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Latest from the Olympics: Russian Fails Doping Test

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 13:03

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) – The latest from the PyeongChang Olympics. (all times local):

10:15 p.m.

Japanese veteran Noriaki Kasai has qualified for the men’s team large hill ski jumping final at the Olympics.

After failing to qualify for the large hill final on Saturday, there was some concern Kasai might not make it for the Monday’s team final. But the 45-year-old Kasai had two second-place finishes in Sunday’s three training jumps to book a spot on the four-man team.

Kasai, who is competing in his eighth Olympics, could become the first athlete 45 or older claim a medal at the Winter Olympics since Canada’s Carolyn Darbyshire in the women’s curling team event in 2010.

Defending champion Germany has won the team event a record three times. Norway has won three of the four men’s team events in the World Cup this season with Poland winning the other.

___

9:35 p.m.

Nao Kodaira of Japan has won the women’s 500-meter speedskating gold medal in 36.94 seconds, an Olympic record.

Kodaira became the first woman to race under 37 seconds at sea level, bettering her old mark of 37.07 set in November in Norway.

Two-time defending champion Lee Sang-hwa of South Korea took silver in 37.33. Karolina Ervanova of the Czech Republic earned bronze in 37.34.

Brittany Bowe was the highest U.S. finisher in fifth place. Teammate Heather Bergsma was 11th, while Erin Jackson finished 24th out of 31 skaters in her Olympic debut.

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9:25 p.m.

Oleksandr Abramenko has given Ukraine its first medal at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The 29-year-old Abramenko edged Jia Zongyang in the men’s aerials finals, posting a score of 128.51 in his last jump to give his country just its third gold medal ever at the Winter Games.

Zongyang was the last jumper of the night and exulted after nailing his back full, double full, the same jump Abramenko completed moments before. Abramenko celebrated when the score was posted. The only other gold medals won by the Ukraine at the Winter Games came in 1994 when Oksana Baiul captured the Olympic title in women’s figure skating and in 2014 when the women’s biathlon team earned the top spot.

Ilia Burov, representing the Olympic Athletes from Russia, earned bronze. The Russian contingent remains without a gold in South Korea.

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9:15 p.m.

The Russian delegation at the Pyeongchang Olympics says one of its athletes has failed a doping test.

Two Russian state news agencies cite Konstantin Vybornov, spokesman for the “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” as saying the delegation received an official notification from the International Olympic Committee of the positive test.

Vybornov adds a “B” sample taken from the athlete will be analyzed, but does not name the athlete or the sport.

A confirmed doping case could be an obstacle to Russia’s efforts to have the Russian team formally reinstated in time for the closing ceremony.

The only other doping case so far at the Pyeongchang Olympics came when Japanese short-track speedskater Kai Saito tested positive for a banned diuretic.

9:15 p.m.

U.S. speedskater Heather Bergsma has completed her run in the 500 meters with a time of 38.13 seconds.

That’s got her in second with 14 skaters still to go, including teammate Brittany Bowe.

The Americans have yet to make the podium in long-track speedskating at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

9:10 p.m.

American speedskater Erin Jackson has clocked a time of 39.20 seconds in her 500-meter run. She was in the first pairing of the women’s competition.

Jackson’s time was slower than her personal best of 39.04 that she skated at the U.S. trials last month.

The inline skater only switched to ice last February and became the first black woman to make the U.S. long-track Olympic team.

___

9:05 p.m.

Martin Fourcade beat Germany’s Simon Schempp in a dramatic photo finish in the 15-kilometer mass start Sunday to win his second gold medal of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Schempp caught Fourcade over the frantic final 100 meters and the two skiers came to the line neck-and-neck.

Fourcade, the world’s No. 1 biathlete, reached out his left foot ahead of Schempp as both skiers slid through the finish line. Fourcade quickly slammed his ski pole to the ground thinking he’d lost the race, but replays showed he won by the narrowest of margins.

It was something of a turnaround for Fourcade, who had taken silver in a dramatic finish to the same event in Sochi four years ago.

Emil Hegle Svendsen took bronze.

___

8:30 p.m.

South Korea has topped qualifying for the speedskating team pursuit semifinals, beating the Dutch to set up a race against the surprisingly strong New Zealanders.

The Dutch will meet Norway in a clash of European speedskating powers. With the top four of eight teams advancing, the biggest upset of the night at the Olympic oval was the elimination of Canada, whose trio led by 10,000-meter gold medalist Ted-Jan Bloemen, finished seventh. The United States finished in eighth and last place.

The Dutch did not have a smooth race, with Koen Verweij continuing his poor form in South Korea. A strong race from 5,000-meter champion Sven Kramer settled the Dutch among the top qualifiers. Instead of Verweij, the Netherlands might have to consider Patrick Roest, the 1,500 silver medalist.

___

7:50 p.m.

South Korean Prime Minsiter Lee Nak-yeon has stopped by the curling venue at the Pyeongchang Olympics to watch the women’s team send China to a 12-5 loss.

The prime minister posed for pictures with fans and venue volunteers.

Korea has little curling tradition, but as the host nation it receives an entry into all three tournaments -- men’s, women’s and mixed. The Koreans finished sixth in the eight-team mixed doubles field. They are tied for second in the women’s tournament, but the men were last heading into Sunday night’s session.

That hasn’t stopped the hometown crowd from getting excited about the sport. During a filled-to-capacity afternoon session, locals rooted on their women’s team as it opened a 10-2 lead. China conceded the match with two ends to go -- not enough time for a comeback.

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7:40 p.m.

Defending Olympic bronze medalist Eve Muirhead picked a bad time to hog a rock for the first time.

On her final stone of the first extra-end in the Olympic women’s curling tournament on Sunday, the British skip failed to let go before the rock crossed over the hog line. It was removed from play, setting up Swedish skip Anna Hasselborg with a much easier shot for the 8-6 victory.

Olympic curling stones contain a sensor that lights up green if the handle is released in time, or red if it isn’t. The rock was tested to make sure that sensor was working correctly, but there is no other review process.

Muirhead says she doesn’t think she’s ever committed a hog line violation before.

The unusual event came two days after Canadian skip Rachel Homan caused a controversy by removing a burned rock from play -- a legal but not altogether sporting move in the insular and friendly curling world.

___

7:30 p.m.

The U.S. men’s Alpine ski team has only one top 10 finish through four races and is in danger of leaving the Olympics without a medal for the first time since the 1998 Nagano Games.

For about 20 minutes during the Olympic giant slalom, Ryan Cochran-Siegle was in the leader’s box, but then he slipped into a tie for 11th.

That’s just about par on the icy course for the team in Pyeongchang. The squad wasn’t really expected to do all that well -- and it hasn’t.

Through four races, they have only one top 10 finish -- Ted Ligety’s fifth place in the Alpine combined.

The only individual men’s event remaining is Thursday’s slalom.

U.S. coach Sasha Rearick says the team knows it has work ahead of it to get where it wants to be.

___

7:10 p.m.

Japan now has an Olympic winning streak in women’s hockey.

Ayaka Toko scored on a slap shot from the high slot 3:16 into overtime, and Japan beat Sweden 2-1 Sunday in a classification game.

The Japanese had a goal disallowed for goaltender interference late in the first period, and they couldn’t score on the power play 27 seconds into overtime.

Chiho Osawa skated around the boards with the puck and passed out to Toko, who scored the game winner that started the Japanese celebrating and the defenseman crying in happiness.

Japan now will play Switzerland with a chance at the country’s highest finish, with fifth place on the line Tuesday.

Sweden, which lost in the quarterfinals to Finland, will play the combined Korea team for the final two spots in the eight-team tournament.

___

7 p.m.

The Czech Republic will finish top of Group A in the men’s Pyeongchang Olympic hockey tournament after beating Switzerland 4-1.

Dominik Kubalik scored the game-winning goal for the Czech Republic on Sunday three minutes into the third period off Jan Kovar’s pass into the slot. Michal Repik had put the Czechs ahead in the first period, though Thomas Rufenacht soon responded with a goal for Switzerland.

Roman Cervenka and Repik secured the win with empty-netters as Switzerland tried to send the game to overtime.

Czech goaltender Pavel Francouz allowed one goal from 29 shots in his third game of the tournament.

It was the third win for the Czechs, who had earlier beaten South Korea 2-1 before winning 3-2 in a shootout against Canada on Saturday.

___

5:20 p.m.

The Winter Olympics are more than halfway done, and the Russians still don’t have a gold medal.

It’s an unpleasant experience for the nation that finished top of the medal table in Sochi with 13 gold medals -- though two have since been stripped for doping.

But then again, the country of Russia is not here.

On the wall of the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” delegation office in Pyeongchang is a board with Russian medal winners’ photos attached under pictures of gold, silver and bronze medals. The gold column is empty.

Like most of the world, Russia counts gold medals first in the standings, so to sit behind gold-winning Belarus and Britain is galling.

Dozens of Russian athletes weren’t invited to the games because the International Olympic Committee said it couldn’t be sure they hadn’t been part of doping schemes.

___

4:55 p.m.

Norway has continued its dominance in cross-country skiing by winning the gold medal in the men’s 4×10-kilometer relay.

The team of Didrik Toenseth, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, Simen Hegstad Krueger and Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo won the race in 1 hour, 33 minutes and 4.9 seconds to beat the second-place Russian athletes by 9.4 seconds. France captured the bronze.

Norway has now won five of the eight gold medals awarded in cross-country at the Pyeongchang Games, and 11 medals overall. The record for most gold medals in cross-country in a single Olympic Games is 13, set by the Soviet Union in Calgary in 1988.

Krueger battled back from 24.5 seconds down at the midway point of the race to give Norway the lead. Klaebo took it from there, pulling away from Russian anchor Denis Spitsov in the final 1 1/2 kilometers to deny the Russians their first Pyeongchang gold medal.

Sweden had won this event in the previous two Olympics but finished in fifth place more than 2 minutes behind.

___

4:30 p.m.

Some three dozen figure skaters in the Pyeongchang Games are competing for nations other than the ones where they were born.

There’s a Russian skating for Australia who at first thought she was headed to Austria. Two Americans are ice dancing for host South Korea. Another American is competing for Brazil. Four members of the Israeli team are not natives.

Then there are pairs and ice dancing teams where the members are from two different countries and competing for a third.

Sometimes such pairings fail because the skaters are at different levels, and there can be language difficulties. But they can also work beautifully: Aliona Savchenko of Ukraine and Bruno Massot of France won gold for Germany in the pairs competition.

___

4 p.m.

Ted Ligety’s defense of his Olympic giant slalom gold medal has ended with a 15th-place finish behind Austrian Marcel Hirscher.

Ligety knew he hadn’t turned in the best opening run, but what he couldn’t tell as he was heading down the hill was just how poorly he’d done.

The American says he was “really surprised” when he saw his time.

He says, “It didn’t feel like I crushed it,” before adding with a chuckle: “But it didn’t feel 2 1/2 seconds bad.”

Ligety lost more ground to Hirscher in the second leg Sunday and ended up tied for 15th place, 3.21 seconds slower than the winning time of 2 minutes, 18.04 seconds.

Ligety says it was “a really bad day and time to not ski up to the level I wanted to.”

___

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3:30 p.m.

Sabrina Zollinger scored on a power play in the first period and Switzerland beat Korea 2-0 in a classification hockey game after routing the Koreans 8-0 in their Olympic opener.

Janine Alder made 19 saves for the shutout Sunday, with Florence Schelling getting a day off after playing in a 6-2 loss to the “Olympic athletes from Russia” in the quarterfinals. Evelina Raselli also scored for the Russians, who won bronze in Sochi.

They will play either Sweden or Japan for their final slotting Tuesday.

Shin So Jung made 51 saves, and the Koreans also killed three of four penalties. Shin gave up a hat trick to Alina Muller in the first period of the opener against Switzerland, and she said she felt a little pressure.

___

3:15 p.m.

Patrick Hager scored in regulation and again in a shootout as Germany beat Norway 2-1 to wrap up group play at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Danny aus den Birken made 28 saves and stopped all three shots he saw in the shootout Sunday.

Germany opened the scoring on a power play in the second when Hager took a pass from Dominik Kahun and stuffed the puck past goaltender Lars Haugen.

Norway tied the game in the third period. Both teams played cautiously in overtime, with Norway failing to capitalize even with nearly two minutes on the man advantage.

Haugen made 36 saves but didn’t stop a shot in the shootout.

Both teams face elimination games Tuesday to get into the quarterfinals.

___

2:55 p.m.

Marcel Hirscher has won the Olympic men’s giant slalom. It’s his second gold medal at the Pyeongchang Games.

The 28-year-old Austrian star extended his first-run lead to win by a huge margin of 1.27 seconds over hard-charging Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway. Kristoffersen rose from 10th-fastest in the morning.

Bronze medalist Alexis Pinturault of France finished 1.31 behind Hirscher’s two-run time of 2 minutes, 18.04 seconds.

Hirscher can complete a sweep of three individual titles in his best event, the slalom, which is scheduled for Thursday.

Hirscher also won the Alpine combined Tuesday. Pinturault took silver in that race.

___

2:50 p.m.

Norway’s Oystein Braaten has captured the gold medal in ski slopestyle at the Pyeongchang Olympics, far outdistancing American Gus Kenworthy, who failed to land any of his three runs and came in last.

Braaten edged out American Nick Goepper, who added a silver medal to the bronze he won four years ago in Sochi.

Canadian Alex Beaulieu-Marchand took the bronze.

The buzz for this event swirled around Kenworthy, who came out as gay about two years after capturing the silver medal in Russia and has since become a strong voice in the LGBT community.

With family and boyfriend Matt Wilkas watching, Kenworthy bobbled all three runs in the finals. After the last one, he shrugged, shook his head and said, “It’s OK,” to the TV cameras before walking off the course.

___

2:30 p.m.

Ticket sales for the Pyeongchang Olympics have exceeded 1 million.

Local organizing committee spokesman Sung Baik-you says the 1 million mark exceeds expectations -- 692,443 people attended games venues from Feb. 9 to Feb. 17, and there’s still about a week remaining.

Sung says, “Our target was 1,068,000, so we don’t have many tickets remaining.”

Attendance peaked Saturday, with 146,506 people attending on a holiday for the Lunar New Year. There were long delays in traffic around Pyeongchang on a holiday that usually is the busiest on Korean roads every year, but games organizers weren’t disappointed.

Sung acknowledges traffic jams and bus operation interruptions but says, “Nonetheless, I think we can say we were successful in attracting spectators, so it was a positive thing.”

___

2:15 p.m.

Lindsey Vonn has returned to the Olympic Alpine speed race course, where she was fastest in a practice run for Wednesday’s downhill race.

One day after placing sixth in the super-G at Jeongseon, Vonn clocked 1 minute, 41.03 seconds on the 1 3/4 -mile (2.8-kilometer) downhill course.

The American star was 0.18 seconds faster than Ramona Siebenhofer, with the Austrian’s time recorded despite missing a gate.

Alice McKennis of the United States was third-fastest, 0.53 behind Vonn.

Sunday’s practice was the first of three official training days before Vonn tries to regain the Olympic title she won in 2010.

The surprise super-G gold medalist, Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic, did not take part in the practice. Ledecka is also due to compete in snowboard parallel giant slalom this week.

___

1:30 p.m.

Russian officials have a store of uniforms ready if their team is formally reinstated for the Pyeongchang Olympics closing ceremony.

The head of the delegation of “Olympic Athletes from Russia” Stanislav Pozdnyakov, wouldn’t say where the uniforms are being stored, but says “as regards the closing ceremony, we’re ready for any development, including with extra uniforms.”

Russian athletes in Pyeongchang have been required to compete under the Olympic flag in neutral uniforms as punishment for Russian doping at the 2014 Games in Sochi.

The International Olympic Committee says it could allow them to attend the closing ceremony in Team Russia uniforms under the Russian flag if the team keeps to its IOC-mandated status during the competitions. A decision is expected Saturday, the day before the ceremony.

Pozdnyakov declines to say where the equipment is being kept, but says “if we need them, they’ll arrive on time. For the ceremony, all the athletes will have them.”

___

1 p.m.

Pyeongchang Olympics organizers say the Korean man who died after being found unresponsive at a media village was a 53-year-old interpreter working for a consortium of Japanese broadcasters.

Organizing committee spokesman Sung Baik-you says the man had cardiac arrest.

The man was not responsive when he was found Friday in his room by a co-worker. He was pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby hospital.

Sung says organizers will not release the man’s name out of respect for the man’s family.

___

12:40 p.m.

How do Olympians celebrate winning gold medals? If you’re Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic, you go to KFC.

Ledecka had a surprise victory Saturday in the super-G at the Pyeongchang Olympics. She’s also a snowboarder, and that was supposed to be her best chance for a medal.

Associated Press reporters ran into her later that night at the KFC not far from the snowboard course, where she’ll compete Thursday in qualifying for the parallel giant slalom.

She said she still couldn’t really believe she’d won. Clearly, she hadn’t made plans for a big celebration.

She ate quietly, basically unnoticed, with three other members of the Czech contingent.

As she stood up to leave, she casually picked up her gold medal and draped it around her neck. The people at the next table clapped.

___

11:40 a.m.

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, the “king of the biathlon,” says he’s anxious to see Norway cross-country skier Marit Bjoergen surpass his record of 13 medals and become the most decorated athlete in the history of the Winter Games.

Bjoergen won her 13th medal Saturday, taking home gold in the women’s relay.

Bjoerndalen thinks Bjoergen will break the record before the games are over. There are two more women’s cross-country events -- the team sprint relay on Wednesday and the mass start on Sunday.

Bjoergen, who is 37, says she won’t allow herself to think about the record. She’s just focused on the next race.

___

10:45 a.m.

Two top racers have had crashing falls though the finish line in the Olympic men’s giant slalom.

Both Luca de Aliprandini of Italy and Manuel Feller of Austria lost balance approaching the next-to-last gate and were disqualified.

De Aliprandini was set for the second-fastest time behind leader Marcel Hirscher of Austria when he went across the course into safety nets. He appeared to hurt his left leg.

Feller was turned around and slid backwards on his back. The race started under blue skies on a clear, cold day at Yongpyong Alpine Center.

Hirscher, who already won gold in Alpine combined, was fastest by 0.63 seconds after 10 skiers had started.

___

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

 

Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Fake News: Anti-Gun News Outlets Push False Claim Fla. Shooter ‘Trained’ by NRA

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 12:45

"TRAINED BY THE NRA."

That's the bombastic and misleading headline running in The New York Daily News' Saturday print edition about Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old man who confessed to murdering 17 high school students and faculty in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14.

The rampage, in which Cruz used an AR-15, sparked a typical debate over gun rights, with Democrats and liberals calling for increased gun control. Part of the strategy has been to link Cruz to the National Rifle Association, the largest gun lobby in the U.S.

The Daily News cited an Associated Press report in its misleading article, but without providing additional context that undercuts the idea that Cruz was "trained" by the NRA.

Instead, Cruz was a member of the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program at Stoneman Douglas High School, where Wednesday's shooting took place. JROTC programs operate in more than 1,700 high schools across the U.S. and are sponsored by the U.S. Army rather than the NRA.

The Daily News report, and others published by left-leaning news outlets, also avoids mentioning the FBI's admission on Friday that the bureau failed to act on a tip last month from someone who said that Cruz had expressed a "desire to kill people."

The Florida shooting suspect was on an NRA-funded school rifle team https://t.co/6pZqrtZMRD

An early look at Saturday's front… pic.twitter.com/kqi7fd6G9J

— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) February 17, 2018

Vox, a left-leaning website, published an article with the headline: "Nikolas Cruz was reportedly on an NRA-funded rifle team in high school."

And Think Progress, a website affiliated with the leftist Center for American Progress, published a piece headlined, "The NRA donated $10,000 to help train the Parkland shooting suspect to use a rifle."

As part of Stoneman Douglas' JROTC program, Cruz competed in air rifle marksmanship competitions with other schools.

"He was a very good shot," Aaron Diener, a teammate of Cruz's in the marksmanship program, told the Associated Press.

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According to the Associated Press, the NRA Foundation gave $2.2 million in cash and non-cash grants to schools in 2016. Most of the grants -- $1.8 million worth -- were in-kind donations of "equipment for high school air rifle teams to gun safety programs for younger children."

Stoneman Douglas received a $10,827 non-cash grant as part of the program, according to the AP.

There is no evidence that the NRA provided marksmanship training to Cruz or any other JROTC members.

The Daily News and other breathless reports about Cruz's alleged NRA links left out other critical context about the JROTC funding.

Some of the grants provided to Stoneman Douglas' program were used to purchase bulletproof Kevlar curtains that were used to protect students during Cruz's rampage.

As the AP reported:

Colton Haab, a second lieutenant and platoon leader in the school's JROTC, told The Associated Press that he helped usher about 90 students into the room where cadets train with pellet rifles. Haab moved the Kevlar sheets used as a backdrop for target practice away from the wall and told everyone to hide behind them. As it was, the shooter never approached the ROTC rooms.

"So I think the NRA actually bonused us in a way," Haab told the AP.

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Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

CPAC Now Enforces LGBT-Inspired Bans

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 12:43

The Stream has been warning Christians that our religious liberty is in danger. Both Maggie Gallagher and John Zmirak pointed to the crucial upcoming race in Pennsylvania. There the GOP establishment has endorsed a candidate who sponsored a pro-trans "bathroom bill" with no protections for dissenters.

Such disasters don't come from nowhere. They emerge because the conservative movement itself is undergoing an LGBT-inspired purge.

Consider the phone call Dan Schneider made to Brian Camenker in early February 2018. Dan Schneider is the Executive Director of the Conservative Political Action Conference. ("CPAC" wields great influence in politics. Just how great? Donald J. Trump is speaking at their yearly convention!)

There is no Christianity if people do not believe that Christ died to free us from sins.

Mass Resistance Fights for Us

Brian Camenker is the president of Mass Resistance. That's a decades-old network of grassroots organizers. His groups fight radical left-wing movements in schools, local communities, and state policies. You may not have heard of Mass Resistance because its chapters focus on local activism, not always elections. They tend not to congregate on Twitter but encompass many people. Mass Resistance works with the folks who got Donald J. Trump elected.

Mr. Camenker had applied to run a table at CPAC's big conference. CPAC approved his application and took his payment. Then about ten days before CPAC, Mr. Schneider told Mr. Camenker that he had changed his mind. He unilaterally rescinded the contract between Mass Resistance and CPAC.

Why? Mr. Camenker opposed transgender and homosexual curriculum for children in 2015. He used language that is less than perfectly ... winsome. How does Mr. Schneider know about these comments? Because he found a video clip online. That's thanks to gay activists who have indexed Mass Resistance as a "hate group." So gay activists are now vetting who can speak at "conservative" events. Isn't that special?

Mr. Schneider has barred Camenker him from exhibiting at CPAC. It seems that CPAC wants more gay lobbyists with deep pockets. So CPAC is now stiff-arming religious folks who want the public library to stop pushing sodomy on four-year-olds.

CPAC has come a long way since it worried about including gay Republican groups like the Log Cabins. Now CPAC serves as their enforcement wing. It silences conservatives for stating that homosexuality or transgenderism might be objectionable. Imagine if Think Progress did the same to pro-gay activists. …

Et tu, CPAC?

A year ago I published Wackos Thugs & Perverts. This collection of essays detailed how the left used universities to brainwash an entire generation. Ever since Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind over thirty years ago, conservatives have heard plentiful tales of William F. Buckley types standing up against leftist insanity on college campuses. In the late 1990s I thought conservatives would actually do something about left-wing domination of higher ed. By the late 2010s I figured out nothing was going to change.

Why does the right rail against political correctness but always surrender to it? One three-time CPAC attendee spoke to me. He'd worked for many years with well-known student conservative groups. Let's call him "Tony." Tony told me:

[S]exual morality is aggressively discouraged by a growing faction of youth leaders on the right.

I've had representatives from major conservative orgs openly jeer at conservative social advocacy to my face. One -- a recruiter -- even told me he avoided giving opportunities to social conservatives.

I've met both conservative and liberal students from the organization Turning Point USA, for example. TPUSA might be the best example of the mixed bag campus conservatism has become. I worry that the more conservative students might miss how vulnerable they are to aggression from their socially liberal counterparts in the same movement, who ... are basically operatives for the Left.

The student attendees at CPAC who are most involved in legacy campus political organizations like the College Republicans tend to be the most disdainful of social conservatism.... The slick students who are best at obtaining funding and publicity tend to have the least backbone when it comes to social issues.

As for CPAC enforcing the left's pro-gay totalitarianism? Tony’s not surprised.

The Lost Chaste Generation

Neither were two other twentysomething conservatives I interviewed. Both are Catholic. They asked me not to use their names. One was an active student leader who defended the sanctity of marriage several years ago. His group disintegrated as students drifted away. To what? Libertarian groups that crushed on Milo and other media-savvy provocateurs.

The other student leader described a similar collapse of the chastity movement all along the West Coast. Some chapters promoted sacred marriage between a man and a woman, but they fell dormant or dissolved. The libertarian rage against political correctness eclipsed the chastity movement.

"But the libertarians do not really support traditional morality," she explained. "At best some are pro-life, but they want to have sex with a lot of people and they want to be accepted by gay friends." A few students have formed tight-knit groups devoted to studying natural-law giants like Robert George. The problem, as Tony put it, is that "they just talk and don't do anything."

Many of the students I knew in California were pro-family. They found religious pro-chastity networks closed to them. "There was nothing to do with our idealism but just say we should devote ourselves to our professions," my interviewee told me. And so some students did, excelling in fields like business and law. But they stopped fighting for marriage and morality in politics.

The Danger of a Pro-Gay CPAC

If things go on like this, we are doomed. Some youngsters, particularly young males, will not surrender the "conservative" label to all these socially liberal quarters. They know they will never break into the Princeton circles populated by Robert George proteges or writers for First Things.

Where to go? Some drift toward the Alt-Right where their social conservatism and frustration with the "cuckservatives" leaves them open to dark temptations. Some will give up on all politics. Others will simply seethe.

The "winsome" camp says that conservatives have to play nice when they talk about LGBT issues. They should smile. Apologize for being bigots. Maybe pray quietly to themselves in locked closets

Many of us recognize the phases of "welcoming" sexual diversity as such a project always unfolds. First you let gays participate. Then you let gays tell you how to run the place. Then gays threaten you if you don't expel the remaining social conservatives. So "welcoming" LGBT groups into an institution becomes surrender and submission to the LGBT agenda. Allies turn into the gay community's henchmen.

By now it is clear that LGBT "conservatives" can support narrow exemptions for Christian patissiers or wedding vendors and still favor no-platforming Christians at conservative events. They can back hounding ex-gays or people on watch lists out of public life. They see no contradication in claiming that as gay conservatives they only want “inclusion.” Then calling powerful conservatives on the phone to get people fired for not applauding homosexuality. That is why I told Sandy Rios on the air, "Gay conservatives are no better than gay liberals." That is also why I join with other conservatives in rejecting attempts by Dennis Prager to normalize right-wing gays with his video featuring Guy Benson.

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Conserving Sodom?

The label "conservative" in CPAC does not matter. Robert A. J. Gagnon, arguably the world's foremost expert on homosexuality in Christian scripture, said it all.

CPAC's simultaneous banning of MassResistance and embrace of "Log Cabin Republicans" is both nonsensical and a disgrace. There is no more essential "conservative" stance than a defense of the male-female foundation for marriage and a correlation of "gender identity" with biological sex. Family is the foundation of conservatism. Denying the essential complementarity of male and female and one's birth sex amounts to a first-order leftist stance. Embracing homosexual unions and transgenderism amounts to a frontal assault on conservatism. If CPAC can't stand unequivocally for natural marriage and the integrity of birth sex, it has no business calling itself conservative. Those who adhere to the historic definition of marriage and sex (gender) will have a future in the conservative political movement only if they make clear that they will abandon any political organization that dumps this priority.

Remember the oft-repeated line from Ben Shapiro, "facts don't care about your feelings"? Now facts do not care about facts, because not all facts are equal. Yet if gay male sex is inevitably anal sex (primarily if not entirely), and anal sex is incredibly dangerous (there you go, another fact!), then gay male sex is actually dangerous. So the fact of CPAC's compromises overshadows the fact that CPAC is banishing conservatives who speak of real dangers.

“Winsome” Is Christianese for “Silent.”

CPAC has fallen into the "winsomeness" trap. The "winsome" camp says that conservatives have to play nice when they talk about LGBT issues. They should smile. Apologize for being bigots. Maybe pray quietly to themselves in locked closets while LGBT people turn schools, colleges, courts, the military, libraries, companies, governments, hospitals, restrooms, blood banks, nurseries, orphanages, television stations, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and Wall Street into state-sanctioned means of celebrating anal sex, cross-dressing, self-inflicted genital mutilation, while promoting dangerous sex habits to little kids.

Donald J. Trump did not become president because hordes of people in America supported the LGBT lobby. Nor did they yearn to be ruled by a sexually decadent, libertarian donor class. People should not forget that.

The Surrender of the Churches

In July 2017, I traveled to York, England. I went to help Anglicans fighting a movement within the Church of England to ban "conversion therapy." As soon as I arrived at the synod I saw what they were banning: the gospel itself. There is no Christianity if people do not believe that Christ died to free us from sin. That He promised us eternal life if we die to our old selves in order to be renewed in heart and mind. "We must be winsome," an elder synod member chided Andrea Williams. She was passionate and dedicated to the gospel. Her elder wanted her to be a loser, because winning would take too much work. And most Anglicans were not willing to do it.

The synod banned "conversion" therapy. It made the Church of England a no-go zone for the gospel of Jesus Christ. As goes the Church of England, so goes American conservatism today. If you think Dan Schneider's approach to politics will do you any good, you’ve been had. It is never loving to lie or stay silent when others are lied to. 

Military Photo of the Day: Under Fire

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 08:00

“19 February 1967: Corporal James C. Wormington, Glendale, California (nearest camera), Company C, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines [C/1/9] is seen crossing a stream with his rifle ready while under fire of the VC on Operation Chinook II (official USMC photo by Lance Corporal E. L. Cole].”

From the Jonathan F. Abel Collection (COLL/3611), Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections

After Atheist Group Got Prayers Before Sports Canceled, Students are Fighting Back

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 01:00

Most Americans have probably never heard of Beloit, Ohio. But this month, they're starting to hear from them. It may be a small town (less than 1,000 people at most), but it's mighty. And in the face of the bullies at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, that's all that matters.

As usual, the anti-Christian activists are always on the prowl for rural areas, where they think locals can be easily intimidated on issues of faith. But the atheists at the Freedom From Religion Foundation made a mistake when they picked on Beloit.

As usual, the Wisconsin group is terrified of the prayers of a few believers, so it fired off a letter to the superintendent of West Branch ordering the school to stop praying before sporting events -- or else. School officials were upset at the thought of ending a tradition that had gone on for years, but they agreed, admitting they couldn't afford a lawsuit.

But that wasn't the end of the story. The community has started rallying to the side of the students, who are fighting back by selling more than 4,000 "Prayer Matters" shirts (in a town of 900 people).

 

"They don't know us, have never attended a West Branch sporting event, or even stepped foot in our community," one mom said. "Yet they believe they can tell us to stop [praying]. That just doesn't seem right."

At Friday's home basketball game, fans everywhere could be seen wearing the message that atheists so desperately want to silence. "Everybody's really coming together in support of the prayer issue," local pastor John Ryser told Fox News' Caleb Parke. "[Now], we're having more conversations about prayer and about the gospel, the Good News about Jesus Christ, than we've ever had before." As for the prayers, students took over, asking fans to have a moment of silence after the national anthem.

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What activists meant for evil, God meant for good. As we speak, our friends at First Liberty Institute are on the ground investigating. If there's a way to restore the religious freedom of these students, their attorneys will find it. For now, we're cheering on the hundreds of families across that small, northeast town who know that no earthly power can stop God's people -- not from taking a stand and certainly not from praying.

 

This was originally published in Tony Perkins' Washington Update, which is written with the aid of Family Research Council senior writers.

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

Why the Education Department Eliminated Its ‘Extremely Wasteful Programs,’ According to Expert

Sun, 02/18/2018 - 00:09

The Department of Education requested over 10 percent less funding for its 2018 budget, and an education scholar explained Friday why he supported the decision.

The Trump administration requested $59.9 billion for 2018 -- an amount $7.1 billion smaller than its 2017 budget. Lance Izumi, senior director of education studies at the Pacific Research Institute, explained to The Daily Caller News Foundation why that is a good thing.

"To eliminate those programs is a real plus for taxpayers and a real plus for students," Izumi said, commenting on the Education Department's elimination of funding to 17 programs it described as "duplicative" and "ineffective."

The education scholar highlighted the after-school, learning-oriented 21st Century Community Learning Centers (one of the initiatives the Department eliminated) as a particularly wasteful program.

It "eats up about $2 billion per year, and it's supposed to provide these after school and other supplemental programs," Izumi told TheDCNF. "The problem is that virtually all the studies and research that's been done on the program shows that there's no connection between participation in this program and improved student performance in reading and mathematics."

He said the U.S. Government Accountability Office examined 58 different 21st Century Community Learning Centers and discovered no correlation between enrollment in the programs and increased reading scores.

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In fact, "students produced lower reading scores by participating compared to those who did not," the scholar said. "You have very poor attendance among the student participants in the program ... less than 50 percent of the students who attend more than 30 days."

"Why should we be spending all this money, these billions of dollars on a program that all of the data shows is not achieving its purpose?"

Izumi also commented on the $1.1 billion the Education Department hopes to dedicate to school-choice initiatives. He explained that even if the federal government bolsters charter-school funding, it makes little difference if state laws still impede the schools from opening.

"If a charter can't get approved under state law, it really doesn't matter how much money the feds give to charter schools because those charters will never be started in the first place," the scholar added.

Izumi opined on the special interest groups criticizing the Department's budget cuts to teacher training programs.

"The teachers organizations are crying bloody murder," the scholar acknowledged. "It may be a perk for the teachers to get a day off or to get professional-development training and it may fund an industry of professional-development trainers, but it's not doing any good for the students, which is the reason the system exists in the first place."

 

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Copyright 2018 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Clarence Thomas Decries Victimhood Culture in Rare Public Remarks

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 23:53

Justice Clarence Thomas decried the contemporary culture of victimhood during remarks Thursday, telling an audience at the Library of Congress that constant aggrievement would exhaust the country.

Ever a touchstone for controversy on racial issues, the justice related a story from a recent trip to Kansas, where a black college student told him she was primarily interested in school work, and less interested in the political tumult gripping college campuses.

"At some point we're going to be fatigued with everybody being a victim," he said.

Thomas has struck similar chords throughout his public life. He appeared on Laura Ingraham's Fox News program in November 2017, and suggested contemporary activists could benefit from the example of his grandparents, who exhibited quiet fortitude during the heady days of white supremacy.

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He made his Thursday remark in the context of a broader discussion about his childhood. Thomas was born in Georgia's coastal lowlands among impoverished Gullah-speakers, and spent his childhood working his grandfather's farm. He likened his upbringing to Kathryn Stockett's 2009 novel The Help as most of the women in his life, including his mother, were domestics in white households.

Given the few options open to blacks in the Jim Crow south, Thomas' family felt they had no choice but to do the best with what they had. The justice detects the hand of providence in those select opportunities open to him, like parochial education and Savannah's Carnegie library, which served the black population.

"You always have to play the hand you're dealt," he said. "If you're dealt a bad hand, you still have to play it."

As detailed in his 2008 memoir, he inherited these sensibilities from his grandfather. Thomas was sent to live with his grandparents after a fire ravaged his mother's home during his childhood.

By Thomas' telling, his grandfather was the defining figure of his life. When he joined the Supreme Court in 1991, his wife commissioned a bust featuring his grandfather's favorite quote.

"His favorite quote was 'Old Man Can't is dead. I helped bury him,'" Thomas said.

 

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Copyright 2018 The Daily Caller News Foundation

South Korean President Not Rushing Into Talks With Kim Jong Un

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 23:52

South Korean President Moon Jae-in suggested Saturday that he is not ready to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un for talks, arguing that it is too early for an inter-Korean summit.

When Kim's sister Kim Yo Jong visited South Korea for the start of the Winter Olympics, she met with Moon and delivered a message from her brother that he is willing to meet. Both North and South Korea "should accomplish this by creating the right conditions," Moon replied at the time of the invitation, according to Yonhap News Agency.

"There are high expectations and our hearts seem to be getting impatient. It is like the old saying, seeking a scorched-rice water from a well," Moon said Saturday in response to questions about a possible summit meeting with the North Korean dictator, using a Korean proverb that refers to the dangers of rushing into things without fully understanding the consequences, CNN reported.

His remarks reveal a certain degree of hesitancy.

Were the North and South to hold a summit, it would be the first such meeting in over a decade. Former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun met former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in 2007. The current South Korean president served in Roh's administration, explaining his tendency to embrace the cooperative sunshine policies of his liberal predecessors.

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Moon, who has been criticized for bending over backwards to accommodate North Korea, heralded the progress that has already been made toward inter-Korean peace.

"I hope that this will lead to an improvement in inter-Korean relations -- not only inter-Korean relations, but we also believe that there has been slowly, but gradually, a growing consensus on the need for dialogue between the United States and North Korea," Moon said Saturday.

"We hope that the dialogue between the two Koreas will be able to lead to dialogue between the United States and North Korea, and eventually denuclearization," he added.

Vice President Mike Pence recently revealed that the U.S. is ready to talk to North Korea, possibly even without preconditions. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, however, says it might be too early. Regardless, the U.S. has indicated that it intends to continue its maximum pressure campaign against the North.

North Korea has signaled that it is not interested in discussing denuclearization and has even stated that it plans to continue to expand and improve its state nuclear force. Pyongyang has also stated that it is not interested in talking to the U.S., which the rogue regime considers to be the greatest threat to its ambitions.

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Copyright 2018 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Federal Judge Deals Heavy Blow to Fusion GPS in Dossier-Related Lawsuit

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 22:05

A Trump-appointed federal judge said Friday that he will not recuse himself from a lawsuit related to the Steele dossier.

Trevor McFadden, a judge in Washington, D.C., issued the ruling in response to a recusal request submitted last month by Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that commissioned the dossier.

Fusion sought McFadden's recusal as part of an attempt to avoid complying with a subpoena issued by a Russian businessman who is suing BuzzFeed News for publishing the unverified dossier. The businessman, Aleksej Gubarev, seeks depositions and documents from Fusion GPS as part of the lawsuit.

Fusion has argued that McFadden has several potential conflicts of interest warranting his removal from the case.

The firm pointed to McFadden's past work for a law firm that represented a Russian banker who is suing Fusion GPS over the dossier, which was written by former British spy Christopher Steele. McFadden should also step down from the case, Fusion argued, because of volunteer work he did for the Trump campaign.

Fusion argued that the volunteer work is a conflict of interest because the dossier makes direct allegations about Trump, namely that he is being blackmailed by the Russian government and that members of his campaign coordinated with Kremlin operatives to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

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Trump and members of his campaign have vehemently denied the allegations made by Steele, a former MI6 agent.

McFadden, a former Justice Department official, asserted on Friday that Fusion GPS's argument for his recusal was "factually misinformed and legally unpersuasive."

He said that his work on the Trump campaign was "sporadic," and involved him working "four hours every few weeks for two to three months" to help vet potential Cabinet nominees.

"I did not come into contact with Mr. Trump or any of the senior members of his campaign team. In fact, I do not know the President and have not met him in any capacity," McFadden said in his ruling.

McFadden, who was confirmed in October, took over the Fusion GPS subpoena matter after the case was reassigned following the recusal of U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan.

It is unclear why Chutkan recused herself from the case. Gubarev's legal team has said it did request that she do so.

The Daily Caller has reported that Chutkan, an Obama appointee, had links to Fusion GPS through the law firm she worked at before being nominated to the federal bench.

Fusion GPS, which was paid by the Clinton campaign and DNC to investigate Trump, has tried to avoid other dossier-related subpoenas, though with little success.

The company lost a legal battle over the release of its bank records to the House Intelligence Committee. The revelation of those records prompted the law firm that represented the Clinton campaign and DNC to reveal that it funded the dossier.

 

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Copyright 2018 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Call Me to Holiness or Don’t Call Me at All

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 22:00

There’s something in the Church air these days. A refrain I keep hearing, like creepy background music. A subliminal suggestion, something only hinted at, never explicitly spoken.

It’s in between the lines when some princes of the Church lecture us against rigid adherence to the law, speaking of a more loving “accompaniment”:

Don't worry about being holy. Just be good. Be kind and accepting. Holiness is an ideal so few can ever reach. It’s very difficult, and the circumstances of your life really won’t allow it. That’s okay. Just be good and kind and don’t judge. That’s really all God asks, and it’s enough.

An Impossible “Ideal”?

The word “ideal” is invoked frequently, but in a way that seems designed to discourage rather than encourage our striving for it. 

Fidelity in marriage is an “ideal.” Unbroken vows are an “ideal.” An intact family is an “ideal.” Sexual purity is an “ideal.” And the complicated circumstances of modern life make such ideals a cruel standard, so to cling to those ideals is to love only a rigid law and not people.

Such impossible standards, the refrain continues, can only be met by the most fortunate, favored few. In the real world things are more complex and gray, and we simply can’t say unequivocally that something is definitively right or wrong anymore. There are many things that are equally good and sufficient, and we needn’t all chase after some elusive “ideal.”

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When did the ideal become a boulder on our backs? Why is the ideal suddenly a fairy tale? When did the very word take on such a disparaging tone?

More to the point, when did God’s law become an “ideal”? Something mostly unattainable for most of us?

What I’m hearing these days is all about “nuance” and “accompaniment” and “we can’t really be sure…”

My goodness, if the Church can’t really be sure of what Jesus meant by what He said, or of what our own teachings really mean today (as though they meant something different centuries ago), then we are in a terrible pickle, aren’t we?

I’ve never thought Jesus was vague or murky in what He told us. There is nothing ambiguous in Jesus’ words about the nature of marriage or the evil of divorce. The creation account of man and woman is abundantly clear.

Yet now suddenly we’ve got priests and scholars gushing over the idea of same-sex “marriage”, and the moral uprightness of homosexual acts, and waxing eloquently about the need to “discern” whether or not ongoing adultery really constitutes mortal sin.

What Are We Doing if Not Striving for Sainthood?  

Don’t feed me a worthless religion of sophisticated platitudes and shifting ideology. There is no Christianity without the Cross.

Either call me to holiness or don’t waste my time. If you’re not going to tell me how to be a saint, then you’re not doing your job. If you’re not out there every single day calling me to repent and believe in the Gospel, to make straight the path of the Lord, to turn away from sin, to take up my cross and follow Christ, then you’re no longer worth your salt.

Yes, it will be difficult. Yes, it will require heroic sacrifices. It’s going to involve suffering. You’re supposed to be preaching the power of God’s grace. Grace that transforms me, and strengthens me to resist temptation, say no to sin, and yes to God’s will.

Don’t feed me a worthless religion of sophisticated platitudes and shifting ideology. There is no Christianity without the Cross. 

What Happened to Fear for Souls?

Stop using the modern vs. historical “context” as an excuse to call evil good. Woe to all you shepherds who do this! “Certainly in Old Testament times, they didn't understand the phenomena of homosexuality, and bisexuality I would say, as we do today,” says Fr. James Martin. Tell me, did God also not understand the phenomenon of homosexuality and bisexuality until now?

Stop minimizing the law of God and deriding those who won’t fudge it as “rigid” and “lacking compassion.” “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul … the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever” (Psalm 19).

Stop subtly saying it may be impossible for some people to achieve God’s “ideal.” Stop preaching the inviolate rule of conscience without also preaching the proper formation of conscience by the Holy Spirit in accord with revealed Truth. 

Stop smudging the line between right and wrong and saying you’re doing it out of love. All your nuance and accompaniment will not help souls who cannot see where to step to avoid the wrong because you said such a definitive line was legalistic.

If there’s any fear of hell, fear for souls at all, then Love demands more of what we heard while being marked with ashes: “Remember, man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.” “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” 

Can Man Live Without Sex?

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 19:00

It's no secret that our culture is hypersexualized. Music. Commercials. Movies. Internet. News. Sex is simply everywhere in our culture.

As a result, it is deeply tempting to buy the narrative that sexual experience is the surest route to happiness and fulfillment. To deny yourself sexual activity, on this view, is to undercut your own humanity.

As popular and appealing as this view may be, it is deeply mistaken. 

Jesus was Single, and Fully Content

In my recent dialogue with Matthew Vines about the Bible and Homosexuality, I began my opening speech by focusing on the life and teachings of Jesus. I noted that even though Jesus was single, he was fully content. He never married, and he did not engage in a single sex act. And yet, in contrast to the sex-crazed narrative of our culture, he experienced profound contentment, joy and peace with his sexuality as an adult single male.

And remember, Jesus was truly God, yet he was also truly human. He was not a sexless deity. Jesus experienced the depths of temptation, as the author of Hebrews describes: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (4:15). Jesus went through puberty. He had body hair. He was attracted to women. And although he never engaged in a single sex act, he was fully content with his sexuality.

Here’s the bottom line: Humans can live without sex and marriage. But we weren't designed to live without love and intimacy -- and there's a big difference. You see, there can be sex without intimacy (e.g., a hookup). And there can be intimacy without sex (e.g., friendship). Sex is neither necessary nor sufficient to experience the depths of human intimacy God designed us for.

Humans can live without sex and marriage. But we weren't designed to live without love and intimacy

Sex is Good

My point is not to downplay the value of sex. Unfortunately, the church has sometimes made the mistake of communicating that sex is bad. This could not be further from the truth! Sex is a good gift from God for the purpose of procreation (Gen 1:28) and unity (Gen 2:24). And God intended for sex to be enjoyable between husband and wife (see Song of Solomon and Proverbs 5). But despite the cultural narrative, sexual activity is not essential for human flourishing or personal fulfillment. The life of Jesus puts this cultural myth to rest.

You might be thinking, "That's easy for you to say, Sean, since you're married and have kids." Whether true or not (in this case, it is true) this objection is simply irrelevant to the claim itself. It is a classical genetic fallacy, which dismisses a claim because of its origins.

You’re Not Losing Out

Nevertheless, there are many single people who make the same point. Ed Shaw is a same-sex attracted pastor from the UK. In his book Same-Sex Attraction and the Church, Shaw argues that God is not the one who is keeping same-sex attracted men and women from experiencing intimate relationships. Rather, it is our hyper-sexualized culture that cannot process non-sexual intimate relationships. He wishes the church would put as much energy into cultivating good friendships as it does good marriages. I agree 100 percent.

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In conclusion, consider pastor Shaw's words:

I know there are many today who think it is a great tragedy to die a virgin. But I hope I will. Because I know that I will not have lost out on anything too significant. Because the Bible teaches me that I will have missed only the brief foretaste that sex is meant to be of the eternal reality of the perfect union between Christ and his church that I will one day experience forever (Revelation 21:1-15). Any fleeting pleasure I've given up in the meantime will be more than worth it then.

Amen.

 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.  

Originally published at SeanMcDowell.org. Republished with permission.

Romney, Favored in Senate Bid, Could Take on Outsized Role

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 17:30

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mitt Romney’s extensive resume has many Republicans looking to him to take on a role, if he’s elected Utah’s next senator, often filled by John McCain as an elder statesman and counterweight to a president many in the GOP see as divisive and undignified.

Romney, the 2012 White House nominee, is among the best-known names in U.S. politics. He’s been a successful businessman, governor of heavily Democratic Massachusetts, Olympics rescuer and, more recently, one of his party’s fiercest critics of President Donald Trump.

McCain was quick to praise Romney, his rival for the 2008 nomination. In a tweet Friday shortly after Romney announced his Senate bid, McCain said Romney “has shown the country what it means to lead with honor, integrity and civility. The people of #Utah and the nation need his strong voice, resolve and service now more than ever.”

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Romney would bring the prestige of his previous roles to the Senate, if elected to succeed Sen. Orrin Hatch in strongly Republican Utah.

“I think he will be a plus-plus in the Senate,” Shelby said, calling Romney “a thoughtful man” and a leader who at 70 is senior enough to be an elder statesman.

Shelby, 83, has had his differences with Trump. He publicly opposed a GOP nominee backed by Trump in Alabama’s closely watched Senate race last year, declaring before the election that “the state of Alabama deserves better” than Roy Moore, a former judge accused of sexual contact with teenage girls decades ago.

Romney has the stature to make similar declarations when -- or if -- they are needed, Shelby said. “I know the governor and I think he would support good ideas,” Shelby said.

Romney, a heavy favorite to win the Senate seat, will step in “immediately” as a leader in the Senate, said Idaho Sen. Jim Risch, who got to know Romney when both served as governors and when he co-chaired Romney’s presidential campaigns in Idaho.

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“He has broad experience, he has the prestige. He’ll jump right in,” Risch said.

Those expectations are based largely on Romney’s record, rather than recent accomplishments. Romney has not served in elected office in more than a decade and lost bids for president in 2008 and 2012.

Trump has seized on Romney’s failed presidential bids, saying in 2016 that Romney “choked like a dog.”

It’s not clear how Romney will relate to the president as a candidate or as a senator, should he win. While he denounced Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, Romney softened his stance after the election and put himself forward as a candidate for secretary of state before Trump looked elsewhere.

Since then, Romney has spoken up from afar. He called out Trump after a deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year, and lashed out again last month when Trump used an obscenity to describe African countries during a White House meeting on immigration.

“The poverty of an aspiring immigrant’s nation of origin is as irrelevant as their race,” Romney tweeted, adding that comments attributed to the president were inconsistent with “America’s history and antithetical to American values.”

Despite those criticisms, Democrats say Romney and Trump are not all that different.

“While Mitt Romney desperately wants to separate himself from the extremism of the current administration, the basic policies of Trump’s GOP were his before they were Donald Trump’s,” said DNC spokesman Vedant Patel, citing the recently enacted GOP tax cuts and efforts to repeal former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Patel called Romney “another multimillionaire looking out for himself, his rich neighbors and the special interests.”

If he does go after Trump, Romney will find himself among a dwindling breed in Congress. McCain, who is suffering from brain cancer, has not appeared in the Senate since before Christmas, while fellow Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake is retiring at the end of the year. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., also has had public disputes with Trump, but has not criticized Trump in months and is reportedly reconsidering plans to retire.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, Romney’s 2012 running mate, said Romney’s “unparalleled experience, conservative leadership and lifetime of service” will serve him and Utah well in the Senate.

Romney “has my unwavering support, and the people of Utah will be getting an accomplished and decent man when they make him their next senator,” Ryan said.

Kirk Jowers, the former chairman and general counsel of Romney’s leadership PACs, said Romney “will always be a straight shooter” and will support the president when he takes actions that are good for America.

“If President Trump says or does something that he finds offensive or divisive, unnecessarily divisive, then I think you will continue to hear Romney as the voice of reason and conscience in the Republican Party,” Jowers said.

___

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Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

‘Is This a Kind of Mistake?’ Snowboarder Wins Alpine Skiing Gold

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 16:01

JEONGSEON, South Korea (AP) -- This made no sense to Ester Ledecka. Just simply couldn’t be. Could. Not. Be.

Which is why the part-time ski racer, part-time snowboarder from the Czech Republic stood so still, absolutely motionless and expressionless, for several moments after crossing the finish line in the Olympic super-G and seeing the numbers on a video board that appeared to show she was fast enough to be the gold medalist. Not merely any gold medalist, but one of the most unconventional and out-of-nowhere gold medalists in Alpine history.

This, the 22-year-old Ledecka would explain later, was what went through her mind at that moment: “Is this a kind of mistake?”

Then came this: “OK, they’re going to change the time. I’m going to wait for a little bit, and you’re going to switch and (add) some more seconds.”

That never happened. This was no mistake. This was real. Her posted time of 1 minute, 21.11 seconds was, indeed, accurate. It was, indeed, 0.01 seconds -- yes, one one-hundredth of a second -- better than Austria’s Anna Veith, the defending Olympic champion and, as the leader until the moment when the relatively unknown and low-ranked Ledecka took her turn as the 26th woman down the slope, the presumed repeat Olympic champion.

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Instead, it was Ledecka who collected the prized medal. This is someone who has participated in only 19 World Cup skiing races in her entire career -- Mikaela Shiffrin, in contrast, has been in 23 this season alone -- and only once finished as high as seventh. Someone who is a far more accomplished snowboarder, owning a world championship in the parallel giant slalom, an event she plans to enter at the Pyeongchang Games next week, an unprecedented achievement.

“She’s not a medal favorite. She just wanted to come here and be the first person ever to ski and snowboard race,” said Justin Reiter, who competed for the U.S. at the Sochi Olympics in snowboarding and now is Ledecka’s coach for that sport. “She stayed in her heart and she stayed in her own head and she skied like she can ski and it was beautiful to watch.”

Everything about this was remarkable. Or maybe that doesn’t even come close to capturing it. So pick another word. Extraordinary. Astonishing. Unbelievable. It was all of those things, and more, to Ledecka herself. To the rest of the field, which included superstar Lindsey Vonn of the U.S. and other past medalists such as Lara Gut of Switzerland and Federica Brignone of Italy. To everyone.

“Definitely shocking,” said Vonn, who tied for sixth.

“Just wow,” said Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin, a 2017 silver medalist at the world championships who was ninth Saturday.

That pretty much described the day at the Jeongseon Alpine Center, which began with a one-hour delay because of blustery winds that calmed but still played a factor during the race, serving as tailwinds for some skiers but acting as a headwind to others.

When things finally began under a clear-as-can-be blue sky, Vonn went first. The bronze medalist in super-G and gold medalist in downhill at the 2010 Vancouver Games but sidelined for the 2014 Olympics was fast in stretches. However, she lost a chunk of time both before the midpoint and again on the last key part of the course, a jump-turn combination that she flubbed and was sure cost her a medal.

“That’s why it’s so difficult to win at the Olympics,” Vonn said. “Because literally anything can happen.”

Sure seemed to this time.

First Gut, the 2016 overall World Cup champ and a downhill bronze medalist at Sochi, temporarily moved into first place. Then Weirather, the super-G silver medalist at last year’s world championships, moved in front by 0.01 seconds. Then it was Veith who took over first place, by 0.10 seconds. And that’s how things stood for the next 10 skiers. It is generally considered unlikely -- although not impossible, of course -- for anyone outside of the first 20 starters to emerge as the winner.

Veith was sure she’d clinched a gold. Weirather figured the silver was hers. Gut couldn’t wait to get that bronze around her neck.

“They were a little bit in shock,” Ledecka said. “They were staring at me a little bit.”

Now comes a decision for Ledecka. The Alpine downhill is Wednesday and requires serious training runs down the mountain beforehand. Qualifying for her snowboard event is Thursday.

So which should she focus on?

“I’m sure that my ski coach will be a little bit pushy on downhill,” Ledecka said. “But my snowboard coach wants me on snowboard.”

Her work in the two sports can help her performance in each.

The speed from skiing translates to snowboarding. And the balance required in snowboarding is a boost for ski racing. Reiter pointed out, for example, that on the same final jump that gave Vonn trouble Saturday, Ledecka’s weight shifted too far backward, but she managed to recover.

“It was kind of scary there for a moment. She was able to save it,” he said. “And that’s because of her heart and because of her ability with a snowboard.”

Ledecka proved to be pretty adept at her other sport, too.

Unlikely as it might have seemed, she forever will be able to call herself an Olympic Alpine champion.

“The fact that she’s able to beat all of us and be a snowboarder is pretty darn impressive,” Vonn said. “At the Olympics, a lot of weird stuff happens.”

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AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar contributed to this report.

___

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

___

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org/

 

Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Staying Strong After Tragedy: Virginia Tech Victim’s Dad Shares His Story

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 15:00

The  Parkland, Florida shooting forces the hard question upon us again: Is it possible even to think about staying strong after tragedy?

I was living in Virginia in April, 2007, at the time of the Virginia Tech mass shooting. My wife and I had a connection to one of the victims, Lauren McCain, through a close mutual friend, so we went to offer our prayers and sympathy during the viewing at her church on the night before her funeral.

Her body lay in a casket at the front of the sanctuary. And her dad was in a side room with an old friend, telling him the good news of Jesus Christ. 

Good news? Yes. He understood the reality that overcomes evil. So did Lauren. She had journaled messages before her death showing she was ready to face anything that might happen.

What do we do with mass shootings? What do we do with violence in general? Pundits keep publishing and re-publishing their answers, but none of them can speak with the credibility of David McCain. I’ll let him share it in his own words.

Tragedies Happen; Evil Is Never Far Enough Away

I don’t think David would mind if I add some observations of my own. The first one, one we’d all like to ignore or forget, is that tragedy is always lurking. A good friend of mine in Florida lost his high-school age daughter, his only child, to a car accident. In a moment his world was upended. Another friend lost her 20-something son to a rare and completely unexpected complication from Lasik surgery.

Tragedy comes unexpectedly; so does evil. I've lost two first cousins to murder, in two unrelated incidents. One them was killed in such an unlikely way you'd think was an urban legend; but no, Brian was my cousin, and evil can strike from the most unexpected direction. (He died not long after that article was written.)

The problem isn’t one weapon or another. My other cousin's killing was brutal and it was horrifying, but it involved no guns. The problem, ultimately, is evil.

Follow the Example of One Who Was Prepared

Or I should say, evil is the most horrifying face of the problem; yet even the most peaceful natural death is the encroachment of "the last enemy" (1 Cor. 15:26). For this there is but one ultimate answer, perhaps two. The first and most important is the one that David McCain knows, and his daughter did, too: Be ready. Give your life to Jesus Christ. Be prepared for eternity with the God who came to die for you. Some folks I used to work with explain it this way.

The other answer is to do your part to resist evil by doing good, being an expression of God's goodness. Again, there is nothing like life in Christ to empower you to love, to give, and live in hope and joy.

These aren't the kind of public policy answers all the pundits seem to cry out for. But for you and for me, they're the kind of answers that can make all the difference.

They made all the difference for David McCain. And he’s in a position to know.

Did A Man Really Breastfeed A Baby?

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 14:59

A paper in the journal Transgender Health reports that a man injected with a myriad of chemicals was able to temporarily breastfeed a baby.

The press is reporting the event .. enthusiastically. For instance, The Guardian calls the event a “breakthrough.”

There are reasons to doubt the study, however, as we shall see.

Reported Details

Here are the salient details. A thirty-year-old man desirous of breastfeeding presented at the Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery.

The man at that time was in a “feminizing hormone regimen,” taking spironolactone, estradiol, and micronized progesterone. He was also taking occasional clonazepam for a “panic disorder” and zolpidem for insomnia.

Presumably because of the long use of hormones, and without augmentation surgery, the man’s breasts appeared well developed.

To induce lactation, the researchers:

(1) increased estradiol and progesterone dosing to mimic high levels seen during pregnancy, (2) use of a galactogogue [a lactation-inducing drug] to increase prolactin levels, (3) use of a breast pump with the speculation that it would increase prolactin and oxytocin levels, and (4) subsequent reduction in estradiol and progesterone levels, with the intention of mimicking delivery.

Potentially Dangerous Drugs

The galactogogue was domperidone, which is banned in the United States. The FDA said:

The serious risks associated with domperidone include cardiac arrhythmias, cardiac arrest, and sudden death. These risks are related to the blood level of domperidone, and higher levels in the blood are associated with higher risks of these events. Concurrent use of certain commonly used drugs, such as erythromycin, could raise blood levels of domperidone and further increase the risk of serious adverse cardiac outcomes.

Domperidone is used ordinarily as a digestive aid. A listed side effect is “swelling of the breasts or discharge from the nipple in men or women.”

The man was able to secure domperidone from Canada.

How Much Milk?

After one month of treatment, the man “was able to express droplets of milk”. His drug dosages were increased. After three months of treatment “the patient was making 8 oz [one cup] of breast milk per day.”

The baby in question finally arrived weighing 6 pounds, 13 ounces.

Here are the reported results:

The patient breastfed exclusively for 6 weeks. During that time the child’s pediatrician reported that the child’s growth, feeding, and bowel habits were developmentally appropriate. At 6 weeks, the patient began supplementing breastfeedings with 4-8 oz of Similac brand formula daily due to concerns about insufficient milk volume. At the time of this article submission, the baby is approaching 6 months old.

Suspicions

This is where we should suspect we haven’t learned the whole story.

This is where we should suspect we haven’t learned the whole story.

Newborn babies weighing 6-7 pounds require about 14-17 ounces of breast milk per day. This is double what the paper reports the man could produce.

Normally developing babies at six weeks need somewhere north of 24-30 ounces of milk daily. The paper reports the baby’s diet was only then supplemented by 4-8 ounces of formula. This means the man must have consistently been producing at least 20 ounces of milk per day!

No paper offers no details of the content of the man’s lactation. Was it mostly water? How much fat? How much lactose? Did it differ in any way from a new mother’s normally produced milk? This is a most curious, even glaring, omission from a medical study of a breakthrough in male lactation.

We also hear nothing about the baby except a second- or third-hand account from a pediatrician. The paper does not claim to have growth information directly from the pediatrician. Was it a self-report from the man?

No chart of the baby’s weight-gain is given. No blood work is reported. This would be considered a stunning oversight in a normal medical paper. It is not as if blood work couldn’t be done. Blood work of the man’s feminine hormones was reported through time.

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Possibilities

Non-puerperal (not-due-to-childbirth) induced lactation has been reported in women. Success rates to full milk production vary, but range between 31-90%. This must be less in men. Recall too that women typically produce more milk than babies need.

Males do have the rudiments of tissue in their breasts that might allow some lactation with hormone treatment. But no research to this date suggests a man can produce enough milk to feed a baby. It’s an open question whether the milk from lactating men matches on average the content (lactose and so on) of women.

Not the Last Word

There are potential dangers in male lactation. The man took “spironolactone while breastfeeding for androgen blockade.” A metabolite of spironolactone is cancrenone, which is excreted in breast milk. It “has been reported to have tumorigenic potential in rats.” The amount passed is “thought to be clinically insignificant.”

The New York Times reports on the study authors. Tamar Reisman is a physician at Mount Sinai. Zil Goldstein is a nurse practitioner and “transgender activist.”

We have not heard the last word on this research.

What You Need to Know About Frederick Douglass, America’s Abolitionist Prophet

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 14:00

In a time of polarized politics and heated debates, the art of civil disagreement has largely been lost. One man born two centuries ago spent his life showing a better way. He learned from a wise mentor, yet amicably parted ways with his agenda. He honored President Lincoln, while privately serving as a prophet of moral conscience.

Frederick Douglass, born February 14, 1818, was a former slave whose eloquent speeches, incisive writing and stand for justice helped guide America through the tumultuous Civil War era and beyond. In 2018, he will be the center of a yearlong effort to spark dialogue on American ideals. On Thursday at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., Reverend Dean Nelson spoke passionately on the life and legacy of Douglass. (See video at end.)

Nelson serves as chairman of the Douglass Leadership Institute, a public policy group centered on liberty, faith and free market principles. He spoke with The Stream about the life of Frederick Douglass, a new national commission honoring him, and early buzz of a film being produced about his remarkable life.

Influencing the White House -- Then and Now

The Stream: This week marks 200 years since the birth of Frederick Douglass. Could you share about his role in America during the Civil War era?

Rev. Dean Nelson: There is hardly a more formidable figure in American political history than Frederick Douglass. He was born into slavery in 1818. He overcame tremendous obstacles to not only escape from slavery, but then to go on to be a leading figure in the abolition movement. He ended up being the most photographed person in the 19th century, because he used the technology of his day to help advance his cause.

 

“Historians lament [Frederick Douglass is] the most famous person that no one in this current generation knows much about.”

Douglass was an advisor to five U.S. Presidents. He was a social reformer -- and not only for the abolition of slavery. He advocated for women's suffrage and also for the rights of black Americans. I believe God raised him up as a unique figure during the Civil War era. He had a deep dedication to American principles and an abiding faith.

Historians lament he's the most famous person that no one in this current generation knows much about. It's our hope that through our initiatives, we can reintroduce him. Douglass became one of the greatest statesmen our country has ever known.

Faith, Race and American Conscience

The Stream: The White House and Congress recently created the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission. Days ago, President Trump appointed Dr. Alveda King to serve on it. What should we expect in the months ahead?

Nelson: We're really excited about this effort. Not only is Alveda King part of it, but my good friends Star Parker and Kay Coles James are also on the commission. They are joined by Senator Tim Scott and Ken Morris, Frederick Douglass' great-great-great grandson. Ken and I have become very good friends. They are all serving together on this project.

The commission will host events to highlight the life and legacy of Frederick Douglass. I've heard there's a launch event in DC to come as well as educational events in high schools across the country. The full commission has not yet met together. Many were sworn in Wednesday, so we should be hearing more soon.

The Stream: Few scholars give much attention to the faith of Frederick Douglass. How did Christian beliefs influence his life and journey?

Nelson: Douglass became committed to Christ at a very early age. He used the Bible as the framework for why he worked to abolish slavery. Many are familiar with the passage from Second Corinthians chapter three: Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. His faith influenced his understanding of what freedom is.

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In his own personal walk, the inspiration of the Scriptures helped him overcome hatred and bitterness. As a result, before his former master departed this life, Douglass spent time with him. He forgave the man's cruelty and reconciled with him. This reflects the foundation of Christianity, which is love.

The Black American Voice

The Stream: Why did he start an independent news outlet, The North Star?

Nelson: In that day, there were a few other outlets for the abolitionist movement. Douglass felt it was important to have a voice that was for the abolition of slavery, from the standpoint of black Americans. The North Star was a newspaper owned and operated by black Americans that actually reached black Americans.

“[Douglass] used the Bible as the framework for why he worked to abolish slavery. … His faith influenced his understanding of what freedom is.”

William Lloyd Garrison, a white abolitionist, mentored Douglass early on. But Douglass broke away from him because he had different ideas about how the abolitionist movement should advance. He started The North Star as his first paper, to communicate to free people how they needed to fuel that cause of justice. The North Star became one of the leading periodicals during that era.

The Stream: Issues of equality and racial prejudice are still difficult for our culture to navigate. In what ways do his insights speak to current upheaval in America?

Nelson: When I'm reading Douglass, I feel like so much of what he wrote is useful for today. Early in his life, being a follower of Garrison, he felt that the Constitution was a pro-slavery document. He came to understand it is a pro-freedom and anti-slavery document.

Today, many voices seek to redefine the Constitution. Douglass resonates with the ideas of freedom and Constitutional government. That's critical in our time. He echoes how important America's founding documents really are.

At the same time, he also challenged where there were inequities. Douglass was famous for challenging the church. He observed what he called "slave-whipping, cradle-plundering, hypocritical Christianity." It's a good example of how he was a prophetic voice to the church. Committed to biblical principles, today we too can challenge the status quo.

Seeking Progress in a Time of Struggle

The Stream: Could you share about the work of the Douglass Leadership Institute today and your role there?

Nelson: I serve in leadership of two groups. Both organizations work to uphold righteousness, justice, liberty and virtue. One is the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a political group to advance those values. With our 15 state chapters nationwide, we are working hard to get biblically based, conservative candidates elected to office.

“Today, many voices seek to redefine the Constitution. Douglass resonates with the ideas of freedom and Constitutional government. That's critical in our time.”

Then the Douglass Leadership Institute is the nonprofit, nonpartisan arm. It is really promoting these values throughout the country. We host programs nationwide that highlight Frederick Douglass and the principles we stand for. Those include strengthening the black family, criminal justice reform, economic opportunity and educational opportunity.

These events vary from preaching at churches to policy discussions like we participated in today. To reach different age groups, we're also planning three-on-three basketball tournaments and concerts.

A Major Film

The Stream: Many have heard rumblings of a major film on Frederick Douglass in development. From your vantage point as part of the team, where does it stand?

Nelson: A team is working to produce a full-length drama based on accurate history of Mr. Douglass. The story will follow how he escaped from slavery and his rise as one of the most prominent leaders in American history. Important aspects like his faith and family will not be overlooked. This exciting film will be filled with stories and small pieces of history most people have never heard.

The film is slated to be released in 2019. We were hoping to have it release in time for the bicentennial, but we need this to be a quality feature film. The screenplay has been completed. Now we are moving into a phase of raising the $16 million necessary to make this a tremendous blockbuster independent film.

Colin Hanna, executive producer of the film, spoke with me today at FRC. He is leading this effort and has invested hundreds of thousands himself to get this off the ground. We're excited about the next phase, sharing the story with investors. We want to ensure this is an accurate and entertaining film that all of America will love.

Watch Dean Nelson speak about Frederick Douglass at Family Research Council:

Pope Revives Lapsed Sex Abuse Commission Amid Skepticism

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 13:20

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis revived his lapsed sex abuse advisory commission by naming new members Saturday, after coming under fire for his overall handling of the scandal and his support for a Chilean bishop accused by victims of witnessing and ignoring their abuse.

The announcement of the new members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors came on the same day that a Vatican investigator will take the testimony in New York of one of the main whistleblowers in the Chilean cover-up scandal.

Francis tasked Archbishop Charles Scicluna with the fact-finding mission into Bishop Juan Barros after he came under blistering criticism in Chile for defending Barros and calling the victims’ cover-up accusations against him slander.

The initial three-year mandate of commission members had lapsed two months ago, on Dec. 17. Francis named nine new members Saturday and kept seven from the initial group. A Vatican statement said survivors of abuse are included, but didn’t identify them to protect their privacy.

None of the most outspoken lay advocates for victims from the original group returned, but a statement stressed that the commission’s work would be imbued throughout with the experience of victims. Commission members are to open their April plenary by meeting with victims privately, and discussions are continuing to create an “international survivor advisory panel” to advise the commission and make sure the voices of victims are heard in all its deliberations, the statement said.

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Francis created the commission in December 2013, responding to complaints that he hadn’t prioritized the fight against clerical abuse and cover-up enough. The group’s mission was to advise the pope on best practices to protect children, but it faced strong in-house resistance to some of its core proposals.

Commission members found greater reception in hosting grassroots workshops in bishops’ conferences around the world. To date, it has worked with almost 200 dioceses and religious communities worldwide to raise awareness and to educate staff on safeguarding.

The first members of the commission were named in March 2014, including Marie Collins, an Irish survivor of abuse and advocate for victims. But by March of last year, Collins had resigned, citing the “unacceptable” resistance to the commission from within the Vatican, and in particular the office tasked with investigating sex abuse cases.

The commission’s most significant proposal came in 2015, when it successfully persuaded Francis and his “kitchen cabinet” to create a tribunal section inside the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to judge bishops who botched handling cases of their abuser priests. Francis approved funding and personnel for an initial five-year term.

But amid resistance, the tribunal never got off the ground and Francis scrapped it entirely in 2016. Instead, he issued a document laying out essentially existing procedures for the Vatican to investigate negligence. 

 

Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Slams South, Central Mexico

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 12:50

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook south and central Mexico Friday, causing people to flee swaying buildings and office towers in the country’s capital, where residents were still jittery after a deadly quake five months ago.

Crowds gathered on Mexico City’s central Reforma Avenue as well as on streets in Oaxaca state’s capital, nearer the quake’s epicenter, which was in a rural area close to Mexico’s Pacific coast and the border with Guerrero state. There were no immediate reports of deaths.

“It was awful,” said Mercedes Rojas Huerta, 57, who was sitting on a bench outside her home in Mexico City’s trendy Condesa district, too frightened to go back inside. “It started to shake; the cars were going here and there. What do I do?”

She said she was still scared thinking of the Sept. 19 earthquake that caused 228 deaths in the capital and 141 more in nearby states. Many buildings in Mexico City are still damaged from that quake.

The U.S. Geological Survey originally put the magnitude of Friday’s quake at 7.5 but later lowered it to 7.2. It said the epicenter was 33 miles (53 kilometers) northeast of Pinotepa in southern Oaxaca state. It had a depth of 15 miles (24 kilometers).

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Mexican Civil Protection chief Luis Felipe Puente tweeted that there were no immediate reports of damages from the quake. The Oaxaca state government said via Twitter that only material damages were reported near Pinotepa and Santiago Jamiltepec, but that shelters were opened for those fleeing damaged homes.

The Mexico City Red Cross said via Twitter that the facade of a building collapsed in Mexico City’s Condesa neighborhood, which was hit hard on Sept. 19. A video showed people walking through a dust cloud. But reporters at the scene later found no evidence of a collapse at the location given.

About an hour after the quake, a magnitude 5.8 aftershock also centered in Oaxaca caused tall buildings in Mexico City to briefly sway again.

USGS seismologist Paul Earle said Friday’s earthquake appeared to be a separate temblor, rather than an aftershock of a Sept. 7 earthquake also centered in Oaxaca, which registered a magnitude of 8.2. The Sept. 19 earthquake struck closer to Mexico City.

The Sept. 7 quake killed nearly 100 people in Oaxaca and neighboring Chiapas, but was centered about 273 miles (440 kilometers) southwest of Friday’s earthquake, Earle said.

In Mexico’s capital, frightened residents flooded into the streets in Condesa, including one unidentified woman wrapped in just a towel, but there were no immediate signs of damage.

“I’m scared,” said Rojas Huerta, recalling five months ago when buildings fell as she ran barefoot into the street. “The house is old.”

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AP science writer Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pressure on FBI Increases Following Failure to Avert School Shooting

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 12:34

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The revelation that the FBI botched a potentially life-saving tip on the Florida school shooting suspect is a devastating blow to America’s top law enforcement agency at a time when it is already under extraordinary political pressure.

Even before the startling disclosure that the FBI failed to investigate a warning that the suspect, Nikolas Cruz, could be plotting an attack, the bureau was facing unprecedented criticism from President Donald Trump and other Republicans, who have accused it of partisan bias.

The agency and its supporters had been able to dismiss past criticism as just politics, but this time it had no option but to admit it made a disastrous mistake.

The FBI’s acknowledgment that it mishandled the tip prompted a sharp rebuke from its boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and a call from Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a Trump ally, for FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign.

Wray, on the job for just six months, had already been in a precarious position defending the bureau from relentless attacks by Trump and other Republicans. They are still dissatisfied with its decision not to charge Hillary Clinton with crimes related to her use of a private email server, and they see signs of bias in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of possible Trump campaign ties to Russia.

As evidence, they’ve cited the former deputy director’s connection to Clinton allies, and they’ve publicized anti-Trump text messages exchanged between an FBI agent and a bureau lawyer. Democrats have said the accusations are aimed at damaging Mueller’s investigation and protecting Trump.

Through it all, Wray has repeatedly stood up to Trump, defending the bureau’s independence and publicly praising its agents in implicit rebuttals to the president’s criticism. Wray unsuccessfully fought to block the release of a classified Republican memo accusing the FBI of abusing its surveillance powers in the Russia probe -- a document Trump wanted aired. Wray also publicly contradicted White House accounts of how it handled recent domestic abuse allegations involving an aide.

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The shooting provides fresh grounds to criticize the FBI. First it was revealed that the FBI failed to delve into a YouTube comment posted by a “Nikolas Cruz” that said, “Im going to be a professional school shooter.” The FBI said it could not determine who made it.

On Friday, the bureau said it had failed to act on a tip that Cruz had a “desire to kill people,” disturbing social media posts and access to a gun. Cruz is charged with killing 17 people in the school he once attended.

Sessions, a Trump loyalist who has at times seemed to welcome criticism of the FBI, called the massacre a “tragic consequence” of the FBI’s failure. He ordered a review of the Justice Department procedures.

The House Judiciary and Oversight committees, whose Republican leaders have been some of the strongest FBI critics, demanded Wray brief them on what went wrong.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said it was “inexcusable” the FBI did not follow protocols and urged Congress to launch its own investigation. Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida promised to be in “close communication with the FBI so we can get to the bottom of this.”

Wray apologized in a rare statement admitting the FBI’s missteps. But Scott, the governor, said that “isn’t going to cut it.”

“People must have confidence in the follow-through from law enforcement,” he said, calling for Wray to step down.

This isn’t the first time the FBI has been seen as missing an opportunity to prevent a major violent attack. The white supremacist who killed nine people at a historically black church in South Carolina in 2015 was able to purchase his weapon only because of breakdowns in the FBI’s background check system. The background check examiner who evaluated the shooter’s request to buy a gun never saw an arrest report in which he admitted to possessing illegal drugs. Under federal rules, that should have been enough to disqualify him from a gun purchase.

Congress in 2009 criticized the FBI for missteps ahead of a shooting that left 13 people dead at Fort Hood, Texas, after finding that agents failed to act on emails between the gunman and terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki.

In the Florida school shooting, “somebody made a mistake, somebody did not do their job,” said Jeffrey Ringel, a former FBI agent and Joint Terrorism Task force member who now works for the Soufan Group, a private security firm.

“The FBI will be criticized for a failing that they have basically owned up to,” he said. “It’s a learning lesson. Unfortunately, a very expensive learning lesson.”

 

Copyright 2018 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Mueller Charges Russians With Meddling in 2016 Race

Sat, 02/17/2018 - 12:22

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In an extraordinary indictment, the U.S. special counsel has accused 13 Russians of an elaborate plot to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, charging them with running a huge but hidden social media trolling campaign aimed in part at helping Republican Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The federal indictment, brought Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller, represents the most detailed allegations to date of illegal Russian meddling during the campaign that sent Trump to the White House. It also marks the first criminal charges against Russians believed to have secretly worked to influence the outcome.

The Russian organization was funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the indictment says. He is a wealthy St. Petersburg businessman with ties to the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin.

Trump quickly claimed vindication Friday, noting in a tweet that the alleged interference efforts began in 2014 -- “long before I announced that I would run for President.”

“The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong -- no collusion!” he tweeted.

But the indictment does not resolve the collusion question at the heart of the continuing Mueller probe, which before Friday had produced charges against four Trump associates. U.S. intelligence agencies have previously said the Russian government interfered to benefit Trump, including by orchestrating the hacking of Democratic emails, and Mueller has been assessing whether the campaign coordinated with the Kremlin.

The latest indictment does not focus on the hacking but instead centers on a social media propaganda effort that began in 2014 and continued past the election, with the goal of producing distrust in the American political process. Trump himself has been reluctant to acknowledge the interference and any role that it might have played in propelling him to the White House.

The indictment does not allege that any American knowingly participated in Russian meddling, or suggest that Trump campaign associates had more than “unwitting” contact with some of the defendants who posed as Americans during election season.

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But it does lay out a vast and wide-ranging Russian effort to sway political opinion in the United States through a strategy that involved creating Internet postings in the names of Americans whose identities had been stolen; staging political rallies while posing as American political activists, and paying people in the U.S. to promote or disparage candidates.

While foreign meddling in U.S. campaigns is not new, the indictment for an effort of this scope and digital sophistication is unprecedented.

“This indictment serves as a reminder that people are not always who they appear to be on the internet,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Friday. “The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed.”

The 13 Russians are not in custody and not likely to ever face trial. The Justice Department has for years supported indicting foreign defendants in absentia as a way of publicly shaming them and effectively barring them from foreign travel.

The surreptitious campaign was organized by the Internet Research Agency, a notorious Russian troll farm that the indictment says sought to conduct “information warfare against the United States of America.”

The company, among three Russian entities named in the indictment, had a multimillion-dollar budget and hundreds of workers divided by specialties and assigned to day and night shifts. According to prosecutors, the company was funded by companies controlled by Prigozhin, the wealthy Russian who has been dubbed “Putin’s chef” because his restaurants and catering businesses have hosted the Kremlin leader’s dinners with foreign dignitaries.

Prigozhin said Friday he was not upset by the indictment.

“Americans are very impressionable people,” he was quoted as saying by Russia’s state news agency. They “see what they want to see.”

Also Friday, Mueller announced a guilty plea from a California man who unwittingly sold bank accounts to Russians involved in the interference effort.

The election-meddling organization, looking to conceal its Russian roots, purchased space on computer servers within the U.S., used email accounts from U.S. internet service providers and created and controlled social media pages with huge numbers of followers on divisive issues such as immigration, religion and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Starting in April 2016, the indictment says, the Russian agency bought political ads on social media supporting Trump and opposing Clinton without reporting expenditures to the Federal Election Commission or registering as foreign agents. Among the ads: “JOIN our #HillaryClintonForPrison2016” and “Donald wants to defeat terrorism … Hillary wants to sponsor it.”

“They engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump,” the indictment states.

The indictment details contacts targeting three unnamed officials in the Trump campaign’s Florida operation. In each instance, the Russians used false U.S. personas to contact the officials. The indictment doesn’t say if any of them responded, and there’s no allegation that any of the campaign officials knew they were communicating with Russians.

Two of the defendants traveled to the U.S. in June 2014 to gather intelligence on social media sites and identify targets for their operations, the indictment alleges. Following the trip, the group collected further intelligence by contacting U.S. political and social media activists while posing as U.S. citizens. They were guided by one contact to target “purple states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida,” prosecutors say.

Cruz and Rubio ran against Trump in the Republican primary; Sanders opposed Clinton in the Democratic primary.

According to one internal communication described by prosecutors, the specialists were instructed to “use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump -- we support them).” And according to one internal review, a specialist was criticized for having a low number of posts criticizing Clinton. The person was told “it is imperative to intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton” in future posts.

The indictment also asserts that the posts encouraged minority groups either not to vote or to vote for third parties.

Ahead of a Florida rally, the Russians paid one person to build a cage on a flatbed truck and another to wear a costume portraying Clinton in a prison uniform. But they also organized some rallies opposing Trump, including one in New York after the election called “Trump is NOT my president.”

The Russians destroyed evidence of their activities as Mueller’s investigation picked up, with one of those indicted sending an email in September 2017 to a family member that said the FBI had “busted” them so they were covering their tracks.

That person, Irina Viktorovna Kaverzina, wrote the family member, “I created all of these pictures and posts, and the Americans believed that it was written by their people.”

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Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Desmond Butler, Raphael Satter and Tom LoBianco contributed to this report.

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The indictment online: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4380517-Russia-probe-indictments.html

 

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