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Updated: 3 hours 22 min ago

President Trump, Please Stay the Course

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 11:39

It would behoove President Trump to keep faith with his base and remain hardcore on his signature issue, immigration, both because it’s the right thing to do and because it’s the wisest political course.

Commentators are speculating as to Trump’s motives in conducting a televised bipartisan conference, during which he appeared open to solutions he had previously rejected. Was he using the meeting to contradict the picture author Michael Wolff painted of him in his new book, Fire and Fury, as being disengaged? Was he strategically presenting himself as more conciliatory for public consumption in anticipation of the inevitable battle over immigration reform? Or is he actually softening on this issue?

I don’t see why these choices are mutually exclusive. At least for a fleeting moment, he got some favorable press from his usual detractors for his bipartisan demeanor and his apparent ownership of the room. If optics were part of his calculation, then he also benefits from getting some of these Democrats to have endorsed, on the record, the notion of beefing up border security.

But if his performance was just posturing and he is still thoroughly hard-line on all aspects of the immigration issue, how do you explain his similar overtures on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program some months ago to Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi? How do you rationalize his comments that he is not adamant about a full-blown physical wall and that he would sign whatever bill they sent him?

In subsequent statements, he seemed to revert to a tougher position, for example, putting out this talking point, in all caps: “ANY DEAL ON DACA MUST END CHAIN MIGRATION, ELIMINATE THE VISA LOTTERY, AND FULLY SECURE THE BORDER, INCLUDING WITH A WALL.”

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So, what do we make of all this? Some argue we shouldn’t read too much into Trump’s meeting, saying he was merely engaging in 4-D chess or “Art of the Deal” negotiations. I am skeptical about that. But if I’m wrong, I still believe he would be ill-advised to engage in such gamesmanship to the point of alienating his base.

Trump may be thinking that he has nothing to lose by pretending to have relaxed his position on DACA because he knows Democrats will never compromise on any enforcement conditions in exchange -- that this can only help his image and won’t hurt him because it will never happen. To the contrary, it very well may hurt him with his base.

This is because many of the most intense members of Trump’s base will probably reject any compromise on DACA, even if in exchange he secures all the other concessions -- the wall, beefing up border forces, ending chain migration and the visa lottery, and instituting E-Verify -- with the possible exception of a watered-down version of DACA amnesty that precludes any path to a green card or voting, a feature of the proposed Goodlatte bill in Congress.

Many Trump critics counter that his base is ideologically rudderless and will cultishly follow him regardless of his policies. Perhaps some will, but many know exactly why they voted for Trump, and though draining the swamp was part of it, so was an America-first philosophy, which Trump would abandon at his peril.

This philosophy promotes America (and Americans) first -- from ending illegal immigration to bolstering domestic energy to having fewer American boots on foreign ground to getting better trade deals to providing corporate and individual tax relief to growing the economy and jobs to rebuilding our military and otherwise reinvigorating our national security against all threats, including terrorism, to restoring market forces to fixing health care.

Trump needs to remember that his future success depends not on pacifying an implacable Democratic Party but on fulfilling his promises and advancing his agenda.

Though I don’t agree with every aspect of the agenda (e.g., trade protectionism), America-firsters are adamant about protecting America’s sovereignty and security and American workers. They are committed to thwarting the Democrats’ transparent scheme, in the name of compassion, to relax and eliminate immigration enforcement and to expand amnesty to import and empower millions of new Democratic voters. They are also serious about the rule of law, which is undermined every time amnesty legislation is passed. Not only did Barack Obama ratify acts of illegal immigration with DACA; he also flouted the Constitution by accomplishing through an administrative program that which he had repeatedly admitted was the sole prerogative of Congress.

Even Trump’s critics admit that he had a successful first year on policy. He needs to remember that his future success depends not on pacifying an implacable Democratic Party but on fulfilling his promises and advancing his agenda. Policy success breeds electoral success. A great economy and more secure America will compensate for a lot of self-inflicted tweet damage.

I don’t know for certain where Trump’s heart is on immigration or whether he’s being pressured by family and some advisers to moderate. Nor do I know how firmly conservative he is, but I do believe he has been moving in that direction and, more importantly, primarily governing as a conservative, and that’s why he has been so successful.

It is not Trump’s tweets, if anything, that could jeopardize his re-election but getting in bed with Democrats on their issues or cooperating with the very establishment he has promised to uproot.

If Trump betrays his base on his signature issue hoping to thereby expand his base, he will have a very difficult time being re-elected. He will never get liberals to vote for him, no matter how many concessions he makes, and in the process, he will lose the intensity radiating from his base.

I have doubted him several times before, so I want to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one and simply encourage him to remember those who brought him to the dance, to keep honoring his promises and to continue governing as a conservative.

 

David Limbaugh is a writer, author and attorney. His latest book is The True Jesus: Uncovering the Divinity of Christ in the Gospels. Follow him on Twitter @davidlimbaugh and his website at www.davidlimbaugh.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2018 CREATORS.COM

Military Photo of the Day: Marines Conduct a Simulated Amphibious Assault in Djibouti

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 08:00

U.S. Marines offload from a French landing craft during a recent simulated amphibious assault in Djibouti.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

 

 

 

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President Trump’s Remark on [Expletive] Countries: Another Chance for Insufferable Virtue-Signaling

Fri, 01/12/2018 - 03:17

People are calling for President Trump to apologize. In fact they won't be happy until he has crawled face down on broken glass all the way to the future site of the Giant Obama Takeout Bag in Chicago, singing "We Shall Overcome" in Spanish. Why?

For bluntly speaking his mind, and that of tens of millions of voters. And it was certainly imprudent for the president to use a phrase like "sh**hole countries" when speaking to his enemies. (I prefer the more urbane construction "Cacastan.")

Or when speaking to his friends, as we can see in the wake of the leaks-based Wolff book. Or to whisper it to Melania across their Neiman Marcus copper pillowcases. Given how keenly the Lidless Eye of political correctness can see into our lives, it's probably not even safe to whisper such thoughts in the shower. "The Master of the Precious will punish, yes he will. …"

Let the Moral Panic Commence!

Let's watch as pundits and pseudo-moralists strut and preen across the stage, pretending that they don't know what President Trump really meant. They will point to Arabic numerals, chicken mole, the Pyramids of Egypt and the Salvadoran handicrafts they bought at their Unitarian churches. … "Are these things  'sh**ty'?", they'll thunder. "Are those cultures worthless?" And the answer, of course, is no.

Donald Trump has visited many of those countries, even invested millions in some of them, creating jobs. These people know that Trump didn't mean to say otherwise. And they know that we know it. But everyone will pretend because that's how the truth gets processed in America: through a long, intestinal corridor of reeking, toxic lies.

Next the chubby wubby bishops and pinch-faced feminist harridans will weigh in. Then the investment class and information elites will have their say. They'll rise up and point to all the people from the countries which the president had in mind.  To those who clean their homes at very reasonable wages (off the books) and babysit their 2.1 insufferable children. "Are these people  'sh**ty'?", they'll thunder. And the answer, of course, is no.

Donald Trump grew up in the same multicultural Queens, NY, that I did. He hired and worked closely with thousands of construction workers of every origin. Heck, he even staffed some of his resorts with foreign workers! Thinking of kids whose parents smuggled them into the country, who now want to stay, Trump's letting himself get misty-eyed with Democrats. That's always dangerous. Those creatures can scent tears as sharks smell blood, and it puts them into a feeding frenzy. If Trump despised immigrants as people, he wouldn't be turning all mushy when it comes to sending illegal ones home to where they are citizens. His base (me included) wouldn't be sharpening knives, preparing in case he betrays us on immigration.

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A Time for Preening

But the same folks who joke about "white trash," "rednecks" and "bible-thumpers" and complain that inner-city Americans are "too lazy" to do certain jobs will step forth now. They'll pull the robes off the Statue of Liberty, and wrap themselves in the U.N. flag. They will rear up on their hind legs and grunt for truffles.

They'll demand that Trump snivel and beg forgiveness for what he didn't say, or mean, or even imply. Because that's how America works nowadays. You pretend to be offended on someone else's behalf. I pretend to be sorry and apologize. And you pretend not to believe me. But you'll have made your point: that you have the power to punish me, and I'll crawl back under the table.

Democrats Treat Mexico as a Death Sentence

Who is it exactly that's comparing Mexico to a medical waste dumpster full of dead babies? Well, that would be Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, TX. He equated deporting people to Mexico with aborting unborn children. (So did Cardinal Blaise Cupich of Chicago, who compared returning immigrants to selling unborn baby parts in Styrofoam coolers like KFC.) Who considers living in Muslim countries a fate worse than death? Why, that would be Pope Francis, who compared Europeans who want Muslims to live in those places with Herod, stacking high the piles of dead babies in Bethlehem.

Imagine a place that's so poor, chaotic, or violent that millions of people would rather live in an American city governed by Democrats.

Which party is shrieking now that it's "cruel" to send people back to El Salvador, folks to whom we gave TEMPORARY refuge after an earthquake 17 years ago? Do they think that the country has earthquakes every week? Or do they assume it's a Cacastan, where no human being should ever be asked to live?

Which party warns us that much of the rest of the world is a vast, unlivable hellscape of persecution and poverty? So trying to limit refugees and immigration is "inhumane" and "anti-life."

Why, that would be the Democrats.

What Makes a Place a Cacastan?

When President Trump spoke of certain countries as Cacastans, what was he really saying? I know you don't need me to say this. Neither do the liberals having fake nervous breakdowns tonight, with great big grins on their pasty, Pharisaical faces. But just for the record, I'll point it out:

Certain countries have rotten political arrangements. Bad economic systems. Cultures that replicate poverty. Mosques that churn out terrorists. All those things drive people to leave. But too many of them bring with them the bad ideas and habits that turned perfectly decent countries into Cacastans. And our machines for assimilation have all been sabotaged by leftists. So inviting in lots of Cacastanis will transform our own states to be more like the places they’re fleeing. (See California, Sweden, and Belgium.)

In fact, I may just have stumbled onto what makes a country a Cacastan: It's a place that's so poor, chaotic, or violent that millions of people would rather live in an American city governed by Democrats. When you put it that way, it really is shocking and sad.

And large swathes of the world apparently qualify. According to the Gallup Poll, some 700 million people want to leave their native countries. 165 million Cacastanis want to relocate to the U.S. They're willing to live in places like Los Angeles. Even Baltimore. I thank the good Lord I've never experienced that level of desperation. And that's what the president was talking about, to tell the truth.

But when has that ever mattered?

6-Year-Old Survivor of Texas Church Shooting Leaves Hospital

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 21:23

Ryland Ward, a 6-year-old boy shot in the Sutherland Springs, Texas Church massacre, will leave the hospital triumphantly by firetruck Thursday after months of surgery.

Ward is one of the youngest survivors of the worst church shooting in U.S. history, in which a deranged gunman killed 26 members of the First Baptist church congregation. Ward endured multiple surgeries at San Antonio's University Hospital over more than two months since first responders found him alive but wounded amid the carnage of the November 5 mass shooting, according to UPI. He had been shot five times.

Now, after spending Thanksgiving, Christmas, and his 6th birthday undergoing medical treatment and recovery, Ward has been discharged from the hospital and will be escorted home in a firetruck by Rusty Duncan, the man who found him in the church after the massacre.

"He couldn't wait to get out the hospital. People at the hospital were nice and everything, but he turned 6 years old and had Christmas in there, and he just wanted to get out and get back to being kid," Earl McMahan, Ward's great-uncle, told UPI.

Ward's survival was nothing short of a miracle, made possible by the courage of first responders, the tireless efforts of surgeons, and the selfless sacrifice of his stepmother, Joann Ward.

"It's just a miracle he survived and is doing as well as he is," Sandy Ward, the boy's grandmother, told UPI. "We're just excited to get him to come home."

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Duncan, a member of the Stockdale Volunteer Fire Department, told San Antonio Express-News that he discovered Ward under the body of Ward's stepmother who died in the course of shielding her son from gunfire.

"I was just checking for survivors, and I felt a little tug on my pant leg," Duncan said. "I had no idea what it was. I looked down and a little hand was coming from under somebody. That's when I moved her and saw him."

Ward stared up at Duncan with "glassy eyes" and kept staring, wordlessly, as Duncan picked him up and carried him to the ambulance.

"The whole time I was with him, he was conscious and staring up at me. The whole time," Duncan said.

Ward now has 15 percent use of his left hip. He drags his left leg as he walks, but has been buoyed by an outpouring of support from Sutherland Springs residents and people around the world who sent him over 1,000 Christmas cards.

The outpouring of support will continue Thursday, as Sutherland Springs residents line the street to cheer on Ward's return home.

 

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Copyright 2018 Daily Caller News Foundation

Workers Receiving Unemployment Benefits Hits Lowest Number in Nearly 50 Years

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 19:23

The total number of workers who receive unemployment insurance fell to the lowest level in 44 years at the end 2017, the Department of Labor (DOL) reported Thursday.

During the last week of 2017, 1.87 million people received unemployment insurance benefits, the lowest total of recipients since Dec. 1973, the DOL reported. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 1.3 percent for the end of January.

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The number is a positive sign for the economy.

The total number of people claiming unemployment benefits in the U.S. has continued to decline since President Donald Trump took office. During the last week of April 2017, 1.9 million people received unemployment insurance benefits.

Unemployment benefits are available for up to 26 weeks in most states and pay eligible workers up to $450 per week.

 

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Similarities Between ESP, Cold Fusion and Global Warming

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 18:55

At the climate website No Tricks Zone, there is a picture of various estimates of CO2 climate sensitivity estimates. These are the guesses of how much the temperature would increase if atmospheric carbon dioxide doubled from its pre-industrial levels.

This sensitivity is measured as a “transient climate response” (TCS), noting the near-terms effects, or by “equilibrium climate sensitivity” (ECS), which are the long-term effects, assuming that CO2 stops increasing. The higher either of these numbers is, the more we have to worry about.

Each estimate is taken from a peer-reviewed scientific paper. The first comes in 2001 from the authors Andronova and Schlesinger, with the estimate of 3oC. The highest estimate (in this graph) is 6oC in 2002 from Gregory.

Not All Jokes are Funny

After 2002, something funny happens.

Frame puts the estimate at about 2.8oC by 2005. Skeje guessed 2.8oC in 2014. Not pictured is a paper I co-wrote in 2015, which put the estimate of ECS at 1.0oC. (This paper led to a witch hunt and hysterical accusations of “climate denial.”)

Finally, Reinhart brings it down to about 0.2oC in 2017.

From this picture we can infer at least three things. First, the debate about global warming was not over in 2000, nor in 2001, nor is it over now. The sensitivity estimates would not have changed if the debate were over. Second, the good news is that we clearly have less to worry about than we thought. This is something to celebrate, right? Right?

The third inference is that we have seen this same graph before. Not once, but many times!

You Can’t Read My Mind

The picture looks exactly like the graph of extrasensory perception (ESP) effect size through time. (I wrote a book on the subject, available free at the bottom of this page.)

J.B. Rhine in the 1930s showed the backsides of playing cards to some folks and asked them to use their ESP to “read” the frontsides. Rhine claimed to have demonstrated parapsychological abilities, as did Charles Honorton and Sharon Harper in the mid-1970s using the so-called ganzfeld. The 1970s were a time of high excitement in ESP research, with extraordinary claims coming from every direction.

But then came the 1980s and 1990s, a time when researchers had learnt from magicians and their own errors how to do proper tests. (I designed some of these tests.) The effect size dropped and dropped. It finally fell into the statistical mud, where it remains to this day, in spite of the efforts of a few die-hards to resurrect the glory days.

It’s Colder than You Think

The climate sensitivity graph is also like the amount of excess heat in cold fusion experiments. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann in 1989 claimed that by sticking some metal leads into a certain kind of water, “cold fusion” would take place, releasing heat. This heat in theory could be used to generate pollution-free electricity.

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There was initial skepticism from many physicists to Pons and Fleischmann’s claim, but not enough to stop a lot of money being thrown into cold fusion research. Some groups claimed to reproduce the fusion, but eventually even the most optimistic heat estimates fell off a cliff.

Steps to Failure

The climate graph also resembles many Exciting New Medical Cure effect sizes through time. Who remembers interferon? And according to Ross Pomeroy at Real Clear Science it’s not unlike many scientific claims.

Pomeroy wrote the article “The Six Stages of a Failed Psychological Theory.” We start with “The Flashy Finding” (high initial effect-size estimates), move to “The Fawning Replications” (high, but slightly lower estimates), and land at “Proper Replications Pour In” (near-zero or zero estimates).

Stage 6 is “The Theory Lives On as a Zombie.” There will always be true believers.

The End is Nigh

Pomeroy was echoing famed physicist Irving Langmuir, who identified five symptoms of “pathological science.

One of these is that the claimed “effect is of a magnitude that remains close to the limit of detectability.” The closer you look, the more the effect recedes into the distance.

The most notable symptom is the political. “Ratio of supporters to critics rises up to somewhere near 50% and then falls gradually to oblivion.”

Few now remember cold fusion, and only specialists can recall how big parapsychological research was in the Twentieth Century. If it follows the same pattern, the gloomier predictions of global warming will soon be nothing but a bad memory.

Vikings QB Headed to Divisional Round Matchup is ‘Playing to Glorify God’

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 18:36

Case Keenum, starting quarterback for the Vikings, wants to win Sunday’s divisional round matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium against the New Orleans Saints. The quarterback’s unlikely story may end up as a fairytale if the Vikings win with the unsigned player from Texas. Either way, Keenum knows God is in control.

‘I’m Playing to Glorify God’

Keenum’s backstory is unusual to say the least. The 6’1″ ultra-competitive player has been involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes his entire life. His father, Steve Keenum is the director of the Big Country Area FCA region in Abilene and was a football coach within the organization as Case Keenum was growing up. "There was something different about the men who were Christians," Keenum said. "When I was 7, 8, 9 years old, I wanted to be in the NFL and be like them." He continued: "That's why I became a Christian -- being around Christian athletes through FCA. I'm not playing for the name on the back of my jersey, I'm playing to glorify God. He's given me talents, and I'm trying to maximize those talents however I can."

He played football in high school and in college at the University of Houston. Then, during his senior season in college, he tore up his knee. He returned on a redshirt in 2011 to throw 48 touchdown passes and just five interceptions. He did this while clearing 5,600 yards for the second time. He thought he would get drafted, especially since the Cougars ended their season at 12-1 and beat Penn State in a bowl game. But he didn’t. 

God Was in Control

Yet he knew that God was in control. "That was as tough a time as I've ever gone through," Keenum said. "You just realize that football is fickle; it's not going to be there all the time. Just getting my priorities straight and knowing the true reason I play the game, and that's to give glory to God. That's something I take pride in. It's why I do what I do.”

The then-Texans coach Gary Kubiak signed Keenum, but he lost his first eight NFL starts. His 0-8 career start left him feeling frustrated. “It affected me,” he said. “It didn’t stop me. … It beat me down physically, mentally. I wasn’t used to losing, and I took a lot of that on myself. I think that’s why I play quarterback. You get the ball in your hands and you make decisions every play. And to not be successful like that was really hard, really frustrating. And it took some time to learn from that.” But he prayed constantly. At the end of every prayer, Keenum said the same thing: “I’m going to trust in what Your plan is for me.”

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He was waived by the Texans, signed and waived by the Rams then re-signed by Houston off the Rams’ practice squad, reported ESPN. While the 2014 season brought wins against Baltimore and Jacksonville, he was traded back to the Rams for a seventh-round pick in 2015. 

Signed by the Vikings

Minnesota signed Keenum early last year for a measly $2 million, one-year contract. They didn’t realize how important Keenum would become almost immediately. The Vikings started their season without quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, then they lost Sam Bradford in week two -- both were out due to knee injuries. But the quarterback who had never been drafted stepped up to the challenge. He threw a 22-yard touchdown pass on Thanksgiving Day, he’s been strong against the blitz all year and strong outside the pocket, reported ESPN.

But his passion and motivation for the game is what catches his coach’s and teammates’ attention. “His self-motivation is off the charts,” said quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski. “He’s obsessed with the process.” Adam Thielen, wide receiver for the Vikings, agreed. “He’s not just showing up at 6 a.m. just to be here. He’s got a plan. He knows the defense before we play them, and he knows the game plan better than anyone I’ve ever been around. … Maybe even better than some of the coaches.”

Maybe so, but Keenum is taking his game day-by-day and seeks to honor God in all he does. "My faith is the number one thing that makes me, me. It is what my identity is in; it's not in this game," Keenum says. "So I know that, although I do put everything I have into this game, it's not a life-or-death thing for me.

"I want to do the very best I can, all the time, and I want to honor God when I do that," Keenum added. "And I think I do when I leave it all on the field."

Sessions Creates Hezbollah Narcoterror Unit

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 17:37

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Thursday the creation of a team to investigate money laundering and drug trafficking tied to Hezbollah, after a bombshell report claimed the Obama administration stifled investigations into the terrorist group in order to clear the way for the Iran nuclear deal.

The new Department of Justice unit, dubbed the Hezbollah Financing and Narcoterrorism Team (HFNT), will start its work by taking a fresh look at evidence from Project Cassandra, a federal investigation targeting Hezbollah's drug trafficking and related criminal schemes.

"In an effort to protect Americans from both threats, the Justice Department will assemble leading investigators and prosecutors to ensure that all Project Cassandra investigations as well as other related investigations, whether past or present, are given the needed resources and attention to come to their proper resolution," Sessions said in a statement Thursday. "The team will initiate prosecutions that will restrict the flow of money to foreign terrorist organizations as well as disrupt violent international drug trafficking operation."

The creation of HFNT comes a month after an explosive Politico report about the Obama administration's handling of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations into Hezbollah's worldwide drug and illicit financing activities. According to former investigators interviewed for the story, top Obama officials repeatedly suppressed DEA probes into the group as Washington and Tehran neared a deal on Iran's nuclear program.

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President Donald Trump and other administration officials have criticized Obama for neglecting Iranian threats in his push to reach what they see as a badly flawed deal. Following the release of the Politico report, the White House said it was further evidence that the Iran deal had opened the door to increased terror and criminal activity by Tehran's proxies.

Hezbollah was formed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in 1982 to repel Israel's invasion of Lebanon. Today, Hezbollah's militant wing focuses on fighting Israel and expanding Iran's regional influence, but the group has also integrated into Lebanon's political system and has seats in the country's parliament.

Even before creating the HFNT, the Trump administration had moved to crack down on Hezbollah as part of a broader campaign to counter Iranian activity in the Middle East. In October, the State Department marked the 20th anniversary of Hezbollah's designation as a terrorist organization by adding two of the group's leaders to the Rewards For Justice program, which pays out multi-million dollar sums for information leading to the capture of terrorists.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan has been tapped to supervise the HFNT, which will be staffed by investigators from DEA, FBI, Homeland Security and the DOJ's National Security Division.

 

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The Most Dangerous Places in the World to Follow Jesus: New Report

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 16:18

It’s most dangerous to follow Christ in North Korea, a new report by Open Doors USA says.

World Watch List

Open Doors USA released today its 2018 World Watch List (WWL) of countries where it’s most dangerous to follow Jesus. The scores are based on a 0-100 scale, with the highest number representing the country with the most persecution of Christians. 

The rankings are comprised of scores based on degrees of pressure in five “spheres” of Christian life: Church life, national life, community life, family life and private life. It also takes into account the number of violent incidences against Christians and the Church, the report says.

North Korea has held the number one spot (94 points this year) for persecuting Christians for 16 years in a row. "With more than 50,000 in prison or labor camps, such a ranking is little surprise for the totalitarian regime that controls every aspect of life in the country and forces worship of the Kim family," Open Doors reported.

But Afghanistan is right behind North Korea in their persecution of Christians at 93 points. 

"Never before have the top two countries been so close in incidents," said David Curry, Open Doors USA president and CEO. "Both countries are extreme in intolerance and outright persecution of Christians in every area Open Doors monitors."

Top Ten Countries Persecuting Christians

The top ten countries where it’s most dangerous to be a Christian are (1) North Korea, (2) Afghanistan, (3) Somalia, (4) Sudan, (5) Pakistan, (6) Eritrea, (7) Libya, (8) Iraq, (9) Yemen and (10) Iran.

All but two of these countries are predominately Muslim. “Islamic extremism remains the global, dominant driver of persecution, responsible for initiating oppression and conflict in 35 of the 50 countries on the list," Open Doors stated.

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Open Doors is a non-profit organization “focused on serving persecuted Christians in more than 60 countries through Bible and Gospel development, women and children advancement and Christian community restoration,” according to their website

To read more from the report, click here.

Pence Talks Tough on North Korea, Says ‘Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel’

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 14:15

Vice President Mike Pence had some strong words for North Korea Wednesday on Fox News' The Story with Martha MacCallum, and said the time for "strategic patience is over."

"The message the president sent me to deliver a year ago is the same I will deliver when I arrive in Korea again, and when I visit Japan again, and that is that the era of strategic patience is over," Pence said.

He believes the policies towards North Korea over the last two decades have only resulted in a dangerous dictatorship, that threatens the safety and security of the United States.

"For literally two decades one administration after the other has exercised a level of patience and negations that have resulted in the dictatorship in North Korea, developing ballistic and nuclear missiles, that may well threaten the United States of America as we speak," he said. "That is unacceptable."

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Pence said America stands with South Korea and will continue to put pressure on Kim Jong-un until he discontinues the rogue nation's nuclear weapons program.

"We will continue to bring maximum economic and diplomatic pressure to bear until North abandons it's nuclear and ballistic missile programs," he continued.

Pence also said he will meet with the Jordanian and Egyptian leaders during his Middle East trip late this month and reaffirmed President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Trump would support a two state solution between Israel and Palestine if the two parties were able to come to an agreement, he added.

"The president recommitted the United States to engagement in the peace process," Pence said. "We remain committed to peace, but what the president did in that decision and in making it a reality -- was he essentially took off of the table, an issue that really wasn't negotiable to this administration or to the American people."

"Jerusalem is the capital of Israel," the Vice President added. "We have affirmed the will of the American people."

 

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Is ‘Evangelical’ Synonymous With ‘Hypocrite?’

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 13:53

Last month, Pastor Timothy Keller wrote an important article in the New Yorker. He asked, "Can Evangelicalism Survive Donald Trump and Roy Moore?" And Keller, himself a respected evangelical leader, pulled no punches in answering his question.

“Evangelical” used to denote people who claimed the high moral ground; now, in popular usage, the word is nearly synonymous with “hypocrite.” When I used the word to describe myself in the nineteen-seventies, it meant I was not a fundamentalist. If I use the name today, however, it means to hearers that I am.

Is Pastor Keller right in his assessment? Is "evangelical" nearly synonymous with "hypocrite?" In particular, because of large-scale evangelical support for President Trump? I would say yes and no.

Why Yes

I say "yes" for several reasons.

In 1987, two prominent televangelists were exposed for moral failures. And since then, we have had more than our share of scandals. This has tainted our witness and made people wary of us. We have no one to blame but ourselves. One bad apple can make 1,000 good apples appear suspect.

Second, we have not always practiced or been consistent in what we preach. We’ve denounced one sin while overlooking another. We’ve condemned the sinner without offering him a helping hand.

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To give one case in point, we have rightly denounced same-sex "marriage" as sinful and aberrant in God's sight. But we’ve paid far less attention to no-fault divorce in the Church. That is certainly worthy of the "hypocritical" moniker.

Third, many have offered President Trump unqualified and uncritical approval. Many seem unable to acknowledge any weaknesses or errors on his part. To the extent we do this, we seem to violate our own ethical standards. How can this not appear hypocritical to a watching world? Especially when that watching world is already suspicious of us?

Why No

On the other hand, I say "no" for several reasons.

First, the good being done by evangelicals far outweighs the bad. In virtually every city of America, evangelicals are on the front lines of caring for the poor, serving the needy, ministering to the hurting, and so much more. This is also the pattern worldwide. Just watch when the next major disaster hits anywhere on the planet. See who leads the way in sacrificial service.

Second, a very large percentage of evangelicals do practice what they preach. They seek to live their lives and raise their families in accordance with biblical values. In fact, this is one of the reasons why we are so hated. It is because we are different. We are willing to go against the grain.

Just look at the highly successful homeschool movement today. This is primarily the fruit of evangelical Christians. Many godly parents made quality (and sacrificial) decisions to pull their kids out of destructive educational settings, teaching them at home. This is called integrity, not hypocrisy.

I rue our many failings as evangelicals. But we will always be branded hypocrites, liars and charlatans by a hateful world.

Third, long before many evangelicals supported Donald Trump, we have been compared to Nazis, the KKK, and Islamic terrorists. We’ve been called bigots and homophobes and more.

Writing in May, 2005, John McCandlish Phillips, formerly a Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times reporter, pointed out how newspapers like The Washington Post and the Times told their readers that evangelicals and traditional Catholics were engaging in a "jihad" against America.

As he articulated almost 13 years ago:

In more than 50 years of direct engagement in and observation of the major news media I have never encountered anything remotely like the fear and loathing lavished on us by opinion mongers in these world-class newspapers in the past 40 days. If I had a $5 bill for every time the word “frightening” and its close lexicographical kin have appeared in the Times and The Post, with an accusatory finger pointed at the Christian right, I could take my stack to the stock market.

Today's constant bombardment has simply upped the ante of extreme, inflammatory, false accusations. (I have documented this for some time now. See here, for example.) It is no surprise that we are called "hypocrites" by those who despise our values.

Fourth, it is ironic that the same world that calls us hypocrites for voting for Trump would be applauding had we voted for Hillary Clinton (or, before that, Barack Obama). But had we voted for these liberal candidates, we would have been hypocrites. We profess to be pro-life and they are pro-abortion. We profess to be pro-marriage while they support redefining marriage. Those are just two of the major issues that divide us.

As for our vote for President Trump, many of us were loud and clear. We wrestled with our vote because of his immoral past, because of his sometimes offensive behavior, and because we were not sure he was a true conservative. But given the choice between voting for a known, evil entity and voting for someone who gave us a ray of hope, it was easy to choose the latter. And in many ways, he has done more than we expected.

Welcome to the Club

I rue our many failings as evangelicals. We have no excuse for these failings. And I’ve called for self-examination since the 1980s. But I recognize that we will always be branded hypocrites, liars and charlatans by a hateful world.

And this reminds me of an accusation brought against the early Christians. It was recounted by Tertullian (160-225):

We are charged with being irreligious people and, what is more, irreligious in respect to the emperors since we refuse to pay religious homage to their spiritual majesties and refuse to swear by them … Christians are considered to be enemies of the State, enemies of the public well-being.

Yes, it's always those dangerous, untrustworthy Christians. This will always be the accusation against us as long as we march to the beat of a different drummer. Welcome to the club.

8 Earthquakes Strike Along Iran-Iraq Border, Rattle Baghdad

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 13:14

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- A series of eight earthquakes hit the Iran-Iraq border area and rattled Baghdad on Thursday, apparent aftershocks of a temblor that struck the mountainous region in November and killed over 530 people. Four people suffered minor injuries in Iran, state television reported.

The U.S. Geological Survey said seven of the quakes struck near the Iraqi city of Mandali, 120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of the Iraqi capital. Mandali is right on the border between the two nations. The eighth hit near Mehran in western Iran, about 90 kilometers (55 miles) southeast of Mandali along the sparsely populated Zagros Mountains that divide Iran and Iraq.

All the earthquakes struck within an hour of each other, beginning at 0659 GMT. Six had a preliminary magnitude of at least 5, while two registered at magnitude 4. Scientists consider earthquakes of magnitude 5 as moderate.

Iranian authorities offered similar figures for the earthquakes on state television. All the information could change as scientists examine the data.

Iranian state television said online that people rushed into the streets as the temblors hit. In Baghdad, people felt a quake shake the Iraqi capital, followed by what felt like aftershocks.

All the earthquakes struck at a depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles), according to the USGS. Earthquakes at magnitude 5 can cause considerable damage. The temblors also all were very shallow, which causes more ground shaking and potential damage, particularly in places without strict building codes.

In November, a major 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck the same region, killing over 530 people and injuring thousands in Iran alone. In Iraq, nine people were killed and 550 were injured, all in the country’s northern Kurdish region, according to the United Nations.

Randy Baldwin, a geophysicist with the USGS’ National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado, said the earthquakes all appeared to be aftershocks from the November temblor.

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That area is home to many shallow faults, he said.

“It’s ongoing activity there,” Baldwin told The Associated Press. “If there was a stressed fault that’s ready to move, they happen like that until the stresses are relieved, so it’s not too unusual.”

The November earthquake hit hardest in the Kurdish town of Sarpol-e-Zahab in the western Iranian province of Kermanshah, which is only 80 kilometers (50 miles) from where most of Thursday’s earthquakes struck.

The region, largely rebuilt in recent decades after Iran and Iraq’s ruinous 1980s war, saw many buildings collapse or sustain major damage in the November quake. While Iranian government has offered loans for those affected to rebuild their homes, many still live in tents or temporary shipping containers-style homes and face the rains and cold of winter.

Iran sits on major fault lines and is prone to near-daily earthquakes. In 2003, a 6.6 magnitude quake flattened the historic city of Bam, killing 26,000 people.

Earlier on Thursday, the USGS said a magnitude 4.9 quake hit Iran’s southern province of Kerman before dawn, while another 4.6 magnitude temblor struck Wednesday night in Kermanshah province. No injuries or damage were reported.

___

Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Susannah George in Baghdad contributed to this report.

 

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

ISIS Inspired Terrorist Indicted For NYC Bombing

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 12:57

A grand jury indicted Akayed Ullah, who was accused of trying to blow up a suicide bomb in New York City in December, on terrorism charges Wednesday.

Ullah, 27, is from Bangladesh and was thought to be carrying out the attack in the name of the Islamic State, according to Reuters.

Officials are also charging Ullah with supporting a foreign terrorist organization, and for using a weapon of mass destruction to commit a terrorist attack, Reuters reports. He could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted.

The terror suspect told investigators he chose the subway station near the Port Authority in New York City because of the Christmas-themed posters hanging on the walls.

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He said he had been inspired by ISIS attacks on Christmas markets in Europe, and was looking to retaliate for U.S. airstrikes in Syria, according to The New York Times.

Ullah had a pipe bomb strapped to his body with Velcro when it went off inside the station. Smoke spilled into the bus terminal and sent commuters running for their lives.

Ullah has been in the United States since 2011 as a result of chain migration, authorities said. Chain migration allows immigrants to sponsor extended family members to live in the United States. President Donald Trump and GOP leadership have publicly opposed this policy and have said the practice should be halted as part of any comprehensive immigration reform.

 

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Copyright 2018 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Teaching Children Not to Come in From the Cold

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 10:00

At a recent holiday gathering, I was with some adults inside the house while the children were outside playing some team sport. It was bitterly cold but that did not seem to diminished the noisy activities outside in the snow.

As I was conversing with someone else, we both noticed a little boy, all bundled up, sitting alone at a table. My friend asked him what was wrong.

Despite his thick down jacket, he replied that he was cold. He decided not to play with the other children and literally left his teammates out in the cold.

My friend asked him if he didn't feel he was letting down his teammates by coming inside. The idea that others might need or depend on him never even crossed his mind, and he didn't answer the question. He merely smiled, thus ending the conversation.

A Philosophy That Abhors Misfortune

The brief episode revealed to me a lot of what is wrong with our education and child rearing practices. There is a philosophy behind the little boy's actions that can also be found in vast sectors of modern society, including many "big boys."

That philosophy is that when a situation becomes uncomfortable, simply leave and smile without thinking of the consequences. Personal comfort becomes the standard of judgment for most things. Everything must be done to prevent misfortune -- even if it only be bitter cold.

"From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice." -- Chief Justice John Roberts

Of course, everyone knows the school of hard knocks is an excellent teacher and builder of character. Most would accept the notion that when misfortune strikes, it can do children a lot of good. However, few people break the unwritten commandment out there that says we cannot wish suffering or misfortune upon our children. They must open the door at the first sign of discomfort from the cold.

Wishing Misfortune Upon Graduates

That is why I was surprised to see a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by Bob Greene that recounted an extraordinary graduation speech given last spring by Chief Justice John Roberts to his son's high school class. His address broke every rule for the optimistic speeches that are normally given at these affairs. It provides some lessons for boys little and big who come in from the cold.

Indeed, Chief Justice Roberts does the unthinkable: he told them directly that he hoped misfortune would cross their path.

"From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice."

"I hope you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty."

Roberts proceeds to wish upon the newest generation a string of misfortunes including loneliness, bad luck, loss (with gloating winners) and the state of being ignored. All of this, the Chief Justice affirms, will make them appreciate the contrary virtue.

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Not Cruel or Lacking Compassion

Some might think the Chief Justice's words are cruel and lacking compassion. One should never wish misfortunate on anyone regardless of the benefits that might be obtained. This is especially true of children who are weak and vulnerable.

However, the justice is not wishing upon children any avoidable evil. He does not wish any specific act that threatens them on the horizon.

He tells the graduates of the certain future that awaits them. Everyone without exception eventually suffers misfortunate. They will suffer injustice and betrayal whether another wishes it upon them or not. They will be lonely, unlucky and ignored. They will be bitterly cold.

It is best to accept these sufferings and take lessons from them.

The Real Cruelty

Cruel are those who desire that children be shielded from all suffering and misfortune. Such children will enter the world unprepared for the trials that inevitably await them. They will experience resentment and rage because they believe misfortunes to be unfair (and they often are unfair).

They will feel entitled to all benefits without the effort of meriting them. These poor children will suffer much more than those who embrace misfortunate. They will melt like snowflakes before adversity. They will resort to drugs and addictions as a means to escape the reality of life's misfortunate. They will come in from the least cold.

Not Sufficient to Overcome Our Passions

Our unbridled passions and self-interest are such that even the best of intentions are often defeated. The only way to overcome these obstacles is to follow a higher ideal.

The words of Chief Justice Roberts, while wise and true, are not enough. His comments reflect an appeal to a type of natural virtue that can help build character in youth and look after self-interest. They might serve to help a person accept trials with stoic resignation. However, such advice alone cannot overcome our nature that abhors suffering and misfortune, and wants in from the cold.

Our unbridled passions and self-interest are such that even the best of intentions are often defeated. The only way to overcome these obstacles is to follow a higher ideal that consumes the person and allows the soul to embrace, with love, that which our fallen nature rejects.

Without such an ideal, there is no compelling reason to do that which is so difficult. We will fail to find the strength to overcome the passions.

The Cross of Christ

The great victory of the Church is that she proposes the consuming ideal of seeking the Cross of Christ. With the help of Grace, we are taught, even at a tender age, not merely to accept our sufferings but to embrace them with love. We carry the crosses of our misfortunes with joy and resignation since our model is Christ, Who suffered infinitely more for us.

Christian civilization was a society in which children are taught to embrace the cross. The Church taught them to love their neighbor as themselves for the love of God. It creates a society full of charity, respect and responsibility. A society in which sacrifice was valued as a means to perfection and sanctification, and also led to a passion for excellence and beauty. It created a society full of innocence and wonder.

In short, this Christian ideal is the only one that builds upon and perfect nature. The child senses the loving presence and aid of God as a Father and Mary as mother. Such a society is the perfect school of the small child to overcome laziness and selfishness. It enkindles inside the innocent heart of the child a burning love that conquers the cold cruel world outside.

President Trump: Save these Iranian Christians From Prison, Torture, or Death

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 02:26

A disturbing report appears in the Washington Free Beacon. 

U.S. government action could send 100 mostly Christian Iranians stranded in Vienna back to Iran this week, where their return during the harsh government crackdown on dissidents could target them for further persecution, human rights activists warn.

The deportation threat looms despite the Trump administration’s and Congress’s vocal support for protesters in Iran, who are waging the strongest nationwide uprising against the government in Tehran in eight years.

“These deportations, during a human-rights crackdown in Iran no less, could be a death sentence for these persecuted Christians and other minorities,” Nina Shea, an international humans rights lawyer who directs the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, told the Washington Free Beacon. …

“The administration needs to act fast to stop this travesty,” she said.

One of the Top Ten Persecutors of Christians

It’s bad in Iran, reports Open Doors. That’s a watchdog group for religious freedom.  Open Doors ranks the worst persecutors of Christians.  Iran made number 10.

In contrast to the neighboring Arab Gulf countries, the main threat for Christians comes from the government in Iran. The Iranian regime defines Iran as an Islamic State based on Shia Islam. Christians and other minorities are seen as an unwelcome distraction from this plan. Although some reports mention pressure from families and communities on converts from Islam to Christianity, Iranian society is much less fanatic than their leadership.

According to the Free Beacon:

During the end of the Obama administration, the State Department initially signed off on plans to resettle the latest group of mostly Iranian Christian refugees but then placed a hold on them toward the end of last year before Trump took office. …

Carrying on Obama’s Pro-Muslim Bias

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump called out the abuse of the refugee system. Routinely, whole Muslim families leave new countries where they are already safe. We fly them over half a dozen other Muslim nations. (Places where they also would be safe.) Then we give them public benefits in the United States. Some swell the ranks of extremist mosques. Remember the machete attack on students at Ohio State University in 2016? Thank a Somali jihadist whose large family was airlifted to Dallas, Texas at U.S. taxpayer expense. The Boston Marathon Bombing? Two Muslim immigrants whose family got political asylum from Chechnya.

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Keep Our Promise

But these 100 Iranian Christians pose no such danger. Most hail from two long-persecuted communities, the Armenians and the Assyrians. These refugees are the victims of Obama-era policies favoring Muslim migrants over genuine Christian refugees. The Beacon spoke to advocate Anna Buwalda:

“The U.S. has broken its promise to Iranian religious minorities,” Buwalda said. “They traveled to Vienna at the invitation of the United States, with the understanding that they would soon be reunited with their American families. Instead, the groups of refugees have been forced to wait there for more than a year with no explanation. They have no source of income, and many have spent down their life savings.”

“The U.S. government must solve this situation quickly and humanely,” she said.

Routinely, whole Muslim families leave new countries where they are already safe. We fly them flown over half a dozen other Muslim nations. (Place where they also would be safe.) Then we give them public benefits in the United States.

Trump Can Turn This Into a Win

This situation is an impending tragedy. President Trump could turn it into a big political win. He should cut through the red tape. Issue a presidential order. Have these refugees flown to Reagan National. Greet them on the tarmac. Arrange press interviews with them about the human rights crisis in Iran. Let them testify before Congress. He could highlight his reform of the biased Obama refugee policies. And humiliate Iran.

Tell the President: Let’s admit these 100 Christians fleeing religious persecution by one of our enemies. It isn't just the right thing to do. It's the smart thing. It's nice when that happens, isn't it?

Sessions Rescinds Obama-era Policy Which Ignored Prosecuting Marijuana Violations, Leaves State Laws Set for Conflict

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 02:00

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama administration policy that looked the other way at marijuana production, sale and possession. Sessions will let federal prosecutors to decide whether to prosecute offenders.

The Obama policy emboldened several states to legalize the drug for recreational or medical use. The policy assured users and sellers that if they abided by state law, they would be at little risk for prosecution.

Conservatives Disagree

National Review‘s David French calls the prior policy an “unconstitutional Obama policy that privileged executive power over the American constitutional structure.” Courts have held that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution grants the federal government the power to regulate marijuana.

However, some states’ rights advocates assert that the Commerce Clause has been interpreted too broadly. They claim that these types of laws should be left up to the states under the 10th Amendment. They argue that state “policing powers” give states the right to regulate crime.

The 2013 “Cole Memo” mainly left it up to the states to handle these crimes. It is named after then-Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, who signed it. It directed federal prosecutors merely to emphasize keeping the drug out of the hands of minors and gangs, and from crossing state lines.

Showdown

Federal law criminalized the drug. The Obama policy flagrantly ignored those laws. The correct way to stop federal prosecutions would be to have Congress repeal the laws. Since they knew they didn’t have the votes, they snuck around the law.

Eight states and Washington, D.C., allow recreational marijuana use. Nearly 30 states have legalized medical marijuana. Medical marijuana is less likely to be affected by the change. A federal budget provision prevented the DOJ from interfering with those markets in recent years. However, DOJ officials said they would not rule out prosecuting medical sellers and users.

The move comes at a time that more states are legalizing the drug. California’s new law went into effect January 1. Just hours after Sessions issued his memo, the Vermont State Legislature approved a bill. GOP governor Phil Scott said he intends to sign it. If so, it would be the first state legislature to legalize the drug without voter approval at the ballot. Massachusetts is expected to follow later this year, and possibly Maine.

Some officials are already saying they will defy any federal prosecutions. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said he is prepared "to take all steps necessary" to fight the move. He intends to hold up proposed DOJ nominees. He likely won’t have much to worry about. Colorado’s top federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer, says his office won't alter its approach. But not all prosecutors may agree.

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The change won’t affect people who smoke marijuana. No one prosecutes people for merely smoking the drug. Even with the revised policy, prosecutors will continue to reserve resources for serious crimes related to the drug, such as burglary or assault. Sessions’ change would renew authority to prosecute the latter. Under the Obama policy, those types of crimes were often treated the same as possession. Criminals charged with more serious crimes were allowed to plea down to mere possession or another drug-related crime.

More States Entering the Legal Fray

Sessions is a vocal opponent of legalization. He said existing federal laws "reflect Congress's determination that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that marijuana activity is a serious crime." He said the move represents “a return to the rule of law.”

The Obama-era policy has created quite a legal quagmire. 

He has compared the drug to heroin. He blames it for spikes in violence. He said the Obama-era policy created a “safe harbor” that allowed states to flout federal law. Opponents of drug legalization say it encourages pot growers to illegally grow and ship the drug across state lines, where it can sell for much more.

The Obama-era policy has created quite a legal quagmire.

 

Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC.

Bitcoin Cynics are on the Wrong Side of History

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 01:33

"If you're stupid enough to buy [Bitcoin], you'll pay the price for it one day."

-- Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, 2017

On March 10, 1876, a new invention sent an invisible electrical signal through a pair of copper wires. On the other end of those wires, the signal was converted to sound waves and Alexander Graham Bell's assistant heard the now-famous words: "Watson -- come here -- I want to see you."

Later that same year, across the Atlantic, the chief engineer at the British Post Office boldly claimed that "The Americans have need for the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys."

Meanwhile, over in America, the President of the Western Union Telegraph Company asserted that "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication."

New ways of doing things have a natural tendency to obfuscate the old ways.

Today, given the prominence of the telephone in our everyday lives, these assertions, made by some of the top executives and experts in the field of communication, seem remarkably absurd. And yet, at the time, they didn't sound so ridiculous.

History is replete with entrepreneurs and inventors who have pushed the envelope of innovation and invention to the very edge of human imagination and maybe a little beyond. But new ways of doing things have a natural tendency to obfuscate the old ways, and there are always individuals and groups that benefit from the status quo who are quick to dismiss, and sometimes even condemn, new contraptions and revolutionary ideas.

The Birth of Bitcoin

On January 3, 2009, an anonymous developer known as Satoshi Nakamoto mined the first 50 bitcoin and created the Bitcoin Genesis Block. Since then, Bitcoin has provided the basic blueprint for hundreds of other currencies and platforms and has inspired the creation of an uncountable number of blockchain-based solutions to real-world problems.

But what is Bitcoin and why would I have the audacity to compare it to something as revolutionary as the telephone?

In short, Bitcoin uses public-key cryptography to create a decentralized, permissionless, publicly-viewable blockchain that serves as an immutable ledger, keeping track of who owns bitcoin and how much, all without a central, governing authority.

While this sounds complicated (and it is), don't worry. Knowing cryptography and understanding the details of how a blockchain works are not necessary prerequisites to use and benefit from the technology any more than one needs to know how an internal combustion engine works in order to drive a car or how TCP/IP works in order to use the internet.

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Why Bitcoin? Why Now?

But what use does the world have for a new type of digital money when we already perform near-instantaneous digital transactions with dollars, euros, and yuan via Paypal, Visa, and other financial institutions?

There are many reasons, including the desire of some people for increased privacy and anonymity in their transactions, more autonomous control over their own digital assets, and the obsolescence of the need for third parties to provide the necessary trust factor between two parties in order to perform a transaction. These are all great reasons why so many people view cryptocurrencies as superior to government-issued, fiat currencies. But there is another reason, one that I think is the most important.

Much of human history has been dominated by powerful, centralized governments that have been responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths through democide and war in the last century alone. Most of these deaths were made possible by governments' ability to finance killing on an immense scale by monopolizing the supply of money, printing massive amounts of it, and declaring by fiat that their citizens had to use it, or else.

That system, that grotesquely bloated machine, incessantly spinning its morbid motor of merciless monstrosity, is thankfully coming to an end.

The Dawn of a New Era

In the future, people will look back on the cryptocurrency naysayers of today with the same incredulity that we now have when we look back at the telephone cynics of 1876.

The decentralization and democratization of money and banking through cryptocurrencies and platforms like Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum and Dash threatens the very foundation that makes possible large-scale murder, draconian limitations on international trade, and heavy government regulations on markets across the globe that cause so much destruction of the achievements of yesterday while simultaneously obstructing the progress of tomorrow.

The proverbial shots have been fired and a bloodless coup d’etat of sorts, led by internet nerds, hackers, libertarians, entrepreneurs and outright geniuses, is underway.

Revolutions do not typically happen overnight, especially one so bold as to question the necessity of a motor as powerful as centralized banking, coupled with seemingly limitless government power. But that motor will stop, and a new one, powered by voluntary, peer-to-peer, decentralized relationships and a greater measure of freedom will take its place.

In the future, whether it be ten, twenty, fifty, or a hundred years from now, people will look back on the cryptocurrency naysayers of today with the same incredulity that we now have when we look back at the telephone cynics of 1876.

 

This article was originally published on FEE.org.

I Was Denied Service Because of the Company’s Values, and I’m OK With That

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 01:23

This week, I was denied a service because the company's values are at odds with the values that Alliance Defending Freedom stands for -- values I personally hold.

And guess what? I'm okay with that. Allow me to explain.

As a writer, I'm always looking to improve my skills. And working for a no-debt legal service like Alliance Defending Freedom, which can only take on cases and clients as the funds are provided through our generous ministry friends, fundraising is an important part of what we do.

Using my work information, I signed up for an online course created by Moceanic, a team of talented fundraisers who have created a coaching and training business to help writers better connect with donors.

I've read blog posts and books that the team has produced, and I truly admire their talents. They have a gift for connecting with people.

What I didn't know when I signed up for the course, however, is that Moceanic does a lot of work with organizations such as the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and LGBT activist organizations.

If you know anything about Alliance Defending Freedom or have read my blog posts before, you know that Alliance Defending Freedom and these organizations don't exactly share the same values.

I received login information from the course and was excited to get started. But last weekend I received an email notifying me that they had refunded the cost of the course with no explanation as to why.

I was a little perplexed by the email and when I logged into their website on Monday morning, the course was no longer available to me.

That's when I starting digging deeper into the brains behind Moceanic, and it didn't take long for me to discover the values statement on their website. Here are a few key excerpts:

We work with progressive charities and movements. ... This includes LBGT+ rights, Planned Parenthood, ACLU... . We won't work with organizations that oppose these movements.

This is important to us, and we reserve the right to choose not to train people working directly for, or on behalf of, organizations whose missions or values do not align with ours.

My first thought was, "I get it -- no further explanation needed." I mean, why would they want to train someone who is going to work to raise money for their opposition?

My second thought was, "We actually have more in common than they think!" This is somewhat like the kind of freedom that Jack Phillips and numerous other Alliance Defending Freedom clients are fighting for.

Alliance Defending Freedom recently argued on behalf of Jack at the Supreme Court.

Jack was sued because he politely declined to design a custom cake celebrating a same-sex marriage. He believes that marriage is sacred -- between a man and woman -- and designing a cake that celebrated a very different message than his religious beliefs was not something he could do.

It's not that Jack had any problems serving the couple requesting the cake. In fact, he offered to design them cakes for other occasions or sell them any of the premade goods he had available.

But Jack's faith is important to him, and as an artist, he has the right not to create art that contradicts that faith.

And it's not just the cake artist or Barronelle Stutzman, the florist, whose case we have appealed to the Supreme Court.

Alliance Defending Freedom is defending website designers, promotional printers, photographers, film production companies, and other small business owners who are fighting for the same freedom in court -- the freedom not to betray their most deeply held beliefs and values.

Our clients serve everyone, they just can't custom design material that sends messages that violate their faith.

But Moceanic has taken it a step further. They denied me not just their coaching program involving customized material -- they declined to serve me entirely, even refusing to allow me access to a pre-existing course.

Of course, Moceanic shouldn't be forced to coach me on how to speak in a way that generates excitement and engagement for a cause that they disagree with any more than Jack should have to create a cake celebrating a marriage that conflicts with his beliefs.

But they also want to decline me pre-existing courses lacking any custom designed coaching or content.

Although Moceanic's actions go further than protecting against compelled speech, I understand why they wouldn't want to advance the mission of their opposition. We live in a diverse nation where people hold differing views about a lot of different things.

The freedom to disagree is what makes America so unique. If we're all forced by the government to adhere to the same ideology, then we are no longer the land of the free.

As Justice Anthony Kennedy stated during oral arguments in Jack's case, "[T]olerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it's mutual."

If the government can take away Jack's freedom to speak and create consistently with his conscience, then freedom for all of us -- including Moceanic -- is at risk.

Whether they realize it or not, it appears the Moceanic team agrees with that sentiment. And although they might have taken it further than our arguments in Jack's case, I wish them all the best.

Originally published by Alliance Defending Freedom

 

Copyright 2018 The Daily Signal

Immigration Agents Descend on 7-Eleven Stores in 17 States

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 00:54

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Seven immigration agents filed into a 7-Eleven store before dawn Wednesday, waited for people to go through the checkout line and told arriving customers and a driver delivering beer to wait outside. A federal inspection was underway, they said.

Within 20 minutes, they verified that the cashier had a valid green card and served notice on the owner to produce hiring records in three days that deal with employees’ immigration status.

The well-rehearsed scene, executed with quiet efficiency in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, played out at about 100 7-Eleven stores in 17 states and the District of Columbia, a rolling operation that officials called the largest immigration action against an employer under Donald Trump’s presidency.

The employment audits and interviews with store workers could lead to criminal charges or fines. And they appeared to open a new front in Trump’s expansion of immigration enforcement, which has already brought a 40 percent increase in deportation arrests and pledges to spend billions of dollars on a border wall with Mexico.

A top official at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the audits were “the first of many” and “a harbinger of what’s to come” for employers.

“This is what we’re gearing up for this year and what you’re going to see more and more of is these large-scale compliance inspections, just for starters,” said Derek Benner, acting head of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, which oversees cases against employers.

“It’s not going to be limited to large companies or any particular industry -- big, medium and small,” he said.

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After the inspections, officials plan to look at whether the cases warrant administrative action or criminal investigations, Benner told The Associated Press.

7-Eleven Stores Inc., based in Irving, Texas, said in a statement that the owners of its franchises are responsible for hiring and verifying work eligibility. The chain with more than 8,600 convenience stores in the U.S. said it has previously ended franchise agreements for owners convicted of breaking employment laws.

Unlike other enforcement efforts that have marked Trump’s first year in office, Wednesday’s actions were aimed squarely at store owners and managers, though 21 workers across the country were arrested on suspicion of being in the country illegally.

Illegal hiring is rarely prosecuted, partly because investigations are time-consuming and convictions are difficult to achieve because employers can claim they were duped by fraudulent documents or intermediaries. Administrative fines are discounted by some as a business cost.

Amy Peck, an Omaha, Nebraska, immigration attorney who represents businesses, said an employer crackdown will never work because the government has limited resources and there are many jobs that people who are in the country legally do not want.

“When these audits occur, the employees scatter in the wind and go down the street and work for somebody else,” Peck said. “You’re playing whack-a-mole.”

President George W. Bush’s administration pursued high-profile criminal investigations against employers in its final years with dramatic pre-dawn shows of force and large numbers of worker arrests. In 2008, agents arrived by helicopter at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, and detained nearly 400 workers. Last month, Trump commuted the 27-year prison sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, former chief executive of what was the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking operation.

Barack Obama’s administration more than doubled employer audits to more than 3,100 a year in 2013, shunning Bush’s flashier approach. John Sandweg, an acting ICE director under Obama, said significant fines instilled fear in employers and avoided draining resources from other enforcement priorities, which include child exploitation, human trafficking and money laundering.

Wednesday’s audits arose from a 2013 investigation that resulted in charges against nine 7-Eleven franchisees and managers in New York and Virginia. Eight have pleaded guilty and were ordered to pay more than $2.6 million in back wages, and the ninth was arrested in November.

The managers used more than 25 stolen identities to employ at least 115 people in the country illegally, knowing they could pay below minimum wage, according to court documents.

Neither 7-Eleven nor was its parent company, Seven & I Holding Co. based in Tokyo, was charged in the case.

Julie Myers Wood, former head of ICE during the Bush administration, said the most recent inspections showed that immigration officials were focusing on a repeat violator. Part of the problem, Wood said, is the lack of “a consistent signal” between administrations that the U.S. government will prosecute employers who hire immigrants without legal status.

Some immigration hardliners have been pressing Trump to move against employers. Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said the inspections offered “a good sign” that the administration was serious about going after employers. But, he said, the administration would need to go beyond audits.

“It’s important for Trump to show that they’re not just arresting the hapless schmo from Honduras but also but also the politically powerful American employer,” he said.

In Koreatown, agents gathered in a grocery store parking lot and drove through side streets in unmarked cars to their target location.

The manager was in Bangladesh and the owner, reached by phone, told the clerk to accept whatever documents were served. The clerk told agents he had no knowledge of documents required to prove eligibility to work and was asked to pass along brochures for voluntary programs aimed at better compliance with immigration laws.

___

Merchant reported from Houston.

 

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

Should Big Brother Watch Us If He Would Keep Us Safe?

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 00:00

I have a suggestion for a new motto for China. Wo kandoa ni le. I see you.

Why? China like Britain is installing cameras in public places to track its citizens. Britain already has at least 1 surveillance camera for every 11 people, a fraction that is rising. China wants in on the photographic fun. The Washington Post reports:

The intent is to connect the security cameras that already scan roads, shopping malls and transport hubs with private cameras on compounds and buildings, and integrate them into one nationwide surveillance and data-sharing platform.

It will use facial recognition and artificial intelligence to analyze and understand the mountain of incoming video evidence; to track suspects, spot suspicious behaviors and even predict crime; to coordinate the work of emergency services; and to monitor the comings and goings of the country’s 1.4 billion people, official documents and security industry reports show.

Computers Make Mistakes

“Artificial intelligence” (a.k.a. “deep learning”) always sounds scary, but it is nothing more than old-fashioned statistical modeling done on a large scale. Because it is a form of modeling, it is imperfect. That means that when an algorithm is designed to look at a picture of Mr. Wong and say, “This is Mr. Wong,” sometimes it won’t. Sometimes it will say it is you.

What harm could there be in that?

Consider that you have been incorrectly identified as standing outside a certain building where known troublemakers have been seen. The algorithm that said you were there then looks to the “Police Cloud” database that has “such data as criminal and medical records, travel bookings, online purchase and even social media comments.”

The computer next looks up the “meta data” from your phone records. This tells exactly where you were when you made every call, who you called and for how long, what device you and the other party used, whether the call was followed by any data (say, a Snapchat), and so on. The only thing the computer does not admit to knowing is what you said.

The algorithm now updates your “social credit” score, lowering it. Not only does it ding your score, but the people you called also take a small hit.

The entire process is automatic, with no way to check errors, so you’ll never know why the hiring manager rejected your application. (You won’t know at Google, either.)

We’re All Guilty

There is another possibility. The facial-recognition algorithm does not make a mistake. It really was you standing there. You may have had an innocent explanation for being at that suspicious corner. But we’re talking public safety here. Why take a chance? A suspicious corner was involved. And it’s always better to be safe than sorry, isn’t it?

Here we recall the words attributed to Cardinal Richelieu spoken in an age well before we learned to bear our souls daily on-line: “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.”

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It is too easy through hint, insinuation, and suggestion to make anybody look guilty. Guilty of what? Of a federal crime, maybe. There are so many statutes on the books right now that professor of law Glenn Harlan Reynolds says, “You are probably breaking the law right now.” If the government wants to get you, it probably can.

It’s not only China and Britain who are tracking their citizens. The good old USA is in on the act, too. Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency tracked the meta-data of citizens’ phone records. The news caused the NSA to back off, but only slightly. As of 2015, they still grabbed over a hundred million phone records. They claim to have stopped sucking up your emails.

Spread Your Legs and Raise Your Arms

The FBI uses its Next Generation Identification System in fighting crime. Interestingly, the FBI discusses its facial-recognition algorithm’s accuracy. It “returns the correct candidate a minimum of 85 percent of the time,” but in only controlled conditions. That 85% might sound high, but it’s the wrong number. The number of false identifications is much higher, as the Post shows.

The paper also reports the USA already had “around 62 million surveillance cameras in 2016,” which is a “higher per capita penetration rate than China.” It’s good to know we’re still beating China at something.

We have already accepted the endless lines, hassles and humiliations of the TSA at airports in the name of “security.” It’s a good bet we’ll do the same for the government tracking all our movements. That means these important words of Ben Franklin will grow fainter and fainter: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

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