On Watch in Washington December 4, 2013

December 4th, 2013

On Watch in Washington December 4, 2013 Plain Text PDF Version

TEHRAN TREATY: WINNERS AND LOSERS IN GENEVA NUCLEAR DEAL

The Geneva nuclear treaty with Tehran offers the West new opportunities and could change the world.  But secret documents suggest it is the hardliners in Iran who stand to profit the most from the new opening. The clear losers are Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Rarely has an international agreement triggered such widely divergent reactions as the Iran deal reached in Geneva, with proponents touting it as a solution to the world’s problems while opponents paint doomsday scenarios. Still, it is only a temporary, six-month deal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called it a “breakthrough.” United States President Barack Obama said that for the first time in years “we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program. And key parts of the program will be rolled back.”

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called the deal “a turning point.”

An enthusiastic crowd all but crushed chief negotiator Mohammad Zarif upon his return to Tehran, after a deal had been reached with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. The foreign minister deserved a gold medal for his diplomatic skills, the Iranian newspaper Arman Daily wrote enthusiastically, noting that the world had come a step closer to global peace “without Iran having to abandon its principles.”

The deal evoked a completely different reaction in Saudi Arabia and Israel. Abdullah al-Askar, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the influential Shura Council, spoke darkly of what he called Iran’s “evil agenda.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fumed that the deal was a “historic mistake,” saying: “the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world.”

Trade and Industry Minister Naftali Bennett, a hardliner in the Israeli cabinet, even went so far as to paint an apocalyptic scenario, saying: “If in five years, a nuclear suitcase explodes in New York or Madrid, it will be because of the agreement that was signed this morning.” Of course, there are also those who draw an analogy to the 1938 Munich Agreement and liken Iran to Hitler’s Germany, accusing the West of choosing appeasement once again. So is the Geneva deal a work of God or a deal with the devil? Or is just an agreement complete with human weaknesses that could, ironically enough, end up benefiting the agitators on all sides?

Iran’s Return to the World Stage

A week after the surprising compromise, the consequences of the interim agreement are gradually emerging — consequences for international politics, war and peace in the Middle East, the balance of power between Sunnis and Shiites in the region and for both the ruling class in the Iranian theocracy and its subjects.

The deal amounts to a tectonic shift in the Middle East, the kind of watershed moment in global policy that only happens once every few years. The Geneva agreement marks the return of Iran to the world stage, and its transformation from a pariah to a potential partner of the United States and Europe. At the same time, it also foreshadows the presumed decline in the importance of two powers that have been viewed as difficult but indispensable partners of the West: Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The monarchs of the House of Saud have always seen themselves as the keepers of the holiest sites in Islam, the masters of Mecca and Medina, which has led to their claim of being the leading power in Sunni Islam. The Shia, the other main denomination of Islam, is treated as heretical in Saudi Arabia, where Shiites make up about 10 percent of the population and are oppressed by those in power. The Saudis have been mistrustful of their big neighbor to the east since their country was founded in 1932. But they have always had good relations with their strategic partner, the United States, a distant power to which they supplied the oil critical to its survival and from which they bought billions in armaments in return.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan was a symbolic figure in this political marriage of convenience. For 22 years, he served as the kingdom’s ambassador in Washington, where, next to his Israeli counterparts, he was probably the most influential diplomat. The prince was on good terms with former First Lady Nancy Reagan and on a first-name basis with her husband, then President Ronald Reagan. He smoked Cohiba cigars with Bill Clinton. And according to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Bob Woodward, former President George W. Bush told him about the impending US invasion of Iraq before informing Secretary of State Colin Powell. The close relationship between the two countries survived the 9/11 terrorist attacks largely intact, even through 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. The Saudi rulers remained a stabilizing factor in the Middle East, working hand-in-hand with the White House.

A Rift Between Saudi Royals and White House

This began to change when the storms of the Arab spring brought turmoil to Middle Eastern autocracies. Riyadh was displeased when the US government did nothing to prevent the overthrow of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak in early 2011. On the other hand, the Saudis would have no objection to the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad, a member of the Alawite denomination and close ally of both the Shiite theocracy in Tehran and the Iranian-funded militant Hezbollah group in Lebanon. Riyadh was sharply critical of President Obama’s decision not to follow up on the threat of military strikes against Damascus, widening the growing rift between the Saudi royal family and the White House.

For a war-weary United States, there is also another reason why the Middle East is no longer a top priority. Thanks to new technologies like fracking, the country is not as reliant on foreign oil as it once was and could in fact attain true energy independence within a decade. The US’s old friend, 64-year-old Prince Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief since 2012, also recognized the change when he noted that his country would make a “major shift” away from its alliance with Washington.

However, Riyadh and Washington did agree on one thing until recently: that Iran, with its presumed nuclear weapons program and its aggressive former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, represented the greatest threat to the Middle East. But then moderate politician Hassan Rohani, 65, was elected Iran’s new president in June. Rohani appointed the cosmopolitan diplomat Mohammad Zarif, 53, who earned his doctorate at the University of Denver, as his new foreign minister.

Benefits for Both Sides

When an easing of the nuclear dispute was in the offing a few weeks ago, the Saudi rulers did everything they could to obstruct an agreement. But their lobbying was to no avail. The members of the UN Security Council and Germany wanted the deal, and the United States, after 34 years of having no diplomatic relations with Tehran, recognized that the prospect of rapprochement would give it more options in the Middle East. An interim agreement would benefit both sides: Iran, through the lifting of some of the ruinous sanctions against the country, and the West, through the freezing of the Iranian nuclear program. The agreement represents a six-month reprieve for both sides, and it offers the hope that something far more extensive could follow: a permanent agreement that drives away the specter of an Iranian bomb and allows Tehran to become a constructive power with the ability to defuse crises once again.

The Saudis are the losers in this historic shift. It’s also possible that the West will become more public in its criticism of their regime. So far, Riyadh’s rulers have been largely unopposed in their aggressive efforts to spread their rigid form of Wahhabi Islam. Unlike Iran, for example, Saudi Arabia strictly forbids the public practice of other religions. And while the Saudi rulers have fought al-Qaida domestically, they have never renounced violence beyond their borders. According to documents leaked by WikiLeaks, in 2009 then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Saudi Arabia a “critical financial base” for funding terrorism.

In the Syrian civil war, the royal family is reallocating its funding for the rebels fighting the Assad regime, so that Islamists who want to turn Syria into a fundamentalist country are now receiving more Saudi money than the moderate regime opponents. And women are still not permitted to drive or vote in Saudi Arabia.

Is Saudi Arabia Seeking to Become a Nuclear Power?

The fear of isolation is pushing Riyadh to embark on dangerous adventures. According to intelligence sources, the regime, with Pakistan’s help, has recently begun pursuing its own nuclear weapon. In the 1990s, the Saudis spent millions of dollars on a project to develop an “Islamic” nuclear weapon. This may explain why the only person Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the Pakistani nuclear program, invited to tour his laboratories was the then Saudi defense minister. Now Riyadh is reported to have secretly requested nuclear know-how and hardware from Islamabad that would give it the option of becoming a nuclear power itself in a few years. (By Spiegel Staff for Der Spiegel Online)

Prayer focus: This is a lengthy article, covering international headline news following the Geneva talks on Iran and its “nuclear options.” This focus will be in the news for months to come. It is an extremely tense time for the Middle East and for the United States. Pray that the result of these talks will be fruitful and that God will uncover deception and bring truth to the light. In the aftermath of the talks, Iran and the U.S. presented very different reports of what was decided. Israel has been left with insecurity about whether the U.S. will continue with the full support our country has always given. Pray that Iran’s true intentions will be exposed, even though Iran has stated it intends to produce uranium only for peaceful means. But who can believe a regime so ungodly and evil as to call for Israel’s destruction? It appears that President Obama has more confidence in Iran’s integrity than any of Iran’s neighbors does, particularly Saudi Arabia. Thus we must remain alert and pray with discernment. Some analysts predict the inevitability of war. Let us intercede for God’s restraining hand on all nations, while we pray for peace and rest for Israel.

“Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand all.” (Proverbs 28:5)

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

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you.’” (Psalm 122:6)

 

SURPRISING NEW ALLIANCES

The Geneva deal is creating surprising new alliances. The backward-looking, theocratic Saudi monarchy and modern, pluralistic Israel have discovered mutual interests. The two countries allegedly even have coordinated attack plans, in which Israeli fighter jets would not only be allowed to fly through Saudi Arabian airspace in the event of an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, but could also depend on logistical support from Riyadh.

The mood in Israel itself is mixed. President Shimon Peres responded to the results of the negotiation with cautious optimism. Many Israelis view Netanyahu’s maximum demands that Iran completely abandon its nuclear program as unrealistic, and they also don’t believe that Tehran poses a direct threat.

Nevertheless, a majority takes Iran’s threatening gestures very seriously. As much as the Israelis acknowledge Rohani’s moderate statements, they also pay close attention to the words of Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful man in Tehran. Just a few days ago, Khamenei referred to Jews as “rabid dogs” and essentially denied them the right to their own country in the Middle East.

Critics of the Geneva agreement paint a nightmare scenario in which the release of about $7 billion (€5.15 billion) in previously frozen funds will relieve the pressure on the Iranians, pressure that had created a desperate economic situation in the country and forced Tehran to the negotiating table. It will be psychologically almost impossible to develop a new and possibly even tougher sanctions regime, even if the Iranians are unwilling to make any further concessions or fail to live up to their current promises. American oil companies and French automakers, to which Tehran is holding out the prospect of attractive terms, are already vying for contracts. In Germany, machine-building companies anticipate billions in new orders.

According to Western intelligence sources, the leadership and not the Iranian population would be more likely to benefit from an easing of sanctions. The Revolutionary Guards have managed to successfully circumvent trade restrictions with a network of front companies. The paramilitary organization, which answers directly to religious leader Khamenei and controls large parts of the economy, acts like a state within the state, subject to no rules but its own.

Will Funds Be Diverted to Front Companies?

The seemingly harmless-sounding National Development Fund (NDF) also plays a key role. According to the Iranian budget, some 26 percent of Iran’s oil and natural gas revenues — still several hundred million dollars, despite the Western boycott — will go to the NDF this year. The fund allegedly uses the money for peaceful purposes, but Western intelligence agencies report that the NDF, since its founding in 2010, has transferred more than $3 billion to two organizations on both European Union and U.S. watch lists. The first one is Energy Novin, a subsidiary of the Iranian nuclear authority, which is also involved in questionable aspects of the nuclear program, and the second is the Quds Force, a unit of the Revolutionary Guards known for its dubious foreign military missions. The Quds Force is currently fighting on the side of Syrian dictator Assad, for example.

The unfreezing of Iran’s bank accounts will likely be a bonanza for the NDF, which could divert the funds into hostile channels, or use them to establish other front companies. The Geneva deal deprives the West of the ability to blacklist new organizations or individuals, because the parties to the agreement assured Tehran that they would impose “no new nuclear-related sanctions” for six months. Whether President Rohani is familiar with any such plans to “divert” the billions is questionable. Iran is anything but a monolithic nation. Rather, it is one with many centers of influence, with the threads of power all leading to the supreme religious leader.

Optimists believe that Khamenei will call off the Revolutionary Guards, at least for the next few months. He expressly welcomed the Geneva deal. Hardly any of the more reactionary elements are currently opposing the moderates. On the other hand, Rohani is proceeding very cautiously — too cautiously for many — with his reforms. Nevertheless, he has released 11 opponents of the regime from prison, and journalists have been given somewhat more latitude to voice their criticism.

The principle of hope still prevails. The way in which the “scaremongers” are being addressed reveals the extent of the shift to date. British Foreign Secretary William Hague, for example, warned Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz not to “continue to sabotage” the nuclear deal. (Contributors: By Ronen Bergman, Erich Follath, Julia Amalia, Heyer and Christopher Schult for Der Spiegel Online)

More Reading: An Israel / Germany Alliance – The Trumpet

Pray fervently for God’s restraining hand on Iran, an evil regime that seeks more power to create grief for Israel and extend its influence toward global prominence. Some analysts believe Iran got much more from the Geneva “deal” than it deserved; and with President Obama lobbying the U.S. Congress to give Iran major relief from economic sanctions that have served to keep it under control, some of his closest allies and party members are voicing concerns that the president may be opening the door to a “henhouse” for a voracious “fox.” This explains Israel’s deep concerns, since an unrestrained Iran, with the nuclear power it craves, could vent its full hatred toward Israel. Intercede with confidence, knowing that God is able to restrain every predatory intention. It is edifying to note below what God once did to the most powerful king on earth in his day.

“[Nebuchadnezzar] spoke, saying, ‘Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?’ While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.’

“That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever:

‘For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Daniel 4:30-35)

 

A MILITARY STRATEGY TO DETER CHINA

China’s announcement of an Air Defense Identification Zone last weekend made Seth Cropsey’s commentary “America Has No Military Strategy for China” extremely timely.  He is absolutely correct on two key statements.  First, an escalation between China and Japan would be disastrous and, even more importantly, the United States has no strategy for a conflict with China.  Secretary Cropsey notes that the AirSea Battle concept is the “sole U.S. preparation” but that it is not a strategy.

While no set of actions can guarantee continued peace between China and the United States, carefully considered national and military strategies will reduce the probability of a conflict.  The United States National Strategy makes that an explicit goal.  In his November 2011 address to the Australian Parliament, President Barack Obama stated U.S. National Strategy would: “continue our effort to build a cooperative relationship with China.  … all of our nations have a profound interest in the rise of a peaceful and prosperous China.”

This year, Tom Donilon, the National Security Advisor, clarified and reinforced the Administration’s determination to continue its rebalance to Asia.

“To pursue this vision, the United States is implementing a comprehensive, multidimensional strategy: strengthening alliances; deepening partnerships with emerging powers; building a stable, productive, and constructive relationship with China; empowering regional institutions; and helping to build a regional economic architecture that can sustain shared prosperity.”

Thus, the United States has a clearly articulated national strategy to encourage peaceful growth in the region. Unfortunately, as Cropsey noted, the United States has failed to express a coherent military strategy to support its national strategy.

Deepening the confusion concerning U.S. military strategy is the tendency of many observers to assume that CSBA’s paper, AirSea Battle: A Point-of-Departure Operational Concept, expressed the U.S. military strategy for a conflict with China.  The paper postulated that in the “unthinkable” case of a war with China, U.S. efforts would include a “executing a blinding campaign against PLA battle networks, executing a suppression campaign against PLA long-range, principally strike systems, seizing and sustaining the initiative in air, sea, space and cyber domains.” This paper stated it was not proposing a strategy but only a concept for overcoming China’s area denial/anti-access capabilities.

Perhaps the biggest weakness of the ASB concept is that it scares our allies without deterring China.  Since most ASB technology is top secret, U.S. officials are unable to discuss it with our allies.  As a result, many allies assume the United States will follow the plan described in CSBA’s paper and initiate immediate, extensive attacks on Chinese territory. Our allies are obviously concerned that China will see such attacks as emanating from allied territory and respond in kind.  In short, U.S. allies are being asked to offer bases without any knowledge of what actions the U.S. intends to take from those bases.  Not a great way to reassure allies. Unfortunately because this operational approach relies heavily on cyber and space capabilities, it creates the unintended consequence of raising the value of a first strike.  Thus it is escalatory.  In a crisis, both militaries will know that the one that strikes first will achieve significant tactical and operational advantages.

ASB also fails to deter China.  Because it is apparently dependent upon space and cyber systems, China may well feel it can degrade those systems enough to defeat the operational approach.  Further, China may well believe the United States cannot afford ASB or at very least will not field the capabilities for a decade or more.  A military strategy that offers a relative inexpensive defeat mechanism or a window of vulnerability has little deterrent value.

To eliminate the confusion and reassure other nations, the United States needs to go beyond simply declaring that ASB is not a strategy.  It must clearly state U.S. military strategy for a possible conflict with China.

What Should a Military Strategy Do?

The first and most important function of a military strategy is to support the national strategy.  Therefore, any military strategy must encourage or, at very least, not discourage the continued growth and integration of China’s economy with that of the global economy.  A U.S. military strategy for Asia must achieve five objectives:

1. Deter China from military action to resolve disputes while encouraging its continued economic growth;

2. Assure Asian nations that the United States is both willing to and capable of remaining engaged in Asia;

3. Ensure access for U.S. forces and allied commercial interests to the global commons;

4. Achieve victory with minimal risk of nuclear escalation in the event of conflict; and

5. Be visibly credible today.

Ideally, a military strategy would also provide guidance for matching limited defense resources to appropriate force structures and equipment buys. Given the fact that China has a thermonuclear arsenal, a military strategy must emphasize deterrence and, if that fails, should escalate in a deliberate, transparent way. (Read more on this report.)

T. X. Hammes served 30 years in the Marine Corps and is now a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at the National Defense University (NDU). (Contributor: By T.X. Hammes for Real Clear Defense)

First, let us pray that, in God’s mercy, the unthinkable never happens for the U.S.: to find our country in direct conflict with China. How do we break that prayer focus into acts of intercession that we all can grasp and pray for in intelligent, “bite-size” pieces? Our U.S. Constitution was set up to guide a nonaggressive, non-militaristic nation whose federal government would be strong in defense but with no plans to invade and conquer other lands. Now, though our country has strayed from its constitutional ideals, let us pray for God to raise up, through wise use of our voting rights, morally upright, fiscally conservative men and women to return our nation to its original ideals, living life in the fear of God and with “malice toward none.” Pray that our national intentions will be peaceful, only defending our land and freedoms when necessary.  

“ If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18)

“Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14)

“Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble.” (Psalm 119:165)

 

THE OTHER ARAB AWAKENING

It turns out that there were actually two Arab awakenings.

There are the radical revolutions you’ve read about in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Libya, none of which yet have built stable, inclusive democracies. But then there are the radical evolutions that you’ve not read about, playing out in Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf monarchies. The evolutions involve a subtle but real shift in relations between leaders and their people, and you can detect it from even a brief visit to Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The Gulf leaders still have no time for one-man, one-vote democracy. But, in the wake of the Arab Spring, they’re deeply concerned with their legitimacy, which they are discovering can no longer just be bought with more subsidies — or passed from father to son. So more and more leaders are inviting their people to judge them by how well they perform — how well they improve schools, create jobs and fix sewers — not just resist Israel or Iran or impose Islam.

And, thanks in large part to the Internet, more people are doing just that. The role of the Internet was overrated in Egypt and Tunisia. But it is underrated in the Gulf, where, in these more closed societies, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are providing vast uncontrolled spaces for men and women to talk to each other — and back at their leaders. “I don’t read any local newspapers anymore,” a young Saudi techie told me. “I get all my news from Twitter.” So much for government-controlled newspapers.

Saudi Arabia alone produces almost half of all tweets in the Arab world and is among the most Twitter- and YouTube-active nations in the world. By far, those Saudis with the most Twitter and YouTube followers tend to be Wahhabi fundamentalist preachers, but gaining on them are satirists, comedians and commentators, who poke fun at all aspects of Saudi society, including — usually indirectly — the religious establishment, which is no longer off limits.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who in Gulf Arab terms is a real progressive, remains widely popular, but his government bureaucracy is seen as unresponsive and too often corrupt. That’s why Saudi Twitter users have recently created these Arabic hashtags: “If I met the King, I would tell him”; “From the people to the King: education is at risk” and “#What Would You Like to Say to the Minister of Health?” (after repeated hospital mishaps).

There were torrential rainstorms when I was in Saudi Arabia 10 days ago and the Saudi newspaper, Al-Sharq, published a cartoon with three men answering this question: Why did all the streets of Riyadh flood? The government official answers: “The streets didn’t flood. That’s just a vicious rumor.” The sheikh answers: “It’s all because of the sins of the girls at Princess Nora University.” The citizen says: “It’s because of corruption” — but then the cartoon shows an arm labeled “censorship” coming from off the page to snip off this comment. That is in a Saudi paper!

In the United Arab Emirates, a government official was recently embarrassed when he was captured on a cellphone video, after a traffic accident, beating the other driver, an Asian worker, with the rope from his headdress. The video went viral across the Gulf.

People are losing their fear — not to revolt, but to demand clean accountable governance. Last week, a Saudi friend shared with me a video that went viral there on What’sApp that was posted by a poor man whose roof leaked during the rainstorms, even into his baby’s bassinet. He can be seen stalking around his rain-soaked house, saying: “I am Saudi. This is how I live. … Where is the minister of housing? Where are the billions the king has given for housing? … Where are my rights? … I feel like being in my home and being in the street are the same.”

I heard many of these stories during group conversations with young Saudis and Emeratis, who I found to be as impressive, connected and high-aspiring to reform their countries as any of their revolutionary cohorts in Egypt. But they want evolution not revolution. They’ve seen the footage from Cairo and Damascus. You can feel their energy — from the grass-roots movement to let women drive to the young Saudi who whispers that he’s so fed up with the puritanical Islam that dominates his country he’s become an atheist, and he is not alone. Saudi atheists? Who knew?

Talk about reform — in Dubai, the government has set a strategy for 2021, and each of the 46 ministries and regulatory agencies has three-year Key Performance Indicators, or K.P.I.’s, they have to fulfill to get there, ranging from improving the success of Dubai 15-year-olds in global science, math and reading exams to making it even easier to start a new business. All 3,600 K.P.I.’s are loaded on an iPad dashboard that the ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, follows each week. Maryam al-Hammadi, 48, the director of government performance, strikes fear in the heart of every minister in Dubai because each month she ranks them by who is making the most progress toward achieving their K.P.I.’s, and Sheikh Mohammed gets the list. You don’t want to be at the bottom. Hammadi showed me the dashboard and explained that Sheikh Mohammed is demanding that “every government agency perform as well as the private sector in customer satisfaction and service.” The public will get an annual report.

Again, this is not about democracy. It’s about leaders feeling the need to earn their legitimacy. But when one leader does it, others feel the pressure to copy. And that leads to more transparency and more accountability. (Contributor: By Thomas Friedman for The New York Times)

How to pray? It may help if we remember the storyline in “Fiddler on the Roof.” Tevye and Golda watch their daughters grow up in a Jewish home, then break away from religious and social traditions dating back thousands of years. One daughter marries a revolutionary; one is baptized into a Christian church. How can such things be? The fundamental discovery—for them, for today’s Middle East countries, and for us in the West—is that constant change is now permanent. And so, the basic question is, will the technology serve us or will it rule our lives? In our own country and culture, even among evangelical Christians, questions loom, ‘Where are we going?” and “Are we passing our values to the next generation?” (In general, we are not.) The technology, including the social media, is neutral, just as tools are neutral. Will they be used for good or evil purposes? What a Muslim primarily needs is not Western culture, but the Gospel, as do the Ayatollahs, as do the Saudi princes, and the street beggars, and the Islamist fanatic before he blows himself up for the promise of a heaven he will never see. Pray that in this rush toward modernity and eternity—often so aimless—the people, young and old, will hear the question, “What will you do with Jesus, who is called Christ?” (Matt. 27:22)      

“ For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:16).

“Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will endure; yes, they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will change them,
and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will have no end. The children of Your servants will continue, and their descendants will be established before You.”
(Psalm 102:25-28)

 

CHILD TAKEN FROM WOMB BY SOCIAL SERVICES

A pregnant woman has had her baby forcibly removed by caesarean section by social workers.

Essex social services obtained a High Court order against the woman that allowed her to be forcibly sedated and her child to be taken from her womb.

The council said it was acting in the best interests of the woman, an Italian who was in Britain on a work trip, because she had suffered a mental breakdown.

The baby girl, now 15 months old, is still in the care of social services, who are refusing to give her back to the mother, even though she claims to have made a full recovery.

The case has developed into an international legal row, with lawyers for the woman describing it as “unprecedented”.

They claim that even if the council had been acting in the woman’s best interests, officials should have consulted her family beforehand and also involved Italian social services, who would be better-placed to look after the child.

Brendan Fleming, the woman’s British lawyer, told The Sunday Telegraph: “I have never heard of anything like this in all my 40 years in the job.

“I can understand if someone is very ill that they may not be able to consent to a medical procedure, but a forced caesarean is unprecedented.

“If there were concerns about the care of this child by an Italian mother, then the better plan would have been for the authorities here to have notified social services in Italy and for the child to have been taken back there.”

The case, reported by Christopher Booker in his column in The Sunday Telegraph, raises fresh questions about the extent of social workers’ powers.

It will be raised in Parliament this week by John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat MP. He chairs the Public Family Law Reform Coordinating Campaign, which wants reform and greater openness in court proceedings involving family matters.

He said: “I have seen a number of cases of abuses of people’s rights in the family courts, but this has to be one of the more extreme.

“It involves the Court of Protection authorising a caesarean section without the person concerned being made aware of what was proposed. I worry about the way these decisions about a person’s mental capacity are being taken without any apparent concern as to the effect on the individual being affected.”

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is an Italian national who come to Britain in July last year to attend a training course with an airline at Stansted Airport in Essex.

She suffered a panic attack, which her relations believe was due to her failure to take regular medication for an existing bipolar condition.

She called the police, who became concerned for her well-being and took her to a hospital, which she then realized was a psychiatric facility.

She has told her lawyers that when she said she wanted to return to her hotel, she was restrained and sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Meanwhile, Essex social services obtained a High Court order in August 2012 for the birth “to be enforced by way of caesarean section”, according to legal documents seen by this newspaper.

The woman, who says she was kept in the dark about the proceedings, says that after five weeks in the ward she was forcibly sedated. When she woke up she was told that the child had been delivered by C-section and taken into care.

In February, the mother, who had gone back to Italy, returned to Britain to request the return of her daughter at a hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Her lawyers say that she had since resumed taking her medication, and that the judge formed a favourable opinion of her. But he ruled that the child should be placed for adoption because of the risk that she might suffer a relapse.

The cause has also been raised before a judge in the High Court in Rome, which has questioned why British care proceedings had been applied to the child of an Italian citizen “habitually resident” in Italy. The Italian judge accepted, though, that the British courts had jurisdiction over the woman, who was deemed to have had no “capacity” to instruct lawyers.

Lawyers for the woman are demanding to know why Essex social services appear not have contacted next of kin in Italy to consult them on the case.

They are also upset that social workers insisted on placing the child in care in Britain, when there had been an offer from a family friend in America to look after her.

An expert on social care proceedings, who asked not to be named because she was not fully acquainted with the details of the case, described it as “highly unusual”.

She said the council would first have to find “that she was basically unfit to make any decision herself” and then shown there was an acute risk to the mother if a natural birth was attempted.

An Essex county council spokesman said the local authority would not comment on ongoing cases involving vulnerable people and children. (Contributor: By Colin Freeman for Telegraph)

This story comes out of England and relates to intricacies in British law the details of which we do not know. The prayer focus, however, is general and universal, which is to pray for a resurgence of family care and authority in such matters and a lessening of “Social Services” interference. In this case, it was the removal of a baby from the womb without the mother’s or family’s knowledge or permission; in our own U.S. proceedings, the principle could be applied to our Social Services, where children have been declared truant, with attempts made to remove them from the home, because the family is teaching them in its own legal home school. Pray that “State as owner” of its citizens will revert to “State as servant” of its citizens.

“God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity. But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.” (Psalm 68:6)

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:27-28)

 

WE HAVE LIFT-OFF

It will be two weeks until China can claim complete success, but its most ambitious space effort to date got off to a smooth start with a successful early morning launch on December 2nd of the Chang’e-3 lunar mission. Carried into space by an enhanced Long March-3B rocket from a base in south-west China, a six-wheeled lunar rover is scheduled to be set on the surface of the moon in mid-December. It will be China’s first attempt at a soft landing on an extraterrestrial body.

If one wished to compare the international space race to Aesop’s famous fable about the tortoise and the hare, the only reasonable choice would be to cast China as the plodding but determined turtle. When China for the first time put a human in space, in 2003, it was achieving something the Soviets and Americans had already done more than 40 years earlier.

It has now been more than 40 years since America first put men on the surface of the moon—and then safely returned them to Earth. Yet the name China has given to its new rover may hint at a desire to stop playing the tortoise’s role: it is called Yutu, or Jade Rabbit.

The name is taken from a white pet rabbit belonging to Chang’e, the moon goddess in Chinese folklore, and was chosen because it is “a symbol of kindness, purity and agility” and “reflects China’s peaceful use of space”, according to Li Benzheng, deputy commander of China’s lunar programme.

Once deployed, the rover will attempt to survey geological structures on the lunar surface, look for natural resources and set up a telescope. China says it expects the solar-powered rover to operate for at least three months.

Previous Chinese lunar missions included Chang’e-1, which launched in 2007, entered into lunar orbit, and then made a controlled impact on the lunar surface in 2009. Chang’e-2 was launched in 2010 and continued operating far beyond its design lifetime. Part of its task was surveying work, including identification of the landing spot for the Yutu, in an area known as the Bay of Rainbows. It was then directed out of lunar orbit to become the first Chinese object sent through the solar system towards deep space.

Mr. Li has warned publicly of the difficulty of a successful soft landing for the Chang’e-3 mission. “So far 129 moon explorations have been carried out by different countries and only 51 of them succeeded, so there are risks in our mission,” he said on November 28th at a press conference.

Future plans are even more ambitious. China has already announced that by 2020 it intends to conduct a Chang’e-5 mission to gather samples from the moon and return them to Earth. Officials have been fuzzier about the timeline, but no less clear about their intention to attempt future missions to Mars. There has also been talk of establishing bases on both the moon and Mars, and even of growing vegetables there. (Contributor: T.P. for Economist)

The realization that a Communist regime like China is advancing in the field of technology can be overwhelming and can cause a great deal of anxiety to those who are aware that such a nation is capable of great damage to those who are weak. We Americans are being challenged at every turn these days as to where we stand—in God’s arms or in the world’s embrace. Pray that the United States will cry out to the Lord for His wisdom and covering in the days, months, and years to come. Pray that the thousands if not millions of Christians in China would rise up and take a stand for national repentance while there is yet time. Pray that American Christians would also rise up and take their rightful place as the leaders who are needed in order to overcome darkness. Pray that we will be a nation that puts its trust in the Lord.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4).

“He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7).

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).

 

VIOLATING CHILDREN’S DIGNITY IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Every day, my friend Laura brightens up my Facebook news feed. A gifted writer and mother of three precocious children, she relays their conversations, poignant moments, and hilarious activities with style and wit. I love her children: the deep thoughtfulness of her son, her daughter’s sass, and the smushy cheeks on her baby. I have never met them.

Another friend likes to talk about her “redneck kids” — her terminology. After hearing about her boys’ desire to wake up in the wee hours to go duck hunting and her children’s plan to shoot the Elf on the Shelf with a BB gun, I’m inclined to agree.

I’m from the East Coast but recently transplanted to flyover country. I’ve met good folk here but my heart still is with my loved ones in Virginia and my lifelong friends in DC. Many of them are only now just having children, and I may never get to hold their newborns or attend first birthday parties or cry with my friends on their babies’ first day of school. While in the past I would have depended on Christmas newsletters and the occasional phone call to feel even a small part of their families’ lives, I now benefit from daily updates on social media. I treasure the little glimpses I get into their daily routine.

But two friends recently told me something disturbing that makes me rethink our approach to social media updates. One friend confided that her 6-year-old daughter asked her mother to stop talking about her on Twitter. Another friend’s 7-year-old asked to be consulted before parents posted personal information on Facebook.

All the ways we miss the point

Two different child-free friends posted a Slate article on their walls last month headlined “Why We Post Nothing About Our Daughter Online.” My first reaction was that it was funny that childless folk were weighing in on a debate reserved for parents. My second was that I, too, used to have lofty ideals about how little I planned to post about my children on the internet. My third, however, was that this article — and many other warnings about internet privacy — miss a very key point.

Much of the debate over a child’s privacy on Facebook and other social networking sites focus on the tangible: the future employer reading about toddler exploits, the prom date laughing at the picture in the tub, concern over biometrics and data mining, hyperventilation over child predators. Warnings on posting cell-phone pictures or FourSquare updates include the possibility of geotagging one’s locations and fears over burglary or kidnapping or worse.

The emphasis on protecting children from predators makes my blood boil from the ignorance. Thirty percent of sex offenders against children are family members and the overwhelming number are people otherwise known to the child. Only ten percent of child molesters are complete strangers. Our overprotection of children has far-reaching consequences beyond just keeping them safe: creating a culture of fearful children who jump at their own shadow, a breakdown of community as a child learns to not run to neighbors or law enforcement personnel for help — not to mention never allowing the Little League coach to walk him home. The emphasis on keeping our children safe from predators has negatively impacted the image of men in the eyes of our society. Men walking alone with their children or pushing them on swings in the park are briefly detained and questioned after concerned citizens call the police — a laughable result given how much modern society emphasizes complete co-parenting regardless of gender.

We have come to a point where we have denied our children physical freedom.

Our children have never been safer. And because of this, I let my 2-year-old run around at Walgreen’s (respectfully, of course) as I queue in line for a prescription. I can hear her even if sometimes I don’t see her. I have had more than one person come up to me and warn me she could be snatched away without a thought.

We have come to a point where we have denied our children physical freedom. no longer designed to challenge and harden a child’s capabilities for free thought. Children are strapped into strollers or jammed into a baby carrier on walks, with no freedom to run ahead and discover nature’s miracles on their own. We completely absolve them of personal responsibility and waylay their confidence, not giving them the opportunity to even walk up to the fast food cashier and pay for their own meal and drink, not allowing them to set foot in a public bathroom without eyes on them at all times, paper towels protecting the toilet seat, an extra squirt of sanitizer even after 30 seconds of good hand washing.

Which makes our online practices all the weirder

But even as society jealously guards our children’s well-being in the physical realm, we overdo the freedom in the digital realm. our children’s well-being in the physical realm, we overdo the freedom in the digital realm. More than middle schoolers with iPhones and Facebook accounts, what we do from the day our children are born completely disregards their integrity as little people in their own right. Yes, we have complete and utter control over those little people, but that gives us even more of a mandate to respect their personal boundaries.

Why is it now okay to detail every childish exploit in excruciating detail? Go into the nuances of our daughter’s potty training and talk about the time she talked back to you and got grounded? Look at the Facebook page of almost any mother with young children and you will see mostly pictures of her children detailing their embarrassing moments, their successes, their failures, their terrible-two-tantrums on the floor, the burgeoning ideas about God and the way the world works.

How much longer until that child shuts down and stops verbally exploring the world, afraid of being, in his eyes, ridiculed for his insight?

So let’s think about the two children I mentioned above. At 6 and 7-years-old, children are already feeling a loss of privacy and control over their public lives. I as a mother might think it’s cute to post a hilarious comment my son makes, but that comment was made in earnest. By six, my son will likely be aware that I posted about what he said, and will overhear friends confide in me the next day at lunch: “That was hilarious what you posted on Facebook! I shared it with all my friends too.” How much longer until that child shuts down and stops verbally exploring the world, afraid of being, in his eyes, ridiculed for his insight?

Our children are becoming our accessories. Especially for the stay-at-home mother, who may have had a successful professional career and is now feeling the sting of the lack of recognition and praise that comes with the territory of raising tiny self-absorbed humans, our children are our last realm of pride and accomplishment — or so it seems when one is in the trenches with toddlers. We wear their successes as badges of honor — adorable badges of honor with just the right flavor to make us look better in our friends’ eyes. We are becoming the narcissistic toddlers who do not care about who we step on to extend that feeling, that amazing feeling, of being the center of the universe (or, in Facebook terms, gaining even more likes and shares after you relate the time your baby took his diaper off and made wall art with the contents).

We are becoming the narcissistic toddlers who do not care about who we step on to extend that feeling, that amazing feeling, of being the center of the universe.

Why do we do this? One answer is the lack of real community for new mothers. I can personally attest to how isolating it is to have babies back-to-back, move across the country, and leave your career and child-free life behind. Postpartum depression rates are higher than the conventional statistics imply. The pressure to breastfeed makes any perceived failure on that front worse. Add in mothers who go through real, desperate struggles that few others can understand, and there is an overwhelming compulsion to share and share some more. Witness the responses to “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” and the outpouring of support coming from her sharing. But how many people pointed out that this mother is basically letting her entire personal community know that her minor child has severe and possibly threatening mental illness? Very few, in fact. And, even as the original article was written anonymously, the author very quickly came out from under the veil. Now her son is marked for life.

Avoiding idle gossip

Even lesser concerns, of course, portend this oversharing. The growth of the much maligned ‘mommy blog’ is a testament to the incredible desire to know one is not alone with the baby who nurses all day, the toddler who pulls hair, the preschooler who suddenly decides he wants to be back in diapers. These mothers have done a great service to the other moms out there, making us laugh and cry and finally, finally feel good about our desire to just send the kids to a babysitter and have a stiff drink. But at what cost to their own children?

I succumbed to the siren call of online posting about a week after my eldest was born.

Who am I to judge? I, the one with the lofty ideals of not posting information about my children online, succumbed to the siren call about a week after my eldest was born. I have found immense comfort in being able to type up a two-sentence pithy observation at the end of a long day. And, even as I previously limited my posts about children to Facebook (a service that gives only an illusion of privacy), I have now begun instagramming and tweeting and my academic parenting blog has more and more references to the exploits of my own little ones. Why? To be honest, I see the plaudits and recognition afforded to other “moms like me” who humorously detail life with children — you name the funny blog, I’ve probably read it.

They will be the first to tell you they haven’t made much money off their excursions into the blogosphere but I suspect they have gained more fulfillment: not only can they feel good about staying home with their children, but they can also fight that descent into obscurity that often happens when devoting one’s life to family. And I, whether it’s self-centered or not, desire that recognition. It’s hard to love one’s job, as someone once told me, when your job is currently kicking and screaming on the floor.

But when we think of “jobs” we think of careers that are entirely wrapped up in our own lives. Child rearing is a special and unique vocation. It’s the art of letting our kids forge their own identities—identities that are influenced by us, but ultimately distinct from our own. It’s hard to do that when they’re defined from an early age by broadcasting the mistakes they made so that their parents have a never-ending font of meaningless status updates. The freedom to hide our harmless mistakes from the world at large is a matter of simple human dignity. It is both amazing and disconcerting that so many of us don’t think to extend this dignity to those innocent children that trust us to take care of them. (Contributor: By Jennifer Doverspike for The Federalist)

Pray for parents in the united States that are using the media platforms to speak about their children. Pray for the children who are at the age of being able to articulate their feeling but not having the wisdom that comes with age. Pray that they maturely process the words and emotions that are sometimes conveyed on a public platform, and which—once released—can never be withdrawn. Godly wisdom is a need for all of God’s children, both young and old. Pray that more families will take a closer look at what needs to be addressed in wise use of public forums.

“There is that speaketh rashly like the piercings of a sword; But the tongue of the wise is health.” (Proverbs 12:18)

“Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.” (Proverbs 21:23)

“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36-37)

 

36 ABORTION-BREAST CANCER STUDIES A ‘GAME CHANGER,’ SAYS SCIENTIST

A systematic review and meta-analysis of 36 Chinese studies by Dr. Yubei Huang and his colleagues in the prestigious journal, Cancer Causes Control, last week reported a significant 44% increased breast cancer risk among women with at least one induced abortion (IA), compared to women without IAs. The risk increased with number of IAs (a dose effect), an important measure of a cause-effect relationship, with two and three IAs raising risk by a statistically significant 76% and 89%, respectively. Earlier studies also found a dose effect.

Huang’s team cited and supports a 1996 review and meta-analysis, led by Joel Brind, Ph.D. (Baruch College, City University of New York) and colleagues at Penn State, who found a 30% risk elevation for women with any history of IAs. Huang’s team agreed with criticism from Drs. Brind and Vernon Chinchilli in the British Journal of Cancer concerning two high profile Shanghai studies.

In his analysis of the Chinese study (below), Brind called it a “game changer.” He exclaimed, “Not only does it validate our earlier findings from 1996, but its findings are even stronger, for several reasons.”

Significantly, Brind argued ObamaCare insurance funds abortion and contraceptive steroids (i.e. the Pill) which will be disastrous for women’s health.

Huang’s team said their results differed from those of a 2004 meta-analysis by Dr. Valerie Beral and her colleagues. Their paper, which claimed there was no link, received harsh criticism in seven medical journals from four experts independently of one another.

Karen Malec, president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer, said, “Our organization and the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute (which Dr. Brind co-founded) are among the groups that collaborated on an amicus brief in three lawsuits against ObamaCare’s contraceptive mandate. Last month, a federal appellate court cited the brief which reports the World Health Organization’s classification of the Pill as a Group 1 carcinogen; and the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear those lawsuits.” Read more Abortion-Breast Cancer Studies  (Contributor: Professor Joel Brind for Christian Newswire)

Offer thanks to the Lord that there are many qualified scientists and researchers who are seeking the truth about the real danger caused to women who have abortions. Pray that these findings will accelerate legislation that will cause abortion to become illegal due to its “deadly nature” both to the unborn child as well as to the mother. Pray that more medical leaders will stand up, practice, and promote the truth of these findings.

“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” (Psalm 25:5)

“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7)

On Watch in Washington December 4, 2013 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington November 27, 2013

November 27th, 2013

On Watch in Washington November 27, 2013 Plain Text PDF Version

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL FACES UPHILL BATTLE WITH CONGRESS

The Obama administration put on a full-court press Sunday to defend the deal the U.S. and key allies struck to try to halt Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program — but the White House faces a tough sell with members of Congress who criticized the terms and said they’ll still press for even tighter sanctions on the Islamic republic.

President Obama spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the agreement a “historic mistake.” The American leader assured Mr. Netanyahu that the deal is just a first step, and that the U.S. remains firmly committed to Israel’s interests.

But in Washington, many Republicans and Democrats shared Mr. Netanyahu’s view, saying Iran gets far more than it’s giving and that the deal only suspends, rather than ends, Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry defended the agreement, reached early Sunday morning in Geneva after months of secret negotiations, saying it gives Iran a six-month window to prove it is serious about freezing its weapons program. He also assured Capitol Hill that if the Islamic republic backslides, the world can impose stiff sanctions — and could resort to military action.

“You can’t get everything in the first step. You have to go down the process here,” Mr. Kerry said on CBS‘ “Face the Nation.” “The fact is that what we’ve done is lock components of their program in place and actually roll some of them backwards.”

Capitol Hill was less than convinced, with both Republicans and Democrats saying they feared the deal was laden with carrots and lacking in sticks.

“You have now given them a permission slip to continue enrichment,” Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican, chairman of the House intelligence committee, told CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

And Sen. Bob Corker, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Mr. Obama’s track record doesn’t give him confidence that this administration will be able to see through the agreement.

“This administration is long on announcements but very short on follow-through,” the Tennessee Republican said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Congress is away from Washington for a two-week Thanksgiving vacation, but when it returns, the Senate has the critical defense policy bill pending.

There will be a major push by Republicans and some Democrats to add stricter sanctions on Iran to that legislation as a way of showing displeasure with the deal and trying to stiffen Mr. Obama’s spine in the negotiations.

Meanwhile, the two sides in the agreement will go back to the table to work out the next deal. The White House said Sunday afternoon that there is no set timetable for the next round of talks, though a spokesman said the administration is “eager” to get to work.

Sunday’s deal was struck between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, which combined refer to themselves as the P5 plus 1.

Talks had apparently been going on for months, but kicked into a higher gear after Hassan Rouhani won Iran’s presidential elections and took office in August after campaigning on a platform of a willingness to engage with the West.

The White House pointed out that Mr. Obama had campaigned in 2008 on engaging in direct negotiations with adversary nations including Iran, and said this deal was struck in that vein.

Late Saturday night at the White House, Mr. Obama said the tentative pact will “cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb” and that the United States and its partners will not proceed with new sanctions that would scuttle the deal.

Mr. Kerry said that the choice for the U.S. was between taking this deal, or waiting and potentially letting Iran progress further. He said the latter was the option the Bush administration took, and in the 10 years since, Iran went from fewer than 200 centrifuges to 19,000, putting the nation much closer to a weapon.

The six-month interim deal offers Iran relief from sanctions that will be worth billions of dollars to the regime, in exchange for granting access to Iranian nuclear sites and a promise by that nation to reduce its enrichment of uranium.

Israel and other critics of the deal had wanted any agreement to undo Iran’s nuclear program.

Instead, the package rolls back but doesn’t eliminate Iran’s stockpile of enriched material by suspending all enrichment of uranium over 5 percent, and forcing the country to degrade its supply of 20 percent enriched uranium. Iran also agreed not to add any centrifuges, used to enrich uranium, to its supply, but it can replace those that become inoperable.

The nation also agreed not to begin operating the Arak reactor, which was considered to be a shortcut to the plutonium needed for a nuclear weapon.

Mr. Kerry said degrading Iran’s capability means if the country’s leaders decided to break the deal and try to create a bomb, it would take longer to do it.

“That means that whereas Iran today has about 200 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium, they could readily be enriched towards a nuclear weapon. In six months, Iran will have zero — zero,” he said.

In return, the countries that imposed sanctions will allow Iran to sell oil and collect $4.2 billion on the sale, and will lower sanctions that restricted the import of gold and materials for some industries, such as automobile manufacturing.

Mr. Kerry said even with the sanctions that will remain in place, Iran will still lose $25 billion in oil revenue during the six-month period of the deal.

Opponents, though, said the deal walks back key U.S. demands — particularly in allowing Iran to enrich uranium.

They said the amount of time added to an Iranian “breakout,” or production of a full bomb, has only been increased by several months. And they fretted that beginning to dismantle sanctions will make it harder to impose them — or to enhance them later — should Iran backslide.

“Iran simply freezes its nuclear capabilities while we reduce the sanctions,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “It was strong sanctions, not the goodness of the hearts of the Iranian leaders, that brought Iran to the table, and any reduction relieves the psychological pressure of future sanctions and gives them hope that they will be able to gain nuclear weapon capability while further sanctions are reduced.”

Mr. Schumer said the terms of the deal are so bad that it actually makes it more likely than ever that Congress will pass legislation stiffening the sanctions on Iran.

But White House spokesman Josh Earnest played down that possibility, saying that he believed Congress would hold off on stricter sanctions and give Mr. Obama room to operate.

He also said if the U.S. imposes deeper unilateral sanctions, if could fracture the front that Mr. Obama has worked to maintain, particularly with Russia and China.

“The concern is that rather than capitalizing on the diplomatic window that’s opened up, doubling down on sanctions at this point would actually undermine the international coalition that we’ve built,” Mr. Earnest said. “That is why we have urged Congress to act strategically, as they have thus far, to bring pressure on the Iranian regime, to reach a diplomatic solution, but do that in a way that it doesn’t actually undermine the broad international pressure that’s been brought to bear.” (Contributor:  By Stephen Dinan and Tom Howell Jr. for The Washington Times)

First prayer focus: Thanksgiving! As intercessors read this, our nation’s annual Thanksgiving remembrance is less than a day away. And while Christians do not need a special day to give thanks, it is a pleasant and traditional event, usually bringing families together to reflect on God’s blessings over the past year. And even as the U.S. moves further into full-blown secularism, still let us give thanks for God’s faithfulness; for the truth of the Gospel; for God’s grace, mercy, and love; for this “age of grace” whereby the church can still share the “good news”; and for the sure promise of Jesus Christ’s return in triumph to reign supremely.

 As for what is being called “the Iran nuclear deal,” this subject is dominating the news coverage and will for days and weeks to come (see next article also, which considers Israel’s viewpoint). It is not our place to editorialize. Diverse opinions are plentiful as to President Obama’s intentions, as his trust rating is at an all-time low, since the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) is floundering in its early applications. We do know that Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu believes the agreement to be a “historic mistake,” and even staunch liberal thinkers in the president’s own party, such as Senator Charles Schumer, are raising questions as to the implications of the “deal.” Please also read the next article and pray accordingly. Our chosen Scriptures do not discount God’s purpose in the national restoration and protection of Israel, but simply exemplify the truth that all the nations belong to God and none will withstand His purpose.

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his [own] hand and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?”
(Isaiah 40:12)

“Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold He takes up the isles like fine dust. [The forests of] Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.” (Isaiah 40:15-17) 

 

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL FUELS ANGER, JITTERS IN MIDEAST

Israel‘s prime minister harshly condemned the international community’s nuclear deal with Iran on Sunday while Saudi Arabia remained conspicuously quiet, reflecting the jitters felt throughout the Middle East over Iran’s acceptance on the global stage.

Elsewhere, many welcomed the agreement as an important first step toward curbing Iran’s suspect nuclear program.

Israel and Western-allied Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia have formed an unlikely alliance in their opposition to Sunday’s deal, joined together by shared concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran and Tehran’s growing regional influence.

While most Gulf countries remained silent in the first hours after the deal was reached in Geneva, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wasted little time in criticizing it, calling it a “historic mistake” and saying he was not bound by the agreement.

Speaking to his Cabinet, Mr. Netanyahu said the world had become a “more dangerous place” as a result of the deal. He reiterated a long-standing threat to use military action against Iran if needed, declaring that Israel “has the right and the duty to defend itself by itself.”

Sunday’s agreement is just the first stage of what is hoped to bring about a final deal ensuring that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon.

Under the deal, Iran will curb many of its nuclear activities for six months in exchange for limited and gradual relief from painful economic sanctions. The six-month period will give diplomats time to negotiate a more sweeping agreement.

The package includes freezing Iran’s ability to enrich uranium at a maximum 5 percent level, which is well below the threshold for weapons-grade material, and is aimed at easing Western concerns that Tehran one day could seek nuclear arms. International monitors will oversee Iran’s compliance.

For Iran, keeping the enrichment program active was a critical goal. Iran’s leaders view the country’s ability to make nuclear fuel as a source of national pride and an essential part of nuclear self-sufficiency.

But Israel views any enrichment as unacceptable, saying making low-level enriched uranium is relatively simple. Israel demands that all enrichment be halted and that Iran’s abilities to produce uranium be rolled back.

Mr. Netanyahu also previously called for economic sanctions to be increased. Israel fears that Iran will use the diplomatic process as cover to trick the international community, much the way North Korea did in its march toward a nuclear bomb.

“Today the world became a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world made a significant step in obtaining the most dangerous weapons in the world,” Mr.  Netanyahu said.

Israeli officials acknowledged they would have to turn their focus toward affecting the outcome of the final negotiations. Israel is not part of the Geneva talks but remains in close touch with the U.S. and other participants.

Israel feels especially threatened by Iran, given Tehran’s repeated references to destroying Israel, its support for hostile militant groups on Israel‘s borders and its development of long-range missiles.

Israeli President Shimon Peres, a Nobel Peace laureate, expressed cautious optimism that Sunday’s deal could change the region.

“I would like to say to the Iranian people: You are not our enemies, and we are not yours. There is a possibility to solve this issue diplomatically. It is in your hands. Reject terrorism. Stop the nuclear program. Stop the development of long-range missiles,” he said.

Another Nobel peace laureate, Mohammed ElBaradei, Egypt’s pro-democracy leader and former director of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency, welcomed the deal.

In a tweet on his official account, he wrote: “After decade of failed policies, world better off w/ Iran deal. Equity, trust building, respect & dialogue R key to any conflict resolution.”

The muted response in the Gulf came after the rulers of Qatar and Kuwait met with Saudi King Abdullah over the weekend to discuss regional issues, foremost Iran.

Saudi Arabia and Iran’s regional enmity increasingly has played out as a proxy war in Syria with both countries providing lethal support for the warring sides. Saudi Arabia also accuses Iran of backing Shiite unrest across the region.

Bucking the trend, the tiny Gulf countries of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates praised the agreement.

“We welcome this agreement if it will the end of the fear of any weapons of mass destruction in the region,” Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa told reporters in Manama.

Across Europe, countries welcomed the deal. Britain and France, which both participated in the negotiations, said they were committed to seeing the deal succeed, while Spain, Norway and Sweden expressed hope for a broader solution.

“The agreement represents an important step toward the normalization of relations between the international community and Iran, and toward a general agreement that promotes stability and security in the region,” Spain said.

Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, called it an important step toward “providing assurances that guarantee the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government also participated in the talks, said the agreement vindicated Russia’s calls for a diplomatic solution.

“The result of Geneva is a win for all, showing once again that by working collectively and with mutual respect it is possible to find answers to current international challenges and threats,” Mr. Putin said in a statement released by the Kremlin.

Iran’s eastern neighbor Pakistan, a declared nuclear power, said the deal “should augur well for peace and security in our region and the world at large.”

Pakistan’s archrival, India, another nuclear power, also welcomed the deal.

Turkey, which borders Iran to the west, called it a “new start.”

Iran’s allies, meanwhile, lined up behind the deal.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Moussawi called it a “step forward in order to solve other regional problems.”

The Syrian government, which relies on Iran’s support in its battle against rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad, also said it was proof that negotiations were the best way to resolve a conflict. (Contributor:  By Josef Federman for Associated Press – also Associated Press writers Sarah DiLorenzo in Paris; Raf Cassert in Brussels; Aya Batrawi in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Sarah El Deeb in Cairo; Lynn Berry in Moscow; Nirmala George in New Delhi; Malin Rising in Stockholm; Harold Heckle in Madrid; Reem Khalifa in Manama, Bahrain; Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria; and Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad contributed to this report.)

With Syria off media front pages at least temporarily, the spotlight for intercession is fully centered on the triangle formed with the U.S., Iran, and Israel in the “nuclear agreement” forged in Geneva that appears to temporarily contain Iran’s nuclear plans. While our administration seems pleased with the new agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear development, it raises the question of America’s loyalty to Israel as our strongest Middle East ally, and whether Iran will ever renounce or even modify its ultimate determination to see Israel destroyed. President Obama has given Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu full assurance of our commitment to that beleaguered country, but Israel’s government has reason to be nervous because of Iran’s record of duplicity and betrayal of its prior commitments. As Christian intercessors and loyal supporters of Israel’s right to exist and flourish, let us pray for and call out to God to sustain “the [fragile] peace of Jerusalem.” Our prayer foundation stems from God’s promises going back to Abraham, promises we believe have never been withdrawn.

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

[Our Lord to Jerusalem:] “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matt. 23:37)

[Paul to the Romans:] “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew…. Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace …” (Romans 11:1-2; 5-6)

 

U.S. BANKS WARN FED INTEREST CUT COULD FORCE THEM TO CHARGE DEPOSITORS

Leading U.S. banks have warned that they could start charging companies and consumers for deposits if the US Federal Reserve cuts the interest it pays on bank reserves.

Depositors already have to cope with near-zero interest rates, but paying just to leave money in the bank would be highly unusual and unwelcome for companies and households.

The warning by bank executives highlights the dangers of one strategy the Fed could use to offset an eventual “tapering” of the $85bn a month in asset purchases that have fuelled global financial markets for the last year.

Minutes of the Fed’s October meeting published last week showed it was heading towards a taper in the coming months – perhaps as soon as December – but wants to find a different way to add stimulus at the same time. “Most” officials thought a cut in the interest on bank reserves was an option worth considering.

Executives at two of the top five U.S. banks said a cut in the 0.25 per cent rate of interest on the $2.4tn in reserves they hold at the Fed would lead them to pass on the cost to depositors.

Banks say they may have to charge because taking in deposits is not free: they have to pay premiums of a few basis points to a U.S. government insurance program.

“Right now you can at least break even from a revenue perspective,” said one executive, adding that a rate cut by the Fed “would turn it into negative revenue – banks would be disincentivized to take deposits and potentially charge for them”.

Other bankers said that a move to negative rates would not only trim margins but could backfire for banks and the system as a whole, as it would incentivize treasury managers to find higher-yielding, riskier assets.

“It’s not as if we are suddenly going to start lending to [small and medium-sized enterprises],” said one. “There really isn’t the level of demand, so the danger is that banks are pushed into riskier assets to find yield.”

The danger of negative rates has deterred the Fed from cutting interest on bank reserves in the past. If it were to do so now, it would most probably expand a new facility that lets banks and money market funds deposit cash at a small, positive interest rate. That should avoid any need for banks to charge depositors.

About half of the reserves come from non-U.S. banks that do not have to pay the deposit insurance fee. Their favorite maneuver is to take deposits from money market funds and park them overnight at the Fed, earning millions of dollars risk-free. Cutting the interest on reserves would stop that.

Lowering interest on reserves would also affect money market funds, said Alex Roever, head of U.S. interest rate strategy at JPMorgan.

“[It] would decrease the incentive for those banks to borrow in the money markets, which in turn could leave money market funds short of certain investments and force them to bid up the price of their next best options,” he said.

Richard Gilhooly, strategist at TD Securities, highlighted some benefits to the Fed from the possible cut: “[It] would not only anchor short-term rates near zero, it also stands to boost the profits for the Fed as they pay less interest to banks,” he said.

Additional reporting by Michael Mackenzie in New York and Patrick Jenkins in London (Contributor: By Tom Braithwaite, Stephen Foley, and Robin Harding for Financial Times)

Prayer focus: All intercessors know it is wise to pace themselves and choose their prayer battles. We do not waste time and energy jousting with windmills. We know the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, but we also apply that in its proper context (2 Cor. 10:4). We try to discern which news items we should immediately address in concerted prayer and which are part of a larger picture. In a corrupt and greedy world, some issues will only be adjusted by God’s direct intervention. Thus, how any country, including our own, places value on its money supply and tries to control its economy is a challenge with national and international implications. However, we know that God owns everything and that His heart is open to the cry of the poor. So let us ask, “How will this affect our fellow citizens?” What about the elderly who need bank services but cannot afford more bank fees? Let us intercede with compassion for those whose finances will be adversely affected. Perhaps some can help through charitable ministries in our local areas. Meanwhile, God sees, knows, and cares.  Yes, money is an important commodity, but a believer’s dependence is primarily upon God Himself and His grace.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:4-5)

“[Even] if I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness…. Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:12-15, portions)

 “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will reward them for what they have done.” (Proverbs 19:17

 

THIS IS WHAT PANIC LOOKS LIKE

Incredibly, we learned this week that Team Obama is gearing up to announce that the Obamacare open enrollment period for 2015 will be pushed back one month from the original start date of Oct. 15, 2014.  This means that people will not be able to see what their insurance rates for 2015 will be before Nov. 15, 2014.  Hmm, what’s happening in that one month that could possibly make this odd delay make sense? Oh yeah, America is holding national elections on Nov. 4, 2014.

While not yet officially announced by the Department of Health and Human Services, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed the latest change to the law in today’s press conference, trying to spin the changes to Obamacare as a way “to give insurers more time to evaluate the first year” of the Obamacare exchanges. Thirty days is “more time” for insurance companies?

This maneuver shows utter contempt and disdain for the intellect and capacity of voters to see this move for what it is: a blatantly political calculation on the part of President Obama. What the Democrats see on the political horizon must be absolutely horrific if they think this can be done without infuriating voters more than they already have been.

Democrats must think this delay is to their net political advantage.  Apparently, they have decided that enough voters will be mollified, caught napping and be outright deceived by their actions that it will make a difference in the November election. After all, life is all about the net, not the gross.

Anyway, this move is the opposite of leadership; it’s political cowardice, the like of which I don’t think I have ever seen. Do you think the president and his advisers laughed out loud as they hatched this plan?  Do you think they even tried to suppress the snickering that must have occurred? Is their contempt for voters so great that they all share openly in the joke?  Will Democrats in Congress be able to keep a straight face when they say this isn’t about the 2014 elections and maintaining control of the Senate? It will be scary if they get away with this.

And maybe they won’t.  The latest generic ballots show Democrats slipping in support, in large part because of the mess of Obamacare.  The Quinnipiac polling in the last week of September 2013 showed Democrats up by nine in the generic ballot.  The same poll conducted in the second week of November 2013 had Republicans and Democrats tied.  The White House’s own polls must be even worse.

I have been waiting for the Democrats’ “big punt” on Obamacare, but this is not it.  A punt must be organized and the product of some planning. Instead, this is what panic looks like.  At this point, we can only shake our heads and sigh.  We can’t get to an election fast enough to put an end to what this president and his Democratic allies are doing. (Contributor: By Ed Rogers for The Washington Post)

Prayer focus: This article has a three-fold significance for intercessors. First, it is clearly an anti-President Obama/Democrat opinion piece, and yet published in the very liberal Washington Post! This is a fairly recent trend and suggests the liberal press believes the president is taking too many liberties with the checks and balances that keep a U.S. president accountable. Second, this points at an increasing pattern. Both The Washington Post and The New York Times, along with several other openly liberal-leaning media sources, have recently been very critical editorially of the president and his administration’s handling of the highly controversial Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare). Third, it calls attention to next year’s highly important and potentially pivotal mid-term elections, where much prayer and activism will be focused with an eye to electing senators, representatives, mayors, and state governors who will lead our nation back to its roots in the Constitution. We leave the analysis of the president’s motivations to others, but as intercessors, we urge much concerted prayer toward the election of morally upright, God-fearing men and women. Our quest, through prayer, is for elected officials who will tell the truth and walk in honesty and integrity among their fellow citizens.     

[The apostolic commitment as leaders:] “Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” (2 Corinthians 8:21)

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16)

“The Lord demands accurate scales and balances; He sets the standards for fairness.” (Proverbs 16:11)

“The entirety of Your word is truth; all Your just regulations will stand forever.” (Psalm 119:160)

“Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.” (1Timothy 1:19)

“The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful.” (Proverbs 12:5)

 

CONNECTICUT NINTH STATE TO REJECT OBAMACARE ‘FIX’

Connecticut is joining eight other states in rejecting President Obama’s “fix” that allows healthcare policyholders with non-complying Affordable Care Act insurance plans to renew them through 2014.  Previously, California, Massachusetts, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington had come to the same conclusion.

While advocating for The Affordable Care Act (ACA) before it became law in 2010, Obama promised that if you liked your existing plan you could keep it. In a stunning reversal, when the law took effect on October 1, millions were told that their healthcare plans were canceled because of non-compliance with ACA regulations. On top of this, the federal website Healhcare.gov has been riddled with ongoing problems. As a result, last week Obama apologized, and offered a fix for the law, granting a one year extension to all who received cancelations.

However Connecticut, which maintains its own state healthcare insurance exchange, determined that the best overall outcome for its citizens is that the canceled policy holders seek health care insurance at the state exchange.  (Contributor: By Breitbart News)

Prayer focus: This brief article speaks for itself and points clearly toward the need for intercession that asks God for a general clean-up within our national government. A bipartisan group tracking honesty in the media has documented 30 separate venues in which President Obama repeated the promise that “if you like your existing plan you may keep it.” Sadly, it was not true, and the “fix” offered is not working, with nine (9) states now rejecting that approach and more to follow. But good government requires good people, so pray that salvation will come to the White House and to the halls of Congress.

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

 

AN UNCONVENTIONAL APPROACH TO ABORTION, PARENTS’ RIGHTS

Judging by the ObamaCare mess, Congress has enough to worry about without adding U.S. sovereignty to the mix. But in the Senate, where inefficiency is an art form, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is choosing to waste more of the chamber’s time on an international treaty that could be one of the greatest threats to parents’ rights that no one knows about.

Like most U.N. treaties, this one sounds harmless enough. But behind its innocuous name, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), is dangerous language that cedes parental authority, expands abortion “rights,” and chips away at U.S. sovereignty. Democrats say the U.S. should ratify the treaty to encourage other countries to “catch up” to our standards of treating everyone fairly, regardless of their handicaps. But America can be an example to the rest of the world without signing away our rights. After two decades of living under the strongest piece of disabilities legislation in the world, we don’t have anything to prove. Nothing the United Nations ratifies — including CRPD — could compare with the Americans with Disabilities Act in providing protection for people with special needs. So why bother?

Because, as Senator Harry Reid well knows, U.N. measures like this one help get his party’s radical policies through America’s backdoor. Under CRPD, the U.S. would be forced to recognize so-called rights that even our Constitution does not. What’s more, those “rights” would be subject to U.S. courts interpretation — or worse, unelected bureaucrats’. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a U.N. proposal if it didn’t include a loophole to greater abortion access.

As pro-lifers point out, this is the first-ever U.N. treaty to include the words “reproductive rights” — a phrase that hasn’t slipped past Senate conservatives like Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). During yesterday’s Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Sen. Rubio put Secretary of State John Kerry on the spot and demanded to know if the treaty would be used to promote abortion as an international right. Kerry insisted it would not. To the packed room, Kerry promised, “Nothing in Article 25, or anywhere else in this treaty, creates a right to abortion.”

Unfortunately, that doesn’t change the facts — which is that once a treaty is ratified, it is (as our Constitution explains), “the supreme law of the land.” Any U.S. judge could use CRPD as grounds to expand abortion in America (and now that Democrats have lowered the standards for confirming those judges, we’re likely to have plenty who will try!) Not only does the treaty bind America to the U.N.’s views on abortion, but it also takes a big bite out of parental rights.

As former Senator Rick Santorum, the father of a special needs daughter, explained, “CRPD, if ratified, would effectively put the U.S. under international law when it comes to parenting special needs children. One provision in the treaty would give the government, acting under U.N. instructions, the ability to determine for all children with disabilities what is best for them. I don’t know about you, but I believe that in America, that is the parents’ job, certainly not the government’s.”

Home-schooling families would be the obvious targets. In the United Kingdom, one mother already lost the right to continue teaching her 18-year-old son at home, despite his cerebral palsy. The local council determined that it wasn’t “in his best interests.” Imagine the leverage this treaty would give to liberals looking for ways to usurp the authority of moms and dads. Meanwhile, the dangers to life, parental rights, and U.S. sovereignty are just some of the concerns conservatives have over CRPD. This is a treaty with dozens of Articles, and anyone who suggests — as John Kerry did — that it doesn’t require “one change to U.S. law” must be waiting to pass it to find out what’s in it!

Anyone who’s still undecided on the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities needs only to look at the first two letters of the legislation for a reason to oppose it: U.N. Other countries may be willing to sign over their sovereignty, but the United States should know better. To pass, the treaty needs 66 votes. Make sure your senators aren’t two of them. Contact your leaders and urge them to vote no on CRPD! (Contributor: Tony Perkins for Family Research Council)

This article provides further evidence, if needed, as to how far the U.S. has fallen from its earlier ideals. American leadership once believed in its special calling and ability to lead the world due to its unique commitment to freedom and the power of its Founders’ principles of self-balancing and accountable government. To think that our nation’s day-to-day life and parental authority, with regard to special needs children, could be enhanced by surrendering U.S. sovereignty to the UN, or that we would submit our governance to a body of nations that cannot govern themselves properly, would be laughed away as simply preposterous by the generation that emerged victorious from World War II. Pray for a return to “yesterday’s” idealism and courage to live free and to lead, not by might, but by being right about the principles that matter in parental duties as well as international relations. Pray for a general, nationwide repentance and revival, and that God will help us back to a place of courage to take personal responsibility rather than palm it off on the crippled and decadent UN. And while we do not see our country as “the chosen people,” still our Scriptures speak uniformly of doing what is right in the sight of the Lord. 

“And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers.” (Deuteronomy.6:18)

“And [King Josiah] did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.” (2 Kings 22:2)

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” (Prov. 21:2-3)

 

NSA INFECTED 50,000 NETWORKS WITH SPECIALIZED MALWARE

The U.S. National Security Agency reportedly hacked into over 50,000 computer networks around the world as part of its global intelligence gathering efforts, and also taps into large fiber optic cables that transport Internet traffic between continents at 20 different major points.

The agency installed specialized malware referred to as “implants” on over 50,000 devices in order to perform Computer Network Exploitation (CNE), Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported this past Saturday based on documents it said were leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The information is reportedly taken from a 2012 top secret presentation about the NSA’s worldwide signals intelligence gathering capabilities that was shared with the intelligence services of Australia, Canada, the U.K. and New Zealand that form the Five Eyes partnership.

CNE is one of three types of Computer Network Operations that NSA computer specialists perform. It “includes enabling actions and intelligence collection via computer networks that exploit data gathered from target or enemy information systems or networks,” the NSA says on its careers website.

According to a presentation slide published by NRC, the NSA deployed over 50,000 CNE “implants” world-wide.

The Washington Post reported in August that the attack tools used for these implants are developed by a specialized NSA team called Tailored Access Operations (TAO) and are designed to compromise routers, switches and firewalls to monitor entire networks.

The implants persist through software and equipment upgrades and can be used to harvest communications, copy stored data and tunnel into the compromised networks from outside, according to the Washington Post. Their number is expected to reach over 85,000 by the end of 2013.

The slide leaked by NRC also reveals that, aside from CNEs, NSA has access to large Internet cables at 20 different locations, most of them outside the U.S.; runs over 80 regional Special Collection Service (SCS) installations that are part of a joint CIA-NSA program used for close surveillance operations and wiretapping; maintains liaison with 30 third-party countries outside of the Five Eyes; and has access to 52 regional facilities dedicated to intercepting foreign satellite communications (FORNSAT). (Contributor: By Lucian Constantin for IDG News Service and PC World)

This prayer focus encompasses the question our nation has been debating since 9/11/01. It is about the balance between a U.S. citizen’s individual right to privacy and personal freedom and the need and entitlement of government surveillance for the sake of national security. Yes, the government must gather data from many sources and sort through it meticulously looking for dangerous people and their plots of destruction. But, how much is enough and how much is too much? We are grateful when terrorist plans are detected and dismantled, but are citizens paying too high a price when private information can turn into government snooping? Pray for balance and restraint on intrusion, and for God to give wisdom and insight to those persons and agencies charged with protecting us from harm. As citizen’s who are also Christian believers, let us pledge ourselves to walk uprightly in all things and to follow a righteous lifestyle.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD …” (Psalm 33:12)

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”  (Prov. 14:34)

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold
from those who walk uprightly.”
(Psalm 84:11)

 

COURT CONFRONTS RELIGIOUS RIGHTS OF CORPORATIONS

Hobby Lobby, a chain of crafts stores, closes on Sundays, costing its owners millions but honoring their Christian faith.

The stores play religious music. Employees get free spiritual counseling. But they do not get free insurance coverage for some contraceptives, even though President Obama’s health care law requires it.

Hobby Lobby, a corporation, says that forcing it to provide the coverage would violate its religious beliefs. A federal appeals court agreed, and the Supreme Court is set to decide on Tuesday whether it will hear the Obama administration’s appeal from that decision or appeals from one of several related cases.

Legal experts say the court is all but certain to step in, setting the stage for another major decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act two years after a closely divided court sustained its requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance or pay a penalty.

“The stakes here, symbolically and politically, are very high,” said Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia, citing the clash between religious teachings and the administration’s embattled health care law.

In weighing those interests, the Supreme Court would have to assess the limits of a principle recognized in its 2010 decision in Citizens United, which said corporations have free speech rights under the First Amendment. The question now is whether corporations also have the right to religious liberty.

In ruling for Hobby Lobby, the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit said it had applied “the First Amendment logic of Citizens United.”

“We see no reason the Supreme Court would recognize constitutional protection for a corporation’s political expression but not its religious expression,” Judge Timothy M. Tymkovich wrote for the majority.

A dissenting member of the court, Chief Judge Mary Beck Briscoe, wrote that the majority’s approach was “nothing short of a radical revision of First Amendment law.”

But Judge Harris L Hartz, in a concurrence, said the case was in some ways easier than Citizens United. “A corporation exercising religious beliefs is not corrupting anyone,” he wrote.

Among Hobby Lobby’s lawyers is Paul D. Clement, who led the 2012 Supreme Court challenge to the health care law. The new case opened another front in a larger war on the law, which, as Hobby Lobby put it in its Supreme Court brief, “imposes massive obligations on individuals and corporations alike in the process of attempting to fundamentally reorder the nation’s health care system.”

Mr. Clement’s main adversary in the 2012 case, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., told the justices that the 10th Circuit’s “unprecedented ruling” in this case would allow “for-profit corporations to deny employees the health coverage to which they are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the individuals who own a controlling stake in the corporations.”

The Supreme Court is generally receptive to appeals from the solicitor general, especially when a lower court has effectively held a federal law unconstitutional. The justices are also apt to step in when, as here, lower courts are divided on an important legal question. Even Hobby Lobby, which won in the appeals court, agrees that the justices should hear the administration’s appeal.

“This is a perfect storm,” said Richard Garnett, a law professor at Notre Dame, adding that it is also a worrisome one. “Debates about campaign finance in Citizens United and abortion and Obamacare,” he said, “could distort the court’s analysis of religious freedom.”

Hobby Lobby was founded in 1970 in Oklahoma City by David Green, and it now has more than 500 stores and 13,000 employees of all sorts of faiths. Mr. Green and his family own Hobby Lobby through a privately held corporation.

The Greens told the justices in their brief that some drugs and devices that can prevent embryos from implanting in the womb are tantamount to abortion and that providing insurance coverage for those forms of contraception would make the company and its owners complicit in the practice. They said they had no objection to 16 other forms of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including condoms, diaphragms, sponges, several kinds of birth control pills and sterilization surgery.

But Hobby Lobby’s failure to offer comprehensive coverage could, it said, subject it to federal fines of $1.3 million a day. Dropping insurance coverage for its employees, it added, would be disruptive and unfair and lead to fines of $26 million a year.

Mr. Verrilli countered that requiring insurance plans to include comprehensive coverage for contraception was justified by the government’s interest in “the promotion of public health” and in ensuring that “women have equal access to health care services.” Doctors rather than employers should decide which form of contraception is best, he added.

The administration has excluded many religious organizations from the law’s requirements; it has grandfathered some insurance plans that had not previously offered the coverage; and, under the health care law, small employers need not offer health coverage at all. In June, a federal judge in Tampa, Fla., estimated that a third of Americans are not subject to the requirement that their employers provide coverage for contraceptives.

But the administration drew a line at larger, for-profit, secular corporations.

“Congress has granted religious organizations alone the latitude to discriminate on the basis of religion in setting the terms and conditions of employment, including compensation,” the Justice Department told the 10th Circuit appeals court, in Denver.

“No court has ever found a for-profit company to be a religious organization for purposes of federal law,” the brief went on. “To the contrary, courts have emphasized that an entity’s for-profit status is an objective criterion that allows courts to distinguish a secular company from a potentially religious organization, without conducting an intrusive inquiry into the entity’s religious beliefs.”

The appeals court disagreed, ruling that Hobby Lobby is a “person” for purposes of the relevant federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

Religious liberty, Judge Tymkovich wrote, cannot turn on whether money changes hands. “Would an incorporated kosher butcher really have no claim to challenge a regulation mandating non-kosher butchering practices?” he asked.

Other federal appeals courts considering challenges to the health care law’s so-called contraception mandate have ruled that the 1993 law does not apply to corporations.

After finding that Hobby Lobby was entitled to the law’s protections, the 10th Circuit went on to say that the company’s sincere religious beliefs had been compromised without good reason, noting the limited number of contraception methods at issue and the many employers exempt from the law’s requirements.

Professor Laycock said that only one thing was certain about the issues presented in the case, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, No. 13-354.

“They’re almost sure to take it,” he said of the justices, “and no one has any idea how it’s going to come out.”

A version of this article appears in print on November 25, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Court Confronts Religious Rights of Corporations. (Contributor: By Adam Liptak for The New York Times)

This is not a new story, but the size and success of Hobby Lobby has brought it to high-profile public focus. The issue is religious freedom, and the conviction of conscience of the owners to not provide contraceptive or abortion assistance in its employee benefits package puts the company squarely in a head-on collision course with the mandates of Obamacare. As the article stipulates, it is almost assuredly going to the Supreme Court, and intercessors should pray accordingly and as fervently as possible. Hobby Lobby’s owners are seeking to obey God by choosing to uphold and defend the lives of the innocent unborn, rather than to offer services that have abortion implications. Let us pray for the company’s principals and the issues.

“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…” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

“But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior …’” (Acts 5:29-31)

 

CALM SOLAR CYCLE PROMPTS QUESTIONS ABOUT IMPACT ON EARTH

The surface of the sun has been surprisingly calm of late — with fewer sunspots than anytime in in the last century — prompting curious scientists to wonder just what it might mean here on Earth.

Sunspots have been observed for millennia — first by Chinese astronomers and then, for the first time with a telescope, by Galileo in 1610.

The sunspots appear in roughly 11-year cycles — increasing to a daily flurry and then subsiding drastically, before amping up again.

But this cycle — dubbed cycle 24 — has surprised scientists with its sluggishness.

The number of spots counted since it kicked off in December 2008 is well below the average observed over the last 250 years. In fact, it’s less than half.

“It is the weakest cycle the sun has been in for all the space age, for 50 years,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association physicist Doug Biesecker told AFP.

The intense electromagnetic energy from sunspots has a significant impact on the sun’s ultraviolet and X-ray emissions as well as on solar storms.

Solar storms can interrupt telecommunications and electronic networks on Earth. Sunspot activity can also have an impact on the Earth’s climate.

Cycle 23 hit its maximum in April 2000 with an average of 120 solar spots a day. The cycle then wound down, hitting bottom around December 2008, the point at which scientists marked the start of the current cycle.

The minimal solar activity at the end of cycle 23 led astronomers to predict a slow cycle 24. But the reality fell even below expectations.

In the first year of the cycle, during which solar activity should have risen, astronomers counted 266 days without a single sun spot.

“The forecast peak was 90 sunspots,” Biesecker said, noting that even though the activity has risen over the past year, “it’s very clear it is not going to be close to 90.”

“The sunspots number peaked last year at 67, almost half a typical cycle,” he added.

The last time a sunspot cycle was this slow was in February 1906, the peak of cycle 14, with just 64 spots a day.

The “very long minimum: three years, three times more than the previous three cycles of the space age” was a major surprise, said University of Montana physicist Andres Munoz-Jamillio.

A magnetic switch

Cycle 24 has also diverged from the norm in another surprising way.

Typically, around the end of each 11-year sunspot cycle, the sun’s magnetic fields switch direction. The northern and southern hemispheres change polarity, usually simultaneously.

During the swap, the strength of the magnetic fields drops to near zero and reappears when the polarity is reversed, scientists explain.

But this time, something different seems to be happening. The north pole already reversed its polarity several months ago — and so it’s now the same polarity as the south pole.

According to the most recent satellite measurements, “the south hemisphere should flip on the near future,” said Todd Hoeksema, director of the Wilcox Solar Observatory at Stanford University.

He didn’t seem concerned about the phenomenon.

But scientists are watching the sun carefully to see whether cycle 24 is going to be an aberration — or if this solar calmness is going to stretch through the next cycle as well.

“We won’t know that for another three or four years,” said Biesecker.

Some researchers speculate this could be the start of a prolonged period of weak solar activity.

The last time that happened, during the so-called “Maunder Minimum” between 1650 and 1715, almost no sunspots were observed. During the same period, temperatures dropped sharply on Earth, sparking what is called the “Little Ice Age” in Europe and North America.

As the sunspot numbers continue to stay low, it’s possible the Earth’s climate is being affected again.  (Contributor:  By Jean-Louis Santini for AFP News Service)

There is a time for intense intercession, and there is a time to pause for praise and thanksgiving! What a comfort for the Christian believer to rest in the peace of knowing “the true God, the living God, and…everlasting King” (Jer. 10:10). Whether the nations rage or the heavens undergo tumultuous change, whether climate adjustments bring heat or cooling, He who sits on the throne of the universe holds all things “in the hollow of His hand” (Isa. 40:12). The earth will spin on schedule until God says, “Stop!” The sun will continue to shine until God says, “Enough!” Let us give thanks for God’s constancy through His Son in “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3). Let us ponder how small we are and how “big” God is. This is an occasion for worship! How many stars are there? The One who knows is not telling, but He who calls each star by name will sustain time and space until His purpose is complete, and He calls His Church home, to reign with Him forever.

“He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite. The Lord lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked down to the ground. Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praises on the harp to our God, Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who prepares rain for the earth, Who makes grass to grow on the mountains. He gives to the beast its food, and to the young ravens that cry.” (Psalm 147:4-9)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear,
even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
(Psalm 46:1-9)

On Watch in Washington November 27, 2013 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington November 20, 2013

November 20th, 2013

On Watch in Washington November 20, 2013 Plain Text PDF Version

U.S.-RUSSIA URANIUM DEAL SENDS ITS LAST SHIPMENT

Take a canister, fill it with down-blended uranium worth $2.5 million, secure it and 39 others to the deck of a container ship, send it off toward Baltimore, and you’ve just about completed a deal that provided commercial uses in the United States for the remains of 20,000 dismantled Russian nuclear bombs.

On Thursday evening, under thick, wintry clouds, the M.V. Atlantic Navigator prepared to leave the dockyards here, closing out a 20-year program between the United States and Russia that safely defused 500 metric tons of weapons-grade uranium, known as HEU.

The program provided jobs to nuclear technicians at a time when Russia was in chaos; it sparked the development of a dilution process that enables bombs to become fuel for power plants; and it may have helped to keep poorly secured nuclear materials out of the wrong hands — at least that’s what Americans say. Russians strongly deny that the materials were not secured.

Both sides agree that it was a solid example of the ways in which Americans and Russians can cooperate, if they have a mind to do so. Despite the tensions between Moscow and Washington, Russian uranium today provides 50 percent of the output of American nuclear power plants, or 10 percent of all U.S. electricity.

Gennady Solovyov traveled from the industrial Ural Mountain city of Novouralsk to watch the last canisters get loaded. From the bridge of the Atlantic Navigator, he looked out as a huge blue crane picked up the canisters, four at a time, and lowered them gently to the deck.

“Russia was in dire straits,” he said, and it was his job, at the Urals Electrochemical Combine, to figure out nearly two decades ago how to blend HEU, or highly enriched uranium, down to a level of enrichment that would work in a power plant. Some Americans had suggested that Russia didn’t have the capability, but he proved them wrong.

The work kept hundreds of highly trained people employed at his plant over the years.

The commercial value of the agreement was $17 billion. The money came from U.S. utilities, and it provided a significant income flow to a struggling Russia. The agreement was due to expire this year, and Russia is now signing straight commercial deals directly with buyers abroad. Both countries continue to down-blend their excess uranium.

“The program has been tremendously successful,” U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a telephone interview from Washington. “It met its goals in terms of scale and in terms of schedule.”

Its conclusion, long in sight, should not dislocate the commercial uranium market, he said, or have any sharp effect on electricity prices.

“It is the most successful nonproliferation program to date,” said Philip Sewell, a senior vice president at USEC, the Bethesda-b­ased receiver of Russian uranium under the deal. The company, now privately run, was formerly owned by the U.S. government.

“We never considered there to be a nonproliferation threat. The material was secured,” countered Vladimir Kuchinov of Rosatom, the Russian nuclear agency. But the program, he said, was the most sensible way to dispose of weapons material.

The program had to take into account the concerns of disarmament people, nonproliferation people and electric utility people, said Rose Gottemoeller, who was in on its beginnings and is now acting undersecretary for arms control and international security at the State Department.

“It didn’t sound very practical to me,” she said. “We had to figure out ways to fit this program into normal market competitiveness.”

But months of talks, she said, produced “a model for how to make a lot of disparate forces work together.”

It nearly foundered in the late 1990s, when the Russian economy collapsed again, NATO went to war in Yugoslavia and USEC was privatized. But the two countries worked out ways to keep the program going, and there was plenty of pride over the efforts among those who gathered for Thursday’s going-away.

“This is one that worked well for both countries — not easy to achieve,” said Rick Shannon, president of Atlantic Ro-Ro Carriers, which operates the Atlantic Navigator.

The ship is under the command of Roman Elokhin, a Russian sea dog with a full head of white hair, and in addition to the 60 tons of uranium canisters, it is carrying the usual load of aluminum, steel and containers. In early December, it will call at Rukert Terminals in Baltimore, across the water from Fort McHenry.

The uranium, last loaded, will be first to go ashore. Then it will be taken to one of three plants to be fabricated into usable fuel.

“The North Atlantic in winter, it gets a little bit hairy out there,” Shannon said. “But the old captains in the Russian fleet are some of the best in the world.” (Contributor: By By Will Englund for The Washington Post)

Prayer points: Here is an opportunity to thank God for a “happy ending.” Even in our present-day chaotic world, with social and political unrest in our own nation, now and again we come across a feel-good news item that reflects peaceful international cooperation for the betterment of two countries involved in a win-win transaction that is ending well. Here is a news story that will spark gratitude and thanksgiving for God’s grace and mercy! This article is a straightforward account of closing a 20-year deal between Russia and the U.S., once hostile cold-war rivals, whereby a stockpile of uranium that could have ended up in bombs is being “recycled” for peaceful use as fuel in American nuclear plants that will provide electricity for homes and industry. Give thanks that nothing happened to derail a successful conclusion! Our Scriptures reflect God’s forbearance in withholding judgment and showing mercy to nations.

“Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)

“I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be above all the earth.” (Psalm 57:9-11)

For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You. (Psalm 86:5)

 

HIGH COURT WON’T BLOCK TX ABORTION LAW

A sharply divided Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed Texas to continue enforcing abortion restrictions that opponents say have led more than a third of the state’s clinics to stop providing abortions.

The justices voted 5-4 to leave in effect a provision requiring doctors who perform abortions in clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The court’s conservative majority refused the plea of Planned Parenthood and several Texas abortion clinics to overturn a preliminary federal appeals court ruling that allowed the provision to take effect.

The four liberal justices dissented.

The case remains on appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. That court is expected to hear arguments in January, and the law will remain in effect at least until then.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the liberal justices, said he expects the issue to return to the Supreme Court once the appeals court issues its final ruling.

The Texas Legislature approved the requirement for admitting privileges in July.

In late October, days before the provision was to take effect, a trial judge blocked it, saying it probably is unconstitutional because it puts a “substantial obstacle” in front of a woman wanting an abortion.

But a three-judge appellate panel moved quickly to overrule the judge. The appeals court said the law was in line with Supreme Court rulings that have allowed for abortion restrictions so long as they do not impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion. Writing for the appeals court, Judge Priscilla Owen noted that the Texas law would not end the procedure, only force women to drive a greater distance to obtain one.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing in support of the high court order Tuesday, said the clinics could not overcome a heavy legal burden against overruling the appeals court. The justices may not do so “unless that court clearly and demonstrably erred,” Scalia said in an opinion that was joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy did not write separately or join any opinion Tuesday, but because it takes five votes to overturn the appellate ruling, it is clear that they voted with their conservative colleagues.

Planned Parenthood and several Texas abortion clinics said in their lawsuit to stop the measure that it would force more than a third of clinics in the state to stop providing abortions. After the appeals court allowed the law to take effect, the groups said that their prediction had come to pass.

In their plea to the Supreme Court, they said that “in just the few short days since the injunction was lifted, over one-third of the facilities providing abortions in Texas have been forced to stop providing that care and others have been forced to drastically reduce the number of patients to whom they are able to provide care. Already, appointments are being canceled and women seeking abortions are being turned away.”

Breyer said the better course would have been to block the admitting privileges requirement at least until the court issued its final ruling because some women will be unable to obtain abortions. If courts ultimately find the law is invalid, “the harms to the individual women whose rights it restricts while it remains in effect will be permanent,” he said.

Tennessee and Utah are the other states enforcing their laws on admitting privileges. Similar laws are under temporary court injunctions in Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

In Texas, 12 abortion providers say they have attempted to obtain hospital privileges for their doctors, but so far none of the hospitals have responded to the requests. That means those clinics can no longer offer abortions, leaving at most 20 facilities open in a state of 26 million people. All of those facilities are in metropolitan areas, with none in the Rio Grande Valley along the border with Mexico. Currently, only six out of 32 abortions clinics in Texas qualify as ambulatory surgical centers, and some have doctors who do not meet the admitting privileges requirement.

Texas women undergo an average of 80,000 abortions a year. (Contributor: Associated Press and USA TODAY)

 

WHY OBAMACARE IS ON LIFE SUPPORT

There’s nothing that Democrats want more than to change the subject from Obamacare, despite DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s protestations otherwise. Congressional Democrats don’t want to be dealing with a drip-drip of news about premiums going up, patients losing their doctors, and a broken health care website as they face angry voters in 2014. Hillary Clinton doesn’t want this issue lingering past the midterms. She hitched her presidential prospects to President Obama’s wagon and she’s not about to let someone else’s crisis damage her presidential ambitions yet again, Even Vice President Joe Biden, who called the health care law a “big f—ing deal,” didn’t mention it once at a fundraiser last week for North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan.

Unless the HealthCare.gov website miraculously gets fixed by next month, there’s a growing likelihood that over time, enough Democrats may join Republicans to decide to start over and scrap the whole complex health care enterprise. That became clear when even Obama, to stop the political bleeding, offered an administrative fix that threatened the viability of the entire individual exchange market to forestall a House Democratic mutiny the next day. It was as clear sign as any that the president is pessimistic about the odds that the federal exchange website will be ready by the end of the month, as promised.

More than anything, politics is about self-preservation, and the last two weeks provided numerous examples of how public opinion has turned so hard against the law that even its most ardent supporters are running for the hills. It’s not just red-state Democrats, like Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, distancing themselves from the law. It’s blue-state senators like Oregon’s Jeff Merkley and New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen — and top blue-state recruits like Michigan’s Gary Peters and Iowa’s Bruce Braley, who voted for GOP legislation Friday that the White House said would “gut” the law. Nearly every House Democrat in a competitive district joined with Republicans to threaten the law. Without a quick fix, those ranks will grow.

This tsunami of blowback, which built in just the last month, is unsustainable for Democrats over the long haul. The president isn’t just losing his skeptics from the chaotic Obamacare rollout but his allies who stood to gain from the law’s benefits — namely Hispanics, whose approval of the president has dropped more than any demographic subgroup since the problems began. The simplest solution — if only to stop the bleeding — is to get the website fixed. (When former DNC Chairman Howard Dean’s proposal is to hire tens of thousands of young phone operators to sign people up for insurance — straight out of a Jerry Lewis telethon — as he suggested on “Morning Joe,” it’s clear the website problems are really bad.).

Would President Obama sign a death warrant on his own signature legislation? That’s almost impossible to imagine, but it’s entirely reasonable that he may not have a choice in the matter. Consider: Despite the White House’s protestations, 62.4 percent of the House voted for Michigan GOP Rep. Fred Upton’s legislation (261-157), just shy of the two-thirds necessary to override a veto. And consider the House Democrats who voted against Upton’s bill but nonetheless released harsh statements criticizing Obamacare. Maryland Rep. John Delaney, in a statement, wrote: “The problem we have currently is that the Affordable Care Act is not working.” Added Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick: “The stunning ineptitude of the ACA marketplace rollout is more than a public relations disaster. It is a disaster for the working families in my Arizona district who badly need quality, affordable health care.” Add them into the mix — the dozens more members who were poised to split with the president until his face-saving press conference — and you’ve got all but the hardy Obama loyalists who could end up bolting if the political environment doesn’t improve.

Democrats are in better shape on the Senate side, but not by as much as conventional wisdom suggests. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will do everything in his influence to protect the president — and block embarrassing legislation from being voted on — but not if it means he’ll be losing his majority gavel next year. There are 21 Democratic held-seats up in 2014, with 17 Democratic senators running for re-election. Of those 17, 10 are running in states where Obama won less than 55 percent of the vote, approximately the baseline of where House Democrats began splitting with the president on the Upton vote. Excluding Reid, an additional 15 Democrats aren’t up in 2014, but represent battleground (< 55% Obama) states where support of the law could become a long-term burden. And then there’s California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who has emerged as a surprising blue-state critic of the law, retiring Montana Sen. Max Baucus, who famously predicted the implementation was shaping up to be a “train wreck,” and retiring moderate South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson.

To overcome a veto, Republicans would need 22 of those 28 winnable votes. Right now, they wouldn’t come close. But Reid and the White House may end up relying on swing-state Democrats like Claire McCaskill and Bob Casey to protect the law. If the political mood doesn’t improve in short order, will they want to be in that position? And if Republicans retake the Senate in 2015, the political momentum for repeal would only grow.

Even in the face of rough public opinion, the mantra of Congressional Democrats has been to fix the health care law, not cater to Republican extremism to repeal it. But after the president’s press conference last week, there’s been a palpable pessimism in Democratic strategists’ thinking. When I asked one Democratic campaign operative why blue-state Senate candidates like Peters and Braley would support a bill that the White House said would gut Obamacare, the answer was: “We’re on our own. We don’t care what the White House says. Would you trust them?”

That’s the type of thinking that could endanger a health care law that seemed untouchable several months ago. If the administration can’t fix the myriad problems ailing the health care exchange website, and more sob stories emerge about people losing or paying significantly more for their insurance, it’s an unsustainable formula for Democrats. There’s not much time left on the election clock to turn things around. They’ve shown unfailing loyalty to the president, but unless he manages an unlikely fourth quarter comeback, those bonds could break — and the results could get ugly. (Contributor: By Josh Kraushaar for National Journal)

God is allowing Obamacare issues to remain in front of Americans every day. Last week, we suggested a prayer focus on President Obama and his advisors, since the U.S. presidency is such a vast responsibility. Since then, the president has admitted he “fumbled” in the ramping up and “pre-selling” of the law, including the now-famous campaign promises to allow people to keep current policies and that premium prices would not rise. We now know that the promises were not valid, and thus many citizens and political leaders, including defenders of Mr. Obama and those of his own party, have lost confidence in his leadership, but even worse, in his integrity. Democrat senators and representatives are concerned about reelection, while Republicans want to press the matter for personal and party advantage. Meanwhile, intercessors should ask God for insight and compassion in prayer. Almost lost in the political mix are great numbers of fellow citizens who are suffering and being disenfranchised from their prior protection because of canceled policies. Can these injustices be fixed? Many are calling on the Lord! Will God send revival, showing His great compassion and love, perhaps bringing multiplied thousands, including national leaders, to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ? Will all this disappointment lead to a better, more honest and protective law? Will God bring salvation to the White House and the First Family? Please pray accordingly.

“As an example of suffering and patience, brethren, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we call those happy who were steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:10-11)

“For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men.” (Lamentations 3:31-33)

 

TORNADOES: BEING AT CHURCH SAVED OUR LIVES

When a cluster of violent thunderstorms began marching across the Midwest, forecasters were able to draw a bright line on a map showing where the worst of the weather would go.

Their uncannily accurate predictions — combined with television and radio warnings, text-message alerts and storm sirens — almost certainly saved lives as rare late-season tornadoes dropped out of a dark autumn sky. Although the storms howled through 12 states and flattened entire neighborhoods within a matter of minutes, the number of dead stood at just eight.

By Monday, another reason for the relatively low death toll also came to light: In the hardest-hit town, many families were in church.

“I don’t think we had one church damaged,” said Gary Manier, mayor of Washington, Ill., a community of 16,000 about 140 miles southwest of Chicago.

The tornado cut a path about an eighth of a mile wide from one side of Washington to the other and damaged or destroyed as many as 500 homes. The heavy weather also battered parts of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and western New York.

Back in Washington, Daniel Bennett was officiating Sunday services before 600 to 700 people when he heard an electronic warning tone. Then another. And another.

“I’d say probably two dozen phones started going off in the service, and everybody started looking down,” he said.

What they saw was a text message from the National Weather Service cautioning that a twister was in the area. Bennett stopped the service and ushered everyone to a safe place until the threat passed.

A day later, many townspeople said those messages helped minimize deaths and injuries.

“That’s got to be connected,” Bennett said. “The ability to get instant information.”

In Indiana, Taylor Glenna heard emergency sirens go off and received an alert on his cellphone. A friend also called to warn him the storm was nearly upon him.

Glenna went outside, saw hail and heard a loud boom. He ran to his basement just in time.

On Monday, he was surveying the damage on crutches after suffering a leg injury when the wind knocked his home off its foundation.

“I would say we had pretty good warning,” Glenna said. “We just didn’t listen to it.”

Forecasting has steadily improved with the arrival of faster, more powerful computers. Scientists are now better able to replicate atmospheric processes into mathematical equations.

In the last decade alone, forecasters have doubled the number of days in advance that weather experts can anticipate major storms, said Bill Bunting of the National Weather Service.

But Bunting, forecast operations chief of the service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. said it was not until Saturday that the atmospheric instability that turns smaller storm system into larger, more menacing ones came into focus.

That’s when information from weather stations, weather balloons, satellite imagery and radar suggested there was plenty of moisture — fuel for storms — making its way northeast from the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite Sunday’s destruction, 2013 has been a relatively mild year for twisters in the U.S., with the number of tornadoes running at or near record lows.

So far this year, there have been 886 preliminary reports of tornadoes, compared with about 1,400 preliminary reports usually sent to the weather service by mid-November.

Similar slow years were 1987 and 1989.

An outbreak like the one that developed Sunday usually happens about once every seven to 10 years, according to tornado experts at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

There were similar November outbreaks in 1992 and 2002, with the 1992 one being even bigger than this year’s, said top tornado researcher Harold Brooks at the National Severe Storms Laboratory, also in Norman.

The storms erupted because of unusually warm moist air from Louisiana to Michigan that was then hit by an upper-level cold front. That crash of hot and cold, dry and wet, is what triggers twisters.

Like most November storms, this one was high in wind shear and lower in moist energy. Wind shear is the difference between winds at high altitude and wind near the surface.

Because it was high in wind shear, the storm system moved fast, like a speeding car, Brooks said. That meant the system hit more places before it petered out, affecting more people. But in places where it hit, the system may have been slightly less damaging because it was moving so fast, he said.

About 90 minutes after the tornado plowed through Washington, rain and high winds slammed into downtown Chicago, prompting officials at Soldier Field to evacuate the stands and order the Bears and Baltimore Ravens off the field. Fans were allowed back to their seats shortly after 2 p.m., and the game resumed after about a two-hour delay. (Contributor: By David Mercer and Don Babwin for Associated Press; Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein in Washington, D.C., and Tom Murphy in Kokomo, Ind., also contributed to this report.)

Let us give thanks for those who escaped death and injury by God’s mercy. For some, it was because of their faithfulness to attend church. And now, following the principle from the Bible’s book of James, which exhorts us to display good works as evidence of authentic faith, many Christians and their local churches are doing two things. First, they are praying for the surviving families who are affected, some of whom have lost all their possessions, including their homes – everything! Second, many are doing more, as they are able. They are collecting needed practical items, such as coats, sweaters and warm clothing for people who had temps in the 60s early this week but could be in freezing weather in a few days. If your church (or a local charity near you) is getting involved, we urge all first to pray. Then, those able to do more will find joy in reaching out to families who are now among “the least of these.” Please consider sharing as unto the Lord Jesus and respond as you are led.

“If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus, also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:15-17)

“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” (Romans 12:10-13)

 

TEXAS COUNTY ADOPTS SWEEPING POLICY TO PROTECT LGBT INMATES

The sheriff of Houston’s Harris County has adopted a sweeping policy designed to protect and guarantee equal treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender inmates, including allowing transgender individuals to be housed based on the gender they identify with instead of their biological sex.

The new policy, which Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia’s office believes to be one of the most comprehensive in the country, states “discrimination or harassment of any kind based on sexual orientation or gender identity is strictly prohibited,” and outlines how such inmates will be searched, booked and housed, according to a copy of the policy obtained by The Associated Press ahead of an official announcement Thursday.

The policy also covers intersex inmates, defined as people born with sex chromosomes or reproductive systems that are not considered standard.

Houston has the third-largest county jail in the U.S., after Los Angeles and Chicago’s Cook County, and processes some 125,000 inmates annually. Other major jails, including L.A., Washington, D.C., and Denver, have taken similar steps to meet new federal standards for protecting inmates from sexual abuse and assault.

But Harris County is the first in Texas to adopt this extensive of a policy, according to Brandon Wood, executive director of the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, a state agency that inspects, regulates and provides technical assistance to county jails.

The 11-page policy, along with a separate three-page document protecting this population from workplace discrimination, went into effect Wednesday.

“It represents a significant step forward,” said Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy for the Washington-based National Center for Transgender Equality, who worked closely with Garcia and his staff.

The new policy may be notable because it’s occurring in a staunch red state proud of its conservative values, Tobin said. But she emphasized it’s not about politics.

“This is not a red or blue issue,” Tobin said. “It is an issue of preventing violence, of meeting the state’s legal and moral responsibilities to keep people safe and safeguarding public funds that when sexual abuse happens in prison need to be spent on medical care and mental health care and recovery.”

According to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the jail currently has about 8,900 inmates and at least 250 of them, or 2.8 percent, identify themselves as lesbian, gay bisexual or transgender.

A “safe zone project” will promote a “positive relationship of solidarity” between the sheriff’s department and the gay community, according to the document. Members of this staff will wear an obvious identifier so they can be easily spotted.

The sheriff’s department will also have “zero tolerance” for staff sexual misconduct or sexual harassment toward members of the gay community. Violations could “result in termination” or referral for criminal charges or other action.

Another key section of the policy states that members of the transgender community will be addressed by their chosen name, even if it has not legally been changed, both when spoken to and on their identification bracelets. (Contributor: The Associated Press and Fox News)

How to pray into this situation? A basic U.S. legal principle has always called for “equal justice under the law.” Using this standard, Christians want all people, whether in jail or not, treated as human beings made in God’s image. As long as privately held sexual identity views (even if confused) do not break the law, such persons ought not to be singled out for mistreatment, but neither should taxpayers be charged for the provision of unnatural or unfair advantages for self-determined sexual identity. Issues of inequity arise when self-focused demands of a few seek to overturn logical and natural laws based on a society that recognizes male and female differing requirements. Intercessory prayer will not suddenly change a society’s confusion and rebellion with God’s design and His laws of male and female identity. That is not its purpose. Instead, let us cry out to God for His mercy to make Himself known in a sweeping national awakening with widespread repentance and a great harvest of souls turning to Christ. Only then will a yielding to God’s Word and His reign in human hearts bring salvation and deliverance to those afflicted with sexual confusion. Only the righteousness shared in the Gospel has the power to make crooked ways straight and bring human lives into order. Ponder these Scripture passages that reflect God’s desire and purpose to redeem, to save, to renew, and to deliver from darkness to His light.

Thus says God the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it … ‘I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand … to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house. I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another.’ …Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise from the ends of the earth … Let [the people] give glory to the Lord, and declare His praise in the coastlands. I will bring the blind by a way they did not know [and] lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them.”(Isaiah 42:5-16)

“Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

 

HOUSE SPEAKER APPLAUDED FOR DITCHING SENATE’S ‘IMMIGRATION REFORM’ BILL

A pro-immigration reform organization is praising U.S. House Speaker John Boehner for effectively ending any chance of amnesty legislation passing this year.

Boehner announced November 13 that the House will not hold formal, compromise talks on the U.S. Senate-passed so-called comprehensive immigration bill, a fresh signal from Republican leadership that the issue is dead for the year.

“Speaker Boehner should be congratulated for taking that awful bill off the table,” says Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR.

The Senate passed S.744 in June, which would give amnesty to 11 million illegal aliens while only promising to tighten border security sometime in the future.

Mehlman, Ira (Federation for American Immigration Reform)Mehlman observes that Boehner and members of the House recognized that the Senate bill was not immigration reform.

“It was just amnesty for illegal aliens,” he says. “It was millions and millions of new workers for business interests that don’t want to pay Americans decent wages anymore.”

While any amnesty-laden legislation won’t see the light of day during an election year, Mehlman says Congress could pass “common sense” legislation in 2014, which he predicts would be popular with the American people.

“Everybody agrees that we need to do more on border security,” Mehlman tells OneNewsNow. “Everybody agrees that we need to have a system in place that protects the jobs of the American people by having some process that allows employers to determine whether the people they’re hiring are legal or not.”

The FAIR spokesman calls those reforms “non-controversial” ideas that could “go forth” in an election year.

It would benefit both political parties to pass legislation that protects the basic interests of the American people, Mehlman says. (Contributor: By Chad Groenig for One News Now)

Prayer focus: It is both biblical and practical for us to pray diligently for all members of the U.S. Congress, especially as we consider that – together – the House and the Senate create the balance whereby all American citizens have representation. That is why Speaker Boehner’s influence is so important at present, which is well illustrated by his role in keeping the so-called comprehensive immigration bill from consideration this year. Most Democrat support is for this bill, which many observers feel is a thinly veiled move toward granting amnesty to millions of people who have entered the country illegally. The Republican persuasion is that the issue must have more debate and stricter standards of investigation. Either way, the challenges associated with an open or porous border must be handled in a bipartisan manner, and for that reason, the Speaker’s cautions are good news to conservative voters. Pray much as you weigh the issues. Ask God to once again lead the nation to truth and righteous standards.

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

“Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)

 

ISRAEL CAN STRIKE IRAN ALONE SAYS PM’s FORMER SECURITY AIDE

Israel can stop Iran’s nuclear program militarily and can do so on its own, Yaakov Amidror, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former national security adviser, said Sunday.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Amidror said the Israeli Air Force has been conducting “very long-range flights…all around the world” in preparation for a potential strike on Iran, which could set back its nuclear program “for a very long time.”

Netanyahu’s former national security adviser, who stepped down earlier this month, said that there was “no question” the prime minister would make the unilateral decision to use military force should it become necessary.

“We don’t need permission from anyone – we are an independent state,” he said, adding “we have our own sovereignty. If Israel is in a position in which Israel must defend itself, Israel will do it.”

Amidror’s statements came just as world powers are set to resume nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva on Wednesday which, according to reports, are expected to lead to a deal — a deal vehemently opposed by Netanyahu, who has spoken relentlessly against the agreement that would ease some sanctions while still leaving Iran with uranium-enrichment capabilities, as it was emerging last weekend.

The prime minister has been increasingly vocal in recent days about his opposition to the potential deal, saying he utterly rejects the brewing agreement. His government has been lobbying American allies in Congress to keep up sanctions.

“It is clear that this agreement is good only for Iran, and bad for the world,” Netanyahu said Sunday at a press conference with visiting French President Francois Hollande, who is also against the deal with Iran in its present terms. “The choice today is not between a bad deal or war,” he stressed; on the contrary, he asserted, with each passing day Iran is under economic pressure that grows and grows.

In last week’s talks in Geneva between Iran and the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany — the so-called P5+1 — Paris’s tough position on Iran was said to have prevented the global powers from signing an interim agreement with Tehran, one that would have included limited sanctions relief in return for a partial freeze of the country’s nuclear program.

“With patience and determination, you can get a good deal,” Netanyahu told Hollande. “This means maintaining pressure and increasing it, achieving a deal that would peacefully dismantle Iran’s military nuclear program, and would cause them to dismantle the centrifuges and plutonium-production heavy water reactor.”

“When someone says they are out to destroy you, we have learned in our Jewish history to take them seriously,” he said. ”It is my duty to prevent anyone from credibly threatening or executing another holocaust against the Jewish people. This is my obligation, but I also believe it’s our common obligation for the sake of mankind, for the sake of our common future.”

Over the past two weeks, Netanyahu and other senior officials have openly sparred with the US over the emerging Iran deal.

Earlier on Sunday, CNN broadcast an interview with the prime minister in which he acknowledged “differences of opinion” with the Obama administration over the way to best thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions and over the terms offered by the P5+1 nations. Netanyahu said “the best of friends” can have differences, and emphasized his conviction that the Iranian program poses an existential threat to Israel.

Netanyahu restated the government’s opposition to Iran maintaining a heavy water reactor (at Arak) and its maintenance of centrifuges that could be used to enrich uranium even to low levels. The Geneva offer reportedly allows Iran to continue enriching uranium to 3.5%. The Iranian regime has contended that it seeks nuclear energy for domestic programs, not for the development of nuclear weapons. (Contributor: By Times of Israel Staff for Times of Israel)

The prayer focus here is clearly to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” This is not a new item on the world news scene or for readers of these alerts, who know we have been closely tracking Israel’s place in the Middle East “pressure cooker” created by the Syria-Iran-Israel triangle. The article speaks for itself and is not complicated. While the U.S. administration wants to trust Iran’s stated intentions to use nuclear energy only for domestic programs, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu is justifiably suspicious. With worldwide intelligence mechanisms in place that may be second to none, Israel stands ready to defend itself, even if a unilateral strike is deemed necessary. The question is whether President Obama is changing America’s course of supporting Israel as an ally and friend, or is he more sympathetic toward Iran? This apparent stand-off calls for extended intercession. Let us recall God’s purpose and His promises to bless those who bless Israel and deal in judgment on those who do not. The promises are ancient but have never gone out-of-date.

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

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: may they prosper who love you.” (Psalm 122:6)

 

ROBOTS LET DOCTORS ‘BEAM’ INTO REMOTE HOSPITALS

The doctor isn’t in, but he can still see you now.

Remote presence robots are allowing physicians to “beam” themselves into hospitals to diagnose patients and offer medical advice during emergencies.

A growing number of hospitals in California and other states are using telepresence robots to expand access to medical specialists, especially in rural areas where there’s a shortage of doctors.

These mobile video-conferencing machines move on wheels and typically stand about 5 feet, with a large screen that projects a doctor’s face. They feature cameras, microphones and speakers that allow physicians and patients to see and talk to each other.

Dignity Health, which runs Arizona, California and Nevada hospitals, began using the telemedicine machines five years ago to diagnose patients suspected of suffering strokes – when every minute is crucial to prevent serious brain damage.

The San Francisco-based health care provider now uses the telemedicine robots in emergency rooms and intensive-care units at about 20 California hospitals, giving them access to specialists in areas such as neurology, cardiology, neonatology, pediatrics and mental health.

“Regardless of where the patient is located, we can be at their bedside in several minutes,” said Dr. Alan Shatzel, medical director of the Mercy Telehealth Network. “Literally, we compress time and space with this technology. No longer does distance affect a person’s ability to access the best care possible.”

Dignity Health is one of several hospital chains that recently began using RP-VITA, which was jointly developed by InTouch Health and iRobot Corp. It’s approved for hospital use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Hospitals are now using this type of technology in order to leverage the specialists that they have even better and more efficiently,” said Dr. Yulun Wang, CEO of Santa Barbara-based InTouch Health.

Nearly 1,000 hospitals in the U.S. and abroad have installed InTouch telemedicine devices, including about 50 RP-VITA robots launched in May, according to company officials. The company rents out the RP-VITA for $5,000 per month.

When a doctor is needed at a remote hospital location, he can log into the RP-VITA on-site by using a computer, laptop or iPad. The robot has an auto-drive function that allows it to navigate its way to the patient’s room, using sensors to avoid bumping into things or people.

Once inside the hospital room, the doctor can see, hear and speak to the patient, and have access to clinical data and medical images. The physician can’t touch the patient, but there is always a nurse or medical assistant on-site to assist.

On a recent morning, Dr. Asad Chaudhary, a stroke specialist at Dignity Health, beamed into a robot at the neuro-intensive care unit at Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Carmichael to evaluate Linda Frisk, a patient who recently had a stroke.

With his face projected on the robot screen, Chaudhary asked Frisk to smile, open and close her eyes, make a fist and lift her arms and legs – common prompts to test a patient’s neurological functioning.

“If you develop any weakness, any numbness, any problem with your speech or anything else, let us know right away,” Chaudhary told Frisk before the robot turned around and left the room.

“It’s just like being with the patient in the room,” Chaudhary said. “Of course, nothing can replace seeing these patients in person, but it’s the next best thing.”

Frisk, 60, who was flown into the hospital for treatment, said she was surprised when she first saw the robot, but quickly got used to the doctor’s virtual presence.

“You feel like he was right there,” said Frisk, who lives near Merced. “Although I am a little spoiled and like to see him in person.” (Contributor: The Associated Press and Fox News)

As technology advances, some of the parameters of intercession change, but the main focus of prayer, which is to ask God to intervene in human affairs for His glory and the advancement of His kingdom, actually remains constant. As this article illustrates, the practice of medicine continues to advance technically, and even patient care is changing rapidly. If we couple this with the ups and downs of the very complex Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare), throwing in the severe shortage of doctors in certain parts of the country, we may see more and more examples of long-distance medical care, as in this example of robotic application. At this point, Christians may well think of missions and medical missionary treatments. Suppose robots, which are computers on wheels and with other moving parts, could be programmed with the necessary data to connect with the Internet from remote locations, and stand ready to examine, diagnose, and suggest treatment for certain endemic conditions, all done electronically, drawing data from a properly “stocked” technical source. The compression of time and space, so to speak, is illustrated in the next article on Bible translation around the world. This would not take the place of the human touch in preaching the Gospel, nor would our basic message be distorted or “modernized.”

“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.” (1 Cor. 9:19-23)

 

BIBLE IS MORE ACCESSIBLE NOW THAN ANYTIME IN HISTORY

The president of the largest Bible translation organization in the world says that more people than ever before can access the Bible in their own language, that translation programs for every native language in the world will be underway in twelve years, and that work to translate the Bible into every tongue brings us closer to the return of Jesus to earth.

“More people have access to scripture than at any other time in history,” Bob Creson, president and CEO of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, told The Christian Post in an interview on Friday. On Thursday, Wycliffe announced that 4.9 billion people can now read the Bible in their native language. Creson declared that by 2025, there will be “translation occurring in every community that needs it.” Only 1,919 language groups still lack access to the Bible, and Creson expects that to drop below 1,900 soon.

Creson states that “the last translator for the last Bible translation is alive somewhere in the world today.” He told CP why he believes that. “Thirty years ago, the average New Testament took over 20 years to translate,” Creson explained. Today, it takes about 8 years.

Even more impressive, however, is the pace at which new translations are started. In 1942, when Wycliffe Bible Translators was founded it was a North American organization that later expanded to Europe. Now, the group has teams in every community to which they reach out.

Ex-patriots, those who choose to work outside of their home country, were previously most often the primary translators, Creson explained. Now, the ex-pat worker’s role has changed to be more of a consultant. Instead of going to a new community, learning the language and customs, and then beginning the painstaking process of Bible translation, these workers check translations produced by members of the community themselves.

A worker in Holland can use Skype to check the translation of a local group in Kenya, the Wycliffe president explained. “We’re highly committed to the accurate translation of God’s Word,” Creson said. “Even though we are translating cheaper and faster, we’re not doing it at a loss of quality.”

Creson explained that a new computer program known as “Adapt It” takes a source text and translates it from one language to a neighboring language. The program even achieves 70% accuracy. “All that work which would have taken years and years to produce is done very rapidly by this computer program,” the president said.

In each new community, Wycliffe proceeds on the assumption that the language is similar to those in the surrounding area, Creson explained. “Even if that one language isn’t necessarily related, we have developed workshops that can support it,” the president said.

Wycliffe Bible Translators also teams with fellow organizations, such as the volunteer support group Wycliffe Associates, the Seed Company, and a “major field partner,” SIL International. In addition, external groups team with Wycliffe worldwide, said Creson.

“When translators have finished the translation of the Gospel of Luke,” the president explained, “The Jesus Film [production team] will then use that text to record the Jesus Film,” a video presentation of the Gospel. An audio group, Faith Comes By Hearing, has also “made a major commitment to put into audio formats all the New Testaments we produce.”

Every Tribe, Every Nation creates an electronic database, then used by the Digital Bible Library, which provides these files to groups like YouVersion, the group behind the Bible App. “It’s just a matter of a few hours until those translations are available on YouVersion,” Creson explained.

The Wycliffe president also testified his belief that organization’s work helps bring about the End Times. “I believe that the work we do hastens the return of Jesus Christ,” Creson told CP. Citing Matthew 24:14, he paraphrased Jesus’ words saying “this good news message has to be preached to the whole world, to every tongue, tribe, and nation, and then the end will come.”

“I also believe that part of God’s plan is to include somebody from every tribe and every nation to worship Him,” Creson added, referencing Revelation. For more information, to pray, give, or volunteer, Creson suggested readers visit the website, Wycliffe.org. (Contributor: Tyler O’Neil for the Christian Post)

Intercessors might well ponder this article and its time-related statistics with a sense of awe as to what God has enabled the translators to accomplish with technology. Note Bob Creson’s reference comparing a previous 20-year span for New Testament translation to the current 8 years. And all readers will instinctively know that the “8 years” will only continue to decrease with faster and faster processors. All this is a gift from God and will serve to advance His kingdom awareness and knowledge of the Gospel as software development continues to serve the global missions enterprise. Intercessors of a certain age (those who were not raised from childhood or youth with computers) may want to intercede for and instruct their children and grandchildren that their easily acquired computer skills can be utilized in the work of missions and global evangelism, when technical expertise stands right alongside of the “sent ones” who are called to preach and plant churches. Many of us know of such skilled and dedicated servants of Christ who are making this time compression work for reaching new people groups with the Bible faster than ever before. As in the Scripture below, the answer to the Lord’s modern day question, “What is in your hand?” might well be, “Lord, it’s a computer.”

“Then Moses answered [the Lord], ‘But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’ The Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A staff.’ And He said, ‘Throw it on the ground.’ So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Put out your hand and catch it by the tail’—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand—‘that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.’” (Exodus 4:1-5)  

On Watch in Washington November 20, 2013 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington November 13, 2013

November 13th, 2013

On Watch in Washington November 13, 2013 Plain Text PDF Version

VIVE LA FRANCE ON IRAN

We never thought we’d say this, but thank heaven for French foreign-policy exceptionalism. At least for the time being, François Hollande’s Socialist government has saved the West from a deal that would all but guarantee that Iran becomes a nuclear power.

While the negotiating details still aren’t fully known, the French made clear Saturday that they objected to a nuclear agreement that British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Barack Obama were all too eager to sign. These two leaders remind no one, least of all the Iranians, of Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. That left the French to protect against a historic security blunder, with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declaring in an interview with French radio that while France still hopes for an agreement with Tehran, it won’t accept a “sucker’s deal.”

And that’s exactly what seems to have been on the table as part of a “first-step agreement” good for six months as the parties negotiated a final deal. Tehran would be allowed to continue enriching uranium, continue manufacturing centrifuges, and continue building a plutonium reactor near the city of Arak. Iran would also get immediate sanctions relief and the unfreezing of as much as $50 billion in oil revenues—no small deliverance for a regime whose annual oil revenues barely topped $95 billion in 2011.

In return the West would get Iranian promises. There is a promise not to activate the Arak reactor, a promise not to use its most advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium or to install new ones, a promise to stop enriching uranium to 20%, which is near-weapons’ grade, and to convert its existing stockpile into uranium oxide (a process that is reversible).

What Iran has not promised to do is abide by the Additional Protocol of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which imposes additional reporting requirements on Iran and allows U.N. inspectors to conduct short-notice inspections of nuclear facilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has complained for years that Iran has refused to answer its questions fully or provide inspectors with access to all of its facilities. IAEA inspectors have been barred from visiting Arak since August 2011.

In other words, the deal gives Iran immediate, if incomplete, sanctions relief and allows it to keep its nuclear infrastructure intact and keep expanding it at a slightly slower pace. And the deal contains no meaningful mechanisms for verifying compliance. “What we have to do is to make sure that there is a good deal in place from the perspective of us verifying what they’re doing,” President Obama told NBC’s Chuck Todd in an interview Wednesday. What we have is the opposite.

The President also told Mr. Todd that if Iran fails to honor the deal the U.S. can re-apply existing sanctions: “We can crank that dial back up.”

That’s also misleading. Once sanctions are eased, the argument will always be made (no doubt by Mr. Obama) that dialing them back up will give Iran the excuse to restart enrichment. Any “interim” agreement gives more negotiating leverage to Iran. If Iran really intends to cease its nuclear program, it should be willing to do so immediately and unconditionally.

All of this echoes the strategy Iran pursued after its illicit nuclear facilities were discovered in 2002. Current Iranian President Hasan Rouhani was his country’s nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005, when Iran briefly suspended its civilian and military nuclear work in the teeth of intense international pressure (and American armies on its borders with Iraq and Afghanistan). That previous suspension is treated by U.S. negotiators as a model of what they might achieve now.

It’s really a model of what they should beware. “Tehran showed that it was possible to exploit the gap between Europe and the United States to achieve Iranian objectives,” Hossein Mousavian, Mr. Rouhani’s deputy at the time, acknowledged in his memoir. “The world’s understanding of ‘suspension’ was changed from a legally binding obligation” to “a voluntary and short-term undertaking aimed at confidence building.”

Now the U.S. seems to be falling for the same ruse again. This time, however, Iran is much closer to achieving its nuclear objectives. No wonder Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu felt compelled to warn the Administration and Europe that they risked signing “a very, very bad deal,” a blunt public rebuke from a Prime Minister who has been notably cautious about criticizing the White House. The Saudis, who gave up on this Administration long ago, are no doubt thinking along similar lines. The BBC reported last week that the Kingdom has nuclear weapons “on order” from Pakistan.

The negotiators plan to resume talks on November 20, and France will be under enormous pressure to go along with a deal. We hope Messrs. Hollande and Fabius hold firm, and the U.S. Congress could help by strengthening sanctions and passing a resolution insisting that any agreement with Iran must include no uranium enrichment, the dismantling of the Arak plutonium project and all centrifuges, and intrusive, on-demand inspections. Anything less means that Iran is merely looking to con the West into easing sanctions even as it can restart its program whenever it likes. (Contributor: The Wall Street Journal)

These mid-week alerts present many heavy issues for prayer. Therefore, due to the “work” of intercession, we have found it encouraging to open our prayer points with thanksgiving and praise to God. Let us “enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.” Why do this? Because it reminds us and we wish to testify that God is always in control and that His purposes will prevail. Thus, we pray, not to engage in toppling idols, worldly philosophies, or national sins with human wisdom or strength, but to honor and obey our God and King in His call that people “pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Tim. 2:8). To paraphrase evangelical author, Jerry Bridges, our goal is not primarily to succeed but simply to obey, as to obey is to succeed.

In the immediate issue, pray for President Obama and his advisors. Pray, too, for Secretary of State John Kerry. Seasoned intercessors know that no presidency is fully defined only by the individual filling the office. His close advisors play a big part in formulating presidential policies that lead to momentous decisions. The Iranian terrain is filled with landmines, figuratively speaking. Wisdom and caution, plus divine restraint, are all needed to get through this time without major explosions. Give thanks for France’s foreign minister stepping into the discussion. Also, Israel’s welfare is at stake, and Mr. Netanyahu is properly on guard. Iran must not be allowed to bluff other governments involved. Truly, it is a time for protracted and intense prayer as the Iranian nuclear “solution” is walked out globally. Pray for supernatural help through God’s mercy.      

“Daniel answered and said: ‘Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.’” (Daniel 2:22)

“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…. There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

“Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has made desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!’” (Psalm 46:1-10)

 

A BAN ON THE FAITH-BASED WORKPLACE

Last week, the U.S. Senate matter-of-factly, with no serious vocal opposition except a last-ditch warning of the consequences by Sen. Dan Coats, Indiana Republican, voted 64 to 32 to expand government and repeal the Bible.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act doesn’t say that directly, but its core meaning is that employers — and their employees — must accommodate every sexual expression under the sun or face federal prosecution and nuisance lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union.

House Speaker John A. Boehner said the bill would not reach the House floor. People who believe in the freedoms of speech, religion and assembly, not to mention what’s left of property rights, had better hope he keeps his promise. This is about so much more than the threat of “frivolous lawsuits.”

Even if you’re not persuaded by moral arguments, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is a massive expansion of federal power and a gift to trial attorneys, who are among the largest donors to the Democratic Party. Ten Republicans joined 54 Democrats in the final vote. They’re either spectacularly naive, or they think they’re smarter than God. You can love and cherish friends and family who are homosexual without bringing a government jackboot down on everyone else.

Far from ensuring equality, the bill is a radical departure from civil rights laws, whose protected classes stem from immutable characteristics with no moral content, such as skin color, place of birth or sex. The exception is religion, which is guaranteed by the First Amendment.

What makes “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” different is that these categories are vague, not immutable, and the associated behaviors have moral implications. In fact, behavior defines the groups. Otherwise, unlike race or sex, no one would know.

By equating such behaviors with neutral, unchangeable characteristics such as ethnicity, the act says to religious employers: “You will abandon your faith-based morality and instead abet behavior that your faith and Scripture says is wrong and harmful.”

It’s a lot like the Obamacare mandate to religious health care institutions to provide abortions — or else.

If you want to know how laws like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act operate in real life, there are a growing number of cases.

In 2008, a judge in New Mexico affirmed a fine of $6,638 against a Christian couple in Albuquerque who run a photography business. Their crime? Declining to photograph a lesbian ceremony.

Earlier this year, a Gresham, Ore., Christian couple who ran a bakery were investigated for not baking a wedding cake for a homosexual couple. Harassed for months, they closed their business in September.

In California, businesses that decline to provide marital benefits to same-sex couples are denied state government contracts.

In Ohio, a black college administrator was fired in 2008 for writing an article on her own time that disagreed with the notion that race and sexual orientation are equivalent traits.

This is freedom?

Among the Republicans who voted for the bill were Sen. John McCain of Arizona and formerly conservative Pennsylvania Sen. Patrick J. Toomey. There is nothing conservative about giving the federal government and leftist pressure groups another enormous club with which to beat America’s employers senseless.

Conservatives work to reduce government, not to expand its power. It’s no coincidence that homosexual activist groups were among the most aggressive supporters of Obamacare. The act and Obamacare are vast, new liberal government mandates.

The nation’s workplaces have already been subjected to de facto enforcement of quotas despite provisions prohibiting them. Employers are accused of “disparate impact” regardless of sincere efforts to hire more minorities or women.

Imagine “civil rights” lawyers under the Obama Justice Department invading workplaces to ensure that there are an acceptable number of men wearing dresses, along with homosexual-related hires, promotions and celebrations.

Advocates claim that it’s about “simple fairness.” It’s not. The law will criminalize dissent against any initiative by newly empowered “sexual minorities.” Don’t feel like making your employees celebrate “gay pride day” or attend “diversity” brainwashing? Welcome to court. Hope you can afford it.

The biggest mistake that liberty defenders could make is to buy into the “religious exemption” inserted by Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican. It’s a fig leaf, and a thin one at that.

Once the law is on the books, a liberal federal judge will void the exemption.

For a lesson in abusing federal law, consider that the Internal Revenue Service has throttled political speech in churches since the 1950s. Texas Democratic Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson inserted a provision in the tax code threatening the nonprofit status of religious institutions if leaders endorse candidates from the pulpit. Johnson did so to shut up overly critical preachers.

Churches in America are untaxed not because they do what Caesar tells them, but because, as Jesus says in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world.” The Johnson gag order is unconstitutional, which is why the IRS has not dared to bring a case. Conservative churches, however, have been silenced, while many liberal churches ignore the law. They know that hustlers such as Al Sharpton will run to the media if the IRS gets too frisky.

Add this law to this mix, and we’re well on the way to a day when the feds are editing sermons and punishing churches that don’t have priestesses performing same-sex ceremonies.

Proponents insist that it will never come to that, but don’t believe them. Liberal groups are working to remove the Catholic Church’s tax exemption over its opposition to abortion, and they ran the church out of the adoption business in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

Imagine what they will do nationally if President Obama gets to sign the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Robert Knight is senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times. Contributor:  By Robert Knight for The Washington Times)

Give thanks for Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN), the only senator to warn of the dangers and constitutional compromises—and worse—lurking in the ENDA legislation. The question is, why were there not more conservative voices raised in protest among the 32 dissenting votes? Perhaps some were quiet for political reasons, hoping that House Speaker John Boehner will keep his promise that such a freedom-snatching law will not reach the House floor. Please follow the ENDA law with prayers and close attention as U.S. citizens and business people. Let us persevere in prayer and not be deceived. The goal of this law, as Mr. Knight honestly describes, is to make illegal all moral convictions in the marketplace (churches also?) that do not accept sinful, deviant behavior as normal, natural, and to be displayed without restraint. Freedoms are eroding. We need a return, at the national level, to God’s standards of right versus wrong as measured by His Word. Please pray as conscience is illuminated by Scripture. May God preserve our freedom to believe and uphold God’s plan for marriage, His laws of sexuality, and the freedom to see righteous government sustained. We may see harsh persecution in the U.S., with egregious fines and businesses going under as basic values are nullified. Pray for divine intervention.

“Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides. They continue this day according to Your ordinances, for all are Your servants.” (Psalm 119:89-91)

“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)

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of …” (2 Timothy 3: 12-14)

 

PROTECTING THE UNBORN FROM PAIN

In June, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 228-196 in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. On Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, announced that he would introduce the bill in the U.S. Senate. Appearing on “Fox News Sunday” last weekend, Mr. Graham noted that protecting pain-capable unborn children from the horror of abortion “is a debate worthy of a great democracy.”

There is substantial medical evidence that unborn children are capable of experiencing pain by at least 20 weeks post-fertilization. Abortions performed at this stage of pregnancy use a variety of techniques, including a method in which the unborn child’s arms and legs are twisted off by brute manual force, using a long stainless steel clamping tool.

While most of us can hardly imagine undergoing a dental procedure without the benefit of anesthesia, the law of the land under Roe v. Wade condones this violent dismemberment of unborn children without any regard for their rights or humanity. Common decency demands that this be changed and that these unborn babies be protected.

Based on a 2008 study from the Guttmacher Institute (which was originally founded as a special research affiliate of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, currently the nation’s largest abortion provider), we estimate there are at least 140 abortionists in the United States who perform abortions on unborn children who are at least 20 weeks of fetal age.

When the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade in 1973, our understanding of pain and the development of the unborn child was so primitive that even a newborn undergoing surgery did not receive anesthesia — only a paralytic to keep them still.

Medical advancements have changed the way we view unborn children. Today, unborn children undergo surgery in utero. Ultrasound technology has allowed a baby’s first pictures to adorn the refrigerators of parents and grandparents long before they meet their newest family member face-to-face. Yet under current law, the same arms and legs seen in ultrasound images can be brutally torn apart during an abortion.

Just how many late abortions are performed in the United States on pain-capable unborn children? While we don’t have a good handle on just how many late abortions are really occurring, there is growing evidence that they are far more common than most people want to think.

The case of Pennsylvania abortionist Kermit Gosnell and hidden-camera videos issued by the organization Live Action provide further evidence that a great deal of the late-abortion iceberg is below the water. Some of the jurisdictions with the most liberal abortion policies have no reporting requirements — for example, California, Maryland and the District of Columbia — or do not collect data on the stage of pregnancy (Florida, for example).

Other jurisdictions have reporting requirements, but don’t enforce them. The grand jury report on Gosnell said that between 2000 and 2010, he reported only one second-trimester abortion to the state. Yet it appears that Gosnell probably performed thousands of second-trimester and third-trimester abortions during that decade. Multiple other practitioners who perform large volumes of late abortions have also failed to report them or have not been required to report them.

Enough is enough. It’s time to revisit Roe v. Wade’s policy of allowing unrestricted abortion.

Ten states have already enacted laws protecting pain-capable unborn children based on National Right to Life’s model bill. Just last week, language protecting pain-capable unborn children went into effect in Texas. The pain-capable unborn child language was written into a larger omnibus pro-life bill that brought on a pro-abortion media frenzy during Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster in June. Late last Friday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cleared the way for the challenged provisions of the Texas law to take effect. The language protecting pain-capable unborn children went unchallenged by pro-abortion activists.

A nationwide poll conducted in March 2013 by The Polling Company found that an overwhelming majority of Americans — 64 percent — would support a law such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act; only 30 percent opposed such legislation. Female voters split 63 percent to 31 percent in support of such a law, and among independents, it enjoyed 63 percent support as well.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,”Mr. Graham said, “The government has a legitimate interest to protect the child after the 20-week period of development because they can feel pain. That is what a rational, humane society should do — protect the child that can feel pain from an abortion.”

One-fifth of the states, nearly two-thirds of Americans, and the U.S. House of Representatives agree. Now it’s time for the U.S. Senate to do its job and act to protect these vulnerable members of our human family. Carol Tobias is president of the National Right to Life Committee. (Contributor:  By Carol Tobias for The Washington Times)

Pray for the success of this approach. Those who practice abortion as a business (and it is a huge, very profitable business) seem to have become so desensitized to the truth of what they are doing that they deny they are killing babies ruthlessly and without remorse. We are not talking about the ignorant young woman in the “crisis pregnancy” who is frightened and being deceived into thinking she is just having a “procedure” done for convenience. We are speaking of the Kermit Gosnells and those of his ilk who do not want any publicity about the proven fact that the baby is alive, has a beating heart, a developing nervous system, and can feel pain. Let us pray for the success of this movement to educate the public and protect the baby from such suffering in the final moments of innocent life. May God bless this effort to speak truth. May our prayers be more powerful than the brazen efforts of Planned Parenthood to deny and hide the facts.

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

“Then [Jesus] said to the disciples, ‘It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend [kill?] one of these little ones.’” (Luke 17:1-2)

 

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS IS BACK WITH A NEW NAME: BULLYING

Over the past few years, bullying has become a hot topic of conversation. Perhaps I should amend that: Bullying has become a hot topic in the media as it has been pushed by progressives to force mainstream acceptance of their agenda.

The bullying I am talking about is not the big kid pushing around the little kid or the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case. The acts of bullying that are making headlines are about words and feelings. Many times it is used as a catch-all for anyone that challenges the leftist ideas — suspending children for expressing their religious views or making a “gun” with their pointer finger and thumb.

You will recognize that many similarities between the anti-bullying trend today and the political correctness movement in the ‘90s. This is just the latest example of a repressive movement aiming to stifle any and all dissent.

In 1949, George Orwell wrote the ground-breaking book “1984.” In it he describes the idea of Newspeak — a state-created language intended to restrict man’s ability to describe his own thoughts and feelings. One particular aspect of Newspeak was the idea of thoughtcrime — harboring unspoken thoughts that could be deemed contentious or “anti-social.” Lacking the words to express displeasure was not enough; you could be arrested for thinking inexpressible notions.

In America circa 2013, your own intentions do not matter if you express any idea that can be construed as “hate speech.” Intentions only matter when you enact the leftist idea of what is good — even if it destroys people’s lives.

According to the American Bar Association, “hate speech” is speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability or other traits.

A noble gesture, but what happens when you call someone of a different race a jerk or more colorful explicative? If you are a white male, that is hate speech. If a black man says it to a black woman, that is sexual discrimination or harassment, another form of hate speech.

When it comes to policing language, it is the offendee’s subjective interpretation that matters, not the offender’s intent. In fact, the offendee’s prior actions are not even a consideration — the person may have just run over your pet, but your anger and mental anguish does not compare to the supposed psychological damage the offendee suffers when you express outrage at that person.

All we have to do is look at any criticism of President Obama. Do not agree with his policies? Well, you must be racist. But I am black and disagree; fortunately, I have liberal white folks to tell me I am an Uncle Tom.

These accusations are not meant to point out actual racism; they are meant to discredit and silence opposition. The logical fallacies run wild: hasty generalizations, strawmen, no true Scotsman, and appeals to ignorance just for starters. Needless to say, such indictments are not valid points of debate.

The desire to silence critics is due to the left’s own narcissistic tendencies. A narcissist projects his or her own thoughts onto others; he or she cannot imagine that others think differently. The worst policies are made when we think inductively: from a small sample, they make conclusions at large.

In such cases, a person examines his or her own prejudices and weakness and assumes everyone else has them. “I have racist thoughts and must struggle to contain them, so everyone must feel that way,” or “I have homoerotic thoughts, everyone does.” Such thoughts result in rancor, self-loathing, and knee-jerk reactionary bills that abridge freedom to repress their own demons.

It also results in thinking that someone would never say mean words to others unless there is a darker thought behind it. Better to prevent anyone from saying something mean than risk hurt feelings. One’s own thoughtcrimes become everyone’s. Public shaming of any and all thoughtcrimes is coercion; it is bullying.

When you label dissent as bullying, you stifle discussion. When you endorse the policing of thoughtcrime, you do not change minds, only harden hearts. Consensus and understanding only come through an open dialogue. You cannot change a bigot’s mind by censuring his thoughts; you change it by talking to him about his views and actions and getting him to empathize with others.

But the charge of bullying not only has been used to suppress objection, it has been used to condone bad behavior.

Saying women must be responsible and aware in order to prevent getting into a bad situation is “mansplaining,” or “slut shaming,” or contributing to “rape culture.” No, it is saying that you do not walk down a dark alley in a bad part of town drunk and alone.

Telling someone they are overweight and it is unhealthy, pointing out how a proper diet and exercise actually improve mental disposition and looks is “fat shaming.” There are even court cases where clients sue their trainers for mental anguish because they tell them to stop eating junk food and keeping working out. Is everyone taking crazy pills?

There is a difference between bullying and constructive criticism, but frankly, I do not think that the left and the culture they have helped to create sees the difference anymore.

People can declare that life should just be full of love and acceptance, but to do so is to delude oneself. Life is not rainbows and unicorns. It is a grind that takes perseverance and fortitude to come out ahead.

Denouncing opposing ideas and thoughts as bullying cheapens those who are truly bullied and oppressed. If we are ever to overcome the rancor that permeates our modern society, we must fight against the attempt to give in to political correctness and cry “bully!” any time someone hurts our feelings.

Sometimes we should simply grow thicker skin, but we also need to take a step back and examine our own behavior. Instead of hiding in an echo-chamber of affirmation, we should engage those with different thoughts and experiences to understand their point of view. If we step out of our own projections, we might just find that the person we thought was a bully is actually a friend.

Armstrong Williams is the author of the book “Reawakening Virtues.” (Contributor:  By Armstrong Williams for The Washington Times)

Pray for a return to sanity in the use of language. The Bible commands God’s people to speak the truth at all times. One of the Commandments is to not “bear false witness” – i.e., tell lies, whether in court or in conversation. In the Garden, the serpent used beguiling words to deceive Eve into believing that God did not mean what He plainly said about the tree whose fruit was not to be eaten. Only a few generations later, God took note that the power of a common language at Babel made mankind almost invincible, and so he confused the language to disperse them and stop their evil inclinations. Our Lord is called “the Word” because He perfectly conveyed the truth of God the Father and His message of love and redemption. But unrighteous men and women still twist the truth to take control of others. Today, children sue their parents for “bullying” when they are told to do homework or clean their room. Pray for revival resulting in widespread salvation and a return to truth and sanity in communication. Only in God’s mercy can truth once again become the national standard of communication. Pray that the Church will lead the way in speaking the truth in love, making the Gospel message plain in calling people to Christ.

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

“ Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)

“…  but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— …” (Ephesians 4:15)

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (James 3:9-10)

 

PRESSING AHEAD ON CLIMATE SALVATION

The U.N. is determined to control liberties, livelihoods and living standards

Climate alarmists have gathered in Warsaw for the Monday start of the United Nations‘ annual climate change conference, to lay the foundation for a binding global agreement to replace the now-defunct Kyoto Protocol and “save the planet” from “dangerous global warming.”

However, a new Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change report documents that average global temperatures have not risen in 16 years, even as carbon-dioxide levels have increased steadily, helping plants grow faster and better. Antarctic ice is at a record high, Arctic sea ice is back to normal and, at current rates, Greenland’s glaciers would not melt for 13,000 years.

It has been eight years since a major hurricane struck the United States — the longest such period since 1865. Tornado frequency is the lowest in decades. Sea levels are rising at barely six inches per century. Droughts are shorter and less extreme than during the Dust Bowl era and the 1950s.

Moreover, says the nongovernmental panel, it is simply impossible to separate human influences from the frequent, cyclical, natural temperature, climate and weather variability our planet has always experienced.

Even the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has muted previous claims. It now says there has been no warming since 1998, and finally acknowledges that much of the world was as warm during Medieval times as during the late 20th century.

The U.N. panel’s 2013 report finally recognizes the role that solar variability plays in climate change, and acknowledges that its computer models inadequately represent cloud cover, precipitation and “climate sensitivity” to carbon dioxide. The report admits the models failed to predict the temperature standstill and were wrong about polar ice caps, droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes.

In reality, the climate and weather events, trends and cycles of recent years are essentially the same as humans have been dealing with for centuries. There is no evidence that we face imminent catastrophic man-made climate change.

Unless we shackle the energy and economic systems that enhance and safeguard our lives, modern technologically advanced societies will be able to respond and adapt to any weather events or climate changes that we are likely to encounter in the coming decades.

Then what is really going on in Warsaw?

Climate campaigners are using claims of “dangerous man-made climate change” to justify global government, treaties in lieu of legislation, anti-hydrocarbon policies, renewable energy schemes, wealth redistribution, and more taxpayer money for perpetual U.N. studies and programs.

In 2000, then-French President Jacques Chirac called the Kyoto treaty “the first component of authentic global governance.” Just months ago, President Obama said, if Congress fails to act, he will “redouble” efforts to “reach a new global agreement to reduce carbon pollution” — and continue using the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to close coal mines, eliminate coal-fired power plants and regulate U.S. energy use.

Despite actual weather and climate observations, as documented by both the nongovernmental panel and the U.N. panel, alarmists insist that we face imminent cataclysm. Some echo former U.S. Sen. Tim Wirth, Colorado Democrat, and European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, who contend that even if we are “wrong on global warming,” opposing fossil fuels and promoting renewables are “the correct policies, even if they lead to higher prices.”

The U.N. panel’s Working Group III co-chairman Ottmar Edenhofer has been just as blunt. “One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy,” he said. It is about “how we redistribute the world’s wealth.”

Island nations and poor countries support climate agreements, because they expect “compensation,” “adaptation” and “mitigation” money to pay for “damages” from rising seas and more frequent, more intense storms and droughts, which they blame on industrialized nations.

Not only does a growing body of evidence say these “disasters” are not happening, with the United States and European Union mired in debt, unemployment and economic stagnation, prospects for such wealth transfers are increasingly dim. Still, the demands grow louder, and the White House and State Department have already promised billions.

For Americans, an even bigger Frankenstein looms. The Obamacare disaster involves government bureaucrats taking over our health care, health insurance and one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

Energy is our economy’s lifeblood, and hydrocarbons make up 82 percent of our energy resources. Policies based on climate-chaos claims mean the EPA, the U.N. and environmentalist pressure groups would control 100 percent of our economy and virtually everything we make, grow, ship, eat, drive and do. Imagine the impact on our lives, livelihoods, liberties, living standards and life spans.

As President Obama promised, this would “fundamentally transform” our nation — to “protect” us from climate “cataclysms” that exist only in presidential speeches, Hollywood movies, U.N. computer models and EPA press releases.

The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow has sent a “truth delegation” to Warsaw to counter climate alarmism’s myths, propaganda and outright lies. CFACT acknowledges that global warming and climate change are “real,” but our organization also understands that the causes are complex and natural, and only minimally man-made. We know the only “climate disaster” on the horizon is from anti-energy policies advocated by the White House, the EPA and the U.N.

We cannot afford to take our nation further down the path to joblessness and economic ruin.

David Rothbard is president of the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT.org), where Craig Rucker is executive director. (Contributor:  By David Rothbard and Craig Rucker for The Washington Times)

This is a genuine call to prayer! We must intercede strongly, asking God to assist honest citizens in our nation in defending truth against the fables that so-called scientists are perpetrating for ideological or financial gain. When those once dedicated to “Science” sell out to manipulating their findings in nature or in the laboratory, then truth becomes relative and nothing more than something to be sold or traded to the highest bidder. The Kyoto protocols became hopelessly compromised when certain “scientists” were discovered to be falsifying their data. (No one was prosecuted.) In the past, this deception was seen as the “unpardonable sin” among those supposedly dedicated to discovering truth through experimentation and carefully controlled testing of hypotheses and theories. When integrity is missing in these equations, we will have more “Piltdown man” hoaxes, which we are about to see in these Warsaw meetings. Pray for truth to prevail and deception to be exposed.

“[Jesus said,] ‘Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’  They answered him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?’ Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’” (John 8:32-34)

“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. (1 Peter 2:15-16)

“Buy the truth and do not sell it—wisdom, instruction and insight as well.” (Proverbs 23:23)

 

N.J. SCHOOL DISTRICT DROPS BAN ON CHRISTMAS CAROLS

“Joy to the World” is once again an acceptable holiday message in one New Jersey school district.

After much debate and international attention, the Bordentown Regional School District has changed course and decided that its public schools can deck their halls with Christian Christmas songs in their holiday concerts this year.

Last month, the school district banned all religious Christmas carols in upcoming holiday concerts after some parents in the community deemed such songs inappropriate.

After the ban generated significant controversy, Bordentown Superintendent Constance J. Bauer released a brief statement late last week stating, in effect, never mind.

“In reviewing additional legal considerations and advice on this matter and the expressed sentiments of the community at large, I have reconsidered the decision on the musical selection for the upcoming winter programs so that pieces with traditional and historical religious origins will be permitted,” Ms. Bauer said. “Concurrently, the board will continue its review of the larger policy implications for the future.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom is an activist group that helped lead opposition to the carol ban.

In a letter written to Mr. Bauer and school board President Lisa Kay Hartman, the alliance wrote that “every federal court to examine the issue has determined that including Christmas carols and other religious music in school choir programs fully complies with the First Amendment.”

Matthew Sharp, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom said the exclusion of Christian Christmas songs negatively affects students, parents, music teachers and communities as a whole.

“The main [opposing argument] we see is that this violates the separation between church and state,” Mr. Sharp said.

Over the past 30 years, a growing number of Americans are labeling themselves as nonreligious. According to the poll Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism, since 1972, the number of atheists globally has nearly tripled.

With this surge of atheism has come a strong push to reduce or eliminate all forms of religion from America’s public schools. The New Jersey school case came just as the Supreme Court was taking up a case involving the propriety of saying prayers before government functions such as town council meetings if it might offend non-Christians or nonbelievers.

Mr. Sharp, however believes “It’s always a dangerous thing to bring up the idea of offensiveness,” because it is virtually impossible to cultivate cultural and religious diversity without offending someone.

Mr. Sharp also points out that it is entirely constitutional to include religious songs in holiday performances.

“Our approach is to educate, and we start with what the courts have said,” he said.

In a previous case concerning Cherry Hill Township School District’s policy, a New Jersey court found that “Christmas and Chanukah are celebrated as cultural and national holidays as well as religious ones, and there is simply no constitutional doctrine which would forbid school children from sharing in that celebration, provided that these celebrations do not constitute an unconstitutional endorsement of religion and are consistent with a school’s secular educational mission.”

Said Mr. Sharp, “I would encourage people everywhere to stand up for these songs. … I think they should be encouraged by what happened in Bordentown.” (Contributor:  By Nathan Porter for The Washington Times)

Give thanks for the sense of balance coming back into the discussion of appropriate music for Christian observance of Christmas. The secular commitment to “separation of church and state” (not a statement from the U.S. Constitution) has reached ridiculous proportions, and this discussion is a breath of fresh air. Pray for a reduction of hostility from people who do not believe toward people of faith. We should not be prohibited from calling Christmas and Thanksgiving by their real names (not “Holiday Time” or “Turkey Day”), and the wonderful Christmas carols are statements of Christians’ faith and hope. We can pray that the words of these songs played throughout the malls in America will penetrate hearts and lead people to consider who Jesus is.

“But while [Joseph] thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’” (Matthew 1:20-21)

 

ATHEIST ‘MEGA-CHURCHES’ TAKE ROOT ACROSS US, WORLD

It looked like a typical Sunday morning at any mega-church. Several hundred people, including families with small children, packed in for more than an hour of rousing music, an inspirational talk and some quiet reflection. The only thing missing was God.

Nearly three dozen gatherings dubbed “atheist mega-churches” by supporters and detractors have sprung up around the U.S. and Australia – with more to come – after finding success in Great Britain earlier this year. The movement fueled by social media and spearheaded by two prominent British comedians is no joke.

On Sunday, the inaugural Sunday Assembly in Los Angeles attracted several hundred people bound by their belief in non-belief. Similar gatherings in San Diego, Nashville, New York and other U.S. cities have drawn hundreds of atheists seeking the camaraderie of a congregation without religion or ritual.

The founders, British duo Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans, are currently on a tongue-in-cheek “40 Dates, 40 Nights” tour around the U.S. and Australia to drum up donations and help launch new Sunday Assemblies. They hope to raise more than $800,000 that will help atheists launch their pop-up congregations around the world. So far, they have raised about $50,000.

They don’t bash believers but want to find a new way to meet likeminded people, engage in the community and make their presence more visible in a landscape dominated by faith.

Jones got the first inkling for the idea while leaving a Christmas carol concert six years ago.

“There was so much about it that I loved, but it’s a shame because at the heart of it, it’s something I don’t believe in,” Jones said. “If you think about church, there’s very little that’s bad. It’s singing awesome songs, hearing interesting talks, thinking about improving yourself and helping other people – and doing that in a community with wonderful relationships. What part of that is not to like?”

The movement dovetails with new studies that show an increasing number of Americans are drifting from any religious affiliation.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a study last year that found 20 percent of Americans say they have no religious affiliation, an increase from 15 percent in the last five years. Pew researchers stressed, however, that the category also encompassed majorities of people who said they believed in God but had no ties with organized religion and people who consider themselves “spiritual” but not “religious.”

Sunday Assembly – whose motto is Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More – taps into that universe of people who left their faith but now miss the community church provided, said Phil Zuckerman, a professor of secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont.

It also plays into a feeling among some atheists that they should make themselves more visible. For example, last December, an atheist in Santa Monica created an uproar – and triggered a lawsuit – when he set up a godless display amid Christian nativity scenes that were part of a beloved, decades-old tradition.

“In the U.S., there’s a little bit of a feeling that if you’re not religious, you’re not patriotic. I think a lot of secular people say, `Hey, wait a minute. We are charitable, we are good people, we’re good parents and we are just as good citizens as you and we’re going to start a church to prove it,” said Zuckerman. “It’s still a minority, but there’s enough of them now.”

That impulse, however, has raised the ire of those who have spent years pushing back against the idea that atheism itself is a religion.

“The idea that you’re building an entire organization based on what you don’t believe, to me, sounds like an offense against sensibility,” said Michael Luciano, a self-described atheist who was raised Roman Catholic but left when he became disillusioned.

“There’s something not OK with appropriating all of this religious language, imagery and ritual for atheism,” said Luciano, who blogged about the movement at the site policymic.com.

That sentiment didn’t seem to detract from the excitement Sunday at the inaugural meeting in Los Angeles.

Hundreds of atheists and atheist-curious packed into a Hollywood auditorium for a boisterous service filled with live music, moments of reflection, an “inspirational talk” about forgotten – but important – inventors and scientists and some stand-up comedy.

During the service, attendees stomped their feet, clapped their hands and cheered as Jones and Evans led the group through rousing renditions of “Lean on Me,” “Here Comes the Sun” and other hits that took the place of gospel songs. Congregants dissolved into laughter at a get-to-know-you game that involved clapping and slapping the hands of the person next to them and applauded as members of the audience spoke about community service projects they had started in LA.

At the end, volunteers passed cardboard boxes for donations as attendees mingled over coffee and pastries and children played on the floor.

For atheist Elijah Senn, the morning was perfect.

“I think the image that we have put forward in a lot of ways has been a scary, mean, we want to tear down the walls, we want to do destructive things kind of image is what a lot of people have of us,” he said. “I’m really excited to be able to come together and show that it’s not about destruction. It’s about making things and making things better.” (Contributor: Gillian Flaccus for The Associated Press)

Even unbelievers and, in this case, professed atheists have some sense of the need for religious expression, even if it is to celebrate what they do NOT believe in. Without looking down on such people in pride, give thanks that you know the truth of the Gospel and that it has set you free from the burden of sin and the fear of the future. Offer prayers for those trying to “celebrate” their unbelief, that the burdens of sin and doubt and the pressures of life will open their hearts to the truth of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Only the Gospel sets people free and offers them a hope and a future in God’s love.

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:14-18)

 

PRO-LIFERS IN IOWA APPLAUD BOARD OF MEDICINE FOR BANNING WEBCAM ABORTIONS

An Iowa judge has called for a full trial before deciding whether to end webcam abortions in the state, which is where the procedure originated.

The Iowa Board of Medicine made the decision to ban webcam or telemed abortions effective this week prompting Planned Parenthood to file a lawsuit.

Jenifer Bowen, who heads Iowa Right to Life, says the Judge Karen Romando placed a temporary injunction on the Board of Medicine’s decision, which was made in August.

Romano is also likely to preside at the trial.

After the decision, Bowen checked social media and chatted with ardent pro-aborts who were lauding the decision and pushed back against Bowen’s warnings.

“You know, when I mentioned that there were at least 14 women who have died from complications of chemical abortions, I was accused of using those women as props,” Bowen tells OneNewsNow.

Bowen also noted on social media that more than 2,200 women have been injured or have severely hemorrhaged, and again she was  accused of using women as “props.”

The Iowa Right to Life spokesman suggests that shows a lack of concern, since there are grieving families because of the deaths and serious injuries, and babies that were killed because of chemical abortions.

Bowen says abortion chemicals are dangerous, and she is looking forward to the trial date. (Contributor: By Charlie Butts for One News Now)

Once again, Planned Parenthood officials show their true colors in wanting to perpetuate all portions of the abortion industry that might produce additional revenues despite the discomfort and anguish such procedures can cause abortion victims. Give thanks for this action by the Iowa Right-to-Life ministry in trying to suppress needless and unnecessary abortion “publicity” to those who suffer in the aftermath of such trauma. Pray for a successful verdict in the forthcoming trial, perhaps yet another step in exposing abortionists and the industry for what it truly is.

“The mouth of the righteous is a well of life, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked. Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.” (Proverbs 10:11-12)

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)

On Watch in Washington November 13, 2013 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington November 6, 2013

November 6th, 2013

On Watch in Washington November 6, 2013 Plain Text PDF Version

 

TOWN COUNCIL PRAYER CONTROVERSY AT SUPREME COURT TODAY

A pastor at the center of one of this year’s most watched Supreme Court cases will attend arguments before the justices today, Wednesday, November 6, 2013, at 10:00 AM.

The Reverend Patrick Madeiros (Mah’-dare-ose) is Lead Pastor of Greece Assembly of God, a congregation in Greece, NY, and has been a frequent guest clergy member at his local town council meetings. Over the past fourteen years, Pastor Madeiros has delivered countless opening prayers before council meetings. On Wednesday the justices will hear arguments by attorneys for the town that it has a right to continue the prayers. Lawyers for two atheists will assert that the public prayers infringe on their clients’ rights not to believe in God.

Pastor Madeiros traveled from Greece, New York, to Washington, DC, on Tuesday, November 5, where he met over dinner with the Reverend Dr. Rob Schenck (Shank) of Faith and Action in the Nation’s Capital and chairman of the Evangelical Church Alliance. The two discussed continuing strategies for preserving the American tradition of public prayers by clergy. This morning, Pastor Madeiros accompanied Rev. Schenck to the High Court to listen to oral arguments in Town of Greece v. Galloway, Susan, et al (12-696) Immediately following arguments, the pastor will make comments to the media with Rev. Schenck, and will participate in a news conference and prayer service on the sidewalk in front of the court building.

Rev. Schenck said about Pastor Madeiros and the prayers he offers at his town council meetings:

“Pastor Pat, as everyone knows him, is one of the warmest and most considerate people I have ever met. He is beloved by his congregation and by many, many others. His prayers at town council meetings are only the most visible contributions Pastor Pat makes to the community he loves. It is wrong for the courts to ban a long-held, widely accepted practice that has been going on in legislatures at every level in our country since its birth, and it is even more wrong to deny community faith leaders like Pastor Pat the freedom to pray according to the dictates of their own beliefs and consciences. There are many, many Christians in the town of Greece, but only a few atheists. Under the guarantee of the First Amendment, all parties have equal rights before the law. You can’t take away the rights of Christians in favor of preserving the rights of atheists.” (Contributor: Christian Newswire)

More Reading: Supreme Decision: Public Prayer Faces Most Serious Threat to Date – The  Congressional Prayer Foundation

This case has been followed through the courts, and now, the Supreme Court has opportunity to declare that religious speech, including public prayer, does not violate anyone’s rights. Public prayer and freedom to speak of one’s faith have been cornerstone rights since the founding of our nation. Pray that Christians will not succumb to fear in their public witness to the Gospel. Pray that the wider body of Christ will come forth strongly in expressing full confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture as the power of God. Ask God to sovereignly overrule all evil forces that would suppress God-given freedoms.

“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17-21)

“And [the religious leaders] called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. 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 4:18-20)

PRAY FOR THE PERSECUTED CHURCH – NOVEMBER 10

In the traditional church calendar, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day stand out in the month of November, set apart to remember the saints of the church and the souls of those who departed this world. It is fitting, then, that the modern church has set apart the month of November to remember and pray for the persecuted church, through the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP).

Believers in countries such as Egypt, Eritrea, India, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan and Vietnam face violence, imprisonment and even death because of their faith in Jesus Christ. There are other places in the world such as North Korea where acts of persecution take place, but we don’t see or hear of it. Brother Andrew of Open Doors once said: ‘Our heroes are not with us simply because they are in prison.’

IDOP is a time set apart for us to remember thousands of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who suffer persecution, simply because they confess Jesus Christ as Lord.

This year our focus includes the plight of Christians in India, who are suffering increasing persecution by militants who want a Hindu-only India. Please download the new 7-minute Free to Follow video (see below), and make use of the prayers for India, as well as those for Nigeria and Azerbaijan.

We invite you to explore the variety of resources on this website and hope you will join Christians worldwide in praying for persecuted Christians this November.

7-minute Free to Follow video <7 Minute Video>

Read More on IDOP Website.

 

BELGIUM: EUTHANASIA TO CHILDREN, DEMENTIA PATIENTS

Belgium is considering children having the right to ask for their own deaths!

In Belgium, where euthanasia is now legal for people over the age of 18, the government is considering extending it to children — something that no other country has done. The same bill would offer the right to die to adults with early dementia.

Advocates argue that euthanasia for children, with the consent of their parents, is necessary to give families an option in a desperately painful situation. But opponents have questioned whether children can reasonably decide to end their own lives.

Belgium is already a euthanasia pioneer; it legalized the practice for adults in 2002. In the last decade, the number of reported cases per year has risen from 235 deaths in 2003 to 1,432 in 2012, the last year for which statistics are available. Doctors typically give patients a powerful sedative before injecting another drug to stop their heart.

Only a few countries have legalized euthanasia or anything approaching it. In the Netherlands, euthanasia is legal under specific circumstances and for children over the age of 12 with parental consent (there is an understanding that infants, too, can be euthanized, and that doctors will not be prosecuted if they act appropriately). Elsewhere in Europe, euthanasia is only legal in Luxembourg. Assisted suicide, where doctors help a patient to die but do not actively kill them, is allowed in Switzerland.

In the U.S., the state of Oregon also grants assisted suicide requests for residents aged 18 or over with a terminal illness.

In Belgium, the ruling Socialist party has proposed the bill expanding the right of euthanasia. The Christian Democratic Flemish party vowed to oppose the legislation and to challenge it in the European Court of Human Rights if it passes. A final decision must be approved by Parliament and could take months.

In the meantime, the Senate has heard testimony on both sides of the issue.

“It is strange that minors are considered legally incompetent in key areas, such as getting married, but might (be able) to decide to die,” Catholic Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard testified.

Leonard said alternatives like palliative sedation make euthanasia unnecessary — and relieves doctors of the burden of having to kill patients. In palliative sedation, patients are sedated and life-sustaining support is withdrawn so they starve to death; the process can take days.

But the debate has extended to medical ethicists and professionals far from Belgium. Charles Foster, who teaches medical law and ethics at Oxford University, believes children couldn’t possibly have the capacity to make an informed decision about euthanasia since even adults struggle with the concept.

“It often happens that when people get into the circumstances they had so feared earlier, they manage to cling on all the more,” he said. “Children, like everyone else, may not be able to anticipate how much they will value their lives if they were not killed.”

There are others, though, who argue that because Belgium has already approved euthanasia for adults, it is unjust to deny it to children.

“The principle of euthanasia for children sounds shocking at first, but it’s motivated by compassion and protection,” said John Harris, a professor of bioethics at the University of Manchester. “It’s unfair to provide euthanasia differentially to some citizens and not to others (children) if the need is equal.”

And Dr. Gerlant van Berlaer, a pediatric oncologist at the Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussels hospital, says the changes would legalize what is already happening informally. He said cases of euthanasia in children are rare and estimates about 10 to 100 cases in Belgium every year might qualify.

“Children have different ways of asking for things but they face the same questions as adults when they’re terminally sick,” van Berlaer said. “Sometimes it’s a sister who tells us her brother doesn’t want to go back to the hospital and is asking for a solution,” he said. “Today if these families find themselves (in that situation), we’re not able to help them, except in dark and questionable ways.”

The change in the law regarding people with dementia is also controversial.

People now can make a written declaration they wish to be euthanized if their health deteriorates, but the request is only valid for five years and they must be in an irreversible coma. The new proposal would abolish the time limit and the requirement the patient be in a coma, making it possible for someone who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s to be put to death years later in the future.

In the Netherlands, guidelines allow doctors to euthanize dementia patients on this basis if they believe the person is experiencing “unbearable suffering,” but few are done in practice.

Dr. Patrick Cras, a neurologist at the University of Antwerp, said people with dementia often change their minds about wanting to die.

“They may turn into different people and may not have the same feelings about wanting to die as when they were fully competent,” he said. “I don’t see myself killing another person if he or she isn’t really aware of exactly what’s happening simply on the basis of a previous written request (to have euthanasia). I haven’t fully made up my mind but I think this is going too far.”

Penney Lewis, a professor and medical law expert at King’s College London, agreed that carrying out euthanasia requests on people with dementia once they start to worsen could be legally questionable.

“But if you don’t let people make decisions that will be respected in the future, including euthanasia, what you do is encourage people to take their own life while they have the capacity or to seek euthanasia much earlier,” she said.

In the past year, several cases of Belgians who weren’t terminally ill but were euthanized — including a pair of 43-year-old deaf twins who were going blind and a patient in a botched sex change operation — have raised concerns the country is becoming too willing to euthanize its citizens. The newest proposals have raised eyebrows even further.

“People elsewhere in Europe are focused on assisted dying for the terminally ill and they are running away from what’s happening in Belgium,” Lewis said. “If the Belgian statutes go ahead, this will be a key boundary that is crossed.” (Contributor: By Associated Press)

How we need to intercede and cry out to God for a spiritual restoration in our own country that would give us back the value of each human life. Francis Schaeffer warned us prophetically through his writings and sermons in the last century that the “social killing” would start with abortion. He said that if a society indulged itself in the casual abortion trade (and it is a big business), so that the taking of human life from the womb was practiced easily and wantonly, what would inevitably follow – and soon – would be a similar devaluing of the life of the elderly, the infirm, the weak, those who were a burden on society, on the economy, on their families, and so on. The “culture of death” becomes a habit in a decadent society. Euthanasia means nothing more than a cleansing of society’s dregs, its “excess baggage,” as it were. Let us pray and let loved ones know that we value them and will do what we can to preserve and strengthen life until God intervenes to take them to Himself.

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)

 

UK PM UNVEILS PLANS FOR ISLAMIC MARKET INDEX

Prime Minister David Cameron is taking strides to tap the burgeoning interest in Islamic finance, announcing the launch of a new Islamic Market Index in London and plans for Britain to be the first non-Muslim country to issue an Islamic bond.

Describing London as “already the biggest center for Islamic finance outside the Islamic world,” Cameron said Tuesday that the U.K.’s ambition is to go further.

“I don’t just want London to be a great capital of Islamic finance in the Western world,” he told an audience of international political and business leaders in London. “I want London to stand alongside Dubai as one of the great capitals of Islamic finance anywhere in the World.”

Islamic finance conforms to Islamic law, or Shariah, which forbids charging interest and requires deals to be based on tangible assets. Speculation is banned, as is dealing in futures. Although still small compared with the world of mainstream finance, Islamic finance is expected to hold growing appeal for Gulf investors seeking to invest oil revenue or pious Muslims who want retail Islamic banking services.

The market in Islamic investments has grown quickly since 2006, and its value is expected to hit 1.3 trillion pounds ($2 trillion) next year. Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, is regarded as its hub, but London has been courting the industry aggressively.

Cameron made a case for mutual benefits in his address Tuesday at the World Islamic Economic Forum, which for the first time is being held in a non-Muslim country.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were among the nearly 1,800 political and business leaders attending the meeting. King Abdullah II of Jordan told delegates that Muslims worldwide needed to join economic blocs, follow open market trends and engage their country’s youth. Frustrated unemployed youth were a major driver of the revolutions that rocked the Arab world in 2011 and beyond.

“The business world must make it a priority to answer the needs of young people everywhere, for jobs, good jobs, secure futures and the opportunity to excel,” he said.

The London index — which would track the ups-and-downs of Shariah-compliant investments — is being launched on the London Stock Exchange. Cameron also said plans are underway to make Britain the first country outside of the Muslim world to issue an Islamic bond. It is expected to be worth around 200 million pounds and issued next year.

“For years people have been talking about creating an Islamic bond — or sukuk — outside the Islamic world. But it’s never quite happened,” Cameron said. “Changing that is a question of pragmatism and political will. And here in Britain we’ve got both.”

Alex Conroy, a trader at Spreadex, said that the U.K.’s effort to diversify business could be seen as a way to stay competitive in the finance world as Britain faces the prospect of caps on bankers’ bonuses.

“By welcoming all foreign investment this should ensure London remains a leader in global finance,” he said in a note. (Contributor: Cassandra Vinograd for Associated Press – Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.)

Our broader prayer focus: American intercessors are no doubt aware of growing Islamic influence and economic power in the international marketplace and the contrasting decline in U.S. influence and global leadership. Instead of leading the way, our nation is faltering and groping for the image of strength and moral purpose it once possessed. So let us pray for our country’s foundations to be restored. Spiritual problems require spiritual solutions. Intercede for God’s mercy on the United States, and pray for sweeping spiritual renewal in the Church. When the Church gets it right with God, it is then in a position to address social, moral, spiritual and economic issues in society. Derek Prince taught us, “If you win the battle in the spiritual realm, you have won the battle – period.”

“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)

 

BOLTON: ISRAEL MUST MAKE ‘FATEFUL DECISION’ ON IRAN STRIKE

Israel does not have much time to make a “fateful decision” about whether to strike Iran’s nuclear sites, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said Sunday in a radio interview.

“Israel, I think, now faces the fateful decision whether it will allow Iran to get nuclear weapons, thus constituting a true existential threat to Israel,” he said.

“Or whether they will strike as the Israelis have done twice before against nuclear programs in the hands of hostile states,” Bolton told WABC Radio’s Aaron Klein.

“I don’t think Israel has much time,” Bolton continued. “Frankly, they should have done this years ago because we all know intelligence is imperfect and Iran may have a more developed capacity than we know about, perhaps in cooperation with North Korea.”

Bolton spoke amid U.S. outreach to Iran and amid reports Iran’s Revolutionary Guard announced Saturday they are committed to the slogan, “Death to America.”

The former U.N. ambassador reacted to a statement by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who said Thursday the while U.S. has “implemented unprecedented sanctions and pressure on Iran, we may very well have to use military force to back up our policy.”

Bolton retorted: “If there is anybody left in Israel who thinks that the U.S. will use military force against Iran’s program, they really need to seriously re-examine their basic values. It isn’t going to happen under the Obama administration. I’ll just say it again. It isn’t going to happen.” (Contributor: World Net Daily)

First, let us give thanks. God’s mercy is evident all over the Middle East. That part of the world has been extremely volatile for months. Yet it has not exploded into the mutual destruction we might have seen. Yes, there is still brutality, lots of fighting, and many casualties. But Syria has capitulated on its nerve gas without the U.S. shooting rockets; Iran has not attacked Israel head-on, despite its hatred; and Egypt’s tensions have remained within its borders. All this is evidence that much intercessory prayer has prevailed, so let us continue to pray. We do not know what will happen, but we can offer thanks for what has not happened. Still, Israel might act unilaterally, so we must pray. Intercessors have continued to stand in the gap. Let us remember that there are many Christians there, and the Church, both visible and underground, is very much at work to see even more souls of men and women being saved.

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

 

SUCCESSOR TO THE SR-71 BLACKBIRD – SR-72

The SR-71, arguably the country’s most recognizable spy plane after the U-2, was retired in 1998. But like many human retirees of the same generation, what became known as the Blackbird has had a healthy post-retirement career. From appearances in the “X-Men” franchise to cameos in the “Transformers” series, this super-speedy jet has taken off in modern popular culture.

So it’s only natural that the Blackbird’s successor might inspire similar appeal. More than a decade after the last SR-71 was decommissioned; Lockheed Martin has unveiled the gorgeous-looking SR-72. It flies just as far and twice as fast as its predecessor — and, in a twist, it’s now lethal, according to Aviationweek:

The SR-72 is being designed with strike capability in mind. “We would envision a role with over-flight ISR, as well as missiles,” Leland says. Being launched from a Mach 6 platform, the weapons would not require a booster, significantly reducing weight. The higher speed of the SR-72 would also give it the ability to detect and strike more agile targets. “Even with the -SR-71, at Mach 3, there was still time to notify that the plane was coming, but at Mach 6, there is no reaction time to hide a mobile target. It is unavoidable ISR,” he adds.

The jet accelerates by way of a two-part system. A conventional jet turbine helps boost the aircraft up to Mach 3, at which point a specialized ramjet takes over and pushes the plane even faster into hypersonic mode.

From Lockheed’s mock-ups, there doesn’t appear to be a bubble for the pilot — which suggests a windowless cockpit or fantasies about a future unmanned version of the plane. (Contributor: By Brian Fung for The Washington Post)

Our prayer here is to look forward to a day when swords will be beaten into plowshares – at least figuratively. Man builds bigger and better weapons, more costly and more deadly. But God rules in heaven and on earth. Continue to intercede for the coming day when the Prince of Peace rules with no rival. The nations are His, and all will bow before Him. Meanwhile, let us be thankful for opportunity to pray and evangelize. Our own nation is a vast mission field. Let us pray to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers out to bring in the harvest.

“He [God] will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Micah 4:3)

“Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places.” (Psalm 135:6)

“But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)

 

BUSINESSES SUFFER FROM A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY, STUDY SHOWS

Security vendor McAfee says that small and midsize businesses are suffering from a false sense of security, basing their claims on a recent study conducted with Office Depot. Those who took part in the study showed a high degree of confidence that their data and devices were safe from attackers, despite industry research and evidence that proves otherwise.

McAfee’s claims come from the 1000 SMBs participated in the Office Depot Small Business Index in September. According to the data, 66 percent of the SMB owners who took part were confident that their data and devices were secure and safe from criminal hackers, with 77 percent reporting that their organizations have never been attacked.

According to the 2013 Verizon Business Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), 40 percent of the incidents examined involved businesses with fewer than 1000 employees, and a majority of them were in the retail or food service industry.

When asked for details, 80 percent of the respondents to Office Depot’s survey admitted to not using data protection. Only about half of them confirmed that they’re using email and Internet security measures. And almost all of them—91 percent—said they don’t use endpoint or mobile device security. Yet, the frightening admission comes from the 14 percent of SMB owners who said they haven’t implemented security measures of any kind in their environment.

“A business that doesn’t have any security measures in place is putting their data and customers’ trust in jeopardy. As enterprises have increased their security defenses, hackers have started to target their attacks downstream to SMBs,” said Bill Rielly, senior vice president of SMB at McAfee.

Your solutions may vary

As incident research gets stronger, organizations are waking up to the fact that single sets of best practices cannot be applied to businesses of all sizes, across industries of all types. Criminals have long targeted the low-hanging fruit, and over the last few years, SMBs have filled that role. But while having no security at all is a step backward, unless the solution is geared towards the organization’s goals and needs, designing and implementing a defensive posture can become a costly, daunting task. In fact, Verizon makes note of this in their most recent DBIR.

“Any attempt to enforce a one-size-fits-all approach to securing our assets may result in leaving some organizations under-protected from targeted attacks while others potentially over-spend on defending against simpler opportunistic attacks,” the report explains.

As an example, the report notes that businesses in the retail and food service sectors should focus on the basics as attackers routinely target poorly configured remote administration services and POS systems, but the basics are not enough for the finance and insurance sectors that have to contend with physical attacks as well as those aimed at critical Web applications and services.

Organizations in the engineering, manufacturing, IT services, and consulting sectors also have a different set of issues to deal with, because they face an entirely different set of attacks aimed at exploiting human weaknesses (social engineering).

“Cyber attacks on small businesses rarely make headlines, so it is easy for these business owners to be lulled into a false sense of security, as indicated in this survey. It is especially important for small business owners to secure their systems, as they may not have the resources to survive a cyber attack, unlike a large corporation,” Congressman Chris Collins (R-New York), said in a statement. (Contributor: By Steve Ragan for PCWorld)

This article speaks of small business and the need for data security and cyber security. But in the U.S., businesses will need more far-reaching security to survive and prosper. Pray for our nation. May there be a return to God. Looking at all basic parameters for a busy, successful, thriving nation, where business, when planned well and operated by sound principles, should succeed in the greatest nation ever blessed by God, we see instead many signs of languishing, of hopelessness, of a rapid slide toward mediocrity and even lower. We want our “land” to be healed, yet we need much healing within the larger Church as well. We want the blessing of God on our country. So while business is our focus, let us pray for the atmosphere in which business may develop and prosper.

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

 

SCHOOL BAN ON RELIGIOUS CAROLS DRAWS CHALLENGE

Silent night, indeed.

A New Jersey school district is facing pressure this week to reverse a new edict that bans religious songs and carols from being used in upcoming holiday concerts.

J. Matthew Sharp, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, has asked the Bordentown Regional School District to rescind its policy that “likely crosses [a] constitutional line” by excluding religious music, regardless of its demonstrated cultural value and educational merit.

“Schools are going overboard by banning Christmas songs and carols,” Mr. Sharp said in the letter to school district officials. “… Nothing in the Constitution requires this to be banned. It is an overreaction from schools to think that these things are not allowed.”

Citing in part a 2004 state court ruling, Bordertown Superintendent Constance J. Bauer issued a statement Oct. 18 notifying Peter Muschal Elementary School that some musical selections for the school’s winter concerts were being questioned and that “religious music should not be part of the elementary programs.”

But Mr. Sharp said school administrators were misinterpreting what the courts have ruled.

“Because singing a wide variety of religious songs, particularly during the holiday season, is simply a result of the dominance of religious music in this field, courts have never considered this fact to either unconstitutionally advance or endorse religion,” he said.

A similar ban nearly took place at a public school in Wausau, Wis., where district officials proposed that the number of religious songs in holiday shows be cut down. Phil Buch, the chair of Wausau West High School protested by temporarily disbanding the school’s Master Singers music ensemble.

Local media reported the story but it eventually made its way into national news. With the weight of national attention and anger the school board backed down and permitted the director’s original choices of music for now. On Tuesday, the student choir began practicing its music again, and the Alliance Defending Freedom claimed victory.

The conservative legal group is now turning its attention to Bordentown’s board of education in its attempts to remove the banning of religious songs.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled on the issue in 2004, after local parent Michael Stratechuk sued the district, claiming the policy violated the constitutional rulings on the separation of church and state.

The judges said public school administrations have the authority to choose which songs are appropriate based on constitutional guidelines to create a secular “inclusive environment.”

“The Third Circuit ruled that while the First Amendment does not require schools to include religious music, neither does it prohibit schools from including religious music,” Mr. Sharp said. “What the First Amendment does require is that the Bordentown Regional School District remains neutral towards religion and refrains from demonstrating an unconstitutional hostility towards songs with religious origins.”

Furthermore, Mr. Sharp argued that banning everything related to religion will lead to further complications for schools who wish to teach Shakespeare, certain philosophies and even early American history.

“Our culture is infused with religion,” he said. “Even though the songs have a religious origin, that doesn’t mean they should be banned in school.” (Contributor:  By Matthew Lounsberry for The Washington Times)

Prayer points: Let us say kindly that these lawsuits and protests are brought by self-centered and short-sighted persons who lack both logic and a sense of history. Handel’s Messiah, for example, is music for the ages, and while opinions vary on why King George II of England stood to his feet upon hearing the opening strains of the “Hallelujah Chorus” (and thus, everyone else in the audience stood as well, out of respect for the king), it has become a deeply entrenched tradition of respect for the sacred, and certainly a tribute to Jesus Christ among Christian audiences. Next, we might suppose to hear a protest about writing the date on one’s checks or contracts because A.D., from the Latin, means “In the year of our Lord.” Let us pray for reason to return to the discussion. How can a Christian remember and celebrate Christmas without Christmas music? Pray accordingly.

“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh. 24:15)

 

CRYPTOLOCKER CREATORS EXTORT EVEN MORE MONEY FROM VICTIMS

The creators of CryptoLocker, a piece of malware that encrypts user data and holds it for ransom, are giving users who removed the malicious program from their computers a second chance to recover their files, but at a much higher cost.

CryptoLocker is a malicious program that falls into a category of malware called ransomware. Once installed on a computer, ransomware applications typically prevent victims from accessing their files or even their operating system until they pay money to the malware authors.

Security researchers generally advise users against giving into this kind of extortion and in many cases there is a way to regain access to everything without paying up.

However, CryptoLocker uses solid public-private key cryptography to encrypt files that match a long list of extensions, including documents, spreadsheets, images and even AutoCAD design files. According to researchers from antivirus firm Sophos, the malware’s creators got the encryption process right and there’s no method to get the decryption keys, which are unique for every computer and are stored on attackers’ servers, without paying up.

After it infects a computer, CryptoLocker displays a message informing victims that if they don’t pay the equivalent of $300 or €300 in Bitcoins, a virtual currency, or via MoneyPak, a type of prepaid card, within 72 hours, the unique decryption key for the files will be automatically destroyed.

Users who regularly back up their data can clean their computers and restore the affected files from backups, but users who don’t have backups should consider those files lost, the Sophos researchers said.

Some files might be recoverable using the Shadow Copy technology, which is is an integral part of the System Restore feature in Windows.

However, even users who have backups might realize that they’re not enough to repair the damage done by the malware. Those backups might be too old or they might not include files from remote network shares that have also been encrypted by the malware.

It seems that the creators of CryptoLocker considered that possibility and realized that some users might have initially removed the malware, but then, for whatever reason, changed their mind about paying up. As a result, they’ve recently started offering an online decryption service that allow such users to still recover their files, but at a much higher price.

“Apparently the crooks will now let you buy back your key even if you didn’t follow their original instructions,” Paul Ducklin, the head of technology for the Asia-Pacific region at Sophos, said Monday in a blog post. “Word on the street, however, is that the crooks want five times as much as they were charging originally to decrypt your data after you change your mind.”

The cost of using the service is 10 Bitcoins—around $2300 at the current Bitcoin exchange rate—and requires users to upload one of their encrypted files. The first 1024 bytes of the file will be used to search for the associated private key, a process that can take up to 24 hours.

“We’re guessing that the delay is because the crooks have to run a brute force attack against themselves,” Ducklin said. “Without your public key to help them match up your keypair in their database, it sounds as though they have to try to decrypting your data with every stored private key until they hit one that produces a plausible result.”

However it’s not immediately clear whether using this service is still possible after the initial 72-hour deadline given by the malware. If it is, then the cybercriminals lied and the private keys are not being destroyed after that time period.

This decryption service might have also been created for users whose antivirus programs detected and deleted the malware after it encrypted the files, leaving them unable to buy the decryption key anymore.

“We’re still saying, ‘don’t buy,’ but we’re feeling your pain enough to know how tempting it will be for some people to pay the crooks, even though the blackmail charges have now ballooned to more than $2000,” Ducklin said. (Contributor: By Lucian Constantin for IDG News Service)

For our prayer focus, here is a good example where “faith and works” come into balance. We would like to pray one prayer and have all malicious and dishonest persons repent and turn from their evil ways and all wicked computer viruses be rendered harmless, but we soon find that is generally not how God works. So we do pray for divine protection and we also back up data and invest in strong virus-detection software. This is not to belittle prayer. It is to say that mature intercessors see prayer as a relationship with a loving God and Father, not as a method to get things to go our way.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

“But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.”  (2 Tim. 3:13-14)

On Watch in Washington November 6, 2013 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington October 30, 2013

October 29th, 2013

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ARMED AGENTS SEIZE RECORDS OF REPORTER OF  WASHINGTON TIMES

Maryland State Police and federal agents used a search warrant in an unrelated criminal investigation to seize the private reporting files of an award-winning former investigative journalist for The Washington Times who had exposed problems in the Homeland Security Department’s Federal Air Marshals Service.

Reporter Audrey Hudson said the investigators, who included an agent for Homeland Security’s Coast Guard service, made a pre-dawn raid of her family home Aug. 6 and took her private notes and government documents that she had obtained under the Freedom of Information Act

The documents, some which chronicled her sources and her work at The Times about problems inside the Homeland Security Department, were seized under a warrant to search for unregistered firearms and a “potato gun” suspected of belonging to her husband, Paul Flanagan, a Coast Guard employee. Mr. Flanagan has not been charged with any wrongdoing since the raid.

The warrant, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, offered no specific permission to seize reporting notes or files.

The Times said it is preparing legal action to fight what it called an unwarranted intrusion on the First Amendment.

“While we appreciate law enforcement’s right to investigate legitimate concerns, there is no reason for agents to use an unrelated gun case to seize the First Amendment protected materials of a reporter,” Times Editor John Solomon said. “This violates the very premise of a free press, and it raises additional concerns when one of the seizing agencies was a frequent target of the reporter’s work.

“Homeland’s conduct in seizing privileged reporters’ notes and Freedom of Information Act documents raises serious Fourth Amendment issues, and our lawyers are preparing an appropriate legal response,” he said.

Maryland State Police declined to comment except to say that “evidence and information developed during this investigation is currently under review by both the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office and the United State’s Attorney’s Office,” and that a determination has yet to be made on any charges.

The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed that it seized and reviewed Ms. Hudson’s documents but insisted it did nothing wrong.

Capt. Tony Hahn, a spokesman at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, said the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) was involved in the case because Ms. Hudson’s husband, Mr. Flanagan, is a Coast Guard employee.

During the search of the home, said Capt. Hahn, “the CGIS agent discovered government documents labeled ‘FOUO’ — For Official Use Only and ‘LES’ — Law Enforcement Sensitive.”

“The files that contained these documents were cataloged on the search warrant inventory and taken from the premises,” he said. “The documents were reviewed with the source agency and determined to be obtained properly through the Freedom of Information Act.”

Ms. Hudson described a harrowing ordeal the morning her family home was raided.

The agents, who arrived at 4:30 a.m. in full body armor, collected several small arms during the raid, although no charges have been filed against Mr. Flanagan, 54, during the nearly three months since.

Ms. Hudson, 50, said that while the authorities were raiding her house, Coast Guard investigator Miguel Bosch — who had worked at the U.S. Marshals Service — began asking questions about whether she was the same “Audrey Hudson” who had written “the Air Marshal stories” for The Washington Times. Ms. Hudson said she responded that she was.

It was not until roughly a month later, Ms. Hudson said, when she was notified that the agents had quietly seized five files from her private office — including handwritten and typed notes from interviews with numerous confidential sources related to her exclusive reporting on the Air Marshals Service.

The search warrant for the raid, issued to Maryland State Trooper Victor Hodgin by a district court judge, made no reference to the documents. A copy obtained by The Times indicates that the search was to be narrowly focused on the pursuit of “firearms” and their “accessories and/or parts,” as well as any communications that that might be found in Ms. Hudson and Mr. Flanagan’s home related to “the acquisition of firearms or accessories.”

David W. Fischer, a private lawyer contacted by the couple, said the raid is a potential violation of Ms. Hudson’s constitutional rights.

“Obviously, the warrant is about a gun, nothing about reporters’ notes,” he said. “It would be a blatant constitutional violation to take that stuff if the search warrant didn’t specifically say so.”

“This is a situation where they picked very specifically through her stuff and took documents that the Coast Guard, or the Department of Homeland Security, would be very interested in,” he added.

The raid could constitute illegal search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment — and the fact that the materials were related to her work as a reporter could violate First Amendment freedom of the press protections.

Once the documents had been “cleared,” Homeland Security decided to return the documents to Mr. Flanagan and Ms. Hudson, Capt. Hahn said.

The Coast Guard, like the Federal Air Marshals Service, is an agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

A Reporter’s Word

What concerns Ms. Hudson and The Times is the fact that private reporting documents were seized during the search being conducted on totally unrelated grounds.

While Mr. Flanagan has a police record from the mid-1980s related to the unlawful possession of firearms, including automatic weapons, Ms. Hudson fears her private documents may have been the real target of the search.

“They tore my office apart more than any other room in my house,” she said, adding that agents did not take other potentially non-TSA-related documents from the office.

“I had a box full of [Department of Defense] notes,” she said. “They didn’t touch those.”

Some of the files included notes that she had used to expose how the Federal Air Marshals Service lied to Congress during the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks about the number of airline flights that the service was protecting against another terrorist attack.

An article written by Ms. Hudson for The Times in March 2005 revealed how air marshals were protecting less than 10 percent of domestic and international flights during the month of December 2004, and that the number of flights Homeland Security officials were providing to Congress was higher than the actual number of marshals it employed.

Ms. Hudson said the experience of having “a half-dozen armed officers rifle through my personal belongings for the three-hour search was traumatizing.”

“But when the files were returned to me and I saw all the notes that had been in their possession for a month, it was gut-wrenching,” she said.

That her private files were seized, said Ms. Hudson, is particularly disturbing because of interactions that she and her husband had during the search of their home, as well as months afterward, with Coast Guard investigator Miguel Bosch. According to his profile on the networking site LinkedIn, Mr. Bosch worked at the Federal Air Marshal Service from April 2002 through November 2007.

It was Mr. Bosch, Mrs. Hudson says, who asked her during the Aug. 6 search if she was the same Audrey Hudson who had written the Air Marshal stories. It was also Mr. Bosch, she says, who phoned Mr. Flanagan a month later to say that documents taken during the search had been cleared.

During the call, according Ms. Hudson, Mr. Bosch said the files had been taken to make sure that they contained only “FOIA-able” information and that he had circulated them to the Transportation Security Administration, which oversees the Federal Air Marshals Service, in order to verify that “it was legitimate” for her to possess such information.

“Essentially, the files that included the identities of numerous government whistleblowers were turned over to the same government agency and officials who they were exposing for wrongdoing,” Ms. Hudson said.

Reached on the telephone by a reporter for The Times, Mr. Bosch refused to comment on whether or not journalist-related documents were seized during the search of Ms. Hudson’s home.

“I got to get on the phone with Coast Guard legal before I talk with you,” Mr. Bosch said. “It’s still an open investigation.”

Asked specifically whether documents related to Ms. Hudson’s reporting activities were taken during the search, he responded: “There was a lot of stuff taken.”

Legitimate Case?

The U.S. Coast Guard maintains that it has done nothing wrong in the case and that the investigation into Ms. Hudson’s husband is based on legitimate suspicion that he was illegally in possession of firearms.

The warrant outlines how Mr. Flanagan was found guilty in 1985 — when he was 25 — of resisting arrest in Prince George’s County, Md. A concealed weapons charge in the same incident related to an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon was dropped.

It also alludes to a no-contest plea to charges related to a tax on weapons manufacture, a conviction the justice of which Mr. Flanagan disputes on the basis of mishandled evidence and unclear advice from federal gun regulators.

In the warrant, authorities also noted that Mr. Flanagan was arrested in 1996 by police in Anne Arundel County for possessing a handgun in his vehicle, a charge that later was dismissed.

The warrant outlines how sometime this year Mr. Flanagan drew the interest of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after allegedly attempting to purchase “possible machine gun parts from a Swedish national.”

The warrant says the information was handed to the Coast Guard’s investigative service — since Mr. Flanagan worked at the agency — which conducted an interview during which “Flanagan was evasive but stated he did receive a ‘potato gun’ but it was defective and it was thrown away.”

The term “potato gun” is “slang used during the illegal importation of silencers,” according to the warrant.

Ms. Hudson said the “potato gun” claim is outrageous.

She said her husband did, in fact, purchase a “potato launcher” from an online company based in Sweden five years ago as a novelty item, but it was discarded within as few weeks because it did not work.

She noted that the law enforcement agents who raided her home did not take a “golf ball launcher” that also belonged to her husband as a novelty item. They did, however, confiscate small arms belonging to Ms. Hudson that she had legally registered with the Maryland State Police as far back as 2005.

The search warrant allowed for the weapons to be confiscated, and Ms. Hudson said the agents told her that because her husband pleaded guilty to a resisting arrest charge nearly 30 years ago, she was not allowed to possess the guns under state law. The guns she owned were for recreational shooting, she said, as well as for security concerns resulting from many of her investigations.

“I swear to God, we’re not smuggling machine gun parts from Sweden,” said Ms. Hudson, adding that the potato launcher in question “didn’t even work.”

Ms. Hudson has been a reporter in Washington for nearly 15 years and covered Homeland Security for The Times after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks through December 2009.

Her reporting has sparked numerous congressional investigations that led to legislation signed by Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. She has won numerous journalism awards for her investigations, including the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi bronze medal for public service and the Society of Professional Journalists Dateline Award in Investigative Reporting, and was nominated twice by The Times for the Pulitzer Prize.

“Protecting confidential sources is a part of my honor and hits me at my ethical core,” said Ms. Hudson. “To have someone steal my source information and know it could impact people’s careers is disgusting, a massive overreach. This kind of conduct is intimidation clearly aimed at silencing a vigorous press.” (Contributor: By Guy Taylor for The Washington Times)

This article carries a call to strong, concerted intercessory prayer everywhere across the U.S. Details beyond this report are sketchy, and further legal analysis is needed to determine whether a Constitutional violation of the First and Fourth Amendments has taken place. Such a “pre-dawn raid,” as reporter Audrey Hudson described the search of her home and removal of confidential records will bring fear to some citizens who think such tactics belong only to repressive regimes. Pray that all illegal action in this case will be uncovered and brought to accountability. We will hear more of this case; intercessors should remain alert. Our strongest weapon for a return to the foundations God gave the U.S. through its Founders is continued prayer, with repentant hearts, as we cry out to God for His will and purpose to prevail. Let us encourage ourselves in the Lord. This exposure is a good thing. The Washington Times is bringing a lawsuit, which will bring public testimony. Is our government overreaching in its intrusion into personal freedom and privacy? Let us pray boldly in faith for righteous government. Pray that we, as Christians, will prepare our hearts for spiritual awakening and revival. The passage below cites an intercessor from the past who prayed for God’s glory and for His name to be honored. Note the humility and confession, along with an appeal for God’s mercy.

“So I [Daniel] turned to the Lord God and pleaded with Him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: ‘Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from Your commands and laws. We have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. Lord, You are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame…. [But] the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him…. For we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies.’” (Daniel 9:3-9, 18)

 

FAITH AND FREEDOM: AN INDISPENSABLE PAIR

Those attending the Family Research Council’s most recent Values Voter Summit heard a lot about religious liberty — and with good reason. In ways both large and small, that cornerstone of freedom has found itself under attack at home and abroad. All Americans should be concerned about its well-being.

Religious liberty is as characteristic of America as our democratic political system and our free-market economy. Nowhere in the world is there more religious diversity, with all manner of faiths existing in relative harmony in the same neighborhoods, and with different houses of worship sharing the same streets in many cases.

History is filled with wars based on religious differences. Yet in the United States, these problems, with rare exceptions, are a distant memory.

Faith has always played a major role in American history. From our Founding Fathers to politicians today, acknowledgment of God in public speeches is commonplace in American discourse. In a letter to his wife on the day the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, John Adams wrote that the Fourth of July “ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”

But while the United States was founded by men with the deep and abiding belief in a Christian God, they took great care to ensure that any and all religions would be respected and protected by the Constitution.

Today, however, the Founders’ attitude toward religion is widely misunderstood. A major source of confusion is the phrase “separation of church and state,” used by President Thomas Jefferson in an 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut.

Many have interpreted this phrase to mean that religion should be entirely personal, kept out of schools and other public institutions. However, as Heritage scholar Jennifer Marshall has argued, this interpretation is incorrect: “Jefferson wanted to protect states’ freedom of religion from federal government control and religious groups’ freedom to tend to their internal matters of faith and practice without government interference generally.”

America’s Founding Fathers did not want the government to impose a governmentsponsored church on all Americans. Neither did they seek to confine religion to a separate, private sphere of life.

On the contrary, they believed that religion had a vital and enduring role to play in the public affairs of the new American Republic. To cite Marshall again: “The Founders argued that virtue derived from religion is indispensable to limited government. … In fact, the American Founders considered religious engagement in shaping the public morality essential to ordered liberty and the success of their experiment in self-government.”

We Americans are rightly proud of our tradition of political and economic liberty. Is an individual’s freedom to choose, though, a sufficient guarantee of a good society? Our Founders did not think so. Social critic Irving Kristol observed, “It is religion that restrains the self-seeking hedonistic impulse so easily engendered by a successful market economy.”

One of the clearest expressions of the Founders’ attitude toward religion — endorsed by most Americans today — came from our second president, John Adams. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people,” Adams declared in 1798. “It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Only a moral and religious people could acquire and retain such traits of character as honesty, kindness, thoughtfulness, respect for law, fairness, self-discipline and self-reliance — virtues the Founders rightly deemed necessary for self-rule.

Faith has always been an integral part of American society. Indeed, Alexis de Tocqueville went so far as to call religion “the first of America’s political institutions,” because although it “never mixes directly in the government of society,” it nevertheless determines the “habits of the heart” of all Americans.

Whether you choose to worship or not, or however you choose to worship, everyone benefits from the interweaving of faith into our societal fabric. To eliminate it from public discourse would deny our history — and remove a crucial component of the American spirit. (Contributor: By Dr. Edwin Feulner, Founder of The Heritage Foundation – Town Hall.com)

Let us be clear as we pray. Religious liberty is not a gift from human government and merely described as such in the U.S. Constitution. It is, in fact a gift from the Creator and may not—with impunity—be curtailed or trifled with by any other institution, including the State. All leaders, rulers, countries, cultures, empires, or false religions, in any historical era, that interfere with or squelch such liberty face inevitable divine judgment, whether sooner or later. The early Church had no power, no weapons, and no voting franchise. There is no hint in the New Testament that the followers of Jesus were to take up arms to protect themselves from government excess and evil. All they had was prayer, their commitment to the Gospel, and the power of God’s Spirit. Yet the Roman Empire is gone, and the Church remains and will, with its Head, Jesus Christ, be triumphant in the end over all mistreatment, oppression, bullying, persecution—even martyrdom, if God allows such evil. We speak of it softly and carefully, with no hatred toward ungodly leaders, but our nation is turning from honoring religious freedom to acts and laws of religious repression, especially toward evangelical Christians. Pray for mercy for such perpetrators, and a heart-change for all leaders who revel in power and arrogance rather than service to those they are duty-bound to serve. May they repent while there is time; God is longsuffering. Pray that our country be saved.

“Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’” (John 18:36)

“Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear…. So Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?’” (John 18:10-11)

“Jesus answered, ‘You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.’” (John 19:11)

 

SEBELIUS TO APPEAR BEFORE HOUSE ON OBAMACARE ON OCT. 30

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Monday put off Republican lawmakers who want to question her about the disastrous rollout of Obamacare this week, instead agreeing to testify about the program’s computer problems next week.

A spokeswoman for Mrs. Sebelius said she cannot attend a House hearing Thursday due to a scheduling conflict. Late Monday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced she will appear before its members Oct. 30.

The delay angered Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, who called it a “refusal” by Mrs. Sebelius to testify Thursday. He said the public deserves answers now about the burgeoning problems with the HealthCare.gov website.

“The refusal of Secretary Sebelius to appear at this week’s hearing shows that this administration is still not prepared to be straight with the American people,” Mr. Boehner said. “Every day new questions about the president’s health care law arise, but candid explanations are nowhere to be found.”

The speaker said Mrs. Sebelius‘ decision “continues a troubling pattern of this administration seeking to avoid accountability and stonewall the public.”

“What is more important to Secretary Sebelius than providing answers to the American people? I hope President Obama has a greater appreciation for the role of oversight and orders his secretary to fully cooperate with all congressional inquiries,” Mr. Boehner said.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said it’s up to Cabinet secretaries to decide when and how to cooperate with a congressional inquiry.

Mrs. Sebelius will be at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston on Wednesday night to speak about the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy signing the Community Mental Health Act. On Thursday, she’s scheduled to attend an event in Phoenix.

“We have always indicated to the committee that she intended to testify but that she had a scheduling conflict,” said HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters.

Republicans have criticized Mrs. Sebelius for being more willing to appear on the “Daily Show” with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central to talk about Obamacare than she is to testify before Congress about the rollout’s failures.

The committee’s Republicans said that three health care contractors will testify Thursday, including representatives of website designer CGI.

“We are now entering week four of the botched health care rollout, and with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars spent for a system that still does not work, Congress and the American people deserve answers,” said Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican, the committee chairman. “We were told repeatedly that implementation was ‘on track,’ and it is now time for all those responsible to explain what happened.” (Contributor:  By Dave Boyer The Washington Times)

We continue to pray that God will raise up righteous government for our country. Part of that process is for Him to expose dishonesty and subterfuge among national leaders. As we pray, let us seek to avoid two temptations. Let us 1) not become “weary in well-doing” so as to stop praying; and 2) not become so angry at government dishonesty, exemplified by Mrs. Sebelius’ waffling and excuses, that our prayers are hindered. Some prayer leaders are suggesting that the continual confusion surrounding the Obamacare rollout is an answer to Christians’ intercession and thus, a blessing from God, simply because neither the program nor the people are ready. Let us remember that our battle is not against our leaders but against spiritual wickedness and evil forces withstanding God’s laws. Our nation is in God’s hands. His purposes will prevail. So let us press on in prayer. Repentance always brings change of heart, goals, and direction.  

The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.  (Prov. 21:1)

Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You [God] said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I … repent …” (Job 42:1-6)

 

OBAMACARE DEBACLE CALLS FOR SEBELIUS TO RESIGN

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said officials are working “24/7″ to improve the government’s health insurance website.

Nevertheless, calls for her resignation continue.

But Sebelius fired back at her critics, saying, “The majority of people calling for me to resign I would say are people who I don’t work for and who do not want this program to work in the first place.”

“I have had frequent conversations with the president,” she continued. “And I’ve committed to him that my role is to get the program up and running and we will do just that.”

Her remarks come after a hearing Thursday before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee in which both Democrats and Republicans denounced the government’s roll-out of HealthCare.gov.

“This is unacceptable. It needs to be fixed,” Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., said.

Rep. Anna Eschoo, D-Calif., said, “Amazon and eBay don’t crash the week before Christmas.”

“How can the administration punish innocent Americans by forcing them to buy from a system that doesn’t work and whose rollout has been nothing short of a disaster?” Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., asked.

Republicans on the committee accused the administration of misleading Congress prior to the roll-out.

“We were repeatedly told by members of the administration that everything would be working properly and it would all be done on time,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said.

Software contractors who worked on the website said they’d done their part, insisting the administration did not allow enough time for developing or testing the site.

Meanwhile, Sebelius said she’s calling up the reserves, hoping for a quick fix to an ailing system.

“We’ve looked across the federal government at some of the best tech experts who were not necessarily on the ground working on this project but are now involved,” Sebelius said.

Some Democrats are saying the administration should extend the deadline for signing up and revise the penalties for those who don’t enroll.

Another worry: it’s now clear that many Americans are finding their health insurance premiums have shot up.

And Kaiser Health News reported that hundreds of thousands have received cancellation notices despite the president’s original promise that people could keep their plans.

Democrats who thought they’d run for re-election next year, touting the success of Obamacare, are beginning to worry about political fall-out.

“I’m also concerned about what happens next,” Upton said. “Will enrollment glitches become provider payment glitches? Will patients show up at their doctors’ offices or the hospital to be told that they aren’t covered or even in the system?”

Sebelius will appear before the House Energy Committee next Wednesday. (Contributor: Christian Coalition of America and CBNNEWS.COM)

Although this seems like a repeat of the previous item, it is not. We urge united prayer for government accountability, which is in short supply in the present administration. This is not a partisan statement or accusation but a summation of facts.  Without accountability, citizens are in peril of becoming people without a voice. When government goes undercover and makes excuses instead of being open and accountable, the people have reason for concern. Americans still want government “of the people,” through their representatives. Elected officials of the president’s own party, some closest to him ideologically, make no secret of their fears of fall-out pending the 2014 election cycle. Constituents are demanding accountability for the myriad scandals plaguing this administration, of which Obamacare is just one example. Secretary Sebelius (HHS) may be the lightning rod for the country’s anger. Historians will recall the war crimes trials in Nuremberg, Germany following WW 2, where “I only followed orders” was not a justifiable defense. Our Founders did not trust human nature, insisting on checks and balances. Leaders are to be servants of the people not masters over them. Pray accordingly.

“But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’”  (Mark 10”42-45)

 

CALIFORNIA STRIPS PRIVACY FROM CHILDREN

Families, we need your help this week.

As I wrote recently, California is dead set on stripping away the privacy of children — and we need to do what we can to stop the madness.

A few short months ago, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 1266, a first-of-its-kind legislation, now known as the Co-Ed Bathroom Law. The law, as I’ve noted previously, opens girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, and school showers to any child who “self-identifies” as a girl — including boys who decide they really “are” transgender girls. The same holds true for boys — a girl who decides her “true gender self” is a boy, must be allowed to use the boys’ restrooms, showers and locker rooms. In addition, “transgendered” children must be allowed to play on opposite-sex sports teams if they so choose. (It really means that enterprising boys will dominate girls’ sports teams.)

The law hinges on the child’s right to decide his or her gender — a child might decide to “be” female one day and “male” the next. It all depends on feelings and the child’s “self-identification.” Translation: I am who I say I am, no matter what my body looks like.

It’s the very definition of unreality.

The consequences are significant, impacting far more than the “transgender” child. Under this law, children lose their right to demand privacy while undressing, showering or going to the bathroom. Instead, the left’s priority is for transgendered children to feel “included” on an “equal” basis, at all costs, even if that means other children lose their privacy.

The transgender lie is the root of the problem. For the left, it’s an axiom of faith that children must be allowed to choose a gender identity based on how they perceive themselves, regardless of whether they are born boys or girls. Many liberals go even further, holding the nonsensical position that human beings are meant to be gender-fluid, not boxed into the “binaries” of male and female. Gender, they say, might even change from one day to the next.

It’s hogwash.

Even so, normal children — boys who are boys and girls who are girls — are expected to get with the program in California. If the law stands, you can expect that children who balk at welcoming an opposite-sex child into the locker room or bathroom will be reprimanded and singled out for being hurtful and transgender-phobic. The normal children will be “the problem.”

Worse, where California leads, other states will follow. When California outlawed reparative therapy (treatment designed to help children overcome unwanted same-sex attraction) for children younger than 18, New Jersey quickly followed suit. Other states are considering similar legislation. If California’s law stands, it’s not just California students who will suffer from the loss of privacy and threat to their safety and well-being. Other states where the homosexual lobby is strong will soon get in line.

This law cannot stand! The only way to stop it is by getting this issue on the ballot as a voter referendum. Parents and other concerned citizens, organized under the coalition Privacy for all Students, have mounted a petition seeking to give California voters a referendum on the law. That means that if Privacy for all Students collects 505,000 signatures by the Nov. 6 deadline, Californians will have a chance to vote on the law — and polls indicate that a proposed repeal of the law would win hands down.

The people of California do not want this law. They deserve a chance to cast a vote in favor of protecting children. But they need our support. Call, text, Facebook or email your friends in California. Tell them to sign the petition. Go to PrivacyforallStudents.com, sign, donate to help the effort, and share the link with all your friends asking them to donate to the referendum effort regardless of where they live. (Contributor: Rebecca Haglin for The Washington Times)

This report speaks for itself. Most readers of these alerts are not from California, but we can all do God’s work there through active and unrelenting intercessory prayer. The state law, signed by the governor, is reprehensible, even for liberal California. It flies directly and defiantly in the face of God’s design and natural law. The children are being used as social-engineering guinea pigs or other laboratory test animals. This is yet another step in the downward spiral of a nation that is rapidly throwing off all restraint in its determination to dethrone Almighty God and replace Him with the golden calf of human reason. It is man saying, “Let us make ‘god’ in our image.” Let us pray in faith and in the fear of God for this atrocity to be stifled before it wrecks the lives of countless bewildered children. The Scriptures remind us of God’s sovereignty, so intercessors may worship as they pray. Psalm 2 reminds us that the nations belong to God, a gift from the Father to the Son. All will “kiss the Son” or experience divine judgment and wrath. We quote only part for space considerations but suggest the entire passage be read carefully for perspective.

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion …’” (Gen. 1:26-28)

Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. (Psalm 100:3)

“Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ’Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.’

“He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure:  ‘Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.’ I will declare the decree: the Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel….’” (Psalm 2:1-9)

 

AT THESE COFFEE KLATCHES, DEATH IS ON THE AGENDA

It can be tough to get a conversation going if you want to talk about the late stages of dementia, your last will and testament or the recent passing of your mother.

“When you’re at a cocktail party and you lead off by saying, ‘What do you think about death?’ it’ll be, ‘C’mon, man, it’s a party! Chill out!’ says Len Belzer, a retired radio host from Manhattan.

Belzer is among a growing number of people around the world who are interested enough in death to gather in small groups in homes, restaurants and churches to talk about it.

The gatherings, known as Death Cafes, provide places where death can be discussed comfortably, without fear of violating taboos or being mocked for bringing up the subject.

Organizers say there’s no agenda other than getting a conversation started — and that talking about death can help people become more comfortable with it and thereby enrich their lives.

“Most people walking down the street, they’re terrified of death,” said Jane Hughes Gignoux, 83, an author who leads Death Cafe gatherings at her Manhattan apartment. “But if you think of death as part of life and let go of the fear, you think more about living your life well.”

Jon Underwood, who organized the first Death Cafe in London two years ago, said he was inspired by death discussions pioneered by Bernard Crettaz, a Swiss sociologist. The first Death Cafe in the U.S. was held in Columbus, Ohio, last year, and “It’s just kind of snowballed,” he said, estimating nearly 300 Death Cafes have been held in the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Portugal, Brazil and Singapore.

One was held at a Georgia cemetery. Sessions are scheduled this week alone in California, Colorado, Florida, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington.

At a recent two-hour Death Cafe shepherded by Gignoux, six participants, most in their 60s, talked easily over tea and biscotti.

Kathryn Janus, 66, noted that death involves “a lot of ‘why?’ Why did a 12-year-old with leukemia die? Why did a cat get run over?”

Marjorie Lipari, 68, talked about the death of her twin brother 16 years ago.

“What does one do with that kind of hole?” she asked. “It never occurred to me he wouldn’t be with me for my whole life.”

Robb Kushner, 62, discussed the differences between Christian and Jewish funerals he’d been to, noting the open casket at a Methodist wake. Alicia Evans, in her 40s, then told the tale of a man known to be a bit “scruffy” in life who was nicely tidied up by the embalmer.

“He looked so good in the coffin I wanted to give him my number,” she said, cracking up the group.

Janus said afterward, “I like that we laugh.” But Lipari said she wasn’t sure she would ever be entirely at ease about death.

“My ego is going to be opposed to death because that’s ego’s job,” she said. “My goal is to become comfortable with being uncomfortable about death.”

Other subjects commonly brought up at Death Cafes range from financial planning to suicide. They include cremation, memorial services, loved ones’ last moments and the possibility of an afterlife.

Underwood and other organizers emphasize that the discussions are not meant to be counseling. “There’s no guest speaker, no materials, because we’re not guiding people to any conclusions.”

And while the sessions attract a wide range of religions, races and ages, organizers note there are more people 50 and above than in their 20s.

Jane Bissler, incoming president of the Association for Death Education and Counseling, a professionals’ group, said she approves of the Death Cafe concept because people can speak freely about a subject that has become increasingly taboo.

“We’ve tried to shield our children. Some of them don’t know what to do at a funeral home or how to support a friend who’s lost someone,” she said. “We’ve raised a whole generation of folks that may not be talking about death.”

Audrey Pellicano, 60, a Death Cafe facilitator, said it’s not surprising baby boomers have avoided talking about death because their generation has been resisting aging for decades.

“We don’t deal with loss,” she said. “We know how to acquire things, not how to give them up. We have no idea how to leave this life and everything we’ve got.”

Gignoux said participants often bring up supernatural aspects such as communications from the dead. “Some people have very rich experiences,” she said.

The Rev. Mark Bozzuti-Jones, who arranged for Death Cafes to be held at Manhattan’s famous Trinity Church, said the discussion should be open to all views, regardless of whether they conform to religious teachings.

“I suspect every person probably has a different understanding of death, the afterlife, no afterlife,” Bozzuti-Jones said. “The different views may provide some form of healing.”

Kushner said he doesn’t need any firm answers to benefit from Death Cafes.

“I like the idea that we live with this great mystery,” he said. “Wouldn’t life be boring without it?” (Contributor: By Jim Fitzgerald for Associated Press)

Pray for more of these “Death and Dying conversations” to develop among Christian leaders and believers who will weave into the broader discussion the hope of the Gospel and the assurance God’s Word gives of a happy afterlife for those who know and trust Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The psalmist wrote, “Blessed is the [person] who makes the Lord his trust….” (Psalm 40:4). Mere discussion, apart from the truth of God’s message, cannot convey peace or spiritual rest. As the hymn writer reminds us, “We have heard the joyful sound, ‘Jesus saves! Jesus saves!’” Pray and perhaps enquire of the Lord how you might be useful to Him in such a discussion group. Our life and hope rest in the risen Christ, in the power of resurrection, and life eternal beyond the grave. Let that be our consistent and continuous message!

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-22)

 

MILITARY PERSONNEL TURN TO LIPOSUCTION TO PASS PENTAGON’S BODY FAT TEST

Doctors say a number of military personnel are turning to liposuction to remove excess fat from around the waist so they can pass the Pentagon’s body fat test.

Some service members say they have no other choice because the Defense Department’s method of estimating body fat is weeding out not just flabby physiques but bulkier, muscular builds.

A number of fitness experts and doctors agree, and they’re calling for the military’s fitness standards to be revamped.

Defense officials say only a small fraction of those who exceed body fat limits perform well on physical fitness tests.

The checks are designed to ensure troops are ready for the rigors of combat. Pentagon officials say the military doesn’t condone surgically altering one’s body to pass the test, though liposuction isn’t prohibited. (Contributor: By Julie Watson for Associated Press)

Such a report might appear to offer no rational prayer focus. But, as we pray, let us consider some factors beyond the obvious. Sadly, the U.S. population, primarily due to our national affluence and abundance, has a large percentage of overweight people, many of whom are not properly fit and unhealthy in a number of ways. In military circles fitness, strength, and body mass index (BMI) are important criteria for battle readiness. However, there is a glaring inconsistency, always present with social-engineering experimentation, which is rife in military circles. It is this: standards have been lowered throughout the military community to accommodate preparing women for front-line combat roles, even though they are not designed by the Creator for such physically, socially, or emotionally. Thus, whatever the bottom line becomes for “fairness,” U.S. military standards, in all branches, are being lowered and made weaker. Personnel are less able for the task of defending the nation.  Add to this, placing women on submarines, along with the  pressure to muzzle the Christian message of evangelical chaplains, and the Department of Defense is creating disability and handicaps throughout the service branches. That is our prayer focus. Pray as you are led.

“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:3-5)

On Watch in Washington October 30, 2013 PDF Version Plain Text Format

On Watch in Washington October 23, 2013

October 23rd, 2013

On Watch in Washington October 23, 2013 Plain Text Version

 

JOB-CREATION WEAKENS, BUT UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DOWN

September saw the U.S. economy add just 148,000 jobs, significantly worse than expected, according to a report delayed more than two weeks by the government shutdown.

The unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 7.2 percent, the lowest since November 2008, as the labor-force participation rate held near 35-year lows, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Private payroll creation stood at just 122,000, with state and local governments adding 28,000 positions and the federal government cutting by 6,000.

Economists had been expecting 180,000 new positions and a steady jobless rate.

“This kind of report adds to the sense of foreboding about our economy,” said Claire McKenna, policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project.

Financial markets greeted the report with enthusiasm though, boosting stock futures on expectations that monetary stimulus will remain in place.

CNBC’s Hampton Pearson breaks down the numbers on last month’s employment data.

A broader measure of unemployment that takes into account the underemployed and those who have quit looking for work also edged lower, to 13.6 percent.

“Today’s blistering jobs report has quickly reminded America that our economic problems are getting worse, despite talking point reassurances from Federal Reserve officials,” said Todd Schoenberger, managing partner at LandColt Capital.

The report likely will do little to move the needle on monetary policy.

Most market-watchers now expect the Federal Reserve to continue its $85 billion a month bond-buying program until well into 2014. Consensus sentiment is now that the central bank won’t even start easing back on, or “tapering,” the purchases until the spring.

“You would think by now you would be consistently creating over a couple hundred-thousand jobs a month, at least,” said Brad Levitt, senior economist for Oppenheimer Funds. “The Fed wants to see over 200,000 jobs a month on a consistent basis before a change of policy.”

The September report provided another reminder that while the jobs market continues to heal it is far from robust.

The bulk of the jobs came from professional and business services, which added 32,000 positions, while there were 20,000 more temporary jobs. Transportation and warehousing rose by 23,000, and there were 20,000 additional construction positions.

One of the strongest areas of job creation over the past several years, leisure and hospitality, lost 7,000 jobs for the month.

Statistical adjustments played little role in the September data, with an approximation the government uses to estimate the number of jobs gained our lost through new and closed businesses—the so-called birth-death model—subtracting 26,000 from the total.

There were, however, significant moves in previous months’ counts.

July’s growth was revised lower to a paltry 89,000 from 104,000, while August’s count was amped up from 169,000 to 193,000.

Wages grew little in the month, with average hourly earnings up just three cents to $24.09, while the average workweek was unchanged at 34.5 hours.

In short, the demand isn’t there and the money to pay additional workers isn’t there,” Kathy Bostjancic, director of macroeconomic analysis for the Conference Board, said in a statement. “Both job and income growth remain stuck in neutral.” (Contributor: By CNBC’s Jeff Cox for CNBC News)

Prayer focus: The late evangelist Mordecai Ham is credited with saying, “I read the newspaper to learn what man plans to do; then I read my Bible to learn what God intends to do.” Christians may be joyful and give thanks in dark national circumstances, including disappointing reports. Why? How? For the same reason Apostles Paul and Silas were “praying and singing hymns to God” in a dungeon in Philippi after the jailer “put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:24-25). They knew they were in God’s will and in God’s hands. For this reason, while our beloved nation faces nearly unprecedented challenges—and unremitting prayer and intercession are as sorely needed as ever in U.S. history—still IFA’s position is and will be to introduce these Informer alerts with encouragement. May our hearts be filled with gratitude and thanksgiving to Almighty God. We know His mercies are new every morning, and we are assured His purposes are firm and will prevail until all are fulfilled. We pray, then, to please the Lord.

Shall we intercede then specifically for the U.S. economy, for more jobs for the unemployed and those suffering economic deprivation? Yes, because intercessory prayer is God’s will; and while intercessors pray with long-range faith and rarely see immediate results in praying for national resurgence, God still seeks faithful believers to “stand in the gap” and, by doing so, to avert judgment. In Ezekiel’s day, God lamented that none was found. In our own day, thankfully, there are many faithful saints who still pray. Thus, there is hope for revival that will turn a nation (its leaders and people) to the Lord in repentance and to seek the former ways of “In God We Trust.”   

“I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one…” (Ezekiel 22:30)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah” (Psalm 46:1-3)

“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)

 

NO SCHOOL, NO JOB, NO FUTURE

Almost 6 million young people are neither in school nor working, according to a study released Monday.

That’s almost 15 percent of those aged 16 to 24 who have neither desk nor job, according to The Opportunity Nation coalition, which wrote the report.

Other studies have shown that idle young adults are missing out on a window to build skills they will need later in life or use the knowledge they acquired in college. Without those experiences, they are less likely to command higher salaries and more likely to be an economic drain on their communities.

“This is not a group that we can write off. They just need a chance,” said Mark Edwards, executive director of the coalition of businesses, advocacy groups, policy experts and nonprofit organizations dedicated to increasing economic mobility. “The tendency is to see them as lost souls and see them as unsavable. They are not.”

But changing the dynamic isn’t going to be easy.

The coalition also finds that 49 states have seen an increase in the number of families living in poverty and 45 states have seen household median incomes fall in the last year.

The dour report underscores the challenges young adults face now and foretell challenges they are likely to face as they get older.

A young person’s community is often closely tied to his or her success. The Opportunity Nation report tracked 16 factors – Internet access, college graduation rates, income inequality and public safety among them – and identified states that were doing well for its young people.

Topping the list of supportive states are Vermont, Minnesota and North Dakota. At the bottom? Nevada, Mississippi and New Mexico.

“Their destiny is too often determined by their ZIP code,” said Charlie Mangiardi, who works with Year Up, a nonprofit that trains young adults for careers and helps them find jobs.

“We have the supply. We don’t have a lack of young people who need this opportunity,” Mangiardi added.

Just look at some of the nation’s largest cities. Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Miami, Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Riverside, Calif., all have more than 100,000 idle youth, the Opportunity Nation report found.

“Often times they lack the social capital in life,” Mangiardi said. “There’s a whole pool of talent that is motivated, loyal and hardworking.” They just can’t get through an employer’s door, he added.

That’s why Year Up spends a year working with high school graduates to teach them career skills such as computer programming or equipment repair they can use when the program ends. It also includes life coaching so they can learn skills such as time management. More than 4,500 young adults from urban areas have completed the program and 84 percent of them have found work.

But it’s a far tougher time for other young people.

In Mississippi and West Virginia, one in five young people are idle – higher than their older neighbors. Mississippi has an overall unemployment rate of 8 percent, while West Virginia posts about 7 percent. Like most states, they saw their unemployment rate fall since 2011, but researchers caution that shift could come from fewer residents looking for work and from more who had simply given up their search for jobs.

And it’s not as though the challenges emerge from nowhere. Quality early childhood programs help students from poor families overcome societal hurdles, and on-time high school graduation rates often follow quality schools – other factors Opportunity Nation examined in its report.

“A lot of times we don’t want to look at data because we don’t want to be depressed,” said Rob Denson, president of Des Moines Area Community College in Iowa.

But it’s an uncomfortable reality that needs to be addressed, he said.

Using previous years’ reports from Opportunity Nation, Denson helped rally community organizations in his city to develop a pilot program to help students as young as 14 find summer work.

“When we got the index, it really allowed us to use it as a rallying point for all of the community-based organizations we work with to say, ‘Look, this is what the world sees when they look at Iowa,’” he said.

Starting next summer, Des Moines students will be placed in paying jobs, part of a citywide collaboration to help its urban communities. It will help older adults, as well, because crime rates are expected to fall, he said.

“If they’re not in school or at work,” Denson said, “they’re not usually doing something positive.” (Contributor: By Philip Elliott for The  Associated Press)

Prayer focus: This article describes a symptom, not a cause. America, even before the U.S. was formed, is unique among the nations of the world. It was established with recognition of the true and living God as its source of life and purpose, the One to whom all men and women owed allegiance and were accountable. The Puritans were pious people, coming to these shores for religious freedom and with the purpose of establishing a nation of God-fearing citizens. When such a nation rejects biblical roots, as the U.S. has done, setting aside allegiance to God as Creator and Sustainer of life, it does not remain in a neutral “safe zone” without consequences. The downward spiral results in a state of nihilism, which can be defined as the belief that traditional morals, ideas, and beliefs have no worth or value and that society’s political and social institutions are to be ignored or destroyed. God’s message of hope is “Repent and come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and purpose.” The world system says, “We need more money to make these dropouts wards of the state.” The only way to change the world view is to reach the hearts of people who have lost their way and purpose. Let us pray for our nation’s youth accordingly and that Christian parents will lead their children to know and rely on God from earliest years.

“If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what He reveals, they are most blessed.” (Proverbs 29:18, The Message)

“How can [youth] cleanse [their] way? By taking heed according to Your word. ‘With my whole heart I have sought You….Let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Blessed are You …Lord! Teach me Your statutes.’” (Psalm 119: 9-12)

 

KEEPING SPEECH FREE ON THE INTERNET

For Americans, freedom of speech has always been among our most cherished freedoms. Why? Because free speech and a free press provide a guardrail for all of our other freedoms. Free speech keeps us informed and connected, and it lets us hold our government accountable. Our commitment to free speech is the envy and example of the world. Yet, each generation faces a renewed struggle to preserve that freedom. Today, we’re seeing that struggle, especially in our government’s attempts to censor the Internet.

The regulatory threats to Internet freedom in America are getting more serious. True, Congress finally shelved two highly controversial bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, in 2012. More recently, Congress dropped the Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act. Yet, already they are starting to work on similar legislation. The main intention behind each of these bills may be good — to protect against online piracy and cyberattacks — but they all give government far too much control over what can and cannot be said online, opening the door to greater restrictions. Censorship is not the way to fight piracy or protect against threats to security or privacy.

Free speech is a fundamental American right. The First Amendment to the Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” This includes speaking or writing in public or private, in books, newspapers and certainly on the Internet. We have a duty to protect and preserve this freedom for ourselves and our children. This year, my organization, the Consumer Electronics Association, is co-sponsoring Free Speech Week. This week serves as a reminder to all of us about the importance of free speech.

First Amendment protections also encourage innovation. As many innovations threaten existing business models, free speech ensures that government efforts to squelch innovation can and will be exposed by the press. Moreover, the First Amendment combined with other constitutional protections, such as due process, protect new businesses targeted by threatened old businesses.

An uncensored Internet is a critical indicator of a nation’s commitment to free speech and a tool to keep that freedom alive. Sadly, around the world there are still many nations that do not enjoy free speech, and many governments jealously censor the Internet to make sure people aren’t saying or reading anything considered dangerous or unacceptable. Unsurprisingly, North Korea, China and Iran are among the worst offenders in blocking their citizens’ access to the Internet.

Still, the problem of censoring the Internet is widespread around the world. According to a report released by the independent watchdog Freedom House, “Freedom on the Net 2013,” global Internet freedom has been in decline for the past three years. This isn’t just the case in nations under authoritarian governments, either. America’s rating worsened by five points this year, to 17 on a scale of zero to 100, with zero being completely free.

Keeping America’s Internet uncensored is vital to protect and perpetuate free speech. The Internet creates a platform for individuals to express themselves and say what’s on their minds. It brings people together from across the globe, allowing them to unite with like-minded individuals and to converse openly with people they may not agree with. Additionally, the Internet allows people to organize and act in defense of their freedoms and the issues they care about.

One of the most important aspects of an uncensored Internet is that it lets people hold their government accountable. Governments that don’t value freedom fear free speech, and they fiercely regulate Internet access among their citizens. These same governments have a track record of punishing — and even killing — their citizens for speaking out online. Authoritarian regimes are afraid to hear criticism, so they silence it. They also monitor content and block anything they consider offensive instead of letting people make decisions for themselves.

That kind of censorship happens in nations that are not free. It should never be allowed to happen in America. If we want to hold on to our prized tradition of free speech, we have to ensure that our Internet remains uncensored and free. We have to speak out ourselves and teach others to do the same. As we celebrate Free Speech Week, let’s remember that we have the right to free speech in America because we fought for it, and we must remain vigilant if we want to protect and keep it for future generations. (Contributor: By Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association for The Washington Times).

Prayer focus: This article is clear. Free people should enjoy free speech. When that freedom is interfered with or stifled by government, a country is on its way to a form of enslavement. In an early letter, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” True, this is not Scripture; but consider God’s own forbearance in such matters. He allows profane and godless men to rail against Him and His laws and still withholds immediate judgment, allowing time for repentance and for scoffers to seek forgiveness. We suggest a two-fold prayer focus: first, a restraint of increasing government control that could lead to suppression in defiance of the Constitution. And second, that the Church, while enjoying free expression, will use such freedom to preach the Gospel without dilution to seek human approval. Also, God-given religious freedom of expression is being curtailed among U.S. military chaplains, and Christians must stand in prayer and protest against such restrictions.

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)

“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:21-23)

 

FRANCE BERATES US OVER SPYING CLAIMS

French President Francois Hollande has expressed “deep disapproval” over claims the US National Security Agency secretly tapped phone calls in France.

In a phone conversation with US President Barack Obama, he said this was “unacceptable between friends and allies”, demanding an explanation.

The White House said the claims “raise legitimate questions”.

The NSA spied on 70.3 million phone calls in France between 10 December 2012 and 8 January 2013, it is claimed.

Officials, businesses and terror suspects are among those believed to have been tracked.

The allegations were carried in France’s Le Monde newspaper and are based on leaks from US ex-intelligence analyst Edward Snowden.

They prompted President Obama to call his French counterpart to discuss the issue on Monday.

Mr Hollande said that such practices “infringe on the privacy of French citizens” and demanded “explanations” from Mr Obama, according to a statement issued by French presidency.

A White House statement said the two presidents had discussed the latest disclosures, “some of which have distorted our activities and some of which raise legitimate questions for our friends and allies about how these capabilities are employed”.

It said: “President [Obama] made clear that the United States has begun to review the way that we gather intelligence, so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share.”

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington would continue “bilateral consultations” to address the issue, describing France as “one of our oldest allies”.

“Protecting the security of our citizens in today’s world is a very complicated, very challenging task… because there are lots of people out there seeking to do harm to other people,” Mr Kerry said.\

In an earlier statement, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that “all nations” conducted spying operations.

“As a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations,” she said.

Envoy summoned

Le Monde says the NSA intercepts were apparently triggered by certain key words.

The agency also apparently captured millions of text messages.

It was unclear whether the content of the calls and messages was stored, or just the metadata – the details of who was speaking to whom.

And the paper did not say whether the operation, codenamed US-985D, was still in progress.

France’s foreign ministry summoned US ambassador Charles Rivkin over the allegations.

The BBC’s Christian Fraser in Paris says the outrage is largely for public consumption, because the French government has been accused of running its own snooping operation similar to the US.

Le Monde reported in July that the French government was storing vast amounts of personal data of its citizens on a supercomputer at the headquarters of the DGSE intelligence service.

The latest revelations follow claims in the German media that US agents hacked into the email account of former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

Mr Snowden, a former NSA worker, went public with revelations about US spying operations in June.

The information he leaked led to claims of systematic spying by the NSA and CIA on a global scale.

Targets included rivals like China and Russia, as well as allies like the EU and Brazil.

The NSA was also forced to admit it had captured email and phone data from millions of Americans.

Mr Snowden is currently in Russia, where he was granted a year-long visa after making an asylum application.

The US wants him extradited to face trial on criminal charges. (Contributor: BBC News)

Prayer focus: Under the heading, “Pray for America,” a comment from The American Patriot’s Bible on intercession for our nation, though very basic, may be a helpful reminder. This is especially fitting when our weekly prayer alert has strong political overtones and implications, such as this intrusion into France’s national sovereignty. The prayer comment: “As believers, it is our responsibility to pray for America—always, not just in times of national crisis. Without diminishing the importance of the Supreme Court or the Congress or the president, they are not the source of our future or our hope. Only God and the power of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of citizens can sustain the strength and the future of this nation.” With our call to pray for the country’s leadership, we are also instructed to include “the giving of thanks” for government, even where there is room to criticize. Why? So that “we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” Let us continue to pray for God’s mercy and for a national awakening toward righteous government.

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)  

 

SEQUESTRATION STILL MATTERS

Lurking behind the government shutdown and debt limit battle is the sequester. That’s the Frankenstein-like budget-cutting monster Congress created in 2011.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) wants to change the sequester law as part of a deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.

Are Democrats moving the goal post to take advantage of public outrage at Republicans for their disastrous effort to defund President Obama’s health-care law?

Was Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) right on CNN on Sunday, when he said, “Democrats want to exceed the sequester caps, these things that we put into law to restrain spending.” He added, “They’re all about Obamacare being the law of the land, but so is the sequester.”

House and Senate lawmakers reacted this year to the sequester’s impact on defense spending, but did little about domestic programs. Democrats talked about domestic impact, but they acted on defense.

The 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) emerged from the last major fiscal cliff showdown, and it cut $917 billion in spending over 10 years in return for allowing the debt limit to rise by $900 billion.

In addition, when the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction failed to agree on a debt reduction program, the BCA set spending caps that would result in an additional $1.2 trillion in cuts from projected spending levels through fiscal 2021.

To enforce the limits, sequestration required across-the-board cuts in discretionary defense and non-defense categories if Congress approved higher spending levels.

There was endless publicity of the impact of the fiscal 2013 defense sequester that cut $42.7 billion out of about $528 billion, including money from overseas operations such as Afghanistan. Training was cut, ship movements reduced, troop numbers lowered.

Less attention went to the $38.7 billion that was cut out of $489 billion in fiscal 2013’s non-defense spending. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said on the House floor Thursday that the sequester had cut 57,000 children nationwide from Head Start, a program that’s “a crucial lifeline in my district, combating poverty and making our communities safer, better places to live.”

On Friday, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) noted the irony that because of sequester cuts, National Institutes of Health funding was reduced for the research that just got Yale’s James Rothman his 2013 Nobel Prize.

For the fiscal 2014 budget, both houses of Congress took care of defense, pushing numbers far above the BCA cap.

Should sequester continue, the House’s fiscal 2014 defense figure would have to come down $47.9 billion, while the Senate’s would have to drop $54.1 billion, according to the nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center.

Subsequently, the center says, “the impact of the defense sequester . . . will double in fiscal 2014 and triple in fiscal 2015 compared to fiscal 2013.”

The report found that if the defense sequester caps were not changed, between the Reagan administration defense budget and the end of the sequester in fiscal 2021, ground divisions will drop from 20 to six, Air Force fighter and attack planes will drop by 1,632 aircraft, and Navy ships will drop by 338, with the aircraft carrier force declining from 15 carriers to seven in 2021.

On the other hand, the GOP-controlled House slashed the non-defense fiscal 2013 figure below the fiscal 2014 BCA cap level while the Democratic-led Senate would have to drop its figure, $34.3 billion, for 2014 non-defense discretionary funding

On Saturday, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) discussed the impact the sequester would have this fiscal year on domestic programs, beginning with Head Start, which would cut an additonal 177,000 children.

The rest of his list was equally harsh: 1.3 million fewer students would receive Title I education assistance; 760,000 fewer households would receive less heating and cooling assistance under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program; 9,000 fewer special education staff would be in the classroom; $291 million less for child-care subsidies for working families; $2 billion less for the National Institutes of Health, which would mean 1,300 fewer research grants.

His list goes on.

The fiscal 2014 sequestration cuts are expected to kick in by Jan. 15. What to do about them became a sticking point in the current negotiations over the shutdown and debt ceiling.

Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.) reflected the GOP perspective on the Senate floor Thursday, saying the two reasons the deficit has gone down is the tax increase demanded by Obama that went into effect in January 2012, “and the sequester, which has actually capped discretionary spending for the last two years. That is what has caused a reduction in the deficit, not anything else.”

Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.) put her finger on how Democrats look at the problem in a Sunday floor speech.

“The House,” she said, “is willing to take the sequester . . . but what they do — which is very disingenuous and what the Democrats will not be for — is basically take the lower number overall, but keeping defense at a very high number, and therefore cutting the heck out of everybody else.”

Find a midpoint between those positions and you may get an agreement. But modifying sequester has to be part of the package. (Contributor: By Walter Pincus for The Washington Post)

Prayer Focus: By now, all alert citizens, Christians or not, must be painfully aware that the U.S. Congress—both the House and the Senate, along with the Executive branch—is and has been caught up in a power struggle that has less to do with governing toward common goals set out in our Constitution than it has to do with the question among the political parties: “Who is winning?”  Citizens enjoy no assurance that the national debt is being managed with equity. The writer of this article is turning the spotlight on our severe national divisions. And to that end, we encourage much intercession for a break in all that divides our country—for nationwide healing; for a turning to the Lord; for God’s salvation to visit both the White House and the Congress; for national repentance; for leaders’ hearts to be changed, whereby the goal in decisions is, “What is best for the nation?” Please pray accordingly.

“But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.’” (Matthew 12:25)

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov. 14:34)

 

WHEN SACRED SONGS ARE TARGETED

Last week, the Wausau, Wis., school district announced that its 15 elementary schools decided to cancel all winter concerts as did the high schools’ elite Master Singers’ Christmas program.

Outrage in the community began when music teacher Phil Buch, who has led the school’s choral program since 1981, said district administrators gave music educators at Wausau schools three options for December concerts: (1) choose five secular, or non-religious, songs for each religious song performed; (2) hold a concert and have no holiday music whatsoever; or (3) postpone any concerts in December.

More concerns argose when, in explaining the district’s actions, Wausau School Board President Michelle Schaefer said a 5-1 ratio of secular to religious songs is what she considers balanced. However, on Oct. 7, Wausau School District Superintendent Kathleen Williams tried to calm the local outrage by issuing a statement:

“It is important to note that no set ratio of religious songs versus non-religious songs was established as a part of the committee’s review. Rather, district legal counsel indicated that, if the format were changed to a new theme, it could be possible to include one religiously themed Christmas selection along with four other varied selections, which reflected themes from other religious, secular or cultural traditions. The point of this example was to emphasize the need to make a true change in the theme of the scheduled performances.”

Ms. Williams also clarified that the elementary school holiday concerts were canceled so students could devote time to preparing for and taking state and federally mandated tests, not because of religious songs.

The district’s actions are troubling and deeply antithetical to a well-rounded education. There are two things wrong here. First, the district obviously is very nervous about students’ singing traditionally religious songs at Christmas. Second, the district is sacrificing the elementary school children’s cultural education in the name of testing.

People shouldn’t have to apologize for wanting to hear traditional Christmas songs at a school Christmas concert, and students shouldn’t be made to feel that it is inappropriate to sing those songs.

This overemphasis on the secular gives students the false impression that Christmas is just about consumerism. Having students engage in the centuries’ old traditions of beautiful music tells them that there are deep cultural practices in America and in Western civilization of which they are a part.

But, when all that is eliminated or sidelined, it sends the message that traditions are not important; rather, that Christmas is just a commercial enterprise. Christmas is a real holiday that represents real substance in American culture. Education is about one generation passing on cultural traditions to the next generation. We are in real trouble if our schools now think that they must suck all the substance out of holidays.

If there is a mixture of sacred and secular music, there is no problem legally. In fact, in a precedent-setting case, Florey v. Sioux Falls School District, a federal court ruled in favor of permitting religious music as the advancement of the students’ knowledge of society’s cultural and religious heritage as well as the provision of an opportunity for students to perform a full range of music, poetry, and drama that is likely to be of interest to the students and their audience.

When school officials take actions like this, the problem isn’t legal. It’s a problem with emotions. They fear offending just one person. The irony is, school officials who take such extreme measures ending up offending most people in their communities.

There is a common saying in education: “More is caught than taught.” In situations such as this, students receive the very clear message from school officials: “We don’t want too much religion in our community.” That’s a terrible message.

The National Association for Music Education officially encourages schools to have students sing what it calls “sacred music.” Its policy states, “The study and performance of religious music within an educational context is a vital and appropriate part of a comprehensive music education.”

At its heart, Christmas is a religious holiday. To censor that or reduce it to being irrelevant is simply bad education. It would be like telling teachers that for Martin Luther King Day, they can’t mention that he was black because we don’t want to define people by their race.

Music programs such as those under assault in Wausau are a refreshing contrast with today’s pop-music culture. While lots of teens and preteens look to Miley Cyrus for what is musically valuable, there are educators who want to teach — and students who actually want to perform — culturally uplifting music that has inspired people for centuries. That should be encouraged, not discouraged. (Contributor: By Eric Buehrer, founder and president of Gateways to Better Education – The WashingtonTimes).

Pray for the administrations of schools throughout the United States. When our educational institutions start determining which authors and composers are sanctioned due to their themes and dissertations which have for centuries been sanctioned and deemed worthy of exemplification, we as a nation will be held hostage to the whims of a few. Composers like Bach and Handel for example could no longer be sanctioned in public institutions for study or performance. Ask the Lord to pour His wisdom into our nation’s educational foundations and that spiritually sound and rational thought will prevail.

The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. (Psalm 119:160)

Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth. (Psalm 96:1)

 

CHRISTIAN STORIES OF RELIGIOUS REPRESSION

Standing up for personal religious views is leading to trouble with authorities, several Christians said last Saturday at a conference on faith and family values.

Audrey Jarvis, a student at Sonoma State University in California, said she was asked by a teacher to take off her cross necklace when she was working at a student orientation event.

When she declined, the teacher asked her to at least hide it.

The requests, which were made publicly, were “very demeaning and embarrassing,” Ms. Jarvis said this weekend in Washington at the Values Voter Summit, sponsored by several organizations including the Family Research Council.

Ms. Jarvis said she “refused to sit down or be quiet” and, with the help of the Liberty Institute in Texas, she received an apology from the university.

These kinds of violations of First Amendment protections and religious liberties are not isolated, said Jeff Mateer, general counsel of the Liberty Institute.

In another Texas town, he said, school officials who had received a letter from a Wisconsin group called Freedom From Religion Foundation told cheerleaders to stop using banners with words from Bible verses.

The Kountze High School cheerleaders sued, saying they had rights to free speech and religious liberty, and a judge ruled in their favor, Mr. Mateer said. But school officials have “dug in” and are appealing the ruling.

The Survey of Religious Hostility in America has found about 1,200 current incidents of religious persecution — about twice as many as last year, the Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council said in a report.

The survey tallies challenges to public prayer in schools and in public events, efforts to remove crosses on veterans memorials, and rejection of public displays of Nativity scenes and the Ten Commandments. It also includes cases in which companies with religious convictions are forced to abide by health care rules that require coverage for “abortion-inducing” products.

Former Fox football analyst Craig James, who has been outspoken about his Christian faith, told the annual summit that he was dropped from his job suddenly because “corporate” leaders didn’t like some words he said more than a year ago while campaigning for a public office.

Mr. James recalled that he said he believed marriage between one man and one woman is ordained by God, and they “held it against me.”

On a separate panel on religion and the military, U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Monk, who spoke as a private citizen, said he was improperly sanctioned over the gay-marriage issue.

In earlier sessions, speakers urged Americans to stand up for traditional values of life, freedom and personal responsibility.

If tea party Republicans and Christians would just give up their God, give up their guns and, of course, give up their disapproval of gays, “then maybe, just maybe, the national comedians will stop mocking you and the national news will just ignore you rather than try to destroy you,” said Star Parker, founder of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education.

But these are just “lies of the left,” she said, adding that liberal welfare policies that devalue fathers, marriage and work have caused decades of harm to families and communities.

Lila Rose, president of Live Action, told the audience of nearly 2,000 to not stop fighting for the protection of the unborn.

“The culture of life is the most important human rights issue of our day,” and young people are getting that message, she said. (Contributor: By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)

Pray for our nation’s leaders in all positions of authority. It has been observed by many that when you have leaders that do not treasure the Godly wisdom that our nation has honored and observed for centuries, you will have the unrighteous implementation of laws, rules and regulations that suppress righteous liberty as brought forward in the article above. Pray for the strengthening of the policies that promote religious freedom in America in all its expressions.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

 

HHS BRINGS IN VERIZON TO HELP HEALTHCARE.GOV

The international telecommunications company Verizon has been tasked with helping the government fix the federal health exchange, USA TODAY has learned.

An informed source in the telecommunications industry said Verizon’s Enterprise Solutions division has been asked by the Department of Health and Human Services to improve the performance of the HealthCare.gov site, which is a key component of the Affordable Care Act. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not been made official.

HHS office said Sunday the department would reach outside its government contractors to civilian companies that might be able to solve HealthCare.gov’s problems more quickly.

“Our team is bringing in some of the best and brightest from both inside and outside government to scrub in with the team and help improve HealthCare.gov,” an HHS blog post said on Sunday.

HHS did not respond to a request for confirmation about Verizon. The company also declined to comment.

It makes sense for HHS to seek Verizon’s help, said Aneesh Chopra, the Obama administration’s former chief technology officer and now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “There is an existing ‘best and brightest’ available to call in,” Chopra said. “Verizon is one of those already under contract.”

The odds that the problem will be fixed are “50-50,” said Clark Kelso, California’s chief information officer under governors Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. “They’ve got a short window here to try to fix things,” Kelso said. “Simply throwing a lot of new programmers at something like this does not guarantee success.”

According to Verizon’s website, they “provide converged communications, information and entertainment services over America’s most advanced fiber-optic network, and deliver integrated business solutions to customers in more than 150 countries.” The company also works for HHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on other information technology contracts.

“They are people who already know the government process,” said Chopra, adding that he did not know the identities of the companies recruited for help.

Chopra said the government’s data hub seems to be working, and “these are known issues. There isn’t a tech expert with a Superman cape soaring in to fix this issue, nor is that needed.”

California’s health insurance exchange experienced many of the same early issues as the federal site, Kelso said.

“We’re starting to do the same thing the feds are where we’re taking the site down over the weekend,” Kelso said. “A common problem for government websites is that you typically underestimate what the load is going to be.”

But California also had bad code from the insurers, which led to people getting bad lists of available doctors in some of the new health plans.

“The result was you were getting bad information about whether your doctor was part of your plan,” Kelso said. “So they deactivated that portion.”

The federal site, Kelso said, seems to have communications issues between the states and insurers.

To a user, it can look like the system is not processing my information; it’d be like Amazon never confirming a payment you’ve made, he said.

Michael Crandell, CEO of RightScale, which helps larger organizations on cloud computing projects, said the site’s problems may taint perceptions about the law and its performance.

“This kind of problem has been around since the earliest days of the Internet,” Crandell said. “Sites getting so much response that they stop working. We call that a ‘success disaster.’ I’m sure they will fix it. What is worrying is that problems with this site a being extrapolated to suggest problems with the actual law. As we know from experience, website performance is the public face that many projects and companies show to the world.”

Chopra said many website launches, including from civilians, tend to have glitches. He cited the United/Continental airlines merger — where the website had issues merging the two companies’ websites for at least a month — as an example.

“I hope this will be a footnote in the Affordable Care Act’s effect on the health care of the American people,” Chopra said. (Contributors: By Alistair Barr, Kelly Kennedy and Jayne O’Donnell for USA TODAY)

While many Americans are very concerned about the stated implementations of various aspects of  Obamacare and tax dollars supporting the abortion industry, there does need to be wisdom brought forward to correctly and efficiently fix the technical issues with the web site problems currently being encountered. Prayer for continued righteous pressure on ceasing the abortion support in the Obamacare legislation is far more important than promoting prayer for a system that advances the death of our infants. Pray that Obamacare guidelines that do not protect all life will be rightly identified and marked for deletion from support.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. (Jeremiah 1:5)

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mothers womb… Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13, 16)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Watch in Washington October 9, 2013

October 8th, 2013

On Watch in Washington October 9, 2013 PDF Plain Text Version

 

SUPREME COURT CASE COULD DEFINE RELIGION’S ROLE IN PUBLIC

A small town in upstate New York is at the center of what legal scholars say could be one of the biggest religious freedom cases in decades, as the Supreme Court prepares to open its 2013-14 term next week.

The case, the Town of Greece (N.Y.) v. Galloway, involves the town council’s practice of beginning its meetings with a prayer offered by a volunteer “chaplain of the month” — Christian and non-Christian — and has attracted friend-of-the-court briefs from religious, secular and civil liberties organizations. The surprising decision to take the case and how it rules could offer new insights on how far the court headed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is prepared to go to redefine the role of religion in the public square.

A decision in favor of those challenging the city could affect religious observances at public events and gatherings across the United States. Prayer before school board meetings, high school athletic events, local charity events and many more could be threatened.

“If the court were to rule for Galloway, it would have to abandon prior precedent, it would have to abandon hundreds of years of practice going back to the founders of our country, and put in jeopardy the many practices and events that reflect our religious heritage throughout the country,” said David Cortman, attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian advocacy organization supporting the town of Greece.

Town of Greece v. Galloway is just one of a number of hot-button cases on the docket. The justices also are set to tackle major cases on federal campaign contribution limits, affirmative action, the president’s recess appointment powers and police search procedures.

The court will look into social issues including abortion, housing discrimination and affirmative action, and a year after upholding the core of Obamacare, the court is likely to challenge the law’s requirement that companies with 50 or more employees provide insurance for employees’ use of contraceptives. Companies headed by religious conservatives are claiming a corporate right to freedom of religion that they say the law’s mandate would violate.

Legal scholars say it is not clear what attracted at least four justices to agree to take on the New York case and how far the court may go.

“As has often been the case under Chief Justice Roberts’ leadership, one of the many interesting and important questions the Galloway case prompts is whether the court will make headlines and turn heads by announcing a big change in its doctrines or will instead disappoint journalists who want news buzz and law professors who need new topics by resolving the matter on narrow grounds,” Notre Dame law professor Richard W. Garnett said in a symposium on the case on the legal website Scotusblog.com.

Mr. Cortman said a ruling in favor of Galloway could have major implications, potentially bringing an end to prayers at presidential inaugurations, the “In God We Trust” motto on the nation’s currency and even the cry “God save the United States and this Honorable Court” at the openings of the Supreme Court’s public sessions.

“The new test would be, ‘If I see or hear something that may offend me, and it happens to be religious, that creates some sort of a constitutional violation. We would have challenges to all of these [traditions],” he said. “That would create not only more disarray, but not reflect the true meaning of the Constitution.”

Both sides say the case involving Greece, a modest-sized city on the banks of Lake Ontario, gives the justices wide latitude to revisit legal questions of the prerogatives of church and state.

In 1999, the town of Greece began to include ceremonial prayers before all city council meetings, with almost exclusively Christian clergy delivering the prayers. The tradition continued without protest until early 2008.

Local residents Susan Galloway, who is Jewish, and Linda Stephens, an atheist, protested that only Christians were delivering prayers at city council meetings. With the help of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Ms. Galloway and Ms. Stephens filed a lawsuit in 2008, claiming the prayers violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution and promoted Christianity to town residents.

“A vast majority of the time, the Christian clergy have delivered explicitly Christian prayer,” said Ayesha Khan, legal director of Americans United. “Meanwhile, the people in the audience are there to petition their government, receive honors or take the oath of office and they are asked to stand or bow their heads for these kinds of prayers that their conscience doesn’t permit them to participate in.”

In their brief to the Supreme Court, the respondents urge the court to reject the precedent set in the 1983 case Marsh v. Chambers, in which the court ruled that most legislative prayer practices did not violate the Constitution.

The respondents also argued that the town of Greece is not neutral in its selection of prayer leaders and heavily Christian clergy, and does not giving “nontheists” the opportunity to speak.

City council members argued that they did not intentionally exclude members of other religions from participating in the prayer sessions, and that audience members were not forced to participate in the ceremonial prayers.

“The folks who have volunteered to pray before the meetings are merely reflective of the demographics of the town,” Mr. Cortman said. “Just because a town may happen to be more Christian than a different religion doesn’t automatically create a constitutional crisis.”

A district court sided with the city council, ruling that there was not enough proof that Greece officials were intentionally excluding non-Christians. In 2012, the ruling was appealed by Americans United, who again argued that the prayers were unconstitutionally sectarian in nature and established Christian beliefs and religion in the town.

“We are not asking the court to eliminate the prayers here. We are asking that people not be pressured to participate in that prayer, and that the prayer be inclusive and nonsectarian so that it avoids reference to details on which people are known to differ,” Ms. Khan said.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in favor of Ms. Galloway and Ms. Stephens, stating that the town’s prayer practice was an endorsement to their religious viewpoint.

The town and the Alliance Defending Freedom took the case to the Supreme Court.

“Americans today should be free, as the founders were, to pray,” Mr. Cortman said. “The Supreme Court has ruled that public prayer is part of the history and tradition of this country. The large number of significant parties that have filed briefs in this case certainly support the continuation of this cherished practice.”

Oral arguments for Town of Greece v. Galloway are scheduled for Nov. 6. (Contributor:  By Matthew Lounsberry for The Washington Times)

Today, our prayer focus begins with thanksgiving and praise. Readers of The Informer prayer alert are men and women of faith, willing to “pray into the news” week after week—not an easy task. It requires courage and far-sighted perspective. You are brave souls, embracing a holy assignment that is not for the faint of heart. Indeed, none can persevere apart from God’s grace. This is a fight of faith, but it is a good fight. Intercessors are able to look into a barrage of potentially bad news and yet see the Good News of redemption and revival through the power of Jesus Christ. To encourage you, then, let us begin this week with praise and worship. The psalmist said to Almighty God, “I will triumph in the works of Your hands. O Lord, how great are Your works!”

As for the Town of Greece (N.Y.) v. Galloway, after our pause to praise and to consider God’s faithfulness, we may pray in unity, “Lord God, Ruler in heaven and on the earth, may Your kingdom come; may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. You raise up [government leaders and judges], and remove them when they have fulfilled Your purpose. We intercede for our sinful nation, asking you to extend Your mercy and to bring revival. Start Your deep work in us, Your people. Give us, if it please You, men and women of integrity to lead our country back to its roots and to You. You are our righteous God and Lord of all, and we proclaim, after our spiritual father, Abraham, ‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ We pray in the matchless, holy name of Jesus, our Lord. Amen.”        

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night… For You, Lord, have made me glad through Your work; I will triumph in the works of Your hands. O Lord, how great are Your works!”   (Psalm 92:1-5)

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold [firmly] of eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession….” (1 Timothy 6:12)

“So [Jesus] said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. [May] Your kingdom come, {may] Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’” (Luke 11:2)

Daniel answered and said: ‘Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; [and] He gives wisdom to the wise…’” (Daniel 2:20-21)

“And Abraham came near [the Lord] and said, ‘Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’” (Genesis 18:23, 25)

 

CHRISTIANS MUST OPPOSE OBAMACARE

Christians need to engage in peaceful civil disobedience against President Obama’s signature health care law. The reason is simple and macabre: Obamacare enables U.S. taxpayer funds to pay for abortions for members of Congress and their staff. That’s right. Pro-life Christians will be forced to subsidize the slaughter of unborn children.

Mr. Obama publicly vowed that Obamacare would not allocate taxpayer dollars to fund abortions. In fact, he convinced pro-life Democrats, such as then-Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, to support the 2009 health care overhaul on this very promise. Mr. Stupak prevailed on the president to sign an executive order stipulating there would be no taxpayer-funded abortions under Obamacare. As with much else about the law, Mr. Obama lied. He deliberately deceived the American people.

Recently, the Office of Personnel Management released an Obamacare guide, stating that members of Congress and their staff are allowed to now receive U.S. taxpayer funds to get an abortion. Think about this: Christians will be compelled to violate their conscience rights, paying for a practice they find not only morally abominable but goes against their fundamental religious beliefs. This is an assault upon their faith, individual liberties and religious freedom.

Devout Christians are obligated to oppose Obamacare — including those who champion social justice and universal health care. Christian teaching is crystal clear: The killing of innocent human life is wrong, a heinous transgression of one of God’s most sacred commandments. Abortion is murder; it is state-sanctioned infanticide. Obamacare is ensnaring Christians in its nefarious web, making them culpable in the killing of unborn babies. Their tax dollars will pay for the abortionist’s knife. Unwitting Christians will have the blood of innocent children on their hands.

This should come as no surprise. Progressivism is at war with traditional Christianity. Liberals seek to create a society without God. Their goal is personal liberation — the destruction of the family, Christian culture and all the other social bonds that act as bulwarks against radical individualism. Abortion clinics are liberalism’s Gulag Archipelago, death camps scattered across the landscape. For liberals, abortion is key to erecting a society without sexual consequences. If a pregnancy is unwanted, liquidate the baby. Secular progressives believe that nothing — including innocent human life — must stand in the way of the sexual revolution. It is genocide masquerading as “choice.”

Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, more than 50 million unborn babies have been butchered. Hence, abortion has taken more lives than murderous dictators, such as Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin. Liberalism is responsible for more deaths than Nazism or Soviet communism.

The abortion coverage within Obamacare is part of a larger attack upon Christianity. The law’s contraceptive mandate compels Catholic institutions — universities, charities and hospitals — to provide its employees with free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. The Catholic Church rightly argues it tramples on basic doctrine, abrogating religious liberty. The mandate means that Washington, not the Vatican, should determine the church’s social teaching. Mr. Obama is not the pope. He has no business telling the Catholic Church what it can and can’t do. This is why the U.S. Conference of Bishops is suing the administration, hoping the Supreme Court will nullify the contraceptive mandate. If it is upheld, then the church has said it will close down many of its hospitals and charities rather than betray core religious principles.

Christians must wake up before it’s too late. There is a virulent prejudice still acceptable in America: Christophobia. For decades, liberal elites have sought to purge religion from the public square. Prayer has been banned from schools. The Ten Commandments have been taken down from courthouses. Same-sex “marriage” is becoming encoded in law, overturning marriage between a man and a woman as a sacred, unique institution. Pornography is rampant. The family is breaking down. Our culture is obsessed with sexual promiscuity and moral permissiveness. God and Christians are regularly mocked. Even in the military, Christians are now told to remain in the closet.

Enough is enough. America is a product of English and Christian civilization. Our Founding Fathers were Christian patriots, who understood that individual liberties stem from a higher power. The most important is the right to life. Christians must declare that their allegiance to their faith transcends that of the ideological, secular state. If Obamacare continues to insist that we subsidize abortion, then it’s time for Christians to march on the streets in peaceful opposition. Mr. Obama is not worth the loss of our souls.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a radio host on WRKO AM-680 in Boston. (Contributor: By Jeffrey T. Kuhner for The Washington Times)

 

U.S. WON’T BE FOOLED BY IRAN

Rapprochement with Iran won’t come at the expense of Israel’s security or its relationship with the United States, top Obama administration officials said Thursday, but they added that it would be “diplomatic malpractice” not to explore whether Iran’s nuclear program can be defused peacefully.

The forceful defense of engagement made by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John F. Kerry during a visit here with their Japanese counterparts was the first high-level U.S. answer to a blistering rebuke delivered Tuesday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli leader warned that the West is being fooled by the new, friendlier face of Iranian leadership that is being offered by President Hassan Rouhani.

“I did not interpret Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments as suggesting that we are being played somehow for suckers,” Kerry said. “I understood it to be a warning: Don’t be played.”

Iran does not recognize Israel and in the past has said the Jewish state must be destroyed. Israel sees an Iranian nuclear weapon as an existential threat, and Netanyahu told the United Nations on Tuesday that Israel would act alone to prevent a bomb if no other nations were willing to do so.

That was a direct challenge to the Obama administration, which has repeatedly pledged to take military action against Iran if diplomatic efforts fail. Nothing about the new diplomatic effort with Iran changes that bottom line, Kerry and Hagel said.

Kerry praised Rouhani for bucking hard-liners at home to reach out and propose substantive new talks about an advanced nuclear program in his country. The United States fears the program is aimed at developing a bomb; Israel says it is certain of that intent.

Iran has pledged to bring an offer to disarmament talks later this month in Switzerland. U.S. negotiators hope the offer will include a willingness to accept limits on Iranian enrichment of uranium, the fuel that can be used either for power plants or weapons. Iran is seeking relief from crushing economic sanctions that have been imposed by the international community as its nuclear program advanced.

Iran’s new willingness to talk led President Obama to call Rouhani as the Iranian leader left the United Nations meeting in New York last week — the first such direct contact between a U.S. leader and an Iranian one since before the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

Hagel said he understands Israel’s concern over the turnabout, but added, “I have never believed that foreign policy is a zero-sum game.”

“Engagement is not appeasement, it’s not surrender, it’s not negotiation,” Hagel said. “Aren’t we wiser if we can find ways to resolve disputes, recognizing the danger, being very clear-eyed and keeping the strongest military in the world?”

Netanyahu used his U.N. address on Tuesday to pick apart the Iranian leader’s overtures, calling Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Rouhani’s effort, Netanyahu said, was nothing but a “charm offensive” to get the West to ease sanctions.

In an interview with NBC on Wednesday, Netanyahu went further. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, heads a “cult” bent on Israel’s destruction, Netanyahu said, and Khamenei, not Rouhani, will decide the country’s nuclear direction.

Kerry said that Iran’s assurances — that it seeks only peaceful nuclear energy, not a weapon — will be put to the test at the negotiating table.

“I can assure the prime minister, as I would assure all the people of the world, and particularly Iranians, there is nothing here that is going to be taken at face value,” the chief U.S. diplomat said Thursday.

“We have an obligation,” Kerry said. “It would be diplomatic malpractice of the worst order not to examine every possibility . . . before you ask people to take military action or do what you have to do.”

In Washington on Thursday, the leader of the Obama administration’s Iran negotiating team was pressed at a Senate hearing to clarify what kinds of concessions the United States might be willing to offer Tehran officials at the talks in Geneva.

“I understand the need to test the diplomatic possibility, but by the same token, I get concerned when I hear about easing of sanctions,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Wendy Sherman, the State Department’s undersecretary for political affairs.

Sherman said the Geneva talks, which are scheduled to begin Oct. 15, would focus on “confidence building,” including “some early test” to gauge Iran’s sincerity. But, she insisted, “the fundamental, large sanctions that we have in place should not disappear unless all our concerns are addressed by the Iranians.”

Joby Warrick in Washington contributed to this report. (Contributors: By Anne Gearan and Craig Whitlock for The Washington Post)

 

CONGRESSMAN: REIN IN THE UNAUTHORIZED AMERICAN SURVEILLANCE STATE

Although ideological obstructionism in Congress over federal finances has led to the first government shutdown in 17 years, it’s worth remembering that there is one issue where bipartisanship still holds — reining in the surveillance state.

In July, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., and I [U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. ] led an effort to defund one piece of our ever-expanding intelligence-industrial complex — the ongoing collection of phone records, “metadata,” by the National Security Agency. Although our amendment fell just short, what happened on the House floor that day constitutes a turning point in our efforts to reclaim our civil liberties.

I say this for several reasons. The program itself clearly exceeds the authority granted by Congress. Section 215 of the Patriot Act authorizes the government to obtain certain business records only if it can show that the information is “relevant” to an ongoing national security investigation. Though Congress clearly intended Section 215 authority to be directed at a particular individual, and related to a specific investigation, the government chooses to collect records of every phone call made in the United States. In practice, the relevance standard has lost all meaning.

Although Amash and I assembled a bipartisan coalition that was just seven votes shy of a majority, there is ample opportunity for our numbers to grow over the coming months. For example, a number of bipartisan reform bills have been introduced in Congress, including my LIBERT-E Act, there will be other amendments to authorization and appropriations bills, and we must reauthorize the Patriot Act itself in 2015.

Most importantly, the arc of history is on our side. The “red scares” following both world wars eventually led to the discrediting of officials such as Sen. Joseph McCarthy. The illegal wiretapping of political “enemies” and other Watergate-era abuses led to the adoption of a number of checks on the intelligence community. Over time, wartime deprivation of liberties are inevitably exposed. The people — and their representatives — eventually reclaim their rights.

That’s what I witnessed firsthand on the House floor on July 24. Jerrold Nadler, a liberal New Yorker, was in complete agreement with Jim Sensenbrenner, a conservative Wisconsin Republican and the principal author of the Patriot Act, that the NSA had gone “far beyond” the Congress’ intention. Zoe Lofgren, a Silicon Valley Democrat, joined with a Texas Republican, Ted Poe, in denouncing the program as lacking proper limitation or oversight.

In contrast, our opponents relied on their usual tactic to rally opposition — fear. They told us that if the Amash-Conyers amendment passed, “our country will be more vulnerable to terrorist attacks,” although the government could have continued the responsible collection of business records on a case-by-case basis. The opposition also warned that “we’ve forgotten what happened on Sept. 11,” even though the 9/11 commission concluded that the attack resulted from a failure on the part of the government to share information, rather than a lack of surveillance capability.

What we must do now is take this new spirit of bipartisan cooperation and apply it to the decaying legal architecture of the federal government’s dragnet surveillance programs. It’s not easy taking a position at odds with your party leadership or the administration. They control the bully pulpit, set the terms of the debate and can twist arms. (Contributor: By Congressman John Conyers Jr. for Roll Call)

Here we are given clear prayer points: With regard to national news, one of IFA’s approaches to intercession that we know carries God’s approval is for us to ask, “Is there an aspect of the (immediate) story for which we may first offer thanks?” The psalmist reminds us: “Enter [God’s] gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name” (Psalm 100:4). And so, as intercessors who are conservative but without a political agenda, we are grateful and praise God when we see His grace extended for a bipartisan congressional effort to limit federal government overreach. Let us also pray for success within the House of Representatives to work on this symptom of government encroachment, where the goal is to reign in citizen surveillance that has gone far beyond initial Congressional authorization. As we pray, let us not forget that the original design for the federal government, as ratified by the Colonies, was to protect and defend a new nation and individual freedoms, never to evolve into a ruling class.

“Jesus called [His disciples] together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles [i.e., pagan nations] lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great [i.e., a main leader] among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to become first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (Mark 10:42-45)

 

MARRIAGE GROUP TO SUE IRS OVER DONOR LEAK, SAYS LIST WENT TO POLITICAL ENEMIES

The National Organization for Marriage will sue the IRS on Thursday, saying it has evidence that someone within the agency leaked the organization’s private donor list to its political enemies in 2012 but that nobody has been held responsible.

Release of confidential taxpayer information is a felony, but the organization’s leaders say the Internal Revenue Service and its internal auditor, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, have stonewalled their efforts to learn who was responsible.

“Somebody did this deliberately and it was planned, and we need to know who it was,” said Cleta Mitchell, attorney for the Act Right Legal Foundation, which is handling the case for the organization, one of the most prominent groups opposing same-sex marriage. “The IRS needs to pay. Ultimately, the IRS is responsible for the damages.”

The lawsuit is being filed as the IRS faces questions about its treatment of conservative nonprofit groups that have applied for tax-exempt status. Congress and the inspector general are investigating that matter.

The inspector general also investigated the leak of the National Organization for Marriage’s donor list, but apparently closed the case without publicly identifying who was responsible.

The organization said that when it tried to pry loose any information, the inspector general said it was blocked by privacy laws from releasing anything. Yet Steve Miller, who was acting commissioner at the IRS, told a House committee in May that agency officials determined the leak was “inadvertent.”

John C. Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, called that explanation laughable.

He said the leaked forms bore internal IRS markings that someone tried to blur in the electronic document, indicating that they were trying to hide the origin.

Also, the information ended up in the hands of the Human Rights Campaign, a leading gay-rights group that is politically opposed to the National Organization for Marriage.

“It suggests to me that this thing was deliberate and at high levels — head of the division, a political appointee, somebody. And darn it, we’re going to find out who did it, and we’re going to wrap it up with a bow and send it over to the Justice Department and keep the pressure on,” Mr. Eastman, who is also a law professor at Chapman University, told The Washington Times.

A call to the IRS seeking comment on the case went unanswered Wednesday. Most of the agency’s employees have been furloughed as a result of the government shutdown.

The National Organization for Marriage was founded in 2007 to fight proposals for same-sex marriage and advocate for traditional marriage — particularly Proposition 8 in California.

The organization said the leak involved the 2008 list of donors to the National Organization for Marriage Inc., the nonprofit advocacy arm of the organization. That information is reported to the IRS but is required under law to be kept confidential.

But the donor list was given to the Human Rights Campaign, which posted it online during last year’s presidential campaign, followed soon after by the Huffington Post, which highlighted a $10,000 donation from a political action committee associated with Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

The Human Rights Campaign and the Huffington Post described the person who leaked the information as a “whistleblower.”

A day after Human Rights Campaign posted the document, that organization’s president, Joe Solmonese, left and became a co-chairman of President Obama’s re-election campaign.

The Human Rights Campaign eventually took the information off its website, but the Huffington Post maintains the document on its site.

Ms. Mitchell and Mr. Eastman said they are stunned that the IRS and the inspector general are refusing to say more about how the leak happened.

They said the IRS told them that because the investigation is now part of their official file, it cannot be disclosed because that would mean disclosing confidential taxpayer information — even though they were the targets of the wrongdoing.

“What they’ve done is they’ve taken a federal law that Congress enacted 40 years ago to protect the taxpayer from the IRS, and they’re hiding behind that and using that same law to protect the IRS and perpetrators,” Ms. Mitchell said.

The National Organization for Marriage has faced a number of complaints over its political activities, including a 2012 ethics charge lodged with California’s Fair Practices Commission accusing the group of violating state election laws in 2008. The organization said that battle cost it more than $10,000 in legal fees.

The National Organization for Marriage says that complaint is based on information gained from the confidential donor list. (Contributor:  By Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times)

We remind those following these alerts that our prayer points are suggestive, never directive. We encourage intercessors, who we know will pray as led by the Holy Spirit. Still, because this and other IRS-related media items have become more numerous in the weekly news flow, our goal is to help maintain focus. During the past 6 to 8 months the public has absorbed repeated reports of “scandals” (called such by secular media) with regard to secrecy, cover-up, and illegal tampering by government agencies. So far, few if any incidents have been resolved. Here, then, is a pro-marriage organization striking back by suing over violation of privacy with regard to its donor list. The facts of the leaks are not in dispute, but responsibility is being shielded. While we are enjoined to pray for those in authority, we also know that God wants injustice exposed and judged for its dishonesty. We suggest intercessors call upon our righteous heavenly Father, who wants truth to penetrate every dark corner, so that the oppressed may be vindicated. Please pray accordingly.

“When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” (Prov. 22:15)

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

 

WEB GOT A LITTLE LESS FREE IN PAST YEAR

Though the Internet has been hailed as a vehicle for individual freedom and political accountability since its inception nearly 20 years ago, a new report suggests that the Web got a little less free around the world in the past year.

The study “Freedom on the Net 2013: A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media,” released Thursday by the research group Freedom House, found that a growing number of countries around the world are going to extraordinary lengths to monitor and censor its citizens’ Internet use and social media surfing.

“Some of the methods have become quite brutal,” said Sanja Kelly, co-author of the Freedom House report.

Some 34 of the 60 countries surveyed imposed have new restrictions since May 2012, according to the report. Even some leading democracies saw their openness ratings fall in this area, “often as a result of struggles to balance freedom of expression with security.”

The United States ranked fourth in the level of Internet openness, trailing only Iceland, Estonia and Germany. Finishing at the bottom of the survey were Syria, China, Cuba and Iran. And Freedom House researchers said that Web-based repression can be much more direct and personal than traditional government efforts to stifle dissent.

“In the past, political censorship mainly affected political activists, but now we’re seeing regular citizens being arrested for expressing their opinions,” said Ms. Kelly.

The rise of social media over the past five years also has added an extra dynamic to the dynamic of online free speech globally. “Because social media has become such a powerful tool, many countries have become worried,” she said.

According to the study, “Over the past year, the global number of censored websites has increased, while Internet users in various countries have been arrested, tortured, and killed over the information they posted online. Iran, Cuba, and China remain among the most restrictive countries in the world when it comes to Internet freedom.”

The free exchange of ideas and viewpoints made possible by the Internet is what has attracted governments to try to control the Web’s political spaces, analysts say.

“Anytime people have the ability to [communicate], the natural human tendency is to do so,” said Sally Wentworth, senior director of strategic public policy at the Internet Society.

In many instances, individuals have been arrested and jailed for tweeting a subtle criticism of the government or even “liking” a post on Facebook that questions certain laws or government policies. Authoritarian governments, such as Vietnam, Venezuela and Ethiopia, were particularly stringent on blocking various blog and social media posts that challenged the government line.

The report cites how popular media websites “were repeatedly subject to ‘distributed denial-of-service’ attacks during the 2012 and 2013 Venezuelan presidential campaigns.

Also, the conflict in Syria saw an influx in Internet censorship and persecution. “In Syria, over 20 people over the past year were murdered because of what they posted online,” Ms. Kelly said.

Still, the report found some countries have improved their level of Internet freedom. Sixteen countries increased their scores in the past year, including Myanmar and Morocco, which “unblocked previously censored websites as part of its post-Arab Spring reform effort,” the report found.

The U.S. government slightly increased its Internet regulation over the past year, primarily because of new measures to counter terrorism and expand surveillance.

Many of the new restrictions target not political dissent but other illegal activities being conducted online.

“Governments around the world are increasingly establishing mechanisms to block what they deem to be undesirable information,” the report says. “In many cases, the censorship targets content involving child pornography, illegal gambling, copyright infringement, or the incitement of violence.”

Even so, “a growing number of governments are also engaging in deliberate efforts to block access to information related to politics, social issues and human rights,” the report concluded.

“Some content is harmful content and should be banned. … However, any limits should be minimal and proportionate to the possibility of crime,” Ms. Kelly said. (Contributor:  By Nathan Porter for The Washington Times)

The specific call for prayer here is not about Internet content or freedom of expression but about the degree of monitoring and censorship permissible in a society once committed to its citizens’ freedom. The Internet, like all technology-age advances, is a tool; as such, it can be used for good purposes or evil, for legal transactions or for fraud and stealing. Righteous people will speak and act from righteous or morally neutral intentions, while those with darker motives will try to discover ways and means to cheat, steal, and betray. Sadly, after 9/11/2001, everything in the U.S. changed, and honest Americans have had to pay a steep price for enhanced government surveillance. As always, in such cases, the question is how much is too much? Let us invoke heavenly wisdom and pray according to God’s will, as the principles of His Word reveal.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” (James 1:5-8)

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov. 14:34)

 

CHINA TESTING NEW SPACE WEAPONS

China last week conducted a test of a maneuvering satellite that captured another satellite in space during what Pentagon officials say was a significant step forward for Beijing’s space warfare program.

The satellite capture took place last week and involved one of three small satellites fitted with a mechanical arm that were launched July 20 as part of a covert anti-satellite weapons development program, said U.S. officials familiar with reports of the test.

One official described the satellite-grabbing spacecraft as a “mobile satellite launch vehicle.”

A Pentagon spokeswoman declined to comment on the specifics of the test. But Cynthia O. Smith, the spokeswoman, confirmed that the satellites, designated Payloads A, B, and C, have maneuvered in space since their launch.

“The United States Strategic Command’s Joint Functional Combatant Command for Space (JFCC-Space), consistent with its routine operations to maintain track of objects in space, has monitored these satellites since their launch and has noticed the relative motions of these satellites amongst each other and with respect to other space objects,” she said.

The Pentagon’s website Space-Track.org does not report on missions or functions of the hundreds of space objects it tracks, and Smith referred further questions to the Chinese government.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman did not return emails seeking comment on the ASAT test.

The satellites involved in the space warfare development program were identified by the Chinese as “scientific experimentation satellites,” according to a notice published July 24 in the online journal Space News.

They were identified as Chuangxin-3 (Innovation-3), Shiyan-7 (Experiment-7), and Shijian-15 (Practice-15). The spacecraft with the robotic mechanical arm that conducted the satellite capture experiment has not been authoritatively identified from among the three orbiters. However, space analysts suspect it is Shiyan-7.

Space News is published by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC), which builds strategic missiles and space launchers, and China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), China’s largest missile manufacturer.

The notice stated that the three satellites were launched atop a Long March-4C rocket on July 20 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in north central China.

“These three satellites are to be used for the observation of space debris and conducting scientific experiments in space maintenance techniques like space arm operations,” the statement said.

Space Track continues to identify the satellites as by their payload designations, rather than using the Chinese names.

Space analyst Bob Christy, who writes the blog Zarya.info that first disclosed the three satellites, said no public information has indicated the three satellites involved in earlier close maneuvers engaged in a significant orbit change since activities in August.

“There have certainly been no more approaches between them, and Payload A has shown no sign of maneuvering in the whole of its time in space,” he said in an email.

Since no other satellites are in the same orbit as the three satellites and another satellite known as Shijian-7, “if the capture was last week, it didn’t involve any of these working together,” he said.

Christy said that leaves the possibility that Payload B was captured by Payload C during a close flyby around Aug. 17.

“My actual calculations showed them getting closer than 500 meters but given the inherent error margins of the Space Track data, I stuck with a few hundred meters,” he said.

Another possibility is that the test involved a detachable part of one satellite and its release into a separate orbit, and the subsequent recapturing of the component using the extension arm, Christy said.

“If the separation distance was small and the period of separated flight was short, then U.S. sensors are unlikely to have detected an extra object in orbit,” he said.

A third possibility is that the test involved completely different satellites that were not observed by non-government space trackers.

Christy’s analysis of the August activities revealed that the satellites conducted several experiments.

Since August, Payload C and Shijian-7 showed slight variations in orbit that are likely the result of thruster operation for position control, Christy stated in a recent blog post.

In August, Payload B, a non-maneuvering satellite, was positioned about 620 miles behind Payload C, a spacecraft that specialists say could be the craft with the manipulator arm, and Payload C gradually slowed to until is passed very close to the other satellite.

The robotic satellite may be part of efforts to develop China’s large space station set to be deployed around 2020.

However, Pentagon officials believe the small satellite activity is more closely associated with China’s secret ASAT program.

Little is known about the Chinese space warfare program, which is among the Chinese military’s most closely guarded secrets.

China conducted a direct ascent ASAT missile test in January 2007 that destroyed a Chinese weather satellite and created tens of thousands orbiting debris pieces that threaten both manned and unmanned spacecraft.

Chinese officials have told U.S. counterparts that the 2007 test was a one-time event and so far have not conducted further debris-causing satellite attack tests.

A U.S. official told the Free Beacon in August that the launch of the three satellites was part of Beijing’s covert anti-satellite warfare program.

The official said the craft with the robotic arm was viewed as the most threatening because U.S. satellites, vital strategic assets used by both the American military and civilian infrastructure, are vulnerable to kinetic or electronic disruption in space.

The official said the satellites are part of China’s “Star Wars” space weapon program that has been largely ignored by the Obama administration over concerns that pressing China to explain its space weapons would upset U.S.-China relations.

The ASAT program is a “real concern for U.S. national defense,” the official said.

Until the satellite capture, the mission of the spacecraft with the mechanical arm was unknown. It was thought that it could used to grab, gouge, or alter the orbits of other satellites.

The craft also could be used for maintenance and repair.

Rick Fisher, a Chinese military affairs specialist, said the robot-arm satellite that he believes is the Shiyan-7 is part of China’s dual-use space program that includes satellites for military close-surveillance and attack missions. Civilian applications include development of space manipulator arm technology.

“As an ASAT, a future version of the SY-7 could be used to take close-up images of U.S. satellites, to remove systems from those satellites and return them to China, to directly damage U.S. satellites or to plant ‘mines’ on those satellites or close nearby,” said Fisher, with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

“An SY-7-like ASAT gives China the option to attack enemy satellites without creating a large cloud of debris that may also damage other Chinese satellites.”

Fisher said China recently hosted a major space conference and is seeking to position itself as a space “superpower” as a means to increase cooperation and technology acquisition from other countries.

At the conference, “Chinese officials made a deliberate appeal to Canada, which developed and built the manipulator arm used on the International Space Station and U.S. Space Shuttles,” Fisher said.

However, Fisher said China made every effort to conceal the People’s Liberation Army’s role in the space program and would probably deny any military role in the developing mechanical arm technology for offensive space operations.

“The ‘Canadarm’ [manipulator arm] was developed in Canada with Canadian funding and four were purchased by NASA for the U.S. Space Shuttle program,” he said.

China conducted a test launch of a new high-Earth orbit anti-satellite missile called the DN-2 in March, according to U.S. officials.

This entry was posted in National Security and tagged anti-satellite, ASAT, China. (Contributor: Bill Gertz for The Washington Free Beacon)

Given China’s propensity to hide its scientific progress, it would be naïve for Americans to think the Chinese are not consistently honing the edges of their space discoveries and weapons, seeking every advantage, even superiority, if God should allow a confrontation among world powers. So as we pray for divine restraint on all countries who might wish our nation harm, as well as for our government to maintain strong defenses, still the most significant and potentially fruitful intercession would be for our beloved U.S. to awaken, through transforming revival among believers, and, as a result, return to its godly heritage. 

“The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…” (Psalm 33:10-12a)

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

“God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.” (Psalm 47:8)

 

CHAPLAIN ASKS GOD TO FORGIVE SENATE’S POLITICS

Who’s got the toughest job in the Senate during the government shutdown?

Even some of the chamber’s 100 senators might concede it belongs to Barry Black, whose job as Senate chaplain to provide counsel, wisdom and prayer is being put to the test.

The Seventh-day Adventist minister and former chief of Navy chaplains has become “a daily conscience check” for the U.S. Senate, as The New York Times put it Monday. Every day since Oct. 1 when the government has been left without funding for the fiscal year, Black has delivered a sharply worded prayer to the men and women who hold a key to breaking the nasty budget impasse.

“Forgive us also when we put politics ahead of progress,” Black said Monday in his deep baritone.

Another of Black’s prayerful admonitions: “Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable. Remove the burdens of those who are the collateral damage of this government shutdown, transforming negatives into positives.”

Black, like thousands of other government workers, is not being paid during the partial federal shutdown. He began his current job in 2003, after 27 years in the U.S. Navy and retirement as a rear admiral. Black, who grew up in a public housing project in Baltimore, is the first African-American chaplain in the Senate.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democratic leader, paid tribute to Black on Monday by entering the NYT article into the Congressional Record. Durbin said Black is “being given awesome responsibility to prove the power of prayer in the midst of the government shutdown.” (Contributor: By Catalina Camia for USA Today)

Not many of us think to pray for the people whose job it is to pray, but we are reminded of the role of the chaplain’s ministry through this timely article featuring Senate chaplain, the Rev. Barry Black. Rev, Black is a thoroughly grounded evangelical who treads a political pathway carefully but effectively in attempting to pray for and minister to 100 senators of various faiths, even those who state “None” as their religious preference. As we pray for Rev. Black, let us ask God to increase his effectiveness and open hearts among his “parishioners” to the Gospel. We may pray with confidence; and, knowing the powerful life that is in God’s Word, and its effectiveness when applied, we can believe that the power of the message far exceeds the political limits placed on the messenger. There are forces working behind the scenes that want to silence our country’s religious heritage and push all reference to prayer and witness out of the mainstream completely. This is seen especially in the U.S. military, so let us extend our prayers to the military chaplains as well. Our Scripture passage is counsel from an imprisoned veteran preacher (the Apostle Paul) to a younger pastor (Timothy) urging him to be strong in ministry and reminding him that “the Word of God is not chained.” Nor will it ever be, praise God!

“You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier…. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things. Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained.” (2 Tim. 1-9)

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me [your Apostle Paul], that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Eph. 6:18-20)

On Watch in Washington October 9, 2013 PDF Plain Text Version

On Watch in Washington October 2, 2013

October 2nd, 2013

On Watch in Washington October 2, 2013 Plain Text PDF Version

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN BEGINS AS CONGRESS GIVES UP

Congress adjourned early Tuesday morning without renewing funding for the federal government and the White House issued orders beginning the grim task of shutting down “nonessential” services across the nation.

Senators gave up first, adjourning soon after midnight, while House lawmakers stuck it out past 1 a.m. But with a middle ground proving elusive and senators refusing to negotiate over changes to the health law, the House too gave up and vowed to try again later in the day.

With no prospect of a deal to continue funding into fiscal year 2014, the White House budget office issued an order just before midnight to begin closing operations, sending 800,000 federal workers on furlough and leaving hundreds of thousands more employees required to report for work though without the guarantee of paychecks.

One program that didn’t shut down was the program at the center of all the GOP ire — Obamacare itself. The president’s health care overhaul is funded through other laws and, despite the shutdown, is up and running as of Tuesday morning. Americans without health insurance can now go on state-based exchanges to begin shopping for insurance, often with the benefit of government aid.

The debate raged even as Congress careened through the deadline, with House Republicans sending repeated proposals over to Senate Democrats, though never the one plan senators demanded: a funding bill with no strings attached.

“It is now midnight and the great government of the United States is now closed,” Rep. Louise Slaughter, New York Democrat, said on the House floor at the ignominious deadline passed.

President Obama upped the pressure, releasing a video message early Tuesday morning that he recorded to American troops, in which he blamed Congress for letting the military down.

“It has failed to pass a budget and, as a result, much of our government must now shut down until Congress funds it again,” he said.

A last-ditch House plan to request formal talks with Senate Democrats was met with derision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said there will be no negotiations with the threat of a shutdown still looming.

At stake were most basic government operations. National parks were preparing to shutter, federal agencies were notifying about 800,000 nonessential employees who will be furloughed, and officials warned that there would be delays in processing new benefit applications for a whole range of programs.

Still, the list of what is deemed “essential” and remains in effect was longer: air traffic controllers, Border Patrol agents, the military and federal law enforcement would remain on the job, though with the exception of the troops, they would do so without paychecks — at least in the near term.

House Speaker John A. Boehner emerged after a final House vote to say he felt he and his troops had done their best to keep government open while trying to also make a dent in the health care law.

“We are hoping the Senate will take our offer,” he said in a brief press conference.

House Democrats, though, said the GOP’s push for talks was a smokescreen to cover the fact that Republicans wanted to force a shutdown.

Republicans said that wasn’t true, and pointed to the three separate proposals they’d already sent to the Senate to cancel, delay or otherwise change Obamacare, only to see each of them defeated by a unified Democratic caucus in the Senate.

For their part, Senate Democrats have passed a bill to fund the government through Nov. 15 and have refused any other offers, saying they need to take a stand against what they called “extortion” by the GOP.

“We will not go to conference with a gun to our head,”Mr. Reid said.

Republicans countered that if senators wouldn’t even agree to talk, it showed they were the ones who wanted a shutdown.

“This is a logical next step when the House and Senate are unable to resolve our differences,” said Rep. Hal Rogers, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.  (Contributor: By Stephen Dinan for The Washington Times)

Prayer points: All will agree that our nation is deeply fractured and divided. We need national healing. Pray for God to raise up true servant-leaders, morally upright men and women, to lead the U.S. back to the Founders’ basics; they recognized the Creator and sought justice and freedom for their fellow citizens. Let us continue to pray for God’s intervention. There is biblical precedent for believers repenting for their own sins and on behalf of their nation (see below). Second, although the shutdown will be “fixed” in terms of government continuity, at least 800,000 workers and their families are being deeply hurt and threatened economically and in other ways. Scars will remain. Pray accordingly for America’s families. Third, God is the God of truth. He led in the formation of our country and, as Scripture teaches, He is offended by lies and deception. Let us determine to press on with intercession by His grace and in His strength. The Scriptures remind us that our country needs God’s mercy and that intercessors stand in the gap, to avert judgment.  

“But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.’” (Matt. 12:25)

“Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:6-7)

“And I [Daniel] prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, ‘O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments….O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him.’” (Dan. 9:4-9)

 

ONLINE INSURANCE MARKETS LAUNCHED

The Obama administration on Tuesday urged uninsured Americans to check out state-based insurance markets that launched at 8 a.m., setting in motion a key pillar of the new health care law.

The online markets, known as exchanges, allow people without employer-based coverage to shop for private health plans, often with the help of income-based government subsidies.

“Today marks the start of an intense 6-month-long open enrollment and public education campaign for the Marketplace,” said Marilyn Tavenner, administration of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “We want consumers to know that they can find and compare options, check if they qualify for lower costs, and get covered.”

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have set up their own online portals with unique names such as Cover Oregon, Kynect in Kentucky or the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange in Nevada. The rest of the states are relying all or in part on the federal government to run their exchanges for them.

Consumers will be able to compare the cost of plans on a spectrum of metals, ranging from low-cost bronze plans with minimal coverage to high-cost platinum plans.

The Department of Health and Human Services said all customers can look up information and start the sign-up process through HealthCare.gov — or CuidadoDeSalud.gov for Spanish-speaking consumers — no matter where they live.

A D.C. resident, for example, would be directed to the D.C. Health Link Web page, but a resident across the Potomac River in Virginia would remain on the federal site, since the administration is responsible for its exchange.

The site appears to be attracting more users than it can handle, at least periodically.

“We have a lot of visitors on our site right now, and we’re working to make your experience here better,” a message on the site said in response to a trial inquiry by The Washington Times at 8:40 a.m. “Please wait here until we send you to the login page. Thanks for your patience!”

Critics of the law have highlighted a patchwork of software glitches that will delay certain functions on various exchanges, although supporters of the law say those problems can be ironed out during the enrollment period that lasts until the end of March.

Advocates for the law have pitched the October debut as a soft opening that will ramp up over time.

Consumers must sign up by Dec. 15 to have coverage at the start of January, when the individual mandate requiring all Americans to have insurance kicks in.

House Republican critics of the law tried to delay key portions of Obamacare last week and into Monday night, but the Senate balked at any negotiations over the president’s signature law. The resulting government shutdown did not affect the administration’s roll-out of the exchanges.

“For years, the financial, physical or mental health of millions of Americans suffered because they couldn’t afford the care they or their family needed,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. “But thanks to the health care law, all of that is changing. Today’s launch begins a new day when health care coverage will be more accessible and affordable than ever before.” (Contributor:  By Tom Howell Jr. for The Washington Times)

Regardless of personal feelings or political persuasions, the president’s Affordable Health Care Act has become the law of the land, and all U.S. citizens will be affected by it to some extent. From many reports, there is confusion and fear over how the law will be applied. Let us pray against the spirit of fear for ourselves and others. To assist us, we will share from an early prayer book:

“Lord God, heavenly Father, ‘whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire beside You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the Strength of my heart and my Portion forever’ [Psalm 73:25-26]. I am deeply grateful that You are my God, who has promised never to leave me or forsake me. I trust Your Word that nothing shall be able to separate me from Your love which is in Christ Jesus, my Lord. I … confess that sometimes my heart is filled with fear as I look at the trouble and turmoil in the world today….Forgive my little faith. Increase my faith in Your loving-kindness and in Your almighty power that I may overcome my fears and meet every trying experience with confidence. Make Your strength perfect in my weakness. In Jesus’ name. Amen”

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4)

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord, is everlasting strength.” (Isaiah 26:3-4)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7)

“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)

 

FHA NEEDS FIRST-EVER 1.7 BILLION BAILOUT

The Federal Housing Administration, whose role in the real estate market expanded dramatically in recent years, on Friday said it would need approximately $1.7 billion to stabilize its long-term finances.

It marks the first time the 79-year-old agency will require a taxpayer bailout, which it has the authorization to receive without congressional approval.

The FHA, which insures more than $1 trillion in mortgages, is funded by premiums charged to homeowners. But the actions it took to stabilize the housing market after the subprime housing bubble burst left it backing billions of dollars in bad loans.

Quiz: How much do you know about mortgages?

The agency has been working to improve its finances by tightening underwriting standards even as it continues to try to assist the housing market by insuring mortgages with down-payments as low as 3.5% and easing rules for foreclosed borrowers.

In a letter to lawmakers Friday, FHA Commissioner Carol Galante said the agency would need about $1.7 billion on Monday, the last day of the fiscal year, to ensure it has sufficient reserves to cover anticipated losses on the loans it backs.

A bailout has been expected since April, when the Obama administration’s proposed 2014 budget projected the FHA would need $943 million by Sept. 30.

But the size of the bailout nearly doubled because the number of mortgages the agency has backed declined in the last few months as mortgage rates have risen, Galante said.

The mortgages the FHA insures now bring in new revenue to the agency and are less likely to produce losses than those backed from 2007-2009.

Galante said the bailout request doesn’t reflect the state of the FHA’s insurance fund. When the fund’s status is updated in the next few months, improvements the agency has made could result in more than $5 billion being added to the fund.

Galante stressed that the FHA does not need the bailout money to pay claims at this point. It has more than $30 billion in reserves. But under law, it is required to have enough reserves to pay off all claims over the next 30 years.

Many Republicans have been critical of the FHA’s expanded role in the housing market, warning that it put taxpayers on the hook for losses. House Republicans are pushing legislation that would scale back the FHA’s role.

“I’m shocked to find out now that the FHA will require nearly double the amount they projected,” said Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas).

“How many more taxpayer bailouts will it take before the administration admits that the FHA’s current business model is no longer solvent?” he said.  “This news is a clear sign that we must act quickly to reform the FHA, or taxpayers will be paying the price again and again.”

But Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) said the FHA guarantees played a crucial role in providing liquidity to the mortgage market during the Great Recession and financial crisis when “the private sector virtually left the market.”

“Although this one-time transfer of funds from the Treasury is legally necessary, it’s important to note that FHA is far from bankrupt, holding over $30 billion in reserves and continuing to generate revenue,” she said. “Above all, we must strive to have a healthy, viable FHA that can continue to facilitate homeownership for first-time and low-income homebuyers, while standing ready in the unfortunate event of another housing downturn.”

[For the Record, 10:20 a.m. PDT Sept. 27: A previous version of the post stated that the FHA requested $1.7 billion to stabilize its long-term finances. The agency does not have to request the money. It has standing authority to receive funding it needs from the Treasury.] (Contributor: By Jim Puzzanghera for The LA Times)

Let us pray, asking for discernment to intercede on several levels. First, are you asking why an agency with $30 billion in reserves will grab an additional 1.7 billion? You are not alone. Elected officials from all sides are raising questions, though for different reasons. Some have sympathy for their tax-paying constituents to shoulder yet another enormous tax burden; others fear their constituents’ anger and the possibility of being voted out of office. Remember, as you pray, that the “bailers” in “bailout” are people like you, and it is not disloyal to find out what your congressional representatives believe, and what steps they are taking to help fellow citizens live in freedom by limiting excess government spending. Second, the U.S. is a wealthy nation (though terribly in debt), yet unemployment and poverty are rampant. If your church or community has an outreach program to add relief to its Gospel message, perhaps you can help put hands and feet to your prayers and serve the poor and needy in your area. Note: we realize Scripture has specific meaning to its own day and context. Here, by application, we present verses for comfort, encouragement, and guidance.

Jesus said … ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37)

“Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places…” (Isaiah 32:16-18)

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8)

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13) 

 

THE POPE’S BLURRED RED LINES

In a recently released interview with a Jesuit journalist, Pope Francis opined that the church’s narrow focus on controversial social issues such as abortion, homosexuality and contraception is getting in the way of the broader Gospel message of God’s mercy. He called upon bishops and pastors, as well as the laity, to be less judgmental.

Of course, Pope Francis assured his interlocutor that he is a loyal son of the church and accepts the church’s teachings on the aforementioned issues.

This addendum, however, is not good enough to mitigate the damage his words have caused for the pro-life movement and those who are trying to defend marriage as being between a man and a woman. His remarks have effectively given a sword to those who want to stifle them.

Admittedly, I do not know if the priests in Argentina, from whence the pope hails, overdose their people on issues related to life and human sexuality. However, this has not been my experience in the United States. Aside from pro-life Sunday and some teaching on debated social issues relevant at election time, little is said in most parishes or Catholic colleges and universities on these topics. For sure, it is most rare to hear any discussion on the evils of contraception.

There are three groups that this new tone from the top directly impact: faithful Catholics, proponents of choice on abortion and homosexual marriage, and Catholic politicians.

First, the pope’s comments are going to take the wind out of the sails of some faithful Catholics — the 28 percent who still attend Mass regularly and financially support the church. Most affected are those who have borne the heat of the day in the culture-war protests against abortion and same-sex marriages. The once-sure moral support that these groups enjoyed under past popes has been undermined. Pope Francis‘ message is clear: Cool it.

Second, the pope’s words provide a sword for those critical of the church’s moral teachings on life and of the purpose of human sexuality. It will now be quite easy for them to say, “Why don’t you just listen to the pope and move on?” This sentiment has already been advanced in a letter to the editor in the New York Times by a Planned Parenthood official, who applauds the pope for “getting in step with modern times.”

Finally, the pope’s musings have provided cover for Catholic politicians who support liberal abortion laws and legalization of same-sex marriage. They can now claim that they, like the pope, are concerned about the bigger issues, such as poverty and concern for the poor. For sure, Catholic politicians such as Vice President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo can point to their liberal social-welfare policies as being Gospel-motivated. They can simply claim they are following the pope’s direction. Pope Francis has thus tied the hands of those bishops who have tried to rein in this hypocrisy.

The pope’s “big tent” approach for Catholicism is bound to diminish the church’s presence as a moral force in society. It is also detrimental to the church’s main ministry, the saving of souls. If there is only a distant and muffled voice on the life and human sexuality issues, how will people know that they are transgressing God’s laws?

The pope is right that the mega-narrative of the church’s teaching is God’s salvation for us in Christ and that the mercy God extends to all through him. Yet, how can anyone seek God’s mercy if one no longer believes that he needs to repent and change his behavior?

The root of the word religion lies in the Latin word ligare, to bind. Catholics adhere to a certain moral code because we believe it is necessary for living a fully human life, which is necessary for our salvation.

The pope’s remarks have moved to the background those bright red lines of acceptable human actions that must not be crossed. This is neither pastoral, nor merciful. As Jesus said, only “The truth will set you free.”

The Rev. Michael P. Orsi is research fellow in law and religion at Ave Maria School of Law. (Contributor: By Michael P. Orsi for The Washington Times)

We cannot presume to understand Pope Francis’ motivations with his recent statements, nor is it our purpose to “handle” such things. Some analysts heard an attempt to open a doorway of dialogue with those who are far outside the influence of his church and see only a “Keep Out!” sign  in front of every Roman Catholic parish. Perhaps he is trying to convey a long-standing Evangelical slogan, “Hate the sin but love the sinner.” We might pray, “Father God, help me to look inwardly on this as I pray. Help me to ask myself hard questions about my own attitude toward those who blatantly violate Your Word in their lifestyles, habits, or sexual practices.”

What would happen in your church if (or when?) a homosexual “couple” (two men or two women) walked into your worship service? More importantly, what would happen in your heart? Are you more apt to share from Leviticus or John 3:16? Our Lord made room for “sinners” in His life. Changes came to Zacchaeus, Matthew, and the Apostle Paul after they said “yes” to Jesus. His open conflict was with religious hypocrites who talked the talk but did not walk the walk of grace, love, and God’s kingdom. Yes, He preached repentance, and then He let each man or woman make the choice. Will we do that?

“Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.’ So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, ‘He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.’

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.’” (Luke 19:1-10)

“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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 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. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:16-21)

 

ABORTION CLINICS SUE TO HALT KEY PARTS OF TEXAS LAW

A group of Texas abortion clinics have filed a federal lawsuit against a new Texas law, saying it will force one-third of the state’s abortion facilities to close and illegally interferes with a woman’s right to have an abortion.

The lawsuit, Planned Parenthood v. Abbott, asks the court to block two provisions in the law — one requiring abortionists to have local hospital-admitting privileges and another requiring them to follow “inferior, outdated and less effective protocol” in giving a drug-induced abortion.

The provisions are set to go into effect Oct. 29.

“This is no time to back down,” Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said Friday. Several Planned Parenthood organizations are plaintiffs, along with Whole Woman’s Health and several other Texas clinics.

A spokesman for Texas Attorney General Gregory Abbott, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, said the office did not immediately have a comment.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, also names several Texas officials, including Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, and county district attorneys as defendants.

The lawsuit says the law, known as Texas House Bill No. 2, has “the purpose and effect of forcing health centers throughout the state to stop providing abortions.”

The hospital-admitting privilege provision will needlessly eliminate services entirely in the cities of Fort Worth, Harlingen, Killeen, Lubbock, McAllen and Waco, the lawsuit says.

This means that women in small towns outside major metropolitan areas would have to drive hundreds of miles to get an abortion, said Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project.

The lawsuit also objects to the “medication abortion” provision, which requires doctors to examine a woman before giving her the drugs and scheduling a follow-up visit with her to confirm that her health is good and the pregnancy was terminated completely. The law also orders abortionists to follow Food and Drug Administration rules on mifepristone (also known as RU-486) and misoprostol (known as Cytotec) as printed on the label.

In practice, drug-induced abortions are typically available through 63 days after a woman’s last menstrual period, the lawsuit says, but the new law “seem[s] to ban the procedure entirely after 49 days.”

This would “dramatically” restrict “women’s access to medical abortion” — plus, the requirements for a doctor visit before and after the abortion could mean “four separate trips to an abortion facility over the course of two weeks.”

Taken together, the lawsuit said, the two provisions violate the plaintiffs’ 14th Amendment due-process rights and should be permanently enjoined.

Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, signed H.B. 2 into law July 18 after a nationally watched political battle. State Sen. Wendy Davis famously filibustered the bill for about 12 hours, blocking its vote. Mr. Perry, however, called lawmakers back into session, and they passed the bill.

Emily Horne, legislative associate at Texas Right to Life, said Friday that a lawsuit had been expected because, in Texas, “any abortion regulation is always sued.” (Contributor: Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)

Intercessors have been praying about these challenges for some time. If there is any “good news” in the entire evil abortion history in the U.S. it is that the conservative states have taken up the fight, and more abortion sites are being closed in such states because good, restrictive laws being passed. Of course, Planned Parenthood is fighting back. Abortion is a huge business, and that organization has yet to be fully exposed as the center of ruthless killing of innocent, yet-unborn babies it really is. Let us give thanks to God for any progress, and pray for this law suit (with many to follow, no doubt) to come down on the side of “right” instead of “wrong.” We repeat a previous Scripture passage because it so focuses on this issue of good vs. evil. Let us pray accordingly.

“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.  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:19-21)

 

TRANSGENDER STUDENT LAW CHALLENGED

A clash over transgender rights in California is heating up as opponents of a “co-ed bathroom” law for children and teens press forward with a petition drive to let state voters decide next year whether the law goes into effect.

The “Privacy for All Students — Stop AB 1266” campaign has fewer than 40 days to collect more than 500,000 signatures to qualify as an initiative on the ballot.

If successful, the campaign will both block the transgender student law from going into effect Jan. 1, and place it on the November 2014 ballot for voters to approve or reject.

The goal is to turn in 650,000 to 700,000 signatures by Nov. 8, Karen England, a co-chairman of the campaign, said Monday.

“The energy out there is unbelievable,” she said, adding that more than 100,000 petitions — a “huge” number — have already been requested from their campaign.

The law, signed last month by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, permits California students in kindergarten to 12th grade to use facilities and join sex-segregated teams and activities “consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”

Gay-rights allies hail the School Success and Opportunity Act as a milestone for transgender youth who struggle to fit in at school.

During legislative hearings this year, Ashton Lee, 16, who is changing from female to male, told lawmakers that the measure would permit him to attend physical education classes with boys. It will “finally allow me to go to school as myself, a regular boy,” Ashton said.

The law is supported by more than 40 organizations, including the Transgender Law Center, Equality California, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, Gender Spectrum, National Center for Lesbian Rights and American Civil Liberties Union.

However, Ms. England and allies, including the National Organization for Marriage, say the law is “one step too far.”

Current law says schools cannot discriminate against transgender students, and must accommodate them, but it allows school districts and families to decide how that accommodation takes place, such as the use of a unisex bathroom, said Ms. England, executive director of Capitol Resource Institute.

The new law says students can decide which locker rooms, showers and restrooms to use, and which sex-segregated teams and competitions they want to join.

“What about the majority of students?” Ms. England, asked. “What about their rights to privacy? The rights to go into the bathroom of their own gender and not have the opposite sex in there with them?”

Separately, on Friday, a male-to-female transgender student was voted as homecoming queen at a Hunting Beach, Calif., high school, but later made a video saying negative backlash ruined the day.

Winning the crown should have been “monumental and memorable,” but “I can’t even enjoy it. I can’t even be happy. Everybody is so upset about it,” a tearful 16-year-old Cassidy Lynn Campbell, still wearing her gown, sash and tiara, said in a video posted on YouTube.

Ms. Campbell had been known as Lance Campbell until beginning the transgender process three years ago. She said she decided to run for homecoming queen at Marina High School to represent transgender equality, and was elated to win the crown Sept. 20.

But “ignorant” and “stupid” reactions to her victory stole the joy, the teen said in a nearly nine-minute video.

“It just hurts so bad because I feel just as much of a girl as all of them do,” Ms. Campbell said, referring to her competitors. “I just want to be happy because I deserve to be happy just like any other human,” she said. “Boy, girl — doesn’t matter. It’s just a human.” (Contributor: Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)

There is little to be said here. A biblical position speaks for compassion, but any and all practices that violate God’s plan as Intelligent Designer and Creator must be resisted in principle. As usual, there are layers and levels and nuances for prayer here, but Pandora’s Box has been opened, frequently beginning in California, and humanity is waving a collective fist in God’s face and saying, in essence, “Why have You made us thus and so” and “We will not have You ruling over us.” Let each of us pray as led, allowing our prayer pathway to be informed by God’s Word and a redeemed conscience. Because you have clarity in such matters, give thanks to God for His grace and spiritual illumination in your life.

“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)

“This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind in the day they were created. “ (Gen. 5:1-2)

“Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (Psalm 100:1-3)

 

OBAMACARE INCREASES PUBLICLY-FUNDED ABORTIONS BY AS MUCH AS 111,500 ANNUALLY

[Obamacare's federal health insurance exchanges opened] October 1, a new study by the Charlotte Lozier Institute estimates that public funds may soon subsidize as many as 111,500 more elective abortions each year.

The Lozier Institute study focuses on two channels for new abortion subsidies under Obamacare:  the multi-state plans (MSPs) the law directs be established in all 50 states, and Medicaid expansion that will occur in the 17 states that use their own public funds to pay for elective abortion.  Those 17 states include New York, California, and other large states where tens of thousands of currently uninsured women of childbearing age will be newly eligible for publicly supported health care.

The MSPs are a whole new dimension of health care.  They were included in Obamacare as a fallback position for advocates of a national, single-payer health care system.  That fact makes their structure of particular concern, as they may provide the long-term model for a federally run system covering all Americans.

The ObamaCare law allows states to pass statutes barring elective abortion from their insurance exchanges.  To date, 23 states have done so.  But the 27 states that have not done so have an estimated 5.54 million girls and women of childbearing age who are now uninsured.  Roughly half of these women will likely use ObamaCare’s generous tax credits to buy coverage on the exchange.

Since approximately 2% of women of childbearing age will have an abortion in a given year, as many as 111,500 abortions could be expected among this group using either tax-subsidized MSPs or expanded Medicaid coverage.  The Obama Administration claims that a segregated abortion funding premium will insulate plan participants from paying for these abortions, but the segregated scheme is little more than an accounting gimmick and many uninsured Americans will sign up for these plans unwittingly.  Whether enrolling in such a plan or not, all taxpayers will see a portion of their income taxes go to finance premiums and Medicaid expansion that subsidize or finance this tax-funded abortion surge.

The full Lozier report is online here.

CNS Editor’s Note: Chuck Donovan is the President of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the education and research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List. (Contributor: By Chuck Donovan for CNS News)

In the Old Testament, God gave His people kings at their demand. Thereafter, He judged His people by their kings. The accounts are clear in Scripture. A “good” king, one who followed God’s Word and His ways, brought revival and blessing, while an evil (idolatrous) king brought discipline, captivity, and, ultimately, dispersion. The principle was—and still is under human government—that as a nation’s leadership goes, so goes that nation (note Jesus’ reference in Matt. 25 to sheep and goat nations, not individuals).

American Christians live in a constitutional republic, not with a king but an elected fellow-citizen as president. Our primary citizenship is in heaven, but our  biblical mandate is to pray for those in authority, which we do. But we are not commanded to honor words or acts that display active disobedience to God’s Word, in this case, God’s commitment to create life and defend it as His “choice.” In the light of this article, please pray accordingly. Whether you like the president or not, he needs our prayers. But he, like all kings and all presidents, is accountable before God. Thus, for him to bless abortion and cause his fellow citizens to pay for wanton killing against conscience and the Bible’s teaching is grave indeed. Let us pray, too, with repentant hearts. Christian influence in our nation appears to be declining. Perhaps God is looking for greater unity, so He can “command the blessing—Life forevermore.”

“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess….This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” (Deut. 30:15-19)

“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)

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

 

EXPERTS FEAR OBAMACARE RATE ‘SPIRAL’

New Yorkers will pay less than they used to for individual health insurance under ObamaCare — but they better not get used to it, because steep increases are on the way and the choice of doctors will be limited, critics warn.

While health-insurance costs will balloon around the country under the Affordable Care Act, an unusual legal situation in the Empire State will lower prices when the markets for President Obama’s signature legislative achievement open on Tuesday.

Everyone who doesn’t already have a medical policy — through work, Medicare or otherwise — will have to buy a policy or face fines once ObamaCare begins.

In New York, the new presidential plans can be had for an average of 29 percent less than old individual policies — $356 a month, compared with $500 — experts at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research predict.

By comparison, the monthly rate for a 27-year-old man in Connecticut will soar 98 percent, to $238. A 64-year-old woman in that state will see her premium surge 83 percent, to $683, an analysis by the institute found.

Lead researcher Yevgeniy Feyman said New York’s situation is “very, very unique” due to insurance-industry reforms signed into law by Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1992.

The state’s “pure community rating” system requires insurance companies to offer policies at the same price, regardless of the purchaser’s age, gender or health.

“This is what destroyed the New York individual market,” where costs are currently among the highest in the nation, Feyman said. “That being said, the rate we [will] have, $356, is not cheap.”

Feyman said his group’s $356 figure for New York is a composite based on the average cost of the “bronze” policies that are the least expensive among four levels of standard coverage: “platinum,” “gold,” “silver” and “bronze.”

Top-tier platinum policies will cost individuals up to $896 a month, the state Health Department’s online estimator shows.

Available tax credits can reduce the price for individuals earning less than $45,960 or families of four earning less than $94,200, limiting their maximum cost to 9.5 percent of annual taxable income.

The complex formulas also offer bigger breaks to residents of Staten Island.

For example, a single Manhattan resident earning $35,000 a year will get a monthly credit of $88, while a single Staten Islander will get a credit of $107.

A Health Department spokesman said the difference was due to the higher price of Staten Island’s second-lowest-cost silver plan.

The penalty for ignoring ObamaCare’s “individual mandate” to buy health insurance next year is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child — up to $285 per family — or 1 percent of taxable family income, whichever is higher.

But it will jump to $325 per adult and $167.50 per child, or 2 percent of income, in 2015, and to $695 per adult and $347.50, or 2.5 percent of income, in 2016, with future hikes tied to cost of living.

Pacific Research Institute President Sally Pipes, author of “The Cure for Obamacare,” said that’s not enough to get healthy, young adults to shell out for coverage.

“Even though the price is down, the price is still very expensive,” she said. “People are not going to buy into this. Then the system will implode.”

Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation, predicted a “death spiral” in which the rates rise over the next several years, leading healthy people to drop their coverage while “very sick” people “stay in until the very last drop,” forcing rates up even more.

“The death spiral is well known in health insurance,” he said.

Edmund Haislmaier, who studies health-care policy for The Heritage Foundation, said some medical providers will refuse to accept ObamaCare, noting four of the insurers offering policies in New York specialize in Medicaid plans.

“You’re going to have very limited access to doctors and hospitals,” he said.

Danielle Holahan, deputy director of the New York State of Health marketplace, said that officials believe the rates being offered are “sustainable,” and that 330,000 uninsured residents will buy ObamaCare over the next three years, up from 17,000 who buy individual insurance now.

She also said a “network adequacy requirement” for insurers means everyone on ObamaCare will be able to get to a doctor or hospital in their network within 30 minutes on public transportation. (Contributor: By Bruce Golding for The New York Post)

No one yet knows where the Obamacare law is going, what it will cost, or when it will be understood and fully (and, hopefully, properly) implemented. Our prayer suggestions remain consistent, which are first, that it might be set aside for a better law. And second, that the sick, especially the elderly sick, will be valued and protected, not discarded. We pray for a redemptive application. We pray against our nation’s sliding into the full control and alleged “benevolence” of burgeoning government power. Curiously, while legislators are supposed to represent the convictions of their constituents, polls show overwhelmingly that most Americans are very much against many of the “provisions” of the law. Thus, representative government is being violated with impunity. Further, the law has been characterized by falsehood and deception from its beginning stages, and those who said so have been vilified and largely rejected as fear-mongers. Conservative historians know that none of this should be happening in the U.S., but God is in control, and it is well within reason to conclude that He is testing His Church. Will we humble ourselves and pray, seek His face, and turn from wicked ways? This will require faith and perseverance.  Remember 2 Chron. 7, verses 13 and 14.

“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.” (Romans 13:1)

[God speaking to Solomon,] “When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people,  if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:13-14)

 

FLOUR MADE FROM INSECTS WILL FEED UNDERFED POPULATIONS

A team of MBA students were the recipients of the 2013 Hult Prize earlier this week, providing them with $1 million in seed money to produce an insect-based, protein-rich flour for feeding malnourished populations in other countries. The product is called Power Flour.

“It’s a huge deal because we had a very ambitious but highly executable five-year plan in place,” said team captain Mohammed Ashour, whose team hails from McGill University in Montreal. “So winning this prize is a great step in that direction.”

Ashour, along with teammates Shobhita Soor, Jesse Pearlstein, Zev Thompson and Gabe Mott, will be immediately working with an advisory board to recruit farmers and workers in Mexico, where a population of roughly 4 million live in slum conditions with widespread malnutrition.

“We will be starting with grasshoppers,” Ashour said.

He noted that the insect is already familiar to the local diet and currently sells at a premium because of a three-month harvesting season and because grasshoppers are typically hand-picked. But farmers have already expressed interest in raising grasshoppers on a mass level, according to Ashour.

While for Americans the idea of eating bugs remains mostly a novelty, in other areas of the world they are a common form of protein. The kinds of insects people consume from country to country varies, with the people of Ghana preferring palm weevils and in Botswana, caterpillars. The Power Flour product will vary ingredients according to those habits, adjusting production to the breeding cycles and nutritional profile of each culture.

In order to research their business plan, the members of the McGill Hult team have all consumed “kilos” of insects themselves, Ashour said.

“Shobhita was recently researching in Thailand and tried everything from worms to water beetles,” he said.

Even Gabe Mott, who identifies as a vegetarian, has consumed his fair share of basil-flavored palm weevil.

“He’s a vegetarian for ethical and ecological reasons, and when he looked at insects, for him it was really not an issue as far as being a source of protein that is ecologically balanced,” said Ashour.

Pass the chapulines. (Contributor: Joanna Prisco for ABC News)

This article brings focus on the universal problem of world hunger. While most of us in the West have far more to eat than we need, much of the world’s population spends their lives going to bed hungry. Many reading these pages already pray into this regularly and, no doubt, give generously through their churches and other mission agencies in an effort to help. For most people, culture and affluence define what is or is not good to eat, as well as how hungry a person may be. Few if any of us react when we read in the Gospels that John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey, except maybe to wonder how his meal tasted. An American Bible College student of 40 years ago remembers missionaries visiting his campus and giving out samples of some roasted bug, which in their adopted country was a staple. He could only recall that they were crunchy and “tasted okay.” Missionary candidates today are still taught to “eat what is set before you,” and it is usually better not to ask what it is. But the reported trend is valid. People will eat what is available, and even in the U.S., land that once supported grazing beef for future steaks and hamburgers may soon, instead, grow soybeans. And grasshoppers may, indeed, replace chicken strips. As we pray for world missions and the many attempts Christians are making around the world to alleviate hunger, let us be thankful for our own abundance, and ask God to teach us to be content even if that provision wanes through global conditions and economic hardships even here at home.  

“Let brotherly love continue.  Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—and those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also. Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:1-6)

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:11-13)

On Watch in Washington October 2, 2013 Plain Text PDF Version

 

On Watch in Washington September 25, 2013

September 25th, 2013

On Watch in Washington September 25, 2013 Plain Text PDF Version

SUPREME COURT TO CONSIDER NEW OBAMACARE CASE

Obamacare is before the U.S. Supreme Court again. On Thursday, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyers filed the first viable petition for Supreme Court review involving Kathleen Sebelius’ HHS Mandate, which requires employers to provide abortion-related insurance coverage, even if those employers have a religious objection to abortion.

Section 1001 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) requires all large employers to offer “preventive services” to their employees or face enormous financial penalties. With President Obama’s approval, Sebelius issued a regulation that defined preventive services to include access to birth control, including those that cause abortions after conception. The regulation issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) only allows narrow exceptions, such as for churches, but leaves other religion-oriented or religiously-owned employers subject to the regulation.

Over 60 lawsuits have been filed nationwide against this unprecedented government command. Many involve nonprofit entities, such as the University of Notre Dame. But roughly 35 of these lawsuits involve for-profit businesses which are wholly owned by a person or family with a religious belief against abortion, such as devout Christians .

These lawsuits argue both that the HHS Mandate violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment as well as a federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The federal appeals courts have split on whether a religiously-owned business can claim religious-liberty protections and whether requiring people to provide abortion-related services is a substantial burden on religious faith.

In Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held in its opinion that the company—owned by the Hahn family, who are devout Mennonites—must obey the HHS Mandate even though they believe abortion is immoral, because companies cannot assert religious-liberty rights.

In ADF’s petition for certiorari, the Hahns’ lawyers ask the Supreme Court to reverse the Third Circuit. The petition states, “Petitioners, a Mennonite family and their closely-held, family-run woodworking business, object as a matter of conscience to facilitating certain contraceptives that they believe can destroy human life.”

It is almost certain the Supreme Court will take up this issue in the coming year, and Conestoga is the first case to offer an acceptable vehicle for the justices to take up the question. Another such case would have been Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the mandate, but Hobby Lobby won before the Tenth Circuit appeals court; the Obama-Holder Justice Department has not asked the High Court to grant review.

This ADF case could well be the next case involving Obama’s namesake legislation considered by the Supreme Court, this time raising profound concerns regarding religious liberty impacting millions of Americans, especially observant Christians.

“All Americans, including family business owners, should be free to live and do business according to their faith,”  ADF Vice President David Cortman—who is lead counsel in the case—told Breitbart News in a statement. “A major aspect of freedom is at stake: If the government can force the Hahns to violate their faith just to engage in their livelihood, then the government can do the same or worse to others.”

ADF Senior Counsel Matt Bowman agrees. “The question is whether the government can pick and choose what faith is, who the faithful are, and when and where they can exercise that faith.” Bowman, who has argued several of ADF’s ten lawsuits nationwide against the HHS Mandate, added as another dimension of this case, “The cost of religious freedom for the Hahn family and many other job creators across the country who face this mandate is severe. The potential for massive fines and lawsuits would cripple their businesses and threaten jobs.”

The Obama administration now has 30 days to explain to the Supreme Court why the justices should not take this case and resolve the split between the federal appeals courts. The Court will likely vote in November whether to hear arguments in the case, which, if granted, would occur next spring.  (Contributor: By Ken Klukowski for Breibart News)

Prayer Points: There is nothing brand new here for seasoned intercessors. We know that “praying into the news” is often a complex process, so we must persevere and be patient. First, we pray for the headline issue (see above). But we are also free to intercede for multiple related issues. Thus, we not only have the healthcare concern; with that come questions of how much government control is good for the nation, whether this is a righteous law, concern for the elderly, the future of Medicare, a crying out for national righteousness, and more. This is a difficult issue at a critical time in U.S. history. Please pray as you are led by God’s Spirit.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” (Prov. 12:34)

“For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.” (Prov. 11:14)

“He who speaks truth declares righteousness, but a false witness, deceit.” (Prov. 12:17)

 

BILL AIMS TO SHIELD RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS FROM TAXMAN

A House bill being introduced Thursday seeks to protect the religious freedom of individuals, institutions and businesses that are increasingly being punished or harassed for their beliefs on marriage.

The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act is intended to “prohibit discrimination through the federal tax code” against citizens and institutions who think marriage is the union of one man and one woman, said Rep. Raul R. Labrador, Idaho Republican.

The bill does not address state tax rules or laws, and therefore would not have affected, for example, recent state actions against a New Mexico photographer or the Oregon bakery that each refused to participate in gay marriages.

However, the proposed legislation would ensure that individuals who want to donate to a church that holds to the traditional teaching on marriage would not see their donations challenged by the Internal Revenue Service, Mr. Labrador said.

The legislation would cover corporations, companies, associations, partnerships and societies, as well as individuals. It would prohibit the federal government from taking “adverse actions” against them, such as denying or revoking a tax-exempt status, and denying or excluding people from receiving federal grants, contacts, certifications and employment.

Denial of tax exemptions was one weapon the federal government used to stamp out racism by private parties, such as Bob Jones University, and some gay activists have said they are eager to take the same action against what they see as a similarly immoral hatred.

The bill has the support of some 30 co-sponsors, including Rep. Mike McIntyre, North Carolina Democrat, and Republican Reps. Joseph R. Pitts of Pennsylvania, Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Vicky Hartzler of Missouri.

A similar bill is being discussed in the Senate.

Mr. Labrador said the bill was inspired by the Supreme Court’s Windsor ruling in June, which found the federal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman unconstitutional, and declared the federal government’s traditional-marriage law was based on “improper animus” against same-sex couples.

The new legislation is intended to be a “narrow” solution for potential problems raised by Windsor, the two-term congressman said.

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute in California, applauded the bill.

The U.S. Constitution, which protects freedom of religion, “theoretically already grant[s] this protection,” Mr. Dacus said. However, given questionable gay-marriage court rulings, scandals in the Internal Revenue Service and “atrocities” such as SB 323 in California, lawmakers should act “pre-emptively” to protect people, churches and institutions against government intolerance of religious freedom, he said.

SB 323 is the California bill introduced by state Sen. Ricardo Lara that would have revoked the tax-exempt status of the Boy Scouts of America and other youth-serving groups if they did not admit youth or adults based on sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or religious affiliation.

Gay-rights groups, such as Equality California and National Center for Lesbian Rights, said Mr. Lara’s bill was needed to prevent groups that discriminated against gays from receiving privileged tax treatment.

Mr. Lara recently pulled his bill from consideration, but promised that it was “alive and well” and would be reintroduced in 2014.

The Lara bill “is what concerns me,” Mr. Labrador said. “Clearly, there are people who believe that if you support traditional marriage, you have no rights to receive tax-exempt status. … I believe religious liberty is under attack.”

On Capitol Hill, the Labrador bill is supported by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, National Organization for Marriage, Heritage Action and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.  (Contributor: By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)

For prayer: This article clearly defines its own prayer points, and we won’t insult intercessors by belaboring the obvious. Father God, help us to think clearly as we intercede and to discern Your purposes. We repent for our country that this issue is even considered for judicial review. We ask You, our mighty God and heavenly Father, to intervene at a deep level. We pray in unity that You remind and warn every Supreme Court justice to tread very cautiously around (not on!) freedoms men and women have by Your endowment. What we desire—for our own hearts and for those who lead in each branch of government and at every level—is a new release of the fear of God. A great battle is looming, and we need Your help to preserve our nation. You gave us hope in your Word that those who are with You are greater in spiritual power than those who would squelch our freedom to believe and worship You without intervention or prejudice.

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

 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you … But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake… He who hates Me hates My Father also…But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’” (John 15:18-25)

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

 

ALBUQUERQUE TO PUT ABORTION TO A VOTE

A bill banning abortions in Albuquerque after 20 weeks of pregnancy will be put to voters in New Mexico’s most populous city in November and could become the first municipal abortion ban in the nation.

The city council voted 5-4 late on Monday to put on the ballot the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance,” which contains few of the standard abortion exceptions seen in many states.

In the latest salvo in the national debate over abortion, the city council was forced to act after abortion foes gathered enough signatures on a petition to require the council to either approve the law outright or put it to voters.

Local polling has shown the measure has enough support to pass. Activists on both sides say it would be the first municipal ban on abortion, and possibly a template for similar actions in other cities around the United States.

“It is a new strategy. There is more than one way to close an abortion clinic,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, a leading U.S. anti-abortion group that helped get the measure on the November 19 ballot in Albuquerque.

“If you can’t get anything done in a state legislature … you look at what is going on in a city. They say all politics is local. This is a great example of that.”

Critics of the measure say abortion opponents have failed at the state level and are conducting “guerilla warfare” to try to pass an unconstitutional abortion ban at the city level.

Albuquerque is home to both the Southwestern Women’s Options clinic, which provides abortions into the third trimester and is the target of complaints by abortion foes, and a Planned Parenthood surgical center.

MEASURE HAS SUPPORT

If it passes, the measure would immediately be challenged in the courts, and this could cost taxpayers well over $1 million, said Patrick Davis, a spokesman for ProgressNowNM, a nonprofit group that supports abortion rights.

A poll by the Albuquerque Journal newspaper in early September showed 54 percent of city voters supported the measure, while 39 percent opposed it. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

“If this passes, hundreds of municipalities are going to be facing this one by one,” Davis said. “It is absolutely concerning. Albuquerque generally is a progressive city and New Mexico is generally a progressive state. And this is clearly unconstitutional. It doesn’t provide for any of the exceptions that the Supreme Court has upheld time and time again.”

The measure would makes it a crime to perform an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It states that “pain receptors are present throughout the unborn child’s entire body” at 20 weeks.

Exceptions are granted only to save the mother’s life, or if continuing a pregnancy risks “substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function” for the mother. The physician is required to try to save the life of the fetus.

The measure provides no exception for victims of rape or incest or for women suffering from “psychological or emotional conditions” connected to a pregnancy.

Supporters collected more than 12,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot. The measure is part of a larger movement to tie abortion bans to hotly debated research suggesting fetuses feel pain 20 weeks into a pregnancy.

In July, Texas joined 12 other states that have approved a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. North Dakota and Arkansas have gone further, banning abortion as early as six and 12 weeks, respectively, although both bans have been put on hold by the courts pending legal challenges.

The landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973 allows abortion up to the point a fetus is viable, or can live outside the womb. (Contributor: By Carey Gillam for Reuters News Service, Reporting and writing by Carey Gillam; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and John Wallace)

This is not new ground for intercessors. But there is an emerging trend, and those committed to praying against the evil forces driving the abortion industry may now mix thanksgiving with intercession. Why? The battleground is shifting to the states and, with this report, to cities. True, even when local votes are won, lawsuits will proliferate, eventually to the Supreme Court. Still, some historians believe that a return to Constitutional government and the overturn of many bad legal decisions will be pioneered in state legislatures. Let us not forget William Wilberforce, England’s great emancipator of the slave trade. In an 18-year battle, the final straw was a relatively obscure shipping law that broke the back of that demonic enterprise. As revival comes, a Christian’s vote in local and state elections may be God’s instrument in a breakthrough. As you pray, note the relationship between “unity” and “Life forevermore” (Ps. 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)

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)

“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 133:1-3)

 

POLL: PUBLIC SPLIT ON DEBT IMPASSE

Big majorities of both Republicans and Democrats agree that not raising the federal debt ceiling would seriously hurt the economy. But the public is nonetheless divided along partisan lines over whether Congress should increase the borrowing limit, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The government’s authority to borrow more money will run out sometime in October. Before then, Congress must deal with legislation to fund the government. At this point, President Obama and congressional Republicans are far from agreement on how to avoid a potentially chaotic outcome.

Obama has taken a firm line, saying he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling while remaining open to talks about budget and spending issues. But Republicans want dollar-for-dollar spending cuts to offset any increase in the borrowing limit, and many in the party advocate ending or delaying implementation of the president’s signature Affordable Care Act, as well.

Obama issued a stern warning to Republicans on Monday about talk of shutting down much of the government rather than funding the health-care act and of blocking an increase in the government’s borrowing authority.

That, he said, would cause “massive economic turmoil.” Not raising the borrowing limit would subject the government to defaulting on its obligations and could harm the country’s credit rating.

For now, the two sides appear dug in. House GOP leaders Wednesday announced plans for a Friday vote on a government funding bill that will include a rider to block funding for the health-care law.

The Post-ABC poll found that neither Obama nor congressional Republicans are seen by the public as sufficiently willing to make compromises with the other. But Americans view Republicans as significantly more inflexible than the president.

Forty-nine percent of those surveyed say Obama is doing too little to compromise with Republicans, but 64 percent say Republicans are doing too little. Only about a fifth say Republicans are doing about the right amount to find common ground with the president, compared with just over a third who say Obama is doing about enough.

Two years ago, Obama and the Republicans spent months trying to reach a budget agreement as part of larger negotiations over raising the debt ceiling. Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) tried and failed to negotiate a “grand bargain” on the budget and some entitlement programs, and have spent the past two years blaming each other for the breakdown.

The collapse of those talks and the subsequent messy compromise that allowed the government’s borrowing power to rise turned out to be a political debacle that affected the standing of the Republicans and the president.

It also resulted in the downgrading of the government’s credit rating by Standard & Poor’s, which cited political dysfunction as a principal reason for its de­cision. Consumer confidence plunged in the aftermath of that episode and sent Obama’s and Republicans’ job ratings plunging to record lows.

Economists later concluded that the uncertainty created by the political standoff slowed the recovery of an economy that was still far from good health after the 2008 recession.

Now, as the two sides point to the October deadline on the debt ceiling and another possible showdown over the budget, those memories are fresh in everyone’s minds — and almost every aspect of public opinion about the debate is colored by partisanship.

Overall, the public is split almost evenly over whether the debt ceiling should be raised, with 46 percent saying yes and 43 percent saying no. But the two parties are mirror images of each other, with 62 percent of Democrats saying it should be raised and 61 percent of Republicans saying it should not. Independents are divided, with 48 percent supporting and 46 percent opposing.

Those partisan divisions exist despite a consensus across party lines that not raising the limit would cause severe harm to the economy. On that question, 78 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independents and 66 percent of Republicans agree that not raising the limit poses a serious threat to the economy.

Those who advocate raising the limit are far more likely to say failing to do so would hurt the economy. But even among those who say they oppose an increase in the limit, almost six in 10 say the economy would be damaged if the government defaulted on its bills.

Similarly, there is an almost an even split in the country over which party is more trusted to handle budget issues, with 43 percent saying the president and 40 percent citing congressional Republicans.

But distrust of the opposite party is a prime factor in shaping overall opinion. About eight in 10 Republicans trust their leadership while about seven in 10 Democrats trust the president. Independents split their trust 37 percent for Obama, 41 percent for congressional Republicans. (Contributors: By Dan Balz and Scott Clement for The Washington Post)

We have watched a photographer frame a picture before snapping the shutter. The primary action is turning the lens to the ultimate point of focus before pressing the button in hopes of getting that perfect photo. Polls are like snapshots, a capture of action at the instant (only). What would the same questions tell us today? No one knows. Nor, in this case, does it matter. The key to this item is in the final paragraph: “But distrust of the opposite party is a prime factor in shaping overall opinion.” Opinions change; truth does not. And intercessors know that our nation is severely divided on many levels. Let us pray guided by Scripture and conscience. Intercessors are optimistic, not because we forget that human nature is sinful, wicked, and innately selfish and greedy, but because we believe God’s purposes will prevail as the Church unifies, stands together in repentance and prayer, and desires only the glory of God in our nation’s destiny.

“But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.’” (Matthew 12:25)

“The lot is cast into the lap [very old way of seeking guidance, based chance], but its every decision is from the Lord” [meaning that His purpose, not men’s whims, will prevail]. (Prov. 16:33)

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” (Hosea 10:12)

 

EGYPT COURT BANS MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD ACTIVITIES

An Egyptian court on Monday banned the Muslim Brotherhood from carrying out any activities in the country and ordered the seizure of the group’s funds, widening a campaign to debilitate the Islamist movement of deposed President Mohamed Mursi.

“The court bans the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood organization and its non-governmental organization and all the activities that it participates in and any organization derived from it,” said the presiding judge Mohammed al-Sayed.

The court ordered the government to seize the Brotherhood’s funds and administer its frozen assets.

The army-backed government is waging the toughest crackdown in decades on the Islamist group, which says it has a million members. Security forces killed hundreds of its supporters and rounded up thousands more since Mursi was deposed by the army on July 3 after mass protests against his rule.

The Brotherhood won parliamentary and presidential elections after veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in 2011.

Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s toppling of Mursi triggered a political crisis in the Arab world’s most populous state, with the Brotherhood insisting that a military coup robbed them of power.

The court decision is likely to drive more Brotherhood members underground and it may encourage young Islamists to take up arms against the state. (Contributors: By Shadia Nasralla; Writing by Michael Georgy; editing by Mike Collett-White for Reuters News Service)

As intercessors in (for) America, our main concern about Egyptian affairs has to be for the cruel persecution being suffered by Christians, including—most notably—members of the ancient Coptic Church. Christians are being decimated by violence, as are many pockets of believers all over the planet. Sadly, it is nothing new (think China). We are glad for the subduing of violence promoted heavily by the Muslim Brotherhood, but Islamist terrorism is a worldwide time-bomb (by any name) that will not be defused until God sovereignly intervenes. Let us, of course, pray for the persecuted Church, brothers and sisters everywhere who are suffering for no reason other than being followers of Jesus Christ. In such cases “the battle is the Lord’s,” and we must rest in the assurance that God will avenge, as He sees fit, every martyred life. Let us pray accordingly.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116:15)

“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:3)

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.” (Rev. 6:9-11)

 

NETANYAHU: IRAN NUKE DEAL IS POSSIBLY A TRAP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, stepping up his effort to blunt a diplomatic offensive by Iran, plans to warn the United Nations next week that a nuclear deal with the Iranian government could be a trap similar to one set by North Korea eight years ago, according to an Israeli official involved in drafting the speech.

Mr. Netanyahu is scheduled to address the General Assembly next Tuesday, a week after President Obama and Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, are to speak at the United Nations.

But the Israeli government, clearly rattled by the sudden talk of a diplomatic opening, offered a preview Sunday of Mr. Netanyahu’s hard-edged message, in which he will set the terms for what would be acceptable to Israel in any agreement concerning Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“A bad agreement is worse than no agreement at all,” the Israeli official said, reading a statement from the prime minister’s office that he said reflected Mr. Netanyahu’s remarks.

President Rouhani, in advance of his arrival in New York this week, has signaled a willingness to negotiate. The Obama administration, while professing wariness, is clearly intrigued by the possibility of resolving a problem that has bedeviled President Obama as long as he has been in office. And that, in turn, has deeply unsettled the Israelis.

“Iran must not be allowed to repeat North Korea’s ploy to get nuclear weapons,” said the Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“Just like North Korea before it,” he said, “Iran professes to seemingly peaceful intentions; it talks the talk of nonproliferation while seeking to ease sanctions and buy more time for its nuclear program.”

In his speech, the official said, Mr. Netanyahu plans to review the history of North Korea’s negotiations, with particular emphasis on an active period of diplomacy in 2005, when the North Korean government, in what was then seen as a landmark deal, agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program in return for economic, security and energy benefits.

A year later, North Korea tested its first nuclear device. Israeli officials warn something similar could happen if the United States were to conclude too hasty a deal with Mr. Rouhani. As Iran is doing today, the North Koreans insisted on a right to a peaceful nuclear energy program.

There are differences between the two cases. At the time that it concluded the deal in 2005, North Korea said it had already produced a nuclear bomb. American intelligence experts believe Iran is still many months, if not years, away from having such a weapon.

But American officials agree that North Korea offers a troubling precedent of nuclear negotiations in which a rogue nation repeatedly extracted concessions from the United States and other countries, only to renege later and fire missiles or test nuclear devices.

In his speech, the Israeli official said, Mr. Netanyahu will offer a familiar list of demands: that Iran cease all enrichment of uranium and agree to the removal of all enriched uranium from its territory; dismantle its nuclear facility hidden in a mountain near the holy city of Qum; dismantle its newest generation of centrifuges at another facility, Natanz; and stop construction of a heavy-water reactor at Arak.

What is new is Mr. Netanyahu’s explicit comparison of Iran to North Korea — a rhetorical device devised to undermine Mr. Rouhani’s image as a moderate leader who posted greetings on Twitter to Jews for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. North Korea’s reclusive dictators — whether Kim Jong-il in 2005 or his son, Kim Jong-un, today — have not traveled to the United Nations to plead their country’s case to the world.

The Israeli official said that Mr. Netanyahu recognized that he would be labeled a naysayer for his pessimism. “He feels morally impelled to stake out this position,” the official said.

The White House has sought to allay the fears of Israel officials, assuring them that Mr. Obama will judge Mr. Rouhani by his actions, not his words, and that the United States is not planning to prematurely ease the economic sanctions against Iran that have crippled its economy.

“We certainly recognize and appreciate Israel’s significant concerns about Iran, given the threats that have been made against Israel and the outrageous comments that have come out of Iran for many years about Israel,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, told reporters on Friday, previewing Mr. Obama’s speech on Tuesday.

But with a recent exchange of letters between Mr. Obama and Mr. Rouhani stirring hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough, Israeli officials are not mollified. At last year’s General Assembly, Mr. Netanyahu provided what was probably its most dramatic moment, brandishing a simple drawing that he said demonstrated how close Iran was to producing a nuclear bomb.

This year, Israeli officials fear, the highest drama may be Mr. Obama greeting Mr. Rouhani on the sidelines of the General Assembly, something that has not happened for decades and which they worry would leave Israel more isolated in dealing with Iran. (Contributor: By Mark Landler for The New York Times)

International “diplomacy” has more twists and turns than a mountain road in the Alps, and if we try to follow Middle East details according to the press, we may easily be praying contradictory prayers today from those we prayed yesterday. Instead, since intercessors seek to be guided by the Word of God as illuminated by the Holy Spirit—and most likely all pray regularly for the peace of Jerusalem, which today does not rest peacefully in terms of the world scene—let us put no trust in today’s headlines. Instead, we must intercede as biblical knowledge and conscience inform us. Mr. Netanyahu fears that Iran is setting a trap, and that President Obama, eager to be a peace-negotiator, may be fooled. Let us continue to ask, seek, and knock. Our Scriptures are not “comfortable” promises, but our Lord seems to be describing the days we live in. As we observe, we must be guided by “the whole counsel of God.”

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these signs are the beginning of birth pains.”  (Matthew 24:6-8)

 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”  (Matthew 24:9-14)

 

DOCTORS BRACE FOR OBAMACARE PATIENT SURGE

Holy Cross Hospital’s health center in Aspen Hill, Maryland, is bracing for more business.

The center treats the uninsured, and has been busy since it opened in 2012 with a waiting list of more than 400 people at its clinic. Now, as a result of the U.S. Affordable Care Act, it’s mulling adding staff and hours in anticipation of next year’s rush of newly-insured patients, many with chronic medical conditions that have gone untreated for years.

Sept. 20 (Bloomberg) — Ron Cohen, chief executive officer of Acorda Therapeutics Inc., talks about implementation of the Affordable Care Act and its implications for the health-care industry. Cohen speaks with Sara Eisen, Tom Keene and Anna Edwards on Bloomberg Television’s “Surveillance.” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard also speaks. (Source: Bloomberg)

Poorly controlled diabetes can cause stroke, kidney failure and blindness. Undiagnosed cancer can translate into complex end-of-life care, and untreated high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks. In effect, the 2010 health law’s biggest promise becomes its most formidable challenge: unprecedented access to care for a needy population when the nation is already grappling with overtaxed emergency rooms and a shortage of physicians.

“When you’re getting people that haven’t had insurance, they have significant health issues,” said Kevin Sexton, president and chief executive officer of Holy Cross Health, in a telephone interview. “A lot of people need these services.”

About 25 million Americans are expected to gain coverage under the health law, commonly known as Obamacare. Starting Oct. 1, as many as 7 million uninsured Americans will begin shopping for private plans through government-run exchanges, with many people eligible to have their premiums subsidized by taxpayers. On Jan. 1, Medicaid programs for low-income people will be expanded in about half the U.S. states.

Strained System

The increase in newly insured patients arrives at a time when the nation has 15,230 fewer primary-care doctors than it needs, according to an Aug. 28 assessment by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And emergency rooms report being strained with visits that have risen at twice the rate of population growth.

“It’s like we’re handing out bus tickets and the bus is already full,” said Perry Pugno, vice president for medical education at the American Academy of Family Physicians, by telephone. “The shortfall of primary-care access is not an insignificant problem, and it’s going to get worse.”

Almost half of all uninsured, non-elderly adults had a chronic condition, based on a 2005 report by the Urban Institute and the University of Maryland. One in six with hypertension reported no visits to health professionals in a year.

Most who come to Holy Cross’s health center now lack insurance, and have lived for years with serious ailments, according to Elise Riley, the center’s medical director. “It’s frustrating to see diseases that could have been prevented,” she said in an interview in her office.

More demand may lead to months-long waits to see doctors, delays in finding specialists, and strains on hospitals and outpatient clinics, others said.

Patient Access

Ensuring patient access is critical to the Affordable Care Act’s success: if the newly insured swamp the medical system, it could hand critics pushing to derail the law another argument to fray public support. Sara Rosenbaum, a health-law professor at George Washington University in Washington, said she doesn’t believe it’s going to happen.

“It’s going to be a slow ramp up,” Rosenbaum said in a telephone interview. “It’s not like seven million people will get insurance at once. They’re not going to all come racing in the door.”

While that number of new patients can be debated, the status of those who do come in the door is not.

Patients who have had gaps in health insurance were more likely to have not gone to a doctor when sick or to have skipped getting prescriptions, according to an April 2013 report by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based foundation that works for health-care access. The uninsured were less likely to be up-to-date on recommended cholesterol, blood pressure, colon cancer screenings and mammograms.

Massachusetts Overhaul

Massachusetts pioneered health reform in 2006 when it enacted near universal coverage under then governor Mitt Romney. Community health centers and hospitals that care for a larger share of lower-income residents saw a 12 percent jump in patient volume from 2009 to 2010, with almost 100,000 more visits to safety net hospitals during that time, according to a 2012 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

David Longworth, chairman of the Medicine Institute at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic, was working in Massachusetts when the state passed near universal health coverage.

“Practices closed and patients would wait for eight to nine months to get in,” Longworth said by telephone. “We overwhelmed the primary care health system.”

In cities such as Lawrence, Massachusetts, a former textile city that has long been home to a large immigrant community, doctors have coped with rising volume.

Patient Surplus

The Lawrence Family Medicine Residency, which provides primary care and other medical services to a largely low-income patient population, saw an uptick in patients, said Joseph Gravel, chief medical officer and residency program director.

“When you look at the experience in Massachusetts, it’s going to be bumpy” when Obamacare rolls out, Gravel said in a telephone interview.

The percentage of family doctors in the state accepting new patients has dropped 19 percent in the past seven years and the percentage of internists accepting new patients has fallen 21 percent over nine years, according to a July report by the Massachusetts Medical Society, an advocacy group for patients and physicians. Only about half of family doctors were accepting new patients this year.

The Cleveland Clinic predicts as many as 90,000 new patients in northeast Ohio if everyone signs up for coverage. The health system is working to ramp up its primary care practices in anticipation.

Exciting Challenge

At Grady Health System in Atlanta, more patients are expected, especially at its six outpatient centers. San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center in California has some expanded hours its 19 primary care centers. The centers are located in the hospital and out in the community.

“We anticipate an increase in primary care and specialty,” Chief Executive Officer Sue Currin said.

On a recent Friday morning at the Holy Cross clinic in Aspen Hill, Riley donned a white coat and prepared to see patients. While there may be more patients under reform, Riley said an increase in business will be welcome.

“I’ve very excited,” Riley said. “I’ve been dealing with uninsured patients for a long time. If they get coverage, we can prevent a lot of problems.”  (Contributor: By Stephanie Armour for Bloomberg News)

A word to encourage: When soon-to-be-king David and his followers returned to Ziklag, they found their village burned and that the enemy had kidnapped all the families. Confusion, grief, and anger followed, and some of the men thought of stoning David. Yet, in it all, we read that ‘David strengthened himself in the Lord” (NKJV). The NIV says, “David found strength in the Lord his God.” He then enquired of the Lord, received direction, and the incident ends with great victory. (Read the account in 1 Sam. 30.)

We cite this for one reason: to encourage readers and intercessors. We are living through difficult times. Nothing epitomizes the confusion and division in the country more than the new health-care law, simply because so few understand it. Legislators in both major parties are arguing and debating over it. We simply encourage everyone to keep praying. Strengthen yourself in the Lord; do not lose hope for great revival; and pray as you are led – for our beloved nation to turn to the Lord.

“Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” (1 Samuel 30:6)

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9)

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16)

 

75 CHURCH MEMBERS KILLED IN PAKISTAN SUICIDE BOMBING

Two suicide bombers detonated explosives outside a historic church in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 75 people as they left Sunday worship services.

The bombing, the deadliest single attack on Christians that church leaders could recall in the country’s 66-year-old history, sparked protests across the country and renewed concerns about Pakistan’s ability to protect religious minorities.

The blast occurred outside Peshawar’s All Saints Church, which dates to 1883 and is one of the oldest Christian places of worship in northwest Pakistan.

According to security officials, the bombers blew themselves up near the gate of the church as more than 600 worshipers were leaving, sending body parts and debris flying. Many of the dead were women and children, and officials said at least 120 people were injured.

A splinter group affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban asserted responsibility for the attack, saying it was in protest of U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani soil, the latest of which may have occurred Sunday.

Pakistan’s Christian community says it is facing growing intimidation, as well as threats of kidnapping and death, from Islamist extremists and even some groups often seen as more mainstream.

“Every Christian is feeling under siege in Pakistan,” said Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, a Christian lawyer and chairman of the Pakistan Minorities Alliance.

Last year, Chaudhry successfully defended a young Christian girl from charges of blasphemy after a Muslim cleric accused her of burning the Koran. The girl fled to Canada with her parents in March. That same month, hundreds of Christians were forced to flee their neighborhood in the eastern city of Lahore after a mob set fire to dozens of houses while accusing a man of blasphemy.

But the scale of the latest bombing stunned much of Pakistan, reigniting memories of an attack in 2001 in which gunmen stormed a Roman Catholic church in Punjab province and killed 15 worshipers.

“I rushed to the site and saw dead bodies and wounded people, mostly women and children screaming,” Saeed Ullah, 24, said after Sunday’s blast.

As gruesome images from the attack flashed across television screens, several major Pakistani political parties called for three days of mourning.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued a statement in which he pledged “solidarity” with Pakistan’s Christian community. “Terrorists have no religion, and targeting innocent people is against the teachings of Islam and all religions,” he said.

Outside All Saints Church, relatives of the dead and injured set tires ablaze and shouted complaints against the police and the attackers. The crowd said security forces had not done enough to protect the church.

“It was a security collapse,” said Asif Bhatti, a former local lawmaker from the Peshawar area who attended All Saints Church.

Protests erupted in several cities, including in Karachi, about 800 miles from the scene of the bombing. Residents of Christian neighborhoods in that sprawling seaport blocked traffic and threw stones at passing vehicles, according to local media.

Michael Javed, a Christian leader in Karachi who runs several schools, said the attack left many Christians in the country feeling powerless and unprotected. Christians make up about 1 to 2 percent of Pakistan’s population. About 97 percent of residents in the country identify as Muslim.

Just 12 days ago, Javed said, he got a call from a man who threatened to “drown my school” and kill his family if he did not pay a ransom or leave the area.

He and other Christian leaders said their safety has deteriorated since the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, as Islamist militants began targeting people they suspected of holding Western beliefs.

The Taliban-linked Jundallah group that took credit for Sunday’s attack has been tied to past attempts to fuel sectarian and religious discord in Pakistan.

Ahmad Marwat, commander of the group, vowed that the attacks would continue until U.S. drone strikes are halted.

According to security officials, a suspected U.S. drone fired four missiles Sunday into a house near the border of North and South Waziristan, a tribal area known as a haven for militants and foreign fighters who often cross the border into Afghanistan.

Six militants were killed in the strike, including some foreigners, according to a Pakistani intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Pakistan’s government condemned the action, saying in a statement that such strikes “set dangerous precedents in inter-state relations.” (Contributor: By Tim Craig and Haq Nawaz Khan for The Washington Post, Khan reported from Peshawar.)

Prayer point: keeping our focus in intercessory prayer. It is perhaps inevitable for us in the U.S. to depersonalize the now-commonplace tragedy of mass murder through bombings, whether of churches or in a crowded mall of some besieged city in a far-off country. And so, let us “weep with those who weep,” praying for wounded survivors and for the families who mourn their lost loved ones. These are real people, as we are, and part of our intercessory calling is to “stand in the gap” as we try to identify with such depth of suffering and anguish. Also, if the report is accurate, this bombing may have been for revenge instead of persecution, though both are born out of hatred, and Christians remain a vulnerable target throughout the world. Let us pray accordingly.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:15-18)
50% OF MODERN JOBS THREATENED BY MACHINES

Computers have been an important part of many industries for decades already and have replaced humans in many jobs. But a new wave of technological development means that even positions that we once saw as immune to computerization are now under threat.

In 1930, as the Great Depression spread across the Atlantic, John Maynard Keynes famously predicted that the discovery of technological means would outrun the pace at which we can find new uses for labor, resulting in widespread technological unemployment. Keynes, however, was optimistic and predicted that this would only be a temporary phase. In the long-run, he argued, technological progress will solve mankind’s “economic problem”, that is our need to work, and release us from our traditional purpose of subsistence.

Commentators today are less optimistic. How Technology Wrecks the Middle Class, a recent New York Times Column by David Autor and David Dorn, captures an observation made by several commentators: technology has turned on labour.

In the modern world of work, low income service jobs have expanded sharply at the expense of middle-income manufacturing and production jobs. There are many more security guards and pharmacy aides while the rate of growth has slown in professions such as chemical plant operators and fabric patternmakers. Meanwhile, computers have increased the productivity of high income workers, such as professional managers, engineers and consultants. The result has been a polarised labour market with surging wage inequality. Research has shown that this polarisation between “lousy” and “lovely” jobs is happening in Britain as well as the US, implying that there has been a hollowing-out of the middle class.

The threat of computerization has historically been largely confined to routine manufacturing tasks involving explicit rule-based activities such as part construction and assembly. But a look at 700 occupation types in the US suggests that 47 per cent are at risk from a threat that once only loomed for a small proportion of workers.

The likelihood of a job being vulnerable to computerization is based on the types of tasks workers perform and the engineering obstacles that currently prevent machines from taking over the role.

These technological breakthroughs are, in large part, due to efforts to turn non-routine tasks into well-defined problems. The automation of these occupations is made possible by big data and advanced sensors, giving robots enhanced senses and dexterity, allowing them to perform a broader scope of non-routine manual tasks. For the first time, jobs in transportation and logistics are at risk. Take the autonomous driverless cars being developed by Google. They are the perfect example of a new way in which a human worker, such as a long-haul truck driver, could be replaced by a machine in the modern age.

Desk dwellers are no longer immune either. Algorithms for big data are now rapidly entering domains reliant upon pattern recognition and can readily substitute for labour in a wide range of non-routine cognitive tasks. Those working in fields such as administration could once feel comfortable that a computer would never be able to do their job but that will no longer be the case for many.

More surprisingly, the bulk of service occupations, from fast food counter attendants to medical transcriptionists, where the most job growth has occurred over the past decades, are also to be found in the high risk category. This reflects technological development too. The market for personal and household service robots is already growing by about 20% annually. As the comparative advantage of human labour in tasks involving mobility and dexterity will diminish over time, the pace of labour substitution in service occupations is likely to increase even further.

This first wave of computerization in the big data era marks a turning point. Nineteenth century manufacturing technologies largely substituted for skilled labour in jobs, such as weaving and the production of tools, by simplifying the tasks involved. Next, the computer revolution of the twentieth century caused a hollowing-out of middle-income jobs. The next generation of computers will mainly substitute low-income, low-skill workers over the next decades.

So, if a computer can drive as well as you, serve customers as well as you and track down information as well as you, just who is safe in their job these days?

Careers at low risk of computerization are generally those that require knowledge of human heuristics and specialist occupations involving the development of novel ideas and artifacts. Most management, business, and finance occupations, which are intensive in generalist tasks requiring social intelligence, are still largely confined to the low-risk category. The same is true of most occupations in education and healthcare, as well as arts and media jobs.

Engineering and science occupations are also less susceptible to the phenomenon, largely due to the high degree of creative intelligence they require. It is, however, possible that computers will fully substitute for workers in these occupations over the long-run.

This means that as technology races ahead, low-skill workers will need to train in tasks that are less susceptible to computerization – that is, tasks requiring creative and social intelligence. If you want to stop a computer taking your job, you’ll have to hone your creative and social skills. Mercifully, it will be quite a while before the machines outpace us in that respect.

Sean O’Heigeartaigh contributed to this article. He receives funding from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology. Carl Frey and Michael Osborne do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published at The Conversation. (Contributor: By Carl Frey & Michael Osborne for Real Clear Technology)

Once again, we are reading a “back to the future” type of article—interesting, but not relevant to most of us at present. The authors themselves say this: “Mercifully, it will be quite a while before the machines outpace us in that respect.” As with all “progress,” either man’s creativity will serve mankind or become its master. God interrupted one early attempt to get to heaven by a man-made tower (Genesis 11), and He can do so again. God created a man, Adam, not a robot, to live and work in the Garden. He loves and redeems people, not systems, and He will provide for His own. Remember Egypt and the plague of darkness. The Bible says that the Egyptians could not see each other, but “all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.” Pray against fear and for a spiritual resurgence and revival, whereby the Gospel will make men and women children of God and His servants, using the technology for His glory.

“I beseech [all of you], by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.’ So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings” (Exodus 10:21-23)

On Watch in Washington September 25, 2013 Plain Text PDF Version