Adding to a growing movement in the states to press for new restrictions on abortion, Michigan this week became the latest state to require women to purchase their own insurance riders if they want coverage of elective abortions in their future health-care policies.
The move is hailed by pro-life supporters, who brought the issue to the Michigan lawmakers through a “citizen-initiative” process this year. Eight other states have passed similar statutes.
The law means “no person is forced to fund the deliberate taking of an innocent human life in the name of health care,” said Barbara Listing, president of Right to Life of Michigan. “Abortion is not true health care; abortion kills a living, developing human being.”
But opponents — including Democratic lawmakers who talked about their personal histories — said the measure, which passed largely on party lines, was “extreme.”
“Over 20 years ago, I was a victim of rape,” Democratic state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer said during the debate. The attack didn’t result in a pregnancy, she said, but if it had happened under a law like this, “I would not be able to have coverage because of this. How extreme. How extreme does this measure need to be?”
Another lawmaker spoke of needing an abortion to complete a miscarriage, while others talked about other kinds of problematic pregnancies.
Republicans, including State Rep. Amanda Price, defended the measure, which was requested in a petition signed by 315,000 Michigan voters and is aimed at “elective abortion.”
No matter how the issue is framed, “abortion is an individual choice,” said Ms. Price. “As such, it is up to each individual to make the decision how they will pay for such procedures.”
Backers of the measure said it doesn’t block insurance-covered abortion care for women in several situations, including miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or stillbirth. It also doesn’t affect situations where, “in the physician’s reasonable medical judgment,” a pregnancy must be terminated “to avert” the woman’s death.
But the law’s omission of “rape” and “incest” as covered reasons for abortion, though, caused opponents to sarcastically dub it “rape insurance.”
Pro-life groups countered this by bringing forward Rebecca Kiessling and other adults conceived during a rape, but who lived because their mothers did not get abortions. “No child deserves to be punished for the crimes of their father,” Ms. Kiessling, director of pro-life group Save the 1 told a news conference this month.
It is, in fact, common practice for women to pay for part, or all, of an abortion’s costs, which in 2009 was about $470 for a first-trimester procedure. In Michigan, for instance, a state agency found that 739 abortions — or 3.3 percent out of 23,000 annual procedures — were covered by health insurance.
This is because private insurance policies don’t always cover abortions, and sometimes women choose not to use their policies to pay for an abortion, research done by the Guttmacher Institute has found. In federal programs, the institute noted, the Hyde Amendment has long prevented taxpayer funds from paying for abortions, although in 17 states, state Medicaid funds are used to pay for abortions for low-income women.
In Michigan, the Republican-led chambers easily passed the abortion measure Wednesday evening. In the Senate, two Democrats and an independent voted with the majority, 27-11. In the House, one Democrat joined the Republicans to pass the bill, 62-47. The law goes into effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns this month.
Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma already allow patients to purchase abortion-coverage riders and an eighth state, Utah, will let general insurance plans cover the procedure in certain circumstances, according to Guttmacher.
A lawsuit against the measure is not imminent. The votes just happened this week, “and I think people are still reeling,” Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Reproductive Freedom Project, said Thursday. Still, pro-choice allies will be investigating “all their options to figure what’s the best way to try to reverse this dangerous vote,” she added.
A petition drive to repeal the law is a possibility: Shelli Weisberg, spokeswoman for ACLU of Michigan, told the Detroit Free Press that opponents will meet soon to plan such a petition drive. “There will be another initiative to overturn this abhorrent act,” State Rep. Sarah Roberts told the newspaper.
Dr. Matt Allswede, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Lansing, said the law creates a “gray zone” of concern for health care providers. If a patient needs an abortion, he said, the provider will have to see if her situation “triggers the exception.” If not, they will have to find out if there’s a prepurchased rider, “and if not, explain the costs.”
There are going to be dicey situations when the fetus is potentially viable, he said, adding that there could be fines and legal issues if providers make a wrong move.
As an OB-GYN, “99 percent of our job is really wonderful. But 1 percent of it can be pretty awful,” said Dr. Allswede. (Contributor: By Cheryl Wetzstein for The Washington Times)
Yes, the focus here is still on the evil of abortion, but the “good news” in this prayer alert is that we are seeing the growth of courageous legislative movements at the state level in various parts of our nation. Sadly, our federal bureaucracy strives mightily to hold absolute authority in the abortion struggle, but in recent key situations, such as in Texas, Arkansas, and now Michigan, states are flexing legislative muscle that at least impedes the wholesale slaughter of innocent lives of not-yet-born babies. These positive steps will be resisted in the courts—even the Supreme Court—but the debate is spreading in the public square, and intercessors will help carry the battle as we continue to cry out to God to save the children. The selected Scriptures are to encourage strong prayers, as intercessors cry out to God for justice for the unborn.
“Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more.” (Psalm 10:17-18)
“Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15)
“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17)
“When I cry out to You, then my enemies turn back: this I know, because God is for me.” (Psalm 56:9)
The Common Core State Standards, which spell out what K-12 students should learn in school, are at the center of a heated debate: Who should control public education? What do students really need to know? Let’s separate fact from fiction to figure out what’s at stake.
1. The Common Core is a federal takeover of public education that imposes a national curriculum.
It isn’t and it doesn’t – though it has substantial support from the Obama administration, verging on coercion.
The Common Core has been spearheaded by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington-based associations that get funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2009, with bipartisan support, they engaged education reform nonprofits to take the lead in writing standards for what students should know and be able to do in math and English/language arts, grade by grade, from kindergarten through 12th.
The Core does not prescribe how students should meet those standards, though the English/language arts authors also wrote curriculum guidelines for textbook publishers, and school districts in different states can and are using the same prepackaged lessons.
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core, and the Obama administration has a lot to do with that statistic. Its $4.3 billion Race to the Top competition makes adoption of “common standards” an incentive to win federal funding.
The Education Department also wanted states that applied for waivers from No Child Left Behind to adopt common standards.
2. Opposition to Common Core is coming primarily from the tea party and white suburban moms.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan last month blamed some of the Common Core backlash on “white suburban moms who – all of a sudden – their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” Earlier, he characterized the opposition as “political silliness” and “a rallying cry for fringe groups.” The reality is that resistance to the Common Core is coming from every political direction. On the right, the tea party has indeed been vocal. Though the Core has support from the likes of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, conservative Republicans have mounted a sustained attack. Glenn Beck warned his listeners: “You as a parent are going to be completely pushed out of the loop. The state is completely pushed out of the loop. They now have control of your children.” On the left, Diane Ravitch, the most vocal critic of school reforms that focus on standardization, has suggested that federal promotion of the Common Core “may well have been illegal.” In the middle are educators, students and parents concerned about how the Core has been designed, written and implemented. They worry that teachers haven’t had time to absorb the standards and figure out how to teach them. They say prewritten lessons aren’t a good solution, because they take away teachers’ ability to individualize learning according to student needs. Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers union and a supporter of the Core, has said: “You think the ‘Obamacare’ implementation is bad? The implementation of the Common Core is far worse.”
3. Common Core tests will be more advanced than current assessments.
Duncan promised that the new Core-aligned exams would be an “absolute game-changer in public education” – going beyond multiple-choice bubbles with open-ended questions that more deeply assess what students have learned and how well they can solve problems.
But the tests scheduled to roll out next school year won’t be the huge leap forward that supporters had hoped. An independent panel of education leaders determined that there wasn’t enough time or money to create groundbreaking exams.
Separately, Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond found that the Core exams under development are only marginally better than tests that have been used for years – and are less helpful than evaluations used in Singapore and by the International Baccalaureate program, for instance, that ask students to design, conduct, analyze and present their work in different ways.
4. Common Core demands that teachers toss out Shakespeare.
How much literature English teachers teach was one of the big education controversies of the year. Reflecting concern that U.S. students can’t adequately read and analyze complex studies, reports and primary documents, the Core’s English standards require that nonfiction texts represent 50 percent of reading assignments in elementary schools, growing to 70 percent by Grade 12. English teachers across the country expressed angst about all the novels, plays, short stories and poems they’d have to cut from their lessons.
But the Core authors clarified that the requirement applies to reading assignments across all courses – not that a single English class had to have the 70-30 ratio. Still, they want English teachers to assign more non-fiction.
Among the nonfiction works they recommend is Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1835 classic “Democracy in America,” along with more obscure texts such as “FedViews” by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (2009) and the General Services Administration’s “Executive Order 13423: Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management” (2007).
5. New Core tests will save taxpayers money.
Some advocates think that districts can develop Common Core tests cheaply. For example, the national advocacy group Parents for Public Schools said: “Common Core State Standards will cause states to save money on creating and scoring tests. Since all states that adopt 1/8them 3/8 will use the same standards, they can also share on the development.” But the costs of Core tests have been a big concern, especially for the five states that dropped out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a group of 18 states and the District “working together to develop a common set of K-12 assessments in English and math,” according to its Web site.
This consortium has acknowledged that half of its member states will spend more than they do for current tests; one of them, Georgia, pulled out when the cost of new exams was announced. The price? More than $2 million above Georgia’s existing state assessment budget.
States lack resources to upgrade equipment and provide technical support for the new tests – costs likely to exceed that of the exams themselves. One analysis indicates that Race to the Top would provide districts with less than 10 cents on the dollar to defray those expenses plus mandated teacher evaluations.
Bottom line: Nobody knows how much implementing Common Core will cost. (Contributor: By Valerie Strauss for The Washington Post – Strauss is an education reporter and columnist for The Washington Post.)
Caution! Informer readers will quickly see the need for what the Bible calls “the wisdom from above.” Most items in our alerts come from the secular press. This article is from an ongoing series running every Sunday in The Washington Post. Each carries the headline “Five Myths About . . .” and touches on an issue of national interest currently discussed in the media. It might be about a political figure, the passage of a certain bill, a government scandal, or a social trend. But because “the myth is in the eye of the beholder” (in this case, the writer), we suggest careful reading, as the Post’s editorial viewpoint is admittedly left of center. For example, note the first “myth,” defined by the writer as, “The Common Core is a federal takeover of public education that imposes a national curriculum.” The very next sentence, however, spins this into a contradiction: “It isn’t and it doesn’t — though it has substantial support from the Obama administration, verging on coercion.” So we ask, “What part of ‘substantial support’ and ‘coercion’ does notmean ‘federal takeover’?” And so on. Please read carefully and pray with biblical perspective. Do not be swayed by deceptive rhetoric. Education analysts from all sides of the political spectrum fear Common Core Standards will define too closely what is taught and how history is interpreted, plus assign literature that may limit the student’s literary development. With our government’s tendency to revise U.S. history from the Founders’ positions on truth, Christians also know the best education for moral and spiritual development comes from the home and godly parents. To teach the mind without touching the spirit for God is to breed unbelief.
“Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding.” (Prov. 23:23)
[Apostolic prayer for early believers, to attain] “. . . 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.” (Colossians 2:2-3)
“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
The White House is claiming that the Healthcare.gov website is mostly fixed, that the millions of Americans whose health plans were canceled thanks to government rules may be able to keep them for another year, and that in any event these people will get better plans through ObamaCare exchanges. Whatever the truth of these assertions, those who expect better days ahead for the Affordable Care Act are in for a rude awakening. The shocks—economic and political—will get much worse next year and beyond. Here’s why:
The “sticker shock” that many buyers of new, ACA-compliant health plans have experienced—with premiums 30% higher, or more, than their previous coverage—has only begun. The costs borne by individuals will be even more obvious next year as more people start having to pay higher deductibles and copays.
If, as many predict, too few healthy young people sign up for insurance that is overpriced in order to subsidize older, sicker people, the insurance market will unravel in a “death spiral” of ever-higher premiums and fewer signups. The government, through taxpayer-funded “risk corridors,” is on the hook for billions of dollars of potential insurance-company losses. This will be about as politically popular as bank bailouts.
This December 3, 2013 photo shows a message indicating that a connection cannot be established with the HealthCare.gov insurance marketplace internet site. Bloomberg News
The “I can’t keep my doctor” shock will also hit more and more people in coming months. To keep prices to consumers as low as possible—given cost pressures generated by the government’s rules, controls and coverage mandates—insurance companies in many cases are offering plans that have very restrictive networks, with lower-cost providers that exclude some of the best physicians and hospitals.
Next year, millions must choose among unfamiliar physicians and hospitals, or paying more for preferred providers who are not part of their insurance network. Some health outcomes will deteriorate from a less familiar doctor-patient relationship.
More IT failures are likely. People looking for health plans on ObamaCare exchanges may be able to fill out their applications with more ease. But the far more complex back-office side of the website—where the information in their application is checked against government databases to determine the premium subsidies and prices they will be charged, and where the applications are forwarded to insurance companies—is still under construction. Be prepared for eligibility, coverage gap, billing, claims, insurer payment and patient information-protection debacles.
The next shock will come when the scores of millions outside the individual market—people who are covered by employers, in union plans, or on Medicare and Medicaid—experience the downsides of ObamaCare. There will be longer waits for hospital visits, doctors’ appointments and specialist treatment, as more people crowd fewer providers.
Those with means can respond to the government-driven waiting lines by making side payments to providers or seeking care through doctors who do not participate in insurance plans. But this will be difficult for most people.
Next, the Congressional Budget Office’s estimated 25% expansion of Medicaid under ObamaCare will exert pressure on state Medicaid spending (although the pressure will be delayed for a few years by federal subsidies). This pressure on state budgets means less money on education and transportation, and higher state taxes.
The “Cadillac tax” on health plans to help pay for ObamaCare starts four years from this Jan. 1. It will fall heavily on unions whose plans are expensive due to generous health benefits.
In the nearer term, a political iceberg looms next year. Insurance companies usually submit proposed pricing to regulators in the summer, and the open enrollment period begins in the fall for plans starting Jan. 1. Businesses of all sizes that currently provide health care will have to offer ObamaCare’s expensive, mandated benefits, or drop their plans and—except the smallest firms—pay a fine. Tens of millions of Americans with employer-provided health plans risk paying more for less, and losing their policies and doctors to more restrictive networks. The administration is desperately trying to delay employer-plan problems beyond the 2014 election to avoid this shock.
Meanwhile, ObamaCare will lead to more part-time workers in some industries, as hours are cut back to conform to arbitrary definitions in the law of what constitutes full-time employment. Many small businesses will be cautious about hiring more than 50 full-time employees, which would subject them to the law’s employer insurance mandate.
On the supply side, medicine will become a far less attractive career for talented young people. More doctors will restrict practice or retire early rather than accept lower incomes and work conditions they did not anticipate. Already, many practices are closed to Medicaid recipients, some also to Medicare. The pace of innovation in drugs, medical devices and delivery is expected to slow significantly, as higher taxes and even rationing set in.
The repeated assertions by the law’s supporters that nobody but the rich would be worse off was based on a beyond-implausible claim that one could expand by millions the number of people with health insurance, lower health-care costs without rationing, and improve quality. The reality is that any squeezing of insurance-company profits, or reduction in uncompensated emergency-room care amounts to a tiny fraction of the trillions of dollars extracted from those people overpaying for insurance, or redistributed from taxpayers.
The Affordable Care Act’s disastrous debut sent the president’s approval ratings into a tailspin and congressional Democrats in competitive districts fleeing for cover. If the law’s continuing unpopularity enables Republicans to regain the Senate in 2014, the president will be forced to veto repeated attempts to repeal the law or to negotiate major changes.
The risk of a complete repeal if a Republican takes the White House in 2016 will put enormous pressure on Democratic candidates—and on Republicans—to articulate a compelling alternative to the cost and coverage problems that beset health care. A good start would be sliding-scale subsidies to help people buy a low-cost catastrophic plan, purchasable across state lines, equalized tax treatment of those buying insurance on their own with those on employer plans, and expanded high-risk pools. (Contributor: By Michael J. Boskin for The Wall Street Journal — Mr. Boskin, an economics professor at Stanford University and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush.)
This article serves as a genuine call to prayer. It is a hard-hitting, no-holds-barred analysis that sees little ahead for the American people under Obamacare except major turmoil, disappointment, struggle, higher costs, and unexpected adjustments in needed medical services, favorite physicians, and so on. Interestingly, the author, a gifted economist, makes no comment about a major intercessory prayer issue that, for Christians, is the matter of religious freedom of conscience and conscientious objection. The employer mandate will force churches, non-profits, and business leaders with pro-life, anti-abortion convictions to support health services for employees that include prescriptions and/or devices that cause abortion. So, while IFA is not political and does not editorialize in these alerts, still Christians are aware of the issues and will pray accordingly. As we have noted in previous alerts, two such companies have cases the Supreme Court will hear next spring, 2014. Let us mount up strong prayers for Life vs. Death. Many citizens are fearful due to alleged cover-up and uncertainty. Seek God’s mercy for the U.S.
“But Jesus called [His disciples] to Himself and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’” (Mark 10:42-45)
India’s Supreme Court struck down a 2009 lower court decision to decriminalize homosexual conduct, dealing a blow Wednesday to gay activists who have fought for years for the chance to live openly in India’s deeply conservative society.
The judges said only lawmakers and not the courts could change a colonial-era law that bans homosexual acts and makes them punishable by up to a decade in prison.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community across India reacted to the surprise decision with defiance.
“We cannot be forced back into the closet. We are not backing off from our fight against discrimination,” said Gautam Bhan, an activist who had petitioned the court.
After the ruling, dozens of activists outside the court began crying and hugging each other in consolation.
“This is a very sad day for us, we are back to square one in our fight for the democratic rights of the gay community,” said Ashok Row Kavi of the activist group Humsafar Trust.
Lawyers and supporters of gays, lesbians and transsexuals vowed to continue pressing for the removal of the law, which they say encourages discrimination, even if it is rarely invoked by prosecutors.
“We feel very let down,” said lawyer Anand Grover, who had argued the case on behalf of the advocacy group NAZ Foundation. “But our fight is not over and we will continue to fight for the constitutional right.”
He said the foundation would ask for the Supreme Court’s decision to be reviewed.
According to international human-rights groups, more than 70 countries around the world have laws criminalizing homosexual conduct, with India by far the most populous. Some other countries, while not explicitly outlawing gay sex, have measures that restrict gay-rights activities, such as Russia’s recently enacted law prohibiting “gay propaganda.”
Efforts to repeal colonial-era anti-sodomy laws have failed to gain much momentum in Africa and Asia, but there have been notable recent gay-rights gains in Latin America, where same-sex marriage or civil unions have been legalized in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and parts of Mexico.
The largest gay-rights group in the United States — the Human Rights Campaign — described the Indian court ruling as a “disturbing step backward.”
“It is incomprehensible that a court of law would take the side of discrimination against LGBT citizens,” said the group’s chief foundation officer, Jeff Krehely. “Criminalizing LGBT relationships leads to dangerous situations, not just for committed couples, but also for LGBT youth, who today received a deeply harmful message that they are less than equal.”
The United States expressed concern about the Indian Supreme Court decision, although it wasn’t immediately clear if Washington had directly raised the issue with Indian government officials.
“We oppose all actions that criminalize consensual sex conducts between adults,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington. “We call on all governments to advance equality for LGBT individuals around the world.”
The law in question, dating back to the 1860s when Britain ruled over South Asia, states that “whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” can be punished by up to 10 years behind bars.
The 2009 New Delhi High Court ruling, which said the law violated fundamental human rights, infuriated conservatives and religious groups who say homosexuality represents a threat to traditional Indian culture.
In a rare alliance, the groups — including the All India Muslim Law Board, Christian groups and Hindu spiritual leaders — argued that gay sex is unnatural and that India should maintain the law.
Amod Kanth, head of the Prayas organization for children’s welfare, one of India’s largest civic groups, cheered Wednesday’s ruling and said banning homosexuality is key to ensuring children’s normal development and protecting their rights to family.
“Only a man and a woman constitute a family and contribute for the holistic development of a child, which is not possible without a father and a mother,” Kanth told the Press Trust of India news agency.
Activists have long argued that the law encourages discrimination and leaves gays, lesbians and bisexuals vulnerable to police harassment or demands for bribes. In a country where arranged marriage is still largely the norm, many gays hide their sexual orientation from friends and relatives.
Acceptance is slowly growing, though, particularly in big cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai. In the last few years, activists have staged large gay pride parades featuring rainbow-colored flags and banners, joyful songs and dancing through the streets.
The government, meanwhile, has begun acknowledging India’s transgender — or hijra — community, the origins of which go back millennia to a time when transsexuals, eunuchs and gays held a special place in society backed by Hindu myths of their power to grant fertility.
In 2009, the government allowed them to register to vote as “others,” rather than as men or women. And in 2010, a new “third gender” category was added to the national census.
Law Minister Kapil Sibal said little about Wednesday’s verdict beyond agreeing that the “legislature is the final arbiter of what law should be.”
If the issue comes up in Parliament, he said, “we will take it up.” (Contributor: The Associated Press and Fox News)
Let us give thanks for the insight of India’s Supreme Court justices, in a country represented by several non-Christian belief systems, to rule in favor of traditional sexual roles and against the kind of deviations that have deeply permeated and divided our own culture. “Father God, we thank You for allowing India’s Supreme Court to make a morally upright decision on homosexual acts. We ask You to allow this decision to serve as an example to the United States that progressive reinterpretation of morality is not in the best interests of a healthy society.” Pray fervently that God will intervene in our nation to stop the continuous moral slide into a morass of sin and degradation where “Anything goes!” becomes the rule of our culture. “Dear Lord, strengthen Your church to come boldly and fervently to prayer that touches Your heart and creates an open door for divine intervention, not because we are worthy but because You are gracious and merciful.”
“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; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days …” (Deut. 30:19-20)
Australia’s highest court struck down a landmark law last Thursday (December 12) that had begun allowing the country’s first gay marriages, shattering the dreams of more than two dozen same-sex newlyweds whose marriages will now be annulled less than a week after their weddings.
The federal government had challenged the validity of the Australian Capital Territory’s law that had allowed gay marriages in the nation’s capital and its surrounding area.
For Ivan Hinton, who married his partner Chris Teoh on Saturday, the result was heartbreaking. The couple just received their marriage certificate on Wednesday and immediately applied to change their surnames to Hinton-Teoh. Still, Hinton said he doesn’t regret going through with the wedding, and will always consider Teoh his husband.
“This was an unprecedented and historic opportunity,” he said. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
The federal government’s lawyer had argued that having different marriage laws in various Australian states and territories would create confusion. The ACT, which passed the law in October, said it should stand because it governs couples outside the federal definition of marriage as being between members of the opposite sex.
The High Court unanimously ruled that the ACT’s law could not operate concurrently with the federal Marriage Act, which was amended in 2004 to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
“The Marriage Act does not now provide for the formation or recognition of marriage between same sex couples. The Marriage Act provides that a marriage can be solemnised in Australia only between a man and a woman,” the court said in a statement issued alongside its ruling. “That Act is a comprehensive and exhaustive statement of the law of marriage.”
Rodney Croome, national director of the advocacy group Australian Marriage Equality, said his group knows of about 30 same-sex couples who have married since Saturday, though the actual number may be slightly higher. The court decision essentially nullifies their marriages, as it means the ACT law under which they were wed was invalid.
Alan Wright, who married his partner Joel Player just minutes after midnight on Saturday, said the court’s decision had inspired him to fight even harder for equality and focus his efforts on getting the federal government to change the law.
“I am now immensely proud to be part of a very unique, committed and courageous group of people, who — despite probably deep down knowing that it was going to be overturned … still stood up and said ‘no, we’re going to do this’,” Wright said. “In 10 years’ time, I will look back at this as being a very proud moment.”
In its decision, the court wrote that the federal government is responsible for deciding whether same-sex marriage should be legalized. The ruling means that no Australian state or territory can make that decision, said Sydney University constitutional lawyer Anne Twomey.
Lyle Shelton, managing director of Australian Christian Lobby, which opposes same-sex marriage, praised the court ruling and said common sense had prevailed.
As for the ruling’s impact on the newly-wedded couples, Shelton said it was “really sad that they were put in a position” in which they were allowed to marry before the court handed down its judgment.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott opposes gay marriage and his coalition blocked two federal bills last year that would have allowed legal recognition of same-sex partnerships.
The ruling comes a day after India’s Supreme Court struck down a 2009 lower court decision to decriminalize homosexuality.
Gay marriage has legal recognition in 18 countries as well as 16 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia. (Contributor: By Kristen Gelineau for The Associated Press and ABC News)
Again, our own United States, once the world leader in upholding justice, missionary giving, caring for needy and displaced people, and, in general, being the world’s moral compass, has been upstaged and outdone by the Australian Supreme Court. Literally hours after the Australian Capital Territory’s law allowing same-sex marriage went into effect, the federal government challenged that law’s validity and struck it down. Many Christians and other U.S. citizens, even those with strong beliefs for homosexual “marriage,” were stunned to see such swift action by a government not only determined to keep traditional morality but having the single-minded power and authority to maintain its cultural “norm.” Again, pray that God will use the Australian determination and resolute courage to be a “contagious inoculation” that might shame our own U.S. government into seeing what a terrible Pandora’s Box has been opened. Christian prophetic voices from as many as 30 years ago predicted that all manner of gross immorality would spring ultimately from tampering with the Creator’s marriage covenant. Keep praying accordingly. In these desperate times for our own nation, should God’s people pray the sort of desperate prayer as the prophet Habakkuk prayed in his day? See below:
“O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ and You will not save? Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises.” (Habakkuk 1:1-3)
“Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps [God’s] law. (Prov. 29:18)
“Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. Then the Lord saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice.” (Isaiah 59:14-16)
Google has snapped up the creator of the world’s fastest running robot and other eerily realistic animal-like machines supplied to the US military.
The internet company’s acquisition of Boston Dynamics is latest in a string of robotics acquisitions in a mysterious initiative led by former Android chief Andy Rubin.
As Amazon readies a fleet of delivery drones, Boston Dynamics is Google’s biggest prize yet in the robot wars.
Among the creations to crawl, jump and gallop from its labs are Big Dog, a four-legged robot that can clamber over uneven terrain such as snowy forests, even when assailed by kicks from its makers, and Cheetah, which claims to hold the record for the fastest legged robot in the world, running at more than 29 miles per hour.
Many of Boston Dynamics’ robots have been developed with funding from the US Department of Defense’s research unit, Darpa, making Google a military contractor, at least for now.
“The future is looking awesome!” said Mr Rubin in a tweet linking to the New York Times, which first reported the acquisition on Saturday. A Google spokesperson confirmed the deal but declined to elaborate on its price or plans.
The purchase is the latest sign of a sudden and, to many, startling new interest in robots from consumer internet companies, as their operations move from the virtual to the real world.
Last year, Amazon spent $775m on Kiva Systems, a robotics company used to automate its fulfilment centers, and earlier this month, chief executive Jeff Bezos said that the online retailer is developing unmanned aerial vehicles that he hopes will deliver parcels to customers within five years.
Google’s ultimate objective for its growing collection of robots remains unclear but Mr Rubin’s project sits among its so-called “moonshot” ventures, such as self-driving cars and balloons to provide internet connectivity to remote regions.
Mr Rubin stepped down from leading Google’s Android mobile operating system in March and only revealed his new assignment after Mr Bezos announced Amazon’s drone initiative on US television.
His other acquisitions include Bot & Dolly, a design studio that makes an automated camera system used in movies such as Gravity, and Schaft, a spin-off from the University of Tokyo whose bipedal robots boast much stronger “muscles” than other bots.
Boston Dynamics was founded in 1992 by Marc Raibert, formerly of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A much-viewed YouTube video shows Boston Dynamics’ four-legged WildCat robot “galloping” and “bounding” around a car park at speeds of 16 miles per hour, before – perhaps reassuringly – falling to its knees on ice.
The response from the tech community has been a mixture of awe, amusement and apprehension at the potential uses of robots at a company with Google’s scale, resources and trove of personal information.
“Which company that owns all our private data and has the motto “Don’t Be Evil” just bought a military robotics firm?” tweeted Joe Randazzo, creative director at Adult Swim, a comedy and satire channel.
“‘Don’t be evil,’ he cried, while being chased by the robot hounds,” quipped Andy Baio, a tech entrepreneur and founder of the XOXO conference, in a tweet. (Contributor: By Tim Bradshaw for Financial Times)
Prayer focus: May we encourage intercessors to pause for a moment and to gain perspective as 2013 closes and 2014 in on the horizon? This is a good moment for us to consider anew the meaning of Christmas, as we recall the birth of Jesus, our Lord. In the light of this “high-tech” article, considering where robotic technology is going very rapidly, it is also wise to note that God did not choose the send His Son forth in front of video cameras poised in Bethlehem. We read instead, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son . . .” Think about it as we are praying and interceding at the end of this tumultuous year. The Creator and Sovereign of the universe, our great, all-powerful God, started life on earth in a Garden, not a city; and He sent His Son, our Savior, into a non-technical age, with His chosen people in bondage under despotic Roman rule. The hymn-writer said, “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given. . .” Computer robotics will not save mankind. We are intrigued, and we wonder where it all is going. But only the Lord Jesus Christ, by His death and resurrection, can redeem men and women from their sins. Amen!
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Galatians 4:4-7)
China has officially joined the “Moon Landing Club,” which, until Saturday, was the exclusive domain of the United States and the former Soviet Union. China’s rover will now putter around, doing what such missions are typically designed to do: taking lots of pictures and analyzing lunar dirt, more scientifically referred to as regolith.
It may be tempting for Americans to think, “Been there, done that.” However, China is now envisioning the very same sort of ambitious megaprojects that the U.S. once dreamt of more than 50 years ago, when President John F. Kennedy urged America to “commit itself to achieving the goal … of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” For instance, China hopes to mine the moon for natural resources and to use it as a staging ground for further space exploration, although some believe the former goal is unrealistic because the cost is likely to exceed the value of the materials.
Still, China’s wild-eyed aspirations are inspiring. It should make us yearn for the days when we, too, thought we could do anything. But those days now seem so long ago. Indeed, the latest Rasmussen poll finds that 52 percent of Americans think that our best days are behind us. What happened?
It appears that years of poor governance — spanning at least two presidential administrations — combined with a lackluster economy have sapped Americans of their optimism. The toxic, divisive nature of partisan politics has made Washington dysfunctional. As a result, Americans hate Congress, disapprove of President Obama and are, as The Economist writes, at risk of becoming a “low-trust society” in which suspicion of others’ motives eclipses the camaraderie that typically underpins the American attitude. This is not a recipe conducive to long-term success.
In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama called for a new “Sputnik moment.” Similar to how Americans once rallied to beat the Soviets to the moon, Mr. Obama wants us to revitalize our commitment to science and technology. But like most of his lofty speeches, this entreaty was soon forgotten. Perhaps the stark reality of a zealous and determined China will finally reinvigorate our dejected national spirit. (Contributor: By Alex Berezow for Real Clear World)
Let us pray that the U.S. government will use wisdom and not regard China’s recent moon landing as a challenge to “compete,” yet with no positive contribution in sight for the betterment of our nation’s people. With our own initial manned lunar landing now nearly 45 years in the past, what “real-life, real-time” advances can be counted when considering the multiplied billions spent to achieve that “one giant leap for mankind.” Was it, in fact, a leap forward? This is not to decry scientific exploration when it seeks answers leading to advancements in medicine or an enhanced food supply. But we should pray that the motivations to maintain space leadership will surrender to the better use of the time, money, and energy that would be needed to return to the moon – and for what cause? We encourage much wisdom-motivated prayer, knowing it all belongs to God.
“The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s; but the earth He has given to the children of men.” (Psalm 115:16)
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky aboveproclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” (Ps. 19:1-4)
China said it was on track to launch a fifth lunar probe with the aim of bringing back lunar soil and rock samples following the successful moon landing of a space probe.
The new mission planned for 2017 would mark the third and final phase of China’s robotic lunar exploration program and pave the way for possibly landing an astronaut on the moon after 2020.
On Saturday, Chang’e 3 set down on the moon, marking the first soft landing of a space probe on the lunar surface in 37 years. The landing vehicle will conduct scientific research for a year and its accompanying rover will survey the moon’s structure and probe for natural resources.
A challenge for both is to withstand temperatures ranging from 120 degrees Celsius (248 Fahrenheit) to minus 180 C (minus 184 F), said Wu Zhijian, spokesman for the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.
Chang’e 4 is intended to be an improved version of the Chang’e 3 that will pave the way for the fifth probe.
First explored by the former Soviet Union and the United States in the 1960s and 70s, the moon has become the subject of renewed interest, even as the focus shifts to Mars exploration.
The U.S. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is currently circling the moon to detail its features and resources as a prelude to building a lunar outpost. In 2009, India’s lunar orbiter, the Chandrayaan-1, detected water on the moon. Two years earlier, Japan sent a spacecraft to orbit it.
“People have started saying we’re looking for water and we’re looking for minerals and it’s becoming a much more interesting place to go to,” said Peter Bond, consultant editor for Jane’s Space Systems and Industry. “Especially for new countries like China and India who are testing out new technologies – it’s an ideal place to practice these before they go to Mars and beyond.”
China says its moon exploration program is about gaining a scientific understanding of the moon and developing space engineering and other technologies to prepare it for deep space exploration in the future. It is also a source of national pride.
President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang were at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center to hear lunar program chief commander Ma Xingrui declare the Chang’e 3 mission a success, the official Xinhua News agency reported.
“China’s moon probe is a way to exhibit to the world that we have acquired advanced space technology, which is more sophisticated than nuclear technology, and it is also a way to win international recognition as a big power,” said He Qisong, a space expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.
He said that finding and developing mineral resources on the moon could help solve future problems on Earth.
China sent its first astronaut into space in 2003, becoming the third nation after Russia and the United States to achieve manned space travel independently. It launched the Tiangong 1 prototype space station in 2011 and plans to replace it with a larger permanent station seven years from now.
The space program’s close military links have raised questions about its ultimate intentions and dissuaded other countries from cooperating too closely with it. In 2007, the military shot down a defunct weather satellite in an apparent show of force that created a large amount of debris imperiling other spacecraft. (Contributor: By Louise Watt for The Associated Press – Associated Press researcher Yu Bing and news assistant Zhao Liang contributed to this report.)
Intercessors are urged to maintain perspective. First, this article merely reports the planning stages of a second moon-landing attempt by China roughly scheduled for 2017. Second, where China’s economy and that of the U.S. will be then is unknown. World affairs are tense, with many key nations in decline. Will further moon exploration be in either country’s best interest some three-plus years hence? No one knows. Pray accordingly, especially for the coming year, 2014, when political movements and a U.S. election year may well set the stage for where we are and who we Americans are as a people long before 2017. “O Lord, send revival in our time. Cause Your people to be stirred to new heights and depths of intercession, that our nation might become one whose ‘God is the Lord.’ Thank You, in the name of Jesus.”
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance. The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety; neither shall it deliver any by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, just as we hope in You.” (Psalm 33:12-22)
With the release of Planned Parenthood’s numbers for the 2012 business year, some pro-life groups see cause for celebration.
Rita Diller of the American Life League’s Stop Planned Parenthood project agrees.
“The biggest news is that we closed about 50 of its centers and lost five affiliates as well,” she reports.
“For 2011 through 2012, Planned Parenthood actually reported a decrease in worldwide customers, and we find that, not surprisingly, it showed a deep, deep decline of its already paltry number of prenatal services.”
Those dropped 32 percent. And while Planned Parenthood uses cancer screening services to justify increases in government funding, those were 14 percent fewer.
“Even its abortion business showed a slight decline, reaching the lowest level in four years,” Diller relays. “Even at that, Planned Parenthood still killed over 327,000 defenseless pre-born babies.”
There was a slight increase in contraceptive business, but American Life League has already shown that Planned Parenthood may be inflating those figures.
“These numbers show that Planned Parenthood is being rejected more and more by the American public, while its dependency on taxpayer dollars continually increases,” the pro-lifer adds.
That amounted to more than $540 million in the last budget year.
Diller reiterates that other local providers can largely handle most of the services Planned Parenthood offers. (Contributor: By Charlie Butts for One News Now)
We close this week’s Informer alert with a prayer focus that encourages praying Christians both to “dig in” as well as to give thanks for measured progress in response to our prayers. As we face 2014 and IFA begins its 41st year of ministry to encourage thousands of intercessors across the land, we see evidence of some decline in the wicked abortion business and a greater number of innocent babies being saved. “Father God, You have watched our beloved United States sink into greater moral and spiritual decline, yet You have withheld judgment and extended mercy, giving more people an opportunity to repent and turn from the evil the abortion business represents. Let us find strength in You to continue crying out for national revival and a turning from sin and degradation. We repent for our nation and ask for cleansing. Strengthen Your church with courage and the will to intercede until this dark chapter of greed and killing is brought down. We ask all this in the powerful name of our Lord Jesus Christ. May Your Word come to pass in our day, that those who find You, find life. Those who love You will hate death. We know from Your Word that those who love death will perish.”
“Now therefore, listen to me, my children, for blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not disdain it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favor from the Lord; but he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; all those who hate me love death.’ (Prov. 8:32-36)