Russian President Vladimir Putin is not happy. The government he backed in Ukraine has collapsed. The Ukrainian leader he favored, Viktor Yanukovych is on the run, accused of the “mass murder” of protesters.
I am not so bold as to predict what Mr. Putin will do next. That he will take action — perhaps very bold action — should be the working assumption of American policy planners.
On one level, Mr. Putin is a simple man: He likes to hunt, fish and ride horses bareback. Those who cross him end up in cages in Siberia — or worse. Employing Machiavellian principles, he has become, over the past 15 years, a neo-czar.
He also has demonstrated a remarkable ability to befuddle American leaders. In 2001, President George W. Bush looked into Mr. Putin’s eyes and came away with “a sense of his soul” — suggesting it resembled Thomas Jefferson rather than Ivan the Terrible.
Nevertheless, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton convinced themselves that it was Mr. Bush’s cowboy swagger — not conflicting geopolitical interests — that were the root cause of Russo-American tensions. Their solution: “Reset” relations with the Kremlin. That this was a misguided policy became evident when Mrs. Clinton, with elaborate fanfare, presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with a button inscribed with the Russian word “peregruzka.” She believed it meant “reset.” In fact, it means “overcharge.” (Reset is “perezagruzka.” True, that’s only a two-letter mistake, but spelling matters when one letter separates “Obama” from “Osama.”)
Two things to keep in mind about Mr. Putin: First, just as a U.S. Marine is always a U.S. Marine, so a KGB colonel is always a KGB colonel. Second, he believes — and in 2005 stated clearly — that the “demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century.
This does not imply that he is a communist. Ideologies — indeed, ideas — are of little apparent interest to him. What he does care about is power — for himself, certainly — but also for the Russian nation and people. Under both czars and commissars, Russia commanded an empire. If Mr. Putin does not restore Russian hegemony over a vast swath of Eurasia, it won’t be for lack of effort.
No territory is more central to this mission than Ukraine, which Mr. Putin sees as a Russian territory. Not entirely without reason: Rus’, the first eastern Slavic state, was founded around what is now the Ukrainian capital of Kiev in the 9th century. “Ukraine” derives from a Slavic root meaning “borderland.” You’ve been reading news stories about “Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine” and “Ukrainian-speakers in the west,” but the two Slavic tongues are actually more mutually intelligible than, say, the versions of Arabic spoken in Morocco and Egypt.
Don’t misunderstand me: Historic, ethnic and linguistic ties are no reason to deny a people self-determination. A few years back, Czechoslovakians decided they’d rather be Czechs and Slovaks. There are no longer Yugoslavs — just Serbians, Croatians, Bosnians and others.
If Ukrainians (most of them in the western part of the country) want to distance themselves from Russia, to become more like their freer, richer, less corrupt (though increasingly effete) neighbors in the European Union, should they not have that right?
On the other hand, if some Ukrainians (mostly in the east and on the Crimean Peninsula, home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet) prefer to remain joined at the hip with Putin’s autocratic and unproductive Russia, are they not entitled to make a bad decision?
Most of the media have characterized the Ukrainian crisis as has The Wall Street Journal: “a nationwide movement for wholesale democratic change.” I suspect it’s more about Ukraine’s crumbling economy and conflicted identity than democracy, though the available data leave room for uncertainty.
Perhaps the turmoil is best understood as a belated aftershock of the Cold War. In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell (actually it was dismantled by hand; I have a chunk here in my office), and two years later the Soviet Union crumbled.
The Baltic States — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — had remained essentially Western despite years of Soviet and Russian occupation. They quickly became parliamentary democracies and members of the European Union. Muslim-majority (and not Islamist) Azerbaijan has benefited from petroleum resources and political stability. Other former Soviet republics, though, have been sinking into authoritarianism, poverty or chaos.
Twenty years ago, Ukraine’s major foreign policy objective was integration with the EU. Among the reasons little progress was made: Ukrainians failed to meet the EU’s economic and other standards, the EU was nervous about expanding into the heart of what had been Soviet space, and the United States, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, has been reluctant to get deeply involved. (Recall George H.W. Bush’s “chicken Kiev” speech of 1991.)
Last fall, just as Ukraine was about to sign an “association agreement” with the EU, Mr. Putin offered Mr. Yanukovych’s government a $15 billion bailout — if he’d put his pen back in his pocket. That was the spark that ignited the recent explosions.
I’d wager that Mr. Putin is willing to spend a lot more to keep Ukraine within Russia’s orbit. He may be willing to commit troops as well — as he did in Chechnya and Georgia.
Ukraine could descend into civil war. Or Ukrainians could choose, in a referendum, whether to integrate into Europe, reinforce their ties with Russia, split into separate eastern and western states, or attempt to sort out their differences in some other way.
Expect Mr. Putin to set “red lines” and do whatever is necessary to enforce them. He won’t ask permission from Mr. Obama, the EU or the United Nations. You shouldn’t need to look into his eyes to see that. (Contributor: By Clifford D. May for The Washington Times – Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
In context, this article is outside IFA’s direct purview. Its focus is Russian-Ukraine relations and Russian President Putin’s political ambitions. But the planet appears to get smaller, and wider implications cannot be ignored. Media coverage already projects a battle of wills between Mr. Putin and U.S. President Obama. Mr. Obama warned of “consequences” should Mr. Putin send troops into Ukraine, but the Russian president did just that. It is too soon to tell what will follow, but faithful intercessors, praying for U.S. safety, are alert. “Lord God, we pray for the coming of the Prince of Peace, when war and violence will end, and Your kingdom will stand secure. Amen!”
“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Matt 24:6-8)
“He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:3-4)
Conservatives call it a scheme to silence President Obama’s critics. Liberals complain the administration risks trampling on the First Amendment.
Protests are coming from all directions over the Obama administration’s proposal to curb secretive groups that play an increasingly dominant role in American politics. In 2012, such tax-exempt organizations poured hundreds of millions of dollars into campaign-related ads, and they are taking the lead in shaping the landscape of this year’s midterm elections.
That kind of spending would be much harder under draft rules the Treasury Department rolled out in November that would define what constitutes political activities for “social welfare” groups organized under the 501(c)(4) section of the tax code. But now, the opposition is so intense that many believe the proposed regulations are in serious jeopardy.
The battle over the rules will test the administration’s ability to shape policy through executive action, a tactic Obama is increasingly embracing in the face of a recalcitrant Congress.
More than 23,000 comments — the majority of them sharply critical — have been filed in response to the proposed regulations, shattering the Internal Revenue Service’s previous records.
Republican lawmakers, who say the rules are aimed at constraining Obama’s conservative opponents, are pushing legislation to delay them. But protests have also come from groups on the left such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which has argued that the regulations could cause serious free-speech problems, as well as logistical nightmares.
Amid the debate, tax-exempt groups that do not disclose their financial supporters are already emerging as major players in the 2014 midterms. Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group backed by the billionaires Charles and David Koch, has pumped $27 million into ads attacking congressional Democrats. On the left, organizations such as Patriot Majority and the League of Conservation Voters have sought to counter the attacks.
The effort to rein in such players is caught up in the charged political atmosphere of the IRS targeting scandal last year, when an audit revealed that agency staffers had singled out nonprofit groups with words such as “tea party” and “patriot” in their names for extra scrutiny.
Critics and supporters of the proposal agree that the vehement objections could delay or even derail the rules. Tax experts now expect the Treasury Department to pull back the regulations and rewrite them — or withdraw them completely.
“There is a valid concern that the IRS is going to back away from any enforcement at all,” said Stephen Spaulding, staff counsel for Common Cause, which backs more limits on tax-exempt groups. “They’re being pummeled,” he added.
Tax attorney Marcus Owens, a former top IRS official, had a more dire prognosis. “I think the regulations are dead in the water,” he said.
Administration officials indicated that the rulemaking was proceeding.
“Treasury and the IRS issued the proposed guidance as a first step in a careful, thoughtful process to clarify the rules governing social welfare and other tax-exempt organizations, consistent with the recommendations of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration,” Treasury Department spokeswoman Victoria Esser said in a statement. “Clarification of these rules is an important goal and one that we are committed to, although there are still many steps remaining before final rules are released.”
But congressional Republicans are seeking to head off any new restrictions. On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee advanced legislation to prevent any rules from taking effect for a year. A similar measure was introduced in the Senate by Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Pat Roberts (Kan.) and sponsored by 37 additional senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).
The proposal “would essentially allow the IRS to bully and intimidate Americans who exercise their right of free speech,” McConnell said on the Senate floor this month.
“The administration knew it could never get anything like that through Congress the democratic way, so it is trying to quietly impose these new regulations through the back door — through the back door — by executive fiat,” he added.
Advocates for tightening the political activities of 501(c)(4) groups say there are flaws in the proposed regulations but contend that conservative critics just want to ensure that nonprofits engaging in campaigns do not have to reveal their donors, as political committees must.
“What we’ve seen from the likes of Leader McConnell and many folks on the right is really egregiously dishonest,” Spaulding said. “It’s been incredibly over the top, and it’s raised the temperature to the point that folks need a reminder as to what this whole controversy is about in the first place — multimillionaires using these (c)(4)s as tax shelters to spend unlimited amounts of money on politics.”
The use of tax-exempt groups as political vehicles took off in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, leading to a flood of applications to the IRS from new organizations seeking recognition as 501(c)(4)s. Such groups have wide latitude under tax laws, governed only by a regulation from 1959 that states that a social-welfare organization must be “primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the people of the community.”
A lack of specific guidance about how much such nonprofits can engage in campaigns may have led IRS employees to inappropriately target some groups for extra scrutiny, the Treasury Department’s inspector general concluded in a May audit.
The department sought to begin clarifying the rules in November, releasing draft regulations that for the first time would define what constitutes “campaign-related political activity” for 501(c)(4)s. Those activities would not count toward a group’s social-welfare purpose.
But the proposal sweeps into that category many routine functions of advocacy groups, including nonpartisan voter registration, candidate forums and get-out-the-vote activities. That triggered alarm across the political spectrum.
“The proposed rule threatens to discourage or sterilize an enormous amount of political discourse in America,” the ACLU wrote in a 26-page comment that urges the IRS to revamp the proposal.
Among the most troubling aspects, ACLU counsel Gabe Rottman said, is that the regulations would classify as political activity the mere mention of candidates or political parties on a group’s Web site in the run-up to primaries or elections — requiring organizations to scrub their Web sites or try to calculate how much they were spending to maintain those Web pages.
Environmental groups such as the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club — while supportive of clearer rules for 501(c)(4)s — are also worried. Cathy Duvall, the Sierra Club’s director of strategic partnerships, said that the proposal “harms efforts that have nothing to do with politics, from our ability to communicate with our members about clean air and water to our efforts to educate the public about toxic pollution.”
Objections have also been registered by labor unions, which are formed under a different part of the tax code and fear the new rules would eventually apply to their activities.
But the loudest protests are coming from groups on the right. Organizations such as FreedomWorks and Tea Party Patriots have urged members to submit comments objecting to the rules.
Conservative election law attorney Cleta Mitchell said she has spent the past month doing briefings and national conference calls for nonprofit groups, warning them of the potential impact.
In the end, she said, she hopes “the IRS will realize that these proposed regulations are an abomination and will discard any thought of trying to push them to final implementation.” (Contributor: By Matea Gold for The Washington Post)
Readers of these mid-week alerts know IFA’s goal is to encourage unified, standing-in-the-gap intercession. National issues are complex and divisive, as this article represents. Human wisdom offers no solutions. Intercessors focus on our nation’s spiritual well-being, praying for righteous government, so we might lead peaceful lives, with freedom to share the Gospel. In these highly volatile political situations, we carry no partisan banner; instead, we call out to our all-wise, loving God, “Let Your kingdom come; may Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” With that in mind, we know intercessors will seek divine wisdom and intercede as Scripture and conscience direct.
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” (1 Tim 2:1-3)
“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.’” (Dan 2:20-22)
Lawmakers blasted the Food and Drug Administration last Tuesday for secretly monitoring the emails of agency scientists who went public with allegations that they were pressured to approve certain medical devices.
In a report published in conjunction with a congressional hearing, two Republicans said that the FDA’s computer surveillance may have overstepped federal laws designed to protect government whistleblowers. Using software that took rapid-fire screen shots of employees’ desktops, the FDA swept up emails from several whistleblowers to members of Congress and their private attorneys. Such communications are protected from disclosure by federal law.
The report is the product of a two-year investigation by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Issa acknowledged in his opening statement that federal workers have no right to privacy when using government computers or property.
“But that is not to say that targeting is appropriate. That is not to say that these five scientists’ concerns are unreasonable — they are.” Issa said.
House Democrats defended the surveillance, in part, pointing to the findings of the inspector general that oversees the FDA. In a report released just ahead of the hearing, the inspector general concludes that the surveillance had a “reasonable basis” because the employees were leaking confidential information to the press about devices under review. The report also concluded that the surveillance was not targeted to capture communications with Congress or any other specific parties.
While finding justification for the monitoring, the report also faults the agency for having no system to ensure that “their investigations were conducted in accordance with laws and regulations.” As a result, the program “had significant negative consequences for FDA.”
The report does not make a final judgment on whether the FDA monitoring was lawful, noting that that question is the subject of litigation. Several of the whistleblowers have a lawsuit pending against the FDA, alleging that their right to privacy was violated.
The FDA’s chief operating officer, Walter Harris, told lawmakers that the agency recently put in place guidelines for monitoring employees’ computers.
In testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Harris said policies issued last September are designed to ensure that “monitoring is utilized for appropriate purposes and takes place for no longer than necessary.”
Not present at the hearing were the FDA whistleblowers themselves, several of whom have since left the agency.
The dispute that prompted the surveillance stretches back to 2009, when Dr. Robert Smith and several other FDA reviewers sent letters to Congress and the incoming Obama administration about alleged misconduct in the agency’s medical device center.
Smith and others later took their complaints to the media, claiming they were bullied and harassed by managers into approving high-tech medical scanners, despite concerns that the devices might needlessly expose patients to excessive radiation levels.
At the request of Congress, the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general twice reviewed the employees’ complaints in 2010, but concluded there was “no evidence of retaliation” by FDA managers.
According to the Republican report issued Tuesday, FDA managers hired an outside contractor to begin monitoring Smith’s computer in April 2010, eventually expanding the surveillance to four other employees. At the same time that the whistleblowers were seeking an investigation by the HHS inspector general, their managers were urging the same inspectors to open a criminal investigation into the whistleblowers’ disclosures about products under review.
“The managers kept looking for information that would convince the inspector general to seek a criminal prosecution. It was a sort of management by investigation,” said Grassley, who appeared before the House committee. “That’s no way to run an agency.”
The FDA’s monitoring program eventually became public knowledge in May 2012, after a cache of 80,000 documents collected by the contractor was inexplicably posted online. The documents detailed emails to Congress, the government’s Office of Special Counsel and members of the media, including The Associated Press. (Contributor: By Matthew Perrone for The Associated Press and The Washington Times)
We would all like more ‘feel-good’ news stories, avoiding articles about intra-agency strife in our U.S. government. But for the sake of truth, and to encourage intercessors in their faithful praying, we face the realities of a fallen world and a sinful, declining society. Our Lord said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but those who are sick.” Give thanks for the dedicated Christians serving in government offices. Many Capitol Hill staff prayer meetings are strong and fruitful. Let our prayers for widespread revival join with theirs. May many more be saved, as there is no hope apart from Christ.
“When Jesus heard it, He said unto them, ‘They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’” (Mark 2:17)
“Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6)
As Democratic officials rely more than ever on the big-money super PACs they once scorned, party strategists and donors are caught in sharp disagreements over how to use the newly influential independent organizations.
Tensions are simmering over whether Priorities USA Action and other Democratic groups that can accept unlimited contributions are too focused on the 2016 presidential race and a potential Hillary Rodham Clinton candidacy, even as Democrats face a costly, uphill fight this year to retain a thin Senate majority and gain seats in the House.
The importance of focusing on 2014 was also a topic of considerable chatter this week as President Barack Obama addressed activists and donors at a Washington meeting of Organizing for Action, his issues-oriented grass-roots group. Some party leaders are grumbling that the nonprofit, which raised more than $26 million last year, has been working to rally support for Obama’s health-care overhaul — but is not running television ads aimed at boosting vulnerable Democratic incumbents under fire for their support of the measure.
Concerns over the early focus on Clinton came into view this week, when the executive director of Priorities USA, the super PAC backed by Hollywood moguls and other top pro-Clinton donors, sent a letter assuring donors that the group would not “big-foot” other party super PACs working to help candidates in this year’s congressional elections and asking them to direct money to 2014 efforts.
After the missive, the House and Senate super PACs each got $500,000 from the plumbers and pipefitters union, whose president is on the Priorities USA board.
Still, worries remain among leading party figures that the early 2016 buildup is distracting from the urgent need to combat well-funded groups on the right this year.
“It is much too early, and I don’t think it is particularly helpful to have that kind of focus on 2016,” said Peter Buttenwieser, a Philadelphia education consultant and major donor. “In terms of someone who cares about the Senate and the 2014 election, I find those things to be diverting and getting in the way.”
The debate over tactics and resources has gained steam in recent months as party officials and donors have moved swiftly to accept, even embrace, the growing role of super PACs and other independent groups that many Democrats have criticized for giving the wealthy too much influence over politics.
With each move — building donor lists, organizing volunteers and hiring staff — these groups are in effect supplanting the role of the traditional party organization, only without a built-in framework for picking leaders, setting goals and accounting for spending.
Their expansion further pulls the center of political gravity away from the Democratic National Committee, which is struggling to pay off nearly $16 million in debt from 2012.
Priorities USA, practically a political outcast when it was launched three years ago by two former White House staffers, has a new board of directors with a membership list befitting the national party itself — including labor officials, corporate lobbyists, seasoned political operatives, a former governor and Obama’s 2012 campaign manager.
There is now a near-universal view among top donors and strategists that the party needs its own big-money groups to compete with the growing role such groups are playing on the right.
That consensus has grown as Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group supported by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, has poured nearly $29 million into ads against vulnerable congressional Democrats in the past six months.
Obama has agreed to headline fundraisers this year for super PACs raising money to boost Democratic House and Senate candidates — the first time he will appear at events for such groups.
“The proliferation of money in politics continues to be a big concern, but it’s also a reality,” longtime Obama adviser David Axelrod said. “You can’t play by one set of rules while the other side is playing by another.”
But as Democrats have rushed to build out their super PAC infrastructure, Axelrod and other leading party strategists have expressed concern about the early burst of 2016 energy.
“With the Senate seriously at risk, and the Koch Brothers spending prodigiously,” he wrote on Twitter on Feb. 6, “shouldn’t Dem funders be focused on ‘14 and not ‘16 races?”
In an email Thursday, Axelrod said he was not referring to any specific group but added, “Generally, I think efforts should be focused on this election, in which the stakes are very large, before Democrats become consumed by the next.”
As big donors gathered in Washington this week to attend meetings of the OFA and the DNC, some operatives said party financiers need to be further pushed to back the midterm efforts.
“House and Senate Majority PACs have been able to go up against AFP in a handful of incumbent districts to reduce the disparity,” said one senior strategist, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “The problem is that there are not enough resources to defend against the breadth and intensity of these attacks.”
Organizers of the 2016 super PACs say they agree the party must focus for now on the midterms, and some moved this week to quell concerns. Priorities USA, which has been soliciting seven-figure pledges from donors for 2016, has scrambled to emphasize its support for this year’s campaigns. The group is contemplating ways to assist Democratic governors and help expand the party’s voter pool this year.
“Priorities USA Action is all-in for 2014,” senior strategist Paul Begala said. “We will not aggressively raise for 2016 until after the midterms.”
The group also urged its contributors to donate to the two Democratic congressional super PACs and noted that it has given each of the groups $250,000.
“We don’t want to cannibalize the resources from 2014,” said former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, who co-chairs Priorities USA with Jim Messina, Obama’s 2012 campaign manager.
Officials with Ready for Hillary, which is working to harness grass-roots support for Clinton, said they are going to use their growing network to drive volunteers and donations to congressional Democrats this year. Postcards being sent to supporters in Iowa and other states will seek volunteers to help in 2014 races.
OFA officials have said that the group will not engage in elections, but supporters said that its work advocating for the health-care law improves the landscape for Democratic candidates this year.
Christine Forester, a San Diego donor and co-chair of the OFA advisory board who attended this week’s meetings, said the group’s direct engagement on issues “will get people to the voting booth in a way we may never have seen before.”
Super PAC organizers said worries about the financial advantages of conservative groups have spurred an unusual level of coordination between independent groups on the left.
As they ramp up their 2014 campaigns, the two congressional super PACs — House Majority PAC and Senate Majority PAC — are again collaborating with an array of environmental advocates, labor unions and women’s groups. Many of the players participate in regular strategy sessions in a conference room at the downtown Washington office of the Perkins Coie law firm.
They synchronize their efforts, divvying up ad buys and swapping polling, and consult with strategists running super PACs backed by hedge fund manager Tom Steyer and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.
American Bridge, an opposition research outfit headed by conservative-turned-liberal activist David Brock, provides the groups with intel and candidate tracking.
“One of the lessons everyone learned over the last few cycles is that we are never going to have as much money as the Republicans will, therefore we can’t waste a dime of it,” said Alixandria Lapp, executive director of House Majority PAC.
Clinton allies have now taken that coordinated approach in building an early super PAC infrastructure for 2016.
Priorities USA strategist Sean Sweeney and Buffy Wicks, who came aboard as executive director in January, set out to recruit a high-powered board, snagging representatives of nearly every important Democratic constituency group.
Brock, whose group has launched a 2016 rapid-response project, and Allida Black, co-founder of Ready for Hillary, are members.
The board also includes EMILY’s List president Stephanie Schriock, former Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese, former Clinton White House aide Maria Echeveste and union leaders William P. Hite of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters and Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers.
Two veteran campaign strategists that helped the super PAC in 2012, Clinton adviser Harold Ickes and America Votes president Greg Speed, stayed on, joined by Charles Baker III., a lobbyist and Democratic strategist who served as a top aide to John Kerry, Al Gore and Michael Dukakis.
And now there are host of board members with deep ties into corporate America, including Viacom executive Marva Smalls and lobbyist Justin Gray, whose clients include Comcast and McDonald’s. Jonathan Mantz, who served as Clinton’s national finance director in 2008 and is now a lobbyist at the high-powered firm BGR Group, is the super PAC’s senior finance adviser, while longtime party fundraiser Diane Rogalle is finance director.
Priorities USA officials said new board members are expected to be added soon, including environmental advocates and more labor leaders.
In the coming weeks, the super PAC’s strategists plan to hold briefings with Democratic donors in cities such as New York, Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles. They aren’t making the hard ask for checks yet — instead, they are working to secure financial pledges of as much as $1 million, so that when 2016 kicks off, the super PAC will have already locked up resources.
This time, the group hopes to raise substantially more than the $79 million it got in 2012, Granholm said.
“I get the sense that people are very, very interested in helping when the time is right,” she said. (Contributor: By Matea Gold for The Washington Post and AmesTrib.com)
Introductory prayer thoughts: Give thanks to God if you possess true riches. One self-test is that you can read this report without coveting the wealth of others. Another is to realize that to have vast sums of money but lack peace with God is to be poor indeed. Most American Christians have long since realized that money controls much of the electoral process. None of this is to say that wealthy people cannot be godly. (See 1 Tim 6:6-10) For them, money is a servant; for others, however, it may be an idol. But God “does whatever He pleases” (Ps. 115), so we may pray for morally upright candidates to be elected, then watch God turn the tide at the ballot box and allow His choice to win the office.
“Why should the Gentiles say, ‘So where is their God?’ But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear; noses they have, but they do not smell; they have hands, but they do not handle; feet they have, but they do not walk; nor do they mutter through their throat. Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them.” (Psalm 115:2-8)
“Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)
More Americans support same-sex marriage today than a decade ago, but a majority still believe sex acts between people of the same gender are “morally wrong.”
These and other findings were released the same day the state-level battle over same-sex marriage intensified, as a federal judge in Texas joined courts in Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia in striking down a voter-approved provision recognizing only traditional man-woman marriages as legal.
A survey of 4,500 adults said public support for same-sex marriage has grown to 53 percent, a significant jump from 32 percent in 2003, when Massachusetts became the first state to recognize same-sex marriage.
The increase was driven by younger Americans, ages 18 to 33, as well as more people reporting having gay friends or family members, according to the report from Public Religion Research Institute.
The generation gap is huge — 69 percent of millennials support same-sex marriage, compared with 37 percent of Americans in the silent generation, who are 68 or older, said Robert P. Jones, chief executive and founder of the institute.
Having a close friend or family member who is gay also has “a profound effect” on support, said Daniel Cox, director of research for PRRI.
In 1993, 22 percent of people reported having a close relationship with someone who is gay. By 2013, that number had jumped to 65 percent.
People with friends or family who are gay are much more likely to support same-sex marriage than those without such relationships — 63 percent to 36 percent, said the report, which was funded by the Ford Foundation.
The survey revealed strong support for same-sex parenting and strong opposition to discrimination against sexual minorities, but also — ironically — a widely held belief that gay sex acts are immoral and same-sex marriage violates religious principles.
Fifty-one percent of respondents said “sex between two adults of the same gender” is morally wrong. An equal majority said same-sex marriage “completely” or “mostly” goes against their religious convictions.
The survey further showed that Americans vastly overestimate the number of people who are gay — 22 percent thought it was a third of the U.S. population.
Only 14 percent of respondents correctly answered that 5 percent or less of the U.S. population is gay, said the PRRI study, noting that in its own data, 1 percent of respondents said they were gay, 1 percent said they were lesbian, 1 percent said they were transgender and 3 percent said they were bisexual.
The survey also asked about the origin of homosexuality and found that 44 percent of Americans believe it is inborn, 36 percent think it develops from upbringing or environment, and 14 percent think it is a combination of nature and nurture.
Respondents’ beliefs about the basis of homosexuality influenced their views about same-sex marriage: About 76 percent of those who believe being gay is inborn support same-sex marriage, while 67 percent of those who think it is derived mostly from outside influences oppose same-sex unions.
Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, a gay-advocacy marriage group, praised the PRRI study — and the Texas ruling — but encouraged more discussions.
“With 47 marriage cases in 25 states now moving forward, and the possibility that a freedom-to-marry case will again reach the Supreme Court as soon as 2015, we must continue the conversations and progress — Texan to Texan, American to American — that show that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry,” he said. (Contributor: By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)
There is nothing new here for intercessors who “watch and pray.” Still it offers an important prayer focus for spiritual introspection among Christians and Evangelical churches. We must ask, “Is our own house in order?” That isn’t to suggest sexual confusion runs rampant in the Church. Not at all. It is to suggest we pray for a resurgence of clear Gospel preaching, knowing changed lives result in changed behavior. About immorality, the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians, “And such were some of you. But you were washed … ” (1 Cor 6:11a) Lives are radically changed when Jesus Christ is Lord. Please pray accordingly, knowing God’s love and call to all who need salvation.
“And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:11)
“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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” (Rom 1:16-17)
[The Apostle Paul testifies of his call to evangelize the lost] “… to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in [God].” (Acts 26:17-18)
An extremely rare, polio-like disease has appeared in more than a dozen California children within the past year, and each of them suffered paralysis to one or more arms or legs, Stanford University researchers say. But public health officials haven’t identified any common causes connecting the cases.
The illness is still being investigated and appears to be very unusual, but Dr. Keith Van Haren at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University warned Monday that any child showing a sudden onset of weakness in their limbs or symptoms of paralysis should be immediately seen by a doctor.
“The disease resembles but is not the same as polio,” he said. “But this is serious. Most of the children we’ve seen so far have not recovered use of their arm or their leg.”
But doctors are not sure if it’s a virus or something else, he said. Van Haren said he has studied five cases from Monterey up through the San Francisco Bay Area, including two that were identified as the disease enterovirus-68, which is from the same family as the polio viruses. He said there have been about 20 cases statewide.
“We want to temper the concern, because at the moment, it does not appear to represent a major epidemic but only a very rare phenomenon,” he said, noting similar outbreaks in Asia and Australia.
But for some children, like Sofia Jarvis, 4, of Berkeley, rare doesn’t mean safe.
She first developed what looked like asthma two years ago, but then her left arm stopped moving, and it has remained paralyzed ever since.
“You can imagine. We had two boys that are very healthy, and Sofia was healthy until that point,” said her mother, Jessica Tomei. “We did not realize what we were in store for. We did not realize her arm would be permanently paralyzed.”
Van Haren, who diagnosed Sofia, said polio vaccines do not protect children from the disease, but he stressed that it is still important for children to receive that vaccine.
Dr. Jane Seward of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said Monday that the research is still underway in California, and there are a variety of infectious diseases that can cause childhood paralysis.
Any of a number of illnesses could be at work, and it’s possible some of the cases had one infection and some had another. Regarding the presence of EV-68 in at least two cases, “it could be an incidental finding,” Seward said.
Until officials get more information, Seward said they are not looking around the country for similar cases of EV-68.
The California Department of Public Health has not identified any common causes that suggest that the cases are linked, said Dr. Gil Chavez, the deputy director of the Center for Infectious Disease and state epidemiologist.
“Physicians and public health officials who have encountered similar illnesses have submitted 20 reports to CDPH, and CDPH has conducted preliminary tests on 15 of these specimens,” he said. “Thus far, the department has not identified any common causes that suggest that the cases are linked.”
University of California, San Francisco, neurology professor Emmanuelle Waubant said doctors believe, but don’t have proof, that it’s a virus that for most children shows up only as a benign cold. She said a few children, due to their biological makeup, are having much more serious symptoms and she hoped doctors would look for them.
“For a lot of the neurologists who have trained in the last 30 years, it’s extremely rare to see polio or polio-like syndrome,” she said. (Contributor: By Martha Mendoza for Associated Press – Associated Press writer Mike Stobbe in Atlanta contributed to this report.)
A serious call to prayer! Pray that God gives wisdom and insight to the doctors treating the infected children, for the research scientists looking for the exact cause, and for a solution before the disease settles in and affects more children. Let us pray, too, against fear in families and communities. Pray for God’s mercy, not only for the people of California, but for the entire country. Is this a divine call for our nation to seek God openly and earnestly? May God be glorified as intercessors pray.
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
“The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.” (Nahum 1:7)
Jewish Voice Ministries has long been known for our heart for Israel and the Jewish People as well as the nations throughout the world. We are currently asking you to join us in covering in prayer a project taking place here in the USA. For four years now, we have been working on a television documentary to air on secular stations to reach Jewish People. The first three years this documentary was being produced, and last year it was presented, airing in 13 major United States metropolitan areas, and watched by over 2 million viewers!
This award-winning one-hour television special is called “The Miracle of Israel,” and is narrated by Leonard Nimoy. It is a historical snapshot of the Jewish People and details how their miraculous survival and restoration may hold the key to our future. It also includes views on Messianic and Last Days’ prophecy and the identity of the Messiah.
This spring, from March 29 through late April, Jewish Voice Ministries International will again air this documentary in a number of large, key U.S. cities. Considering the current political climate, the threats Israel is facing almost daily, and the rise of anti-Semitism, we think you will agree that this is an opportune time to spread the word about God’s heart for Israel and for the Jewish People as individuals.
We are seeking massive prayer cover for this significant and timely initiative. This is yet another important tool that God has given us to fulfill our mandate of reaching the Jewish People with the Good News.
- For continued favor on all aspects, including the airing and timing in each city
- For the Lord to use this television special to turn the hearts of many Jewish People to their Messiah
- For the successful training and preparation of our follow-up teams in each city, and for all technical aspects of the website and phone centers to be operating perfectly
- That God draws Jewish People supernaturally to watch this program in the areas where it will be broadcast
- That He prepares their hearts to hear and receive the message
- That seeds are planted in the hearts of unbelieving viewers and the Word does not return void
- That God orchestrates divine appointments so those who watch the program will have continued encounters with Believers and events that draw them into salvation
- That thousands will be touched and call or log on to the website for more info
- That Jewish People of influence will come to Yeshua, and as a result, draw many others to Him as well
Last year, the Lord did exceedingly abundantly more than we had asked through this television special. We ask for your prayers as we know that as we continue to move forward, this kingdom initiative must be bathed in massive intercession to have eternal impact.
Please join us in praying for “The Miracle of Israel,” and log on here for more info and to see the Spring 2014 airing schedule once it is finalized: www.TheMiracleofIsrael.com
This prayer focus is ready-made and built into the report. The details are laid out in clear language, and all intercessors can cooperate and be part of an anticipated harvest of souls through this film and DVD. Let us pray that many thousands of lives will receive an impartation of God’s redeeming love in this presentation. Israel is indeed a miracle of survival.
“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. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, ‘Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life’? But what does the divine response say to him? I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal. 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; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Rom 11:1-6)
A biblical booklet in a shirt pocket apparently helped a bus driver survive a shooting, and authorities were looking Tuesday for three suspects, police say.
The driver for the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority told Dayton police he was standing outside the bus early Monday morning when the men shot at him three times, with one bullet hitting his leg. He also was stabbed in the arm.
Rickey Wagoner, 49, of Trotwood, told police he fought back, grabbed the gun and the men ran away. Wagoner told police he fired at them before driving the bus to a safe location and calling for help.
‘‘I stabbed one in the leg, I think, with my pen,’’ he said on the 911 call to police in Dayton, about 60 miles north of Cincinnati.
Police said Tuesday no one was on the bus at the time.
Wagoner said in the 911 call that he felt two shots to his chest, but he didn’t think the bullets got through the booklet in his shirt pocket. Police said in their report that two small-caliber bullets hit the booklet called ‘‘The Message,’’ which has Bible verses in contemporary language and were found lodged inside the book.
‘‘It just feels like I’ve been hit with a sledgehammer,’’ Wagoner said. ‘‘I’ve got a book in my pocket, and I don’t think they made it through this book.’’
Wagoner told police he just started carrying the book about a week ago.
Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton confirmed Tuesday that Wagoner remained in the hospital, but the hospital would provide no other information. The authority said in a statement that Wagoner was recovering and doing well.
The initial police report said Wagoner stopped his bus to check a possible mechanical problem. The report also said Wagoner told officers that when the three men approached him, he heard one say: ‘‘If you want to be all the way in the club, you have to kill the polar bear.’’
He told police he grabbed the gun when he was shot in the chest and began struggling with the suspect. He said he was shot again in the leg and began choking the suspect. One of the other men kicked Wagoner in the side, and the bus driver said he was punched several times in the face, according to the police report.
Wagoner said the third man then pulled a knife, stabbing him in the arm as he tried to block the knife.
The bus driver said he then pulled a pen from his pocket, stabbing the suspect.
Police described the aluminum pen as about 6 inches long and wider than normal. It was described as a ‘‘self-defense pen’’ that Wagoner said he always carries.
He told police that in firing on the suspects, he may have struck one of them.
‘‘Amazingly, his injuries are not life-threatening,’’ Dayton Police Sgt. Michael Pauley told the Dayton Daily News. (Contributor: The Associated Press and Boston.com)
This account is reminiscent of other stories that have come out of military conflict, some dating back to WW II, where soldiers carrying a New Testament or small Bible, usually at the behest of a praying mother, were spared from a potentially lethal bullet that struck the book instead of piercing the soldier’s body. No one can explain such rare, providential events, though unseen guardian angels may be more active than we know. Let us give thanks that Rickey Wagoner’s life was protected, even though he was wounded, and pray that he will give glory to God and learn more about the grace that kept him from serious wounding or even death.
“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you….” (Deut 33:27)