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Updated: 1 hour 11 min ago

Lawmaker Compares Homeschooling to ‘Child Abuse;’ Two Homeschooled Graduates Respond

Sun, 11/19/2017 - 08:23

A senior Democratic lawmaker recently compared homeschooling with child abuse. She made the comments during an executive session over a controversial bill on “conversion therapy” for kids with gender dysphoria.

Rep. Marjorie Porter aired her views in an executive session in the New Hampshire House of Representatives Committee on Health and Human Services on October 26. Witnesses speaking on condition of anonymity told Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) that they were shocked to hear the legislator make the comments in that context. The session wasn’t recorded.

As two homeschooled graduates, we’d like to set the record straight for Ms. Porter.

Nancy

My homeschooling experience began in 1982. On our East Texas property sat a one-room cabin perfect for homeschooling. My mother was militant about our studies. Each day she expected us to be standing by our desks at 8:30 ready to say the Pledge of Allegiance, the pledge to the Christian flag and the pledge to the Bible. We’d then sing as our day began.

Our studies were based on the Christian A.C.E. curriculum We were expected to set goals for our studies each day and to follow through. We weren’t allowed to speak without raising a flag atop our desks. Our mother would then come to us and work through problems with us, or handle whatever we needed.

The 1980s were a scary time to homeschool. Homeschooling didn’t have the acceptance that it does today. There was no cooperation between homeschooled children and public school education. It was too risky to tell anyone what we were doing because we were afraid the local school superintendent would cause problems for us. We had friends who went to jail for homeschooling their children. So, every time a car would drive up our driveway we got quiet, just in case the stranger came from the state.

My homeschooling experience gave me a solid academic foundation, contrary to the stereotype from peers and family members back in the ’80s.

I have little doubt that the academics were superior to what we would have received at the local public school. A.C.E. is a self-paced curriculum with a great foundation in English studies. My two sisters and I graduated a year earlier than we would have otherwise. I finished my curriculum in the spring of 1990 at age 16, wrapping up with a 96 percent grade average overall.

My education didn’t stop there, however. I went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a Master of Journalism from The University of North Texas (with a 4.0 GPA and an induction into Kappa Tau Alpha, an honor society for those who exhibit excellence in communication and journalism). I had the opportunity to study abroad at Oxford University. Finally, I am almost finished with my PhD in Communication from Regent University. I have about a year left, including the dissertation.

My homeschooling experience gave me a solid academic foundation, contrary to the stereotype from peers and family members back in the ’80s. Am I an anomaly? Absolutely not.

Liberty

Mom began homeschooling her children in the 80s, when it was rare. So rare, in fact, that she was arrested. (Turns out homeschooling was not illegal, something attorneys explained to local Oklahoma authorities. Mom was quickly released.)

Thankfully, things changed. I was homeschooled in Texas from the mid 90s to 2011, when I graduated high school at 17. My parents wove a curriculum for me that catered both to my hungry imagination and the need for structure.

As a homeschooled kid, the questions you get are predictable. For instance, "Do you do school in your pajamas?"

Some friends adopted routines that did allow them to pajama-school. But it didn't work for me. I rose early, did chores and worked out. School began around 8:00 and was completed by early afternoon. Afterward I'd play outside, read or get whisked to an extracurricular activity. 

Which leads to another question homeschoolers get: "How do you make friends?" 

It would take pages to recount the diverse activities I enjoyed, so I'll stick to the highlights. I was heavily involved in church. I also participated in 4-H, competing in everything from shooting sports to talent shows. 

Mom began homeschooling in the '80s, when it was rare. So rare, in fact, that she was arrested.

From sixth grade through twelfth, I played on the local homeschool basketball team. We competed in leagues and at state and national tournaments for private and home schools (yes, those exist!). 

I attended a weekly co-op with hundreds of other homeschoolers. It was the perfect opportunity to experience both the competition and camaraderie of a traditional classroom -- and the benefits of learning from adults besides my parents.

Many homeschool parents are asked: "Are you qualified to teach that?" Sometimes, the answer is no.

So in junior high I learned algebra from a pastor and math professor who offered classes twice a week. Later, a tutor guided me through geometry and physics. From seventh grade on, a beloved mentor honed my passion for writing into a skill. She even sparked my interest in journalism. 

Which is what I majored in at Patrick Henry College, where I graduated with honors in 2015. During college I had the opportunity to work in Washington, D.C., producing a talk show on WMAL radio during my senior year. Today, I'm happily working in my field. 

Like Nancy, I'm not an anomaly. The homeschoolers I grew up with are leading their own successful lives. They've become artists, military veterans, engineers, business owners and everything in between. While many of our experiences overlap, none exactly mirrors another. 

That's the beauty of homeschooling. 

Academic Achievement

Recent research suggests there are about 2.3 million homeschooled students in the U.S. According to Brian Ray, Ph.D., president of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), the homeschooling numbers are booming, at a rate of 2 to 8 percent each year.

Parents said the biggest reason they homeschool their children is concern over the school environment. Beyond that, they want to instill moral and spiritual values. They’re also concerned about the education their child would receive at a public school. 

There are about 2.3 million homeschooled students in the U.S. They outperform public school students on standardized tests, and are “typically above average” on measures of social development.

So, how do homeschoolers perform? Homeschooled students outperform public school students on standardized tests from 15 to 30 percentile points. Public school students average around the 50th percentile mark while homeschoolers average around the mid-high 80s on the same tests.

The education level of parents does not necessarily reflect academic achievement in homeschooled students. That is, there is little disparity in students’ achievement based on whether their parents have a college education or a high school education. Also, the level of government control or state regulations on homeschooling does not impact students’ academic achievement. 

Socialization

One of the many questions homeschooling parents get is, “What about socialization?” According to Ray, homeschoolers are once again ahead in the race.

“The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional and psychological development,” he wrote in a recent article. “Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service and self-esteem.”

Part of that is, as Liberty described, due to homeschoolers’ ability and choice to become involved in sports, 4-H clubs, church ministries and an endless list of extracurricular activities.

What to do with Negligent Parents?

We’ve all heard about those homeschooled students who perform poorly because of parental negligence. This is a small minority. In general, parents homeschool because they want their children to receive a better education. So they invest a lot of time and effort in their children’s education.

Still, there are outliers. New Hampshire’s Berlin School District Supt. Corinne Cascadden believes that homeschooled children in her district are not being educated at all. She called for a bill that would “restore the requirement for some kind of third-party review of student progress that was eliminated by a law that took effect in 2012,” reported New Hampshire’s Union Leader.

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But more control isn’t the answer, said attorney Mike Donnelly of HSLDA. “Tools already exist” to take care of negligent parents, he said. “Truancy laws and a child abuse statute exist if education guidelines are not being followed. There’s no need to impose additional burdens on [homeschooling] parents because of a few.”

At the same time, Michelle Levell, director of School Choice for New Hampshire, contends there’s no evidence Cascadden’s claims are true. 

Don’t Turn Back the Clock

Homeschooling has made huge strides in recent decades. But many of those strides are even more recent than you might imagine. As The Daily Signal reported in 2014, homeschooling wasn’t legal in every state until 1996. And where it was legal, it faced a stigma that sometimes resulted in arrests, as we can attest. 

In general, homeschooled students shine both academically and socially. Cultural acceptance of home education continues to grow. Millions of families are leaping aboard the homeschool train. There is simply no reason for New Hampshire, or any state, to turn back the clock. And there’s absolutely no justification for comparing it with child abuse. 

Military Photo of the Day: Between Yudam-ni and Toktong Pass

Sun, 11/19/2017 - 08:00

“Marines halted on the road between Yudam-ni and Toktong Pass while other troops are clearing the ridges of Chinese.” November, 1950

From the Oliver P. Smith Collection (COLL/213), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections

 

 

 

 

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An Evangelical Appeal to President Trump Regarding His Al Franken Tweets

Sun, 11/19/2017 - 00:00

Dear Mr. President,

I write to you with the utmost respect and with great appreciation for all you have done for the pro-life cause and to help preserve religious liberties in our nation. And as an evangelical leader who voted for you last year, I write as a friend, not as a foe. Would you kindly consider if there might be some truth to my words?

I know that you were surprised and moved when you received so much support from evangelical Christians. You weren't exactly a poster boy for the conservative Christian faith. And to be totally candid, it was hard for many of us to support you, since sexual purity and marital faithfulness are very important to us.

Yet we believed you would be a strong leader willing to take on the Washington establishment. We believed you would stand with Israel and that you would be a far better choice than Hillary for many obvious reasons. Though we hardly expected you to be a saint, we believed you took our counsel seriously.

I'm appealing to you as an evangelical leader to reconsider whether you should be leading the charge against him.

Even when that terribly embarrassing tape came out with your vulgar comments about women, we were still willing to vote for you. After all, the tape was over 10 years old, and you made clear that you weren't proud of it. And to be frank, you were hardly known for having a lofty sexual ethic back then.

In any event, your voters were willing to forgive and move forward, with the hope that scandals like this would remain in the past. And we weren't entirely convinced that the women raising further sexual charges against you were credible.

Either way, you got our vote, and I know you appreciated our support.

Inappropriate Gleefulness

In that light, it strikes me (and many others) as quite inappropriate that you are gleefully tweeting against Senator Al Franken, asking, "Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while [Leeann Tweeden] sleeps? ….. And to think that just last week he was lecturing anyone who would listen about sexual harassment and respect for women. Lesley Stahl tape?"

Certainly, Franken's actions are inexcusable. He will face the heat for those actions in the Senate and beyond. But this happened more than 10 years ago, similar to your infamous conversation with Billy Bush about what you, as a star, could do to women. So if it was hypocritical of Franken to lecture people about sexual harassment and respect for women, is it proper for you to do so?

Receiving and Showing Mercy

Jesus taught a parable about the importance of showing mercy to others after we ourselves have received mercy. If we don't, mercy will not be shown to us again. (When you can, please read Matthew 18:23-35). Do you see how this could be relevant to you today?

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I know Al Franken has been one of your political opponents. And I can understand why you jumped on the news of his misconduct in 2006. In fact, your staff has forcefully defended your "Al Frankenstein." Without a doubt, it's appropriate that Senator Franken faces an uncertain political future.

I'm simply appealing to you as an evangelical leader to reconsider whether you should be leading the charge against him with your influential tweets.

I too have received much mercy from the Lord. In that spirit, I ask you to step back and spend a few quiet minutes before Him, reflecting on how much mercy He has had on you.

From that perspective, you might reconsider your approach to Senator Franken's current crisis.

FCC Finally Puts an End to Regulations Made for 1970s Media World

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 23:42

On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission -- led by Chairman Ajit Pai -- put a long-overdue end to a set of FCC rules that limit ownership of media outlets in America.

The most controversial of these was a 1975 rule banning newspapers from owning broadcast stations. (The FCC also repealed a similar rule limiting TV and radio cross-ownership).

Predictably, the decision has been met with outrage by supporters of regulation, who say the decision imperils consumers and their access to information. They could not be more wrong.

In their action on Wednesday, Pai and the FCC simply recognized that the media world does not look at all like it did in the 1970s, and ignoring this fact only puts unnecessary burdens on struggling media trying to survive.

While Pai has earned a reputation as a foe of overregulation -- famously vowing at one point to take a "weed whacker" to unnecessary rules -- this was no rash decision by the FCC. The agency in fact has been considering the need for these rules almost continuously since 1996.

During that time, it has become abundantly clear to anyone with a computer or a phone that these rules were written for a media world that no longer exists.

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As Pai put it recently, the now-repealed rules presumed that "the marketplace for news is defined entirely by pulp, rabbit ears, and transistor radios."

But that marketplace, if it ever existed, was toppled long ago by new technologies and new choices for consumers, as anyone with a PC or a phone already knows.

The challenge for consumers has been more over how to sort through the mountains of information presented to them, rather than how to access more content.

At the same time, "old" media has been in freefall. Newspaper circulation in particular has plummeted, with print newspaper advertising dropping 50 percent since 2008. Hundreds of daily papers have closed their doors, with many of the rest no longer publishing on a daily basis.

At the same time, broadcast television has moved from an essential outlet to one among many distribution systems for news and entertainment.

The power over information that the FCC's rules were meant to control simply is no more. In today's marketplace, the old media is threatened rather than threatening.

But rather than help newspapers and broadcasters attempt to right their ships, the FCC's restrictions make it harder to do so by making it impossible for them to combine their resources to compete in the marketplace.

The FCC deserves kudos for standing up to controversy and acknowledging the undeniable: The media world of the 1970s has been erased forever. And the government red tape made for that world should be erased as well.

 

Copyright 2017 The Daily Signal

Why We’re Drawn to Leaders Like Roy Moore and Donald Trump

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 20:00

I'm not sure what the GOP should do about candidate Roy Moore. The charges and countercharges are filing in too quickly. I'm reluctant to write something that might be obsolete within hours. So I'd like to step back behind the claimed sex scandal. To ask a deeper question: What is it about populist candidates like Roy Moore and Donald Trump that now appeals to conservative Christians? Why did we turn our backs on men like Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, and John Kasich? What attracted us but repulses others, even among some conservatives? And how can we make the best choices, going forward?

As you might know, I wrote a whole book on the Seven Deadly Sins. In it, I reminded people that virtue and vice run on a spectrum. Two opposing vices sit at either extreme, while the virtue sits in the middle. For instance:

The Greedy have too strong an attachment to the good things that come from hard work and wise stewardship. The Generous love wealth in due proportion, and have mastered the art of sharing it. The Prodigal, on other hand, treat wealth with jaded disdain and lavishly waste it -- certain that more will somehow come to them down the pike.

That gives you the idea of how this kind of analysis works. So let's see the deadly sin that's key to politics, especially in our time:

At the opposite pole from deadly Wrath is not holy Patience, but masochistic Servility, which teaches us to let aggressors win and bullies triumph, whatever the cost to the next victim.

Don’t Bring a Knife to a Gunfight

Alas, there isn't a simple, eternal formula that tells us how to act on every occasion. What's sinful Wrath in one situation is the bare minimum in another. For instance, getting enraged to the point of violence over somebody flipping you off in traffic? That would be Wrath. But what about if someone threatens violence against your child? Or some other innocent? God gave us the power of anger for just such an occasion.

Likewise, if we don't get angry when we really ought to, then what we're practicing isn't the virtue of Patience. It's Servility, and just as much a sin. C.S. Lewis scorned what he saw as a breed of "men without chests," who tamely watch evil triumph. He didn't consider it cowardice so much as a failure of love. If you don't defend the innocent like an angry mama bear, it might be because you really ... don't care all that much what happens to them. Or you're more concerned with keeping a reputation for calm detachment. You don't want to loosen your bowtie, and get down in the mud -- even if that's where God's calling you to go rescue the helpless.

In times of peace and plenty, when the leading political factions share common assumptions ... we can afford to be a lot more reserved and courteous. That's the kind of society we hope to live in, of course. Think of Nixon debating Kennedy. They agreed on the goals of government, and most fundamental values. They disagreed about how to put all that into practice.

Don’t Treat Hitler Like a Normal Politician

But what about when things start breaking down? When one faction in politics stops playing by the rules you'd all agreed on? Then it trashes the basic values which your society rests on. It perverts the law every chance it gets, and applies it unevenly against us. If it can't do that, it flouts the law, and counts on getting away with it. Its only criterion is power, and how to amass it. That is what we face on America's left, from academic faculty lounges to the Democrats in Congress.

Sometimes people think that the principled thing to do is to pretend that nothing has changed. The British and French in the 1930s refused to believe that the Nazis were demonic. No matter the cruelties they inflicted on helpless Jews, or the crassness with which Hitler broke his promises. The Allies kept telling themselves that they were dealing with a normal foreign country. It was led by a rational actor. He had a list of demands, and some of them were reasonable (like a better deal for Germany after Versailles). As for his unreasonable demands ... were they really worth fighting a war over? And that is how a totalitarian despot gathered the power to conquer most of Europe, even as richer nations with bigger armies looked on and watched.

Let's say a big thug was assaulting a little old lady. And you're a trained boxer. Your first instinct might be to wade in and put up your dukes, as if you were in the ring. But if the criminal pulls out a knife, or picks up a trashcan ... are you really going to stick to the Marquess of Queensbury rules?

Forget the Nazis. Imagine a street fight. Let's say a big thug was assaulting a little old lady. And you're a trained boxer. Your first instinct might be to wade in and put up your dukes, as if you were in the ring. But if the criminal pulls out a knife, or picks up a trashcan ... are you really going to stick to the Marquess of Queensbury rules? If you do, then you're being servile. You don't care enough about saving the innocent to do what's proportionate to the evil.

You Don’t Get a Free Pass for Ruthlessness

Of course there are limits. Some things are just evil in themselves, and you can't ever do them, no matter what. You couldn't use a grenade against the mugger that was certain to harm innocent bystanders. But you can, and should, match his aggression. If you don't, it's a failure of love.

On the world stage, we can't face aggressive, colonizing Islam with muttered, phony pieties like George W. Bush's mantra of "true Islam" as a "religion of peace." At home, we can't tamely let the Democrats pack the courts with mediocre radicals like Sandra Sotomayor -- then bow to "Senate tradition" when they use it to block our appointments. (Thankfully, the Republicans finally figured this out in 2017.) When the left applauds private citizens for demolishing public statues, then lets them go unpunished ... should we really be obeying ludicrous court orders that call a Ten Commandments monument "unconstitutional"?

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A Failure of Love

Not everyone agrees with me, of course. Those who loathed Moore before this scandal hit were largely the same kind of conservative who found Donald Trump too "icky" or personally compromised to support against Hillary Clinton. Even given her track record of ruthlessness and the raging powerlust of our unhinged leftist establishment. That's a failure of love, from a man without a chest.

That said, some leaders, however effective, have squandered their reputations through personal faults that repulse the public and tarnish your “brand.” Electing them might save one Senate seat, for one term, but lose us close elections in other states. Voters’ memories are short, but the media are relentless.

The kind of men who are good at getting angry when it's needed don't always know when to stop. Sometimes they are vain, hot-headed, narcissistic and reckless. That's dangerous as well. It's our job to step in and restrain them. The wildness of our enemies doesn't give us absolute license ourselves. If we think that, then our anger will backfire. We will seem like the "bad guys" and our foes like hapless victims.

As I said, there's no easy formula. And now you can go back to reading about that alleged yearbook signature.

No, God Isn’t Just Another ‘Possible God’ To Dismiss With All the Rest

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 18:00

One of the most popular arguments against Christianity these days is what John Loftus christened the “Outsider Test for Faith.” I (and reviewers so far) think I not only refuted that argument in How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test, but showed that comparing Christianity with other religious traditions tends to confirm the Christian message.

But this is “Outsider Test” is monster that does not die. It merely changes shape, like Proteus. Here’s another form it shifts into from time to time:

And here’s the kicker: “When you understand why you dismiss all other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

Who is Stephan F. Roberts? He doesn’t appear to be a scholar of any sort. The most I can find is a somewhat self-deprecating comment about how this quote has gone viral. But that was only because he posted it at the beginning of the Internet Age and it seemed to strike a chord. But Roberts is certainly not a scholar of world religions.

Pardon, Your Ignorance is Showing

As someone who is, I find a few confusions in this meme. For instance, it includes both the Chinese Queen Mother of the West and a character named after her in some of Orson Scott Card’s Sci-Fi novels. It names both Ares and Mars, which the Greeks and Romans were so broad-minded as to consider the same god. It even names both Kuan Yin and Guanyin, though the first is the Wade-Giles romanization for the second, in the modern Chinese pinyin writing system.

In addition, Allah is just the Arabic word for “God.” Names in different languages for the same thing do not designate different objects. For instance, the fact that theEnglish look up in the sky and say “moon!” while Chinese say “yueliang” and Japanese say “tsuki” does not mean that Planet Earth has three (or ten thousand) moons. It means that people speaking different languages use different words for the same experienced reality.

But the real problems with this argument run far deeper than ignorance; deeper than linguistic confusion or flexibility about details.

Nor does the fact that Mohammed said false things about God mean “Allah” is a separate being. The sentence, “The moon is not made of green cheese” is not rendered incoherent just because some people may mistakenly think it is. Differing ideas about the nature of the moon don’t mean we’re talking about separate moons. Allah is the Arabic word, also used by Arab Christians, for the Creator.

But the real problems with this argument run far deeper than ignorance; deeper than linguistic confusion or flexibility about details. The simple fact is that most intelligent people find belief in God far more credible than belief in, say, Bacchus, Pan, or Huitzilopochtli . I'll detail just one of those problems.

“God” is not “god.”

Many people are confused by the fact that the two words, “God” and “god,” are spelled the same. This is a much greater error than confusing, say, “I work for Apple Computer,” with “I ate an apple.”

“God” refers to the eternal, self-existence, all-knowing, everywhere-existing, non-contingent, perfectly good and loving, origin of all things.

There can be, by definition, only one such being, though He may be three in one, as Christians believe.

Arguments That Don't Pan Out

Few of the arguments given to defend the existence of God would apply to his alleged competitors. For instance, one skeptic claimed that the existence of Pan might be supported as well as that of God by the Argument From Beauty. But that argument, as given by the Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne (pardon if I borrow from Wikipedia this time), goes as follows:

God has reason to make a basically beautiful world, although also reason to leave some of the beauty or ugliness of the world within the power of creatures to determine. ... If the world is beautiful, that fact would be evidence for God’s existence. ... Poets and painters and ordinary men down the centuries have long admired the beauty of the orderly procession of the heavenly bodies, the scattering of the galaxies through the heavens (in some ways random, in some ways orderly), and the rocks, sea, and wind interacting on earth.

Would this argument work just as well if you substituted the name “Pan” in place of “God"?

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Of course not! First, Pan is not eternal. He is the son of some other god, perhaps Zeus or Hermes. They themselves were considered beings whose existence depended on some other being before them. Second and third, he is local, not universal, and he knows some things but not all. He is the god of the meadows, and took his habitation apparently in Arcadia.

So how could Pan be responsible for all the beauty in the universe?

If You're Talking About God, You're Talking About God

But suppose he were so responsible, and did have such powers after all. Then, as Augustine pointed out (in reference to Jupiter), then we’d be talking about God after all, though under another name. We would be arguing about words, not realities.

A god is not God. A god is a kind of ancient super-hero, more like a movie star. Indeed, modern Marvel movies get that just right: Thor can little more be confused with God in the Marvel (or ancient Norse) universe, than Tony Stark with his suit, flying around the sky battling bad guys and breaking hearts and expensive equipment.

The confusion here is absolute, and it is deliberate.

Confusion, Deep and Deliberate

The confusion here is deep, and it is deliberate. There is but one point behind conflating “God” with this entirely different concept of “gods” or “divas” as we could also call them. It's to muddle the head of the “skeptic” so that he misses the obvious. And everyone knows that. Which is why no one believes in Pan anymore, but most people find God vastly more credible.

The skeptic sees this too, which is exactly why he mocks God by comparing him to a goat. But neither God nor wise men will have reason so mocked.

The Case for a Special Counsel to Investigate Hillary Clinton’s Russian Uranium One Ties

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 16:30

Why investigate one but not the other? Legally, it doesn’t make sense. There is overwhelming evidence that Hillary Clinton colluded with Russians in the Uranium One scandal. There’s scant evidence Trump colluded with them. Why is there a special counsel looking into Trump but not one looking into Clinton?

The Facts

Here are the facts. Russians connected to the Kremlin sent millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation. Former President Bill Clinton collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in Russian speaking fees. He received $500,000 for just one speech to a bank with Kremlin ties. 

Before Clinton signed off on the transfer, the FBI collected evidence of the apparent bribery money and money laundering from an informant working in the nuclear industry. The money transfers were conducted "with the consent of higher level officials" in Russia who "shared the proceeds" from the kickbacks.

Hillary Clinton failed to disclose to the Obama administration that Ian Telfer, chairman of Uranium One, had contributed $2.35 million to the Clinton Foundation. This was in violation of her agreement with the administration to disclose donors with potential conflicts.

Evidence of Wrongdoing

The FBI informant says he has proof wrongdoing exists. William D. Campbell worked as a lobbyist for a Russian firm. The Hill reporter John Solomon told Sean Hannity that Campbell has videos of suitcases full of cash that Russians used to bribe U.S. officials. After the DOJ released his name, Campbell said he became afraid for his life.

The FBI informant says he has proof wrongdoing exists.

Vadim Mikerin, the main Russian overseeing Putin's nuclear expansion inside the U.S., was indicted in 2014 as a result of an informant’s work. An agent testified that Mikerin supervised a "racketeering scheme." It involved extortion, bribery, money laundering and kickbacks. The informant made kickback payments at Mikerin’s direction.

In December 2015, a judge sentenced Mikerin to four years in prison. Another man who worked with Mikerin was sentenced this month to a year and a day in prison for money laundering. Boris Rubizhevsky acted as an go-between to facilitate the payoffs.

Even with this evidence, Sessions has said there is not enough evidence to start a probe.

Why Not a Probe?

Maybe he’s right. But wait: What evidence was there of a crime involving Trump and the Russian collusion accusations? There was less evidence of Trump colluding with the Russians than there is evidence of Clinton colluding with them.

Sessions’ own deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, admitted this. He said when appointing a special counsel to investigate the Trump campaign, “My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted. I have made no such determination.”

If that’s true for Trump why isn’t it also true for Clinton? The attorney general appoints special counsel when he has a conflict. Sessions recused himself from the Trump campaign probe, citing his own contacts with Russians. The acting attorney general -- instead of Sessions -- then decides if a criminal probe is warranted. Rosenstein is a holdover from the Obama administration. Maybe he’s hesitant to start a probe of the Clintons.

The Crimes

The crimes look like bribery (which violates the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act), fraud and obstruction of justice. Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, notes that giving official favors in return for cash is racketeering.

There are grave concerns about giving such an untrustworthy country that amount of control over our energy.

McCarthy observes that the uranium would produce energy, not nuclear weapons. It’s still an issue of national security. If, for example, the U.S. encountered an energy shortage. The nation only produces 20 percent of its uranium. America shouldn’t have its uranium supply controlled by a hostile power. What if Clinton allowed that to happen just to get more money for the family foundation?

At the very least, the problem is a matter of apparent corruption. The State Department approved the sale of Canadian-owned Uranium One to Russian nuclear company Rosaton. This gave Russia control of 20 percent of the U.S. energy supply. There are grave concerns about giving such an untrustworthy country that amount of control over our energy.

Hillary Clinton claims if a special counsel investigated her, the U.S. would be like an “authoritarian regime.” What’s authoritarian about following the precedent the Department of Justice set with Trump? Maybe it’s more like the government is finally looking into Clinton family self-dealing. The FBI informant has given enough evidence already to warrant a probe.

 

Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC.

Giddy Zimbabweans Gather in Capital to March Against Mugabe

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 15:35

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- In a euphoric gathering that just days ago would have drawn a police crackdown, crowds marched through Zimbabwe’s capital on Saturday to demand the departure of President Robert Mugabe, one of Africa’s last remaining liberation leaders, after nearly four decades in power.

Zimbabweans giddy with joy raced through intersections, raising their arms in triumph. Young men shouted, laughed and embraced. Others danced on top of moving buses. One man stripped to his underwear and danced on a car roof.

In the first public outpouring since the military put Mugabe under house arrest earlier in the week, the bulk of Harare’s population of about 1.6 million appeared to be in the streets. The army held back thousands who gathered near the State House, home to official functions, while others headed toward Mugabe’s lavish mansion.

Some marchers had posters with an image of the military commander who swept in to take control, with the slogan: “Go, go, our general!!!” Marchers handed flags to soldiers, who accepted and waved.

“It’s like Christmas,” said one marcher, Fred Mubay, who said Zimbabweans have been suffering for a long time.

Another resident, Trust Chuma, sat quietly on a bench and watched. “This is the biggest day in the history of Zimbabwe,” he said.

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The 93-year-old Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state, is said to be asking for more time amid negotiations with regional leaders that seek his exit with a veneer of dignity.

But he is virtually powerless and deserted by most of his allies, with others arrested, and the ruling party has turned on him, asking for a Central Committee meeting this weekend to recall both him and his wife. Impeachment is also a possibility when Parliament resumes Tuesday.

The dancing crowds in Harare made it clear the country is impatient to move on without Mugabe, who took power 37 years ago amid an air of optimism but has been accused of squandering the once-prosperous country’s potential.

Even as concerns remained about who next would be in charge and what freedoms might be available if the military lingers in power -- or if Mugabe’s recently fired deputy leads a new government -- people reveled in the rare chance to speak out.

Zimbabwean newspaper publisher Trevor Ncube tweeted: “Dear world, we are fully aware of the possible risks and pitfalls beyond this tipping point. … After 37 years of repression, allow us to soak in this moment. Sincerely, #Zimbabwe.”

The demonstrators, in the event approved by the military, hoped the big turnout would speed up the official end of Mugabe’s rule, which is widely blamed for the collapse of an economy that was once one of Africa’s wealthiest.

Veterans of the long liberation war against white minority rule, once close allies of Mugabe, took part in the demonstration, along with opposition activists who long have faced police crackdowns by the Mugabe government.

Zimbabwe’s state-run media showed previously unthinkable images of the celebrations. The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation called the country “free and liberated” and showed footage of one person carrying a sign saying “The people of Zimbabwe want Mugabe to go.”

The state-run Zimbabwe Herald newspaper’s report “#Mugabe Must Go!” noted some of Mugabe’s achievements but said that “however the revolutionary train derailed somewhere along the way.”

Outside the State House, a place few previously dared venture, soldiers posed for pictures as marchers streamed by. Thousands of people later gathered at an intersection nearby, with security forces blocked them from moving further.

The military in a new statement urged the thousands upon thousands of people streaming through the capital to be orderly and “vigilant against agent provocateurs” who might wish to discredit the events.

At an intersection, a vendor held up a newspaper with the headline: “Mugabe cornered.” The majority of adult Zimbabweans now survive on informal trade after formal industry collapsed.

Harare’s Robert Mugabe Street turned into a carnival. Drivers gunned their engines, blasted their horns and circled in a main intersection, enveloping the crowd in exhaust fumes.

One driver got out of his moving car and danced in front of it for a couple of minutes as the empty vehicle coasted slowly down a street lined with cheering crowds.

Some white Zimbabweans joined the crowd at Harare’s Freedom Square, also known as Robert Mugabe Square. Some whites and blacks hugged each other.

In Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, Bulawayo, former education minister David Coltart said he spoke at a “massive march” organized by churches to urge President Robert Mugabe to resign. He said thousands of people were there.

“I never thought I would see the day as we marched past central police station without being arrested!” he said. “Amazing scenes.”

Thousands gathered for speeches at the Zimbabwe Grounds, chosen for the symbolism. The location is where Zimbabweans gathered to cheer Mugabe’s return from exile in 1980 after the liberation war from white minority rule.

Now the crowds urged Mugabe’s departure. Speakers included former Vice President Joice Mujuru, sacked in 2014 by Mugabe and accused of plotting to take power.

“This is the new Zimbabwe,” one speaker declared.

Another expressed popular anger at first lady Grace Mugabe, whose apparent attempts to succeed her husband were a factor in the military’s decision to step in.

“You and your husband should go today and not tomorrow,” the speaker said.

The 37-year-old Talent Mudzamiri was born soon after Zimbabwe’s independence.

“It’s like a relief,” he said. “Our voices have not been heard for a long time. The trend in Africa, when the people speak, they are not heard.”

He acknowledged that Zimbabwe faces challenges in the long term, but said: “The common enemy is Robert Mugabe. That’s for starters.” If Zimbabwe’s next leader is just as troublesome, he said, “we are going to come out again.”

 

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or republished.

Trump Administration Cites MS-13 Arrests to Push Change in Minor Immigrant Law

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 15:22

The Trump administration is pointing to a large federal roundup of members of the violent gang MS-13 as vindication of increased enforcement efforts and reason to change the policy on unaccompanied minor illegal immigrants.

The Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security announced a joint effort that led to the arrest of 214 gang members and those involved with gang-related crime.

MS-13 is an international criminal gang that spread throughout Central America into the United States-in largely urban centers such as Los Angeles, Boston, New York City, and into Toronto, Canada. The organization's motto is "mata, viola, controla," which means, "kill, rape, control."

Of the 214, just 16 were U.S. citizens while 198 were foreign nationals. Of the foreign nationals, only five were in the country legally. Among those arrested, 64 entered the country as unaccompanied alien children, but most are now adults, according to the Trump administration.

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During a press conference Thursday announcing the arrests, Tom Homan, deputy director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, noted the 2008 law on unaccompanied minors does not allow them to be immediately returned to their country of origin.

"The agencies sent up a series of policy requests to the Hill to address a lot of issues to further control the border and illegal immigration," Homan said. "Some of these policies are being exploited and used by criminal organizations. That's why that's one of the policy issues we asked Congress to look at and help us with."

The multi-state, multi-federal agency program was called "Operation Raging Bull."

The current law states that unaccompanied minors from countries other than Canada or Mexico aren't subject to expedited removal, but the minors are promptly released into the United States upon arrival at the border. The Department of Homeland Security transfers custody to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement within 72 hours. That office must promptly release the minor to relatives or other sponsors, according to the White House. In some cases, the sponsors were criminals who abused law.

Of the total immigration hearings for unaccompanied minors that came to the United States between 2014 and 2016, 12,977 cases out of 31,091 completed ended in removal, according to a Congressional Research Service report in January. Out of those removals, 11,528, or 89 percent, were did not show up for their hearing to make their case against removal proceedings, and often remained in the country.

Also, more than half of the unaccompanied minors that came into the United States in 2014 and 2015 were 16 or 17 years old, according to the Government Accountability Office in a February 2016 report.

Out of the 214 arrested, 93 were charged with crimes including murder, aggravated robbery, racketeering, narcotics trafficking, narcotics possession, firearms offenses, domestic violence, assault, forgery, drunken driving, and illegal entry/reentry. The remaining 121 were arrested on administrative immigration violations, according to the Justice Department.

"With more than 10,000 members across 40 states, MS-13 is one of the most dangerous criminal organizations in the United States today," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. "President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to reduce crime and take down transnational criminal organizations, and we will be relentless in our pursuit of these objectives. That's why I have ordered our drug trafficking task forces to use every law available to arrest, prosecute, convict, and defund MS-13. And we are getting results."

 

Copyright 2017 The Daily Signal

Joy Break: Sam’s Club Customers Break Out in Song With My God is Awesome

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 15:00

Dothan, Alabama Sam’s Club customers recently broke out in song with My God is Awesome after a customer began playing it on a keyboard. Several other customers and a Sam’s Club employee joined in. Michelle Holland Conner posted the video on her Facebook page. Like Conner said, “Sometimes you need a little church. Even if it’s in Sam’s Club.”

 

Watch:

 

 

 

Wife Stands by Moore as Misconduct Claims Roil Alabama Campaign

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 14:48

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Standing on the white marble steps of Alabama’s Capitol, Kayla Moore surrounded herself with two dozen other women to defend husband Roy Moore against accusations of sexual misconduct that are dividing Republicans.

“He will not step down. He will not stop fighting for the people of Alabama,” Kayla Moore said Friday at a “Women for Moore” rally. Acting as her husband’s lead defender, she lashed out at the news media and thanked people who were sticking behind her husband. “To the people of Alabama, thank you for being smarter than they think you are,” Moore said.

Not everyone is sticking with Roy Moore, however.

“I was going to vote for him. I was going to be one of his voters. I just don’t know that I can vote for him anymore,” said Laura Payne, a Trump delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Since last week, Moore has been engulfed by accusations of sexual misconduct toward women in their teens when he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s. Several of his accusers have allowed their identities to be made public.

One said Moore molested her when she was 14. Another said Moore assaulted her when she was a 16-year-old waitress after he offered to drive her home. Five others said Moore pursued romantic relationships with them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18.

“I have not found any reason not to believe them …. They risked a whole lot to come forward,” Payne said of the accusers.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she also has no reason to disbelieve the women and is bothered by their allegations. But Ivey said she will vote for Moore anyway for the sake of GOP power in Congress.

“We need to have a Republican in the United States Senate to vote on things like Supreme Court justices, other appointments that the Senate has to confirm and make major decisions,” Ivey said.

Moore has ignored mounting calls from Washington Republicans concerned that if he stays in the race against Democrat Doug Jones he may not only lose a seat they were sure to win but also may do significant damage to the party’s brand among women nationwide as they prepare for a difficult midterm election season.

The Alabama GOP, meanwhile, reaffirmed its support for Moore on Thursday.

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The accusations sent a shockwave through the Senate race in Alabama, where Republicans typically have a lock on statewide election. Democrats already hoped to stand a chance against the polarizing jurist who was twice removed from chief justice duties because of defying court orders regarding the Ten Commandments and gay marriage.

A Fox News poll released Thursday, a week after the first accusations, showed Jones leading Moore by eight points. Support from women was helping to give Jones the edge with 68 percent for Jones compared to 32 percent for Moore.

One of them is longtime Republican Tracy James, who worked for former senator and current U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Her cousin was a Republican governor. She won’t vote for Moore, a decision she made before the election.

“My hope is that the Moore debacle will not only be a wake-up call for evangelicals, but also for Republicans, who should stand back and say, ‘Wow, look at the kind of person we almost elected to our ranks,” James said.

But Kayla Moore says her husband is exactly the kind of person who needs to be in the Senate.

Decades ago, then known by her maiden name, Kayla Kisor, she was performing in a hometown dance recital when she first caught Roy Moore’s eye. As he wrote in his 2009 autobiography: Seeing her was something he never forgot.

“Years later,” Moore wrote, when she was 23 -- she’s 14 years his junior-- he finally met her. They wed in 1985.

Now, Kayla Moore is doing more than standing by her husband -- she’s his most aggressive defender against allegations threatening his Republican bid for U.S. Senate.

When Moore makes a public appearance, Kayla Moore is there. When something pops up on social media that could help his cause, she shares it on Facebook. And she was the star at the Statehouse rally in Montgomery.

Speakers there said the allegations against Moore were out of character for the man they have known for years.

“I do not recognize the man these ladies are describing,” Ann Eubank, a fixture in Alabama Republican politics, said of the accusers.

Across the street from the rally, Rose Falvey, 25, who runs an LGBT community center, said she was angered by the stories about Moore since he had fought to block gay marriage in the state.

“I think it’s really hypocritical and an embarrassment for the state of Alabama, and he’s dragging us backwards,” Falvey said.

____

Associated Press writers Steve Peoples and Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, and Zeke Miller and Catherine Lucey in Washington contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or republished.

Texas Budget to Include $20 Million for Pro-Life Options

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 13:40

Texas has allocated $20 million in its 2018-2019 budget to go to a pro-life program that offers alternatives to abortion and provides services to new parents.

"If they're self sufficient through the process of childbirth and afterward, that saves the state money and makes for much happier women and children and families," Texas Alliance for Life executive director, Joe Pojman, said, according to the Texas Tribune. The $20 million brings the program's total operating budget to over $38 million.

The Alternatives to Abortion program provides pregnant women with support groups in maternity homes and referrals to community and social service programs like child-care, transportation and housing. It also offers support to new parents on how to best handle the stress of raising a new life. The program also has classes on life skills, stress management, budgeting, as well as items that new parents need like car seats, maternity clothes, infant diapers and formula.

"Clearly the state is prioritizing ideology over public health because a true alternative to abortion would be ensuring access to health care, especially family planning," NARAL Pro-Choice Texas executive director, Heather Busby, said, according to the Texas Tribune.

The new funds will be used to provide services not just for newborns but also for youngsters up to age three, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHS), which is in charge of overseeing the Alternatives To Abortion program. It intends to provide pregnant mothers with access to Medicaid services, food stamps, and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The new funds will also go towards job training in order to fuel "greater self-sufficiency and lower reliance on health and human service programs across the lifespan," the HHS report says.

 

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Copyright 2017 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Stopping Obama’s Time Bomb: The First Tax Increase of the Trump Era

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 12:51

In just six weeks, the first tax increase of the Trump era goes into effect. It’s a delayed, time-released tax hike that Obama left as a parting gift for his successor.

You haven’t heard much about this tax increase. That’s because it was designed to be hidden from those who end up paying for it. And it was designed to go into place after Obama was out of office. But the crafty mechanics of the Democrats’ new tax doesn't make it any less real. And it’s now up to Republicans to make sure it doesn't go into effect on our watch.

Obamacare imposed hefty hidden taxes on American-made medical devices and private-market health insurance policies. These taxes were suspended for 2017 because even Democrats saw they were harming job growth and causing steep premium increases. But the suspensions expire at the end of the year. Unless Congress acts soon, these taxes will go back into effect on January 1, 2018 -- raising taxes by $15 billion next year alone and by hundreds of billions over the next decade. Yet most Republicans are doing nothing to stop it.

To make matters worse, these taxes target seniors, small businesses and American manufacturing.

To be clear: the return of these Obamacare taxes is a tax increase. Republicans are not only failing to repeal Obamacare, they are on the verge of bringing back some of its most harmful provisions.

Taxes That Oppose Republican Values

To make matters worse, these taxes target seniors, small businesses and American manufacturing. This is a tax increase on the Trump bloc.

Medical technology supports nearly two million American jobs. And the industry is one of the few in the U.S. that is a net exporter of its products. According to the medical device trade group, when the tax was suspended, 83 percent of MedTech companies saw increased investments in research and development.

Allowing the 2.3 percent tax to return will put an added burden on an industry already struggling under America's uncompetitive manufacturing policies. This flawed tax is assessed on all U.S. medical device sales -- regardless of whether the company is even profitable. Why on earth would Republicans allow the return of a tax that goes against their plan to revive manufacturing, create jobs and boost growth?

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If Republicans choose to bring this tax back, more than 150 million Americans will see their premiums increase by about 3 percent in 2018. That may not sound like much, but it translates to more than $500 per family. Moreover, the increase would come on top of the many other factors projected to drive up health care costs in 2018, such as soaring prescription drug costs.

Where are the Republicans?

So why isn't the insurance industry mounting a massive lobbying campaign against the return of this tax? Because insurers simply pass the cost on to their customers. The insurance lobby has focused instead on getting a costly taxpayer-funded bailout from Obamacare. The insurers that still remain in the dying Obamacare exchanges would rather receive corporate welfare checks that fatten their bottom lines than prevent a tax increase that harms their customers.

Despite the failed Obamacare repeal push, polling confirms that Republicans will own health care in the minds of voters next year. Perhaps Republicans failed to learn the painful lessons voters taught Democrats in 1994, 2010 and 2014? When you control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and approach health care on a partisan basis, you own the politics of health care.

Republicans campaigned on dual pledges of Obamacare repeal and no tax increases. Allowing these taxes would make a mockery of both.

Republicans could spare voters a $500 premium increase, and support job creation, just by keeping the current bipartisan suspension of the Obamacare taxes. Yet far too many Republicans seem intent on allowing a tax increase on their watch. In fact, while looking the other way as Obamacare taxes return, some Establishment Republicans and are even joining Democrats in support of the Obamacare bailout.

Republicans Need to Step Up

In fairness, not all Republicans are standing idly by while the Obamacare taxes return. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., along with a number of conservative senators, is leading an effort against the return of the tax on health insurance. Many Republicans are supporting legislation to repeal the medical device tax. But time is running out.

Republicans campaigned on dual pledges of Obamacare repeal and no tax increases. Allowing a stealth tax from the Obama administration to be the first tax increase of the Trump era makes a mockery of both of those pledges. And Republicans in Washington wonder why they face a grassroots revolt. They need to step up now.

 

Ken Blackwell is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Taxpayers Union. He served as a domestic policy advisor to the Trump Presidential Translation Team.

Trump Just Named Five New Possible Supreme Court Nominees

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 12:34

President Donald Trump added five names to his list of possible Supreme Court nominees Friday, as loyalists of the conservative Federalist Society gather in Washington to celebrate the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch and a bevy of lower court nominees.

The White House said the president will pick his next nominee to the high court from a list of 25 contenders. That list includes 20 possible candidates first identified during the 2016 presidential campaign, and five additional contenders named Friday.

The five new contenders are Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Justice Britt Grant of the Georgia Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the D.C. Circuit, Judge Kevin Newsom of the 11th Circuit and Justice Patrick Wyrick of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

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Barrett and Newsom are among the half-dozen appeals court judges President Trump has appointed during his first year.

"The president remains deeply committed to identifying and selecting outstanding jurists in the mold of Justice Gorsuch," the White House said in a statement. "These additions, like those on the original list released more than a year ago, were selected with input from respected conservative leaders."

 

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Copyright 2017 Daily Caller News Foundation

Lebanon’s PM Hariri Leaves Saudi Arabia for France

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 12:30

BEIRUT (AP) -- Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri left Saudi Arabia for France early Saturday, two weeks after declaring his resignation from the kingdom and sparking speculation that he was forced to do so.

The surprise resignation announcement by Hariri on Nov. 4 plunged his country into turmoil and stunned the Lebanese, many of whom saw it as a sign the Sunni kingdom -- the prime minister’s chief ally -- had decided to drag tiny Lebanon into its feud with the region’s other powerhouse, the predominantly Shiite Iran. Lebanon still hasn’t recognized his resignation.

In his televised announcement, Hariri cited Iran and Hezbollah for meddling in Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia. He also said he was afraid for his life.

Shortly before he left Riyadh, Saudi Arabia asked its citizens for the second time in less than two weeks to leave Lebanon “as soon as possible” given the “circumstances” there. Less than a week after Hariri resigned, Riyadh ordered its nationals to leave immediately, raising fears of more punitive actions to come amid sharp criticism from Saudi officials of Hezbollah, Iran’s ally in Lebanon.

The announcement early Saturday was posted on the Saudi embassy Twitter account. It came shortly after the embassy reported that it is closely following reports of an attack on two Saudi nationals in a Beirut neighborhood. There was no immediate security report of the incident. Hariri tweeted before he left Saudi Arabia that any attack on a Saudi is an attack on him personally.

Hariri, a dual Lebanese-Saudi national, stunned Lebanon and the region when he declared his resignation from Saudi Arabia, sparking speculations he was held against his will and forced to resign.

In a series of tweets before leaving, Hariri dismissed as “rumors” and a “lie” reports that he was detained or prevented from leaving the kingdom. In a rare English tweet, Hariri named German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel when announcing that he was heading to the airport in Saudi Arabia. He apparently singled out the top German diplomat because he had criticized meddling in Lebanon’s affairs.

“To say that I am held up in Saudi Arabia and not allowed to leave the country is a lie,” Hariri said. “I am on the way to the airport Mr. Sigmar Gabriel.”

Before heading to the airport, Hariri met with the Saudi Crown Prince and other senior officials, according to a member of Hariri’s political party and two Lebanese television stations.

He is expected to arrive in Paris Saturday morning. Local Lebanese TV said he left Riyadh with his wife. His family had lived in Riyadh for years.

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French President Emmanuel Macron said Hariri will be received “with the honors due a prime minister” even though he has announced his resignation.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun accused Saudi Arabia of detaining him.

Saudi officials denied the reports, adding that Hariri was an ally. But they railed against Iran-backed Hezbollah, accusing the two of meddling in the region’s affairs and backing anti-Saudi rebels in Yemen.

The resignation by Saudi-aligned Hariri raised concerns in a region already beset by conflict. Many feared Lebanon’s delicate sectarian-based political system could be easily upended if the county is dragged into a battle for regional supremacy between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

On Friday, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said there will be no stability in Lebanon unless the militant group Hezbollah disarms. “This is what we hope,” Adel al-Jubeir said at a press conference in Madrid with his Spanish counterpart.

It was the second day in a row that the Saudi minister railed against Hezbollah. On Thursday, he called the group a “first-class terrorist organization” that should lay down its arms and respect Lebanon’s sovereignty. Saudi Arabia has already asked its nationals to leave Lebanon.

The Arab League is due to hold a meeting on Sunday in Cairo at Saudi Arabia’s urging where the Lebanon crisis and Iran’s role in the region are expected to be discussed. Many fear more Saudi punitive actions against Lebanon may be planned.

“My stay in the kingdom is to consult about the future of Lebanon and its relation with its Arab environs,” he tweeted earlier. “All stories spreading about my sojourn and departure or that deal with the circumstances of my family are merely rumors.”

Macron, speaking at an EU summit in Goteborg, Sweden, said Hariri could stay in Paris for weeks should he choose.

Macron said that Hariri “has the intention, I believe, of going to his country in the days or weeks ahead,” the first time a possible timeframe has been evoked.

It was not clear what the intention of the French invitation was. Hariri also has homes in France. Some viewed the French invite as an attempt to dispel reports Hariri was detained.

France, Lebanon’s former colonial ruler, has been trying to mediate the crisis and Macron invited Hariri and his family to the country after his foreign minister met with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about the crisis.

___

Associated Press writers Zeina Karam in Beirut and Jeff Schaeffer and Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or republished.

How America Turned Into a Nation of Small Gods

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 12:05

America has moved beyond Christianity, beyond post-Christianity, to a new religion of small gods everywhere. How did we get to this point?

I’m not talking about old-fashioned self-worship. This isn't merely, "I'm more important than you." Individuals are assuming the very power of God to create their own realities and command others to comply. As I've written recently,

What else besides a claim of godhood is going on, after all, when a man declares himself a woman, and insists that his new sex ("gender") is reality, not only for himself but for everyone else? What else explains his demand that everyone kneel in obedience to the new reality he has created? How else do we make sense of doctors and judges claiming they can decide whose life is worth living?

We could trace this movement all the way to Satan's suggestion to Eve that she should become like God. But at least four modern streams feed this movement.

1. Discarding the True God

The first is the West's gradual discarding of the true God. Not long ago I was with a group of men doing Bible study together. One of the older men said he could remember saying the Lord's Prayer in public school. The younger men in the group were visibly surprised that anyone could recall such a thing.

This "freedom" -- almost god-like in its way -- wasn't real. But it felt like it.

For the U.S., 1963 marks a tragic turning point, when prayer was expelled from school. We all know the story since then. More and more, year after year, in both culture and policy, the Western world has continued finding creative new ways to reject God.

2. Increasing Personal Power (For Some)

The 60s were infamous for the sexual revolution, of course. But something even more significant lay behind: personal pleasure without personal responsibility. Sex was separated from childbirth by the Pill, and from venereal disease by still other pills. Despite high rates of inflation, the economy was strong enough to allow people to indulge in everything from unprecedented leisure time to unprecedented drug use.

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Obviously not everyone benefited from that. Poverty and racial injustice were very real. For those who did, though, there was a new-found freedom from natural cause and effect. This "freedom" -- almost god-like in its way -- wasn't real. But it felt like it.

3. Contempt for Authority

Meanwhile the Vietnam War gave rise to a new contempt for authority. Watergate in the 1970s was no help at all -- to put it mildly. Neither were later revelations of corporate economic irresponsibility, of Roman Catholic disregard for priests' child abuse, or a president's power-abusive sexual escapades. Could any trusted authority be found anymore?

People began turning inward for the answer, making themselves their own authority, especially in regard to ethics and religious "truth."

The conflict today is a religious battle through and through -- even for those who call themselves secularists.

They called it "relativism." It could as easily have been called the self's assuming powers never known before. Individuals claimed the power to determine truth for themselves, regardless of what reality, tradition, religion or God Himself might say. They decided what would be true in their own worlds -- again, a very god-like move to make.

4. Postmodernism

This relativism was supported by an originally obscure academic movement called postmodernism. In his 1967 essay "The Death of the Author," postmodernist Roland Barthes argued that there is something wrong in thinking an author "rules" over the "empire" of his creation. The reader ruled instead.

Other writers in that vein declared language a tool for getting power rather than for communicating meaning. And they cast aside all integrated explanations of reality ("meta-narratives"). Their world was fragmented into pieces. So were its citizens.

Where We stand, Where We're Heading

I have written of the loneliness of the small gods, isolated in their separately constituted worlds. Reality, however, still says we share a real, common world. We can't segment ourselves; we must interact. We can do it either as friends, or  as a battlefield of small gods, each one fighting for supremacy. Too many are choosing the latter.

The conflict today is a religious battle through and through -- even for those who call themselves secularists. On the one side are millions of small gods maneuvering their way through their shifting alliances, petty battles and grand wars. On the other there is the conservative, theistic remainder. It includes those of us who know there is one true God, and a reality we must discover and submit ourselves to, rather than create and control.

When situations change, strategies must change with them.

When situations change, strategies must change with them. Strategy will work only to the extent that it matches with reality: both eternal reality and the current lay of the land.

Which means we have to see today's struggle for what it is. This isn't just a political battle, though it has a political side to it. It isn't just cultural, either, though culture features strongly in it. It’s a spiritual battle. It's a battle against the religion of the small gods. 

 

For more, see Tom Gilson’s Christians Today are Expatriates, Not Exiles and We Don't Own Much of American Culture Anymore -- What Now?.

Christians, We’re a Team. Let’s Act Like One

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 10:00

When kids start playing sports, one of the first things they learn is that “there’s no ‘I’ in team.” A bit cheesy? Sure. Overused? Maybe a tad. Nevertheless, the saying is true. A good team works together.

Christians, we’re a team. But we’re pros at finding a way to insert the “I” in the T-E-A-M. As any seasoned athlete or sports fan knows, that’s a recipe for disaster.

Just look at football. 

On the football team, every player has a distinct role. A team can’t win without a really good quarterback. But he can’t do everything. Without an offensive line that executes their blocking scheme, the quarterback can’t get his passes off and the running back can’t get through the line. Just one guard decides to block the middle linebacker rather than the defensive tackle he’s supposed to block, and the whole play breaks down.

Bottom line: when players fail to fulfill their duties, their teammates suffer. And the whole team loses. 

How Christians Put the “I” in “Team”

Back to us Christians. How do we stick the “I” in T-E-A-M? Plenty of ways. Like when we try to take over a job that’s not ours. Or fail to be there for a teammate in need. Or sow discord among team members, rather than fighting the opponents. 

Think you’re guilt free? When was the last time you plowed through something you should have passed off? It’s not like you were trying to take more glory. Maybe you wanted to make sure it got done right. And to be honest, you didn’t really trust your teammate. So you muttered, “I’ll just do it myself.”

But your job was to focus on your task and let your teammate focus on theirs. Instead, you proved your distrust of the coach. He designed the play, after all. And while you deprived your teammate of fulfilling their potential, you also left your own task undone. 

It’s time to step up and block for each other. Because Satan hits hard. And he takes cheap shots.

When was the last time you slacked off as a spiritual guard for your fellow Christians? You knew the enemy was coming full speed, ready to take down your teammate. But you didn’t block. It’s not like you were trying to let your teammate take the hit. Maybe you were just busy.

But your job was to pay attention, even if it meant getting hit yourself. Instead, you lagged. You didn’t intercede for them or even check in. You weren’t there. 

When was the last time you spoke unwholesome words about a fellow believer? Or harbored resentment toward them in your heart? It’s not like you wanted to fight your own team. They wronged you. 

But your job was to unify your team. Instead, you sowed discord and even hatred among teammates. Meanwhile the opposing team -- the real enemy -- took advantage. 

Let’s Be Teammates

The ugly truth is that we’ve all failed on these accounts at one time or another. We’ve all failed at being a team. We’ve managed to put the “I” -- our own ambitions, comfort and desires -- where it doesn’t belong. 

But we need each other. So it’s time to stop bickering. It’s time to listen to the coach, obey him, and complete the tasks he’s given us. It’s time to step up and block for each other.

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Because Satan hits hard. And he takes cheap shots. He’ll brutally tackle any one of us he can. When we’re not watching out for each other, we all suffer. But when we stand together as a team, there is power.

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 1 Corinthians 12:18

Military Photo of the Day: Marine Firing Line

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 08:00

“Marine firing line somewhere between Hagaru-ri and Yudam-ni.” November, 1950

From the Oliver P. Smith Collection (COLL/213), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections

 

 

 

 

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Being Shoved Into Meaninglessness

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 18:00

I’m an advocate of higher education and all, but so much for assuming that the development of common sense and sound judgment are part of the package.

A Pew Research Center poll found that 77 percent of Democrats with a bachelor’s degree or more believe a person’s gender can be different from the sex they were “assigned at birth.” You’ll remember that Democrats are the party of science, and Republicans the Neanderthal science-deniers.

First we have to ask ourselves why in the world it would occur to anyone of any gender at any time or any place even to conduct such a survey. It would be like surveying people to find if they believe ears are for hearing or eyes for seeing.

It would be disturbing enough if only 77 percent of Democrats with this level of education thought gender is determined biologically. But 23 percent? That’s a whole new level of weird -- unless you define “weird” as being outside the mainstream. What’s weird is how weird the mainstream has become -- at least on the political left. This doesn’t speak well for higher education in this country, does it? Then again, you wouldn’t be surprised if you had seen the core curricula of America’s “great” universities -- and many of the required reading assignments in the classes.

Common Goals?

I watched an interesting video of a young conservative from a liberal family explaining why he could dialogue with liberals and still love them because we all share common goals. It is leftists, he said, who don’t even share our goals anymore, and it is very difficult to find any common ground with them.

I thought to myself when watching the video, “Yes, we do share some of the same goals: less crime, less poverty, etc., but increasingly the mainstream Democratic Party is embracing or strongly enabling certain extremist ideas. There is just no denying that the party has lurched leftward.”

Reading these poll results, sadly, tends to validate my concerns, which is not something I’m happy about. How can a significant percentage of people of any respected group, much less of the higher-educated subset of that group, be so wrongheaded? People urging bipartisanship should explain how we find common ground with such stunningly different worldviews.

I’m hoping this chasm is partially due to the phrasing of the survey questions or fear of political correctness policing -- but still, it’s seriously problematic.

Biological Reality

I don’t doubt, by the way, that some very small fraction of a percentage of people sense they are trapped in their bodies and feel more like the opposite biological gender. I recently talked to such a person and am sure he was sincere. He has always felt like he should have been born a female. Note that he fully acknowledges, however, that he wasn’t. He doesn’t dispute the biological reality.

So I have no inclination to judge such people. If they feel opposite their biological gender, they do. It’s above my pay-grade to fully understand this. But I think we’re dealing with something more than this. Cultural activism is at work here.

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Just look at the language the Pew survey uses to address these ideas: A human being’s gender is “assigned at birth.” You surely don’t believe this language is accidental, do you?

To have an assignment there must be an assignor. If they mean God, or even nature, I’d have no quarrel, but it’s clear they are talking about human agents (doctors or other health care providers) as assignors. This suggests some arbitrariness in the determination, or at least something that is subject to question.

It is not subject to question. Absent some biological aberration we are born either male or female, and no amount of linguistic manipulation can alter that reality, even though it obviously alters some people’s perception of the reality.

The Left’s Agenda

Yes, there is certainly an agenda at work here; with the left everything is political. There is an effort to normalize that which is not normal, which introduces uncertainty into things certain. We have not evolved, but are being pushed headlong into moral relativism and further into post-modernism and beyond, where there is no such thing as truth and reality is just a function of the individual’s preference.

This is moral chaos, intellectual chaos and biological chaos. It is nihilism. If truth is no longer defined as that which corresponds with reality, we have completely untethered ourselves from our foundations of meaning and significance. Parents with any remaining affinity for traditional values must surely be concerned about what we are bequeathing our children.

I’m not citing these ominous trends to score political points, and I acknowledge they are not solely the fault of just one political party, though they are disproportionately prevalent in that party. This is a societal and cultural problem that has polluted downstream political waters.

Indeed, these developments transcend politics. At the risk of subjecting myself to anti-Christian scoffing, I believe we are in the throes of spiritual warfare, which is one reason I’m not attempting to unduly demonize people falling prey to it. I used not to believe in the devil, but that was then, and this is now. I have no other rational explanation for morality and truth routinely being turned on their very heads -- for right being considered wrong, and unreality masquerading as reality. Satan is the first and great deceiver, and many people, most of them unwittingly, are being deceived.

Pray for America. Pray for mankind.

 

David Limbaugh is a writer, author and attorney. His latest book is The True Jesus: Uncovering the Divinity of Christ in the Gospels. Follow him on Twitter @davidlimbaugh and his website at www.davidlimbaugh.com. 

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Three Bad Arguments against Life Beginning at Conception

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 17:51

A recent article on Romper argues "3 Ways Science Proves Life Doesn't Begin at Conception." The arguments are not good ones. To begin with, the author is not really arguing that embryonic humans are not alive (this is clear, since she also argues we should be allowed to kill them). Rather, she's arguing that these reasons prove embryonic human beings are not valuable human life.

The arguments are: 1) many embryos die, 2) many embryos have genetic abnormalities, and 3) embryos can't survive without receiving sustenance from another human being. To test whether her reasons prove embryonic human beings are not valuable, I've slightly adjusted the words of the three points in her article in order to apply her value-determining principles to newborns. Since we're not used to hearing these arguments made about newborns, you'll hear them with fresh ears, which should provide some clarity.

See if you find them convincing.

A Newborn Can Turn into a Toddler -- But That Doesn't Mean It Will

Regardless of your viewpoint regarding newborns, it does make some sense that anti-infanticide advocates consider birth as the beginning of life. Once a baby is born, it has the chance to eventually grow into a toddler, who theoretically could become capable and self-aware and, thus, would be considered a person with all the associated rights. But as ethicists promoting after-birth abortion have pointed out, birth shouldn't be considered the beginning of life, because, well, biology is much more complicated and flawed than our ideological opinions might like it to be.

Protecting the rights of newborns might seem like a good way to ensure they grow into toddlers, but the idea doesn't even sort of align with the medical reality. Why? Because there are newborns that never become toddlers, but instead die in various, natural ways.

Many Complications Can (And Often Do) Occur between Birth and Childhood

Then there's the fact that, while we may prefer to think of birth as a beautiful time in which a human being grows and flourishes without issue, something often goes wrong. Early deaths occur, sometimes due to nothing more than a chromosomal mixup. And as upsetting as that can be, it's ultimately just a reality of the human body.

Complicating matters further, though, is that significant genetic abnormalities or other complications don't always result in the death of the baby. In these cases, killing the baby can be the medically-advised option. But a definition of life beginning at birth can change what would otherwise be considered the best medical option, as the baby would have to be allowed to live, regardless of the outcome.

Without the Mother, the Newborn Wouldn't Survive

Perhaps the most obvious argument against the idea of life beginning at birth, though, is that it takes a long time after birth before that newborn will have become a child capable of obtaining food and water on its own. In many cases, this happens around two or three years. Babies who are just born still need quite extensive intervention to live.

It's not exactly news that a baby can't survive on its own, but it's actually a very important distinction from a technical standpoint. If a baby needs another person's bodily actions in order to live, then it means that person is essentially lending her body to the baby to allow it to survive. Again, that baby might eventually be able to be a human being existing in the world independently, but for a long while, it is entirely dependent on another person's body to sustain it. While making birth the beginning of life might be helpful for anti-infanticide advocacy, it unnecessarily infringes on the rights of adult humans, who could then be expected to continue to use their bodies to care for a growing baby.

Infanticide has always been an incredibly controversial topic, and it's unlikely that that will change anytime soon. But ideological notions of protecting babies from "murder" just don't align with what science and medicine knows to be true: that there isn't much about making birth the beginning of life that is actually helpful or valuable.

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It hope all this sounds horrifying to you. In the original article, the author applied these arguments to embryonic human beings. But as you can see, they could just as easily be applied to newborns since newborns are also dependent and vulnerable. Therefore, if her arguments did not convince you newborn humans are not valuable human beings, then neither should they convince you embryonic humans are not valuable human beings. The reasons she offers are simply not relevant to a human being's value.  

Originally published on Stand To Reason on November 16, 2017. Republished with permission.

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