On Watch in Washington August 27, 2014

August 27th, 2014

On watch in Washington August 27, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

WHITE HOUSE FOLEY LEAK ENDANGERS FUTURE OPERATIONS, AMERICAN HOSTAGES

Joseph Miller is the pen name for a ranking Department of Defense official with a background in U.S. special operations and combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has worked in strategic planning.

On Wednesday, the White House leaked a classified special forces operation to rescue American hostages in Syria. The reason: political cover. The cost: so far, unknown.

But this much, we know: The politicized leak of this operation cut through the fog of war to let our enemies know exactly what happened that day in the desert, and because of that, future attempts to free American hostages will be more difficult to plan, farther between, and more dangerous to carry out.

On Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby confirmed reports of the U.S. military’s failed clandestine hostage rescue operation in Syria. The operation was designed to rescue a number of Western hostages, including American journalist James Foley, that were being held by Islamic State terrorists in Syria. Details of the failed raid were leaked by senior White House officials earlier that day after the Obama administration came under intense scrutiny about what actions it had taken to free Foley following, who was beheaded . The leak was designed to provide political cover for President Barack Obama, who has been taking fire from the press for failing to take more decisive action against the Islamic State in either Iraq or Syria.

The operation involved an extremely large number of U.S. special operations forces moving over long distances. It has been described as the largest U.S. hostage rescue operation undertaken since the famed raid on the Son Tay prison camp in Vietnam – meaning it was larger in scope than the mission to free the U.S. hostages being held at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1980.

Unfortunately, the parallels between this operation and the Son Tay raid did not stop at the size and scope of the mission: Just as in Son Tay, the hostage rescue force arrived only to find that the hostages were not there.

When the hostage rescue force arrived at the target location in Syria, they encountered a handful of fighters on the ground, which they quickly neutralized. As has been previously reported, one U.S. helicopter pilot transporting the rescue force suffered a gunshot wound during the operation. He completed the entire mission before informing anyone that he had been shot. It was an act of heroism that would have gone unknown before yesterday’s leak.

Following the mission, it was determined that the Islamic State did not know that it was the United States that had conducted the raid. This was confirmed Wednesday by media outlets, who quoted the leaker saying the “[Islamic State] did not know who they were fighting that night, and we assess Syria did not know.”

As such, the decision was made to maintain absolute secrecy in the event that hostages could be located again, and another rescue operation could be undertaken. After Wednesday’s leak by the White House, this seems highly unlikely. The Islamic State is now aware that the United States is tracking the whereabouts of the Western hostages, and that the U.S. has shown a willingness to take military action to free them. They will likely increase their operational and communication security postures in order to prevent a repeat operation. (MILLER: The Facts Are In, And Obama’s Policy Is A Direct Danger To The United States)

Wednesday’s selfish, politically motivated leak has reduced the chances for a successful second rescue attempt, and has likely increased the risk to the lives of the hostages still in the Islamic State’s possession. For that, someone should be fired. (Contributor: By Joseph Miller for Family Security Matters)

Prayer focus: We welcome intercessors to this week’s vitally important Alert. Intercessors use their God-given discernment to pray at the “root level,” not merely the “fruit level” of issues. There is no disloyalty for intercessors to recognize before God that our much-loved nation is terribly divided. Many if not most of our government’s highest-level decisions have become politicized, and citizens do not see a God-fearing mindset among our elected leaders. Pray for God’s mercy in the form of wisdom to be displayed in administration decisions. Pray for a heart-change to come to President Obama and his advisors. Pray for spiritual healing in America, which will only come through the Gospel’s power as shared by a revived Church. Pray for mercy.

“So [Jesus] called them to Himself and said to them in parables: ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.’” (Mark 3:23-25)

“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)

 

SUPREME COURT HALTS LEGALIZATION OF GAY MARRIAGE IN VIRGINIA

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay Wednesday halting gay marriage from taking effect in Virginia this week, signaling the justices are inching closer to taking up a case that could definitively decide between the rights of states to recognize marriages and the federal government’s guarantee of equal protection.

Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr., who handles such requests from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, referred the matter to the full court, which ordered the Virginia stay until federal appeals in the case are resolved. The order did not elaborate on the reasoning behind the decision.

Had the high court not intervened, same-sex couples could have begun getting married in Virginia on Thursday, and the state would have had to recognize marriages performed in other states.

The development came as little surprise. Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a similar order in January after a federal judge ruled Utah’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional.

The fast pace at which the Virginia case has hurtled through the judicial system puts it in the running to advance to the Supreme Court if justices choose to hear a gay marriage case this coming term, said Carl Tobias, professor at the University of Richmond Law School. Utah and Oklahoma have also requested that cases from their states be heard by the court.

“There is a little bit of a race to the Supreme Court going on, at least between Virginia and Utah,” Mr. Tobias said.

But he noted that with other gay marriage cases still working their way through the pipeline in a number of circuits, the court could wait to see additional outcomes before selecting a case to consider. Additional cases are expected to be heard in the 7th Circuit and the 9th Circuit.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has heard arguments in six cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, and it could be the first to uphold gay marriage bans in the wake of more than 20 consecutive rulings in the past eight months. Conflicting rulings from different federal appeals courts would likely increase the chance the Supreme Court would decide to address the issue.

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring, a Democrat who supports gay marriage, asked the Supreme Court to grant the stay in his state to avoid the kind of uncertainty that came with divergent rulings in Utah.

The Supreme Court’s stay in Utah, which halted gay marriages in the state until federal appeals were exhausted, was issued just over two weeks after a District Court decision legalized the unions. It left uncertain the state’s obligation to recognize the more than 1,000 same-sex marriages performed during the 17 days in which the ban was lifted.

“To avoid [the] kind of legal confusion that might occur in the event there were an adverse ruling later by the Supreme Court, I reluctantly agreed that a stay was appropriate,” Mr. Herring told reporters on Wednesday after the stay was announced.

Mr. Herring said he thought a Supreme Court ruling on the Virginia case “would resolve a number of outstanding legal issues,” and he hoped the case could be the precedent by which gay marriage was legalized nationally.

The attorney general, who announced in January that he would not defend the state’s gay marriage ban, noted that his office has worked to expedite the case and hoped the Supreme Court would consider his request to hear the case.

“To those who are tired of their state not treating them fairly and equally, I am working as hard as I can to fight for equality,” Mr. Herring said.

Some Virginia county court clerks had already begun preparations to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Thursday morning and were ready for a flood of applicants.

Others said they were closely watching for any announcements on the case.

“The office of the clerk, today, tomorrow and always, operates under the law,” said Gerarda Culipher, chief deputy clerk of the Fairfax County Circuit Court.

The case in Virginia involves four plaintiffs. Timothy Bostic and Tony London applied for a marriage license from the Norfolk Circuit Court clerk on July 1 but were denied. Carol Schall and Mary Townley, who have lived in Virginia since 1982, were married in California in 2008 and want their marriage to be recognized by the commonwealth.

The Supreme Court’s order comes a week after a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit, on a 2-1 vote, refused a request for a stay last week and ordered the ban overturned unless the Supreme Court intervened. The appeals court last month upheld a lower court ruling saying Virginia’s constitutional ban on gay marriage violated constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection.

Byron Babione, an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is defending the state’s gay marriage ban, applauded the decision to postpone gay marriages from being conducted.

“Virginians deserve an orderly and fair resolution to the question of whether they will remain free to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman in their laws,” Mr. Babione said in a statement. “By granting our request to place a hold on the 4th Circuit’s decision, the Supreme Court is making clear, as it already did in the Utah marriage case, that it believes a dignified process is better than disorder.”

Virginia’s American Civil Liberties Union spoke out Wednesday against the stay, noting that couples are left without legal protections when they are prevented from marrying.

“We are disappointed that the 14,000 couples we represent in Virginia will have to continue to wait to exercise their fundamental right to marry, or to have their marriages recognized in Virginia,” said Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, executive director of Virginia’s ACLU.

In 2005 Virginia’s General Assembly approved an amendment to the state’s constitutional saying marriage was the union of one man and one woman. The amendment was ratified in 2006 by 57 percent of voters, or around 1.3 million people.

But public opinion on the issue has shifted in Virginia in recent years, with recent polls showing a clear majority now say they support gay marriage. (Contributors: By Matthew Cella and Andrea Noble for The Washington Times)

Prayer focus: For whatever reason(s), the Supreme Court is biding its time before deciding to scrutinize the marriage issue definitively. Sadly, the delay seems to be on political grounds rather than framed by moral considerations. Although several states have voted by large percentages to retain the traditional (and biblical) view of marriage as God designed it, lower court decisions have overturned states’ rights with little thought.  Prayer power is greater than court power. God is calling the U.S. and all nations to acknowledge Him. Pray with wisdom and insight.    

“So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him—“ (Joel 2:13-14a)

“Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Return to Me,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.’” (Zech 1:3)

 

SCHABAS –  ANTI-ISRAEL AND NEW HEAD OF UN GAZA COMMISSION

It’s an outrage: The United Nations appointed Canadian Professor William Schabas as the head of its new commission to investigate Israel’s operations in Gaza.

When asked who most should be tried at the International Criminal Court for war crimes, Schabas said that Benjamin Netanyahu would be his “favorite” to indict. Not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, or Khaled Mashal of Hamas.

He even compared Nobel Peace Laureate Shimon Peres, the former President of Israel, to the President of Sudan who is responsible for the genocide in Darfur.

Schabas pulls no punches on Israel, but remains a steadfast friend of Iran and its genocidal former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He sponsors conferences in Tehran with organizations tied to the fundamentalist, anti-Semitic regime in Iran that demands the annihilation of Israel. He has not said whether he has taken money from the Mullahs. But Schabas frequently defends Ahmadinejad, calling him nothing more than “a provocative politician” and telling the world to stop “exaggerating” his statements.

William Schabas does have some experience sitting on “impartial” tribunals. In 2011, he served on a one-sided, anti-Israel panel whose stated objective was to find Israel guilty of the “crime of apartheid.”

How can this apologist for radical anti-Semites and America-haters, who call for the extermination of the Jewish state, be trusted to lead an investigation into the war in Gaza?

The UN’s appointment of Schabas is just a symptom of the organization’s well-documented anti-Israel bias. UN Watch rightly declared: “It’s absurd…You can’t spend several years calling for the prosecution of someone, and then suddenly act as his judge.”

Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird came out against the appointment of Schabas, calling the new inquiry a “sham.”

The UN Gaza Commission is a kangaroo court with the sole purpose of demonizing Israel. Schabas frequently says “Israel gets off light” at the UN and claims that Hamas – the genocidal, anti-Semitic tyrant of Gaza, which uses Palestinian children as human shields – is not a terrorist organization at all. In fact, Schabas refuses to say whether he will investigate Hamas’ actions at all.

If the UN is serious about investigating war crimes, it will dump William Schabas, drop an investigation into the Middle East’s only democracy, and finally investigate Syria, ISIS, and Hamas for their slaughter of untold numbers of innocent Arabs. If it does not, American taxpayers must ask themselves why they are funding “human rights” commissions led by friends of Ahmadinejad. (Contributor: By Rabbi Shmuley Boteach ad for The Washington Post and http://shmuley.com/petition-to-fight-the-united-nations-appointment-of-william-schabas/)

Rabbi Boteach’s analysis is on target. He says of Professor Schabas’ appointment to this position of investigating Israel, “It’s an outrage.” Fair-minded people will agree. It is an egregious example of blatant anti-Semitism, analogous to the fairy tale where the fox “guards” the hen house. This attitude has been typical of the UN from Israel’s earliest days as a restored nation. Pray for Mr. Netanyahu’s continued resilience and statesmanship. Pray for Israel’s protection. Pray that Hamas will be exposed and censured for its violations of 11 prior cease-fire agreements and now be forced to submit to the newest, just brokered by Egypt.

 “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)

“Restore us, O God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!” (Ps 80:7)

 

ISRAEL SAYS MISSILE STRIKE KILLED HAMAS OFFICIAL HANDLING ‘TERROR FUNDS’

An Israeli missile strike that killed a [Hamas official] riding in a car in Gaza City on Sunday afternoon ripped open the vehicle, revealing bags of American dollars inside and scattering currency on the street, some burned by the blast, according to a witness.

The Gaza authorities did not immediately identify the victim, but the Israeli military identified him as Muhammad al-Ghoul and said he had been responsible for Hamas’s financial transactions and handled its “terror funds.”

The witness, who arrived at the scene minutes after the airstrike, said security men in plain clothes prevented photographers from taking photographs there, kept onlookers away, collected the money and searched what remained of the car for more cash. The witness spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

The missile attack was the latest in a string of recent Israeli airstrikes based on what appears to be precise intelligence about the movements of some Hamas operatives who have emerged from their bunkers as the more intensive fighting has subsided. Last week airstrikes killed three senior Hamas commanders in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, and Israel tried to assassinate the chief of Hamas’s military wing, Mohammed Deif, whose fate remains unknown.

Israeli forces continued on Sunday to strike Palestinians suspected of being militants and buildings in which they are said to operate in Gaza. Militants fired scores of rockets and mortar rounds into Israel.

The Israeli military did not say why those buildings were targeted. In remarks broadcast Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the residents of Gaza “to immediately evacuate any building from which Hamas is carrying out terrorist activity.”

Mr. Netanyahu added: “Any such place is a target for us. In recent days we have proven there is no immunity for those who fire at Israel’s citizens.”

The military wing of Hamas, the Islamic group that dominates Gaza, claimed responsibility for firing mortar rounds at the Erez crossing point on Gaza’s northern border with Israel. The attack wounded four Israeli civilians who were providing humanitarian assistance at the crossing, according to the Israeli authorities.

Israel said it was temporarily closing the crossing, which has been used for several purposes, including for the transfer of hundreds of wounded and sick Gazans for medical treatment in hospitals in Israel, the West Bank and abroad.

The Health Ministry in Gaza said that 16 Palestinians were killed and 52 were wounded in Israeli strikes on Sunday. In the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, artillery shells or missiles hit a home, killing five people, including a mother and her three children. Hours after the strike on Mr. Ghoul’s car at least two missiles hit his home, destroying it.

On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers and four civilians have been killed, including a 4-year-old boy from a small community near the border who was killed by mortar fire. He was first Israeli child to be killed in the current conflict, and he was buried Sunday. (Contributor: By F. Akram and I. Kershner for  The New York Times)

Prayer focus: Instead of our commenting directly on the article, readers should know that Egypt, with the UAE, has just (within the last 24 hours) brokered another cease-fire agreement aimed at stopping hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Those suspicious of Hamas’ motives wonder if they are simply buying time to replenish weapons and re-dig tunnels. Hamas has broken 11 such agreements. Will the leopard change its spots? Pray fervently as you are led. Israel is hated and being denounced for its refusal to allow its own destruction. These are challenging times. The verses cited below will apply more powerfully when Israel returns to the Lord, though they are still God’s covenant people.

“How long, Lord? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire? Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You, and on the kingdoms that do not call on Your name. For they have devoured Jacob, and laid waste his dwelling place. Oh, do not remember former iniquities against us! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet us, for we have been brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; and deliver us, and provide atonement for our sins, for Your name’s sake! Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’” (Ps 79:5-10)

 

LOSSES FROM CALIFORNIA QUAKE COULD TOP $1 BILLION

Early Sunday morning, Franz Oehler’s house blew apart.

“My girlfriend and I were thrown straight in the air, and the windows exploded,” said Mr. Oehler, a 44-year-old creative director, whose home is nestled among some of the country’s most celebrated vineyards.

A magnitude-6.0 earthquake hit the Napa Valley at 3:20 a.m. Sunday — the strongest temblor in the San Francisco Bay Area in a quarter-century — destroying both opulent and modest homes, rupturing dozens of water and gas mains and causing injuries, mostly minor, to more than 100 people.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, and directed state resources toward a recovery effort in Napa.

At least 120 people had been treated at the emergency room at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, said Vanessa deGier, a hospital spokeswoman. Most of the injuries were minor lacerations or abrasions caused by falling debris. But three patients were in critical condition, including a child who had been crushed by a falling fireplace. No deaths had been confirmed as of Sunday evening.

The shaking was felt as far off as Salinas, almost 120 miles away, and the United States Geological Survey estimated that economic losses could be up to $1 billion.

Despite the widespread damage, scientists said California was fortunate to escape greater devastation from the earthquake, which exposed gaps in the state’s preparedness. The historic 1906 San Francisco earthquake was about 500 times larger than Sunday’s temblor.

“It is truly small — small compared to what California has experienced in its recorded history,” said Ross S. Stein, a geophysicist at the United States Geological Survey.

“We owe wine country in part to earthquakes,” which created the Napa Valley terrain that is so suitable to vineyards, he said. “We all want to enjoy the fruits of the quakes, so we all have to prepare for the downside, too.”

However geologically small, the earthquake unleashed chaos in many parts of the Napa Valley, a serene escape known for its fine dining.

At Mr. Oehler’s home, a skylight shattered and stone sculptures flew into the air. The swimming pool cracked open, flooding his steep hillside. “There was noise everywhere from the earthquake and the walls cracking,” he said.

From the terrace he said he saw flames rising in the valley below.

Several fires broke out following the earthquake, including one at a mobile home park that destroyed six homes, the authorities said.

Two residents of the park, Lynda and Bob Castell-Blanch, both 60, were jarred awake by a loud thump, followed by rolling. The park soon shot up in flames.

“It was violent,” said Mr. Castell-Blanch, whose home was not among those that burned. “Things were flying all over the place. There was a woman screaming from one of the houses, so loud it was total mayhem.”

Because a nearby water main had ruptured, however, firefighters were unable to tap into the hydrant to fight the fire, and had to truck in water from elsewhere.

The Castell-Blanchs said they had enough time to gather their cats and Mr. Castell-Blanch’s vintage guitars before fleeing. “That was all we had time for,” he said.

They went to a nearby store, the Ranch Market, to try to buy water, but the shelves had been emptied. The smell of wine from broken bottles wafted through the store.

Arik Housley, the store’s owner, estimated at least $100,000 in damage at the two markets he owned in the area. Like many people, he said he did not carry earthquake insurance because the premium was high.

Much of the heaviest damage was in downtown Napa, where large sections of brick had fallen from the county courthouse and other historic buildings. Three of the buildings that sustained severe damage had not been retrofitted to withstand earthquakes, city officials said, while the retrofits on some other older buildings did not hold, and large sections of brick and concrete collapsed onto the sidewalks.

More than 30 buildings across the city were deemed uninhabitable.

“Certainly, a few of the retrofits didn’t fare that well,” said a Napa County supervisor, Mark Luce. He added that many more buildings, including the county administrative building, had interior damage including broken sprinkler lines and fallen ceilings that would be costly to repair. “The newer buildings that met current standards fared better, but there’s still a lot of mess to clean up inside,” he said.

“We’ll look at what happened with these couple buildings where we saw these failures, and see if there’s anything we missed,” Mr. Luce added. “We’ve had a live test of what a 6.0 earthquake will do.”

Kelly Houston, a spokesman for the California Emergency Management Agency, said the quake was also a reminder that virtually the entire state — not just Los Angeles and San Francisco — was at risk.

“This is definitely a wake-up call, especially for the people in Napa Valley,” Mr. Houston said. “Maybe folks there think they don’t have to worry as much because they don’t live in San Francisco.”

In the hills outside this city, winemakers like David Duncan, whose family owns the Silver Oak Winery, rued the loss of “irreplaceable” wine that fell from the shelves in one of its cellars.

“It was everything — hundreds of bottles of broke,” Mr. Duncan said.

Mr. Oehler, as he picked his way through shards of marble and glass, also counted an irreplaceable loss, his home.

“We spent a lot of money and love on this place” he said. “It’s all gone now. It’s cracking and sliding down the hill.” (Contributor: By Quintin Hardy and Ian Lovett for The New York Times)

Prayer focus: Californians know they live on “slippery” ground and face unexpected and frequent danger from earthquakes. However, that doesn’t make it easier when a quake actually occurs, as it did last Sunday morning in the Napa Valley area. Give thanks that even with injuries, no loss of life was reported. Pray for those who must build homes and businesses all over again or relocate if losses are too great. Californians are greatly suffering, first from the severe drought farther south in the state, and second, from the economic losses. Pray for those hardest hit, and that in their loss and suffering, many will find God’s grace, solace, and salvation. Christians have eternal hope, and so suffer loss differently than the unsaved, so we may pray for many witnessing opportunities.

“The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” (Ps 9:9-10)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.” (Ps 46:1-3) 

 

PETITION CALLS FOR ISLAMIC STATE DESTRUCTION

An emphatic petition calls for the U.S. and the international community to stop the Islamic State now. The 11,000-plus signers hail from multiple disciplines and political persuasions; they include Dr. Ben Carson, Martin Peretz, editor in chief of the New Republic; Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family; Kenneth R. Weinstein, CEO of the Hudson Institute; and many others. The American Enterprise Institute is represented, as is the Southern Baptist Convention, the Manhattan Institute, plus Harvard, Stanford and Catholic University, among many institutions.

“It is imperative that the United States and the international community act immediately and decisively to stop the genocide and prevent the further victimization of religious minorities there is no time to waste,” the petition reads, underscoring support for a comprehensive plan that includes more airstrikes, significant humanitarian assistance and military aid to local forces opposing the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS.

“We, the undersigned, are Democrats, Republicans and independents. We are conservatives, liberals and moderates. We represent various religious traditions and shades of belief,” the plea states.

“It is gratifying to see so many people uniting across historic lines of religious and ideological division to call upon our leaders to provide the support necessary for local forces in Iraq to defeat ISIS and end the genocidal atrocities it is committing against Christians, Yazidis, Shia Muslims and those Sunni Muslims who reject their violent extremism,” Robert P. George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University and former chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, tells Inside the Beltway. He launched the public petition 10 days ago.

Obama: No Iraq Rescue; Further Airdrops Unlikely

President Barack Obama on Thursday promised to expand U.S. humanitarian relief to Iraqis threatened by the advancing army of the Islamic State militants. He took credit for alleviating the genocide threat to thousands…

“We believe that nothing short of the destruction of ISIS as a military force will suffice to protect these victims and prevent ISIS from conquering Iraq and Syria in its fanatical effort to establish a caliphate. That means increasing our airstrikes against ISIS forces and aiding the Kurds and other allies on the ground in Iraq with the strategic and intelligence support they need to get the job done. ISIS can be stopped, but the longer it survives as a military force, and the more victories it gains, the more dangerous it becomes — and not only in the Middle East,” Mr. George continues.

“One thing we’ve learned about ISIS is that these are people who do not threaten idly. They tell you want they are going to do, then they do it — unless you stop them. They have made clear their intentions not only in Iraq and Syria, but in Europe and the United States. They are coldblooded murderers. They are serious, and we would be fools not to take their threats seriously,” he concludes. See the petition here: IraqRescue.org. (Contributor: By Jennifer Harper – The Washington Times)

Prayer focus: This non-partisan petition is evidence that national opinion is joining that of Western Europe (Netherlands, U.K., and elsewhere) to call for the destruction of the Islamic State (IS), the ruthless, murdering sect that appears to have no limit to its evil intentions. Pray for resolute courage for President Obama and military leaders to know how to act and the wisdom to know when. As a sidebar, Hamas has taken a huge “PR” hit, as it now has been grouped with Nigeria’s Boko Haram and the fierce Islamic State in Iraq. World opinion is growing that these groups are one in spirit, bent on relentless killing without decency or mercy, and should be eliminated as the barbarians they are, a blot on the face of the earth, and a threat to every other nation. Please pray as you are led.

“The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” (Ps 9:17)

“Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord; nor are there any works like Your works. All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name. For You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God.” (Ps 86:8-10)

 

MORE THAN HALF OF CHRISTIAN MEN ADMIT TO WATCHING PORNOGRAPHY

A new study by the Barna Group shows that 54 percent of Christian men and 15 percent of Christian women admitted to viewing pornography at least once a month, compared to 65 percent of men and 30 percent of women who identified as non-Christian and said they watched porn at the same rate.

Of the Christian men who did look at pornography, the majority did so several times per week.

Some psychologists and sociologists said it’s not surprising that men of any faith act out on basic human urges.

But Joel Hesch, president and founder of Prove Men Ministries, which commissioned the study, said the results point to a frightening pattern of addiction.

“It needs to be openly addressed in the church, a safe place within the church,” Mr. Hesch said. “[Pornography] is addicting. It is a problem not just affecting individuals, but families. The church needs to be the front-runner in this. Heaping guilt and shame on a person only leads them to escape into the things we’re trying to rescue them from.”

The survey was taken earlier this year, and the results were compiled from the responses of 1,000 U.S. adults. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, at a 95 percent confidence level.

The survey did not break down Christian men who viewed pornography by their ages. But the poll did have age groupings for all male respondents, and 79 percent between the ages of 18 and 30 said they watch pornography at least monthly, while 29 percent of them said they view it daily.

The definition of pornography was left up to the respondents, Mr. Hesch said.

Jeremy Thomas, assistant professor of sociology at Idaho State University, said any survey involving sex is going to be limited in its data.

“It’s hard to get good information on sex, generally because people tend to be hesitant to respond,” he said. “One of the other things to realize is you could be getting a response bias. It could very well be religious and non-religious people view porn more or less [the same], but religious persons are a little more hesitant to say so.”

However, Christians might be more likely to self diagnose themselves as addicts. According to the survey, 15 percent of men who identified as Christian said they thought they might be addicted to porn, compared to 6 percent of non-Christian men who considered themselves addicted.

The trouble is that “pornography addiction” doesn’t exist in the professional mental health community, said Joshua Grubbs, who focuses on clinical psychology of religion and addictive behavior patterns at Case Western University.

“It’s not a diagnosis that’s recognized,” he said. “I know there are some people who believe it is a diagnosis, but it’s not recognized by the community at large.”

Though research is just beginning on why people might be anxious to admit their addiction, Mr. Grubbs said religion does play a big part of it.

“Religious people are more likely to say they feel addicted,” he said. “That seems to be stemming from religious people disapproving of pornography.”

The thinking, he continued, is “I’m religious. I think pornography is bad, but I’m a sexual person who thinks pornography is enjoyable. What would cause me to do something that is bad? Maybe I’m addicted.”

That doesn’t mean pornography can’t have a negative impact on someone’s life, said William Struthers, a psychology professor at Wheaton College.

“What happens is [pornography viewing] can become an addictive pattern if they’re not careful,” Mr. Struthers said. “You may find those individuals who are feeling low or down, now they can view pornography, they can sexually act out, and the high of the orgasm gives them that moment of ‘OK, that’s gone, everything’s better.’”

For Christians, faith can put them in a bind.

“Religion can serve to provide a richer understanding of sexuality. It can add spiritual and moral dimensions,” Mr. Struthers said. “The problem is this cuts the other way. You can have higher highs but lower lows when committing sexual transgressions.

“They can have a better understanding of sexuality, but that religion causes them to become much more compulsive in the ways in which they think about sexuality. That’s why I think they’ve gotten the message wrong,” he said. “The church’s message is ‘Sex is bad. Don’t do it until you’re married.’”

Some churches are having to re-brand their teaching on sexuality, whether by choice or because the culture is changing.

“Churches will lose this sexual red herring,” said Eric Anderson, a sociologist at the University of Winchester who focuses on masculinity and sexuality. “They lost on premarital sex, on masturbation, on gay sex, on anal sex among heterosexuals and they will lose this war against pornography.

“If you want evidence, all you have to do is look at the research, at what percent use pornography, and how young they start using it.”

Perhaps the way for everyone to win is to embrace both the human and spiritual urges of Christians, said Mr. Grubbs.

“That’s what we do, what humans do. If you feel bad about sex in general, it’s going to create problems for you elsewhere,” he said. “Let’s talk about what’s going on in your head, so we can avoid those problems elsewhere.” (Contributor: By Meredith Somers for The Washington Times)

Prayer focus: This extensive survey indicates that that many Christians have a self-confessed attraction, perhaps addiction, to pornography. Statistics show that men are far more involved than women. The question is, why isn’t the Church ministering effectively to its men? Can the Church do so? Other areas of sin are addressed and overcome, why not this? Pray that Christian men and churches will awaken to the depth of the problem and find ways to minister freedom and overcoming. Intercede strongly for church leaders to be willing to find and offer effective ministry.

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Phil 4:8)

 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt 5:27-28)

 

MISSIONARIES: ‘REFUGEES IN IRAQ TURNING TO CHRIST AMID ISLAMIC ATTACKS’

Native missionaries in Iraq say God is using them to spread hope and faith in Jesus Christ among thousands fleeing Islamic State militants, and many become Christians.

“In a crisis like this, we are experiencing a time of revival and awakening everywhere,” a mission leader said, speaking on condition of anonymity amid security concerns.

“God is not just moving people geographically, He is moving in their hearts, as well.”

Among them Norya, a Syrian refugee “who got saved in a [refugee] camp in Iraq,” another mission leader said.

“She lost five children and her husband when a rocket fired by Syrian government forces toward the terrorists landed on her house causing their death,” the missionary added in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife.

“She sings hymns with us at our church group meetings.”

Norya’s story is one of several sent to Christian Aid Mission (CAM), a group supporting native missionaries, including in the Kurdish region of Iraq, home to many refugees.

Prayers Said

Prayers were said in the Kurdish town of Akra, where some of the displaced are living in buildings originally built to hold Iranian prisoners during Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s reign, missionaries added. “Each bathroom is being shared by some 10 families. Most of the others live in a refugee camp and the only school is without a roof. It collapsed during the winter,” CAM told BosNewsLife.

Help Christian children who are refugees from Islamist terror

Yet, CAM said teachers not only asked “ministry workers for help to replace the windows and roof, even with just a plastic tarp.” The workers also “prayed with the teachers and shared the Gospel with many of the students”.

While many refugees demanded food, missionaries suggested that several asked for the ‘Bread of Life’, a reference to Jesus. “As they were going from tent to tent in the Akra camp, Gospel workers came upon Abu Mustafa, a 50-year-old man who has three girls with cerebral atrophy and whose wife was killed. Mustafa was blaming God for his tragic situation, but allowed the workers to read the Bible to him and pray for him,” CAM recalled.

“This is the first time I feel relief,” Mustafa reportedly said. “For three years, I couldn’t smile or feel safe, but now I feel differently. I have peace in my heart. Please pray for my girls. I believe Jesus can heal them, and heal me, from the inside.”

“Destitute Masses”

CAM said the missionaries told “destitute masses crowding refugee camps” about hope in Jesus Christ. They claim He revealed Himself as God’s only begotten Son, giving eternal life to anyone who believes in Him.

“The workers go from tent to tent, sitting down with frightened families who have fled [Islamic State] militants” formerly known as ISIS, CAM added.

“The merciless Islamic terrorist group…succeeded last week in purging all non-Muslims from every town and village in the Nineveh region.”

Kurdish forces had been protecting the last remaining cities in the region, including Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town in Iraq, but they were outgunned by militants, according to witnesses. “Arguably one of the most extreme and brutal terrorist groups in history” control a huge portion of Iraq, forcing hundreds of thousands of Christians and others refusing to embrace Islam or to leave their homes, CAM explained.

“They have kidnapped, raped, and sold women. They’ve beheaded children” and reportedly sliced a five-year-old boy in half last week, according to CAM missionaries.

Many Christians

Many Christians and others refusing to embrace Islam flee the Islamic State militants.

More than 200,000 people, many of them Christians, fled to the Kurdish city of Irbil, 55 miles (88 kilometers) east of Qaraqosh, “with literally nothing but the clothes on their backs,” missionaries told BosNewsLife. “Their homes and churches were burned to the ground,” as part of the militants campaign to establish a strict Islamic state.

What would usually be a 45-minute drive between Qaraqosh and Irbil, took fleeing masses reportedly 12 hours. Over two million internally displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees, also fleeing the militants, are packed in the Irbil region, aid workers say.

“These have filled every building in the city beyond capacity, leaving thousands to live and sleep on the streets. For those people without shelter, ministry workers organize “sleeping groups,” where a large number of families gather together to sleep in one area for safety,” CAM said.

Amid the misery however, “the Lord’s hand is clearly upon us and protecting us from evil,” reported a mission leader. “Even though some of us are going through trials, we believe strongly that the Lord is taking us to another level of faith and a higher place of blessing.”

Native missionaries include volunteers from local churches and house churches, all evangelical believers with at least basic Bible training, CAM said.

Searching Supplies

The CAM backed workers buy supplies from local markets to distribute to those who have been forced from their homes by militants.

UN refugee agency has been overwhelmed by Christian and other refugees.

CAM said the greatest needs are food, clothing, mattresses, medicine, fuel for transportation, as well as Bibles and worker support.

“In addition to their need for prayer and spiritual strength from the Lord, the workers have personal needs. At the end of the day when they return to their homes, they have to take care of their own families,” a missionary stressed. (Contributor: By  Stefan J. Bos for Bos News Life and Religious Freedom Coalition)

Prayer and Praise focus: Give thanks for this news of those under such duress turning to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Pray for these new believers who have become followers of our Lord under the most trying circumstances imaginable. Pray that they will escape to find ways to serve God. Once again we see this truth: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Tertullian, second-century Church Father). Give thanks for the faithful missionaries who shared the Gospel and invest their lives in furthering God’s kingdom. In this severe persecution, God is still powerful to save.

“So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Rom 1:15-16)

For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!’” (Rom 10:13-15)

 

WIDESPREAD METHANE LEAKAGE OFF EAST COAST OCEAN FLOOR

Pound for pound, the Environmental Protection Agency says the [methane gas] effect is 20 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. And though its lifetime in the atmosphere is substantially shorter than carbon dioxide, it’s “more efficient at trapping radiation.”

Now scientists have determined that 570 vents, called seeps, are leaking methane gas in the most unlikely of all places: the ocean floor just off the East Coast. The findings, published on Sunday in Nature Geoscience, suggest they’re emitting as much as 90 tons of greenhouse gasses every year and appear to debunk earlier belief that there were only three East Coast seeps beyond the continental shelf.

And if there are more of these seeps — a lot more — it could represent a previously unknown source of damaging carbon emissions.

“The discovery of widespread methane seepage on the northern U.S. Atlantic margin was indeed surprising,” lead author Adam Skarke of Mississippi State University wrote The Washington Post in an e-mail. “This is because [it] lacks the geological properties commonly known to be associated with widespread seafloor methane emissions.” It’s the first time, he said, that widespread leakage has been discovered in a non-Arctic location that’s both free of large gas reserve and substantial tectonic activity.

“Effects of these [methane] plumes on climate and ocean chemistry are not yet clear, but could extend well beyond the plumes themselves,” the journal Nature said in a press release.

The paper found that the vents, which are at depths from 800 to 2,000 feet, have a sprawling swath. They reach hundreds of miles from Cape Hatteras, N.C., to the Georges Bank southeast of Nantucket, Mass. “Widespread seepage hadn’t been expected,” the paper said.

The finding raises a number of questions. First on the list: Are there a lot more? The paper says the discovery suggests “tens of thousands” of similar vents could pockmark the ocean floor, emitting vast quantities of methane gas. He told the BBC that their number could be as high as 30,000.

If true, that would mean there is a significant — and heretofore unknown — addition to global carbon admissions, throwing previous estimates into question. “Such seeps would represent a source of global seabed methane emissions that have not been fully accounted for in previous carbon budgets,” the paper stated.

Close-up of methane hydrate observed at a depth of 3,500 feet, near where bubble plumes were detected in previous sonar data. Pressure and cold temperatures create methane hydrate where molecules of natural gas are trapped in an ice-like cage of water molecules. Methane hydrates, a hydrate patch and chemosynthetic communities were seen during this dive, but no active seepage was observed. Seeps were investigated at other locations. (NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program)

Worse, the seeps aren’t fresh ones. “The fact that it’s there in the quantities that it is — and [that] it is exposed — suggests that indeed the processes at these locations have been going on … at least 1,000 years,” Skarke told NBC News. He said he didn’t visit all the seeps, with the most concentrated clusters apparently located off the Chesapeake Bay, but “the ones we visited suggest a very prolonged seepage.”

There is one bit of good news: The depth of the East Coast seeps are so deep that the methane gas isn’t likely reaching the atmosphere. “The methane is dissolving into the ocean at depths of hundreds of meters and being oxidized into” carbon dioxide, Skarke told the BBC. “But it is important to say we simply don’t have any evidence in this paper to suggest that any carbon coming from these seeps is entering the atmosphere.”

It’s unclear from Skarke’s research the precise source of the methane gas. In most circumstances, seeps occur in areas of tectonic activity — like the West Coast — or in oil- or gas-rich basins, like the Gulf of Mexico. The East Coast isn’t known for its tectonic activity, but it’s possible deep reservoirs of gas are fueling some of the seeps, one researcher explained to the New York Times.

Meaning: The discovery could interest a few oil companies. But Skarke’s not buying the economic potential of the methane gas. “There is no evidence to say that [this is] related to conventional gas reservoirs,” he told the BBC. “So there is no evidence to say they are a recoverable resource.” (Contributor: By Terrence McCoy for The Washington Post. Mr. McCoy is a foreign affairs writer at the Washington Post.)

Prayer focus: We have two aspects in handling such articles and the intercessory implications. First, we note the physical findings themselves, whether in outer space through the Hubble telescope, or in the depths of the sea, such as these methane gas “seeps” from the ocean floor, apparently part of the Creator’s complex design. Christians will, of course, worship, realizing how small man is and how mighty and majestic is the Lord of the universe.  Second, what are the implications for prayer? Here, we run into politics and the fear factors that arise from those who see the global warming or “climate change” dangers. Pray against the fear factors, and give thanks for God’s control over all things pertaining to life and godliness.

The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters. Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Ps 24:1-5)

“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, all sheep and oxen — even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!” (Ps 8:3-9)

On watch in Washington August 27, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington August 20, 2014

August 20th, 2014

On Watch in Washington August 20, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

U.S.  SCORES MILITARY VICTORY OVER ISLAMIC STATE AT MOSUL DAM

The United States conducted a major air assault against the Islamic State at Mosul Dam over the weekend, striking two dozen targets over twenty-four hours with fighter jets, bombers, attack planes and drones.

The attack reportedly succeeded in forcing a retreat by the Islamist forces, which have swept throughout cities and key infrastructure sites in recent weeks.

The US strikes were coordinated with an advance by Kurdish peshmerga forces, which encircled Islamic State fighters at the strategically vital energy facility.  The Islamic State retreated on Sunday morning from the dam and it is now under the control of the Kurds.

The fundamentalist Sunni army originally conquered the dam — which provides water and electricity to many cities in northern Iraq, including Mosul, the country’s second largest population center — on August 7. US military officials warned throughout the Iraq War that the dam’s infrastructure is in a troubling state of disrepair, and Washington feared this month that the Islamic State would not be able to operate the dam properly.

Failure to keep the dam operational risked a catastrophic water leak, risking the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis down river.

The Islamic State retreat marks the second American success this week, after the US military successfully broke a siege the group was conducting against Yazidi religious minorities on Mount Sinjar.

The US conducted seven airstrikes against targets at the base of the mountain, creating corridors for escape, officials describe.

But in a demonstration of their persistence, the Islamist group killed at least 80 Yazidi men and enslaved “hundreds” of women in a small, nearby Yazidi town, according to local officials.

The Islamic State seeks to establish a fundamentalist Sunni “caliphate,” in observance with strict Sharia law, from Tel Aviv to Baghdad. The group has successfully taken control of territories throughout eastern Syria and northern Iraq, including Mosul, and Raqqa in Syria, the group’s self-described “capital” city.

The Kurds, who live in a semi-autonomous region in the north of Iraq and have proven loyal, moderate allies of Washington, have long dreamed of independence from central governments in Baghdad which oppressed the non-Arab ethnic group for decades under former dictator Saddam Hussein.

Tensions were also high under outgoing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki who clashed with them over budgets and oil.

The Kurds since June have capitalized on the chaos in northern Iraq, taking over oilfields in the disputed city of Kirkuk.

But a routing by the Islamic State, which seized heavy weapons from thousands of Iraqi soldiers who fled its onslaught, shattered the myth that the Kurds were highly effective and fearless fighters. Most of them fled.

Iraq’s new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, faces the task of easing Sunni-Shi’ite tensions that have revived a sectarian civil war and Kurdish independence ambitions financed by oil exports. (Contributor: Michael Wilner for The Jerusalem Post – Reuters also contributed to this report)

These mid-week alerts are to inform, with the goal of encouraging focused, unified, prayer as a spiritual weapon, in cooperation with God’s purposes. Iraq is an important but difficult prayer focus, as the reported situation changes every day. Pray for Christians and other non-Muslims, including many children, who are being killed or isolated and deprived of food. President Obama has authorized some military air support but said he does not want to commit U.S. forces to more all-out war. A major prayer focus among “watchers on the wall” is for world opinion to rise up against these extreme terrorists and the barbaric atrocities of what is now called the Islamic State, or IS. Pray accordingly. 

“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of [your places of worship and fellowship]; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.” (John 16:1-3)

“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt 24:10-14)

 

JUDGE RULES TEN COMMANDMENTS MONUMENT MUST GO

A federal judge last Thursday ruled that a New Mexico city must remove a monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments from the lawn in front of Bloomfield City Hall.

Senior U.S. District Judge James A. Parker said in his ruling in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that the monument amounts to government speech and has the “principal effect of endorsing religion.”

Because of the context and history surrounding the granite monument, Parker said Bloomfield clearly violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. He gave a Sept. 10 deadline for its removal.

The suit was filed in 2012 on behalf of two Bloomfield residents who practice the Wiccan religion.

Peter Simonson, ACLU of New Mexico executive director, called the decision a victory for protection against government-supported religion.

“We firmly support the right of individuals, religious groups, and community associations to publicly display religious monuments, but the government should not be in the business of picking which sets of religious beliefs belong at City Hall,” Simonson said Friday.

According to previous court testimony, plaintiff Jane Felix said the display “says that anybody who doesn’t agree with this monument on city grounds is an outsider.”

“It has no place on City Hall property,” Felix said in March.

City attorneys say private individuals erected and paid for the monument under a 2007 city resolution. That resolution allows people to erect historical monuments of their choosing.

Bloomfield Mayor Scott Eckstein said he was surprised the judge would rule against “a historical document.”

“The intent from the beginning was that the lawn was going to be used for historical purposes, and that’s what the council voted on,” Eckstein told the Daily Times (http://bit.ly/XMgAqu).

The city has 30 days to file an appeal. City attorney Ryan Lane said he will review the opinion and tell the city council if there is basis for one.

The 6-foot-tall monument was erected in July 2011 by a former city councilor and weighs 3,000 pounds. (Contributor: Associated Press and Washington Times)

This is nothing more than an attempt to remove a treasured icon of religious identity from the American landscape. Here the judiciary, through Judge James A. Parker, has “created” law without regard to the city resolution that saw the monument as having historical significance with its Judeo-Christian roots. This goes beyond Bloomfield, NM. Pray and call out to God for national revival that will bring our nation, in repentance, back to its God-fearing roots. Intercessors should bear in mind the potential irony that the U.S. Constitution could be rendered null and void in court simply because it portrays strong belief in God as Creator and is, therefore, religious.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:7-9)

 

U.S. PRESSURE AT AFRICAN SUMMIT: ACCEPT HOMOSEXUALITY OR ELSE

According to the Obama Administration at the recent U.S.- Africa Leaders Summit held in the nation’s capital, support of the homosexual agenda is the key to successful economic development for African nations — and the ticket for receiving billions of dollars in foreign aid.

“Some of the incredible cultures of some of our U.S. businesses that do a really good job promoting people and maintaining a meritocracy, and treating women equally, and treating people of different races and faiths and sexual orientations fairly and equally, and making sure that there are typical norms of how you deal with people in contracts and respect legal constraints — all those things I think can then take root in a country like Zimbabwe or any other country,” President Barack Obama told leaders at the summit. “Hopefully, governments are encouraging that, not inhibiting that.”

As crises on the African continent continue to mount, including the Ebola outbreak sweeping across nations, Islamic militants attacking Christians in Nigeria and militias clashing in Libya, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden didn’t miss a step in promoting the normalization and endorsement of homosexual behavior. This uncanny approach to foreign policy was addressed by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ).

“I do think that, unfortunately, there’s been an obsession by some within the administration — and that goes for the president himself — to promote the abortion agenda and the LGBT agenda in our foreign policy,” Smith told Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on the “Washington Watch” radio broadcast. “These issues are what drives this administration in much of our foreign policy in Africa.”

Jumping aboard the h-agenda to economic prosperity

Vice President Joe Biden has also been reported to play an integral role in making sure that the U.S.’s foreign policy is used as a vehicle for promoting homosexuality. In a speech addressing the incessant concerns of African leaders about how they can boost their nations’ economy and development in the midst of war, disease and poverty, Biden stood beside the president’s overseas homosexual agenda.

Pres. Obama speaking made the steps quite clear that nations must take to pull in more aid, Biden emphasized that African leaders must work to ensure that their governments become increasingly gay-friendly and accommodating, stressing that this policy alignment will bring increased levels of investment, along with talented personnel from nations in the West.

“There are certain common ingredients to success in the 21st century that have become self-evident,” Biden declared. “The need for economic integration; a court system that adjudicates disputes fairly; a commitment to invest in all of a society’s people and respect their rights, because countries that respect citizens’ equal rights no matter what their gender or religion, no matter who they love, tend to be the … most attractive to attracting international talent and international investment.”

Obama wasted little time to use financial incentives to encourage leaders from 56 African nations to enforce policies that promote the nationwide cultural acceptance of homosexual behavior, which begin with increasing the legal protections and privileges for the LGBTQ community.

“They recognize that that’s how the world as a whole is increasingly moving in that direction,” Obama explained at the conference, noting that people from all “sexual orientations” need to be treated “equally and fairly” in every facet of public life. “And over time, you will see an Africa that is driven by individual entrepreneurs and private organizations, and governments will be responsive to their demands.”

This was said by the president in response to an inquiry at the summit’s Q&A session, where he capitalized on the opportunity to urge business leaders and government officials to exude an acceptance and tolerance of homosexual behavior, as witnessed in Western nations.

No support of homosexuality [no sin against God’s laws means]…no funds

Threats by Western nations to terminate humanitarian aid to countries refusing to endorse and protect homosexuality continue to grow.

“Many of these countries deeply resent it because they are profoundly pro-marriage and profoundly pro-life,” says Smith, who maintains that some countries not in compliance with the internationally pushed homosexual agenda have forfeited much aid. “But when your foreign aid is being limited or conditioned on those two issues [homosexuality and abortion], there are some, but thankfully not many, in these governments who begin to weaken.”

Homosexual pride flagThe ultimatums given by the president and vice president for African nations to fully support pro-homosexual policies or surrender aid are not new, and because homosexual behavior is illegal in most African countries that overwhelmingly support bans on such activity, some leaders have become upset by the aggressive push.

Just last year, Obama greatly offended the heads of state of several African nations when he publicly condemned their laws against homosexual behavior while making a $100-million African tour addressing the AIDS crisis. Another objection to the West’s forceful promotion of the homosexual agenda abroad was vehemently stated by the African, Pacific and Caribbean Group of States in a resolution that publicly denounced continued attempts by Western nations to blackmail African countries into enforcing laws that protect homosexual behavior in order to continue receiving charitable aid.

Obama repeatedly lashed out against recently passed legislation that targets homosexual men and women, including new laws adopted in Uganda. Even though Obama’s public condemnation of laws reflecting the widely accepted traditional values held in most African nations is not predicted to mainstream homosexuality across the continent anytime soon, it is feared that needy governments will start to cave in to the agenda — unable to pay the financial cost of resistance.

Giving homosexual activists the world stage

Described by many as being the most pro-homosexual president in our nation’s history, Obama did not let down the LBBT community — giving a key “gay” activist a platform to promote the normalization of homosexuality, but he was discontent that it was not enough.

Joe Biden“The Obama Administration has unequivocally demonstrated global leadership on the human rights of LGBT people, and the president will leave a legacy for his engagement with international civil society,” stated Human Rights First Advocacy counsel Shawn Gaylord. “That is why it is most disappointing that the White House chose to keep these issues literally on the margins in side events, and exclude civil society and human rights defenders from the same White House meetings corporate CEOs and investors were invited to.”

Gaylord was speaking out of frustration that his “robust side events were not widely attended by the leaders who most need to hear these messages.” He regretted that he and other homosexual activists did not receive individual invitations to partake in the presidential-level discussions taking place between top business investors and world leaders, declaring the summit a “missed opportunity.”

This interpretation of the event as not catering to the demands of the LGBT community didn’t jive with National Security Council Spokesperson Ned Price.

“The Obama Administration has long spoken out — including with our African partners — in support of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals,” Price announced, adding that the administration is as committed as ever to promoting ‘gay’ rights abroad. “The Summit has provided an opportunity to continue these conversations.”

A new legacy

Also attending the summit was former President George W. Bush, who launched a $15 billion HIV/AIDS initiative during his administration, minus any strings attached to garner support for the homosexual agenda.

“There’s not many things that convince me to come back to Washington,” Bush stated at the summit, possibly alluding his aversion to the politics currently taking place in the White House.

Partnering with First Lady Michelle Obama, Bush hosted an all-day event set up for the spouses of African leaders.

Even though Obama is continuing Bush’s signature AIDS program, his current focus is on creating his own legacy to build initiatives in Africa that promote his aggressive foreign policy that includes laws protecting abortion and homosexuality across the continent. (Contributor: By Michael F. Haverluck for One News Now)

Prayer focus: Seek God’s mercy to avert judgment. Does God’s Word give the U.S. a superior position to Sodom or Rome or Pompeii of old? Does the Bible convey entitlements that make America immune to divine judgment against these heinous sins in God’s sight? Christians know it does not. The most ardent supporter of President Obama, if a Christian, must acknowledge how far from God’s design this administration is leading the nation. Pressure being put on 56 African national leaders to accept degrading standards of morality in order to qualify for monetary assistance is unconscionable. How long will God be merciful? Where is this kind of “diplomacy” headed? Strong intercession is needed.

 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because… although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful… 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… For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting, being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality [and] who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” (Rom 1:18; 21; 24-28; 32)

 

SOME EVANGELICALS IN REPUBLICAN PARTY ARE FEELING LEFT OUT

Perched on the edge of his chair in a study overflowing with books, Pastor Gino Geraci reels off the Republicans he no longer believes in. His friend Mike Huckabee is an “odd bird” who couldn’t win a general election. Sarah Palin doesn’t inspire him with her “cliched responses to difficult questions.” Rand Paul is “fascinating but frustrating.”

Of all the Republicans weighing a bid for president in 2016, the only one who puts a smile on Geraci’s face is doctor-turned-conservative-media-darling Ben Carson. And yet, Geraci concedes, Carson is “not in the mainstream” and has little chance of ever being elected.

The assessment from Geraci, the founding pastor of Calvary South Denver, a sprawling evangelical church with several thousand congregants, reflects a broader sense of despair among white evangelicals about the Republican Party many once considered their comfortable home.

Many social conservatives say they feel politically isolated as the country seems to be hurtling to the left, with marijuana now legal in Colorado and gay marriage gaining ground across the nation. They feel out of place in a GOP increasingly dominated by tea party activists and libertarians who prefer to focus on taxes and the role of government and often disagree with social conservatives on drugs or gay rights.

Meanwhile, the list of possible front-runners for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination includes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has a limited relationship with evangelical activists, and the libertarian-leaning Paul, the senator from Kentucky who only recently began reaching out to social conservatives. One prominent establishment favorite weighing a bid, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), is a supporter of legal same-sex marriage who claims his views on the issue could help him and his party appeal to younger voters.

Kim Vantrease, a congregant at Calvary South Denver, worries the Republican Party won’t address her main concerns. “I would like to see [Republican leaders] try a little bit better to work together,” she said. (Matthew Staver/For The Washington Post)

The disconnect between social conservatives and the GOP has become a “chasm,” said Gary Bauer, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 and is now head of the Campaign for Working Families. He pointed to the party’s two most recent presidential nominees, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, as examples of candidates who were touted initially as having broad appeal to centrists in the general election but ultimately never inspired evangelicals and lost.

“Values voters have been treated as the stepchildren of the family, while the party has wanted to get on with so-called more electorally popular ideas,” Bauer said. “The Republican base will not tolerate another candidate foisted upon us as a guy who can win.”

Discontent among evangelicals could have implications for the GOP next year as campaigning for the presidential nomination escalates in early-voting states such as Iowa, where social conservatives are a major bloc. Their presence could complicate matters for top-tier candidates such as Christie and Paul who want to remain viable in a general election but will feel pressure to appeal to religious voters. A surge of support for more fiery contenders such as Carson or former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) could turn candidate debates into a spectacle while pulling everyone to the right, affecting the party’s image more broadly.

Even if social conservatives turn out this year to support like-minded candidates for Congress and help propel the GOP into the Senate majority, they could just as easily decide to sit out a presidential race if they feel the party again has produced a nominee who does not represent their interests.

Their absence could mean fewer votes for the Republican nominee in closely contested swing states. And perhaps more important, it could also mean fewer campaign volunteers to staff phone banks and knock on doors. Active churchgoers can be among a campaign’s most effective ground army.

The feelings of disaffection are a decade in the making. Social conservatives, who make up about 40 percent of the Republican electorate, according to polls, fell in love with George W. Bush in 2000. They mobilized for Bush’s reelection four years later after he endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. But many activists felt Bush’s team did not push hard enough on moral issues in his second term. Since then, evangelical Republicans have not coalesced enthusiastically around a viable contender for the presidency.

A number of possible 2016 candidates have been jockeying to become the evangelicals’ favorite — including Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Baptist preacher who won the 2008 Iowa caucuses, as well as Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Paul and Santorum.

Huckabee used a gathering of pastors this month in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to express his amusement that some Republicans seem unwilling to discuss moral issues. He warned the private gathering, according to an account in the Des Moines Register, that “liberty cannot function unless there are people who are willing to live with integrity.”

Huckabee was not available for an interview. He cautioned in a statement, delivered through a spokesman, that the Republican Party “should not take these voters for granted, because as we’ve seen in the past two elections, if the candidates don’t connect with the values voters, [the voters] will simply stay home.”

Bob Vander Plaats, an Iowa activist who hosted several 2016 hopefuls at his Family Leadership Summit this month in Ames, described an exhilarating energy among the 1,500 attendees and a “desperation to ensure we succeed not just in 2016 but in 2014, too.”

In Colorado, Geraci said he and his congregation feel “an angst, in the purest psychological sense of the term.” The pastor sought to inject some degree of optimism, adding: “It’s troubling but not paralyzing. There is a great deal of hope, connected to the possibility that real change will come.”

Even so, as members of Calvary South Denver milled about before a recent talk at the church by author Joel C. Rosenberg on the turmoil in the Middle East, many Republicans expressed concerns about who will take up their causes in the next presidential election.

Kim Vantrease, a writer, said she does not believe the Republican Party will address her main worries — the “moral decline” at home and “the whole world being on fire.”

“I would like to see [Republican leaders] try a little bit better to work together,” she said. “They should be strong, come out fiercely and not use strategy to get elected.” She said they should “actually care for America.”

A Republican since the early 1970s, Randall J. Cohrs, a research professor at the University of Colorado, said he hopes that the next generation of Republican politicians will “live up to the goals that the founding fathers of the party had in mind.” Cohrs could not name a candidate he would back in 2016.

Lynda Watters, an accountant who said she was “ashamed” of her political affiliations but usually votes Republican, is concerned about the future of the country, for her children’s sake. “I think we’re following in the footsteps of Europe towards socialism,” she said.

Scott Terry said he feels the Republican Party is lost. A mortgage salesman, Terry was previously a Paul fan but became concerned over “how much he goes back and forth.”

But Terry has someone in mind for 2016: “I love Dr. Ben Carson. He has common sense and the Christian perspective.”

Many people attending the Rosenberg evening had no preferred candidate in mind for president or brought up Carson.

The African American former surgeon became a sensation in conservative circles in 2013 after proclaiming Obamacare was the “worst thing to happen to this nation since slavery.”

Despite a lack of political experience, Carson, 62, has built up a media profile, thanks to his regular appearances in conservative news outlets. He came in third in the straw poll at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference and is undertaking a national book tour this month titled “One Nation” — which has sold more copies than Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “Hard Choices.” Carson has formed a political action committee, and a super PAC to draft Carson to run for president — doling out “Run Ben Run!” bumper stickers — has brought in $7.3 million in this cycle.

The buzz around Carson underscores the unsettled nature of the GOP’s social-conservative wing. Even as Carson gains traction, some activists fear that evangelicals risk pouring time, money and hope into another doomed candidate, as some did in 2012 with Santorum.

David Lane, an evangelical activist and founder of the American Renewal Project, which organizes church pastors in key states, said he does not have much time for Carson. Lane arranged Huckabee’s appearance with clergy in Cedar Rapids last week and has introduced pastors to Paul, Jindal and Perry.

“Anyone who votes for Ben Carson has no idea what they are doing politically,” Lane said. “He’s got zero chance of becoming president or getting the Republican nomination.”

Carson, in an interview, accused the Republican Party of turning its back on some of its core supporters.

“In the rush to get on the political-

correctness bandwagon, people have abandoned the concept of faith,” he said. “That is where the disconnect is.”

Throughout his book tour, Carson said, he has been “overwhelmed” at the size of the crowds. Hundreds crammed a Charlotte-area bookstore this month to meet him; a video posted online by supporters features interviews with attendees begging Carson to run for president.

“People are very concerned about the future of the nation and the quality of life on the trajectory we are on,” Carson said. “They have lost faith in government.” (Contributor: By Sebastian Payne for The Washington Post – Scott Clement contributed to this report.)

IFA is not political or affiliated with any political party. We did not choose this article to discuss Republican presidential hopefuls for 2016. On the contrary, we urge widespread intercession for the upcoming elections in November, but not to promote or endorse a candidate or party. Instead, we encourage much prayer. Pray for divine wisdom, then look for candidates who best reflect your worldview, and vote according to conscience. Christians can have righteous influence if they vote wisely. Many voices will be saying, “Get out the vote!” Look for opportunity to “Get out the prayer.” Vote, yes, but first pray and intercede for morally upright men and women to be elected.

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

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8)

 

VULNERABLE SENATE DEMS WARY OF OBAMA USING EXECUTIVE POWERS ON IMMIGRATION

Senate Democrats at risk of losing re-election in moderate or conservative-leaning states this fall are wary about President Obama using his executive powers to sidestep Congress and act alone on immigration reform.

Their biggest concerns appear to be that Obama will expand his 2012 executive action that deferred deportation for young illegal immigrants by extending it to as many as 5 million more people living illegally in the United States.

“This is an issue that I believe should be addressed legislatively and not through executive order,” said North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan, one of the most vulnerable Democrats in Republicans’ bid to take control of the Senate.

The president is scheduled to return from a family vacation at some point this weekend to engage in high-level White House talks. Administration officials will not disclose what will be discussed but have said the president does not intend to take action at least on the current immigration crisis — the influx of unaccompanied Central American youths crossing the southern U.S. border — until after summer.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., another vulnerable incumbent, said in a statement that he also is “frustrated with the partisanship in Washington. But that doesn’t give the president carte blanche authority to sidestep Congress when he doesn’t get his way.”

Such statements have immigration advocates on edge.

A coalition of advocacy groups, in a letter to congressional Democrats on Friday, said immigrant families should not have to wait until after the November elections for relief. The organizations said any attempts by Democrats to delay or dilute administrative changes “will be viewed as a betrayal of Latino and immigrant communities with serious and lasting consequences.”

The letter was released because of advocates’ concerns that leading Senate Democrats may be shifting their positions because of political considerations after previously urging Obama to act.

A spokesman for Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., declined to say Friday whether Schumer still believes Obama should act by October, as Schumer had said before. A spokesman for Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat, said the timing of executive action on immigration was up to Obama. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s spokesman had no comment on timing.

Still, Obama looks determined to move forward on his own despite the political risks for Democrats.

He is irritated by House Republicans’ inaction on immigration legislation passed last year by the Senate. The crisis over unaccompanied minors arriving in South Texas does not appear to have deterred him, and the slowdown of arrivals at the border may be shifting the issue away from the spotlight anyway.

The exact contours of Obama’s plans remain unclear.

Advocates and lawmakers who have talked with administration officials anticipate that he could expand a program that granted work permits and deferred deportation to more than 700,000 immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as kids. It could be extended to include parents of those children, as well as parents of U.S. citizens, or potentially others — groups that could add up to perhaps 5 million people.

During a news conference this month, Obama was not specific on his immigration plans. He did say that in the absence of congressional action and in order to address the crisis involving unaccompanied youths, he had to shift resources on his own and exercise prosecutorial discretion.

“I promise you the American people don’t want me just standing around twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Congress to get something done,” Obama said.

Some GOP leaders worry that opposition to a comprehensive overhaul will harm their party in the 2016 presidential race, where Latino turnout is higher than in midterm elections. Hispanics are a fast-growing sector of the presidential electorate and backed Obama overwhelmingly in 2012.

But Republicans also see a nearer-term chance to translate Obama’s potential executive actions into electoral success in November. Republicans need to win a net of six seats in order to take control of the Senate for the remainder of Obama’s term. The GOP already is all but assured of maintaining control of the House.

As Republicans meet with voters in their districts during the summer break, lawmakers have raised alarms about the scope of Obama’s potential plans. In some cases, they are hearing clamors for impeachment in return.

“It is up to Congress to actually go back and restrain this guy,” one voter told GOP Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland at a town hall meeting on the Eastern Shore. Harris had warned that Obama could expand an existing deportation relief program to 4 million or 5 million more people, “competing with Americans for work.”

Republicans have tagged Obama as an “imperial president” who goes around Congress rather than working with lawmakers, and House Republicans have moved to sue him over it. The prospect of the president making a unilateral move on a contentious issue such as immigration has Republican consultants salivating.

“President Obama’s executive amnesty would inject adrenaline into an electorate already eager to send him a message of disapproval,” said Brad Dayspring, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Also problematic for Obama: His apparent plans to act on his own authority come after years of saying that he did not have the legal justification to proceed without Congress.

“If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing them through Congress, I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws,” he said in November. A heckler had interrupted a speech he was giving in San Francisco, prodding him to halt deportations, which have reached record highs on Obama’s watch.

Since then the White House has apparently concluded otherwise.

Democratic pollsters argue that any executive action by Obama could give a political boost to Democrats, not just from newly energized Latino voters but from an electorate at large that would welcome any action from gridlocked Washington.

“Voters are so sick of the do-nothing Congress they don’t mind if there’s an imperial president,” said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. “They would just like someone to get something done about something.” (Contributor: Fox News and The Associated Press)

It is August. President Obama and Congress are on vacation, and immigration and our porous Mexican border are, at least temporarily, out of the headlines. Most Americans seem occupied with other end-of-summer issues. However, President Obama’s governing style will no doubt have a strong effect on the November elections, which is what this article tells us. Our prayer focus is for God to elevate those to office who will uphold the Founders’ principles and call for the country’s return to a conservative view of the Constitution. However, on balance, we also know that “national salvation” does not come from government. “Salvation is of the Lord.” Pray for a voice for righteousness to come from the Church, and for repentance and revival to turn our hearts to God.   

“When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple. Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy. But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.” (Jonah 2:7-9)

 

MISSOURI NATIONAL GUARD HEADED TO FERGUSON

Things in Ferguson have gotten so unruly that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has called National Guard troops to the St. Louis suburb.

“Given these deliberate, coordinated and intensifying violent attacks on lives and property in Ferguson, I am directing the highly capable men and women of the Missouri National Guard … in restoring peace and order to this community,” he said in a statement.

Gunfire, tear gas and Molotov cocktails Sunday night marked some of the fiercest clashes yet between police and protesters furious about the death of an unarmed teenager.

And the tensions continued escalating after autopsy results revealed that 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot six times.

Devolution of protests

What began as peaceful protests spiraled into disarray after two civilians were shot and injured, Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said. He said those civilians were not shot by police.

“Tonight, a Sunday that started with prayers and messages of unity, peace and justice took a very different turn after dark,” Johnson said early Monday morning.

Some protesters hurled Molotov cocktails at police, and several businesses were vandalized or looted, despite the Brown family’s call for calm.

“Based on these conditions, I had no alternative but to elevate the level of our response,” Johnson said.

Officers fired tear gas into a crowd of hundreds of protesters, including children, who were marching toward a police command post despite an impending midnight curfew.

But protester Lisha Williams challenged the notion that protesters provoked officers.

“That is a lie. It was no fight, it was no shots fired,” she told CNN late Sunday night. “All we did was march to the command center to fall to our knees and say, ‘Don’t shoot.’ And they started shooting.”

The clashes kept escalating, with St. Charles County sheriff’s officials saying shots were fired in their direction.

At one point, employees at a McDonald’s restaurant locked themselves in a storage room after the store was overrun, Johnson said.

Video from CNN affiliate KSDK showed children among the protesters chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

St. Louis County police said most of the crowds had dispersed after the curfew went into effect at midnight. The curfew was scheduled to end at 5 a.m. (6 a.m. ET).

But the anxiety remains. Children can’t even go to school Monday.

“Information we received from officials on the scene late Sunday evening has contributed to concerns we have about children walking to school or waiting for buses on streets impacted by this activity,” the Ferguson-Florissant School District said on its Facebook page.

Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot dead by a white police officer on August 9. He was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, according to the preliminary results of an autopsy that his family requested.

Family attorney Anthony Gray said the independent autopsy conducted Sunday found that Brown was shot twice in the head and four times in the right arm — all to the front of his body.

Last week, the St. Louis County Police Department said an original autopsy found that the teen died of gunshot wounds. But the department wouldn’t say how many times he was shot or give any other details.

According to the preliminary results of the family autopsy, the bullets that struck Brown were not fired from close range, as indicated by the absence of gunpowder residue on his body.

One of the bullets shattered his right eye, traveled through his face, exited his jaw and re-entered his collarbone, according to the autopsy.

The last two shots were probably the ones to his head, attorney Gray said. One entered the top of his Brown’s skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when he was struck.

The independent autopsy was conducted by high-profile pathologist Michael Baden, who testified in the O.J. Simpson, Phil Spector and Drew Peterson murder trials.

Accounts of exactly what happened when Officer Darren Wilson stopped Brown while the teen was walking down a street vary widely.

Witnesses said they saw a scuffle between the officer and Brown at the police car before the young man was shot.

Several witnesses said Brown raised his hands and was not attacking the officer.

Piaget Crenshaw said she was sitting in her home when she witnessed the shooting. She captured video of the aftermath, including images of Brown’s body lying in the middle of the street.

“From it all initially happening, I knew this was not right,” she told CNN’s “New Day” on Monday.

“I knew the police shouldn’t even have been chasing this young boy and firing at the same time. The fact that he got shot in the face, it was something that clicked in me, like no, somebody else needs to see this. This isn’t right. I’ve got to record.”

Crenshaw said Brown was running away from police and then turned around. She said that was when Brown was shot.

But police gave a different narrative, saying Brown struggled with the officer and reached for his weapon.

Though the officer has stayed out of the public spotlight, more than 22,000 people have endorsed the “I Support Officer Wilson” Facebook page.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has approved another autopsy on Brown’s body, the Justice Department said. That autopsy will be conducted by a federal medical examiner (Contributor: By Steve Kastenbaum and Holly Yan for CNN and KSBW)

Pray that peace will break out in Missouri. Pray that the Lord will give His wisdom to the civic leaders and citizens of Missouri. Pray that the full truth will be publicly disclosed about who is at fault in this matter and that true Godly justice will be preserved.

“When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” (Proverbs 29:2)

 

GAZA ROCKET FIRE CONTINUES: IRON DOME INTERCEPTS OVER ASHDOD, ASHKELON

At least 100 rockets launched at southern Israel since midnight, as IDF recalls 2,000 reservists from leave; 30 targets attacked in Strip overnight.

Gaza militants resumed their rocket fire campaign against Israel today Wednesday August 20, with at least 100 rockets launched at southern Israel since midnight, 35 of which exploded in Eshkol Regional Council.

At 2:06 pm, two rockets fell outside communities in Eshkol Regional Council. Several minutes earlier, one rocket was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system over the Shfela area.

At 2 pm, three rockets exploded in open areas in Eshkol Regional Council, and two rockets were intercepted above Hof Ashkelon Regional Council area.

At around 1:45 pm, one rocket exploded in Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, causing light damage to a road in the area.

Around 1:30 pm, Iron Dome intercepted one rocket over Kiryat Malakhi and one rocket over Hof Ashkelon. One rocket launched towards Hof Ashkelon Regional Council exploded near a synagogue in the area.

Around 1:00 pm, two rockets landed in open areas in the Eshkol Regional Council. A few minutes later, Iron Dome intercepted two rockets over Ashdod.

Shortly after 12:30 pm, a Gaza rocket hit a home in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council; no injuries were reported. A few minutes earlier, two Gaza rockets fell in open areas in Eshkol; no injuries and no damages were reported.

Around noon, one rocket exploded within the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council; Iron Dome intercepted one. Two more rockets exploded in open areas in the Eshkol Regional Council, near the Gaza security barrier.

Shortly after 11:30 am, air raid sirens sounded in Eshkol. Two rockets exploded in the regional council’s area – one inside a town. Light damage was caused to a reinforced wall.

At around 11:00 am, seven rockets exploded in Eshkol, two of them insides local communities; vehicles and structures were lightly damaged. Two rockets also exploded outside of Sdot Negev communities.

Shortly after 10:30 am, sirens blared in Kiryat Gat and the Shafir, Be’er Tuvia, Yoav, Lakish Regional Councils. Iron Dome intercepted one rocket over Kiryat Gat.

Hof Ashkelon Regional Council came under heavy rocket fire at around 10:00 am as four rockets exploded in open areas in the council.

Earlier in the morning, two rockets exploded in the area of Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. At around 8:00 am, Iron Dome intercepted two rockets over Ashkelon, and one over Ashdod. Half an hour earlier, a rocket exploded outside a community in Sdot Negev Regional Council, and two rockets fell outside a community in Eshkol Regional Council.

The fighting between Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza restarted on Tuesday after Hamas violated an extended ceasefire some 8 hours before its expiration. The Israeli military recalled 2,000 reservist soldiers back to duty, after they were expected to be released Tuesday.

The IDF attacked 30 terror targets overnight Tuesday in the Gaza Strip, most of which were Hamas operation rooms and weapon-manufacturing facilities.

Israel said that overnight Hamas fired seven rockets towards Israel, with Iron Dome intercepting three.

The IDF has attacked some 60 terror targets in the Gaza Strip since Hamas renewed rocket attacks on Israel on Tuesday.

On Tuesday night, the rocket salvo peaked at 10:30 pm, when more than 50 mortars and rockets were fired on southern and central Israel in a short period.

The reason for the intensive fire was revealed overnight, when reports emerged that an IDF targeted killing operation against the leader of Hamas’ military wing, Mohammed Deif, resulted in the death of his wife and daughter – as well as a third, unidentified body. (Contributor: By Yoav Zitun for Ynet News – Ilana Curiel, Matan Tzuri, Elior Levy, and Roi Kais contributed to this report.)

Pray that this continuous barrage of rockets would cease. Pray that there would be no lives lost. Pray that the demonically inspired HAMAS terror group would realize that they cannot fight God and His plans for Israel.

“The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.” (Genesis 12:7 NIV)

 

WEST’S HISTORIC DROUGHT STOKES FEARS OF WATER CRISIS

When the winter rains failed to arrive in this Sacramento Valley town for the third straight year, farmers tightened their belts and looked to the reservoirs in the nearby hills to keep them in water through the growing season.

When those faltered, some switched on their well pumps, drawing up thousands of gallons from underground aquifers to prevent their walnut trees and alfalfa crops from drying up. Until the wells, too, began to fail.

Now, across California’s vital agricultural belt, nervousness over the state’s epic drought has given way to alarm. Streams and lakes have long since shriveled up in many parts of the state, and now the aquifers — always a backup source during the region’s periodic droughts — are being pumped away at rates that scientists say are both historic and unsustainable.

One state-owned well near Sacramento registered an astonishing 100-foot drop in three months as the water table, strained by new demand from farmers, homeowners and municipalities, sank to a record low. Other wells have simply dried up, in such numbers that local drilling companies are reporting backlogs of six to eight months to dig a new one.

In still other areas, aquifers are emptying so quickly that the land itself is subsiding, like cereal in a bowl after the milk has drained out.

California’s record drought brought very little snowpack this past winter, placing extra demands on the state’s aquifers.

“How many straws can you stick into one glass?” asked John Viegas, a county supervisor who, after months of fielding complaints from constituents about water shortages, recently was forced to lower his own well by 40 feet. “People need to realize you can’t water everything.”

The shrinking of the aquifers has added a new dimension to the concerns over the historic drought that continues to shatter records across the Western United States. The parched zone now spans a dozen states and nearly 600 counties, from southern Texas to the northern Rockies, and includes fields and grazing land that produce a third of the country’s beef cattle and half of its fruit, vegetables and winter wheat. Prices for most of these products have soared this year.

Hardest hit is California. As of last month, nearly 60 percent of the state is officially in an “exceptional” drought — the highest level, above “severe” — and meteorologists are seeing no immediate change in a relentlessly dry forecast. Indeed, scientists are warning that the state’s cyclical droughts could become longer and more frequent as the climate warms.

If that happens, the elaborate infrastructure built to deliver water to the state’s 38 million residents and 27 million cultivated acres may not survive the challenge, new research suggests. Already the drought has led to the “greatest water loss ever seen in California agriculture,” said a study last month by researchers at the University of California at Davis.

A massive shift to groundwater helped farmers survive this year, but if pumping continues at current rates, some of the state’s aquifers could soon be depleted, the study warned. One of the authors, Richard Howitt, a professor emeritus of resource economics, likened the problem to a “slow-moving train wreck.”

“A well-managed basin is used like a reserve bank account,” Howitt said. “We’re acting like the super rich who have so much money they don’t need to balance their checkbook.”

The study estimated that 5.1 million acre-feet of water will be pulled from the state’s underground reserves this year, a volume roughly equivalent to the storage capacity of Lake Shasta, the state’s biggest reservoir and third-largest lake after Lake Tahoe and the Salton Sea.

Joe Carrancho has had to fallow 25% of his rice acreage due to a lack of water. (Max Whittaker/Prime/For The Washington Post)

Damage to aquifers is viewed as more serious because, once depleted, an aquifer takes far longer to replenish — often decades or more, compared with a few years for an empty reservoir, said Thomas Harter, a groundwater specialist from the university’s Land, Air and Water Resources department.

“It’s a downward path,” he said. “We cannot do what we did this year on a permanent basis.”

Worst drought on record

Droughts in California are hardly new. Big ones come around every decade or two, the Western equivalent of the super-hurricanes that occasionally strike the East. The archeological record points to far worse droughts in the distant past, including some that lasted more than 50 years.

But that was before millions of people lived along the coastal bays, and before the state’s great Central Valley sprouted one of the most productive agricultural districts in the history of the planet.

Still, the current drought is the worst in California’s recorded history, and some of the costs are as visible as the retreating shorelines and bone-dry marinas of the state’s fresh-water lakes. Dozens of California cities and towns have imposed tough restrictions on water use and many have posted fines of up to $500 a day on violators. In the state’s parched woodlands, fire crews chased 140 new wildfires in just the past week.

Large cities such as Los Angeles have coped with the water shortage so far by drawing from dedicated reservoirs constructed after previous dry spells, part of a celebrated “drought-proofing” effort promoted by politicians and urban planners. But those stores of water could also be threatened if the drought continues, scientists say. State officials have already had to scramble to find drinking water for smaller towns and villages where supplies have all but run out.

In the state’s farm belt, the drought’s effects are less obvious, obscured by miles of still-lush walnut orchards and vast rice plantations where the knee-high green stalks mature in shallow pools of brown water. But the damage has been severe, here, too. Some of it is visible in dry irrigation ditches and barren fields belonging to farmers who received no water allotment this year. Other wounds are hidden, such as aquifers that became contaminated with salt or farm chemicals after months of overpumping, or household wells that now pull up nothing but air.

It was never supposed to get this bad. For decades, the Central Valley’s farmers relied on their own form of drought-proofing: a vast network of reservoirs and irrigation canals built over years to capture annual snow melt from the Sierra Nevada mountains. And to recoup the costs of expensive irrigation systems, they switched to more profitable crops such as almonds, walnuts and rice, which require still more water.

But no one counted on having consecutive seasons in which the mountain snows never arrived. This year, the high peaks have been all but bare, causing the already depleted reservoirs to drop further. What was left in the canals had to be divvied up among thousands of farmers based on a complex seniority ranking, with large quantities set aside by law to ensure the survival of natural wetlands and salmon fisheries downstream.

Jeffrey Sutton, who supervises 140 miles of irrigation channels in the western Sacramento Valley for the Tehama Colusa Canal Authority, warned his customers to expect less water this year. It was even worse than he feared: While some farmers ended up with 75 percent of their usual allotment, many others received nothing at all.

“This was the first year it ever went to zero,” Sutton said from an office overlooking the network’s cement-lined main channel. “You can’t allocate water that’s not there.”

Some farmers could afford to cut back on spring planting, but those with permanent crops — peach orchards and almond trees that pay off slowly after years of investment — had to scramble to find alternate supplies. Some paid hefty fees to buy water rights from their neighbors, while others joined the race to drill, installing new wells at a cost of thousands of dollars each.

For Sutton, whose family has farmed the region for three generations, any outing to church or the local store was apt to include an awkward exchange with a neighbor worried about what could happen if the drought lingers for a fourth year.

“It is unparalleled crisis, unlike anything we’ve experienced,” he said. “People are emotional. There’s a fear of losing farms that have been passed through families for generations.”

For Willows, Calif., farmer Joe Carrancho, the immediate worry is how long he can continue paying his 14 employees, men who have tended his rice farm for years and are “damn-near family,” he says. Carrancho, 71, is regarded as one of the luckier ones, having lost only 25 percent of his usual water allotment this year. Still, with a quarter of his fields now idle, he says he will have to stretch to make payroll while keeping up payments on the $500,000 rice harvester sitting in his barn.

“I’d much rather be growing rice here,” said Carrancho, kicking up dust in an empty field of pecan-colored earth beside his modest ranch house. “I have 25 percent less production, but no one is giving me a 25 percent break in my bills.”

Conflicts in state capital

In the state capital, worries over the shrinking water supply have kindled fresh conflicts along the state’s traditional fault lines: rural and urban, environmentalist and property owner, Republican and Democrat. Opposing factions have clashed repeatedly in recent weeks over how the government should address current and future water shortages.

On Wednesday, state lawmakers passed a $7.5 billion bond measure that, if approved by voters this fall, would expand the state’s reservoirs and improve water recycling and other conservation measures. Two separate measures undergoing debate would impose the most significant restrictions on groundwater use in California history.

Farming groups say they are open to compromise, though many in their ranks are scornful of any talk of regulating water that lies under private lands. Many farmers also insist that government agencies helped instigate the current crisis, both by mandating the diversion of millions of gallons of water for environment uses, and by allowing runaway urban development in the some of the state’s driest regions.

Yet, agriculture’s huge appetite for water makes it an easy target for state officials looking for ways to conserve. Irrigation accounts for 41 percent of the state’s water use, compared with 9 percent for urban water systems. And the recent shift to crops such as alfalfa and rice has prompted questions about whether this drought-prone region is suited for water-intensive agriculture.

“We’ve reached a tipping point where the surface water is no longer enough, yet there are increasing demands from both agriculture and the environment,” said hydrologist Graham Fogg, a groundwater management expert.

A short-term solution, strongly favored by growers and some elected officials, is to increase the state’s water storage capacity, either with new or expanded reservoirs or dedicated aquifers underground. Farmers say extra storage will allow them to meet their needs even if droughts become more frequent.

“Our best storage is those mountains,” said organic rice grower Bryce Lundberg, gesturing to the normally snowcapped Sierra Nevada peaks, visible from his fields in Richvale, Calif. “When you see snow up there, the mountains are essentially holding water for California. But if climate change is happening, we need to invest in storage, because if we’re not seeing white mountains, we need to see blue water.”

But environmentalists and many scientists argue that any long-term solution would have to balance competing interests, including the need for clean water for growing cities as well as thriving habitats for fish and wildlife. A recent modeling study by researchers at UC-Davis’s Center for Watershed Sciences suggested that California’s economy could weather far more severe water shortages — and even a decades-long drought similar to the ones that occurred millennia ago. But doing so would require not only more storage for water, but also a general willingness by all sides to make do with less.

“Keeping the balance may mean reducing the number of irrigated acres, but if you manage the system well you can still do amazing things with it,” said Jay Lund, a professor of civil and environmental engineering who participated in the exercise. Lund said he believes Californians are more capable of adjusting, compared with people in other water-challenged parts of the world, because they already possess experience and expertise and “because we happen to be rich, which helps.”

Despite his engineer’s optimism, Lund keeps a prayer of sorts taped to his office door. It is a two-word play on the University of California’s motto, “Fiat Lux,” or, in Latin, “let there be light.”

“Fiat Pluvia,” Lund’s sign reads.

Let there be rain. (Contributor: By Joby Warrick for The Washington Post)

The severe west coast drought continues without respite and grows worse. As you pray, be aware that this is a nationwide issue, not limited to California. There are few places in the U.S. the Central or San Joaquin Valley does not feed to some extent. Give thanks if your water supply is adequate, perhaps plentiful. As you pray, think of how easily and readily, in just a few hours or days, God could restore these garden spots by sending rain. Perhaps He wants our entire nation to turn to Him with a renewed acknowledgement of our utter dependency on His grace, mercy, and provision. Without essential water, no one can survive. Are we sufficiently grateful for His supply?

“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!’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lam 3:22-26)

 

INSIDE ACCOUNT OF THE EBOLA HORROR IN WEST AFRICA

Seven days ago Oliver Wilson drove his sick, shivering wife Layson to an isolation clinic for suspected cases of Ebola. The 33-year-old nurse, knew from her symptoms that she had contracted the world’s most feared virus. She knew also that she was about to die from the incurable disease. But she had stopped short of telling Oliver. And she deliberately didn’t hug their one-year-old son Oliver Junior as she walked alone through the quarantine tape surrounding the tin-roofed hospital unit.

Her fear that she could infect the tot through a drop of sweat or a stray tear was based on sound knowledge.

Yesterday grief-stricken Oliver wept and banged his head against the steering wheel of the family car as he watched Layson’s body chucked unceremoniously on to the back of a truck in a white plastic bag.

He had been denied the chance to say goodbye to his childhood sweetheart. In a macabre scene, the corpses of seven other Ebola victims – including a six-year-old boy – were loaded on to the flatbed lorry. I looked on aghast as grimly determined mortuary workers, clad head to toe in protective clothing, tipped Layson’s corpse off a stretcher – like earth from a wheelbarrow.

Here in the Ebola zone of West Africa, the victims’ remains have to be cremated quickly as even the dead are contagious.

This is the heart-breaking drudgery of life in disease-racked Liberia, where the worst outbreak of this violent disease in history claims fresh lives daily.

The World Health Organisation admitted that the official death toll of 1,145 in the region “vastly underestimates the magnitude of the outbreak”.

For Oliver, a former UN aid worker, the swiftness of his beautiful wife’s decline remains impossible to understand.

Speaking through bursts of stifled sobs, he details with amazing clarity how Layson went down with the incredibly contagious Ebola virus. I talk to Oliver from outside the cab of his 4×4 vehicle where he sits – through fear of getting too near to him. My instinct would be to offer a sympathetic hand, but I have been told about the risks of getting too close to someone who might have embraced his Ebola-stricken wife 10 days before. “I’m trying to be strong, but it’s so hard,” Oliver, 36, stammered. “She died on Saturday; yesterday evening. “She caught Ebola at work, at the Catholic Hospital here in Monrovia. The hospital administrator had got ill.

“He tested positive for Ebola. “It was my wife’s job to give him an ECG examination, to put the pads on his body.

“She knew she had to put plastic gloves on, but for a few seconds she was touching him with her hands, to help him get off the bed and on to a chair. “That is how she got it. A few days later, that man died. “It was on August 3, when we came home from church, that she complained of ­shivering, of feeling chilly.”

Oliver explained how Layson was determined not to be a burden, and so tried to get better with medicine she bought from a local chemist.

The middle-class couple, who wed in 2007, had always been active, outgoing members of the community. Four years ago, they used their savings for a dream holiday in the United States, and Layson hankered after another trip abroad. He proudly showed me a photograph of Layson on his mobile phone.

He snapped her posing in a snowbound street, a treasured memento. Layson desperately didn’t want to be ill. She entered nursing in 2005, and had been promoted several times to obtain a senior position. After Oliver lost his job at the UN, she became the family’s breadwinner. Now he has no idea how he will support their son.

“On the Monday evening she said she was too hot,” Oliver continued. “She wanted cold water on a towel to put on her forehead. By Wednesday she had lost her appetite. “On Thursday the weakness had got worse and she told me she felt nauseous. “It was last Saturday that she became really ill. It was our son’s first birthday.

“She slept in the living room because I think she knew what was happening to her.

“She said, ‘Oliver, don’t touch me.’ She couldn’t touch Oliver Junior either, and she had to stop breastfeeding him instantly because it is contagious through all body fluids. “She was so weak she couldn’t even sing Happy Birthday to our son.”

The symptoms Oliver described chart the classic, rapid downfall in healthy people caused by debilitating Ebola.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said Ebola started with fever, muscle aches, weakness, headaches and sore throat. The next stage is often characterised by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash and malfunction of the liver and kidneys. Worst of all, some patients have severe internal and external bleeding and multiple organ failure.

Survival rates are less than 40%, and there is no vaccine or treatment, although a trial is underway in Liberia.

That is why the capital Monrovia is currently gripped by paranoia and ­suspicion over the spread of the disease.

“I brought her here later that day, eight days ago,” Oliver said, as we wait outside the clinic for his wife’s final journey.

“Within a week she was dead. I never got a chance to say goodbye. I could only speak on the phone.

“The last time we spoke, she told me her heart had stopped beating too fast.

“She said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.’ Now I am here to watch her be carried out in a bag.”

The unemotional professionalism of the Red Cross workers hired to dispose of Ebola bodies is a shocking sight.

For Oliver, it must be unimaginably painful.

Security guards in front of the desperately overcrowded unit continue to chat while the bodies are loaded.

Throughout Monrovia there are huge advertising hoardings warning people of the dangers.

Yet in the filthy slums, many seem to be going about their Sunday afternoon business as normal.

Torrential rain fell all day, turning the shanty town tracks into a putrid quagmire.

It must be the ideal breeding ground for a virus so contagious a quick touch on the arm from a sufferer is apparently enough to spread it.

By the time you know you should have been more careful, it might already be too late.

Wracked by the loss of his beloved wife, Oliver also feared that he too might have Ebola.

Incubation can take up to 21 days. “I might have it,” Oliver admitted. “I feel fine now, but it is very likely. Until she got Ebola, I didn’t understand how scary it is. “Now I’m terrified for our son too.”

As the back panel on the truck carrying Layson’s body was slammed shut, Oliver shuddered. A disease he had not heard of six months ago has ruined his life in less than a fortnight. (Contributor: By Tom Parry for Mirror)

This is just one poignant account of the more than 1,200 Ebola victims in several West African nations. The relentless scourge continues to take its toll, as medical personal and volunteers try to stem the flood of death, taking as much precaution as possible. Pray for victims and care-givers, including the brave missionaries at risk who will not leave. Pray for a miraculous breakthrough that will point to God, bringing Him glory. Pray that many, even in fear and desperation, will turn to the Lord. May God display His power to heal.

“’Sovereign Lord, You made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. …  Now, Lord … enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’” (Acts 4: 24; 29-30)

 

EDUCATIONAL TREND: IOWA STUDENTS TO WEAR HEART RATE MONITORS

Students going back to school in Dubuque, Iowa, are going to find it a little harder to slack off in gym.

Public middle and high school students will have to wear heart rate monitors in gym class to make sure they are actually being physically active.

“It will be a large portion of their grade, because we want to grade them on what they’re actually doing in our class,” Dubuque Schools Athletic and Wellness Director Amy Hawkins told ABC News.

Teachers will use the information collected from the heart rate monitors to write report cards.

“It really takes the opinion out of things,” Hawkins said. “You know it’s not really ‘I think your kid is doing this and this in class.'” (Contributor: Geetika Rudra for ABC News)

Not many years ago this report would be seen as fiction. Monitoring student activity during gym class seems absurd. And it isn’t to check over-exertion, but to certify that they are expending any energy besides one or two fingers for texting on smart phones. Recent studies show that from middle school onward students are opting for sedentary activities to the exclusion of physical fitness. Parents and church youth leaders should consider family and group activities that include movement, such as bowling, not just movie nights. Pray for your young people, whether at home or church, for a return to planned physical activity and the good health it promotes.

“But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:27)

On Watch in Washington August 20, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington August 13, 2014

August 13th, 2014

On Watch in Washington August 13, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

ISRAEL, HAMAS ACCEPT EGYPTIAN CEASE-FIRE PROPOSAL

Israel and the Hamas militant group accepted an Egyptian cease-fire proposal Sunday, clearing the way for the resumption of talks on a long-term truce to end a month of heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip that has taken nearly 2,000 lives.

The announcement marked the second time in less than a week that the bitter enemies had agreed to Egyptian mediation. A similar three-day truce last week collapsed in renewed violence over the weekend.

The truce took effect at midnight (2101 GMT), preceded by heavy rocket fire toward Israel. In Cairo, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the cease-fire would allow humanitarian aid into battered Gaza neighborhoods and the reopening of indirect talks on a more lasting and comprehensive deal.

Hamas is seeking an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade against Gaza, while Israel wants Hamas to dismantle its formidable arsenal of rockets and other weapons.

Palestinian negotiators accepted the proposal early Sunday after meeting with Egyptian officials throughout the weekend. Israeli officials concurred later. Both delegations are back in Cairo.

Qais Abdelkarim, a member of the Palestinian delegation, said indirect talks with the Israelis would begin Monday “with the hope of reaching a lasting cease-fire.” The goal, he added, was to end the blockade, which he called “the reason for the war.”

The recent fighting has been the heaviest between Israel and Hamas since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007. More than 1,900 Palestinians have been killed, including hundreds of civilians. On the Israeli side, 67 people have been killed, including three civilians. Nearly 10,000 people have been wounded and thousands of homes destroyed.

The fighting ended in a three-day cease-fire last Tuesday. Egypt had hoped to use that truce to mediate a long-term deal. But when it expired, militants resumed their rocket fire, sparking Israeli reprisals. The violence continued throughout the weekend, including a burst of fighting late Sunday ahead of the expected cease-fire.

The Israeli military reported some 30 rocket attacks from Gaza on Sunday. Palestinian medical officials said seven people were killed in Israeli airstrikes, including the bodyguard of a Hamas leader, the medical officials said.

Israel had walked away from cease-fire talks over the weekend. “Israel will not negotiate under fire,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Sunday, warning that his country’s military campaign “will take time.”

Last week’s talks failed in part because Israel rejected Hamas’ demand for a complete end to the blockade. Israel says the closure is necessary to prevent arms smuggling, and officials do not want to make any concessions that would allow Hamas to declare victory.

A senior Palestinian negotiator acknowledged that the Palestinians would make more modest demands this time around. He said they will seek an end to the bloodshed in Gaza and an easing – but not an end – to the blockade.

“We might not get everything we want, particularly on freedom of movement. But we believe the Israelis and the world have gotten the point that Gazans should live normally and things should be much better than today,” the negotiator said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing internal Palestinian deliberations.

Israel says Hamas must disarm. Hamas has said handing over its arsenal, which is believed to include several thousand remaining rockets, is out of the question.

The blockade has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the impoverished territory of 1.8 million people for jobs and schooling. It has also limited the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports.

An Egyptian crackdown on smuggling tunnels along Gaza’s southern border has made things even tougher by robbing Hamas of its key economic pipeline and weapons conduit. Gaza’s unemployment rate surpasses 50 percent, and Hamas is unable to pay the salaries of tens of thousands of workers.

An easing of the blockade could mean an increased role for Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose forces were ousted by Hamas seven years ago. Officials said the rival Palestinian factions were already exploring options that would give Abbas, who now governs in the West Bank, a foothold in Gaza, including the likely control of its border crossing with Egypt.

At a minimum, Israel will want guarantees that the rocket fire will stop. A 2012 cease-fire promised an easing of the blockade but was never implemented – in part because of sporadic rocket attacks by various armed factions in Gaza.

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Hamas could get the blockade lifted by accepting longstanding international demands to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

“They want to get legitimacy as a terrorist organization without accepting the requirements of the international community,” she told a news conference.

In the West Bank, Palestinian health officials said an 11-year-old boy was shot and killed Sunday by Israeli forces in a refugee camp near the city of Hebron.

Witnesses and relatives of the boy said Israeli security forces opened fire at Palestinian stone-throwers. They said the boy was standing on the road in front of his home at the time.

The military said its forces encountered a “violent riot” and opened fire. It acknowledged that the boy was killed in the violence and said it was investigating.

The current Gaza war escalated from the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds of its members in the West Bank. Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from God. (Contributor: Mohammed Daraghmeh for NBC and Associated Press – Associated Press writers Josef Federman in Jerusalem, Sarah El Deeb in Cairo, Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, and Daniel Estrin and Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem contributed to this report.)

“Cease-fire” means that the firing of guns and rockets should cease for the agreed-on time period — usually aimed at negotiating terms for a permanent cessation of hostilities. If so, then the last two declarations have failed before they began. In short, Israel will not let itself be destroyed, and Hamas will not relent in its do-or-die determination to utterly wipe out the Jewish state. It appears that Hamas wants no restraint on its goal of eradicating Israel, while Israel wants to live and move and trade and do commerce and educate its children in peace, without a sword over its head. Pray for U.S. leaders to maintain our committed relationship to Israel’s well-being, which seems at times to be wavering.  

“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.” (Prov 12:22)

“Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord; nor are there any works like Your works. All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name. For  You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God.” (Psalm 86:8-10)

 

A JUDGE’S PARTY DETERMINES HIS OBAMACARE VOTE

Predicting whether Obamacare survives its latest battery of court challenges could be as easy as looking at the judges making the decisions — and the presidents who appointed them.

A Washington Times analysis of the votes cast by dozens of federal judges in appellate courts since the 2010 law was enacted shows that while Democratic and Republican appointees were evenly represented in the cases, they differed dramatically in how they ruled.

Democratic appointees ruled in favor of Obamacare more than 90 percent of the time, while Republican appointees ruled against it nearly 80 percent of the time.

Legal scholars said that’s not so much a result of party labels as that those labels represent competing judicial philosophies, which is what’s playing out in the rulings.

Two separate legal challenges to President Obama’s health care law met with skepticism Thursday from a federal appeals court panel dominated by Obama’s latest appointees. All three…

“When the result is that judges appointed by each party issue opinions that promote that party’s political goals, it can appear that the judges are trying to promote ‘their’ party’s political ends, even though that is not what’s happening,” said Michael F. Cannon, director of health policy at the Cato Institute and chief architect of a lawsuit that challenges where Obamacare’s subsidies may flow.

A review of substantive federal appellate opinions through August 1 shows that since 2011, only two of the 30 Democratic-appointed judges or justices to rule on the merits of a case decided against Obamacare. Among Republican nominees, just six of the 28 to rule backed Mr. Obama’s health law.

Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a George W. Bush appointee on the 6th Circuit, and Laurence H. Silberman, a Reagan appointee on the D.C. Circuit, came down in favor of the administration during the battle over the law’s “individual mandate,” which requires almost all Americans to hold health insurance or pay a penalty.

“Those guys are old school,” with a firm commitment to judicial restraint, said Randy E. Barnett, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center viewed as the leading legal light behind the challenge to the individual mandate.

Mr. Barnett said conservatives are starting to realize that such restraint does not always serve their interests.

Among Democratic appointees, the main exception was Judge Frank M. Hull, a Clinton appointee who ruled against the administration in the 11th Circuit case that led to Obamacare’s 2012 showdown before the Supreme Court.

Ultimately, conservatives were devastated when Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., appointed in 2005 by Mr. Bush, broke ranks from the other Republican-appointed justices and upheld the law’s individual mandate under Congress’ taxing authority.

Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the chief justice may have weighed a persistent Republican-Democrat split over Obamacare.

“It’s hard to think that wasn’t at least on his mind,” he said.

Other legal scholars say Republican judges who rule against Obamacare reflect the anger that surrounds how the law was passed in 2010.

Democratic majorities had pushed bills through each chamber with no Republican support, meaning that when Republican Scott Brown won a special election to the Senate, Democrats no longer had the filibuster-proof majority in the upper chamber needed to pass a fully reconciled bill. Instead, they had to improvise and cut corners to get anything through.

“Now you’re crying to the courts, ‘Oh, we screwed up. Fix it for us,’” said David Bernstein, a law professor at George Mason University.

Americans got a perfect look at the political and ideological split just last month when the appeals court in the District of Columbia ruled that Obamacare can only pay subsidies in some states — on the same day that an appeals court in Richmond ruled the opposite way.

The D.C. case was 2-1, with two GOP-appointed judges ruling against Mr. Obama and a Democratic appointee ruling in its favor. The Richmond court panel, meanwhile, had three Democratic appointees, and all three ruled in favor of the Obama administration.

The rulings hinged on whether the law specifies whether subsidies could be paid to all residents or only to those in states that set up their own health exchanges rather than relying on the federal government.

Drafting error or otherwise, what should be a simple fix to a hastily passed law is not an option, as the Republican House majority still wants to repeal Obamacare outright.

“If the Affordable Care Act had been passed like the civil rights acts had been passed — with bipartisan support, and then with bipartisan support in the country — some judges [would] bend over backward to try to go along with that,” Mr. Barnett said.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill recognize how closely appeals court rulings are tied to the parties that nominated the judges hearing the cases.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat furious at the way Republican-appointed judges were ruling, used the so-called “nuclear option” last year to change Senate rules and make it easier to confirm Mr. Obama’s appeals court nominations.

A chief target was the powerful D.C. appeals court, where Mr. Reid’s adding of three more Democrats could turn out to have shaped in advance the outcome of an en banc rehearing of the subsidies case.

With competing rulings, the cases are likely headed to the Supreme Court, and would be the third major Obamacare challenge to reach the justices.

In the most recent case, decided in June, five Republican-appointed justices struck down part of the administration’s contraceptive mandate, ruling that closely held corporations cannot be forced to pay for employees’ contraceptive coverage if the company owners have religious objections. The four Democratic-appointed justices had backed the administration.

But in a sign that judges aren’t always so closely tied to party affiliation, just four days earlier the court ruled unanimously that Mr. Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional.

“When the case is easy,” Mr. Bernstein said, “you’ll get 9-0 opinions regardless of politics.” (Contributor: By Tom Howell Jr. for The Washington Times)

There is a potential trap here that intercessors must avoid. A shallow response is to think that if we elect the “right” candidates so that the “right” judges are appointed, then the country’s problems will be solved and our “land” will be healed. Some of us have heard sincere “conservative” friends say, “Just wait until November [elections]. Then everything will be okay.” But everything will not be okay. Intercessors will not stray from Scripture but be first to embrace a spirit of repentance, seeking the correct heart posture to “Go and make disciples of all nations…” Pray for a widespread awakening and extended mercy to the nation. If our country is to hear the truth, the Church must speak forth.

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

“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 Pet 4:17)   

 

LOWER BENEFITS, HIGHER EMPLOYMENT

Neel Kashkari, the Republican candidate for governor of California, just recounted in The Wall Street Journal his week on the streets of Fresno posing as a homeless man looking for work. At the end of his op-ed, Mr. Kashkari lamented that he didn’t need a higher minimum wage, paid sick leave or a health care plan. What he needed was a job.

Mr. Kashkari made the important point that all of those government benefits, especially extended unemployment benefits, are work disincentives that may actually block job creation.

To be sure, there are signs that employment in the country is rising more rapidly these days. The February-to-July period was the first six-month stretch of consistent employment gains above 200,000 since 1997. That came without any new programs from the federal government to “create jobs.” Even more surprising, those gains overlapped a quarter in which gross domestic product (GDP) actually contracted.

So what drove the increase? University of Chicago professor Casey Mulligan put his finger on it: “Major subsidies and regulations intended to help the poor and unemployed … reduce incentives for people to work and for businesses to hire.” Guess what happened when federal emergency job assistance ended? Job increases were the best in 17 years.

Economists tend to focus primarily on the demand for labor in analyzing employment trends, giving short shrift to the supply of labor. Indeed, given the harsh winter weather and first-quarter drop in real GDP, it’s hard to believe that the demand for labor increased significantly in February and March, but is there anything about the supply of labor that could explain the improvement in employment?

Well, there is a very good reason to believe that extending unemployment benefits to a maximum of 99 weeks in recent years held back the labor supply. Rather than taking a job, extended unemployment benefits made it easier for potential workers to lengthen their job searches, hold out for higher-wage positions, or just choose not to work.

However, supply-side theory would also suggest that as extended unemployment benefits expired at the end of last year — despite major handwringing from the president and Democratic leaders — workers would go back to work. They did. Technically, this would be visible as an outward expansion of the supply-of-labor curve. Without the crutch of continued unemployment benefits, workers are willing to take jobs, even at a somewhat lower wage. They know that work is its own virtue.

Now, if the demand for labor is steady, what would be the implications of an increased labor supply? Here, as the supply curve shifts, economic analysis would suggest that wages might fall somewhat, but the level of employment would increase. Guess what? Since the month after extended unemployment benefits expired, the number of employed workers has increased, the employment-to-population ratio has increased (59 percent in July versus 58.8 percent in February), and the civilian labor force has increased (to 156 million in July from 155.7 million in February). Average hourly earnings growth remains sluggish at only 0.2 percent per month over the past six months, but at least wages have risen modestly while employment gains have increased markedly.

The lesson here is that if you pay people not to work, you get less work. In fact, this is a universal problem. Record-breaking increases in recent years in food stamps, disability benefits and various forms of welfare have reduced incentives to work and earn. However, it’s clear over the first half of the year that lower unemployment subsidies have generated higher employment, which helps explain why employment growth accelerated and the unemployment rate fell another half-percentage point when overall GDP growth slowed to a near 1 percent pace.

Rep. Paul Ryan has the right idea to solve the wrong-way incentives generated by big government. He would block-grant all the transfer-assistance programs and send them back to the states. Importantly, Mr. Ryan wants to restore lower eligibility requirements and reduce benefit-assistance time limits. Plus, he would expand the earned-income tax credit to ease the transition from welfare to work without prohibitive increases in marginal tax rates.

Policymakers should listen to Mr. Ryan, and they should carefully observe what’s been happening with lower government employment assistance and higher jobs growth.

As Mr. Kashkari pointed out, many in our country just want to work. They just need a job, which is the greatest form of welfare. For a change, though, let’s get policies that actually increase the incentives to work and earn. The whole country will benefit. (Contributor: By Lawrence Kudlow and Robert Sinche for The Washington Times – Larry Kudlow is CNBC’s senior contributor. Robert Sinche is a longtime Wall Street economist.)

People who treat the Bible casually often believe that work is the result of sin, not realizing that God created work in the Garden as a gift to mankind, an avenue of stewardship. Today’s work ethic has become distorted, often mired in class warfare between management and labor. While unemployment benefits create a bridge to survival, they are not intended to stifle the quest for work or make citizens dependent on government. Pray for renewal in the Church to lead the way in benevolence and care for those who are truly poor. Pray for restoration of a national view that sees work as a holy occupation.

“He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.” (Prov 19:17)

“… and when [the apostles, the pillars] … perceived the grace that had been given to [Paul], they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles…. They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I (Paul) also was eager to do.” (Gal. 2:9-10)

“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” (2 Thess 3:10)

 

CALIPH IBRAHIM’S BRUTAL MOMENT

After an absence of 90 years, the ancient institution of the caliphate roared back into existence on the first day of Ramadan in the year 1435 of the Hegira, equivalent to June 29, 2014. This astonishing revival symbolically culminates the Islamist surge that began 40 years ago. A Western analogy might be declaring the restoration of the Hapsburg Empire, which traced its legitimacy to ancient Rome.

Whence comes this audacious move? Can the caliphate last? What will its impact be?

For starters, a quick review of the caliphate (from the Arabic “khilafa,” meaning “succession”): According to canonical Muslim history, it originated in the year 632, on the death of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, then spontaneously developed, filling the nascent Muslim community’s need for a temporal leader. The caliph became Muhammad’s nonprophetic heir. After the first four caliphs, the office became dynastic.

From the start, followers disagreed whether the caliph should be the most able and pious Muslim or the closest relative of Muhammad. The resulting division came to define the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam, respectively, causing the profound schism that still endures.

Alarm, Ridicule for Declaration of Islamic State

An al-Qaida breakaway group’s formal declaration of an Islamic caliphate across the stretch of territory it controls in Syria and Iraq sparked celebrations among the group’s followers Monday…

A single caliphate ruled all the Muslim lands until 750, but then two processes combined to diminish its power. First, remote provinces began to break away, with some — such as Spain — even creating rival caliphates. Second, the institution itself decayed and was taken over by slave soldiers and tribal conquerors, so that the original line of caliphs effectively ruled only until about 940. Other dynasties then adopted the title as a perquisite of political power.

The institution continued in an enfeebled form for a millennium until, in a dramatic act of repudiation, modern Turkey’s founder, Kemal Ataturk, terminated its last vestiges in 1924. Despite several subsequent attempts to restore it, the institution became defunct, a symbol of the disarray in Muslim-majority countries and a yearned-for goal among Islamists.

Matters remained for 90 years, until the group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) issued a declaration in five languages (English version: “This Is the Promise of Allah”) proclaiming the founding of a new caliphate under “Caliph” Ibrahim. Caliph Ibrahim (aka Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim), about 40, hailing from Samarra, Iraq, fought in Afghanistan and then Iraq. He now claims to be leader of “Muslims everywhere” and demands their oath of allegiance. All other Muslim governments have lost legitimacy, he claims. Further, Muslims must throw out “democracy, secularism, nationalism, as well as all the other garbage and ideas from the West.”

Reviving the universal caliphate means, announces “The Promise of Allah,” that the “long slumber in the darkness of neglect” has ended. “The sun of jihad has risen. The glad tidings of good are shining. Triumph looms on the horizon.” Infidels are justifiably terrified for, as both “east and west” submit, Muslims will “own the earth.”

Grandiloquent words, to be sure, but also ones with zero chance of success. ISIS has enjoyed backing from states such as Turkey and Qatar — but to fight in Syria, not to establish a global hegemony. Nearby powers — the Kurds, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel (and eventually maybe Turkey, too) — regard the Islamic State as an unmitigated enemy, as do nearly all rival Islamic movements, including al Qaeda. (The only exceptions: Boko Haram, scattered Gazans, and a new Pakistani organization.) The caliphate already faces difficulty governing the Great Britain-sized territories it conquered, troubles that will increase as its subject populations experience the full misery of Islamist rule. (Its apparent capture of the Mosul Dam on Aug. 3 portends unspeakable crimes, including the denial of electricity and water, or even unleashing catastrophic floods.)

I predict that the Islamic State, confronted with hostility both from neighbors and its subject population, will not last long.

It will leave a legacy, though. No matter how calamitous the fate of Caliph Ibrahim and his grim crew, they have successfully resurrected a central institution of Islam, making the caliphate again a vibrant reality. Islamists around the world will treasure its moment of brutal glory and be inspired by it.

For non-Muslims, this development has complex and double-edged implications. On the negative side, violent Islamists will be more encouraged to achieve their hideous goals, leaving a wake of carnage. On the positive side, the caliphate’s barbaric zealotry will have the salutary effect of awakening many of those who still sleep to the horrors of the Islamist agenda.

Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. (Contributor: By Daniel Pipes for The Washington Times)

Prayer focus: IFA respects Daniel Pipes’ reporting. His Middle East views and clear stand for Israel’s survival are balanced. This article on Muslim history explains the new rise of exceptionally brutal and barbaric Islamist terrorist atrocities in Iraq and elsewhere. The demon-inspired war on Christians in Iraq is now “old news.” This article’s final sentence is the key to our intercession: “On the positive side, the caliphate’s barbaric zealotry will have the salutary effect of awakening many of those who still sleep to the horrors of the Islamist agenda.” Pray that God will prompt world opinion to rise up and condemn this militant and murderous evil sect. The devil overplays his hand. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Tertullian, Second-century Church Father). God is watching, and heaven keeps careful records. The final chapter is coming. Intercede with fervor.

“And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’ And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:

‘We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.’” (Rev 11:15-18)

 

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM : ISIS A ‘DIRECT THREAT’ AND COULD LAUNCH ATTACK ON US SOIL

The militant Islamic State group could launch a direct attack on U.S. soil, warned South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, who urged President Barack Obama to do more to counter the group that has taken large parts of Iraq and Syria.

“Mr. President, be honest with the threat we face,” Graham said in a Fox News interview on Sunday. “They are coming.”

The Republican senator, who is also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, identified the militants as a “direct threat to our homeland.”

The U.S. has launched limited airstrikes at terrorist installations in northern Iraq to defend American personnel. The militants, formerly known as ISIS, continue taking cities in Iraq, threatening the central government and forcing thousands of Christians to flee their homes.

A senior U.S. official said that the U.S. is also sending arms to Kurdistan forces in Iraq who are fighting back against the Sunni militants. American military has also been helping facilitate weapons deliveries to the Kurds, providing logistic assistance and transportation to the north.

Close to 20,000 minority Yazidis have been rescued in northern Iraq, though tens of thousands reportedly remain stranded on mountains hiding from the Islamic State.

Christians have also been driven out by the thousands, with Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai calling on the international community to intervene and stop the ongoing persecution.

“We renew the patriarchate’s call to the Arab League, the United Nations, the Security Council and the International Criminal Court to put a stop to ISIS’ attacks and those of other fundamentalist organizations against the Christians of Mosul and the villages of Ninevah in dear Iraq, and allow the return of those Christians to their homes and properties with dignity, securing for them a decent life in their home countries with all the rights of citizens,” AINA quoted Rai as saying during Sunday Mass in Diman, north Lebanon.

On Saturday, Obama confirmed that U.S. forces have conducted airstrikes against terrorist forces outside the city of Erbil, and explained that the White House is pursuing a broader strategy in Iraq.

“We will protect our American citizens in Iraq, whether they’re diplomats, civilians or military. If these terrorists threaten our facilities or our personnel, we will take action to protect our people,” Obama said.

“More broadly, the United Nations in Iraq is working urgently to help respond to the needs of those Iraqis fleeing from areas under threat. The U.N. Security Council has called on the international community to do everything it can to provide food, water and shelter. And in my calls with allies and partners around the world, I’ll continue to urge them to join us in this humanitarian effort.”

Responses to the president’s strategy have been mixed. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, has backed Obama and highlighted the importance of the humanitarian effort to help the refugees, and called on Iraq to develop a stronger, more-inclusive government.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein of the Democratic party, who serves as the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned that it will take strong action to defeat the Islamic State, however.

“It takes an army to defeat an army, and I believe that we either confront [Islamic State] now or we will be forced to deal with an even stronger enemy in the future,” Feinstein said on Friday after the airstrikes were announced. “Inaction is no longer an option.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, has also warned that the militants are “getting stronger all the time” and growing in numbers.

“They have attracted 1,000 young men from around the world who are now fighting on their side,” McCain explained. “This ISIS is metastasizing throughout region. And their goal, as they’ve stated openly time after time, is the destruction of United States of America.” (Contributor: By Stoyan Zaimov for Christian Post Reporter)

Is God forcing the U.S. government, led by President Obama, to take a strong, open stand against this emerging, dangerous brand of hyper-militant, Islamist terrorism? We are reportedly bombing northern Iraq jihadists selectively but not effectively. President Obama shows typical restraint. Media outlets remind us regularly that he was raised in Muslim culture, heard daily the call to prayers of the imams, and for many years sat under the ministry of a hate-filled minister who openly supported the rise of Hamas. Yet, he is America’s twice-elected president, and we are enjoined in Scripture to pray for him. Let us do so fervently, committing him to God’s grace and mercy. Pray that he will be enlightened by the Holy Spirit with the truth of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus…” (1 Tim 2:1-5)

[Jesus prayed,] “… You, [Father,] have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:2-3)

 

U.S. SIGNALS A WILLINGNESS TO HELP NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT

The United States would consider expanding military and political support for Iraq if Haider al-Abadi assumes the duties of prime minister and leads a multisectarian government, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Tuesday.

The gesture of support, which was made after a meeting with their Australian counterparts here, is intended to encourage Iraqi politicians to coalesce around Mr. Abadi and to form an inclusive government. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has resisted the choice of Mr. Abadi, producing a high-stakes political battle in Baghdad.

But neither Mr. Kerry nor Mr. Hagel provided details about what additional support might be provided, and it remains unclear whether the Obama administration would be willing to expand airstrikes or provide additional teams of American military advisers to help a new Iraqi government roll back the gains made by Sunni militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“We are prepared to consider additional political, military and security options as Iraq starts to build a new government,” Mr. Kerry said.

Even as the political struggle in Baghdad escalated, the United States’ allies announced modest military steps in support of the American effort in northern Iraq.

David Johnston, the Australian defense minister, said that his country would drop humanitarian aid by air to thousands of besieged Yazidi civilians on Mount Sinjar.

British officials said the Royal Air Force would deploy a “small number” of Tornado aircraft to carry out surveillance missions in support of the airdrop mission.

The decision to use the planes to improve reconnaissance of the situation follows an episode in which a British airdrop was aborted at the last minute because the pilots feared the loads could injure those waiting on the ground.

“We are providing humanitarian assistance,’’ the British foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said on Monday. “This is not simple — getting it in is very challenging, getting people off that mountain is even more challenging.”

While some lawmakers from the Conservative Party of Prime Minister David Cameron clamored for the recall of Parliament to debate a tougher response, Mr. Hammond rejected the idea. “We don’t envisage a combat role at the present time,” he said.

The George W. Bush administration helped bring Mr. Maliki to power and the Obama administration acquiesced as he maneuvered to secure a second term. But American officials have opposed a third term for the Iraqi prime minister, who has been criticized for his authoritarian tendencies and for aggravating sectarian tensions.

The United States is calculating that a new prime minister will be able to establish an inclusive government that would grant Sunnis more of a voice in the political system, and thus make them less tolerant of ISIS militants.

On Monday, Mr. Kerry warned that the United States and the international community would cut off its support for Iraq if Mr. Maliki employed security forces to extend his rule. Having brandished the stick, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Hagel on Tuesday offered a carrot: the possibility, albeit vague, of expanded support.

The United States “is prepared to intensify its security cooperation as Iraq undertakes and makes progress toward political reform,” Mr. Hagel said.

So far, the Obama administration has committed itself to a containment strategy to prevent ISIS fighters from advancing on Erbil and Baghdad, while also providing some protection to Yazidi civilians who have sought refuge on Mount Sinjar.

The question on the table, which Mr. Kerry and Mr. Hagel did not address on Tuesday, is whether the administration would be prepared to use air power and send military advisers to help a new Iraqi government and perhaps Sunni tribes try to break ISIS’ hold on northern and western Iraq.

The Kurds have asked the Obama administration to send or facilitate the delivery of arms — including antitank weapons, armored vehicles and ammunition — as they contend with the ISIS militants, who use seized American weapons.

And on Monday, Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville, the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Washington that the Kurds needed weapons to destroy some of the vehicles that ISIS has acquired, as well as “longer-range weapons” to counter the militants.

Mr. Hagel provided no hint as to whether the Pentagon would soon provide weapons to the Kurds. Rather, he said, the American military was helping to transport weapons from the Iraqi government’s stocks to Kurdistan.

The Central Intelligence Agency is already supplying some weapons to Kurdish pesh merga fighters, although it remains unclear what kind of arms, and how many, are being provided.

During their meetings here with Mr. Johnston and Julie Bishop, the Australian foreign minister, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Hagel signed a so-called force posture agreement that provides for the rotation of United States Marines in northeast Australia.

The number of Marines is set to rise to 2,500 from 1,150, and the accord also provides for closer cooperation in other areas, like missile defense.

They also discussed the problem of Western citizens who volunteer to fight on the side of ISIS or other extremist groups, and then return home.

The Australian public has been gripped by a photograph of an Australian boy in Syria holding the severed head of a Syrian soldier. The image was posted on the Twitter account of his father, who left Australia to join ISIS. Ms. Bishop said that the photograph pointed to the danger that Westerners may become radicalized while fighting with militant groups abroad.

“This image — perhaps even an iconic photograph — is really one of the most disturbing, stomach-turning, grotesque photographs ever displayed,” Mr. Kerry said.

Thirty-eight Australian citizens and residents died when a jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine last month. A Group of 20 meeting is scheduled for November in Australia, and Mr. Kerry said that the question of whether President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia would be invited will be determined by how Russia deals with the Ukraine crisis “in these next days and weeks.” (Contributor: By Michael R. Gordon and Alan Cowell for The New York Times)

Two prayer points: First, according to polls, Americans want a statement of support from the administration for the thousands of Christians persecuted, driven from their homes, and violently murdered by ISIS terrorists in northern Iraq. The list of countries inviting these helpless refugees to find safety continues to grow, but there has been no word of welcome from the U.S. government. Pray for Christian leaders to speak out, urging elected representatives to show compassion. Give thanks for Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Virginia), who literally pled for such in the House every day before its recess. Second, U.S. leaders need wisdom and restraint in further committing military resources to Iraq, as current forces are extended, and recent cuts have reduced our strength. Pray accordingly.

Scripture: Read and pray through Isaiah 59. Seek the Lord, and make application as led by the Holy Spirit. For space, we will not reproduce the text here, but the spirit and context are appropriate for intercession.

 

ISRAELI ARMY TO BEGIN TESTING GAZA-AREA TUNNEL DETECTING GEAR

The Israel army is about to begin field testing two tunnel-detection technologies, which may provide a solution to what has become a vexing problem and terrifying fear for Israel’s southern residents, Israel’s Channel 1 News reported Monday.

The proposed systems  – which were tried and rejected in 2005 – have worked in laboratory conditions, according to Channel 2 News, and are supposedly able to detect both already-dug tunnels, as well as those in progress.

One of the systems, priced at roughly NIS 1-1.5 billion (USD 380-428 million) includes a metal plate extending down some 30-40 meters into the groundwater layer beneath the sandy, clayey soil.

The system would take upwards of a year-and-a-half to implement, along the 65-kilometer border, the army said.

The steel plates would be rigged with electronic monitoring devices that would broadcast a signal if they were disturbed, according to the report.

Even veteran Israeli residents of towns and farming villages abutting the coastal enclave, used to the 15-seconds or less they have to seek shelter in the event of rocket or mortar attacks are concerned over the prospect of terror welling up from below.

“The threat of a tunnel being under our doorsteps has taken that fear to a new level,” a resident of Kibbutz Alumim told The Algemeiner last week.

A social worker by profession, 49-year-old British-born Esther Marcus — ironically enough — wrote a children’s book entitled, “Color Red,” meant “to help kiddies deal with the situation; help them cope with Red Alert sirens,” meant for rockets raining down.

But, now, with the diabolical possibility of terror tunnels from below opening up, literally, beneath kindergartens, “now I need to come up with a story to help them cope with tunnels!!! that’s a challenge!”

A number of soldiers have died and others have been wounded in firefights with dozens of Hamas terrorists attempting to infiltrate Israeli villages through the tunnels, and there have been at least two abduction attempts against soldiers, including that of  Givati Brigade officer Hadar Goldin.

A Hamas official last Thursday bragged that the terrorist group has more, hidden, tunnels dug from Gaza beneath Israel, beyond the 32 the IDF destroyed during Operation Protective Edge.

“Israelis must feel the pain of the Palestinians,” said Abu Laith, a nom de guerre for a Hamas Izzadin al-Qassam commander, who spoke with the London Times.“They must understand that, if there is no security in Gaza, they will not have any security, either,” he said and noted that the Islamist group has more tunnel ready to use for infiltrations.

“We have more tunnels, and will be able to get back into Israel again,” he threatened, although he admitted that “some of the tunnels were partially collapsed,” according to Israel’s NRG news.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Ministry of Defense is investing millions of shekels in research programs designed to locate tunnels from Lebanon into Israel.

“There is a lot of talk about it and concern,” according to one anonymous source who spoke with Israel’s Channel 2 News last week.

Since the IDF’s discovery and detonation of the terror tunnels from Gaza, jittery Israelis are wondering if their hostile neighbors to the north, across the border in southern Lebanon, might be planning the same tactic.

The issue first came to the public’s attention during the 2006 war against Hezbollah, when the Shi’ite terrorists popped out of well-concealed, planned and equipped tunnels to attack IDF soldiers – often with lethal results.

While that northern network of tunnels didn’t reach into Israel – as far as in publicly known, “I can tell you that the issue of tunnels from Lebanon to Israel is really disturbing the security echelon,” one geologist at Tel aviv University said, adding that “There’s been a lot of talk about it and concerns.”

Another source close to the project acknowledged that “the defense establishment does not want to repeat the mistakes about tunnels in the Gaza Strip,” he noted that officials “want to find a quick solution and not get caught with their pants down.” (Contributor: The Algemeiner.com)

As we see it, Israel has no choice but to continue its offensive until Hamas is fully defeated and the tunnel system shut down, or Hamas is deflected from its stated mission to kill all Jews and eradicate the Israeli nation. Christians know by biblical authority that God’s ancient covenant people will not be destroyed by present-day foes. Still, the battle rages. Free world leaders ought to condemn such rabid and vehement hatred. Yet it is a fact that Israel deals with daily. Pray that the U.S. will not “officially” turn its back on Israel. Pray for peace and for Israel’s reconciliation to Messiah Jesus.

“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)

“… Moses … put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is [only] taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Cor 3:13-17)  

On Watch in Washington August 13, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

On Watch in Washington August 6, 2014

August 6th, 2014

On Watch in Washington August 6, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

ARMY TO FORCE OUT 550 MAJORS; SOME IN AFGHANISTAN

About 550 Army majors, including some serving in Afghanistan, will soon be told they have to leave the service by next spring as part of a budget-driven downsizing of the service.

Gen. John Campbell, the vice chief of the Army, acknowledged Friday that telling troops in a war zone that they’re out of a job is a difficult task. But he said some of the soldiers could join the National Guard or the Army Reserve.

The decision to cut Army majors comes on the heels of a move to slash nearly 1,200 captains from the ranks. Army leaders were criticized at the time for giving 48 of them the bad news while they were deployed to Afghanistan.

The Army declined to say how many majors will be notified while they are at the battlefront.

“The ones that are deployed are certainly the hardest,” Campbell told reporters. “What we try to do there is, working through the chain of command, minimize the impact to that unit and then maximize the time to provide to that officer to come back and do the proper transition, to take care of himself or herself, and the family.”

Campbell said it’s difficult to avoid cutting deployed soldiers because of the timing schedules.

All the soldiers being forced to leave have probably already been given a heads-up that they were at risk of the job cut and will meet with a senior officer, according to the Army.

Those who are cut have nine months to leave the Army. And the soldiers who are deployed, including those in Afghanistan, will generally have about a month to move out of that job and go home to begin to transition out of the service.

The cuts have been difficult for many young officers, particularly captains, who tend not to have enough years in service to retire.

To make the cuts, the Army looked at about 8,500 majors who joined the service between 1999 and 2003. Some may have about 15 years of service, depending on all factors that go into credit for years of service, and might be able to retire, but many won’t have enough time in the job, Campbell said

Guard and reserve leaders are looking for officers, especially captains, so there could be opportunities for the soldiers to continue to serve, he said.

After 13 years of war that forced a significant and rapid build-up of the Army to about 570,000, the military now has to reduce its combat forces to meet budget cuts.

The Army has close to 514,000 soldiers now, but will have to be down to 510,000 by October, shrink to 490,000 by October 2015 and be down to 450,000 by 2019. In addition, if Congress doesn’t act to prevent automatic budget cuts from resuming, the Army may eventually have to get down to 420,000 — a size that that leaders say may not allow them to wage even one major, prolonged military campaign.

The Army tried to avoid some cuts by slowing enlistments and using attrition and some voluntary separations. It also has been combing through files looking for soldiers with disciplinary or other problems in their annual evaluations to weed out lower-performing officers first, officials said. (Contributor: By Lolita C. Baldor for The Associated Press, Stripes.com)

Among constitutionally defined duties, the President of the United States is the Commander-in-chief of our military forces and is mandated to use his position to guard the nation against all enemies, foreign and domestic. In the past, presidents and the Congress have agreed that this means keeping a strong military readiness as a deterrent to all enemies, so that, seeing our strength and readiness, they will fear our might and determination to defend our borders and our freedoms. Thus, we see this as a call to the Church for sustained intercession, that God in His mercy, will guard and guide our beloved nation back to its foundations and able to invoke His protection. Please pray.

“Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’” (Isaiah 58:9)

 “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jer. 33:3)

“. . . Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1b)

 

U.S. CHEMICAL SITES VULNERABLE DESPITE MILLIONS SPENT ON SECURITY: CONGRESS

Despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars to bolster security, there are still large gaps in the nation’s chemical infrastructure that could be exploited by terrorists, says a report by a top Senate Republican.

In 2006, the Homeland Security Department began a program to modernize security systems at dangerous and hazardous chemical sites across the U.S., worried the facilities could be easy targets for terrorism.

But a series of investigations by watchdogs and members of Congress have found flaws in the government’s Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards, despite a nearly $600 million price tag.

“Today — eight years later — there is little, if any, evidence to show that the more than half a billion dollars DHS has spent created an effective chemical-security regulatory program or measurably reduced the risk of an attack on our chemical-industrial infrastructure,” said Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Several Democrats on the committee have said that the DHS has been fixing mistakes in securing chemical sites, but that improvements were still needed.

Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware Democrat and the panel’s chairman, “agrees with ranking member Coburn’s assessment that there is still more work to do in this area, and the existing program needs to be reformed,” a committee spokesman said.

According to Mr. Coburn’s report, an internal DHS review last year found “fundamental problems, errors, inconsistencies and unsupported assumptions in the methodology underlying the whole CFATS program.”

Likewise, a 2013 report by the Government Accountability Office found the program had made several mistakes, including miscalculating the risks of a chemical attack for people living outside the continental U.S. in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Guam.

In fact, out of roughly 4,000 facilities and sites covered under the improved security program, Congress said that just 39 have been inspected to make sure they are complying with increased safety requirements.

“CFATS is not reducing our nation’s risk to a terrorist attack on U.S. chemical infrastructure,” Mr. Coburn’s report concluded. “As the incident in West, Texas, showed last year, there are facilities in the country with dangerous amounts of toxic or flammable chemicals that are not following the CFATS rules, whether because they are ignorant of the law or intentionally choosing not to comply. And DHS does not know about them.”

DHS spokesman S.Y. Lee said the effort is “an important part of our nation’s counterterrorism efforts, helping keep dangerous chemicals out of the hands of those who wish to do us harm.”

“Over the past two years, the CFATS program has made significant progress, advancing programmatically while simultaneously addressing internal management concerns,” he said. “While this progress has helped put the program on a path to success and make the nation more secure, there is still work to be done.”

Mr. Lee said that “much of the important work ahead requires continued engagement with Congress to enact legislation providing multiyear authorization so that the program can continue its current path to success with stability.”

Mr. Coburn’s report acknowledged that some of the problems facing the program have been “created by Congress,” and that the legislative body needs to lay out detailed expectations, help decide which sites may be the most critical to protect and provide appropriate funding.

To that end, the Senate committee worked on an amendment to a bill Wednesday hoping to reform some of the chemical-safety processes. The legislation would better define which chemical facilities are covered, helping DHS to identify “outliers” that have so far slipped under the radar of regulation, and would remove facilities that are handled by other federal safety programs — such as nuclear sites.

It would also require the agency to develop performance-based standards by which a chemical facility could easily be judged and to enforce requirements that site inspections and reviews be completed. (Contributor: By Phillip Swarts for The Washington Times)

At its root, this article looks at America’s safety. Specifically, discussion centers on how secure or how vulnerable are our country’s chemical resources. But if we limit our prayer focus to chemicals, we will miss the opportunity to intercede for a beloved nation that has drifted far from its core beliefs. Let us not trivialize prayer as a list of external needs. Instead, let God’s Church arise and lead, not falter. With repentant hearts, let us seek revival. Without God’s blessing, there is no safety.

“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7)

“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

 

CALIFORNIA’S EXCEPTIONAL DROUGHT JUST KEEPS GETTING WORSE

California’s three-year drought just went from bad to dreadful. In the course of the last week, the crimson expanse of “exceptional drought” grew to engulf the northern part of the state.

The chart above shows the drought’s progression as reported today by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Archived maps show the end of July for each year since 2011.

All of California is in “severe drought” (shown in orange), and 82 percent is rated “extreme drought” (in red). The agency’s highest drought rating — “exceptional drought” (crimson) — now covers 58 percent of the state, up from 36 percent a week ago. Exceptional drought is marked by crop and pasture loss and water shortages that fall within the top two percentiles of the drought indicators.

The water reserves in California’s topsoil and subsoil are nearly depleted, and 70 percent of the state’s pastures are now rated “very poor to poor,” according to the USDA.

Reservoir levels are dropping, and groundwater is being drained from the state as farms and cities pull from difficult-to-replenish underground caches. The state’s 154 reservoirs are at 60 percent of the historical average, or 17.3 million acre feet lower than they should be. That’s more than a year’s supply of water gone missing.

It’s not the worst drought California has ever seen — in 1977, the state’s water storage was at 41 percent of the historical average — but conditions are still getting worse.

The Colorado River Basin, which feeds California and six other states, is “the most over-allocated river system in the world,” according to a study of satellite records released last week that shocked scientists with the magnitude of water loss.

Since 2004, the basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet of freshwater. That’s enough to submerge New York City beneath 344 feet of water. (Contributor: By Tom Randall for Bloomberg)

California’s water issue worsens. In the Old Testament, God used drought or water scarcity to get people’s attention. Let us consider: while the U.S. is not to be confused with Israel, is it possible 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? Where is the God of Elijah? When did you last hear any official suggest prayer for divine intervention? Pray for God’s help. Note 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)

 

WHO WILL PUT AN END TO THE CHRISTIAN KILLING FIELDS?

“Please, the world needs to know: We are captives, we don’t have water or electricity here in Aleppo but it is nothing compared to the fear we have toward the Islamists. Why is no one doing anything to save us?”

A young Assyrian Christian woman in Aleppo, Syria, spoke these words to me during a phone call a few days ago. She is stuck in the country with her three small children.

In wake of the ISIS invasion of Iraq, reports (long overdue) are emerging about the persecution of Christians and other minorities in the country. Yet ISIS is committing the same atrocities against non-Muslims in Syria, too.

Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, has been emptied of almost all Christians. Ten days ago, ISIS – who now call themselves the Islamic State (IS) – distributed fliers to Christians that read: “Convert, Pay Jizya, Leave or Die.”

The Christians fled in droves before the Saturday deadline for their decision.

The scant few who remained were weak, old or injured and could not flee. A man who lost his leg in a bombing a couple of days prior to the deadline was forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint, according to his relatives.

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, also has been nearly emptied of Assyrians, Armenians and other non-Muslims.

These are the words spoken to me by the father of the three children stuck with their mother in another phone call: “It’s happening right in front of their eyes and no one is lifting a finger to stop it. Please be our voice, we beg you — make them do something to save us from being slaughtered.”

The husband has fled to Sweden. He had a plan of bringing his family later. But for now, he has left them behind, and they are in severe danger.

After our conversation, I thought at first, what kind of man is he to leave his family behind? Then I realized I’ve interviewed thousands of refugees who have been similarly deserted in countries like China, Thailand, Chad, or have had friends and family who have drowned in their attempts to flee. Maybe this young man was threatened by the Jihadists and decided to flee rather than risk his entire family’s life.

And who I am to judge him, while I’m enjoying the freedom and safety of Sweden, where I myself arrived as an 8-year-old?

Then I reminded myself of this: I have been trusted to be the voice of some of these people; the unheard minorities of this world, who are being persecuted, slaughtered and forcibly removed from their birthplaces. That is the task I have somehow been given, and I take that responsibility very seriously.  Someone has to do it.

Right now in Syria and Iraq, girls are being kidnapped, raped and killed. Young men have been beheaded in front of cameras because of their faith. For a decade now I have been watching these gruesome video clips that find their way to me. This is the kind of footage that will never leave you. Nor will the desperate voices of the victims.

So I must continue speaking out for Mary, a young woman in her mid-20s, who was dragged out of her house in Southeast Syria for being an Assyrian activist.  She was pushed to the ground in the middle of the street and shot in the head.  Then the terrorists shouted that they would murder the entire family of anyone attempting to touch the corpse. The same night dogs started to eat her body.

And I will continue talking about the Assyrian and Armenian girls who are kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam and marry Jihadists, as one Iraqi and Syrian city after another is being emptied of Christians.

Before Syria’s civil war broke out, more than 200 Assyrian families and 1,000 individuals lived in Tabqa, a city in northern Syria. Nearly all of them have left the country; some of them are stranded all over the world, abandoned by cynical smugglers who failed to get them to Europe. Only three Assyrian families had remained in Tabqa. The rebels told them that they would not be harmed. The remaining Assyrians were poor and were trying to maintain what little they had.

One of them was 26-year-old Ninar Odisho. Ninar was brutally murdered by the terrorists. The reason he was killed could be found on his body. The Jihadists had burned a cross into his face. Every day I get reports of atrocities. Our nation, our Christian legacy and our way of life are being eradicated. Assassinated.

The prideful tone in which the perpetrators speak whenever I have interviewed them –both Al Qaeda and IS –– is equally shocking. These are mostly disgruntled young men who were teetering on the edges of society in their own homelands, often in European suburbs, and now believe they have the power to do whatever they want in the name of Islam. They can claim any house in IS-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria as their own, and tell the owners to either leave or risk being killed. They can take any woman as their wife.

Why? Because no one is stopping them.

At least 700, 000 non-Muslims — Christians, Mandeans, Yezidis and others — have left Iraq by now. No one knows how many have left Syria.

IS is also persecuting Muslims. They have killed Sunni Mullahs in Mosul to show that they do not tolerate any interpretation of the Koran other than their own hijacked and distorted version, and that they will accept no religious authority other than their own homemade version.

In other words, everyone other than them is a target: especially the more immediate rivals to their religious and communal authority, other Muslim sects such as the Shia and the Alawites.

They will cut off your tongue if they don’t like what you say, and sever your fingers if they catch you smoking. According to sources in Mosul yesterday, a man was brutally attacked and tortured because he was wearing jeans, which to the IS is tantamount to wearing an U.S. Army uniform.

So, what is the rest of the world doing about this?

Well, world leaders are funding the opposition in Syria, including many of the same extremist groups that they claim America will combat in Iraq by supporting the Iraqi government.

I am struggling to make any moral or human sense of it all.

And here’s a good question: Why is the most powerful country in the world silent as Christianity is wrenched of its roots?

As for me, I came to a point where I have concluded it’s not enough to bear witness anymore.

On June 19 of this year, a young Assyrian who was forcibly deported from Sweden back to Iraq called me from a basement in Mosul. He was whispering. He told me to listen to the surrounding noise: men screaming “Taqbir!” and “Allah u Akbar!” It was ISIS invading his city.

The next morning I went on Facebook and Twitter and asked my friends for help. I started a worldwide campaign. It is called A Demand For Action. We have sent e-mails to politicians, NGOs and media outlets all over the world. We will not stop making the voices of the victims in Iraq and Syria heard until they receive a permanent solution.

In the Nineveh Plains, just south of Iraqi Kurdistan, Assyrians and other minorities constitute the demographic majority and are currently very vulnerable. We need a safe haven, if Christianity and its followers are not to be eradicated from their place of origin for good.

Last week, yet another village in Iraq was attacked by IS. The Christians of the Middle East have faced many massacres over the past century. We are now facing the prospect of a new genocide against Christians in Iraq and Syria.

American and other nations’ leaders must show their support and act now. (Contributor: By Nuri Kino for FoxNews.com – Nuri Kino is a Swedish-Assyrian freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker. He is co-author of the political thriller, “The Line in the Sand.”)

Prayer focus: first, please read this article in its entirety. Yes, it will break your heart. For the more sensitive, it may make you physically sick. Many will weep. But our tears will dry and our nausea will subside, while Christians and non-Muslims suffering in Iraq and Syria have no respite from relentless persecution and death. Second, intercede as you are led. Third, if so led, consider asking elected representatives why the U.S., with its abundant resources, is not leading the way with humanitarian aid? Pray that all of us who make up the Church of Jesus Christ will know what we are to do. ISIS is on the move and marching westward. Please pray.

“But [the expert in the Law], wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’

“Then Jesus answered and said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.

But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’ And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” (Luke 10:20-37)

 

IDF WIPES OUT REMAINING KNOWN HAMAS TUNNELS IN GAZA

IDF ground forces completed work to destroy the last of Hamas’s known cross-border tunnels on Sunday, and struck some 70 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets across the Strip.

Many units withdrew to staging areas in Gaza, though some remained behind, taking up defensive lines inside the Strip to protect Israeli villages.

Since the start of the Gazan war, the IDF has hit 4,600 terror targets. These included rocket launchers, command and control centers, and weapons storage and production facilities.

A terrorist shot at a Givati Brigade infantry unit and an Armored Corps unit in Gaza on Sunday morning. The units returned fire, before observing a Palestinian gunman fleeing a home and entering a vehicle. The air force then struck the vehicle.

“There is no decision to stop the operation,” a senior army source said Sunday.

“We are preparing to attack, not only to defend,” the source said. “If a decision is made that this is necessary, we will attack,” he added.

The IDF struck 108 targets overnight between Saturday and Sunday in Gaza. One soldier was moderately wounded by Palestinian sniper fire in Beit Hanun.

Paratroopers in the Strip detected four terrorists preparing to fire an anti-tank missile. Acting on the information, the Armored Corps fired shells at a home in which the terrorists were stationed.

The building collapsed and the terrorists were killed.

Givati infantry soldiers recently uncovered 150 mortars, as well as a new tunnel shaft, in Gaza. Earlier, Givati soldiers detected terrorists who surfaced from a tunnel.

The IDF fired shells at the cell, which escaped to a nearby home. The IDF shelled the home, and three terrorists were killed. Troops then destroyed the tunnel.

The Israel Air Force killed eight gunmen in air strikes on Sunday and the IDF attacked more than 70 terrorist targets throughout Sunday.

Givati infantry soldiers seized quantities of firearms, rocket launchers, and antitank missiles on Saturday night.

The IDF said that more than 55 rockets had been fired from Gaza at Israel on Sunday. Shrapnel from a rocket shot down by the Iron Dome air-defense system fell inside a playground in the Tel Aviv area but caused no injury, media reports said.

Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, on Sunday threatened to target all Israeli cities with rockets, in response to “massacres against civilians” in the Gaza Strip.

“During this battle, we tried as much as possible to focus our attacks on military targets and avoided – as much as we could – targeting nonmilitary personnel,” the terrorist group claimed in a statement. “But the enemy has and continues to cover its frustration by targeting innocent Palestinian civilians.”

The statement claimed that Israel has chosen to “run away” from the battlefield with Hamas. “The resistance still possesses the tools and capabilities to force the enemy to capitulate to the just demands of our people,” the group warned.

The fighting on Sunday pushed the Gaza death toll given by Palestinian officials to 1,775, most of them civilians.

Israel has confirmed that 64 soldiers have died in combat, while Palestinian rockets have killed three civilians in Israel.

Meanwhile, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri demanded an apology from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for endorsing the Israeli version regarding the “kidnapping” of IDF officer Hadar Goldin.

“Ban Ki-moon is complicit in the massacres because of his silence and concern over dead Israeli soldiers while ignoring the blood of innocent civilians,” Abu Zuhri said. “The occupation took advantage of this stance to perpetrate an ugly massacre against Rafah.

Ban Ki-moon must apologize and hold Israel responsible for the Rafah massacre and all crimes.”

An IDF strike in Gaza on Saturday night targeted senior Hamas operative Ahmed Hassan Mabhouh, 29, who was an engineering and explosives officer in Hamas’s Jabalya battalion.

Mabhouh was killed in the strike. He was the nephew of senior Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who, according to foreign press reports, Israeli agents assassinated in Dubai in 2010 for his role in importing Iranian arms to the Gaza Strip.

Ahmed Mabhouh, a resident of Jabalya, planted underground rocket launchers and planted explosives to assist in ambushes of the IDF, the Shin Bet said.  (Contributor:  By Yaakov Lappin, Khaled Abu Toameh for The Jerusalem Post)

Give thanks for Israel’s success in destroying the Hamas tunnels. The issues should be clear here, but are not. Yesterday, former president Jimmy Carter published a statement condemning Israel and calling for recognition of Hamas as the official area government. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have rebuked Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and spoken on behalf of Hamas. Pray for them to be enlightened, for the preservation of Israel, and for all militant expressions of Islam to be defeated. Militant Islam is not a worthy religion but an ideological killing machine. Let us stand in the gap and intercede. Pray for peace for Israel and recognition of Yeshua as Messiah.

“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one” (Ezekiel 22:30)

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces.” (Psalm 122:6-7)

 

MERIAM IBRAHIM’S STORY ONLY THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG

An organization that fights for persecuted Christians says the end of Meriam Ibrahim’s plight needs to be the beginning point in a struggle to help others still suffering for their faith.

Sudan (small)Ibrahim and her family arrived in the U.S. late last week after being imprisoned in Sudan for refusing to renounce her Christian faith. While in prison and facing a death sentence, she gave birth to her second child; her older child was in prison with her. Now she, her children, and her husband, Daniel Wani (a U.S. citizen) plan to settle in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Cameron Thomas with International Christian Concern says many Christians in Sudan are enduring hardship today.

“Since 2011, Sudan’s president – who has been in power since a military coup in 1989 – has brutally enforced his government’s policies of Islamization and Arabization,” he explains, “meaning that Sudanese Christians, among others, are forced to suffer second-class citizenship, the dictates of Sharia law and they have seen their Bible schools forcibly closed, their churches burned to the ground.”

Last month, Sudan even placed a moratorium on any and all new church construction throughout the country.

“In no free society is a religion – any religion, for that matter – told, Well, we think you have enough places of worship so we’re actually going to not only tear down a few of your already-standing houses of worship, but we’re also going to stop you from building any new ones,” says Thomas. “It has to be noted, and it’s been discussed even at a subcommittee hearing of the U.S. Congress, that the suffering of Christians in Sudan is increasing.” (Contributor: Chris Woodward for One News Now)

We have dual prayer points: first, we urge thanksgiving and praise to God for bringing about Meriam Ibrahim’s release from prison and a death sentence for so-called “apostasy.” She and her family are now in the U.S. and free to pursue their chosen life as a Christian family. God heard His people’s prayers and brought that about. Second, intercede for the millions who still suffer and are slated for death because of faith in Jesus Christ and their unwillingness to recant. Some, like Pastor Saeed, are American citizens. We who are free should give thanks and intercede for those who are not.

“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)

 

U.S. DOCTOR STRICKEN WITH EBOLA SAID TO BE IMPROVING

An American doctor stricken with the deadly Ebola virus while in Liberia and brought to the United States for treatment in a special isolation ward is improving, the top U.S. health official said on Sunday.

Dr Kent Brantly was able to walk, with help, from an ambulance after he was flown on Saturday to Atlanta, where he is being treated by infectious disease specialists at Emory University Hospital.

“It’s encouraging that he seems to be improving – that’s really important – and we’re hoping he’ll continue to improve,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

Frieden told CBS’s “Face the Nation” it was too soon to predict whether Brantly would survive, and a hospital spokesman said Emory did not expect to provide any updates on the doctor’s condition on Sunday.

Brantly is a 33-year-old father of two young children who works for the North Carolina-based Christian organization, Samaritan’s Purse. He was in Liberia responding to the worst Ebola outbreak on record when he contracted the disease.

Since February, more than 700 people in West Africa have died from Ebola, a hemorrhagic virus with a death rate of up to 90 percent of those infected. The fatality rate in the current epidemic is about 60 percent.

Frieden told ABC’s “This Week” that the CDC was “surging” its response, and that it will send 50 staff to West Africa “to help stop the outbreak in the next 30 days.”

Amber Brantly, Dr. Brantly’s wife, said she was able to see her husband on Sunday and he was in good spirits, and that the family is confident he is receiving the very best care. “He thanked everyone for their prayers,” she said in a statement.

A second U.S. aid worker who contracted Ebola alongside Brantly, missionary Nancy Writebol, will be brought to the United States on a later flight as the medical aircraft is equipped to carry only one patient at a time.

Standard treatment for the disease is to provide supportive care. In Atlanta, doctors will try to maintain blood pressure and support breathing, with a respirator if needed, or provide dialysis if patients experience kidney failure, as some Ebola sufferers do.

Second Missionary Expected Soon

Writebol, a 59-year-old mother of two who worked to decontaminate those entering and leaving an Ebola isolation unit in Liberia, was due to depart for the United States overnight on Monday, Liberia’s information minister said.

Writebol’s husband, David, who had been living and working in Liberia with his wife, was expected to travel home separately in the next few days, their missionary organization, SIM USA, said in a statement.

Despite public concern over bringing in Ebola patients, the CDC’s Frieden said the United States may see a few isolated cases in people who have been traveling, but did not expect widespread Ebola in the country.

The facility at Emory chosen to treat the two infected Americans was set up with CDC and is one of four in the country with the ability to handle such cases. The Americans will be treated primarily by four infectious disease physicians, and will be able to see relatives through a plate-glass window and speak to them by phone or intercom.

Frieden said it was unlikely Brantly’s wife and children, who left Liberia before he began showing symptoms, contracted the disease because people who are exposed to Ebola but not yet sick cannot infect others.

The CDC has said it is not aware of any Ebola patient having been treated in the United States previously. Five people entered the country in the past decade with either Lassa Fever or Marburg, both hemorrhagic fevers similar to Ebola.

President Barack Obama has said some participants at an Africa summit in Washington this week would be screened for Ebola exposure. Frieden said on Sunday there was no reason to cancel the event.

“There are 50 million travelers from around the world that come to the U.S. each year … We’re not going to hermetically seal this country,” he told Fox News Sunday. (Contributor: By Rich McKay for Reuters – Additional reporting by Emma Farge in Dakar; Writing by Doina Chiacu and Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Frances Kerry and Sandra Maler)

Update:

A second American stricken with the Ebola virus returned to the USA Tuesday, three days after a doctor being treated for the disease arrived at an Atlanta hospital for intensive care.

Nancy Writebol, a medical missionary aiding in the treatment of Ebola victims in Liberia, was scheduled to leave that African nation around 1 a.m. this past Tuesday on a specially equipped medical evacuation plane, Liberian Information Minister Lewis Brown said, according to the Associated Press.

Kent Brantly, the American doctor transported to Atlanta Saturday, “seems to be improving,” the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday.

Brantly is being treated in a special isolation unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after arriving Saturday at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia. It’s the first time anyone infected with the deadly virus has been brought into the country.

“We’re hoping he’ll continue to improve,” Dr. Tom Frieden told CBS’ Face the Nation. “But Ebola is such a scary disease because it’s so deadly. I can’t predict the future for individual patients.”

Brantly and Writebol were serving in Liberia as medical missionaries when they became infected with the virus, which has killed 729 people and sickened more than 1,300 the West African nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Frieden has said his agency received “nasty” e-mails and at least 100 calls from people questioning why the sick aid workers should be let into the USA. Physicians are confident, however, that the two Americans can be treated without putting the public in danger.

An ambulance arrives with Ebola victim Dr. Kent Brantly, right, at Emory University Hospital, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Atlanta.

The virus is spread through direct contact with blood, urine, saliva and other bodily fluids from an infected person. It is not spread through the air.

“I don’t think it’s in the cards that we would have widespread Ebola,” Frieden said. He said the virus spreads in African hospitals where there isn’t infection control and in burial rituals where people touch the bodies of Ebola victims. That won’t happen here, he said.

“So it’s not going to spread widely in the U.S. Could we have another person here, could we have a case or two? Not impossible,” Frieden said. “We say in medicine never say never. But we know how to stop it here. But to really protect ourselves, the single most important thing we can do is stop it at the source in Africa. That’s going to protect them and protect us.”

Emory’s infectious diseases unit was created 12 years ago to handle doctors who get sick at the CDC. It is one of about four in the country equipped with everything necessary to test, treat and contain people exposed to very dangerous viruses.

In 2005, it handled patients with severe acute respiratory syndromeSARS, which unlike Ebola can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

In fact, the nature of Ebola — which is spread by close contact with bodily fluids and blood — means that any modern hospital using standard, rigorous infection-control measures should be able to handle it. (Contributor: By Natalie DiBlasio and John Bacon for USA Today)

Prayer focus: This is an unfolding story. Please pray for calm consideration among media outlets, that they will report accurately, without fomenting hysteria. Treating Dr. Brantley and Nancy Writebol in the U.S. might as well be treating them on a different planet from West Africa. Merely washing one’s hands with soap and water is a huge deterrent to the spread of Ebola, though we do not downplay its seriousness. Give thanks for these stalwart Christian missionaries who went into harm’s way to bring relief in Liberia. God is still the Great Physician and Healer. Please continue to pray. Our Scripture is out of context but applicable for believers.

“There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them, and said, ‘If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.’ Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve wells of water and seventy palm trees; so they camped there by the waters.” (Exodus 15:25-27)

 

U.S. GOVERNMENT SEEKING TO TEST EBOLA VACCINE ON HUMANS

The U.S. government will begin testing on people an experimental Ebola vaccine as early as September, after seeing positive results from tests on primates, according to media reports on Thursday.

The National Institutes of Health’s infectious disease unit is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to put the vaccine into trial as quickly as possible, according to CNN and USA Today. The director of that unit could not be reached for comment. (Contributor: By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Sandra Maler for Reuters)

Update: Experimental drug likely saved Ebola patients

Three vials containing an experimental drug stored at subzero temperatures were flown into Liberia last week in a last-ditch effort to save two American missionary workers who had contracted Ebola, according to a source familiar with details of the treatment.

The drug appears to have worked, sources say. Dr. Kent Brantly’s and Nancy Writebol’s conditions significantly improved after receiving the medication, sources say. Brantly was able to walk into Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after being evacuated to the United States last week, and Writebol is expected to arrive in Atlanta on Tuesday.

On July 22, Brantly woke up feeling feverish. Fearing the worst, Brantly immediately isolated himself. Writebol’s symptoms started three days later. A rapid field blood test confirmed the infection in both of them after they had become ill with fever, vomiting and diarrhea.

It’s believed both Brantly and Writebol, who worked with the aid organization Samaritan’s Purse, contracted Ebola from another health care worker at their hospital in Liberia, although the official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention case investigation has yet to be released.

A representative from the National Institutes of Health contacted Samaritan’s Purse in Liberia and offered the experimental treatment, known as ZMapp, for the two patients, according to the source.

The drug was developed by the biotech firm Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., which is based in San Diego. The patients were told that this treatment had never been tried before in a human being but had shown promise in small experiments with monkeys.

According to company documents, four monkeys infected with Ebola survived after being given the therapy within 24 hours after infection. Two of four other monkeys that started therapy within 48 hours after infection also survived. One monkey that was not treated died within five days of exposure to the virus.

Brantly and Writebol were aware of the risk of taking a new, little understood treatment and gave informed consent, according to two sources familiar with the care of the missionary workers. In the monkeys, the experimental serum had been given within 48 hours of infection. Brantly didn’t receive it until he’d been sick for nine days.

The medicine is a three-mouse monoclonal antibody, meaning that mice were exposed to fragments of the Ebola virus and then the antibodies generated within the mice’s blood were harvested to create the medicine. It works by preventing the virus from entering and infecting new cells.

The Ebola virus causes viral hemorrhagic fever, which refers to a group of viruses that affect multiple organ systems in the body and are often accompanied by bleeding.

Early symptoms include sudden onset of fever, weakness, muscle pain, headaches and a sore throat. They later progress to vomiting, diarrhea, impaired kidney and liver function — and sometimes internal and external bleeding.

The ZMapp vials reached the hospital in Liberia where Brantly and Writebol were being treated Thursday morning. Doctors were instructed to allow the serum to thaw naturally without any additional heat. It was expected that it would be eight to 10 hours before the medicine could be given, according to a source familiar with the process.

Brantly asked that Writebol be given the first dose because he was younger and he thought he had a better chance of fighting it, and she agreed. However, as the first vial was still thawing, Brantly’s condition took a sudden turn for the worse.

Brantly began to deteriorate and developed labored breathing. He told his doctors he thought he was dying, according to a source with firsthand knowledge of the situation.

Knowing his dose was still frozen, Brantly asked if he could have Writebol’s now-thawed medication. It was brought to his room and administered through an IV. Within an hour of receiving the medication, Brantly’s condition dramatically improved. He began breathing easier; the rash over his trunk faded away. One of his doctors described the events as “miraculous.”

By the next morning, Brantly was able to take a shower on his own before getting on a specially designed Gulfstream air ambulance jet to be evacuated to the United States.

Writebol also received a vial of the medication. Her response was not as remarkable, according to sources familiar with the treatment. However, doctors on Sunday administered Writebol a second dose of the medication, which resulted in significant improvement.

She was stable enough to be evacuated back to the United States and is expected to arrive before noon Tuesday.

The process by which the medication was made available to Brantly and Writebol is highly unusual. ZMapp has not been approved for human use, and has not even gone through the clinical trial process, which is standard to prove the safety and efficacy of a medication. It may have been given under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “compassionate use” regulation, which allows access to investigational drugs outside clinical trials.

Getting approval for compassionate use is often long and laborious, but in the case of Brantly and Writebol, they received the medication within seven to 10 days of their exposure to the Ebola virus.

On July 30, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, an arm of the military responsible for any chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive threats, allotted additional funding to MAPP Biopharmaceutical due to “promising results.”

American Ebola patient ‘seems to be improving’ (Contributor: By Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Danielle Dellorto for CNN)

This account can only invoke heartfelt praise and thanksgiving, both a vital part of intercession. Give thanks for the ingenuity of the scientists and for the diligent and arduous research that brought forth the still-experimental vaccine, ZMapp. Its power to reverse certain death is surely a gift of God’s grace to mankind. Who else could provide the technology and wisdom to allow a “miracle drug” to be discovered, other than our almighty and sovereign God? He is the God of all comfort and Father of mercies. Stay tuned for testimonies from Mrs. Writebol and Dr. Brantly, when fully healed, that will point to and glorify God to the highest degree. Pray for many to come to salvation.

“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. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.” (2 Cor. 1:3-6)

On Watch in Washington August 6, 2014 Plain Text PDF Version

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