On Watch in Washington July 30, 2014

July 30th, 2014

On Watch in Washington July 30, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

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“I AM IRAQI. I AM CHRISTIAN”

My name is Rana Mansour.  I am Iraqi, a Christian, and an “infidel”.  I was born in Baghdad, Iraq during the Baath regime.  My family escaped the country when I was younger and emigrated to the United Kingdom, and later to the United States. I am a member of the Chaldean Catholic Church, an ancient people whose roots can be traced back to Abraham and the Apostle Thomas. Chaldeans have lived in ancient Mesopotamia, now modern day Iraq, for almost 2,000 years.  However, given the rise of ISIS, an Islamic terrorist organization, the Middle Eastern Christian has become an endangered species, on the verge of extinction. But unlike the freshwater tortoise, no one is running to save the Christian.

ISIS seeks to establish a caliphate and spread terror beyond Syria and Iraq. They took over Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, with little resistance and “ethnically cleansed” the city of all Christianity. They set fire to churches (some 1,800 years old), destroyed the tomb of the Prophet Jonah, and marked Christian homes with the Arabic letter “N” for Nazarene. They gave Christians 24 hours to leave their homes, mandating that their alternatives were: convert to Islam, pay a jizya (a protection tax for non-Muslims, or “kufar”), or die by the sword.  Needless to say, everyone left.

  What is a refugee?

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark when the Obama administration refuses to address the forced exodus of Christians, (called the “Sunday People” in Iraq), by militant jihadists, yet speaks tirelessly regarding the hundreds of thousands of “refugees” from Honduras and Guatemala.  According to the Oxford dictionary, “a refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.” Iraqi Christians fit this description … Central Americans do not. The latter should not be given preferential treatment, when the former is in such dire straits.

Iraqi Christians are forced refugees living in tents, in Kurdistan, while terrorists in Mosul are occupying their homes.  Islamic militants have now cut off water supplies to the remaining Christian villages.  The Peshmerga, Kurdish forces whose name literally means “those that face death,” are the only ones protecting the Christians now.

What is happening to America?

   America is not my birth country, yet she opened her arms to my family.  Since I was a little girl, my mother would tell me: “Every day, kiss the ground of America because our lives would be completely different had she not welcomed us.”  However, with increasing secularism and “Christianophobia” in this country, which was once a beacon for religious freedom, America remains a silent spectator during this modern day inquisition and Christian Holocaust.
You are the salt of the earth, but what good is salt if it loses its flavor? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. (Matthew 5:13)

   How ironic that Christianity, which predates Islam and was once the great majority of the Middle East, is now the persecuted minority. Chaldeans are the foundation and root of Iraq. When you kill the root, you no longer have a country, you no longer have Iraq- but just another terrorist state.

Even prior to the exodus of the Sunday People in Iraq, there was an exodus of Jews, called the “Saturday People” by jihadists. History repeats itself. I am reminded of Pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous quote as I look at what is happening in Iraq and adapt his words from the (temporary) safety of America’s soil:

First they came for the Saturday People, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Sunday People, and I did not speak out—
because it was a continent away.

Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me.

Be careful and stand watch.  A caliphate could be coming to a village, a city, or a country near you.

Silence speaks louder than words. In our Christian desire to turn the other cheek to those who hurl insults at us, we are forgetting that there is a time and a place for righteous indignation. There is a time for silence and a time to speak. Pray that Christianity in the West will understand that the time to speak on behalf of the suffering Church is now. We cannot afford to look the other way. Ask for the Holy Spirit’s power because it is time for American Christians to be empowered to be seekers, promoters and defenders of Truth.

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves … do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” (Matt. 10:16-20)

 

CHRISTIAN LEADERS MEET IN NY TO SUPPORT ISRAEL OVER HAMAS

Dozens of Christian faith leaders from the greater New York area united at the Faith Exchange in New York City on Friday to express their support for Israel in its current conflict with the Palestinian Hamas group. Israel and Hamas are currently involved in a violent and ongoing clash that one religious leader attending Friday’s event described as one of the “defining issues of our time.”

Thirty-two Christian leaders joined media and Ambassador Ido Aharoni, consul general of Israel in New York, to discuss the importance of supporting Israel during this time of conflict and violence. Dr. Paul de Vries, president of the New York Divinity School, organized Friday’s press conference.

De Vries told The Christian Post that several important topics were discussed among the ministers, including what they believe to be a clear distinction of good versus evil between Israel and Hamas in the way they treat their own citizens.

“The media tries to paint this as two forces that we have to bring together and try to resolve their differences. One is terroristic and the other supports the core biblical values of life, liberty and justice. There really is no problem choosing sides between Hamas and Israel,” de Vries told The Christian Post. “The Palestinian people are the ones we love, along with the people of Israel, but the abuse by the tyrannical leaders of the Palestinians is just incalculable.”

An example that Dr. de Vries mentioned was the heavy investment Hamas has made in dozens of very long cement-reinforced tunnels used to attack Israelis, but yet the group has failed to build bomb shelters for Palestinian civilians.

De Vries went on to argue that it is in the U.S.’s best security interest to support Israel, saying: “Hamas is terrorizing its own people and the people of Israel, and if they had a chance, they’d terrorize America, too.”

While “in Israel the basic human rights are respected, right to life, right to freedom of religion,” de Vries argues that “Hamas embodies a mentality of death and is against liberty, against the lives of their own people, and against freedom of religion.”

Two of the pastors at the press conference have ministered in Gaza, and they talked firsthand about the torture, abuse and murder of Palestinian Christian ministers and leaders whom they have known. “The only country in the Middle East where there is freedom of religion is Israel,” these ministers said clearly.

The Rev. Robert Stearns, executive director of Eagles’ Wings ministry, also attended Friday’s news conference and told CP that he believes the current Israeli/Hamas conflict is one of the “defining issues of our time.”

Stearns said it was important to call together different streams of Christian faith leaders in the tri-state area to show that this conflict is not just an issue important to Jews or evangelicals, but rather it is a human rights offense that must be addressed by all “decent human beings.”

“I think that sometimes it can be perceived that Israel is just a Jewish issue or that Israel is just an issue for evangelicals who have a certain theological construct, but the reality is any decent human being that cares about basic human rights should be speaking about the atrocities of Hamas. Hamas is a violent terrorist organization and they are an absolute detriment to security.”

Stearns went on to say that he believes the Israelis have previously offered a “just and equitable” solution to their conflict with Hamas, and unfortunately, Hamas has refused to accept such compromises.

“If Hamas was neutralized and the Palestinian people put down their arms tomorrow there could be a Palestinian state of peace and security in the area,” Stearns said, adding however that if “If Israel put down their arms, there would be no Israel. That’s the reality.”

Tensions have flared between Israel and Hamas in recent weeks, with both sides exchanging missile fire since last month. In the past 18 days of conflict, the Gaza Strip’s death toll has risen to 850, the majority of the victims being civilians, while Israel’s death toll is at 35 army casualties and two civilian casualties.

The United Nations Human Rights Council announced this week that it would be conducting an independent investigation into possible war crimes committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. The U.N. released a statement saying it would be investigating the “widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms” that have occurred in Palestine.

President Barack Obama also told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week that although the country has every right to defend itself against Hamas attacks, he was “deeply concerned” about the rising civilian death toll on the Gaza Strip.

Those supporting Israel in the conflict argue that Hamas members take advantage of Palestinian citizens by launching missiles near schools and hospitals without warning, or fail to offer shelter to their citizens from missile fire and other attacks. Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said this week that the “Israeli Defense Forces should be given the Nobel Peace Prize […] the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting with unimaginable restraint.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is reportedly pushing to announce a cease-fire agreement between the two areas by the end of Friday. A senior Israeli official told Haaretz that the country’s security cabinet had rejected a temporary cease-fire agreement proposed by Kerry earlier in the day, saying it leaned too far in favor of Hamas. The security council indicated that it was still open to diplomatic efforts to reach an agreeable cease-fire proposal. (Contributor: By Katherine Weber for Christian Post)

Pray fervently and with urgency. This is, without doubt, Israel’s most critical battle for survival since its national re-establishment in 1948. We stand with self-evident twin truths. First, if Hamas stops fighting, the region will have peace (however fragile and tenuous). Second, if Israel stops fighting, it will be destroyed. Even in a so-called cease-fire period, Hamas rockets continue to shell Israel. Pray accordingly. Christians desire Israel to be safe as a nation, but ultimately to know Jesus as Messiah.

[David said,] “Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:47)

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” (Romans 10:1-2)

 

IRAQ CRISIS: END ‘VERY NEAR’ FOR CHRISTIANITY AFTER ISIS TAKEOVER, SAYS BISHOP

The vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq has warned the end for Christians in the country appears “very near” as he appealed for help after a deadline set by Islamic militants to convert or be killed expired.

Canon Andrew White, dubbed “the bishop of Baghdad” for his work at St George’s church in the capital, spoke after the ultimatum handed to Christians in the northern city of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq Levant (Isis) to convert, pay a tax or be put to death passed last week.

For those Christians who did not comply with the decree by 19 July, Isis warned that “there is nothing to give them but the sword.” Many have since fled their homes and Rev. Andrew-White told BBC Radio 4 Today desperate Christians were trapped in the desert or on the streets with nowhere to go.

“Things are so desperate, our people are disappearing,” he said. “We have had people massacred, their heads chopped off.

“Are we seeing the end of Christianity? We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near.”

A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that from 14 July homes in Mosul were painted with the letter “N” for Nasrani (the Arabic word for Christian). Others were painted with the letter “R” for Rafidah, a word commonly used by Sunni to describe Shia.

The vicar is in London to speak about the crisis and raise awareness of the urgent need to provide more help to the persecuted minority.

“The Christians are in grave danger. There are literally Christians living in the desert and on the street. They have nowhere to go,” he told the program.

“We do not want Britain to forget us. We – and I’m saying ‘we’ talking like an Iraqi Christian – have always been with the British because they have already been with us.

“Individual churches, individual Christians in Britain, have been a bigger help than anybody around the world.”

Up to a million Christians lived in Iraq prior to the US-led invasion in 2003, with many residing in areas such as Mosul where the communities date back to the first centuries of Christianity.

There are now thought to be fewer than half that number. (Contributor: The Independent)

The cold-blooded murder of unarmed, defenseless Christians, coupled with the wanton desecration of Judeo-Christian sites in northern Iraq, may be enough self-disclosure by these terrorist Islamists to bring anxiety to other world governments. Is the world waking up to the dangers of militant Islamic rule by a radical, warring sect? In the light of the terror, some European leaders have expressed concern about terrorists taking over entire governments. Will such evil violence be “exported” from the Middle East? Pray that God will intervene and prevent ongoing attacks on Christians and Jews.

“How long, O Lord, will wicked people triumph? How long? They ramble. They speak arrogantly. All troublemakers brag about themselves. They crush your people, O Lord. They make those who belong to you suffer.” (Psalm 94:3-5)

“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” (Rev. 6:9-11)     

 

MISSIONARIES TEST POSITIVE FOR EBOLA VIRUS – FRANKLIN GRAHAM REQUESTS PRAYER

The National Prayer Committee is passing along this prayer request from Franklin Graham, via Tim Phillips. Please join in praying for these friends.

“Saturday afternoon, we learned that Dr. Kent Brantly, medical director for the Samaritan’s Purse Ebola Consolidated Case Management Center in Monrovia, Liberia, had tested positive for the Ebola virus. He is currently undergoing treatment at the Samaritan’s Purse isolation center at ELWA [Eternal Love Winning Africa] Hospital. We are continuing medical operations at our Ebola Case Management Centers in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, the Liberia Ministry of Health and other global health authorities.

“Dr. Brantly has been in Liberia since October 2013 with our World Medical Mission post residency program and is married with two children. His heroic and sacrificial service—along with the entire team there—is a shining example of Christ’s love in this crisis situation.

“Later Saturday evening, we learned of a second positive Ebola test result among those working with us in Liberia. Nancy Writebol is a SIM [Sudan Interior Mission] missionary and had been helping the Samaritan’s Purse team that is treating Ebola patients at the Case Management Center in Monrovia. SIM manages ELWA Hospital there, and we have worked very closely with them to combat Ebola since the current outbreak began in Liberia in March. Nancy is married with two adult sons.

“We are doing everything possible to help Dr. Brantly and Nancy. We ask everyone to please pray urgently for them and their families. Out of respect for the privacy of their families, I ask that you refrain from posting personal details or pictures of family members.
“Thank you.”

 

 

PRO-LIFE LEADERS SKEPTICAL OF PROPOSED OBAMACARE COMPROMISE

Skepticism has greeted the White House’s announcement that it is changing Obamacare rules requiring religious groups to give employees free birth control.

Under the compromise, the government would work directly with employees wanting contraception included in their health care.

“The change, announced by administration officials late Tuesday night, would allow nonprofit groups to opt out of the mandate simply by writing a letter to the federal government,” reports Ben Wolfgang at the Washington Times. “Until now, nonprofit religious groups such as charities and universities had to file paperwork with health insurance companies allowing those companies to offer birth control directly to employees.”

That paperwork was objectionable to Christian organizations who called it a form of “permission giving” that they viewed as complicity with evil.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that Wheaton College, a private Christian school in Illinois, cannot be forced to help employees seek free birth control. Earlier, the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision had freed companies from providing contraception if the owners have moral and religious objections.

With Tuesday night’s announcement, “the Obama administration claims it will create a new option for religious nonprofits,” writes Stephen Ertelt for LifeNews.  The announcement came in a court brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

However, the head of a pro-life group suing the White House said fears remain that Obama officials are merely circumventing the Supreme Court. Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, told LifeNews  he doesn’t trust the administration and will continue the court case.

“The Priests for Life lawsuit against the HHS mandate is the next to be decided,” he said. Oral arguments have already been heard in the District of Columbia’s Circuit Court of Appeals.

“At the crux of the issue is that our completion of the form required under the ‘accommodation’ given to religious non-profit groups constitutes cooperation in the very evil that the form says we are objecting to,” said Pavone.

He said Priests for Life would be satisfied “if the government just kept us out of the process altogether of either triggering, authorizing, or in any fashion being the gateway for employees to receive coverage for objectionable practices.”

Other critics said the administration isn’t fully embracing the religious liberty required in the Supreme Court rulings.

“This is just the latest step in the government’s long retreat on the mandate,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “We hope the government will listen to the thousands of voices that called on the government to protect religious liberty. It’s time for the government to stop fighting the 30 federal court orders — including two from the Supreme Court — protecting religious ministries from the mandate.” (Contributor: Rob Kerby for ChristianHeadlines.com)

Pray with discernment. We don’t praise government for doing the right thing; we praise God. Even with “favorable” court rulings, we give our thanks to God. It is government’s duty to do right. When human government turns from God, He promises judgment, whether the U.S. or others. Whatever government “gives,” it can take back. True freedom comes from God. The Framers recognized this. We are endowed with certain rights by the Creator, not to be tampered with by government.

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

“Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.” (Hosea 14:9)

 

WHEN MEDIA MERGERS LIMIT MORE THAN COMPETITION

A merger between 21st Century Fox and Time Warner Inc. would reduce control of the major Hollywood studios to five owners, from six, and major television producers to four, from five.

“The widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public,” he wrote in the majority opinion that decided a 1945 antitrust case involving major newspaper publishers and The Associated Press. “The First Amendment affords not the slightest support for the contention that a combination to restrain trade in news and views has any constitutional immunity.”

Fox and Time Warner may no longer publish old-media newspapers or magazines, but they certainly disseminate information and opinions that may be even more vital to the “welfare of the public” today than the newspapers of Justice Black’s era. HBO alone, one of Time Warner’s cable channels, produces “Real Time With Bill Maher,” “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” and acclaimed documentaries like “The Case Against 8,” about the struggle for marriage equality, and the “Paradise Lost” series, which examined the murder convictions of the group of white teenagers known as the West Memphis Three.

How many of those would be produced under the ownership of a Rupert Murdoch, or for that matter, any other media mogul who controlled close to 40 percent of all major film production and nearly 20 percent of all television?

“I don’t see a bright distinction between news and entertainment,” said Christopher L. Sagers, an antitrust professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. “One person shouldn’t own all the cultural creativity resources. If one person can limit content, that’s a huge loss to society.”

Advocates for consolidation in media, who include not just Mr. Murdoch, who controls 21st Century Fox, and their allies, but also other big media, cable and telecommunications companies, tend to brush off antitrust concerns when it comes to content creation. (Even Time Warner has been cautious about raising any antitrust defenses, presumably because, should it thwart Mr. Murdoch this time, it may want to acquire its rivals at some point in the future.)

After all, the rise of Netflix and the popularity of YouTube demonstrate that anyone can make successful original programming in the freewheeling digital era. And even as television producers have consolidated, critics have hailed a new “golden age” of television.

But this ignores the fact that in 1983, 50 companies owned 90 percent of the media consumed by Americans. By 2012, just six companies — including Fox (then part of News Corporation) and Time Warner — controlled that 90 percent, according to testimony before the House Judiciary Committee examining Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal.

“The situation is already terrible and this would make it worse,” said Susan Crawford, a visiting professor in intellectual property at Harvard Law School. Coupled with giant cable and Internet distributors, like Comcast and AT&T, “you’ve got two highly concentrated markets that need each other to survive and protect their profits,” Professor Crawford said. “The public interest side of this conversation is hopelessly outgunned.”

Antitrust experts said that a merger of 21st Century Fox and Time Warner posed far more serious regulatory issues than Comcast’s acquisition of NBCUniversal. That’s because Fox and Time Warner are direct competitors in the businesses of film and television production. (Comcast didn’t produce much programming before it bought NBCUniversal.)

“This is quite different from Comcast and NBCUniversal,” said Scott Hemphill, an antitrust professor at Columbia Law School. “It’s a straightforward merger of two competitors.”

These so-called horizontal mergers always reduce competition, the only issue being whether it’s enough to warrant blocking the merger or imposing conditions on it. And both Fox and Time Warner would come under the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission, which is free to take a broader view of the public interest when examining mergers.

“It’s within the F.C.C.’s power as merger overseers to conclude that this merger would impose undue limits on diversity,” Professor Sagers said. “It could block it or it could impose conditions that would ensure diversity.”

A spokesman at 21st Century Fox declined to comment. But a person with knowledge of the company’s strategy said it saw no substantive antitrust issues other than in cable news. On the contrary, this person contended that a merger would encourage competition, because Fox has traditionally been a disruptive rival and innovator. A spokesman for Time Warner declined to comment.

Given that Mr. Murdoch, fresh from the phone-hacking scandal in Britain, is a political lightning rod, a proposed Fox-Time Warner merger would prompt intense scrutiny in Washington. But it is not Mr. Murdoch’s past or political views that are likely to pose the biggest hurdles to the deal.

Applying the Justice Department’s existing horizontal merger guidelines suggests that a combination of 21st Century Fox and Time Warner would “raise significant competitive concerns and often warrant scrutiny,” according to the guidelines. That’s because both theatrical film production and television production appear to be moderately concentrated industries, as measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index relied on by the antitrust division.

Fox and Warner Bros. are the largest movie producers by revenue. So far this year, Fox has close to a 19 percent market share and Warner has close to 17 percent, according to the website Box Office Mojo. (The top six studios account for about 85 percent of theatrical film revenue.)

That Fox has promised to keep Warner Bros. as a separate studio is irrelevant, since the two would be expected to coordinate their budgets, programming and release schedules.

In television, five producers account for 85 percent of the market, according to the research firm IBISWorld, which also makes it moderately concentrated. The effect of a merger would be less drastic, however, since Warner and Fox are the smallest of the five, with 2014 market shares of just under 11 percent (Warner) and 9 percent (Fox).

Despite the tough language of the guidelines, the antitrust division has rarely challenged mergers in moderately concentrated industries. But it might use narrower market definitions. In broadcast television, Fox and Time Warner together produce nearly 40 percent of scripted programs. And in cable, regulators used a much narrower definition of “marquee” channels when they examined Time Warner’s 1996 acquisition of Turner Broadcasting. Marquee channels are those that command premium prices from distributors.

Cable channels can be further subdivided by subject, like news or sports. In offering to divest itself of CNN, Time Warner’s 24-hour news channel, Fox implicitly conceded that there was a separate market for news programming that would be dominated by CNN and Fox News under the same ownership. Once these narrower market definitions come into play, they may be “highly concentrated” markets under the Justice Department guidelines, in which case a merger would be “presumed” to enhance market power.

And this is simply to apply the same standards to a Fox-Time Warner combination that the Justice Department applies to all industries, whether they make cement, household appliances or movies. “When you’re dealing with media, you’ve got to look more carefully at the impact than with other commodities,” said Allen P. Grunes, an antitrust lawyer at the firm GeyerGorey, and an author, with Maurice E. Stucke, of “Antitrust and the Marketplace of Ideas.” “It has an impact on democracy and what the public discourse is.”

To look only at price competition and economic efficiency “makes no sense whatsoever” in the media context, added Mr. Stucke, a law professor at the University of Tennessee. In their article, published in 2001 while both were lawyers with the antitrust division in Washington, they argued that any analysis of competition in media mergers should include the impact on “the marketplace of ideas,” where competition “advances truth.”

Applying this standard, a Fox-Time Warner merger should be blocked whether or not it meets the antitrust division’s narrower standards.

Their proposal hasn’t gotten much traction outside of academic circles and among a few judges, in part because the impact on diversity of content is difficult to quantify, unlike price changes and market shares. “Antitrust is geared to thinking about each industry along economic lines, but not the larger questions of social policy,” Professor Hemphill said. “A speech objection fits uneasily into conventional antitrust analysis.”

But in the wake of the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, and now a possible 21st Century Fox-Time Warner Inc. combination, the time may be ripe for the Justice Department to apply stricter standards to big media mergers. “I think we’ve crossed a Rubicon,” Mr. Grunes said. “There’s empirical support for the claim that there’s been a loss of creativity, originality and daringness as independent producers have largely been incorporated into the larger conglomerates,” he said. Witness the preponderance of sequels and action-adventure blockbusters in Hollywood.

“We hope this gains traction,” he continued. “These are legitimate enforcement ideas, and there’s already support for them in the law. They’re not stretches. Let’s just hope we don’t wait until it’s too late.” (Contributor: The New York Times)

There is much concern in the field of media broadcast and publication concerning the presentation of news to the populous. If too few organizations are in control of what is presented as news, a democracy is at great risk. Mergers  or consolidating news agencies can narrow various views of news and therefore have great sway in what is presented to the people. A well informed public can draw their own conclusions regarding events of interest. A free society must have access to the facts concerning major events in a nation. Restricted or limited media access or simply not reporting news is cause for alarm in a free society. Jesus while He was with us here on earth wanted us to know His truths because they did indeed set us free from sin and the power of sin. In like manner, the truth about issues of the day can help to protect us and cause us to make righteous decisions that are in keeping with God’s will.

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. 36If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. 38I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. (John 8:31-41)

 

FRANKLIN GRAHAM CALLS ON CHRISTIANS TO STAND FOR GOD, BIBLICAL VALUES

The Rev. Franklin Graham recently reiterated his remarks from earlier this year, calling on Christians in America to stand for biblical values despite social opposition.

In a column published in the July-August edition of Decision magazine, the head of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, declared that “Heaven is not for cowards!”

“Christians cannot ignore parts of God’s Word because they are unpopular or cause division. Our commission is to proclaim Christ and all He stands for,” wrote Graham.

“This is what the church’s presence in the world is all about. We cannot sincerely proclaim the truth of God’s love while ignoring what He hates, and God hates sin.”

Graham also stressed the need for “godly courage” and for Christians to speak out against abortion and homosexuality.

“We are soldiers in God’s army, and we cannot stand down on biblical issues out of fear of being labeled a homophobe or judge,” wrote Graham.

“People make judgments every day. The world’s system passes judgments accepted by governments and citizens. But the world considers Christian judgment to be biased, judgmental and intolerant,” he added.

For his speech, Graham preached around Revelation 21:8, wherein God lists eight groups of people who will be “in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

The first group listed in the verse are the “cowardly;” this led Graham to declare in his remarks that “God hates cowards.”

“The definition of a coward: a coward will not confront an issue that needs to be confronted due to fear,” said Graham, whose speech was titled “Standing Strong on the Controversial Issues.”

“God hates cowards. And the cowards that the Lord is referring to are the men and women who know the truth but refuse to speak it.”

As with his more recent column, Graham argued that churches need to speak out on the moral issues, including abortion and homosexuality.

“We have a responsibility to speak on the moral issues. Abortion, homosexuality, these are moral issues. This is a free country, you can do what you want to do, but I want you to know it’s a sin against God,” Graham asserted.

“Could we get our heads chopped off? We could, maybe one day. So what? Chop it off!”

In recent years, Franklin Graham has garnered controversy for his comments on same-sex marriage, President Barack Obama, and the religion of Islam.

Some have contrasted Franklin Graham with the comparably less controversial nature of the ministry of his father, renowned preacher the Rev. Billy Graham.

“Franklin has always leaned toward being more political than his father,” wrote Sally Quinn, founding editor of the site OnFaith.

“Where Billy Graham has always been a voice for inclusion, even of religions other than his own, Franklin has not.” (Contributor: By Michael Gryboski for Christian Post)

Give thanks for the strong voice of Franklin Graham calling the Church to stand firm on biblical values that are being trampled on in the Public arena. We urge intercessors not to get caught up in the comparisons between Franklin and his father, evangelist Billy Graham, who ministered in a different era and to a different population demographic. IFA applauds Franklin for the courage to speak out. Pray that his voice will not be silenced and that Church leaders respond positively.

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3-4)

 

CALIFORNIA’S WATER CRISIS

To cope with California’s drought, farmers are carefully selecting which crops they plant and overpumping from deep underground aquifers. But as the President of the Pacific Institute, Peter Gleick, tells host Steve Curwood, a viable long-term solution to the growing water crisis requires rethinking priorities and conserving much more water.
TRANSCRIPT:

CURWOOD: So come December, there may be relief for California’s record-breaking drought, but for now, it’s about as bad as anyone can remember. Peter Gleick is President of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California, and a fresh water expert. Welcome to Living on Earth.

GLEICK: Thank you for having me.

CURWOOD: So, let’s talk about agriculture. California puts a lot of food on our tables here in America. What’s been the impact so far of the drought on the agricultural sector and where are things heading?

GLEICK: So, 80 percent of the water that Californians consume goes to the agricultural sector, and the Central Valley is a fantastic place to grow food. We grow a lot of the nation’s fruits and vegetables. The overall current estimate is that impact to the agricultural community will be perhaps a few billion dollars this year and maybe a few tens of thousands of jobs, which is in some sense is a big impact, but it’s a $40 billion ag. economy out of a $2 trillion statewide economy.

CURWOOD: Now how are the farmers coping exactly with the shortages?

GLEICK: What we do when we don’t have surface water in California is we over-pump groundwater, and so a lot of the farmers in the Central Valley this year are looking to groundwater to make up surface water shortfalls. One of the reasons the impacts may not be too bad this year economically is precisely because we’re over-drafting groundwater. We’re looking at that groundwater pool as a way to make up some of the surface water shortages, and we can do that in the short run, but that’s not sustainable in the long run. Groundwater levels are dropping and when groundwater levels drop we see decreases in flows in some of our streams that are also dependent on groundwater flows in the dry part of the year. And the reality, of course, is that not every farmer can pump groundwater—only those who can really afford to drill deeper and deeper, more and more expensive wells have that as an option. And some farmers will benefit and some farmers will lose.

NOAA’s report shows the difference in this year’s June temperature. (Photo: National Ocean and Atmospheric Association)

CURWOOD: I understand that there’ve actually been drops in the level of the soil in the Central Valley.

GLEICK: Well, interestingly, this has been a problem for decades. You know, 50 or 60 years ago, when groundwater was over-pumped, we saw very, very significant subsidence on the order of tens or even more feet of subsidence. There’s some remarkable old photographs from the Central Valley years and years ago showing how far land levels have dropped. We solved that problem in the 70s and 80s and 90s with deliveries of surface water, and groundwater overdraft decreased. But it’s increasing again: we are seeing subsidence on the order of tens of feet and potentially more as the drought continues.

CURWOOD: Now in your view, Peter Gleick, what crops does it make sense to grow in California given the tight water situation, the perennial tight water situation, and which ones maybe shouldn’t be grown there?

Effect of the Drought on the Uvas Reservoir in California. (Photo: Don Debold; Creative Commons 2.0)

GLEICK: Crop decisions are a complicated thing. It’s not just how much water is available, but in bad droughts, what we see is farmers shifting from crops that they can fallow for year—they may let field crops go for a year—but they don’t want to let their trees dry up and die. And so during a drought we see farmers protecting trees, investments in orchards and fruits and nut crops, even if they can’t give them their full amount of water, they don’t want those trees to die. Those are a decade-long investment. And so what we see is less planting of cotton and wheat, less planting of rice, less planting of alfalfa, and protection of some of these higher value fruits and nut crops.

CURWOOD: California is naturally actually a pretty dry place. There are massive water projects to bring water there from other places. How did we come to have so much human settlement and agriculture in the Golden State given the sort of intrinsic lack of water for California?

GLEICK: California is a complicated place. You know, we have a lot of water in the north and a lot of water in the mountains. The population has settled in the coasts and in the south where there’s less water; because of that we’ve built a massive infrastructure. We’ve built systems to store water in the wet season so we can use it in the dry seasons and aqueducts so we can move water from the north in the mountains to the south and the Central Valley and the coasts where we want it. And our development patterns have been such that, the assumption’s always been that we can live wherever we want and we’ll bring the water to where the people are. I think that can’t continue. I think we’re going to have to have some serious conversations about the kinds of development we want and permit in the future. We’re going to have to have serious conversations about whether it makes sense to grow certain kinds of crops in an incredibly arid environment. I think we’ll continue to have a strong agricultural economy. We’ll continue to have big populations in dry areas, but we have to seriously reconsider the systems that we put in place and manage to satisfy those demands.

A sign on a lawn in Sacramento (Photo: Kevin Cortopassi; Creative Commons 2.0)

CURWOOD: We talked a lot about agriculture. What about the built-environment: residential and commercial water use? How can we cut down on that?

GLEICK: About 20 percent of the water that Californians use goes to our homes and our industry and our commercial establishments. We’ve made a lot of progress, as we have in the agricultural sector in improving efficiency in those water uses, but there’s still lots of inefficient water uses in our urban centers. And we still use a tremendous amount of water for outdoor landscaping. We pretend as though we have an old English climate and can have English-style lawns, but we’re in an arid environment, and we need to get rid of, frankly, inefficient lawns and inefficient gardens. I got rid of all the lawn in my house, and I still have a beautiful garden, and my water use is half the state per capita average of the average person in California, and even I could save more water.

Much of household water-use in California comes from watering lawns. (Photo: Diego V; Flickr Creative Commons 2.0)

CURWOOD: And I gather you’re growing more than crabgrass?

GLEICK: Oh, no. We’re not growing any crabgrass.

CURWOOD: [LAUGHS]

GLEICK: Crabgrass is a terrible user of water, and it’s ugly. We have a beautiful garden: we have flowers; we have native plants; we have blueberries and strawberries, and yet our water use is half the state average.

CURWOOD: What if the phone rang—it’s Governor Jerry Brown. He says, “Peter Gleick, you are now the water Czar for the state of California.” What are the three or four things you’d do if you had that kind of power?

GLEICK: The solutions to our water problems are not the solutions that we looked at in the 20th century. We’re running into peak water limits. There is no more untapped, unallocated water in the state, and the reality is, we’ve given away far more water than nature naturally provides. So our options are fairly limited, but we do have options, and the key things that we need to be doing now are looking at the potential for more efficient use in our cities and more efficient use on our farms.

Farmers prioritize high-value tree crops like almonds during times of drought. (Photo: Marc; Flickr Creative Commons 2.0)

There’s a lot more that we can do on conservation and efficiency. But there are also a couple of new supply options that we really ought to be considering seriously. We ought to be exploring and expanding the use of treated wastewater. We use potable water to flush our toilets and to water our lawns, not just for drinking, and yet there is very high-quality wastewater available. We collect a lot of wastewater; we treat it with very high standard and typically we throw it away. Let’s put that supply of water to use. And similarly we ought to be expanding our efforts to capture and use storm water.

There’s a lot of potential for wastewater reuse, storm water capture and reuse as new supply options and improvements in conservation and efficiency. And those four options alone could produce a tremendous amount of new water for the state of California, and that’s where we ought to be going now.

CURWOOD: Now, what do you think the American West is going to look like in 50 years given what we’re seeing now with drought increase?

GLEICK: Well, especially with climate change, I think we’re going to see higher and higher temperatures. We’re going to see more extreme events in the western U.S. The climate models suggest unfortunately that the Southwest is going to get drier, not wetter, which is the opposite of what we would like if we had any choice in the matter. I think there will be fundamental changes in agriculture. I think we’re not to be able to afford to spend as much water in the west on agriculture as we currently do. And potentially I think we’re going to see the Midwest and the Northeast begin to advertise, hey, come back home. There’s not as much water in the Southwest, and it’s hotter and hotter in the Southwest, and our climate is increasingly attractive. And that’s going to be a turnaround from the old days when the Southwest advertised and drew people from the Midwest and from the North because of their more attractive climate.

CURWOOD: Goodbye. Go west, young man, huh?

GLEICK: I think so. I think we’re going to see more and more of that.

CURWOOD: Well, what, a fifth of the world’s fresh surface water is in the Great Lakes.

Peter Gleick is the Director of the Pacific Institute in Oakland. (Photo: Oakland Institute)

GLEICK: We’re already seeing conversations from some communities in the Midwest that perhaps they can advertise that their water availability and their water quality and their reliability as a way to draw industry and residents back to the region.

So far our discussion has really just focused on people and our needs from water. What about the rest of the natural world?

CURWOOD: We know we’ve taken far too much water out of the environment. Fisheries are collapsing; ecosystems are collapsing. There’ve been more and more efforts on the legal front and on the educational front and on the policy front to try and restore ecosystem health and restore some commitments of water for the environment. But during a drought, we measure impact on farmers; we measure impacts on industry. We’re not really good at measuring impacts on fisheries and ecosystems, and yet some of the worst impacts historically have been, for example, on the salmon fisheries and the salmon runs in the state of California during drought. We had better not give up on the environment during droughts in order to restore a little more alfalfa production or cotton production the Central Valley, or to save our lawns in our cities. I think that would be a big mistake.

CURWOOD: Peter Gleick is President of the Pacific Institute. Thanks so much for taking the time with me today.

GLEICK: Well, thanks for having me on. It’s always a pleasure. (Contributor:  Living On The Earth)

In the Bible’s Old Testament, more than once God used drought to get His people’s attention. While the U.S. is not God’s covenant people, Israel, is it possible that God is using the California drought (which affects the entire country) and other climate changes to show us our need for His help and to bring our nation back to Himself? Is this a precursor for repentance and revival? Let us pray that it is, even as we intercede for the God-given blessing of rain for the Central Valley. Notice the first passage below. It appears we should quote v. 13 when we quote v. 14.

[The Lord God speaking directly to Solomon:] 13 “When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:13-14)

“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” (James 5:17-18)

 

EGYPT ARMY DESTROYS 13 MORE GAZA TUNNELS

Egypt’s army said Sunday it has destroyed 13 more tunnels connecting the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip, taking to 1,639 the overall number it has laid waste to.

Cairo has poured troops into the peninsula to counter a rising insurgency since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year, and its security operation involves the destruction of these tunnels.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which is the main power in Gaza, reportedly uses the tunnels to smuggle arms, food and money into the blockaded coastal enclave.

Israel has been waging a military offensive on Gaza since July 8 to halt rocket fire, and it launched a ground assault on July 17 aimed at destroying the network of tunnels.

It accuses Hamas of using the tunnels to attacks on Israel.

Ties between Hamas and Cairo have deteriorated since the Egyptian army deposed Morsi on July 3, 2013. Hamas is an affiliate of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Cairo also accuses of Hamas of being involved in militant attacks inside Egypt, which have multiplied since Morsi was toppled.

Militant groups say their attacks are in retaliation for a police crackdown on Morsi’s supporters. The crackdown has seen more than 1,400 people killed in street clashes. (Contributor: AFP News)

Give thanks that God is preserving Israel. Despite worldwide anti-Semitism and quick “judgment” on Israel as the aggressor, a certain grudging acknowledgement is emerging of the vicious, ruthless, and unconscionable approach to warfare taken by Hamas. Specific focus is on the cement-reinforced tunnels and mounting evidence of using Palestinians, including children and babies, as human shields. Note that no other nation has joined forces with Hamas to “finish” Israel. Give thanks and press forward with intercession. Some day the Scripture below will be fulfilled.

“But do not fear, O My servant Jacob, and do not be dismayed, O Israel! For behold, I will save you from afar, and your offspring from the land of their captivity; Jacob shall return, have rest and be at ease; No one shall make him afraid.” (Jeremiah 46:27)

 

CHINESE POLICE REMOVE CHURCH CROSS AMID CRACKDOWN

Hundreds of police took down a church’s cross Monday in a city known as “China’s Jerusalem” for its many houses of worship amid a crackdown on church buildings in a coastal region where thousands of people are embracing Christianity.

Evangelist Qu Linuo said he and about 200 others had rushed to the Longgang Huai En Church in the eastern city of Wenzhou to protect the building but peacefully made way for the police, who used a crane to remove the 3-meter-tall (10-foot-tall) red cross from its steeple.

Authorities told the church the cross violated building height limits, and returned it to the parishioners, who wept and prayed around it, said Qu, who is a member of another church. A man at the county’s public security office said he didn’t know anything about the incident, and the Longgang township police didn’t answer phone calls.

Across Zhejiang province, where Wenzhou is located, authorities have toppled or threatened to topple crosses at more than 130 Protestant churches. In a few cases, the government has even razed sanctuaries.

Officials say they’re enforcing building codes, although often they won’t specify which ones. They also deny they are specifically targeting churches, and point to the demolition of tens of thousands of other buildings, religious and non-religious, that have apparently broken regulations.

But experts and church leaders in this province south of Shanghai – the only one where the incidents are happening – say the government appears to be trying to suppress the fast-growing religion.

Official 2010 figures put the number of Christians in state-sanctioned churches at 23 million believers, but the country also has vast numbers of believers who meet in secret. The Pew Research Center estimated 58 million Protestants in the country practiced the religion in 2011, along with 9 million Catholics the year before. Some experts say the total could be more than 100 million.

The church’s dramatic growth – and Christians’ allegiance to God above all else – has alarmed authorities, said Yang Fenggang, a Purdue University sociologist and leading expert on religious matters in China. It was difficult to imagine what sort of building codes the crosses would violate.

“The only reason I can think of is that the Zhejiang authorities intend to humiliate Christians by taking down the symbol sacred to them,” he said.

The province may have come under scrutiny because it is home to Wenzhou, where more than a tenth of residents are Protestant Christians, the highest proportion of any major Chinese city, according to Cao Nanlai, an anthropologist who has studied and written a book about Christianity in Wenzhou.

Half the province’s 4,000 churches are located here, he said, partly a legacy of early missionary efforts here.

Known for its entrepreneurial vigor, Wenzhou has tens of thousands of small family-run workshops making shoes, toys and other products. Believers here appear to have applied that same eagerness to starting new churches, Cao said.

The cross removals and demolitions reflect the occasional flexing of political muscle by authorities to show who’s in control, he said.

Last week, parishioners at another church in the city successfully protected their cross from hundreds of police, said Zheng Changye, a 36-year-old member of another church. He said three people suffered serious injuries in the clash with police, and photos posted online showed several people bleeding from head injuries.

On Monday, other photos posted on the China social media site Weibo showed parishioners at the Longgang Huai En Church praying on its steps and holding banners reading, “Anti-graft, anti-corruption, protect religion.” (Contributor: The Star and The Associated Press)

The cross of Jesus Christ has always been a scandal to the world system. Persecution of Christians in China is nothing new. It is often “dressed up” as being other than what it is, and Chinese leaders boast that “authorized” Christian worship is free to function. But still the suppression of religious freedom continues. Pray for patience and the retaining of strong faith for those pastors and people who often feel deserted and alone. Intercede for these persecuted saints as they continue to fearlessly witness even to their tormentors. Give thanks that there was no physical violence.

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

“But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal. 6:14)

 

RESISTANT “NIGHTMARE BACTERIA” INCREASE FIVE-FOLD IN SOUTHEASTERN U.S.

There’s worrisome news here in the southeastern US, buried in a journal that is favorite reading only for superbug geeks like me. The rate at which hospitals are recognizing cases of CRE — the form of antibiotic resistance that is so serious the CDC dubbed it a “nightmare” — rose five times over between 2008 and 2012.

Within that bad news, there are two especially troubling points. First, the hospitals where this resistance factor was identified were what is called “community” hospitals, that is, not academic referral centers. That’s an important distinction, because academic medical centers tend to be where the most cutting-edge care is performed, and where the sickest people are. As a result, they are where last-resort antibiotics are used the most, and therefore where resistance is most likely to emerge. That CRE was found so widely not in academic centers, but rather in community hospitals, is a signal that it is probably moving through what medicine calls “the community,” which is to say, anywhere outside healthcare. Or, you know, everyday life.

A second concern is that the authors of the study, which is in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, assume that their finding is an underestimate of the actual problem.

A little background first on CRE. (Archive of posts on it is here.) The acronym stands for “carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.” Enterobacteriaceae are a large family of bacteria that normally are carted around in your guts without causing illness. When they escape, though — for instance, during ICU treatment — they are a common cause of serious hospital-acquired infections. “Carbapenems” are a small group of very powerful antibiotics that are viewed as drugs of last resort, which work against infections that have become resistant to most other antibiotics. The acronym CRE indicates a group of resistant organisms that go by other acronyms — NDM, OXA, VIM and KPC, for instance — and that have been spreading across the globe for more than 10 years.

CREs are serious stuff: On average, at least half of those who contract CRE infections die. There are only a few antibiotics — sometimes one, sometimes two, depending on the organism — that work against them at all, and those drugs have significant problems and side effects. Broadly speaking, the emergence of CREs brings us several steps closer to the end of the antibiotic era.

For reasons that no one has ever been able to explain, one of the CRE organisms — KPC, or Klebsiella pneumoniae resistant to carbapenems — seems to have emerged in North Carolina; it was first noted in a set of bacterial samples that a hospital in that state sent to the CDC in 1996. So it’s resonant that this study was conducted by researchers in North Carolina; it reveals how far that organism and others have spread.

About the study: It relies on data tendered to the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network by 25 community hospitals in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. The hospitals ranged in size from 100 to 657 beds, so some of them were truly small community institutions. The data was collected between January 2008 and December 2012, so as a snapshot of what is happened in the US with regard to CRE, it is pretty timely.

Out of the 25 hospitals, 16 identified 305 patients carrying or infected with CRE:

  • 59 percent had identifiable infections; 41 percent were colonized, that is, carrying the bacteria asymptomatically.
  • 34 percent of the cases became evident while the patient was in the hospital (hospital-onset healthcare associated) and 60 percent after patients had returned home (community-onset hospital-associated)
  • Of the cases that were diagnosed after someone had left an acute-care hospital, 56 percent were associated with nursing homes.
  • The key trend is here: In 2008, the rate of CRE detection was 0.26 cases per 100,000 patient days; in 2012, it was 1.4 per 100,000 patient-days.

Those may seem like small numbers. Here is what the authors say:

…rates of CRE, while still infrequent, are increasing dramatically in community hospitals, where the majority of Americans receive their healthcare. We believe this increase is attributable to growing reservoirs and transmission of CRE and improvement in detection. Overall, we believe the estimates from study hospitals are underestimates of the true incidence in these hospitals. This point underscores the fact that these organisms are increasingly important and relevant in all areas of healthcare, including small community hospitals.

The study is worth reading as well for an extended discussion of the challenges of CRE detection, including the pace at which new laboratory standards for detecting these organisms are being adopted (or not). Overall, though, it is a worrisome indicator that highly resistant organisms may be outpacing our ability to detect or to treat them.

Cite: Thaden JT, Lewis SS, Hazen KC et al. Rising Rates of Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae in Community Hospitals: A Mixed-Methods Review of Epidemiology and Microbiology Practices in a Network of Community Hospitals in the Southeastern United States.  Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, Vol. 35, No. 8 (August 2014), pp. 978-983. DOI: 10.1086/677157  (Contributor: By Maryn McKenna for Wired)

It has long been known that so-called “superbugs” lurk in hospitals, with some resistant to even the strongest antibiotics. But we know that a powerful “medicine” in a hospital room is intercessory prayer. Where possible (and with discretion), urge praying family, friends, members of the prayer group, church leaders, pastors, and others to pray “cleansing prayers” in the room. If possible, provide praise and worship music to renew spirit, mind and body, even if through a smart phone and ear buds. With permission, include the roommate, which may open doors for a gospel witness.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:1-5)

 

‘POCKET DRONES’: A TINY NEW MILITARY SURVEILLANCE TOOL

Future U.S. Army soldiers sent into combat may have a brand new tool at their disposal: the pocket drone.

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts is developing a “pocket-sized aerial surveillance device” for soldiers assigned to small units in dangerous environments.

When the Army’s efforts come to fruition, the Cargo Pocket Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance program will provide dismounted troops with real-time surveillance of threats in their environment.

“The Cargo Pocket ISR is a true example of an applied systems approach for developing new Soldier capabilities,” said Dr. Laurel Allender, acting NSRDEC technical director, Army.mil reported July 21.

“It provides an integrated capability for the soldier and small unit for increased situational awareness and understanding with negligible impact on soldier load and agility.”

The pocket drone will be required to meet the Army’s digital security standards, fly in low-light operations and successfully maneuver indoors, Army.mil reported. (Contributor:  By Douglas Ernst for The Washington Times)

This is premature as a prayer focus, as the miniature drone is still being developed. Still, it calls attention to U.S. military forces who always need prayer and encouragement. If this tool becomes functional, making arduous military service in a war zone easier and contributing to the warfighter’s safety, intercessors can only give thanks. Pray especially right now for wounded veterans who, in many parts of the country, are still not getting the swift attention they require. Pray for physical, spiritual, and emotional healing. Pray for Robert McDonald, newly confirmed Veterans Affairs Secretary, whose job it is to bring order out of the agency’s present chaos.

“Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psaalm 73:25-26)

“This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life.” (Psalm 119:50)

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

On Watch in Washington July 30, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington July 23, 2014

July 23rd, 2014

On Watch in Washington July 23, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

ISRAEL SECURING GAZA WITH GROUND ASSAULT

Israeli forces on Sunday escalated their ground operations in Gaza City, leading to the deadliest day in the nearly two-week conflict between Israel and Hamas-backed forces amid calls by top U.S. and Israeli officials for a cease-fire.

The Israeli military reported that 13 soldiers were killed early Sunday, and Palestinian authorities reported that at least 65 Palestinians were killed as air and tank fire pummeled the city for hours. More than 420 Palestinians, as well as at least 20 Israelis, have been killed since fighting began July 8.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Hamas, which wants Israel and Egypt to ease their border blockade of Gaza, should immediately agree to a cease-fire without preconditions.

“You cannot reward terrorism. There can’t be a set of preconditioned demands that are going to be met,” Mr. Kerry said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “So we support the Egyptian initiative, joined in by Israel and others, to have an immediate cease-fire. And we’re working that cease-fire very, very hard.”
Mr. Kerry will travel to Cairo on Monday to assist that effort, the State Department said.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in Qatar Sunday on the first leg of a Middle East tour, condemned the violence and said Israel must exercise “maximum restraint,” and all sides must respect international humanitarian law.

The secretary-general met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiya in Doha in an attempt to kick-start stalled talks of a possible cease-fire.

In an appeal filmed in Doha, Mr. Abbas called on the international community to protect Palestinians against what he called the current “unbearable” situation.

“The U.N. Security Council has failed to protect Palestinians, and I call on the council to hold an emergency meeting today to protect Palestinians. What Israel did today is [a] crime against humanity,” he said in the recording shown to reporters.

The U.N. Security Council, at the request of Jordan, was scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on the situation in Gaza on Sunday night.
Sunday marked the third day of a stepped-up ground offensive from Israel after it has tried to dismantle Hamas rocket launchers and ground tunnels into Israel with airstrikes for the past 10 days.

Much of the Sunday fighting took place in Gaza City’s Shijaiyah neighborhood, which Israeli officials have blamed for some 8 percent of the roughly 1,700 rockets fired at Israel since the latest round of fighting began.

Palestinian authorities reported that some 35,000 people were forced to flee from the latest round of fighting, with dozens of homes destroyed. Tens of thousands more have fled their homes and are seeking shelter in schools and other shelters the United Nations has set up, according to the U.N. refugee agency for Palestinians.

President Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday by phone about the ongoing conflict — their second call in the last three days, the White House said.

Mr. Obama reiterated the United States’ condemnation of attacks by Hamas, reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself and raised “serious concern” about the growing number of casualties on both sides, according to a read out of the conversation released by the White House.

Mr. Netanyahu blamed Hamas for all the civilian casualties on both sides and has said the strikes are only targeting Hamas militants.

“They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can. It’s gruesome,” Mr. Netanyahu said on CNN. “They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. [Their aim is] the more dead, the better.”

Mr. Netanyahu said if the hostilities end and parties agree to a sustainable cease-fire, a discussion can begin on the demilitarization of Gaza.
“Gaza, under all the previous agreements, should have been demilitarized,” he said. “Instead of being demilitarized, it became basically an Iranian-financed and -equipped fortress of terror, with thousands and thousands of rockets and other weapons being smuggled and developed in it. That has to stop. Those tunnels have to be shut down.”

Gaza Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra said among those killed in Shijalyah were a son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren of Khalil al-Haya, a senior Hamas leader, who vowed to continue the fight on a local Hamas radio station.

“We promise you, my people, a brilliant victory,” he said. “The blood of my son and the martyrs will not be wasted, and resistance will continue.”
The military wing of Hamas also claimed it captured an Israeli soldier during fighting early Sunday, a claim that was not immediately confirmed by the Israeli military.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, meanwhile, condemned Israel’s actions and called on the United Nations Security Council to issue a resolution “that clearly condemns Israeli aggressions.”

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, says Israel has the right to do everything in its power to protect its interests, and that there have been comparatively fewer Israeli casualties because of its state-of-the-art Iron Dome defense system.

“But if left up to Hamas, thousands of Israelis would be dead,” Mr. Graham said on “Meet the Press.” “I hope the international community will not find a moral equivalence here. To the Israeli government: Do whatever is necessary to protect your people. Stay as long as you need to stay.”  (Contributor: By David Sherfinski for The Washington Times. Also, the article is based in part on wire service reports.)

Contrary to headlines, Israel is not at war with Palestinians in Gaza but with Hamas, a murderous Islamist sect whose charter states a determined aim to kill all Jews and eradicate Israel. With the scene changing hourly, it is difficult to keep a balanced perspective. World opinion brands Israel an evil aggressor. Pray for truth to prevail. Hamas leaders’ self-protection makes targets of innocent Palestinians. We believe Israel wants only to exist peacefully and will fight to attain that goal. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Pray for comfort for families of the victims of war. Pray for divine mercy.

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, Prosperity within your palaces.’ For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, ‘Peace be within you.’” (Psalm 122:6-8)

“Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the just; for the righteous God tests the hearts and minds…. God is a just judge. . .” (Psalm 7:9, 11)

 

BORDER CRISIS FEEDBACK

 

Of the 354 intercessors who responded to last week’s OWIW survey, 55.8 percent said they would pray for restoration of order and enforcement of current border laws.

Here is a small sampling of the comments we received….

“Number 5 (other) is my main thought. Number 1 (for the Church to be the hands of Jesus) is next, as the Church must understand that God’s heart is not represented by either US political party, but rather is with “the least of these,” no matter who they are. The other 3 options, while important in a temporal American sense, are essentially selfish from a Christian perspective.”

“I am of Hispanic decent, born and raised in El Paso, Texas. I know too many people who have paid the price of immigrating to the US legally. Anyone, child or adult, should be deported back to their country. If their families can afford to raise thousands of dollars to send them over illegally then they can afford to make it over legally without being a burden to our already overburdened welfare system and other aid we provide outside the welfare system.”

“I think the border is out of control needs to be closed (truly locked down)and illegals sent home. Our laws and Constitution are totally disregarded with no concern for American citizens at all. Actually I think the parents of the border children need to be hunted down and fined or sent to jail for child abuse, abandonment and child endangering.”

“Sorry, but I am done with everyone’s surveys. Pray your heart, as we are … cut to the chase. Every day we mess around, our country sinks deeper. It’s not a game … this is my message to every survey I am seeing.”

Click here to weigh in on the discussion. But most importantly, PRAY.

 

PRESSURE GROWS ON PUTIN WITH FORENSICS PLANE CRASH EXPERTS

After days of obstruction, Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine permitted Dutch forensics experts on Monday to search the wreckage of the downed Malaysia Airlines jetliner destroyed by a surface-to-air missile, allowed bodies of the victims to be evacuated by train and agreed to give the plane’s flight recorder boxes to the Malaysian government.

The movements, four days after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 exploded and crashed in an eastern Ukraine wheat field, came as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia faced a growing international clamor to clear the way for a full and unimpeded investigation of the disaster.

Mr. Putin was confronting the threat of new European Union sanctions and new admonishments by President Obama, as suspicions grew that the separatists had downed the plane with a Russian antiaircraft weapon. Mr. Putin and Russian military officials continued to deny that they had anything to do with the disaster and suggested that some of the purported evidence had been fabricated by Ukraine and its Western backers.

Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, in a live broadcast early Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur, said his government had reached an agreement with the Ukrainian separatists to gain control of the bodies, which were to be sent to the Netherlands, and the so-called black boxes recovered from the crash site.

Mr. Najib said the boxes were to be handed over to Malaysian representatives in Donetsk, a city that has been the subject of frequent fighting between the Ukrainian military and separatists and where new clashes erupted on Monday.

If the separatists honor the agreement, it would be a diplomatic success for Mr. Najib, whose government has been reluctant to cast blame for the airline disaster, the second to confront Malaysia in the past four months.

Mr. Obama, in a televised statement from the White House, said that despite the advances on Monday, the Ukraine separatists continued to obstruct international investigators and that relatives of the 298 victims were in a “state of shock and outrage” over the delays so far in recovering the bodies. Mr. Obama said Russia would only “further isolate itself” if it did not act more assertively to rein in the separatists.

At a news briefing in Kiev late Monday afternoon, Deputy Prime Minister Volodymr Groysman, who is leading the Ukrainian government’s response to the jetliner downing, said a train carrying bodies in four refrigerated rail cars from the town of Torez would go to Kharkiv, in northeast Ukraine, outside the rebel-held area. The train departed at 7 p.m. local time for a journey that was expected to take hours.

More than half the victims of the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight were Dutch, and the others came from more than half a dozen countries.

Mr. Groysman said that 282 bodies had been found and loaded onto the train, as well as dozens of body parts from as many as 16 other victims, suggesting that officials believed they had recovered most of the remains of the passengers and crew from the Boeing 777. He said that from Kharkiv, the bodies would be flown to Amsterdam, where they would be taken to a laboratory with the latest forensic technology.

Mr. Putin issued a brief statement early on Monday saying that Russia would work to ensure that the conflict in eastern Ukraine moved from the battlefield to the negotiating table. He said that a robust international investigating team must have secure access to the crash site, but also accused unspecified nations of exploiting the disaster in pursuit of “mercenary political goals.”

The slow pace at which the bodies had been recovered and the destruction or removal of potential evidence of what happened has generated growing anger at the separatist rebels and at Mr. Putin.

The Dutch forensic experts, who examined the wreckage and inspected some of the bodies before they left on the train, were accompanied by representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The O.S.C.E. representatives have been conducting an international monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine and had quickly sent observers to the plane wreckage site, where they said their efforts were limited by rebels until Sunday, when they were granted broader access.

As the experts began their work, heavy fighting, including mortar shelling, was underway between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military, in the nearby regional capital of Donetsk, a rebel stronghold about 50 miles from the crash site. A spokesman for the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, Sergei Vladimirovich, said that the government forces had begun pushing into the city from the northwest, near a market by the main train station, and a witness reported seeing heavy shelling in the area including damage at a children’s hospital.

With fighting still raging and access to the crash site still difficult, European leaders maneuvered to overcome longstanding divisions about imposing significantly tighter sanctions against Moscow.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands, whose country bore the brunt of the casualties, told Parliament that “all political, economic and financial options” were available as the European Union prepared to debate measures further isolating the Russian leader.

“It is clear that Russia must use her influence on the separatists to improve the situation on the ground,” Mr. Rutte said, according to Reuters. “If in the coming days access to the disaster area remains inadequate, then all political, economic and financial options are on the table against those who are directly or indirectly responsible for that,” he said.

His words found an echo from George Osborne, the British chancellor of the Exchequer, who said Britain was prepared to tighten sanctions even if that meant losing Russian business in London’s economically vital financial services industry. “Any sanctions will have an economic impact, and we are prepared to undertake further sanctions,” he said in a BBC radio interview.

Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said he told Mr. Putin in telephone conversation on Sunday that the world expects Russia to use its influence on the separatists to open up the crash site.

“The world also wants to see a real change in the stance Russia has taken over the crisis in Ukraine,” Mr. Cameron said he told the Russian president during a visit to Wales in advance of a statement to Parliament. “We need no more weapons crossing the border, no more troops crossing the border, no more support for the separatists, respect for Ukrainian territorial integrity.” (Contributor: By David M. Herszenhorn, Sabrina Tavetnise and Neil MacFarquhar for The New York Times)

Russian president Vladimir Putin did not count on the Malaysian airline disaster and hasn’t handled it well. Amidst the tragedy of 298 lives lost, he was more bluster and control. He expressed no remorse or sympathy for the victims or families. He blamed Ukraine; he blocked international investigators; he covered up; and his team was not cooperative. Pray for the grieving families. Pray for President Obama, who has opportunity to impede Russia’s aggression and to represent American compassion.  Pray in Jesus’ name that God’s mercy brings redemption.

“With Him are wisdom and strength, He has counsel and understanding. … He uncovers deep things out of darkness, and brings the shadow of death to light.” (Job 12:13-22)

“Talk no more so very proudly; let no arrogance come from your mouth, for the Lord is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed.” (1 Sam. 2:3)

 

HEALTH SURVEY PROVIDES RANGE OF DATA ON GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL POPULATION

Less than 3 percent of the U.S. population identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday in the first large-scale government survey measuring Americans’ sexual orientation.

The National Health Interview Survey, which is the government’s premier tool for annually assessing Americans’ health and behaviors, found that 1.6 percent of adults self-identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent consider themselves bisexual.

The overwhelming majority of adults, 96.6 percent, labeled themselves as straight in the 2013 survey. An additional 1.1 percent declined to answer, responded “I don’t know the answer” or said they were “something else.”

The figures offered a slightly smaller assessment of the size of the gay, lesbian and bisexual population than other surveys, which have pegged the overall proportion at closer to 3.5 or 4 percent. In particular, the estimate for bisexuals was lower than in some other surveys.

The inclusion of the sexual-orientation question in an influential survey used to guide government funding and research decisions was viewed as a major victory for the gay community, which has struggled with a dearth of data about its special health needs.

“This is a major step forward in trying to remedy some of these gaps in our understanding of the role sexual orientation and gender identity play in people’s health and in their lives,” said Gary J. Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute, a research center at the University of California at Los Angeles that studies the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) population.

Begun in 1957, the federal health interview survey comprises a wide range of questions, on topics including medical care, vaccinations and tobacco use. The data is collected for the CDC by the Census Bureau, which conducts interviews with thousands of Americans across the country. It is highly regarded because of its large sample size — it comprised 33,557 adults between the ages of 18 and 64 for the most recent survey — and because of its methods, which include face-to-face interviews and some follow-up telephone queries.

A few other federal surveys ask about sexual orientation but are not large enough to provide data that can be generalized to the country as a whole, government health officials have said.

The information released by the CDC on Tuesday offers an initial analysis through the lens of sexual orientation on measures critical to public health, such as smoking, drinking and health insurance status.

It did not find a broad pattern suggesting that one group was less healthy overall than any other group, said Brian W. Ward, the researcher for the report. Echoing other studies, it found that, compared with straight people, gays were more likely to smoke and to have consumed five or more drinks in one day at least once in the past year. Straight women were more likely to consider themselves in excellent or very good health than women who identified as lesbian.

But gays were more likely to have received a flu shot than straight people, and gay men were less likely to be overweight than straight men.

In some cases, the more notable disparities were experienced by bisexuals. People who identify as being attracted to both sexes are more likely to have experienced psychological distress in the past 30 days than straight people, the survey showed.

“We just don’t know much about bisexuality right now, and we’re finally starting to do some research in that area,” said Judy Bradford, director of the Center for Population Research in LGBT Health at the Fenway Institute in Boston. The study may prompt more scrutiny of this understudied population, she said.

In their report, CDC researchers acknowledge that their estimate of the size of the bisexual population differs from those in other studies. A national estimate from the 2008 General Social Survey — which is funded by the National Science Foundation, a federal agency dedicated to the advancement of nonmedical science — estimated that 1.1 percent of the population identified as bisexual. Other surveys suggest the number of bisexuals roughly matches the number of gays.

“There’s a variety of factors that could come into play, and we don’t have an answer right now,” Ward said. “It’s something we are looking at.”

The survey did not ask about gender identity, which is a more complicated topic than sexual orientation. Previously, officials had discussed including the question in future surveys. But Ward said Monday that there were no immediate plans to add such a question.

The difficulty stems partially from the large sample size needed, experts said. One challenge is that there are more than 200 terms used by people who identify as a different sex than the biological one they were born as, Bradford said.

Some people who have completed gender reassignment surgery may no longer consider themselves transgender but rather a member of their new sex, she said. Others may be offended by terms such as “transsexual,” which was once routinely used but in some circles is now considered pejorative.

The broader 2013 National Health Interview Survey data set was released publicly on June 30. It contains more information for researchers interested in studying other measures of health by sexual orientation, such as cancer rates or disabilities. (Contributor: By Sandhya Somashekhar, a health reporter for The Washington Post. Scott Clement contributed to this report.)

Two prayer points here: First, the percentage of those who identify as other than heterosexual — gay, lesbian, or transgendered — is significantly smaller than investigators expected. Give thanks that a large majority of the population is content to abide within the Creator’s design. Second, pray for the Church to find renewed confidence in the Gospel as the power of God to save all who will believe, no matter how their human sinfulness and confusion manifests itself. Think: If God saved me, He can save any and all who call on His name. Amen!

“. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Romans 10:12, 13)

 

BIRTH-CONTROL INSURANCE BILL REJECTED IN U.S. SENATE

The U.S. Senate turned back a Democratic proposal requiring for-profit companies to provide workers with insurance coverage for birth control even if the employer has religious objections.

Senators voted 56-43, with 60 required, not to advance the measure, which seeks to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving the craft-store chain Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. Democrats say the court’s decision grants some employers unfair say over women’s health care.

“Women should call the shots when it comes to their health-care decisions: Not their boss, not the government, not anyone else — period,” Senator Patty Murray of Washington said yesterday in a floor speech. After today’s vote, she told reporters, “We are going to continue the fight.”

Three Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mark Kirk of Illinois, joined Democrats in voting to advance the measure. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, voted no to preserve his ability to bring the bill up again.

“We are going to vote again on this issue before this year is out,” Reid said at a news conference after the vote.

Religious Grounds

In the June 30 Supreme Court decision, the justices ruled 5-4 that closely held companies can refuse on religious grounds to provide employees with contraceptive coverage.

The birth-control rule stems from the 2010 Affordable Care Act’s requirement that any insurance coverage offered by employers meet minimum standards. President Barack Obama’s administration contends that contraceptive coverage is crucial to women’s health and well-being.

Senate Democrats developed the legislation in consultation with the Obama administration.

Republicans accused Democrats of threatening employers’ religious liberty in an attempt to distract from harm to women that Republicans say is caused by the health-care law, known as Obamacare.

“When it comes to decisions about contraception, both parties believe a woman should be able to make her own decisions,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said today on the Senate floor.

McConnell and fellow Senate Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fischer of Nebraska introduced a measure that he said today specifies that “an employer cannot block an employee from legal access to her FDA-approved contraceptives.”

Women Voters

Democrats are trying to woo women voters — especially single ones — before the November election. The party, which controls 55 Senate seats in the 100-member chamber, is trying to stave off a Republican takeover.

Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, who drafted the measure with Murray, is seeking a second term in November.

With Republicans expected to maintain their U.S. House majority, a net gain of six seats would put them in charge of the Senate and give the party control of both chambers of Congress for the last two years of Obama’s presidency.

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, praised the Supreme Court’s ruling in a July 1 statement.

The “decision is a victory for religious freedom and another defeat for an administration that has repeatedly crossed constitutional lines in pursuit of its big government objectives,” Boehner said.

The Senate bill is S. 2578. (Contributor: By Kathleen Hunter for Bloomberg)

This was a shallow attempt on the part of liberal Senate leaders to circumvent the Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 ruling in the Hobby Lobby case and to impress voters, primarily single women, that the U.S. Senate has more interest in making employers pay for their birth control prescriptions than the Republicans who are allegedly waging a “war on women.” Pray for morally upright leaders to emerge this year, men and women who fear God and will insist on a return to constitutional government, including the area of God-given religious freedom.

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Gal. 6:7-9)

“. . . for the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7b)

 

LAWMAKER: TEXAS TO SEND 1,000 GUARDSMEN TO BORDER

Gov. Rick Perry, a vocal critic of the White House’s response to the surge of children and families entering the U.S. illegally, plans to deploy as many as 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border, a local lawmaker confirmed Monday.

Perry, who is mulling a second presidential run after his 2012 bid flamed out in a series of public gaffes, spent part of the weekend in Iowa, where he questioned President Barack Obama’s commitment to securing the border and said Texas would do so if the federal government did not.

State Rep. Terry Canales said he was briefed by his staff Sunday following a conference call with the governor’s office, the Texas National Guard and the state Department of Public Safety. Perry’s office hasn’t commented, but he is scheduled to make the announcement Monday afternoon at the state Capitol in Austin.

More than 3,000 Border Patrol agents currently work in the region, and Perry has repeatedly asked Obama to send the National Guard to the border. Much of the area has been overwhelmed in recent months by tens of thousands of unaccompanied children illegally entering the U.S.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. The governor’s plans were first reported by The Monitor newspaper in McAllen, Texas.

As governor, Perry is commander in chief of Texas military forces unless those forces have already been mobilized by the White House. President George W. Bush sent 6,000 National Guard troops to the border in 2006, and Obama eventually extended that deployment while ordering a second wave of National Guard forces to Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico in 2010. But the second round saw reduced numbers of troops, and most of their work was limited to air patrols in counterdrug operations.

Perry announced last month that Texas would steer another $1.3 million each week to the Department of Public Safety to assist in border security through at least the end of the year. In a letter to Obama on June 20, Perry made several requests for help along the border, including 1,000 National Guard troops, additional helicopters and giving troops “arrest powers to support Border Patrol operations until sufficient Border Patrol resources can be hired, trained and deployed to the border.”

It’s not clear why Perry would need the Obama administration to authorize arrest powers and the governor’s office has not offered details ahead of the announcement. Texas law simply states that the governor can “adopt rules and regulations governing enlistment, organization, administration” of the Texas State Guard.

In a White House letter to Perry on July 7, Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett laid out steps the administration was taking to deal with what the president had called an “urgent humanitarian situation,” but did not mention the National Guard. Obama met with Perry two days later in Dallas, and the administration has worked with Mexico and other countries the immigrants are leaving to make it clear they will not be allowed to stay in the U.S.

On previous border deployments, National Guard soldiers have served in support roles – administrative, intelligence gathering – while the Border Patrol expanded its ranks. Some National Guard troops already participate in counter-drug operations on the border, though they don’t have arrest powers.

Since October, more than 57,000 unaccompanied children and teenagers have entered the U.S. illegally – more than double compared to the same period a year earlier. Most have been from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where rampant gang violence and intense poverty have driven tens of thousands of people outside their borders.

Their numbers overwhelmed Border Patrol facilities in the Rio Grande Valley, leading Perry and the Texas Department of Public Safety to argue that Border Patrol agents distracted by groups of children and families were leaving gaps.

Most of those children have been turning themselves in to the first person in a uniform they see.

On Monday, Canales questioned Perry’s plan of sending National Guard troops to the border.

“I don’t understand what their tactic is, and I don’t think it’s going to work,” the Democrat said.

He said the state may see a dip in the short term, but that such a surge by the state is unsustainable and the drug cartels would simply wait the troops out.

“They might get the desired effect, but it won’t last long,” he said. (Contributor:  By Christopher Sherman and Will Weissert for the Associated Press)

Gov. Perry is a professing Christian, and the citizens of Texas believe he has governed well. His plan is to send National Guard troops to help prevent further flooding of illegal migration of children and others into the U.S. He is trying to do what President Obama has not done. Pray for a just solution to this urgent need, which is not good for the U.S. or good for those who keep coming north out of desperation. The conflict represents years of government procrastination, and will require statesmanship and divine intervention to unravel the harm being done. Pray for God’s mercy and truth to be displayed.

“O Lord God of hosts, Who is mighty like You, O Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You…. The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; the world and all its fullness, You have founded them…. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; mercy and truth go before Your face.” (Psalm 89:8, 11, 14)

“Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.” (Psalm 85:10)

 

WHITE HOUSE WARNED ABOUT ‘ANTIQUATED’ VA SCHEDULING SYSTEM 5 YEARS AGO

Acting Veteran Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson assured Congress last week that the VA is working hard to replace its “antiquated” scheduling system. But  the Obama administration first received clear notice more than five years ago about the need for an overhaul to reduce patient wait times.

“Excessive wait times are addressed by moving to a resource-based management system,” Veterans Affairs technology  officials told the Obama-Biden transition team in a briefing report that included mention of VA’s “schedule replacement” project.

The Washington Times obtained the report through the Freedom of Information Act.

More than five years later, VA officials are hard pressed to explain their lack of progress.

It has taken the still-unfolding VA scandal into manipulated patient wait times — a metric the VA has used to award  executive bonuses — to shine a light on the failings of the current system, which Mr. Gibson called “outdated” in recent congressional testimony.

“VA has been trying — and failing — to replace its outpatient scheduling system since 2000, wasting nearly $130 million in the process,” Rep. Jeff Miller, Florida Republican and chairman of the House  Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, told The Times when asked about the delays.

“Because VA acquisition officials have proven time and again they are simply too inept to guide the development of a new proprietary appointment-scheduling system in an expedient and cost-effective manner, department leaders need to look at adopting commercial technologies that are being used in the private sector,” Mr. Miller said.

VA officials declined to respond to multiple inquiries last week concerning the lack of progress on the scheduling system.

The project has spanned administrations. The briefing papers sent to the Obama transition team in 2008 noted that “application development ” on the schedule replacement project already had been underway for six years.

“VA is taking a phased approach to implement the application, as the move from a 25-year-old legacy system to a new infrastructure is understandably complex,” VA officials told the incoming administration.

The briefing papers said a scheduling replacement would address excessive wait times and allow clinicians to view all patient history information across the VA.

By contrast, the current appointment system “is rigid and lacks efficiency,” IT officials noted. “Providers must maintain multiple calendars for clinical activities, extended hours or slots needed for special circumstances, such as compensation and pension examinations.”

Beyond the scheduling system, VA’s technology office also disclosed other major technology challenges across VA to the incoming administration, including serious deficiencies in the agency’s IT workforce.

“IT skill gaps, at all levels, include poor communication, change management and basic supervisory skills,” VA officials wrote.

The overall IT infrastructure is “comprised of a loose confederation of independently chosen elements without a comprehensive system engineering or architectural plan, clear standards or rigorous IT management  processes,” officials wrote.

And officials said infrastructure-building issues in many VA facilities were “negatively impacting” performance of IT equipment, citing a 2008 incident at a medical center in Nashville where IT outages spanning three days left officials unable to access electronic health records.

Mr. Gibson told Congress last week that VA recognized its appointment-scheduling system was “antiquated” and said officials were replacing it through an “acquisition process.”

He said the agency recently held an “industry day” to get a better idea of what to include in its upcoming scheduling solicitation. He didn’t mention a firm date, but VA has told contractors a solicitation for its MASS procurement — medical appointment scheduling system — should be released sometime later this summer, according to procurement records.

Still, there are many unanswered questions.

VA hasn’t decided on an acquisition strategy, nor have officials told contractors how the new system’s deployment might affect current union agreements, according to procurement records. The VA also hasn’t decided on any hard deadlines.

Joel C. Willemssen, managing director for information technology  at the Government Accountability Office, told a House panel on Wednesday that work on VA’s schedule replacement project actually began in 2000.

Despite spending $127 million over nine years, VA hadn’t “implemented any of the planned capabilities,” Mr. Willemssen testified.

Data reliability  was an early problem, he said. The scheduling project started providing monthly reports to the VA’s chief information officer in 2006, but the information contained contradictory information about performance.

There’s no price tag on the new scheduling system, but it’s a massive procurement that’s attracted interest from big contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI International, IBM, Microsoft and GE Healthcare, among others, procurement records show. (Contributor: By Jim McElhatton The Washington Times)

Investigators are peeling back layer after layer of poor management, ineptitude, and purposeful manipulation of data to secure unearned bonuses. Veterans have suffered intolerable wait times, with some appointments finally made after patients died. No one knows what it will take or how much it will cost to fix this agency and to recover its honor and dignity as a service organization. Pray for transforming revival that will change lives and motives. Pray for justice for our veterans. America needs a new great awakening!

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

“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man [Jesus] whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)

 

CHRISTIAN HOLOCAUST UNDERWAY IN IRAQ, USA AND WORLD LOOK ON

When U.S. troops invaded Iraq in 2003, there were at least 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Over the last ten years, significantly in the last few months with the emergence of ISIS, that figure has dropped to about 400,000.

In a region where Christians predate Muslims by centuries, over one million Christians have been killed or have had to flee because of jihadi persecution, while America is basically standing by and watching. This is the sad news that Breitbart’s National Security Editor and one of the world’s leading experts on asymmetric warfare, Dr. Sebastian Gorka, brought to Breitbart News Saturday, hosted by Editor in Chief Alex Marlow on Sirius XM Patriot Radio.

Dr. Gorka explained that “in the last 48 hours, ISIS, which is now called the Islamic State in Mosul, has painted the letter “N” for Nazarene on the houses of all the surviving Christians in the city. ISIS has basically given an ultimatum to all the Christians left: You can either flee or convert to Islam, or we will kill you.”

Gorka points out that, over the last 20 years, America has stood up around the world to save Muslims. “Whether it was to save the Muslims in Bosnia or the Albanians, Kosovars, and Muslims in Serbia, it is now time for a humanitarian operation to save the remaining Christians in Iraq,” he said. “It is time for the American people and our representatives to do something for our co-religionists remaining in the Middle East.”

Marlow observed that the blatant religious cleansing is horrifying and asked Gorka: “Why is it that the mainstream press is not interested in the story?” Gorka first responded by saying “Let’s face it, this is a Christian version of the Holocaust and nothing less.”

The Middle East expert went on to explain that the mainstream media is in full support of the White House narrative “that the President single-handedly killed Osama Bin Laden, and that Al Qaeda is now on the ropes; therefore, jihad must be shriveling up around the world.” This myopic strategy of only targeting Al Qaeda has provided great opportunities for other jihadists and has given rise to ISIS.

“On top of that,” Gorka asserts that, “the mainstream media are warped in terms of their world view.” According to Breitbart’s national security expert, the media is “post-modernist, sophisticated, and secularist. So when it comes to the idea of religious persecution, they say, ‘Well who really cares because I don’t believe in God. If you are not sophisticated enough to be a post-modernist secularist… tough on you!’”

Gorka didn’t finish there with his scathing indictment of the mainstream media. He added that it is their racism that will let this genocide of Christians continue. “To the mainstream media,” Gorka charged, “the dark skin person always has to be the victim. Either the Hamas terrorist in Gaza, the Nicaraguan gang bangers coming across the border likened to juvenile political refugees… the idea that the white skin Christian or the Israelis as victims, that goes against every narrative this media wishes to pedal. They are necessarily so locked into their own ideological vision of the world.”

Marlow summed it up by saying, “Christians are politically targeted in America frequently; they are being physically targeted in Africa, Syria, and Iraq.” Gorka emphasized that, from his first hand experiences in Africa, Christians will always be blamed for starting any upheaval. (Contributor: By Robert Wilde for Breitbart News)

Christians must always pray for persecuted brothers and sisters. Yes, our U.S. administration and media have been silent about Christian persecution around the world, but intercessors are not silent! The Church has always known persecution and has become stronger for it. But intercessors continue to watch on the wall and cry out to God. Pray that the Church will raise individual and collective voices to pray and to preach and live the Gospel message in power, no matter the cost. Multitudes suffer for no reason other than loyalty to Jesus Christ. Pray for those who suffer for their faith.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

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

“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” (John 16:1-2)

 

DEADLY MOSQUITO VIRUS REPORTED IN EASTERN MASS.

While Saturday wasn’t too hot or humid, like most of our summer has been, 22News found that our recent weather conditions have contributed to the arrival of a potentially deadly disease in the Bay State.

For the first time this year mosquitoes in Massachusetts have tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis, or triple E.

The Massachusetts Department of Health just confirmed that a July 15th laboratory test in Plymouth County has tested positive for EEE, a dangerous virus that can cause inflammation of the brain and in one third of cases, death.

Even though the only reported case of EEE in Massachusetts was more than 80 miles to our east, our chances in western Massachusetts of getting it just went up. But it probably wouldn’t be the mosquitoes bringing it here.

Birds are typically the long-range carrier of EEE, taking the disease over many miles. Mosquitoes then bite the birds and become the local source for infection when they bite a human.

Entomologist Bob Russell of American Pest Solutions told 22News, “Mosquitoes are an unusual insect because bacteria can survive in its gut and then it can be regurgitated or come out in its saliva when it bites, and that’s how you get transmission.”

The best defense against EEE is avoiding a mosquito bite. Wearing long clothes, avoiding wooded or wet areas and wearing bug spray with the chemical DEET should help with that.

“Especially my kids. Going to camp, I put the bug spray on. I try to put it more on their clothes so it’s not on their skin, or buy the one that’s more organic, but yah I do the bug spray,” said Caroline Beaudoin of Longmeadow.

Mosquitoes are out more in the early morning hours or around dusk, but on a cloudy day there are more of them out. (Contributor: By Nick Bannin for WWLP News)

It has been many years since any part of the U.S. was threatened with a deadly viral outbreak, and as we read of this potential, let’s give thanks for divine protections we often take for granted. Pray for wisdom among health officials, epidemiologists, physicians, and parents of vulnerable children. Pray against further spread of the EEE virus. Scripture reminds us of God’s merciful protections, even the common grace whereby God may extend protection to all His creation.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

 “[It is] through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

On Watch in Washington July 23, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington July 2, 2014

July 1st, 2014

On Watch in Washington July 2, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

 

SUPREME COURT: CAN’T MANDATE  HOBBY LOBBY OBEY PRO-ABORTION HHS

The Supreme Court ruled today that the Christian-run Hobby Lobby doesn’t have to obey the HHS mandate that is a part of Obamacare that requires businesses to pay for abortion causing drugs in their employee health care plans.

The Obama administration was attempting to make Hobby Lobby and thousands of pro-life businesses and organizations comply with the HHS mandate that compels religious companies to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs for their employees. However, the U.S. Supreme Court today issued a favorable ruling in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a landmark case addressing the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of business owners to operate their family companies without violating their deeply held religious convictions.

Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Samuel Alito handed down the decision for the high court, saying, “The Supreme Court holds government can’t require closely held corporations with religious owners to provide contraception coverage.”

“HHS’s contraception mandate substantially burdens the exercise of religion,” the decision reads, adding that the “decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to mean that all insurance mandates.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion saying that government itself could provide the coverage for contraception and the abortion-causing drugshobbylobby23 if a company declines to do so.

The Hobby Lobby decision only applies to companies. Non-profit groups like Priests for Life and Little Sisters are still waiting for a ruling about their right to opt out of the mandate.

The Obama administration said it was confident it would prevail, saying, “We believe this requirement is lawful…and are confident the Supreme Court will agree.”

In July, a federal court granted Hobby Lobby a preliminary injunction against the HHS abortion-drug mandate. The injunction prevented the Obama administration from enforcing the mandate against the Christian company, but the Obama administration appealed that ruling. Hobby Lobby could have paid as much as $1.3 million each day in fines for refusing to pay for birth control or abortion-causing drugs under the mandate.

After the appeals court ruling, U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton issued a preliminary injunction and stayed the case until Oct. 1 to give the Obama administration time to appeal the decision.

In an opinion read from the bench, the court said, “There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved.”

A December 2013 Rasmussen Reports poll shows Americans disagree with forcing companies like Hobby Lobby to obey the mandate.

“Half of voters now oppose a government requirement that employers provide health insurance with free contraceptives for their female employees,” Rasmussen reports.

The poll found: “The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 38% of Likely U.S. Voters still believe businesses should be required by law to provide health insurance that covers all government-approved contraceptives for women without co-payments or other charges to the patient.

Fifty-one percent (51%) disagree and say employers should not be required to provide health insurance with this type of coverage. Eleven percent (11%) are not sure.”

Another recent poll found 59 percent of Americans disagree with the mandate.

The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, grew their family business out of their garage. They now own stores in 41 states employing more than 16,000 full time employees. They have always operated their business according to their faith.

Kristina Arriaga, Executive Director of the Becket Fund, tells LifeNews, “In fact, the Greens pay salaries that start at twice the minimum wage and offer excellent benefits, as well as a healthcare package which includes almost all of the contraceptives now mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Their only objection is to 4 drugs and devices which, the government itself concedes, can terminate an embryo.”

“Their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act should be protected by the government. Instead, the government has threatened them with fines and fought them all the way to the Supreme Court,” Arriaga added.

“The government has already exempted tens of millions of Americans from complying with the mandate that forces employers to provide certain specific drugs and devices. However, it refuses to accommodate the Green family because the Green family’s objections are religious.  We believe that the government’s position is not only extreme and unconstitutional; it presents a grave danger to our freedoms,” she continued.

“My family and I are encouraged that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide our case,” said Mr. Green, Hobby Lobby’s founder and CEO.  “This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution. Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.” (Contributor: By Steven Ertelt for LifeNews.com)

Give thanks! Intercessors have prayed for this outcome. Thank God for a righteous decision! Already, opponents say the decision will deny women’s “rights.” Not so. This decision does not block any woman’s legal rights. The question is, “Who pays?” Now, instead of Christian business and ministry leaders, it will be the individuals who want the abortion-producing products and services. Are taxpayers still being defrauded (such as with Planned Parenthood)? Yes; pray that God will judge that in His time and purpose.

“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” (Prov. 29:2)

“Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate.” (Amos 5:15)

 

HOW THE FOUNDERS CREATED THE GREAT SEAL

On this date in 1782 the Continental Congress adopted the Great Seal of the United States, a symbol that required more attention by the Founding Fathers than any other document in early American history, including the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Indeed, it took three congressional committees and six years to agree on a final proposal.

Of course, the obvious question was why, on the same day that Congress approved the Declaration, it appointed a committee made up of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams to come up with a design for the seal. What was so important about a seal, especially in view of the obvious fact that the war with Great Britain was only beginning in 1776 — and it might not be successful?

The reason was that the accoutrements of the war for breaking with the mother country were just as important as the military and diplomatic muscle. To prove to Britain that Americans were serious in their resolve for independence, they had to have a legal imprimatur to affix to negotiated documents with Britain and other nations, such as for the exchange of prisoners, as well as for the final resolve, the treaty ending the war. The seal had to be just right, reflecting America’s mission not only then but for the future.

The problem was that America’s leaders were not experts on heraldry or coats-of-arms and, of course, wanted to make certain that whatever was designed would represent a clear break with the monarchical traits of Great Britain. At the same time, they wanted nations to respect the unity of the new nation’s democratic resolve and, most importantly, its military power and diplomatic finesse.

The committee report of Franklin, Jefferson and Adams was made on Aug. 20, 1776. The front, or obverse, side of the seal presented illustrated a female figure representing Liberty, the reverse depicted Moses’ parting of the Red Sea, with the inscription, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” Congress tabled the report.

Not until March 25, 1780, was a second committee appointed, with different members, and on May 10, it presented its report. Like the first committee, this one was aided by design experts. Still, the result was lackluster, with the obverse illustrating a shield with 13 diagonal stripes and a figure with an olive branch, another with a bow and arrow. The reverse pictured a female Liberty lady sitting down, in one hand an olive branch, in another a long staff. Congress sent it back to the committee.

Finally, a third committee was appointed on May 4, 1782, with some urgency in getting the matter settled. The Battle of Yorktown in late 1781 appeared to give Americans the edge in winning the war, and the new nation needed a diplomatic seal as soon as possible. The committee acted quickly, with its proposal before the Congress five days later. Again, there was a shield of 13 stripes in the middle of the obverse, surrounded by a maiden on one side and a warrior on the other. The entitlement was “Genius of the American Federated Republic.” The reverse included a pyramid with 13 layers, with the Eye of Providence at the top. Deo Favente, “In God’s Favor,” was the motto.

Instead of tossing this last seal, Congress on June 13, 1782, turned all three committee reports over to its secretary, Charles Thomson, a 53-year-old Latinmaster in Philadelphia, with the plea to come up with a winning design. One of the most able and unsung of the Revolutionary leaders, Thomson worked with another Philadelphian, William Barton, with dispatch and care, and in a week came up with a product that Congress accepted on the same day. Although emendations have been made to the Thomson-Barton work over the years, the Great Seal of the United States, best exemplified by its presence, beginning in 1935, on the one dollar bill, essentially reflects what was adopted in 1782.

The obverse of the seal is dominated by the bald eagle, with a shield across its breast of 13 alternating red and white stripes, representing the original states. In his talons, the eagle grasps, on the right, an olive branch standing for peace and, on the left, a quiver of arrows illustrating war. Above the eagle, 13 stars are placed in a blue background in circular design. On the reverse side of the seal, a pyramid with 13 layers represent strength and duration, with an eye at the top and the Latin “Annuit Coeptis,” meaning “He [God] has approved our undertakings.” At the bottom of the reverse, “Novus Ordo Seclorum” suggests that, indeed, a new order of the ages has been created.

One final but important point, indicating attention to subtlety in the seal, is that the bald eagle on the obverse faces the olive branch, reinforcing, as illustrated by the history of the Revolutionary War and the nation’s subsequent history, that peaceful negotiation is — and would be — the first choice of the nation. (Contributor:  By Thomas V. DiBacco for The Washington Times – Thomas V. DiBacco is professor emeritus at American University.)

This is a “give thanks” article, placed in the Alert to honor our Independence Day celebration. Well worth studying, it speaks of dedication, honor, craftsmanship, creativity, and purpose to produce a Seal worthy of the new country’s purpose, promise, and hope. While Christians do not put the U.S. Constitution (or Seal) before God’s Word, still we honor those who helped, under God, bring forth a nation that He has blessed. Let us honor God by remembering His mercy and grace on America.

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” (1 Tim. 2:1-2)   

“For our [spiritual] citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ …” (Philippians 3:20)

 

SUPREME COURT: PUBLIC UNION CAN’T MAKE NONMEMBERS PAY FEES

The Supreme Court dealt a blow to public sector unions Monday, ruling that thousands of home health care workers in Illinois cannot be required to pay fees that help cover the union’s costs of collective bargaining.

In a 5-4 split along ideological lines, the justices said the practice violates the First Amendment rights of nonmembers who disagree with the positions that unions take.

The ruling is a setback for labor unions that have bolstered their ranks – and bank accounts – in Illinois and other states by signing up hundreds of thousands of in-home care workers. It could lead to an exodus of members who will have little incentive to pay dues if nonmembers don’t have to share the burden of union costs.

But the ruling was limited to this particular segment of workers – not private sector unions – and it stopped short of overturning decades of practice that has generally allowed public sector unions to pass through their representation costs to nonmembers.

Writing for the court, Justice Samuel Alito said home care workers are different from other types of government employees because they work primarily for their disabled or elderly customers and do not have most of the rights and benefits of state employees.

The case involves about 26,000 Illinois workers who provide home care for disabled people and are paid with Medicaid funds administered by the state. In 2003, the state passed a measure deeming the workers state employees eligible for collective bargaining.

A majority of the workers then selected a union to negotiate with the state to increase wages, improve health benefits and set up training programs. Those workers who chose not to join the union had to pay proportional “fair share” fees to cover collective bargaining and other administration costs.

A group of workers led by Pamela Harris – a home health aide who cares for her disabled son at home – filed a lawsuit arguing the fees violate the First Amendment. Backed by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the workers said it wasn’t fair to make someone pay fees to a group that takes positions the fee-payer disagrees with.

The workers argue they are not government employees capable of being unionized in the traditional sense. They are different, they say, because they work in people’s homes, not on government property, and are not supervised by other state employees.

The workers had urged the justices to overturn a 1977 Supreme Court decision which held that public employees who choose not to join a union can still be required to pay representation fees, as long as those fees don’t go toward political purposes. They say the union is not merely seeking higher wages, but making a political push for expansion of Medicaid payments.

Alito said the court was not overturning that case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. That case, he said, is confined “to full-fledged state employees.”

Justice Elena Kagan wrote the dissent for the four liberal justices. Kagan said the majority’s decision to leave the older case in place is “cause for satisfaction, though hardly applause.”

The state had argued that home health care workers are the same as other public workers because Illinois sets their salaries and any dispute over pay must be worked out with the state. Illinois says it has an interest in bargaining with a single representative as it does with other types of public workers.

A federal district court and the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had rejected the lawsuit, citing the high court’s precedent.

Nine other states have allowed home care workers to join unions: California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. (Contributo: By Sam Hananel for The Associated Press)

This split decision has technical ramifications that we will not attempt to interpret. The value for the home health care workers involved is that they need not support collective bargaining costs that offer them no personal value. Unions have a history of diverting funds to political issues and candidates that do not represent conservative values. Give thanks for those aspects of the case that give workers additional freedoms with their hard-earned income. Pray for many who work at near-poverty levels.

 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,’ when you have it with you.” (Prov. 3:27-28)

“I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor.” (Psalm 140:12)

 

BODIES OF THREE KIDNAPPED ISRAELI TEENS FOUND, GOVERNMENT CONFIRMS

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed revenge against Hamas after three teens kidnapped June 12 in the West Bank — including one with U.S. citizenship — were found dead Monday, just north of Hebron.

“They were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood by animals,” Haaretz quoted Netanyahu saying at a hastily arranged security cabinet meeting. “In the name of the whole of Israel, I ask to tell the dear families – to the mothers, the fathers, the grandmothers and the grandfathers, the brothers and sisters – our hearts are bleeding, the whole nation is crying with them.”

The leader’s angry words came hours after the search for Eyal Yifrach, 19; Gilad Shaar, 16; and Naftali Frenkel, also 16, who were snatched while hitchhiking, ended in the West Bank, where Hamas operates. Sources said the bodies were found in a shallow grave in an open field in the West Bank village of Halhul, just north of Hebron.

“Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay,” Netanyahu vowed. The comments amplified earlier remarks from President Shimon Peres, who said Israel would pursue the killers.

“The entire nation is bowing its head with unbearable sorrow this evening,” Peres said. “Over the past 18 days the nation prayed as one that the fate of our wonderful teenagers would be that they are found alive and well. Now that the bitter news has come, the entire Israeli nation mourns the premature death of our finest youth … Alongside deep sorrow, we will remain resolute to punish the atrocious terrorists. Our war on terrorism will only intensify and will not waver so that this murderous terrorism won’t dare to rear its head.”

The abductions outraged the Jewish state as well as the international community, and several vigils and rallies were held around the U.S. during the intensive hunt. Hundreds of Palestinians took part in the search, dubbed “Brother’s Keeper.”

The three youths disappeared as they were heading home from a West Bank religious school. Israeli officials said at the time that one of the teens called a police emergency line around 10:25 p.m. local time and said: “We’ve been kidnapped.” They were not heard from again.

Frenkel holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas criticized the kidnapping, and pledged help in the search but denied there was evidence linking Hamas to the crime. Hamas, which governs the Palestinian territories jointly with the PA, praised the kidnapping without claiming responsibility.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri accused Israel of using the murders as a pretext for aggression.

“Only the Israeli version of the events has been published. Israel is attempting to make way for aggression against us, against the Hamas,” Zuhri said. “We reject all Israeli allegations and threats against us. We are already used to it and will know how to defend ourselves. No Palestinian group, Hamas or any other group, has taken responsibility for the action, and thus the Israeli version can’t be trusted.”

Israeli forces searched more than 1,000 sites, rounding up Hamas and Islamic Jihad suspects as part of the operation. Last week, the Israel Security Agency identified two Hamas operatives from Hebron as key suspects in the kidnappings, Ammar Muhammad Abu Eisha, 33, a locksmith, and Marwan al-Qawasmeh, 29, a barber. Both men allegedly disappeared from their homes on the night of the kidnapping have not been seen since.

Binyamin Proper, who was among the civilian volunteers that found the bodies, told Channel 2 TV that a member of the search party “saw something suspicious on the ground, plants that looked out of place, moved them and moved some rocks and then found the bodies. We realized it was them and we called the army.”

Meanwhile, in Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters: “We obviously condemn in the strongest possible terms violence that takes the lives of innocent civilians.” (FoxNews and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

As Israeli authorities and a watching world feared, the three kidnapped teen boys were murdered without provocation. Our newsgathering found deep grief and anger being felt worldwide. There is little to say here. Please pray as God leads you. Father God, we ask that You extend grace, comfort, and solace to these families. In their bereavement, lead them to the consoling words of Isaiah 61; and in your sovereign mercy, reveal to broken hearts that the prophet speaks of Messiah, who has come to comfort those who mourn in Zion.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness….” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

 

URGENT PRAYER REQUEST FROM ANNE GRAHAM-LOTZ

Blow the trumpet…sound the alarm…for the day of the Lord is coming.  It is close at hand– Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God…   Joel 2:1, 13

As you may know, my husband is in declining health. I am no longer traveling and speaking as much as I have for the last 26 years since I am staying home to care for him. As a result, I have had time to be quiet and listen more to the whispers of the Spirit. He has revealed things to me in the stillness that I’m not sure I would have heard in my former busyness.

One of the things He has impressed on me is that we are living at the end of human history as we know it. In light of this, He has given me some practical assignments. One was to be the Honorary Chair for the National Day of Prayer 2014 this past May. He gave me the message I was to deliver, which was from Joel 1…the Day of the Lord is at hand. It was a message warning that judgment is coming.

Just recently, He has given me another assignment, which is to call His people in our nation to prayer. This assignment came indirectly from a Syrian pastor through a National Day of Prayer attendee. In obedience, I am blowing the trumpet…sounding the alarm…issuing a national prayer initiative entitled 7 7 7: An Urgent Call to Prayer. The Call is for God’s people to pray for each of the first seven days in the seventh month-July 1-7. Then on the 7th day, July 7, we are to pray and fast for 7 hours. The purpose is…

  • For God the Father to restrain, protect, and deliver His people from the evil that has come into our world.
  • For God the Son to be exalted, magnified, and glorified in His church, in our nation, and in our lives.
  • For God the Holy Spirit to fall on us in a fresh way, compelling the church to repent of sin and our nation to return to faith in the living God, resulting in a great national spiritual awakening.

I’m asking you to partner with me, and send out the word to everyone on your email address list, or who follows you on facebook or twitter. I will be sending out an eBlast this week and next, which you can access at http://www.annegrahamlotz.com/events/urgent-call-to-prayer/. Please feel free to use it, and place your name in the paragraph that includes mine to make it more personal for your constituents. Feel free also to forward this letter.

I will provide a prayer I have written for each of the 7 days to help unite us in one spirit and one voice as we cry out to God. Those who receive the eBlast are invited to sign up for the daily email prayers. Please be assured there is no other agenda in this initiative. This is not about promoting anything or anyone. This is all about calling God’s people together to pray, before it’s too late, and judgment falls on our nation.

Urgently,
Anne Graham-Lotz

We repeat this entry to honor Anne Graham-Lotz and due to the proximity of the dates. Give thanks that Mrs. Lotz has added her voice to a call for national prayer. She served as the Honorary Chair for the National Day of Prayer 2014 in May, and now writes (above), “[God] gave me the message… from Joel 1… the Day of the Lord is at hand. It was a message warning that judgment is coming.” Pray for her, for her husband’s health, and for her voice to be amplified by God’s Spirit in urging many to pray and to take seriously the message of divine judgment. May all intercessors pray in unity.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.” (Psalm 133)

“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart …  And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1, 7-8)

 

PICK FOR V.A. IS FORMER CORPORATE CHIEF

President Obama on Monday intends to nominate Robert A. McDonald, a former chief executive of Procter & Gamble, to be the next secretary of Veterans Affairs, a White House official said Sunday, betting that a global corporate officer can turn around a government health system that has been rocked by allegations of mismanagement and cover-ups of long patient waiting times.

The president last month accepted the resignation of Eric Shinseki, the retired four-star Army general he tapped in 2009 to lead the agency. By appointing Mr. McDonald, 61, Mr. Obama is turning to an outsider to overcome deep bureaucratic problems and the mismanagement that stemmed, in part, from a surge in the number of veterans needing care.

In the weeks since Mr. Shinseki’s departure, White House officials had explored three kinds of potential replacements: someone with deep management experience, someone with a military background similar to the department’s former leader or someone with a track record running a sprawling hospital system.

By picking Mr. McDonald, Mr. Obama signaled that he views the problems at the department as primarily a management concern, although his nominee is a West Point graduate with a military service record. A report issued on Friday by Mr. Obama’s deputy chief of staff, Rob Nabors, described a “corrosive” management culture and “a lack of responsiveness and an inability to effectively manage or communicate” at the agency.

The choice is markedly different from the one Mr. Obama made five years ago, suggesting that he no longer believes that a military commander can fix the substantial problems at the country’s largest integrated health care network, with over 1,700 facilities that serve more than eight million veterans a year.

“This is definitely a surprising pick,” said Paul Rieckhoff, the chief executive and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “McDonald is not a name that was on anyone’s radar over the last few weeks. His branding background may prove helpful because there are few organizations in America with a worse reputation toward customers than the V.A. right now.”

But Mr. Rieckhoff added that because Mr. McDonald had “been away from the military for quite a while, he’ll have to move quickly to show he is committed to and understands the post-9/11 generation of veterans.”

From 2009 to 2013 at Procter & Gamble, Mr. McDonald oversaw more than 120,000 employees as he directed a company that had operations around the globe. Officials noted Sunday that Mr. McDonald’s former company served more than five billion customers.

The president’s plans to nominate Mr. McDonald were first reported Sunday by The Washington Post.

If he is confirmed, Mr. McDonald will face a beleaguered $154 billion-a-year department whose major functions are stricken with a combination of operational and technological dysfunction; serious morale problems exacerbated by what administration officials now acknowledge is a corrosive management culture and hostility to whistle-blowers; and a lack of trust among many veterans.

The most severe problem is the scandal over falsified waiting lists that last month led to the ouster of the department’s top two officials, including Mr. Shinseki. He had characterized the lack of honesty and proper behavior at some of the department’s facilities as a “systemic, totally unacceptable lack of integrity” that he could not explain.

The waiting-list controversy revealed that veterans in many places faced long delays for appointments — delays that were hidden by administrators and scheduling employees who were under pressure to convince their bosses that waits were typically no longer than 14 days. Results of investigations and audits in recent weeks have suggested that the cover-ups of the delays were spurred in many places by administrators whose performance ratings were tied to measurements of how long it took veterans to see doctors.

Veterans Affairs officials have already taken steps to eliminate what they now acknowledge were potentially perverse incentives to manipulate waiting-time data, such as eliminating performance bonuses this year for senior health care executives and deleting the 14-day goal from employee contracts.

But the underlying cause of the delays will be harder to address: The department’s medical centers and clinics have seen a sharp increase in visits scheduled by patients, particularly for primary care appointments, but the number of doctors and nurse practitioners available to see them has in many places barely grown.

Much of the demand has come from younger veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan with profound and complex injuries that require close monitoring and many follow-up visits. But most veterans seeking treatment at department clinics, though, are Vietnam veterans, many with chronic illnesses like diabetes that require long-term care, or with cancer or cardiovascular disease, which require complicated and expensive treatments.

In addition, if confirmed, Mr. McDonald will be confronted with the continuing problem of how to make sure veterans returning from the battlefield, some of them seriously injured or battling psychological problems, receive their disability compensation in a timely manner. In his 2008 campaign, Mr. Obama criticized delays in providing benefits to veterans and promised to make fixing the agency a top priority. But while the White House has bragged about making progress in the timely distribution of benefits, the revelations this spring about delays in seeing patients has raised the agency’s profile to a new political level.

To win confirmation, Mr. McDonald will have to win over lawmakers in both parties. Records show that Mr. McDonald has made political contributions only to Republicans, giving $5,000 to Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, and $11,000 to the Romney Victory Committee. He has also made several contributions to Speaker John A. Boehner and Senator Rob Portman, both Republicans of Ohio.

Senator Bernard Sanders, an independent from Vermont and the chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, offered a neutral reaction on Sunday to the president’s pick.

“The V.A. needs significantly improved transparency and accountability, and it needs an increased number of doctors, nurses and other medical staff so that all eligible veterans get high-quality health care in a timely manner,” Mr. Sanders said.

Mr. Boehner released a statement complimenting Mr. McDonald as “a good man, a veteran and a strong leader.” But he also said any Veterans Affairs secretary could succeed only “if his boss, the president, first commits to doing whatever it takes to give our veterans the world-class health care system they deserve by articulating a vision for sweeping reform.” (Contributor: By Michael D. Shear and Richard A. Oppel, Jr. for The New York Times)

Mr. McDonald deserves a chance to bring balance and proper management back to a seriously broken and deeply flawed cabinet-level agency. Pray he will have divine wisdom and extraordinary courage to sift through what appears to be deception at many levels. He must do a thorough “house cleaning.” For the sake of military personnel and veterans who have suffered neglect and abuse, let us pray for his success, so that the V.A. will once again give honor to whom honor is due. Pray for truth and light.

“Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:2-4)

 

THE BEAUTIFUL TRUTH ABOUT AMERICA

There’s some surprising showbiz acknowledgment for the power of American exceptionalism, a belief already well known to grass-roots folk and patriots. Case in point: A recent test showing in Atlanta and Houston theaters holds great promise for “America: Imagine the World Without Her,” a feature-length film by oft-embattled writer/director Dinesh D’Souza and Oscar-winning producer Gerald R. Molen. Indeed, the work was called “a slick, sprawling celebration of American exceptionalism” by Variety and cited by the Hollywood Reporter for debunking “the narrative that the United States has been a force of evil across the world through a combination of historical recreations and interviews with some of the country’s harshest critics.”

Both publications noted the film’s surprise strong box office returns in the regional markets. It opens nationwide in 1,000 theaters Wednesday and could prove to be a sleeper blockbuster like the determined pair’s other project — “2016: Obama’s America,” which drew over $33 million in ticket sales and ended up to be the second-most-successful political documentary of all time.

“After the success of ‘2016,’ I knew there was an audience that wanted to be proud of our country and see a film that took an honest look at how this country came to be and where we go from here,” says Mr. D’Souza.

“What makes this film unlike any today is the history behind it, the truth about American history and the place we have in world history,” notes Mr. Molen. “I call upon all Americans to join us at their local theater to celebrate our great country.”

Meanwhile, some fans are petitioning the White House to allow “America” to be shown in military theaters. “At this time, there are no plans for the film to be released on U.S. military bases around the world,” states the online petition, filed through the We the People program. “Since this is a patriotic film that celebrates America, we are asking the White House to allow this film to be seen by the men and women who have sacrificed for our country at movie theaters around the world that happen to be located on U.S. military installations.” (Contributor:  By Jennifer Harper for The Washington Times)

While our nation’s “exceptionalism” has been questioned if not denied in recent years, America is the only country on earth established with the Founders’ determination to see a nation of free men and women come forth under a government designed to serve its citizens, not own them. Pray that this film will have a wide audience, serving its purpose to review U.S. history faithfully and accurately. America’s creativity and success have been unparalleled because of our God-given freedoms.

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:32, 36)

 

LAWMAKERS AIM TO CURB MEDICAL RESEARCH ON FOSTER CHILDREN

In the wake of the Justina Pelletier custody saga, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers have introduced a bill to limit federal funding for medical research involving foster children.

“Sixteen months ago, Justina was a figure skater. Today, she cannot stand, sit or walk on her own,” Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, said of the bill, dubbed “Justina’s Law.”

“It is unconscionable what happened to Justina, and we must do all we can to prevent it from ever happening again. Removing federal funding from such experimentation is an important first step,” said Mrs. Bachmann.

“Foster children are particularly vulnerable because they may not have parents to advocate for them,” said Rep. Karen Bass, California Democrat, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat, and Rep. Tom Marino, Pennsylvania Republican.

All four lawmakers are co-chairmen of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth in the House of Representatives.

Justina, 16, spent 16 months in custody of Massachusetts’ child welfare agency, which placed her in a hospital psychiatric ward for several months. Justina was released to her family in June after a two-state battle involving a juvenile court and political leaders.

The House bill would tell hospitals and other research organizations they can’t “just do what they want” with children who are separated from their parents, said Daniel Schmid, an attorney with Liberty Counsel, which worked to win Justina’s release from state care.

Under U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rules — which are often adopted by hospitals and other institutions — wards of the state may sometimes be included in risky research that doesn’t benefit them.

The Justina bill “heightens the standard” by disallowing foster children from being involved in taxpayer-funded research that carries “greater-than-minimal risk with no or minimal prospect of direct benefit,” Mr. Schmid said.

Liberty Counsel said Friday that when Justina, then age 14, was taken by her mother, Linda Pelletier, to Boston Children’s Hospital in February 2013, a doctor changed her diagnosis from mitochondrial disease — a physical ailment — to somatoform disorder — a mental illness. A hospital psychologist who was researching somatoform disorder under a federal grant agreed with the new diagnosis.

When Justina’s parents objected and sought to move her to another hospital, they were reported to Massachusetts child welfare officials for medical child abuse, and Justina was taken into state custody.

Hospital and state officials have noted that they cannot discuss details of Justina’s case due to privacy and confidentiality rules. A spokesman for Boston Children’s Hospital said recently that Justina’s diagnosis and treatment plan were “thorough and in accordance with best practices” by an team of specialists in several disciplines, in and out of the hospital.

The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, a Pelletier family advocate and friend, said Friday that Justina is “180 degrees different, for the positive” since coming home to West Hartford, Connecticut. Sadly, her reading level has dropped several grades, but she is enrolling in school as soon as possible, he said.

The federal legislation is necessary to protect families, said Mr. Mahoney. Scores of people around the country have reported problems with foster care, and “all along, there was this sense that Justina’s case was, if you will, a canary in the coal mine” with respect to parents seeing their rights usurped by government entities.

Justina wants to tell her own story, Mr. Mahoney added. Recently, she said, unsolicited, “I want to go down to Washington, D.C., and speak,” he said. (Contributor: By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)

This sounds more like a medieval novel than an American family scene. Sadly, it is the latter. Why was Justine Pelletier taken from her parents for 16 months and subjected to psychological research? No one is saying, but this bipartisan bill will cut off federal funding for such experimentation. Pray for Justine’s adjustment to home and for healing. Pray for the passage of this bill so that other children will not be so abused. Pray, too, for the uncovering of criminal activity. Those who have done this are in need of God’s mercy.

“Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate.” (Amos 5:15)

“For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You. The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity.” (Psalm 5:5)

 On Watch in Washington July 2, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

 

On Watch in Washington June 25, 2014

June 25th, 2014

On Watch in Washington June 25, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

CALL2FALL

The Basics

Q – What’s involved?

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

Q – Who can join?

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

Q – Where will we do it?

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

Q – When will it happen?

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

Q – Why a Call 2 Fall?

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

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The pathway back must begin with:

A humility and brokenness before the Lord.

A desperation to find the face of God.

A heart cry for the mercy of God.

A desire to turn from our sinful ways.

A resolve to return to the ways of God.

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

IFA stands with our friends from Family Research Council and this timely invitation for believers and their churches to be in unified, corporate prayer on our knees for a few minutes on Sunday, June 29. Many know of this from last week’s Informer. If your church leaders are not aware of the opportunity, please pass on our alert by which you might encourage even broader participation across the nation during your church’s time of worship.

“I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting…”  (1 Tim. 2:8)

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:14-19)

 

THE TRAGIC EXODUS OF IRAQ’S CHRISTIANS

The Christians of Bartilla are wondering if these are the final days. Since the second century and the origins of Christianity in the Nineveh plains of northern Iraq, they have been unfortunate in their neighbors, suffering attacks and massacres at the hands of Persians, Iraqi Muslims and Kurds. And if geography is destiny, then it is surprising they are still here, but for how much longer they aren’t sure.

Destiny is barking again as far as the town’s Assyrian Christians are concerned. A mere 10-minute drive from Bartilla and other small neighboring Christian towns, jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have set up their most advanced position on the eastern side of the city of Mosul. There are a dozen Kurdish fighters manning an opposing sunbaked checkpoint. Unsurprisingly, despite the protective presence in the area of other Kurdish peshmerga forces, the 16,000 Christians of Bartilla are wondering if they will face a terminal assault.

Standing at the Peshmerga checkpoint, I wave at the jihadist frontier post but see no reciprocal gesture coming from the other side. The representatives of the (Muslim) second coming apparently have the gaze of W.B. Yeats’ rough beast—“blank and pitiless as the sun.” “We have had no contact with them,” says a Kurdish fighter about the jihadist guards two or three hundred meters away. The Kurd squints at me and asks if I want to go to Mosul. And then makes a slashing gesture across his throat and laughs.

“The primary things we need for life aren’t here. Unless things change, everyone will have to go and the Christian presence that has been here for centuries will cease.”

In Bartilla, Fr. Binham Lallou of the Chaldean Catholic Church, who was born in the down-at-heel, dusty town and returned after studying in Lebanon for the priesthood, says: “We are scared there is going to be a disaster. People are afraid of the jihadists and afraid of the Iraqi government, maybe they will come with airplanes and bomb here.”

Sitting in his small study, part of the complex of the church of St. George, one of four remaining churches in the town whose Christian population has almost halved since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Fr. Lallou says many of his parishioners are talking about fleeing. As the priest in cassock and collar explains the history of Bartilla and the challenges Christians here face, an old scarfed woman shuffles in with a small cup and a pot of coffee, standing before me, the priest and translator while we take turns drinking the thick dark liquid as if we are partaking in a secular communion.

Above Fr. Lallou’s there is a plaque with words from St. Matthew in Arabic script. “Therefore go and makes disciples of all Nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” But the Assyrian Church here is not triumphant; it has been on the defensive for decades. Since the 1990s, hostility from the government of Saddam Hussein—and, since his fall, sectarian killings and bombings and an increasingly aggressive Islamist political culture—have forced two-thirds of Iraq’s Christian to flee overseas, slashing the population from 1.2 million to 300,000.

The Nineveh plains, the original Assyrian heartland, where Christians speak Assyrian as their first language and Arabic their second, has been also experienced an exodus despite Christian leaders earmarking the strip of land sandwiched between Mosul and Iraqi Kurdistan as a possible place of refuge when sectarian attacks in Basra and Baghdad mounted after the American invasion. Since 2003, Christian families started to arrive from the south looking to settle on extended family holdings, but many moved on because of the depressed economy, partly a consequence of the Nineveh plains remaining disputed territory between the Iraq government and the Kurds. The Christian exodus, though, started during the Iran-Iraq war because many locals had been trading with Iran and their businesses collapsed during the conflict.

The Christians here are now on high alert, as they are in the nearby towns of Al-Qoush and Bashiqa. Entering Bartilla we are closely questioned at a checkpoint by members of a self-defense force of 500 unpaid part-timers. The force, known as the Church Guards, was formed after simultaneous bombings in August 2004 of six churches in Baghdad and Mosul, the first in a wave of bombings of nearly 30 other churches throughout Iraq.

“We cooperate with the Peshmerga,” says Sabah Bihnam, one of the guards and a member of the Popular Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Council. In the guards’ headquarters a short-wave radio crackles. The television tuned to the news beams images of thousands of Shia Muslims determinedly marching in lockstep in Baghdad, volunteers to a call for a show of strength by the powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Mehdi Army fought the U.S. in Iraq for years.

It isn’t clear whether the Shia show of strength will alarm the jihadists and Sunni Muslims backing them in an uprising that is dismembering Iraq and threatening all-out sectarian civil war. But it is raising the sectarian temperature. The portly, balding Sabah, a father of two, glances nervously at the television. “We are afraid more now than at anytime before. There is a Peshmerga force in the area but we don’t know if we can rely on them. They say they will protect us but maybe they won’t, maybe they will run away like the Iraqi army did in Mosul,” he adds. My Kurdish translator bristles at the remark casting doubt on the pledges and martial prowess of the Kurds, who have sent reinforcements to the area an hour’s drive from Erbil, the capital of semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.

The threat from Da’esh, as locals call ISIS, isn’t the only challenge for the townsfolk.  Bartilla is laboring with an immediate crisis with basic services. Since the jihadist takeover of Mosul, 13 miles away, there has been no running water and no mains electricity in the town. Local generators can only provide an intermittent service for 10 hours a day, and they aren’t strong enough to power the pumps to deliver the water. Locals are using the wells, but they are contaminated.

“We can’t live in this way—without water and energy,” complains 52-year-old Marak, a government worker. “The primary things we need for life aren’t here. Unless things change, everyone will have to go and the Christian presence that has been here for centuries will cease. We will have to leave. We don’t want to, but what else can we do?”

The sentiment is shared by a group of women whose poor families are sharing rooms around a courtyard nearby. They shout to be heard, competing to complain to a foreigner about how impossible things have become. First, they protest in the sweltering heat as children crowd around about the lack of water and energy and a gas shortage across northern Iraq that has sent prices skyrocketing—when you can get it at all.

“We can’t go on with our normal lives,” says a matriarch who gives her age as “80 to 85.” (It’s unclear whether she is being coy or doesn’t know exactly how old she is.) says, “We are under a lot of stress, our psychology is not good.”

Another focuses on the jihadist threat. Wafi, a 40-year-old mother of five, worries that the Kurds will abandon them. “The Peshmerga say they will protect us but we don’t know what will happen. There were security forces in Mosul too,” she says. Wearing pink pajama trousers, a blue T-shirt and purple sandals, she holds a cup of water for her youngest child to sip from.

But the Christians aren’t the only sectarian group in Bartilla and its environs who feel beleaguered. The worries and challenges are the same just outside Bartilla in the village of Khazna, inhabited by Shiite Shabaks, a Kurdish-speaking minority. The village of 10,000 has suffered its fair share of sectarian violence. In 2009, two blasts killed 34 people and damaged nearly 200 hundred houses. The bombing was the first known action of the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq—their first piece of handiwork after they joined up with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

Another crowd—men, this time—swarm to share their fears. Many of the boys pushing in to glimpse a foreign journalist are wearing brightly colored replica football shirts of European teams, mainly Spanish or French clubs. “Barcelona or Real Madrid?” demands one lad. And they chatter about the World Cup, as the Christians do down the road.

But aside from international football, the only other things they share with their Christian neighbors is fear of Da’esh and distrust of each other. Despite the fact that both face an existential challenge in the shape of the jihadists, there is no collaboration between the two communities—and in the case of the Shiites, little with the Kurds either.

“We asked the Peshmerga for new guns, like the Christians have, but they refused us,” says Mahmoud, a 50-year-old retired building worker. After the 2009 bombing the Shabaks of Khazna wanted to set up a tribal militia force but the Kurds, who patrolled the area with the Iraqi army, blocked it, arguing it was a recipe for more sectarian conflict. Now the Shabaks have few guns—though one guard sported a battered AK-47.

The jihadists claim they have killed 1,700 Shia in Mosul since their takeover of the city. Mahmoud says he has heard 300 Shia and Christian inmates of the prison were killed. “There are plenty of people here ready to fight,” he adds. Asked if he would like Iranian Shiite forces to come he responds: “We don’t want Iran or America, but if they are serious about helping, they should arm us.”

In Bartilla, Fr. Lallou shakes his head over the plight they are in. For him flight is not an option. “Now I don’t know if Christians will remain here. But leaving is not a solution. I am a son of Bartilla. I don’t have any value without my home. I won’t have value if I live in Sweden or somewhere else. This is my home, this is my place.” (Contributor: By Jamie Dettmer for TheDailyBeast.com)

We hope every reader will fully absorb this poignant article. It is lengthy but vital to enable Americans with no first-hand Middle East knowledge to understand how precarious life is for Christians in Iraq, the very area where the earliest Christian churches took root and once flourished. Imagine having to flee from our homeland or face severe persecution, destruction of churches, and probable death. Pray for God’s merciful intervention. May He show us in the U.S. how to pray effectively for these suffering fellow believers.  

 “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also. … So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:3, 6)

 

SYRIA JIHADISTS NOW USING HUMVEES SEIZED IN IRAQ

Jihadists fighting in Syria’s war put to use for the first time on Sunday American-made Humvees that they seized during a lightning offensive in Iraq this month, a monitor said.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, used the armoured vehicles to capture the villages of Eksar and Maalal in Aleppo province, which borders Turkey, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

It came after heavy fighting against the Islamic Front and its Al-Qaeda-affiliated ally, the Al-Nusra Front, said the Observatory, a Britain-based group that gets its information from a network of sources on the ground.

The two villages are located near the town of Azaz, which ISIL militiamen abandoned at the end of February under attack from rebels fighting to oust Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

ISIL, which espouses a radical interpretation of Islam and aims to set up a state stretching across the Syria-Iraq border, is now expected to launch a bid to retake Azaz.

ISIL seized the Humvees and sent them to Syria after Iraqi soldiers abandoned them during a surprise Sunni jihadist offensive that claimed Iraq’s second city of Mosul and swathes of other territory in mid-June.

Also on Sunday, ISIL gunmen abducted 20 Kurdish students on the road between Hasakeh and Qamishli in northeastern Syria, said the Observatory.

It comes three weeks after ISIL kidnapped 145 Kurdish students in Aleppo, as well as 193 Kurdish civilians at Qabasine village in the same province.

Parents of five students who managed to escape said the jihadists demanded that they join them in the fighting.

Kurdish militias, who are also trying to expand their autonomous region, have fought for months with ISIL, which has been seeking to seize from their control oil fields in northern and eastern areas. (Contributor: By AFP News)

IFA’s Informer (this mid-week e-mail alert) is a call to prayer and intercession as each believer is led. We do not try to report news in depth, nor are we equipped to analyze. Our first calling is to pray for the spiritual health and welfare of our own beloved nation. Pray for spiritual awakening in America. Renewal and spiritual hope will come as the Church again fulfills its commission and obeys God’s call to preach the Gospel clearly and in His power. Ask God to raise up prophetic voices that can speak to government leaders reasonably and effectively.

“[One] of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’ So He said to them, “When you pray, say:

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Luke 11:1-4)

“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

 

NETANYAHU SLAMS ‘DISGRACEF​UL’ PRESBYTERI​AN CHURCH DECISION

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted the Presbyterian Church (USA) on Sunday for the denomination’s “disgraceful” decision last week to disassociate with companies supplying equipment to Israeli armed forces.

The denomination voted Friday to divest holdings in three companies — Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions — that the church argues supply Israel in its occupation of Palestinian territory.

The vote was held at the church’s biennial general assembly meeting, with 310 members voting in favor of the move and 303 voting against. On its website, the church noted there were “audible gasps” from many in the crowd immediately following the step.

But Mr. Netanyahu had a much more pointed reaction Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The prime minister said the move demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the Middle East, and he said Presbyterian leaders cannot see how Israel differs from its often brutal and repressive neighbors.

“It should trouble all people and of conscience and morality because it’s so disgraceful,” he said of the vote. “You come to Israel, and you see the one democracy that upholds basic human rights, that guards the rights of all minorities, that protects Christians.”

Mr. Netanyahu, who lived for more than a decade in the U.S. over several stints as a boy and young man, then made a puckish suggestion for how the Presbyterian leaders could educate themselves about the Middle East.

“I would suggest to the Presbyterian organizations — fly to the Middle East. Come and see Israel for the embattled democracy that it is, and then take a bus tour. Go to Libya, go to Syria, go to Iraq — and see the difference. And I would give them two pieces of advice — make sure it is an armor-plated bus and, second, don’t say that you’re Christians.”

Presbyterian supporters of divestment analogized the action to the worldwide campaign of sanctions and boycotts against South Africa’s apartheid regime in the 1970s and 80s.

“Because we are a historical peacemaking church, what we have done is we have stood up for nonviolent means of resistance to oppression, and we have sent a clear message to a struggling society that we support their efforts to resist in a nonviolent way the oppression being thrust upon them,” the Rev. Jeffrey DeYoe of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network told The Associated Press.

The church seems to understand its vote — which reportedly will result in the divesting of about $21 million in investments — is highly controversial.

“In no way is this a reflection for our lack of love for our Jewish sisters and brothers,” moderator Heath Rada said immediately after the vote.

The church, which has about 1.8 million members and became the largest U.S. church denomination to divest itself of Israel-related holdings, also added a preamble to its motion, seeking to head off criticism that Presbyterians are abandoning Israel.

The Presbyterian Church USA “has a long-standing commitment to peace in Israel and Palestine. We recognize the complexity of the issues, the decades-long struggle, the pain suffered and inflicted by policies and practices of both the Israeli government and Palestinian entities,” the preamble says.

That defense hardly was enough for Mr. Netanyahu, who argued his nation goes out of its way to protect Christians.

“Christians are persecuted throughout the Middle East. So most Americans understand that Israel is a beacon of civilization and moderation,” he said. (Contributor:  By Ben Wolfgang for The Washington Times)

Let’s be clear. The Presbyterian Church (USA) has long since left its biblical roots. Its social, spiritual, and doctrinal positions have strayed, as evangelicals know, including those still in its membership. It has lost its prophetic voice. The action here is political, not spiritual, and comes across as anti-Israel. Mr. Netanyahu is correct in defending Israel’s protection of Christians and human rights. We believe his rebuttal of the PCUSA will be remembered as fair and statesman-like. Pray for Israel’s peace and stability. Pray for awakening in denominations that have moved away from God’s Word.

“But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’ See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Eph. 5:13-17)

 

URGENT PRAYER REQUEST FROM ANNE GRAHAM-LOTZ

Blow the trumpet…sound the alarm…for the day of the Lord is coming.  It is close at hand– Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God…   Joel 2:1, 13

As you may know, my husband is in declining health. I am no longer traveling and speaking as much as I have for the last 26 years since I am staying home to care for him. As a result, I have had time to be quiet and listen more to the whispers of the Spirit. He has revealed things to me in the stillness that I’m not sure I would have heard in my former busyness.

One of the things He has impressed on me is that we are living at the end of human history as we know it. In light of this, He has given me some practical assignments. One was to be the Honorary Chair for the National Day of Prayer 2014 this past May. He gave me the message I was to deliver, which was from Joel 1…the Day of the Lord is at hand. It was a message warning that judgment is coming.

Just recently, He has given me another assignment, which is to call His people in our nation to prayer. This assignment came indirectly from a Syrian pastor through a National Day of Prayer attendee. In obedience, I am blowing the trumpet…sounding the alarm…issuing a national prayer initiative entitled 7 7 7: An Urgent Call to Prayer. The Call is for God’s people to pray for each of the first seven days in the seventh month-July 1-7. Then on the 7th day, July 7, we are to pray and fast for 7 hours. The purpose is…

For God the Father to restrain, protect, and deliver His people from the evil that has come into our world.

For God the Son to be exalted, magnified, and glorified in His church, in our nation, and in our lives.

For God the Holy Spirit to fall on us in a fresh way, compelling the church to repent of sin and our nation to return to faith in the living God, resulting in a great national spiritual awakening.

I’m asking you to partner with me, and send out the word to everyone on your email address list, or who follows you on facebook or twitter. I will be sending out an eBlast this week and next, which you can access at http://www.annegrahamlotz.com/events/urgent-call-to-prayer/. Please feel free to use it, and place your name in the paragraph that includes mine to make it more personal for your constituents. Feel free also to forward this letter.

I will provide a prayer I have written for each of the 7 days to help unite us in one spirit and one voice as we cry out to God. Those who receive the eBlast are invited to sign up for the daily email prayers. Please be assured there is no other agenda in this initiative. This is not about promoting anything or anyone. This is all about calling God’s people together to pray, before it’s too late, and judgment falls on our nation.

Urgently,
Anne Graham-Lotz

Give thanks that Anne Graham-Lotz has added her voice to an ongoing call for national prayer. She served as the Honorary Chair for the National Day of Prayer 2014 in May, and now writes (above), “[God] gave me the message… from Joel 1… the Day of the Lord is at hand. It was a message warning that judgment is coming.” Pray for her, for her husband’s health, and for her voice to be amplified by God’s Spirit in urging many to pray and to take seriously the message of divine judgment. May all intercessors pray in unity.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.” (Psalm 133)

“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart …  And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1, 7-8)

 

THE HOBBY LOBBY RULING IS COMING WITH RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AT STAKE

The Supreme Court is expected to rule any day on the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties’ case challenging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate on religious liberty grounds. The ruling, though, could easily leave certain aspects of the mandate’s scope undecided. In that case, Notre Dame’s mandate lawsuit, as well as other nonprofit cases, will become a focus of attention.

Not long before Obamacare was signed into law in 2010, President Obama, amidst controversy, delivered the commencement speech at Notre Dame. Referring to the debate over the funding of abortion in his proposed health care law, he said, “Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause .” Obamacare is now law, and it contains no conscience protections for those who do not want to violate their religious and moral beliefs.

Fast-forward a couple of years and Notre Dame University is currently in the middle of a lawsuit challenging the HHS mandate contained in Obamacare. The mandate requires that all employer and private health care plans provide all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, drugs that can destroy a human embryo, and sterilization services, without a co-pay, under threat of fines of up to $100 per day per employee for noncompliance.

In Notre Dame v. Sebelius, the university has been denied an injunction in its challenge to the mandate. Out of a total of 51 nonprofit cases filed challenging the mandate, Notre Dame is currently one of only five nonprofit organizations that has been denied an injunction from the mandate.

The mandate contains only a narrow religious exemption, exempting only churches. Churches, however, are incorporated entities. If churches are incorporated and exempt, why not other religious incorporated groups like Notre Dame University, Priests for Life and the Little Sisters of the Poor? If the Obama administration believed that this mandate would not violate religious liberty, why would it exempt churches? If religious liberty is not violated, churches would not need to be exempt.

In an effort to appease religious groups, the Obama administration offered nonprofits a so-called “accommodation,” requiring the insurer to pay for questionable drugs and devices, but that is nothing more than a budgetary accounting gimmick. Employers would still remain the legal gateway by which their employees are able to obtain drugs such as Plan B and Ella on their employee health care plan, without a co-pay. As Priests for Life outline in their brief, “insurance companies do not donate products and services to covered employees . The reality, as with all mandated benefits, is that these costs will be borne eventually via higher premiums.”

The government claims all Priests for Life has to do is sign a form. Shifting paperwork from the left pile to the right pile, though, still does not change the underlying issue, that the HHS mandate violates the long-held American tradition of respecting conscience.

Earlier this month, this issue came front and center when attorneys for Priests for Life and the Archdiocese of the District of Columbia participated in oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit as part of their cases challenging the mandate on religious liberty grounds.

There is no compelling government interest in forcing religious groups such as Priests for Life to violate their consciences as a condition of keeping their doors open and serving their mission. As the attorney for the archdiocese pointed out at oral argument, it is not the physical act of signing a form that constitutes a substantial burden on religious exercise, but the crushing weight of conscience accompanying a signature which makes one complicit, contrary to one’s religious doctrines and moral and religious beliefs.

It should be extremely troubling to Americans that organizations such as Priests for Life, the Little Sisters of the Poor and Christian universities such as Wheaton College, Notre Dame University and the Catholic University of America are no longer in charge of offering their employees generous health care packages that are consistent with their morals and values. The mandate forces family businesses and nonprofit entities, to violate their consciences. It forces them to provide drugs and services that they claim are incompatible with their faith or face fines that will cripple their mission.

The HHS mandate is also a slippery slope. The text of Obamacare never mentioned that individuals or family businesses would be forced to provide all government-approved contraceptives and drugs. Rather, Obamacare only required that all health care plans cover “preventative care services for women,” which the Department of Health and Human Services interprets to include the above-mentioned drugs and services. What is to stop a future administration from posting a new blog and interpreting “preventive care services for women” to require all health care plans to cover surgical abortions without a co-pay?

The HHS mandate threatens the jobs, health care and livelihood of Americans. It forces groups such as Priests for Life to either violate their consciences and provide what they believe are objectionable drugs and services to their employees, or stand up for conscience and be punished with crippling fines. (Contributor:  By Emily Minick for The Washington Times – Emily Minick is a senior legislative assistant at the Family Research Council.)

Whatever the Supreme Court ruling declares in the Hobby Lobby case (the ruling is due any day), there are unresoled conscience problems with the government’s health care (Obamacare) not being addressed. This is not new ground for intercessors. As we pray, we are aware that the current administration has turned a deaf ear to the call for religious and conscientious exemptions. Despite the president’s promise, there is no general relief. Pray for divine intervention and for grace for those who will lose their business or close a ministry to avoid violating their obedience to God’s Word.

 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, ‘Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!’ But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’” (Acts 5:27-29)

 

BIBLE TRANSLATION CONTINUES AMID CHAOS

Bible translators in Nigeria are no strangers to the attacks by Boko Haram, but they’re pressing on – and Christians around the world can help.

Brent Ropp, vice president of operations at Wycliffe Associates, says violence is an issue that everyone in communities under attack by Boko Haram have to deal with these days.

“You know, above all, Bible translators are in fact just people,” he tells One News Now. “Their lives are threatened just as other people’s lives are threatened – and their families have been impacted by some of the atrocities that Boko Haram has extended, including the loss of girls in their family due to the kidnappings.”

One of Wycliffe’s translation offices was recently bombed by Boko Haram. It was empty at the time and the staff had equipment with them to not only communicate with other translators, but also relocate to another location and continue doing Bible translation.

More than 500 languages are spoken in Nigeria, and Bible translation is still needed in more than 300 languages. So how can the body of Christ help?

“There are three specific things that they can do. The first is of course is pray. The other thing that they can do is give. All of this requires funding,” Ropp explains, adding that while the church in Nigeria does have resources, those resources aren’t the type needed to take care of all of this work. “So churches from the West, organizations like Wycliffe Associates, are partnering with our national colleagues to see that this work takes place.

“And then the third thing that people can do is actually serve,” he concludes. “We take men and women, professionals or non-professionals, people with gifts of hospitality [and] teaching.”

Ropp says English language learning is one way that anybody from the U.S. could be involved in helping to support Bible translation by helping to train mother-tongue translators to speak English better. The training aides and resource materials to equip a Bible translator are generally available only in English. (Contributor: By Chris Woodward for One News Now)

Let us give thanks for every missionary and missionary family, whether in church planting, teaching, medicine, or Bible translation as they serve courageously in a world very hostile to Christians and to Christian missions. In all the 20 (plus) centuries of Church history and expansion, more martyrs have paid the ultimate price in the last 100 years than in the previous 19 centuries combined. Please continue to pray for those serving in Nigeria and elsewhere, that through God’s mercy, they will be able to finish their task.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116:15)

“And they overcame [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Rev. 12:11).

 

POPE FRANCIS TAKES ON THE ITALIAN MAFIA: ‘THEY ARE EXCOMMUNICATED’

Pope Francis recently did away with his bullet proof “popemobile.” Now, he’s taking on the well-armed Italian mafia by excommunicating its members.

“Those who in their life have gone along the evil ways, as in the case of the mafia, they are not with God, they are excommunicated,” the Pope said, CNN reported Saturday.

The pope’s declaration constitutes the first time a Pope has ever excommunicated members of the mob from the Catholic Church, CNN reported.

Pope Francis continued his speech by denouncing a major southern Italian crime syndicate, called ‘Ndrangheta, as an example of “the adoration of evil and contempt for the common good,” CNN reported.

In early June the pope said he wasn’t worried about losing the bulletproof glass historically provided by his security detail. “I know that something could happen to me, but it’s in the hands of God,” he said. (Contributor:  By Kellan Howell for The Washington Times)

Despite the inevitable criticism Pope Francis will receive for “butting in” (with such challenges as “Judge not, that you be not judged”), there is ample basis in the New Testament for church discipline and excommunication. The proper goal is always repentance and redemption, not merely punishment. The big question now for Francis—to be consistent in acting against “the adoration of evil”—is whether he will similarly discipline U.S. Roman Catholic political leaders and philanthropists who openly support the atrocity of abortion. Watch and pray as led.

 “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. … But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore, ‘put away from yourselves the evil person.’” (1 Cor. 5:9, 11-13)

 

PENTAGON DECLARES TEST OF BALLISTIC MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM A SUCCESS

The U.S. military successfully conducted a test of the Ballistic Missile Defense System in a joint military exercise on Sunday, the Pentagon confirmed in a statement.

“This is a very important step in our continuing efforts to improve and increase the reliability of our homeland Ballistic Missile Defense System,” Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Adm. James D. Syring said in the statement.

A long-range, ground-based interceptor was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and successfully intercepted a simulated incoming ballistic missile threat launched from a test site on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, colliding over the Pacific Ocean.

The Pentagon says initially it appears that all the systems and components performed as expected.

The agency says it will spend the next several months conducting an extensive evaluation based upon telemetry and other data it got during the test.

“We’ll continue efforts to ensure our deployed ground-based interceptors and our overall homeland defensive architecture continue to provide the warfighter an effective and dependable system to defend the country,” Syring said.

A number of U.S. government and military defense agencies participated in the joint exercise, including the Missile Defense Agency, the Air Force 30th Space Wing, U.S. Northern Command, the Army and the Navy.

The Pentagon says Sunday’s test of the Ballistic Missile Defense System was the 65th successful hit-to-kill intercept out of 81 attempts since 2001. (Contributor: By Shelby Lin Erdman for CNN)

Intercessors of a certain age remember how President Reagan was ridiculed for insisting the U.S. have an active shield from incoming missile attacks. Critics called it “Star Wars; science fiction.” However, he was right. How much more now, when unpredictable rogue nations have nuclear capability to attack America, as we are perceived as weak? Pray for leaders who will build a balanced military force only for defense.  Even more, pray for the Church to awaken as a spiritual voice of faith and renewal and a witness to God’s redemption, whether in peace or persecution.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. . . “ (Psalm 33:12a)

“Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.” (Isaiah 40:15)

 

THE PATENT OFFICE GOES OUT OF BOUNDS IN REDSKINS TRADEMARK CASE

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro professor of public interest law at George Washington University and has testified in Congress about the shift of power in the federal system to federal agencies.

The decision this past week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to rescind federal trademark protections for the Redskins may ultimately tip the balance in the controversy over the 80-year-old name of Washington’s football team. If so, that would be a shame. Not because there’s insufficient reason to consider the name “disparaging to Native Americans,” as the patent office determined. Many of us recoil at the reference to skin color as a team identity. The problem is that the Redskins case is just the latest example of a federal agency going beyond its brief to inappropriately insert itself in social or political debates.

Few people would have expected the future of the Redskins to be determined by an obscure panel in a relatively small government agency. Yet the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board showed little restraint in launching itself into this heated argument — issuing an opinion that supports calls for change from powerful politicians, including President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). The board had at its disposal a ridiculously ambiguous standard that allows the denial of a trademark if it “may disparage” a “substantial composite” of a group at the time the trademark is registered.

This standard isn’t concerned with how widely offensive a trademark may be now, or with how the general population or even a majority of the group in question views it. It didn’t matter to the patent office that polls show substantial majorities of the public and the Native American community do not find the name offensive. A 2004 Annenberg Public Policy Center poll found that 90 percent of Native Americans said the name didn’t bother them. Instead, the board focused on a 1993 resolution adopted by the National Congress of American Indians denouncing the name. The board simply extrapolated that, since the National Congress represented about 30 percent of Native Americans, one out of every three Native Americans found it offensive. “Thirty percent is without doubt a substantial composite,” the board wrote.

Politicians rejoiced in the government intervention, which had an immediate symbolic impact. As Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said Wednesday: “You want to ignore millions of Native Americans? Well, it’s pretty hard to say the federal government doesn’t know what they’re talking about when they say it’s disparaging.”

For the Washington Redskins, there may be years of appeals, and pending a final decision, the trademarks will remain enforceable. But if the ruling stands, it will threaten billions of dollars in merchandizing and sponsorship profits for NFL teams, which share revenue. Redskins owner Dan Snyder would have to yield or slowly succumb to death by a thousand infringement paper cuts.

The patent office opinion also seems to leave the future of trademarks largely dependent on whether groups file challenges. Currently trademarked slogans such as “Uppity Negro” and “You Can’t Make A Housewife Out Of A Whore” could lose their protections, despite the social and political meaning they hold for their creators. We could see organizations struggle to recast themselves so they are less likely to attract the ire of litigious groups — the way Carthage College changed its sports teams’ nickname from Redmen to Red Men and the California State University at Stanislaus Warriors dropped their Native American mascot and logo in favor of the Roman warrior Titus. It appears Fighting Romans are not offensive, but Fighting Sioux are.

As federal agencies have grown in size and scope, they have increasingly viewed their regulatory functions as powers to reward or punish citizens and groups. The Internal Revenue Service offers another good example. Like the patent office, it was created for a relatively narrow function: tax collection. Yet the agency also determines which groups don’t have to pay taxes. Historically, the IRS adopted a neutral rule that avoided not-for-profit determinations based on the content of organizations’ beliefs and practices. Then, in 1970, came the Bob Jones University case. The IRS withdrew the tax-exempt status from the religious institution because of its rule against interracial dating on campus. The Supreme Court affirmed in 1983 that the IRS could yank tax exemption whenever it decided that an organization is behaving “contrary to established public policy” — whatever that public policy may be. Bob Jones had to choose between financial ruin and conforming its religious practices. It did the latter. (Contributor: By Jonathan Turley for The Washington Post)

The focus here is not to garner opinions about the “Redskins” name. The point of the article and our emphasis is whether American commerce is to be regulated by laws and the balanced authority of the three branches of government, or is the work of governing to be relegated to agencies that have no constitutional authority to make laws. This case is not earth-shattering or life-changing to many, but what the IRS has done to conservative, non-profit business and ministries is illegal and monumental. Pray for a return to constitutional government, on which our country was founded and long thrived.

“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. . . . Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:1, 7)

On Watch in Washington June 25, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington June 18, 2014

June 18th, 2014

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

HIS LAND, OUR LAND CONFERENCE  JUNE 26 – 29

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

IRAQI CHRISTIANS FLEE HOMES AMID MILITANT PUSH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He’s your son?”

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

“Did you pay someone to cross?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

NEW RESEARCH REMINDS US WHY FATHERS MATTER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

AMERICAN FATHERS ROUTINELY MIMIC THE ROUGHHOUSING OF MALE MONKEYS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exciting fathers

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

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

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

Consider playtime

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

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

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

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

Stable mothers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stable mothers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

HIGHER GROUND: LOVE BUT NOT ACCEPTANCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 CALL2FALL

The Basics

Q – What’s involved?

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

Q – Who can join?

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

Q – Where will we do it?

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

Q – When will it happen?

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

Q – Why a Call 2 Fall?

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

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The pathway back must begin with:

A humility and brokenness before the Lord.

A desperation to find the face of God.

A heart cry for the mercy of God.

A desire to turn from our sinful ways.

A resolve to return to the ways of God.

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

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

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

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

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

On Watch in Washington June 11, 2014

June 10th, 2014

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

HIS LAND, OUR LAND CONFERENCE  JUNE 26 – 29

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

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

 

G-7 OLIVE BRANCH TO RUSSIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea….” (Psalm 46:1-2)

 

SENATE CONFIRMS SYLVIA MATHEWS BURWELL AS NEW SECRETARY OF HHS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A NEW LEVEL OF OUTRAGE IN BOWE BERGDAHL DEBACLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CALIFORNIA BILL REQUIRING CONSENT FOR SEX BE EXPLICIT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CHRISTIAN BAKER BUCKS ORDER FOR HOMOSEXUAL WEDDINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

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

 

SWITCH IN THE BRAIN MAY CONTROL STRESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet….” (Psalm 8:3-6)

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

On Watch in Washington June 4, 2014

June 4th, 2014

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

A SNAPSHOT OF ISLAMIC ‘JUSTICE’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

WHO WILL REPLACE SHINSEKI IN THE LONG TERM?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

EXPERTS TELL HOUSE PANEL CLIMATE CHANGE SCIENCE ISN’T SETTLED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

THREE KIDNAPPED MISSIONARIES ARE FREED IN CAMEROON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

NSA COLLECTS MILLIONS OF FACIAL IMAGES PER DAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An NSA spokeswoman defended the program.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

D-DAY 70TH ANNIVERSARY PRAYER STORM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

On Watch in Washington May 28, 2014

May 28th, 2014

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

HUBRIS ON MARRIAGE LAWS NOT LIMITED TO UNELECTED JUDGES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

MEMORIAL DAY, AT WAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

EVACUATIONS OF 1,000 STRUCTURES ORDERED AS ALASKA WILDFIRE GROWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CATS AND DOGS TO BE TESTED FOR MYSTERIOUS MERS INFECTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

THE LOUISIANA BAYOU STATE IS TIGHTENING ITS ABORTION REGULATIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

THE NEW FACE OF MILITARY RECRUITING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

On Watch in Washington May 21, 2014

May 21st, 2014

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

PENTAGON: NO CHANGE ON BAN ON TRANSGENDER TROOPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RAHN: ECONOMIC FREEDOM VERSUS BIG GOVERNMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

WOMAN’S CANCER KILLED BY MEASLES VIRUS IN UNPRECEDENTED TRIAL

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

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

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

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

Her doctor said they were entering the unknown.

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

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

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

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

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

According the clinic’s statement released Wednesday:

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

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

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

The Star Tribune explained how it works:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“[It is through the Lord’s mercies we are [all] not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I hope in Him!’” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

 

PORNOGRAPHY FAULTED AS A ROOT OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liberated

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

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

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

 

LAX PASSENGERS WARNED OF EMERGING SARS-LIKE VIRUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

NEW APP HELPS STROKE VICTIMS REGAIN THEIR VOICE

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

Z … E … B …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

HOLOWHAT?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Israel Connection

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

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

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

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

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

Smart Everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Is the world ready for its first animated gay Viking?

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

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

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

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

Gobber is gay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, ‘Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.’” (Nehemiah 4:14)

On Watch in Washington May 21, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington May 14, 2014

May 14th, 2014

On Watch in Washington May 14, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS LEGISLATIVE PRAYER AT COUNCIL MEETINGS

A divided Supreme Court ruled last  Monday that legislative bodies such as city councils can begin their meetings with prayer, even if it plainly favors a specific religion.

The court ruled 5 to 4 that Christian prayers said before meetings of an Upstate New York town council did not violate the constitutional prohibition against government establishment of religion; the justices cited history and tradition.

“Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court’s conservative majority.

The ruling reflected a Supreme Court that has become more lenient on how government may accommodate religion in civic life without crossing the line into an endorsement of a particular faith. All nine justices endorsed the concept of legislative prayer, with the four dissenters agreeing that the public forum “need not become a religion-free zone,” in the words of Justice Elena Kagan.

But there was sharp disagreement after that, and the majority ruling could encourage public bodies to give more leeway to religious expression in their ceremonial prayers and less deference to the objections of religious minorities.

The court’s five conservatives said legislative prayers need not be stripped of references to a specific religion — the prayers at issue often invoked Jesus Christ and the resurrection — and said those given the opportunity to pray before legislative meetings should be “unfettered” by what government officials find appropriate.

“Absent a pattern of prayers that over time denigrate, proselytize, or betray an impermissible government purpose, a challenge based solely on the content of a particular prayer will not likely establish a constitutional violation,” Kennedy wrote.

He was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Kagan’s dissent was both narrow — the town could have remedied its problems by finding more religiously diverse prayer-givers, she said — and broad. The First Amendment’s promise, she wrote, is that “every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share in her government.”

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor joined her.

The decision split the court along its usual ideological divide and, to a lesser extent, by religion. All members of the majority are Catholic, as is Sotomayor. The other dissenters are Jewish.

The case involved the New York town of Greece, just outside Rochester, where the council regularly opened its meetings with a prayer delivered by someone from the community. The speakers were recruited from local houses of worship, which were overwhelmingly Christian.

In fact, every meeting from 1999 to 2007 opened with a Christian prayer, and even after two of the town’s residents filed a lawsuit, only a handful of non-Christians have delivered the invocation.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit found that “the town’s prayer practice must be viewed as an endorsement of a particular religious viewpoint” because the town had not reached out to a more diverse group of prayer-givers or made clear that the prayers did not represent the town’s beliefs.

The Supreme Court decided 30 years ago that state legislatures may begin sessions with an invocation. But the new case asked whether there might need to be different rules for local council meetings, where citizens often come to ask for favorable official action.

The town residents who objected to the prayer practice, Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, also argued that the court’s 1983 decision in Marsh v. Chambers authorized only inclusive, nonsectarian prayers to a “generic God.”

Kennedy began by referring to history: The same founders who wrote the First Amendment — with its prohibition on the establishment of a government religion but also protections for religious liberty — provided money for congressional chaplains, he said.

“Legislative prayer has become part of our heritage and tradition, part of our expressive idiom, similar to the Pledge of Allegiance, inaugural prayer, or the recitation of ‘God save the United States and this honorable Court’ at the opening of this Court’s sessions,” he wrote.

And he said there was no evidence that Greece town council members “allocated benefits and burdens based on participation in the prayer.”

The court’s majority split on how to judge whether prayers amount to coercion of nonbelievers.

“The analysis would be different if town board members directed the public to participate in the prayers, singled out dissidents for opprobrium, or indicated that their decisions might be influenced by a person’s acquiescence in the prayer opportunity,” Kennedy wrote in a part of the opinion joined only by Roberts and Alito.

Thomas and Scalia differed. They said that to the extent coercion is relevant to whether there is a violation of the Constitution’s establishment clause, “it is actual legal coercion that counts.” Peer pressure, they said, is not enough.

Thomas, speaking only for himself, again questioned whether the establishment clause even applies to state and local governments. He allowed that as an initial matter, it “probably prohibits Congress from establishing a national religion.”

Kagan said Greece’s policy violates the norm of religious equality — “the breathtakingly generous constitutional idea that our public institutions belong no less to the Buddhist or Hindu than to the Methodist or Episcopalian.”

She said town hall meetings are different from sessions of legislatures or Congress. They are “occasions for ordinary citizens to engage with and petition their government, often on highly individualized matters.” Such meetings require more sensitivity to the prayers offered before a diverse audience, she said.

But in Greece, she wrote, “month in and month out for over a decade, prayers steeped in only one faith, addressed toward members of the public, commenced meetings to discuss local affairs and distribute government benefits.”

She compared it — using the text of some of the prayers offered before the council’s meetings — to the idea of a judge inviting a minister to open a hearing with a prayer about “the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ” or an election official reciting the Lord’s Prayer before opening the polls.

“I would hold that the government officials responsible for the above practices — that is, for prayer repeatedly invoking a single religion’s beliefs in these settings — crossed a constitutional line,” Kagan wrote. “I have every confidence the Court would agree.”

The decision was not unexpected. The court’s precedent in Marsh — in which the justices said Nebraska had not violated the Constitution by employing a Presbyterian minister for 16 years to lead the legislature in prayer — paved the way.

Still, those who favor a strict separation of church and state said Monday’s decision was an expansion.

“The rule announced by the Court today authorizes elected officials or clergy to give sectarian prayers in the name of Jesus, Hashem, Allah or any other deity before Congress, state legislatures, or local town boards,” the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement. “The religiously divisive implications of this new rule are troubling in any of these contexts, however it is particularly disturbing at the local level.”

But David Cortman, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, praised the ruling.

“Opening public meetings with prayer is a cherished freedom that the authors of the Constitution themselves practiced,” he said. “Speech censors should have no power to silence volunteers who pray for their communities just as the Founders did.”

Those divisions were apparent on the court as well.

Alito wrote a concurring opinion just to respond to Kagan. He said he was troubled by her “rhetoric and its highly imaginative hypotheticals.”

He said that if what Kagan perceives as Greece’s constitutional problems could be solved simply with more nonsectarian prayers and greater religious diversity, “the dissent’s objection, in the end, is really quite niggling.”

Kagan responded that if Alito thinks her objection is “really quite niggling,” that “says all there is to say about the difference between our respective views.” Read the Official Supreme Court Opinion on this case <Click Here>    (Contributor: By Robert Barnes for The Washington Post)

Pray that Christians will respond to the Court’s 5-4 decision with divine wisdom. Yes, we give thanks for the Court’s vote favorable to public prayer in council meetings, but with caution. This decision is no “mandate” in favor of Christian prayers. Our freedoms do not come from human government but from the Creator. Pray also for widespread spiritual awakening that will bring many to repentance and faith in Christ. Pray for a national focus on the true “Author of liberty.” All nations that repudiate a proper recognition of Deity eventually become insignificant. Pray accordingly.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:25, 33)

“To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:20)

 

COURT: ‘UNDER GOD’ IN PLEDGE DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE AGAINST ATHEISTS

The Pledge of Allegiance does not discriminate against atheists and can be recited at the start of the day in public schools, Massachusetts’ highest court ruled Friday.

The Supreme Judicial Court said the words “under God” in the pledge reflect patriotic practice, not a religious one. The court acknowledged that the wording has a “religious tinge” but said it is fundamentally patriotic and voluntary.

The court was ruling in a lawsuit filed in 2010 by an atheist family from Acton who claimed that the daily recitation of the pledge in classrooms violated their three children’s equal protection rights under the state constitution, which protects against discrimination. The family was not identified in the lawsuit.

The phrase “under God,” which was added to the pledge in 1954, has been the subject of numerous lawsuits over the years. (Contributor: By Robert Barnes for The Washington Post)

How far will this go? Federal buildings in Washington, DC, including the Supreme Court, are adorned with biblical symbols, from “In God We Trust” to images of the Ten Commandments and a statue of Moses. Now, Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court has rightly ruled against an atheist family’s attempt to remove “under God” from the pledge. As Christians, we do not judge the atheist family, but the Bible calls unbelief in God as Creator “foolish” and “evil.” Pray for them as you are led.

“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Proverbs 14:1)

“And the way of peace [unbelievers] have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:17-18)

“Beware … lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.” (Heb 3:12)

 

CITIZENSHIP CEREMONY CANCELED OVER BANNING OF OPENING PRAYER

A New Jersey town has canceled a naturalization ceremony at its borough hall because federal immigration officials refused to let the event begin with a prayer.

Carteret Mayor Daniel Reiman said he had requested that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services relocate the Saturday ceremony, which will now be held in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Newark office.

Katie Tichacek Kaplan, a spokeswoman for the immigration agency, said it’s a long-standing policy to make sure naturalization ceremonies are “conducted in a meaningful manner which is welcoming and inclusive and excludes political, commercial and religious statements.”

Both Reiman and immigration officials cited Monday’s Supreme Court opinion affirming the right of local governments to include certain prayers in official proceedings. Reiman said the ruling means he should be able to open any event at city hall with a prayer and a moment of silence. The citizenship agency said the high court’s ruling does not mean federal agencies are required to include prayers as part of their ceremonies.

Carteret is a central New Jersey borough of about 24,000 residents just west of Staten Island. (Contributor: Associated Press and The Washington Post)

These stories continue to pop up as the U.S. moves further away from its biblical roots and Christian heritage. The issue is not an individual bureaucrat but a trend. Pray that God stir up righteous anger in His people against the stealing of our national heritage. It is difficult for intercessors to face the harsh fact that we are no longer a Christian nation. Indeed, many national leaders show no regard for biblical truth. Let us call upon God, in Jesus’ name, to revive His Church, bringing renewal and unity among believers to stem the tide of unbelief and reassert our country’s biblical roots.

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:9-10)

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire…. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.” (Heb 12:28-29; 13:14)

 

THE BENGHAZI PROBE DIDN’T HAVE TO COME TO THIS

Many Democrats have a hard time understanding why Republicans want to keep investigating the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi.”

Some see the GOP trying to score partisan points for this November’s midterms. Others see a plot to undermine Hillary Clinton’s 2016 prospects. Still others see Republican psychosis, the Benghazi variant of Obama Derangement Syndrome.

In fact, the Benghazi controversy, rather than being an all-out political war, is a limited conflict in which some parts of the administration have cooperated with Congress while others haven’t.

Republican sources on Capitol Hill say that in general, the Pentagon’s cooperation has been a model of how to deal with such an investigation, while the State Department and White House have been models of what not to do.

If the rest of the administration had followed the military’s example, the Benghazi controversy would likely be over by now.

The probe started with three questions. One, was the U.S. adequately prepared for possible trouble abroad on the anniversary of Sept. 11?

Two, did the government do everything it could to try to rescue the Americans who were under attack for seven and a half hours?

And three, did the Obama administration tell the straight story about what happened?

Responsibility for answering the first and third questions fell heavily on the State Department and the White House.

In general, their response has been incomplete, unreliable, confrontational, and deeply frustrating for investigators trying to piece together the Benghazi puzzle.

But responsibility for answering the second question, about the immediate response to the attack, fell mostly to the Pentagon. And that has been an entirely different story.

The military side of the investigation was done mostly by the House Armed Services Committee. The interim report from majority Republicans on the committee, released in February, found that the military response to Benghazi was severely hampered because every significant U.S. military asset was out of position to respond on Sept. 11.

Nevertheless, the committee concluded the Pentagon did everything it could with what it had on that ugly night.

“The regional and global force posture assumed by the military on Sept. 11, 2012, limited the response,” committee Republicans wrote.

Given that, the investigators said, “members have not yet discerned any response alternatives that could have likely changed the outcome of the Benghazi attack.”

Interviewing sources up and down the chain of command, Republicans went over all the military options that were activated or considered to aid the Americans under attack: two FAST platoons of Marines in Spain; a group called the Commander’s In-Extremis Force, in Croatia; a special operations unit based in the U.S.; a fighter jet flyover; an armed drone; and more.

The GOP lawmakers came away satisfied that they saw everything; for example, when they asked whether AC-130 gunships could have been used, the Pentagon provided the location of every single AC-130 in the U.S. fleet at that time.

Another example was the possibility of a flyover. Even with other U.S. forces out of place, many lawmakers wondered whether American fighter jets could have buzzed the scene at Benghazi, possibly distracting and scattering the terrorists.

Air Force officials carefully walked the committee through every option that was available, and the factors — capacity for refueling, overflight permissions, nighttime guidance, the prevalence of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles in Libya, and more — that went into the decision not to scramble the jets.

After much thought and investigation, committee Republicans concluded a flyover “would probably have been ineffective” and that the Pentagon’s decision “makes sense.”

In the end, Republicans had few, if any, complaints about the military’s cooperation. “They were very responsive,” says a GOP committee aide.

“There wasn’t a witness we weren’t allowed to talk to. There was never an inappropriate delay in providing the documents we wanted to see. Their response was, as far as we’re concerned, timely and complete.”

What a contrast to the rest of the Obama administration. First, there was the attempt to blame the attack on outrage over an anti-Muslim Internet video — a claim that was quickly discounted by everyone who has investigated the matter.

Then the State Department conducted an internal review that seemed designed, in part, to build a firewall around then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Then the administration failed to make available a single witness who was actually on the ground in Benghazi the night of the attack.

And recently, of course, Republican complaints that the administration has withheld documents were dramatically confirmed by revelations of emails the administration failed to produce to Congress.

The administration’s stance long ago exhausted whatever patience existed among Hill Republicans. Members are “really tired of getting jerked around,” another aide said recently. That’s a succinct explanation for the creation of the new select committee.

But it didn’t have to be that way. The rest of the administration could have cooperated like the Defense Department. If it had, Washington would be talking about something else now. Instead, the fight goes on. (Contributor: Byron York for The Washington Examiner)

The Benghazi “incident” – two years old in September – is still unexplained. A bipartisan coalition in Congress has agreed that the truth can no longer be ignored. The attack that killed four Americans, including an ambassador, remains hidden under a cloak of deception, with no responsibility or accountability. The continued cover-up is an insult to the American public and an egregious injury to the families of the victims. Pray for a resolution to come swiftly. It remains a dark blot on our national conscience. Intercede for the light of truth to enter. May God’s Spirit arouse a public call for closure.

And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)

“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”  (Prov 28:13)

 

STATES’ MOVES ON MARIJUANA LEAVE LAWMAKERS DAZED AND CONFUSED

Capitol Hill lawmakers are dazed and confused when it comes to dealing with the growing number of states legalizing marijuana use, which has created a glaring conflict with federal statutes outlawing cannabis as a Schedule I drug — the classification for the most dangerous controlled substances.

“I’m not aware that Congress is doing anything,” said Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, Oregon Democrat. “I don’t think anybody wants to wade into it.”

A couple of dozen House lawmakers are backing bipartisan legislation that would suspend federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized the drug, but the effort has stalled in committee. Most Republicans are urging the Obama administration to strictly enforce federal laws and crack down on the surge in legalization.

“Congress hasn’t legalized any marijuana, and we should not. We have an executive branch that needs to be enforcing the current law, and they are not doing that,” said Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican.

The Democrat-run Senate is steering clear of the marijuana issue.

Attempts by The Washington Times to broach the subject with several senators were quickly rebuffed, including by Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, one of the most liberal Democrats, and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, one of the most conservative Republicans.

Meanwhile, states are in a steady procession to decriminalize or legalize marijuana use.

Medical marijuana has been legalized in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Sixteen states have decriminalized possession of the drug, and two states — Washington and Colorado — have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Florida could become the next state to legalize medical marijuana when the issue is put before voters in November.

“The White House and members of Congress are playing a very expensive and dangerous game of chicken; both branches have the authority to initiate a change to marijuana’s currently scheduling, but neither seem to want to be the first to act,” said Erik Altieri, spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

A House subcommittee attempted to delve into the legal morass of policing marijuana laws, including enforcement of laws on federal property and congressional veto power over D.C. ordinances, but only a handful of lawmakers showed up at the hearing Friday.

“African-Americans are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for possession,” said Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting congressional representative. She testified in defense of the city’s recently adopted law to decriminalize marijuana possession.

Congress has until July to exercise its power to overturn the D.C. law, which would reduce the charge for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana to a civil infraction with a $25 fine.

Subcommittee Chairman John L. Mica, Florida Republican, held up a fake joint to illustrate the conflict over policing marijuana laws. He joked that his staff rolled it because “they have more experience.”

If the D.C. law takes effect, holding a marijuana joint on Capitol Hill would expose Mr. Mica to federal penalties of up to a year in jail and not less than a $1,000 fine because he was on federal property.

The Justice Department has instructed state attorneys general not to enforce federal marijuana laws that conflict with state laws except in eight specific areas, including on federal property such as national parks and federal buildings. Thus, in Colorado, a person could be arrested for smoking marijuana in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Nearly one-quarter of the District is federal property, and the city is home to 26 federal agencies responsible for law enforcement. “It isn’t a truly local matter,” Mr. Mica said.

A bill introduced last year with bipartisan support would state that federal cannabis laws could not interfere in states where medical marijuana is legal. Another bill would legalize marijuana nationally by removing it from the schedule of controlled dangerous substances.

The House Judiciary Committee shelved both proposals.

The House last month shot down bipartisan legislation that would have allowed Department of Veterans Affairs doctors in states with legal medical marijuana to discuss the drug with patients. Supporters celebrated it as a sign of progress because the 222-195 vote was relatively narrow and included the support of 22 Republicans. (Contributor:  By S.A. Miller for The Washington Times)

The news accounts in our mid-week alerts (called The Informer) are intended to reflect national trends. We remind readers that our prayer focus is suggestive, not directive. The purpose here is to point out the confusion resulting when a dangerous drug, howbeit with some medicinal benefit, is turned into a “political football” to be kicked around with motives other than to create good law for public safety. Intercessors will see through the sham and confusion to pray for a national return to God’s principles of governance. The high road is to pray for revival and spiritual awakening.    

“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put
bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”
(Isaiah 5:20)

“If the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?” (1 Cor 14:8)

 

SHOW US THE DRONE MEMOS

I believe that killing an American citizen without a trial is an extraordinary concept and deserves serious debate. I can’t imagine appointing someone to the federal bench, one level below the Supreme Court, without fully understanding that person’s views concerning the extrajudicial killing of American citizens.

But President Obama is seeking to do just that. He has nominated David J. Barron, a Harvard law professor and a former acting assistant attorney general, to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

While he was an official in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, Mr. Barron wrote at least two legal memos justifying the execution without a trial of an American citizen abroad. Now Mr. Obama is refusing to share that legal argument with the American people.

On April 30, I wrote to the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, urging him to delay this nomination, pending a court-ordered disclosure of the first memo I knew about. Since that letter, I have learned more. The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to all senators on May 6, noting that in the view of the Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, “there are at least eleven OLC opinions on the targeted killing or drone program.” It has not been established whether Mr. Barron wrote all those memos, but we do know that his controversial classified opinions provided the president with a legal argument and justification to target an American citizen for execution without a trial by jury or due process.

I believe that all senators should have access to all of these opinions. Furthermore, the American people deserve to see redacted versions of these memos so that they can understand the Obama administration’s legal justification for this extraordinary exercise of executive power. The White House may invoke national security against disclosure, but legal arguments that affect the rights of every American should not have the privilege of secrecy.

I agree with the A.C.L.U. that “no senator can meaningfully carry out his or her constitutional obligation to provide ‘advice and consent’ on this nomination to a lifetime position as a federal appellate judge without being able to read Mr. Barron’s most important and consequential legal writing.” The A.C.L.U. cites the fact that in modern history, a presidential order to kill an American citizen away from a battlefield is unprecedented.

The Bill of Rights is clear. The Fifth Amendment provides that no one can be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The Sixth Amendment provides that “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury,” as well as the right to be informed of all charges and have access to legal counsel. These are fundamental rights that cannot be waived with a presidential pen.

In battle, combatants engaged in war against America get no due process and may lawfully be killed. But citizens not in a battlefield, however despicable, are guaranteed a trial by our Constitution.

No one argues that Americans who commit treason shouldn’t be punished. The maximum penalty for treason is death. But the Constitution specifies the process necessary to convict.

Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen who was subject to a kill order from Mr. Obama, and was killed in 2011 in Yemen by a missile fired from a drone. I don’t doubt that Mr. Awlaki committed treason and deserved the most severe punishment. Under our Constitution, he should have been tried — in absentia, if necessary — and allowed a legal defense. If he had been convicted and sentenced to death, then the execution of that sentence, whether by drone or by injection, would not have been an issue.

But this new legal standard does not apply merely to a despicable human being who wanted to harm the United States. The Obama administration has established a legal justification that applies to every American citizen, whether in Yemen, Germany or Canada.

Defending the rights of all American citizens to a trial by jury is a core value of our Constitution. Those who would make exceptions for killing accused American citizens without trial should give thought to the times in our history when either prejudice or fear allowed us to forget due process. During World War I, our nation convicted and imprisoned Americans who voiced opposition to the war. During World War II, the government interned Japanese-Americans.

The rule of law exists to protect those who are minorities by virtue of their skin color or their beliefs. That is why I am fighting this nomination. And I will do so until Mr. Barron frankly discusses his opinions on executing Americans without trial, and until the American people are able to participate in one of the most consequential debates in our history. (Contributor: Senator Rand Paul to The New York Times)

We remind readers that this item is Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s opinion piece from The New York Times, May 11. The disclaimer is important because Intercessors for America (IFA) does not “take sides” politically. We try to speak from a biblical perspective, and as we pray for those in authority, starting with President Obama, we firmly believe God’s plan for America includes a return to the Constitution’s “checks and balances” for officials to display accountability. With the power of drones as instruments of execution, the rule of law is critically important. Pray accordingly.

“But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24)

 “It is a joy for the just to do justice, but destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.” (Prov 21:15)   

 

THE FUTURE OF IMPLANTED COMPUTERS

Imagine a world where people buy products at the store by waving a hand near a sensor, [read Revelation 13:16-18] where people “think” up a business report at work rather than typing one up, and where an augmented-reality gets projected in front of our eyes with specialty contact lenses. These ideas are closer to reality than you may realize.

It was only the 1980s and 1990s when science fiction movies portrayed people using handheld devices to navigate city streets or pinpoint one’s own location on Earth. These movies had characters who would state questions to a disembodied computer, which would intelligently provide the answers. They showed families having video-chat calls using flat-panel displays that made the tech geeks of the 1980′s drool.

In barely three decades, many of the things that science fiction writers could only imagine have become reality. Had someone predicted that these technologies would become reality this quickly, they would have been laughed at. Today, no one is laughing.

With the current trend of technical innovation and advancement, now is a good time to explore the state of the art in computer-human technologies, to try and gauge what the world may look like in the next 20 or 30 years.

Implanted Microchip ID

In 1998, British scientist Kevin Warwick had himself implanted with an RFID transmitter to prove out the concept of controlling doors, lights and other devices simply by walking nearby. By 2000, Warwick was able to interface his implant with his own nervous system, allowing him to remotely control a robotic arm. This experiment was detailed in a February 2000 Wired article.

Yes, the technology was real and quite viable back the, and by 2004 the FDA had approved VeriChip, the branded computer chip implant manufactured by Applied Digital Solutions, to be used for medical purposes.

RFID Chips

While one would expect the ability to implant a rice-sized RFID device just under the skin of a human to spark a proliferation of products and services enabling card-free and paper-free human identification in places like hospitals, bars and for store purchases – that isn’t at all what happened.

In fact, the backlash was tremendous. Privacy advocates raised alarms about the ability for hackers to intercept someone’s RFID signal and duplicate the device in order to steal someone’s identity (a real concern)…

The public outcry against the technology was so great that PositiveID, the company that owned the VeriChip brand in 2010, discontinued all marketing for the product. The public simply was not ready to embrace widespread implanted identification….

Cochlear Implants

These devices have external processors that is held to the under-the-skin implant by a magnet. The processor transfers audio signals to the implant, which then transmits those signals to an electrode array that gets surgically inserted deep into the cochlear itself.  The implant bypasses that part of the cochlear that doesn’t work, and electrically stimulates the nerve fibers to reproduce the sounds.

Today, this kind of surgery seems pretty invasive and extreme, but imagine the day when wireless technologies allow a person to have a single implant inserted into the cochlear, and then a transmitter worn anywhere on the body, or implanted somewhere on the ear itself, could transmit sound directly to the cochlear without any wire necessary.

Seem far fetched? It’s not. Just this year, MIT researchers developed a new microchip that could be implanted into the ear, which could use sensors to detect ossicle vibrations in the inner ear, convert those to an electrical signal, and send that to the electrode inserted into the cochlea. By lowering the power needs of the device, the researchers proposed that the device could be recharged wirelessly, removing the need for the hardware mounted externally on the skull!

In other words, the day of the undetectable bionic ear is here.

Contact Lenses – Bionic Eyes

Google Glasses is all the rage these days, but the real allure of this technology is the concept of augmenting human vision with external information. The idea of wearing a pair of gaudy glasses to accomplish this seems tolerable to many tech geeks, but how cool would it be to simply slip on a pair of contact lenses that accomplish the same thing, but only requiring a really cool-looking pair of shades?

This is exactly what a company by the name of Innovega introduced at CES 2014. That is, a contact lens that basically allows the light of a projected digital image to be superimposed upon the regular light of your normal vision, resulting in a “single integrated image”.

The contact lens “tricks” the eye so that it can see a high resolution, large field-of-view display overlaying your regular vision. It’s clearly the cutting edge of augmented reality technology, and if successful it will finally allow people to see high-resolution digital images and content in a way that Google Glasses just doesn’t offer yet.

Who the winners will be in these arena is not totally clear just yet, but one thing that’s for certain is that visual augmented reality is something that promises to completely transform the world, so long as the devices and the technology can be integrated with the human body in a way that is unobtrusive and tolerable.

The Mind-Machine Connection

When I first heard about the mind-control game called Mindflex, I was initially disgusted. I’ve spent years writing about the pseudoscience behind all sorts of psychic claims, and here is a game being marketed to children as a “mind control” device. My first reaction was to try and debunk the device.

Wasn’t I surprised to learn that Mattel was one of the first companies clever enough to integrate of EEG-style brain-wave reading technology into a game. In 2010, three neuroscientists tested the device to confirm it really works, and posted the video to YouTube.

The game really only detects the level of your brain waves which reflects your mental focus. The sharper your mental focus, the faster a fan turns, which in turn elevates a foam ball. It isn’t quite mind control, but it’s about as close as modern technology can get.

This may seem like it’s just a game to improve your brain fitness, but is this actually a sign of more amazing devices to come? I think so, yes. In fact, a clue that this is happening came at the end of 2013 when University of Washington researchers sent one person’s brain signal over the Internet, and used that signal to control the gross motor actions of a second person’s hand at the other end of the UW campus.

The second scientist wore a specially designed cap with a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil placed directly over the part of his motor cortex responsible for hand movement. The brain wave “trigger” worked, and the second scientist’s hand moved in what he described later as a “nervous tic”.

The experiment highlights what the Mattel brain game had already proved – that brain waves can be measured and used to manipulate the world, without anything more than the power of your mind. The only question that remains now is how this new use of EEG technology will further integrate humans with the computers that we love so much. (Contributor: Ryan Dube for MakeUseOf.com)

Only a few years ago, this article would represent science fiction. We have entertained the question in these alerts before: where is all the technology going, and what will be the result of man’s discoveries if not guided by God’s principles? Lucifer’s quest was, “I shall be like the Most High.” At Babel, the goal was building a tower “to heaven.” In both cases, God stepped in with direct, divine judgment. Depending on man’s motives, technology will serve a people or it will rule them to their destruction. Let us pray with God’s sovereignty and supremacy in view.

[Paul prayed that the saints’] “hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col 2:2-3)

 

THE FLOODGATES OF IMMORALITY COMING INTO SPORTS

The floodgates of immorality have increased dramatically in sports. An NFL team has drafted an open homosexual player, the USA Olympic Committee is promoting homosexuality, and Nike is funding a gay marriage political action committee (PAC) in Oregon.

The St. Louis Rams selected Michael Sam in the seventh round of the NFL draft. After being selected, Sam kissed his gay lover on ESPN in celebration.

Before the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the US Olympic Committee passed a non-discrimination policy to promote homosexuality. During the Games, President Obama sent a delegation of former athletes to Sochi who were gay.

In the fall of 2013, Nike founded a PAC to promote gay marriage in Oregon. The PAC was launched with $280,000.

Nike has supported homosexual causes in the past. They were instrumental in supporting Oregon’s domestic partnership law. Nike filed a “friend of the court” brief urging the Supreme Court to force the federal government to recognize gay marriage.

Additionally, Nike gives preference to homosexual suppliers. They give spousal benefits and adoption assistance to homosexual employees. Plus, they cover sex-change operations.

“There has always been sinners in sports as sports is a reflection of society. However, the floodgates of immorality have dramatically increased over the last few years,” says 4 WINDS President Steve McConkey. “Sports people throughout the world are caving into the homosexual agenda.”

4 WINDS is a Christian ministry working with all sports. The ministry used to work with track and field athletes only, but recently changed to all sports.

Steve McConkey and his wife started in world-class track and field ministries in 1981 and has continued for a total of thirty-three years. 4 WINDS has not abandoned track and field, but has expanded to all sports.

4 WINDS encourages Christian athletes and coaches to draw closer to the Lord by working with churches that teach the Bible clearly.

Parents should ask questions while their kids are being recruited to universities. Many universities are promoting open homosexual programs in their athletic departments. One such program is called “You Can Play.” (Contributor: Steve McConkey for Christian Newswire and 4 Winds – Steve McConkey is the President of 4 WINDS. Steve and his wife started working in world-class track and field ministries in 1981. 4 WINDS expanded to all sports in 2014. Steve has a Masters of Public Health from Western Kentucky University and a BS-Public Health from Minnesota State University.)

American Christians following the trends in the news and with changing laws see our beloved nation moving further and further from once-normal principles of nature and of nature’s God. Deviant lifestyles, practiced only privately a few years ago, are now celebrated publicly, with no end in sight in a society moving far beyond decency and restraint. Is there no limit to human wickedness and rebellion to God’s ways? Sadly, there is not, except for divine intervention. Let us pray with contrite hearts for extended mercy and a return to the Lord, before His appointed day of judgment.

“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions.” (Romans 1:22-26)

 

PLANNED PARENTHOOD: IT’S YOUR CALL WHEN TO TELL PARTNER YOU HAVE HIV? REALLY?

A Planned Parenthood’s “Healthy, Happy, and Hot” brochure aimed at young people with HIV says that “Young people living with HIV have the right to decide if, when, and how to disclose their HIV status,” and “You know best if and when it is safe for you to disclose our status.”

The brochure also called various laws that require an HIV positive person to disclose their status to a partner a “violation of rights.”

In October, police in Missouri arrested an HIV positive college student who had engaged in unprotected sex with more than 30 partners, infecting at least one with HIV. He had previously told his partners that he was disease-free.

While all human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their HIV status, it is absolutely absurd to suggest to people that informing their partner that they have a very serious disease is merely a personal choice. While the risk of transmission may be quite small if proper steps are taken, it still isn’t right to keep one’s partner in the dark about any potential risks. Hurt feelings aren’t a terminal condition–but HIV is.

View the PDF brochure <Click Here!> (Contributor: Christine Rousselle for Town Hall)

This needs no comment, as it is its own call to prayer. Once again, Planned Parenthood shows its ongoing wicked campaign to exploit the nation’s youth (at tax-payer expense, by the way) and assist in spreading disease and destruction, along with the methodical killing of unborn babies. As such, it represents the one who comes to kill, steal, and destroy. Pray as led for righteous lawmakers to act swiftly and decisively to shut these doors once and for all.

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I [Jesus Christ] have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

On Watch in Washington May 14, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version