On Watch in Washington June 18, 2014

June 18th, 2014

On Watch in Washington June 18, 2014  Plain Text PDF Version

HIS LAND, OUR LAND CONFERENCE  JUNE 26 – 29

His Land, Our Land conference at The Inn featuring speakers Lance Lambert & David Kubal June 26 – June 29 at the newly renovated and air-conditioned Christian Training Center International. Join us for this pivotal event in the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Franklin, North Carolina. Contact phone number for more details (828) 524-5741.

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U.S. ORDERS EVACUATION OF MANY EMBASSY WORKERS FROM BAGHDAD

The American Embassy in Baghdad plans to evacuate a substantial number of its personnel this week in the face of a militant advance that rapidly swept from the north toward the capital, the State Department announced on Sunday.

The embassy, a beige fortress on the banks of the Tigris River within the heavily secured Green Zone, where Iraqi government buildings are also situated, has the largest staff of any United States Embassy.

The exact number of people being evacuated from Baghdad — the American government prefers to say they are being “relocated” — was not disclosed. But the embassy will remain open, and most of its staff will remain, according to the State Department.

The United States has a staff of about 5,500 at the embassy and at two consulates in the north and south of Iraq.

“Some additional U.S. government security personnel will be added to the staff in Baghdad; other staff will be temporarily relocated — both to our consulate generals in Basra and Erbil and to the Iraq Support Unit in Amman,” Jordan, Jen Psaki, the State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement.

“Over all, a substantial majority of the U.S. Embassy presence in Iraq will remain in place, and the embassy will be fully equipped to carry out its national security mission,” Ms. Psaki added.

An American military official said that fewer than 100 Marines and other military personnel had arrived in Baghdad to reinforce the embassy’s security. The embassy staff members who are being evacuated are leaving on charter aircraft or commercial flights. But the military has planes available if necessary, the Pentagon said.

Other Americans in Iraq, particularly contractors working for companies that had been training the Iraqi military on weapons systems purchased from the United States, have already left.

Last week, in quick fashion, militants seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and then moved south. But over the weekend, their advance seemed to slow.

In response to the crisis, President Obama has said he is weighing a range of actions to help the Iraqi government turn back the insurgents, including airstrikes and other military aid.

This year, when insurgents captured Falluja and other parts of western Anbar Province, the American government rushed guns, ammunition and Hellfire missiles to aid the Iraqis, but it has done little to stop the militants.

As American forces left Iraq at the end of 2011, the State Department planned to significantly increase its diplomatic presence in the country by establishing several fortified embassy branch offices defended by private security guards.

The Obama administration soon reconsidered those ambitions, chiefly because of the cost and feasibility. The consulates in Basra and Erbil remained open; another, in Kirkuk, was phased out; and a proposed outpost in Mosul was never opened.

After the troops left, only a small number of military personnel remained as part of an office of security cooperation at the embassy. They oversee a weapons sales program and provide limited mentoring for Iraqi forces. (Contributor: By Tim Arango and Michael R. Gordon for The New York Times)

IFA’s ministry is to encourage prayer and intercession, not to engage in political analysis. In sending these alerts, we know we are serving intercessors who are “on watch,” those who know how to read “the signs of the times” and how to pray. Only in very serious situations does the Department of State order embassy personnel to be evacuated. Clearly, this indicates escalating trouble and danger, and so we must pray. “Father God, work out your purposes, so that men and women will call on the name of the Lord and be saved.”

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

 

IRAQI CHRISTIANS FLEE HOMES AMID MILITANT PUSH

Over the past decade, Iraqi Christians have fled repeatedly to this ancient mountainside village, seeking refuge from violence, then returning home when the danger eased. Now they are doing it again as Islamic militants rampage across northern Iraq, but this time few say they ever want to go back to their homes.

The flight is a new blow to Iraq’s dwindling Christian community, which is almost as old as the religion itself but which has already been devastated since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. During the past 11 years, at least half of the country’s Christian population has fled the country, according to some estimates, to escape frequent attacks by Sunni Muslim militants targeting them and their churches.

Now many of those who held out and remained may be giving up completely after fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant swept over the city of Mosul and a broad swath of the country the past week.

“I’m not going back,” said Lina, who fled Mosul with her family as the militants swept in and came to Alqosh, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) to the north.

“Each day we went to bed in fear,” the 57-year-old woman said, sitting in a house for displaced people. “In our own houses we knew no rest.” Like other Christians who fled here, she spoke on condition she be identified only by her first name for fear for her safety.

In leaving, the Christians are emptying out communities that date back to the first centuries of the religion, including Chaldean, Assyrian and Armenian churches. The past week, some 160 Christian families — mosly from Mosul — have fled to Alqosh, mayor Sabri Boutani told The Associated Press, consulting first on the number with his wife by speaking in Chaldean, the ancient language spoken by many residents.

Alqosh, dating back at least to the 1st century BC, is a jumble of pastel-painted homes nestled at the base of a high craggy hill among rolling plains of wheat fields. The village’s population of 6,000 is about half Christian and half ethnic Kurds. Located just outside the autonomous Kurdish zone of northern Iraq, Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga have moved into the town to protect it.

Many Christians are deciding that the comparatively liberal and prosperous Kurdish regions are their safest bet.

“Every Christian prefers to stay in Kurdistan,” said Abu Zeid, an engineer. He too said he wouldn’t be going back to Mosul.

“It’s a shame because Mosul is the most important city in Iraq for Christians,” he added. Mosul is said to be the site of the burial of Jonah, the prophet who tradition says was swallowed by a whale.

Iraq was estimated to have more than 1 million Christians before the 2003 invasion and topping of Saddam Hussein. Now church officials estimate only 450,000 remain within Iraq borders. Militants have targeted Christians in repeated waves in Baghdad and the north. The Chaldean Catholic cardinal was kidnapped in 2008 by extremists and killed. Churches around the country have been bombed repeatedly.

The exodus from Mosul — a Sunni-majority city that during the American presence in Iraq was an al-Qaida stronghold — has been even more dramatic. From a pre-2003 population of around 130,000 Christians, there were only about 10,000 left before the Islamic State fighters overran the city a week ago.

Abu Zeid estimated that now only 2,000 Christians remain in the city.

Christians who have not left Iraq completely often flee their homes to other parts of Iraq when the danger is highest in hopes of returning later.

Boutani, the mayor, said this was the sixth time in 11 years that Christians from other areas have flocked to Alqosh for refuge. He himself fled here from Baghdad in 2009 after a church bombing in the capital.

This is the third time that Adnan, a 60-year-old Mosul shoe shop owner, has sought shelter in Alqosh. He came in 2008 after a priest in Mosul was killed, then again in 2010 after rumors spread of an imminent attack on Christians. Each time, he and his family returned after Iraqi security officials guaranteed Christians’ safety.

“They said, we will protect you,” he recalled. “But now — where’s the government?”

The Vatican for years has voiced concern about the flight of Christians from the Middle East, driven out by war, poverty and discrimination.

During his recent trip to Jordan, Pope Francis met with Iraqi and Syrian Christians and denounced the wars, weapons and conflicts that have forced them from their homes.

“All of us want peace!” Francis told a gathering of refugees near the River Jordan. “I ask myself: who is selling arms to these people to make war?”

In Alqosh, the newcomers and the residents united in prayer at Sunday Mass in the Chaldean Church of the Virgin Mary of the Harvest, held by Friar Gabriel Tooma.

On the church floor was spread a mosaic made of beans, lentils, wheat and other produce from the area, assembled to commemorate the upcoming harvest. Before the service, volunteers hurried to finish the images of Jesus and Mary, and were filling out the details of Pope Francis’ face, sketched out with white beans.

“People are afraid of what’s coming next,” Tooma said. “I fear there will be a day when people will say: ‘There were once Christians in Iraq.’”

As he walked with his wife and daughter in the 7th century St Hormoz monastery, built into the hill overlooking Alqosh, Abu Zeid said he went back to Mosul on Friday to see if his house was still standing.

Some of the militants in control of the city tried to show that Christians were welcome.

Gunmen stopped him and asked if he was a Christian, Abu Zeid said. When he nodded back, a gunman told him: “Welcome to your home.”

The Chaldean church in Mosul was looted, he said, and he saw gunmen drag the accused thieves to the church and order them to return stolen property.

He and other displaced Christians highly doubt the shows of goodwill. Still, some said they have no choice but to eventually return.

“I’m 60 years old,” said Adnan, the shoe salesman. “It would be hard to start over again.” (Contributor:  By Diaa Hadid for Associated Press – AP correspondent Nicole Winfield in Rome contributed to this report.)

No one understands why God allows His Church to suffer anguish, deprivation, and, at times, violent persecution, but such hardship is a way of life for millions of Christ’s followers. Men motivated by evil have perpetrated such heinous crimes since Cain rose up against his brother Abel. So, while God doesn’t promise to protect believers from evil-doers, He does promise to be with them in the midst of trouble, and to welcome them at the end of life on earth to their eternal home in heaven.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God . . .” (Isaiah 43:2-3a)

 

IN TEXAS’ RIO GRANDE VALLEY, A SEEMINGLY ENDLESS SURGE OF IMMIGRANTS

The call went out on Border Patrol radios just before sundown one day this week: 31 immigrants spotted illegally crossing the Rio Grande on a raft.

No sooner had the migrants been found hiding in the mesquite brush than another report came in: A woman and boy were walking up the riverbank.

The Rio Grande Valley has become ground zero for an unprecedented surge in families and unaccompanied children flooding across the Southwest border, creating what the Obama administration is calling a humanitarian crisis as border officials struggle to accommodate new detainees. Largely from Central America, they are now arriving at a rate of more than 35,000 a month.

Anzalduas Park, a 96-acre expanse of close-cropped fields and woodland that sits on the southern bend of the river, has turned from an idyllic family recreation area into a high-traffic zone for illegal migration.

The number of children and teenagers traveling alone from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador is expected to reach up to 90,000 across the Southwest border by the end of the year, along with a surge of families with children seeking safe passage into the U.S.

“This is the hottest spot in the nation for crossings,” said Hidalgo County Precinct 3 Constable Lazaro “Larry” Gallardo, a valley native who said he had never seen a migration wave of such a scale during his 14 years in office. “Something’s got to be done because the numbers are just too high.”

Detentions along this stretch of the river have gone from up to 50 immigrants a week to as many as 300. On Tuesday night, constables captured 100, on Monday nearly 200. Authorities are comparing the onslaught of homeless detainees to the displacements brought by Hurricane Katrina.

“The basic difference is that the vast majority of those people were here legally, whereas the current group has come here illegally,” said Donald Reay, executive director of the Southwest Border Sheriff’s Coalition. “You end up with a double-edged sword. You want to deal with the humanitarian side but also have to deal with the rule-of-law side.”

Many of the migrants are young women with children who tell authorities they are fleeing unrest in their homelands. Not long ago, a Honduran woman barely made it across the river before giving birth among the park’s red and blue picnic tables and signs warning “Children at Play.”

Some migrants cross on weekends and try to blend in with picnicking crowds in the park. But many willingly give themselves up, driven by reports in Central America that immigrants who arrive with children are being allowed to stay in the U.S. indefinitely. (Officials believe smugglers use some families as decoys to divert authorities’ attention from other migrants crossing elsewhere.)

We can stay temporarily and get money, and if we have to go, we go. – Honduran woman, who arrived in Texas because her 9-year-old son needs an eye operation she cannot afford

One woman walking up the park riverbank this week with a boy made no attempt to flee when Sgt. Dan Broyles, a Hidalgo County deputy constable, approached. She toted two purses, as if headed to the mall — a stark contrast to migrants of years past, who girded themselves with survival gear to endure harsh treks through the desert.

“Did you come on a raft?” Broyles, 51, asked in Spanish.

Yes, the woman said, after traveling by bus from Honduras.

“He’s your son?”

Yes, she said, 9 years old. The boy’s left arm was in a cast, the result of falling out of a tree before their trip. Around his neck he wore a black-and-white cross woven from plastic lanyards.

“Did you pay someone to cross?”

She said she paid $1,000 — 10 times the going rate before the recent influx.

Her son needs an eye operation she could not afford. She had heard that they would be allowed to stay in the U.S., at least long enough for her to find work and pay for the surgery.

“We can stay temporarily and get money, and if we have to go, we go,” she said with tears in her eyes before Border Patrol agents loaded them into a van headed for a station already overcrowded with migrants.

Moments later, a Guatemalan woman walked up to Broyles out of the darkness, with her 15-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter. The boy carried his sister, who wore a frilly green dress and patent leather shoes.

They had been hiding in the marsh, which was filled with tarantulas and lizards. Signs nearby warned of snakes.

Border facilities in Texas and Arizona have quickly become overloaded. The McAllen Border Patrol station near here, which has space to detain 250 immigrants, instead houses 1,500 daily, according to Border Patrol Agent Chris Cabrera, vice president of the agents’ union’s local chapter. Other smaller stations in the valley are housing twice or three times their capacity, he said.

Emergency shelters have been opened at military bases in Texas, Oklahoma and California — and at another facility in Arizona — but immigrant advocates and border agents have described the initial intake facilities on the border as badly overcrowded and ill-equipped to handle the onslaught.

Mayeli Hernandez, a 12-year-old Honduran girl who made the trip with her 8-year-old sister, said the journey with smugglers wasn’t as difficult as her four days in detention in McAllen last July.

“We were there for four days without showering, without brushing our teeth,” Mayeli said. “The guards were always angry. They told me that I was asking for too much water to drink.”

In a complaint filed last week with the federal Department of Homeland Security, five immigrant rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union Border Litigation Project, alleged that children in custody between the ages of 5 and 17 faced physical and sexual abuse, overcrowding, freezing temperatures, inadequate water and spoiled food.

Their 25-page report documented accounts of sexual abuse, strip searches, a child who had to drink from a toilet tank, filthy restrooms and children forced to sleep on floors.

Border Patrol officials have said they will look into the allegations. Cabrera said agents are also concerned about unsanitary conditions, such as the practice of quarantining sick immigrants behind a piece of yellow tape, strung across the room, that does little to protect agents or fellow migrants.

Cleaning crews wipe the holding areas down regularly, but agents still fear contagious diseases, Cabrera said. “It’s not just the disease issues, but the sheer amount of filth that’s floating through the air.”

President Obama has directed federal agencies to address the widening crisis in the Rio Grande Valley, with new stopgap measures announced almost daily. Yet another temporary detention center is scheduled to open in McAllen, Texas, in a 55,000-square-foot warehouse, Cabrera said.Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say they don’t have room to detain parents and children long-term.

Children detained by immigration authorities are supposed to be held a maximum of 72 hours, then moved to temporary shelters, where they spend about a month on average before being placed with relatives or sponsors while their immigration cases are pending.

But senior Obama administration officials who briefed reporters this week acknowledged that they haven’t been able to meet the 72-hour requirement: There is simply not enough staff to process all

Once they are processed, the Border Patrol has been flying many families to other states and releasing them en masse at bus stations with notices to appear in immigration courts at their destinations.

At the McAllen Greyhound station this week, volunteers set up tables of donations, then moved to a nearby church hall that was soon overwhelmed by immigrant mothers.

Among them was Blanca Isabel Cruz, 36, who had brought her daughter Xenia, 13, across the river on a raft with smugglers after traveling north by bus from El Salvador. They planned to catch a bus to join relatives in Fredericksburg, Va. The family had migrated in stages: first her 15-year-old daughter with cousins; then her husband, a fisherman, with their 6-year-old daughter; then Cruz with Xenia.

Cruz, a petite woman in a ponytail and a pink T-shirt, said they came because gang violence had worsened in their coastal city of La Union as a 2-year-old truce disintegrated between the country’s two largest gangs and a new government failed to help.

“There are gangs and delinquents all over the place,” she said. “Here, it’s safe.”

At 11:26 p.m. Wednesday, nearly half an hour after Sgt. Broyles’ shift ended, a woman and three boys approached his truck out of the dark.

Belkin Rivera Hernandez, 24, said she’d heard television reports that single mothers would receive permission to stay in the U.S., and decided to try to cross with her son and two other boys from Honduras, hoping to meet her mother in Virginia.

“The situation in Honduras is only getting worse,” she said as Broyles handed her a chilled bottle of water, part of a supply deputies buy themselves for the migrants.

Border Patrol agents arrived and loaded the family into a van with half a dozen other women and children. (Contributor: By Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Cindy Carcamo for The LA Times)

Consider the Scripture. In one New Testament verse (Acts 17:26), we hear two fundamental truths. The first is that the entire human race came from “one blood” (or one man), and the second is that God has appointed boundaries for dwelling places for each people group. Sheer logic indicates that all of Central and upper South America’s people cannot find a “better life” at the expense of the U.S.  Pray, then, that political juggling and border irresponsibility will give way to reality, and that a just solution will be applied.

“And He has made from one blood [or man] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord. . . .” (Acts 17:26-27a) 

 

NEW RESEARCH REMINDS US WHY FATHERS MATTER

Award-winning journalist Paul Raeburn notes in his new book, “Do Fathers Matter? What Science is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked,” that we acknowledge a father’s “authority and economic stability” in children’s home lives, but we don’t always take into account all the many other ways that dads contribute to the well-being of their children. As we approach Father’s Day this weekend, it’s a good time to look at new information social science is teaching us about the value of fathers.

According to Mr. Raeburn, most of the research about the importance of fathers is buried in scholarly journals from several fields — anthropology, neurology, sociology, psychology, etc.; as a result, even family scholars lack an overall perspective on the importance of fathers.

Mr. Raeburn has spent the past eight years bringing together this disparate research, and the result is a new book that is astounding in its scope and perspective on fatherhood, with some of its revelations being downright shocking. He indicates that the death rate of infants when the father is not around prior to their birth is nearly four times higher than when the prospective father is present helping to support the pregnant mother.

The more involved the father, the better. When a father plays with, reads to, or takes his children on outings, those children have fewer behavior problems in elementary school and less risk of criminal behavior when they become teenagers. On the other hand, fathers who are depressed during pregnancy can increase the child’s risk of depression throughout his or her life.

One very surprising advantage of fathers cited by Mr. Raeburn is their influence on language development. Most people think of mothers as being the ones who shore up the right-brain activities — reading, creativity, talking — but Lynne Vernon-Feagans, of the University of North Carolina, found that in several important ways, fathers matter more than mothers in language development: language skills, success in school and vocabulary.

Taking a longer-range view, an American Enterprise Institute report in April found that teens with involved fathers were 98 percent more likely to graduate from college and those with “very involved” fathers were 105 percent more likely to graduate. While the author, Brad Wilcox, of the University of Virginia, cites father involvement as a likely cause, Naomi Schaefer Riley speculates that it’s because fathers grant children more independence than mothers typically do. That freedom means more risk-taking in safe environments, thus preparing them for the real world and giving them the experiences that they need to mature.

Frayser High School in Memphis, Tenn., made headlines in 2011 owing to the high pregnancy rate. Everyone assumed that the new television shows — MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” — were to blame for the sudden epidemic, but numerous studies report the strong influence of fathers on their “daughters’ sexual behavior during adolescence.” Psychologist Sarah E. Hill, of Texas Christian University, for instance, presents data showing how a father’s absence is associated with “accelerated reproductive development and sexual risk-taking in daughters.” Now, it is generally accepted by scholars that father-absence or father-inattention has a strong negative influence on adolescent girls’ sexual risk-taking.

Given the mass of accumulated evidence that fathers play specific beneficial — even vital — roles in their children’s lives, it is surprising that the president’s recent initiative, “Opportunity for All: My Brother’s Keeper,” to address fatherlessness does not, according to the Daily Caller’s White House correspondent, Neil Munro, mention a single time the words “marriage” or “married,” even though the report admits that the lack of fathers “doubles the failure rate among African-American and Latino kids.” Instead, the new program calls for the “government to arrange substitute fathers for the huge numbers of fatherless boys and girls instead of binding fathers to their kids via marriage.” The program will, instead of encouraging fathers to accept responsibility for their children, encourage long-term mentors to get involved with fatherless children.

The report goes to great lengths to define “family” very broadly, with an end result that “government-managed communities” are elevated above the “autonomous two-parent family.” Instead of the family being the “core American value” that is central to society, the president promoted the idea that “community” performs the family function. Mr. Munro cites the following figures: “Community” gets 34 mentions, “government” gets 15 mentions, “federal” gets 54 mentions, “state” gets almost 60 mentions, and “local” gets 32 mentions, but there is not one mention of “marriage” or “married.” Of course, Hillary Clinton long ago tried to tell us that “it takes a village to raise a child.”

The research is very clear that children definitely do need a father, and preferably their biological one, and not just any man. They need involved, hands-on fathering that cements the connection to the man responsible for their birth. There’s nothing new about this need, of course, but recent research has shown us some fascinating wrinkles on the old themes. Fathers, the new research reveals, bring certain factors to parenting that are irreplaceable. Mentors and father-figures are needed, but they are not sufficient to meet a child’s need to experience the touch of their dad’s hand, his unconditional love and his voice reassuring him or her, “You are my son, you are my daughter … and I love you and am proud of you.” (Contributor: By Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D. for The Washington Times – author of Children at Risk and Marriage Matters, is Executive Director and Senior Fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute.)

Please note the importance of this article by Janice Shaw Crouse and of Paul Raeburn’s book, “Do Father’s Matter?” Mrs. Crouse says the book “is astounding in its scope and perspective on fatherhood.” Let us pray for a wide distribution for the book and for the truth it represents. Today’s culture has marginalized the vital and irreplaceable role of fatherhood in the home, but the evidence speaks for itself. While not neglecting single mothers, may the Church come forth with strong ministry to strengthen the role of fathers and of two-parent homes.

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

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’ And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:1-4)

 

AMERICAN FATHERS ROUTINELY MIMIC THE ROUGHHOUSING OF MALE MONKEYS

Is the child playing Candyland being asked to sit still and follow the rules? It’s probably Mom doing the teaching.

Is the toddler is squealing with joy as the scary monster lumbers toward him? It’s probably Dad doing the chasing.

Differences in male-female parenting styles are not imaginary or based on stereotypes, according to an extensive survey released Monday.

Instead, differences are rooted in biology. From an evolutionary perspective, men and women share a strong interest in their offspring’s survival but pursue that goal in different ways, say the authors of “Mother Bodies, Father Bodies: How Parenthood Changes Us From the Inside Out.”

“Evolutionary success is not based on whether you survive — rather, success is measured by whether you are able to produce offspring who survive, reproduce, and carry your genes into future generations,” said Dr. Kathleen Kovner Kline and W. Bradford Wilcox, co-authors of the study, released by the Institute for American Values, the Center of the American Experiment and the Institute for Family Studies.

For mothers and fathers, that can mean starkly different strategies.

A parenting report like this is needed, they said, because the American family is coping with dramatic social change.

“In the past, the culture used to give us the recipe” for how men and women can best navigate marriage, work, family and home life.

But for many people, that “shared script … no longer exists” because of social trends such as mothers working outside the home, greater flexibility in sex roles, and delays in marriage and childbearing.

With more freedom, choice — and uncertainty — in family life, “it is more important than ever to help men and women understand the profound internal and external transformations that accompany parenthood,” wrote Dr. Kline, an affiliate faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school and chief medical officer of a Philadelphia community mental health center called The Consortium, and Mr. Wilcox, an associate sociology professor and director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.

Exciting fathers

The paper stems from a 2008 conference, partly funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that gathered scholars from natural and social sciences to discuss the sexes and parenthood. They found evidence that mothers and fathers can be affectionate and caring, resourceful, adept at problem-solving and firm disciplinarians.

An especially important finding is that men, like women, are changed by parenthood. Men even undergo physiological, hormonal transformations during pregnancy and as they raise their children, Mr. Wilcox said.

But mothers and fathers also display some basic, intrinsic differences, and in the best of circumstances create a “parental synergy” that benefits their children.

Consider playtime

Fathers are known to tease and play in ways that are exciting and unpredictable — a biological characteristic. “Male monkeys show the same rough-and-tumble, physical style of play as American human fathers,” the study said.

This kind of play helps children understand that the world is surprising, is competitive, has risks and can be destabilizing, and that children have to learn to stand up for themselves. There is even evidence that children who play with their fathers a lot are likely to be popular with their peers.

Fathers are also likely to help establish a climate of order and self-control in families. They are more likely to act unilaterally, directing their children to do things without inquiring about what they want. They also can be firmer disciplinarians, spending less time reasoning or explaining their decisions to the miscreants, and children are more likely to comply with paternal demands than maternal demands.

As a result, boys who are close to their fathers are less likely to become delinquent; girls with fathers at home are less likely to become pregnant as teens.

Stable mothers

If the father’s style is geared to “push children out of the nest,” mothers tend to be the “more verbal, affectionate, predictable, comforting and affectionate parent … geared to make children feel at home in the nest.”

Taken together, “these two diverse parenting styles supply children with a varied parenting diet,” the report said.

Mothers are viewed as having a superior ability to regulate emotion, allowing them to establish strong attachments with their children. This in turn gives children a “secure emotional base” from which to navigate the emotional and social challenges of life, the paper said.

This persists in adolescence, when mothers, more than fathers, are more likely to try to “take their teenagers’ emotional temperature” and provide support and problem-solving tips for the ups and downs of life.

In general, and despite workplace and cultural changes, fathers tend to earn more money and mothers still tend to invest more time in parenting, especially when children are very young.

This means mothers typically take the lead on parental duties such as monitoring the children’s health, child care and shopping for clothing.

Mothers are also more likely to take steps to ensure their children have positive play experiences and introduce toys and games that have a predictable nature and are played by the rules.

In this sense, mothers are often seen as the responsible parent, setting limits and imposing penalties, even though the ultimate authority is the father, the report said.

A caveat is that such benefits are most robust when fathers live with the mothers of their children, which is why strengthening marriage is wise, Mr. Wilcox said.

Both children and men benefit when fathers are engaged with their families, day in and day out, “and arriage is an institution that more than any other” connects men to that, he said.

Fathers are known to tease and play in ways that are exciting and unpredictable — a biological characteristic. “Male monkeys show the same rough-and-tumble, physical style of play as American human fathers,” the study said.

This kind of play helps children understand that the world is surprising, is competitive, has risks and can be destabilizing, and that children have to learn to stand up for themselves. There is even evidence that children who play with their fathers a lot are likely to be popular with their peers.

Fathers are also likely to help establish a climate of order and self-control in families. They are more likely to act unilaterally, directing their children to do things without inquiring about what they want. They also can be firmer disciplinarians, spending less time reasoning or explaining their decisions to the miscreants, and children are more likely to comply with paternal demands than maternal demands.

As a result, boys who are close to their fathers are less likely to become delinquent; girls with fathers at home are less likely to become pregnant as teens.

Stable mothers

If the father’s style is geared to “push children out of the nest,” mothers tend to be the “more verbal, affectionate, predictable, comforting and affectionate parent … geared to make children feel at home in the nest.”

Taken together, “these two diverse parenting styles supply children with a varied parenting diet,” the report said.

Mothers are viewed as having a superior ability to regulate emotion, allowing them to establish strong attachments with their children. This in turn gives children a “secure emotional base” from which to navigate the emotional and social challenges of life, the paper said.

This persists in adolescence, when mothers, more than fathers, are more likely to try to “take their teenagers’ emotional temperature” and provide support and problem-solving tips for the ups and downs of life.

In general, and despite workplace and cultural changes, fathers tend to earn more money and mothers still tend to invest more time in parenting, especially when children are very young.

This means mothers typically take the lead on parental duties such as monitoring the children’s health, child care and shopping for clothing.

Mothers are also more likely to take steps to ensure their children have positive play experiences and introduce toys and games that have a predictable nature and are played by the rules.

In this sense, mothers are often seen as the responsible parent, setting limits and imposing penalties, even though the ultimate authority is the father, the report said.

A caveat is that such benefits are most robust when fathers live with the mothers of their children, which is why strengthening marriage is wise, Mr. Wilcox said.

Both children and men benefit when fathers are engaged with their families, day in and day out, “and marriage is an institution that more than any other” connects men to that, he said. (Emphasis added) (Contributor:  By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)

Although this research is filtered through evolutionary theory, the observations are valid. Why? Because they are based on observing the Creator’s design and intention for “normal” family function, which is for a mom and dad to live together, both active in the development of their children. Pray that spiritually blind eyes will be open to give God glory as His truth overrules human theory. Read again the next-to-last paragraph of this article. You will give God praise for His “intelligent design.” Because man excludes God, he can look at truth and not see the God of truth.

“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)

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2:24; also quoted in the Gospels and in Eph. 5:31)

 

HIGHER GROUND: LOVE BUT NOT ACCEPTANCE

The Southern Baptist Convention this week passed a resolution extending “love and compassion” to transgender people, but stopped short of supporting any efforts to claim a transgender identity.

The more than 5,000 registrants who attended the SBC’s annual meeting in Baltimore voted to “regard [their] transgender neighbors as image-bearers of the Almighty God,” condemning any form of bullying or abuse against them.

Within the same resolution, however, the SBC determined that because every person is created in the image of God, identifying as transgender is “contrary to God’s design” and any effort to physically change oneself is not condoned.

“These cultural currents run counter to the biblical teaching that ‘Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image. He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation,’” the resolution states. “Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles as ordained by God are part of the created order and should find expression in every heart.”

A 2011 study from the Williams Institute at UCLA showed that there are about 700,000 transgender people living in the United States. The SBC reported its membership at nearly 16 million people.  (Contributor: By Meredith Somers for The Washington Times)

In a day of moral compromise in major branches of the broader Church, give thanks for the stand Southern Baptists have taken to “love the sinner” while not condoning the sin of transgender identity. As the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., this decision will have repercussions and a price to be paid in the “marketplace.” Let us stand with our Baptist brothers and sisters in Christ. These issues have divided some denominations, so pray for a return to God’s standards in the Church.   

“For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar . . .” (Rom. 3:3-4a)

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

 

 CALL2FALL

The Basics

Q – What’s involved?

A – The Call 2 Fall is nothing fancy.  No slick program.  No big production.  Just setting aside a definite time during worship on June 29, 2014 when you call your people to get on their knees and faces before the Lord in repentant prayer for God to reshape our lives and renew our land.  Click here for free church resources that may be helpful.

Q – Who can join?

A – “Call 2 Fall” on our knees is for every Christ-follower in America.  Specifically, there are multiplied millions of believers who realize that America is in trouble and that neither Washington nor Wall Street has the answers.  We are hoping that at least 40,000 churches will join in a corporate act of humility, repentance, and desperate prayer on our knees before the Lord.

Q – Where will we do it?

A - “Call 2 Fall” on our knees will be happening in the many places Christians meet on Sunday. We realize that the church gathers in worship centers, store-fronts, homes, and various other places all across America.  We are encouraging believers to kneel at least 3 to 5 minutes before the Lord wherever they may gather that day.

Q – When will it happen?

A – “Call 2 Fall” in corporate humility before the Lord is set for Sunday, June 29, 2014. Why that Sunday? Because on the day before we celebrate our “Independence,” we should also express our “Dependence” upon the Lord. Throughout this special day, we encourage believers to spend time on their knees in crying out to God to heal our souls and our land.

Q – Why a Call 2 Fall?

A – First, the Scriptures teach it.  The key verse is 2 Chronicles 7:14:

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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

The first requirement on the path to renewal is to “humble ourselves,” to fall on our knees and faces before the Lord in repentant prayer.  Over and over the Scriptures teach this.   Click here for examples.

Second, our history records it.   Our founding fathers sensed the need for a “Call 2 Fall” in view of the monumental struggle we were engaged in with Britain.    The First Continental Congress called for a day of public humiliation, fasting, and prayer throughout the Colonies on July 20th, 1775 just after war broke out.  James Warren wrote Samuel Adams:

Three millions of people on their knees at once, supplicating the aid of Heaven, is a striking circumstance, and a very singular one in America . May the blessings of Heaven follow in answer to our prayers…

In addition, colonial America and the early years of our republic experienced what observers have called Great Awakenings, which began with God’s people humbling themselves in repentant prayer and led to others becoming followers of Christ.  Click here for more examples from our Founders.

Third, our nation needs it. Ponder the past decade.  From 9/11 to war to natural disasters to financial and moral collapse, we are witnessing what happens when a nation turns away from God.  In view of the monumental challenges of our times, do we not find ourselves in a similar situation as that of ancient Israel and early America?  Consequently, we are sensing the need to return to simple but powerful truths like:

God is sovereign.  He is holy and He is love.

We are sinners.  We are saved from His severity of His wrath toward sin only by the fierceness of His love in Christ.

When we drift away in disobedience, we experience His discipline.  His judgments are just.

The pathway back must begin with:

A humility and brokenness before the Lord.

A desperation to find the face of God.

A heart cry for the mercy of God.

A desire to turn from our sinful ways.

A resolve to return to the ways of God.

This is what the ancient words of Scripture are calling us to do when we speak of a “Call 2 Fall.”  Click here for testimony from people who sense this great need.

This is a powerful initiative that IFA welcomes. Pray that the full complement of 40,000 churches, and perhaps more, will respond in faith as church leaders call faithful members to participate in these moments of unified prayer. The power is not in the act of kneeling but in the heart attitude of humility and surrender to God. Believers will declare, in unity, that America’s hope is in God alone. Consider asking your pastor to lead your church to join in. May thousands of Christians pray and participate. Sadly, the Church of Jesus Christ is divided. May this be a step toward unity.

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Cor. 1:10)

 “. . . praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—” (Eph. 6:18)

On Watch in Washington June 18, 2014  Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington June 11, 2014

June 10th, 2014

On Watch in Washington June 11, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

HIS LAND, OUR LAND CONFERENCE  JUNE 26 – 29

His Land, Our Land conference at The Inn featuring speakers Lance Lambert & David Kubal June 26 – June 29 at the newly renovated and air-conditioned Christian Training Center International. Join us for this pivotal event in the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Franklin, North Carolina. Contact phone number for more details (828) 524-5741.

Visit us on the web:  www.lifeisrelationships.com/

 

G-7 OLIVE BRANCH TO RUSSIA

Russia was pointedly disinvited from a gathering Thursday of the exclusive Group of Seven nations, but it was clear that the international big chill imposed on Moscow over its actions in Ukraine is starting to thaw.

President Obama and other leaders meeting here offered an olive branch to Russian President Vladimir Putin, inviting him to begin to resolve the seven-month Ukrainian crisis and rebuild trust with the West after an estrangement that invited comparisons to the Cold War.

Putin has an opportunity “to seize this moment” and turn the page, Obama said.

Putin should recognize that Ukraine’s newly elected president, Petro Poroshenko, is the “legitimate leader of Ukraine,” he said. Obama also said he was pleased to see Putin not denounce Poroshenko’s May 25 election, adding that it “offers the prospect that he’s moving in a new direction.”

Although the Group of Seven warned that Russia would face harsher sanctions if it fails to ease months of tension, new economic penalties are on hold, to the evident relief of European nations.

The detente with Russia continued with scheduled meetings between Putin and the British and French leaders Thursday in Paris. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to see Putin on Friday. Only Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused to meet with Putin one on one when the allies of World War II gather in France to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

Putin’s Russia was pushed out of what had been known as the Group of Eight over the invasion and annexation of Crimea this spring. The gathering of heads of state was abruptly moved from Sochi, Russia, to the Belgian capital, home to the European Union and NATO.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Thursday that Russia had lost its seat in the economic club by actions that are “totally at odds with the values of this group of democracies.” He went on to offer what appeared to be specific criteria for avoiding stricter sanctions: the end of Russian support for separatists operating in eastern Ukraine and the recognition of the Poroshenko government.

“If these things don’t happen, then sectoral sanctions will follow,” Cameron said, referring to much tougher penalties targeting sectors of the Russian economy.

Modified sectoral sanctions, largely targeting the Russian defense industry, were readied in May in anticipation of potentially heavy Russian interference in the Ukrainian elections, which Russia had called illegitimate. Those sanctions were considered a last resort by many European nations that trade heavily with Russia. Moscow surprised and pleased European nations by refraining from overt meddling in the election, and European diplomats said the strong hope now is that sectoral sanctions will quickly become unnecessary.

Obama and Cameron suggested that Putin has roughly until the end of the month to decide whether he will change course in Ukraine.

“If he continues a strategy of undermining the sovereignty of Ukraine, then we have no choice but to respond,” Obama said at a news conference with Cameron, who expressed the same view.

“Sectoral sanctions are broader; they’d be more significant,” Obama said. “My hope is, is that we don’t have to exercise them because Mr. Putin has made some better decisions.”

The comments by Obama and Cameron were striking because they suggested that the leaders would seek to impose harsher sanctions on Russia if Putin does not take active steps to resolve the crisis in Ukraine.

Many in Eastern Europe have worried that the West would not impose additional punishments if the current situation continues in eastern Ukraine, where separatists widely believed to be backed by Russia are stirring unrest and violence.

“I think Europeans understand that the reason we’ve seen such extraordinary growth and peace on this continent has to do with certain values and certain principles that have to be upheld,” Obama said. “And when they are so blatantly disregarded, the choice is clear: Europeans have to stand up for those ideals and principles even if it creates some economic inconvenience.”

A joint statement from the G-7 condemned what it called Russia’s illegal annexation and “unacceptable interference” in other areas of Ukraine and said the body will refuse to recognize Crimea as a part of Russia.

“We stand ready to intensify targeted sanctions and to implement significant additional restrictive measures to impose further costs on Russia should events so require,” the statement said.

U.S. officials later said certain provocative actions — such as Russian troops crossing the border into Ukraine — would trigger more punitive measures. But they would not define exactly what Putin would have to do, nor would they set an exact deadline.

“Clearly sectoral sanctions are on the table,” said Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. “If we see the status quo continuing, we are going to move.”

Obama and Cameron acknowledged that there are differences of opinion among the 28 European Union nations and that rallying them all to favor stricter sanctions would be difficult.

“Do I expect unanimity among the 28 E.U. members?” Obama joked.

“Welcome to the club,” Cameron interjected with a laugh.

Cameron said his meeting with Putin was a reasonable way to keep the lines of communication open to Moscow.

U.S. officials have been clear that they would have preferred a unified rebuff to Putin this week, although Obama said it is entirely appropriate for Putin to attend D-Day commemorations in Normandy on Friday. “I have no doubt that I’ll see Mr. Putin” there, he said, “and should we have the opportunity to talk, I will be repeating the same message that I’ve been delivering to him throughout this crisis.”

While Obama would not meet with Putin, Secretary of State John F. Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Paris on Thursday. Kerry repeated that he hopes Russia will validate and meet with the new Ukrainian government. The goal, he said, is for Ukraine not to be a pawn.

“The Russian-American agenda is much broader than just Ukraine,” Lavrov said. “We would like to see other countries like Iraq, Libya, Syria, many others, also to be in peace, not to be used as a pawn, and I hope that we can discuss all these things.”

As the leaders talked in Brussels, civilians were evacuating the eastern Ukrainian regions where the Ukrainian military has been engaged in ongoing clashes with pro-Russian separatists.

In the past 24 hours, more than 8,300 Ukrainians, many of them children, have sought refuge in Russia’s southern Rostov region, said the region’s governor, Vasily Golubev, according to the Russian Interfax news agency. About 4,000 Ukrainians have applied for refugee status in Russia, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at a government session Thursday.

Ukrainian military officials said there had been several sporadic am­bushes on troops deployed in the east. The Ukrainian Border Guard Service said insurgents fired Thursday on guards and soldiers manning a checkpoint near the Russian border. The rebels’ vehicle and a machine gun were destroyed, the border guard said.

Gearan reported from Washington. Carol Morello contributed to this report from Kiev. (Contributor: By Zachary Goldfarb and Anne Gearan for The Washington Post)

We encourage intercessors to meditate on the Isaiah passage below. While it reads like poetry, the words are prophetic, inspired by God’s Spirit, and given by revelation. As we pray into world affairs, let us remember that there is only one nation on earth that is bound to the Lord God by His specific covenant, and that is Israel (not the G7, including our own U.S.). The people of all nations, however, are precious to God, who loves them in Christ, and — through Christ — is not willing that any should perish.

“Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has taught Him? With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.” (Isaiah 40:13-15)

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,[b]not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

 

G-7 COMMITS TO ADOPTING ‘GLOBAL’ CLIMATE CHANGE AGREEMENT

President Obama on Thursday doubled down on his quest to save the world from climate change, urging every nation to “do its share” to reduce carbon emissions and follow the highly controversial path the White House is forging here in the U.S.

But even as Mr. Obama uses executive authority to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions at home, there’s no guarantee countries such as China — the world’s largest offender when it comes to carbon pollution — will follow suit, and the president’s previous attempts to lead a worldwide global warming initiative have ended in disappointment.

Now, with Britain, France, Canada and other nations at his side, Mr. Obama is fully reviving the effort. At a G-7 meeting in Brussels on Thursday, the group, with Mr. Obama leading the way, said it is committed to adopting a “global agreement” next year and taking another stab at uniting the world’s largest economies to confront the challenge head on.

“We agreed at the G-7 to continue to lead by example in the fight against climate change, which poses a danger to our environment, our economies and our national security. I made it clear that the United States will continue to do our part,” Mr. Obama said at a press conference alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron. “We agreed that every nation has to do its share.”

By next March, the G-7 called for a global pact to reduce carbon emissions. Mr. Obama said recent steps by the Environmental Protection Agency provide a blueprint for how that can be accomplished.

Earlier this week, the EPA released 654 pages of new regulations on existing power plants, designed to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, with smaller, interim targets along the way.

The plan — which delegates to states the responsibility of figuring out exactly how to meet the goals — sparked a firestorm within the energy industry and among lawmakers of both parties on Capitol Hill, who argue it will lead to the end of the U.S. coal industry while also driving up electricity bills for consumers.

Supporters argue it’s necessary both for the environmental health of America and to show global leadership on the issue, since the U.S. remains one of the largest carbon polluters on Earth.

The U.S. was the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in 2012, responsible for 14 percent of all such pollution worldwide, according to the Global Carbon Project, run by climate researchers at the University of East Anglia.

The European Union was third, pumping 10 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases into the air.

China is far and away No. 1, contributing 27 percent of global emissions in 2012, more than the U.S. and EU combined.

For that reason, critics have blasted Mr. Obama’s carbon emission restrictions as essentially useless if China and other major emitters such as India refuse to take similar steps.

A day after the EPA power-plant announcement, He Jiankun, who chairs China’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change, said China over the next several years would set new caps on carbon emissions. Mr. He soon backtracked, saying he wasn’t speaking for the government.

Mr. Obama previously tried to rally international partners to action at a 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen. The meeting ended without the kind of sweeping agreement the president had sought, and many pundits and analysts dubbed the effort a failure.

But there seems to be some budding support for the American approach among the international community. United Nations officials, for example, have praised the EPA regulations.

Thursday’s G-7 statement, along with strong words of support from leaders such as Mr. Cameron, indicate the climate change issue may have new life among previously reluctant countries.

Analysts say that’s partly because economies are now relatively stable, unlike in 2009, when the U.S. and other nations teetered on the brink of financial catastrophe and leaders were unwilling to undertake any steps that could hamper growth, cost jobs or lead to a spike in energy bills for their citizens.

“That changes the dialogue around. The kitchen fire is out. Now we can worry about the termites. We can grapple with these long-term problems. That was a conversation, frankly, that was really tough to have five years ago,” said Adele Morris, a fellow and policy director for Climate and Energy Economics at the Brookings Institution who formerly served as a climate negotiator for the State Department under President Clinton. (Contributor:  By Ben Wolfgang for The Washington Times)

Once called “global warming” and now “climate change,” these weather concerns, centered on the polar icecaps, isn’t going away. The G7 debate raises the question, “What is government to do?” The focus is on increased regulation, which translates into higher taxation. Pray for emotional protection and comfort, especially for senior citizens, who may be more susceptible to fear. Human government tends to control its citizens. Righteous government seeks to serve. Intercede for national renewal, through revival. The Christian’s strength is faith in the living God in the face of fear. In your circle of influence, minister from Psalm 31, where David proclaimed, “My times are in Your hand.”

“But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand…. Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You. …” (Psalm 31:14-15, 19)

“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….” (Psalm 46:1-2)

 

SENATE CONFIRMS SYLVIA MATHEWS BURWELL AS NEW SECRETARY OF HHS

The Senate confirmed Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the White House’s budget director for the past year, on Thursday as the 22nd secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

On a bipartisan vote of 78 to 17, senators approved Burwell to lead the government’s largest domestic department, ending a quick confirmation process that was devoid of the bitter partisanship surrounding the 2010 Affordable Care Act and the changes it is bringing to the U.S. health-care system.

The Senate confirmed Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the White House’s budget director for the past year, on Thursday as the 22nd secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

On a bipartisan vote of 78 to 17, senators approved Burwell to lead the government’s largest domestic department, ending a quick confirmation process that was devoid of the bitter partisanship surrounding the 2010 Affordable Care Act and the changes it is bringing to the U.S. health-care system.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), whose committee had recommended Burwell to the full Senate, said that she attracted what he called “a choir of bipartisan support” because “she is really that good, she is really that capable, and she is really that qualified.”

In her new role, the 48-year-old veteran of the Clinton administration’s economic team will oversee 11 far-flung agencies that make up HHS, including the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the enormous public insurance programs, Medicare and Medicaid.

But Burwell’s early focus is almost certain to center on the work that absorbed her predecessor, Kathleen Sebelius, during much of her five-year tenure at HHS: implementing the Affordable Care Act in a climate that remains politically polarized and could become more so, depending on the outcome of congressional elections this fall.

According to an HHS aide, Burwell is scheduled to take over once she is sworn in Monday.

The White House and federal health officials are pleased that the first six-month sign-up period in new insurance market­places overcame a troubled start to enroll 8 million people by early this spring — more than predicted.

Health-policy specialists point out, however, that substantial work remains to put the sprawling law into practice. For example, federal health officials need to merge into the federal insurance exchange three states — and possibly more — whose attempts to run their own insurance marketplaces have failed.

Officials also continue to wrestle with HealthCare.gov, the computer system for the federal health insurance exchange. Some aspects are not yet working or built, including parts designed to handle enrollment records, enable the direct enrollment of people poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, and allow the online enrollment of small businesses.

HHS also will need to decide how to handle a requirement under the law that many employers offer health benefits to their workers — a provision that the Obama administration has delayed twice.

President Obama nominated Burwell on April 11, the same day that Sebelius announced her resignation. Last fall, Sebelius became a public face of what the president called a “disastrous” launch of new insurance marketplaces, but she remained in place until after the first enrollment period ended.

During confirmation hearings last month before two Senate committees, Republicans reiterated their objections to the health-care law. But critics did not challenge Burwell’s competence.

Several Senate Republicans clung to that distinction on the Senate floor Wednesday and Thursday before the vote.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said that he plans to support Burwell, adding that he finds her “articulate, forthright, straightforward and candid — something we really haven’t had from the secretary of HHS for the last year or so.”

But Isakson was quick to add: “No one should confuse that vote, however, for being a vote in support of the Affordable Care Act or what it’s doing to health care in the United States today.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday morning that he would vote “no.” “Her embrace of this disastrous law is reason enough to oppose her confirmation . . . In my view, the Senate shouldn’t be focusing on a new captain for the Titanic. It should focus on steering away from the iceberg.”

Democrats countered with a recitation of benefits from the law, from widening access to health coverage to helping to stabilize the financial underpinnings of Medicare, the federal health insurance program for older Americans.

“This bill is making a huge difference,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.). “We have the best health care in the world. We are now on the path of having the best health-care system in the world, and the Affordable Care Act helped us get there.”

In the end, 24 Republicans joined all voting members of the Senate’s Democratic caucus in supporting Burwell. Still, the vote was more divided than the Senate’s unanimous vote 14 months ago confirming her to lead the Office of Management and Budget.

Before returning to Washington last year, Burwell spent more than a decade in the world of philanthropy — with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and then as president of the Walmart Foundation.

During the Clinton administration, Burwell held several economic roles — as staff director of the White House National Economic Council, as chief of staff under then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and then at the Office of Management and Budget, where she eventually became the deputy director.

After becoming budget director, Burwell was mired at first in fiscal conflicts with congressional Republicans and, by October, had to manage the 16-day partial shutdown of the government.

Despite her Washington experience, she is not well known in health-policy circles, and, during her confirmation hearings, she gave little concrete sense of the direction in which she will take the complex department she will inherit. (Contributor: By Amy Goldstein for The Washington Post – Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report.)

As this article points out, Sylvia Matthews Burwell, new secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) will oversee an enormous segment of U.S. government responsibility and, as such, deserves the prayerful support of intercessors. Though little-known nationally, she has served the U.S. in a number of career policy-making positions. In confirmation hearings, there was no challenge to her competence or qualifications. Intercede for her as among those “who are in authority.” Pray for our country to experience a turning to the Lord in the difficult and partisan days ahead.

“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 Saviior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:1-4) 

 

A NEW LEVEL OF OUTRAGE IN BOWE BERGDAHL DEBACLE

It’s a season of outrages coming out of the Obama administration these days, from the scandal at the Veterans Administration to the unconstitutional, job-killing mandates being planned by the Environmental Protection Agency.

But truly, nothing can top the outrage, the incompetence and sheer stupidity that we’re seeing from this government in the case of one Army Staff Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. And there are so many different levels to the outrage that I hardly know where to begin.

Maybe President Obama or Susan Rice or Chuck Hagel thought it was a good trade to give up five hardened terrorists to get this soldier back, but almost no one else does. From the first moments I heard about the swap they negotiated, I thought, “People are going to die because of this.”

The deal means five of the worst Taliban leaders in the world, who until last week were rotting away in Guantanamo, are now in Qatar, roaming freely and just counting the days until they can get back into the fight. The official line might be that these guys are Taliban fighters, just citizens of Afghanistan, not terrorists. But they have killed and they will kill innocent people. They’re radical Islamists, and from what we’re learning about Sgt. Bergdahl, we may have just traded five radical Islamists and gotten a sixth radical Islamist in return.

Once again, we have Ms. Rice coming out on a television talk show to mislead the American people, trying to spin a line that Sgt. Bergdahl, who by all accounts simply walked away from his post before he was captured, served with “honor and distinction.” It’s one of the minor stupidities of this whole episode, but who in the White House thinks it’s a good idea to keep sending this woman out to explain policy to the American people?

The Taliban and the terrorists must be laughing at us. It’s just so bizarre that an American president — an entire administration — can be so badly duped. Brave American soldiers went into harm’s way — some even gave their life — in repeated attempts to rescue Sgt. Bergdahl when he was in enemy hands. More brave Americans will be put in harm’s way when these released Taliban terrorists return to the battlefield. If it were my call, if any of these released terrorists made a move to leave Qatar and reconnect with their fellow terrorists in Afghanistan, I would take them out — but I have no hope that this administration would contemplate anything like that. Truly, it is beyond belief that any White House would think this was a good deal.

Clearly there is a major role for Congress now in trying to figure out what happened, even if the administration clearly wanted no role for Congress when it was cutting the deal. The House Armed Services Committee has already talked about doing an investigation, and I know there’s bipartisan outrage in the House and Senate intelligence committees about being kept in the dark. But I think the committee that really should take a look at what happened is the House Judiciary Committee.

If I were back on the Hill, I would want to see the Judiciary panel hold hearings specifically to investigate not just whether the president made a bad deal, but whether he broke the country’s laws and violated the Constitution. This is a president who has repeatedly undermined the rule of law with his unilateral moves and failures to respect the rights of other branches of government. The White House claim that they “consulted” with Congress on the Bergdahl deal has been immediately contradicted by respected figures in both parties. Maybe top Senate Democrat Harry Reid was tipped off a day early, but Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, swears he hasn’t talked to the administration about any Bergdahl deal since 2011. The fact that no one on the Hill was brought into the loop in the months that this deal was coming together — with the administration now claiming it “didn’t have time” to inform lawmakers — suggests to me that the president’s team is just lying about all this, and that Mr. Reid is lying as well.

There’s already been some talk about impeachment, but just as a practical matter, President Obama will be long gone from the White House before any impeachment effort could possibly bear fruit. But I would still hold those Judiciary Committee hearings, because right now is the time to make this a part of the president’s legacy, and to set a precedent for future president about the resistance they will face when they not only violate the Constitution’s separation of power, but when they break the law. (Contributor: By Tom Delay for The Washington Times, Tom DeLay, a former congressman from Texas and House majority leader from 2003 to 2005, writes a weekly column for The Washington Times)

Intercessors, please note: IFA is not a political entity or affiliated with any political party. We make a clear distinction in these alerts between a news and opinion. This is an opinion piece by the former House majority leader and should be interpreted as such. Many readers will agree with Tom Delay’s analysis, while others may not. As the full story unfolds, pray for truth in every detail, as it is the truth that sets people free. Intercede that God be pleased to open hearts and minds to report honestly. Pray for our nation’s safety, and for God’s mercy to give time for national repentance.

“Then Jesus said to those … who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’” (John 8:31-32)

“Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’” (John 18:38a)

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” (John 14:6) 

 

CALIFORNIA BILL REQUIRING CONSENT FOR SEX BE EXPLICIT

A California state senator who sees campus rapes as quite a problem said that students should have to give formal go-aheads — via verbal or written consents — to their kissing partners to move on to the next sexual level.

Sen. Kevin de Leon’s SB 967 would mandate that college kids get “an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity,” either by voice or by written document, Breitbart reported.

He said his bill will go far toward addressing the sexual assault issues that have come to light at schools around the nation in recent weeks.

“Obviously, there is a problem,” Mr. de Leon said, L.A. Weekly reported. “SB 967 will change the equation so the system is not stacked against survivors by establishing an affirmative consent policy to make it clear that only ‘yes’ means ‘yes.’ “

The text of the bill states that “consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual encounter and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.”

Not all are hailing the bill, instead characterizing it as a legal quagmire.

“Since most people have engaged in sex without verbal consent, supporters of the bill are effectively redefining most people and most happily-married couples, as rapists,” said attorney Hans Bader, in an article for LegalInsurrection.com. “Requiring people to have verbal discussions before sex [also] violates their privacy rights.”

Under Mr. de Leon’s proposed law, colleges all across the state would have to put in writing a formal policy “concerning sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking,” Breitbart reported. Schools that failed to comply would lose out on state money for student financial aid awards.

The bill’s already moved through the Senate — with a 27-9 vote — on to the Assembly side. (Contributor: Cheryl K. Chumley for The Washington Times)

The basis of this bill is a Stanford University case where a male student was found guilty of forcing sex on a female student who said “No,” though the two had been consensually intimate. He was not punished and allowed to graduate, while the woman bore humiliating interrogation. The nationwide scandal of campus rape cries out for justice. Such crimes are often covered up to protect the school’s reputation. This is ugly, but intercessors can make a difference. Pray for Church and college leaders to speak out, and for a nation to return to the Lord. We cite an extensive New Testament passage to demonstrate that the Bible speaks candidly about sexual sins. Let us pray for divine help!

“But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.” (Eph. 5:5-13)

 

CHRISTIAN BAKER BUCKS ORDER FOR HOMOSEXUAL WEDDINGS

A Colorado baker with long-held Christian beliefs who was just ordered by the state’s Civil Rights Commission to abide by a judge’s order and make cakes for [homosexuals] said NO — that’s not going to happen.

“I’m not going to make cakes for [homosexual] weddings,” said Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, in The Blaze. “That violates my First Amendment speech … and my duty as a Christian abiding by my Savior.”

Mr. Phillips‘ cake-baking business hit national headlines months ago when he refused service to a gay couple, Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, who wanted to wed. The two men took their discrimination accusation to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit on their behalf.

Judge Robert Spencer with the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts ruled that Mr. Phillips must serve the same-sex couples. On the heels of that March order, Mr. Phillips stopped taking cake orders.

He appealed his case to the state Civil Rights Commission, which just ruled in the judge’s favor.

On Fox News on Thursday, Mr. Phillips decried that ruling and said his Freedom of Religion rights were being pushed to the side. His attorney, Nicolle Martin, agreed and said the order that Mr. Phillips is supposed to now abide by not only requires him to serve same-sex couples—against his religious convictions — but also to take special sensitivity and anti-discriminatory training.

Mr. Phillips‘ elderly mother, who works at the bake shop, is supposed to take the training, also, Ms. Martin told Fox News.

Mr. Phillips is now considering an appeal. (Contributor: By Cheryl K. Chumley The Washington Times)

Is the U.S. no longer “the land of the free and the home of the brave”? Jack Phillips is brave, but his freedom of religion is being stolen openly and shamelessly. Intercessors from an earlier generation may find it hard to believe such scenes are real and happening in our homeland. We must ask, “What does God want us to do? How are we to pray?” Let us approach Father God with repentant hearts, cry out for mercy, and pray for our own hearts to first be cleansed from all forms of discrimination, rejection of others, and the walls we have built to separate ourselves. Pray, knowing Jesus did not promise freedom from persecution. Pray for the homosexual men who brought suit.

“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 Peter 4:17)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.’” (Matt. 5:43-45) 

 

SWITCH IN THE BRAIN MAY CONTROL STRESS

Many of us find ourselves swimming along in the tranquil sea of life when suddenly a crisis hits — a death in the family, the loss of a job, a bad breakup. Some power through and find calm waters again, while others drown in depression.

Scientists continue to search for the underlying genes and neurobiology that dictate our reactions to stress. Now, a study using mice has found a switch-like mechanism between resilience and defeat in an area of the brain that plays an important role in regulating emotions and has been linked with mood and anxiety disorders.

After artificially enhancing the activity of neurons in that part of the brain — the medial prefrontal cortex — mice that previously fought to avoid electric shocks started to act helpless. Rather than leaping for an open escape route, they sat in a corner taking the pain — presumably out of a belief that nothing they could do would change their circumstances.

“This helpless behavior is quite similar to what clinicians see in depressed individuals — an inability to take action to avoid or correct a difficult situation,” said study author and neuroscientist Bo Li of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. The results were published online May 27 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Because there is no true animal equivalent to the depression that affects humans, researchers instead model certain symptoms of the disorder, such as despair and, in this case, helplessness.

In his famous 1967 experiment on dogs, American psychologist Martin Seligman discovered that helplessness can be learned. He put a dog into a box with two chambers divided by a barrier that could be jumped over. When one chamber became electrified, the dog ran around frantically, finally scrambling over the barrier to escape the shock. In later trials, evading the shock becomes easier and easier for the animal until it would just stand next to the barrier waiting to jump.

But the outcome is much more grim if a dog first learns that electric shocks are uncontrollable and unavoidable. If animals are repeatedly shocked while tied up beforehand, then later placed in the same box free to roam, most didn’t jump the barrier. Instead, they lay down while whining and taking the jolt. Subsequent trials showcased the animal’s same passive, defeatist response.

Seligman formed a theory he called learned helplessness. It occurs when an animal or human has learned that outcomes are uncontrollable and thus fails to take any action in the future despite a clear ability to change its situation.

Learned helplessness has been observed in human experiments, such as subjects enduring a loud, disturbing noise if they had been taught that it wasn’t under their control. Since then, the theory has been used to build up the human spirit. (Seligman set up a resilience-training program for U.S. Army soldiers to do this.) Before President Obama banned the practice, the CIA used sleep deprivation, stress positions and sometimes multiple methods while interrogating detainees in order to create a “state of learned helplessness and dependence” in them.

In Li’s experiment, mice were put into a two-chambered cage with a door between them that at first was closed. For one hour, they were subjected to inescapable foot shocks in an unpredictable manner, giving them the impression that nothing could be done to prepare for or avoid the jolts. This learning period occurred over two days. On the third day, the door opened to allow the mice to escape by running into the other chamber that was not electrified.

After a few trials, most mice avoided the shocks by standing near the door, waiting for it to open and running through to the other chamber. But about 20 percent developed learned helplessness.

“They sit in the corner and just take the shock,” said study author and biologist Zina Perova, who worked on the study in Li’s group as a graduate student. “It’s this belief of ‘No matter what I do, it won’t change anything’ — it’s hopelessness.”

The team investigated which part of the brain lit up during such an experiment by using a genetically modified mouse whose neurons glow green when activated.

After the learned-helplessness trials, the researchers extracted brain slices and found that neurons were tagged with green in the medial prefrontal cortex.

Then they looked closely at these tagged neurons, searching for differences among the two groups of mice. Li and his colleagues discovered that the neurons from helpless mice had more nodes of connection and mice that showed determination had fewer. They presumed that this could mean an increase and decrease, respectively, in how active those neurons were.

To verify that, the researchers artificially boosted activity in the medial prefrontal cortex of resilient mice — those that easily escaped the shocks. The mice suddenly became helpless. A switch seemed to flip in their brains, and the previously strong rodents lost their determination and failed to avoid the painful jolts. Although learned helplessness can be overcome through antidepressant drugs or if an experimenter shows the animal how to escape, the researchers had never seen once-persevering mice turn helpless before.

Next, Li hopes to investigate whether the switch goes the opposite way — whether inhibition of activity of these neurons makes helpless mice strong — and suspects that it may.

If so, the results would be consistent with deep brain stimulation, a treatment for depression that uses electrical impulses to inhibit neuronal activity in a targeted brain area.

The study “tells us pretty clearly that the medial prefrontal cortex is important in anxiety and stress behaviors,” said neuroscientist Amit Etkin of Stanford University, who was not involved in the study. “There’s a lot of interest in doing deep brain stimulation in that area.”

In addition to emotion regulation, the medial prefrontal cortex has been implicated in such tasks as decision-making and memory retrieval.

“It’s thought to be an area important for understanding your environment and how you fit in,” said neurobiologist Ronald Duman of Yale University, who also was not involved in the research. “So disruption of that may alter how you feel about yourself in that environment.”

Duman notes that other areas of the brain have been associated with depression in prior studies as well, such as the hippocampus and amygdala. Our complex brain circuitry — how all these parts interact — likely complicates any easy translation of this switch mechanism to humans.

“To really understand what’s going on, we have to get down to the level of how [the medial prefrontal cortex] is talking to other brain regions,” Etkin said. (Contributor: By Meeri Kim for The Washington Post – Kim is a freelance science journalist based in Philadelphia.)

This article calls for praise and prayer. Calling attention to scientific studies provides reasons to worship God and to emphasize His superior, intricate design. While not disparaging the arduous work involved in research, and noting the many benefits that come from science, still we see the greater significance in the Creator’s grand design. The key phrase in this report may well be, “Our complex brain circuitry — how all these parts interact — likely complicates any easy translation of this switch mechanism [found in mice] to humans.” Yes, there are differences between mice and humans, who are made in God’s image. Pray for scientists to “find God” in the wonder of such discovery.

“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….” (Psalm 8:3-6)

On Watch in Washington June 11, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington June 4, 2014

June 4th, 2014

On Watch in Washington June 4, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

A SNAPSHOT OF ISLAMIC ‘JUSTICE’

The world is full of cruelty, but something unfolding in Sudan should interest even jaded observers.

If a million deaths are a statistic, and a single death is a tragedy, this case puts a human face on the genocide of Christians by militant Muslims all over the world. God willing, this story might still have a happy ending if the U.S. government takes it seriously.

Dr. Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishig, a pregnant Christian woman, was sentenced on May 11 by a Sudanese government Shariah law court to 100 lashes and then to be hanged. Her crimes? Apostasy, for being a Christian, and “adultery” for marrying a Christian man. Her Muslim father left her family when she was young, and her Christian mother raised her. By Shariah law, children must follow their father’s religion, even if he’s a deadbeat dad or worse. Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslims, while Muslim men can.

We pause here to listen for outrage from American feminists about the Muslim world’s “war on women.” OK, let’s move on.

The court allowed Dr. Ishig to give birth to a daughter on May 16 in a prison clinic, but her death and lashing sentences remain.

Dr. Ishig, 27, had been chained to the floor for months during her pregnancy and while caring for her toddler son in a Sudanese prison “that a 2008 U.N. document reported as having an infant-mortality rate of one per day in the summer,” according to a petition to the White House asking for her release.

Dr. Ishig’s husband, Daniel Wani, is an American who lives in New Hampshire. If humanitarianism is not enough to get the Obama administration’s attention, then surely the fact that she is married to an American citizen should. New Hampshire’s two U.S. senators have asked for the State Department to intercede, and Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona has introduced H. Res. 601, calling for her release and granting of refugee status.

Since President Obama famously told us that America is no more exceptional than any other country, thus placing all nations on the same moral plain, U.S. diplomats might be reluctant to make a big push here out for fear of appearing culturally judgmental. Dispatching diplomats to secure Dr. Ishig’s release is a far milder intrusion into another nation’s domestic affairs than, say, Mr. Obama’s bombing of Libya without congressional approval, egging on of Muslim rebels who brought down Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak regime or aiding rebels trying to overthrow Syria’s government.

When Dr. Ishig was convicted of apostasy and given four days to repent or face the ultimate penalty, she declined to denounce her faith in her savior, Jesus Christ. Hence, the flailing and death sentence under a legal code birthed by the “religion of peace.”

Also in the news, Muslims in the Central African Republic stormed a Catholic church in the capital city of Bangui on Wednesday and massacred at least 30 people. A Washington Times article notes that “members of the Seleka rebel coalition looted, raped and killed Christians upon seizing control of Bangui last year.”

In Nigeria, the Muslim group Boko Haram has become famous for kidnapping about 275 schoolgirls and threatening to sell them as slaves, garnering a tweet from first lady Michelle Obama asking them to “#Bring Back Our Girls.” Mr. Obama has since dispatched advisers to Nigeria to assist in the search for the kidnapped children.

During the past two years, Boko Haram, which means “Western education is evil,” has burned churches and schools, and raped, tortured and killed thousands of Christians and moderate Muslims, earning them mention in news articles decrying “sectarian” violence.

In Iran, pastor Saeed Abedini, 33, an Idaho resident, is serving eight years in prison for the crime of encouraging apostasy — trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. He had been hauled off a bus and imprisoned for months before being tried and convicted in January 2013. His wife, Naghmeh, and their two children still reside in Idaho. She has been to Washington and elsewhere, lobbying for his release.

Hospitalized recently for “treatment of life-threatening injuries, including internal bleeding sustained from frequent beatings by prison guards,” according to Fox News, Mr. Abedini managed on April 20 to get out an Easter message, which read in part:

“Jesus said to His Disciples: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’ (Matthew 16:24).” The courageous Mr. Abedini is bearing a cross that few would want to carry.

In Iraq, over the past decade, about 1 million of that war-scarred nation’s 1.5 million Christians have fled to other countries. Some of them settled in Syria, where they have become targets of al Qaeda-allied rebel factions.

Open Doors, which documents religious persecution, reports that 14 of the 15 most oppressive countries persecuting Christians are Muslim-majority nations, with former basketball star Dennis Rodman’s favorite country, communist North Korea, filling out the list.

As Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Ron Prosor, noted in an April 17 column in The Wall Street Journal, his tiny nation is the only one in the Middle East with a growing Christian population.

As Christians are massacred daily across the world by Muslim terrorists, we have heard very little from a White House that hectors us almost daily about “tolerance.”

Let’s conclude with a story from Afghanistan. In 2009, a 21-year-old Afghan woman was raped by a male relative. Under Shariah law, she was jailed for “forced adultery” and sentenced to two years in prison, during which she gave birth to a daughter. She appealed, and the court extended her sentence to 12 years unless she married her attacker. After an international outcry, she was released in December 2011.

“Honor killings” of young women by their families even in Western nations like Great Britain and Canada for “crimes” such as having the wrong boyfriend or converting to Christianity pop up in the media, but the press moves on quickly.

It’s up to the rest of us to make sure that people such as Dr. Ishig, Mr. Abedini and a growing list of other victims are not forgotten and that many prayers are lifted on their behalf. (Contributor: Robert Knight for The Washington Times – Robert Knight is a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.)

From our research, plus sharing with other Christian prayer ministries, we can safely say that many thousands of Christians who have been praying faithfully for Pastor Saeed are now also interceding for Dr. Ishig. An additional prayer focus is on the many kidnapped and imprisoned school girls who are being abused – perhaps some murdered – and horribly victimized. Let us continue to pray for God’s merciful intervention. While the U.S. cannot be the world’s police force, let us pray that official U.S. voices, including President Obama’s, will be raised loudly and strongly against this Islamic sect specializing in murder, torture, and unspeakable evil, and no doubt motivated by demonic forces.

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I [Jesus Christ] have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

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

 

WHO WILL REPLACE SHINSEKI IN THE LONG TERM?

President Obama on Friday appointed Veterans Affairs Deputy Secretary Sloan D. Gibson to serve as acting head of the agency, following the resignation of VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, who stepped down amid growing calls for his resignation over systemic scheduling problems at VA hospitals.

Gibson’s name has emerged in conversations about possible nominees to replace the outgoing VA chief on a permanent basis. He is a 1975 U.S. Military Academy graduate and former infantry officer who came to VA after leading the United Services Organizations, which supports troops and their families. He also spent more than 20 years in the banking industry, where he served as vice chairman and chief financial officer for AmSouth Bancorporation before retiring from the firm in 2004.

Lawmakers on Friday talked about the qualities they expect in Obama’s next nominee for VA secretary.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said the department needs a leader who will “take swift and decisive action to discipline employees responsible for mismanagement, negligence and corruption that harms veterans while taking bold step to replace the department’s culture of complacency with a climate of accountability.”

Similarly, Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) said the next VA chief must “transform the culture of the VA, establish accountability and punish those responsible for the reprehensible ma­nipu­la­tion of wait times.”

The White House offered no clues Friday about Obama’s likely nominee, but several notable leaders fit the bill.

Sloan Gibson: He is a third-generation veteran whose father served as a B-17 tail-gunner during World War II and grandfather fought as an Army infantryman during World War I.

During Gibson’s time with the USO, net fundraising for the group grew by 90 percent, according to his VA biography. Obama awarded him with the 2011 National Medal of Arts for “lifting the spirits of service members and their families through the arts.”

“He’s a great leader who gets what’s going on,” said Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America official Tom Tarantino. “He’s always been an amazing and dynamic leader.”

Lawmakers have praised him as well. “He certainly has a very strong background,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said. “He has the commitment to veterans — he wouldn’t have been the head of USO if he wasn’t.”

Peter W. Chiarelli: The retired four-star general served as Army vice chief of staff from August 2008 to January 2012. He rose through the ranks after completing ROTC training at Seattle University, eventually commanding at every level, from platoon to corps.

Chiarelli now serves as the chief executive of One Mind, which promotes awareness and research of brain injuries and mental illness. He led the Defense Department’s efforts to address post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries and suicide.

Stanley A. McChrystal: The retired four-star general helped craft the Afghanistan war strategy as commander of U.S. forces in that country. Obama dismissed him from his job after a Rolling Stone article featured his disparaging remarks about some of the president’s senior civilian advisers, including Vice President Biden.

The White House appears to have made up with McChrystal, having quickly invited him after the dismissal to lead the Joining Forces Initiative, which supports military families.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.): Reed knows Congress and the military, having served in both. He is a former Army ranger and West Point alumnus, making him one of only eight U.S. senators in history to graduate from the academy, according to his Web site.

Reed, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, voted against giving President George W. Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq, saying the plan was a diversion from the war on terrorism. It is unclear whether Obama is willing to put Reed’s Senate seat in jeopardy during what is expected to be a tough election year for Democrats.

Mike Mullen: A retired Navy admiral who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the Bush and Obama administrations, Mullen turned to the private sector in 2013, joining the boards of General Motors and Sprint Nextel Corp.

Patrick Murphy: Patrick Murphy is a former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania and the first Iraq war veteran to serve in the House, but he lost his seat after two terms during the 2010 tea party wave. He has a regular series on MSNBC called “Taking the Hill,” which focuses on veterans issues.

Murphy said Friday that Shinseki’s replacement should be someone who “will inspire confidence in veterans, who walked in their ranks . . . has an intimate understanding of veteran policy, and has the leadership ability.” He declined to say whether he fits that description. (Contributor: By Josh Hicks and Colby Itkowitz for The Washington Post – Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report.)

This article suggests six names as possible successors to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, each one a proven leader. However, General Shinseki’s failed tenure was not due to inability. He was a brave soldier, military leader, and decorated hero. Staff problems included lax oversight, lack of caring, and non-accountability—all spiritual issues. A failure to honor our military, notably sick and wounded veterans, who are among our bravest and best citizens, pervades our culture. Pray for God’s mercy on our nation, for revival, and a return to “[giving] honor where honor is due.” The biblical standard is seen in the Scriptures below.

“We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” (Romans. 15:1, KJV)

“Now David said, ‘Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?’ And there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba. So when they had called him to David, the king said to him, ‘Are you Ziba?’ He said, ‘At your service!’ Then the king said, ‘Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, to whom I may show the kindness of God?’ And Ziba said to the king, ‘There is still a son of Jonathan who is lame in his feet.’ So the king said to him, ‘Where is he?’” (2 Samuel 9:1-4)

 

U.S. MEASLES OUTBREAK SETS RECORD FOR POST-ELIMINATION ERA

The ongoing measles outbreak in the United States has reached a record for any year since the disease was eliminated in this country 14 years ago, with 288 cases of the potentially deadly infection reported in 18 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The largest measles clusters are in Ohio (138 confirmed cases), California (60) and New York (26), according to the CDC. Almost all — 97 percent — have been brought into the country by travelers, mainly Americans, who contracted the infection abroad. About half of those were people who picked it up in the Philippines, where a large measles outbreak has affected more than 32,000 people, causing 41 deaths,  since January alone, said Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

In this country, the biggest outbreak is centered in the Amish community in Ohio, where many of the residents are unvaccinated, the CDC reported. In Virginia, two cases were confirmed earlier this month.

“This is a wake-up call for travelers and parents to make sure vaccinations are up to date,” Schuchat said.

“Measles vaccine is very safe and effective and measles can be serious,” she added. “It’s very infectious.” Forty-three of the people in this country who have come down with measles required hospitalization, most often for pneumonia, she said. No deaths have been reported here.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that generally affects young children, causing fever, a runny nose, a cough and a distinctive rash all over the body. This year, however, more than half the people who have come down with it are 20 years old or older, according to CDC data.

About one in 10 children also gets an ear infection and one in 20 comes down with pneumonia. A person with measles is contagious as long as four days before the symptoms are apparent. Parents and even physicians who haven’t seen measles in years may be unaware of the early warning signs.

The largest number of confirmed cases of measles since the infection was eliminated in the United States in 2000 occurred in 2011, when 220 were recorded. The CDC hasn’t seen this many cases so early in the year since 1994, when 764 people were infected by this time, Schuchat said.

In the past 20 years, a concerted public health campaign, especially among lower-income families, has made measles outbreaks rare in the United States. But an estimated 20 million people are infected in Europe, Asia, Africa and elsewhere each year, and 122,000 of them die.

In the United States, the number of people who choose not to be immunized for religious, philosophical or personal reasons has begun to become a public health problem, Schuchat said. Others are unaware of, or unable to get, vaccinations before they arrive in the United States. A small number of adults can lose their immunity over time and may need to be re-vaccinated.

Authorities aren’t sure how the Amish community in Ohio contracted the disease, but Schuchat said they believe that people traveling to conduct faith-based work abroad are involved. According to the CDC, 40 importations of the infection were attributed to unvaccinated U.S. travelers returning from abroad.

Steven Nolt, a history professor at Goshen College in Indiana who has written about the Amish, said some groups do travel to places such as Kenya, Ukraine and Central America to do mission or relief work. He said many  Amish do vaccinate themselves and their chidren, but others refuse.

Some, Nolt said, have a “more traditional, conservative, old-fashioned way of life and set of sensibilities that views medicine as something that is used to heal or cure, rather than to prevent” disease. Others have a “theologically informed…sense that we should place our trust in God and not in vaccines.”

Schuchat urged anyone who isn’t sure whether his or her immunizations are up to date to get another dose of the vaccine, especially if traveling to places like the Philippines or doing health care work.

Though the vaccine generally isn’t given to children before the first birthday, infants traveling abroad can be inoculated with one dose as young as six months, Schuchat said. The vaccine is generally administered in two doses a few years apart. People whose immune systems are suppressed and pregnant women should not receive the vaccine, she said.

Adults born before 1957 likely had the measles and should be immune, she added. The vaccine became available in 1963. (Contributor: Bu Lenny Bernstein for The Washington Post)

For experienced intercessors, the prayer focus here is clear. Pray first for God’s restraining mercy, that measles, a once-conquered disease, does not reassert itself as a national threat. While 288 cases touching 18 states is far from epidemic proportions, the infected families are suffering greatly. Somehow the measles virus has “come back to life,” overcoming the vaccine that virtually eliminated it from our nation’s medical vocabulary nearly 15 years ago. Let us cry out to the God of all comfort for His healing power. May he manifest His presence to call our nation back to Himself.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” (2 Cor. 1:3-5)

 

EXPERTS TELL HOUSE PANEL CLIMATE CHANGE SCIENCE ISN’T SETTLED

Liberals have been piling on Rep. Lamar Smith and his fellow House Republicans for failing to hold more committee hearings on climate change, but Thursday’s often-heated testimony probably wasn’t what the movement had in mind.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee heard from scientists who poked holes in the prevailing catastrophic theory of man-made climate change and said researchers are under pressure to support more alarming scenarios.

“The science is not settled, no,” said Roger Pielke Sr., professor emeritus in meteorology at Colorado State University.

University of Sussex economist Richard Tol told the lawmakers, “Science is, of course, never settled.”

“Some things are more or less settled, some things are not,” said Princeton University geoscientist Michael Oppenheimer. “The question of whether carbon dioxide is 30 to 40 percent above pre-industrial times, that’s settled. The question of exactly how warm the Earth will become as a result, that’s not.”

The hearing was held days before the Environmental Protection Agency was to release strict new standards for power plants in the name of combating climate change.

“The Obama administration should stop trying to scare Americans and then impose costly, unnecessary regulations on them,” said Mr. Smith, the Texas Republican who chairs the committee. “When assessing climate change, we need to make sure that findings are driven by science, not an alarmist, partisan agenda.”

The focus of the hearing was the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose latest report in April called for slashing carbon emissions by 40 percent to 70 percent in the next 35 years to avoid what it said would be disastrous global warming.

Mr. Tol, a lead author on one of the panel’s working groups, said the field of climate research suffers from “alarmist bias” and “groupthink.”

“Academics who research climate change out of curiosity but find less-than-alarming things are ignored, unless they rise to prominence, in which case they are harassed and smeared,” Mr. Tol said in testimony to the committee.

Daniel Botkin, professor emeritus in biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said the U.N. panel’s 2014 report and the White House National Climate Assessment are “scientific-sounding,” but also present “speculative, and sometimes incomplete, conclusions embedded in language that gives them more scientific heft than they deserve.”

“I want to state upfront that we have been living through a warming trend driven by a variety of influences,” said Mr. Botkin. “However, it is my view that this is not unusual, and contrary to the characterizations by the IPCC and the National Climate Assessment, these environmental changes are not apocalyptic nor irreversible.”

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said she worried that the purpose of the hearing was to “cast doubt on the validity of climate change research.”

“I am committed to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to develop policies that address these new climate realities,” said Ms. Johnson. “But we aren’t going to get very far if we spend our time continually revisiting a scientific debate that has already been settled. Nor will we get far if we continue a recent practice on this committee of seeming to question the trustworthiness and integrity of this nation’s scientific researchers.”

Rep. Paul C. Broun, Georgia Republican, said he objected to the Democrats’ use of the term “settled science” to describe the climate change debate.

“I heard just on the floor yesterday from members of the other party, they were talking about this very issue, that it’s absolutely settled, it’s a closed case,” Mr. Broun said.

“Climate changes all the time, of course,” he said. “It’s called ‘weather.’”

Panelists suggested regular U.N. climate reports at least once a year instead of large reports every five or six years, which they said are outdated almost before they are printed, and forming a separate team of scientists to review the data from an alternative perspective.

“What this should be about is science, and I’m hopeful that we, all of us on either side, whatever we believe can stick to science,” said Rep. Larry Bucshon, Indiana Republican. (Contributor: By Valerie Richardson for The Washington Times)

“Global warming” scared people, so it became “climate change.” Now, new “experts” emerge to tell us what to expect, how to plan, and how much tax money is needed for the next round of research. Science, when captive to politics and greed, loses objectivity and forfeits authority to inform. This is where people of faith have a huge advantage. We may remain calm and allow our prayers and lives to create an effective witness to those gripped by fear. When Christians reflect the peace of God in changing seasons, people needing answers will find them and ask the right questions. Intercessors, take heart, watch, and pray! Fearful times are our days of spiritual harvest.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7)

 

THREE KIDNAPPED MISSIONARIES ARE FREED IN CAMEROON

Two Italian priests and a Canadian nun, kidnapped nearly two months ago near Cameroon’s border with Nigeria in a region rife with Boko Haram militants, have been freed, Cameroon’s communications minister said on Sunday.

The minister would not discuss the terms under which the three were released. But past kidnappings of Europeans by Boko Haram in northern Cameroon have involved the release of prisoners in return, along with payments of cash. The three were flown to Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé.

The two priests — Giampaolo Marta and Gianantonio Allegri — and the nun — Gilberte Bussière — were abducted early on April 5 from their mission in northern Cameroon. That area is used as a rear base by Boko Haram, which is waging a bloody terrorist campaign against villagers across the border in northern Nigeria.

The area is lightly policed, and the militants have carried out four kidnappings of foreigners there in the past 18 months, with the latest being the seizing of 10 Chinese road workers from their camp two weeks ago. The Nigerians have accused Cameroonian officials of not taking the Boko Haram threat seriously enough, and in the past week the Cameroon government has confirmed that it has sent an undisclosed number of troops to the area.

The priests freed had worked in the region for many years. Cameroonian officials met them at the regional capital, Maroua, early Sunday and flew them to Yaoundé, the communications minister, Issa Tchiroma Bakary, said.

“They have been freed,” he said. “Very early this morning.”

A spokesman for the Vatican, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said news of the captives’ release “fills us with joy.”

Mr. Bakary would not confirm reports that Cameroonian soldiers had engaged in clashes with militants over the weekend. “We never discuss these matters, for reasons of state,” the minister said. “We are at war with the Boko Haram. When the army is at the front, the less said, the better.”

“Boko Haram is an amorphous menace,” Mr. Bakary added. “We must avoid giving out anything that will wake them up.” (Contributor: Adam Nossiter for The New York Times)

Yes, such news fills all Christians with joy, as the Vatican spokesman said. Why some escape the snare of the enemy and the death of the martyrs is a mystery. God is ultimately in control, and from our understanding, even the devil and his minions have restraints set by God’s providence and purpose. So, while intercessors suffer with those who suffer, we may also rejoice with those who are given reason to rejoice. Surely Father God has a purpose in all that is allowed to touch His servants. Let us give thanks even as we continue to pray for those in captivity and suffering for their faith.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

 

NSA COLLECTS MILLIONS OF FACIAL IMAGES PER DAY

The National Security Agency is reportedly capturing millions of images per day to feed facial recognition programs.

Citing top-secret documents obtained by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the New York Times reported the agency ‘s reliance on such technology has grown in recent years.

New software allows the NSA to “exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications,” the newspaper said.

“The agency intercepts ‘millions of images per day’ — including about 55,000 ‘facial recognition quality images’ — which translate into ‘tremendous untapped potential,’” the newspaper reported, citing documents from 2011.

Facial recognition is a computer-based system that automatically identifies a person based on a digital image or video source that is then matched to information stored in a database. The technology is powerful, but not always straightforward.

According to the New York Times: “It has difficulty matching low-resolution images, and photographs of people’s faces taken from the side or angles can be impossible to match against mug shots or other head-on photographs.”

The newspaper said it was unclear how many images have been acquired, nor was it clear how many people have been caught up in the program.

An NSA spokeswoman defended the program.

“We would not be doing our job if we didn’t seek ways to continuously improve the precision of signals intelligence activities — aiming to counteract the efforts of valid foreign intelligence targets to disguise themselves or conceal plans to harm the United States and its allies,” NSA spokeswoman Vanee M. Vines said in response to the New York Times report.

“The lawful collection of foreign identity intelligence allows NSA to better identify and track such targets.”

Speaking to the newspaper, Vines declined to comment on whether the agency collected facial imagery of American citizens from social media like Facebook. (Contributor: By Dana Ford for CNN)

Whether the “mark of the beast” is literally the number 666 or another form of marking personal identity by the world system, we do not know. However, Christians with an eye on prophecy and the events usually associated with the “end times,” are understandably watchful and concerned about the power the government of a free society is wielding secretly to record the facial characteristics of its citizens. However, if NSA activities are a reflection of last days, believers are closer to “home” and eternal rest. Luther said, “There are two days in my calendar: this day and that Day.” Let us live and pray in the light of eternal values.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:23-25)

 

14TH CENTURY GRAND HALL DISCOVERED UNDERNEATH THE KOTEL TUNNELS IN JERUSALEM

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation unveiled this past Sunday a fully excavated and restored grand hall dating back to the 14th century in the tunnels under the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The hall, which has been converted into an educational center, cost millions of dollars and took 10 years of careful oversight by the Antiquities Authority (IAA) to complete.

According to the IAA, the excavation – funded entirely by Jewish Ukrainian billionaire Zvi Hirsch (Gennady) Bogolyubov – focused on five separate areas below the Ohel Yitzhak Synagogue, which extended into spaces beneath the homes of Palestinians living east and south of the synagogue.

“The IAA unearthed an area that includes several structures, among them the continuation of the 14th-century Hammam al-Ein, a wide domed area from the same period, and remains dating back as far as the 1st century CE,” an IAA official said in a statement.

“Although the majority of the finds are undoubtedly from the Mamluk period, identified with Muslim rule in Jerusalem, the educational visitors’ center will address the genealogy of the Jewish nation and its connection to Jerusalem.”

Bogolyubov, an industrialist and leading Jewish philanthropist originally from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, currently based in London, is estimated to be worth over $10 billion and paid approximately $20 million to excavate the site, as well as the four others nearby.

Since acquiring his fortune in the late ’90s through a banking, oil, media and food empire, the billionaire has supported a number of major Ukrainian, Israeli and British Jewish charities, including the construction of the largest Jewish center in the world, located in Ukraine.

Asked why he donated the millions needed to excavate and restore the underground areas in the Old City, Bogolyubov cited his love and patriotism for Israel.

“I did this because of my strong belief that Jews all over world can feel safe because of the State of Israel,” he said at the catered gala unveiling, which he attended with his wife and four young children.

“Everyone must contribute what they can – some contribute by joining the army, some by national service. I did what I can do.”

According to the IAA, the hall – adorned with highly stylized arches which stand on broad, tall stone pillars – was first detected underground adjacent to the Western Wall Plaza and revealed a window to aqueducts from the early 14th century.

“On the side of the structure, a staircase from the Herodian period, a section of a Roman road, and even a bathing house from the Mamluk period can all be found,” the official said.

“There can be no doubt that this hall represents the wide range of history to be found between the stones of Jerusalem.”

To dig below the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, IAA officials first had to receive permission from the Palestinian residents living above the sites, as the excavations must be conducted vertically.

“The professional reason for abstaining from horizontal tunnel excavations is that archeological excavation must be done vertically, starting from the surface of the earth and digging into the depth,” the IAA noted.

“Otherwise, it is difficult, and often impossible, to understand the significance of finds and to describe the remains that are exposed.”

Although living in London, Bogolyubov remains president of Dnepropetrovsk’s Jewish community. (Contributor: By Daniel Eisenbud for The Jerusalem Post)

When asked why he financed the $20 million excavation and restoration project under Jerusalem, the billionaire philanthropist said, “I did this because of my strong belief that Jews all over world can feel safe because of the State of Israel.” Ironically, that State of Israel itself does not feel safe to Israelis apart from the peace and security Christian believers, including Messianic Jews, possess because of Messiah Jesus. Meanwhile, despite his riches, this sincere (and perhaps pious) Jew has a veil on his heart, not knowing that Messiah has come. When praying for the peace of Jerusalem, let us pray, too, for the salvation of both Jews and Palestinians in that “chosen” but strife-torn land.

“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.” (Romans 10:1-4)   

 

D-DAY 70TH ANNIVERSARY PRAYER STORM

On Friday, June 6, 2014, many of “His people, called by His name” in over 30 nations will be part of a “Prayer Storm” to “scale the cliffs and attack evil” — in their lives and in their nations — in the same way that thousands of brave men took the cliffs of Normandy in WWII.

As these prayer intercessors pray, fast, and sincerely repent, we believe Almighty God will “hear from heaven, forgive our sin and heal our land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Repentance means to choose to come away from the flesh and the world’s ways to take up His Way of Purity. It also opens heaven for God to go into battle on our behalf and begin to restore the Godly roots of our nations.

Those with spiritual discernment see that we are facing a spiritual battle against evil in our nations today every bit as real as WWII. Moral depravity, apostasy, and other anti-Christian attacks reflect the creeping human secularist agenda that seeks to remove the gift of Liberty that Jesus’ blood gave to all humanity.

This June 6 is a momentous day both nationally and spiritually as it is the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Since that day of God’s favor, we have allowed evil to creep back into our lives and in our nations. The weapons of our warfare this time are prayer, fasting and repentance. Our weapons “are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4).

D-Day was an allied attack involving twelve nations. 70 years later we are now in unity through the Holy Spirit in many more nations. All Christians across denominations and boundaries are encouraged to set aside time on June 6 in their individual prayer closet, or together with others, as part of a “prayer storm” to pray, fast and sincerely repent.

The power of just ONE person’s repentance is seen in the Book of Daniel. Daniel humbly confessed his sins and his nation’s sins, sincerely repenting. God granted the request of this ONE righteous intercessor and brought Israel out evil’s bondage because he humbly stood in the gap for his people.

On this D-Day for repentance and deliverance from evil, will you be like Daniel? Will you storm the cliffs against Satan with us? (Contributor: By Pastor Jeff Daly for Christian Newswire – A model Prayer, a Covenant of Obedience to Scripture, and other free resources are at: www.dayofrepentance.org. This initiative is co-sponsored by Capitol Hill Prayer Partners and National Day of Repentance.)

We encourage intercessors everywhere to stand together in the spirit of intercession encouraged here. Consider that in the Old Testament, in our Lord’s ministry in the Gospels, and in the New Testament period of early church expansion, one of God’s keys for success has always been the unity of His people. In that unity Jesus encouraged agreement of even “two or three.” Intercede that the wider Church will awaken to the need for walls to come down and for unity to prevail, as we pray and engage in spiritual warfare.

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Eph. 6:11-13)

On Watch in Washington June 4, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

 

 

On Watch in Washington May 28, 2014

May 28th, 2014

On Watch in Washington May 28, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

HUBRIS ON MARRIAGE LAWS NOT LIMITED TO UNELECTED JUDGES

On May 19, it happened in Oregon. The next day, it was Pennsylvania’s turn.

In Oregon, U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane said the state’s marriage amendment, which the people of Oregon enacted via referendum in 2004, had no “rationally related government purpose.” Democratic Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced in February that she would not bother defending the law. Take that, voters.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III decided that he, too, was smarter than God, plus all previous generations and major religions that believe the defining essence of natural marriage is the union of male and female.

Listen to Judge Jones‘ assessment of the ethos behind marriage laws: “We are a better people than what these laws represent.” The hubris here is truly stunning, but Judge Jones was not finished. “It is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”

The latter is an interesting turn of phrase. It is most often associated with Ronald Reagan’s defeat of communism and the Soviet empire — an unalloyed victory of good over evil that lends itself to moral language. Does trashing a marriage law rise to that level?

By using that phrase, Judge Jones, a George W. Bush appointee, has signaled that Pennsylvania lawmakers who voted 177-16 in the House and 43 to 5 in the Senate to pass the measure in 1996 were deluded or perhaps even as evil as communists. So, too, are billions of people who now believe and have believed in marriage as the union of a man and a woman. If this is not so — that all these people were and are morally deficient — why are we now a “better people” for radically redefining marriage?

More alarming is Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s refusal to appeal the ruling. He issued a statement saying that lawyers told him the appeal had little chance of success.

Earlier this month, the governor refused to appeal a ruling by a federal judge striking down Pennsylvania’s voter photo-ID law. According to the Associated Press, “state lawyers acknowledged they couldn’t produce examples of in-person voter fraud.”

Really? Maybe they should look harder. In Philadelphia, baton-wielding New Black Panthers members physically threatened voters at a polling place on Election Day in 2008, and dozens of precincts in 2012 reported not even a single vote for Mitt Romney.

When you’re paying lawyers to get results and they tell you something is impossible, perhaps it’s time to look for new legal talent. Governors, attorneys general and other lawmakers take an oath to uphold the law, not cower before judges.

Given the media’s numbingly jubilant coverage of left-wing activists and lawmakers “hailing” every new corrosive episode of judicial activism, plus the popular culture pouring out propaganda, most conservative lawmakers have stayed in the tall grass, hoping it will blow over.

It won’t. Lawlessness breeds more lawlessness, and a feckless response to bullying invites more of the same. Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down much of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, federal judges have overturned marriage laws in 13 straight cases. Unlike millions of voters, they apparently think natural marriage is unworthy of legal protection.

How did we come to a place where judges think that marriage certificates don’t need a bride and groom, and that it’s racist to ask someone to prove who they say they are before they cast a ballot?

Beginning in the 1950s, America began changing rapidly from a Christian-based “ideational” culture — one defined by pursuit of virtue informed by religious values — into a “sensate” culture, in which individuals seek pleasure at the expense of family, community and, ultimately, country.

Harvard sociologist Pitirim Sorokin saw the trend in America beginning even earlier, and wrote about it in his book “The Crisis of Our Age,” in 1941:

“Our culture simultaneously is a culture of man’s glorification and of man’s degradation. On the one hand, it boundlessly glorifies man and extols man-made culture and society. On the other, it utterly degrades the human being and all his cultural and social values.”

In such a culture, there is little respect for the words of Jesus, who quoted Genesis: “[F]rom the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’”

When man — instead of God — becomes the measure of all things, morality becomes muddled. The left casts unwanted, unborn children, timeless institutions such as natural marriage, and even election-integrity laws as impediments to personal happiness.

They have amply demonstrated that they will stop at nothing to shape the legal and political culture to fit their worldview and punish those who disagree.

Every day, we learn anew that elections have consequences. (Contributor: By Robert Knight for The Washington Times – Robert Knight is a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.)

God’s laws will not be “discarded into the ash heap of history.” Instead, people and nations trying to overturn His principles will face His righteous judgment. Judge John Jones’ ruling is an example of “practical atheism.” This may include personal religious belief, even church-going, but it means that one plans, lives, thinks, and speaks as though God did not exist. The U.S. is in grave danger of divine judgment. In the light of continual blasphemy, how long will God be merciful? Pray for preachers of righteousness to speak up. Let those who know the truth of God’s holiness pray with repentant hearts on behalf of our deeply sinful country. These things are not pleasant, but we must obey God.

“Then [Jesus] spoke a parable to them, saying: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’” (Luke 12:16-20)

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

 

IRAN’S SUPREME LEADER: JIHAD WILL CONTINUE UNTIL AMERICA IS NO MORE

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, all but said on Sunday that negotiations over the country’s illicit nuclear program are over and that the Islamic Republic’s ideals include destroying America.

“Those [Iranians] who want to promote negotiation and surrender to the oppressors and blame the Islamic Republic as a warmonger in reality commit treason,” Khamenei told a meeting of members of parliament, according to the regime’s Fars News Agency.

Khamenei emphasized that without a combative mindset, the regime cannot reach its higher Islamic role against the “oppressors’ front.”

“The reason for continuation of this battle is not the warmongering of the Islamic Republic. Logic and reason command that for Iran, in order to pass through a region full of pirates, needs to arm itself and must have the capability to defend itself,” he said.

“Today’s world is full of thieves and plunderers of human honor, dignity and morality who are equipped with knowledge, wealth and power, and under the pretense of humanity easily commit crimes and betray human ideals and start wars in different parts of the world.”

In response to a question by a parliamentarian on how long this battle will continue, Khamenei said,“Battle and jihad are endless because evil and its front continue to exist. … This battle will only end when the society can get rid of the oppressors’ front with America at the head of it, which has expanded its claws on human mind, body and thought. … This requires a difficult and lengthy struggle and need for great strides.”

Khamenei cited the scientific advancement of the country. “The accelerated scientific advancement of the last 12 years cannot stop under any circumstances,” he said, referring to the strides the regime has made toward becoming a nuclear power.

As reported on May 19 on The Daily Caller, Iran has put up new roadblocks to reaching a deal with the P5+1 world powers over its illicit nuclear program. The powers are the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany.

Three days of negotiations in the fourth round of Geneva meetings ended recently without concrete results when the Iranian team presented the country’s new “red lines” — diminishing any hope by the Obama administration to claim victory in its approach to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, according to reports from Iran.

The Obama administration had hoped that with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif showing an eagerness to solve the nuclear issue and address the West’s concerns, there would be a possibility for a negotiated solution. An interim agreement penned last November in Geneva was touted as an “historic nuclear deal.”

Under that agreement, Iran, in return for billions of dollars in sanctions relief, limited its enrichment activity to the 5 percent level with a current stockpile of over 10 tons (enough for six nuclear bombs), converted much of its 20 percent enriched stock to harmless oxide, and agreed to allow more intrusive inspections of its nuclear plants by the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose inspections were limited to only agreed-upon facilities.

The Iranian delegation last week presented new red lines that could not be crossed, including the expansion of the country’s research and development for its nuclear program, the need of the country to continue enrichment, and the fact that the country’s ballistic missile program — despite U.N. sanctions — is not up for negotiation.

At the same time, IAEA officials met again with their Iranian counterparts last week in Tehran to discuss information on the work on detonators and needed collaboration by the regime to clear outstanding issues on its nuclear program as part of seven transparency steps Iran had agreed to fulfill by May 15, which has yet to take place. (Contributor: Reza Kahilili for The Daily Caller – Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for a former CIA operative in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and author of the award winning book “A Time to Betray” (Simon & Schuster, 2010). He serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI).)

Iran continues to make outrageous statements, such as we read here. While U.S. leaders should not fear Iranian threats, neither should they be arrogant. Intercessors will remember that throughout history, God often used a pagan nation to do His bidding, and then later judged that very regime according to His righteous purpose. May Spirit-filled intercessors pray for mercy and a great turning to the Lord here in America. Intercede, knowing our country’s sinfulness deserves divine judgment.

“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.” (Daniel 1:1-2)

“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb: ‘I am the Lord, who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone, who spreads abroad the earth by Myself…. who confirms the word of His servant, and performs the counsel of His messengers; who says to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be inhabited,’ to the cities of Judah, ‘You shall be built,’ …. who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ and to the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.”’ (Isaiah 44:24, 27, 28)

 

MEMORIAL DAY, AT WAR

For most of Kabul, it was a mundane Monday. For soldiers on a small base in the city’s center, it was another day at war, another day planning a response to the Taliban spring offensive. For the Americans in that group, it was also Memorial Day.

Just before ten that morning, I got up from my desk and motioned to the lanky colonel sitting to my right. Without a word, he pushed aside a stack of papers detailing tireless war plans, grabbed his tan, Army-issued cap, and headed for the door. A tack stuck in the sole of my shoe clicked loudly against metal stairs as we left our office, heading toward a protected garden at one side of the base. Today’s ceremony, tucked between the garden’s porch and a stone fountain, would remember men and women, colleagues and companions, who’d died in uniform, including the colonel’s son.

His only son had been killed in action in southern Afghanistan not quite two years earlier. A roadside bomb had struck the armored vehicle he was driving. His son was twenty-four when he died, a sergeant who’d served in the Army for almost five years. The colonel was in his late forties. He’d served in the military longer than his son had been alive.

The colonel rarely spoke about his boy’s death. It was only when we found ourselves working late at night, when the office was silent except for the whine of a leaky air conditioner and the grumbling of a few tired soldiers scrambling to finish the day’s assignments, that I heard he’d lost his son to the war. I’d ask about the small picture on his desk—a faded, framed photo of five girls and a boy gathering around their mother at Christmas. He’d tell me their stories and show more recent family photos, with his daughters now joined by the missing boy’s smiling wife and young child, a little girl born four months after the roadside bomb killed her father. The memories still gave the colonel waves of nausea.

Even so, the colonel had returned to combat because a general needed him, because his country asked him to. Because it was his duty. So he was here, helping draft military strategy at a secure base in Afghanistan’s capital. Our desks were side by side in the cramped office, three hundred miles north of the unmarked dirt road where an improvised explosive device killed his son. I had arrived just a few weeks before Memorial Day and was still learning the rhythm of our work, still trying to figure out what food was edible in the dining hall. But, already, the colonel had quietly scolded me.

“Did you call home?” he’d demanded shortly after I arrived, his fatherly tone sneaking through a lifelong soldier’s crisp cadence. “Use my calling card and tell your mother you’ve arrived safely. Until you receive your gear, use my flak jacket to get to your room when the sirens sound ‘duck and cover.’ ” That’s how we’d know rocket attacks were imminent.

But there were no rocket attacks that Monday—at least none targeting our base, none that interrupted our Memorial Day ceremony. A grizzled gunnery sergeant called the group to order, then a soft-spoken Navy admiral recited a short speech about service and sacrifice. The assembled crowd—about fifty American soldiers and civilians, plus a handful of British, French, and other foreign soldiers, there to show their support—stood silently, motionless. A fat, flea-ridden cat brushed past my legs, in search of the food scraps that usually accompanied gatherings in the garden. The high mountains surrounding Kabul loomed in the distance, above a sturdy cement wall that encircled the base.

A recording of the national anthem broke my reverie, and, as its notes crackled over the loudspeakers, I watched a young soldier put a precisely folded American flag atop a makeshift memorial: a simple pair of worn combat boots, dry dirt clinging to the cracked rubber soles and dog tags tucked into the black laces. The small memorial would be gone tomorrow, replaced by a faded couch where soldiers gathered for coffee and a smoke.

To my left, the colonel stood frozen at attention; suddenly, for the briefest moment, he shielded his face and choked back tears. Then he braced himself and saluted the flag. We all bowed our heads as a chaplain quietly recited a closing prayer.

With that, the ceremony was done and the small crowd began to disperse. A muscular young Marine paused to stroke the mangy cat, who was still searching for treats. A group of British soldiers wandered to one side, breaking out their cigarettes. The colonel steadied himself with a deep breath and turned to face me.

Not knowing what to say or how to ease the grief I could see in his eyes, I gave him a quick hug. Then we turned from the crowd and walked, side by side, back to our office, to help plan the next phase of war. (Contributor: By Marisa Porges for The New Yorker – Marisa Porges is a research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. In 2011, she served as a civilian adviser to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.)

A huge segment of the U.S. population has never known life without war involvement. Now we see families broken and disabled through the ravages of modern warfare. Wives, mothers, and daughters are in combat, a practice once forbidden among civilized nations. Memorial Day is a fitting time to remember and to pray for a time when “wars and rumors of wars” will cease, swords will be turned into plowshares, and the Prince of Peace will rule. Meanwhile, may the Church emerge in revival-mode, renewed and re-energized to preach the gospel and disciple the nations for God’s glory.

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” Amen. (Matt. 20:18-20)  

 

EVACUATIONS OF 1,000 STRUCTURES ORDERED AS ALASKA WILDFIRE GROWS

A wildfire on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage expanded in size Sunday, leading officials to issue a mandatory evacuation order for 1,000 structures.

The number of people told to flee their homes isn’t clear, said Michelle Weston, spokeswoman with the Alaska Interagency Management Team, which includes the state Division of Forestry and federal and local officials.

Officials said that as of 4 p.m. Alaska time, the fire covered nearly 243 square miles and may continue to grow as it burns in the 1.9 million-acre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

The Funny River Fire is named after a nearby road where all residents were being evacuated. She says Alaska State Troopers were going door to door, evacuating an area that’s mostly second homes and is home to many retirees.

She says no injuries were reported, and it’s unclear if any buildings were damaged.

She said erratic fire behavior driven by high winds and extremely dry conditions allowed the flames to grow.

Earlier Sunday, the fire spanned 193 square miles and was 20 percent contained.

For size comparison, the Funny River Fire was larger than Seattle (143 square miles) but smaller than Anchorage (1,961 square miles).

The size of the blaze is not unusual for Alaska but the state does not usually see such large fires this early in the season, Weston said.

Crews were attacking the fire by air, with two Alaska Air National Guard helicopters and five other helicopters involved, she said.

Weston said spot fires jumped over the Kenai River close to the community of Sterling. Brenda Ahlberg, spokeswoman for the Kenai Peninsula Borough, said an evacuation advisory was put in place in the area later Sunday for people to prepare to flee.

Ahlberg said a Red Cross shelter was being set up for evacuees.

Dennis Downs, 64, told the Anchorage Daily News that he and his wife, Kelly, cleared dead brush away from his mother-in-law’s home before they had to evacuate.

“There’s a good possibility the house will burn,” Downs told the newspaper of the home his mother-in-law has lived in for 40 years.

The Funny River Fire is the most active of several large wildfires burning in Alaska. Firefighters have been flown in from Oregon, Montana and Canada to help Alaskan crews.

Gov. Sean Parnell flew over the fire midday Sunday, before the wind-driven expansion. He praised the multiagency effort — including state, local and federal officials.

Wildfires in Alaska’s remote areas are not unusual during the summer months, with an average of a million acres burned each fire season, Weston said.

The state is experiencing unusually dry conditions because of unseasonably warm spring temperatures. High wind is also a challenge for crews.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1941 as the Kenai National Moose Range and was aimed at moose protection. Wildlife viewing, fishing, camping and hiking attract visitors from around the world. (Contributor: Fox News)

The prayer focus here is born out of human compassion. Let us give thanks for no loss of life, and pray for successful evacuations, as necessary. Give thanks for the bravery and risk of those who battle to control such wildfires. Pray for quick control and limited spreading.  Pray for those whose homes and businesses may burn. Such events should cause those not affected to take inventory of their lives and to treasure what is eternal.

“Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. . . .” (Phil. 3:8)

But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God. My times are in Your hand’ … Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You. . . .” (Psalm 31:14-15, 19)

 

CHINA’S XINJIANG AFTER THE BOMBINGS: GOING FROM BAD TO WORSE

Tensions in China’s Xinjiang between the Uyghurs (who claim the region as their own) and the Han Chinese (the country’s majority population who also control its government) are nothing new. Both groups have been struggling for years over the sovereign status of this territory. However, in recent months, the tense, but relatively stable, standoff between the two sides has begun to fray as an expanding series of Uyghur terrorist attacks and Chinese reprisals have rocked the country. The May 22 Urumqi bombings placed a tragic exclamation mark on this trend and signify a frightening escalation of the conflict.

The attacks took place against the backdrop of a widening circle of Han-Uyghur violence. The opening salvo occurred on March 1 in Kunming when a small band of knife-wielding Uyghur terrorists rampaged through the southwestern Chinese city’s main train station leaving scores dead and injured in their wake.

The Kunming attack was unprecedented within China, especially because it took place so far from Xinjiang. It was the country’s own September 11. Not surprisingly, the incident incited a flood of anti-Uyghur invectiveness on Chinese social media sites and led to a sustained, high-profile, beefing up of security measures around the country. Beijing was determined to use all necessary means to prevent such a devastating event from ever taking place again on Chinese soil.

Tragically, but also rather predictably, such hardline policies did not halt the violence. A series of conflicts, big and small, followed that further fueled Han-Uyghur tensions. The most significant attacks in this wave occurred at the Urumqi South Railway Station April 30 and at a train station in the southern province of Guangzhou on May 6.

These recent Urumqi bombings, which left at least thirty-one dead and many more injured, are not simply a continuation of this trend: the scope of the carnage and the relatively sophisticated manner of its execution represent a chilling new chapter in the Han-Uyghur story.

While the details of the incident are still emerging, it appears to have been carried out by a network of attackers who chose their target with care, aimed to maximize the damage of their efforts and coordinated their movements. In other words, this was a far more complex and brazen terrorist operation than had previously been carried out on Chinese territory.

The attacks raise profound questions about Beijing’s ability to maintain the status quo in this restive northwestern region of China. Such a situation is inherently more volatile than even China’s most pointed external territorial conflicts, because of the unpredictability of when and how Beijing’s Uyghur opponents will strike, and the growing anger amongst Han Chinese toward the Muslim inhabitants of Xinjiang.

The demands within the country for retribution and revenge are growing with each attack and are sure to reach a new pitch in the coming days. How Beijing can satisfy such sentiments, and bring a modicum of stability back to Xinjiang poses thorny, perhaps irresolvable, challenges.

If China’s leaders do not do enough to strike back at the Uyghurs they will look weak and ineffectual to the majority Han Chinese population whose support they need to continue to govern the rest of the country. So far, it is Uyghur blood that is being called for by Chinese nationalists; but should it not be delivered, it is easy to imagine how such fury could turn back against the state leaders, who could be labeled as too soft and unable to provide for the protection of their citizens. Within such a dynamic, the issue of who has the right to govern (and for how long) could quickly extent beyond the question of Xinjiang.

Yet, if Beijing uses too much coercion against the Uyghurs, it is only likely to further harden anti-Chinese attitudes in Xinjiang. This would then inadvertently provide more fuel for the flames of ethnic violence there. Excessive force thus holds almost as much risk for China’s leaders as does the appearance of being too yielding.

Unlike within its outstanding disputes with Vietnam and Japan, then, there is no simple way to de-escalate the situation in Xinjiang. China’s superior power over the region will ensure that it does not go anywhere, but ruling it is growing increasingly difficult, and the costs of control are mounting. Beijing will not let the region go. Its inhabitants, though, are steadfast in their unwillingness to accept such a reality. This is likely to lead to more, not less, violence over the coming weeks, months and years.

This being the case, it is possible that China’s leaders may, once the shock of the bombings wears off, finally realize just how fractured the situation in Xinjiang has become. This could then lead them to a broader reconsideration of what underlies the current conflict, and push them in the direction of entertaining innovative policy options that might be utilized to rectify it. Yet, such a prospect seems exceedingly remote given the current political climate in China. Thus, while it would be premature to then argue that Xinjiang is sliding into an ethnic-based civil war, it does seem as if the words W.B. Yeats wrote so many years ago in “The Second Coming” may now have haunting resonance in China’s restive northwest: “Things fall apart….” (By Allen R. Carlson for The National Interest – Allen R. Carlson is an Associate Professor of Government at Cornell University.)

Our prayer focus here is not to use precious time and energy to pray into Chinese politics. Instead, let us pray for our Chinese brothers and sisters, including pastors, many of whom are suffering in prison or with other deprivations as they live a difficult life of persecution. Do we in America realize that the open faith of millions of Christians around the world, including teens and young adults, automatically assigns them to suffering that very often results in a martyr’s death. Let us pray for them as though suffering with them, while we use our freedom to advance the gospel in our own nation.

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

 

SWISS GROUP TO ALLOW ASSISTED DYING FOR ELDERLY WHO ARE NOT TERMINALLY ILL

A Swiss organization that helps people take their own lives has voted to extend its services to elderly people who are not terminally ill.

Exit added “suicide due to old age” to their statutes at an annual general meeting held over the weekend, allowing people suffering from psychological or physical problems associated with old age the choice to end their life.

Assisted dying is legal in Switzerland and technically even a healthy young person could use such services. However, organizations involved in this work set their own internal requirements, which differ from group to group.

The move has been criticized by the Swiss Medical Association amid fears it will encourage suicide among the elderly. “We do not support the change of statutes by Exit. It gives us cause for concern because it cannot be ruled out that elderly healthy people could come under pressure of taking their own life,” said the association’s president, Dr Jürg Schlup.

But Exit said that most people who would choose this option were already members of the organisation and had been looking into assisted dying for years.

“Our members told us to get active on this subject. It was ripe for a decision,” Exit’s vice-president, Bernhard Sutter, said.

“Assisted suicide is a lengthy process. Doctors must take tests and talk to patients for hours asking them to justify their motivations. Old patients feel they do not have the energy for all of this and it is also not so dignified.”

The organization confirmed that elderly people seeking their services would still have to go through comprehensive checks – but that medical tests would be less stringent than those required for younger people.

Despite some backlash, Sutter said the medical profession was becoming more understanding.

“Prescriptions for the [life-ending] medicine come most often from the family doctors,” he said. “That shows that the medical profession is more understanding now of what it means to go on like this.”

The news follows a legal battle between Swiss prosecutors and a doctor who provided deadly medicine to a patient without examining him first. The doctor was acquitted by an appeal court in April for giving drugs to an 89-year-old patient with a serious bowel illness who wanted to end his life but refused to be examined.

“It has to be OK for elderly people like him not to be put through the same tests again,” said Sutter. “This is what we mean – he shouldn’t have had to go through it all again.” (Contributor: By Maddy French for The Guardian)

No organization has the right to end life, except the state when capital punishment is called for. The physician’s oath is “First, do no harm” (Hippocrates). However, man has always sought to reach beyond God’s plan and purpose. While many organizations have humane motives, the issue is usurping God’s sovereign prerogative to determine the end of life. Our own nation is divided on the issue. Let us pray for spiritual renewal in the Church, for a renewal of gospel preaching, and for many to know the Lord, so death can experienced in faith and with assurance of the life to come.

“Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. … The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’” (Job 1:20-21)

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:6-8)

 

CATS AND DOGS TO BE TESTED FOR MYSTERIOUS MERS INFECTION

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome was first discovered in 2012 and has so far killed about 200 people globally.

While the virus that causes it has been found widely in camels, researchers say it could be lurking in other species.

One expert told BBC News that the hunt was likely to extend soon to animals that had close contact with people.

Mers was originally found in a patient from Bishah in Saudi Arabia but since then almost 600 cases of the infection have been discovered around the world, with about 30% of those who get sick dying from the illness.

Researchers believe the coronavirus that causes the infection crossed over from animals.

As the numbers of people infected by the virus rose, scientists sought to test common animals in the Middle East for exposure.

Using blood samples from camels in the Canary Islands, Dutch researchers found the first antibodies to the disease. They liken these antibodies to footprints, indicating that the virus had once passed through the animal.

A recent study showed conclusively that the version of the virus circulating in humans is indistinguishable from the one that’s been found in camels.

However, the lead author of that report, Dr Thomas Briese from Columbia University in New York, believes that there are many unanswered questions about the disease.

He points to the fact that if camels were the sole route of infection, then the illness should be more prevalent among those who work with or are in close contact with the animals.

And there have been a small number of cases of people dying from Mers who have no known relationship with camels.

“We do have these sporadic cases where there is no known exposure to known cases and we question where do they catch the virus,” he told BBC News.

“In some cases there was animal contact or camel contact but in others not, so there is no clear definitive picture yet.”

Dr Briese says that other species, including goats and sheep, have been tested but haven’t shown antibodies indicating exposure.

Another report showed that the geographic distribution of the disease in camels is far more widespread than previously thought, with significant reservoirs in Nigeria, Ethiopia and Tunisia.

Adding to the Mers mystery, there have been no reports of people dying from the respiratory infection in these areas.

These unknowns, says Dr Briese, are pushing researchers to extend the search for the Mers coronavirus to domestic animals.

“The others that we are looking into or are trying to look into are cats, dogs – where there is more intimate contact – and any other wild species we can get serum from that we are not currently getting.”

The issue of how to tackle Mers will be on the agenda here in Paris, at the congress of the world organisation for animal health (OIE).

Addressing this meeting of veterinarians and ministers, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Margaret Chan also struck a note of caution on the role of camels in the spread of the disease.

“Our current concern, of course, is about the human cases of Mers. I thank OIE for a very balanced scientific assessment on the possible role of camels in the transmission cycle.

“The evidence, however, is by no means conclusive and we need to know this as we issue advice to the public.”

One of the biggest worries about Mers is that the virus will mutate and become more easily spread among humans. So far there is no evidence that has happened.

“It can happen at any time – mutations occur randomly,” said Dr Briese.

“The larger the numbers the higher the probability. That’s the point of trying to stem these human infections.”

Work on the development of a vaccine has shown some progress although it is still highly experimental. Scientists say that if one is developed it will most likely be used on animals like camels and not on humans. (Contributor: By Matt McGrath for BBC News)

We have been following these accounts with a concern about cases multiplying in the U.S., where the fear is a spread of the MERS virus to epidemic proportions. Thus far, in two or three cases, there is no evidence that such a danger exists or is developing. Give thanks for the quick and thorough medical research and ability to quarantine the patients in this country. Pray for continued containment, that those exposed may be discovered and treated, and that there be no outbreak.

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

 

THE LOUISIANA BAYOU STATE IS TIGHTENING ITS ABORTION REGULATIONS

Pro-lifers in Louisiana say it’s a “commonsense” bill that closes loopholes governing abortion practices – and likely will shut down abortion clinics that don’t meet state health standard guidelines.

The Unsafe Abortion Protection Act (HB 388) received bipartisan support as it made its way through both state chambers. It now sits on the desk of Governor Bobby Jindal, who is expected to sign it sometime next week. The measure was supported by the Louisiana Right to Life Federation.

“[It's] a commonsense piece of legislation that requires abortion facilities and doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles,” explains Ben Clapper, executive director of the Louisiana pro-life group. “This protects and continues the continuity of care between an abortion facility and a hospital in case of a complication.”

That’s similar to a measure passed in Texas and upheld by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Clapper says it will help to shut down substandard abortuaries in Louisiana. He adds that there are two other components of the bill: one requires that any doctor who does more than five abortions a year has appropriate licensing.

“Right now there’s been a loophole so that an abortionist could do up to 60 abortions a year without having to have a license and to follow the health standard guidelines put down by the state,” says the pro-life spokesman.

In addition, the bill will require abortionists to follow federal guidelines in administering the abortion drug RU-486 when the entire law goes into effect September 1.

Louisiana Right to Life Federation and Bioethics Defense Fund collaborated in drafting the legislation. (Contributor: Charlie Butts for One News Now)

We give thanks for all inroads against abortion at the state level. Each preborn life saved is a victory in itself. Sadly, our nation’s court system has become its own law-making authority. In several cases, noted in previous mid-week alerts, a judge has overturned the will of the people and made a defiant decision to allow unrestricted abortions. Pray that spiritual renewal will awaken more Americans, including Christians, to the absolute horror of what our country has done, with no end in sight. Surely, God will not overlook such sinfulness.  We desperately need national transformation.

“You shall not [commit] murder.” (Exodus 20:13)

 “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live. . .” (Deut. 30:19)

 

THE NEW FACE OF MILITARY RECRUITING

A national defense analyst says it should come as no surprise that 80 percent of those young people wanting to enlist in the military are rejected – and that in some cases, individuals who are qualified choose not to sign up over concerns of religious freedom and open homosexuality in the ranks.

The Kansas City Star reported last week that an area Army recruiting office says in order to meet recruiting targets, it once had to sign up 16 to 20 soldiers per month – but now it can get by with 10 to 12. According to that report, the U.S. military is only taking 20 percent of the applicants who want to enlist, with four out of every five failing to make the cut.

Robert Maginnis, a senior fellow for national security at the Family Research Council, spoke with OneNewsNow about the current trend in military recruiting. He says very few teenagers just coming out of high school are physically, mentally, and morally prepared to meet the criteria to serve in the armed forces.

“They have a drug offense, or they’re overweight, or they have one of the ailments listed in our medical manuals that say these are reasons to disqualify people,” he shares. “And so today, given the downsizing of the military, we have every reason to turn down people who aren’t fully qualified.”

In fact, the Star reports that the Army’s active-duty recruiting target for FY 2014 is the smallest in more than a decade – and that further troop reductions are expected.

Maginnis says while it’s unfortunate for recruiters and the military, some of the best-qualified individuals aren’t willing to sign up under the current conditions imposed by the Obama administration.

“We’re running off a lot of those best-qualified who happen to take seriously the moral issues,” he explains. “They’re concerned about religious persecution in the armed forces. They’re concerned about the military’s loss of moral integrity when it comes to open homosexuality.”

The retired Army officer adds he’s concerned that with drug use being legalized more and more across the nation it won’t be too much longer when that won’t necessarily be a reason for disqualifying someone from military service. (Contributor: Chad Groenig for One News Now)

As readers of the alerts know, Intercessors for America is not politically affiliated. Our task is to suggest a prayer focus from Scripture and, based on 1 Timothy 2:1-4, to pray for those in authority. Our hope is “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” Note, “… in all godliness and reverence.” How sad, then, that government-sponsored policy will keep qualified recruits from the military due to a morally incompatible environment and religious restrictions. Pray for God’s will and purpose for our country to prevail. Ask God to raise up a modern John the Baptizer, to whom, by God’s Spirit, highest-level leaders will give attention.

“So the people asked [John], saying, ‘What shall we do then?’ He answered and said to them, ‘He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.’ Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than what is appointed for you.’ Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, ‘And what shall we do?’ So he said to them, ‘Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.’” (Luke 3:10-14)

On Watch in Washington May 28, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

 

On Watch in Washington May 21, 2014

May 21st, 2014

On Watch in Washington May 21, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

PENTAGON: NO CHANGE ON BAN ON TRANSGENDER TROOPS

The Pentagon is not reviewing or planning to review its policy that bans transgenders from military service, a defense official said Monday.

The official’s statement came a day after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told ABC News the prohibition on transsexuals and cross-dressers “continually should be reviewed.”

This past Monday, the defense official said, “Bottom line, right now there are not any plans for a review to start.”

Lifting the ban has long been a goal of the gay rights lobby in Washington, which, with the election of President Obama, won a long-fought battle to lift the ban on open gays in the ranks.

Mr. Hagel drew a distinction between the military’s gay policy and current regulations on transgender people.

“The issue of transgender is a bit more complicated because it has a medical component to it,” he said. “These issues require medical attention. Austere locations where we put our men and women in many cases don’t always provide that kind of opportunity. I do think it continually should be reviewed. I’m open to that, by the way.”

The military lists transgenderism as a “psychosexual” condition that does not meet the standard for enlistment. It is found in an instruction, “Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Military Services.” It was last updated in 2010.

The standards include scores of physical and mental conditions that prevent a person from joining the military, including, “Current or history of psychosexual conditions including but not limited to transsexualism, exhibitionism, transvestism, voyeurism, and other paraphilias.”

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group GLAAD defines transgender as “An umbrella term (adj.) for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term may include but is not limited to: transsexuals, cross-dressers and other gender-variant people. Transgender people may identify as female-to-male (FTM) or male-to-female (MTF). Use the descriptive term (transgender, transsexual, cross-dresser, FTM or MTF) preferred by the individual. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.”

Mr. Hagel did not say whether he supports welcoming transgender people into the force.

Since Mr. Obama took office, his administration has put the armed forces through a social revolution. He lifted the ban on homosexuals and opened military facilities to hosting gay marriages. He now is preparing to open infantry, armor and special operations direct-combat units to women.

In the meantime, Mr. Hagel is leading an all-hands charge to get more women to come forward and file complaints of sexual misconduct. (Contributor: Rowan Scarborough for The Washington Times)

Is it only a matter of time? Our U.S. military has long been a focus for social experimentation with its personnel, starting perhaps when former Sen. Patricia Schroeder, serving on the Armed Services Committee, pushed for greater female involvement in all branches. We do not fault Ms. Schroeder for her feminist convictions, but let us remember that America elects its leaders, and we must live with our choices. We now have women in combat, and transgender issues front and center, both of which violate God’s intentions. Pray for a united, repentant Church to emerge with spiritual renewal, desiring God’s presence and upholding the Creator’s design.

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

“But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” (Romans 9:20)

 

RAHN: ECONOMIC FREEDOM VERSUS BIG GOVERNMENT

Do you think there would be more jobs, less poverty and higher real incomes if government was 60 percent or 18 percent of gross domestic product? Fortunately, a global economic-growth experiment has been underway for more than a half-century. Some countries have opted for the big-government model, others for the small-government model. Based on the data, the small-government crowd wins.

Periodically, as new data becomes available, I revisit the topic of how big or small government should be. Many on the left in the United States want a big government like they have in France, which they think will be fairer and provide better services. There are success metrics, such as real per-capita incomes, economic growth, job-creation rates and life expectancy to give us a good indication of what works and does not work.

The accompanying table gives us recent data about how well 10 rich countries are doing. Outside of small oil-rich economies, such as Qatar and Norway, and a few small financial centers, the four richest real and diverse economies are Singapore, Switzerland, the United States and Hong Kong (which is not a country, but a special economic and political zone of China).

Fifty years ago, Singapore and Hong Kong were very poor Asian city-states, without natural resources. Yet now, their millions of citizens enjoy the highest living standards and life spans on the planet — Singapore being No. 3 and Hong Kong No. 4 in terms of longevity. They did not achieve success from foreign aid or by government spending (which is well under 20 percent of GDP in both places). They achieved this by having a great deal of economic freedom — Hong Kong being No. 1 and Singapore at No. 2 out of the 159 countries ranked. Other countries that are not yet as rich as Singapore and Hong Kong but that have opted for the smaller government model, such as Taiwan and South Korea, and developing countries, such as Chile, have been growing more rapidly than their more statist competitors — which results in the vast majority of their citizens having a much higher quality of life.

According to the World Bank, Switzerland now has a higher GDP per capita, both in nominal terms and in purchasing power parity (PPP), than the United States. France and Switzerland are neighbors, and France has many more natural resources than Switzerland, as well as numerous ports, of which Switzerland has none. Yet, the Swiss have a per-capita income one-third larger than the French, and an unemployment rate one-third of the French.

What the French have that the Swiss do not is big government (65 percent larger as a percentage of GDP). By virtually any positive measure of well-being, the Swiss are well ahead of the French, including life expectancy. Whereas the French pride themselves on having a high-tax, high-spending government with extensive regulations, the Swiss have a constitutional spending cap. Unlike most, the Swiss government is not getting larger as a percentage of GDP.

It is worth remembering that the rich, big-government countries became rich before they instituted their big-government welfare states — and they have been slipping in the rankings ever since.

As can be seen in the table, rising per-capita incomes, economic growth and low levels of unemployment are more often associated with smaller, not larger, government and economic freedom. Numerous studies show that as government grows as a percentage of GDP (above about 25 percent), economic growth and job creation slow, not rise. The same thing is true at the state level in America. The big-spending states, such as California, Illinois and New York, are losing population and economic share to lower-tax and lower-spending states, such as Texas and Florida (neither of which has a state income tax).

None of this is rocket science and has been well known to serious economic scholars for decades. The facts are routinely ignored, though, by those in the political class who have a vested interest in the power of big government. Last week, the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard gave former President George H.W. Bush an award for having had the “courage” to renege on his pledge not to raise taxes, which hurt the economy and cost him an election. Also last week, the secretary-general of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Angel Gurria, who has a very high, tax-free salary, said: “Tax fraud and tax evasion are not victimless crimes, they deprive government of revenues needed to restore economic growth.” You would think that allegedly intelligent people living in Boston and Paris might notice that their high taxes are driving away well-paying jobs, not attracting them — but perhaps they have another agenda.

The next time politicians tell you they are going to spend more of your tax dollars to create jobs and increase your income, ask them whether they are ignorant of the facts or they think you are. (Contributor:  By Richard Rahn for The Washington Times – Richard W. Rahn is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth.)

This article proves – among other things – that education does not in itself impart wisdom. Those who believe bigger government serves its citizens better than smaller government are not ignorant of facts but choose to deny truth to achieve selfish ends, which include controlling our nation’s finances and curtailing its citizens’ freedom to succeed. We urge intercessors to use time and energy wisely. Let us not dilute our prayers by asking God to “Change this or that policy.” Instead, pray for an invasion of God’s presence, uniting Christians in a widespread Great Awakening with repentance, first in the Church, then spreading throughout society. May we see our own needs first, then pray accordingly.

“For the leaders of this people cause them to err, and those who are led by them are destroyed.” (Isaiah 9:16)

“Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” (Matt. 15:14)

 

WOMAN’S CANCER KILLED BY MEASLES VIRUS IN UNPRECEDENTED TRIAL

Her name is Stacy Erholtz. For years, the 50-year-old mom from Pequot Lakes, Minn., battled myeloma, a blood cancer that affects bone marrow. She had few options left.

She had been through chemotherapy treatments and two stem cell transplants. But it wasn’t enough. Soon, scans showed she had tumors growing all over her body.

One grew on her forehead, destroying a bone in her skull and pushing on her brain. Her children named it Evan, her doctor said. Cancer had infiltrated her bone marrow.

So, as part of a two-patient clinical trial, doctors at the Mayo Clinic injected Erholtz with 100 billion units of the measles virus – enough to inoculate 10 million people.

Her doctor said they were entering the unknown.

Five minutes into the hour-long process, Erholtz got a terrible headache. Two hours later, she started shaking and vomiting. Her temperature hit 105 degrees, Stephen Russell, the lead researcher on the case, told The Washington Post early Thursday morning.

“Thirty-six hours after the virus infusion was finished, she told me, ‘Evan has started shrinking,’” Russell said. Over the next several weeks, the tumor on her forehead disappeared completely and, over time, the other tumors in her body did, too.

Russell said he and his team had engineered the virus to make it more suitable for cancer therapy. And, after just one dose of it, Erholtz’s cancer went into remission. She has been completely cleared of the disease, Russell wrote in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Though, in this trial, the treatments were successful on only one of the two patients.

And Tanios Bekaii-Saab, a researcher at James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute in Ohio, said the study must be confirmed in large randomized clinical trials — where many hopes get dashed, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

“Unless we get to the third stage of development, we are cautiously optimistic,” he said.

According the clinic’s statement released Wednesday:

“In a proof of principle clinical trial, Mayo Clinic researchers have demonstrated that virotherapy — destroying cancer with a virus that infects and kills cancer cells but spares normal tissues — can be effective against the deadly cancer multiple myeloma. …

Oncolytic virotherapy — using re-engineered viruses to fight cancer — has a history dating back to the 1950s. Thousands of cancer patients have been treated with oncolytic viruses from many different virus families (herpes viruses, pox viruses, common cold viruses, etc.). However, this study provides the first well-documented case of a patient with disseminated cancer having a complete remission at all disease sites after virus administration.

“What this all tells us is something we never knew before – we never knew you could do this in people,” Russell said. “It’s a very important landmark because now we know it can happen. It’s a game changer. And I think it will drive a development in the field.”

The Star Tribune explained how it works:

“[Viruses] bind to tumors and use them as hosts to replicate their own genetic material; the cancer cells eventually explode and release the virus. Antiviral vaccines that have been rendered safe can produce the same effects and can also be modified to carry radioactive molecules to help destroy cancer cells without causing widespread damage to healthy cells around the tumors. The body’s immune system then attacks any remaining cancer that carries remnants of the vaccine’s genetic imprint.”

Russell said the trial taught the medical researchers two things: “No. 1, you need a really big dose and No. 2, the patient needs to not have an antibody to the virus.”

Russell said the treatment worked in Erholtz, whose tumors were mostly in her bone marrow. However, it was unsuccessful in the other patient, whose tumors were mainly in her leg muscles, the Star-Tribune reported. He said more research is needed to know how the nature of the tumor affects the virus.

For now, once the vaccine has been administered, the body’s immune system will recognize it the second time and attack it. Russell said an upcoming clinical trial will look at breaking down the immune system before treatment.

Also, many people have had the vaccine, though, Russell said patients with myeloma often have weakened immune systems, which can allow the virus to work anyway.

Eventually, this type of technique could become a standardized treatment for cancers such as myeloma or pancreatic cancer, Saab said.

The next step for this method is another clinical trial, which is expected to launch by September, to see if the massive measles dose works on a large number of patients.

Other such trials are going on across the country, such as the NeuVax clinical trial for patients at risk for breast cancer recurrence. Another one, which is run by the Providence Cancer Center, will use bacteria instead of viruses to treat glioblastoma, a type of common brain cancer, according to Medical Daily.

As for Erholtz, her next step is an annual checkup next month, but she’s optimistic.

“We don’t let the cancer cloud hang over our house, let’s put it that way, or we would have lived in the dark the last 10 years,” Erholtz told the Star Tribune. (Contributor: By Lindsey Bever for The Washington Post)

Let us praise God for this medical breakthrough! It is too early to tell whether the patient’s experience will prove to be a single-case phenomenon or whether, in God’s mercy, medical researchers have discovered a regimen that will have widespread application in the treatment of similar tumors. Could this be a further step toward a cancer vaccine? Much more research and testing will be required. Meanwhile, other desperately ill cancer patients will be vulnerable to fraudulent offers of quick “healing” and restoration. Pray for God’s providence to guide and rule in further developments.

“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)

“[It is through the Lord’s mercies we are [all] 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)

 

PORNOGRAPHY FAULTED AS A ROOT OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Washington D.C., May 15, 2014 / 05:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An expert in combating human trafficking urged congressmen last week to focus their efforts against the scourge on reducing the demand for commercialized sex, including pornography.

Laila Mickelwait, manager of policy and public affairs for Exodus Cry, an international anti-human trafficking organization, told CNA May 9 that while it is important to “rescue and rehabilitate” victims of human trafficking, “work of prevention is the most important thing we can do in the fight against the global injustice of sexual slavery.”

She added that preventing people “from ever ending up in those exploited positions” would be “the greater victory.”

The “most critical component of sex trafficking prevention is reducing the demand for commercial sex,” Mickelwait noted.

Mickelwait had spoken at a May 7 presentation, hosted by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R- Ill.), a recently selected member of the Congressional Human Trafficking Task Force,  for congressmen and their staff.

Hultgren noted that the issue of human trafficking “extends even to our own backyards.”

“We cannot turn a blind eye to what’s going on in the shadows, and what is at the root cause of it” he stressed. “Learning about what exacerbates the problem of human trafficking is a difficult topic, but we must address the evidence before us. If we could save one child, one woman, one life, then our efforts would be worth it.”

Mickelwait’s presentation emphasized the enormity of the problem of  human trafficking – an industry that generates over $32 billion in crime each year and includes some 10-30 million people held in some form of “slavery” today, performing  a wide array of tasks including sexual slavery, forced or bonded labor, involuntary domestic service, child soldiering, and organ trafficking.

She added that while several forms of human trafficking occur in developing nations, sex trafficking occurs mostly in developing nations. Victims of sex trafficking are forced into the industry by a variety of means, including online recruitment, romantic interests or family members using their relationship to sell the victims, and abduction.

Mickelwait stressed that connection between the prostitution and sex trafficking industries.

“Sex trafficking and prostitution are linked,” she said, noting the connection between the legalization of prostitution, and an increase in human trafficking in a given area.

“In order to combat sex trafficking we must also reduce demand for prostitution.”

She noted that one of the most effective means of combating human trafficking is to decrease the demand for the commodification of sex. Pointing to Norway and Sweden, which have enacted laws “criminalizing the purchase, not the sale, of sex,” she noted the decrease not only in prostitution, but in the number of men who buy sex and a decrease in sex trafficking rates.

In further fighting sex trafficking, Mickelwait argued that laws and policy must focus on combating the “root cause” of pornography, because of its role in creating a demand for sex.

This demand is further commodified in society through advertisements and popular culture.

“Pornography is ubiquitous and self perpetuating,” Mickelwait offered, and results in a system that is “both creating and supplying demand for commercial sex and thus sex trafficking” through its addictive effects on the brain.

In addition, pornography is filmed prostitution and oftentimes human trafficking itself; she warned that victims of human trafficking are often recorded during sexual acts, such as in “live web cam pornography”, and that the growing medium of child pornography is always a form of sexual trafficking.

Quoting a former pornography filmer Donny Pauling, she explained that pornography “is not a whole lot different from human trafficking”, in that “you start seeing people for the amount of money that they could make you.”

Mickelwait also rejected the protection of pornography as a form of free speech, saying the medium is “increasing demand for commercial sex, trafficking through production and distribution and perpetuating a culture of complicity in commodifying women and children’s bodies.”

Liberated

Speaking to the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation on May 16 – the first antipornography and exploitation conference held in 30 years – Laila Mickelwait promoted an upcoming film to be released by Exodus Cry in 2015: Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution will be a feature-length documentary exposing the demand side of prostitution and sex trafficking. The film will answer this question: What kind of society is producing so many men willing to buy a woman or child for sex? Liberated will examine the historical roots of the hyper-sexualized culture in which we live and thoroughly expose the harms of pornography. In searching for a healthy sexuality, Liberated will reveal undiscovered fronts in the war on human trafficking and unexpected hope for victims around the world. (Contributor: By Adelaide Mena for the Catholic News Agency and Exodus Cry)

Just as a disease epidemic requires many doctors, nurses, and other healthcare personnel to gain control and begin saving lives, so the degrading and addicting nature of pornography has invaded American  culture at every level, including Evangelic churches, even among the clergy. While the Internet allows easy access, there are no easy solutions. Some victims confess to addictive bondage equal to that of drugs and alcohol. Will the larger Church embrace repentance, confession, unity, and accountability? Prayer and fasting are two powerful keys. How America needs a return to God.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4)

 

LAX PASSENGERS WARNED OF EMERGING SARS-LIKE VIRUS

Travelers at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and over a dozen other airports nationwide were being warned last Wednesday of the emerging threat of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS).

Posters at airport checkpoints in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego and 16 other U.S. airports have gone up urging passengers to take precautions to avoid the respiratory infection, which originated in the Middle East and has killed an estimated 145 people worldwide.

There is currently no treatment for the SARS-like MERS, which kills about one in three people who contract it, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Health officials are trying to track down around 100 people who may have overlapped with an infected patient at two hospitals in Orlando, Fla., according to CBS News.

Two health care workers at Dr. P. Phillips Hospital who were exposed to the MERS virus by a 44-year-old infected patient both tested negative Wednesday after showing worrisome flu-like symptoms, CBS News reported. Both patients were healthcare workers who live in Saudi Arabia and had been traveling to the U.S., officials said.

The World Health Organization has reported 571 confirmed cases of MERS, including 171 deaths, in 18 countries.

The virus first emerged about two years ago in the Middle East, according to CDC officials. While cases in the United States have been rare and the World Health Organization said the spread of the disease does not constitute a global health emergency, officials want travelers to the Arabian Peninsula to be aware of MERS symptoms that could be mistaken for the flu.

The CDC recommends all travelers to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates monitor their health closely for 14 days after travel and immediately call a doctor if they experience any MERS symptoms, including fever, cough and shortness of breath. (Contributor: CBS Los Angeles)

First, let us give thanks to God for the quick work and cooperation between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization in tracking these isolated cases to prevent the MERS virus from taking hold and spreading widely. Second, continue to pray for God’s mercy and kind providence to keep these two infected patients isolated, as CDC personnel check on all other persons who may have had contact with the patient in Florida. Pray for illumination by the Holy Spirit so that those saved from the disease might give thanks to the Lord.

“In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears.” (Psalm 18:6)

“Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalm 107:15)

 

NEW APP HELPS STROKE VICTIMS REGAIN THEIR VOICE

Cathy Dykeman recognizes the striped animal shown on the virtual flash card in the Name That! application on her tablet. She carefully spells out the word on the brown office table at the University of Northern Iowa’s speech communications center with her finger.

Z … E … B …

Despite successfully spelling it, she cannot say it. The area of her brain that controls speech isn’t the same since she suffered a stroke in 1998. She stumbles on the word. She gives up.

“Zebra,” the voice on the app tells her after she pushes a button.

The 51-year-old Waterloo resident flashes a smile. “I knew that one,” she says.

Dykeman has helped test an app developed by Northern Iowa professor and speech pathologist Angie Burda that helps victims of strokes exercise the speech part of the brain as they recover. The application is part of a growing number of technology-related products making life easier for people with speech disabilities, including victims of strokes and those who stutter.

“After people have a stroke, they have difficulty speaking,” Burda said. “They know they are looking at a cup or a pencil. But they just can’t access that information.”

With the app, patients can test the speech parts of their brain at home, instead of having to wait for appointments with a speech therapist.

Dykeman has met with a therapist in an attempt to build her vocabulary since a night in 1998 that changed her life, when she woke up slurring her speech.

As a human resources manager in Minneapolis, Dykeman lived comfortably with her two kittens.

But that changed one night in 1998, when she woke in a daze. She couldn’t form any words and garbled her speech.

When she called 911, the dispatcher thought she was drunk.

“I was so mad because I didn’t know who I was,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

Doctors told her she had suffered a stroke, which can be caused by blood flow problems or an arterial rupture in the brain.

It often comes with debilitating effects, and Dykeman’s stroke included the disorder known as aphasia, which results from damage to the language parts of the brain.

She also lost the ability to use the right side of her body. When doctors told her, she immediately wondered how she would be able to continue working.

“I can’t work there anymore, I can’t do it,” she thought to herself.

She moved in with her mother, who lives in Waterloo, and soon found Burda.

Speech therapists use semantic feature analysis to help stroke victims regain their speech processes. The method puts information in front of people that leads to connections between objects and actions to help them form words.

For example, a therapist could put a picture of a rocking chair in front of a patient and ask what they are used for. The patient will try to make connections and say the word “sit.”

Burda wanted to find a way to put that into a mobile application. Thanks to a Northern Iowa program that connects professors from different parts of the school, she found someone to build it in 2011.

“So many people now have smartphones and tablets,” she said. “We have 80-year-olds who have iPads. You are providing them the opportunity to improve.”

Students from both the computer science and communication sciences and disorders departments developed the application, with Stephen Hughes, the AppsLab manager at the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at UNI, leading its development.

It joins a growing market of speech therapy applications available in Apple’s App Store. The goal is to sell the product to other speech therapists for use with patients, but Name That! remains available for anyone to download for $4.99.

Once Hughes developed a working version of the app, he and Burda sought a patient willing to experiment with it.

That led to one of Burda’s more dedicated patients, Dykeman, in late 2012. Dykeman had been working with Burda since 2000. But as much as Burda’s guidance helps Dykeman’s recovery, the two only meet for two 50-minute sessions a week.

“Usually, pathologists and their patients are only together for a short period of time,” Burda said. “They can go home, use this app, and hopefully it leads to improved communication down the road.”

Dykeman said she’s seen improvement since she started testing the app. Still, she’s frustrated when words she has known all her life are no longer easily accessible.

She grits her teeth when asked what it feels like to not be able to access the parts of her brain she needs to find those words.

“It makes me so mad,” she said. “I can’t speak sometimes. That’s what I really don’t understand — why I can’t speak.”

Dykeman has accepted that her full-time job is recovering. A filing job at a Waterloo medical office helped her feel better about herself.

That part of recovery is crucial because Dykeman sometimes feels the hurtful words she hears from cashiers or others who wonder what is wrong with her.

“They say, ‘What, are you dumb or weird?’” she said. “But I tell them I had a stroke, and they say ‘Oh, OK.’”

Burda said she enjoys watching patients slowly move toward a semblance of their former life. She hopes the application will supplement therapy sessions enough to help reach that goal.

“The idea has always been to augment the relationship between patient and therapist,” she said. “This is a long-term process. The application is not going to fix it on its own.” (Contributor: Marco Santana for The Des Moines Register and USA Today)

These alerts are to encourage intercessory prayer, but also – when appropriate – praise and worship of Almighty God, our Creator and Redeemer. Today, we urge readers to focus on the wonders and intricacies of God’s creative design in human beings, the one part of creation “made in His image.” The most powerful computer on earth resembles a toy when compared to the human brain, whose full potential cannot be measured because its design and function are too complex. As Charles Wesley wrote, “Changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place, till we cast our crowns before Thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.” Amen!    

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

 

HOLOWHAT?

More than 1 billion people around the globe harbor anti-Semitic feelings, and 35 percent of the population has never heard of the Holocaust, according to a survey from the Anti-Defamation League.

The survey was conducted between July 2013 and February 2014, and is compiled from answers from more than 53,000 interviews conducted in more than 100 countries and territories.

“For the first time we have a real sense of how pervasive and persistent anti-Semitism is today around the world,” ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said.

The survey scores were compiled by asking people to choose between “probably true” and “probably false” for 11 anti-Semitic stereotypes. These stereotypes included “Jews are more loyal to Israel than they are to [the country the surveyed person lives in],” and “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them during the Holocaust.”

Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL National Chair, called some of the levels of anti-Semitism “shocking.”

About 26 percent of those surveyed harbored some kind of anti-Semitic feeling, by answering “probably true” to six or more stereotypes. (Contributor: By Meredith Somers for The Washington Times)

In 1945, when U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower liberated the death camps in Germany at the close of WW II in Europe, he ordered the scenes photographed and filmed, which some thought in poor taste. But he feared (and accurately predicted) that someday, somewhere, someone would say such horrible things never happened. And yet, even with pictorial evidence and eye-witness testimony, some still claim that it was all staged as propaganda. Such is the evil of anti-Semitism and hatred. Pray for truth to prevail and for God’s grace and mercy to heal the reproach Jews still bear and to reveal Jesus Christ as Messiah..   

“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.” (Romans 10:1-4)

 

ONE DAY, YOU’LL GOOGLE THE PHYSICAL WORLD WITH A SCANNER LIKE THIS

Dror Sharon is the co-founder and CEO of Consumer Physics, a Tel Aviv startup trying to fill that gap with a handheld device called Scio. Scio is a scanner, about the size of a flash drive, that can determine the molecular makeup of objects like food and medication.

It emits a beam of light, which you can shine on, say, a piece of fruit. The device will then connect to a smartphone app that reveals the nutritional breakdown of that piece of fruit. It uses near IR spectroscopy, and though it’s long been used in scientific environments, Consumer Physics has miniaturized the technology and made it more practical for consumers. This seemingly small development could have massive implications.

We’re on the cusp of a revolution in internet-connected devices. In the not-too-distant future, the technology we wear on our bodies and spread throughout our homes will know more about our lives than we do. But that future, which companies from Google and Nike to Jawbone and Fitbit are creating, is partly dependent on our ability to make technology ever smaller without sacrificing power. That’s where Scio comes in. What’s most exciting about this technology is not what it can do today. Sure, learning the nutritional breakdown of an apple simply by shining a light on it is a fun party trick, but it isn’t groundbreaking. What’s truly exciting about what Sharon’s team has built is how many technologies and applications can be built on top of it.

“We are going to build the world’s largest database of fingerprints for our physical world and give developers a platform to create new applications,” Sharon says. That’s one key reason why Consumer Physics launched a Kickstarter campaign last month, after already raising venture funding from Khosla Ventures and others. The campaign has been a runaway success. With 33 days to go, Scio has raised more than $1.2 million, far surpassing the $200,000 goal. Kickstarter, says Sharon, is a way to “engage makers, hackers, and folks that could really take this to the next level.”

The Israel Connection

Sharon and his co-founder Damian Goldring met in 1993, when they were standing in the same line at a military recruiting base in Israel. They went through the same military program, received their engineering degrees from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and stayed in touch through the early days of their careers. It wasn’t until 2011, however, when they ran into each other on the beach in Tel Aviv, that they considered building a company together.

At the time, Sharon was working at a venture capital firm, while Goldring was developing technology for smartphone cameras. Both were looking for a new project, and Sharon raised an issue that had been dogging him for years: There was no way to “look up” objects in the physical world.

Thanks to the smartphone camera industry, a tremendous amount of time and money had already been devoted to miniaturizing optics technology. Sharon and Goldring figured they could apply those great technological strides to making a miniature spectrometer, no different from the technology being used in scientific labs around the world. “We both jumped out of nice jobs. We had kids that were several months old, and we said this is what we’re going to do and got started,” Sharon remembers.

The two founders gathered a team of physicists, engineers, data scientists, food technologists, optical design specialists, and others. They took a lean startup approach to prototyping, rapidly shipping new prototypes and killing off old features. The final product, which will begin shipping to Kickstarter backers later this year, works by shining a light on an object at a very specific wavelength. That causes the molecules to vibrate, and the light that’s reflected carries that object’s molecular signature. The Scio app then uses an algorithm to compare that signature to its entire database and provide the end user with the object’s molecular breakdown.

The first Kickstarter backers will be able to analyze plants, foods, and medication using the Scio app, but Sharon is hoping that’s just the beginning. The company has created its own Application Development Kit, and Sharon is looking forward to seeing what comes out of it. He also says that in the not too distant future, people who want access to this type of technology may not even need to own a Scio. “I’m absolutely positive something like this will be built into smartphones, wearables, and internet connected devices,” he says.

Smart Everything

Sharon envisions smart refrigerators that can more accurately determine when food has gone bad, smart pill bottles that know if a drug is counterfeit, smart parking spots that know when you need more air in your tires, and more. He sees applications in agriculture, petrochemicals, and cosmetics, among other things, but he says Consumer Physics will be just one of many companies figuring out the best way to use this technology.

“Finding the appropriate use cases is going to be important,” says William Rosenzweig, managing partner of the science and health-based venture capital firm Physic Ventures, and one of Consumer Physics’ investors. “I’m intrigued and inspired by the fact that you can potentially crowdsource those ideas. An entrepreneur can now choose to create openness on a platform and doesn’t have to think of everything himself.”

Of course, not everyone is convinced this grand experiment will work. As Dr. Oliver Jones of RMIT University’s School of Applied Science recently told CNET, it’s possible that Consumer Physics “sacrificed sensitivity for size.” He said there could be too much guesswork involved in Scio’s predictions, because it has to compare each object’s molecular fingerprint to the rest of its database. That means, it might be making some leaps based on information it’s seen before, and not, in fact, giving users the exact molecular breakdown of the object in hand. “I think the spectra that the instrument generates are not particularly detailed, which is why what comes out is also not that detailed,” Dr. Jones explained.

Chris Harrison, assistant professor of chemistry at San Diego State University, says another issue is that the Scio may not take into account the entire sample it’s testing, and might only measure the object where the light is hitting it. Still, he says, “I think if it does what they claim it does for the price point they’re offering, that’s pretty impressive.”

Sharon, for one, says he expects the initial set of Kickstarter backers to teach him a lot about what still needs to be done. “We’re going to make this for real backers, real customer,” he says. “They’ll get it. They’ll like it or they’ll hate it. But we’ll talk to them.” (Contributor: Issie Lapowsky for Wired Magazine)

As always with these exciting technical stories, our thoughts for prayer go to the question of how the discovery may serve God’s kingdom and the advance of the gospel. If this invention is successful, it will, of course, be a boon for Israel and its Israeli inventors. Beyond that, it appears to have potential to serve mankind in many ways, including medical and health analyses among poor, emerging nations, where modern technology can help missionaries in their work. Pray for God’s glory to be extended through peaceful applications. May the technology first and foremost serve God’s kingdom.

“For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7)

 

CHARACTER IN ‘HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2′ COMES OUT AS GAY

Is the world ready for its first animated gay Viking?

“How to Train Your Dragon 2″ sure hopes so.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2″ opened at the Cannes Film Festival last week with its stars in tow, a big party on the beach, and a life-sized Toothless the Dragon hanging out for photo ops with reporters.

The sequel to its $500 million blockbuster predecessor has a lot to prove, with the kid movie’s star Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) now a young man, and the Vikings vs. dragons conceit of “Dragons 1” rendered effectively moot as the dragons and Vikings have become best of pals.

But not even writer/director Dean DeBlois was able to cook up one of the new movie’s most surprising twists.

Gobber is gay.

“It wasn’t that deliberate. It was an ad-lib that Craig Ferguson added,” DeBlois told FOX411. (The talk show host is the voice of Gobber in the film). “I’d written the line ‘This is why I never married.’ And then he had tagged that on to it.”

Ferguson tagged on ‘That, and one other reason,” seemingly a reference to gay marriage, which has only recently become legal in several states.

“And we all started chuckling and said that’s right, Gobber’s coming out in this movie,” DuBois laughed. “I just love that about Craig. He’s always got just a little extra something for you. I think it’s nice. It’s progressive, it’s honest, and it feels good, so we wanted to keep it.”

The ad-libbed one-liner will now need to be written into Gobber’s role in Part 3, which DuBois says he has just started outlining.

“It does make for an interesting revelation because now, what does that mean, do we shed a little more light on Gobber’s love life?” DeBlois asked.

Featuring more adult themes is nothing new for his “Dragon” series, DuBois says.

“It’s my personal crusade, I want to break down the stigma that animation is just for kids,” he said. “I love “The Empire Strikes Back” as much today as I did when I was a kid. My ambition is to try to create a story that has that kind of reach, that stays with you whether you’re an adult or a kid. In doing so we try to incorporate elements of the story that will speak to the youngest audience members while we’re trying to speak to the adults in the audience as well.”

One audience member who go the Gobber joke? Star Jay Baruchel, who took in a screening.

“Yeah I did. There’s a little – I think it’s open to interpretation,” he told FOX411. “Preaching tolerance in any respect is never a bad thing. I don’t know if drawing a massive amount of attention in the middle of a kid’s movie is, like, necessarily what you should be doing, but listen, if somebody catches it, then good for them.” (Contributor: By Chris Kensler for Fox News)

The trend described here will become more pervasive in the media and throughout the culture. Homosexuality is the new norm, and the world system wants us to accept it. This is no time for apathy or spiritual “napping.” No compromise. Parents and Christian leaders know we must fight for our children in prayer and in teaching them the truth. If we wait until high school, it will be too late to instill a biblical worldview. We must watch and pray, with no respite from the onslaught.  The only way to overcome and stand is through an early presentation of the gospel to every young heart.

“And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, ‘Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.’” (Nehemiah 4:14)

On Watch in Washington May 21, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington May 14, 2014

May 14th, 2014

On Watch in Washington May 14, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS LEGISLATIVE PRAYER AT COUNCIL MEETINGS

A divided Supreme Court ruled last  Monday that legislative bodies such as city councils can begin their meetings with prayer, even if it plainly favors a specific religion.

The court ruled 5 to 4 that Christian prayers said before meetings of an Upstate New York town council did not violate the constitutional prohibition against government establishment of religion; the justices cited history and tradition.

“Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court’s conservative majority.

The ruling reflected a Supreme Court that has become more lenient on how government may accommodate religion in civic life without crossing the line into an endorsement of a particular faith. All nine justices endorsed the concept of legislative prayer, with the four dissenters agreeing that the public forum “need not become a religion-free zone,” in the words of Justice Elena Kagan.

But there was sharp disagreement after that, and the majority ruling could encourage public bodies to give more leeway to religious expression in their ceremonial prayers and less deference to the objections of religious minorities.

The court’s five conservatives said legislative prayers need not be stripped of references to a specific religion — the prayers at issue often invoked Jesus Christ and the resurrection — and said those given the opportunity to pray before legislative meetings should be “unfettered” by what government officials find appropriate.

“Absent a pattern of prayers that over time denigrate, proselytize, or betray an impermissible government purpose, a challenge based solely on the content of a particular prayer will not likely establish a constitutional violation,” Kennedy wrote.

He was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Kagan’s dissent was both narrow — the town could have remedied its problems by finding more religiously diverse prayer-givers, she said — and broad. The First Amendment’s promise, she wrote, is that “every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share in her government.”

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined her.

The decision split the court along its usual ideological divide and, to a lesser extent, by religion. All members of the majority are Catholic, as is Sotomayor. The other dissenters are Jewish.

The case involved the New York town of Greece, just outside Rochester, where the council regularly opened its meetings with a prayer delivered by someone from the community. The speakers were recruited from local houses of worship, which were overwhelmingly Christian.

In fact, every meeting from 1999 to 2007 opened with a Christian prayer, and even after two of the town’s residents filed a lawsuit, only a handful of non-Christians have delivered the invocation.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit found that “the town’s prayer practice must be viewed as an endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint” because the town had not reached out to a more diverse group of prayer-givers or made clear that the prayers did not represent the town’s beliefs.

The Supreme Court decided 30 years ago that state legislatures may begin sessions with an invocation. But the new case asked whether there might need to be different rules for local council meetings, where citizens often come to ask for favorable official action.

The town residents who objected to the prayer practice, Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, also argued that the court’s 1983 decision in Marsh v. Chambers authorized only inclusive, nonsectarian prayers to a “generic God.”

Kennedy began by referring to history: The same founders who wrote the First Amendment — with its prohibition on the establishment of a government religion but also protections for religious liberty — provided money for congressional chaplains, he said.

“Legislative prayer has become part of our heritage and tradition, part of our expressive idiom, similar to the Pledge of Allegiance, inaugural prayer, or the recitation of ‘God save the United States and this honorable Court’ at the opening of this Court’s sessions,” he wrote.

And he said there was no evidence that Greece town council members “allocated benefits and burdens based on participation in the prayer.”

The court’s majority split on how to judge whether prayers amount to coercion of nonbelievers.

“The analysis would be different if town board members directed the public to participate in the prayers, singled out dissidents for opprobrium, or indicated that their decisions might be influenced by a person’s acquiescence in the prayer opportunity,” Kennedy wrote in a part of the opinion joined only by Roberts and Alito.

Thomas and Scalia differed. They said that to the extent coercion is relevant to whether there is a violation of the Constitution’s establishment clause, “it is actual legal coercion that counts.” Peer pressure, they said, is not enough.

Thomas, speaking only for himself, again questioned whether the establishment clause even applies to state and local governments. He allowed that as an initial matter, it “probably prohibits Congress from establishing a national religion.”

Kagan said Greece’s policy violates the norm of religious equality — “the breathtakingly generous constitutional idea that our public institutions belong no less to the Buddhist or Hindu than to the Methodist or Episcopalian.”

She said town hall meetings are different from sessions of legislatures or Congress. They are “occasions for ordinary citizens to engage with and petition their government, often on highly individualized matters.” Such meetings require more sensitivity to the prayers offered before a diverse audience, she said.

But in Greece, she wrote, “month in and month out for over a decade, prayers steeped in only one faith, addressed toward members of the public, commenced meetings to discuss local affairs and distribute government benefits.”

She compared it — using the text of some of the prayers offered before the council’s meetings — to the idea of a judge inviting a minister to open a hearing with a prayer about “the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ” or an election official reciting the Lord’s Prayer before opening the polls.

“I would hold that the government officials responsible for the above practices — that is, for prayer repeatedly invoking a single religion’s beliefs in these settings — crossed a constitutional line,” Kagan wrote. “I have every confidence the Court would agree.”

The decision was not unexpected. The court’s precedent in Marsh — in which the justices said Nebraska had not violated the Constitution by employing a Presbyterian minister for 16 years to lead the legislature in prayer — paved the way.

Still, those who favor a strict separation of church and state said Monday’s decision was an expansion.

“The rule announced by the Court today authorizes elected officials or clergy to give sectarian prayers in the name of Jesus, Hashem, Allah or any other deity before Congress, state legislatures, or local town boards,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement. “The religiously divisive implications of this new rule are troubling in any of these contexts, however it is particularly disturbing at the local level.”

But David Cortman, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, praised the ruling.

“Opening public meetings with prayer is a cherished freedom that the authors of the Constitution themselves practiced,” he said. “Speech censors should have no power to silence volunteers who pray for their communities just as the Founders did.”

Those divisions were apparent on the court as well.

Alito wrote a concurring opinion just to respond to Kagan. He said he was troubled by her “rhetoric and its highly imaginative hypotheticals.”

He said that if what Kagan perceives as Greece’s constitutional problems could be solved simply with more nonsectarian prayers and greater religious diversity, “the dissent’s objection, in the end, is really quite niggling.”

Kagan responded that if Alito thinks her objection is “really quite niggling,” that “says all there is to say about the difference between our respective views.” Read the Official Supreme Court Opinion on this case <Click Here>    (Contributor: By Robert Barnes for The Washington Post)

Pray that Christians will respond to the Court’s 5-4 decision with divine wisdom. Yes, we give thanks for the Court’s vote favorable to public prayer in council meetings, but with caution. This decision is no “mandate” in favor of Christian prayers. Our freedoms do not come from human government but from the Creator. Pray also for widespread spiritual awakening that will bring many to repentance and faith in Christ. Pray for a national focus on the true “Author of liberty.” All nations that repudiate a proper recognition of Deity eventually become insignificant. Pray accordingly.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:25, 33)

“To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:20)

 

COURT: ‘UNDER GOD’ IN PLEDGE DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE AGAINST ATHEISTS

The Pledge of Allegiance does not discriminate against atheists and can be recited at the start of the day in public schools, Massachusetts’ highest court ruled Friday.

The Supreme Judicial Court said the words “under God” in the pledge reflect patriotic practice, not a religious one. The court acknowledged that the wording has a “religious tinge” but said it is fundamentally patriotic and voluntary.

The court was ruling in a lawsuit filed in 2010 by an atheist family from Acton who claimed that the daily recitation of the pledge in classrooms violated their three children’s equal protection rights under the state constitution, which protects against discrimination. The family was not identified in the lawsuit.

The phrase “under God,” which was added to the pledge in 1954, has been the subject of numerous lawsuits over the years. (Contributor: By Robert Barnes for The Washington Post)

How far will this go? Federal buildings in Washington, DC, including the Supreme Court, are adorned with biblical symbols, from “In God We Trust” to images of the Ten Commandments and a statue of Moses. Now, Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court has rightly ruled against an atheist family’s attempt to remove “under God” from the pledge. As Christians, we do not judge the atheist family, but the Bible calls unbelief in God as Creator “foolish” and “evil.” Pray for them as you are led.

“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Proverbs 14:1)

“And the way of peace [unbelievers] have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:17-18)

“Beware … lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.” (Heb 3:12)

 

CITIZENSHIP CEREMONY CANCELED OVER BANNING OF OPENING PRAYER

A New Jersey town has canceled a naturalization ceremony at its borough hall because federal immigration officials refused to let the event begin with a prayer.

Carteret Mayor Daniel Reiman said he had requested that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services relocate the Saturday ceremony, which will now be held in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Newark office.

Katie Tichacek Kaplan, a spokeswoman for the immigration agency, said it’s a long-standing policy to make sure naturalization ceremonies are “conducted in a meaningful manner which is welcoming and inclusive and excludes political, commercial and religious statements.”

Both Reiman and immigration officials cited Monday’s Supreme Court opinion affirming the right of local governments to include certain prayers in official proceedings. Reiman said the ruling means he should be able to open any event at city hall with a prayer and a moment of silence. The citizenship agency said the high court’s ruling does not mean federal agencies are required to include prayers as part of their ceremonies.

Carteret is a central New Jersey borough of about 24,000 residents just west of Staten Island. (Contributor: Associated Press and The Washington Post)

These stories continue to pop up as the U.S. moves further away from its biblical roots and Christian heritage. The issue is not an individual bureaucrat but a trend. Pray that God stir up righteous anger in His people against the stealing of our national heritage. It is difficult for intercessors to face the harsh fact that we are no longer a Christian nation. Indeed, many national leaders show no regard for biblical truth. Let us call upon God, in Jesus’ name, to revive His Church, bringing renewal and unity among believers to stem the tide of unbelief and reassert our country’s biblical roots.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:9-10)

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire…. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.” (Heb 12:28-29; 13:14)

 

THE BENGHAZI PROBE DIDN’T HAVE TO COME TO THIS

Many Democrats have a hard time understanding why Republicans want to keep investigating the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi.”

Some see the GOP trying to score partisan points for this November’s midterms. Others see a plot to undermine Hillary Clinton’s 2016 prospects. Still others see Republican psychosis, the Benghazi variant of Obama Derangement Syndrome.

In fact, the Benghazi controversy, rather than being an all-out political war, is a limited conflict in which some parts of the administration have cooperated with Congress while others haven’t.

Republican sources on Capitol Hill say that in general, the Pentagon’s cooperation has been a model of how to deal with such an investigation, while the State Department and White House have been models of what not to do.

If the rest of the administration had followed the military’s example, the Benghazi controversy would likely be over by now.

The probe started with three questions. One, was the U.S. adequately prepared for possible trouble abroad on the anniversary of Sept. 11?

Two, did the government do everything it could to try to rescue the Americans who were under attack for seven and a half hours?

And three, did the Obama administration tell the straight story about what happened?

Responsibility for answering the first and third questions fell heavily on the State Department and the White House.

In general, their response has been incomplete, unreliable, confrontational, and deeply frustrating for investigators trying to piece together the Benghazi puzzle.

But responsibility for answering the second question, about the immediate response to the attack, fell mostly to the Pentagon. And that has been an entirely different story.

The military side of the investigation was done mostly by the House Armed Services Committee. The interim report from majority Republicans on the committee, released in February, found that the military response to Benghazi was severely hampered because every significant U.S. military asset was out of position to respond on Sept. 11.

Nevertheless, the committee concluded the Pentagon did everything it could with what it had on that ugly night.

“The regional and global force posture assumed by the military on Sept. 11, 2012, limited the response,” committee Republicans wrote.

Given that, the investigators said, “members have not yet discerned any response alternatives that could have likely changed the outcome of the Benghazi attack.”

Interviewing sources up and down the chain of command, Republicans went over all the military options that were activated or considered to aid the Americans under attack: two FAST platoons of Marines in Spain; a group called the Commander’s In-Extremis Force, in Croatia; a special operations unit based in the U.S.; a fighter jet flyover; an armed drone; and more.

The GOP lawmakers came away satisfied that they saw everything; for example, when they asked whether AC-130 gunships could have been used, the Pentagon provided the location of every single AC-130 in the U.S. fleet at that time.

Another example was the possibility of a flyover. Even with other U.S. forces out of place, many lawmakers wondered whether American fighter jets could have buzzed the scene at Benghazi, possibly distracting and scattering the terrorists.

Air Force officials carefully walked the committee through every option that was available, and the factors — capacity for refueling, overflight permissions, nighttime guidance, the prevalence of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles in Libya, and more — that went into the decision not to scramble the jets.

After much thought and investigation, committee Republicans concluded a flyover “would probably have been ineffective” and that the Pentagon’s decision “makes sense.”

In the end, Republicans had few, if any, complaints about the military’s cooperation. “They were very responsive,” says a GOP committee aide.

“There wasn’t a witness we weren’t allowed to talk to. There was never an inappropriate delay in providing the documents we wanted to see. Their response was, as far as we’re concerned, timely and complete.”

What a contrast to the rest of the Obama administration. First, there was the attempt to blame the attack on outrage over an anti-Muslim Internet video — a claim that was quickly discounted by everyone who has investigated the matter.

Then the State Department conducted an internal review that seemed designed, in part, to build a firewall around then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Then the administration failed to make available a single witness who was actually on the ground in Benghazi the night of the attack.

And recently, of course, Republican complaints that the administration has withheld documents were dramatically confirmed by revelations of emails the administration failed to produce to Congress.

The administration’s stance long ago exhausted whatever patience existed among Hill Republicans. Members are “really tired of getting jerked around,” another aide said recently. That’s a succinct explanation for the creation of the new select committee.

But it didn’t have to be that way. The rest of the administration could have cooperated like the Defense Department. If it had, Washington would be talking about something else now. Instead, the fight goes on. (Contributor: Byron York for The Washington Examiner)

The Benghazi “incident” – two years old in September – is still unexplained. A bipartisan coalition in Congress has agreed that the truth can no longer be ignored. The attack that killed four Americans, including an ambassador, remains hidden under a cloak of deception, with no responsibility or accountability. The continued cover-up is an insult to the American public and an egregious injury to the families of the victims. Pray for a resolution to come swiftly. It remains a dark blot on our national conscience. Intercede for the light of truth to enter. May God’s Spirit arouse a public call for closure.

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)

“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”  (Prov 28:13)

 

STATES’ MOVES ON MARIJUANA LEAVE LAWMAKERS DAZED AND CONFUSED

Capitol Hill lawmakers are dazed and confused when it comes to dealing with the growing number of states legalizing marijuana use, which has created a glaring conflict with federal statutes outlawing cannabis as a Schedule I drug — the classification for the most dangerous controlled substances.

“I’m not aware that Congress is doing anything,” said Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, Oregon Democrat. “I don’t think anybody wants to wade into it.”

A couple of dozen House lawmakers are backing bipartisan legislation that would suspend federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized the drug, but the effort has stalled in committee. Most Republicans are urging the Obama administration to strictly enforce federal laws and crack down on the surge in legalization.

“Congress hasn’t legalized any marijuana, and we should not. We have an executive branch that needs to be enforcing the current law, and they are not doing that,” said Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican.

The Democrat-run Senate is steering clear of the marijuana issue.

Attempts by The Washington Times to broach the subject with several senators were quickly rebuffed, including by Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, one of the most liberal Democrats, and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, one of the most conservative Republicans.

Meanwhile, states are in a steady procession to decriminalize or legalize marijuana use.

Medical marijuana has been legalized in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Sixteen states have decriminalized possession of the drug, and two states — Washington and Colorado — have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Florida could become the next state to legalize medical marijuana when the issue is put before voters in November.

“The White House and members of Congress are playing a very expensive and dangerous game of chicken; both branches have the authority to initiate a change to marijuana’s currently scheduling, but neither seem to want to be the first to act,” said Erik Altieri, spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

A House subcommittee attempted to delve into the legal morass of policing marijuana laws, including enforcement of laws on federal property and congressional veto power over D.C. ordinances, but only a handful of lawmakers showed up at the hearing Friday.

“African-Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for possession,” said Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting congressional representative. She testified in defense of the city’s recently adopted law to decriminalize marijuana possession.

Congress has until July to exercise its power to overturn the D.C. law, which would reduce the charge for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana to a civil infraction with a $25 fine.

Subcommittee Chairman John L. Mica, Florida Republican, held up a fake joint to illustrate the conflict over policing marijuana laws. He joked that his staff rolled it because “they have more experience.”

If the D.C. law takes effect, holding a marijuana joint on Capitol Hill would expose Mr. Mica to federal penalties of up to a year in jail and not less than a $1,000 fine because he was on federal property.

The Justice Department has instructed state attorneys general not to enforce federal marijuana laws that conflict with state laws except in eight specific areas, including on federal property such as national parks and federal buildings. Thus, in Colorado, a person could be arrested for smoking marijuana in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Nearly one-quarter of the District is federal property, and the city is home to 26 federal agencies responsible for law enforcement. “It isn’t a truly local matter,” Mr. Mica said.

A bill introduced last year with bipartisan support would state that federal cannabis laws could not interfere in states where medical marijuana is legal. Another bill would legalize marijuana nationally by removing it from the schedule of controlled dangerous substances.

The House Judiciary Committee shelved both proposals.

The House last month shot down bipartisan legislation that would have allowed Department of Veterans Affairs doctors in states with legal medical marijuana to discuss the drug with patients. Supporters celebrated it as a sign of progress because the 222-195 vote was relatively narrow and included the support of 22 Republicans. (Contributor:  By S.A. Miller for The Washington Times)

The news accounts in our mid-week alerts (called The Informer) are intended to reflect national trends. We remind readers that our prayer focus is suggestive, not directive. The purpose here is to point out the confusion resulting when a dangerous drug, howbeit with some medicinal benefit, is turned into a “political football” to be kicked around with motives other than to create good law for public safety. Intercessors will see through the sham and confusion to pray for a national return to God’s principles of governance. The high road is to pray for revival and spiritual awakening.    

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put
bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”
(Isaiah 5:20)

“If the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?” (1 Cor 14:8)

 

SHOW US THE DRONE MEMOS

I believe that killing an American citizen without a trial is an extraordinary concept and deserves serious debate. I can’t imagine appointing someone to the federal bench, one level below the Supreme Court, without fully understanding that person’s views concerning the extrajudicial killing of American citizens.

But President Obama is seeking to do just that. He has nominated David J. Barron, a Harvard law professor and a former acting assistant attorney general, to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

While he was an official in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, Mr. Barron wrote at least two legal memos justifying the execution without a trial of an American citizen abroad. Now Mr. Obama is refusing to share that legal argument with the American people.

On April 30, I wrote to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, urging him to delay this nomination, pending a court-ordered disclosure of the first memo I knew about. Since that letter, I have learned more. The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to all senators on May 6, noting that in the view of the Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, “there are at least eleven OLC opinions on the targeted killing or drone program.” It has not been established whether Mr. Barron wrote all those memos, but we do know that his controversial classified opinions provided the president with a legal argument and justification to target an American citizen for execution without a trial by jury or due process.

I believe that all senators should have access to all of these opinions. Furthermore, the American people deserve to see redacted versions of these memos so that they can understand the Obama administration’s legal justification for this extraordinary exercise of executive power. The White House may invoke national security against disclosure, but legal arguments that affect the rights of every American should not have the privilege of secrecy.

I agree with the A.C.L.U. that “no senator can meaningfully carry out his or her constitutional obligation to provide ‘advice and consent’ on this nomination to a lifetime position as a federal appellate judge without being able to read Mr. Barron’s most important and consequential legal writing.” The A.C.L.U. cites the fact that in modern history, a presidential order to kill an American citizen away from a battlefield is unprecedented.

The Bill of Rights is clear. The Fifth Amendment provides that no one can be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The Sixth Amendment provides that “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury,” as well as the right to be informed of all charges and have access to legal counsel. These are fundamental rights that cannot be waived with a presidential pen.

In battle, combatants engaged in war against America get no due process and may lawfully be killed. But citizens not in a battlefield, however despicable, are guaranteed a trial by our Constitution.

No one argues that Americans who commit treason shouldn’t be punished. The maximum penalty for treason is death. But the Constitution specifies the process necessary to convict.

Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen who was subject to a kill order from Mr. Obama, and was killed in 2011 in Yemen by a missile fired from a drone. I don’t doubt that Mr. Awlaki committed treason and deserved the most severe punishment. Under our Constitution, he should have been tried — in absentia, if necessary — and allowed a legal defense. If he had been convicted and sentenced to death, then the execution of that sentence, whether by drone or by injection, would not have been an issue.

But this new legal standard does not apply merely to a despicable human being who wanted to harm the United States. The Obama administration has established a legal justification that applies to every American citizen, whether in Yemen, Germany or Canada.

Defending the rights of all American citizens to a trial by jury is a core value of our Constitution. Those who would make exceptions for killing accused American citizens without trial should give thought to the times in our history when either prejudice or fear allowed us to forget due process. During World War I, our nation convicted and imprisoned Americans who voiced opposition to the war. During World War II, the government interned Japanese-Americans.

The rule of law exists to protect those who are minorities by virtue of their skin color or their beliefs. That is why I am fighting this nomination. And I will do so until Mr. Barron frankly discusses his opinions on executing Americans without trial, and until the American people are able to participate in one of the most consequential debates in our history. (Contributor: Senator Rand Paul to The New York Times)

We remind readers that this item is Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s opinion piece from The New York Times, May 11. The disclaimer is important because Intercessors for America (IFA) does not “take sides” politically. We try to speak from a biblical perspective, and as we pray for those in authority, starting with President Obama, we firmly believe God’s plan for America includes a return to the Constitution’s “checks and balances” for officials to display accountability. With the power of drones as instruments of execution, the rule of law is critically important. Pray accordingly.

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

 “It is a joy for the just to do justice, but destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.” (Prov 21:15)   

 

THE FUTURE OF IMPLANTED COMPUTERS

Imagine a world where people buy products at the store by waving a hand near a sensor, [read Revelation 13:16-18] where people “think” up a business report at work rather than typing one up, and where an augmented-reality gets projected in front of our eyes with specialty contact lenses. These ideas are closer to reality than you may realize.

It was only the 1980s and 1990s when science fiction movies portrayed people using handheld devices to navigate city streets or pinpoint one’s own location on Earth. These movies had characters who would state questions to a disembodied computer, which would intelligently provide the answers. They showed families having video-chat calls using flat-panel displays that made the tech geeks of the 1980′s drool.

In barely three decades, many of the things that science fiction writers could only imagine have become reality. Had someone predicted that these technologies would become reality this quickly, they would have been laughed at. Today, no one is laughing.

With the current trend of technical innovation and advancement, now is a good time to explore the state of the art in computer-human technologies, to try and gauge what the world may look like in the next 20 or 30 years.

Implanted Microchip ID

In 1998, British scientist Kevin Warwick had himself implanted with an RFID transmitter to prove out the concept of controlling doors, lights and other devices simply by walking nearby. By 2000, Warwick was able to interface his implant with his own nervous system, allowing him to remotely control a robotic arm. This experiment was detailed in a February 2000 Wired article.

Yes, the technology was real and quite viable back the, and by 2004 the FDA had approved VeriChip, the branded computer chip implant manufactured by Applied Digital Solutions, to be used for medical purposes.

RFID Chips

While one would expect the ability to implant a rice-sized RFID device just under the skin of a human to spark a proliferation of products and services enabling card-free and paper-free human identification in places like hospitals, bars and for store purchases – that isn’t at all what happened.

In fact, the backlash was tremendous. Privacy advocates raised alarms about the ability for hackers to intercept someone’s RFID signal and duplicate the device in order to steal someone’s identity (a real concern)…

The public outcry against the technology was so great that PositiveID, the company that owned the VeriChip brand in 2010, discontinued all marketing for the product. The public simply was not ready to embrace widespread implanted identification….

Cochlear Implants

These devices have external processors that is held to the under-the-skin implant by a magnet. The processor transfers audio signals to the implant, which then transmits those signals to an electrode array that gets surgically inserted deep into the cochlear itself.  The implant bypasses that part of the cochlear that doesn’t work, and electrically stimulates the nerve fibers to reproduce the sounds.

Today, this kind of surgery seems pretty invasive and extreme, but imagine the day when wireless technologies allow a person to have a single implant inserted into the cochlear, and then a transmitter worn anywhere on the body, or implanted somewhere on the ear itself, could transmit sound directly to the cochlear without any wire necessary.

Seem far fetched? It’s not. Just this year, MIT researchers developed a new microchip that could be implanted into the ear, which could use sensors to detect ossicle vibrations in the inner ear, convert those to an electrical signal, and send that to the electrode inserted into the cochlea. By lowering the power needs of the device, the researchers proposed that the device could be recharged wirelessly, removing the need for the hardware mounted externally on the skull!

In other words, the day of the undetectable bionic ear is here.

Contact Lenses – Bionic Eyes

Google Glasses is all the rage these days, but the real allure of this technology is the concept of augmenting human vision with external information. The idea of wearing a pair of gaudy glasses to accomplish this seems tolerable to many tech geeks, but how cool would it be to simply slip on a pair of contact lenses that accomplish the same thing, but only requiring a really cool-looking pair of shades?

This is exactly what a company by the name of Innovega introduced at CES 2014. That is, a contact lens that basically allows the light of a projected digital image to be superimposed upon the regular light of your normal vision, resulting in a “single integrated image”.

The contact lens “tricks” the eye so that it can see a high resolution, large field-of-view display overlaying your regular vision. It’s clearly the cutting edge of augmented reality technology, and if successful it will finally allow people to see high-resolution digital images and content in a way that Google Glasses just doesn’t offer yet.

Who the winners will be in these arena is not totally clear just yet, but one thing that’s for certain is that visual augmented reality is something that promises to completely transform the world, so long as the devices and the technology can be integrated with the human body in a way that is unobtrusive and tolerable.

The Mind-Machine Connection

When I first heard about the mind-control game called Mindflex, I was initially disgusted. I’ve spent years writing about the pseudoscience behind all sorts of psychic claims, and here is a game being marketed to children as a “mind control” device. My first reaction was to try and debunk the device.

Wasn’t I surprised to learn that Mattel was one of the first companies clever enough to integrate of EEG-style brain-wave reading technology into a game. In 2010, three neuroscientists tested the device to confirm it really works, and posted the video to YouTube.

The game really only detects the level of your brain waves which reflects your mental focus. The sharper your mental focus, the faster a fan turns, which in turn elevates a foam ball. It isn’t quite mind control, but it’s about as close as modern technology can get.

This may seem like it’s just a game to improve your brain fitness, but is this actually a sign of more amazing devices to come? I think so, yes. In fact, a clue that this is happening came at the end of 2013 when University of Washington researchers sent one person’s brain signal over the Internet, and used that signal to control the gross motor actions of a second person’s hand at the other end of the UW campus.

The second scientist wore a specially designed cap with a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil placed directly over the part of his motor cortex responsible for hand movement. The brain wave “trigger” worked, and the second scientist’s hand moved in what he described later as a “nervous tic”.

The experiment highlights what the Mattel brain game had already proved – that brain waves can be measured and used to manipulate the world, without anything more than the power of your mind. The only question that remains now is how this new use of EEG technology will further integrate humans with the computers that we love so much. (Contributor: Ryan Dube for MakeUseOf.com)

Only a few years ago, this article would represent science fiction. We have entertained the question in these alerts before: where is all the technology going, and what will be the result of man’s discoveries if not guided by God’s principles? Lucifer’s quest was, “I shall be like the Most High.” At Babel, the goal was building a tower “to heaven.” In both cases, God stepped in with direct, divine judgment. Depending on man’s motives, technology will serve a people or it will rule them to their destruction. Let us pray with God’s sovereignty and supremacy in view.

[Paul prayed that the saints’] “hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col 2:2-3)

 

THE FLOODGATES OF IMMORALITY COMING INTO SPORTS

The floodgates of immorality have increased dramatically in sports. An NFL team has drafted an open homosexual player, the USA Olympic Committee is promoting homosexuality, and Nike is funding a gay marriage political action committee (PAC) in Oregon.

The St. Louis Rams selected Michael Sam in the seventh round of the NFL draft. After being selected, Sam kissed his gay lover on ESPN in celebration.

Before the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the US Olympic Committee passed a non-discrimination policy to promote homosexuality. During the Games, President Obama sent a delegation of former athletes to Sochi who were gay.

In the fall of 2013, Nike founded a PAC to promote gay marriage in Oregon. The PAC was launched with $280,000.

Nike has supported homosexual causes in the past. They were instrumental in supporting Oregon’s domestic partnership law. Nike filed a “friend of the court” brief urging the Supreme Court to force the federal government to recognize gay marriage.

Additionally, Nike gives preference to homosexual suppliers. They give spousal benefits and adoption assistance to homosexual employees. Plus, they cover sex-change operations.

“There has always been sinners in sports as sports is a reflection of society. However, the floodgates of immorality have dramatically increased over the last few years,” says 4 WINDS President Steve McConkey. “Sports people throughout the world are caving into the homosexual agenda.”

4 WINDS is a Christian ministry working with all sports. The ministry used to work with track and field athletes only, but recently changed to all sports.

Steve McConkey and his wife started in world-class track and field ministries in 1981 and has continued for a total of thirty-three years. 4 WINDS has not abandoned track and field, but has expanded to all sports.

4 WINDS encourages Christian athletes and coaches to draw closer to the Lord by working with churches that teach the Bible clearly.

Parents should ask questions while their kids are being recruited to universities. Many universities are promoting open homosexual programs in their athletic departments. One such program is called “You Can Play.” (Contributor: Steve McConkey for Christian Newswire and 4 Winds – Steve McConkey is the President of 4 WINDS. Steve and his wife started working in world-class track and field ministries in 1981. 4 WINDS expanded to all sports in 2014. Steve has a Masters of Public Health from Western Kentucky University and a BS-Public Health from Minnesota State University.)

American Christians following the trends in the news and with changing laws see our beloved nation moving further and further from once-normal principles of nature and of nature’s God. Deviant lifestyles, practiced only privately a few years ago, are now celebrated publicly, with no end in sight in a society moving far beyond decency and restraint. Is there no limit to human wickedness and rebellion to God’s ways? Sadly, there is not, except for divine intervention. Let us pray with contrite hearts for extended mercy and a return to the Lord, before His appointed day of judgment.

“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions.” (Romans 1:22-26)

 

PLANNED PARENTHOOD: IT’S YOUR CALL WHEN TO TELL PARTNER YOU HAVE HIV? REALLY?

A Planned Parenthood’s “Healthy, Happy, and Hot” brochure aimed at young people with HIV says that “Young people living with HIV have the right to decide if, when, and how to disclose their HIV status,” and “You know best if and when it is safe for you to disclose our status.”

The brochure also called various laws that require an HIV positive person to disclose their status to a partner a “violation of rights.”

In October, police in Missouri arrested an HIV positive college student who had engaged in unprotected sex with more than 30 partners, infecting at least one with HIV. He had previously told his partners that he was disease-free.

While all human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their HIV status, it is absolutely absurd to suggest to people that informing their partner that they have a very serious disease is merely a personal choice. While the risk of transmission may be quite small if proper steps are taken, it still isn’t right to keep one’s partner in the dark about any potential risks. Hurt feelings aren’t a terminal condition–but HIV is.

View the PDF brochure <Click Here!> (Contributor: Christine Rousselle for Town Hall)

This needs no comment, as it is its own call to prayer. Once again, Planned Parenthood shows its ongoing wicked campaign to exploit the nation’s youth (at tax-payer expense, by the way) and assist in spreading disease and destruction, along with the methodical killing of unborn babies. As such, it represents the one who comes to kill, steal, and destroy. Pray as led for righteous lawmakers to act swiftly and decisively to shut these doors once and for all.

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I [Jesus Christ] have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

On Watch in Washington May 14, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington May 7, 2014

May 7th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recent Developments Reveal Serious Decline

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

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

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

Three things are in play.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

SUPREME COURT ALLOWS PRAYERS AT TOWN MEETINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CONGRESS’S CHANCE TO FIX AIRCRAFT CARRIER DRONES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

PANEL APPROVES TROOP REDUCTIONS, NOT BENEFIT CUTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

DON’T TUNE OUT THE NEWEST BENGHAZI DEVELOPMENTS

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

Why is Benghazi important to Americans?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

UN: SPREAD OF POLIO NOW A WORLD HEALTH EMERGENCY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CDC CONFIRMS FIRST CASE OF MERS VIRUS IN AMERICAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

THE GROWING BOKO HARAM CARNAGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this tell us?

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

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

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

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

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

No time to act

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

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

But that doesn’t mean we should be complacent.

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

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

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

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

Beware of fear fatigue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Watch in Washington April 30, 2014

April 29th, 2014

On Watch in Washington April 30, 2014 PDF Plain Text Version

NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER MAY 1

” . . . with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:6)

The mission of the National Day of Prayer Task Force is to mobilize prayer in America and to encourage personal repentance and righteousness in the culture.

HISTORY – The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. Our Task Force is a privately funded organization whose purpose is to encourage participation on the National Day of Prayer. It exists to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, to create appropriate materials, and to mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America’s leaders and its families. The Task Force represents a Judeo Christian expression of the national observance, based on our understanding that this country was birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible.

The National Day of Prayer is a vital part of our heritage. Since the first call to prayer in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonies to pray for wisdom in forming a nation, the call to prayer has continued through our history, including President Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of “humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in 1863. In 1952, a joint resolution by Congress, signed by President Truman, declared an annual national day of prayer. In 1988, the law was amended and signed by President Reagan, permanently setting the day as the first Thursday of every May. Each year, the president signs a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day. Last year, all 50 state governors plus the governors of several U.S. territories signed similar proclamations.

Historical Summary
1775 – The first Continental Congress called for a National Day of Prayer
1863 – Abraham Lincoln called for such a day.
1952 – Congress established NDP as an annual event by a joint resolution, signed into law by President Truman (82-324)
1988 – The law was amended and signed by President Reagan, designating the NDP as the first Thursday in May (100-307).  To view the historical timeline of the National Day of Prayer, please go here.

The National Day of Prayer is Ours – The National Day of Prayer belongs to all Americans. It is a day that transcends differences, bringing together citizens from all backgrounds. Mrs. Shirley Dobson, NDP chairman, reminds us: “We have lost many of our freedoms in America because we have been asleep. I feel if we do not become involved and support the annual National Day of Prayer, we could end up forfeiting this freedom, too.”

National Day of Prayer 2014 – The National Day of Prayer . . . is a call to all of God’s people to unite in prayer in one voice and one mind (Romans 15:6). It is a concept that was birthed in Scripture when the prophets Ezra and Joel (Ezra 9, Nehemiah 8-9, and Joel 1-3) called for the people to unite in humility and reverence before Almighty God. In fact 2 Chronicles 6:13-42 records that all of Israel gathered together to worship and pray unto God. Although the calendar dates have changed, the need for prayer has not. Let us unite on the largest Solemn Assembly in U.S. History and glorify the Lord, remembering that we are one nation, UNDER GOD.

HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE – This week Americans will observe the 63rd National Day of Prayer on Thursday, May 1, 2014. Tens of thousands of NDP events are being planned, all across the nation. To find an event near you, please visit the NDP website by going here. Simply type in your own city, state and zip code, and you will find an NDP event taking place near you.  (Contributor: National Day of Prayer Task Force and Capitol Hill Prayer Partners)

Readers of these midweek Alerts will be well aware of the 2014 National Day of Prayer (May 1) and will have already made their own arrangements for participation, either in Washington DC or in their own cities and towns. Let us pray with one heart and one spirit for large-scale participation, as our nation is called back to God, and Christians are encouraged to persevere in unified intercession.

“…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints….” (Eph 6:18)

 

THE NATIONAL DAY OF REPENTANCE  APRIL 30

Today, we will be observing the National Day of Repentance. The following day, May 1, is The National Day of Prayer in the United States. These two incredibly significant events during a 48 hour period will open up a “window” for the Body of Christ especially in the United States, but also in other nations to repent and return to our Godly roots. This process is set forth clearly in 2 Chronicles 7: 14, where the Lord says to Solomon and to us today.

“If My People, 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, forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Repentance is more than a concept but a unique privilege from the Lord to come into His Presence and to grow in His holiness. (Hebrews 3:14; 1 Peter 1: 15-16). It is simple to participate with us on April 30th-May 1st. Please prayerfully consider choosing one of the following options:

1) Locate and be a part of a group repentance service*
2) Hold your own personal Bible Study
3) Or, simply seek the Lord in your prayer closet as the Holy Spirit leads you.

We recommend that prayer, fasting and repentance (personally, for your family and for your nation) be an integral part of this time period

God willing, we will be joined by approximately 1,400 other powerfully praying Intercessors in Christ from another 30 nations who—at some time that day in their own time zones–will be repenting, fasting and praying with us that day, focusing on the USA. The National Day of Prayer & Fasting in Australia has been especially supportive in global conference calls to get the news out about this worldwide repentance experience. Our deepest prayer is that it will not only bless each of us individually, but also continue to build unity in the Body of Christ. The Bride of Christ is awakening and purifying herself for His soon return!

Nehemiah sets a great example of the power of repentance. Before the Lord anointed him to return to Jerusalem to repair the walls Nehemiah confessed his own sins, his families’ sins, and the sins of his nation. (Nehemiah 1: 5-6).

A remarkable anointing then accompanied Nehemiah to do the Lord’s work!

And the Risen Christ Himself, because He loves each of us so much, urges us not to be lukewarm (Revelation 3: 15-18) but to be zealous to repent (Revelation 3:19) to become an overcomer to sit with Him on His throne (Revelation 3:21). Remarkably, He loves us so much that He is now knocking on the door, asking us to let Him in to “dine” with us as He knocks on the door of our hearts. (Revelation 3:20).

Today, April 30th could you spend even ten minutes with the Holy Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ (Yeshua the Messiah)? He will forgive the sins that you confess and He will support you in any step you take to repent and turn away from the world and the flesh. Ask him to help you renounce any pattern of sin in His Holy Name and under His shed blood. As you exercise your free will to REPENT, you will not only be growing in His Holiness, you will experience a newness, a freedom, a joy, and deeper intimacy with your Creator that will be remarkable.

We at NDR look forward to joining with you through the Holy Spirit today April 30th!

Please pass the word to your friends to join us. And we would love to hear of your experience.

God Bless You!,
Pastor Jeff Daly

jdalylaw@aol.com National Day of Repentance www.dayofrepentance.org

For more information about the National Day of Repentance, please go here.

This exhortation from Pastor Daly needs no embellishment. Let us all respond as God’s Spirit leads us. As spoken by Jesus at the start of His public ministry (Matt 4:17) and by Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38), the first word of the gospel is “Repent ….”

“From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”    (Matthew 4:17)

 

SUPREME COURT TAKES ON PRIVACY IN DIGITAL AGE

Two Supreme Court cases about police searches of cellphones without warrants present vastly different views of the ubiquitous device.

Is it a critical tool for a criminal or is it an American’s virtual home?

How the justices answer that question could determine the outcome of the cases being argued Tuesday. A drug dealer and a gang member want the court to rule that the searches of their cellphones after their arrest violated their right to privacy in the digital age.

The Obama administration and California, defending the searches, say cellphones are no different from anything else a person may be carrying when arrested. Police may search those items without a warrant under a line of high court cases reaching back 40 years.

What’s more, said Donald Verrilli Jr., the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, “Cellphones are now critical tools in the commission of crimes.”

The cases come to the Supreme Court amid separate legal challenges to the massive warrantless collection of telephone records by the National Security Agency and the government’s use of technology to track Americans’ movements.

Librarians, the news media, defense lawyers and civil liberties groups on the right and left are trying to convince the justices that they should take a broad view of the privacy issues raised when police have unimpeded access to increasingly powerful devices that may contain a wealth of personal data: emails and phone numbers, photographs, information about purchases and political affiliations, books and a gateway to even more material online.

“Cellphones and other portable electronic devices are, in effect, our new homes,” the American Civil Liberties Union said in a court filing that urged the court to apply the same tough standards to cellphone searches that judges have historically applied to police intrusions into a home.

Under the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, police generally need a warrant before they can conduct a search. The warrant itself must be based on “probable cause,” evidence that a crime has been committed.

People walk on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Saturday April 26, 2014. Two Sup …

But in the early 1970s, the Supreme Court carved out exceptions for officers dealing with people they have arrested. The court was trying to set clear rules that allowed police to look for concealed weapons and prevent the destruction of evidence. Briefcases, wallets, purses and crumpled cigarette packs all are fair game if they are being carried by a suspect or within the person’s immediate control.

Car searches pose a somewhat different issue. In 2009, in the case of a suspect handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a police cruiser, the court said police may search a car only if the arrestee “is within reaching distance of the passenger compartment” or if police believe the car contains evidence relevant to the crime for which the person had been arrested.

The Supreme Court is expected to resolve growing division in state and federal courts over whether cellphones deserve special protection.

More than 90 percent of Americans own at least one cellphone, the Pew Research Center says, and the majority of those are smartphones — essentially increasingly powerful computers that are also telephones.

In the two Supreme Court cases being argued Tuesday, one defendant carried a smartphone and the other an older and less advanced flip phone.

In San Diego, police found indications of gang membership when they looked through defendant David Leon Riley’s Samsung smartphone. Prosecutors used video and photographs found on the smartphone to persuade a jury to convict Riley of attempted murder and other charges. California courts rejected Riley’s efforts to throw out the evidence and upheld the convictions.

Smartphones also have the ability to connect to the Internet, but the administration said in its brief that it is not arguing for the authority to conduct a warrantless Internet-based search using an arrestee’s device.

In Boston, a federal appeals court ruled that police must have a warrant before searching arrestees’ cellphones. Police arrested Brima Wurie on suspicion of selling crack cocaine, checked the call log on his flip phone and used that information to determine where he lived. When they searched Wurie’s home, armed with a warrant, they found crack, marijuana, a gun and ammunition. The evidence was enough to produce a conviction and a prison term of more than 20 years.

The appeals court ruled for Wurie, but left in place a drug conviction for selling cocaine near a school that did not depend on the tainted evidence. That conviction also carried a 20-year sentence. The administration appealed the court ruling because it wants to preserve the warrantless searches following arrest.

The differences between the two cases could give the court room to craft narrow rulings that apply essentially only to the circumstances of those situations.

The justices should act cautiously because the technology is changing rapidly, California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in her court filing.

Harris invoked Justice Samuel Alito’s earlier writing that elected lawmakers are better suited than are judges to write new rules to deal with technological innovation.

On the other side of the California case, Stanford law professor Jeffrey Fisher, representing Riley, cited FBI statistics showing 12 million people were arrested in 2012. In California and elsewhere, he said, those arrests can be for such minor crimes as “jaywalking, littering or riding a bicycle the wrong direction on a residential street.”

It shouldn’t be the case, Fisher said, that each time police make such an arrest, they can rummage through the cellphone without first getting a judge to agree to issue a warrant.

The cases are Riley v. California, 13-132, and U.S. v. Wurie, 13-212. (Contributor: Mark Sherman for Associated Press)

Pray for God’s providential overruling to give the justices wisdom to make a just decision reflecting the protection of the innocent without shielding criminals. Note that a drug dealer and a gang member are bringing the suit, but the U.S. Constitution contains safeguards against “… unreasonable searches and seizures….” for all citizens. Christians should apply wisdom and pray accordingly.

“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 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 13:1-4)  

 

CONGRESS RETURNS WITH LIMITED CHANGES IN AN ELECTION YEAR

Members of Congress returned to Capitol Hill on Monday following a two-week recess — ready to resume negotiations on immigration reform, a minimum-wage bill and other key legislation — but with little possibility of agreeing on any major changes in an election year.

While members will almost assuredly pass a measure to avoid a government shutdown, and the wrath of voters, bills on increasing the federal minimum wage, reforming immigration laws and fixing the tax code are not expected to get a final vote in either the Republican-controlled House or the Democrat-led Senate.

All 435 House seats and 36 Senate seats are up for re-election in November, which has leaders of both parties cautious about holding votes on any legislation that could force members to make a difficult choice.

Such a scenario is more likely in the Senate where several incumbent Democrats are facing tough re-election bids, with Republicans needing to win a net six seats to take control of the upper chamber.

The GOP is expected to keep control of the House.

Atop Congress’ must-do list is pass a short-term spending bill to keep the government running past the Oct. 1, which is the start of the new budget year. However, votes aren’t needed until September.

After largely being blamed for the partial government shutdown last fall, Republicans are not expected to allow such a situation to happen again.

However, passing the second big item on the list will be more difficult — finding more money for the Highway Trust Fund to keep afloat road- and bridge-construction projects.

The fund is running critically low on cash. The Obama administration says that could mean a slowdown in construction projects this summer and fall when lawmakers are back home asking voters to return them to Washington for another term. The current highway bill expires at the end of September.

“The number of (must-do) items is small,” said GOP lobbyist Hazen Marshall of the Nickles Group. “But the degree of difficulty, particularly for the highway bill, is very high.”

Though top lawmakers and administration officials say they want to pass a multiyear highway and transit funding bill, most political observers think a temporary extension of funding is far more likely. But that’s still complicated.

Passing the two bills is probably all that will happen before Election Day.

Congress has already increased the debt limit and fixed Medicare’s flawed payment formula, which should leave time for members to get the troubled appropriations process back on track in the aftermath of last year’s shutdown and modest follow-up budget bargain.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has promised the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a few weeks of floor time, after the upper chamber failed last year to pass a single appropriations bill.

The House will try to pass as many of its12 spending bills as it can. But the process is expected to be difficult for bills to fund the Internal Revenue Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and to implement ObamaCare.

In the Senate, Democrats scrambling to retain control of the chamber will stage votes to raise the minimum wage and help the middle class with rising costs for college and child care.

In addition, liberals such as Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., and Tea Party lawmakers such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, want to end lengthy mandatory-minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

In the House, additional votes to repeal parts of President Obama’s health law are assured. And Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced Friday that the lower chamber will soon pass legislation to help charter schools.

The biggest wildcard is perhaps immigration-reform legislation. The Senate last summer passed a comprehensive bill that includes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. House leadership has expressed a desire to pass reform legislation but only a measure that would give legal status to such immigrants.

Though observers say such legislation is all but dead, House Speaker John Boehner continues to say he wants to pass a bill, even discussing the issue in his home state of Ohio over the Easter break.

The House has passed legislation aimed at forcing the administration to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline running from Canada to Texas and bills to ease environmental regulations that GOP lawmakers say destroy jobs.

And GOP House leaders are again developing legislation to replace ObamaCare, but there’s no guarantee it ever will be completed or see a vote.

Must-do items are few and far between.

Legislation to renew tax breaks collectively known as “extenders” qualifies in most people’s minds but can wait until the session after the November elections.

The leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, both of whom are retiring at the end of the term, will make sure to keep intact the five-decade streak of successful enactment of the annual defense policy measure.

Another must-do item is renewing a federal program that backstops the market for private terrorism insurance. The program, created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, expires at the end of the year. Its renewal is eagerly sought by the insurance industry and large commercial interests like real estate developers and hotel chains. (Contributor: Fox NewsThe Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Two major Old Testament examples of intercession are seen Abraham and Moses. Both had primary concern for God’s name and reputation. Let our prayer focus today be to uphold the honor of the “Creator” acknowledged in our nation’s first founding document, the Declaration of Independence.  How far our country has fallen when partisan causes occupy the legislative branch, and the name of the Lord can hardly be invoked even in a chaplain’s prayers! Pray for a national turning to the Lord.

[Abraham prayed,] “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25)

[Moses prayed,] “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” (Exodus 32:13)

 

IMMIGRATION REFORM NOT DEAD, BOEHNER SAYS

According to this past Thursday remarks by Speaker of the House John Boehner and an Evangelical Immigration Table spokesperson interviewed last Friday by The Christian Post, immigration reform legislation could still pass Congress this year.

Galen Carey, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals, told CP that he was recently in touch with staffers from Boehner’s office who said there will be opportunities to take up immigration reform in June and July.

Carey will participate in an EIT event on Tuesday. Over 200 evangelical pastors from 25 states will meet in Washington, D.C., to encourage the House to finish immigration reform this year.

On Thursday, Boehner jokingly teased some of his fellow Republican House members who are reluctant to pass immigration reform at a Middletown Rotary Club meeting in his home district.

“Here’s the attitude: ‘Ohhhh. Don’t make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard,’” Boehner mocked, according to Cincinnati.com.

He then added, “We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems and it’s remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don’t want to … They’ll take the path of least resistance.”

The EIT event will begin with a press conference followed by a worship service. After that, the pastors will visit congressional offices. They will visit the representatives of their own districts as well as the members who appear undecided on immigration reform, Carey explained. Some of the pastors who are national leaders in their respective denominations will also visit with some of the congresspersons who are members of their denomination.

Rich Nathan, senior pastor at Vineyard Columbus in Ohio, is one of the pastors attending. He spoke to The Christian Post last Friday.

Around 2006, Nathan said that he “began to hear from more and more families” in his church who had been separated from other family members through deportation. Vineyard Columbus is a multi-ethnic church with about 8,500 attendees from about 120 countries. Much like the surrounding area, the church also has political diversity, with Republicans, Democrats and independents.

He recalled one Haitian family who was scammed by immigration attorneys, losing $5,000 to one attorney and $3,500 to another. (The current immigration system can be called the “lawyer support act,” Nathan says.) While still working out their immigration status with their second attorney, the mother was deported back to Haiti just before the 2010 earthquake. Now, the mother, who was severely injured in the earthquake, cannot get back into the United States and her family cannot visit her in Haiti.

For him, Nathan said, the issue is spiritual and moral, and one of family separation. “The Bible commands us to care for immigrants,” he added. He also recommended Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang’s 2009 book, Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate.

Boehner said early February there would be a delay in immigration reform because many in his caucus did not trust President Barack Obama to enforce an immigration law if they passed it. And in an April 1 interview with CP, Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said he did not anticipate passage of an immigration reform bill before the November election.

Carey believes a bill could get passed after the election and before the end of the year, a so-called “lame duck” session, but significant progress would need to be made on the legislation this summer for that to happen.

The current calculations by Republican leaders have more to do with the timing, rather than the substance, of the legislation, Carey added. Do they bring the legislation up for a vote before the election, during a lame-duck session, or in the next Congress?

Some Republican House members and strategists have suggested it would be better to wait until the next Congress because Republicans could win the Senate. In response to that suggestion, Carey said there are some dangers in that strategy. If Republicans win the Senate, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) would likely be the next chair of the Judiciary Committee, and he does not appear favorable to immigration reform. Additionally, several members of the Senate could be running for president, which would create a “circus atmosphere,” regardless of which party is in control.

Plus, Carey added, waiting hurts those who are already suffering from the current broken system. “There is no policy reason for waiting,” he said. “Some people may see political reasons for waiting, that’s not my specialty, but it doesn’t appear beneficial to anybody.”

In CP’s interview with Lankford, he said he was opposed to amnesty for current unauthorized immigrants, but that does not mean there would be absolutely no opportunities for citizenship.

When asked about that, Carey said he was “pleased [Lankford] is recognizing that there are good people who are caught in the jaws of bad laws and we need to fix the laws in those cases.”

“What’s interesting,” Carey added, is Lankford “says there’s not much support for amnesty, but amnesty is not on the table. There is no bill that is proposing amnesty that anyone has introduced. … The options that are on the table, providing a way for the undocumented to earn legal status, that is supported by substantial majorities of every demographic, including Evangelicals.” (Contributor: By Napp Nazworth for The Christian Post)

Biblical examples of intercession are specific but not bogged down in details. Believers — in the world but not of the world — are instructed to obey human government, live godly lives, and pray for kings and all who are in authority. As pilgrims, we continue that legacy by sharing the gospel and praying for transforming revival. This complicated issue needs a just, righteous, and compassionate solution. To do so requires a national turning to God. Intercede accordingly.

“And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may be well with you….” (Deut. 6:18)

“Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.” (Rom. 12:17)

 

POLITICAL FRAUD ABOUT VOTER FRAUD

The Obama administration has been ramping up its rhetoric about the evil of voter identification as part of the run-up to the midterm elections. In January, Attorney General Eric Holder told MSNBC that voter fraud “simply does not exist to the extent that would warrant” voter ID laws, adding that many who favor such measures do so in order to “depress the vote.” Vice President Joe Biden claimed in February that new voter ID laws in North Carolina, Alabama and Texas were motivated by “hatred” and “zealotry.”

In an April 11 speech to Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, President Obama recited statistics purporting to show that voter fraud was extremely rare. The “real voter fraud,” he said, “is people who try to deny our rights by making bogus arguments about voter fraud.”

These arguments themselves are bogus. Consider the two studies from which Mr. Obama drew his statistics. The first, which he said “found only 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation in 12 years,” is a 2012 report issued by News21, an Arizona State University project.

The News21 website explains that students “under the direction of journalism professionals” sent public records requests to state and federal officials asking for information about voting fraud cases. The project acknowledged significant gaps in its data. Several states made no meaningful response. Counties argued that “public records laws don’t require officials to respond at all.” Election officials and state attorneys general admitted that they did not track voter fraud. The Justice Department referred News21 to its 93 local U.S. attorneys but, the website reported, “many of those offices, in turn, referred News21 back to the department.”

Crucially, News21 noted that “nearly all the data” it received had “some vital piece of information that had been requested specifically but that was missing.” Responses lacked “important details about each case—from whether the person was convicted or charged to the circumstances of the alleged fraud to the names of those involved.”

Given these limitations, it is hard to believe any valid conclusions about voter fraud can be drawn from this study.

Mr. Obama also cited an “analysis” showing that only 40 voters “were indicted for fraud” from 2002 to 2005. That number is drawn from an Aug. 2, 2005, Justice Department news release—which describes the department’s “Ballot Access and Voting Integrity” initiative—and from a related list of federal cases. The release mentioned 120 pending election-fraud investigations, 89 prosecutions and 52 convictions.

It is preposterous to cite that news release as proof that voter fraud is rare. The release contains no information concerning prosecutions in any of the 50 state court systems for violations of state voting laws, even though these are far more common than prosecutions for violations of federal voting laws. Even as a list of federal offenses, the news releasee is inadequate. Justice did not claim to have compiled all convictions, prosecutions or investigations—let alone all known or unsolved cases—involving federal voter fraud. The release was only a list of legal actions relating to what was then a three-year-old initiative.

More generally, judging voter fraud by counting criminal proceedings is misguided. For any crime, convictions are a fraction of prosecutions, which are a fraction of investigations, which are a fraction of known offenses, which are, in turn, a fraction of committed crimes. This is even more likely to be true of voter fraud, which is often a low enforcement priority—as News21 confirmed, many states do not even track it. Moreover, the fraud may be all but impossible to investigate or prove if it is carried out successfully.

We do know that this country’s decentralized system of election administration offers abundant opportunities for fraud. For example, a February 2012 report by the Pew Research Center on the States, “Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient: Evidence That America’s Voter Registration System Needs an Upgrade,” found that 1.8 million deceased registrants were listed as active voters, and that 2.75 million voters had active registrations in more than one state.

In court papers filed last year, Virginia noted that a limited cross-check with 21 other participating states—which did not include California, Texas or New York—showed that 17,000 voters were registered in three or more states. Imagine if the cross-check were extended to all 50 states and if Virginia’s results were typical.

Voter fraud, whatever its extent, can matter. Many elections, particularly local elections, are decided by slim margins. In January, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted released remarkable statistics showing that 35 local races and eight local issues were decided in the Buckeye State in 2013 by one vote or by using the state’s designated procedure, such as coin-flipping, to break a tie.

If the available evidence suggests that the amount of voter fraud is understated, the evidence that voter-ID laws suppress voting is nonexistent. In elections held after new voter-ID laws were enacted in Georgia and Tennessee, for instance, minority turnout either was stable or increased. In Tennessee, the turnout among Hispanics of voting age rose to 34.7% in 2012 from 19.2% in 2008, according to surveys by the U.S. Census Bureau, even though a strict new photo ID law was in effect in 2012. Turnout among blacks of voting age declined slightly, to 57.4% in 2012 from 58.1% in 2008, but this was within the Census survey’s margin of error. In both years, black turnout was around 4% higher than the comparable white turnout.

When it comes to the subject of voter suppression, it is revealing that Mr. Obama avoided statistics earlier this month and relied entirely on conditional verbs: voters “could be turned away from the polls . . . may suddenly be told they can no longer vote . . . may learn that without a document like a passport or a birth certificate, they can’t register.”

The president’s speech may have been red meat for his base and good for fundraising. But it failed to engage the serious issues relating to election integrity. The coming months don’t promise an improvement. (Contributor: Robert D. Popper for The Wall Street Journal – Mr. Popper is a senior attorney for Judicial Watch and served as the deputy chief of the voting section of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from 2008-13. )

National leaders insult the electorate when they deny fraud, which has been around since voting began. Mature intercessors understand that the human heart is “… deceitful … and desperately wicked….” (see below), and thus they know how to pray. Voter cheating will continue until hearts are changed or laws tightened. Thankfully, God restrains some wickedness, but unrighteous hearts cannot provide righteous leadership, so we intercede accordingly, continuing to pray for revival.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

 

PENTAGON: RUSSIAN SPY SHIP, TUG OPERATING NEAR U.S.

A Russian intelligence-gathering ship has been operating off the U.S. East Coast and near the Gulf of Mexico for the past month, the Pentagon said Thursday.

“We are aware that the Russian ships Viktor Leonov and Nikolay Chiker are currently operating in waters that are beyond U.S. territorial seas but near Cuba,” said Lt. Col. Tom Crosson, a Pentagon spokesman. “We respect the freedom of all nations, as reflected in international law, to operate military vessels beyond the territorial seas of other nations.”

The Leonov is an intelligence gathering ship outfitted with high-tech electronic spying gear. The Chiker is an ocean-going naval tug that has been accompanying the spy ship on its mission.

Pentagon officials suspect the ships were part of a spying operation since March against the U.S. nuclear missile submarine base at Kings Bay, Ga. and other U.S. military facilities

Both ships were detected operating off the coast of Florida near the U.S. Naval Station Mayport, Fla., which is south of the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.

The Russian intelligence gathering coincides with heightened tensions between the United States and Russia over Moscow’s recent military annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.

An official said it is possible that the electronic spying is related to watching U.S. nuclear missile submarines as part of a Russian nuclear exercise.

According to Russian military press reports, some 10,000 Russian troops and 1,000 pieces of military equipment of the Strategic Missile Forces took part in an exercise April 17 to 19—coinciding with the transit of one of the ships, the Chiker, to Cuba from the coast off northern Florida on April 19.

“The exercises will test the cohesiveness and skills of units and commands in the process of alerting and the achievement of training objectives under various circumstances and in any time of the day,” Russian defense spokesman told Interfax.

The Chiker also is known to support submarines and is equipped with lift capability for servicing Russian submarines.

U.S. officials said in 2012 a Russian Akula attack submarine was detected operating near the East Coast. The Navy denied the sub sailed undetected in the Gulf of Mexico.

Crosson declined to comment further on the Russian naval activities. “It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to talk about the operations of non-U.S. vessels operating beyond U.S. territorial seas,” he said.

According to military enthusiast websites, the Leonov is a Vishnya-class medium intelligence ship home ported in Severomorsk and is part of the Kola Peninsula naval forces.

The ship was commissioned in 1988.

The ships are designed for signals and communications intelligence gathering through an array of ship-borne sensors. It also is equipped with two 30-millimeter guns and anti-aircraft missiles.

Wire services reports indicated the Leonov docked in Havana in February and March, and again this month. (Contributor: Bill Gertz for The Free Beacon)

One nation spying on another is not new. Surveillance technology is highly developed, and Americans have learned within the past year that our own government participates in its share of domestic and international “snooping.” Intercessors know that, whatever the news media report, God is in control. He raises up nations and puts them down. In all things, “… our help comes from the Lord.” So we pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

“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.” (Psalm 121:1-2)

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:9-10)

 

ISRAEL COMES TO STANDSTILL AS SIRENS WAIL FOR 6 MILLION LOST

Millions of Israelis paused for two minutes this past Monday in solemn silence as air raid sirens wailed across the country to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The annual commemoration for the 6 million Jews killed in Europe during the Holocaust brought the country to a standstill at 10 a.m., with drivers standing alongside their cars on highways and normally bustling city centers freezing for the funereal event.

After the sirens, a number of remembrance ceremonies were planned for across the country, including a wreath-laying at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and the “Unto Every Person There is a Name” ceremony at the Knesset.

In Poland, thousands of Israeli and Jewish youth and others will march from the infamous Auschwitz labor camp to the Birkenau death camp as part of the annual March of the Living memorial.

Events for the commemoration day began this past Sunday night at 8 p.m. with a state ceremony at Yad Vashem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned at the ceremony that the world was ignoring the lessons of the Shoah by allowing Iran to continue its nuclear program.

“I hope that the lessons of the past will be learned and that the desire to avoid confrontation at any cost will not lead to a deal that will exact a much heavier price in the future,” he said, referring to negotiations between Tehran and six world powers over uranium enrichment levels. “I call on the leaders of the world powers to insist on a full dismantling of Iran’s capability to manufacture nuclear weapons, and to persist until this goal is achieved.”

President Shimon Peres, speaking at the same ceremony, called on the world to pay attention to the threat of rising anti-Semitism in Europe.

“We must not ignore any occurrence of anti-Semitism, any desecration of a synagogue, any tombstone smashed in a cemetery in which our families are buried,” he said. “We must not ignore the rise of extreme right-wing parties with neo-Nazi tendencies who are a danger to each of us and a threat to every nation.” (Contributor: Times of Israel Staff for The Times of Israel)

Passover observance is a “remembrance” that God delivered His people from Egypt. Our Lord Jesus said of the Eucharist, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Some things must never be forgotten, and Christians of every generation must stand with Israel, helping the world remember the Holocaust. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem and against rising anti-Semitism.

“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)

“And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.’” (Luke 22:19-20)

 

DRIVERLESS CARS ARE MASTERING CITY STREETS

Google says its self-driving cars are motoring along: they can navigate freeways comfortably, albeit with a driver ready to take control. But city driving — with its obstacle course of stray walkers, bicyclists and blind corners — has been a far greater challenge for the cars’ computers.

In a blog entry posted Monday, the project’s leader said test cars now can handle thousands of urban situations that would have stumped them a year or two ago.

“We’re growing more optimistic that we’re heading toward an achievable goal — a vehicle that operates fully without human intervention,” project director Chris Urmson wrote.

Urmson’s post was the company’s first official update since 2012 on progress toward a driverless car, a project within the company’s secretive Google X lab.

The company has said its goal is to get the technology to the public by 2017. In initial iterations, human drivers would be expected to take control if the computer fails. The promise is that, eventually, there would be no need for a driver. Passengers could read, daydream, even sleep — or work — while the car drives.

Google maintains that computers will one day drive far more safely than humans, and part of the company’s pitch is that robot cars can substantially reduce traffic fatalities.

The basics already are in place. The task for Google — and traditional carmakers, which also are testing driverless cars — is perfecting technology strapped onto its fleet of about two dozen Lexus RX450H SUVs.

Sensors including radar and lasers create 3D maps of a self-driving car’s surroundings in real time, while Google’s software sorts objects into four categories: moving vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and static things such as signs, curbs and parked cars.

Initially, those plots were fairly crude. A gaggle of pedestrians on a street corner registered as a single person. Now, the technology can distinguish individuals, according to Google spokeswoman Courtney Hohne, as well as solve other riddles such as construction zones and the likely movements of people riding bicycles.

To deal with cyclists, engineers initially programmed the software to look for hand gestures that indicate an upcoming turn. Then they realized that most cyclists don’t use standard gestures — and still others weave down a road the wrong way.

So engineers have taught the software to predict the behavior of cyclists based on thousands of encounters during the approximately 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) the cars have driven autonomously on city streets, Hohne said. The software projects a cyclist’s likely movements and plots the car’s path accordingly — then reacts if something unexpected happens.

“A mile of city driving is much more complex than a mile of freeway driving, with hundreds of different objects moving according to different rules of the road in a small area,” Urmson wrote.

Before recent breakthroughs, Google had contemplated mapping all the world’s stop signs. Now the technology can read stop signs, including those held in the hands of school crossing guards, Hohne said.

While the car knows to stop, just when to start again is still a challenge, partly because the cars are programmed to drive defensively. At a four-way stop, Google’s cars have been known to wait in place as people driving in other directions edge out into the intersection — or roll through.

The cars still need work on other predictably common tasks. Among them, understanding the gestures that drivers give one another to signal it’s OK to merge or change lanes, turning right on red and driving in rain or fog (which requires more sophisticated sensors).

And when will these and other problems be solved?

“You can count on one hand the number of years until people, ordinary people, can experience this,” company co-founder Sergey Brin said in September 2012. He made the remarks at a ceremony where California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation legalizing the cars on public roads in the state.

To date, Google’s cars have gone about 700,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) in self-driving mode, the vast majority on freeways, the company said.

California’s Department of Motor Vehicles is in the process of writing regulations to implement that law. Nevada, Florida, Michigan and Washington, D.C., also have written driverless car laws.

Google has not said how it plans to market the technology. Options include collaborating with major carmakers or giving away the software, as the company did with its Android operating system. While Google has the balance sheet to invest in making cars, that likelihood is remote.

Traditional automakers also are developing driverless cars. Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said he hopes to deliver a model to the public by 2020. (Contributor: By Justin Prichard for Fox News)

What is our prayer focus? A pastor once said, “My computer can recite many more Bible verses from ‘memory’ than I can, but it cannot worship God or have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” We continue to marvel at technological advances, but the call to intercession is for our beloved nation to turn back to God. Pray for a new “great awakening,” whereby many hearts, including among leaders in science and government, turn to the Lord.

“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They have bowed down and fallen; but we have risen and stand upright. Save, Lord! May the King answer us when we call.” (Psalm 20:7-9)

 

THE ROLE OF REPENTANCE AND FASTING

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves,
and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways,
the I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

—2 Chronicles 7:14

Hearts were alternately sobered and humbled, and then set ablaze and infused with hope, as Rev. Derek Prince (1915-2003) and Rev. Ern Baxter (1914-1993) brought forth foundational truths at the November, 1973 conference that birthed the ministry of Intercessors for America.  Both taught on God’s relational dealings with individuals, the Church, and the destiny of nations.

Derek Prince presented two primary truths from the Pilgrim research he had done after relocating from Britain to America, and which he had incorporated into a new book published earlier in the year, Shaping History Through Prayer and Fasting.  First, the end time purpose of God is the restoration and completion of the Church.  Second, the source of power for the achievement of this purpose is repentance, united prayer, and fasting.

Derek noted that the Pilgrims faced all the issues that we face today.  Observing immorality, gambling, drunkenness, and many other “disorders in the land,” they saw that the condition of the Church is reflected in society.  Sensing that they had personally fallen short, they called themselves to repentance and, following the pattern of first century Christians, observed days of collective prayer and fasting.

Using many scripture references, Derek emphasized that, except if medical reasons do not permit,  “afflicting ones soul” by abstaining from food and drink for set periods of time is the primary, biblical way of “humbling oneself” in the sight of God.  Such fasting enables believers to find grace and mercy for authentic repentance – an about-face from sinful behavior, and a clean, restored relational union with the Lord.

Over the decades of IFA’s ministry, food fasting and this “core” principle of “returning to God” continues to be emphasized.  Food fasting is not about getting things from God, but is firstly about getting right with God.  This principle applies in the lives of individual believers, in the corporate life of the Church, and in the life of a nation.  Israel, to this day, still observes Yom Kippur, a nationwide Day of Atonement marked by fasting and repentance.  This biblical practice of fasting for repentance and spiritual renewal was adopted and spread throughout Colonial America, was commonplace among the founding New England churches, and helped spark America’s Great Awakenings.

Except in Protestant holiness traditions, and during Catholic and Orthodox Lenten seasons, food fasting was not widely practiced among Christians in America at the time of IFA’s founding.  Modernist theologians were teaching, “the perfect fast is love.”  The founding of IFA’s ministry with its “core” call for the biblical practice of “afflicting ones soul” via food fasting and repentance marked a transformational “tipping point.”   Today, some would say that these principles “went viral.”  Drawn from the Bible and Pilgrim history, woven by Derek Prince’s into his book and presented at the IFA conference, they were also incorporated in the language and call for the nationwide observance of the April 30, 1974 Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer.   As the following account shows, the historic April 30, 1974 observance sparked IFA’s continuing monthly first Friday fasting observance.

None who attended the 1973 conference will forget hearing Ern Baxter, Canadian born of Scottish lineage, declaring in his deep, resonant voice that the condition of much of the contemporary Church is “subnormal.”  Contrasting modernist faith and practice with New Testament standards recorded in the Book of Acts, Ern presented clear, expository teaching showing that a primary work of the Holy Spirit is to bring forth a restored, “glorious” Church in the days prior to Christ’s return.  Both sin and righteousness will “ripen” in these “last days.”  Yet, in the midst of many challenges, trials and shakings, a Bride for Christ will be “made ready.”  Christ’s disciples will be purified, gifted, anointed, and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

While drawn from diverse historic and ethnic backgrounds, this “end time” professing Church, will be marked by surrender, responsive obedience to Christ, community evangelism, courageous prophetic witness, and a corporate display of John 17 unity.  “Unity is not optional,” Ern would often stress during the 1973 meetings.  “We must do it now or this generation too will die in the wilderness.”

The 2,000 in attendance at this conference were prepared and poised to respond to this challenge to demonstrate unity.  Comprised of older believers, younger families, and single adults, the assembly represented a wide variety of Protestant, Catholic, and independent or non-denominational backgrounds.  As noted earlier, the group consented in one accord to support Senator Mark Hatfield’s proposal for the call and observance of the April 30, 1974 National Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer.  Christians across America were also ready to respond.  The announcement sped across the country.  Millions of Christians in thousands of local churches observed the day in sincere repentance, fasting, and corporate prayer.

Indeed, the day and the harmonious response by leaders and believers from so many different backgrounds seemed “special” in the eyes of God.  It found His favor and seemed a fulfillment of the 2 Chronicles 7:14 scripture that had become a rallying call.

On the day before the observance, President Richard Nixon made a public announcement that he would release his secret White House tapes.  The U.S. House Judiciary Committee accepted 1,200 pages of transcripts on April 30, the very day multitudes of U.S. Christians were united in fasting and prayer before God.   April 30, 1974 marked the turning point that brought forth resolution of the rancorous Watergate affair.  Richard Nixon resigned and stepped down.  Gerald Ford stepped up and at his swearing-in declared, “I am acutely aware you have not elected me by your ballots.  So I ask you to confirm me with your prayers.”  The nation began to heal.

More “mercy signs” followed.  Rain fell on the drought-stricken Midwest.  In California notorious terrorist groups and narcotics rings were uncovered and brought to justice.  Crime rates began to drop.  Legislation to curb hard-core pornography was passed.  Constitutional lawyer Phyllis Schlafly and others began to derail ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the U.S. Constitution, crafted by militant feminists and passed by Congress in 1972.

Jimmy Owens, who served on the board of IFA at various times, was among those that closed the April 30, 1974 observance at Pastor Jack Hayford’s church in Van Nuys, California.  Jimmy sensed that the Lord was asking that a monthly Day of United Prayer and Fasting to be established.  It was to be designated by major Christian leaders.  Jimmy submitted the concept to Pastor Hayford and church elders.  They confirmed it and commissioned Jimmy to attend a Summit Conference of Church Leaders in America, set to meet in Chicago in September, 1975.  More than 130 leaders convened, including leadership from IFA.  Together they prayed and strategized on how to call and mobilize the church for intercession through America’s bicentennial year, 1976.

Near the close of the conference Jimmy Owens proposed that the first Friday of each month be designated as a day of corporate prayer and fasting across the country.  The leaders unanimously approved the resolution and directed it be observed through the Bicentenniel year.  IFA immediately implemented the first Friday observance and, while denominations and ministries departed from it after 1976, IFA has never wavered.  The monthly first Friday fasting observance, with a focus on personal and national repentance, presently designated as “F3” for “First Friday Fasting” (F3rocks.com), remains as part of the spiritual heartbeat of the ministry.

Faithfully observed by multitudes of IFA members over decades, it has had a “ripple effect” in the body of Christ.  It has become imbedded in the National Prayer Accord promoted by America’s National Prayer Committee Prayer.  Church-wide fasting is encouraged in conjunction with the U.S. National Day of Prayer observance on the first Thursday of May each year.  Key church and civic leaders have observed it over the decades and have helped to mobilize many three-day, seven-day, 21-day, and 40-day prayer and fasting vigils.  Sometimes with surprising blessings, turnings, and transformations, as subsequent accounts will document.

Heeding the Bible’s mandates, following in the example of Jesus Himself, and walking out the example of America’s Christian founders, the ministry of IFA continues to champion, inform, and unite thousands of local churches, and tens of thousands of Christians from diverse backgrounds, in spiritually sustaining and transformational first Friday repentance, fasting, and intercessory prayer.

“I have often said it would be a thing very desirable, and very likely
to be followed with a great Blessing, if there could be some contrivance,
that there should be an agreement of all God’s people in America,
that are well affected to this work, to keep a day of Fasting and Prayer to God;

wherein we should all unite of the same day….”   —Jonathan Edwards, 1742

by Gary Bergel

On Watch in Washington April 30, 2014 PDF Plain Text Version

On Watch in Washington April 23, 2014

April 22nd, 2014

On Watch in Washington April 23, 2014 Plain Text  PDF Version

COURT TO WEIGH CHALLENGE TO BAN ON CAMPAIGN LIES

As political campaigns begin to heat up, the Supreme Court is deciding whether false accusations and mudslinging made during an election can be punished as a crime.

Addressing an issue of negative campaigning that now may be a fact of life in American politics, justices will consider a challenge to an Ohio law that bars false statements about political candidates. The case being heard next week has attracted national attention, with least 15 other states having similar laws.

Groups across the political spectrum are criticizing the law as a restriction on the First Amendment right to free speech.

Even Ohio’s attorney general, Republican Mike DeWine, says he has serious concerns about the law. His office filed two briefs in the case, one from staff lawyers obligated to defend the state and another expressing DeWine’s personal view that the law “may chill constitutionally protected political speech.”

“The thing we see time and time again in political campaigns is that candidates use the law to game the system by filing a complaint,” DeWine said in an interview with The Associated Press.

In an attempt at humor, satirist P.J. O’Rourke and the libertarian Cato Institute filed a widely circulated brief ridiculing the law and defending political smear tactics as a cornerstone of American democracy.

O’Rourke’s brief celebrates a history of dubious campaign remarks including President Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook,” President George H.W. Bush’s “Read my lips: no new taxes!” and President Barack Obama’s “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”

The Ohio law makes it illegal to knowingly or recklessly make false statements about a candidate during an election. The high court is not expected to rule directly on the constitutional issue, instead focusing on the narrower question of whether the law can be challenged before it is actually enforced.

The case began during the 2010 election, when the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, planned to launch a billboard campaign accusing then-Democratic Rep. Steven Driehaus of supporting taxpayer-funded abortion because he backed President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Driehaus urged the Ohio Elections Commission to block the ads, arguing that the proposed billboard was false under Ohio law. Given the threat of legal action, the billboard owner declined to run the ad.

Driehaus eventually lost his re-election bid and withdrew his complaint before it could be fully heard. The Susan B. Anthony List then challenged the state law as unconstitutional, but a federal judge ruled against the group, saying it hadn’t suffered any harm in the case and thus didn’t have standing to sue. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati agreed.

The Susan B. Anthony List argues that it continues to face the threat of prosecution under the law, creating a chilling effect on speech that gives the groups a right to challenge the law without waiting for a ruling from the election commission.

This election season, the anti-abortion group says it’s moving ahead with plans to purchase billboards in opposition to Democratic U.S. senators in Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina; those states have similar laws banning false campaign speech. But the Susan B. Anthony List is declining to run billboard ads in Ohio until the case is resolved. “The risks quite frankly are too high,” said the group’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser.

The Obama administration backs that argument, even though White House officials have steadfastly denied the proposition that the health care law allows abortions funded by taxpayer dollars. The administration says a “credible threat of prosecution” will chill the Susan B. Anthony List from engaging in “the very type of speech to which the First Amendment has its fullest and most urgent application.”

In a telephone interview, Driehaus said the work of the Ohio elections commission is needed “to call people into account when spreading malicious lies.”

“Not every candidate has millions of dollars to spend on TV ads, and it’s difficult to get the truth out, especially when constituents are bombarded with messages,” Driehaus said from Swaziland, where he is a Peace Corps director.

Lawyers for the state of Ohio assert there is no “credible threat of prosecution” in the case because it never went beyond the very preliminary stages of review before it was dismissed. The fact that the Susan B. Anthony List might use the same language again is too vague to give the group standing to challenge the law, the state argues.

Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California at Irvine law school, said he believes justices will be skeptical of the lower court’s finding that the Susan B. Anthony List had no standing to sue. He said the Supreme Court will likely find that the lower court had prematurely thrown out the case, then send the matter back to address the free speech questions in light of the high court’s 2012 ruling in United States v. Alvarez. That decision struck down a federal law that made it illegal to lie about winning military medals or ribbons.

“The Susan B. Anthony case hints at how tough it is going to be going forward to get the current Supreme Court to accept ‘truth commissions’ reviewing the truth or falsity of campaign speech as constitutional,” Hasen said.

The case is Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, No. 13-193. (Contributor: By Sam Hannel and Hope Yen for Associated Press and ABC News)

It is almost beyond belief that some people think telling the truth can be regulated by law. Jesus called His followers to be “salt” and “light,” giving witness to Him as “the way, the truth, and the life.” Indeed, the legislation discussed here is not about truth-telling but about self-protection. “Truth” is a spiritual concept, displayed after repentance from sin and a heart-change through the Gospel. The Bible is clear that truth is a precious commodity. Let us not dabble in “symptoms” but pray in unity for widespread, transforming revival, first in the Church, then in society.

“He who knows God hears [God’s Word through] us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:1-6) 

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’” (John 8:31-32)

 

RECOVERING AMERICA’S EXCEPTIONALISM

In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville, the famous French historian, came to America to study our nation. Europeans and others were fascinated with the success of the fledgling nation, then barely 50 years old and already competing on the world stage.

Such a thing had never before occurred, and Tocqueville was determined to discover the secret. He was duly impressed by our governmental structure, including the separation of powers, but he was in awe of the public educational system, which rendered its recipients completely literate by the completion of second grade. This depth of education was generally only found among the aristocracy in Europe.

Let’s put aside the diversionary arguments about lack of educational access for all, which was a huge mistake, and concentrate on the tremendous advantage afforded our predecessors by education. Early settlers not only mastered reading, writing and arithmetic, but also shared practical skills, all of which enabled them to traverse and tame a rugged and frequently hostile terrain from sea to shining sea.

As isolated communities sprang up throughout the nation, they were able to thrive through innovation, industry and compassion. The “can-do” attitude involved hard labor, but it also included a sense of responsibility for those who through injury or other hardships could no longer care for themselves. The spirit of caring, although diminished, remains an important part of who we are today.

Tocqueville was impressed by the fiery sermons that emphasized the word of God and not the social mores of the day. He concluded his American analysis by saying, “America is great because she is good. If America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” America was different because we openly acknowledged the role of God in our lives.

Some will say, “Carson is a religious fanatic because he believes in God and the Bible.” Interestingly, the very same people are quick to invoke the name of God and recommend prayer at times of national and personal tragedy. Hypocrisy is their frequent companion.

Some will say America can never make claims of “goodness” owing to her history of slavery. Although it was by far the worst atrocity in our history, we paid a horrendous price in lives lost or destroyed in a Civil War that all but incapacitated a young nation. The guilt, shame and humility that resulted from this dark American episode will teach us and stigmatize us well into the future. Learning from mistakes is a sign of wisdom and goodness.

What is disturbing in the pursuit of goodness is the turning of a blind eye toward corruption, much like the Romans did before the fall of their empire. Episodes such as the Internal Revenue Service scandal should alarm all Americans, regardless of political affiliation. The fact that one party has characterized it as a “phony scandal” tells you a great deal about the loss of honesty in our society.

The fact that one party is willing to use its majority status to cram a health care bill down the throats of the minority party and the American people and then refuses to acknowledge the obvious illegitimacy of a bill passed largely on the basis of false information provides a barometer on the lack of importance placed on virtue in our society today. How can such a society in any way claim to be good?

How can a society that kills millions of innocent unborn babies and then labels anyone opposing the practice “anti-woman” claim even a modicum of goodness? How can a nation that uses its news media to subtly trash traditional families, promote a drug-filled lifestyle and ridicule faith in God claim the mantle of righteousness?

I could go on pointing out how far we have strayed from our Judeo-Christian roots. For some, such a departure cannot come soon or dramatically enough. However, I believe the majority of Americans understand that we are different from everyone else, and that difference had a great deal to do with our rapid rise to the pinnacle of world power and wealth.

As we depart from our former values of decency, honesty, compassion and fairness, our status as a blessed nation will also be diminished.

Our decline is not necessary if we can learn from the mistakes of others and reclaim the values upon which our nation was built. I am not advocating for a national religion, but I do think we should seriously consider the words of John Adams, who said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”

America can be great, but it requires real courage and conviction to resist the urge to be “cool.” None of this means we should impose Judeo-Christian values on those who wish to adopt a different kind of lifestyle, but it does mean we should not allow an alternative lifestyle to be imposed upon us.

Fairness is a two-way street, and so is tolerance. If the majority refuses to fight for its rights, while a vocal minority uses a compliant media to try to fundamentally change America, we will have only ourselves to blame. (Contributor: By Dr. Ben S. Carson for The Washington Times and Town Hall)

Let us give thanks for Dr. Ben Carson’s comments in this much-needed American history review. Some readers will keep a copy to guide their intercession toward future national healing. Dr. Carson has given us a prescription for our nation’s recovery. Pray this article might “go viral.” Pray for leaders to be raised up who will have the courage and convictions to implement these all-but-lost principles. Our nation is deep into sin, unbelief, and cynicism. Pray for God’s mercy and grace. 

“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 89:9-10)

“All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations.” (Psalm 22:27-28)

 

REVIVING ‘IN GOD WE TRUST’

On April 22, 1864 — 150 years ago — Congress authorized that all newly minted coins be inscribed with “In God We Trust.”

It took the tragedy of the Civil War to induce Congress to act, even though ministers throughout the country had urged for years that American coins bear reference to the Almighty. In a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase on Nov. 13, 1861, a Pennsylvania minister made a persuasive argument, contending that the inscription “God, Liberty, Law” would appropriately prioritize the nation’s hallmarks.

Congress appeared to take its inspiration from “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a widely popular song that emerged again from its origins during the War of 1812. Although not adopted as the national anthem until 1931, its stanzas were riveting, especially the fourth stanza with the lyrics slightly modified by Congress: “And this be our motto: In God Is Our Trust.”

In spite of the congressional legislation, the subsequent history of the coinage inscription was not uniform, with reference to the Almighty disappearing on the five-cent coin in 1883 and not reappearing until the Jefferson nickel in 1938. Then, too, there was opposition to the federal government’s action on the basis of its alleged violation of the separation of church and state.

Although these legal assaults never found receptive courts, some popular Americans, such as President Theodore Roosevelt, denounced the putting of any reference to God on money.

Not until the 1950s was the movement toward extending “In God We Trust” to paper currency successful. That happened in 1956 with congressional legislation that not only authorized the gradual implementation of the text on paper bills, but also made it the national motto.

It was a decade replete with religious efforts and themes, including Congress adding in 1954 “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. Among the most popular songs of the decade were Les Paul and Mary Ford’s “Vaya Con Dios” and Frankie Laine’s “I Believe.” The Rev. Billy Graham, whose evangelistic association was incorporated in 1950, made religion readily accessible to average Americans. Mr. Graham wrote books, a newspaper column that attracted 28 million readers every day, appeared on television and radio, and, most of all, hosted crusades throughout the nation and world.

In 1957, Martin Luther King formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as a means of using nonviolent means to end segregation.

Even Hollywood underscored the religious upswing, in high-budget extravaganzas consisting of thousands of actors, animals and sets, as illustrated by “Quo Vadis” (1951), “The Robe” (1953) — the first time CinemaScope photography was used — and “The Ten Commandments” (1956). No movie was more uplifting than “A Man Named Peter” (1955), the life of Peter Marshall (1902-1949), pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in the nation’s capital and later Senate chaplain.

Church membership mushroomed more than in any other decade in the century, even among youth, as illustrated by the founding of the Campus Crusade for Christ in 1951. The Census Bureau in 1957 noted that a whopping 96 percent of Americans noted a specific denomination when asked, “What is your religion?”

Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953 became the first and only president to begin his inaugural speech with what he called “a little private prayer of my own”:

“Almighty God, as we stand here at this moment, my future associates in the executive branch of government join me in beseeching that Thou will make full and complete our dedication to the service of the people in this throng, and their fellow citizens everywhere.

“Give us, we pray, the power to discern clearly right from wrong, and allow all our words and actions to be governed thereby, and by the laws of this land. Especially we pray that our concern shall be for all the people, regardless of station, race or calling.

“May cooperation be permitted and be the mutual aim of those who, under the concepts of our Constitution, hold to differing political faiths; so that all may work for the good of our beloved country and Thy glory. Amen.”

Thomas V. DiBacco is professor emeritus at American University. (Contributor:  By Thomas V. DiBacco for The Washington Times – Thomas V. DiBacco is professor emeritus at American University.)

Today, one can hardly imagine a prayer like President Eisenhower’s in 1953 being included in a presidential inauguration. Its ideals were clearly biblical, and thus it acknowledged God’s presence and His “right” to be included in public discourse. Let us pray for even more awareness of the reality of God. Pray that Christians will not be intimidated by “separation of church and state” threats. Pray that Church leaders will speak out fearlessly for God to be recognized in the public square.   

“But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.’” (Acts 4:19-20)

“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3)

 

NEVADA PUSHES BACK AGAINST THE FEDERAL LEVIATHAN

Anyone worried about the rapidly growing power of the federal government under President Obama and the militarization of federal law enforcers had to take heart last week.

It was quite a sight when hundreds of citizens, many of them on horseback, converged near the Mesquite, Nev., ranch of Cliven Bundy in reaction to the federal government’s massive show of force against the cattleman.

At issue is Mr. Bundy’s refusal since 1993 to pay for federal permits to graze his cattle on land, some of it designated as protected for the desert tortoise. Mr. Bundy’s family had grazed cattle in the area since homesteading in 1877, and he insists that the land is owned by the state of Nevada, not the federal government, which now manages 87 percent of land in the Silver State. Mr. Bundy will pay Clark County for permits, but not a dime to the feds, who he says wrongly took the land.

The problem is not the legality of Mr. Bundy’s actions. He might eventually win his case, but he’s already lost in federal court. The real problem is the Obama administration’s overreaction. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sent a helicopter and a huge force of armed men in riot gear, including snipers, who seized hundreds of Mr. Bundy’s cows and set up a small “free-speech zone,” outside of which someone could be arrested for speaking against the federal action. Neighbors say the feds destroyed property and shot and killed two of the 76-year-old Mr. Bundy’s prize bulls.

Now here’s where the plot thickens.

On April 8, the U.S. Senate confirmed Neil G. Kornze as head of the BLM by a vote of 71-28, including 15 Republican “yes” votes. Before his stint as principal deputy director of the BLM, Mr. Kornze worked for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, on “public lands issues,” according to The Washington Post, which noted that the 35-year-old Mr. Kornze will be overseeing 264 million acres of public lands, mostly in Western states.

Nevada is to questionable federal land deals what New Jersey is to mob-related “accidents.” Last May, a federal jury found Harvey Whittemore, one of Mr. Reid’s close friends and donors, guilty of making illegal campaign contributions to Mr. Reid in 2007. Mr. Whittemore was sentenced in September to two years in federal prison.

In 2004, Mr. Whittemore benefited from a land-use bill sponsored by Mr. Reid that gave him an easement needed to build a retirement community, Coyote Springs, 60 miles northeast of Las Vegas, according to The Los Angeles Times. Since 2000, Mr. Whittemore had donated $45,000 to Mr. Reid’s campaign and a Reid-run political action committee, and two of Mr. Reid’s sons worked for Mr. Whittemore. All four of Mr. Reid’s sons at one time have worked for the law firm at which Mr. Whittemore is a senior attorney. The project was delayed until the BLM completed a deal to relocate a tortoise habitat. Ah, those tortoises.

In addition, The Washington Times’ Valerie Richardson reports that “Mr. Reid’s son Rory Reid, a former Clark County commissioner, represented ENN Mojave Energy, a Chinese-backed company seeking to build a $5 billion solar plant near Laughlin, Nev. The company ultimately dropped those plans .”

Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman dismissed what she called “conspiracy theories,” telling KLAS-TV in Las Vegas that the ENN project is more than 100 miles from the Bundy ranch. Another solar project whose groundbreaking Mr. Reid attended is closer — about 35 miles from the ranch, according to KLAS.

A BLM document just released last month also shows plans to develop the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone, which is contingent on “mitigation efforts” to protect wildlife on the Gold Butte land where Mr. Bundy grazes his cattle.

Let’s stop and take stock. First, the citizens’ armed response in support of the 76-year-old father of 14 may have prevented a replay of the Ruby Ridge siege in northern Idaho in August 1992, which resulted in the deaths of Randy Weaver’s wife, Vicki; his son Sammy; and Deputy U.S. Marshal William Francis Degan.

It may have prevented another massacre like the 51-day siege in 1993 of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, which resulted in the deaths of four federal agents, cult leader David Koresh, and 81 of his followers, including 25 children.

In Nevada, a better scenario has unfolded — so far. The BLM backed off and returned some cattle to Mr. Bundy. Negotiations are underway. Still, Mr. Reid told Reno TV station KRNV, “We can’t have an American people that violate the law and just walk away from it. So it’s not over.”

If only Mr. Reid felt that way about the U.S. Justice Department’s lawlessness under Attorney General Eric H. Holder.

Let the record show that Mr. Reid did refrain from accusing Mr. Bundy of being in cahoots with “the billionaire Koch brothers.”

Second, the incident shows the danger of allowing the federal government to become so powerful. As Ronald Reagan observed, “Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.”

Third, the involvement of people close to Mr. Reid cries out for an inquiry, and perhaps more. Nevada has a law allowing recall of “every public officer in the state.” Nevada’s secretary of state issued a 1977 opinion that the law doesn’t cover U.S. senators, but it’s never been court-tested. Perhaps it’s time.

Tea Party leaders in 2010 launched an effort to recall New Jersey Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez for backing Obamacare. The petition drive was tied up in court until the New Jersey Supreme Court dismissed it as “moot” because Mr. Menendez ran for (and won) re-election in 2012.

Mr. Reid isn’t up for re-election until 2016. (Contributor: Robert Knight for The Washington Times)

The question here is a familiar one. Is the function of government to serve its citizens or to rule over them? The tendency of government is to grow. Such growth is costly because government consumes wealth rather than producing it. The details in the article are less important than the principles. Return to the Founders’ convictions will not come easily. Citizens must decide if they will be ruled or seek the restoration of liberty. With freedom comes responsibility to work and to lead productive lives. Spiritual awakening must precede recovering liberty. Pray for a return to constitutional government.      

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” (Romans 12:17)

“They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” (2 Peter 2:19)

 

WEEDING OUT BAD SEEDS THROUGH MARKER-ASSISTED BREEDING

Alan Krivanek, a tomato breeder for Monsanto, dons a white protective suit, wipes his feet on a mat of disinfectant and enters a greenhouse to survey 80,000 seedlings. He is armed with a spreadsheet that will tell him which ones are likely to resist a slew of diseases. The rest he will discard.

Krivanek, 42, is part of a new generation of plant breeders who are transforming the 10,000-year history of plant selection. And their work has quietly become the cutting-edge technology among today’s major plant biotech companies. Instead of spending decades physically identifying plants that will bear fruits of the desired color and firmness, stand up to drought, and more, breeders are able to speed the process through DNA screening.

When his tomato plants were just a week old, technicians manually punched a hole in each seedling to get leaf tissue that was taken to a nearby lab, converted into a chemical soup and then scanned for genetic markers linked to desired traits.

Krivanek uses the information to keep just 3 percent of the seedlings and grow them until they fruit this spring, when he can evaluate fully grown plants, keep a few hundred, sow their seeds and then screen those plants.

“I’m improving my odds. Maybe I can introduce to market a real super-hybrid in five years,” Krivanek said. “A predecessor might take a whole career.”

The technology — called marker-assisted or molecular breeding — is far removed from the better-known and more controversial field of genetic engineering, in which a plant or animal can receive genes from a different organism.

Marker-assisted breeding, by contrast, lays bare the inherent genetic potential of an individual plant to allow breeders to find the most promising seedling among thousands for further breeding. Because the plant’s natural genetic boundaries are not crossed, the resulting commercial hybrid is spared the regulatory gantlet and the public opposition focused on such plants as genetically modified Roundup Ready corn or soybeans, which are engineered to withstand herbicide sprays.

Marker-assisted breeding has been embraced not only by the multinational biotech companies here in California’s Central Valley but also by plant scientists in government, research universities and nongovernmental organizations fervently seeking new, overachieving crops. The goal is to sustainably feed an expanding global population while dealing with the extremes of climate change.

But critics of Big Agriculture worry about the needs of small-scale farmers and breeders. Low-tech conventional breeding — judging plants by how they look and perform, not by their DNA — has been the lifeblood of small seed companies and local growers, often in conjunction with breeding programs at land-grant universities. But those programs have shrunk by a third in recent years, and the remaining ones are increasingly gravitating to the trendy sphere of molecular breeding.

Organic farmers, who need crop varieties designed for specific regions and less-intensive growing methods, are not being served by the new applied science, said John Navazio, a senior scientist with the Organic Seed Alliance.

“There used to be a significant winter spinach production area in southern Virginia and Delmarva, and that’s completely gone,” he said. The spinach-growing industry has moved to megagrowers in California and Arizona.

Progress comes sooner

Few observers, though, expect plant scientists to abandon a technology that has already yielded significant results. One of the earliest validations of ­marker-assisted breeding came in 2009 with the introduction of a rice variety in India that could survive complete submersion after monsoons, which earned it the nickname “scuba rice.” Once the genetic marker was identified, the variety was developed in just three years by scientists at the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos, the Philippines.

The key was to create rice that looked and performed like the existing one favored by Indian farmers — so that it would be accepted — but with the flood-tolerant gene, said Glenn Gre­gorio, a senior rice breeder with the institute. The organization has since released more than 10 additional monsoon-resistant varieties to flood-prone areas of India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines.

The varieties would have been extremely difficult to create with conventional breeding, he said, and taken decades to achieve.

The big multinational companies, including Monsanto, Syn­genta, DuPont Pioneer, Bayer CropScience and Dow AgroSciences, have invested heavily in the new plant-breeding programs, which will increasingly require colossal data-processing abilities.

“In many ways, the company has gone beyond” genetic engineering, said Robert T. Fraley, Monsanto’s chief scientist. “The breeding technology has changed dramatically in the last few years.”

Marker-assisted breeding won’t bring an end to GMOs, scientists say, because genetically engineered crops can achieve highly specific tasks now unobtainable through even marker-assisted breeding. But given the obstacles to GMO development — $100 million to create one variety, at least 10 years for regulatory approval and widespread public opposition — marker-assisted breeding has become alluring to such companies as Monsanto.

It is attractive because it is a powerful tool to assemble an array of desirable traits in a plant. A GMO plant, by contrast, has been engineered for a specific task — such as containing a bacterium that would kill a certain pest.

“GM really hasn’t delivered on its promises,” said Janet Cotter, a scientist with Greenpeace’s international science unit in Exeter, England. “For more-complex traits, I think people are seeing marker-assisted selection as a lot more valuable.”

The rice institute’s Gregorio said that about 5 percent of its breeding programs involve genetically engineered varieties, while marker-assisted varieties account for as much as 15 percent.

In a decade, probably two-thirds of its introductions will be developed through next-generation advanced molecular breeding, he said.

A matter of taste

For developing nations, the technology promises to avert certain crop disasters; for the supermarket shopper in the West, it might bring a whole new experience: flavor.

Seed companies acknowledge that in their quest to improve yield and shelf life, the taste has suffered, but they say that advanced breeding is bringing heirloom flavors back to industrialized varieties.

“This is one area where [marker-assisted] breeding begins to make an impact,” said Alexander Tokarz, head of vegetables for Syngenta, the Swiss biotech ­giant. “Early on, we brought shelf life into tomatoes and lost the flavor.”

The technology has been around for about 20 years but has become much easier and less expensive to use in the past few years, and consumers are only now seeing the results. Precision-bred cucumbers, peppers and other vegetables are showing up in supermarkets, but the unlabeled and brandless nature of loose produce makes it difficult to distinguish them, said Carly Scaduto, a spokeswoman for Monsanto.

Some varieties of Monsanto’s improved-nutrition broccoli — branded as Beneforté — became widely available in 2012. Last year, the company introduced Debut, an advanced hybrid tomato for growers and home gardeners. A group of blight-resistant peppers are in the final stage of testing before their commercial introduction, she said.

Felix Serquen, who heads Syngenta’s tomato-breeding research in Woodland, this year is introducing a beefsteak for California growers that resists the nematode, a root pest.

He is launching another variety — SevenTY III — that resists a strain of fusarium that is a major bane to growers in Florida.

Scientists acknowledge that the technology has evolved with little effort to inform the public about it. Sekhar Boddupalli, head of Monsanto’s consumer research for vegetables, wonders whether people even want to know. He pulls out his smartphone and places it on the table in front of him. “Are they asking how the iPhone really works? ‘Is it safe for me?’ ” he said. “No. But what they’re seeing is the benefit of this.”

Fast-paced testing

Monsanto, Syngenta and other multinational biotech companies conduct much of their vegetable research and development in the rich, loamy soils just outside Woodland, a few miles west of Sacramento, in ranges of greenhouses and, increasingly, laboratories on site and around the globe.

Krivanek’s leaf samples had gone to a testing lab within Monsanto’s new office complex in Woodland. The laboratory is starkly bright, clean and silent except for the hum of an automated machine encased in a cube of glass the size of an office cubicle. Inside of it, two robotic arms perform a frenzied dance with plastic plates, each containing almost 100 leaf samples.

The machine, called the Biocell, does the work of 30 lab technicians and can process tens of thousands of tissue samples daily, said Jeff Touchman, Monsanto’s head of molecular breeding in Woodland. The samples are liquefied, clarified and eventually injected into tiny indentations on a clear plastic ribbon.

The ribbon is spooled onto a scanner that uses light to trigger a chemical fluorescence, which reveals the presence of any desired genetic markers. A blue Internet cable threads upward, carrying the data to Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, where the company’s vegetable breeders around the globe can download their results.

“If plants were people, we could test the entire population of Los Angeles for breast cancer susceptibility in a month and a half,” Touchman said. “We think this is the highest throughput of genetic testing in the world, of any industry.”

It is about to get higher.

For plants with larger seeds, breeders can clip off a piece of the seed and test its DNA without waiting for it to grow into a seedling. Later this year, Monsanto plans to add to Touchman’s lab a robotic machine that will clip melon seeds. The process, called seed chipping, isn’t as easy at it might seem: The robot must be able to examine and orient the seed before chipping it to make sure the sampling doesn’t damage the plant embryo so a sampled seed can grow. The company has also developed chippers for corn, soy, cotton and wheat, whose seeds are relatively large and easier to chip than, say, those of a tomato or lettuce.

The machine can chip thousands of seeds a day. The breeder must still grow out selections and evaluate them, and prospective hybrids are typically field-tested in farms in different regions and climates before final commercial introduction. Still, the chippers will take advanced breeding to the next level. “If you are looking at [breeding for] five, six, seven traits, you would have to sow about a million plants,” Touchman said. With seed chipping, “space is no longer a limitation.”

Loss of diversity feared

As young as it is, marker-assisted breeding has already evolved. Some traits are the product of a single gene, making their incorporation relatively straightforward. But some crop attributes — resistance to some diseases, yield, quality and nutritional value, for example — are linked to a whole series of dis­parate genes.

To reach those, the scientists now are able to statistically predict if an individual plant has all the genes needed to provide the desired trait.

“The prediction model tells us the overall value of an individual” to a breeding program, said Mark E. Sorrells, chairman of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell University. The technique, called genomic selection, is about five years old and is used increasingly in such economic crops as corn and soy, although scientists expect its use to spread to important vegetable crops as their genomes are fully sequenced.

Major Goodman, a leading corn expert and geneticist at North Carolina State University, worries that the new technology is so precise in finding desired genes that the genetic diversity of the discarded material will be lost. “In the long term,” he said, “it may have a detrimental effect. We are getting advances now that may cost us in the future.”

Ralph Scorza, a peach breeder at the Agriculture Department’s Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, W.Va., believes, however, that “well-trained breeders will understand the balance between going headlong for a particular trait and also maintaining a population with diversity.”

Scorza works for the Agricultural Research Service, which with land-grant university researchers is making genomic data and methodologies public so that breeders outside the proprietary universe of the biotech companies can work on developing new hybrids.

“The federal government has led the world in releasing all the DNA sequencing information we have,” said Kay Simmons, deputy administrator of the research service.

But many small seed companies and breeders may not find that helpful, critics say. “It’s hard for small companies not only to access germ plasm, but also, many of them don’t have the wherewithal to use this new technology,” said Bill Tracy, a professor of agronomy at the University of Wisconsin. “So in a sense, it puts them at a double disadvantage.”

For those in on this science, the work has shifted in large part from the gritty, earthy environment of the greenhouse and test-field to the cold sterility of the lab.

And yet the high-tech breeders of Woodland still perform the ageless rituals of those who came before them. They must still take the pollen from one plant and fertilize another, and grow out candidates in the field, and see how they look, taste and feel. They must still select the parents and the crosses of their offspring. They must still walk the fields around their research farms and see if the genetic soothsayers were right.

“You have to have the feeling for the organism,” said Serquen, of Syngenta. “Otherwise you become computational, molecular.” (Contributor: By Adrian Higgins for The Washington Post)

When learning of scientific discovery that can benefit mankind, Christians give thanks, knowing that science and technology are gifts from God. Theologians speak of “common grace,” referring to divine favor that blesses believers and non-believers alike, as in the “rain falls on the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). Healthy, disease-resistant vegetables may well decrease world hunger. Missionaries may find open doors for the Gospel by teaching people how to grow such tomatoes.

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share…” (1 Timothy 6:17-18)

 “For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Cor. 4:7)

 

HOUSE BILL TO STOP PAYCHECKS FOR CONTEMPT

A congressman has introduced a bill that would stop government paychecks for officials who have been found in contempt of Congress — a move that seems designed in the short term to go after Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

Mr. Holder has refused to cooperate with House Republicans’ probe into the Fast & Furious gun-walking operation, and the House has voted to find him in contempt. Mr. Holder is challenging that vote in court.

Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Texas Republican who publicly excoriated Mr. Holder at a hearing last week, introduced the legislation just before Congress went on vacation, and announced it Tuesday.

“The American people should not be footing the bill for federal employees who stonewall Congress or rewarding government officials’ bad behavior,” Mr. Farenthold said.

Mr. Holder appeared before the House Judiciary Committee last week and faced harsh barbs over his defense of Obama administration policies. He bristled at having been held in contempt.

“You don’t want to go there, buddy, all right?” Mr. Holder barked at one congressman who speculated that the attorney general wasn’t taking the contempt accusation seriously. “I think that it was inappropriate. I think it was unjust. But never think that that was not a big deal to me. Don’t ever think that.”

When the time came for Mr. Farenthold to ask his questions, he demurred, saying he didn’t think the House should have even let Mr. Holder appear to testify, since he is actively being cited for contempt.

“I just don’t think it’s appropriate that Mr. Holder be here. If an American citizen had not complied with one of the Justice Department subpoenas, they would be in jail, not sitting here in front, testifying,” the congressman said.

It’s unclear whether the House will take up Mr. Farenthold’s new bill, and even less likely that the Senate, controlled by Democrats, would accept it.

But Mr. Farenthold hinted that Republicans could attach the paycheck denial to some of the annual spending bills.

His legislation would not apply to Lois G. Lerner, a former IRS official at the center of the agency’s tea party targeting scandal, who retired from government service in September.

Denying salaries for executive branch officials deemed in violation of congressional wishes is not new. For decades, Congress refused to pay salaries to officials who had been installed by recess appointments — a tool the president can use as an end-run around the Senate’s constitutional powers to confirm or reject nominees the White House sends over. (Contributor:  By Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times)

The issues for prayer and intercession are clear. If government officials can scoff at or ignore the contempt laws with impunity, then the nation flirts with anarchy, with the result being chaos and disintegration of national integrity. The pending scandals are real and bipartisan in nature. It is providential that 2014 is an election year, and some changes will be forced by the pressures on those seeking re-election. Let us pray accordingly. As a nation, we need a return to righteous government, which in this case means renewed recognition of and compliance with the U.S. Constitution.

“Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.” (1 Samuel 12:24)

“For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”  (Galatians 6:8)

On Watch in Washington April 23, 2014 Plain Text  PDF Version

 

On Watch in Washington April 16, 2014

April 15th, 2014

On Watch in Washington April 16, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

FOUR BLOOD MOONS: SIGN OF ‘WORLD-SHAKING EVENT’

The heavens are putting on a celestial show this week — and one Christian pastor is convinced it’s a sign from God.

Bestselling author and televangelist Pastor John Hagee says the four blood moons that will soon appear in the skies over America are evidence of a future “world-shaking event.”

The blood moons are part of a tetrad, a set of complete and consecutive lunar eclipses that will begin on April 15 and continue in roughly six-month intervals until October 2015.

According to NASA, seeing four complete lunar eclipses in a row is very rare. The skies were tetrad-free from 1600 to 1900. But in the 21st century, there will be many.

What’s even stranger is that Americans have a front row seat.

“The most unique thing about the 2014-2015 tetrad is that all of them are visible for all or parts of the USA,” NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak told CNN.

Hagee, founder of Texas’ Cornerstone Church, thinks this is no coincidence. For him, it’s a sign of the end times.

The 73-year-old preacher has been preparing for the tetrad for years. He released a book about the blood moons last October and will go in depth about his speculations during a special TV event on April 15 on the Global Evangelism Television channel.

He points to Acts 2:19-20, which reads, “And I will show wonders in Heaven above and signs in the Earth beneath, the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.”

In sermons to his flock, Hagee said that each of the blood moons happens on a religiously significant day.

The April 15 event happens during Passover. On Oct. 8, the blood moon will occur during the Feast of Tabernacles. Another blood moon will occur during Passover on April 4, 2015. The last will happen on Sept. 28, 2015, another Feast ot the Tabernacles.

For proof of his theory, Hagee finds connections between past tetrads and important events in the life of the Jewish people.

In 1493, a tetrad occurred while the Jews were being expelled from Spain. Another tetrad occurred in 1949, soon after the state of Israel was founded. The last tetrad happened in 1967, during the Six-Day War between Arabs and Israelis.

“Just as in biblical times, God is controlling the sun, the moon, and the stars to send our generation a signal that something big is about to happen. The question is: Are we watching and listening to His message?” Hagee writes in his book. (Contributor: By Carol Kuruvilla for the NY Daily News)

Intercessors have been praying and will continue to intercede for whatever event or events God has planned in relation to this eclipse pattern over the next two years. It will be consistent for us to continue to pray in unity for another national Great Awakening to revive the Church, that clear Gospel preaching, teaching, and witnessing will lead many to salvation in what the Apostles and Church Fathers called “these last days.” We must not predict but we may expect God to reveal Himself. The Scripture from Joel’s prophecy is applied by Peter on the Day of Pentecost. 

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath: blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:17-21)

 

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC REPORT ON THE LUNAR EVENT

The first total lunar eclipse in more than two years graced the skies this past Monday, and it was all the more rare because it was visible above the entire Western Hemisphere.

During the overnight hours of April 14-15, skygazers there had a front-row seat as the full moon is painted red, creating what many call a “blood moon,” as Earth’s shadow creeps across the lunar disk.

Lunar eclipses are exciting because [God through] nature puts on a free show for everyone to enjoy, and it causes us to look back at the sky and reexamine our place in the solar system and beyond.

Lunar eclipses occur only when there is a full moon and the sun, Earth, and moon are precisely aligned for our planet’s shadow to turn out the lunar lights.

During a lunar eclipse, the moon passes behind our planet so that Earth blocks the sun’s rays from striking the moon. Due to the moon’s tilted orbit around the Earth, one doesn’t occur every month. And total eclipses usually happen once every few years, though there are sometimes more than one in a year.

“Since the moon’s orbit around the Earth is slightly inclined, it doesn’t pass through the shadow every month, therefore every year we get an eclipse twice a year—very rarely we can get up to five,” said Samra.

Unlike solar eclipses, lunar ones are safely visible to the unaided eye. (A solar eclipse occurs when the moon comes between the Earth and the sun and blocks the disk of the sun.)

Lunar eclipses have been considered an awe-inspriring sky event for millenia, and ancient astronomers could do rudimentary but fundamental science with them, says Samra.

“Many cultures have mythologies associated with lunar eclipses so there has always been interest in the eclipses,” said Samra. “The ancient Greeks were able to use the Earth’s shadow cast on the moon to predict the approximate relative sizes of the two bodies.”

Lunar eclipses make the scene in skies over heavily populated cities and towns, making next week a special event for all sky-watchers. Here’s our viewing guide:

Why was this eclipse so noteworthy?

Beyond its occurrence over two heavily populated continents, this week’s event kicked off a lunar eclipse tetrad (group of four). For two years, a lunar eclipse will occur over the Western Hemisphere every six months. In addition to this past April 14, mark your calendars for this October 8 and for April 4 and September 28, 2015.

If you were clouded out or on the wrong side of the Earth for this month’s eclipse, don’t fret. You can watch the entire disappearing act online, via a robotic telescope webcast from the SLOOH Observatory live feeds from throughout North America including the Prescott Observatory in Prescott, Arizona.

Why does the moon turn orange-red during a lunar eclipse?

During an eclipse, sunlight shining through the ring of Earth’s dusty atmosphere is bent, or refracted, toward the red part of the spectrum and cast onto the moon’s surface.

As a result, expect to see the lunar disk go from a dark gray color during the partial phase of the eclipse to a reddish-orange color during totality. The same effect is at work when the sun turns red at sunset.

The moon’s color during totality can vary considerably depending on the amount of dust in the Earth’s atmosphere at the time. Active volcanoes spewing tons of ash into the upper atmosphere, for instance, can trigger blood-red eclipses.

No one can predict exactly what color we’ll see before each eclipse.

Who gets to see the sky show?

The best views will be from the entire North and South American continents and much of the Pacific Basin, including Hawaii. Eastern Australia got to see the second half of the show on the night of April 15, as the moon rose during totality.

Europe, Africa, and central Asia, meanwhile, missed the entire eclipse because it was daytime in those regions at the time of the event. (Contributor: National Geographic)

Here is some additional scientific data and explanation of the eclipse phenomena. It is interesting but not divine revelation. Intercessors have our “marching orders” from the Bible, which teaches us that we should “always pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). The follow Scripture describes how God would have His Church poised, awake from slumber, hear His Word, and obey His direction. Pray accordingly, as led. Let us all remain on “high alert” in the Spirit.

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” (Romans 13:11-14)

 

NSA SAID TO EXPLOIT HEARTBLEED BUG FOR YEARS

The U.S. National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said.

The agency’s reported decision to keep the bug secret in pursuit of national security interests threatens to renew the rancorous debate over the role of the government’s top computer experts. The NSA, after declining to comment on the report, subsequently denied that it was aware of Heartbleed until the vulnerability was made public by a private security report earlier this month.

“Reports that NSA or any other part of the government were aware of the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability before 2014 are wrong,” according to an e-mailed statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Heartbleed appears to be one of the biggest flaws in the Internet’s history, affecting the basic security of as many as two-thirds of the world’s websites. Its discovery and the creation of a fix by researchers five days ago prompted consumers to change their passwords, the Canadian government to suspend electronic tax filing and computer companies including Cisco Systems Inc. to Juniper Networks Inc. to provide patches for their systems. (Contributor: By Andrew Fazekas for National Geograph)

Putting the Heartbleed bug in its arsenal, the NSA was able to obtain passwords and other basic data that are the building blocks of the sophisticated hacking operations at the core of its mission, but at a cost. Millions of ordinary users were left vulnerable to attack from other nations’ intelligence arms and criminal hackers.

Controversial Practice

“It flies in the face of the agency’s comments that defense comes first,” said Jason Healey, director of the cyber statecraft initiative at the Atlantic Council and a former Air Force cyber officer. “They are going to be completely shredded by the computer security community for this.”

Experts say the search for flaws is central to NSA’s mission, though the practice is controversial. A presidential board reviewing the NSA’s activities after Edward Snowden’s leaks recommended that the agency halt the stockpiling of software vulnerabilities.

When new vulnerabilities of the Heartbleed type are discovered, they are disclosed, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in response to the Bloomberg report. A clear process exists among agencies for deciding when to share vulnerabilities, the office said in a statement.

“This administration takes seriously its responsibility to help maintain an open, interoperable, secure and reliable Internet,” Shawn Turner, director of public affairs for the office, said in the statement. “Unless there is a clear national security or law enforcement need, this process is biased toward responsibly disclosing such vulnerabilities.”

Hunting Flaws

The NSA and other elite intelligence agencies devote millions of dollars to hunt for common software flaws that are critical to stealing data from secure computers. Open-source protocols like OpenSSL, where the flaw was found, are primary targets.

The Heartbleed flaw, introduced in early 2012 in a minor adjustment to the OpenSSL protocol, highlights one of the failings of open source software development.

While many Internet companies rely on the free code, its integrity depends on a small number of underfunded researchers who devote their energies to the projects.

In contrast, the NSA has more than 1,000 experts devoted to ferreting out such flaws using sophisticated analysis techniques, many of them classified. The agency found Heartbleed shortly after its introduction, according to one of the people familiar with the matter, and it became a basic part of the agency’s toolkit for stealing account passwords and other common tasks.

NSA Spying

The NSA has faced nine months of withering criticism for the breadth of its spying, documented in a rolling series of leaks from Snowden, who was a former agency contractor.

The revelations have created a clearer picture of the two roles, sometimes contradictory, played by the U.S.’s largest spy agency. The NSA protects the computers of the government and critical industry from cyber-attacks, while gathering troves of intelligence attacking the computers of others, including terrorist organizations, nuclear smugglers and other governments.

Ordinary Internet users are ill-served by the arrangement because serious flaws are not fixed, exposing their data to domestic and international spy organizations and criminals, said John Pescatore, director of emerging security trends at the SANS Institute, a Bethesda, Maryland-based cyber-security training organization.

One Agency

“If you combine the two into one government agency, which mission wins?” asked Pescatore, who formerly worked in security for the NSA and the U.S. Secret Service. “Invariably when this has happened over time, the offensive mission wins.”

When researchers uncovered the Heartbleed bug hiding in plain sight and made it public on April 7, it underscored an uncomfortable truth: The public may be placing too much trust in software and hardware developers to insure the security of our most sensitive transactions.

“We’ve never seen any quite like this,” said Michael Sutton, vice president of security research at Zscaler, a San Jose, California-based security firm. “Not only is a huge portion of the Internet impacted, but the damage that can be done, and with relative ease, is immense.”

The potential stems from a flawed implementation of protocol used to encrypt communications between users and websites protected by OpenSSL, making those supposedly secure sites an open book. The damage could be done with relatively simple scans, so that millions of machines could be hit by a single attacker.

Exploiting Flaw

Questions remain about whether anyone other than the U.S. government might have exploited the flaw before the public disclosure. Sophisticated intelligence agencies in other countries are one possibility.

If criminals found the flaw before a fix was published this week, they could have scooped up troves of passwords for bank accounts, e-commerce sites and e-mail accounts worldwide.

Evidence of that is so far lacking, and it’s possible that cybercriminals missed the potential in the same way security professionals did, suggested Tal Klein, vice president of marketing at Adallom, in Menlo Park, California.

The fact that the vulnerability existed in the transmission of ordinary data — even if it’s the kind of data the vast majority of users are concerned about — may have been a factor in the decision by NSA officials to keep it a secret, said James Lewis, a cybersecurity senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Determining Risk

“They actually have a process when they find this stuff that goes all the way up to the director” of the agency, Lewis said. “They look at how likely it is that other guys have found it and might be using it, and they look at what’s the risk to the country.”

Lewis said the NSA has a range of options, including exploiting the vulnerability to gain intelligence for a short period of time and then discreetly contacting software makers or open source researchers to fix it.

The SSL protocol has a history of security problems, Lewis said, and is not the primary form of protection governments and others use to transmit highly sensitive information.

“I knew hackers who could break it nearly 15 years ago,” Lewis said of the SSL protocol.

That may not soothe the millions of users who were left vulnerable for so long.

Panel’s Recommendation

Following the leaks about NSA’s electronic spying, President Barack Obama convened a panel to review surveillance activities and suggest reforms. Among the dozens of changes put forward was a recommendation that the NSA quickly move to fix software flaws rather that exploit them, and that they be used only in “rare instances” and for short periods of time.

“If the NSA knows about a vulnerability, then often other nation states and even criminal organizations can exploit the same security vulnerability,” said Harley Geiger, senior counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology in Washington. “What may be a good tool for the NSA may also turn out to be a tool for organizations that are less ethical or have no ethics at all.”

Currently, the NSA has a trove of thousands of such vulnerabilities that can be used to breach some of the world’s most sensitive computers, according to a person briefed on the matter. Intelligence chiefs have said the country’s ability to spot terrorist threats and understand the intent of hostile leaders would be vastly diminished if their use were prohibited. (Contributor: By Michael Riley for Bloomberg News)

The ultimate source of national security is not computers or surveillance, but from God, whose Word declares, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…” (Ps. 33:12). But where is such a nation today? We learned through Abraham’s intercession that God would have spared Sodom if only 10 righteous were found there (Gen 18). Let this give us hope! Surely, there are thousands of righteous persons in the U.S. Pray for God’s mercy, asking Him to awaken His Church to unified prayer, with fasting, for a national turning back to Him. He knows all the secrets and holds the keys for mercy or judgment.

“Then [Abraham] said, ‘Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?’ And [God] said, ‘I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.’” (Gen. 18:32)

“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13)

“For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:2-3)

 

U.S. NAVY CHRISTENS USS ZUMWALT

The US Navy on Saturday christened the first of its newest class of destroyers – the more than $3 billion (£1.8 billion), 610-foot (186-metre)-long USS Zumwalt.

Named after the late Admiral Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt, the warship sports advanced technology and a stealthy shape designed to minimise its visibility on enemy radar and reduce the size of its crew.

Among the 15,000-tonne destroyer’s cutting-edge features are a composite deckhouse with hidden radar and sensors and an angular shape that officials say will allow it to be confused for a small fishing boat on radars. It also has a wave-piercing hull designed to reduce the ship’s wake.

It’s the first US ship to use electric propulsion and produces enough power to one day support the futuristic electromagnetic rail gun, which will be tested at sea in 2016.

Rail guns fire a projectile at six or seven times the speed of sound – enough velocity to cause severe damage. The Navy sees them as replacing or supplementing old-school guns.

In the future, it could also be fitted with even more advanced weaponry. This summer, the US Navy plans to test the viability of a laser weapon device in the Persian Gulf. It will be used to shoot down aerial drones at ultra-low cost – it is thought one shot of laser will cost about $1.

It is also hoped the Zumwalt will, like its reformer namesake who spearheaded changes that helped shape the Navy by offering new opportunities to women and minorities, shepherd the fleet into a new era, officials said.

“This ship is a modern marvel, and it’s going to take smart and creative and hardworking sailors like Bud Zumwalt to operate it,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus told the crowd of thousands at Bath Iron Works, where the ship has been under construction since 2009.

Mouzetta Zumwalt-Weathers and Ann Zumwalt, the former admiral’s daughters, each christened the ship by smashing a bottle of champagne near its bow, followed by cheers and bursts of red, white and blue streamers. They were joined at the ceremony by Zumwalt’s son, retired Marine Lt. Col. Jim Zumwalt, who recalled 55 years ago, as a young boy, attending the christening of the USS Dewey, which his father commanded.

Inside, sailors will have more space to work and live because the Zumwalt will only require about half the crew of the current generation of destroyers. Meanwhile, fewer sailors will need to stand watch because of cameras and video monitors that show what’s going on outside.

That will allow the Navy to “carry out its crucial mission at a time of budget constraints,” said US Senator Susan Collins of Maine.

The Zumwalt was originally supposed to be christened in October, but the ceremony was rescheduled because of the federal government shutdown. The ship is expected to be delivered to the Navy late this year and to enter service in 2016. It will be joined by two other destroyers in its class, which are also being built in Bath. (Contributor: Antonia Molloy for The Independent -  Additional reporting by Associated Press)

Pray for God to give elected officials wisdom in stewarding the costs of maintaining national security through our military. He alone knows where our nation will be in 2016, when the USS Zumwalt has been outfitted, tested, and enters service. With growing national debt, as well as our budget straining and in need of balance, the country needs strong defense, coupled with thrifty use of its resources. Pray, too, for the moral concerns of military life, such as placing women in direct armed conflict, and the curtailed freedom of Christian chaplains to share the Gospel. When it was young, our nation sought God’s ways. Pray that we will return to those roots.

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.” (Luke 14:28-32)

 

ISRAEL TO PA: SUSPEND UN MOVE OR WE’LL TOUGHEN SANCTIONS

In wake of unilateral Palestinian move to seek further international recognition, Israel sends clear warning to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas • White House: Unilateral moves by both sides will not accelerate the peace process.

Israel has imposed economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority in response to the PA’s recent submission of applications to 15 different international organizations and conventions.

An Israeli official said that Israel would deduct debt payments from tax transfers that the PA routinely receives, and limit the PA’s bank deposits in Israel.

The Israeli official said Israel had “decided this evening to deduct debts of the Palestinian Authority to Israel from tax revenue transfers,” but would not say what amounts were involved.

Israel has made it clear to the Palestinians that if they further pursue their unilateral moves in the international arena, Israel will escalate its own unilateral steps.

On Wednesday, Israel said it was limiting its contacts with Palestinian officials, citing the unilateral move by the Palestinians to seek further international recognition. Israel also said it would suspend its participation in a gas exploration project off the coast of the Gaza Strip.

Israel viewed that move as an attempt by the Palestinians to assume the trappings of statehood outside the framework of the U.S.-backed negotiations, which appear to be in danger of collapsing before an April 29 deadline.

Abbas, for his part, has accused Israel of violating a commitment to release two dozen prisoners at the end of March, the last group of about 100 Israel pledged to free, including Palestinians convicted of killing Israelis, when the negotiations resumed in July.

The revenues that Israel collects on goods bound for the Palestinian market amount to about $100 million a month and accounts for about two thirds of the Palestinian budget. Based on Israeli media reports, Palestinian debts to Israel for such services as electricity total at least a month’s worth of revenue.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the Israeli move “unfortunate” on Friday.

“We’ve seen these press reports, but we have not seen an official public announcement by the government of Israel. That said, we would regard such a development as unfortunate. We believe that the regular transfer of the Palestinian Authority’s tax revenues and economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been beneficial and is important to the well-being of the Palestinian economy,” Psaki said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “Unilateral moves by both sides will not accelerate the peace process, but will rather do the opposite.”

The Prime Minister’s Office did not comment on the remarks made by American officials and, at this point, it is unclear where the efforts to keep the peace talks alive stand.

Senior Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo said, “These sanctions will not scare us and they’re evidence to the world that Israel is a racist occupation state that has resorted to the weapon of collective punishment in addition to other practices including settlements and their expansion and the denial of our most basic rights as a people.”

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Friday that “the Israeli decision to withhold these funds is piracy. … It cannot be maintained.”

Meanwhile, an Abbas adviser told The Economist magazine that the PA was in a no-win situation regarding the framework peace deal U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying to formulate. “If we say yes, we are doomed,” because of the Palestinian ridicule that would ensue, the adviser said. “And if we say no we are doomed; the blame game is waiting for us as usual.” (Contributor: Israel Hayom)

There is nothing new here. American Christians must live with the fact that our government continues to pull back from its fair support of Israel. This observation should guide our prayers. We know God is fully in control and has an ultimate plan and purpose for each of the nations. This includes the preservation of Israel. Pray accordingly, asking God to remove the veil so Israel will turn to the Lord, recognizing Jesus as Messiah. Isaiah speaks of a future day when light will come to Israel and the glory of the Lord will again rise over His Old Testament people (see all of Isaiah 60).

“But their (Israel’s) minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is 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.” (2 Cor 3:14-16) 

Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” (Isaiah 60:1-3)

 

YOUNGER AMERICANS LOSE FAITH IN THE BIBLE

More Americans are doubting the infallibility of the Bible, treating it as a guidebook rather than the actual words of God, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The State of the Bible survey, conducted by the Barna Group and the American Bible Society, shows that 19 percent of American adults are “skeptical” about the Bible and 19 percent are “engaged” with the book.

It’s the first time in the four years of the survey that the two groups are tied, with skeptics growing by 10 percentage points since 2011. The shift is attributed in large part to the growing doubts of the millennial generation and Generation X.

“I think young people have always questioned their parents, questioned the church,” said Roy Peterson, president of the American Bible Society. “In our experience, they may not necessarily be coming back like previous generations. Young people might have said, ‘God’s word is written by God, and it’s an important book.’ Today the skeptics are saying, ‘It’s just like any other piece of literature, and it’s no different from that.’”

Millennials, generally described as those born since 1980, are less likely to own, read and respect the Bible. Survey conductors predicted this trend would continue through the next five years.

“It is a concern for us,” Mr. Peterson said. “You know how ideologic we are when we’re young, hoping the church lives out what Jesus said to do, seeing the church meeting injustice and hurts of our society. We have to help people find answers in Scripture.”

Bible skepticism is on the rise. The survey showed that 79 percent of Americans believe the Bible is sacred, down from 86 percent in 2011.

The survey found that 88 percent of Americans have a Bible in their home, but only about 37 percent of them read it on a regular basis. Forty percent of respondents said the main reason they were not reading the Bible was that they were too busy. Other reasons included significant life changes or events that created doubt in the Bible owner’s faith.

Mr. Peterson said the “too busy” excuse will be a focus for the American Bible Society in the next year.

“It’s not possible to live to the standard of the Gospel without a vibrant relationship with the Lord,” he said. “No one is too busy to stop and eat; that’s really how we have to see the Scriptures. We have to disciple people to the point where they can’t live — can’t live their life — without Scripture.”

Another trend the survey found was a change in the way people read the Bible. Among Bible readers, 84 percent said they use print editions, but the share of people who use smartphones or tablets to access Scripture has increased from 18 percent to 35 percent since 2011.

About 11 percent of survey respondents who increased their Bible reading said that watching the successful TV miniseries “The Bible” last year inspired them to read more of the book on which it was based.

Also on the topic of media, about 33 percent of respondents, — compared with 29 percent last year — blamed television, music and movies for a decline in American morals. About one-third of those surveyed in 2013 blamed a lack of Bible reading as the problem, but that number dropped this year to 26 percent.

The survey of roughly 1,000 adults was conducted via phone and online Jan. 8-20. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.

The California-based Barna Group conducts a variety of surveys and studies on faith and culture. Its work has included what sacrifices Christians make during Lent and how voters’ faith affects their decisions. (Contributor:  By Meredith Somers for The Washington Times)

This is a sobering report. Its focus for prayer is the Church, the body of Christ. May all of us first humble ourselves and pray without pointing at others. For perspective, every era in our nation’s history has seen spiritual decline. In each case, a remnant has stepped up with conviction to pray, with fasting, for national renewal, which God has granted. Will we press in again, as our forbears did, and ask God for wide-scale renewal? Let us seek Him. Consider first a Messianic Psalm that foretells our Lord’s victory with willing servants to move in God’s power. Then note that God’s grace redeems and renews!

“The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! Your people shall be [willing] volunteers in the day of Your power…” (Psalm 110:1-3a)

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9)

 

 ‘WHY SCIENCE DOES NOT DISPROVE GOD’

In “Einstein, God, and the Big Bang,” a colorful chapter of his new book, Amir D. Aczel maintains that Albert Einstein truly believed in God. He points out that Einstein attended synagogue during his year in Prague (1913). He repeats several famous Einstein utterances mentioning the Deity: “Subtle is the Lord, but malicious he is not” and “I want to know God’s thoughts — the rest are details.” And he quotes from a letter the great physicist wrote to a little girl in January 1936: “Everyone who is seriously interested in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man.”

Aczel goes on to express strong displeasure with such people as physicist Lawrence Krauss and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (who, in his bestseller “The God Delusion,” says that Einstein “didn’t really mean it”) when they cast Einstein as an atheist in support of their diatribes against religious belief.

Dawkins; Krauss, with his bestseller “A Universe From Nothing”; and Sam Harris, with his bestseller “The End of Faith,” are prominent New Atheists, who use modern science to argue that God is not only unnecessary but unlikely to exist at all, even behind the curtains. There’s a certain religious fervor in all these books. Atheists, unite.

Aczel, trained as a mathematician, currently a research fellow in the history of science at Boston University and the author of “Fermat’s Last Theorem,” takes aim at the New Atheists in his intelligent and stimulating book “Why Science Does Not Disprove God.” He attempts to show that the New Atheists’ analyses fall far short of disproving the existence of God. In fact, he accuses these folks of staining the scientific enterprise by bending it to their dark mission. (“The purpose of this book is to defend the integrity of science,” he writes in his introduction.) Yet Aczel has a sly mission of his own. Invoking various physical phenomena that do not (yet) have convincing scientific explanations, he sets out not only to debunk the arguments of the New Atheists but also to gently suggest that the findings of science actually point to the existence of God.

In stockpiling his arguments, Aczel quotes from his interviews with dozens of leading scientists and theologians, and interprets statements in a range of popular writings. The resulting book is part science (interesting but superficial summaries of cosmology, quantum mechanics, evolutionary biology, chaos theory), part history of religion, part philosophy, part spirituality, and a modicum of backbiting and invective. The latter applies to the writings of the New Atheists as well.

Let’s start with the origin of the universe. There is plenty of good scientific evidence that our universe began about 14 billion years ago, in a Big Bang of enormously high density and temperature, long before planets, stars and even atoms existed. But what came before? Krauss in his book discusses the current thinking of physicists that our entire universe could have emerged from a jitter in the amorphous haze of the subatomic world called the quantum foam, in which energy and matter can materialize out of nothing. (On the level of single subatomic particles, physicists have verified in the lab that such creation from “nothing” can occur.) Krauss’s punch line is that we do not need God to create the universe. The quantum foam can do it quite nicely all on its own. Aczel asks the obvious question: But where did the quantum foam come from? Where did the quantum laws come from? Hasn’t Krauss simply passed the buck? Legitimate questions. But ones we will probably never be able to answer.

In his foray into biology, Aczel says the theory of evolution is flawed. In particular, he points out that it does not explain altruistic behavior with no apparent survival benefit to the genes of the do-gooder. He cites a recent example of a Mount Everest climbing expedition in which an Israeli climber was well on his way to the top when he discovered a fallen Turkish climber who had lost his face mask and oxygen supply. At the cost of his own fingers and toes to frostbite, and sacrificing the glory of reaching the summit, the Israeli stopped and saved the life of the Turkish fellow. Why did he do it? “Human decency and goodness,” Aczel writes, with the implication that such qualities come from religion and spirituality. (In another chapter, he explains how a code of morality developed in early religions.)

Aczel discusses the mysteries of “emergent” phenomena — when a complex system exhibits a qualitative behavior that cannot be explained in terms of the workings of its individual parts: for example, the emergence of self-replicating life from inanimate molecules or the emergence of consciousness from a collection of connected neurons. He writes, “The inexplicability of such emergent phenomena is the reason why we cannot disprove the idea of some creative power behind everything.”

I disagree. It is not the inability of science to explain some physical phenomenon that shows we cannot disprove the existence of a creative power (i.e., God). Science is a work in progress, and phenomena that science cannot explain now may be explained 100 years from now. Before the 18th century, people had no explanation for lightning. The reason that science cannot disprove the existence of God, in my opinion, is that God, as understood by all human religions, exists outside time and space. God is not part of our physical universe (although God may choose to enter the physical universe at times). God is not subject to experimental tests. Either you believe or you don’t believe.

Thus, no matter what scientific evidence is amassed to explain the architecture of atoms, or the ways that neurons exchange chemical and electrical signals to create the sensations in our minds, or the manner in which the universe may have been born out of the quantum foam, science cannot disprove the existence of God — any more than a fish can disprove the existence of trees. Likewise, no matter what gaps exist in current scientific knowledge, no matter what baffling good deeds people do, no matter what divine and spiritual feelings people have, theology cannot prove the existence of God. The most persuasive evidence of God, according to the great philosopher and psychologist William James in his landmark book “The Varieties of Religious Experience” (1902), is not physical or objective or provable. It is the highly personal transcendent experience.

There is one scientific conundrum that practically screams out the limitations of both science and religion. And that is the “fine tuning” problem. For the past 50 years or so, physicists have become more and more aware that various fundamental parameters of our universe appear to be fine-tuned to allow the emergence of life — not only life as we know it but life of any kind. For example, if the nuclear force were slightly stronger than it is, then all of the hydrogen atoms in the infant universe would have fused with other hydrogen atoms to make helium, and there would be no hydrogen left. No hydrogen means no water. On the other hand, if the nuclear force were substantially weaker than it is, then the complex atoms needed for biology could not hold together.

In another, even more striking example, if the cosmic “dark energy” discovered 15 years ago were a little denser than it actually is, our universe would have expanded so rapidly that matter could never have pulled itself together to form stars. And if the dark energy were a little smaller, the universe would have collapsed long before stars had time to form. Atoms are made in stars. Without stars there would be no atoms and no life.

So, the question is: Why? Why do these parameters lie in the narrow range that allows life? There are three possibilities: First, there might be some as-yet-unknown physics that requires these parameters to be what they are. But this explanation is highly questionable — why should the laws of physics care about the emergence of life? Second possibility: God created the universe, God wanted life (for whatever reasons), so God designed the universe so that it would allow life. Third possibility, and the one favored by many physicists today: Our universe is one of zillions of different universes with a huge range of parameters, including many different values for the strength of the nuclear force and the density of dark energy.

Some universes have stars and planets, some do not. Some harbor life, some do not. In this scenario, our universe is simply an accident. If our particular universe did not have the right parameters to allow the emergence of life, we wouldn’t be here to talk about it. In a similar way, Earth happens to be at the right distance from the sun to have liquid water, a nice oxygen atmosphere and so on. We can ask why our planet has all these lovely properties, amenable to life. And the explanation is that there is nothing special or designed about Earth. Other planets exist. But if we lived on Mercury, where the temperature is 800 degrees, or on Neptune, where it is 328 degrees below zero, we could not exist. Unfortunately, it is almost certain that we cannot prove the existence of these other universes. We must accept their existence as a matter of faith.

And here we come to the fascinating irony of the fine-tuning problem. Both the theological explanation and the scientific explanation require faith. To be sure, there are huge differences between science and religion. Religion knows about the transcendent experience. Science knows about the structure of DNA and the orbits of planets. Religion gathers its knowledge largely by personal testament. Science gathers its knowledge by repeated experiments and mathematical calculations, and has been enormously successful in explaining much of the physical universe. But, in the manner I have described, faith enters into both enterprises.

Several years ago, I thought that the writings and arguments of such people as Dawkins and Aczel, attempting to disprove or prove the existence of God, were a terrible waste of calories. I have changed my mind. I now believe that the discussions of science and religion, even the attempts of one side to disprove the other, are part of the continuing and restorative conversation of humanity with itself. In the end, all of our art, our science and our theological beliefs are an attempt to make sense of this fabulous and fleeting existence we find ourselves in. (Contributor: By Alan Lightman for The Washington Post – Alan Lightman is a physicist, novelist and professor of the practice of the humanities at MIT. His latest book is “The Accidental Universe.”)

Christians should love this article, copy it, and share it with saint and skeptic alike. First, it stimulates great praise and worship toward the true and living God. The hymn writer exclaimed, “Great God of wonders…” The glories of creation are prelude to the exceeding glories of redemption. Second, we feel compassion for both Professors Aczel and Lightman as they try to fathom the unfathomable. Pray that God may be pleased to “reveal His Son” to them and millions of others before the end of the age. Christians know we need not “prove” God, but a revived Church will demonstrate His glory in changed lives prepared for eternity. Pray fervently for the body of Christ to emerge in power.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5)

“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood…” (Galatians 1:15-16) 

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2)

On Watch in Washington April 16, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version