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In 1990, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn emerged from his isolation in Cavendish, Vermont, and issued a vatic manifesto entitled “How to Revitalize Russia.” Published at great length in Komsomolskaya Pravda, it was a document out of time, written in a prophetic nineteenth-century voice, with archaic diction and priestly cadences. Solzhenitsyn, a heroic dissident, was always at the nationalist end of the spectrum, but he was not calling for some sort of tsarist revival and imperial maintenance. Rather, he endorsed a hyper-local, Swiss-style democratic politics, a transition to private property, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. “We do not have the energy to run an Empire!” he wrote. “Let us shrug it off. It is crushing us, it is draining us, and it is accelerating our demise.” Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, along with the Caucasian republics, were to make their own way. But on the question of Ukraine he had a different view. Russia must be at the center of a “Russian union,” he declared, and Ukraine was integral to it.
At the time, Ukrainian nationalists, particularly in the western part of the republic, were joining the Baltic states in their bold drive for independence, and had formed a “people’s movement” called Rukh. Leonid Kravchuk, a dreary Communist Party hack who had previously shown nothing but indifference to Ukrainian nationalism, won the Presidency, in 1991, by deciding to stand with Rukh. This was a trend that Solzhenitsyn, in the woods of New England, and so many Russians throughout the Soviet Union, could not easily abide. It defied their sense of history. To them, Ukraine was no more a real nation than Glubbdubdrib or Freedonia. Vladimir Putin, a former officer of the K.G.B., was the first post-Soviet leader to deliver a state prize to Solzhenitsyn, who had spent a lifetime in a death struggle with the K.G.B.; a large part of their common ground was a rough notion of what Russia encompassed. As Putin told the second President Bush, “You have to understand, George. Ukraine is not even a country.”
Solzhenitsyn, one of the great truth-tellers of the twentieth century, harbored an exceedingly benign view of one of the more ominous figures of the twenty-first. Putin is an unabashed authoritarian. He masks the Pharaonic enrichment of his political circle by projecting an austere image of shrewd bluster and manly bravado. He is also the sum of his resentments. His outrage over the uprising in Kiev, like his subsequent decision to invade Crimea, is stoked by a powerful suspicion of Western motives and hypocrisies. Putin absorbed the eastward expansion of NATO; attacks on his abysmal record on human rights and civil society; and the “color” revolutions in Tbilisi and Kiev—even the revolts in Tehran, Tunis, Cairo, Manama, and Damascus—as intimations of his own political mortality. He sees everything from the National Endowment for Democracy to the American Embassy in Moscow as an outpost of a plot against him. And the U.S. clearly does want to curb his influence; we can’t pretend that he’s entirely crazy to think so. The Olympics was his multi-billion-ruble reassertion of Russian power on the level of pop culture; the invasion of Crimea is a reassertion of Russian power in the harsher currency of arms and intimidation.
The invasion demands condemnation: Ukraine is a sovereign state; it has been for a generation. Its cultural, linguistic, and historical affinities with Russia do not make it a Russian vassal. Putin’s pretext—that frightened masses of Russian-speakers in Crimea and eastern Ukraine were under physical threat from “fascists,” and were crying out for “fraternal assistance” from Russia—is a fiction generated by his intelligence services and propagated by Russian state television. (Pro-Russian Cossacks in Crimea are no less anti-Semitic than the racists among the Ukrainian nationalists—something you are not likely to learn on Channel One, in Moscow.)
Putin’s aggression took Western leaders—especially Barack Obama and Angela Merkel—too much by surprise, but they have acted since with clarity and prudence. The decision to forgo martial threats and to concentrate on strong economic sanctions and diplomatic exertions is, in a world of radically limited options, wise. But not all those most directly involved in this crisis evince an understanding of the complicated politics of Ukraine. It is worth remembering that, in the back-and-forth of Ukrainian governments since 1991, both the pro-Russian leaders, like Viktor Yanukovych, and the pro-Europeans, like Yulia Tymoshenko, have been brazen thieves, enriching themselves at fantastical rates. Both sides have played one half of the country against the other. And the fact that the protests in Kiev were not, as Moscow claims, dominated by fascists and ultra-nationalists does not mean that such elements are absent from the scene. Ukraine has yet to develop the politicians that its fragile condition and its dire economy demand. In December, when John McCain spoke to demonstrators in Kiev’s Independence Square, he stood side by side with Oleh Tyahnybok, who was once expelled from his parliamentary faction after demanding battle with “the Muscovite-Jewish mafia.” Perhaps this was bad advance work from team McCain—much like the advance work on the Sarah Palin nomination—but it did manage to fuel Moscow’s bonfire of suspicion.
McCain’s allies in the Senate have shared his propensity for incautious grandstanding. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, who is facing a Republican primary challenge from his right, says that the invasion of Crimea “started with Benghazi.” He tweeted, “When you kill Americans and nobody pays a price, you invite this type of aggression.” And McCain, who alternates with Graham as the voice of the G.O.P. in foreign affairs, told AIPAC that the invasion was “the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.” Soon Hillary Clinton, who should know better, pitched in with an unhelpful analogy to Hitler.
Right now, Putin retains his familiar strut and disdain. His opposition at home is on tenterhooks, fearing a comprehensive crackdown, and the West, which dreams of his coöperation in Syria and Iran, is reluctant to press him too hard. But it may be that his adventure in Crimea—and not the American Embassy in Moscow—will undo him. Last month, a Kremlin-sponsored poll showed that seventy-three per cent of Russians opposed interfering in the political confrontations in Kiev. The Kremlin has proved since that it has the means, and the media, to gin up support for Putin’s folly—but that won’t last indefinitely.
In other words, Putin risks alienating himself not only from the West and Ukraine, to say nothing of the global economy he dearly wants to join, but from Russia itself. His dreams of staying in office until 2024, of being the most formidable state-builder in Russian history since Peter the Great, may yet founder on the peninsula of Crimea. (Contributor: By David Remnick for The New Yorker)
“But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.” Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” (Luke 21:9-10)
“Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!’” (John 4:35)
“Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming….. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matt 24:42, 44)
Evangelist Mordecai Ham, of an earlier generation, said, “I read the news to see what man plans to do; then I read my Bible to see what God intends to do.” This could be a time of great fear in the U.S. and globally. Pray that divine intervention guides Russian President Putin and our U.S. leaders. Is Russia preparing for extended war? Intercessors, let us appeal to God, our Refuge and Strength, a very present help in trouble. “Father God, we feel the reality of our Lord’s words, ‘Wars and rumors of wars’ and ‘nation shall rise up against nation.’ Help Your Church pray in unity and in the power of the Holy Spirit. We intercede for divine restraint against war. Lord of the harvest, raise up a great army of workers to evangelize before the return of the Lord, as ‘the fields are white for harvest.’”
How does Islam shape the way Muslims live?
The Koran strictly bans the consumption of pork, leading to the virtual disappearance of domesticated pigs in Muslim-majority areas, then their replacement by sheep and goats.
These herds have overgrazed the land, which has led, as the geographer Xavier de Planhol observes, to “a catastrophic deforestation” that in turn “is one of the basic reasons for the sparse landscape particularly evident in the Mediterranean districts of Islamic countries.”
Note the connection between a Koranic dietary injunction and the desertification of vast tracts of land. The scriptural command was not intended to cause ecological damage, but it did.
Islam’s unattainably high standards for governmental behavior meant historically that existing leaders, with their many faults, alienated Muslim subjects, who responded by refusing to serve those leaders in administrative and military service, thereby compelling rulers to seek personnel elsewhere.
This led to their systematically deploying slaves as soldiers and administrators, thereby creating a key institution that lasted from the eighth century for a millennium.
Islamic doctrine ingrains a sense of Muslim superiority, a disdain for the faith and civilization of others, which has had two vast implications in modern times: making Muslims the most rebellious subjects against colonial rule and obstructing Muslims from learning modernization from the West.
Those scriptures also imbue a hostility toward non-Muslims, which in turn generates an assumption that non-Muslims harbor a like hostility toward Muslims.
In modern times, this projection has created a susceptibility to conspiracy theories, which have had many practical consequences: For example, because only Muslims worry that anti-polio vaccinations secretly render their children infertile, polio has effectively become a Muslim-only scourge in 26 countries.
The annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the Islamic hajj, began in the seventh century as a local custom that then became an international meeting that facilitated the transfer of everything from Islamist ideas and political movements (the Idrisis of Libya) to luxury goods (ivory), plants (rubber to Southeast Asia, rice to Europe), and diseases (meningococci, skin infections, infectious diarrheal and blood-borne diseases, and respiratory-tract infections, including perhaps the brand-new Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).
Other Islamic injunctions also have unintended, negative health implications. The imperative for modesty has led some Muslim women to wear full head and body coverings (niqabs and burqas), which cause Vitamin D deficiency, discourage exercise, and are implicated in a host of medical problems, including rashes, respiratory disease, rickets, osteomalacia and multiple sclerosis.
The daytime fast during Ramadan often leads observant Muslims to exercise less and to “tend to overeat upon breaking their fast, and usually the meal involves heavy, fatty foods that are high in calories,” notes the head of the Emirates Diabetes Society. One survey in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, found 60 percent of respondents reporting excessive weight gain after Ramadan.
A preference for first-cousin marriages, which harks back to pre-Islamic tribal practices (to keep wealth in the family and to benefit from daughters’ fertility) over approximately 50 generations has led to widespread inbreeding with negative consequences, including about twice the incidence rate of such genetic disorders as thalassemia, sickle-cell anemia, spinal muscular atrophy, diabetes, deafness, muteness and autism.
With regard to women, injunctions about protection by male relatives, and a vastly lower social and legal status combined to create such inadvertent patterns as physical seclusion, obsession with virginity, honor killings, female genital mutilation, and (Saudi-style) gender apartheid. Polygamy creates permanent anxiety in wives.
Although orphans enjoy an honored status in Islamic law, that honor is tied to a tribal structure incompatible with modern society, resulting in Muslim orphans today persistently discriminated against, even by Muslims in the West.
Islam’s scriptures have provided the base from which many other patterns evolved, including: the establishment of dynasties through conquest, not by internal overthrow; recurrent problems with dynastic succession; power leading to wealth, not the reverse; the near absence of municipal governments; inadequate regulation of cities; laws arising from ad hoc decisions rather than formal legislation; reliance on informal money transfers; and the practice of suicide terrorism.
Inadvertent patterns change over time, with some, such as slave soldiers, becoming defunct, and others, such as polio, starting only recently. These patterns remain as powerful today as in premodern times and are key to understanding Islam and Muslim life. (Contributor: By Daniel Pipes for The Washington Times – Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum.)
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Rev 7:9-10)
“And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.’” (Rev. 5:9-10)
Seasoned intercessors find encouragement in God when they “pray the news.” This is not to brush up on culture but to remind ourselves that “God is not willing that any should perish,” and that from “every tribe and nation,” He is calling men and women from “the power of darkness and into the kingdom of His dear Son.” (Col 1:13) Regardless of cultural differences, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) Let us intercede passionately for a great end-time harvest of souls for the Lord Jesus Christ, from every tribe, nation, culture, tongue, and false religion.
The Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, delivered the opening invocation in the U.S. Senate on Thursday, praying “to Buddha and all” and suggesting that purity of thought will guide humanity’s actions.
In his saffron robe, the Dalai Lama climbed the few steps to the Senate dais and delivered the three-line prayer, first in the Tibetan language, then in English. He chuckled over his English pronunciation.
“With our thoughts we make our world,” the prayer began. “Our mind is central and precedes our deeds. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you like a shadow that never leaves.”
The Buddhist monk is continuing a U.S. visit, after meeting last month with President Obama at the White House despite objections from China, which accuses the Nobel Peace Prize winner of instigating a Tibetan independence campaign to separate from China.
The Dalai Lama planned to hold visits with congressional leaders Thursday across Capitol Hill.
Guest chaplains occasionally open the House and Senate chambers, but Thursday marked the first time the Dalai Lama gave the invocation, according to the Senate Historical Office.
He was invited by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and greeted on the Senate floor by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), the only Buddhist in the Senate, as well as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) a longtime ally of the world-renowned monk and champion of human rights in Tibet.
“This is my favorite prayer,” he said when he arrived at the final line, pointing at his notes. “Daily I pray this. That gives me inner strength. So I am asking to serve humanity as long as space remains and as long as beings remain, until then, may I, too, remain and help dispel the misery of the world.”
Only a small number of senators — almost a dozen Democrats and fewer Republicans — were present on the Senate floor for the occasion.
“I know I speak for the entire Senate family when I express our gratitude for that beautiful prayer, and for his words of encouragement and blessing,” Reid said. (Contributor: By Lisa Mascaro for The LA Times)
“[Jesus said,] ‘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)
“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 18:20)
“But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt 6:23)
Jesus, our Lord, never compromised. Regardless of consequences, He always spoke the truth. He knew that when and where truth was received, freedom and life followed. The inclusion of this article in our mid-week Informer points out the further decline, if not rapid disappearance, of the historical honor given to our nation’s Christian heritage. Pray for a new revival of truth-seeking to prevent a betrayal of these chaplain positions in the Senate and the House. Give thanks that only a few senators attended. Pray for a public outcry against giving non-Christian religions equal recognition.
The Dalai Lama is wrapping up more than two weeks in the U.S. with a speech Friday at the National Cathedral in Washington. The spiritual leader of the Tibetan people has had a packed agenda, including leading the Senate in prayer, a meeting with President Obama at the White House, and a speech for a Los Angeles crowd that included newly minted Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o. But meeting with heads of state is nothing new for the Buddhist leader. Meeting with free-market capitalists is another story.
The Dalai Lama is a longtime Marxist—a fact the media tend to play down—yet on this trip he met with prominent capitalists on both coasts. At Santa Clara University, a Jesuit school in Silicon Valley, he spoke to business leaders, emphasizing the importance of “compassion” in the workplace, and telling them to focus less on a materialism and adopt a sense of “mission.” In Washington, he was hosted for two days by the conservative American Enterprise Institute and participated in panel discussions on happiness and free markets.
Amazingly, the Dalai Lama initiated the contact with AEI. He said he was drawn to the message of the organization’s president, Arthur Brooks, who says that maximizing human happiness—not just increasing material wealth—should be the goal of public policy. The Dalai Lama seemed to win over the AEI crowd with his humility and humor—and by telling them: “I develop more respect about capitalism.”
But that respect seems grudging. He also criticized “the capitalist country, United States,” as “the richest, but you also see a big gap between rich and poor.” And he said of capitalism that it “only takes the money, then exploitation.”
While the Dalai Lama was bringing his critique of capitalism to Washington, Venezuelans were continuing their sustained protests against a Marxist government that they blame for high inflation, rampant crime and the imprisonment of opposition leaders. Then there are the Communist regimes in China, Cuba and North Korea, which remain far more repressive and unequal than any capitalist democracy. Yet the Dalai Lama didn’t mention Communist oppression.
The fact that Marxism has achieved the opposite of what it promises hasn’t seemed to move the Dalai Lama. On this trip, the Dalai Lama told a Vanity Fair reporter that the issue is not Marxist ideology, just its practitioners: “I think the Marxist economics is right. But gradually Lenin, [though he was] supposed to apply that concept, he sacrificed individual rights, individual freedom.”
As much as the Dalai Lama may dislike capitalism in the abstract, he does appear to enjoy the fruits of it. Midway through his visit to the U.S., he sent out to a note to his 8.5 million Twitter followers announcing, “His Holiness the Dalai Lama is now on @Instagram.” His tens of thousands of Instagram followers were soon able to see pictures of him with Maria Shriver and Larry King.
Instagram launched in 2010 and was bought by Facebook for $1 billion two years later. Twitter went public in November and now has a market value of nearly $29 billion. The men and women who took risks to launch and fund these companies are now wealthy people. So while the Dalai Lama uses their products to further his global message, he suggests that their work isn’t virtuous since it has a profit motive.
How can a wise man fail to see this connection? Jonathan Haidt, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, suggested at one of the AEI panels that critiques of capitalism thrive because “we judge people based on their intentions. And when people do something for us without intending to help us, we don’t tend to give them much credit.” In other words, the “invisible hand” of the markets gets no respect.
If capitalism’s morality is judged not by intentions but by measurable outcomes, there’s no question it’s more humane than anything Marxism has produced. As capitalism has spread over the past 200 years, global per capita income has increased more than tenfold. Average life expectancy has more than doubled, according to the HumanProgress.org, a website that collects data on global living standards. That’s to say nothing of railroads, planes, cellphones, air conditioning, antibiotics, the Internet and dramatically improved educational opportunities for boys and girls. Meanwhile, the most memorable entry on Marxism’s scorecard is nearly 100 million deaths from genocides, extrajudicial executions and man-made famines.
But comparisons of outcomes distract from an essential point: the inherent morality of free markets. Riches do not come from exploitation or at the expense of others, but a “spiral of mutual gain,” high-tech investment guru George Gilder explains in “Wealth and Poverty.” He writes: “Far from a system of greed, capitalism depends on a golden rule of enterprise: The good fortune of others is also your own.”
That case for capitalism sounds remarkably similar to the words of the Dalai Lama himself during the AEI event. “We are selfish. It’s important for our survival,” he said. “But because things are interdependent, it’s in your own interest to take care of others. It should be wise selfish, not foolish selfish. If you take care of others, you get more benefit.” Those words may be wiser than the spiritual leader realizes. (Contributor: By Mollie Ziegler Hemingway for The Wall Street Journal – Ms. Hemingway is a senior editor at TheFederalist.com.)
“Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest — and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:6-11)
“If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
“Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” (Proverbs 10:4)
“For since the creation of the world [God’s] invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse … Professing to be wise, they became fools …” (Romans 1:20-22)
Christians may pity the “homeless” Dalai Lama (in permanent exile from Tibet), but it doesn’t follow that his teachings or prayers should command respect simply because he holds a religious title. Note a strange phenomenon: when unbelief puts on religious clothing, it is able to masquerade as wisdom, which it is not. In our Lord’s most scathing denunciation, bar none, He called the Pharisees “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” (That was Jesus, not Peter.) Why would wolves disguise themselves? Only to deceive, so as to “kill, steal, and destroy” the sheep. Let us not give honor where honor is not due. Courtesy, yes, but not honor. Pray for such deception to be unmasked in all religious circles.
Like many startups, Hobby Lobby began in founder David Green’s garage. Now, more than 40 years later, the Green family business has 16,000 full-time employees in stores across the country with 70 new stores opening this year. They are a quiet family that loves God, honors their employees and enjoys serving people in their stores around the nation.
But two years ago, the rules changed for every business. As of 2013, the Green family had to decide if they would follow their faith or follow the Obama administration’s new regulations.
The Green family, through the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, will file its brief with the Supreme Court Monday seeking relief from paying a daily fine of potentially more than $1.3 million for refusing to violate their biblically based views on life. They are currently not complying with insurance coverage requirements issued by the Department of Health and Human Services pursuant to Obamacare. Their opposition to the HHS mandate is not a frivolous one; it is due to their deeply held religious beliefs.
The Green family’s faith influences the day-to-day operation of their stores, including paying their employees a starting salary of $14 an hour, giving their employees family-friendly hours, closing on Sunday and offering their employees a generous health care package.
The HHS mandate requires employers to fully pay for contraception coverage in their health insurance plans, which includes potential life-ending drugs. The Greens do not object to birth control, but they do have a religious objection to providing coverage for drugs and devices that can cause the death of newly conceived human embryos, specifically two types of IUDs and the drugs known as “Plan B” and “Ella.”
Without a positive result from the Supreme Court, the Greens will be forced to pay millions of dollars in federal fines if they maintain their convictions.
Every American, including family business owners, should be free to live and work according to their religious beliefs. The HHS mandate demands that ordinary Americans bend to the administration’s religious preferences and violate their principles or stand up for their religious rights and be fined up to $100 per day, per employee. For the Greens that would be more than $36,500 annually per employee. The other option would simply be to drop health care coverage for all employees and direct them to the Obamacare exchanges. This option would only cost an employer $2,000 per employee, per year — potentially over $26 million annually for the Greens.
The fines alone are revealing of Obamacare’s priorities. A business can pay a $2,000 fine per person, per year, to provide no health insurance at all, or a business can pay a $36,500 per person, per year fine, to provide health insurance that does not align with the president’s religious preferences. Either way, fines will force companies to cut jobs or drop health coverage altogether, which is not good for families or women.
At the core, the HHS mandate is the next instance of how Obamacare will impact your job, family and health care. This issue is not just about companies like Hobby Lobby or Conestoga Wood or ministries like Little Sisters of the Poor. This intrusive federal mandate will set a precedent of government intervention in determining who the faithful are, what faith is and where, when and how that faith may be lived out.
The Greens and other family businesses who are challenging the intrusive HHS mandate are not alone. A new Family Research Council/Alliance Defending Freedom poll (ADF represents Conestoga Wood) found that 59% of likely voters opposed the HHS mandate overall, including 54% of women ages 18-45 and 61% of Independents. The poll found that more likely voters disapprove of the HHS mandate than disapprove of Obamacare overall.
Americans realize, as James Madison once said, that “conscience is the most sacred of all property,” and similarly that other people’s consciences should be protected and defended.
In America we respect freedom of conscience, hard work and dedicated families. Freedom is the backbone to our continued flourishing. Let us hope that the Supreme Court recognizes that the owners of Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood and others should not be forced to violate their conscience as a condition for placing the sign, “Open for Business,” on their front doors.
Prayer Guide: 9 Weeks of Prayer for Religious Freedom – Alliance Defending Freedom
Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., represents the fifth district where the Green family lives. Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council, which has submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court supporting Hobby Lobby. (Contributors: By James Lankford and Tony Perkins for the USA Today)
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.” (Psalm 133)
“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)
[The Pharisees] “… said, ‘Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?’ But He said to them … ‘Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.’ … And He said, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’ And Jesus answered … ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they marveled at Him.” (Mark 12:14-17)
This U.S. Supreme Court case will, without doubt, result in either reaffirmation of our foundational religious liberty, or it will represent one of the most pivotal, radical (i.e., going to the root), and redefining decisions in our nation’s history. This is not an overstatement in the slightest. We have been praying about these issues and the pending hearing by the high court since last year. Now is the time to step-up intercessory prayers, where IFA readers are dedicated. Nothing more needs to be said here. To keep in step, please follow the provided prayer guide. The decision will be rendered in the summer, so we have ample time to intercede. Ask the Lord for mercy and to restore our freedom.
China is causing new anxieties in Asia with a defense budget for 2014 that totals $132 billion, up 12.2 percent over the previous year. These numbers should not be used as an excuse to ratchet up America’s military spending. But they do raise legitimate concerns about China’s motives that Beijing should seek to dispel, especially at a time when regional tensions are rising.
Although China’s overall economic growth rate has declined, the new defense budget reflects the biggest increase in three years and continues a several-decades-long trend of double-digit increases. Many experts assume that the real total is higher. Even so, the budget is far below that of the United States, which was $526.8 billion for fiscal year 2014 and finances the world’s largest, most expensive and advanced military program. It is reasonable to expect that as the world’s second-largest economy, China, over time, would invest more on defense to protect its security and economic interests.
But the budget increases are not taking place in a vacuum. With its aggressive new approach to the region, China has sowed suspicion among its neighbors, who fear not only economic but military dominance. China is engaged in a dangerous dispute with Japan over the sovereignty of islands administered by Japan in the East China Sea, raising fears that frequent movements around the islands by Chinese military patrols and Japanese fishing vessels could spark a conflict. Last November, China stunned Japan, South Korea and the United States by declaring a new air defense zone over parts of that sea.
China has also been intimidating Southeast Asian nations that oppose its territorial claims in the South China Sea, with its fisheries and reputed oil and gas reserves. While some experts predict that it could be decades before the Chinese military catches up with the United States, China is investing in new systems, including submarines, surface ships and anti-ship ballistic missiles, that could be used to further intimidate neighbors or deny the United States access to Asian waters to defend its allies.
China says the world has nothing to fear, but it could mitigate concerns by explaining why it needs such hefty increases and where the money will be spent, as the United States does. More consultation between the Chinese and American military would also be useful. So would a serious effort to resolve the territorial disputes, or at least agree on a code of conduct for managing them.
Meanwhile, Congress should resist the impulse to pump up military spending. The better response is to support President Obama’s policy of expanding America’s economic, political and military engagement in Asia while remaining clear-eyed about China’s capabilities. (Contributor: The New York Times Editorial Board)
“When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Prov 16:7)
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” (Psalm 33:12)
“The rich [man] rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” (Prov 22:7)
No, we do not compare the U.S. with Old Testament Israel. China is not our nation’s overt enemy, but tensions can quickly mount if the relationship becomes strained. As you pray, keep in mind how deeply the U.S. is in debt to China, with that country’s huge investment in and ownership of U.S. business. Truly, “the borrower is servant to the lender.” While China increases its military spending, our own administration seeks to reduce military might, though few seem to understand why. As you pray, imagine the strength of our nation were it to return to the Lord. Such strength would be a powerful deterrent to other nations’ aggression. Pray as Scripture and conscience direct.
Shortly before a candlelight vigil on the sidewalk outside, employees of the last abortion clinic in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas shut the doors early Thursday evening, making legal abortion unavailable in the poorest part of the state in the wake of tough new restrictions passed last year by the Texas Legislature.
The closings on Thursday of two clinics operated by Whole Woman’s Health — the one here in McAllen and another in the East Texas city of Beaumont — are part of a wave of clinic closings brought on by the new law.
There were 44 facilities that performed abortions in Texas in 2011, abortion providers said. After the two closings on Thursday, there are now 24, they said. When the law is fully implemented in September, that number is expected to drop to six.
“It’s heartbreaking for us,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, the chief executive of Whole Woman’s Health, which has challenged provisions of the law in court. “It’s been a very difficult decision. I tried everything I can. I just can’t keep the doors open.”
Anti-abortion groups said some of the reasons for the clinic closings were “deplorable conditions,” violations of state safety regulations and high staff turnover, accusations the operators denied. Still, abortion opponents expressed satisfaction that the two clinics, which together treated nearly 3,000 patients annually, were shutting their doors.
“We are pleased that women will never again receive substandard care from either of these abortion facilities,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life.
Abortion was a heated political issue last year in Texas, when Republican lawmakers, backed by Gov. Rick Perry, passed some of the toughest restrictions in the country, despite a marathon filibuster that turned State Senator Wendy Davis into a national political figure. The politics have since been toned down. Ms. Davis did not attend the clinic closings on Thursday and has not emphasized the issue in her campaign for governor.
But the real-world impact has played out in the months since the law passed.
In McAllen, the shuttering of the city’s only abortion clinic has increased the costs, the time and the travel distance for women seeking abortions. Women have been making a roughly four-hour, 240-mile trip to San Antonio or a five-hour, 310-mile trip to Austin to get abortions. There had been only two clinics that performed abortions in the Rio Grande Valley, but by the end of the day Thursday there were none. The other one in nearby Harlingen closed days ago.
Activity at the McAllen clinic had slowed recently. It stopped performing abortions last year after parts of the law went into effect. On Tuesday, the aftercare room, where women who had received abortions were taken to recuperate, was cluttered with boxes of files as workers prepared for Thursday.
“Sometimes on my lunch break, I’ll come back here, and I’ll just sit here,” said Lucy Carreon, the clinic’s patient advocate, who is moving to San Antonio to work at the Whole Woman’s Health facility there. “It’s very sad. I can’t believe it.”
The leaders of Whole Woman’s Health, which operates clinics in Texas and two other states, said they closed the ones in McAllen and Beaumont in large part because of one restriction in the law: the requirement that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.
Ms. Miller said that nearly all their doctors were unable to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, and that some hospitals declined to even provide doctors with applications for admitting privileges.
Another part of the law, which takes effect in September, requires clinics to meet surgical-center standards, meaning all abortions, including nonsurgical procedures, must take place in hospital-style operating rooms. It is that requirement that abortion providers say will probably reduce the number of clinics in the state to six and that Ms. Miller said played a role in the decision to close the McAllen and Beaumont clinics.
Republican supporters of the law said it would protect women’s health and hold abortion clinics to safer standards. Opponents said that it was an unconstitutional attempt by Republicans at a backdoor ban on abortion and was designed to force clinics to close. Mr. Perry has stated that one of his goals in office is to “make abortion, at any stage, a thing of the past,” and another Republican leader, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, suggested last year on Twitter that shutting clinics was part of the purpose of the law, known as House Bill 2.
In a statement, Ms. Davis, who is running for governor against Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican who has defended the law in court, pointed out the other services the clinics provided, beyond abortions, that were now unavailable to many women.
“These health centers provide lifesaving preventive care, cancer screenings and birth control to Texan women,” she said. “Politicians like Greg Abbott are forcing their personal political agenda and threatening the health of women across the Rio Grande Valley.”
Even before the full regulations kick in, women in rural areas have already had more difficulty getting abortions than those living in urban centers like Houston and Dallas.
In the West Texas city of Lubbock, Planned Parenthood closed the only clinic there providing abortions, sending many women on a five-hour trip to Dallas or to Albuquerque, some 320 miles away. The closing of the clinic in Beaumont has made Houston the nearest option, more than an hour’s drive away. A clinic in Corpus Christi, which is closer to McAllen than San Antonio but is still more than two hours away, is closing in September because of the surgical-center requirements.
In McAllen, the problems associated with traveling 240 miles to San Antonio one way — including additional costs for gas, lodging or child care — have caused some women to go to Mexico to buy a widely available “abortion pill” that can induce miscarriages and that abortion providers and advocates said poses significant health risks. Ms. Carreon, the patient advocate, said she believed 30 to 40 women who had contacted the clinic since last year had decided on their own to take the pill.
Some women interviewed at the McAllen clinic said they had considered taking the 30-minute trip to Mexico to get the pill — a drug called misoprostol known by the brand-name Cytotec — but ultimately decided against it.
“Honestly, I think they’ll go south of the border, if they have to,” said a 23-year-old woman who was one of the last patients to be seen at the clinic and who went to San Antonio for an abortion last month. “It’s cheaper and it’s closer. To go to San Antonio is so much more of a hassle and costs a lot more.”
On the day of her appointment in San Antonio, the woman, who asked that her name not be used, said she left with a friend at about 3 a.m. to arrive at the clinic by 8 a.m. She had to spend the entire day there waiting to be seen. The San Antonio clinic, it turned out, was packed with patients from the Rio Grande Valley area. (Contributor: By Manny Fernandez for The New York Times – Lucinda Holt contributed reporting from Lubbock, Texas)
“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns!’ Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! Let the trees of the forest sing; let them sing for joy before the Lord, for He comes to judge the earth. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. Cry out, ‘Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations that we may give thanks to Your holy name, and glory in Your praise.’” (1 Chron 16:30-35)
“For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” (Habakkuk 2:3)
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess 5:16-18)
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Gal 6:9)
This is a praise report, one for which intercessors have long waited. Give heartfelt thanks to the Lord, proclaiming His goodness and mercy. After years of fervent prayer and pro-life activism, often with sparse results in confronting this hideous national sin, God’s wisdom pointed the efforts back to the states’ level. Here, the Texas legislature, more than any other, began a series of steps backed by strong conservative legislation. The result is seen in numerous victories to get abortion centers shut down. Keep watching and praying. This may be the Lord’s pathway to saving lives by reducing the opportunities for abortion. Full victory is coming as intercessors persevere! Pray accordingly.
Since 2008, the Honorable Senator Grassley has investigated Northwestern University for allegations surrounding human experimentation without informed consent. According to FDA documents, 667 patients received the non-approved FDA devices from 2006-2008, prior to FDA approval.
The FDA approval came only after the device was tested in 100 unsuspecting patients during open heart surgery. The results of the study published in the Harvard Based Surgical Journal, Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular surgery in 2008 claimed “informed consent.” Recent publically available court documents from Cook County demonstrate that the patients consent was waived.
Some of these critical documents were never provided by Northwestern University to the Honorable Senator Grassley during the senate finance investigation, and now are the subject of a reopened senate investigation as of March 4, 2014. The lack of disclosure violates USC 1001.
The Chronicle of Higher Education published the senate judiciary investigation today in a report entitled: Northwestern U. Gets Renewed Grilling Over Unauthorized Tests on Patients
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican, has accused Northwestern U. of withholding key documents from an inquiry into allegations that its chief of cardiac surgery experimented on unsuspecting patients. By Paul Basken
For years, the Senate Finance Committee investigated the testing of the non-approved devices in patients during open heart surgery without informed consent. However, key documents surrounding the patients’ testing were withheld from the Senate Committee, the FDA, and the patients.
Northwestern University Board of Trustees have known about the human experiments, since July 2009. Yet the board, has not set up a meeting with the former Northwestern Professor, Dr. Nalini M. Rajamannan, to help inform the patients, provide proper health care for the patients, and restore the integrity of this great University.
The Myxo Files released on Amazon.com contain summaries, and documents from the public domain, to try and get help for the innocent unsuspecting patients. (Contributor: By Nalini Rajamannan for Christian Newswire)
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10)
“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)
“Avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance [of money] which is administered by us: Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” (2 Cor 8:20-21)
Give thanks for Senator Grassley. He leads the Judiciary Committee that patiently and persistently investigated the scandal-ridden FDA, seeking to uncover fraud and cheating in an effort to save lives and promote safety. The egregious sinfulness and disregard for patient-welfare during surgery by the agency charged with upholding standards of protection, can only be attributed to greed and payoffs—the love of money. Pray for the patients and families of those so defrauded. May the perpetrators of this scheme be held accountable and brought to swift justice.
Cases of the deadly Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, a highly contagious pig disease, are increasing across the U.S. farm belt, a group of animal health researchers said.
Confirmed cases of PEDv increased by 252 in the week ending March 1, bringing the total number to 4,106 in 26 states, according to data released on Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Health Laboratory Network.
While one case can represent an individual animal or an entire herd at a single site, swine specialists estimate PEDv has killed at least 4 million U.S. hogs since it was discovered in May 2013.
Pork processors were finding it more difficult to purchase hogs for slaughter due to the virus, which is starting to affect the pork supply and could eventually boost pork prices for consumers, industry sources said.
The Canadian Swine Health Board has confirmed that four provinces also have cases of the virus. The provinces are Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Quebec.
PEDv causes diarrhea, vomiting and severe dehydration in pigs. While older pigs have a chance of survival, 80 to 100 percent of piglets that contract it die.
The virus does not affect humans and is not a food safety risk. (Contributor: By Meredith Davis in Chicago; editing by Matthew Lewis for Reuters)
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit,’ whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’” (James 4:13-14)
“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Prov 16:9)
“There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.” (Prov 19:21)
Offer thanks to the Lord that this virulent porcine virus does not affect humans and is not a food safety risk. Still, an epidemic that has killed 4 million U.S. hogs since May 2013 represents huge economic losses to people and families involved with pork production. Our Scriptures do not suggest a divine conspiracy or “plague.” They are cited to underscore the uncertainty of the best of human planning. Pray for a remedy to be found before the virus mutates to affect other animal species and perhaps becomes a risk to humans. May researchers have wisdom, protection, and quick success.