the impact than with other commodities,” said Allen P. Grunes, an antitrust lawyer at the firm GeyerGorey, and an author, with Maurice E. Stucke, of “Antitrust and the Marketplace of Ideas.” “It has an impact on democracy and what the public discourse is.”

To look only at price competition and economic efficiency “makes no sense whatsoever” in the media context, added Mr. Stucke, a law professor at the University of Tennessee. In their article, published in 2001 while both were lawyers with the antitrust division in Washington, they argued that any analysis of competition in media mergers should include the impact on “the marketplace of ideas,” where competition “advances truth.”

Applying this standard, a Fox-Time Warner merger should be blocked whether or not it meets the antitrust division’s narrower standards.

Their proposal hasn’t gotten much traction outside of academic circles and among a few judges, in part because the impact on diversity of content is difficult to quantify, unlike price changes and market shares. “Antitrust is geared to thinking about each industry along economic lines, but not the larger questions of social policy,” Professor Hemphill said. “A speech objection fits uneasily into conventional antitrust analysis.”

But in the wake of the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, and now a possible 21st Century Fox-Time Warner Inc. combination, the time may be ripe for the Justice Department to apply stricter standards to big media mergers. “I think we’ve crossed a Rubicon,” Mr. Grunes said. “There’s empirical support for the claim that there’s been a loss of creativity, originality and daringness as independent producers have largely been incorporated into the larger conglomerates,” he said. Witness the preponderance of sequels and action-adventure blockbusters in Hollywood.

“We hope this gains traction,” he continued. “These are legitimate enforcement ideas, and there’s already support for them in the law. They’re not stretches. Let’s just hope we don’t wait until it’s too late.” (Contributor: The New York Times)

There is much concern in the field of media broadcast and publication concerning the presentation of news to the populous. If too few organizations are in control of what is presented as news, a democracy is at great risk. Mergers  or consolidating news agencies can narrow various views of news and therefore have great sway in what is presented to the people. A well informed public can draw their own conclusions regarding events of interest. A free society must have access to the facts concerning major events in a nation. Restricted or limited media access or simply not reporting news is cause for alarm in a free society. Jesus while He was with us here on earth wanted us to know His truths because they did indeed set us free from sin and the power of sin. In like manner, the truth about issues of the day can help to protect us and cause us to make righteous decisions that are in keeping with God’s will.

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. 36If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. 38I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. (John 8:31-41)

 

FRANKLIN GRAHAM CALLS ON CHRISTIANS TO STAND FOR GOD, BIBLICAL VALUES

The Rev. Franklin Graham recently reiterated his remarks from earlier this year, calling on Christians in America to stand for biblical values despite social opposition.

In a column published in the July-August edition of Decision magazine, the head of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, declared that “Heaven is not for cowards!”

“Christians cannot ignore parts of God’s Word because they are unpopular or cause division. Our commission is to proclaim Christ and all He stands for,” wrote Graham.

“This is what the church’s presence in the world is all about. We cannot sincerely proclaim the truth of God’s love while ignoring what He hates, and God hates sin.”

Graham also stressed the need for “godly courage” and for Christians to speak out against abortion and homosexuality.

“We are soldiers in God’s army, and we cannot stand down on biblical issues out of fear of being labeled a homophobe or judge,” wrote Graham.

“People make judgments every day. The world’s system passes judgments accepted by governments and citizens. But the world considers Christian judgment to be biased, judgmental and intolerant,” he added.

For his speech, Graham preached around Revelation 21:8, wherein God lists eight groups of people who will be “in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

The first group listed in the verse are the “cowardly;” this led Graham to declare in his remarks that “God hates cowards.”

“The definition of a coward: a coward will not confront an issue that needs to be confronted due to fear,” said Graham, whose speech was titled “Standing Strong on the Controversial Issues.”

“God hates cowards. And the cowards that the Lord is referring to are the men and women who know the truth but refuse to speak it.”

As with his more recent column, Graham argued that churches need to speak out on the moral issues, including abortion and homosexuality.

“We have a responsibility to speak on the moral issues. Abortion, homosexuality, these are moral issues. This is a free country, you can do what you want to do, but I want you to know it’s a sin against God,” Graham asserted.

“Could we get our heads chopped off? We could, maybe one day. So what? Chop it off!”

In recent years, Franklin Graham has garnered controversy for his comments on same-sex marriage, President Barack Obama, and the religion of Islam.

Some have contrasted Franklin Graham with the comparably less controversial nature of the ministry of his father, renowned preacher the Rev. Billy Graham.

“Franklin has always leaned toward being more political than his father,” wrote Sally Quinn, founding editor of the site OnFaith.

“Where Billy Graham has always been a voice for inclusion, even of religions other than his own, Franklin has not.” (Contributor: By Michael Gryboski for Christian Post)

Give thanks for the strong voice of Franklin Graham calling the Church to stand firm on biblical values that are being trampled on in the Public arena. We urge intercessors not to get caught up in the comparisons between Franklin and his father, evangelist Billy Graham, who ministered in a different era and to a different population demographic. IFA applauds Franklin for the courage to speak out. Pray that his voice will not be silenced and that Church leaders respond positively.

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3-4)

 

CALIFORNIA’S WATER CRISIS

To cope with California’s drought, farmers are carefully selecting which crops they plant and overpumping from deep underground aquifers. But as the President of the Pacific Institute, Peter Gleick, tells host Steve Curwood, a viable long-term solution to the growing water crisis requires rethinking priorities and conserving much more water.
TRANSCRIPT:

CURWOOD: So come December, there may be relief for California’s record-breaking drought, but for now, it’s about as bad as anyone can remember. Peter Gleick is President of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California, and a fresh water expert. Welcome to Living on Earth.

GLEICK: Thank you for having me.

CURWOOD: So, let’s talk about agriculture. California puts a lot of food on our tables here in America. What’s been the impact so far of the drought on the agricultural sector and where are things heading?

GLEICK: So, 80 percent of the water that Californians consume goes to the agricultural sector, and the Central Valley is a fantastic place to grow food. We grow a lot of the nation’s fruits and vegetables. The overall current estimate is that impact to the agricultural community will be perhaps a few billion dollars this year and maybe a few tens of thousands of jobs, which is in some sense is a big impact, but it’s a $40 billion ag. economy out of a $2 trillion statewide economy.

CURWOOD: Now how are the farmers coping exactly with the shortages?

GLEICK: What we do when we don’t have surface water in California is we over-pump groundwater, and so a lot of the farmers in the Central Valley this year are looking to groundwater to make up surface water shortfalls. One of the reasons the impacts may not be too bad this year economically is precisely because we’re over-drafting groundwater. We’re looking at that groundwater pool as a way to make up some of the surface water shortages, and we can do that in the short run, but that’s not sustainable in the long run. Groundwater levels are dropping and when groundwater levels drop we see decreases in flows in some of our streams that are also dependent on groundwater flows in the dry part of the year. And the reality, of course, is that not every farmer can pump groundwater—only those who can really afford to drill deeper and deeper, more and more expensive wells have that as an option. And some farmers will benefit and some farmers will lose.

NOAA’s report shows the difference in this year’s June temperature. (Photo: National Ocean and Atmospheric Association)

CURWOOD: I understand that there’ve actually been drops in the level of the soil in the Central Valley.

GLEICK: Well, interestingly, this has been a problem for decades. You know, 50 or 60 years ago, when groundwater was over-pumped, we saw very, very significant subsidence on the order of tens or even more feet of subsidence. There’s some remarkable old photographs from the Central Valley years and years ago showing how far land levels have dropped. We solved that problem in the 70s and 80s and 90s with deliveries of surface water, and groundwater overdraft decreased. But it’s increasing again: we are seeing subsidence on the order of tens of feet and potentially more as the drought continues.

CURWOOD: Now in your view, Peter Gleick, what crops does it make sense to grow in California given the tight water situation, the perennial tight water situation, and which ones maybe shouldn’t be grown there?

Effect of the Drought on the Uvas Reservoir in California. (Photo: Don Debold; Creative Commons 2.0)

GLEICK: Crop decisions are a complicated thing. It’s not just how much water is available, but in bad droughts, what we see is farmers shifting from crops that they can fallow for year—they may let field crops go for a year—but they don’t want to let their trees dry up and die. And so during a drought we see farmers protecting trees, investments in orchards and fruits and nut crops, even if they can’t give them their full amount of water, they don’t want those trees to die. Those are a decade-long investment. And so what we see is less planting of cotton and wheat, less planting of rice, less planting of alfalfa, and protection of some of these higher value fruits and nut crops.

CURWOOD: California is naturally actually a pretty dry place. There are massive water projects to bring water there from other places. How did we come to have so much human settlement and agriculture in the Golden State given the sort of intrinsic lack of water for California?

GLEICK: California is a complicated place. You know, we have a lot of water in the north and a lot of water in the mountains. The population has settled in the coasts and in the south where there’s less water; because of that we’ve built a massive infrastructure. We’ve built systems to store water in the wet season so we can use it in the dry seasons and aqueducts so we can move water from the north in the mountains to the south and the Central Valley and the coasts where we want it. And our development patterns have been such that, the assumption’s always been that we can live wherever we want and we’ll bring the water to where the people are. I think that can’t continue. I think we’re going to have to have some serious conversations about the kinds of development we want and permit in the future. We’re going to have to have serious conversations about whether it makes sense to grow certain kinds of crops in an incredibly arid environment. I think we’ll continue to have a strong agricultural economy. We’ll continue to have big populations in dry areas, but we have to seriously reconsider the systems that we put in place and manage to satisfy those demands.

A sign on a lawn in Sacramento (Photo: Kevin Cortopassi; Creative Commons 2.0)

CURWOOD: We talked a lot about agriculture. What about the built-environment: residential and commercial water use? How can we cut down on that?

GLEICK: About 20 percent of the water that Californians use goes to our homes and our industry and our commercial establishments. We’ve made a lot of progress, as we have in the agricultural sector in improving efficiency in those water uses, but there’s still lots of inefficient water uses in our urban centers. And we still use a tremendous amount of water for outdoor landscaping. We pretend as though we have an old English climate and can have English-style lawns, but we’re in an arid environment, and we need to get rid of, frankly, inefficient lawns and inefficient gardens. I got rid of all the lawn in my house, and I still have a beautiful garden, and my water use is half the state per capita average of the average person in California, and even I could save more water.

Much of household water-use in California comes from watering lawns. (Photo: Diego V; Flickr Creative Commons 2.0)

CURWOOD: And I gather you’re growing more than crabgrass?

GLEICK: Oh, no. We’re not growing any crabgrass.

CURWOOD: [LAUGHS]

GLEICK: Crabgrass is a terrible user of water, and it’s ugly. We have a beautiful garden: we have flowers; we have native plants; we have blueberries and strawberries, and yet our water use is half the state average.

CURWOOD: What if the phone rang—it’s Governor Jerry Brown. He says, “Peter Gleick, you are now the water Czar for the state of California.” What are the three or four things you’d do if you had that kind of power?

GLEICK: The solutions to our water problems are not the solutions that we looked at in the 20th century. We’re running into peak water limits. There is no more untapped, unallocated water in the state, and the reality is, we’ve given away far more water than nature naturally provides. So our options are fairly limited, but we do have options, and the key things that we need to be doing now are looking at the potential for more efficient use in our cities and more efficient use on our farms.

Farmers prioritize high-value tree crops like almonds during times of drought. (Photo: Marc; Flickr Creative Commons 2.0)

There’s a lot more that we can do on conservation and efficiency. But there are also a couple of new supply options that we really ought to be considering seriously. We ought to be exploring and expanding the use of treated wastewater. We use potable water to flush our toilets and to water our lawns, not just for drinking, and yet there is very high-quality wastewater available. We collect a lot of wastewater; we treat it with very high standard and typically we throw it away. Let’s put that supply of water to use. And similarly we ought to be expanding our efforts to capture and use storm water.

There’s a lot of potential for wastewater reuse, storm water capture and reuse as new supply options and improvements in conservation and efficiency. And those four options alone could produce a tremendous amount of new water for the state of California, and that’s where we ought to be going now.

CURWOOD: Now, what do you think the American West is going to look like in 50 years given what we’re seeing now with drought increase?

GLEICK: Well, especially with climate change, I think we’re going to see higher and higher temperatures. We’re going to see more extreme events in the western U.S. The climate models suggest unfortunately that the Southwest is going to get drier, not wetter, which is the opposite of what we would like if we had any choice in the matter. I think there will be fundamental changes in agriculture. I think we’re not to be able to afford to spend as much water in the west on agriculture as we currently do. And potentially I think we’re going to see the Midwest and the Northeast begin to advertise, hey, come back home. There’s not as much water in the Southwest, and it’s hotter and hotter in the Southwest, and our climate is increasingly attractive. And that’s going to be a turnaround from the old days when the Southwest advertised and drew people from the Midwest and from the North because of their more attractive climate.

CURWOOD: Goodbye. Go west, young man, huh?

GLEICK: I think so. I think we’re going to see more and more of that.

CURWOOD: Well, what, a fifth of the world’s fresh surface water is in the Great Lakes.

Peter Gleick is the Director of the Pacific Institute in Oakland. (Photo: Oakland Institute)

GLEICK: We’re already seeing conversations from some communities in the Midwest that perhaps they can advertise that their water availability and their water quality and their reliability as a way to draw industry and residents back to the region.

So far our discussion has really just focused on people and our needs from water. What about the rest of the natural world?

CURWOOD: We know we’ve taken far too much water out of the environment. Fisheries are collapsing; ecosystems are collapsing. There’ve been more and more efforts on the legal front and on the educational front and on the policy front to try and restore ecosystem health and restore some commitments of water for the environment. But during a drought, we measure impact on farmers; we measure impacts on industry. We’re not really good at measuring impacts on fisheries and ecosystems, and yet some of the worst impacts historically have been, for example, on the salmon fisheries and the salmon runs in the state of California during drought. We had better not give up on the environment during droughts in order to restore a little more alfalfa production or cotton production the Central Valley, or to save our lawns in our cities. I think that would be a big mistake.

CURWOOD: Peter Gleick is President of the Pacific Institute. Thanks so much for taking the time with me today.

GLEICK: Well, thanks for having me on. It’s always a pleasure. (Contributor:  Living On The Earth)

In the Bible’s Old Testament, more than once God used drought to get His people’s attention. While the U.S. is not God’s covenant people, Israel, is it possible that God is using the California drought (which affects the entire country) and other climate changes to show us our need for His help and to bring our nation back to Himself? Is this a precursor for repentance and revival? Let us pray that it is, even as we intercede for the God-given blessing of rain for the Central Valley. Notice the first passage below. It appears we should quote v. 13 when we quote v. 14.

[The Lord God speaking directly to Solomon:] 13 “When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 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 I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:13-14)

“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” (James 5:17-18)

 

EGYPT ARMY DESTROYS 13 MORE GAZA TUNNELS

Egypt’s army said Sunday it has destroyed 13 more tunnels connecting the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip, taking to 1,639 the overall number it has laid waste to.

Cairo has poured troops into the peninsula to counter a rising insurgency since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year, and its security operation involves the destruction of these tunnels.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which is the main power in Gaza, reportedly uses the tunnels to smuggle arms, food and money into the blockaded coastal enclave.

Israel has been waging a military offensive on Gaza since July 8 to halt rocket fire, and it launched a ground assault on July 17 aimed at destroying the network of tunnels.

It accuses Hamas of using the tunnels to attacks on Israel.

Ties between Hamas and Cairo have deteriorated since the Egyptian army deposed Morsi on July 3, 2013. Hamas is an affiliate of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Cairo also accuses of Hamas of being involved in militant attacks inside Egypt, which have multiplied since Morsi was toppled.

Militant groups say their attacks are in retaliation for a police crackdown on Morsi’s supporters. The crackdown has seen more than 1,400 people killed in street clashes. (Contributor: AFP News)

Give thanks that God is preserving Israel. Despite worldwide anti-Semitism and quick “judgment” on Israel as the aggressor, a certain grudging acknowledgement is emerging of the vicious, ruthless, and unconscionable approach to warfare taken by Hamas. Specific focus is on the cement-reinforced tunnels and mounting evidence of using Palestinians, including children and babies, as human shields. Note that no other nation has joined forces with Hamas to “finish” Israel. Give thanks and press forward with intercession. Some day the Scripture below will be fulfilled.

“But do not fear, O My servant Jacob, and do not be dismayed, O Israel! For behold, I will save you from afar, and your offspring from the land of their captivity; Jacob shall return, have rest and be at ease; No one shall make him afraid.” (Jeremiah 46:27)

 

CHINESE POLICE REMOVE CHURCH CROSS AMID CRACKDOWN

Hundreds of police took down a church’s cross Monday in a city known as “China’s Jerusalem” for its many houses of worship amid a crackdown on church buildings in a coastal region where thousands of people are embracing Christianity.

Evangelist Qu Linuo said he and about 200 others had rushed to the Longgang Huai En Church in the eastern city of Wenzhou to protect the building but peacefully made way for the police, who used a crane to remove the 3-meter-tall (10-foot-tall) red cross from its steeple.

Authorities told the church the cross violated building height limits, and returned it to the parishioners, who wept and prayed around it, said Qu, who is a member of another church. A man at the county’s public security office said he didn’t know anything about the incident, and the Longgang township police didn’t answer phone calls.

Across Zhejiang province, where Wenzhou is located, authorities have toppled or threatened to topple crosses at more than 130 Protestant churches. In a few cases, the government has even razed sanctuaries.

Officials say they’re enforcing building codes, although often they won’t specify which ones. They also deny they are specifically targeting churches, and point to the demolition of tens of thousands of other buildings, religious and non-religious, that have apparently broken regulations.

But experts and church leaders in this province south of Shanghai – the only one where the incidents are happening – say the government appears to be trying to suppress the fast-growing religion.

Official 2010 figures put the number of Christians in state-sanctioned churches at 23 million believers, but the country also has vast numbers of believers who meet in secret. The Pew Research Center estimated 58 million Protestants in the country practiced the religion in 2011, along with 9 million Catholics the year before. Some experts say the total could be more than 100 million.

The church’s dramatic growth – and Christians’ allegiance to God above all else – has alarmed authorities, said Yang Fenggang, a Purdue University sociologist and leading expert on religious matters in China. It was difficult to imagine what sort of building codes the crosses would violate.

“The only reason I can think of is that the Zhejiang authorities intend to humiliate Christians by taking down the symbol sacred to them,” he said.

The province may have come under scrutiny because it is home to Wenzhou, where more than a tenth of residents are Protestant Christians, the highest proportion of any major Chinese city, according to Cao Nanlai, an anthropologist who has studied and written a book about Christianity in Wenzhou.

Half the province’s 4,000 churches are located here, he said, partly a legacy of early missionary efforts here.

Known for its entrepreneurial vigor, Wenzhou has tens of thousands of small family-run workshops making shoes, toys and other products. Believers here appear to have applied that same eagerness to starting new churches, Cao said.

The cross removals and demolitions reflect the occasional flexing of political muscle by authorities to show who’s in control, he said.

Last week, parishioners at another church in the city successfully protected their cross from hundreds of police, said Zheng Changye, a 36-year-old member of another church. He said three people suffered serious injuries in the clash with police, and photos posted online showed several people bleeding from head injuries.

On Monday, other photos posted on the China social media site Weibo showed parishioners at the Longgang Huai En Church praying on its steps and holding banners reading, “Anti-graft, anti-corruption, protect religion.” (Contributor: The Star and The Associated Press)

The cross of Jesus Christ has always been a scandal to the world system. Persecution of Christians in China is nothing new. It is often “dressed up” as being other than what it is, and Chinese leaders boast that “authorized” Christian worship is free to function. But still the suppression of religious freedom continues. Pray for patience and the retaining of strong faith for those pastors and people who often feel deserted and alone. Intercede for these persecuted saints as they continue to fearlessly witness even to their tormentors. Give thanks that there was no physical violence.

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

“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal. 6:14)

 

RESISTANT “NIGHTMARE BACTERIA” INCREASE FIVE-FOLD IN SOUTHEASTERN U.S.

There’s worrisome news here in the southeastern US, buried in a journal that is favorite reading only for superbug geeks like me. The rate at which hospitals are recognizing cases of CRE — the form of antibiotic resistance that is so serious the CDC dubbed it a “nightmare” — rose five times over between 2008 and 2012.

Within that bad news, there are two especially troubling points. First, the hospitals where this resistance factor was identified were what is called “community” hospitals, that is, not academic referral centers. That’s an important distinction, because academic medical centers tend to be where the most cutting-edge care is performed, and where the sickest people are. As a result, they are where last-resort antibiotics are used the most, and therefore where resistance is most likely to emerge. That CRE was found so widely not in academic centers, but rather in community hospitals, is a signal that it is probably moving through what medicine calls “the community,” which is to say, anywhere outside healthcare. Or, you know, everyday life.

A second concern is that the authors of the study, which is in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, assume that their finding is an underestimate of the actual problem.

A little background first on CRE. (Archive of posts on it is here.) The acronym stands for “carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.” Enterobacteriaceae are a large family of bacteria that normally are carted around in your guts without causing illness. When they escape, though — for instance, during ICU treatment — they are a common cause of serious hospital-acquired infections. “Carbapenems” are a small group of very powerful antibiotics that are viewed as drugs of last resort, which work against infections that have become resistant to most other antibiotics. The acronym CRE indicates a group of resistant organisms that go by other acronyms — NDM, OXA, VIM and KPC, for instance — and that have been spreading across the globe for more than 10 years.

CREs are serious stuff: On average, at least half of those who contract CRE infections die. There are only a few antibiotics — sometimes one, sometimes two, depending on the organism — that work against them at all, and those drugs have significant problems and side effects. Broadly speaking, the emergence of CREs brings us several steps closer to the end of the antibiotic era.

For reasons that no one has ever been able to explain, one of the CRE organisms — KPC, or Klebsiella pneumoniae resistant to carbapenems — seems to have emerged in North Carolina; it was first noted in a set of bacterial samples that a hospital in that state sent to the CDC in 1996. So it’s resonant that this study was conducted by researchers in North Carolina; it reveals how far that organism and others have spread.

About the study: It relies on data tendered to the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network by 25 community hospitals in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. The hospitals ranged in size from 100 to 657 beds, so some of them were truly small community institutions. The data was collected between January 2008 and December 2012, so as a snapshot of what is happened in the US with regard to CRE, it is pretty timely.

Out of the 25 hospitals, 16 identified 305 patients carrying or infected with CRE:

  • 59 percent had identifiable infections; 41 percent were colonized, that is, carrying the bacteria asymptomatically.
  • 34 percent of the cases became evident while the patient was in the hospital (hospital-onset healthcare associated) and 60 percent after patients had returned home (community-onset hospital-associated)
  • Of the cases that were diagnosed after someone had left an acute-care hospital, 56 percent were associated with nursing homes.
  • The key trend is here: In 2008, the rate of CRE detection was 0.26 cases per 100,000 patient days; in 2012, it was 1.4 per 100,000 patient-days.

Those may seem like small numbers. Here is what the authors say:

…rates of CRE, while still infrequent, are increasing dramatically in community hospitals, where the majority of Americans receive their healthcare. We believe this increase is attributable to growing reservoirs and transmission of CRE and improvement in detection. Overall, we believe the estimates from study hospitals are underestimates of the true incidence in these hospitals. This point underscores the fact that these organisms are increasingly important and relevant in all areas of healthcare, including small community hospitals.

The study is worth reading as well for an extended discussion of the challenges of CRE detection, including the pace at which new laboratory standards for detecting these organisms are being adopted (or not). Overall, though, it is a worrisome indicator that highly resistant organisms may be outpacing our ability to detect or to treat them.

Cite: Thaden JT, Lewis SS, Hazen KC et al. Rising Rates of Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae in Community Hospitals: A Mixed-Methods Review of Epidemiology and Microbiology Practices in a Network of Community Hospitals in the Southeastern United States.  Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, Vol. 35, No. 8 (August 2014), pp. 978-983. DOI: 10.1086/677157  (Contributor: By Maryn McKenna for Wired)

It has long been known that so-called “superbugs” lurk in hospitals, with some resistant to even the strongest antibiotics. But we know that a powerful “medicine” in a hospital room is intercessory prayer. Where possible (and with discretion), urge praying family, friends, members of the prayer group, church leaders, pastors, and others to pray “cleansing prayers” in the room. If possible, provide praise and worship music to renew spirit, mind and body, even if through a smart phone and ear buds. With permission, include the roommate, which may open doors for a gospel witness.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1-5)

 

‘POCKET DRONES’: A TINY NEW MILITARY SURVEILLANCE TOOL

Future U.S. Army soldiers sent into combat may have a brand new tool at their disposal: the pocket drone.

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts is developing a “pocket-sized aerial surveillance device” for soldiers assigned to small units in dangerous environments.

When the Army’s efforts come to fruition, the Cargo Pocket Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance program will provide dismounted troops with real-time surveillance of threats in their environment.

“The Cargo Pocket ISR is a true example of an applied systems approach for developing new Soldier capabilities,” said Dr. Laurel Allender, acting NSRDEC technical director, Army.mil reported July 21.

“It provides an integrated capability for the soldier and small unit for increased situational awareness and understanding with negligible impact on soldier load and agility.”

The pocket drone will be required to meet the Army’s digital security standards, fly in low-light operations and successfully maneuver indoors, Army.mil reported. (Contributor:  By Douglas Ernst for The Washington Times)

This is premature as a prayer focus, as the miniature drone is still being developed. Still, it calls attention to U.S. military forces who always need prayer and encouragement. If this tool becomes functional, making arduous military service in a war zone easier and contributing to the warfighter’s safety, intercessors can only give thanks. Pray especially right now for wounded veterans who, in many parts of the country, are still not getting the swift attention they require. Pray for physical, spiritual, and emotional healing. Pray for Robert McDonald, newly confirmed Veterans Affairs Secretary, whose job it is to bring order out of the agency’s present chaos.

“Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psaalm 73:25-26)

“This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life.” (Psalm 119:50)

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

On Watch in Washington July 30, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington July 23, 2014

July 23rd, 2014

On Watch in Washington July 23, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

ISRAEL SECURING GAZA WITH GROUND ASSAULT

Israeli forces on Sunday escalated their ground operations in Gaza City, leading to the deadliest day in the nearly two-week conflict between Israel and Hamas-backed forces amid calls by top U.S. and Israeli officials for a cease-fire.

The Israeli military reported that 13 soldiers were killed early Sunday, and Palestinian authorities reported that at least 65 Palestinians were killed as air and tank fire pummeled the city for hours. More than 420 Palestinians, as well as at least 20 Israelis, have been killed since fighting began July 8.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Hamas, which wants Israel and Egypt to ease their border blockade of Gaza, should immediately agree to a cease-fire without preconditions.

“You cannot reward terrorism. There can’t be a set of preconditioned demands that are going to be met,” Mr. Kerry said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “So we support the Egyptian initiative, joined in by Israel and others, to have an immediate cease-fire. And we’re working that cease-fire very, very hard.”
Mr. Kerry will travel to Cairo on Monday to assist that effort, the State Department said.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in Qatar Sunday on the first leg of a Middle East tour, condemned the violence and said Israel must exercise “maximum restraint,” and all sides must respect international humanitarian law.

The secretary-general met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiya in Doha in an attempt to kick-start stalled talks of a possible cease-fire.

In an appeal filmed in Doha, Mr. Abbas called on the international community to protect Palestinians against what he called the current “unbearable” situation.

“The U.N. Security Council has failed to protect Palestinians, and I call on the council to hold an emergency meeting today to protect Palestinians. What Israel did today is [a] crime against humanity,” he said in the recording shown to reporters.

The U.N. Security Council, at the request of Jordan, was scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on the situation in Gaza on Sunday night.
Sunday marked the third day of a stepped-up ground offensive from Israel after it has tried to dismantle Hamas rocket launchers and ground tunnels into Israel with airstrikes for the past 10 days.

Much of the Sunday fighting took place in Gaza City’s Shijaiyah neighborhood, which Israeli officials have blamed for some 8 percent of the roughly 1,700 rockets fired at Israel since the latest round of fighting began.

Palestinian authorities reported that some 35,000 people were forced to flee from the latest round of fighting, with dozens of homes destroyed. Tens of thousands more have fled their homes and are seeking shelter in schools and other shelters the United Nations has set up, according to the U.N. refugee agency for Palestinians.

President Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday by phone about the ongoing conflict — their second call in the last three days, the White House said.

Mr. Obama reiterated the United States’ condemnation of attacks by Hamas, reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself and raised “serious concern” about the growing number of casualties on both sides, according to a read out of the conversation released by the White House.

Mr. Netanyahu blamed Hamas for all the civilian casualties on both sides and has said the strikes are only targeting Hamas militants.

“They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can. It’s gruesome,” Mr. Netanyahu said on CNN. “They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. [Their aim is] the more dead, the better.”

Mr. Netanyahu said if the hostilities end and parties agree to a sustainable cease-fire, a discussion can begin on the demilitarization of Gaza.
“Gaza, under all the previous agreements, should have been demilitarized,” he said. “Instead of being demilitarized, it became basically an Iranian-financed and -equipped fortress of terror, with thousands and thousands of rockets and other weapons being smuggled and developed in it. That has to stop. Those tunnels have to be shut down.”

Gaza Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra said among those killed in Shijalyah were a son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren of Khalil al-Haya, a senior Hamas leader, who vowed to continue the fight on a local Hamas radio station.

“We promise you, my people, a brilliant victory,” he said. “The blood of my son and the martyrs will not be wasted, and resistance will continue.”
The military wing of Hamas also claimed it captured an Israeli soldier during fighting early Sunday, a claim that was not immediately confirmed by the Israeli military.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, meanwhile, condemned Israel’s actions and called on the United Nations Security Council to issue a resolution “that clearly condemns Israeli aggressions.”

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, says Israel has the right to do everything in its power to protect its interests, and that there have been comparatively fewer Israeli casualties because of its state-of-the-art Iron Dome defense system.

“But if left up to Hamas, thousands of Israelis would be dead,” Mr. Graham said on “Meet the Press.” “I hope the international community will not find a moral equivalence here. To the Israeli government: Do whatever is necessary to protect your people. Stay as long as you need to stay.”  (Contributor: By David Sherfinski for The Washington Times. Also, the article is based in part on wire service reports.)

Contrary to headlines, Israel is not at war with Palestinians in Gaza but with Hamas, a murderous Islamist sect whose charter states a determined aim to kill all Jews and eradicate Israel. With the scene changing hourly, it is difficult to keep a balanced perspective. World opinion brands Israel an evil aggressor. Pray for truth to prevail. Hamas leaders’ self-protection makes targets of innocent Palestinians. We believe Israel wants only to exist peacefully and will fight to attain that goal. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Pray for comfort for families of the victims of war. Pray for divine mercy.

“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)

“Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the just; for the righteous God tests the hearts and minds…. God is a just judge. . .” (Psalm 7:9, 11)

 

BORDER CRISIS FEEDBACK

 

Of the 354 intercessors who responded to last week’s OWIW survey, 55.8 percent said they would pray for restoration of order and enforcement of current border laws.

Here is a small sampling of the comments we received….

“Number 5 (other) is my main thought. Number 1 (for the Church to be the hands of Jesus) is next, as the Church must understand that God’s heart is not represented by either US political party, but rather is with “the least of these,” no matter who they are. The other 3 options, while important in a temporal American sense, are essentially selfish from a Christian perspective.”

“I am of Hispanic decent, born and raised in El Paso, Texas. I know too many people who have paid the price of immigrating to the US legally. Anyone, child or adult, should be deported back to their country. If their families can afford to raise thousands of dollars to send them over illegally then they can afford to make it over legally without being a burden to our already overburdened welfare system and other aid we provide outside the welfare system.”

“I think the border is out of control needs to be closed (truly locked down)and illegals sent home. Our laws and Constitution are totally disregarded with no concern for American citizens at all. Actually I think the parents of the border children need to be hunted down and fined or sent to jail for child abuse, abandonment and child endangering.”

“Sorry, but I am done with everyone’s surveys. Pray your heart, as we are … cut to the chase. Every day we mess around, our country sinks deeper. It’s not a game … this is my message to every survey I am seeing.”

Click here to weigh in on the discussion. But most importantly, PRAY.

 

PRESSURE GROWS ON PUTIN WITH FORENSICS PLANE CRASH EXPERTS

After days of obstruction, Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine permitted Dutch forensics experts on Monday to search the wreckage of the downed Malaysia Airlines jetliner destroyed by a surface-to-air missile, allowed bodies of the victims to be evacuated by train and agreed to give the plane’s flight recorder boxes to the Malaysian government.

The movements, four days after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 exploded and crashed in an eastern Ukraine wheat field, came as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia faced a growing international clamor to clear the way for a full and unimpeded investigation of the disaster.

Mr. Putin was confronting the threat of new European Union sanctions and new admonishments by President Obama, as suspicions grew that the separatists had downed the plane with a Russian antiaircraft weapon. Mr. Putin and Russian military officials continued to deny that they had anything to do with the disaster and suggested that some of the purported evidence had been fabricated by Ukraine and its Western backers.

Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, in a live broadcast early Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur, said his government had reached an agreement with the Ukrainian separatists to gain control of the bodies, which were to be sent to the Netherlands, and the so-called black boxes recovered from the crash site.

Mr. Najib said the boxes were to be handed over to Malaysian representatives in Donetsk, a city that has been the subject of frequent fighting between the Ukrainian military and separatists and where new clashes erupted on Monday.

If the separatists honor the agreement, it would be a diplomatic success for Mr. Najib, whose government has been reluctant to cast blame for the airline disaster, the second to confront Malaysia in the past four months.

Mr. Obama, in a televised statement from the White House, said that despite the advances on Monday, the Ukraine separatists continued to obstruct international investigators and that relatives of the 298 victims were in a “state of shock and outrage” over the delays so far in recovering the bodies. Mr. Obama said Russia would only “further isolate itself” if it did not act more assertively to rein in the separatists.

At a news briefing in Kiev late Monday afternoon, Deputy Prime Minister Volodymr Groysman, who is leading the Ukrainian government’s response to the jetliner downing, said a train carrying bodies in four refrigerated rail cars from the town of Torez would go to Kharkiv, in northeast Ukraine, outside the rebel-held area. The train departed at 7 p.m. local time for a journey that was expected to take hours.

More than half the victims of the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight were Dutch, and the others came from more than half a dozen countries.

Mr. Groysman said that 282 bodies had been found and loaded onto the train, as well as dozens of body parts from as many as 16 other victims, suggesting that officials believed they had recovered most of the remains of the passengers and crew from the Boeing 777. He said that from Kharkiv, the bodies would be flown to Amsterdam, where they would be taken to a laboratory with the latest forensic technology.

Mr. Putin issued a brief statement early on Monday saying that Russia would work to ensure that the conflict in eastern Ukraine moved from the battlefield to the negotiating table. He said that a robust international investigating team must have secure access to the crash site, but also accused unspecified nations of exploiting the disaster in pursuit of “mercenary political goals.”

The slow pace at which the bodies had been recovered and the destruction or removal of potential evidence of what happened has generated growing anger at the separatist rebels and at Mr. Putin.

The Dutch forensic experts, who examined the wreckage and inspected some of the bodies before they left on the train, were accompanied by representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The O.S.C.E. representatives have been conducting an international monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine and had quickly sent observers to the plane wreckage site, where they said their efforts were limited by rebels until Sunday, when they were granted broader access.

As the experts began their work, heavy fighting, including mortar shelling, was underway between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military, in the nearby regional capital of Donetsk, a rebel stronghold about 50 miles from the crash site. A spokesman for the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, Sergei Vladimirovich, said that the government forces had begun pushing into the city from the northwest, near a market by the main train station, and a witness reported seeing heavy shelling in the area including damage at a children’s hospital.

With fighting still raging and access to the crash site still difficult, European leaders maneuvered to overcome longstanding divisions about imposing significantly tighter sanctions against Moscow.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, whose country bore the brunt of the casualties, told Parliament that “all political, economic and financial options” were available as the European Union prepared to debate measures further isolating the Russian leader.

“It is clear that Russia must use her influence on the separatists to improve the situation on the ground,” Mr. Rutte said, according to Reuters. “If in the coming days access to the disaster area remains inadequate, then all political, economic and financial options are on the table against those who are directly or indirectly responsible for that,” he said.

His words found an echo from George Osborne, the British chancellor of the Exchequer, who said Britain was prepared to tighten sanctions even if that meant losing Russian business in London’s economically vital financial services industry. “Any sanctions will have an economic impact, and we are prepared to undertake further sanctions,” he said in a BBC radio interview.

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said he told Mr. Putin in telephone conversation on Sunday that the world expects Russia to use its influence on the separatists to open up the crash site.

“The world also wants to see a real change in the stance Russia has taken over the crisis in Ukraine,” Mr. Cameron said he told the Russian president during a visit to Wales in advance of a statement to Parliament. “We need no more weapons crossing the border, no more troops crossing the border, no more support for the separatists, respect for Ukrainian territorial integrity.” (Contributor: By David M. Herszenhorn, Sabrina Tavetnise and Neil MacFarquhar for The New York Times)

Russian president Vladimir Putin did not count on the Malaysian airline disaster and hasn’t handled it well. Amidst the tragedy of 298 lives lost, he was more bluster and control. He expressed no remorse or sympathy for the victims or families. He blamed Ukraine; he blocked international investigators; he covered up; and his team was not cooperative. Pray for the grieving families. Pray for President Obama, who has opportunity to impede Russia’s aggression and to represent American compassion.  Pray in Jesus’ name that God’s mercy brings redemption.

“With Him are wisdom and strength, He has counsel and understanding. … He uncovers deep things out of darkness, and brings the shadow of death to light.” (Job 12:13-22)

“Talk no more so very proudly; let no arrogance come from your mouth, for the Lord is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed.” (1 Sam. 2:3)

 

HEALTH SURVEY PROVIDES RANGE OF DATA ON GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL POPULATION

Less than 3 percent of the U.S. population identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday in the first large-scale government survey measuring Americans’ sexual orientation.

The National Health Interview Survey, which is the government’s premier tool for annually assessing Americans’ health and behaviors, found that 1.6 percent of adults self-identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent consider themselves bisexual.

The overwhelming majority of adults, 96.6 percent, labeled themselves as straight in the 2013 survey. An additional 1.1 percent declined to answer, responded “I don’t know the answer” or said they were “something else.”

The figures offered a slightly smaller assessment of the size of the gay, lesbian and bisexual population than other surveys, which have pegged the overall proportion at closer to 3.5 or 4 percent. In particular, the estimate for bisexuals was lower than in some other surveys.

The inclusion of the sexual-orientation question in an influential survey used to guide government funding and research decisions was viewed as a major victory for the gay community, which has struggled with a dearth of data about its special health needs.

“This is a major step forward in trying to remedy some of these gaps in our understanding of the role sexual orientation and gender identity play in people’s health and in their lives,” said Gary J. Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute, a research center at the University of California at Los Angeles that studies the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population.

Begun in 1957, the federal health interview survey comprises a wide range of questions, on topics including medical care, vaccinations and tobacco use. The data is collected for the CDC by the Census Bureau, which conducts interviews with thousands of Americans across the country. It is highly regarded because of its large sample size — it comprised 33,557 adults between the ages of 18 and 64 for the most recent survey — and because of its methods, which include face-to-face interviews and some follow-up telephone queries.

A few other federal surveys ask about sexual orientation but are not large enough to provide data that can be generalized to the country as a whole, government health officials have said.

The information released by the CDC on Tuesday offers an initial analysis through the lens of sexual orientation on measures critical to public health, such as smoking, drinking and health insurance status.

It did not find a broad pattern suggesting that one group was less healthy overall than any other group, said Brian W. Ward, the researcher for the report. Echoing other studies, it found that, compared with straight people, gays were more likely to smoke and to have consumed five or more drinks in one day at least once in the past year. Straight women were more likely to consider themselves in excellent or very good health than women who identified as lesbian.

But gays were more likely to have received a flu shot than straight people, and gay men were less likely to be overweight than straight men.

In some cases, the more notable disparities were experienced by bisexuals. People who identify as being attracted to both sexes are more likely to have experienced psychological distress in the past 30 days than straight people, the survey showed.

“We just don’t know much about bisexuality right now, and we’re finally starting to do some research in that area,” said Judy Bradford, director of the Center for Population Research in LGBT Health at the Fenway Institute in Boston. The study may prompt more scrutiny of this understudied population, she said.

In their report, CDC researchers acknowledge that their estimate of the size of the bisexual population differs from those in other studies. A national estimate from the 2008 General Social Survey — which is funded by the National Science Foundation, a federal agency dedicated to the advancement of nonmedical science — estimated that 1.1 percent of the population identified as bisexual. Other surveys suggest the number of bisexuals roughly matches the number of gays.

“There’s a variety of factors that could come into play, and we don’t have an answer right now,” Ward said. “It’s something we are looking at.”

The survey did not ask about gender identity, which is a more complicated topic than sexual orientation. Previously, officials had discussed including the question in future surveys. But Ward said Monday that there were no immediate plans to add such a question.

The difficulty stems partially from the large sample size needed, experts said. One challenge is that there are more than 200 terms used by people who identify as a different sex than the biological one they were born as, Bradford said.

Some people who have completed gender reassignment surgery may no longer consider themselves transgender but rather a member of their new sex, she said. Others may be offended by terms such as “transsexual,” which was once routinely used but in some circles is now considered pejorative.

The broader 2013 National Health Interview Survey data set was released publicly on June 30. It contains more information for researchers interested in studying other measures of health by sexual orientation, such as cancer rates or disabilities. (Contributor: By Sandhya Somashekhar, a health reporter for The Washington Post. Scott Clement contributed to this report.)

Two prayer points here: First, the percentage of those who identify as other than heterosexual — gay, lesbian, or transgendered — is significantly smaller than investigators expected. Give thanks that a large majority of the population is content to abide within the Creator’s design. Second, pray for the Church to find renewed confidence in the Gospel as the power of God to save all who will believe, no matter how their human sinfulness and confusion manifests itself. Think: If God saved me, He can save any and all who call on His name. Amen!

“. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Romans 10:12, 13)

 

BIRTH-CONTROL INSURANCE BILL REJECTED IN U.S. SENATE

The U.S. Senate turned back a Democratic proposal requiring for-profit companies to provide workers with insurance coverage for birth control even if the employer has religious objections.

Senators voted 56-43, with 60 required, not to advance the measure, which seeks to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving the craft-store chain Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. Democrats say the court’s decision grants some employers unfair say over women’s health care.

“Women should call the shots when it comes to their health-care decisions: Not their boss, not the government, not anyone else — period,” Senator Patty Murray of Washington said yesterday in a floor speech. After today’s vote, she told reporters, “We are going to continue the fight.”

Three Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mark Kirk of Illinois, joined Democrats in voting to advance the measure. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, voted no to preserve his ability to bring the bill up again.

“We are going to vote again on this issue before this year is out,” Reid said at a news conference after the vote.

Religious Grounds

In the June 30 Supreme Court decision, the justices ruled 5-4 that closely held companies can refuse on religious grounds to provide employees with contraceptive coverage.

The birth-control rule stems from the 2010 Affordable Care Act’s requirement that any insurance coverage offered by employers meet minimum standards. President Barack Obama’s administration contends that contraceptive coverage is crucial to women’s health and well-being.

Senate Democrats developed the legislation in consultation with the Obama administration.

Republicans accused Democrats of threatening employers’ religious liberty in an attempt to distract from harm to women that Republicans say is caused by the health-care law, known as Obamacare.

“When it comes to decisions about contraception, both parties believe a woman should be able to make her own decisions,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said today on the Senate floor.

McConnell and fellow Senate Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fischer of Nebraska introduced a measure that he said today specifies that “an employer cannot block an employee from legal access to her FDA-approved contraceptives.”

Women Voters

Democrats are trying to woo women voters — especially single ones — before the November election. The party, which controls 55 Senate seats in the 100-member chamber, is trying to stave off a Republican takeover.

Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, who drafted the measure with Murray, is seeking a second term in November.

With Republicans expected to maintain their U.S. House majority, a net gain of six seats would put them in charge of the Senate and give the party control of both chambers of Congress for the last two years of Obama’s presidency.

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, praised the Supreme Court’s ruling in a July 1 statement.

The “decision is a victory for religious freedom and another defeat for an administration that has repeatedly crossed constitutional lines in pursuit of its big government objectives,” Boehner said.

The Senate bill is S. 2578. (Contributor: By Kathleen Hunter for Bloomberg)

This was a shallow attempt on the part of liberal Senate leaders to circumvent the Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 ruling in the Hobby Lobby case and to impress voters, primarily single women, that the U.S. Senate has more interest in making employers pay for their birth control prescriptions than the Republicans who are allegedly waging a “war on women.” Pray for morally upright leaders to emerge this year, men and women who fear God and will insist on a return to constitutional government, including the area of God-given religious freedom.

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Gal. 6:7-9)

“. . . for the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7b)

 

LAWMAKER: TEXAS TO SEND 1,000 GUARDSMEN TO BORDER

Gov. Rick Perry, a vocal critic of the White House’s response to the surge of children and families entering the U.S. illegally, plans to deploy as many as 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border, a local lawmaker confirmed Monday.

Perry, who is mulling a second presidential run after his 2012 bid flamed out in a series of public gaffes, spent part of the weekend in Iowa, where he questioned President Barack Obama’s commitment to securing the border and said Texas would do so if the federal government did not.

State Rep. Terry Canales said he was briefed by his staff Sunday following a conference call with the governor’s office, the Texas National Guard and the state Department of Public Safety. Perry’s office hasn’t commented, but he is scheduled to make the announcement Monday afternoon at the state Capitol in Austin.

More than 3,000 Border Patrol agents currently work in the region, and Perry has repeatedly asked Obama to send the National Guard to the border. Much of the area has been overwhelmed in recent months by tens of thousands of unaccompanied children illegally entering the U.S.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. The governor’s plans were first reported by The Monitor newspaper in McAllen, Texas.

As governor, Perry is commander in chief of Texas military forces unless those forces have already been mobilized by the White House. President George W. Bush sent 6,000 National Guard troops to the border in 2006, and Obama eventually extended that deployment while ordering a second wave of National Guard forces to Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico in 2010. But the second round saw reduced numbers of troops, and most of their work was limited to air patrols in counterdrug operations.

Perry announced last month that Texas would steer another $1.3 million each week to the Department of Public Safety to assist in border security through at least the end of the year. In a letter to Obama on June 20, Perry made several requests for help along the border, including 1,000 National Guard troops, additional helicopters and giving troops “arrest powers to support Border Patrol operations until sufficient Border Patrol resources can be hired, trained and deployed to the border.”

It’s not clear why Perry would need the Obama administration to authorize arrest powers and the governor’s office has not offered details ahead of the announcement. Texas law simply states that the governor can “adopt rules and regulations governing enlistment, organization, administration” of the Texas State Guard.

In a White House letter to Perry on July 7, Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett laid out steps the administration was taking to deal with what the president had called an “urgent humanitarian situation,” but did not mention the National Guard. Obama met with Perry two days later in Dallas, and the administration has worked with Mexico and other countries the immigrants are leaving to make it clear they will not be allowed to stay in the U.S.

On previous border deployments, National Guard soldiers have served in support roles – administrative, intelligence gathering – while the Border Patrol expanded its ranks. Some National Guard troops already participate in counter-drug operations on the border, though they don’t have arrest powers.

Since October, more than 57,000 unaccompanied children and teenagers have entered the U.S. illegally – more than double compared to the same period a year earlier. Most have been from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where rampant gang violence and intense poverty have driven tens of thousands of people outside their borders.

Their numbers overwhelmed Border Patrol facilities in the Rio Grande Valley, leading Perry and the Texas Department of Public Safety to argue that Border Patrol agents distracted by groups of children and families were leaving gaps.

Most of those children have been turning themselves in to the first person in a uniform they see.

On Monday, Canales questioned Perry’s plan of sending National Guard troops to the border.

“I don’t understand what their tactic is, and I don’t think it’s going to work,” the Democrat said.

He said the state may see a dip in the short term, but that such a surge by the state is unsustainable and the drug cartels would simply wait the troops out.

“They might get the desired effect, but it won’t last long,” he said. (Contributor:  By Christopher Sherman and Will Weissert for the Associated Press)

Gov. Perry is a professing Christian, and the citizens of Texas believe he has governed well. His plan is to send National Guard troops to help prevent further flooding of illegal migration of children and others into the U.S. He is trying to do what President Obama has not done. Pray for a just solution to this urgent need, which is not good for the U.S. or good for those who keep coming north out of desperation. The conflict represents years of government procrastination, and will require statesmanship and divine intervention to unravel the harm being done. Pray for God’s mercy and truth to be displayed.

“O Lord God of hosts, Who is mighty like You, O Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You…. The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; the world and all its fullness, You have founded them…. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; mercy and truth go before Your face.” (Psalm 89:8, 11, 14)

“Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.” (Psalm 85:10)

 

WHITE HOUSE WARNED ABOUT ‘ANTIQUATED’ VA SCHEDULING SYSTEM 5 YEARS AGO

Acting Veteran Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson assured Congress last week that the VA is working hard to replace its “antiquated” scheduling system. But  the Obama administration first received clear notice more than five years ago about the need for an overhaul to reduce patient wait times.

“Excessive wait times are addressed by moving to a resource-based management system,” Veterans Affairs technology  officials told the Obama-Biden transition team in a briefing report that included mention of VA’s “schedule replacement” project.

The Washington Times obtained the report through the Freedom of Information Act.

More than five years later, VA officials are hard pressed to explain their lack of progress.

It has taken the still-unfolding VA scandal into manipulated patient wait times — a metric the VA has used to award  executive bonuses — to shine a light on the failings of the current system, which Mr. Gibson called “outdated” in recent congressional testimony.

“VA has been trying — and failing — to replace its outpatient scheduling system since 2000, wasting nearly $130 million in the process,” Rep. Jeff Miller, Florida Republican and chairman of the House  Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, told The Times when asked about the delays.

“Because VA acquisition officials have proven time and again they are simply too inept to guide the development of a new proprietary appointment-scheduling system in an expedient and cost-effective manner, department leaders need to look at adopting commercial technologies that are being used in the private sector,” Mr. Miller said.

VA officials declined to respond to multiple inquiries last week concerning the lack of progress on the scheduling system.

The project has spanned administrations. The briefing papers sent to the Obama transition team in 2008 noted that “application development ” on the schedule replacement project already had been underway for six years.

“VA is taking a phased approach to implement the application, as the move from a 25-year-old legacy system to a new infrastructure is understandably complex,” VA officials told the incoming administration.

The briefing papers said a scheduling replacement would address excessive wait times and allow clinicians to view all patient history information across the VA.

By contrast, the current appointment system “is rigid and lacks efficiency,” IT officials noted. “Providers must maintain multiple calendars for clinical activities, extended hours or slots needed for special circumstances, such as compensation and pension examinations.”

Beyond the scheduling system, VA’s technology office also disclosed other major technology challenges across VA to the incoming administration, including serious deficiencies in the agency’s IT workforce.

“IT skill gaps, at all levels, include poor communication, change management and basic supervisory skills,” VA officials wrote.

The overall IT infrastructure is “comprised of a loose confederation of independently chosen elements without a comprehensive system engineering or architectural plan, clear standards or rigorous IT management  processes,” officials wrote.

And officials said infrastructure-building issues in many VA facilities were “negatively impacting” performance of IT equipment, citing a 2008 incident at a medical center in Nashville where IT outages spanning three days left officials unable to access electronic health records.

Mr. Gibson told Congress last week that VA recognized its appointment-scheduling system was “antiquated” and said officials were replacing it through an “acquisition process.”

He said the agency recently held an “industry day” to get a better idea of what to include in its upcoming scheduling solicitation. He didn’t mention a firm date, but VA has told contractors a solicitation for its MASS procurement — medical appointment scheduling system — should be released sometime later this summer, according to procurement records.

Still, there are many unanswered questions.

VA hasn’t decided on an acquisition strategy, nor have officials told contractors how the new system’s deployment might affect current union agreements, according to procurement records. The VA also hasn’t decided on any hard deadlines.

Joel C. Willemssen, managing director for information technology  at the Government Accountability Office, told a House panel on Wednesday that work on VA’s schedule replacement project actually began in 2000.

Despite spending $127 million over nine years, VA hadn’t “implemented any of the planned capabilities,” Mr. Willemssen testified.

Data reliability  was an early problem, he said. The scheduling project started providing monthly reports to the VA’s chief information officer in 2006, but the information contained contradictory information about performance.

There’s no price tag on the new scheduling system, but it’s a massive procurement that’s attracted interest from big contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI International, IBM, Microsoft and GE Healthcare, among others, procurement records show. (Contributor: By Jim McElhatton The Washington Times)

Investigators are peeling back layer after layer of poor management, ineptitude, and purposeful manipulation of data to secure unearned bonuses. Veterans have suffered intolerable wait times, with some appointments finally made after patients died. No one knows what it will take or how much it will cost to fix this agency and to recover its honor and dignity as a service organization. Pray for transforming revival that will change lives and motives. Pray for justice for our veterans. America needs a new great awakening!

“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.” (Psalm 86:5)

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

 

CHRISTIAN HOLOCAUST UNDERWAY IN IRAQ, USA AND WORLD LOOK ON

When U.S. troops invaded Iraq in 2003, there were at least 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Over the last ten years, significantly in the last few months with the emergence of ISIS, that figure has dropped to about 400,000.

In a region where Christians predate Muslims by centuries, over one million Christians have been killed or have had to flee because of jihadi persecution, while America is basically standing by and watching. This is the sad news that Breitbart’s National Security Editor and one of the world’s leading experts on asymmetric warfare, Dr. Sebastian Gorka, brought to Breitbart News Saturday, hosted by Editor in Chief Alex Marlow on Sirius XM Patriot Radio.

Dr. Gorka explained that “in the last 48 hours, ISIS, which is now called the Islamic State in Mosul, has painted the letter “N” for Nazarene on the houses of all the surviving Christians in the city. ISIS has basically given an ultimatum to all the Christians left: You can either flee or convert to Islam, or we will kill you.”

Gorka points out that, over the last 20 years, America has stood up around the world to save Muslims. “Whether it was to save the Muslims in Bosnia or the Albanians, Kosovars, and Muslims in Serbia, it is now time for a humanitarian operation to save the remaining Christians in Iraq,” he said. “It is time for the American people and our representatives to do something for our co-religionists remaining in the Middle East.”

Marlow observed that the blatant religious cleansing is horrifying and asked Gorka: “Why is it that the mainstream press is not interested in the story?” Gorka first responded by saying “Let’s face it, this is a Christian version of the Holocaust and nothing less.”

The Middle East expert went on to explain that the mainstream media is in full support of the White House narrative “that the President single-handedly killed Osama Bin Laden, and that Al Qaeda is now on the ropes; therefore, jihad must be shriveling up around the world.” This myopic strategy of only targeting Al Qaeda has provided great opportunities for other jihadists and has given rise to ISIS.

“On top of that,” Gorka asserts that, “the mainstream media are warped in terms of their world view.” According to Breitbart’s national security expert, the media is “post-modernist, sophisticated, and secularist. So when it comes to the idea of religious persecution, they say, ‘Well who really cares because I don’t believe in God. If you are not sophisticated enough to be a post-modernist secularist… tough on you!’”

Gorka didn’t finish there with his scathing indictment of the mainstream media. He added that it is their racism that will let this genocide of Christians continue. “To the mainstream media,” Gorka charged, “the dark skin person always has to be the victim. Either the Hamas terrorist in Gaza, the Nicaraguan gang bangers coming across the border likened to juvenile political refugees… the idea that the white skin Christian or the Israelis as victims, that goes against every narrative this media wishes to pedal. They are necessarily so locked into their own ideological vision of the world.”

Marlow summed it up by saying, “Christians are politically targeted in America frequently; they are being physically targeted in Africa, Syria, and Iraq.” Gorka emphasized that, from his first hand experiences in Africa, Christians will always be blamed for starting any upheaval. (Contributor: By Robert Wilde for Breitbart News)

Christians must always pray for persecuted brothers and sisters. Yes, our U.S. administration and media have been silent about Christian persecution around the world, but intercessors are not silent! The Church has always known persecution and has become stronger for it. But intercessors continue to watch on the wall and cry out to God. Pray that the Church will raise individual and collective voices to pray and to preach and live the Gospel message in power, no matter the cost. Multitudes suffer for no reason other than loyalty to Jesus Christ. Pray for those who suffer for their faith.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

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

“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” (John 16:1-2)

 

DEADLY MOSQUITO VIRUS REPORTED IN EASTERN MASS.

While Saturday wasn’t too hot or humid, like most of our summer has been, 22News found that our recent weather conditions have contributed to the arrival of a potentially deadly disease in the Bay State.

For the first time this year mosquitoes in Massachusetts have tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis, or triple E.

The Massachusetts Department of Health just confirmed that a July 15th laboratory test in Plymouth County has tested positive for EEE, a dangerous virus that can cause inflammation of the brain and in one third of cases, death.

Even though the only reported case of EEE in Massachusetts was more than 80 miles to our east, our chances in western Massachusetts of getting it just went up. But it probably wouldn’t be the mosquitoes bringing it here.

Birds are typically the long-range carrier of EEE, taking the disease over many miles. Mosquitoes then bite the birds and become the local source for infection when they bite a human.

Entomologist Bob Russell of American Pest Solutions told 22News, “Mosquitoes are an unusual insect because bacteria can survive in its gut and then it can be regurgitated or come out in its saliva when it bites, and that’s how you get transmission.”

The best defense against EEE is avoiding a mosquito bite. Wearing long clothes, avoiding wooded or wet areas and wearing bug spray with the chemical DEET should help with that.

“Especially my kids. Going to camp, I put the bug spray on. I try to put it more on their clothes so it’s not on their skin, or buy the one that’s more organic, but yah I do the bug spray,” said Caroline Beaudoin of Longmeadow.

Mosquitoes are out more in the early morning hours or around dusk, but on a cloudy day there are more of them out. (Contributor: By Nick Bannin for WWLP News)

It has been many years since any part of the U.S. was threatened with a deadly viral outbreak, and as we read of this potential, let’s give thanks for divine protections we often take for granted. Pray for wisdom among health officials, epidemiologists, physicians, and parents of vulnerable children. Pray against further spread of the EEE virus. Scripture reminds us of God’s merciful protections, even the common grace whereby God may extend protection to all His creation.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

 “[It is] through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

On Watch in Washington July 23, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington July 2, 2014

July 1st, 2014

On Watch in Washington July 2, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

 

SUPREME COURT: CAN’T MANDATE  HOBBY LOBBY OBEY PRO-ABORTION HHS

The Supreme Court ruled today that the Christian-run Hobby Lobby doesn’t have to obey the HHS mandate that is a part of Obamacare that requires businesses to pay for abortion causing drugs in their employee health care plans.

The Obama administration was attempting to make Hobby Lobby and thousands of pro-life businesses and organizations comply with the HHS mandate that compels religious companies to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs for their employees. However, the U.S. Supreme Court today issued a favorable ruling in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a landmark case addressing the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of business owners to operate their family companies without violating their deeply held religious convictions.

Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Samuel Alito handed down the decision for the high court, saying, “The Supreme Court holds government can’t require closely held corporations with religious owners to provide contraception coverage.”

“HHS’s contraception mandate substantially burdens the exercise of religion,” the decision reads, adding that the “decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to mean that all insurance mandates.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion saying that government itself could provide the coverage for contraception and the abortion-causing drugshobbylobby23 if a company declines to do so.

The Hobby Lobby decision only applies to companies. Non-profit groups like Priests for Life and Little Sisters are still waiting for a ruling about their right to opt out of the mandate.

The Obama administration said it was confident it would prevail, saying, “We believe this requirement is lawful…and are confident the Supreme Court will agree.”

In July, a federal court granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction against the HHS abortion-drug mandate. The injunction prevented the Obama administration from enforcing the mandate against the Christian company, but the Obama administration appealed that ruling. Hobby Lobby could have paid as much as $1.3 million each day in fines for refusing to pay for birth control or abortion-causing drugs under the mandate.

After the appeals court ruling, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton issued a preliminary injunction and stayed the case until Oct. 1 to give the Obama administration time to appeal the decision.

In an opinion read from the bench, the court said, “There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved.”

A December 2013 Rasmussen Reports poll shows Americans disagree with forcing companies like Hobby Lobby to obey the mandate.

“Half of voters now oppose a government requirement that employers provide health insurance with free contraceptives for their female employees,” Rasmussen reports.

The poll found: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 38% of Likely U.S. Voters still believe businesses should be required by law to provide health insurance that covers all government-approved contraceptives for women without co-payments or other charges to the patient.

Fifty-one percent (51%) disagree and say employers should not be required to provide health insurance with this type of coverage. Eleven percent (11%) are not sure.”

Another recent poll found 59 percent of Americans disagree with the mandate.

The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, grew their family business out of their garage. They now own stores in 41 states employing more than 16,000 full time employees. They have always operated their business according to their faith.

Kristina Arriaga, Executive Director of the Becket Fund, tells LifeNews, “In fact, the Greens pay salaries that start at twice the minimum wage and offer excellent benefits, as well as a healthcare package which includes almost all of the contraceptives now mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Their only objection is to 4 drugs and devices which, the government itself concedes, can terminate an embryo.”

“Their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act should be protected by the government. Instead, the government has threatened them with fines and fought them all the way to the Supreme Court,” Arriaga added.

“The government has already exempted tens of millions of Americans from complying with the mandate that forces employers to provide certain specific drugs and devices. However, it refuses to accommodate the Green family because the Green family’s objections are religious.  We believe that the government’s position is not only extreme and unconstitutional; it presents a grave danger to our freedoms,” she continued.

“My family and I are encouraged that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide our case,” said Mr. Green, Hobby Lobby’s founder and CEO.  “This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution. Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.” (Contributor: By Steven Ertelt for LifeNews.com)

Give thanks! Intercessors have prayed for this outcome. Thank God for a righteous decision! Already, opponents say the decision will deny women’s “rights.” Not so. This decision does not block any woman’s legal rights. The question is, “Who pays?” Now, instead of Christian business and ministry leaders, it will be the individuals who want the abortion-producing products and services. Are taxpayers still being defrauded (such as with Planned Parenthood)? Yes; pray that God will judge that in His time and purpose.

“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” (Prov. 29:2)

“Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate.” (Amos 5:15)

 

HOW THE FOUNDERS CREATED THE GREAT SEAL

On this date in 1782 the Continental Congress adopted the Great Seal of the United States, a symbol that required more attention by the Founding Fathers than any other document in early American history, including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Indeed, it took three congressional committees and six years to agree on a final proposal.

Of course, the obvious question was why, on the same day that Congress approved the Declaration, it appointed a committee made up of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams to come up with a design for the seal. What was so important about a seal, especially in view of the obvious fact that the war with Great Britain was only beginning in 1776 — and it might not be successful?

The reason was that the accoutrements of the war for breaking with the mother country were just as important as the military and diplomatic muscle. To prove to Britain that Americans were serious in their resolve for independence, they had to have a legal imprimatur to affix to negotiated documents with Britain and other nations, such as for the exchange of prisoners, as well as for the final resolve, the treaty ending the war. The seal had to be just right, reflecting America’s mission not only then but for the future.

The problem was that America’s leaders were not experts on heraldry or coats-of-arms and, of course, wanted to make certain that whatever was designed would represent a clear break with the monarchical traits of Great Britain. At the same time, they wanted nations to respect the unity of the new nation’s democratic resolve and, most importantly, its military power and diplomatic finesse.

The committee report of Franklin, Jefferson and Adams was made on Aug. 20, 1776. The front, or obverse, side of the seal presented illustrated a female figure representing Liberty, the reverse depicted Moses’ parting of the Red Sea, with the inscription, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” Congress tabled the report.

Not until March 25, 1780, was a second committee appointed, with different members, and on May 10, it presented its report. Like the first committee, this one was aided by design experts. Still, the result was lackluster, with the obverse illustrating a shield with 13 diagonal stripes and a figure with an olive branch, another with a bow and arrow. The reverse pictured a female Liberty lady sitting down, in one hand an olive branch, in another a long staff. Congress sent it back to the committee.

Finally, a third committee was appointed on May 4, 1782, with some urgency in getting the matter settled. The Battle of Yorktown in late 1781 appeared to give Americans the edge in winning the war, and the new nation needed a diplomatic seal as soon as possible. The committee acted quickly, with its proposal before the Congress five days later. Again, there was a shield of 13 stripes in the middle of the obverse, surrounded by a maiden on one side and a warrior on the other. The entitlement was “Genius of the American Federated Republic.” The reverse included a pyramid with 13 layers, with the Eye of Providence at the top. Deo Favente, “In God’s Favor,” was the motto.

Instead of tossing this last seal, Congress on June 13, 1782, turned all three committee reports over to its secretary, Charles Thomson, a 53-year-old Latinmaster in Philadelphia, with the plea to come up with a winning design. One of the most able and unsung of the Revolutionary leaders, Thomson worked with another Philadelphian, William Barton, with dispatch and care, and in a week came up with a product that Congress accepted on the same day. Although emendations have been made to the Thomson-Barton work over the years, the Great Seal of the United States, best exemplified by its presence, beginning in 1935, on the one dollar bill, essentially reflects what was adopted in 1782.

The obverse of the seal is dominated by the bald eagle, with a shield across its breast of 13 alternating red and white stripes, representing the original states. In his talons, the eagle grasps, on the right, an olive branch standing for peace and, on the left, a quiver of arrows illustrating war. Above the eagle, 13 stars are placed in a blue background in circular design. On the reverse side of the seal, a pyramid with 13 layers represent strength and duration, with an eye at the top and the Latin “Annuit Coeptis,” meaning “He [God] has approved our undertakings.” At the bottom of the reverse, “Novus Ordo Seclorum” suggests that, indeed, a new order of the ages has been created.

One final but important point, indicating attention to subtlety in the seal, is that the bald eagle on the obverse faces the olive branch, reinforcing, as illustrated by the history of the Revolutionary War and the nation’s subsequent history, that peaceful negotiation is — and would be — the first choice of the nation. (Contributor:  By Thomas V. DiBacco for The Washington Times – Thomas V. DiBacco is professor emeritus at American University.)

This is a “give thanks” article, placed in the Alert to honor our Independence Day celebration. Well worth studying, it speaks of dedication, honor, craftsmanship, creativity, and purpose to produce a Seal worthy of the new country’s purpose, promise, and hope. While Christians do not put the U.S. Constitution (or Seal) before God’s Word, still we honor those who helped, under God, bring forth a nation that He has blessed. Let us honor God by remembering His mercy and grace on America.

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

“For our [spiritual] citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ …” (Philippians 3:20)

 

SUPREME COURT: PUBLIC UNION CAN’T MAKE NONMEMBERS PAY FEES

The Supreme Court dealt a blow to public sector unions Monday, ruling that thousands of home health care workers in Illinois cannot be required to pay fees that help cover the union’s costs of collective bargaining.

In a 5-4 split along ideological lines, the justices said the practice violates the First Amendment rights of nonmembers who disagree with the positions that unions take.

The ruling is a setback for labor unions that have bolstered their ranks – and bank accounts – in Illinois and other states by signing up hundreds of thousands of in-home care workers. It could lead to an exodus of members who will have little incentive to pay dues if nonmembers don’t have to share the burden of union costs.

But the ruling was limited to this particular segment of workers – not private sector unions – and it stopped short of overturning decades of practice that has generally allowed public sector unions to pass through their representation costs to nonmembers.

Writing for the court, Justice Samuel Alito said home care workers are different from other types of government employees because they work primarily for their disabled or elderly customers and do not have most of the rights and benefits of state employees.

The case involves about 26,000 Illinois workers who provide home care for disabled people and are paid with Medicaid funds administered by the state. In 2003, the state passed a measure deeming the workers state employees eligible for collective bargaining.

A majority of the workers then selected a union to negotiate with the state to increase wages, improve health benefits and set up training programs. Those workers who chose not to join the union had to pay proportional “fair share” fees to cover collective bargaining and other administration costs.

A group of workers led by Pamela Harris – a home health aide who cares for her disabled son at home – filed a lawsuit arguing the fees violate the First Amendment. Backed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the workers said it wasn’t fair to make someone pay fees to a group that takes positions the fee-payer disagrees with.

The workers argue they are not government employees capable of being unionized in the traditional sense. They are different, they say, because they work in people’s homes, not on government property, and are not supervised by other state employees.

The workers had urged the justices to overturn a 1977 Supreme Court decision which held that public employees who choose not to join a union can still be required to pay representation fees, as long as those fees don’t go toward political purposes. They say the union is not merely seeking higher wages, but making a political push for expansion of Medicaid payments.

Alito said the court was not overturning that case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. That case, he said, is confined “to full-fledged state employees.”

Justice Elena Kagan wrote the dissent for the four liberal justices. Kagan said the majority’s decision to leave the older case in place is “cause for satisfaction, though hardly applause.”

The state had argued that home health care workers are the same as other public workers because Illinois sets their salaries and any dispute over pay must be worked out with the state. Illinois says it has an interest in bargaining with a single representative as it does with other types of public workers.

A federal district court and the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had rejected the lawsuit, citing the high court’s precedent.

Nine other states have allowed home care workers to join unions: California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. (Contributo: By Sam Hananel for The Associated Press)

This split decision has technical ramifications that we will not attempt to interpret. The value for the home health care workers involved is that they need not support collective bargaining costs that offer them no personal value. Unions have a history of diverting funds to political issues and candidates that do not represent conservative values. Give thanks for those aspects of the case that give workers additional freedoms with their hard-earned income. Pray for many who work at near-poverty levels.

 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,’ when you have it with you.” (Prov. 3:27-28)

“I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor.” (Psalm 140:12)

 

BODIES OF THREE KIDNAPPED ISRAELI TEENS FOUND, GOVERNMENT CONFIRMS

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed revenge against Hamas after three teens kidnapped June 12 in the West Bank — including one with U.S. citizenship — were found dead Monday, just north of Hebron.

“They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals,” Haaretz quoted Netanyahu saying at a hastily arranged security cabinet meeting. “In the name of the whole of Israel, I ask to tell the dear families – to the mothers, the fathers, the grandmothers and the grandfathers, the brothers and sisters – our hearts are bleeding, the whole nation is crying with them.”

The leader’s angry words came hours after the search for Eyal Yifrach, 19; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Naftali Frenkel, also 16, who were snatched while hitchhiking, ended in the West Bank, where Hamas operates. Sources said the bodies were found in a shallow grave in an open field in the West Bank village of Halhul, just north of Hebron.

“Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay,” Netanyahu vowed. The comments amplified earlier remarks from President Shimon Peres, who said Israel would pursue the killers.

“The entire nation is bowing its head with unbearable sorrow this evening,” Peres said. “Over the past 18 days the nation prayed as one that the fate of our wonderful teenagers would be that they are found alive and well. Now that the bitter news has come, the entire Israeli nation mourns the premature death of our finest youth … Alongside deep sorrow, we will remain resolute to punish the atrocious terrorists. Our war on terrorism will only intensify and will not waver so that this murderous terrorism won’t dare to rear its head.”

The abductions outraged the Jewish state as well as the international community, and several vigils and rallies were held around the U.S. during the intensive hunt. Hundreds of Palestinians took part in the search, dubbed “Brother’s Keeper.”

The three youths disappeared as they were heading home from a West Bank religious school. Israeli officials said at the time that one of the teens called a police emergency line around 10:25 p.m. local time and said: “We’ve been kidnapped.” They were not heard from again.

Frenkel holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas criticized the kidnapping, and pledged help in the search but denied there was evidence linking Hamas to the crime. Hamas, which governs the Palestinian territories jointly with the PA, praised the kidnapping without claiming responsibility.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Israel of using the murders as a pretext for aggression.

“Only the Israeli version of the events has been published. Israel is attempting to make way for aggression against us, against the Hamas,” Zuhri said. “We reject all Israeli allegations and threats against us. We are already used to it and will know how to defend ourselves. No Palestinian group, Hamas or any other group, has taken responsibility for the action, and thus the Israeli version can’t be trusted.”

Israeli forces searched more than 1,000 sites, rounding up Hamas and Islamic Jihad suspects as part of the operation. Last week, the Israel Security Agency identified two Hamas operatives from Hebron as key suspects in the kidnappings, Ammar Muhammad Abu Eisha, 33, a locksmith, and Marwan al-Qawasmeh, 29, a barber. Both men allegedly disappeared from their homes on the night of the kidnapping have not been seen since.

Binyamin Proper, who was among the civilian volunteers that found the bodies, told Channel 2 TV that a member of the search party “saw something suspicious on the ground, plants that looked out of place, moved them and moved some rocks and then found the bodies. We realized it was them and we called the army.”

Meanwhile, in Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters: “We obviously condemn in the strongest possible terms violence that takes the lives of innocent civilians.” (FoxNews and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

As Israeli authorities and a watching world feared, the three kidnapped teen boys were murdered without provocation. Our newsgathering found deep grief and anger being felt worldwide. There is little to say here. Please pray as God leads you. Father God, we ask that You extend grace, comfort, and solace to these families. In their bereavement, lead them to the consoling words of Isaiah 61; and in your sovereign mercy, reveal to broken hearts that the prophet speaks of Messiah, who has come to comfort those who mourn in Zion.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness….” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

 

URGENT PRAYER REQUEST FROM ANNE GRAHAM-LOTZ

Blow the trumpet…sound the alarm…for the day of the Lord is coming.  It is close at hand– Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God…   Joel 2:1, 13

As you may know, my husband is in declining health. I am no longer traveling and speaking as much as I have for the last 26 years since I am staying home to care for him. As a result, I have had time to be quiet and listen more to the whispers of the Spirit. He has revealed things to me in the stillness that I’m not sure I would have heard in my former busyness.

One of the things He has impressed on me is that we are living at the end of human history as we know it. In light of this, He has given me some practical assignments. One was to be the Honorary Chair for the National Day of Prayer 2014 this past May. He gave me the message I was to deliver, which was from Joel 1…the Day of the Lord is at hand. It was a message warning that judgment is coming.

Just recently, He has given me another assignment, which is to call His people in our nation to prayer. This assignment came indirectly from a Syrian pastor through a National Day of Prayer attendee. In obedience, I am blowing the trumpet…sounding the alarm…issuing a national prayer initiative entitled 7 7 7: An Urgent Call to Prayer. The Call is for God’s people to pray for each of the first seven days in the seventh month-July 1-7. Then on the 7th day, July 7, we are to pray and fast for 7 hours. The purpose is…

  • For God the Father to restrain, protect, and deliver His people from the evil that has come into our world.
  • For God the Son to be exalted, magnified, and glorified in His church, in our nation, and in our lives.
  • For God the Holy Spirit to fall on us in a fresh way, compelling the church to repent of sin and our nation to return to faith in the living God, resulting in a great national spiritual awakening.

I’m asking you to partner with me, and send out the word to everyone on your email address list, or who follows you on facebook or twitter. I will be sending out an eBlast this week and next, which you can access at http://www.annegrahamlotz.com/events/urgent-call-to-prayer/. Please feel free to use it, and place your name in the paragraph that includes mine to make it more personal for your constituents. Feel free also to forward this letter.

I will provide a prayer I have written for each of the 7 days to help unite us in one spirit and one voice as we cry out to God. Those who receive the eBlast are invited to sign up for the daily email prayers. Please be assured there is no other agenda in this initiative. This is not about promoting anything or anyone. This is all about calling God’s people together to pray, before it’s too late, and judgment falls on our nation.

Urgently,
Anne Graham-Lotz

We repeat this entry to honor Anne Graham-Lotz and due to the proximity of the dates. Give thanks that Mrs. Lotz has added her voice to a call for national prayer. She served as the Honorary Chair for the National Day of Prayer 2014 in May, and now writes (above), “[God] gave me the message… from Joel 1… the Day of the Lord is at hand. It was a message warning that judgment is coming.” Pray for her, for her husband’s health, and for her voice to be amplified by God’s Spirit in urging many to pray and to take seriously the message of divine judgment. May all intercessors pray in unity.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.” (Psalm 133)

“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart …  And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1, 7-8)

 

PICK FOR V.A. IS FORMER CORPORATE CHIEF

President Obama on Monday intends to nominate Robert A. McDonald, a former chief executive of Procter & Gamble, to be the next secretary of Veterans Affairs, a White House official said Sunday, betting that a global corporate officer can turn around a government health system that has been rocked by allegations of mismanagement and cover-ups of long patient waiting times.

The president last month accepted the resignation of Eric Shinseki, the retired four-star Army general he tapped in 2009 to lead the agency. By appointing Mr. McDonald, 61, Mr. Obama is turning to an outsider to overcome deep bureaucratic problems and the mismanagement that stemmed, in part, from a surge in the number of veterans needing care.

In the weeks since Mr. Shinseki’s departure, White House officials had explored three kinds of potential replacements: someone with deep management experience, someone with a military background similar to the department’s former leader or someone with a track record running a sprawling hospital system.

By picking Mr. McDonald, Mr. Obama signaled that he views the problems at the department as primarily a management concern, although his nominee is a West Point graduate with a military service record. A report issued on Friday by Mr. Obama’s deputy chief of staff, Rob Nabors, described a “corrosive” management culture and “a lack of responsiveness and an inability to effectively manage or communicate” at the agency.

The choice is markedly different from the one Mr. Obama made five years ago, suggesting that he no longer believes that a military commander can fix the substantial problems at the country’s largest integrated health care network, with over 1,700 facilities that serve more than eight million veterans a year.

“This is definitely a surprising pick,” said Paul Rieckhoff, the chief executive and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “McDonald is not a name that was on anyone’s radar over the last few weeks. His branding background may prove helpful because there are few organizations in America with a worse reputation toward customers than the V.A. right now.”

But Mr. Rieckhoff added that because Mr. McDonald had “been away from the military for quite a while, he’ll have to move quickly to show he is committed to and understands the post-9/11 generation of veterans.”

From 2009 to 2013 at Procter & Gamble, Mr. McDonald oversaw more than 120,000 employees as he directed a company that had operations around the globe. Officials noted Sunday that Mr. McDonald’s former company served more than five billion customers.

The president’s plans to nominate Mr. McDonald were first reported Sunday by The Washington Post.

If he is confirmed, Mr. McDonald will face a beleaguered $154 billion-a-year department whose major functions are stricken with a combination of operational and technological dysfunction; serious morale problems exacerbated by what administration officials now acknowledge is a corrosive management culture and hostility to whistle-blowers; and a lack of trust among many veterans.

The most severe problem is the scandal over falsified waiting lists that last month led to the ouster of the department’s top two officials, including Mr. Shinseki. He had characterized the lack of honesty and proper behavior at some of the department’s facilities as a “systemic, totally unacceptable lack of integrity” that he could not explain.

The waiting-list controversy revealed that veterans in many places faced long delays for appointments — delays that were hidden by administrators and scheduling employees who were under pressure to convince their bosses that waits were typically no longer than 14 days. Results of investigations and audits in recent weeks have suggested that the cover-ups of the delays were spurred in many places by administrators whose performance ratings were tied to measurements of how long it took veterans to see doctors.

Veterans Affairs officials have already taken steps to eliminate what they now acknowledge were potentially perverse incentives to manipulate waiting-time data, such as eliminating performance bonuses this year for senior health care executives and deleting the 14-day goal from employee contracts.

But the underlying cause of the delays will be harder to address: The department’s medical centers and clinics have seen a sharp increase in visits scheduled by patients, particularly for primary care appointments, but the number of doctors and nurse practitioners available to see them has in many places barely grown.

Much of the demand has come from younger veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan with profound and complex injuries that require close monitoring and many follow-up visits. But most veterans seeking treatment at department clinics, though, are Vietnam veterans, many with chronic illnesses like diabetes that require long-term care, or with cancer or cardiovascular disease, which require complicated and expensive treatments.

In addition, if confirmed, Mr. McDonald will be confronted with the continuing problem of how to make sure veterans returning from the battlefield, some of them seriously injured or battling psychological problems, receive their disability compensation in a timely manner. In his 2008 campaign, Mr. Obama criticized delays in providing benefits to veterans and promised to make fixing the agency a top priority. But while the White House has bragged about making progress in the timely distribution of benefits, the revelations this spring about delays in seeing patients has raised the agency’s profile to a new political level.

To win confirmation, Mr. McDonald will have to win over lawmakers in both parties. Records show that Mr. McDonald has made political contributions only to Republicans, giving $5,000 to Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, and $11,000 to the Romney Victory Committee. He has also made several contributions to Speaker John A. Boehner and Senator Rob Portman, both Republicans of Ohio.

Senator Bernard Sanders, an independent from Vermont and the chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, offered a neutral reaction on Sunday to the president’s pick.

“The V.A. needs significantly improved transparency and accountability, and it needs an increased number of doctors, nurses and other medical staff so that all eligible veterans get high-quality health care in a timely manner,” Mr. Sanders said.

Mr. Boehner released a statement complimenting Mr. McDonald as “a good man, a veteran and a strong leader.” But he also said any Veterans Affairs secretary could succeed only “if his boss, the president, first commits to doing whatever it takes to give our veterans the world-class health care system they deserve by articulating a vision for sweeping reform.” (Contributor: By Michael D. Shear and Richard A. Oppel, Jr. for The New York Times)

Mr. McDonald deserves a chance to bring balance and proper management back to a seriously broken and deeply flawed cabinet-level agency. Pray he will have divine wisdom and extraordinary courage to sift through what appears to be deception at many levels. He must do a thorough “house cleaning.” For the sake of military personnel and veterans who have suffered neglect and abuse, let us pray for his success, so that the V.A. will once again give honor to whom honor is due. Pray for truth and light.

“Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:2-4)

 

THE BEAUTIFUL TRUTH ABOUT AMERICA

There’s some surprising showbiz acknowledgment for the power of American exceptionalism, a belief already well known to grass-roots folk and patriots. Case in point: A recent test showing in Atlanta and Houston theaters holds great promise for “America: Imagine the World Without Her,” a feature-length film by oft-embattled writer/director Dinesh D’Souza and Oscar-winning producer Gerald R. Molen. Indeed, the work was called “a slick, sprawling celebration of American exceptionalism” by Variety and cited by the Hollywood Reporter for debunking “the narrative that the United States has been a force of evil across the world through a combination of historical recreations and interviews with some of the country’s harshest critics.”

Both publications noted the film’s surprise strong box office returns in the regional markets. It opens nationwide in 1,000 theaters Wednesday and could prove to be a sleeper blockbuster like the determined pair’s other project — “2016: Obama’s America,” which drew over $33 million in ticket sales and ended up to be the second-most-successful political documentary of all time.

“After the success of ‘2016,’ I knew there was an audience that wanted to be proud of our country and see a film that took an honest look at how this country came to be and where we go from here,” says Mr. D’Souza.

“What makes this film unlike any today is the history behind it, the truth about American history and the place we have in world history,” notes Mr. Molen. “I call upon all Americans to join us at their local theater to celebrate our great country.”

Meanwhile, some fans are petitioning the White House to allow “America” to be shown in military theaters. “At this time, there are no plans for the film to be released on U.S. military bases around the world,” states the online petition, filed through the We the People program. “Since this is a patriotic film that celebrates America, we are asking the White House to allow this film to be seen by the men and women who have sacrificed for our country at movie theaters around the world that happen to be located on U.S. military installations.” (Contributor:  By Jennifer Harper for The Washington Times)

While our nation’s “exceptionalism” has been questioned if not denied in recent years, America is the only country on earth established with the Founders’ determination to see a nation of free men and women come forth under a government designed to serve its citizens, not own them. Pray that this film will have a wide audience, serving its purpose to review U.S. history faithfully and accurately. America’s creativity and success have been unparalleled because of our God-given freedoms.

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:32, 36)

 

LAWMAKERS AIM TO CURB MEDICAL RESEARCH ON FOSTER CHILDREN

In the wake of the Justina Pelletier custody saga, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers have introduced a bill to limit federal funding for medical research involving foster children.

“Sixteen months ago, Justina was a figure skater. Today, she cannot stand, sit or walk on her own,” Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, said of the bill, dubbed “Justina’s Law.”

“It is unconscionable what happened to Justina, and we must do all we can to prevent it from ever happening again. Removing federal funding from such experimentation is an important first step,” said Mrs. Bachmann.

“Foster children are particularly vulnerable because they may not have parents to advocate for them,” said Rep. Karen Bass, California Democrat, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, and Rep. Tom Marino, Pennsylvania Republican.

All four lawmakers are co-chairmen of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth in the House of Representatives.

Justina, 16, spent 16 months in custody of Massachusetts’ child welfare agency, which placed her in a hospital psychiatric ward for several months. Justina was released to her family in June after a two-state battle involving a juvenile court and political leaders.

The House bill would tell hospitals and other research organizations they can’t “just do what they want” with children who are separated from their parents, said Daniel Schmid, an attorney with Liberty Counsel, which worked to win Justina’s release from state care.

Under U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rules — which are often adopted by hospitals and other institutions — wards of the state may sometimes be included in risky research that doesn’t benefit them.

The Justina bill “heightens the standard” by disallowing foster children from being involved in taxpayer-funded research that carries “greater-than-minimal risk with no or minimal prospect of direct benefit,” Mr. Schmid said.

Liberty Counsel said Friday that when Justina, then age 14, was taken by her mother, Linda Pelletier, to Boston Children’s Hospital in February 2013, a doctor changed her diagnosis from mitochondrial disease — a physical ailment — to somatoform disorder — a mental illness. A hospital psychologist who was researching somatoform disorder under a federal grant agreed with the new diagnosis.

When Justina’s parents objected and sought to move her to another hospital, they were reported to Massachusetts child welfare officials for medical child abuse, and Justina was taken into state custody.

Hospital and state officials have noted that they cannot discuss details of Justina’s case due to privacy and confidentiality rules. A spokesman for Boston Children’s Hospital said recently that Justina’s diagnosis and treatment plan were “thorough and in accordance with best practices” by an team of specialists in several disciplines, in and out of the hospital.

The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a Pelletier family advocate and friend, said Friday that Justina is “180 degrees different, for the positive” since coming home to West Hartford, Connecticut. Sadly, her reading level has dropped several grades, but she is enrolling in school as soon as possible, he said.

The federal legislation is necessary to protect families, said Mr. Mahoney. Scores of people around the country have reported problems with foster care, and “all along, there was this sense that Justina’s case was, if you will, a canary in the coal mine” with respect to parents seeing their rights usurped by government entities.

Justina wants to tell her own story, Mr. Mahoney added. Recently, she said, unsolicited, “I want to go down to Washington, D.C., and speak,” he said. (Contributor: By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)

This sounds more like a medieval novel than an American family scene. Sadly, it is the latter. Why was Justine Pelletier taken from her parents for 16 months and subjected to psychological research? No one is saying, but this bipartisan bill will cut off federal funding for such experimentation. Pray for Justine’s adjustment to home and for healing. Pray for the passage of this bill so that other children will not be so abused. Pray, too, for the uncovering of criminal activity. Those who have done this are in need of God’s mercy.

“Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate.” (Amos 5:15)

“For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You. The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity.” (Psalm 5:5)

 On Watch in Washington July 2, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version