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Pope Weds Couple Mid-Flight Aboard Papal Plane

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 21:12

Pope Francis married a couple thousands of feet above the earth aboard the papal plane Thursday while traveling from Santiago to Iquique, Chile.

The couple, flight attendants Paula Podesta and Carlos Ciuffardi, has been together for 10 years and was civilly married in 2010, but just before they were to have a church wedding, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Chile and destroyed their church, according to Crux Now. Francis, upon hearing that an earthquake prevented their wedding, offered to officially marry them himself in the first marriage that a Pope has ever conducted aboard an airplane.

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"It was historic," Francis told the couple, according to Crux. "Never has a pope married a couple on a plane."

Podesta and Ciuffardi were shocked at Francis' offer and asked him whether he was sure, but to the couple's delight, Francis proceeded with the ceremony. Francis asked for witnesses to the sacrament, and the couple chose the CEO of LATAM airlines, Enrique Cueto Plaza, to vouch for the validity of the union. Francis then asked the present Cardinals to draft a marriage license, which they hand wrote.

Marriage licence of the first ever marriage a pope has celebrated on board a plane! Pic via @oss_romano pic.twitter.com/Ju0oN1ATJa

— Ines San Martin (@inesanma) January 18, 2018

Ciuffardi told Crux that Francis held their hands and blessed the rings they had worn for more than seven years "in the name of God."

"What he said to us is very important: 'This is the sacrament the world needs, the sacrament of marriage. Hopefully, this will motivate couples around the world to get married,’" Ciuffardi said.

 

Follow Joshua Gill on Twitter.

Send tips to joshua@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Copyright 2018 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Ohio Could Require Aborted Babies be Buried or Cremated

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 21:11

The Ohio Senate passed a bill Wednesday requiring the remains of aborted babies to either be buried or cremated rather than be thrown in landfills or sold like is sometimes done at abortion clinics.

If the bill -- Senate Bill 28 -- becomes law, the state will mandate women getting abortions to fill out a form indicating whether they prefer burial or cremation for the aborted remains. If a woman makes no selection, the health providers at the clinic will choose a method for her. The bill passed the Ohio Senate in a 24-9 vote, according to Cincinnati.com.

Republican state senator Joe Eucker proposed the bill after Ohio's Attorney General, Mike DeWine, a Republican, charged Planned Parenthood with throwing remaining baby parts into a Kentucky landfill. "It seeks to promote and honor the dignity of the unborn," Uecker said regarding the measure.

Planned Parenthood denied all allegations.

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Abortion advocates aren't happy about the bill's possible ascension into law, however. "The anti-abortion politicians behind this bill want to force a woman who has had an abortion to have to consider and decide upon burial or cremation services - it's inappropriate and demeaning," NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said.

For his part, Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said, "Victims of abortion deserve compassionate and humane treatment," according to Cincinnati.com.

Under the bill, clinics that dispose of fetal remains using any method other than burial or cremation will face a first degree misdemeanor, but women who aborted at those clinics would not face punishment.

 

Follow Grace on Twitter.

Copyright 2018 The Daily Caller News Foundation

HHS Announces Formation of ‘Conscience and Religious Freedom Division’

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 17:42

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will extend new rights to health care workers. The protections come via the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR). HHS announced the new division this morning.

Conscience and Religious Freedom Division

The division allows officials to enforce protecting rights of conscience and religious freedom. As The Stream reported, health care workers won’t have to take part in procedures against their moral or religious beliefs. For instance, abortions or sex change procedures. The division will also protect the security and privacy of people’s health information.

The OCR can now protect workers and punish employers that “don't allow them to express their religious and moral objections.” This is a big change from the OCR’s former policy. It only enforced federal civil rights and health care privacy laws.

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OCR Director Roger Severino said if laws protecting conscience rights are not enforced, they’re just words on paper. “No one should be forced to choose between helping sick people and living by one's deepest moral or religious convictions,” he said.

He added that “for too long, governments big and small have treated conscience claims with hostility instead of protection.”

President Trump previously promised to “uphold the rights of conscience and religious freedom.”

“That promise is being kept today,” said acting HHS Secretary Hargan. “The Founding Fathers knew that a nation that respects conscience rights is more diverse and more free.”

“OCR’s new division will help make that vision a reality,” he added.

Trump Will Address March For Life Via Satellite

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 16:32

President Donald Trump will address Friday's March For Life in D.C. live from the White House Rose Garden via satellite, making him the first sitting U.S. president to address the event live via video from the White House.

"We're excited to announce that  will be the first sitting President to address the  from the  ... The President is committed to protecting the life of the unborn," Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Wednesday.

.@PressSec: "We're excited to announce that @POTUS will be the first sitting President to address the #MarchforLife from the @WhiteHouse… The President is committed to protecting the life of the unborn." pic.twitter.com/p2nG1nlJo5

— Fox News (@FoxNews) January 17, 2018

"Since his first day in office, President Trump has remained steadfast on his campaign promises to the pro-life cause and has actively worked to protect the unborn," March for Life president Jeanne Mancini said in a press release sent to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

"Over the past year, the Trump administration has significantly advanced pro-life policy, and it is with great confidence that, under his leadership, we expect to see other pro-life achievements in the years to come," Mancini said.

Trump will headline the 2018 March For Life lineup of speakers, which includes House Speaker Paul Ryan, Pam Tebow, Matt and Adrianna Birk, Rep. Dan Lipinski and others. The march, themed "Love Saves Lives," is expected to draw more than 100,000 people.

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"In his first year in office, he and his administration have already gone farther than any administration in history to demonstrate his commitment to unborn children and their mothers. President Trump stands united with us and is leading the pro-life movement on to victory," Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said, according to a press release.

Vice President Mike Pence addressed the 2017 March for Life, marking an historic first, as no president or vice president had addressed March for Life attendees in person since its inception in 1974, according to Fortune. Former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both addressed pro-lifers at the rally via phone or loudspeaker during their terms.

  Follow Grace on Twitter.

Copyright 2018 The Daily Caller News Foundation

CNN on Top in Trump’s ‘Fake News Awards’

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 15:13

CNN won four out of 11 "Fake News Awards" on Wednesday night, while The New York Times captured two of the dishonors hyped for weeks by President Donald Trump, but actually given in the end by the Republican National Committee.

The "awards" to the cable network and other media organizations cited reports darkly predicting an economic collapse under Trump, detailing the Russia investigation, and mistakenly asserting that the new president had removed a bust of civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office.

The White House had kept details close, but at 8 p.m. Trump tweeted a link to a Republican National Committee webpage showcasing "The Highly Anticipated 2017 Fake News Awards."

And the FAKE NEWS winners are…https://t.co/59G6x2f7fD

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2018

Trump also conceded the existence of "many great reporters" while noting his administration's accomplishments after one year:

Despite some very corrupt and dishonest media coverage, there are many great reporters I respect and lots of GOOD NEWS for the American people to be proud of!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2018

ISIS is in retreat, our economy is booming, investments and jobs are pouring back into the country, and so much more! Together there is nothing we can't overcome–even a very biased media. We ARE Making America Great Again!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2018

However, traffic was so heavy that the page crashed. It later was restored.

Tonight, https://t.co/YTZAIJpNhb saw more traffic than ever before. Even though the servers were scaled up, the interest was even greater than anticipated. Traffic is off the charts. Come back soon.

— GOP (@GOP) January 18, 2018

The Republican National Committee announced the prizes for questionable journalism shortly after two former Obama administration lawyers warned against the involvement of White House staff in deciding the "winners."

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Such activity would constitute an ethics violation because it would involve government time and money devoted to helping or hurting a private corporation, they said.

The "winners" are:

--The long-running "Russia collusion" story, of which the RNC asserted, echoing Trump: "There is no collusion."

--CNN's report that the Trump campaign and Donald Trump Jr. had access to hacked documents from WikiLeaks.

--A CNN report suggesting Trump overfed fish during a visit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

--CNN's report, later retracted, claiming short-term White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci had ties to Russia.

--A CNN report that fired FBI Director James Comey would dispute Trump's claim that Comey told the president he was not under investigation. (Comey actually confirmed this point.)

--The New York Times' report that the Trump administration concealed a climate change study.

--An assertion by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, an economist, that financial markets "never" would recover from Trump's 2016 election victory.

--Washington Post columnist Dave Weigel's tweet saying a Trump rally in Pensacola, Florida, was sparsely attended before many in the crowd had shown up. 

.@DaveWeigel @WashingtonPost put out a phony photo of an empty arena hours before I arrived @ the venue, w/ thousands of people outside, on their way in. Real photos now shown as I spoke. Packed house, many people unable to get in. Demand apology & retraction from FAKE NEWS WaPo! pic.twitter.com/XAblFGh1ob

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 9, 2017

The Republican National Committee also noted:

--An incident in which "ABC News' Brian Ross CHOKES and sends markets in a downward spiral with a false report," referring to Ross' later retracted story about former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn.

ABC News suspended Ross for reporting that Flynn would tell prosecutors that Trump directed him to contact the Russian government.

--A reporter for Time mistakenly asserted in a pool report that Trump had removed a bust of King from the Oval Office.

--Newsweek incorrectly reported that Polish first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda didn't shake Trump's hand during his visit to Poland.

 

Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for The Daily Signal. Send an email to Fred@FredLucasWH

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

10-Year-Old Hostage Used as a Human Shield: ‘I Just Knew God Had Me’

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 14:22

A 10-year-old little boy was held hostage in Liberty Township, Ohio for 30 hours but only got a "little bit scared,” and said, “I just knew that God had me.”

The Argument

Sincere Trammell's ordeal began on Friday when his captor, long-time family friend 31-year-old Donald Gazaway, Jr., demanded money from Sincere's mother. When his mom refused, Gazaway put a gun to her head.

"When I walked in there, I saw him having a gun to my mom's head and kept saying give me $10,000 now," said Sincere. When Sincere tried to leave the room, Gazaway ran after him. According to Sincere, it was "because he thought I had a phone, and then she (mom) ran out the door."

Moments later, police arrived.

The Standoff

During the ordeal, Gazaway used Sincere as a "human shield" as Gazaway fired 20 to 30 bullets at police and SWAT members, according to Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones.

Over the 30-hour standoff, Gazaway and Sincere spent much of their time hiding in closets and in the back seat of a car in the garage.

"He kept saying in the car that he was going to let me go, regardless,” said Sincere.”I convinced him to turn himself in because he was going to kill himself and he kept crying. He was saying that he had two options, and then he said he was going to kill himself or turn himself in, and he kept saying he might kill himself, so I told him how I was feeling. I wouldn’t like that, and he has two daughters who would feel bad.”

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Sincere tried to talk Gazaway into turning himself in, as jail would be a better choice.

“I said that jail would probably help you get better at life, and that would be a better option to do. So I said it’s better to have a punishment than kill yourself, and I’m saying that God basically will give you another chance to become a better person in life,” Sincere said.

Shortly afterward, when Gazaway finally surrendered to police, he again used Sincere as a human shield.

‘I Just Knew That God Had Me’

SWAT team members quickly took Sincere out of harm's way. A picture of Sincere right after the ordeal showed him sitting with SWAT team members and eating a doughnut.

On Tuesday, Sincere spoke about the event to a reporter. When asked what kept him calm, Sincere replied, "I just knew that God had me."

Gazaway is now being held in the Butler County Jail. He was charged with kidnapping, felonious assault and inducing panic. His bond was set at $1 million.

Nikki Haley: Talks Between North and South Korea a ‘Distraction’

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 13:13

The U.S. is wise to North Korea's game and is not going to play, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations said Wednesday.

North and South Korea are talking again after two years of silence, but these exchanges are little more than a "distraction," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley argued in an exclusive interview with Voice of America's Greta Van Susteren.

"I think this is a distraction. I think this is doing what North Korea has always done," Haley explained. "We're not going to play the same game we've always played." The State Department asserted Wednesday that the U.S. does not believe now is the right time for talks.

"Just because North and South Korea are holding hands today doesn't mean that threat hasn't gone away," she said, adding: "The United States and the international community is going to keep up the pressure on North Korea" until it abandons its pursuit of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

Haley stressed the U.S. is "fine" with the bilateral exchanges between the two Koreas, but while the South plans its "peace Olympics," the U.S. will focus on the nuclear threat which persists.

The North and South "can go and have those regional cooperation on that level, but at the end of the day, we still have nuclear missiles in North Korea that they continue to test, and they continue to threaten the United States and the world with. So, we're going to keep that at the forefront," she further commented.

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In an exclusive interview with Reuters Wednesday, President Donald Trump, as he has done in the past, offered support to the talks going on in Korea, but he questioned the effectiveness of dialogue. "I’m not sure that talks will lead to anything meaningful. They've talked for 25 years and they've taken advantage of our presidents, of our previous presidents," he explained.

"They get closer every day," the president said of North Korea's ability to reliably strike the continental U.S. with a nuclear-armed ballistic missile. Trump is willing to sit down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, but said he is "not sure that sitting down will solve the problem."

U.S. leaders have been kicking the can that is North Korea down the road for decades, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told Fox News Wednesday. "There's no road left," he said, explaining that North Korea cannot be allowed to possess a nuclear arsenal.

Asked if war is on the horizon, Kelly answered: "I hope not."

"We're playing a very, very hard game of poker, and you do not want to reveal your hand," the president replied when asked if he was considering a pre-emptive strike on the North.

 

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Copyright 2018 The Daily Caller News Foundation

More Than 3 in 4 Americans Support Limits on Abortion, Poll Finds

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 12:57

About 76 percent of Americans support stricter laws on abortion, according to a new Marist Poll, a finding that is part of a consistent trend in data the company has collected in the past decade.

While 51 percent of respondents identified as pro-choice, 60 percent of them said they support limitations on abortions, such as backing a ban on the procedures after 20 weeks of pregnancy and opposing the use of tax dollars to pay for them.

"There is a slight majority in favor of pro-choice," said Andrew Walther, vice president of the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic service organization that commissioned the annual poll.

But labels of pro-life or pro-choice "don't quite tell the whole story," Walther said Wednesday in discussing the results at the National Press Club.

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"Interestingly, this also cuts across political lines in ways that might be a little bit surprising," he said.

About 61 percent of Democrats, 92 percent of Republicans, and 78 percent of independents said they want significant restrictions on abortion, according to the poll.

Marist Poll and the Knights of Columbus released the results two days before the annual March for Life in Washington.

In conducting the survey, the pollster first asked a binary question, such as whether or not the respondent was pro-life or pro-choice, and then a more detailed and nuanced followup, Barbara Carvalho, director of the Marist Poll, told reporters and others in attendance.

Marist Poll added a new question in this year's survey asking, "When does life begin?" Answers ranged from "at conception" to "when a baby is born."

Walther said there is a "fairly interesting divide" between pro-lifers' and pro-choicers' views on why people believe life begins at conception.

For those who identify as pro-life, 16 percent said it is "a biological and scientific fact" that life begins at conception, while 45 percent of pro-choice respondents said  "a philosophical or religious belief" drives pro-lifers to believe life begins at conception.

About 42 percent said abortion is a "major factor" in how they vote in elections, and at least 70 percent said it is either a major or minor factor.

The poll found 56 percent see abortion as morally wrong, down from 63 percent in 2008 when Marist Poll first took its annual abortion survey, and 41 percent see abortion as morally acceptable. About 64 percent see abortion as morally wrong when the child has a genetic disorder, and 26 percent see it as morally acceptable.

Asked how President Donald Trump has done with the pro-life movement, Walther answered, "When you look at the polling ... some of the actions he's taken track very very well with where Americans are."

The Knights of Columbus official cited the so-called Mexico City policy that Trump reinstated last year to ban U.S. aid to overseas abortion providers.

The poll surveyed 2,617 adults 18 and older who live in the continental U.S. during December and January, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

 

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

7 Pro-Life Policies Touted by the Trump Administration — and Their Current Status

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 12:00

On Friday, the March for Life will be held one day before President Donald Trump marks his first year in office. Last year, Vice President Mike Pence addressed the tens of thousands gathered. The White House announced Wednesday morning that President Trump will deliver brief remarks at this year’s March for Life. His speech will be simulcast live from the Rose Garden.

Pro-life leaders have offered both glowing and disappointed reviews of the president's record thus far. A policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, Melanie Israel emphasizes why these policies matter in the first place. "The right to life is the most fundamental right of all," she says. "Without that right, all of our other freedoms are not quite as important."

As to the White House pro-life agenda, it started with a 2016 letter from then-candidate Trump. "President Trump went on the record before the election saying he was committed to policies like Pain Capable, the Conscience Protection Act and defunding Planned Parenthood," she says. "Those are all key policies Congress has been pursuing."

Status Report on 7 Key Pro-Life Policies

Looking at specifics can help clarify the issues. Aside from item one, this list examines the status of proposed laws related to abortion policies. Further insight into potential administrative action is noted at the end.

1. Stop the U.S. From Exporting Abortion Overseas

Mexico City Policy (Reinstated)

Status: Executive Order signed Jan. 23, 2017

President Trump issued a pro-life decision on his first Monday in office. He blocked the U.S. from funding health providers who perform or promote abortion services overseas. This order aligned with previous ones by Presidents Reagan and Bush.

The policy has been interpreted more broadly than in previous years. Initially, it was estimated to affect $600 million in aid funding. “This policy does not cut global health assistance funding,” says Israel. “It’s saying that more than $8 billion in taxpayer funds will no longer be entangled with the abortion industry.”

2. Reverse Last-Minute Obama Administration Pro-Choice Policy

Title X Congressional Review Act

Status: Signed into law by President Trump on Apr. 13, 2017

Another pro-life win came early in his presidency. Congressional leaders were dismayed by a last-minute decision by the Obama Administration. It would have kept public funds flowing to Planned Parenthood despite state-level efforts to exclude the abortion provider. Planned Parenthood has recently been under investigation on several fronts, from Medicaid fraud to unethical practices.

Both the House and Senate passed a bill allowing states to make their own decisions regarding Title X federal funding. Because of a 50-50 tie in the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote.

3. Prohibit Most Abortions at 20 Weeks Fetal Development

Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

Status: Passed House on Oct. 3, 2017 by 237-189, no Senate vote scheduled

This bill has been the most discussed priority among pro-life leaders. It was central in the 2016 letter sent to pro-life leaders. Pro-life advocates estimate the policy "would save over 15,000 preborn lives annually."

On October 3, House debate on both sides was impassioned. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Ga., had the final word. "This is a good bill, it is a just bill," she said. "[We are] called as human beings to protect the lives of the most innocent." In a special election, Planned Parenthood's political arm spent $735,000 on behalf of her opponent. On the Senate side, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has introduced the bill.

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4. Ensure Lives Born After Attempted Abortions Have a Chance

Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

Status: House vote scheduled for Jan. 19, 2018

This bill may sound familiar to many. The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act passed with strong support in 2002. It even received unanimous consent in the Senate. The policy mandates clinics provide medical care to infants who survive abortion.

However, abortion providers have not been held accountable. In recent years, Pennsylvania investigators found horrific conditions at an abortion clinic run by Kermit Gosnell. "This new bill is about adding enforcement," says Melanie Israel. "It provides consequences for health care providers who violate that 2002 law."

She provides further insight. "It's pretty amazing how things have changed in the time span of 15 years," notes Israel. "Back then, both parties protected born-alive infants. This week, I'm sure some people on Capitol Hill will vote against this bill."

5. Make the Hyde Amendment Permanent

No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act

Status: Passed House on Jan. 24, 2017 by 238-183, no Senate vote scheduled

Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has ensured that U.S. taxpayers do not directly fund abortion services. Making that policy permanent is the goal of this bill, authored by Rep. Chris Smith. He has long served as chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus.

The Hyde policy has to be added annually to appropriations bills. This law would make it a blanket federal policy rather than subject to the politics of committees.

6. Protect the Ethical Decisions of Health Providers

Conscience Protection Act

Status: No vote scheduled in House or Senate

Many health providers have ethical reasons for not participating in abortions or sterilization. In the wake of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, several conscience protection policies were passed. Yet HHS has failed to enforce these policies in recent years.

Medical professionals and non-profit groups have been penalized for standing on their convictions. In 2009, a nurse in New York was told she'd be fired if she didn't assist with an abortion. Others point to more recent incidents.

"A couple years ago, California mandated that almost all health plans have to cover elective abortions," says Israel. "Now that clearly flies in the face of existing conscience protections. But under the Obama Administration, surprise! They found that wasn't a violation." The Conscience Protection Act would strengthen enforcement of existing policies.

7. End All Federal Funding of Abortion Providers

Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act

Status: No vote scheduled in House or Senate

Planned Parenthood International lost funding due to the Mexico City Policy (see above). Yet the largest abortion provider has fared better stateside. Planned Parenthood received $543 million in taxpayer funds last year.

Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., has proposed halting federal funding of any abortion provider. She notes Title X exists for critical women's health services, not other purposes. A recent analysis found there are 13 times more federally qualified health centers than Planned Parenthood locations. These centers provide women's health services but do not perform abortions.

"I will not rest until we put a stop to the blatant abuse of taxpayer dollars to subsidize this big abortion business," states Black. "Abortion is not healthcare. It destroys one life and damages another." She recently announced plans to run for Governor of Tennessee on a pro-life platform.

"There have been more than 350 pro-life laws passed in the states since 2010. That's not happening by accident." -- Melanie Israel

Seeing the Bigger Picture

Pro-life advocates may be discouraged by the lack of movement on some issues. Yet the Heritage policy analyst has a broader view.

"It's important to remember the many pro-life victories at the state level," she begins. "There have been more than 350 pro-life laws passed in the states since 2010. That's not happening by accident. It's happening because people are putting pro-life legislators in office who are passing pro-life laws."

Federal policymakers can learn something from these victories, according to Israel. "They can feel emboldened to know, This truly is the will of the people," she says. "This is an agenda they should be pursuing."

As to the Trump Administration, pro-life leaders plan to outline specific steps that could be taken at an event next week. Leaders from Americans United for Life and Susan B. Anthony List will present alongside Israel. "We all know that administrative action is not permanent, but it's still very important," she states.

‘Woke’ is the New ‘Saved’

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 10:13

Alan Jacobs has written a really important essay for anyone who cares about free speech or higher education. It's in highly academic prose. I earned a Ph.D. in English, which entailed studying abstruse "critical theory." But I found Jacobs' essay slow going. That's fine. He was speaking to his fellow professors. Because his message is so crucial, let me translate it. If you have college-age kids, you need to know what they’re in for. (I edited a book-shaped vaccine against college-based insanity, Disorientation, which many have told me proved useful to their students.)

There's a reason why so many college students don't care about "free expression," "open debate," and rational discussion. Not when the views presented offend them. For centuries, we thought of most colleges -- apart maybe from seminaries -- as places where students would have to encounter such views. The liberal arts, which depend on open debate and dispute, were born in medieval universities. They carried on in deeply Christian colleges after the Reformation on both sides of the Tiber.

A New Gospel

Nationwide, with some exceptions, students, professors, and administrators have turned their backs on this tradition. The reason? As Jacobs shows, it is religious. Before him, Andrew Sullivan proposed the provocative thesis that the movement uniting radical students and teachers today, "Intersectionality," is really a whole new creed. And an intolerant one. As Sullivan wrote:

"Intersectionality" is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, it's a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity -- such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. -- but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. …

It is operating, in Orwell's words, as a "smelly little orthodoxy," and it manifests itself, it seems to me, almost as a religion. It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained -- and through which all speech must be filtered. Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., "check your privilege," and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay. The sin goes so deep into your psyche, especially if you are white or male or straight, that a profound conversion is required.

Like the Puritanism once familiar in New England, intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse. It enforces manners. It has an idea of virtue -- and is obsessed with upholding it. The saints are the most oppressed who nonetheless resist. The sinners are categorized in various ascending categories of demographic damnation, like something out of Dante. The only thing this religion lacks, of course, is salvation. Life is simply an interlocking drama of oppression and power and resistance, ending only in death. It's Marx without the final total liberation.

The New Road to Faith

Jacobs builds on Sullivan's insight and goes into much further depth. He shows how the social justice movement on campus does much of the work that a real religion would do. It offers some of the same psychic rewards.

Here's how it works: By listening to professors, or following peer pressure, a student discovers that the world is deeply wrong. Permeated by evil. Its evil is inequality. And that evil has an author: straight white males.

Realizing the depth and extent of this all-pervading evil comes as a kind of conversion. One wakes up. Then one is "woke." That’s SJW-speak for “saved.” Hence the first moment of faith. "I once was lost but now am found./ Was blind but now I see."

Joining the Righteous

If a student belongs to any other group but straight white males, then she is in luck: She's certified as a victim. She deserves special treatment from everyone from college deans to government bureaucrats. Even better, she should feel virtuous for wallowing in anger and resentment. No matter if she's Malia Obama. She can righteously seethe with rage at jobless white coal miners, or homeless white veterans. Her sense of victimhood gives her the "blessed assurance" that she is part of the Elect.

By listening to professors, or following peer pressure, a student discovers that the world is deeply wrong. Permeated by evil. Its evil is inequality. And that evil has an author: straight white males. Realizing the depth and extent of this all-pervading evil comes as a kind of conversion.

This creed offers salvation even to the worst of sinners, straight white males. The price is steep: a life of self-denial and penance. But for those who walk this path, rewards await. You can attain justification. Not by your own efforts -- but by the righteousness that suffering, innocent victims (non-straights, non-whites, non-males) can impute to you. As an "ally" of the less privileged, you earn the same right to despise the mass of oppressors. And feminists will date you, for whatever that’s worth.

Growing in Wokiness

Go deeper into the cult, and the disciplines get more rigorous. Now white women must admit their role in oppressing women of color. This requires some of the groveling that white males must endure. But it offers the same benefit: a sense of forgiveness, and spiritual progress. Likewise black males must atone to women of color. All straights must bow down to gays. Even gays must make amends for their insensitivity to "trans" people. I am not sure to whom "trans" people of color must apologize. But give intellectuals time, and they’ll find someone. Or invent them.

This new religious movement apes the structure of a Christian conversion, and of subsequent life in the Spirit. It does so, of course, at a much shallower level. It replaces worship with protest. Spirituality with unhinged histrionics. Examination of conscience with the scapegoating of others conveniently dead or out of power.

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The Fall and Redemption

This creed also mimics Christian salvation history. The straight white male is the phallic serpent in the Garden. In one place after another, these aggressive oppressors found a pre-lapsarian paradise. And in each case, we paved it and made it a parking lot.

To keep up this myth of the Fall, and its tempter, progressives have to ignore a lot of facts. They have to whitewash:

The fact of Arab-run slavery in Africa before Europeans arrived. The cruelties and slaughters of the Muslim conquests from Spain to India. The savage wars, routine torture, and environmental devastation that marked the lives of North American Indians. The ritual cannibalism practiced by the genocidal Aztecs. The theological tyranny wielded by upper-class Hindus over millions of "untouchables."

Likewise in sexual politics, social justice warriors must wish away:

The brutal cost of abortion in innocent lives and women's mental health. The collapse of the human birthrate everywhere that feminism has arrived. The decline of marriage, and the explosion of single mothers dependent on the government. The obsession of gay male culture with promiscuity and youth, including underage boys. The abundant evidence that biological sex is real, and "trans" fantasies are symptoms of mental illness. Playing Martyr and Burning Witches

Accepting any of these facts would shatter the sweet certitude of a life of faith. Those who try to speak of them in the name of "academic freedom" are in fact committing blasphemy. They aren't challenging students' views, but attacking their new identity. They're not educating students, but trying to contaminate them. So believers must flee the occasion of sin -- or better yet, expel the unbeliever. No wonder students need "safe spaces" in which they'll feel protected. To them these are the catacombs, and conservatives on campus are Caesar's soldiers, come to seize the holy books and desecrate the altars.

You can't really argue with zealots like this. They've constructed a palace of funhouse mirrors in which to live. Their new, fantastic religion takes up all the space where real faith in Christ could live. And that's the best evidence we have of its origin: demonic.

Military Photo of the Day: Army Soldiers Train at Fort Irwin

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 08:00

U.S. Army soldiers conduct a recent training exercise at Fort Irwin in California. 

Thank you to these brave soldiers for serving our country.

 

 

 

 

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Diagnosis: President Fit, Media Has Fits

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 01:00

You’d think hearing that our President is physically and mentally fit would be a good thing. Apparently it’s not, if you are member of the White House press corps or Morning Joe crew. 

On Tuesday, White House physician Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson laid out in detail how Donald Trump is in “excellent health.” 

The press room reacted with a disappointment bordering on the macabre. The reaction since is even worse. 

The Presser

The President’s in excellent health, particularly for a man his age. His cholesterol is a bit high and the 239-pounder admits he needs to lose 10-15 pounds. Trump, because of all the blabber about his mental health, requested a cognitive test. He nailed it 30 for 30. He doesn’t need much sleep, is blessed with great genetics and when aides are collapsing from exhaustion on foreign trips, he’s still raring to go. 

However, the press hammered Jackson for an hour with questions that were variations on a theme: “You’re lying. When is the crazy SOB just going to die already?!”

A major focus was on Alzheimer’s. ABC’s Cecelia Vega led the charge: “Are you ruling out things like early onset Alzheimer’s? Are you looking at dementia-like symptoms?” The question spread like the flu. Just to name two: Margaret Brennan wondered if Jackson missed Trump’s (obvious to her) Alzheimers, given Trump’s age and Ronald Reagan. Sanjay Gupta also asked about “early stages of dementia.” (Ironically, one reporter suggested that repeating things was a sign of mental issues. If true, that whole room needs to get checked out STAT.)

Is Trump mentally fit to be President? Remember the one time he slurred some words? Did you do every test and procedure known to man to convincingly prove beyond every possible shadow of a doubt that he not only has all his marbles, but they’ve been polished and arranged according to color and clarity? 

“Do you know his life expectancy span?” (We really do want to know when he’s going to die.)

“Can you explain to me how a guy who eats McDonald’s and KFC and drinks all those diet cokes and never exercises is in as good a shape as you say he’s in?” (Jackson: “It’s called genetics.”)

Certainly, Jackson was keeping something from the press. We just know it. CNN’s conspiratorial blowhard Jim Acosta, his busy brow arched: “There isn't anything that's a part of the president's health records or his overall physical fitness or any medications that he's taking that you're not permitted to tell us? Is there anything you're keeping from us for privacy reasons?" The answer was no.  (I would have been temped to add, “But the sight of you does tend to make people around here nauseous.”)

One reporter shouted out, “Is he a drug addict?”

As Fit as the Smoker Obama?

One guy asked how Trump could become as “fit as Obama.” The same Obama who not only fought a smoking addiction, but by the end looked like he could be broken by a breeze. (Was Jackson ever asked how Obama’s coke and pot use impacted his cognitive abilities? How long before he hacked up a tar-filled lung? And God forbid anyone ask about Hillary Clinton’s health during the campaign, even as she was stumbling, sliding, cackling and collapsing coast to coast. And claiming memory loss during her FBI interview to boot.)

Another doozy that made The Federalist list of the 10 of the dumbest questions asked: Does Jackson keep count of how often the President plays golf? Because that what Rear Admirals with more decorations than a Christmas tree should be doing with their time.

It grew even more absurd: “Is he limited to one scoop of ice cream now?” “What’s his waist measurement?” “Does he wear dentures?” “Do you worry about how much TV he watches?” “Are you concerned about his Twitter use”? 

The whole routine felt like a Saturday Night Live skit. You can imagine: “Can we televise next year’s colonoscopy live?” “Would you say chasing porn stars is good or bad for your health?” “Is it true he drinks the blood of Dreamers?” 

Thankfully, Jackson has a great bedside manner. Those reporters could have turned Patch Adams into Chucky the Clown.

The Reaction

Afterward, the hits kept a’comin’. 

Seeing a lot of skepticism over the idea that @realDonaldTrump weighs only 239 pounds. Would he step on a scale in public to prove it?

— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) January 16, 2018

Dilanian is NBC’s intelligence and national security reporter. Insert heavyweight vs lightweight joke here. 

CNN’s Jake Dapper also jumped on the fat-shame bandwagon, quickly tweeting that Trump is the 3rd heaviest president we’ve ever had. He then tweeted pictures of the top two: William Taft and Grover Cleveland. 

The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin wanted to make sure the world knew that Trump’s cognitive test was not a psychiatric exam. The implication: “So go ahead and keep saying he’s as crazy as a loon.” Why not? Worked for the old Soviet Union.

CNN’s Brian Stelter seemed to concede the president is healthy as an ox and as sharp as a fox. (Thus, destroying the earlier narrative.) But in his view, that now doesn’t matter.

Here's how the next few hours will go. Trump supporters will say "Concerns about Trump's mental health were always absurd. Case closed now." The obvious response: "The Q's about fitness for office are serious. Someone could be sharp as a tack, but still unfit"

— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) January 16, 2018

The Morning After

The sun rose and they were still at it. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta basically called Jackson a liar, insisting the president has heart disease. He’s likely to have a heart attack within 3-to-5 years. (And how many of their viewers went “Good!”?) 

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni attacked the much-decorated doctor. He told CNN Jackson “seemed like a Trump fanboy.” 

His Times colleague Maggie Haberman thinks the White House listed Trump at 6’3″, rather than 6’2″, so his weight wouldn’t mark him as obese. 

New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio told MSNBC’s Morning Joe Wednesday that Trump’s actions “don’t suggest” he is sane. 

Let’s talk sanity. Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski says Trump’s clean bill of health should worry Americans. “Because if he wasn’t healthy that would be a great excuse for his behavior. Now he has none. Which you can deduce other things that are far more nefarious and frightening.” 

When a guest agreed, Brzezinski got more specific. “I’m disturbed that they say he’s cognitively healthy. I think the word ‘evil’ comes to mind.”

A Healthy Thought

Hearing that, one can’t help but think of black pots and kettles. Or Jesus’ call to remove the log from your own eye before dealing with the spec you see in someone else’s. What happened to the Bible’s request that we pray for our leaders? Or even the simple decency to be grateful someone is healthy?

Today we’ve got one cable channel breathlessly promoting that the President is a dead man walking. Another channel declaring him evil.  And a vast media world that can think nothing but ill of the man. 

That is the sickness found in the White House, Doc. It’s not in the Oval Office. It’s in the press room.

 

Note: If you missed the briefing or just need an entertaining  reminder of how bats the press has gotten, here it is. Questions start at around the 10 minute mark.

Why This Survivor of Saline Abortion Wants Congress to Pass ‘Born Alive’ Bill

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 00:56

As House lawmakers plan to vote on a bill to protect survivors of abortion the same week as the March for Life, one abortion survivor says she hopes Congress passes the measure to save babies who are left to die.

"I survived my birth mother's saline infusion abortion 40 years ago at St. Luke's Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa," Melissa Ohden, a survivor of a failed abortion in 1977, told The Daily Signal in an email.

"Although there were demands made to leave me to die in that hospital room that day," she said, "ultimately a nurse rushed me off to the NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit], because, in her words, I 'just kept gasping for breath,' and she couldn't just leave me there to die."

The annual March for Life takes place Friday as pro-lifers gather in Washington for a rally on the National Mall and a walk to the Supreme Court.

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 The bill would provide protections for babies born after an unsuccessful abortion procedure, granting them the same medical attention as babies born in any other situation, according to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

"Next week -- the week of the annual March for Life when tens of thousands of Americans come to Washington to give voice to the voiceless unborn -- the House will vote on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors [Protection] Act," McCarthy said in a statement obtained Jan. 9 by Townhall.

"This bill states simply that if a baby is born after a failed abortion attempt, he or she should be given the same medical care as a baby born any other way," the No. 2 House Republican said.

McCarthy's office did not respond to a request from The Daily Signal regarding the timing of the vote.

Ohden, 40, now married and the mother of two daughters, said the legislation would ensure that babies who survive abortions would not be left to die, as she was.

"Preborn children deserve equal protection under the law and immediate medical attention upon their survival," she said in her email, adding:

No one's life, no survivor's care, should be dependent upon who is working that day. A law that clearly states that abortion survivors have equal protection and that there are legal consequences for abortionist's failing to do so is important and necessary.

Melanie Israel, a research associate at The Heritage Foundation, wrote in a recent report that the legislation would reaffirm the original Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act that President George W. Bush signed into law in 2002.

"As the disturbing case of [Philadelphia abortionist] Kermit Gosnell has shown, babies continue to be born alive and then killed after attempted abortions or are purposely delivered alive and left to die," Israel wrote.

"The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act augments the 2002 law by providing for criminal consequences for health care providers who violate the law and requires that proper medical care be given by the health care practitioner present if an infant is born alive."

Another survivor, Claire Culwell, whose twin was aborted, told The Daily Signal that action by Congress on the new bill is a "life or death" issue.

"I survived the abortion that was meant to take my life and successfully took the life of my twin," Culwell said. "My daughter wouldn't be here if I hadn't survived. I can't imagine life without her. Passing the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act means that we're protecting the lives of people like myself and my daughter."

Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs for the pro-life group March for Life Action, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview that lawmakers who vote against the bill should be seen as extremists.

"This is very simple," McClusky said. "You are no longer talking abortion at this point; you are talking infanticide, since the baby is already born. So we wish the Senate would take it up as well."

Jill Stanek, a registered nurse who is national campaign chairwoman for the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, told The Daily Signal that her own experience in the medical field has illustrated the need for legislation to protect babies born during an abortion.

"I am a registered nurse and discovered in 1999 [that] at the hospital where I was working in the labor and delivery department was involved in late-term abortions, and the procedure that was used sometimes resulted in babies being aborted alive. And if they were aborted alive, they were shelved to die in the department's toilet utility room," Stanek said in a phone interview, adding:

One night, a co-worker was taking an abortion survivor, who had been aborted because he has Down syndrome and was between 21 and 22 weeks old, to the toilet utility room to die. And when she told me what she was doing, I couldn't bear the thought of him dying alone, and so I rocked him for the 45 minutes that he lived. And all of that to say that I had personal knowledge of babies who would be saved by the born alive law.

Israel, who works at Heritage's DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, said the legislation should not be a contentious issue.

"In a civilized society, treating a baby born alive after an abortion with the same care that any other newborn baby would receive should not be controversial," Israel said.

 

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

2018 Will be a Big Year for Religious Liberty and Right-to-Life Issues

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 22:30

The next year may finally resolve four contentious religious freedom and right to life issues. Most of these have been at the forefront of debate in previous years. Resolving them could mean big victories for Christians.

First, religious liberty for businesses. The nation’s highest court will decide whether a baker may refuse to make a cake for a same-sex wedding because he has religious objections.  The swing justice, Anthony Kennedy, seemed to indicate he might decide in favor of the baker in Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission based on his questioning during oral arguments.

The court will likely issue its decision on the last day of the session in late June. This decision will affect other businesses that have declined to provide services for same-sex weddings, such as florists and photographers.

President Trump: Faith Breathes Life and Hope into Our World

Our Constitution and laws guarantee Americans the right not just to believe as they see fit, but to freely exercise their religion. Unfortunately, not all have recognized the importance of religious freedom, whether by threatening tax consequences for particular forms of religious speech, or forcing people to comply with laws that violate their core religious beliefs without sufficient justification.

These incursions, little by little, can destroy the fundamental freedom underlying our democracy. … No American -- whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner -- should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law.

The free exercise of religion is a source of personal and national stability, and its preservation is essential to protecting human dignity. Religious diversity strengthens our communities and promotes tolerance, respect, understanding, and equality.

Faith breathes life and hope into our world. We must diligently guard, preserve, and cherish this unalienable right.

-- President Donald Trump, from his declaration of January 16, 2018 as Religious Freedom Day

Second, religious liberty for religious groups. The Little Sisters of the Poor face pushback in two states. They won a Supreme Court case last year exempting them from having to provide contraception to employees. Trump broadened the exemption from the Obamacare mandate in May 2017. Now Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has sued HHS over the exemption. A federal district court judge blocked it. California AG Xavier Becerra also sued.

Third, pro-choice profiteering. The Department of Justice began looking into Planned Parenthood last December for profiting from the sale of fetal body parts. It was prompted by undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress. Congress began its own review and asked the DOJ and FBI to investigate.

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Fourth, freedom of speech for pro-lifers. The State of California is prosecuting David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress over his exposes. Daleiden’s attorneys filed a motion to disqualify the judge, citing his ties to Planned Parenthood.

Two Possible Issues

Two other issues may be taken up and resolved next year, or we may have to wait longer for a resolution.

First, prayers before public bodies. Two circuit courts have split on the issue. Where two circuit courts split on an issue of high importance, the Supreme Court will often step in to decide.

In Rowan County v. Lund, the Fourth Circuit ruled a North Carolina county commissioners’ practice of opening meetings with prayers led by the commissioners was unconstitutional. The county appealed to the Supreme Court. In Bormuth v. Jackson County, the Sixth Circuit upheld a similar practice.

Second, memorial crosses on public land. Lower courts are considering cases. The Fourth Circuit ruled that the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial “excessively entangles” the state with religion. It has stood on public land in Maryland for over a century. A U.S. District Court held that the Bayview Cross in a park in Pensacola violated the Establishment Clause. Both losing sides have appealed.

This year could be really good or really bad for religious liberty and right-to-life issues, or it could end up being a mixed bag. Whatever happens, there should be some major decisions.

 

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California Counties Declare Independence From Liberal Coast, Creating ‘New California’

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 18:15

Numerous rural California counties declared independence from the state Monday, announcing a legislative effort to divide the state in two to create New California.

The founders of the state are appealing to Article 4, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution and plan to bring legislation to the California legislature in the next 10 to 18 months to legally divide the state in two, CBS Sacramento reported Monday. West Virginia was created by the same method in 1863. The founders say that high taxes and poor government have forced the rural counties to take action against the more wealthy coastal areas.

WATCH:

"Well, it's been ungovernable for a long time. High taxes, education, you name it, and we're rated around 48th or 50th from a business climate and standpoint in California," founder Robert Paul Preston. "There's something wrong when you have a rural county such as this one, and you go down to Orange County which is mostly urban, and it has the same set of problems, and it happens because of how the state is being governed and taxed."

The movement will almost certainly fail in the legislature, despite support from 21 of California's 58 counties. Californians have long considered dividing the state into several parts, but to no avail.

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"Efforts to divide California into more manageable and homogeneous parts are as old as the Bear Flag that was raised over the state capitol at statehood in 1850," wrote National Review's John Fund. "When I was a legislative staffer in Sacramento in 1980, a state assemblyman named Stan Statham had a serious proposal that attracted bipartisan support. He recognized that California's people (now 40 million) would be better served if its competing constituencies had more in common."

Each of these attempts have failed in turn, but if the New Californians were to get their way, however, their territory would contain most of current California's rural counties, allowing them to get out from under "the far-left Democrats who control state government."

"California's rush to impose harsh government mandates cutting carbon dioxide emissions in the generation of electricity is raising the electricity bills of families and businesses across the state," the founders write on their website. "Poor families are suffering the most. In sharp contrast, Texas is successfully taking a free-market approach that is increasing the use of clean renewable energy and lowering electricity bills in the state."

New California is quite organized, comprising committees and councils in each participating county to draft an eventual proposal for the state legislature.

"We have to demonstrate that we can govern ourselves before we are allowed to govern," founder Tom Reed told CBS.

 

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Send tips to anders@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Copyright 2018 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Syrian Bishop Miraculously Saved When a Bomb Landed on His Bed Seconds After He Got up

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 18:11

A Syrian bishop in Damascus was miraculously saved from certain death when a bomb landed on his bed. The archbishop of the Maronite Catholic Church, Samir Nassar, had gotten up from his bed seconds before to use the bathroom.

His home and other church buildings were hit during a bombardment of Syria's capital by opponents of the Syrian regime.

They Thought He Was Dead

In a message to the Catholic agency Aid to the Church in Need, Nassar writes that "a shell fell on my bed on Monday, January 8, 2018, at 1:20 p.m., when I had retired for a little siesta -- a few seconds at the sink saved my life! The bed was riddled with shrapnel."

His colleagues at the Maronite Patriarchate thought he was dead. "They cried with joy when they saw me coming out alive from the smoke and the rubble," he says. "Providence watches over his little servant, but now I am exiled like 12 million Syrian refugees who have nothing left."

The bombing extensively damaged the cathedral, Archbishop Nassar says. "The doors of the cathedral and 43 windows and doors have to be replaced, holes need to be filled, fuel tanks and water tanks need repairing, as does the electricity network.” A car was damaged as well.

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Bombs also hit a nearby convent, but missed the nuns inside. Sister Annie Demerjian says that "it was the providence of God that we were not in the room." She requested prayer for seven people still in the hospital who had been injured in the blast.

In Syria, Violence is the Only Master

"Violence is the only master," Archbishop Nassar said. "Innocents are being sacrificed every day."

The Catholic News Agency reports that more than 400,000 people have been killed since the Syrian civil war began in 2011. More than 4.8 million Syrians have become refugees while another 8 million have been displaced.

The Supreme Court Quietly Gives Religious Liberty a Big Win

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 16:49

Religious liberty and freedom of conscience won big at the Supreme Court last week, just in time for Religious Freedom Day on Jan. 16.

The justices declined last week to hear a legal challenge against a Mississippi law that protects citizens, small businesses, government employees, and charities from official discrimination by government if they believe that marriage is between one man and one woman.

The Mississippi law benefits people on both sides of the marriage debate because when a government can punish one group of citizens for dissenting from cultural orthodoxy, it can punish any group for any belief.

In declining to hear a case against Mississippi's Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act (HB 1523), the Supreme Court let stand the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal's decision in the face of challenges by the ACLU and Lambda Legal.

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Now a year after HB 1523 was passed, Mississippians know they are free to live according to their religious beliefs about marriage without fear of losing their livelihoods.

It's a victory in a battle that never should have happened in the first place. HB 1523 was a direct response to the threat of anti-religious discrimination after the Supreme Court redefined marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges.

During oral arguments for Obergefell, Obama administration Solicitor General Donald Verrilli was asked whether religious institutions could lose their tax-exempt status owing to their beliefs about marriage.

"[I]t's certainly going to be an issue," he told the court. "I don't deny that."

Although Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his majority opinion in Obergefell that those who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman do so based on "decent and honorable premises" and that "neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here," Verrilli's comments told a different story.

Verrilli's remarks signaled that the government could use its powers to tax and spend to force its views of marriage upon citizens.

In the two and a half years since Obergefell, activists, local and state governments, and federal authorities have treated the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman with contempt.

Billionaire LGBT activist Tim Gill pledged to "punish the wicked." Delivering upon his threat, government authorities have denied citizens across the country the right to live in accordance with their beliefs about marriage.

Members of numerous professions, including entertainment, counseling, emergency services, technology, farming, and the military, have been demoted or terminated from their jobs because of their beliefs about marriage.

The government also has targeted religious nonprofit organizations. Illinois, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia stopped contracting with faith-based adoption agencies because they would place children only with married moms and dads.

When the president of Gordon College privately wrote President Barack Obama to request a religious exemption from an effort to force government contractors to accept new views about marriage and sexuality, the school nearly lost its accreditation. Meanwhile, a local school district refused to employ students of Gordon College, and the city of Salem suspended its long-term contract that allowed the college to use the Town Hall.

Legislators in Mississippi responded to this wave of anti-religious discrimination by passing HB 1523. The bill protects individual citizens, public servants, businesses, and religious institutions from being penalized by the government for belief in traditional marriage.

But the ACLU and Lambda Legal sued on behalf of clients who claimed to be harmed by the law. Last June, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the plaintiffs had no standing because they failed to demonstrate that the law would violate their rights in any way.

The Supreme Court was right to leave the lower court's decision intact.

These protections should not be controversial. Kennedy recently reiterated his call for tolerance of disagreement on marriage during oral arguments in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the case of a Colorado cake artist whose belief in traditional marriage drew intense ire from state officials.

Admonishing Colorado's state solicitor general, he stated that "tolerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it's mutual."

It seems to me that the state in its position here has been neither tolerant, nor respectful of [Jack] Phillips' religious beliefs.

If federal, state, and local authorities would heed Kennedy's call for tolerance and respect in Obergefell and Masterpiece, laws like HB 1523 would not be needed.

But as more and more Americans are forced to choose between their job and their conscience, both state legislatures and the Congress should promptly protect citizens from the new wave of government discrimination.

State laws such as HB 1523 and federal legislation such as the First Amendment Defense Act would ensure that the government cannot put anyone out of work for their beliefs about marriage.

Furthermore, what's at stake here extends far beyond the marriage debate.

If the government can wield its power to silence opinions it disfavors, then everyone is at risk of being punished for holding the "wrong" opinions.

When Thomas Jefferson drafted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom that we commemorate today, he observed that Almighty God created the mind free and that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishment or burdens would beget only hypocrisy and meanness. This admonition bears remembering in our modern debate over the redefinition of marriage.

The residents of Mississippi are fortunate that their legislators got it right with HB 1523. Now, Americans in all 50 states need courageous leaders to stand up for their rights, too.

 

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

House IG Report Concluded Dem IT Aides Made ‘Unauthorized Access’ to Congressional Servers

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 16:33

House investigators concluded that Democratic IT aides made unauthorized access to congressional servers in 2016, allegedly accessing the data of members for whom they did not work, logging in as members of Congress themselves, and covering their tracks, according to a presentation from the House Office of the Inspector General summarizing the findings of a four-month probe.

Their behavior mirrored a "classic method for insiders to exfiltrate data from an organization," and they continued even after orders to stop, the briefing materials allege. There are indications that numerous members' data may have been secretly residing not on their designated servers, but instead aggregated onto one server, according to the briefing and other sources. Authorities said that the entire server was then physically stolen.

After being presented with the findings, Democratic leadership appear to have misrepresented them to their own members solely as an incident of theft, a comparison of the investigators' findings with Democrats' recollections and a committee's public statement shows, leading 44 Democrats to not conduct protective measures typically taken after a breach -- including informing constituents whose personal information may have been exposed. (A list of the involved members is here.)

The presentation reported under the bold heading "UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS" that "5 shared employee system administrators have collectively logged into 15 member offices and the Democratic Caucus although they were not employed by the offices they accessed."

It found indications that a House "server is being used for nefarious purposes and elevated the risk that individuals could be reading and/or removing information" and "could be used to store documents taken from other offices." The server was that of the House Democratic Caucus, a sister group of the DNC that was run at the time by then-Rep. Xavier Becerra.

The aides named are Imran Awan, his wife Hina Alvi, his brothers Abid and Jamal, and his friend Rao Abbas, Pakistani-born aides whose lives are filled with reason for concern. Abid's Ukranian wife Natalia Sova and Haseeb Rana were also involved in the Awans' activities but departed the House payroll prior to the investigation.

One systems administrator "logged into a member's office two months after he was terminated from that office," the investigative summary says.

While the rules could have been violated for some innocuous purpose, the presentation indicates that is unlikely: "This pattern of login activity suggests steps are being taken to conceal their activity."

A second presentation shows that shortly before the election, their alleged behavior got even worse. "During September 2016, shared employee continued to use Democratic Caucus computers in anomalous ways:

Logged onto laptop as system administrator Changed identity and logged onto Democratic Caucus server using 17 other user account credentials Some credentials belonged to Members The shared employee did not work for 9 of the 17 offices to which these user accounts belonged."

The investigation found "possible storage of sensitive House information outside the House ... Dropbox is installed on two Caucus computers used by the shared employees. Two user accounts had thousands of files in their Dropbox folder on each computer." Using Dropbox is against House rules because it uploads files offsite.

The Washington Post referenced the presentation briefly in July, and quoted a House source who claimed that the server was full of the Awan children's "homework" and "family photos." The presentation offers reasons to doubt that. "Based on the file names, some of the information is likely sensitive," it reads.

The statements of numerous Democrats indicate that the Democratic staff of the House Administration Committee and other House officials may have withheld information about cybersecurity breaches from members who employed the suspects, and appear to have misled them about the basic nature of the investigation.

"This is the first I've heard about that," said Missouri Democratic Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver -- who employed almost every member of the Awan group -- of cybersecurity issues.

"The only thing I'm aware of is that he's being charged with bank fraud," Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro, who employed Jamal and is a member of the intelligence committee, told TheDCNF. "Do you have evidence that there's anything more than a bank investigation? If someone's given you a document to that effect, please give it to me."

In early February, House Sergeant-At-Arms Paul Irving, Chief Administrative Officer Phil Kiko, and Jamie Fleet, the Democratic staff director of the Committee on House Administration, summoned affected chiefs of staff to a meeting to announce that the family was being banned from the network. Republican staff was not present, and the briefers omitted all mention of the cybersecurity component that appears to comprise the most dangerous part of the findings, according to numerous Democrats' accounts.

On Feb. 3, 2017, Committee on House Administration Chairman Gregg Harper and Ranking Member Robert Brady issued the sole official statement about what they called "the ongoing House theft investigation."

"House Officials became aware of suspicious activity and alleged theft committed by certain House IT support staff," the statement read. "An internal investigation determined that a number of House policies and procedures had been violated. This information was turned over to the United States Capitol Police and their investigation is ongoing. These employees have also been blocked from accessing House systems. All offices impacted have been contacted. No further comment will be issued until the investigation is complete."

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But the underlying briefing's most notable findings concerned credible evidence of a cyber-breach, and at the time of the announcement, the most recent incident of theft consisted of the disappearance of a server that was prime evidence in a cybersecurity probe, several authorities said.

There is no scenario where the access was appropriate because House members are not allowed to accept services from people not on their payroll and employees are not permitted to log in to servers of members for whom they do not work. The presentation notes that such House polices are codified in law.

But nearly a year later, there have been no criminal charges related to House IT. Two of the suspects were indicted for bank fraud in July after prosecutors said they transferred money from the House bank to Pakistan and tried to flee the country.

There are strong indications that many of the 44 members' data -- including personal information of constituents seeking help -- was entirely out of those members' possession, and instead was stored on the House Democratic Caucus server. The aggregation of multiple members' data would mean all that data was absconded with, because authorities said that entire server physically disappeared while it was being monitored by police.

An IT aide told TheDCNF that colleagues deployed to clean up after the Awans' firing discovered that in many offices, computers were set up to be nothing more than "thin clients" that were portals to an outside computer. "They were using terminal servers, your desktop is projected to you" from a computer in a different location.

The presentation -- though its language is at times opaquely technical -- found remote sessions that remained active for months at a time. The House commonly uses Citrix remote sessions that allow someone's computer screen to show the contents of a different computer, but its security precautions ordinarily cause them to disconnect after just a few minutes. Virtual Private Networks can also make a server's hard drive appear to be local to a computer.

A House committee staffer close to the probe told TheDCNF that "the data was always out of [the members'] possession. It was a breach. They were using the House Democratic Caucus as their central service warehouse."

"All 5 of the shared employee system administrators collectively logged onto the Caucus system 5,735 times, an average of 27 times per day... This is considered unusual since computers in other offices managed by these shared employees were accessed in total less than 60 times," the presentation reads.

That, too, may imply that dozens of members' data was all in one place -- on the Caucus's server instead of in members' possession. The apparently constant access by the entire crew, even their friend Rao Abbas, also doesn't jive with The Washington Post's claim that they were using it as a family computer for homework and photos.

With the basics of the probe hidden from members, Democrats appear to have vocally painted an inaccurate picture of what the report alleges occurred, pointing to the current criminal charges instead of the House's investigation while not taking any steps to protect potentially compromised data.

Rep. Ted Lieu of California, who employed Abid Awan and is a member of the foreign affairs committee, said as far as he was concerned it a simple issue of bank fraud.

"The staffer that I used, there was no allegation," he told a TV station. "If you look at the charge of the brother, he was charged with bank fraud... that has nothing to do with national security."

Prosecutors contend in court filings that they committed bank fraud and tried to flee because they found out about the already-existing investigation into their House activities.

Becerra's House Democratic Caucus knew about problems and tried to stop them, according to the presentation, but the suspect defied him. Based on other members' accounts, Becerra does not appear to have warned other offices that might have been affected.

"The Caucus Chief of Staff requested one of the shared employees to not provide IT services or access their computers," the investigative briefing reads. "This shared employee continued." Then, as police monitored the server as a primary piece of evidence, they discovered in January that it was taken from under their noses and replaced with a different computer.

Click to read more of Imran Awan: A Continuing DCNF Investigative Group Series.

 

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Planned Parenthood is Coming for Your Teens

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 16:14

Planned Parenthood is out to get your teenagers. How? By convincing them that Planned Parenthood will always be there for them. 

Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards explains as much in an interview with the tech magazine Fast Company out Monday. When Planned Parenthood first offered its text-chat service, a teenager told them she had no one to talk to and they said they would help her. They got her the medical attention she needed. “And I'll never forget,” Richards says,

we texted at the end, “Do you have everything you need for now?” And she said, just like a teenager would, “You have been a lifesaver,” with a little smiley face emoticon. And then a couple minutes later she texted back, “But will you still be there later tonight if I need you?” That, to me, is what Planned Parenthood is all about.

Planned Parenthood a “lifesaver”? No. But we can’t blame the girl for thinking they were. She had no one to talk to. Who was she supposed to call, text, or chat with online? Media, celebrities, and likely her school all gave her one answer: Planned Parenthood. These people are here for you.

Look at the Numbers

Of course these are the stories Richards loves to tell. Perhaps this idea of their work is why so many people are stumbling over themselves to do “their part” for Planned Parenthood, as she bragged to Fast Company. 

She wants everyone, especially your vulnerable teenager, to believe that Planned Parenthood really is there listen, provide necessary medical care and explain the options to youth and pregnant women in need.

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But the reality is that Planned Parenthood excels at one thing only: abortion. Their annual reports prove this. Consider this breakdown of the most recent report from Alexandra DeSanctis in National Review. Planned Parenthood performed 321,384 abortions, but only issued 3,889 adoption referrals and performed only 7,762 prenatal services. “Planned Parenthood performed 83 abortions for every one adoption referral last year. And its prenatal services have dropped steadily every year since 2009, from over 40,000 that year to just under 8,000 last year.”

As DeSanctis notes: “Hardly ‘comprehensive women's health care.’" Nevertheless, Richards and other Planned Parenthood apologists continue to hoodwink people into believing that Planned Parenthood is there to offer lifesaving help. They’ve got a lot of teens believing it.

Send a Loud Message: We’re Here to Help

Planned Parenthood markets itself well. Really well. A text-chat service for scared teens who have no one else to turn to? Admit it. That’s brilliant. 

Earlier I argued that the pro-life community must extend more practical, financial help to pregnant women in need. We have to be there for them. Richards’ self-congratulatory anecdote proves my point -- and adds another imperative. We need to let people know we’re there for them. 

What good is it to offer truly lifesaving care to vulnerable teens, pregnant women and their babies if no one knows we’re offering it? 

Cecile Richards wants your teen -- and the funding to keep performing more abortions than any other provider. Pro-lifers, let’s send a message loud and clear: Planned Parenthood isn’t there for you -- unless you pay them for an abortion. We’re here to help you, for real.

North and South Korea Will March Together Under a Unified Korean Flag at the Olympics

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 14:38

North and South Korea will march together under a unified Korean flag in the opening ceremony at the Winter Olympics, South Korean media reported Wednesday.

The two Koreas met again Wednesday for the third time in a little over a week at the border to work out the details for North Korea's participation in the Winter Olympics scheduled to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea in February. Talks followed a surprising overture in Kim Jong Un's New Year's address, in which the young North Korean dictator offered to engage South Korea in dialogue and send a delegation to the Winter Olympics.

In Wednesday's talks, the North agreed to march alongside the South, according to Yonhap News Agency. The two Koreas will walk in carrying the Korean Unification Flag, which features a blue image of the Korean Peninsula on a white background.

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As North Korea boycotted the Summer Olympics in South Korea in 1988, this will be the North's first time participating in the Olympics in South Korea, and this will be the first time the two Koreas have marched under a unified banner since the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics.

The North and South have, however, marched together at other international sporting events, the last being the 2007 Asian Winter Games in Changchun, China.

In addition to marching together, the two Koreas intend to create a unified women's hockey team, and the North and South Korean teams will even train together.

The South Korean government under liberal President Moon Jae-in views the Olympics as an opportunity for national reconciliation, while the North appears to have other, more questionable interests, demonstrated by its efforts to separate South Korea from its American protector, threats directed at the Moon administration, and its demands that the South avoid bringing up its illegal nuclear program while the North criticizes South Korea for its military drills with the U.S.

 

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